Tuesday, September 30, 2014

When Cheating is (Reluctantly) OK

There are times when Jeffrey Tucker can be brilliant and insightful.  Then there are other times.  The ratio of the former to the latter seems to have diminished significantly and markedly beginning around the time he left the Mises Institute.  A search of this site will lead to a few posts regarding the “other times.” 

Tucker is out with a piece on the cheating by the teachers and administrators in the Atlanta schools regarding the test scores for students, entitled “A (Reluctant) Defense of the Cheating Atlanta Teachers.”

…the Atlanta public school scandal, in which investigators identified 178 teachers and principals in 44 of the system’s 100 schools involved in cheating on student tests.

After collecting all the students’ tests, a group of teachers nicknamed “the chosen” would meet behind closed doors. They sat in a big room and went over each test, erasers in hand, looking for incorrect answers to fix.

The scores showed that 86 percent of eighth graders passed math compared with 24 percent the year before. The same was true for reading: 78 percent passed versus 35 percent the year before.

Tucker identifies, properly, the root cause of the cheating:

Every government plan gives rise to cheating and manipulation. This is true for the smallest cases or the biggest.

If only he stopped here; instead, he decided to compare this situation to another example:

This is easier to understand if you consider more famously epic cases.

Consider an example. It is 1935 Russia. Grain crops keep failing, despite the Five-Year Plan Stalin imposed. He’s sick of it. It’s embarrassing. So this year, he decides to crack some skulls. Already tens of thousands have died, and everyone knows he means business. It’s the same in every industry actually, from steel to cars to railways.

What happens? The new farmer or plant manager faces either professional or real death or he fudges the records. He figures out a way to survive. And the difference between Soviet five-year plans and public school five-year plans seem to me to be mostly a difference of degree.

Look, I understand using extreme examples to make a point; Walter Block is so good at doing this.  But Stalin’s murder of tens of millions used to make a point about teachers cheating to keep their jobs?  In a land where losing your job results in a middle-class income from the state?

The teacher is stealing; the poor farmer in Stalin’s Ukraine stole from no-one when his crop fell short of Stalin’s plan.  Stealing from an employer – you lose your job.  Not meeting a government mandated grain quota – you lose your life.

This is bad enough.  Worse, his logic is completely wrong.  The teacher has no right to the job, and no right to have his students (superficially) excel at the tests.  The teacher takes a salary to do a job.  The cheating teacher has cheated both his employer and his employer’s customers. 

The farmer, on the other hand, has a right to his life and a right to defend it by appropriate means.  Cheating, to the extent it occurred in this scenario, is a perfectly acceptable form of self-defense. 

To be fair, Tucker identified his defense as “reluctant.”  Sometimes reluctant thoughts are better left unsaid.

This should have been one of those times.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

I’m Glad I’m Not the Only One

I have been struggling to make some sense of the latest events in Syria, Iraq, and IS.

I have noted both the trend and demeanor of Obama in toning down aggressive overseas action relative to both his predecessors and those against whom he ran for president in both 2008 and 2012.

I have suggested that Obama was installed precisely for this reason – to tone it down.  The Frankenstein’s monster created by the elite that is behind the US government went out of control when it was the last man standing, after the fall of the Soviet Union.  Instead of effectively shepherding the continuing trend toward global governance, the USG was making enemies of everyone.

So the elite decided, via Obama, that it was time to turn it down a notch.  I have seen indications of this in the writing of various members of the CFR and even Henry Kissinger.

This looked like just what was happening via Syria a year ago and Russia earlier this year.  Despite the aggressive actions taken by Obama / the USG in both events, imagine if it was Hillary, McCain, or Romney in the driver’s seat.  Nuclear war might already be behind us.

Hence my struggle with recent events.

The Daily Bell recently ran an editorial precisely on this subject.  As many of you know, I am indebted to this site for the analysis they have done precisely on this type of issue.  So I was hoping for some answers.  Instead:

But if we look at the muddle in Africa and the Middle East it soon becomes clear that such regional warfare is difficult to control and sustain with any kind of narrative clarity.

We have spent the past several years searching for a sensible and dominant social theme appropriately implemented; increasingly, we wonder if there is one.

I am not alone in this struggle.

My only conclusion, only somewhat satisfying, is that the desires of at least some important faction of the elite are continuing to butt up against the perpetual war-making machine of their creation. 

For this reason, it seems to me the success of Rand Paul will be an important marker.  If my views of Obama’s election are correct, then Rand Paul is the only mainstream candidate that at least often talks less belligerently than others.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Civilized Warfare

An oxymoron?  Bear with me….

Advance to Barbarism: The Development of Total Warfare from Sarajevo to Hiroshima,” by FJP Veale.

Veale describes the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a period, mostly, of civilized warfare in Europe or regions influenced by European culture. 

I will point out only once that the complete contrast to warfare as practiced today – and certainly since at least the Second World War – by the West when compared to this code; to make mention of this at each possible opportunity will only serve to double the length of this post.  I hope even the most casual observer of today’s realities can see how far those in the several militaries of various western governments have fallen.

So, what is meant by “civilized warfare”?

…this code was based on one simple principle, namely that warfare should be the concern only of the armed combatants engaged.  From this follows the corollary that non-combatants should be left entirely outside the scope of military operations.

…it necessarily followed that an enemy civilian did not forfeit his rights as a human being merely because the armed forces of his country were unable to defend him.

The sufferings of civilians must never be made a means by which the course of hostilities can be influenced – for example, when, in accordance with the common practice of barbarous warfare, a country is deliberately laid waste to induce its rulers to surrender.

…a combatant who surrenders ceases to be a combatant and reacquires the status of non-combatant….a combatant who has become incapacitated through wounds or disease ceases to be a combatant….

…a prisoner of war should be treated by his captors as a person under military discipline transferred by his capture from the command of his own countrymen to the command of his captors.

…the code was safeguarded by the knowledge that violation, even if profitable at the moment, would bring ultimate retribution and the weakening of the general security enjoyed by all.

Veale does not ignore the exceptions to this type of civilized warfare during this period; many of the violations were committed by the British – safe in the security that, due to their superiority at sea, repercussions on the homeland were unlikely.  Veale also notes that this code did not mean that towns were off-limits, only that a direct military objective was necessary for the action to be justified.

As a counter-example, Veale offers France, Austria and Russia against Prussia during the Seven Years War; they could easily have overrun Prussia if barbarous methods were employed:

All that was necessary to bring about Frederick’s speedy downfall was to pour across the open and exposed frontiers of Prussia small units of Hungarian hussars and Russian Cossacks with instructions to destroy everything which could be destroyed by means of a torch or a charge of gunpowder.  The Prussian army would have been helpless in the face of such tactics, designed to turn Prussia into a desert.

The term Veale uses to describe this aspect of the culture is chivalry:

“Chivalry had two outstanding marks,” says Professor R.B. Mowat, “two that were as its essence: it was Christian and it was military.”

I can see the steam coming out of Laurence Vance’s ears even now.  But trust me, it will all come together into something meaningful.

Chivalry, as it ultimately developed, became a collective term embracing a code of conduct, manners, and etiquette, a system of ethics and a distinctive “Weltanschauung” (philosophy of life) as the Germans call it.  For our purpose, its principal importance is that, when the code of chivalry was adopted as the code of the military caste in all the European states, it provided a common bond between them.

The soldiers fought as (relatively speaking) gentlemen, as opposed to the experience in war proceeding this chivalrous age:

Sadism could no longer masquerade as moral indignation….

I like that line….

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why the Wars?

I am reading “Advance to Barbarism,” by FJP Veale.  I will, as has come to be my practice, offer more than one post based on this book.

I will begin with a topic upon which Veale spends only a few words, but one which sheds light on perhaps the main purpose of war – at least war in the era of life in a time of something more than primitive living.

The various wars are often explained by the critics as wars for resources – usually oil, but also natural gas, transit pipelines, etc.  I have come to believe (and first came across this notion at The Daily Bell) that wars are for control – control of the people: the ultimate productive and renewable resource on the planet.

I came across some comments within Veale’s book that can be interpreted as supportive of this view:

To a hunting community, a prisoner of war is merely an extra mouth to feed…. Generally, prisoners taken in battle would be disposed of summarily with a stone club.

They fought over game – the meaningful “natural resource” of the time.

But as soon as a state of civilization had been reached in which there were fields to be tilled, walls, temples, palaces and tombs to be built, and mines to be worked, a prisoner of war ceased to be merely an extra mouth to feed, and came to possess a definite economic value as a slave.

They fought to capture labor – the most meaningful “natural resource” in even the most rudimentary division-of-labor economy.  For much of history, the “labor” captured was slave labor.  But it need not be so – it isn’t so today, at least not literally.

I do not intend to trivialize actual slavery by comparing it to what we have today; at the same time, it is worth noting the yoke under which we struggle.  To mention only a few points: fiat money, taxation, regulation, prohibitions of all sorts.  To note the effectiveness of the current system, it is sufficient to point out that the slaves at least knew they were under the whip of the master; today’s masters have developed a system of control so invisible that many cannot see it.  With the franchise to vote and otherwise petition the state – “we the people” – we are conditioned to believe that we are the ones in control.  Most believe they are free.

War expands the franchise – bringing more people under one or more of the many globalizing institutions: central bank controlled money and credit, international finance, centrally managed trade; opportunities for manipulation by the World Bank, IMF, WTO, and the UN.  Investment opportunities are opened for the crony capitalists. 

When you have developed a system that allows you to skim a few points off of every transaction, why care about oil?  Bringing more people under the yoke of that system allows you to skim a few points off of a few more people.

This is the reason for the wars – to capture the labor, to make the labor work for the elite.  It used to be done via slaves.  Today?  Look in the mirror.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Obama Tackles Terrorism

Obama gave another speech on a new, more violent outbreak of terrorism.  He began by thanking those on the front lines:

…they’ve got hundreds of professionals who are working tirelessly on this issue.

…I’ll be meeting with some of these men and women, including some who recently returned from the front lines of the outbreak.  And they represent public service at its very best.  And so I just want them to know how much the American people appreciate them.

Serving the country; the few, the proud; a global force for good.  You know the story.

Many of them are serving far away from home, away from their families.  They are doing heroic work and serving in some unbelievably challenging conditions — working through exhaustion, day and night, and many have volunteered to go back.  So we are very, very proud of them.

Multiple tours of duty; living in danger; their families also sacrificing. 

Their work and our efforts across the government is an example of what happens when America leads in confronting some major global challenges. 

Leader of the free world.

Faced with this outbreak, the world is looking to us, the United States, and it’s a responsibility that we embrace. 

It is a terrorism threat like no other, but the United States government will not run from the challenge.

We’re prepared to take leadership on this to provide the kinds of capabilities that only America has, and to mobilize the world in ways that only America can do.

America, the exceptional and indispensable nation.

The problem is extraordinary; Obama is taking strong action:

…two months ago, I directed my team to make this a national security priority.  We’re working this across our entire government, which is why today I’m joined by leaders throughout my administration, including from my national security team.

Fighting this terrorist threat will require a mobilized military:

It’s going to be commanded by Major General Darryl Williams…

But this won’t be another example of the US going it alone; Obama is calling in international support:

More nations need to contribute experienced personnel, supplies, and funding that’s needed, and they need to deliver on what they pledge quickly.

This week, the United States will chair an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.  Next week, I’ll join U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to continue mobilizing the international community around this effort.

This is actually something that we had announced several months ago at the G7 meeting.  We determined that this has to be a top priority…

This military mobilization has the thanks of the military leader:

So thank you very much to the entire team that’s already doing this work.  And please know that you’ve got your President and Commander-in-Chief behind you.  Thank you.

What is this new terrorist threat?  Ebola.  A germ.

Now…I have no idea what the truth is regarding this virus or the backstory or the risks.

I only hope that this announcement is, in fact, a backhanded way of saying that the United States government has decided that its more recent methods of expanding world government have been failures: the global war on terror has been a disaster on every level, and the global war on Russia threatens to become a disaster in a most permanent level.

In other words, if fighting a germ instead of killing countless millions of innocents is what the elite have decided is the best way to try and expand their global reach, I am all for it. 

Beating swords into needles.  For some reason, sadly, I don’t think it will be this simple.   Instead, it is a more likely a convenient (fortunate?) way to invade Africa without generating global resistance.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

CATO’s “Responsible” Counterterrorism Policy

CATO has published a “Policy Analysis” entitled “Responsible Counterterrorism Policy.”

I will not go through a line-by-line review or critique.  I only offer the following:

·        There is not one reference of “blowback.”
·        The only references to “bomb,” “bombs,” or “bombing” are regarding actions or alleged actions by “terrorists.”
·        The mentions of “Iraq” are limited to terror-related deaths in that country during the period 2003 – 2008, reference to the US war in that country, payments to the families of soldiers that died while prosecuting that war, the financial cost of prosecuting that war, and a book reference.
·        The mentions of “Afghanistan” are limited to a reference to the US war in that country, and to a book reference.
·        Not one reference to “Saudi Arabia.”
·        The only reference to “Israel” is the deaths in that country due to the Intifada.
·        No reference to “Palestine” or “Palestinians.”
·        The only mention of “Libya” is a book reference.

It is difficult to consider as “responsible” a “counterterrorism policy” that ignores the actions of the United States government and the actions of oppressive governments in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

It is difficult to consider as “responsible” a “counterterrorism policy” that ignores the oppression suffered by people in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Libya.

It is difficult to consider as “responsible” a “counterterrorism policy” that ignores the concept of “blowback.”