Monthly Archives: September 2015

Snowden is on Twitter

Edward Snowden joined Twitter at noon today and garnered 167,000 followers in his first hour. So, maybe there’s hope. Article here, on The Intercept. Souvenir first tweet, below. That one account he’s following is the NSA.

Snowden

In an earlier post on Snowden, we observed that Germans came out on the street in protest, whereas Americans largely believe the shtick about “privacy versus security.” Since then, the NSA has been proved guilty of illegal surveillance activity.

You may recall White House staffers being fired over this, the Senate investigation, the impeachment. No? That’s because not a damned thing happened. Some starlet got her boobs adjusted and our entire brain dead country forgot the whole thing. Meanwhile, Ed is a fugitive.

Update: People taking action in Germany, while here in America the authorities blithely conduct another illegal search and seizure.

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The Uncertainty Principle

HeisenbergThis month’s Foreign Affairs has a nice, short article about Henry Kissinger, by historian Niall Ferguson. If you don’t understand Kissinger, this is a good place to start. Ferguson offers an alternative to the usual narrative, and he backs it up with citations from history and Kissinger’s own writings.

The sophomore version is that Kissinger was a “policy realist,” with the insinuation of amorality, Machiavellianism, etc. No article is complete without a mention of realpolitik. In our estimation, it helps to note that Kissinger was a Jewish refugee who enlisted in the U.S. Army and went back to fight Hitler. This was obviously a formative experience for the young soldier and future diplomat, but not in a sentimental way. It showed what can happen when foreign policy fails.

Ferguson describes Kissinger’s approach in terms of four general principles. One of these, the principle of making decisions under uncertainty, is so strong that it should be a law of nature. In fact, it is a law of nature.

In quantum physics, the uncertainty principle says that there are things we cannot know, because running the experiment changes the state of nature. For example, even dim light exhibits interference, suggesting that a given photon can be in two places at once. Scientists can pin down the photon’s location, but then the interference stops.

In policy, Kissinger says you must make the best decision you can with the information you have and, furthermore, you can never know what would have happened in the counterfactual. For example, if the allies had held firm and whipped Hitler in Poland, no one would ever know the scale of the tragedy they had averted. Instead, they would have been pilloried as interventionists.

Leaders must make decisions without perfect information, and also without moral clarity. This is where the realism comes in. Foreign policy does not present clear choices between good and evil. There are only shades of gray. We had to work with Stalin to defeat Hitler.

The politically safe approach, therefore, is to wait and do nothing until an absolutely clear need arises. This is a purely reactive approach, forever overwhelmed and overtaken by events. Sound familiar?

See also:  Values, not Interests

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Establishment Shills

stephen-colbert-hobbit-cameo“Speaking truth to power” means standing up for your views, regardless of the risk. Dr. King was harassed by the FBI. People are also harassed by the IRS. There are a thousand ways the government can bankrupt you, or put you in jail.

Comedians can use humor to confront power, but it takes courage. Richard Pryor and George Carlin were both stalked by the FBI, though never prosecuted. Irate Congressmen have tried to take Bill Maher off the air.

Stanley-Tucci-as-Caesar-Flickerman-in-The-Hunger-GamesWhat does not take courage is agreeing, entirely and in detail, with the position of the ruling administration. Stephen Colbert may as well have his act written for him by the White House press corps. He carries water for the establishment, and only attacks its enemies.

Aspiring comedians take note. The political climate has shifted. To be relevant today, you must be Politically Incorrect.

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Communionism

popeRejoice! The pope is coming to America! Let’s all applaud an institution that has been on the wrong side of gay rights, women’s rights, abortion, evolution, heliocentricity, and pedophilia.

The left has long been an enemy of the church, and rightly so, but – let a Marxist be installed, and all is forgiven.  The pope grew up in Argentina, land of the perpetual peso crisis, and he knows as much about economics as he does about raising a family. He has never even been to America, until now.

The pope’s sophomore socialism is sheer demagoguery, and we can expect all the wannabee demagogues to trail him in force.  You may have what you feel are good arguments against capitalism, but the pope’s “divine authority” isn’t one of them.

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Leave Those Kids Alone

The song from which this post takes its name was a protest against English public schools, which were used in that country to crush young spirits and enforce a heinous caste system. At this point, it is impossible for any thinking person to support state controlled schools. Thinkers on all sides and throughout history have come to the same conclusion.

  • They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They want obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork – George Carlin
  • Schools train you to be … a usable victim for a military industrial complex that needs manpower – Frank Zappa

Mr. Carlin, above, recorded perhaps the best ever statement of this problem. It’s worth spending three minutes on YouTube to hear the whole piece. Jeremiah’s favorites are the thinkers who identified this as a general problem regardless of political alignment.

  • State education is a mere contrivance for molding people [into] that which pleases the dominant power in the government – John Stuart Mill
  • Too much state control in educational matters is a fatal danger to freedom, since it must lead to indoctrination – Karl Popper
  • We have not yet developed a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination – Doris Lessing

Finally, we have two quotes from dictators who were candid about their intentions. Especially creepy is the idea that the young victims will be incapable of thinking critically. They are to be mentally maimed.

  • The schools must fashion the person, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will – Johann Gottlieb Fichte
  • Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted – Vladimir Lenin

For America to be successful, and meritocratic, we must ensure that all children have access to good education – but we must not trust the state to provide it. The state will use the schools for indoctrination instead of education, which may be why American schools are the world’s most expensive.

Delegating education to the private sector would make it more efficient, but there is no guarantee that corporate messaging would not find its way into the schools – substituting one form of indoctrination for another.

This problem does not have a ready solution, but there is a clear mechanism for finding a solution. This is an important technique for setting policy. You don’t always need a ready solution. Only statists believe that policy makers have all the answers. What you need is a mechanism for finding a solution.

In this case, the mechanism is to enlist parents in fixing the schools. Ensure that the state will pay for public schools, private schools, charter schools, online schools, home schools, and even religious schools – and allow the parents to choose.

Initially, there might be wacko schools teaching dogma instead of arithmetic, but these would fail rapidly. Parents will reliably move their kids into the most effective schools. They are the group best equipped to find a solution, and they should have the power.

See also:  Backpack funding puts focus on students

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More Lethal than Plague

Karl-MarxRobert Conquest died last month. The Economist ran a proper tribute, and even the left-leaning New York Times gave him his due. It is fashionable to dismiss Conquest as merely an accountant, the first to calculate how many people Stalin had killed, and obsolete now the Soviet archives are open. This misses the point entirely.

The point is that Western observers were so enamored of communism, in theory, that they were willfully blind to what it was doing in practice. Six to eight million died in the famine. Something like ten million were sent to Siberia. Millions more died in the Gulag. Conquest’s estimate of total deaths is 20 million.

Even after flag-waving supporters of the Soviet Union had dwindled to irrelevance, the conviction that communism was a good idea poorly executed persisted

Lenin thought mass murder was justified because he was building a socialist utopia. Stalin, Mao, Che, and Pol Pot thought the same. This is no coincidence. When a leader believes he is obeying the law of history – Marx’s idea – he can justify unspeakable atrocities.

Here is an idea that killed millions. Millions! People were starved, shot, gassed, imprisoned, and tortured – all over the world. Pol Pot killed two million, and there is no telling how many tens of millions Mao put to death. You really have to believe in your workers’ paradise to sweep that under the rug.

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Divide and Rule

Jeremiah has been calling out police violence for a while now. See here, for example. He should be happy to see people protesting in the streets, but he is not happy. The popular movement, Black Lives Matter, is going in exactly the wrong direction.

If you were working for the FBI and you wanted to weaken the movement, this would be your first move.

Black Lives Matter has been successful in that has galvanized popular opinion around the issue of police violence against blacks. That’s fine. Statistically, police violence against blacks is the biggest piece of the problem. Think about it from a policy standpoint, though. No laws, precedents, or regulations will be made stipulating, “… against blacks.” Also, consider:

  • Not all the victims are black
  • Not all the bad cops are white
  • Not all the cops are bad

This is important, because now the movement has left behind all these other groups that should be joining it in demanding real reforms. Real reforms, briefly, would involve exposing violent cops to criminal and civil procedures, while mitigating the protection they receive from their unions, and insulating the taxpayers from civil liability.

Casting the issue as a racial one needlessly divides the movement. If you were working for the FBI and you wanted to weaken the movement, this would be your first move.

Marching – and disrupting a Bernie Sanders rally – is good fun and calls attention to the issue. Now, think about possible end games. The desired end game is legal reform, as above, and a return to community policing. That’s why we say the movement is going in exactly the wrong direction. What cop wants to walk a beat in Baltimore now?

leadferguson

Here is a more likely end game. Local police forces are pitted against activists in their communities. We have the power to intimidate, and even defund, the local police – but not the state police. The state police are dominated by the FBI.

Now, the phony racial schism kicks in. Blacks are pitted against whites, and fear escalates. Police violence escalates, and so does retaliation. The DOJ steps in and creates – either directly, or by proxy – a federal police force. A militarized federal police force.

Checkmate.

Jeremiah is not prone to conspiracy theories, but sometimes it really feels like we are being played.

See also:  Acoustic Cannon Sales to Police Surge After Black Lives Matter Protests

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