Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Shatners

Here's Daniel Drezner's list of bad foreign intrigues from Foreign Policy Magazine

10) Operation Continue Hope in Somalia.
9) 1983 Beirut bombing.
8) Bay of Pigs.
7) Sponsoring the 1953 coup in Iran.
6) Operation Iraqi Freedom.
5) Crossing the 38th parallel in Korea.
4) Expansion of the war in Vietnam.
3) The War on Drugs.
2) Refusal to join the League of Nations.
1) 1920s Economic diplomacy.

See his reasons at http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/08/29/the_shatners_of_american_foreign_policy_0

The Euro

This past Saturday I began a new adventure.  I attended the first session in my first attempt at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, under the auspices of the University of Kentucky.  The choices of experiences, intended to encourage continuing education among seniors, is breathtaking.  I almost didn't know where to start, but through a combination of inclination plus opportunity I came to sign up for two offerings:  The Great Decisions discussion program promulgated by the Foreign Policy Association, replicated countrywide, and a local topic, Italian Verismo and the Opera of Giacomo Puccini.

It was the Great Decisions program that I have already begun, and about which I will share some thoughts here with you.  The Verismo course starts this Thursday and there is a chance that it may inspire a few reports as well.

First, the Great Decisions group will meet 8 times and watch, then discuss, 8 videos on various topics.  This past week the topic was about the future of the Euro, and by extension, the European Union.  Here are some of my observations on the event and on the topic.
  • No shortage of enthusiasm for lifelong learning is apparent.  This group of a dozen or so shows a keen intellect and impressive resumes, academic, professional, experiential and avocational.
  • I do see, however, a tendency to relate through indoctrinations rather than analysis.
  • One of the problems is that there is not much time to get beyond the shallow end.
  • On the other hand, we have not been blighted with the presence of any "experts" in monetary policy.  It is to be hoped that this blessing will continue into other discussion topics.
  • International financiers are hammers, therefor all problems look like banking and public administration nails.
  • The presentation and the subsequent discussion seemed to beg a critical question -- are the travails of the Euro, or any currency for that matter, solely in the wheelhouses of bankers and politicians.
  • Not once was there a question as to whether the state is where a solution lies.
  • The only inquiries I heard were concerning the immediacy of upping the level of central planning in the long term vs. imposing sink or swim expectations on the little guys (Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy) in the short term.  Have these people not been watching the USA, UK, and the Russias?  And we all know in advance that none will be allowed to sink.  Bailouts, anyone?
  • There is an interesting parallel between the Delphi Technique that the movers and shakers present in this case, compared to the sort of false dilemma claimed as the reason for replacing our Articles of Confederation with the Constitution.
I am particularly looking forward to weeks when we will discuss Syria and Egypt

The 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act

I will explain these “Winnies” in the coming weeks from bottom to top:

The Volstead Act was, you will recall, the act of Congress which implemented the amendment to the Constitution which was unique in that it removed a liberty from the people.  The only other negative amendment in terms of freedom was the 16th, which established an income tax, not a right or its removal but the placing of an obligation.  The 18th amendment was also the only one ever repealed.

I have been binge watching Boardwalk Empire for the past two weeks.  That show has made it clear to me that organized crime metamorphosed from a localized, specialized, urban phenomenon to a national, and perforce international, scourge – and the same could be said for corruption in government, overzealousness in government, and rampant growth of the federal government.

Some may argue that prohibition demonstrates that anarchy evolves into chaos, because the government was not made strong enough to deal effectively with the upsurge in crime.  My response is that such will always be the case.  The legislative process makes it impossible to either foresee or to respond to errors in planning.  This is a feature, not a flaw, in the American public life system.  One of the reasons for this dynamic is that no politician will be forthright about the costs of any program that he or she supports.  Another reason is that politicians are never really serious about the window dressing they inflict upon us.  They created prohibition to quiet an extremely noisy part of the electorate – to them prohibition was just another case of “giving the voters what they wanted,” but then letting it slip into the cracks.  It is clear that politicians everywhere regarded prohibition as a vast money making opportunity.

And make no mistake; American prohibition was of world wide scope.  The economic ripples circled and re-circled the globe.  But I cite the Volstead Act as a major calamity not just because of its short term economic effects, but because of its role in establishing a cynicism in American politics and public administration that has grown malignantly and enormously to this day.

I will work my way up the list in future weeks.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

In the next edition of Finding the Challenges, I will discuss "The Winnies," my sporadic lists of monuments along the cattle drive trail of statist policy.

  • The Yalta Conference
  • The Treaty of Versailles
  • The Manhattan Project
  • The War on Terror
  • The War on Drugs
  • Income Tax
  • Imperialism
  • The Democracy Litmus Test
  • Nixonism
  • The 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act

Rants, the March for Freedom, Podcasts

Finding the Challenges by Verbal Vol aka Kilgore Forelle

Sometimes I will use this column, begging your indulgence, for an old-fashioned rant. My inspiration is beginning to lose its edge since I am not standing in some bureaucrat's line anymore. The real reason I am showing some restraint (I do not easily lay aside a rant) is that on leaving that bureaucrat's lair, I began to listen to a podcast in my vehicle which brought up items that out-outraged my prior complaint. So today I will write about two outrages in the man's inhumanity to man league (MIML), then I will give a few strokes to the one, now diminished, lesser complaint from the pain in the derriere league (PITDL). That's right it is a PITDL'ing rant.

I cannot pass this date without recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the fiftieth anniversary of his “I have a dream” oration. Then, coming back to podcasts, I will begin my continuing reviews and opinions of more-or-less voluntaryist podcasts and other WWW resources.