Archives for category: Institutional Reality

In the early and middle 1980s, “comparable worth” became a celebrated cause of the feminist left. The idea was to equalize wages among occupations, particularly between, for example, a well-paid occupation that tended to be manned mainly by men and a more poorly remunerated occupation mainly performed by women. The examples given at that time were often truck drivers vs. secretaries.

I witnessed several public debates on the subject, way back then. And having just begun to study economics, I quickly came to regard proponents of the “comparable worth doctrine” (CWD) as utopian lunatics. Their glee in concocting regulatory schemes was over the top, and their arguments were always and in each case economically illiterate. They looked upon all wages as mere artifacts of custom and power, never productivity. Notions like “marginal product” and “imputation” and even “supply and demand” never rose to coherence, or even the level of mere mention.

I remember one absurd discussion, where a young man argued against a then-current objection commonly made to the CWD — that comparing truckers to secretaries was comparing apples to oranges. (That is, the occupations were different enough that no wage equalization effort could make sense.) He said that the beauty of CWD was that (quoting from memory) “we mix the apples and oranges and get fruit punch, and then divvy out equal amounts!”

You see what I mean by economic illiteracy.

Now, I did not go on to become an economist. It never became my job to investigate the statistic artifacts of the period to test the doctrine. Or any other. But I did notice that in the State in which I lived, the CWD became the official doctrine of one institution: government.

My guess is that many a low-wage government and contractor job were upped to a higher level, according to some “comparable” “worth” (of a labor theory of value variety) and that taxes were quickly increased to cover.

It might be good to check to see whether this did actually happen. I would be surprised if it did not.

I am getting at something here. There is a difference between government wages and business wages. They are figured and set differently. Unlike in the market sector, politicians can and do set State employee wages. And take credit for the hikes.

The taxes? They tend not to talk much about the taxes hiked to pay for the greater drain on resources. In markets, wage hikes must be merited by business success in voluntary markets, within a context of competition for scarce consumer attention. In politics, the checks and balances are much less integral with the process. There is a high degree of arbitrariness to government worker remuneration.

I suspect something similar happens in government regarding minimum wage jobs. I know of a number of positions paid by tax funds through contracts with the state. Many of them — particularly the temporary ones — are minimum wage jobs. (Elder care, some seasonal fishery services, and a few others come to mind.) When the minimum wage requirement is raised, budget requirements are raised, and politicians shrug “cost of living” and approve a budget hike, leading directly to raised contract worker wages.

We often say, with varying degree of inaccuracy, that “consumers pay” for minimum wage hikes. (Consumers do pay, but usually indirectly.) More accurately, taxpayers pay. Quite directly.

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The reason people accept the institutions of the State in their lives also explains why they often demand horrific tyrannies. Once you give a special role for the State, it is hard not to identify that “special role” as tyranny.

The very core notion of the State looks like usurpation. Statism — including support for socialism, fascism, and the imperial presidency — is there in the kernel of accommodation to any and all political governance.

This is why democratic-republicanism is so unstable, and perhaps why hard-core Republicans and Democrats in America often enthusiastically yammer for outrageously criminal policies.

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What are the core constituencies for America’s dreadful k12 government schools? Individuals vary, but hey: I can think of seven broad groups:

  1. Sports fanatics
  2. Parents who demand babysitting services
  3. Teachers and administrators whose careers depend upon tax money
  4. Progressive social engineers who wish to supplant families and markets as the prime institutions of sociality
  5. Businesses and students, who rely upon grades, credentials, and test scores to signal suitability for jobs
  6. Governments and politicians who rely upon the public system to inculcate acceptance to social engineering and government dominance in society
  7. Parents, students and community members who earnestly think something called “education” is a good idea

Everybody pretends to be in category 7. Almost no one is really in category 7, for, if they were, they would complain about poor educational achievements more, and look into alternate means of providing education. Most do not, so most are not.

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A friend, who is resolutely anti-Trump*, comments on a current Wall Street Journal article on the Trump Towers Wiretap contention. The article goes on at unnecessary length about how a congressional committee can find no back-up for the president’s tweeted charge against his predecessor. “Political rhetoric is always B.S. to some degree,” my friend writes. “And then, there is the bullshitter-in-chief, beyond truth. ”

Well, yeah. But Donald Trump’s tweets aren’t political rhetoric as usual. Trump has gone a different direction. He is trolling for effect, to get his enemies to concentrate on the small stuff, the inconsequential malters. And since this is post-Clinton Washington, Trump knows he can say anything and stonewall.

Let Spicer and Conway take the flak and look like idiots in public. That is their job, after all. (And they have occasion to do it on a daily basis. That is for sure. They have the most demeaning job in bigly, er, Big League politics.)

But the idea that Trump was spied upon, illegally, by his predecessor is by no means incredible . . . certainly not implausible from rogue wings of the Deep State.

And the idea that there would be ready, Congress-available proof of a secret, illegal op strikes me as preposterous, making it absurd to investigate in anything like Congress’s usual perfunctory manner:

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, jointly said earlier in the day [that] there were “no indications” that Trump Tower, the Manhattan building where Mr. Trump lived and worked before assuming the presidency, was under any form of government surveillance.

Meanwhile, Trump is pushing a gimcrack, quite horrid, promise-abusing “replacement” of ObamaCare. But half the media and attentive America is distracted by . . . bullshit.

B.S. that is, alas, probably half true. True or not, it ends up making everybody look like loons.

This is precisely the wrong game for anti-Trumpers to play.

The age-old problem with warfare is that, in going to war, one becomes a mirror, a double, of one’s enemy. The anti-Trumpers are seriously reënacting the fated scenario of “The Conquest of the United States by Spain.” Only they are not mimicking imperialistic Spaniards.

They are in danger of playing the Fool.

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* I, too, am anti-Trump. But no more than I was anti-Clinton, anti-Bush, and anti-Obama. Though Trump is a break with the past, in many ways, he is neither without precedent nor wholly a new kind of creature: they were all liars, fools, and knaves, in the usual politic balance; Trump is also liar, lunatic, and knave, but in a slightly different configuration, if with about the same averaged-out moral level.

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Less than a week after Trump’s wiretapping charge, the new WikiLeaks exposure hit — which detailed the vast abilities and routine practice of the CIA to intercept phone calls and audio- and video-chats, as well as hijack laptops, tablets, smart TVs, smartphones and automobile computers — but almost no who had started out ridiculing Trump let up. Astounding.

Now, Dennis Kucinich brings not irrelevant testimony that should squash the ridicule. “I can vouch for the fact that extracurricular surveillance does occur, regardless of whether it is officially approved. I was wiretapped in 2011 after taking a phone call in my congressional office from a foreign leader.”

The former representative tales the tale, now, for the first time. He is pretty sure that, in contravention of the separation of powers, U.S. “intelligence” recorded a conversation he had with a Son of Qaddafi, and then leaked it to the Washington Post. His confidence seems reasonable. He is not talking out of school. His inference that it was an “American intelligence agency” seems more than sound. Besides, he writes, “which foreign intelligence service conceivably could have been interested in my phone call, had the technology to intercept it, and then wanted to leak it to the newspaper?”

Kucinich makes clear that he is no supporter of our current president. But he is obviously somewhat shocked by the ease with which his fellow leftists have embraced a pro-CIA/NSA/alphabet soup narrative:

I have never gone public with this story, but when I saw the derision with which President Trump’s claims were greeted—and notwithstanding our political differences—I felt I should share my experience.

When the president raised the question of wiretapping on his phones in Trump Tower, he was challenged to prove that such a thing could happen.

It happened to me.

For anyone to mock Trump about his belief in illegal wiretapping? Amazing.

Sure, Trump’s an ass. But he is a smart one, playing us. And on government surveillance, he has certainly stumbled into one of the horrible truths of our Age Of Snowden: the Deep State has gone rogue.

You are not safe from the State.

Not even the President is safe from it. If you think the President is “in charge” and therefore safe, you may want to update your model of “our living constitution.”

All this is the result of a hundred years of laxity, even perversity, allowing the administrative state to grow out of bounds of the written Constitution.

Well, more than a century. The Constitution broke long before Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and World War I. But it has been made an outright mockery of its old self in our time, and both political parties are responsible. For the administrative state they created and fed — the bureaucracies — constitutes the permanent government.

And it is upon this permanent government that Constitutional government — the legislative, executive and judicial branches — appears as surface phenomenon. A particularly noticeable type of scum.

Constitutional government is well on its way to becoming the epiphenomenon of the real government.

That the President of these United States would unceremoniously blurt this truth out in public is, well, interesting for many reasons. I know that many of his supporters will take this occasion as “proof” that their Savior will clean the swamp that is The Deep State.

I remain skeptical.

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During President Trump’s first speech before Congress, in which one could discern a ramping up to increase spending on the military, the new President prominently featured — called out in the modern, “story-time segment” that Obama had made de rigueur — the wife of the slain Navy SEAL who died in an incursion into Yemen. It was a moving moment, but no one that I follow mentioned that the United States has not declared war on Yemen.

Also not mentioned? The fact that the Pentagon cannot (or will not) provide an accounting of the money it spends. It seems to me that before we throw more billions at the secretive institution, we should have a thorough audit in hand.

Correction. I saw one discussion of all this . . . by Paul Jacob, today .

Now would be a good time to not only rethink Middle East policy, but to re-consider our expensive role as world policeman. . . . During the campaign, Trump was criticized for questioning our alliances and demanding more of our allies. But he was right. I hope he’ll get tough in prodding our allies to ultimately provide their own defense.

Even more basic? Demand an audit of the Pentagon before new funds are thrown into the five-sided money pit.

U.S. military spending can be summed up in one word: overkill. Mr. Jacob calls America’s longstanding foreign policy as the “overkill always” strategy, and explains it like this:

Two truths: national defense is a necessity for a republic; national defense is a racket.

The latter is the case because the former is the case. Big spenders rely on “better safe than sorry” to always push the envelope, over-investing rather than under-investing.

Jacob identifies this as a “trap,” betting that Donald Trump “knows this.”

Before Trump ran for office, he said that sequestration cuts to the Pentagon budget had not gone far enough. But when he threw his hat into the ring, he promised to “make our military so big, so powerful, so strong that nobody — absolutely nobody — is going to mess with us.”

President Trump now proposes over fifty billion dollars in new defense spending. More soldiers, more ships, more fighter jets.

Donald Trump’s excuse for this nonsense? Well, he has followed the neocon line, claiming, contrary to all evidence, that U.S.military spending was gutted under President Obama. Further, he seems to be leaning neocon by holding to the common charge of Republican politicians to the effect that Barack “Drone-killer” Obama has not done enough in the mid-East.

The truth? That conservatives cannot handle? That even a Democratic war-hating president (who nevertheless was a war president for every day of his two terms, a new record) can do too much.

Killing innocents along with alleged bad guys in other countries that we have not duly declared war upon is one sure way to stir up resentments in those countries. And breed international terrorism.

It does not look like President Trump will bring any clarity or rationality to military spending — or coherence to foreign policy.

But I have to ask: why would Trump, who was such a skeptic of American imperial management before the election prove such a chump for the military industrial complex Official Story now?

A number of theories could be advanced. Maybe he knows that, before being sworn in, he was just talking out of his rectal region. Now he has real responsibility, and, seeing that he knows nothing, he goes along with his neocon advisors.

Or maybe he has been threatened by said complex. The military industrial complex is the strongest sector of the Deep State. They are the real rulers, and have been for some time. Perhaps we could send Gandhi into the White House and he’d quickly be seen towing the line.

How would this work? On his first or second day in office, men in black walk into Gandhi’s office unannounced, and hands the Mahatma a folder. What is in the folder? If I knew I’d tell you. But it is damning.

The folder Trump (may have) received? It could have been damning of Trump himself — it could be that he’s being blackmailed. It could be damning of the U.S. Government (the war crimes and power structure are too terrible to speak aloud). Or it could be damning of humanity itself!

Maybe the Lizard People. . . .

Or it could be all very simple. Might not Trump be caving to the military-industrial complex simply to establish another base of support?

Trump, after all, is not an idiot. He knows he needs supporters. He probably had intended to unite the country after election, but the Democratic nutball response has been so loud and divisive, any tendency he had to move to the Center (which is where I think he’d prefer to be, as I’ve written about before) has been scuttled by a lack of reason to do so. The Left and Center-Left has all but declared war on him. He gets death threats. The major newspapers have columnists and reporters who have publicly discussed assassination — and get away with it! Major Democratic figures talk about impeachment, no matter how groundless. The desperation to the left of center is palpable, and that means that appeasing them will not be a good bet.

So Trump goes the other direction.

He plays up to his core constituency. And he reaches out to the Deep State.

That would be an unfortunate consequence of the whole “Not My President” movement. But a typical unintended consequence of tribalism and overkill. Par for the political course.

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Folks with government pensions and major institutional jobs are, deep down, frightened of those who do not have their perks. On some level, they know they are “the privileged.” Which is why they talk about “privilege” so much, and appear self-abnegating . . . on matters of race and “gender.”

As psychological repression. Deflection. Ritual cleansing.

They overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton.

They pretend not to know why anyone would vote for Trump.

But they know. They are sitting in gilded mansions erected upon a house of cards. And they know that most folks, not connected to government or finance or insider contracts, hold the lowest cards in the deck.

They know. The fervor of their growing hysterical Progressivism is a sign of the times. They instinctively double down on the institutions — political and governmental — that have granted them their privileges. But they have corrupted that Progressivism away from anything like a populism into a bizarre ritual victim cult, with all the trappings designed to appease the most chthonian demons, the ugliest gods. They offer permanent victim status to anyone who takes on their statist religion as a cargo cult, and absolve themselves and those poor schmo acolytes with the victims’ relief card: no one is responsible for their ills but the . . .  evil One Percenters.

Whose ranks they, themselves, largely fill.

Fear dominates modern politics. It is not the fear most people think, though. It is not on just one side, the fear of foreign competition, elitist exploitation, Islamic conquest. There is plenty of fear to go around.

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The Major Media, Desperate, Will Now Apparently Stoop to Anything in Its Social War Against Outside-the-Beltway Americans

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This could be the most important video you will watch this week:

Why would the Wall Street Journal send three journalists to do a hit piece on a popular YouTube comedian, basically tearing out of context his jokes so that he looks (to gullible Journal readers) like an “anti-semite.”

pewdiepieOn the face of it, doing a “scoop” on “PewDiePie” is an absurd bit of overkill. But Sargon of Akkad (Carl Benjamin) explains how this relates to the great issue of our time: the decline of major-media journalism, the rise of decentralized Internet alternatives, and, with it, the rise of populist politics.

One of the reasons I have not freaked out over the election of Donald Trump has been that I have had some inkling of his social and historical function. To excoriate Trump over and over is to side with the establishment and its social war with the majority of Americans. Mainstream media journalism has become worse than a joke. It has become the broad institutional equivalent of a lying tyrant.

The establishment — consisting of the media, the institutions of “higher learning,” and the permanently employed bureaucracies of the federal and state governments (the latter employed with cushier salaries, benefits and pensions than the average American worker) — has effectively marginalized those parts of the population that it has not bought off (with government subsidies), rewarded directly (by feeding them into the academic-bureaucratic and military-industrial complexes), or duped (with propaganda designed to feed self-righteous tribalism).

Thus it has been that a liar was chosen by the marginalized to play tyrant in the overthrowing of the establishment. It is an historical pattern: you ape your enemy to defeat the enemy. (I do not condone this; I merely note this.) And I, for one, will be glad to see the media establishment finally fall. The extent of their pernicious grip on American institutions can hardly be over-stated. The benefit for us could be enormous. The possibility of a freer future may open up.

Certainly, with the major media as hegemon, no real hope for social transformation can come.

The major media outlets are largely (in America, Fox excepting) insider-progressive. And, to unbuild the corporatist tyrannies that Progressivism and its allied movements (socialism, social democracy, Fabianism, fascism) have placed upon the West, the major media must first be put in their place.

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The newly sworn-in President of the United States has been saying quite a few idiotic things, and doing some interesting things, as well. I wish to look at only one of the things he has said: “Torture absolutely works.”

“Does torture work? . . . Absolutely I feel it works.”

In his favor, he had asked “people at the highest level of intelligence” whether torture works, and that was their answer, “Yes.”

And Sen. Rand Paul responded with a resounding “No,” citing more specific studies.

Now, to me the question is irrelevant. Whether torture gives us good information or misinformation or even poisoned disinformation, torture is an abridgment of human rights. Furthermore, it has a long history of harming innocents; as Rand Paul noted, recent torture procedures in rendition zones turned out to have harmed quite a number of innocent — misidentified or set up — suspects. Our whole system of jurisprudence developed around the idea of protecting innocents from incorrect punishment and outrageous moral horrors. And the method of torture is not just using pain and damage and fear to gain information, the method is also one of secret proceedings apart from normal judicial processes.

When we say torture abridges human rights, we are not merely expressing a preference, or establishing some arbitrary cultural norms. There is a reason for our rights-imputation to counter torture. For we find that not only does torture harm innocents, it abuses the guilty and — more obviously than anything else — it empowers government personnel to take license rather than uphold justice. Torture corrupts.

And one of the grounds of universal human rights is to prevent the corruption of that most dangerous of institutions, the State. To give government functionaries the lattitude to torture foreigners or citizens gives them way too much power, power that we know very well cannot be handled by frail humanity.

So, when POTUS Trump — or even Rand Paul — pretends that “does torture work?” is a relevant question, we should be very concerned. Torture should be opposed even if it does give government functionaries “reliable information.”

Further, the language of Trump is, obviously and characteristically, sloppy in the extreme. Who cares if he “feels” torture works? On important matters we must demand higher epistemic standards than “feels.”

And there is no way that this contentious issue can be responded to with an “Absolutely.” There have to be some points of contention here. Nothing I have read in the literature surrounding torture gives me enough confidence to use the word “absolute,” in adverbial form or otherwise.

Thankfully, Sen. Rand Paul expresses a reasonable desire to extend more oversight over the federal government’s intelligence community. If “people at the highest level” of this community have a hankering to torture — as their confident answer seems to suggest — we must indeed keep a close watch on them .

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I have been arguing that the Libertarian Party needs to dissolve, give up. For years. I’ve made my case many times. Why? Well, American are not libertarians, on the whole. And Americans still support the two-party system . . . with their votes, if not their full soulful effort or actual party membership. Further, Americans seem to grant only a short grace period for a new party to take form. If a new contender does not gain traction right away, it is dismissed as a Losing Cause. And the fact that the major parties have set up huge barriers to entry means that opposing them is an almost Sisyphean task.

Why try? Over and over? The rock up the hill, only to be defeated each time?

And yet, this outing, the Libertarian ticket didn’t do too badly.

This, in a sense, should be no wonder, given that the ticket sported the most prestigious candidates in this year’s presidential race — the most governing experience, the only experience cutting government programs — and what I think of as “not bad” ideas.

And yes: Much was indeed arrayed against them. The private/public-be-damned Commission on Presidential Debates balked at their inclusion. The VP candidate betrayed his commitment by focusing only on the Evil of Trump, witlessly missing the sheer horror posed by Trump’s main opponents, “old friend” Hillary. And then there were a few charming “gaffes” that the media played up as if Gary Johnson had spoken of grabbing a woman in the petticoat junction, or called half his opponents’ followers “deplorables.”

The following notice is off LP.org:

Yesterday Libertarian for president Gov. Gary Johnson won 4,013,780 votes, the highest vote total for an alternative party presidential candidate since Ross Perot in 1996.

Perot, whose net worth was over $3 billionaire [sic] in 1992 dollars, became a household name that year after he bought 30-minute prime time infomercials to boost his first presidential campaign. He was subsequently included in the presidential debates.

Perot received 8,085,402 votes in his 1996 bid.

The rationale for continuing to support the Libertarian Party thereby got a little stronger — despite the inanity of LP Chair Nicholas Sarwark’s comments on the night of the vote. We can forgive party hacks their hackdom. Besides, the man did better at running a political convention than any other I’ve witnessed in my lifetime . . .this other man’s antics on the floor of the 2016 Libertarian Party Convention notwithstanding:

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