Karl Gallagher's Political Journal|
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|Friday, June 24th, 2016|
|For Those New Here
A brief index to my major posts:War
I'm an advocate of taking the offensive in the Global War On Terror, the official name for our war against the Islamofascists. I've done a Venn Diagram showing how different current conflicts relate to the war as a whole
, and a state diagram showing the different strategies available to us and their possible outcomes
. I think there's a limited amount of time to win before a catastrophe is inevitable
Other war posts: Abu Ghraib
, putting the Army on a war footing
, mistakes made in Iraq
, Wars of Choice
, Law, Interrogation, and Torture
, Reforming the Defense Acquisition System
I've looked at better ways to categorize views than the "left-right" axis
, why our political system forces everyone into two parties
, and how we could modify the system to better express everyone's views
. I also discuss how our political divide comes from different visions of how families should be organized
and why the "War on Drugs" is the real threat to our freedoms
Other politics posts: Gay Marriage/Polygamy
, Global Warming
and who to believe about it
, War on Drugs
), Trinity River Vision
, civil war
, political quizzes
, Iron Man vs. ITAR
, Health Care Deformed
(other Obamacare links
and a follow-up
, the Tree Ring Circus
, The Bill of Federalism
, Gaiacrats versus Theocrats
, and How I pick presidential candidates
.My BeliefsThings I believe in
, and the books which most influenced me.
I want to lay out the assumptions behind my beliefs clearly. If one of those principles is disproved I'll have to rethink my stands.
Sometimes I'll toss out a wild idea to provoke debate: Anglosphere Civilization (and merging states)
, and An Exercise in Alternate History
My other writings can be found at my main livejournal page
. Current Mood: calm
|Friday, April 22nd, 2016|
|Twenty Dollar Bill
Jackson's out, Tubman's in. I'm okay with that. Especially if we get this version of the bill:
I found this floating around twitter--anyone know who the artist is?
|Thursday, March 31st, 2016|
|Three Problems With Socialism
Bernie Sanders and other leftist activists have put socialism in discussion again. Some of Trump's ravings have socialist assumptions as well. So I'm going to go through why socialism has been such a disaster everywhere it's been tried.
First let's make sure of what we're talking about. Some folks have been freely applying the socialist label to anything they consider good, but the word does have a long-standing definition: state control of the means of production. Means of production is an economic term for creating value. Factories, stores, doctors all create value. "Control" doesn't mean state ownership, even if that's the most famous example. The Soviets would shoot the factory owner and install a commissar as the new manager. The Nazis would have the local Gauleiter drop by and suggest the owner focus on making cheap cars or cheap radios according to the Fuerher's latest whim (lest brownshirts drag the owner out into the street and kick him to death). Chunks of the American economy are partially socialized by having government regulations tightly restrict what people can do to where they can't make decisions about their own business.
If something isn't producing new value, it's not part of the "means of production" and isn't socialist even if it's a government program. Police catching criminals isn't socialism. Social security and pensions aren't socialism. Safety rules aren't socialism (but they can be stretched into controlling mechanisms, so there's a broad grey area).Problem One: Top Down
A socialist program is run with a central plan assigning roles to all the work units in the country. This has the basic problem of all centralized structures: it's hard for them to get the information they need. No one can track the work time of everyone in a single industry, so all information has to be summarized on its way to the center. That gives you the SNAFU Principle: the summary will be shaded to avoid pissing off higher-ups. Do that in a tall chain of command and you get this example.
This overly-processed data is then used to create a Plan, which is passed down the chain and applied to the whole country. As usually happens with "one size fits all" there will be places where the Plan makes things worse or doesn't work at all. Gaining an exception from the Plan is possible but depends on how much pull local leaders have the central planners. So the exceptions will be distributed to those with political power, not those who need them the most.
Between the bad data going in and the poor fit of the Plan to reality the outcome of the Plan will fall short of expectations. The central planners will do their best to conceal that to save their jobs, or dictatorial polities, lives. They might falsify reports or blame their opposition. In the Ukrainian famine the Soviet planners kept exporting grain to meet their goals, leaving the farmers starved to the point of cannibalism.
Such an atrocity isn't an accident--it's the inevitable consequence of moving decision-making far away from where the actual work is taking place. Medicare mischarging, defense contract overruns, failed Soviet Five Year Plans, and the millions dead in China's Great Leap Forward are all results of the same problem.Problem Two: Bottom Up
For most people in a socialist system, the grand Plan is of no concern. They're trying to get through one day at a time without being punished. They do the work that they're given incentives to do. Unfortunately the incentives often don't match real value production, and may even be counter to what planners wanted. Viktor Suvorov lived that in the Soviet Union
. A factory made extra fertilizer, but the collective farms didn't have enough trucks to transport it, so the excess was dumped into the Dnieper River, killing fish. The factory manager responded to his incentives, the drivers for the farms to theirs.
Of course, the incentive problem isn't limited to socialism. Plenty of big corporations give employees bad incentives, and small business owners may prioritize their personal convience over customer service. Consumers treated badly have to put up with it or search for alternative providers. In the extreme case, they may start a business of their own to compete with the one that treated them badly. And they're allowed to do that in a free market.
Under socialism people are stuck with the providers that they're assigned to. It's like only being able to see the doctor covered by your health insurance--except it applies to your groceries, and clothes, and appliances, and everything. Since the providing organizations don't have to worry about their customers going elsewhere they have no incentive to improve service. Workers don't need to put out extra effort. Managers can arrange things according to their whims instead of focusing on the bottom line.
There are incentives workers respond to--not being punished by their bosses. This leads to the famous Potemkin Village, where the bigwigs see a show put on for their benefit with no connection to reality. This is the SNAFU principle from above seen from the other point of view.
With the workers practicing "we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us" the system becomes steadily more inefficient even if the top-level Plan is good. Contradictions in the plan force the worker bees to cheat. Every socialist system has its black market, as people try to make the exchanges needed to keep things from falling apart. But that can add to the inefficiency of other areas even as it fixes one problem.Problem Three: Parasitism
All this inefficiency means socialist systems are consuming value, not producing it. But this can be lived with if there's non-socialist sectors producing enough wealth to sustain the whole economy. The US school system doesn't charge students for their education. It's paid for by taxes on everyone else. In the medical sector charity hospital and Medicare/Medicaid are supported by taxes as well. We can afford that.
The problem comes when more and more of the economy is socialized. You wind up with the inefficiency being paid for by running down the accumulated wealth of the country. Old buildings are used with minimal maintenance, tools break and less-efficient ones replace them, resources run out. As the Margaret Thatcher quote goes, "Eventually you run out of other people's money."
So the Soviet Union collapsed. Britain's socialized industries were privatized again. Venezuela is undergoing collapse now, as falling oil prices have wiped out the subsidies of food imports. Even the Nordic countries
pointed to as examples of "democratic socialism" have been loosening their restrictions on free enterprise
. An economy needs to produce wealth, not just redistribute it, and socialism is bad at that.Why Socialism?
Given the track record of failure worldwide, why are people advocating socialism? My guess is that it feels more comfortable with our hunter-gatherer evolved minds. In a band of a few score people someone having noticeably more food probably cheated or was very lucky. The modern 1% produce an emotional reaction in those who think their share of wealth is unfair.
Is it unfair? Probably. But lots of things are unfair, and fixing them can be worse than living with them. A society of millions of people can't run the same way as a band of a hundred hunter-gatherers. We need to give everyone the flexibility to deal with their local circumstances and make their own decisions. That's what brought us to the information age. Countries that take that freedom away have gone backwards. Producing new wealth is what lets us be in a position to clean up pollution and take care of the needy.
Because even hunter-gatherers are smart enough to not work harder if someone else is going to take most of what they produce.
|Wednesday, March 9th, 2016|
|Voting, More or Less
Last night I attended the Libertarian Party precinct caucuses. Which, since the LP rarely has more than one voter per precinct, was a pro forma declaration that everyone was the chair of their precinct. We're now recorded as LP delegates. This coming Saturday we'll have the county caucus and nominate candidates for the local offices. The Saturday after the district caucus will handle nominations for districts crossing county lines. And then in April there's the state convention.
The Democratic and Republican caucuses usually select delegates to support particular presidential candidates at their state convention, which will then assign delegates to the national convention. The Libertarians have a simpler process. To vote for a presidential nominee you have to be at the state convention.
That means being in San Antonio from 3pm Friday (delegate credentialing) to 5pm Sunday (the actual votes for presidential nominee). Sigh. That's a long drive from here, and a couple nights in a hotel. Even if I carpool and room share with some of the local libertarians that's still a whole weekend away from family and no writing time.
So, sigh, I will not be voting for Gary Johnson until November. And I'm hoping the LP convention delegates don't go nuts and nominate a talk show host.
|Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016|
|Voting For Someone
Usually I wind up voting against candidates rather than for one. That can be harder in the primaries, if you have half a dozen clowns competing for the crown. This year it's gotten to be too much for me.
None of the local races are inspiring me to vote in their party's primary, so it's just the presidential race driving my decision. I did think of voting in the Democratic primary on the principle of "Vote for the crook, it's important." The Republicans are offering a choice of an amoral celebrity or matched first-term Senators, none appealing.
So, for the first time since 9/11, I'll be voting Libertarian for President, at least in the primaries. Gary Johnson
isn't someone I completely agree with, but he's sane, sensible, and has the experience to run a large organization without the bureaucrats tying him in knots. He recognizes the danger of Islamic terrorists so he isn't as blind as most big-L libertarians.
I'm going to skip voting in the primaries and attend the Libertarian Party caucuses on 3/8 and 3/12 to support Johnson delegates to the state convention.
|Saturday, January 9th, 2016|
My governor is offering a set of constitutional amendments
, the "Texas Plan," to make the federal government behave more like the Founders intended it to. That page includes a link to a 92-page pdf with history, philosophy, analysis, and footnotes backing up the case for the amendments.
After going through the doc what I haven't found is the actual text of the amendments, which will make a tremendous difference in how acceptable they are. But this is still an interesting proposal, so let's look over what we have here.
Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.
This is something I favor. The Feds shouldn't have authority on anything you grow and consume in your own backyard. Implmentation could be tricky. Saying "this time we mean it" would be worked around the way the original Constitutional restrictions were. Making it an affirmative defense in court that you didn't cross a state line would probably work. Assuming the wording is solid I favor this.
Require Congress to balance its budget.
I've seen a bunch of balanced-budget amendments. Most had big enough loopholes to let Congress keep spending us into bankruptcy. There's an excellent one in the Bill of Federalism (number 8).
That one used the tension between the President and Congress to force Congress to balance the budget or face a President with a line item veto.
The biggest problem with Abbott's proposal is that he wants to restrict Federal spending to 18% of GDP. That's an invitation to crank up the GDP numbers. I'm sure the Treasury Department has statisticians that could take their current data and claim we have double the GDP they reported last year. Statistics are like that, especially when you get to define your own terms.
I'd need to see the wording and some analyses of how hard it would be to by-pass before supporting this. If the amendment does work I'm all for it. The federal government is already committed to spending more money than actually exists. Keeping us from going bankrupt is essential to giving us a peaceful future.
Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.
Doesn't keep Congress from rubber stamping regulations put out by the departments, but does force the legislators to take responsibility for voting for it. I'm for this.
Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.
Yes, that's a real problem, but I'm not sure how you can fix it without breaking Federal authority. I'd have to see the wording before I have an opinion.
Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
I'm generally in favor of adding feedback loops to systems. I assume the effect of the override would be the same as if the Supremes hadn't accepted the case for review. Getting two thirds of the states to agree on something is a hard barrier, especially if this includes a time limit (if there's no time limit, let's start with Plessy vs. Ferguson). Leaning for this one.
Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.
This is a shift in power from the Supremes to Congress. The problem is the power shifted more by Congress abdicating responsibility by writing vague law than by the Supremes seizing it. I think before making a decision on this I'd want to look up a list of 6-3 and 5-4 decisions by the Supremes. There's also the question of what "democratically enacted" means. Anything passed by Congress? By state legislatures? Popular referendums?
Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.
"This time we mean it" won't work. The goal is good, the implementation could make things worse. Can't have an opinion without seeing the wording.
Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
Yep, there needs to be more checks on the federal bureaucracy. There's a lot of petty administrators running amuck with the own empire building. I support this.
Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.
Again, feedback loops are good, and getting 2/3s of the states to agree on something is hard. Assuming the effect of the override is as if the law had been voted down originally, I favor this.
The plan for implementing the amendments involves a constitutional convention. I have mixed feeling about that but it's worth a try. I'm glad Governor Abbott made the proposals. This is a debate worth having.
|Monday, November 9th, 2015|
|If This Goes On . . .
The GAO head under Clinton and Dubya says the official $18 trillion in debt is only a third of what we're on the hook for.
Once you add in the promises Congress has made without budgeting any money to pay for (Social Security, Medicare, pensions) the taxpayers are facing $65 trillion in debt.
That is, bluntly, something we're not going to be able to pay off. So there'll be a bankruptcy, either cutting those social security checks to a fraction of the promised size, or inflating the dollar until the promised amount is worth almost nothing.
But in all those presidential debates no one asks, "Senator X, the federal debt will break $20 trillion during your first term. What will you do if the financial markets don't supply the loans your administration asks for?"
|Friday, September 11th, 2015|
|They Mean It
What I want people to remember most about 9/11:
When a mob of foreigners is chanting "Death To America!" it's not a quaint native folk custom, it's not amusing, it's not a trivial thing we should ignore. They're declaring their intent to wage total war against us.
|Tuesday, September 8th, 2015|
|Gay Marriage Comes Full Circle
A local elected official is defying the law to prevent gay marriage in her town. Which is a fitting end for the process, as gay marriage in the USA began with a local elected official defying the law to enable gay marriage in his town (Gavin Newsom, for my less historically inclined readers). Gavin succeeded because he started a preference cascade. People all over the country, forced to confront the idea of gay marriage, shrugged and said, "Eh, okay." Which meant something totally off the table suddenly became negotiable.
Let's take a look at how unthinkable the concept had been before 2004. Look at this cartoon from 1980:
Treats the whole concept as a joke, right? By 2015's standards that's rude. Now consider what kind of joke it was. Gahan Wilson specializes in cartoons of hideous monsters and eviscerated children. So it's a horror joke. And it appeared in Playboy, so a joke restricted to the sturdy-minded.
Andrew Sullivan wrote a serious essay proposing gay marriage in the New Republic in 1989. Even to that very liberal audience it was considered a radical idea. Sullivan said the most common response was laughter. It seemed to be one of the many wonkish proposals that never go anywhere.
Another example from 1997: in the Babylon 5 episode "Racing Mars" (s4e10) two men are given the identity of newlyweds. So it was an idea that audiences could handle . . . as being in place over two hundred years in the future. The audience for that was restricted to people who weren't bothered by the thought of people from two different species marrying, so again sturdy-minded. It was up there with the reference to a female Pope from the same season--an obscure joke to show how different things were in the future.
Then Gavin Newsom pushed it into the now. And eleven years later his counterpart Kim Davis is being sent to jail for the flip side of the same cause. This is staggeringly fast for a change in law and culture.
Look at how long it took to change the laws and attitudes on interracial marriage:
And that graph needs an update--the solid blue line just shot up to 100%.
Why did this happen so fast?
I think the biggest factor is that nobody's mind was changed. Public opinion on gay marriage can be divided into three groups--people who actively wanted it (But before 2004 considered it unattainable), people who don't object to it or consider it a "nice to have," and those who actively oppose it. There hasn't been significant movement among the groups.
With interracial marriage the size of the groups changed, mostly by the old generation dying off and new voters with different views coming of age. Eventually there was enough support that states began repealing their laws and judges were willing to take a stand for civil rights. This was driven by many other votes on civil rights acts and elections where politicians had to take stands on civil rights. Eventually it became clear the majority accepted it, even if they didn't like it.
Gay marriage was not majority vote driven. State referendums opposed it even in liberal states such as California. Politicians opposed it during elections only to reveal their support later (Obama did support it during his re-election campaign). More states had gay marriage legalized by judicial rulings than legislative votes. And the final legalization came from the Supreme Court.
What we're seeing here is that a lot of politicians and judges are in the middle group, considering gay marriage "nice to have" and willing to follow the lead of which ever group of activists currently has more clout. That doesn't settle the issue, especially when the final vote on it is 5-4. That tells the activists on the losing side "find one more vote," not "give up, you're outnumbered."
Kim Davis and her supporters are hoping her martyr act will start a preference cascade the other way. I don't see it happening. Instead we're going to have incredible sturm and drang over every upcoming Supreme Court appointment. Which will be a change from those being driven by abortion politics, another issue where majorities don't rule (if politicians had to live with the abortion laws they passed instead of expecting them to thrown out by judges we'd see more European-style compromises instead of grandstanding).
I'm all for gay marriage. It's a step forward for personal freedom. It lays the groundwork for more changes I'd like to see. I just wish I had been passed by referendums and legislatures instead of judges. Democracy is already being weakened by the incredible amount of power held by unelected bureaucrats enforcing laws. With unelected judges making new ones there's even less connection between what people want and what the government does. If that goes too far we'll lose democracy as a way for settling our differences . . . and I don't like the alternatives.
|Thursday, May 28th, 2015|
|Wednesday, May 13th, 2015|
My town had elections last Saturday. No one wanted to run against the Mayor. Again. Well, he's doing a good job. The open city council seat was contested by people who don't bother putting up issue websites. Two of the three had Facebook pages for their campaigns. I voted for the one who seemed less interested in starting up new projects. She came in third. Also, I voted to not let the sales tax increment for road repair expire. They're using the money.
|Thursday, April 2nd, 2015|
|Wednesday, March 25th, 2015|
There's been complaints about Congressmen advocating war with Iran. I find that silly. We've been at war with Iran for decades, or at least they've been at war with us. Taking embassy staff hostage is an act of war. So was sending troops into Iraq to kill ours a decade ago. And they're still chanting "Death to America!"
So there's nothing new about this other than that we've been ignoring it. Given that Iran A. doesn't have much ability to hit us at home and B. would be an unpleasant place to invade, ignoring it is a valid strategic option.
Of course, adding nukes to Iran's existing overseas terrorist cells makes them much harder to ignore. Doing something about it would be much easier if we'd kept a residual force in Iraq instead of letting it disintegrate. Right now I don't see any good options.
|Monday, February 9th, 2015|
|Heinlein on Preventing WWIII
Heinlein wrote Forrest Ackerman
offering condolences on the loss of his brother, KIA in the Battle of the Bulge. Most of it is explaining why RAH didn't want to contribute to a memorial fanzine, on the grounds that he was angry at fans collective failure to support the war effort. Of most interest to me was a bit at the end:
The second job is, now and after the war, to see to it that it shall not happen again. There are many ways to do that and each must select his own---political activity of every sort, writing intended to stir people up, the willingness to combat race hatred, discrimination, limitations of civil liberty, generalized hates of every sort, whenever and wherever they show up. But I am damn well sure that fan activity is not the way to serve Alden's memory. Fandom has had a chance to prove itself and it has failed.
|Wednesday, February 4th, 2015|
Since I'm too distracted to write a full post I'm going to collect some links with comments here.
Best discussion I've seen on how to pay for health care is Goldman's Catastrophic Care
. He looks at how separating the people receiving medical services from the ones paying for them has created scads of bad incentives in the system. He proposes a replacement system based on Singapore's, which I think would be worth a try. Given my own druthers I'd make everything pay-for-service and issue "doc stamps" to people who are sicker than they can afford to pay for.
Here's a good summary of the issues that worry me with vaccines
. Main points for me are that a lot of medical research is ignorant of statistics, there's concept of "diminishing returns" in the number of vaccinations being prescribed, and there's a lot
of shots being given to infants whose immune systems are in very weak shape.
Jordan has responded to the murder of one of its pilots by executing terrorists and
increased attacks on ISIS. Hail to the King.
There's been a lot of protests over the police killing Michael Brown and Eric Garner. It's the deaths of John Crawford, Tamir Rice, and Akai Gurley
that really terrify me.
The FCC wants to increase regulation of the internet.
Let me respond in the internet's preferred communication form:
I've stopped voting 3rd party for President since 9/11. Winning the war takes priority over ideals. But if I'm faced with Jeb vs. Hillary in 2016 I will be voting 3rd party again.
|Wednesday, January 7th, 2015|
|Monday, October 27th, 2014|
Cast my ballot on Friday. Libertarian straight ticket. The greatest benefit of that is I get to skip past the two pages of judges running unopposed.
|Thursday, September 11th, 2014|
|War Versus Weather
As we remember the fallen of 9/11/01 this year, there's the ever more frequent comments that it was a one-off, that the lack of any similar attack proves the terrorists can't do it again, that we're fearing too much and should stop worrying about what ragged men in dusty hills may plan against us.
"It's so unlikely we shouldn't worry about it happening again" is a reasonable attitude toward a hurricane or tornado. Weather doesn't have a will. It's not seeking weaknesses. It doesn't want
to hurt us. War is different.
America has enemies, people who want to run the world according to specific lines that we interfere with. Right now the Islamofascists are the most prominent ones as they try to establish a Caliphate. They have a seed of that in the Islamic State straddling Iraq and Syria. Osama bin Laden wanted to establish one. The 9/11 attacks could have given him the stature to do it if the US hadn't struck back so hard.
The 9/11 attackers would have caused ten times as many deaths if they could. They would have if the builders of the WTC hadn't done their work so well or if the workers had panicked instead of evacuating in orderly fashion and helping each other. There have been other Islamic terror attacks on the US, the LAX shooter, the Times Square bomber, the Fort Hood shooter. The casualties there were limited by the competence of the attackers, not their malice. They would have killed many more if they could.
The Islamic State's Caliph Ibrahim is too busy to sponsor attacks abroad yet. If he gets some breathing space he'll need to. The Caliphate isn't inherited. It's a "Mandate of Heaven" that belongs to the ruler who can beat up everyone else around. Ibrahim has signed up for perpetual war and attacking the Great Satan will be required of him . . . or he'll be considered a decadent pretender and wind up on a meat hook.
We are at war. We need to take and hold the initiative in the war, or we let the enemy decide the time and place of the battles. In this war this means the death of civilians on peaceful sunny mornings.
|Wednesday, August 27th, 2014|
|Tuesday, August 19th, 2014|