The Age of New Nationalism

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…(A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

spectre is haunting the world — the spectre of nationalism. In many nations around the world, its citizens as well as its governments are turning toward nationalism. Finally looking inward, finally rebelling against the international community which doesn’t exist except in the minds of Western liberals, and returning to that pure concept of ethnic self-rule for the fixes that ail their countries [1].
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A Big Mac Is More Than Tasty, It's A Brilliant Economist

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Tasty and cram-packed with cement cholesterol for your arteries, McDonalds' Big Mac has been nation wide since 1968 the binge food of choice for drunks and tokers alike. 

And why shouldn't it be? The Big Mac consists of two 1.6 oz (45.4 g) 100 per cent beef patties, American cheese, "special sauce" (a variant of Thousand Island dressing),iceberg lettuce, pickles, and onions, served in a three-part sesame seed bun.
Aside from these measurements, the Big Mac also serves as a cutting edge analytical indicator for economist, social scientists, and general social sentiment. That point should be obvious considering that McDonalds has restaurants in 116 countries around the world. 

 Big MacCurrencies or Big Mac Price Index

Fist to mention is that McDonalds’ Big Macs are not traded between countries, but are sold to individuals and marketed as tasty, consumer convenience. McDonalds has certainly kept with KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) along the way.

As mentioned, there are McDonalds restaurants operating in over 116 countries around the world. This gives economists a strategic web of information about local Big Mac prices, which then can be compared with a given foreign exchange rate or rates that provide indications to changes in currency exchange rates. For example, the The Economist covers some of these concepts in “Big MacCurrencies” (The Economist). 

Here is how the methodology is used, which is similar to what I have explained: 
“Burgernomics is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity, the notion that a dollar should buy the same amount in all countries. Thus in the long run, the exchange rate between two currencies should move towards the rate that equalises the prices of an identical basket of goods and services in each country. Our “basket” is a McDonald's Big Mac, which is produced in about 120 countries. The Big Mac PPP is the exchange rate that would mean hamburgers cost the same in America as abroad. Comparing actual exchange rates with PPPs indicates whether a currency is under- or overvalued." 
Application 

So, for example, if country X prices its Big Mac at 14.50 to the cost of country Y’s currency exchange rate of 5.00, (5.00 /14.50 = 2.90) suggests that it would cost $2.90 to purchase a Big Mac in country X for country Y. This does not tell us much without the final part of the equation. 

Let’s assume that the local price of a Big Mac in country Y cost 2.50. However, when calculating the exchange rate, the price for a Big Mace in country X is actually .40 more. Economist would judge that country X’s currency might be over-valued against the currency of country Y

For the cost of the Big Mac in country X to equal the price of the Big Mac in country Ycountry X’s currency would need to appreciate from 14.50 to 12.50 against country Y’s currency. Using the same formula it looks like this: (5.00 / 12.50 = 2.50) which is equal to the price of the Big Mac in country Y.

Here is another example from The Economist to close, “the average price of a Big Mac in America in July 2013 was $4.56; in China it was only $2.61 at market exchange rates. 

So the "raw" Big Mac index says that the yuan was undervalued by 43% at that time” (The Economist, The Big Mac index). Big surprise there. Red China loves Big Macs and devaluing its Yuan against the Buck. 

References 

The Economist (2000). Big MacCurrencies. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/305167

The Economist (2013). The big mac index. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/content/big-mac-index
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GDP Uber Alles & the Unsustainability Factor

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This is part 1 in a series of America's economic decline and useful policy alternatives for the future.

Hijacking America

In light of the growing concerns that plague the future stability as a nation, Alexander Hamilton’s “Report on Manufactures” is a fitting for an introduction. The wisdom in these words should strike a tone to our ears even more so then they did when they were read for the first time to the House of Representatives in 1791.
“If one nation were in a condition to supply manufactured articles on better terms than another, that other might find an abundant indemnification in a superior capacity…And a free exchange, mutually beneficial, of the commodities which each was able to supply, on the best terms, might be carried on between them, supporting, in full vigor, the industry of each... But the system which has been mentioned is far from characterizing the general policy of nations. The prevalent one has been regulated by an opposite spirit. The consequence of it is, that the United States are, to a certain extent, in the situation of a country precluded from foreign commerce.”
According Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote, “No nation with a massive debt has ever remained a great power.”

What nation was she referring to? The United States of America. US heavy industry has largely disappeared, having moved to foreign competitors, which has cut deeply into its ability to be independent in times of peril. Its public school students trail their peers in other industrialized countries in math and science. Not because American kids are born more ignorant, it is because of our education system, our fractured politics, bilingual and multiethnic classrooms, which slow progress and advancement. Nonetheless, we are losing our ability to compete in the global economy. Entire generations of Americans read barely at a grade school level, know almost no history, basic science, and next to nothing in geography.

Political Science professor, Robert Cape, of the University of Chicago, ads an equally bleak diagnosis, “America’s relative decline since 2000 of some 30 percent represents a far greater loss of relative power in a shorter time than any power shift among European great powers from roughly the end of the Napoleonic Wars to World War II. Indeed in the first decade of the Second American Century, a net zero new jobs were created. The average American household earned less at the end of this decade than at the beginning. American savings and investment accounts are lower and the dollar is worth less, unemployment is higher, and 50,000 plants and factories shut down (Meyerson, Washington Post, 2010).

We now buy abroad, what we used to produce here at home, for nearly all of our daily items, this includes critical technology for infrastructure and defense (termed Advanced Technology Products). Reason we routinely run a half trillion-dollar trade deficit, causing James Buchanan to quip, “China today has the trade profile of an industrial and technological power while the manifest of U.S. exports to China, aircraft excepted, reads like the exports of the Jamestown Colony to the Mother country” (Suicide of a Super Power).  

Vincent Law nails this point perfectly.
The entire free trade theory willingly recognizes that there will be winners and losers. But the net benefits we are told, will clearly outweigh any costs. But the costs are there, and often times will not be counted as easily as units of coal exported and units of cheap chinese junk imported. Unemployment leads to depression, destruction of the nuclear family unit, mass relocation, ghost cities, and disproportionate strain on different sectors of our society. And only the elites and (the token scholarship minority) who get the top tier education can get their foot in the door of the lucrative booming “services” sector of the economy (read: consulting, finance.) It is precisely these folks who are told all throughout school that international trade is GREAT, outsourcing is SUPER, and that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Mark Drajem for Bloomberg ticks off a depressing list of lost jobs in semiconductor and electronic components (42%), communications equipment (48%), and textile lost an astonishing 62%. These depressing figures caused Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Committee to say, “Running a trade deficit for natural resources that the United States lacks is something that cannot be helped, but running a massive trade deficit in man-made products that America can easily produce itself is a choice—a poor choice that is bankrupting the country and responsible for the loss of millions of jobs.”

Who did this to us? We did this—The American voter through ignorance, the American politician from the influence of lobbyists. We believed in the new creed: “plenty for today, wait and see about tomorrow.” And we have invited the whole world to the party, promising welfare and entitlements for life, mortgaging it all for a future generation to pay, arrogantly thinking the paradigm of consuming more than we can produce will forever be sustainable.

Unless you are a part of the tiny fraction of Americans at the top of the food chain, you have no economic freedom in which to speak. Do not confuse the recent American capitalist creed that because you have freedom to spend along with consumer choice, you have economic ability. You do not. You are a surplus commodity.

Since1970, the American economic way of life changed forever. Our economy altered at light speed from industry and production to services and the financilization of everything. The short analyses reveal during this time that the greater majority of Americans have become serfs. The dollar does not spend the same as it once did, we don’t make as much relative to our parents and grandparents, yet tax revenues set newer and newer records each year. It now takes two working parents to afford a household where once it took just one. Homes were paid off sooner and people once could work their way through college. 

Now Americans are deeper in debt and so is the country. Our so-called freedoms to spend and economic choices to make are illusions, a product of psychology and consumer-driven marketing ploys. The truth of the matter is these so-called economic freedoms and choices have been made compulsory in order to live. The “financializaiton” and government involvement in the economy has produced regulatory capture for the consumer.

In a short synopsis what does this all mean? Well, let first me first mention this point: Our national debt roughly stands at $14 trillion. However, that is not our structural debt, which is what our legislators have promised to fund. Programs like Social Security, Medicare, government pensions, etc.  If we go by the General Accounting Office, that number is anywhere between 60 and 80 trillion.

Government’s involvement in the economy has widened and caused a series of bubbles in its wake. Total government spending amounts to more than 40 percent of gross domestic product, equal to what the economy actually produces in a year [1].

How does this affect the US globally? Other economic giants such as China, Japan, Persian Gulf governments and sovereign wealth funds are suspecting, and rightfully so, that they are holding worthless papers. The fear being, of course, the US will default on the massive debt or cheapen the hold by inflation. As these fears grow a few things will happen. These countries, which are essentially our creditors, will stop buying US debt or start selling it or force a higher interest rate to offset the risks associated in holding it.

The Fed will have no choice but to raise rates to attract borrows, which will greatly increase the chances for recession. Once this comes to pass, as many have stated, the US debt will be largest single item in the federal budget. Eerily Lenin supposedly once said that the surest way to bring down capitalism and ruin its institutions was to debauch the currency, whereby through process of inflation, governments can confiscate secretly. In essence, government will swallow the economy and the interest of one is no longer separate from the other. So, what once cost 25 cents now cost $5 or 10. For example, gas today cost 14 to 16 times as much as it did in the 1950s. The point is that dollar has lost anywhere between 75 to 90% of its purchasing power.

Different Course and Social Implications.

There is, of course, an alternative: A nationalistic economy secures the domestic interests, first. When farmers need more workers they should raise wages to attract workers, not import cheap, low-skilled laborers who will require welfare assistance for the duration of their lives. If manufactures, such as car manufactures for example, wish to produce quality goods, suited toward their main consumer, the American people, then perhaps the best way is to allow American workers to manufacture those products. 

If American car manufactures are falling behind Europe and Asia, then time is of the essence to turn ship and take a correct course. Corporations should hire more engineers, invest in human capital by sponsoring advanced degrees for aspiring design engineers, and reform corporate management by putting senior engineers in chief managerial roles as the Germans and Italians do.

America, during the 1950s and ’60s, owned the world market in car manufacturing. Now American auto manufacturing capability is merely a drop in the pacific. Since 1970, Japan has purchased less than a million U.S. cars, while selling us over 50 million [2].

Free traders suggest this is a good thing: Japan makes a superior product, and Japanese consumers, just like American consumers, choose to buy Japanese made cars. However, the deluge of imports and the flood of outsourcing have created, in spite of increased wealth and access to every widget and gadget under the sun, an economic system of diminished returns. College graduates can’t find work and are forced to move back in with their parents. Children are raised in daycare because mothers are forced to find a job and help support the family.

Ernest Hemmingway wrote, “the first principle of a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency, the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.”

It is impossible to deny that free trade works, when it works. In the same breath, it is important to identify and then realize the areas it has failed. For starters take a stroll through the Mon Valley of Pennsylvania; book a tour through a travel guide and take in the sights of the shrinking, gutted city of Detroit—once America’s Great Arsenal of Democracy, its forges now rusts in obscurity, cold and forgotten inside an empty factory.

There is reason why the majority of Americans feel the country is headed in the wrong direction. We should listen to them even if most cannot give in detail the source of their anxiety. However, instinctively most Americans, on some level, are economic nationalist. The differences come out when they bump up against a hard advocate for absolute free trade. One issue in particular is the understanding of one word, “need.” For example, free traders will say, “we need immigrants to do the jobs American won’t do.” Or “we need to outsource some jobs that can be done cheaper and more efficient so that Americans can have more for less.” 

These are understandable motivations on a superficial level, but the logic isn’t quite as sound as assumed.

While there are “needs” in one’s life, from an economic standpoint, rarely can a need be objectively and quantifiably determined. In fact, the former is really a wish. Comparing needs and wishes are not semantics but a real idea. Farmers may wish for more farm workers, American manufactures may wish for better profits by reducing production costs. Anyone is entitled to wish for anything they happen to imagine, but the object desired is rarely a need. Even worse is allowing powers at the top to determine for the rest of us what our needs are. 

Bringing in more foreign workers is not without costs to society. Outsourcing jobs to foreign countries is not without costs to the American economy. Our elites inform us we have access to plenty of goods. We have more than we can otherwise produce on our own. However, we also have a long-running trade deficit and a permanent unemployed/underemployed class.

Our nation enjoys its place as the world’s oldest constitutional republic, and is still the model to which other nations aspire. However, if the American people and the politicians they elect cannot standup and prevent the coming calamity, the devaluation or default of our currency, can we continue to say democracy is the pinnacle of human society?

Will we have to concede that John Adams was correct when he dimly reflected, “Remember, that democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” 

Notes

1. “Substantial expansion in the size and scope of government, including through new and costly regulations in areas like finance and health care, has contributed significantly to the erosion of U.S. economic freedom” (online source: http://www.heritage.org/research/commentary/ 2014/1/why-is-america-losing-its-economic-freedom). 

2. Gary Hoffman, (2009). AOL Autos.com


3. Read Patrick J. Buchanan’s Suicide of a Super Power
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The United States can no longer 'grow' its way out of debt.

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At one point and really not that long ago it seemed the right-winged philosophy of growing the country out of its present fiscal problems might have seemed feasible. It would have been a very difficult road requiring a comprehensive usage of different economic thoughts; reformation of the tax code, an overhaul of monetarist policy, repatriating American investment capital which is currently being sent overseas in droves, rebuilding and modernizing America's infrastructure, massive R&D projects on both the government and private sides, revitalization of manufacturing sector, increasing the US energy sector, etc. 

Well according to the writers over at ZeroHedge we have reached the tipping-point and can no longer grow out of nation's debtor status. 

Exactly 199 years ago, in 1815, a “temporary” committee was established in the US Senate called the Committee on Finance and Uniform National Currency.
It was set up to address economic issues and the debt accrued by the US government after the War of 1812.
Of course, because there’s nothing more permanent than a temporary government measure, the committee became a permanent one after just one year.
It soon expanded its role from raising tariffs to having influence over taxation, banking, currency, and appropriations.
In subsequent wars, notably the American Civil War, the Committee was quick to use its powers and introduced the union’s first income tax. They also detached the dollar from gold to help fund the war.
This was all an indication of things to come.
Over the subsequent decades there was a sustained push to finally establish the country’s central bank that will control money and credit, as well as institute a permanent income tax to feed the expanding aspirations of government.
They succeeded in 1913 when the Federal Reserve Act was passed and the 16th Amendment ratified, binding the country in the shackles of central banking and taxation of income. 
Over the century that followed, the US has gone from being the biggest creditor in the world to its biggest debtor. 
Decades of expanding government programs, waste, endless and costly wars, etc. have racked up such an enormous pile of debt that it has become almost impossible to pay it down. 
A lot of folks don’t realize that, since the end of World War II, the US government’s total tax revenue has been almost constant at roughly 17% of GDP. 
In other words, even though the actual tax rates themselves rise and fall, the government’s ‘slice’ of the economic pie is almost always the same - 17%. 
I’ve worked out a mathematical model which shows that, even with absurd assumptions (7%+ GDP growth for years at a time, low interest rates, etc.), it is simply not feasible for the US government to ‘grow’ its way out.
Deficits may not matter but the debt and interest they generate sure as hell do.
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Senate's CIA "Torture Report"

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It is truthbut truth is not always appearance.

~Ichabod Crane, Sleepy Hollow (1999)

As readers undoubtedly already know...the Senate Intelligence Committee, under the auspice of Senator Dianne Feinstein, has released the very damning report titled "Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program." In it we see a pretty horrific picture painted of the CIA's interrogation program; ranging from allegations of "avoiding or impeding oversight" of any kind, was "brutal and far worse" than represented, "not an effective means of acquiring intelligence" etc. Fairly damning and damaging to the Agency's reputation as well as to the United States' standing in the world.

(Before I go on and for the integrity of this topic, I emphatically sanction the use of EIT's on terrorists--who seek to kill, torture, and subjugate the free people of this world in the name of "religious rectitude"--to secure their motivations and plans. My perspective on most foreign policy or security issues is strictly and religiously utilitarian. In that if actions maximize the overall benefit--protecting US civilians, military, and interests--is achieved then the judgement of the action--use of EIT's--should be measured by this metric.)

Now that that disclaimer is out of the way and there is no question as to my motivation let's get started with the critique.

The Partisan Nature of the Report

Absolutely the largest point that makes taking this report seriously extremely problematic is who produced it.

From the Washington Post(Emphasis Mine.)

The investigation was conducted exclusively by the Senate committee’s Democratic staff. Its release Tuesday is certain to stir new debate over a program that has been a source of contention since the first details about the CIA’s secret prison network began to surface publicly a decade ago
So...why weren't any Republican staffers present? Well...the blame and culpability for this being the case lies solely at the feet of the GOP.

“My predecessor, Sen. Bond, was the lead Republican on the Committee when the report was started. Sen. Bond’s determination early on was that this report was clearly a partisan effort, and there was no reason for the Republican staff to continue to participate,” Blunt said.  
(Emphasis Mine.)
Any present day Republican decrying the "partisan nature" of this report should shut his/her collective mouth. Because they, the GOP, had motive and opportunity to fight inside the committee and control some of the report's outcomes. Not take their toys and go home. Anyone who is politically active or pays attention should have known how that these little Progressive knobs would structure this report in the manner they did, it was or should have been expected.

Where the Republican leadership is concerned, these Democrat actions aren't or weren't some kind of fucking recent revelation brought on by a momentary lapse in their judgment. The Republican leadership had five years to mull over this and if they would have stayed engaged they might have had an opportunity to do something about it instead of just crying foul. All of this was part and parcel of the larger problem that has plagued these tools (Democrats) since 2007 and earlier--their Leftist extremism and their sick-headed and morally bankrupt agenda.

If you are uninitiated in the Progressive mind-set towards war and foreign policy, please see this post for an eye opening crash-course on their ludicrous philosophies.

Structure of the Report

By any means necessary...

~Jean Paul Sartre, Dirty Hands (1948)

Piggybacking of the abovementioned content, you would be hard-pressed to convince me otherwise that the Democratic staffers or their leadership didn't start this investigation with the presupposition that the Agency was guilty of transgressions. These little nihilists so vehemently opposed the use of EIT's that they would burst into histrionics at the mere mention of the acronym. So with all the emotional vomiting they had subjected the nation to over the years, they HAD to prove themselves correct.  Regardless of the cost and who it might affect.

In a op-ed for USA Today, former Senator, member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and DemocratBob Kerrey, echoed this sentiment, among other criticisms.
The Republicans checked out early* when they determined that their counterparts started out with the premise that the CIA was guilty and then worked to prove it.
*One point I would like to make is that the motivation that supposedly led the GOP to "check out" for me is still no excuse, they should have stuck it out.

Another problem that this "investigation" suffers from is what was investigated. From the Bob Kerrey op-ed.

I have participated in two extensive investigations into intelligence failures, once when Aldrich Ames was discovered to be spying for Russia after he had done substantial damage to our human intelligence collection capability and another following the 9/11 attacks. In both cases we were very critical of the practices of the intelligence agencies. In both cases we avoided partisan pressure to blame the opposing party. In both cases Congress made statutory changes and the agencies changed their policies. It didn't make things perfect, but it did make them better.
In both of these efforts the committee staff examined documents and interviewed all of the individuals involved. The Senate's Intelligence Committee staff chose to interview no one. Their rationale - that some officers were under investigation and could not be made available – is not persuasive. Most officers were never under investigation and for those who were, the process ended by 2012.
Fairness should dictate that the examination of documents alone do not eliminate the need for interviews conducted by the investigators. Isolated emails, memos and transcripts can look much different when there is no context or perspective provided by those who sent, received or recorded them.
(Emphasis Mine.)
Timing of the Report's Release

The essential ingredient of politics is timing.

~Pierre Trudeau, 15th Prime Minister of Canada

There are many reasons that could be offered for the timing and release of this report. But rest assured, all of the reasons offered are purely political in nature. 

One motivation for the Democrats which has gained traction in conservatives circles was that report was coincidentally released as Jonathan Gruber was given his testimony to the House Oversight Committee on the 10th. Mr. Gruber, in case you forgot, was the so-called architect of Obamacare who recently and on several occasions called the American people, "stupid." 


Another reason that could be considered is that in one month the Democrats are leaving their majority position in Congress. They know full well that propaganda piece would probably have not seen the light of day when the Republicans took over. So they do what Democrats do, they shit all over everything before turning over the keys.

Timing, for Feinstein was a big factor. "I realize the Senate changes leadership in January, and so the likelihood of the report coming out next year was slim and none, so we had a limited opportunity after five and a half years of work to get this out," she said. She conceded that the safety situation abroad was "difficult," but, she continued, "It's going to remain difficult."

Furthermore there is the aspect of hypocrisy and the depth to which Feinstein and her ilk actually oppose the use of EIT's.

From William McGurn in the New York Post


 If you really wanted to ensure the CIA never tortures again, why didn’t you just outlaw waterboarding and other methods you call torture altogether — instead of leaving it to an executive order another president might reverse?  
The honest answer to this question speaks to contemporary congressional morality, and underscores how the loudest notes of moral outrage in the Beltway are so often sounded by its least serious people.
After all, back in 2009 the stars were all in alignment for putting a ban into law. The war in Iraq had been turned around by the surge; the CIA in fact hadn’t waterboarded anyone since 2004; and the need for harsh tactics, if ever they were necessary, seemed far behind us.


Indeed...? Why not end it?

Back in 2009 the Democrats had the political capital, the moral authority, and above all else the control of the executive branch and the legislative numbers to make this happen. Beyond burning down the building on the way out, this lends itself to the upcoming general election in 2016. Since the Democrats took such a drubbing in the mid-terms--getting completely decimated in the South--there base is disillusioned, beaten down to the lowest level possible, and the country is souring on their brand. They need revival and they need it badly.

From Ferguson, to Eric Gardner, and now a play from the old playbook that was near and dear to the political hearts of the Progressive faithful...EIT's. Nothing gins up the base like a Bush administration/Iraq war related controversy.  The base gets motivated and therefore mobilized and the wheels will start to turn. But, how far the wheels will take them is another story altogether.

You see the attitude that American's possess towards EIT's has changed quite a bit since the mid-2000's.

From the  Pew Research Center,

Pew Research Center (Fact Tank, Dec 2014)
This may produce fire in the belly of the your local activist--or maybe just indigestion--but the average American is a little more pragmatic on the subject. So...parading the CIA report come election time and the Right will use it as a political wall that the Left's head will be smashed on.

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LA based street-artist, Sabo, does the new cover for next month's Rolling Stone.

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From Lena Dunham's dubious claim about being raped by the campus Republican, to the now specious Rolling Stone story reporting a young woman's alleged rape at a UVA frat, it's getting to the point where you will need a scorecard to know the real victims from the phonies. With all this agitprop flying around LA based street artist Sabo has done a little something to help the cause



More at the American Digest and Powerline


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Things that matter: Pearl Harbor Remembered 73 Years Later.

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In today's things that matter we will keep it simple, just remembering those whose lives were taken at Pearl Harbor. An attack which launched us into World War II and down our present course of history. 
Under clear blue skies, 15 survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at the National World War II Memorial to see their service of 73 years ago recognized. 
"As the years stretch, the stories of every sailor, soldier, Marine, airman, nurse or citizen who was at Pearl Harbor grow more precious, and we use this anniversary to retell them," U.S. Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, vice chief of Naval Operations, told the 400 people gathered at the hallowed ground between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. "We understand that the collective toughness of the American people, our survival, and the eventual success of this country, is due to them."



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Hillary Clinton's 'empathize' versus King Abdullah's 'Third-World War' statements.

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Two contrasting opinions on foreign policy expressed, one quite astute and succinct while the other is naive and pandering. You decide which one is which. 




The second video...



I am sure most people would be on the same page as to which video fit which category.

However...there are a few things to add.

First is that while Abdullah speaks truth about the threat ISIS poses and the actions which should be taken in regards to their aggression, he is speaking in the context of the Middle East and specifically Jordan. ISIS in its present form poses no existential threat towards the United States. Of course this fact is no reason not to be pro-active, nor turn a blind eye to ISIS.

Hug Offensive

On Hillary Clinton...well, what can you really say??? This is one of the more inane statements expressed in the foreign policy realm I have heard in some time. Vicariously feel and envisage the enemies' emotional state so we can understand their point of view and reach out to them? Sigh...

It's wondering that with the amount of history and the huge number of tyrants and oppressive regimes known to the human consciousness, to hear our potential leaders and intellectuals utter such nonsense is mind-blowing. Subsequently when dealing with organizations such as ISIS et al extreme violence and unadulterated savagery--in the Maori sense--seems an appropriate course of strategy. Not making our center of gravity some neo-Freudian Einf├╝hlung based hug-fest with a bunch of murderous, depraived, psychopaths. This isn't policy or "smart power" it's disaster.

Now we know that the average Occupier might buy into this frayed end of reasoning. After all, who knows more about foreign policy than a recent unemployed graduate from Skidmore with a gender studies degree under their belt? But...Hillary Clinton? No, HRC doesn't buy into this poppycock, but she is politically savvy enough to know that the average Progressive is naive enough to believe it. Consequently she is fully invested in trying to prove her Proggie bona fides by engaging in the most ridiculous of statements to gain the Democratic base's support for 2016.

Whichever political camp you might fall into or whatever your view on foreign policy we all must agree projecting this naive viewpoint, even just to score political points with your base, is dangerous. The precedent it sets vocalizes our potential leaders' willingness to seemingly capitulate to our worst enemies' perspectives. And that no matter how you slice it is alarming.


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Things that Matter: Divorce Trends Down, Abortion Rates Dropping, and Child Care Bill

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Things that matter today...

Americans are divorcing divorce.

Contrary to popular belief and conventional wisdom, divorce rates in America aren't increasing, but declining.

But here is the thing: It is no longer true that the divorce rate is rising, or that half of all marriages end in divorce. It has not been for some time. Even though social scientists have tried to debunk those myths, somehow the conventional wisdom has held.

Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.

Abortion is getting aborted.

Whenever topics such as marriage equality or say...abortion pop up most liberals happily decry that they have won the so-called "culture wars" summarily defeating conservatives. However, it seems that conservative insurgent messaging efforts may have had a far more significant effect than previously thought.

Abortion is becoming ever rarer in the United States. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its latest survey of abortion in the United States. The CDC tallied 730,322 abortions in 2011, the smallest number in almost 40 years. CDC’s numbers are probably an under-count. Other surveys suggest that the number for 2011 was slightly larger than 1 million.
So...who really won this portion of the culture wars???

Child Care Billl

One of the most difficult facts about life in 21st century life for working American families is the necessity for a two income household. Subsequently, this can prove to be a daunting task if you have children. Now...with the outrageous cost of child care these days, people find a large portion of their income going towards paying these costs, severely limiting the amount of money they could use to pay down bills, create more disposable income, or generating savings.

Well...there might be some assistance out there.
Last week in Washington, President Obama signed into law the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014 (PL 113-186). Enactment of the legislation was historic because it has been 18 years since child care legislation was last reauthorized (renewed).  
At a time when Congress is often polarized, a bipartisan group of Senators and House members came together in a bipartisan manner to support the child care needs of working families. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) held four hearings over the past several years and introduced legislation in June of 2013. With the support of Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Committee, the measure moved forward through the legislative process and was approved by the Senate in March by a vote of 96-2...
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Mary Landrieu is Done in Louisiana

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Louisiana's most recent family political dynasty is likely fractured and weakened forever. The Democrat Senator, Mary Landrieu, is facing a certain humiliating defeat as voters ready to oust her in just a few days in favor of Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.

The number of people who cast their ballots early for  Dec. 6 runoff election were decidedly registered Republican voters. Everyone else, it appears, that is, dyed in the wool Democrats, are staying home.
About 85,900 registered Republicans took advantage of early voting for the Dec. 6 runoff, which was held during the week leading up Thanksgiving, as well as Saturday. That’s almost 3,000 more than the number of people who voted early for the Nov. 4 election, and it amounts to a 4 percent bump in early voting overall from a month ago.
Senator Landrieu tried it all.  She tried to the victim-racism bit the failed. She tried flexing her bona fides in making a last ditch effort to deliver on the Keystone Pipeline. That failed. She reminded voters she voted with Obama 97 percent of the time. That failed like a lead ballon. She tried to distance herself from Obama and even her own party. That smelled of disingenuous pandering. The Louisiana Democrat machine is even encouraging Democrat voters to commit voter fraud-- by voting often. Even reminding them that there is no chance they'll be prosecuted for voting more than once. 

That will fail too. PCT will call this 59ish to 41ish, in favor of Cassidy. 
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Pericles Patriotism

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In the History of the Peloponnesian War, the disgraced Athenian General, Thucydides, described Athens’ efforts to defend the honor and security of the empire. Athens, a democracy, manned an unparalleled naval force which dominated the island and coastal city-states along the Adriatic and Aegean Seas. As the hegemonic power, Athens became singularly focused on defending and expanding its empire. It demanded tribute and allegiance from all states within its realm, and was not afraid to resort to war to get them. Hence, the Athenian response to the Melians’ appeal for peace, “right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power…[and] of the gods we believe, and of men we know, that by necessary law of nature they rule wherever they can.” This "might makes right" policy led to overextension and drain on resources and manpower, which led to its downfall.
To switch from a historical narrative, Thucydides account of these events is one of tragedy — both in form and style. Briefly, and for starters, was Athens’ total surrender to national glory. For example, when other leaders of the assembly voiced doubt on the prospects of a Sicilian invasion, an island city far way, while enemies were were present near by, the objections were dismissed by the majority. Even when the dissenting group began to list the impossible demands both in men and resources for a successful invasion,  the more the conquest was blindly supported by the rest of the assembly.
When hubris leads to destruction and loss, what does the state do to console the mourners, play to honor, and make sure the dead may live for posterity? They turn to oratory and vague language of sacrifice. This method was used during the aftermath of Athenian defeat by the great orator Pericles in which Thucydides documented with a hint of sarcasm and tragedy. My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but was done to last forever. 
Thucydides writes of the consequences after the downfall. 
“Never before had so many cities been captured and then devastated, whether by foreign armies or by the Hellenic powers themselves (some of these cities, after capture, were resettled with new inhabitants); never had there been so many exiles; never such loss of life–both in the actual warfare and in internal revolutions” (Thucydides, Intro to The History of the Peloponnesian War).
In contrast, Pericles was documented as saying during his funeral oration, “Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it” and “the whole earth is the tomb of famous men.”
These famous saying led Neville Morley (author of the essay linked below) to write:
Pericles’ oration was a masterpiece of rhetoric, and has been quoted and imitated ever since. In praising those who gave their lives for the city and justifying their sacrifice, it has supplied posterity with appropriate words for all such occasions of public commemoration, especially in the 20th century.
[snip]
At best, then, the funeral oration expresses ideals that are inevitably undermined by subsequent events. At worst, it represents the very qualities that led to Athenian defeat. Periclean patriotism is questioned and undercut at every turn, and the reader is encouraged to weigh it carefully — or look back at it critically — rather than adopt its powerful but simple-minded slogans.
What can be inferred from Thucydides writings on these events is the antidotes to hubris. Tragedy, and its emphasis on the limits of human understanding, the degree to which it can downplay risk and loss for the appeal to audacity and ambition, shapes the narrative of his writings. 
Conversely, how reality is masked with rising and glorious appeals to honor and glory. And often with destructive outcomes to those who succumb to their own hubris.  
The inclusion of highly polished speeches such as Pericles’ funeral oration in Thucydides’ history has often puzzled readers, especially since he claimed to disdain writing for entertainment’s sake. Some have treated them as literal transcriptions of what was actually said, although Thucydides himself contradicted this. Others have read them as statements of Thucydides’ own views. Thus, many political theorists have claimed that the famous line from the Melian dialogue, ‘the strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must’, is a Thucydidean doctrine, although it is said by the Athenians.
Both approaches are wrong. The speeches allowed Thucydides to explore the motives of key actors at critical moments, and to develop one of his central themes: the awkward relationship between words and deeds, ideas and reality. By juxtaposing speeches and action in his narrative, he emphasised the constant mismatch between what people thought and claimed — and what actually happened, whether because of ignorance, miscalculation, deception or chance.
So it is with Thucydides’ account of Pericles’ Funeral Oration. There is interminable debate among specialists about whether Thucydides actually admired Pericles’ leadership. It is possible to read the speech as an endorsement of Periclean ideals, but one can also see it as a deliberate exposition of the dangers in Pericles’ conception of an all-powerful Athens, with its hidden agenda of imperial expansion and the enslavement of others.
In either case, the rest of the narrative demonstrates how unsuccessful the whole project was. Having confidently started a war against Sparta, Pericles succumbs to plague within a year. Athens becomes ever more corrupt in its pursuit of dominance; this is exemplified in the amorality of the Mytilenean debate and the Melian dialogue with its ‘might is right’ argument, and in the selfish ambition of figures such as Cleon and Alcibiades. Yet it is clear that its roots lie deeper. After the disastrous invasion of Sicily, the Athenians readily abandon the glories of democracy in favour of an oligarchy, in the hope of pay from the Persians. In any case, as Thucydides had noted, democracy under Pericles was already in reality the rule of one man.
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A return from a week's long absentia.

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Apologies for the lack of PCT over the past week, but moving three states away, shitty cell phone service (i.e. no hot-spot availability), no internet, no furniture, starting a new job, and the holiday season now being upon us have complicated blogging...lol. 

So...since most of the problems indicated above have been remedied, it is time to resume our regularly scheduled programming. 


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