Instapun*** Archive Listing

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September 27, 2012 - September 20, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Too Big to Fail, Part 2

It's available on the Internet and on-demand on cable.
Watch it before you come back to comment. All of it.

ROOTS. I deeply appreciate Brizoni's post. It states the philosophical case for political purity. I don't disagree with most of what he said, and I was impressed with his endorsement of the idea that government does have a role to play in such matters as building codes and, by implication, the NTSB.

He also provided the perfect setup for my Part 2. Truth is, most conservatives are libertarians at heart. They don't have quite the dark view of human nature Brizoni ascribes to them. Christians don't really believe that people are miserable sinful wretches. (Sorry, but he fundamentally misunderstands Christianity's relation to original sin. Christ was the absolution of original sin; he was explicitly "the new Adam.") They believe that people aspire to goodness but that the world provides temptations to which good people are susceptible. They also believe that there is such a thing as evil. Which libertarians tend to dance around and Randians rule out in their commitment to utter rationalism. Evil in their terms is reduced to people who just don't get it, meaning they have bad irrational ideas. Rape and murder are just flawed interpretations of self interest.

Conservatives aren't fatally conflicted philosophically, as he suggests. Their mission is not ideological purity but a principled and pragmatic preservation of the institutions and convictions that maximize personal liberty while minimizing chaos. If there's a contradiction, this is where it lies. Maximum personal liberty is pretty hard to distinguish from anarchy. Which tends to result in the subjugation of everyone. Tough concept for the idealists. Real life.

If we had a clean slate, the Randians might have a point. But there are no clean slates in the messy business of civilization. Why do conservatives like Paul Ryan defend Medicare and Social Security? Because we don't, won't ever, get the Big Do-Over by repealing what FDR did during the Great Depression. Which results in what libertarians deem the great hypocrisy of otherwise like-minded Americans. They cling to their Social Security and Medicare benefits despite believing government never should have intervened so directly in people's lives. When you're young, it's an easy call. When you're old, it's a tougher call. They've been taxing you all your life to insure these benefits, and that money, which you might have used otherwise to secure your own independence, is gone. Conservatives have to be in the business of battling the chaos of failed promises.

Chaos. One word that refutes most visions of purity. And a word that brings us back to our title, "Too Big to Fail." We are presently facing a complex of forces that just might be too big to fail.

A leftist presidential administration + a leftist mainstream media + the entire educational system from elementary school to leading universities + unions, particularly government unions + crony capitalist entities whose profits derive from insider influence based on campaign contributions + an entertainment media that everywhere supports leftist causes and derides the majority population.

Altogether the complex represents less than 30 percent of the populace. But it has acquired a stranglehold on our national political debate. It succeeds by concealing facts, promulgating false narratives, demonizing the opposition, sowing confusion, doubt, and fear, and distracting everyone's attention from the issues that truly matter.

Now that you've watched Occupy Unmasked (you better have, by gar), even the most professedly well informed among you should be prepared to admit that you had no idea just how cynical, staged, violent, sinister, and deeply rooted in leftist tradition the Occupy movement was. It's impossible to escape the implication that the Obama White House was, if not a "community organizing" sponsor of this ugliness, at least a happy beneficiary of its anti-capitalist, anti-American, ultimately anarchistic message.

If our president hates America and the majority of the American population, how can he be tied with Romney in the polls? Or is he? Given that the MSM lied to us thoroughly about what Occupy was and did, maybe the biggest of big left lies is yet to come.

Why I get so mad when we spend so much time sniping at Romney. I've been here before. The whole country can be torn apart and degenerate into violent civil war. Or we can keep our heads and elect a president who, whatever his other faults, doesn't actively seek the downfall of the United States of America. Would that be a reluctant vote? Really?

What would Dagny do? Maybe mount a Romney Express train and ride it to the end rather than flee to a remote canyon in the end time? You tell me.

And God bless Andrew Breitbart. Like many conservatives, he acted like a Spartan guarding the pass from the Persians. The way I feel most days. But what if Romney is using the book of T'sun Tzu? Don't know. I can only hope. In the interim, see to it that everyone you know watches Occupy Unmasked. Whether they like you afterwards or not.


The Way I've Always Felt:
And Where We Are Today.

. I've convinced you that I despise SciFi. Funny. I'm a SciFi writer. What else is the punk writer story? Always believed we were en route to something glorious. But the crew on board isn't buying it. Yet I still believe there is meaning and beauty if we only persist. Otherwise, there is only the stuff of my nightmares.

Something makes me harsh and brutal, and something tells me to trust my intuition not to surrender, because the mission is sublime. Scots aren't always right, but they're not always wrong either. Even if no one likes them. Sometimes, being cold, calculating, and, uh, cold is exactly the right policy. The only way to keep on living after the storm.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Too Big to Fail
Dilemma, Part One Point Five

Yeah, dude. I don't know either.

TO TIDE YOU OVER. I'd like to believe it. I'd love to think Romney is a moderate out of temperence. But it's more likely he's a moderate because his thinking is simply muddied. Some thoughts while we wait for The Boss to post Part II.

Randians, for example, would argue that the company which failed to make changes in its own self-interest was doomed by its own decision-making. And their perspective would be vindicated by the ultimate failure of McDonnell Douglass (subsumed by Boeing). Liberals would argue that the lack of government authority over private sector profiteers resulted in more than 300 unnecessary deaths. Who's right? Both and neither.

Implying the pragmatic truth is a mean somewhere between these two extremes. It's not.

In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, lots of Big Government cheerleaders took the opportunity to sneer at the tea parties for wanting less regulation. "THIS is what a deregulated world looks like," they declared under pics of smoking rubble and dead baby piles. Overlooking the fact that regulation doesn't inherently enforce only good rules. You'd think the stridently pro-pot left could get its head around this.

Buliding codes are good because they keep bulidings standing during earthquakes. Building codes are also good because it's in a contractor's best moral and legal interest to keep his buildings from collapsing. To say nothing of the consequences he faces after that collapse-- He'll benefit from a good reputation a lot more than he'd benefit from cutting a few corners with substandard materials and techniques. RL may have phrased it as well as anyone ever has: "Wrong is wrong, and bad business besides." This is what objectivists call true selfishness; the rational part of "rational self-interest." Greed is as self-destructive as a heroin habit.

Randians believe the only legitimate function of government is protecting individual rights. A police force and national defense qualify. So do consumer product safety agencies, as a kind of "fraud police." Companies guilty of willful grevious crimes against their customers should be shut down. That's not "market interference." That's justice. This sort of regulation is not on the same order as a regulation arbitrarily mandating what kind of garbage disposal must be used in a residential remodel, with fines and penalties attendant. To blindly hate or blindly embrace regulation as such is to commit the error Bill Buckley famously described by pushing old ladies in front of buses:

... to say that the CIA and the KGB engage in similar practices is the equivalent of saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus: on the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around.

Look again at how precise and clarifying the Objectivist articulation of the proper role of government is. "Protecting individual rights." Three words. That exquisitely delimit government action. It's the kind of clarity that only comes from an unconflicted concept of government. And an unconflicted concept of man.

How competent are men to govern themselves? Your answer to this question determines how free you think men should be. Morality IS self government. Out of one side of its mouth, conservatism says each man is the most qualified to judge the circumstances of his life and act accordingly. Out of the other, conservatism says man is essentially weak and immoral and should be free only because the authorities on earth at present are other, similarly weak and immoral men.

The conservative tradition isn't one tradition, but a few, and these conflict. The Catholic and Protestant view of man as a fallen, innately sinful creature is irrevocably at odds with the Founding Generation's view of man as deserving and having capacity to exercise freedom. The fact that the Founders themselves were reluctant to recognize this contradiction only proves their reluctance. One cannot be half anti-man and half pro-man. One cannot hold that a totally depraved creature ought to pursue his happiness.

To quote from RL's essay on the 2000 election:

The notion, shared by most people, that there can be some working compromise between such polar opposites is naive.... Whatever rhetoric is used to disguise the conflict does not resolve the conflict. The ideas are, by definition, at war with one another. They will surface, and perhaps not as philosophical imperatives, but as warriors in a battle for control of the operative structure. Because of the extended timeframe over which such battles are fought, people can be lulled into interpreting the war as a working compromise.

So goes conservatism. No man can serve two philosophical masters, but that won't stop him from trying. This internal inconsistency manifests itself in external policy. The right talks a lot of smack about the left's presumption to know better than the common man what the common man's good is, but the right is scarcely better. When it comes to drugs and biblically proscribed sex acts and other areas of man's innate weakness, conservatism says man must have morality enforced from the top down. In this mode, the right is no different from the left in things like social security. Since man is (too weak to use drugs with temperence/too stupid to save his­ own money for retirement), he must have better choices made for him. Against his will, but on his behalf.

Because their principles are in conflict, conservatives cannot define the proper role of government in a principled way. At least, not in a way consistent with all their principles. They literally don't know what government is supposed to do. They don't even know how to ask the question. Hence "compassionate conservatism." Hence privatized social security accounts. ("what if I want to just keep that money and spend it how I see fit?" "Fuck you.") Hence Rubio and Ryan's defenses of Medicare, which was justly reviled by the conservatives of three generations ago.

The real bitch of it all is that Romney ought to have known better than his mainstream conservative influence, and had the intellectual tools in his background to rise above it. Mormons are uniquely free from destructive notions of original sin. Their Articles of Faith state the matter in unmistakable plainness: "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression." Then again, the Mormon church, in light of the history of its persecution, ought to also have an innate revulsion at the notion of enforcing its doctrinal preferences on civic institutions (ie Prop 8). Of all people, they should have a passion for keeping church and state seperate. But maybe that's another impossible compromise. For any people of faith.

Laws (the ones passed in good faith, that aren't designed for graft and looting) are attempts to legislate morality, to enforce what the legislator sees as right. For this reason, legislators of faith are essentially and inevitably theocratic. The more sincere their faith, the stronger their theocratic urges. Many denominations give lip service to freedom of conscience in both worship and civic matters, but that barely forestalls the inevitable. Conservatives repeatedly champion a "social safety net" of "some kind." Involuntary funding of that safety net meets every definition of theocracy-- except that God's name isn't explicitly mentioned. Although it'll probably come up at some point in the speech announcing the grand new policy.

Objectivism, though not without problems (I'll admit it; I'm no parrot), is free from all this confusion. It's view of man is simple, and thoroughly American: All men have the capacity to be moral. Most men will choose to do so. Government is necessitated by the small minority who won't. In other words: A few men won't respect the rights of other men, and they will need to be restrained. Everyone else ought to be left to go about their business, unmolested and un-looted. And what are rights? Rights are what man requires to live and be happy on this earth. God has no essential place in that equation, but there's room for Him as long as He stays out of the math's way.

Minarchism. Not the mean between the two extremes of total freedom and total control, but the proper place between them. The maximum liberty humanly possible.

Will I still vote Romney? Yep. But only because I can't just vote No on Obama. One of these days I'd sure like to vote for someone.

Anyway. My two cents for now. ­Anxiously awaiting the next installment.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The "Too Big to
 Fail" Dilemma

Coming soon to a theater (somewhat) near you or in a nearby state.

JUST HAS TO BE THE RIGHT HIT. Nuts and bolts sometimes trump grand philosophies. My whole point in this post. If you get the depths of that statement, no need to read further.  If you're not sure, I've got a parable for you. A real life parable.

Points I'll stipulate up front. I've written harsh things about "moderates." At the moment Romney is under attack from committed conservatives, libertarians, and objectivists on the grounds that he's unwilling to bloody his hands in the campaign against Obama because he's, at base, let's face it, a moderate.

I feel very much the same way. I want the man to grow a spine, I want him to show some Jack Dempsey, some Rocky Marciano, and wade in with uppercuts, right crosses, and left hooks. Which is a "Luxury" I have, along with all my fellow disgruntled citizens. Because I'm not facing the consequences of actually winning and having to govern a nation that's been torn in half for well over a decade. Why I have to concede that there's a definition of moderate I left off my old list. And why the parable should be a lesson to both left and right, with a hint of why Romney might be smarter than any of us thinks he is.

In 1972, a brand new American Airlines DC-10, the first jumbo jet, takes off from Detroit and runs into an immediate emergency:

Watch it all, but if you're impatient, watch first 2 min, then skip to 30 min in.

It's called tombstone technology. Make a big enough mistake, however small, and people die. A phenomenon not peculiar to the airline industry but one which characterizes it. What's the lesson? A challenge to both right and left on the subject of capitalism. It's no longer a theoretical issue. People do die because of business decisions. The definition, I guess, of a parable in the modern age. Randians, for example, would argue that the company which failed to make changes in its own self-interest was doomed by its own decision-making. And their perspective would be vindicated by the ultimate failure of McDonnell Douglass (subsumed by Boeing). Liberals would argue that the lack of government authority over private sector profiteers resulted in more than 300 unnecessary deaths. Who's right? Both and neither.

If you've watched as many 'air disaster' and 'air emergency' shows as I have, you begin to see that the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) are the good guys. They're called in to investigate air accidents all over the world because those accidents involve American victims, American aircraft manufacturers, or significantly, countries whose expertise is not up to the task. When a Boeing jet owned by a French airline crashes in Colombia with a load of passengers from Japan or Venezuela, politics immediately intrudes. The NTSB brings only its own stolid professionalism to the situation, and their function is a legitimate manifestation of the American federal government. This, I'm thinking, is a big chunk of ordinary resistance to the idea that limited government means staying the hell out of everything that affects private enterprise. People, quite properly, trust this aspect of federal intervention in free enterprise. It helps keep them safe. They rely on it, not foolishly.

On the other hand, government agencies are also complicit in the decision making that killed more than 300 passengers on a DC-10 in 1974. The NTSB sent its professional recommendation to a political FAA that changed stern engineering warnings into a handshake deal between one-percenters. McDonnell-Douglass was deemed by top bureaucrats "too big to fail." So much was riding on the success of the first jumbo jet that federal bureaucrats overlooked their responsibilities and allowed corners to be cut. Authority they had to remedy private sector negligence was not exercised. One could easily see that as crony capitalism. Or a precursor of TARP.

The point of a parable. Where is the right? Is it absolute, ideological, is perfection achievable? Remember that the result of your answer is the 300+ unrecognizable bodies from a 1974 crash.

Which paves the way to a glimpse of the pragmatic moderate. And, yeah, I'm talking about Romney.

The biggest fallacy in the assessment of candidates who are latecomers to 'professional politics' is that they have no experience of politics. The world of business is also pervaded by politics. There are two stereotypes which dominate the business incarnation of politics: the man who offends everyone and succeeds by dint of his alpha dominance; and the man who offends no one and succeeds by continuously holding his fire, watching, learning even from his opponents, and building consensus support for his own equally egotistical and ruthless priorities. In Romney, it appears we have the second of the two stereotypes. In short, yeah, he sees limits to self-interest and a government role in caring for the defenseless. Hence RomneyCare.

What does this mean politically, and specifically, in terms of our parable?

You can arrive at your own answers. Here are mine. There's no such thing as too big to fail, unless we're talking about the United States of America. Companies, however big, that don't earn a profit are the makers of their own destiny. On the other hand, even with a devout belief in free private enterprise, there is still a role for government, places where the expert hand can play an impartial and non-profit-oriented role. Which is entirely consistent with Romney's religious and personal history and his propensity for charity to the less fortunate.

My closing question? What do you think Romney would have done to McDonnell-Douglass when he found out they had knowingly manufactured a faulty jumbo jet door? That distance we keep seeing in him? I think that's a sign he would have lowered the boom on them all. Firing people is part of the distance we see in successful executives. When we cook pancakes, we're thinking pancakes. They're thinking duties and responsibilities even when they pat the kid on the head. Because wrong is wrong and bad business besides. And if government had to be part of the redress, he would have used government. Just being there is no reason to keep a bad company alive.

In the meantime, he's not in the business of making enemies. He would like, from Day One, to be able to call his opponents and say, "Let's have a meeting. We have work to do. To get this sinking ship back on an even keel." He can't do that if he's trashed all the ship's crew on the way to the captaincy. A luxury he doesn't want to afford....

...unless he has to. Conservatives? Libertarians? Time is yours. (But stay tuned for Part 2.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Deerhound Art

MY BOY. I told you Raebert was depressed. I think it's my fault. My wife says three times in the last week she's been awakened by me saying "No, no, no, no, no"  in my sleep. Something about the election, no doubt. This morning I went down to check on the sighthounds and our Pug Eloise. Eloise was in her crate, where she spends every night because a certain someone devils her all night long otherwise, and here's what greeted me.

Yeah, his eyes are like that if you wake him up suddenly...

Then there were the toys he usually likes to throw around. Clumped in front of the bureau. The football and the soccer ball were under the couch as usual. Where he prefers to store them.

The greeny-gray thing is a hedgehog. It has no up or down.

It was everything else that was so startling. You could probably (maybe) overlook the dead baby hippo.

He was over by the water bowl Raebert had overturned.

But you couldn't possibly ignore the rest of his tableau.

Lord knows, deerhounds aren't smart. Unless they are. But Raebert's trying to tell me something. I'm listening.

For a change.

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