Republicans to cave on the debt ceiling

Rep. Ron Paul expects the usual kabuki:

Al Hunt: Do you think Congress will pass an Extension.

Ron Paul: I do. This will go up until the last minute, then they will raise the debt ceiling.

Al Hunt: Your speaker John Boehner says he will absolutely insist on a dollar of spending reduction for every dollar the debt ceiling goes up. Do you take that seriously?

Ron Paul: I don’t take that seriously. President Reagan wanted two dollars of cuts. The deficit exploded. Do you think the American people will believe that we are going to cut in the future? The only budget that counts is this year. 10-year programs are pie-in-the-sky talking. This year our obligations are five trillion dollars.

Al Hunt: The idea of a spending cap that takes place in ten years does not appeal to you?

Ron Paul: A 10-year spending cap is too little, too late. No one is going to believe it. All governments when they get this far into debt, default. They don’t default by not paying the bills. We will always pay the bills. The default comes from the devaluation of the currency.

The outcome is predictable enough. Republicans will talk a brave game, come up with some ludicrous “mechanism” that will allow them to pretend that they actually accomplished something, then business will proceed as usual. There is simply no way that the political class in the USA is going to directly address, let alone actually attempt fixing, the severe financial and economic problems facing the nation.

Voting for Republicans or Tea Partiers isn’t going to accomplish anything. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it if it makes you feel better, just don’t expect anything substantive to come of it. At least the Romans got some music out of it. What do Americans get as their nation burns? Weiner tweets.

Corrupt like a senator

Public Enemy had it right. Congress is shamelessly crooked. This also explains why they behaved in such a shamelessly slavish manner towards Wall Street when their supposed masters, the American public, were vehemently against TARP and the bank bailouts:

An extensive study released Wednesday in the journal Business and Politics found that the investments of members of the House of Representatives outperformed those of the average investor by 55 basis points per month, or 6 percent annually, suggesting that lawmakers are taking advantage of inside information to fatten their stock portfolios.

“We find strong evidence that members of the House have some type of non-public information which they use for personal gain,” according to four academics who authored the study, “Abnormal Returns From the Common Stock Investments of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

To the frustration of open-government advocates, lawmakers and their staff members largely have immunity from laws barring trading on insider knowledge that have sent many a private corporate chieftain to prison.

It’s that last sentence that shows America is not only dead, but well into a state of rigor mortis. Congressman are not only breaking the law, they have openly declared themselves to be above the law as well. And they are getting away with it.

Send Congress home

Why, exactly, are we bothering to elect Senators and Representatives in the first place now that they have handed hand over control of the money supply to a private bank and war powers to an unholy combination of the executive branch, NATO, and the United Nations? Not only is this not democracy, it’s not even representative democracy, much less in accordance with the Constitution.

In an effort to satisfy those arguing he needs to seek congressional authorization to continue US military activity in accordance with the War Powers Resolution, President Obama wrote a letter to congressional leaders this afternoon suggesting that the role is now so “limited” he does not need to seek congressional approval.

“Since April 4,” the president wrote, “U.S. participation has consisted of: (1) non-kinetic support to the NATO-led operation, including intelligence, logistical support, and search and rescue assistance; (2) aircraft that have assisted in the suppression and destruction of air defenses in support of the no-fly zone; and (3) since April 23, precision strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles against a limited set of clearly defined targets in support of the NATO-led coalition’s efforts.”

A senior administration official told ABC News that the letter is intended to describe “a narrow US effort that is intermittent and principally an effort to support to support the ongoing NATO-led and UN-authorized civilian support mission and no fly zone.”

“The US role is one of support,” the official said, “and the kinetic pieces of that are intermittent.”

From the beginning of the U.S. military intervention in Libya, the Obama administration has cited the 1973 War Powers Act as the legal basis of its ability to conduct military activities for 60 days without first seeking a declaration of war from Congress. The military intervention started on March 19; Congress was notified on March 21. Those 60 days expire today.

One merely wonders how a military target being clearly defined or in support of a coalition effort makes bombing it any less an act of war.

The downfall accelerates

It’s really impossible to pretend that Americans don’t deserve to have their country overrun with barbarians. France has banned the burqah, Switzerland has banned minarets… and 11 U.S. states are providing affirmative action to illegal immigrants:

This week, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a bill to require the state’s public universities to give undocumented aliens — generally illegal — in-state tuition privileges. The bill, known as the Dream Act, is already the law in ten other states, including California, New York, Texas and Illinois. But critics argue that the bill will give illegal aliens better treatment than Americans and legal immigrants — thanks to existing diversity policies at universities.

When one reads history, one often finds oneself astonished at the apparent inability of various political and military leaders to foresee the obvious consequences of their actions. When I was reading Mahan’s reasonably detailed summary of the long struggle for naval supremacy between Britain and France, it was remarkable to read about France’s stubborn unwillingness to change its naval doctrine despite its consistent ineffectiveness in wars spanning hundreds of years and at least three different forms of government. So, I have no doubt that the historians of the future will marvel in disbelief at the epic, self-destructive short-sightedness of the American political class and the bovine placidity of an American public that meekly accepts their inept governance.

What is worse than federal "help"?

“Help” from the United Nations:

Five thousand dead, 300,000 ill, and a medical emergency that has already lasted six months; now the people of Haiti have someone to blame for the cholera outbreak which has swept through their earthquake-ravaged country: the blue-helmeted peacekeepers of the United Nations.

An official report into the ongoing epidemic, which began last October, has concluded that it was almost certainly caused by a poorly constructed sanitation system installed at a rural camp used by several hundred UN troops from Nepal.

The virulent strain of cholera bacteria began infecting locals after faecal matter from their base seeped from badly designed septic pits into the Meye River, a tributary of the Artibonite River in the country’s central region.

The United Nations is far worse than the joke many people believe it to be. If it ever obtains the genuine global power it seeks, the 5,000 Haitians it killed in the last six months will look like the smallest of rounding errors.

The inevitable return of racism

It is becoming increasingly obvious that there was a legitimate reason underlying the imperialist European’s concept of the White Man’s Burden. Those who harbor a distaste for observable reality can shriek “racism” all they like, but no amount of moral self-preening or politically correct histrionics is going to change the fact that certain groups have repeatedly and reliably demonstrated a complete inability to maintain the societal infrastructure that is required to sustain Western-style civilization. There is no need to delve into potential biological or cultural explanations to simply observe what is not only historically and empirically obvious, but increasingly undeniable.

According to a new report, 47 percent of Detroiters are ”functionally illiterate.” The alarming new statistics were released by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund on Wednesday. WWJ Newsradio 950 spoke with the Fund’s Director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, who explained exactly what this means.

“Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job — those types of basic everyday (things). Reading a prescription; what’s on the bottle, how many you should take… just your basic everyday tasks,” she said. “I don’t really know how they get by, but they do. Are they getting by well? Well, that’s another question,” Tyler-Ruiz said.

Now, perhaps those who believe in racial, cultural, national, and ethnic equality will find this piece of evidence unconvincing too. Perhaps 47 percent isn’t high enough to concern them, or perhaps they’ll put it down to some mysterious cultural change that happens to coincide with the transformation of the racial demographics of Detroit. Or perhaps they will suspect semantic games behind ill-defined terms such as “functionally illiterate”. Such excuses may smack of willful obtuseness, but are not entirely unreasonable.

So, here’s the question. Precisely how bad will things have to get before you abandon your belief in racial, cultural, national, religious, and ethnic equality? 100 percent illiteracy? 80 percent illegitimacy? Cannibalism and necrophilia in the streets? Or will it take the complete abandonment of a once-thriving metropolis before you are willing to admit that there actually might be some real science behind the idea that all human beings are not, in fact, equal in any material manner and that civilization depends upon recognizing those material inequalities and taking them into account?

It’s easy to avoid having a serious discussion on such matters by simply throwing rhetorical bombs. “Do you seriously believe blacks shouldn’t be permitted to vote, you horrible racist?” “Do you seriously believe the citizen children of hard-working, law-abiding undocumented Mexicans should be forcibly deported to a country they have never even seen, you cruel and hateful person?” Gasps and feigned horror all round. But such rhetorical devices are nothing more than cheap appeals to emotion and won’t delay the collapse of Western civilization by so much as a single day. So, here is my question in return. “Do you believe [population] should be permitted [action] if that permission demonstrably bears a high probability of leading to societal collapse?” That is the pertinent question that must precede any rational discussion of the subject.

We don’t permit children to vote. Are they not people? We don’t permit foreigners to vote. Are they, too, not people? We don’t even permit ex-criminals to vote even though they are both adults and citizens. And they’re also people, however much we might like to pretend otherwise. So, it’s clearly not a question of democratic limits being intrinsically illegitimate, but rather what is deemed to be in the interest of the nation.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would much rather live in a safe, prosperous, and free society where I am not permitted to vote and am not even a fully equal member of society than in a third-world hellhole where I can vote every single day on whether clay or dirt will be distributed for dinner by the elected government. There is far more to human liberty than voting.

The end of the equalitarian era is rapidly approaching due to the same sort of intrinsic contradictions that sank Soviet economic communism. And like it or not, this almost surely means a return to the historical norm of open racism on all sides. As the Christian influence on the law subsides, there simply is no more basis for the idea that all men are created equal.

Decline is a choice

VDH skillfully elucidates the historically obvious:

Does “decline” mean inevitable collapse, like an aging person whose mind and body have become enfeebled? That was certainly the view of the ancients, who felt civilizations had finite life-spans (see Jacqueline de Romilly’s The Rise and Fall of States According to Greek Authors.) Do environmental catastrophes, resource depletion, or foreign armies end societies? They can, as the complex pyramidal societies from the Minoans and Mycenaeans to the Mayans and Aztecs learned.

All that said, decline is far more often a choice, not a preordained destiny. There was no reason that Athens at 338 B.C. needed to lose to Philip at Chaironeia or even that the loss there meant the end of Greek freedom. Macedonian forces were a fraction of the size of a far larger Persian force that had swept from the north into a far weaker Athens in 480 B.C. No law said that drama of the quality of the Orestia, Oedipus, Ajax, Bacchae, and Medea had to give way to the sitcoms of Middle and New comedy of the fourth century B.C. By September 1945, England had far more of its industrial base intact than had Germany or Japan, and had suffered far fewer losses, both material and human, since 1939 than either of the defeated Axis powers whose entire national ideologies had been rendered bankrupt and their people reduced to global pariahs. Why, then, did a country that produced the sort of four-engine bombers en masse that its wartime adversaries could not, or a Spitfire fighter better than any produced by Japan or Germany until the advent of the jet, end up decades later with unsold Jaguars while Mercedes and Lexus swept world markets? And why did a bombed out Frankfurt and Tokyo (200,000 incinerated in March 1945 alone) rather quickly out-produce a less damaged Liverpool (e.g., 4,000 killed in the blitz) or Manchester? Clearly the UKchose a path in 1945-9 that a once flattened Germany and Japan did not.

If Rome was supposedly “doomed” by the 5th century A.D., why did the Eastern Empire last another 1,000 years? Why was 1978 America a very different place than either 1955 or 1985 or 1996?

What the deeply knowledgeable VDH fails to acknowledge is that America does not face a choice because America has already collectively made it. Decline is no longer merely an option, it is a strong probability.

VDH notes two of the most significant factors, but fails to note that they are done deals. The explosion of wealth he cites was largely fraudulent, being based on a massive expansion of debt on the part of the Greatest Generation, the Baby Boomers, and to a lesser extent Generation X that robbed from the following generations. The inevitable debt-deleveraging, combined with the tens of millions of largely useless immigrants, now all but guarantees decline. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee fall, however, only a retreat from a historically exceptional nation to an unexceptional one where the citizenry is helplessly subject to the whimsical rule of an aristocratic class. That this aristocracy is one of credentials and connections rather than blood and birth does not change its intrinsic lack of regard for the will of its subjects.

A mysterious decline

The New York Times ponders a seeming imponderable:

AT first glance, the numbers released by the Census Bureau last week showing a precipitous drop in Detroit’s population — 25 percent over the last decade — seem to bear a silver lining: most of those leaving the city are blacks headed to the suburbs, once the refuge of mid-century white flight.

But a closer analysis of the data suggests that the story of housing discrimination that has dominated American urban life since the early 20th century is far from over. In the Detroit metropolitan area, blacks are moving into so-called secondhand suburbs: established communities with deteriorating housing stock that are falling out of favor with younger white homebuyers. If historical trends hold, these suburbs will likely shift from white to black — and soon look much like Detroit itself, with resegregated schools, dwindling tax bases and decaying public services.

And why might that be? How do these urban dystopias continue to keep sprouting up around the country? Since we obviously know that all people are the same everywhere, what could possibly explain this bizarre tendency towards economic disintegration and social breakdown that appears to follow blacks around like an inexplicable curse?

The unusual thing about the NYT article is the way it avoids playing the usual racism card. When it mentions the way in which “the city’s whites fought what they called the “Negro invasion” with every tool at their disposal”, it doesn’t frame the description of the historical resistance with the usual delegitimizing codewords, probably because the historical fears of Detroit’s white populace were ultimately proven to underestimate the negative consequences of the Great Migration. I doubt even the most pessimistic white racist could have imagined the decrepit state to which Detroit has declined in 60 years.

The article is somewhat amusing in how it laments the fate of the black recon elements. “Much to their chagrin, many new black suburbanites found that integration was just a phase between when the first blacks moved in and the last whites took their children out of the public schools.” One would think that black people who don’t want to live with black people should understand that white people don’t want to live with them either.

In society after society, the same pattern is repeated. Majority populations will tolerate a minority population up to a certain point, which is somewhere between two and ten percent of the population. More than that and the minority population will begin to demand societal modifications to suit itself by virtue of its size, at which point the majority population will quite reasonably begin to react in a distinctly hostile manner. If there is room to retreat, the majority population will retreat. If there is not, there will either be violence or the eventual disappearance of the erstwhile majority population.

But keep in mind that the trends ebb and flow. In the nineteenth century, it was thought that the black race was on a demographic decline to extinction. In the twenty-first, it is sometimes assumed that the white race is. Neither is likely true, and now that the Hispanic population exceeds the black population in the United States, the monochromatic lens through which most race relations are viewed is increasingly irrelevant.

The dream isn’t deferred, it is simply impossible because it is nothing more than a delusion that one racial populations will behave in exactly the same manner as another one. Since this has never happened yet in the recorded history of the human race, it seems more than a little quixotic to believe that because individuals have surmounted their racial, ethnic, and cultural differences, entire populations not only can, but will.

Land of the scanned

I know this will come as a shock, but the TSA has been planning to expand the airport scanner program to encompass other forms of transportation for some time now:

Giving Transportation Security Administration agents a peek under your clothes may soon be a practice that goes well beyond airport checkpoints. Newly uncovered documents show that as early as 2006, the Department of Homeland Security has been planning pilot programs to deploy mobile scanning units that can be set up at public events and in train stations, along with mobile x-ray vans capable of scanning pedestrians on city streets.

The non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) on Wednesday published documents it obtained from the Department of Homeland Security showing that from 2006 to 2008 the agency planned a study of of new anti-terrorism technologies that EPIC believes raise serious privacy concerns. The projects range from what the DHS describes as “a walk through x-ray screening system that could be deployed at entrances to special events or other points of interest” to “covert inspection of moving subjects” employing the same backscatter imaging technology currently used in American airports.

By the way, I have read the TSA “denial” that was added to the linked article. Note the precise wording: ““TSA has not tested the advanced imaging technology that is currently used at airports in mass transit environments and does not have plans to do so.” Of course not. Because the advanced imaging technology that they will be using in mobile units and in fixed pedestrian locations will be a different technology, of course.

At the Black Gate

Last week, I read with great interest the discussion that began with Leo Grin’s comparison of the heroic fantasy fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard with the anti-heroic fantasy fiction of Joe Abercrombie. As this is a topic that has interested me for years, I certainly have a number of thoughts regarding it. However, since I am a political commentator who is correctly said to be well outside the ideological mainstream of the SF/F community, I think it is best to begin by pointing out to those on both sides of the spectrum who may be eager to turn this into a political debate that this is not a political subject, but rather a historical, literary, and philosophical one. And as such, there is no need to argue over whether the trajectory over time that Grin observes is desirable or not, since that is a matter of perspective and personal opinion.

Regardless of one’s ideological self-identification or opinion on the specifics of Grin’s observations, it should be eminently clear to all and sundry that something material and significant has changed within the field of fantasy fiction in the 71 years that separate Howard’s final publication from Abercrombie’s first one and the 52 years that separate the publication of The Return of the King from The Blade Itself. I should also point out that I offer no personal criticism of Joe Abercrombie here, as he merely happens to serve as a representative of modern fantasy fiction and one of its more accomplished representatives at that….

Read the rest of what is a rather lengthy post on the link between literary decline and societal decline over at Black Gate.