Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More Bailouts Are The Answer!

The New York Times has an editorial piece out blasting Germany for not bailing out the rest of Europe.  The Times says that Germany has the resources to shore up the PIIGS that are on the brink of bankruptcy and that they should do so in order to buy time for those weaker states to shore up their own systems.  Also, the European Central Bank should be allowed to print off money to buy bonds from those broke nations in order to reduce the interest paid on national debt. 

I'm puzzled by this and can't help but wonder if the Time's only goal in the world is to destroy those that are prosperous and successful.  Does anyone in this world believe that if Germany bailed out the PIIGS in the short term that these bankrupt nations would seriously reform their own systems?  These countries are bankrupt because their politicians do not want to increase taxes or decrease spending; if they don't have to, they won't.  Bailing them out now puts off making the responsible choices.  This is fact; Greece has already been bailed out and still hasn't fixed their situation.  Austerity measures nearly brought down their government.  A short term bailout buys a year, maybe, at a massive expense for Germany, but doesn't fix the problem at all.  

Similarly, printing off money, an option that should be considered a joke anyway, won't help.  Yes, interest rates may go down for a short period of time, but the more of that bad debt you buy and monetize, the higher inflation is going to go throughout Europe.  Once again, those bailed out nations have no incentive to act responsibly if someone else is paying the bill.  And interest rates are, in fact, reasonable.  Greece, Italy, and Spain are bankrupt.  It is a high risk proposition to lend to those nations.  Screwing over responsible nations to lower interest rates for irresponsible ones isn't going to give incentive for governments to act responsibly. 

Read that entire Times piece.  Does it anywhere say how reform will be brought to the poorer nations with this extremely risky bet they urge Germany to take?  No, it doesn't.  Germany has no responsibility to pay for the foolishness of other nations and gains nothing by doing so. Without a solid plan putting forward how the PIIGS will sure up their own fiscal situations without bailouts in the future, a German bailout only buys a year or so of extra time before the crunch hits, this time with Germany lacking the resources to survive as well. 

Hard times are in store for Europe.  I'm thoroughly tired of people borrowing themselves into a boom and then wanting others to save them during the bust. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Endgame Is Often The Most Important Part of a Game

In my last post, I argued that OWS is effectively screwed.  I wish to clarify that.  Protests may very well continue for some months or even until this time next year.  Those out protesting now are often professional protesters, rich enough not to have to worry about working, or college students.  So in the sense that there will still be "occupy" protests, no, I don't think they will end anytime soon. 

But the movement's chance to be an important part of the political process may very well be finished.  Recent polling has shown a growing disapproval of OWS and very little support.  At first, I can understand that Americans would like a group that is ticked off about bailouts and crony capitalism, but once it became obvious most of the protesters had no idea what to do about such things and those who did have a plan were on the Radical Left people very quickly lost interest in the movement.  Combined with the well documented lawlessness of the group, and pretty quickly OWS has lost the potential to represent the masses. 

So yes, the protests may continue, but nobody is going to listen to them because they have nothing of interest to say.  In the meantime, people will focus on the darker side of these occupations.  OWS has failed to impact the "1%" in any meaningful way, but they certainly have disrupted the lives of middle class citizens in cities throughout the United States.  Blocking streets, bridges, and subways (in particular the last) strikes at the daily life of average people, the supposed "99%" this group claims to be representing. 

The New Yorker has a nice piece up on the history of OWS.  In it, many of the leading members of OWS speak positively of "revolution" though never really define it.  I'm not sure what scares me more: the massive majority of OWS people who don't know what revolution entails but support it anyway, or those few who are all too well aware of what revolutions bring and want just that. 

Anyway, a semi-violent and completely lawless group without a coherent set of goals and philosophy but otherwise tacking onto hodgepodge leftists positions is a blessing for the supporters of capitalism and liberty.  Support is plummeting; Americans will not risk their livelihoods to support anarchy.  A very small group on the Left continues to be in the media with all of their nonsense.  OWS has lost the moment to shift America to the left, but what wonderful potential it has to make people question the validity of leftists ideas!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wither OWS?

The question is simple enough.  Is Occupy Wall Street effectively dead?  

It's not the clearing of Zuccotti park that makes me ask this question, though the lack of ability to literally camp there will certainly dent the physical protest.  I'm curious because of this poll put out by PPP (itself a left wing organization) that shows public support cratering for OWS.  A combined 33% of Americans support the movement now while 45% oppose.  The chant of "we are the 99%" is clearly very inaccurate at the least.  Looking at the internals of the poll, you realize very quickly that this is actually overstating their popularity.  41% of responders to the poll are Democrats, but I promise you that does not even come close to reflecting society at large.  Also note that the first question asked is about, of all people, John Boehner, rather than, say, the President.  Asking about a Republican first in a time when people hate all incumbents can shift fairly weak minded people into a more leftist position.  Note that nobody bothered to ask about whether the people approve of the President's job performance. 

And oh, the Tea Party is more popular than OWS.  In fact, it's popularity is within the margin of error for its disapproval rating, making it a statistical tie.  

The only thing that should be surprising about any of this is that it actually lasted for roughly two whole months.  I pointed out well over a month ago that this group lacked any actionable goals or means of executing those goals.  OWS turned into a motley crew of leftist causes, but more than anything it was (or I suppose, technically, still is) a protest for the sake of having a protest.  For better or worse, Americans may very well have liked the ideas of fighting inequality and corporate power, but once it became obvious this movement had no solutions beyond shouting, violating the law, and making the lives of locals miserable, support plummeted.  The Tea Party evolved mechanisms for winning primaries, mostly against Republicans.  OWS created a Soviet style state with multiple, ill defined governing bodies composed of who knows who that quickly became eyesores in the cities due to lack of any actual control.  

Really, any Left leaning movement that has to have "rape free zones" is a godsend to the Right.  We could only hope that this would continue through November 2012.  Unfortunately, it looks like America only gets two months of college kids playing Utopian deities over increasingly filthy societies. 

Without an end (and thereby without means), the movement could not actually move.  I'll have to set aside my extreme humility for a second, because I described this perfectly:  "This is a spasm more than a movement.  Movements go somewhere, spasm's are just violent shaking in all directions."  The best that could have been accomplished would be to rule these little OWS societies in a way that made outsides approve of them.   Instead, they became Obamavilles in which public sanitation, safety, and decency decayed before the eyes of the world.  That is the very reason support for OWS is gone in the public, and combined with the lack of ability to physically maintain these protests 24/7 and with the onset of winter, I don't see things continuing as they have.  

Most will go home.  What I fear, not necessarily predict but fear, is that the hardcore people calling for the death of capitalism will realize this was their best shot in ages, that it is rapidly passing and that the only way to keep it from dying a quiet death is to make it die a violent one.  I'm not saying most in OWS are of this sort (indeed, I believe they are pansies who would never actually risk themselves, as much as they might wish to imagine otherwise), but it only takes a few hardcore fanatics to do a great deal of damage, both to physical persons and to our political discourse.  

I don't think it will happen that way, but I do recognize the possibility.  But I would be greatly shocked if OWS as it exists today should still exist come January 17.  That said, I wouldn't have predicted it would still be here now, but spasms can't go on forever without killing the sufferer.  Either the movement will peter out due to lack of results or it will have to actually come up with ends and means.  The latter requires leaders to take charge or, more likely, for current leaders to become public, obliterating the "equality" myth the movement has about itself.  The Iron Law of Oligarchy will not be silenced by chants. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

1st Amendment Is Not A Pass For Anarchy

Today, New York Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman ruled against Occupy Wall Street's argument that the protesters may protest in violation of park rules.  They argue that rules limiting tents and 24 hour protests at Zuccotti Park are targeting their movement in particular and hence are violations of the 1st Amendment's protection of free speech. 

This is nonsense.  The 1st Amendment does not protect everything that people might claim is free speech; for example, I cannot burst into your house screaming obscenities, or even a coherent political viewpoint, because I do not have a right to speak one your private property.  Zuccotti Park is private property.  If they wish to change the rules for whatever reason, they are in their rights to do so.  This is reinforced by the zoning laws imposed on the park concerning safety and health regulations. 

Occupy Wall Street has every right to speak its mind peaceably (hell, I wish they would come out with anything resembling a coherent thought to argue about).  Intentionally disrupting the lives of others, however, is not free speech.  You can speak without being a pain in the ass.  Remember that free speech is just that.  You do not have the right to force people to listen to you.  You do not have a right to bang drums and disrupt the nights of families.  You do not have the right to defecate in public and protect rapists.  These things are not free speech, nor does prohibiting them in any way reduce the ability to propose or attack any idea. 

I pointed this out at the beginning.  This movement couldn't get any traction in the media until they resorted to blocking a bridge.  It isn't their message that gets them attention (for the most part, they lack a message at all).  It's the fact that they are nuisances to society.  Most of them are protesting for the sake of protesting rather than having any goals to actually achieve. 

If you have something to say, OWS, put it into English so we can understand you.  Banging drums, blocking subways and bridges, shouting down people who have nothing to do with your silly protest, these things are not free speech.  You can say whatever you damn well please.  So say it already.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Beyond Educating, I Guess

This is from OWS' "Statement of Autonomy" (whatever the hell that may mean):

Occupy Wall Street is a people’s movement. It is party-less, leaderless, by the people and for the people. It is not a business, a political party, an advertising campaign or a brand.  It is not for sale.
Any statement or declaration not released through the General Assembly and made public online at should be considered independent of Occupy Wall Street.
Really, nobody sees a contradiction between these two statements?  Those that control the website are the leaders.  They are the new hierarchy.  And note that they are making a point of differentiating themselves from anyone not publishing via their controlled website. 

And then there is this wonderfully idiotic protest for Thursday.  Shutting down the subways, that's the way, what is this all about?  I'm sure that will do wonders for OWS' popularity in the city.  Note at the bottom they demand we "resist austerity."  What on Earth is that a reference to?  These guys claim to be above partisan politics, but they explicitly say cutting government spending is to be resisted.  It is a tenet of their faith that government spending is in and of itself a good thing.  Amazingly, they don't realize that austerity reduces the chances of corruption; the more politicians can spend, the more they will do so for their interests, not ours. 

Anyway, I'm just annoyed with these people.  People who cannot see reality right in front of their faces drive me off a wall.  Look at how these people have run their "camps" and ask yourself, do you really want their ideas running the country?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rome, Sweet Rome

There has been some historical buzz on the Internet (weird, I know!) about the hypothetical question of who would win between a Marine Expeditionary Unit vs. the Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus, which is a close approximate for Rome at its zenith.  Technology and troop levels have predictably been the main focus of conversation.  I like these kinds of questions, especially since I'm covering ancient Rome with my 9th graders right now, so I just want to toss out a few thoughts.

The technological advantage is obviously on the side of the Marines.  Really, the whole question is about measuring how much more powerful we are in the 21st Century than the most powerful nation on Earth during the 1st Century was.  This will be the key to obliterating support for Augustus, as the first Emperor will appear, and in fact be, impotent to stop the oncoming invaders.  Nothing surprising here. 

The question of who would win, however, requires parameters in which victory is defined.  Could the Marines overthrow Augustus and institute anarchy?  Unquestionably.  They could shell the Palatine and Capitoline Hills from miles away from the city, potentially wiping out Rome's leadership instantly.  But could the Marines supplant Augustus rather than merely obliterate society? 

I believe the answer is yes, but there are two important variables.  For starters, the Marines would have to set out immediately with the intent of supplanting Augustus.  If this is some sort of time traveling invasion and this is the mission, the Marines are dedicated to this objective, then I believe they will be in very good shape.  Without a clear mission, however, the Marines will use up their supplies very quickly without achieving anything.  Food and potable water will be far more important than ammunition.  The Reddit version has the Marines magically being transported back in time and space.  In that situation, the Marines would need to very quickly decide to take over.  Our soldiers are extremely good if there is an objective, but without any objective, confusion would reign.  At that point, it's not even Romans vs. Marines rather than Marines trying to figure out what has happened while being harried by Romans.  The question is a lot clearer when both sides are intentionally trying to take the other out. 

The second variable is whether any of the Marines speak Latin.  Back on the website I linked to, I'm kind of shocked Adrian Goldsworthy believes the Marines would lose due to a lack of numbers.  I've read Goldsworthy's book on the Punic Wars and saw striking similarities to our conflict in Afghanistan.  The trick is to win over individual cities with a carrot and stick approach.  If the Marines can communicate and win over those socii, they suddenly have the manpower to enforce peace in Rome or in any other city they choose. 

Of course, we'll never know, but it certainly is an interesting question. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Berlusconi to Resign

Italy's Prime Minister is set to resign.  This is a man who has been under various scandals nonstop for the last decade and had shown no indication of resigning, mostly because he controlled the courts. 

You know what he can't control, though?  The laws of mathematics.  Italy, like all of the other welfare states, is going under. 

So Berlusconi's abandoning the ship.  If things have gotten so bad that this crazy bastard is giving up power, we may want to stock up on canned goods and shotguns. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Notes From the Classroom

I have a different philosophy on teaching history than may be common.  In my classroom, I fully expect and encourage questions, even if they may be tangential to the topic at hand.  Discussions often start up and I let them run with it for a while.  Hell, I even try to drive them forward.  You can't have a discussion on history and politics if you are not thinking, and it's almost impossible to tell if people can think about politics and history based on standardized tests.  Make them think on their feet to prove they are truly capable of thinking.  

With this, I've noticed some very alarming trends, both in my students and in others throughout society.  People are tired of the partisanship in this nation.  The bickering between Republicans and Democrats is irritating to people; all they want is the parties to come to an agreement and work together on whatever is best for the country. 

I've heard way too many positive comments on establishing a dictatorship in this nation.  

I see the reasons for this all too clearly. Our educational system creates people incapable of independent thought, incapable of taking responsibility, who only want somebody to either give them the answer or "do something" to make things right.  These people would never challenge either the answer or the plan, even if those things should be challenged.  The startling truth is this: our people will never accept tyranny imposed upon us, but we may very well end up begging for it instead. 

The following should be self evident, but somehow are not: 

  • The parties are not putting their own interests ahead of the nation's.  They legitimately have differing ideas as to what is good for our nation.  Therefore, it is impossible to "put politics aside", since politics itself is debating what is good for our nation and what is harmful.  
  • To say a certain party should put aside their positions "for the good of the country" is to say that party should abandon its conception of what is good for us...for the good of us.  It's a non sequitur, but you have to actually think the statement out to realize that.  
  • Partisanship is not all that bad.  One party states completely lacking in partisanship are common; they are known as fascist states or dictatorship.  Their standards of living and respect for human rights are atrocious.  Partisanship helps keep bad ideas in check by allowing somebody to stand up and say "this is a bad idea and I oppose it."  
  • The people in government may very well not have an answer that works.  In fact, they may have been the cause of problems.  To wish maximum efficiency from the government, or to wish they would "just do something", is to assume that whatever they will do will be good.  There is no reason to grant that assumption. 
 Our Founding Fathers created a system of checks and balances to require broad consensus before our government could move forward.  That means that often ideas proposed by factions are shot down.  This is a good thing and proof the system works.  

For those desiring a more active government, be careful what you wish for.  The 20th Century should be more than enough proof that checks and balances, partisanship, and bickering are preferable to their opposites.  Teach your children to question and think, rather than to beg for an answer.  Those who can think independently will be citizens, those who cannot will be subjects.