Category Archives: Totty

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Rule Five Inauguration Day Friday

Programming note:  This post was finalized and scheduled last night, as this morning I have departed early to drive west, from Denver to Silicon Valley via Las Vegas.  There I will spend the next 6-12 months helping a Valley company get their Quality Management ducks all in a row, and if I were a religious man I would add “and may God have mercy on my soul.”  There are few places on the planet where I fit in less than Californey, and the Bay Area is one of the nuttiest environs in a nutty state.

But still, as I’m fond of pointing out, they pay me to go where the work is, not where the fun is.

Moving right along:  It’s Trump Day!  At noon EST today, The Donald takes the reins of power from outgoing President Obama – the very reins he pretty much grabbed from the lamest of lame ducks some time ago.  Today’s ceremonies just make it official.  But it’s significant, as this heralds another peaceful transition of power, one that goes back to when George Washington peacefully left office in 1797, handed the reins of power over to John Adams and went back to his farm, making the world’s kings, queens, emperors and potentates let out a collective “…what the fuck?”

Note that qualifier:  “Peaceful” transition of power.  It may be technically peaceful, but it remains to be seen how peaceful the Imperial capital will be while the ceremonies take place.  Notorious dissembler and blowpig Micheal Moore has promised to lead a protest, and an unprecedented number of Democratic pols are protesting by eschewing the inaugural festivities.

One could apply the term “sore loser,” but by all means let us be generous and apply the benefit of the doubt, that they are being sincere in their convictions, no matter how misguided.

So, what shall we expect to see in this brave new world, with our unexpected, unprecedented and somewhat surreal real-estate mogul/developer/reality TV star President?  Here are some tidbits:

As I’ve been saying for a while now, it’s going to be an interesting four years – hell, it’s going to be an interesting first 100 days, traditionally that magical interval in which a new President expends a bunch of political capital to get agenda items implemented while the blush is still on the rose.

Here’s where it’s going to be different this time, True Believers; this rose has no blush.  Never did, never will.  The Donald won the GOP nomination over the objections of much of his own party, and won election (handily) in what a lot of folks, yr. obdt. included, saw as an unexpected upset.  Most of the legacy media makes little effort to conceal their contempt for The Donald, and the feeling is certainly mutual.

But if he follows through on some of his stated positions – tax rate cuts, repairing the ACA, reducing regulation, and if we can persuade him to maybe eliminate a few unnecessary Imperial agencies, we may just have a few pretty prosperous years ahead.  Cross your fingers!  It’s going to be an exciting ride.

Rule Five Bad Decisions Friday

Ever given any thought to the worst Supreme Court in recent history?  I’m not talking about miscarriages of justice like the Dred Scott decision; I’m talking about the post-Depression era, when many of the Imperial institutions in place today were brought into play.

When posed this question, many will mention Roe v. Wade, or some other decision on social issues.  I’m not talking about those, at least not today.  And I’m not denying there have been some good decisions in recent years, particularly on Second Amendment issues.

But one decision paved the way for a massive expansion of Imperial power on commerce; it was a bad decision, it was unjust, and it should be overturned.  That 1942 decision was Wickard v. Filburn, which opened up the definition of “interstate commerce” to include anything Congress thinks it should mean.  Here’s a summary of that decision:

An Ohio farmer, Roscoe Filburn, was growing wheat for use to feed animals on his own farm. The U.S. government had established limits on wheat production based on acreage owned by a farmer, in order to stabilize wheat prices and supplies. In 1941 Filburn grew more than the limits permitted and he was ordered to pay a penalty of $117.11. He claimed his wheat was not sold in interstate commerce and so the penalty could not apply to him. The Supreme Court stated “The intended disposition of the crop here involved has not been expressly stated” and later “Whether the subject of the regulation in question was ‘production’, ‘consumption’, or ‘marketing’ is, therefore, not material for purposes of deciding the question of federal power before us … [b]ut even if appellee’s activity be local and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce and this irrespective of whether such effect is what might at some earlier time have been defined as ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’.”[4]

The Supreme Court interpreted the United States Constitution‘s Commerce Clause under Article 1 Section 8, which permits the United States Congress “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” The Court decided that Filburn’s wheat growing activities reduced the amount of wheat he would buy for animal feed on the open market, which is traded nationally (interstate), and is therefore within the purview of the Commerce Clause. Although Filburn’s relatively small amount of production of more wheat than he was allotted would not affect interstate commerce itself, the cumulative actions of thousands of other farmers just like Filburn would certainly become substantial. Therefore, according to the court, Filburn’s production could be regulated by the federal government.

The decision turned on the idea that a crop, like wheat, is a fungible commodity, and that a farmer growing wheat on his own land for his own use has some effect on the overall price of the commodity.  The decision involved the Constitutionality of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, a statute that is in and of itself in direct conflict with fundamental liberties and free markets.

Look, though, at the original issue here.  The Imperial government, then under President Franklin Roosevelt, held that the Congress has the ability to regulate the growing of a crop on private land for personal use.  The result of this is that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution exploded to cover any damn thing that Congress can possibly shoehorn into that definition.

That’s insane.  The argument is that the fungibility of a crop and the Imperial government’s unfair and unreasonable controls of the prices of agricultural commodities overrules the rights of a private citizen to grow crops on private land for personal use.

I’ve stated repeatedly in these virtual pages that there are two principles that are paramount in a free society:  Liberty and Property.   Wickard v. Filburn violates both of those principles.  This decision, along with the the Agricultural Adjustment Act and it’s successors, should be overturned.  I’d like to see the incoming Trump Administration, which has paid lip service to free markets, to move in this direction; to overturn one of the most liberty-restrictive laws and supporting Supreme Court decisions in recent history.

Rule Five Blind Hogs And Acorns Friday

Brit uber-liberal Piers Morgan finds an acorn – sort of.  Excerpt:

Obama’s spent the past few weeks charging around like a guy who’s watching the clock tick down and is desperate to snatch some semblance of victory from the jaws of a crushing, humiliating defeat.

Since the election, as the New York Times reported, he’s banned oil drilling off the Atlantic coast, named over 100 people to a range of senior government jobs, created new environmental monuments, commuted the sentences of 232 inmates and pardoned 78 others, protected funding for Planned Parenthood clinics, ordered the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay and blocked new Israeli settlements.

As some critics sneer, it’s more governing than he’s done in eight years.

Thus far, Morgan is correct.  President Obama has spent the last few weeks thrashing around like a spoiled child being sent to bed early; his legacy is crumbling, The Donald has promised to dismantle most of his key accomplishments (which, certainly, is a good part of the reason why he was elected.)  In 2009 the incoming President-elect Obama praised outgoing President Bush for the helpful and gracious way he managed the transition, but Obama doesn’t seem inclined to follow suit, and what’s more, he and his staff seem wildly deluded as to how successful he actually was; as Morgan points out:

His senior adviser Valerie Jarrett had people choking on their cornflakes on Sunday when she absurdly claimed that ‘dignified’ Obama’s greatest pride was in avoidance of any scandal during his presidency.

Really, Valerie?

What about the Benghazi fiasco?

Or the IRS shambles?

Or the Obamacare disintegration?

Or the shameful broken promises to the Sandy Hook families about new gun laws?

Or the failure to stop Putin and Assad’s monstrous behaviour in Syria?

All good points.  But here’s where Morgan wanders off course (my comments interposed):

Yes he killed Bin Laden,  (No; a Navy SEAL team killed Bin Laden, although President Obama OKed the move) yes he stopped America careering into an even bigger financial abyss after the 2008 crash, (Not really, no; he doubled the national debt and presided over 8 years of the slowest economic growth in our history) yes he got unemployment back to a reasonable level, (and yet labor participation rate is lower than it’s been since the 1970s) and yes he’s legalized gay marriage (No, the Supreme Court did that) and cannabis. (No, several states have legalized marijuana; Obama has done nothing on that front.)

As stated earlier, even blind hogs occasionally find acorns.  Piers Morgan has found one – but then, before even concluding one article, he veers back into a pile of the stuff swine are much better known for.

Nobody should be surprised by that, of course.  When a dog pisses on a fire hydrant, he’s not committing vandalism; he’s just being a dog.  Ditto for Morgan.

Rule Five Buhbye 2016 Friday

Shall we talk about the year just past?  2016 was many things, but boring wasn’t among them.

The big story – nay, the yuuuuge story of the year, of course, was The Donald’s surprising and unexpected election victory, handily beating out Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I for the keys to the Imperial Mansion.  And I use the term ‘unexpected’ advisedly, as I went to my rack the evening of Election Day expecting (sadly) to wake to the news of the Dowager Empress’s coronation.  Instead, I woke to the news of a Trump victory.

The reasons for that victory?  Well, there’s been a lot of speculation about that, but I think there are a few that stand out:

  1. Trump knew exactly what he was doing.  He knew his target audience and, in the manner of a master showman, knew precisely how to appeal to them.  Thus the shellacking he gave Her Imperial Majesty in some traditionally blue Rust Belt states.
  2. Her Majesty ran a perfectly awful campaign.  She couldn’t be bothered to even appear in several of the aforementioned Rust Belt states; when and where she did appear, she had a hard time amassing more than a few dozen followers – while The Donald was holding rallies with crowds of thousands.  She had all the charisma and personal appeal of a stuffed iguana.
  3. Even though the legacy media was completely in the tank for the Dowager Empress, the touchy-feely coverage wasn’t enough to cover up the fact that the Democrats put forth the most deeply and fundamentally corrupt political figures since Nero.  The Donald had some creepy moments, but when creep was placed alongside crook, the American people chose creep.

Still – the election may have been the big political story of the year, but it wasn’t the only one.  2016’s other big hits included:

  1. The Democratic Party’s doubling down on stupid.  After historic losses at the State and Federal level, the Democrats have complete control of only four states; the GOP holds all or part of the State governments in the remaining forty-six states, as well as (starting in January) both the Legislative and Executive branches of government.  And still, House Democrats re-install the nearly-fossilized Nancy Pelosi as House Minority leader, and vow to continue the drift to the left that has made them a regional minority party.
  2. Europe’s descent into a new Dark Age.  It hasn’t happened yet, but Europe is well on its way to becoming a Muslim caliphate.  2016 began with the rapes and assaults on German women in Cologne, and ended with a jihadi nutbar driving a truck through a crowded Christkindlmarkt in Berlin.  Angela Merkel has promised to double down on stupid as well, insisting that Germany will continue to accept thousands of Middle Eastern refugees without exception.
  3. North Korea, that failed Stalinist state run by a stunted little gargoyle with bad hair from a long line of stunted little gargoyles with bad hair, launched a rocket into space – technology that could double as an intercontinental missile, one that may even be able to carry one of the paranoid, isolationist country’s nukes.
  4. Brexit!  The people of the UK vote to leave the European Union, in a vote that was the most surprising of the year – until November 8th, when The Donald handily trounced Her Imperial Majesty.

It was a bad year for celebrities, as the year started with the death of Alan Rickman in January and concluded with the death of Carrie Fisher only last Tuesday.  But it was a good year for the American folk music scene, with America’s Songwriter Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature – a prize he couldn’t be bothered to accept or even acknowledge.

It was an interesting year, this year just past, yr. obdt’s fifty-fifth on this little blue orb.  What can we expect, I wonder, from 2017?  Some things to watch:

  1. The Donald’s remake of the American judiciary.  He has one Supreme Court vacancy and a hundred or more Imperial judges to appoint.  His Supreme Court pick is expected to replace the departed Antonin Scalia as a reliable Constitutionalist voice on the Court, and one presumes his picks for lower courts will be as well.  A Trump Presidency is going to be different in many ways, but his impact on the judiciary may be more influential, more far-reaching and with longer effect than anything else he does.
  2. More AI, more robots, more self-driving cars and trucks.  Technology is increasing at an ever-faster pace.  We are now in the third great revolution of Western civilization; there was the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and now the Technological Revolution.  It’s going to change everything.
  3. More jihadi nutcases.  Even as the world continues with the Tech Revolution, there are dark forces that seek to drag us back into the 11th century.  Look for this clash of civilizations to continue as the West begins to look to leaders with some spine to resist the jihadis.

So, join me in welcoming 2017.  Like its predecessor, I suspect it will be anything but dull.

Rule Five Laws of Economics Friday

This recently in from the economics deep thinkers over at the Mises Institute:  Ten Fundamental Laws of Economics.  Excerpt:

In the midst of so many economic fallacies being repeatedly seemingly without end, it may be helpful to return to some of the most basic laws of economics. Here are ten of them that bear repeating again and again. 

1. Production precedes consumption

Although it is obvious that in order to consume something it must first exist, the idea to stimulate consumption in order to expand production is all around us. However, consumption goods do not just fall from the sky. They are at the end of a long chain of intertwined production processes called the “structure of production.” Even the production of an apparently simple item such as a pencil, for example, requires an intricate network of production processes that extend far back into time and run across countries and continents.

2. Consumption is the final goal of production

Consumption is the objective of economic activity, and production is its means. The advocates of full employment violate this obvious idea. Employment programs turn production itself into the objective. The valuation of consumption goods by the consumers determines the value of production goods. Current consumption results from the production process that extends to the past, yet the value of this production structure depends on the current state of valuation by the consumers and the expected future state. Therefore, the consumers are the final de facto owners of the production apparatus in a capitalist economy.

By all means read the whole thing.  Rule #3 re-states Heinlein’s TANSTAAFL, but #9 is my personal favorite:

9. Profit is the entrepreneurial bonus

In competitive capitalism, economic profit is the extra bonus that those businesses earn that fix allocative errors. In an evenly rotating economy with no change, there would be neither profit nor loss and all companies would earn the same rate of interest. In a growing economy, however, change takes place and anticipating changes is the source of economic profits. Business that does well in forecasting future demand earn high rates of profit and will grow, while those entrepreneurs who fail to anticipate the wants of the consumers will shrink and finally must shut down.

To that point:  The reason socialism fails, every time it’s tried (the number and enthusiasm of the socialist state’s Top Men notwithstanding) is the lack of a profit motive.  This is not so much a law of economics as it is a law of human behavior, but people will always work longer, harder and more creatively for personal gain than for any other reason.  I need only look in the mirror for an example; having been self-employed since 2003, I can tell you without qualification or reservation that I drive myself harder than any boss ever did.

There’s a word for this model of economics:  Liberty.  Not capitalism; ‘capitalism’ is a term invented by socialists to describe a system in which people are free to do what they please with their talents, resources, skills and wealth, without interference by government.

Will the incoming Trump Administration move us away from the past few decades of increasing government meddling in the economy?  It’s hard to say.  But it’s damnably certain that Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I would have certainly pushed us farther down the road towards the path Venezuela is on.

Rule Five Thoughts on Japan Friday

There’s a lot to be said about Japan.

Just now, about to end my third project in that country – albeit a short one – I’m inclined to share some of my thoughts of a place I’ve grown rather fond of.

I like Japan.  I like the food, the folks, the scenery.  I enjoy the porcelain beauty of so many young Japanese women and I enjoy the strong undercurrent of politeness and consideration that pervades the culture.

I’ve had some memorable adventures in Japan.  It’s a place where you can walk down a dark side street on a Friday night with little or no worries, a few neighborhoods in Tokyo excepted.  Some of my best adventures in Japan have started in just this way; some aimless wanderings in a new town that led to a great little local watering hole or restaurant.  One of these, some years back, was Koharu – “Spring Nights” in English.  Koharu is a little bar in Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture, that in 2009 was run by three ladies (I’m guessing) in their early to mid 60s.  My friend Paul and I hung out there a lot, and the Mama-sans loved us.

On this trip Paul and I wandered up a little side street in a Tokyo suburb called Fusse and discovered a little local ramen shop, where I enjoyed some of the best ramen I’ve ever laid jaws on.

With all that said, though; I could never live in Japan.  I’m too deeply and irretrievable American, a red-state American at that, to willfully put up with a lot of things Japanese folks take for granted.  Now the Japanese people have the right to choose the government that suits them; they have done so, and I would be the last to say they should change that to suit the whims of Americans, just as I would be the last to say Americans should change our way of life to suit anyone from another country.  But the Japanese culture and still rather unquestioning acceptance of authority has led to some policies that I could not and would not abide.  Among them:

  • No protection against unreasonable search and seizure. I am told the police can legally enter any Japanese home once per year with no cause, no warning, no nothing, just to have a look around; no warrant needed.  In my own Colorado, even were it a police officer trying to force his way into my home, had he no warrant I would have the legal right to part his hair with a shotgun.  Which brings us to:
  • Refusal of the right of armed self-defense. This is not and has not been an issue in Japan, not the least of reasons is their crime rate, which in most places is so low as to be nearly non-existent.  But Japan is a culturally and racially homogenous society, and what’s more a culture that places great value on conformity, on respect for authority, on blending in.  The United States is very different.  America was born in armed rebellion, the exact opposite of respect for authority; Americans today are fractious, rebellious and quarrelsome.  As evidence witness our recently concluded Presidential campaign and its aftermath.  Americans, by and large, favor our right to armed defense, a right defined in the Constitution by men who had just led a citizen’s army to defeat the world’s dominant superpower of the day.

There’s a lot to be said about Japan.  But it’s a very non-libertarian society.  I like the place and would gladly return to visit, or to work, for a while.

But live in Japan?  No.  I’ll take Colorado and, in a few more years, Alaska.