What I Did Not Write About Enough in 2012

Climate change

Nothing new there. Alarmists keep lying, making up data, cherry-picking data, exaggerating grossly the consequences of what does happen on the climate front. Not really worth dealing with. Instead, go to the “What’s Up With That” blog every so often. There is a direct link to it on the front of this blog and here also, is the link: Masters, McKibben and Droughting Thomases.

It’s not exactly a dead horse though; it’s a new religion that will find its place among others and perhaps, next to the “Maya Calendar End of the World” cult. Or, maybe not, or maybe, it’s a little more: It looks like one of those widespread but lightly held beliefs. It may become soon like the rule that you don’t walk under a ladder. It might influence legislation yet, but, I think not in a major way. I believe we got off easy.

Belief in global warming plays an important role in my life though. It helps me separate in seconds those who are real skeptics, like me, from those who merely play at pretending to be skeptics in order to glean the social benefits of such skepticism.

And, in case you are wondering, here is my current understanding: There is no warming that is global, and of significant duration, and that’s man-made, and that constitutes an emergency for humankind.

The Arab Spring

I pretty stopped blogging on this because it’s hard to say anything while the events still seem to be shaking themselves out in the Arab World. Islamists do seem to be winning everywhere but then, “Islamists” have been in power in Turkey for a long time and I don’t much mind. It’s not always clear what the term means in the context of Arab societies that have known nothing but tyranny. Perhaps, it means “not corrupt” to many Arabs. Whether I am right or wrong, I am squarely in the corner of the Egyptian secular forces. I wish there were a more tangible way to help them than just expressing approval. My government is not going to do a thing, I believe. It’s “neo-conservative” to support democratic forces. It’s Bushism; can’t have it! Let the poor bastards die at the hand of their own kinfolks. Kinship makes massacres respectable.

The alternative is to face the fact that your preferred the good old days of Saddam Hussein and of his mass graves. I actually know liberals who do.

A distantly related comment: Apparently, mainstream libertarians still believe that when Taliban gangsters burn alive a busload of other Muslims in Pakistan (Shiites) it’s because there are American troops near Muslim holy places.

I am not holding my breath for Ron Paul or his minions to correct me on this. (Lexico. note: “minion” comes from a French word that means “cute” and “cutie.” Look it up.)

America’s big fiscal problems

I have not blogged much about the US domestic problem since the immediate aftermath of the election (See: “The Disaster: A Teenage Victory“). I am still stunned. I have not caught my breath. The US faced very big problems in the form of absurdly fast growing current deficits, an accumulated national debt that exceeds GDP*, and legal obligations to support the old and the poor sick that cannot be fulfilled under any current scenario. We were facing crippling inflation down the road. I mean impoverishment for a generation or for two, of forever. That was in addition to tenaciously high unemployment and an economic growth rate like that of France in a bad year.

President Obama did not win any argument about those looming issues. Instead, he campaigned on the Mitt Romney’s secret (but perfectly legal) bank accounts, his alleged destruction of American jobs through his business, even the tall and false tale of a woman dying without care because of his company. “A silly smoke screen,” wise observers like me thought; “He will never distract the people from the bad economy of his four years of administration they can see right in front of their eyes.”

Well, when the smoke cleared, it turned out it was not a screen but a magic cloud. The President had not won the overall economic debate; instead, he had deftly, nearly completely sidestepped it. He won as if none of the above existed or as if it were a list of minor issues. Alone among heads of government in power in the winter of 2009, President Obama was re-elected as if nothing had happened under his administration, as if this were a normal year in America.

The man I had described several times as one who had never accomplished anything in his life implemented the most abrupt peacetime transformation of a modern society in my lifetime. As of this writing, I believe that short of a miracle, we have become one more confiscation/handout society.

There might be a miracle to save us yet. It would come in the form of sudden fast economic growth. I am thinking more than 5% annual growth. It could be triggered by cheap domestic energy, energy not coming from bad neighborhoods.

This is a thin hope. Suddenly, I am glad I am old.

On the same day that American politicians failed to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” they had erected for us, the President gave himself and them a pay raise. He did not say why. He is a real miracle worker. For some reason, he does not have to say why.

*This means that if we took all the money Americans earn in one year and did not spend anything on food and shelter, education, and health, if we could just pay up the public debt. Apply this to your own household situation. Suppose that your credit cards debt equaled your annual income before taxes. Don’t include your mortgage payment because that is secured by the property you own. The national debt is unsecured.

The new class struggle

I read Karl Marx pretty thoroughly although it was a long time ago (see: “Karl Marx Was Right (Pretty Much)“). It helped me recognize faster than many that America is a class society but that the classes Obama supporters whine about in true 19th century fashion are almost irrelevant.

There is a big and growing disparity visible with the naked eyes, obvious in my neighborhood, between two broad categories of wage earners. On the one side are those who have managed to enlist the violent threat of government action to promote and to protect their economic interests. Among those are unionized workers and government employees. Unionized government employees stand at the pinnacle of this new class, of course. Also included are traditional categories who have managed quietly to grow in numbers under the mantle of traditional legitimate occupations. University administrators are an excellent instance. I believe they have grown in numbers by a factor of ten per student in my lifetime without producing anything of tangible value.

In general, these new classes receive superior total remunerations that are not morally justified by anything, not by high productivity measured against any intelligible standard, not by making important contributions to society, not by essential services rendered, and certainly not by being indispensable to the functioning of anything we value. Their remuneration is not in any way connected to their performance, individual or collective. Thus, there is no evidence that the well-paid public-school teachers of today, with their absurdly generous benefits packages, are any better at their job than the poorly paid teacher of yesteryear. It wouldn’t even be difficult to make the case that the reverse is true.

So, there are the main discussions I did not finish. Someone will, probably in 2013 and beyond.

One thought on “What I Did Not Write About Enough in 2012

  1. Lots to discuss here.

    I wish there were a more tangible way to help them than just expressing approval.

    And I wish I had won the lottery. Reality sucks, I agree. Nevertheless…

    It’s “neo-conservative” to support democratic forces.

    No, the neo-conservative position is that it is okay for a global power to invade, occupy, and govern weaker states under the guise of promoting democracy. Mind you, neo-conservatives aren’t interested in promoting policies that will actually lead to prosperity and peace. Policies like market-based reforms, trade agreements, or pressure to strengthen property rights are not on the neo-conservative agenda, in foreign policy or domestic.

    The alternative is to face the fact that your preferred the good old days of Saddam Hussein and of his mass graves.

    Why, of course this is the only alternative! You’re either for fighting every dictatorship in the world, regardless of the costs (including, most dangerously, declining into a dictatorship ourselves), or you are a “liberal” who secretly loves dictatorships. How could I not see this before?

    The West went wrong when it implemented sanctions on Iraq. Sanctions have the uncanny ability of strengthening dictatorships. The Arab Spring did a good job of toppling dictatorships that had no sanctions imposed upon their realms by the West. Libya, Egypt and Tunisia were actually on fairly good terms with the West when the uprising happened. Libya was even working with the US government to imprison and “extract information” from Islamists!

    Iran and Syria, on the other hand, were on the receiving end of sanctions.

    “But wait,” Dr. Delacroix will rebut, “the Arab Spring wasn’t as prominent in Iraq as it has been elsewhere. This is proof that Iraq is a democracy.” The Arab Spring, however, didn’t show up in Saudi Arabia, either.

    I think that the Arab Spring’s lack of prominence in Iraq is best expressed by the Arab world’s newest strongman: Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister of Iraq. He said that the democratic aspirations of Arabs throughout the world will benefit Israel first and foremost:

    There is no doubt that there is a country that is waiting for the Arab countries to be ripped and is waiting for internal corrosion. Zionists and Israel are the first and biggest beneficiaries of this whole process. We must take notice and be careful not to be the prey of the ambitions of this usurping country.

    Indeed. War is the health of the state.

    A distantly related comment: Apparently, mainstream libertarians still believe that when Taliban gangsters burn alive a busload of other Muslims in Pakistan (Shiites) it’s because there are American troops near Muslim holy places.

    Dr. J is conflating two very different things here. Whether it’s purposeful or not, I don’t know, but given the arguments I’ve had with him in the past on foreign policy I’d say that he is being obstinately ignorant here.

    There are important distinctions that need to be made when we talk of factions, foreign or domestic. This is a history lesson that needs to be remembered, and one that hawks conveniently forget, much to the detriment of the republic.

    Al-Qaeda used the holy land argument for justification for attacking the US. The Taliban was a faction that ruled over Kabul, a city in Afghanistan, and claimed lordship over the entire state (though it obviously couldn’t back up such a claim). Building a straw man out of opponents’ arguments is what led us to invading and occupying states like Vietnam and Iraq in the first place. Such a practice is deeply immoral.

    By the way, Hindu nationalists routinely burn busloads of Muslims in India. Buddhist factions in Myanmar have been murdering Muslims in horrific ways for decades. Hindu Tamils were murdering Buddhist Sinhalese for decades. Etc. Etc.

    Is that an excuse to invade, occupy, and govern another society? The answer, I think, may best be found in the histories of various European societies who tried to do the same thing and ended up being responsible for some of humanity’s most atrocious acts.

Please keep it civil

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