Range: blue=cold, red=hot
Range: blue=cold, red=hot
On Tuesday’s broadcast (2014-01-28), Mark Levin repeats a suggestion he’s made with regard to the contention among and between the powers of the three branches of the Federal government. For those who believe Levin has somehow claimed nullfication is “unconstitutional” (which he has not done), I urge them to read the following transcript of the segment where Levin suggests Congress nullify the President’s unconstitutional actions (which the President has made via executive order, declarations of changes to legislation, and general proclamation).
From this, you can see two things:
Of course it’s also obvious that Levin has not been claiming that nullification is unconstitutional.
When out host upgraded WordPress, the site layout was affected. It came at a bad time in terms of available manpower to fix it.
Everything works fine, it just looks strange.
K-Bob – January 6, 2013
Upon reading Victor Davis Hanson’s NRO column titled, 2017 and the End of Ethics, one may be excused for thinking trust has all but vanished from these shores. It leads us to wonder:
Have we become a culture of liars, or are we still a truthful society?
Lying is at least as old as the story of Adam and Eve. People have always struggled to do the right thing among their friends and family, and in their tribes and villages and towns. A degree in ethics is not required to understand why being seen as truthful has always mattered: the village liar doesn’t tend to eat as well as those who are trusted (although accomplished liars find a way to avoid both work and starvation at the same time).
Lying is a constant reminder of the inherent weakness of men. A big reason for this is that your community tends to keep you well fed if you pretend to be useful, but the pretense doesn’t last. The liar’s usefulness eventually comes to a contemptible end, causing men to see them as weak—and themselves as weak for trusting the deceiver in the first place. This, and the previously mentioned bareness of the village liar’s cupboard are solid, simple facts of small-scale, civil society. Because these facts represent a certain amount of success in dealing with deception, and because they are strongly reinforced at the local level (that “bare cupboard” thing, again), they become ingrained within each of us.
These simple factors of life at the community level provide our first important proposition: (A) Our locally-learned, deeply-ingrained capacities for dealing with other people impel us to expect honesty in most people we meet.
‘Civil’ society is our focus in this study. In general it means nations where the rule of law largely prevails. However some tribal cultures share all the same civilizing factors of modern, Western cultures; provided that war, warlords, self-appointed religious leaders, and other non-civilzing factors have not taken over. Also, this study is not focused on corrupt or evil men or women. They can be found at all levels of society, and are best explained by criminal psychologists and by those in law enforcement. Our reasoning here is for society, as a whole, and for large factions operating therein; such factions as would be composed of people who mostly view themselves as lawful, decent citizens.
Proposition (A) is also the premise for all that follows in this exploration. Basically, it means most of us care about honesty. But part of growing up is learning that falsehood exists at all levels of human experience. From the small lies we tell to avoid embarrassment (“No, I don’t think I ate the last doughnut”), to the biggest, most brazen lies of all (“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”), lies will always be there, making life difficult. Contending with falsehood is part of the skill set for mature humans.
But Hanson’s article is not about our pathetic, personal struggles against perfidiousness. It’s really aimed at understanding the level of deception in a particular profession—journalism—whose membership is composed of people who are put forward as certified, authoritative, trustworthy sources of information. Hanson identifies several instances of mendacity in the coverage of events, all of which are transparent attempts to protect a historically-weak president from all criticism.
Aside from the fact that this particularly ironic form of transparency is the only transparency we seem to get under the current Administration, Hanson wonders if the profession of journalism has utterly abandoned ethics as a concern, if not as a core principle. But something else is going on, which is why we’re here, exploring this further. In each of his pointed queries we experience the echo of the same, implied question: How much more of this can we tolerate?
Our natural instinct to expect honesty from those whom we meet (A, above) is what allows the media to be important in our lives. Our nation’s media claim to be a window on the world that helps us stay informed. They present themselves as honest men and women, performing a service for hire. This makes it difficult to avoid thinking of the media—especially television—as an authoritative voice.
But clever men discovered long ago that our media represent a magic mirror into which we collectively gaze. We look into that mirror, and it controls the image reflecting back to us. It turns our ingrained expectation of honesty into the very means by which we may be mislead about the nature of the world.
If such misleading were limited to influencing the rise and fall of hemlines, or moving the occasional box of detergent, then it would be more akin to the old, village liar concept: a known factor (advertising) that can be easily dealt with. But somewhere along the way, men learned that deception could be used to influence much more than your choice of household merchandise. Thus came to be the Fourth Estate. And here is where the mirror concept closes, like a circle: the collective media are an “estate of the realm” in many ways, but in one particular way they represent an image of what our society has become. Fairly or not, they are an image of us.
So Hanson’s questions really apply to society at large. Are we, as a nation, throwing ethics out the window?
The importance of this cannot be overstated. The media have always needed to sell their stories to us, even if they had to dress them up somewhat. So we’ve come to expect a little window dressing with our news. Further, journalism has been saddled with its James T. Callender types since the earliest days of print. So we’ve come to expect that the media sports the occasional fabulist (after all, the shark is what makes the aquarium interesting). But for several generations of Americans, reporters have maintained an image of independent, tenacious explorers, hell-bent on getting the story.
Those days are apparently gone.
Now it’s all about protecting the Administration at all costs. Our recent journalism graduates have chosen the safe path of repeating the narrative established for them, rather than the riskier path of getting at the truth. This leads them to bury the story of the mistakes made by this Administration; or worse, simply pass off the Administration’s explanations as news reporting. And the mistakes the media struggles to hide are ones which destroy jobs. They are mistakes that have taken medical care from people who desperately need it, and that empower America’s enemies while weakening America’s military. This weakening has already resulted in the deaths of good men and women, but the media rarely covers it.
The coal industry was shut down based on a completely unsubstantiated belief, trumpeted by the media as “science,” that it would help slow global warming, and could be replaced by other sources. The media mostly ignored looking into the truth of the matter, especially the scientific truth. They rarely devoted much time on the fact of the incredible number of jobs lost because of the closings (clearly some coverage exists, but you have to search for it). Economic reporting seems to ignore electricity bills skyrocketing as a result of the loss of coal plants (not to mention the impact on the middle class and the poor). Instead, the majority of journalistic focus has been fixed on finding ways to portray all things as racism, or they spend energy on Guilt Extortion schemes (like the thoroughly discredited, junk science behind the Global Warming alarmism industry; or wildly fabricated stories about drilling, mining, pipelines, and nuclear power; or alarmism implying the need for government intervention in controlling your dietary habits).
These problems exist at all levels of mainstream press and news organizations. But it’s important to note that good men and women still follow the old-style methods of reporting and coverage. You’ll mostly find them in small-circulation print media or among local TV news field reporters. That is no accident, as we shall see.
The bigger problem lies with the national-class media, especially television. In the rush to get the first story for the television news, hard reporting has given way to treating unsubstantiated rumor as fact. (This is why an explosion reported via Twitter seems to generate television news reports of a flood, fire, famine or tornado before you’ll ever discover that it was a gas line under a street somewhere.) It also leads to a self-made trap for the televised news services, where a slow news period is intolerable to their business model. So the media has built-in problems with which they must always wrestle. This is why the loss of ethics is, …well, very bad news.
Are we headed into a new age of Lysenkoism, where facts are buried by the new Ministers of Truth? Where industries like coal mining are destroyed, and honest men are driven out of their professions, if not yet into the gulags? And what can we possibly do about it?
The major danger to a nation is that the payoff for lying grows greater as one gets closer to the centers of power. The worst part about this is that we tend to hold liars less accountable as they come closest to the most powerful positions. We do this to maintain the fiction that our leaders are not weak. In fact, civilizations have always struggled with this problem. The famous, the popular, and the powerful all seem to operate in a world of privilege (the word ‘privilege’ literally means “private law”). Even when provably guilty of lying to the people, our leaders somehow seem to escape responsibility (see Nixon, Richard M.)
Readers who are neither conservative nor libertarian will feel an urge to believe this exploration is aimed at dethroning the President. Or perhaps might assume this is an attempt to somehow try to shift the balance in our nation’s political divide back toward the right. However, we are not focused on the President or his policies here. We are not spending much time with the repeated falsehoods that pour out of the Administration and its defenders in Congress. The fact is, we’re stuck with these increasingly-misnamed “leaders” for a while longer, and they are a symptom of a larger problem that we must all address, regardless of partisan instincts.
Many who prefer to think of themselves as “of the left” are aware that the level of falseness is alarming. It’s what leads to bizarre statements from Congressional leaders that prove that nearly any random Congress prior to the year 2000 would do a better job of explaining themselves to the public, and in dealing with the usual, partisan give-and-take in Washington.
So we’re less concerned with politicians here, because the deception, lies and fraud cascading out of Washington has become positively cartoonish. The President’s serial fabrications are, of course, unprecidented. But he is not alone. Certain Republican leaders (McCain, Boehner, and others), as well as Democrat leaders (and partisan hacks on both sides) are just as guilty. This exploration is about our overall tolerance of lies in our society, the reflections of it in the media, and what we can do about the problem.
The problem affects us all. If unchecked, we all know where it will lead.
This problem of privilege for heads of state leads us to our second major proposition: (B) Since ancient times, nothing has altered the fact that centralization of power does not lend itself to the defense of truth. This is why the Framers of the Constitution used decentralization as their guiding principle. Our national motto, E Pluribus Unum, is not merely a claim that we are all one; it is a guide for healthy governance.
We know that falsehood attends the pursuit of power like insects drawn to decay. We know how to minimize the damage deceit and fraud can do in government, by decentralizing the decision-making. But what about the people at large? Have they also thrown ethics aside? And why do so many people still trust the media, even though their lies have been exposed again and again?
Answers to these questions are much harder to find. But we are not lost in the dark. The nature of falseness and deceit has been studied since ancient times. The key is to step back and gain some perspective.
First we should consider the historical perspective. We could use as our example an earlier time, but let us think for a moment on the well-documented history of Rome. As anyone familiar with the writings of Cicero or Shakespeare could tell you, the ancient Romans had to contend with politics, spin, bribery, corruption, and of course, lies. Power was a pursuit of the powerful, and some would do anything, say anything, and dare any venture to gain it. But this is a fairly well-understood concept. After all, the pursuit of power has been the subject of books, entertainments, and art throughout the ages of civilization.
Turning to the economy, they had buyers and sellers, and wheelers and dealers. Marketing professionals and salesmen had perfected their trade long before the rise of empires, and they made sure the Romans had dynamic markets. If you wonder why the people love winners and fear being losers, look to the marketing pros. Someone has to make sure the winners are loudly celebrated, otherwise few would participate in the game of commerce.
Think about that the next time you watch athletes striving against each other inside a ‘stadium.’
So, if the primary factor in the rise of falsehood in society at large has to do with the pursuit of power, then a decent candidate for the secondary factor is that markets are sluggish things when winners go unnoticed. A man who doesn’t feel like he is falling behind the winners of the world feels little pressure to upgrade his situation. The pitchmen of the world thrive by maintaining that climate of pressure. Without it, commerce narrows to that which is merely necessary.
We specified activity that drives desire (“who wants to be a winner?”), but the discipline of marketing clearly involves much more than simply creating a party atmosphere. Generating fear, uncertainty, and doubt also drives specialized markets, as does generating conflict (e.g., arms dealers). But commerce mostly relies on the more positive aspects. For example, you don’t go to the mall and hang out with your friends out of fear for your life. So as a stand-in for the entire set of market driving schemes, we’ll use “generating desire,” and do our reasoning with that as a placeholder.
We’ll be coming back to this point later.
A third factor in the tendency of falseness to rise in the overall populace comes to us from the prosecution of war. In a war, disinformation is a valuable tool to use against one’s enemy. Non-military people who know of this concept (and typically point to it as an excuse for similar tactics in other areas of conflict) rarely understand that its effectiveness relies on good planning and secrecy. Otherwise, the tactic loses its effectiveness in the overall fog of war, where “trust” is no longer a factor. Further, in an honorable society, this tactic is viewed properly as dishonorable, and is reserved for specific situations where it is necessary (we also empower special operations units to make these decisions on an as-needed basis). However, “necessary” is a relative term. Once war has moved beyond the rules observed among honorable men, the threshold for what is “necessary” lowers significantly.
“Disinformation” is different from the concept of a “feint,” or using distraction or other means to fool one’s opponent. Disinformation is more like a long con, in that it takes a proper setup and execution. Disinformation is more of an institutional concept, and that is why it can serve as a driver of deceit across an entire society or organization.
The tactic of disinformation applies in the pursuit of criminals by law enforcement agencies as well. Courts across the Western world have upheld the use of lying to suspects as an honorable and lawful means to arrive at the truth. This may seem contradictory, but criminals employ falsehood on a continual basis. Sometimes it takes a deliberate lie to expose a liar. We must be able to trust our Law Enforcement agents and officers to employ this tactic under specifically-controlled, legal oversight. This trust is threatened when deception is tolerated in society at large, and that, in turn, puts our Law Enforcers in danger.
The fourth factor driving a rise of dishonesty is the dispensation from honor granted to those who claim to fight for your cause. This is an expedient heavily relied upon in asymmetrical warfare. Curiously, its proponents think of it as, “A nasty trick that’s fun to play on the enemy.” The idea is that, when you’re fighting dirty, nasty tricks are “good” to use. But this is a primitive, tribalistic way to wage war. It cannot be employed in such a way that it only affects one’s enemies.
Why? Because, when a society officially sanctions dishonorable behavior, it does so in the belief that honorable men would only lower themselves to use such a tactic when absolutely necessary. This represents a form of category error, where “fighters” are confused with philosophers, or with learned men of strong moral fiber. Not all “fighters” are true warriors.
As a tactic, sanctioned dishonor is similar to the desperate act of releasing a deadly germ to hamper your enemy, knowing it will also do direct damage to your own fighters (in reality, the tactic of encouraging dishonor mostly handicaps the side employing it, because its own fighters are made unreliable; and unfortunately, you can never really trust them again when they come back home.) The fact is, this is a ruinous tactic; it spreads misery in all directions, and threatens to wipe the very notion of truth from the commonwealth of men.
These four things:
are all major drivers of deception in any society or organization. Understanding them, we can take better measures to prevent them from taking over the ethical basis of society.
The good news about these four (there are probably others we could delve into, but these are useful to developing a line of reason) is that they are mostly structural deficiencies, are reasonably quantifiable, and can be held somewhat in check in a nation where the law prevails. This gives us another useful proposition: (C) Structural/Institutional drivers of deception exist, but they can be held in check by rule of law.
We will return to these concepts later.
However, a more difficult, harder-to-explain aspect of falseness, fraud, and deception runs through the very fiber of civilization. It has more to do with perception, psychology, and the primitive mind of each human than it does with basic tactics and strategy (but strategists can factor it into their analysis). It has somewhat to do with our well-understood susceptibility to influence, but more importantly, our difficulties in comprehending truth. Shrewd operators and con men have a general idea about this phenomenon, and so do propagandists. But few understand it well enough to describe it.
If you do an image search on the term ‘propaganda’ you might expect a lot of old examples of posters and leaflets from World War II or the Russian Revolution. A good search engine will find several of those, but you will see less of those, particularly, and more examples of modern art—either made from old propaganda, or making fun of old propaganda. Naturally people cannot resist pointing out that the famous poster of Uncle Sam saying, “I want you” is also a form of propaganda. But it isn’t, really. Boosterism and cheerleading are normal human activities. Especially in a time of major war. They aren’t trying to convince you to join some movement aimed at overthrowing your government, and they aren’t made to lie to you about how great everything is going with the glorious revolution.
This search tells us that the Internet plays a very important role in protecting us from blatant propaganda, but only to the extent people are willing to learn about the problem. However what is telling about the state of our media and our reliance on “inutiles” (see below), is that the current Presidency has resorted to these same, discredited techniques at a much higher rate than previous ones. We can be generous and admit that some of the “booster” artwork used by supporters of the Administration lies in the realm of homage to the artwork of old propaganda, or at the very least, an Andy Warhol-esque sendup of the old style. In other words, just for art’s sake (whatever that is).
Also, prior presidencies used their own forms of booster art as well. But they all tended to be of a type: patriot themes, recycled over many years, with little imagination used in the design.
A huge amount of artwork in support of the Administration is published with zero sense of irony regarding the way it resembles Communist revolutionary art from the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s. This is not merely unusual. The heavy reliance on the use of propagandistic imagery should be troubling, coming from our highest office. For some reason, our journalists persist in failing to notice this parallelism with the rise of totalitarian regimes.
That’s okay. The Internet has noticed, and much laughter is had at the expense of the peddlers of propaganda, no matter who they are.
This “other” factor is something that Jean François Revel called la connaissance inutile. The phrase is difficult to translate correctly into English, but it has to do with knowledge that is incorrect, unnecessary, or unusable. It represents the human tendency to make snap judgements on little information, and where that leads to success, results in dysfunctional reason. It can even lead intelligent men to turn away from the truth, and in men who see ideas as critical to their perception of self, can lead to radical and destructive attempts to defend the indefensible.
Revel wrote an entire book on the subject, so we cannot do it justice here. However, one important point about the concept is that humans tend to grab onto incorrect knowledge and logically disconnected facts, and treat them the same as well-reasoned doctrine. (The ridiculous claims by race hustlers that America is as racist today as it was several generations ago are a typical example. The bizarre, wildly-varying claims about body counts in Iraq from the Sanctions period through the end of the Iraq war are another.)
This concept has a lot to do with both the Grievance industry (which includes race hustlers and the “Occupy Wall Street” groups) and the Conspiracy Theory industry, to name just two primary examples that affect people across the entire political spectrum. Abusers of this concept prey on peoples’ limited ability to research a subject on their own. By use of classic, sophist methods, these con artists convince people to adopt whatever views they claim to espouse, usually with the aim of obtaining money or notoriety. Thus, our main clue about what is happening there is to look at who benefits, financially, from our participation in their “cause.”
Such abuse is similar to overt propaganda, but blatant propaganda doesn’t really work anymore. This concept is more subtle, and can trap the unwary; even the highly intelligent. It explains why so many people fall for such deception, even with the Internet available to check their facts.
We all know people can be fooled this way. Most of us learn from being fooled, ourselves. But being fooled isn’t really what Revel was getting at in his book. His concern was aimed more at why people seem to flee from the truth, rather than take the time to do something Ayn Rand wanted us all to learn to do: check your premises.
Something drives men to place blinders on their reasoning faculty, and doggedly persist in believing something that may well be false, rather than learn if it is so. This “something” is not restricted to the uneducated or weak-minded. Everyone is susceptible to some degree, and frequently the blind spots of an intelligent man are all the more spectacular for being his.
This resistance to truth seems to be common in all of us, to various extents. Revel merely asked if some natural phenomenon could explain this tendency to reject truth. But we can speculate further. For one thing, such a commonplace, everyday aspect of humanity cannot be explained away by mere moral weakness. It goes much deeper than that. Those who have trained animals recognize that reinforced behavior “sets” those patterns of behavior. This is true of all animals, including humans. Everything from the simple task of potty-training your child to the complex field of neuro-linguistics can be seen as proof of this. But nature does its own “training” in the form of unexpected events. For example, men learned to avoid and even escape quicksand long before they learned about water pressure in sand formations, or things like shear strength of colloidal structures.
Thus, a tribe that witnessed the death of a member after he ate red berries, might live much longer, healthier lives by always avoiding any red plants. They lose the reasons why they do so over time, and the “common knowledge” becomes, “all red plants are poisonous.” Never mind that they never will enjoy marinara sauce or the joy of cherries and red peppers. The tribally-useful success of not dying from the one poisonous plant is excuse enough for the general failure of avoiding them all.
We’re not doing science here, but it is reasonable speculation that leads us to believe that avoidance of truth is something that can speed life-saving action in animals. Likewise, it can also cause entire populations to suffer long-term, negative consequences, such as vitamin C deficiency caused by avoiding the consumption of red peppers, tomatoes, and cherries.
So to some extent, rapid decision-making may depend fairly heavily on la connaisance inutile. But it is not reason. In fact, it’s not really “thinking” at all.
Our minds are full of these sorts of “inutiles” (as I guess we’ll call them). You cannot use them for the purpose of high-level reason, although they can be used as early building blocks of perception. They are for survival and for situations where thinking is not necessary in order to act. “Inutiles” can involve the intellect, but are not the product of intellect.
Similarly, such things as principles, morals, and ethics can also be used to aid fast decision-making and survival. The difference is that those three concepts are definitely the products of intellect. In other words, someone had to sit down and think about them first, before passing them on as “words to live by.” (As an example of how principles can speed decision-making: you don’t have to know from long study that a covetous nature leads to a life of misery, nor must you learn all the reasons why that is so, if you simply remember and honor the Tenth Commandment, as taught in The Exodus.) Principles are not inutiles, but both principles and inutiles can aid survival.
Inutiles are not good for life planning, and are terrible for establishing high-level government policy. Jim Crow laws were the result of la connaisance inutile. The Bill of Rights was the result of reason.
So while inutiles may serve a purpose, they are like adrenaline and our “fight or flight” reflex, and therefore can cause all sorts of mischief in civil society if not kept firmly under control. And this may be key to understanding the origins of some of the worst lies that persist in society. A person who is otherwise healthy and able to manage their affairs may suffer from mental health problems related to being unable to keep inutiles from clouding reason. It could be one cause of the genesis of bold lies fabricated to push a radical agenda. This is pure speculation of course, but it might explain many of the worst sorts of personalities involved in public life.
Unfortunately for the millions killed by totalitarian regimes in the Twentieth Century, we are only now learning how otherwise decent people can come to serve as guards in concentration camps. Or how an advanced civilization can come to legalize things that resemble the worst mistakes of primitive man. We know that propaganda is an evil thing, and we rightly condemn the propagandist. But we struggle to understand what sort of person would do as our media outlets clearly have done, and create reporting designed to hide the truth. How does a man like Al Sharpton or David Duke persist in making the news when they are shown to be infamous liars of the first order, and cannot speak in public for more than a few minutes before fabricating more of the same?
This is as far as we can go without the scientific method. We’ll have to leave it to the brain and psych folks to study this further. But the philosophical explorations of Revel, with a few conjectures of our own, means that we should be able to restore the proper role of honesty and honor in the broadly-held tenets of society.
We need to know more about this tendency of man to flee from the truth if we are to banish what Revel calls The Totalitarian Temptation from the human polity.
And now we come to some very good news: we’re done laying out all the background information, and can now go forth and collect up what we’ve learned in order to help figure a way out of this mess, …this horrific, downward spiral into Orwellian “truthloss.” We must reverse the national trend or we will tip into the gaping maw of totalitarianism faster than anyone under the age of Eighty-Seven (or so) could possibly imagine.
So have a beverage, and let’s wrap this up.
Working our way back toward the beginning, starting with the rambling collection of inutiles that clog our minds, we can make some improvements right away.
One inutile under which we might be laboring concerns the very question we pose at the beginning: Are we a truthful society? Too often in politics and policy our leaders will use the notion of slippery slopes, or possibly of a looming cliff. One very likely outcome of living in a society ruled by the deceitful is an actual slide into darkness much like the Communist Bloc countries suffered for over sixty years. However the slope and cliff concepts seem to leave us with the depressing feeling that we’re already too late. That the descent once started inevitably ends in something that could take several generations to repair.
But the level of honesty in a society is not like a bank that can fail or a structure that can only be rebuilt once it’s been torn down. Honesty is more like temperature. Adjusting the temperature is a function of change combined with a little hysteresis in the adjustments. It may be cold now, but once you begin the initial work to warm it up, the system can be pushed to a higher level. For those of you who aren’t physics buffs, the bottom line is that (D) We can make real progress if we start working on this now. We don’t have to suffer the long collapse before we can begin.
Next in the realm of inutiles, con men, and propaganda lies the question: How do we fight back against the falseness being pushed on us by those who are either ruled by their inner Jim Crow (i.e., inutiles), or are simply corrupt? The answer here is that we must all train ourselves to check our premises. A simple way to do this is for each of us to begin asking ourselves the one vital question involved in crafting good premises: “How do I know what I think I know?”
This sounds simple, but we must develop the habit of asking ourselves this, every time we begin to state something that we believe is a fact. Did you verify this fact for yourself? Did you do the math? Or was it just something you overheard when your uncle Frank was complaining to the guy at the service station? If your answer is that you don’t know, then you need to find out. This is where our journalists have failed us. You can do a search over the Internet to find some answers. It seems they have not yet figured out this trick.
A second thing you can do to fight off the spread of inutiles (the Revel family will probably want a word regarding this coinage) is to check yourself, and prevent your mouth from declaring something to be 100% true, when your mind has no actual idea how you know that. This is something that could have prevented at least one of the Republican candidates from losing an election in 2012. So a corollary to (D) is that, in order to fix the problem of inutiles in society, we have to fix them in ourselves, first.
We cannot hope to beat the forces of deception unless we learn to stand strong in the midst of the storm of rhetoric aimed at us. Things like the vastly oversold charges of racism, the blaming of failures on people no longer in office, and the use of sophistry (moving the goalpost, red herrings, moral equivalence, demonizing, etc.), are all constantly employed by those seeking power. It helps if we stand together, but it helps even more if we stand strongly on principle and reason. Which leads us to the next step in reclaiming our national honor.
Returning to proposition (C), as promised, we know that addressing the overall level of structural/institutional honesty involves making sure such drivers of deception are held in check by vigorous application of the law. Too many people feel that conflict or outright revolution is the way to solve societal problems. And when the oppression kicks in, as it is starting to do now under the EPA with its unchecked power, and as seen with the NSA spying and the IRS accessing Associated Press files, people start thinking of radical things like secession and civil war. But the answer is not more chaos. The answer is to begin to insist that the law be followed.
This Administration has chosen not to follow the law on many occasions. Far more than any prior Administration. We may have trouble enforcing the law because of partisan, Senate obstruction, but nothing prevents us from insisting that the law be followed, every chance we get. We cannot achieve that moment when the rise of deception begins to slow and our nation begins to heal until our leaders begin insisting on the rule of law.
If we didn’t have a supine media, the failure by the President to follow the law would be something about which they would ask.
The insistence that the law be followed has become something leaders seem unwilling to state in public. It’s not enough to point out where the President has changed the laws, or to look on in exasperation when the President unlawfully closes highway exits over which he has no jurisdiction. A leader stands up and insists—more loudly each time, if necessary— that the law be followed. A Congressional leader would direct law enforcement to observe the laws as written or find them in contempt of Congress. The time is now to begin making it clear that only the legislative branch may decide what goes into the law and how it may be changed.
This insistence must be made clear so that all persons become aware that this is the way our system works. Sitting quietly until the problem goes away is a losing strategy.
Somewhere in our history, our public figures and leaders stopped speaking out for honesty, honor, and virtue in human interaction. This is one big reason why the practitioners of asymmetric warfare have managed to stay in the game, and even thrive. They use our lowered value of honesty against us, both in the media, and in influencing our leaders. Thus the fourth structural driver of deceit is one that thrives because we have been silent.
The time for silence is over.
Continuing with proposition (C), one thing that represents good news is that we still have markets that are relatively free from government control. In fact, this is such good news that it inspired this exploration, and the title of this article.
The economy is ultimately where the power lies in a civilization. In the power game, having the most guns is fairly pointless if you don’t have the most money, too. This means that the first two structural drivers of deception are both tied to the same marketplace, although the power players operate at one remove from direct participation. The fact that markets are necessary to power means that YOU have the ability to influence both the power seekers and the marketing professionals.
Your participation in the markets is what determines which businesses thrive, and therefore which power players are in a position of control. The obvious solution is for the marketplace to punish the dishonest and their associates. The problem is that the notion of boycotts—the classic means of punishing corporations—is typically repugnant to those of us who champion the free market. The problem is further compounded by the fact that the worst contributors to the level of deceit are not corporations. So what do we do?
The answer here is information. Obviously our media are no longer in the information business (they work for ratings, and therefore they are now showmen, not newsmen). It’s up to each of us to engage in the active transfer of information. Social media are ideal for this, as are the so-called “new media.” Rather than claim to organize a boycott or organize and protest visibly and on TV, we should make sure that those who engage in deception and lies are no longer hidden from us. Again, this is where our silence has been our own enemy.
We don’t need to emulate Al Sharpton and his megaphone and his incitements to burn and loot. We just need to make sure information is available, and meets the aforementioned tests on the premises and the facts. This is the very heart and soul of Caveat Emptor. This is how we trust, but verify. This is our means of reclaiming the values of honesty and virtue in the marketplace.
Many of you are already aware of the need for information, but my point here is that, (E) The degree to which our markets remain free is directly proportional to the amount of dishonesty and deception tolerated in a population.
In 2014, we need to reclaim Congressional control from the ones who seek power over all other concerns. The ones who are willing to trample your liberties, regardless of party, must be shoved aside, and the people we send to Congress must be willing to work to restore the freedom our markets enjoyed before the Bush/Obama years.
And restoration is the mission, if a return to honesty is to be achieved. Which brings us to our final point to cover, with regard to the level of honor and honesty in our society. As you might expect, it has to do with the main mission of this website, and the drive for an Article Five Convention.
Proposition (B) was about the fact that the Framers (and the Founders) were educated in history, and knew that decentralization was critical to the continued operation of a nation founded in liberty. However, the combination of corrupt men and women, the institutional drivers of power and marketing, as well as the tendency of many to resist truth has made our federal government far too powerful. Local control over jobs and housing is something that cannot be done from a federal enclave hundreds or thousands of miles away. The insular nature of power seekers protecting each other from ethical review means that the federal system has become answerable to no one. Not the voters, not the media, and not the states.
This is a problem that must be corrected, and the obvious answer is to return power to the states via the Article Five second process for amending the Constitution. Readers of the Liberty Amendments Mondays series at TheRightScoop are fully aware of this effort, and why we must engage it. For those who need to know more, please check out the articles at that site and this one, and also our resources page here, at the ArticleFiveProcess.
Finally, and in completing our journey back to the start of this exploration, we must mention proposition (A) once again. The takeaway from that proposition is that people prefer honesty. Some don’t but they are few, and are really part of the problem, not the solution. This aspect of civilization is real, and we need to trust it in order to restore that balance. Otherwise we are in fact, beyond the point of repair, and it’s time to load up the Conestogas and head for Mars.
This completes the exploration, but a recap is probably a good idea at this point.
The premise of this exploration is that we are in danger of becoming an ethics-free society. Propositions A, B, and C tell us that people want to avoid that, and provide us with the knowledge of what to do to push back against the rise in deceit. We learned that la connaissance inutile is a real concept, and how we can take steps to prevent it from taking control of our national sense of ethics. However, we also know from looking at our own inutiles and preconceived notions (a separate thing, actually) that honesty can be restored without having to go through a long dark period, and we called that “proposition D.”
Proposition E was that we must protect our marketplace freedoms in order to keep the rise of deceit in check. We have some definite action items we must require of our elected officials to make this so.
And we concluded that the Liberty Amendments process is vital to this entire effort, due to the massive imbalance between state and federal government.
These are real things we can do to push back against the rise in deceit, dishonesty, and fraud in our nation. We can and must do these things whether the activity of journalism wants to participate or not. The profession of journalism is functionally dead, but can be restored, if anyone cares. Until then, the Fourth Estate must now give way to the Third.
The Third Estate is us.
If you’re like me, you jumped here after skimming the first few paragraphs. The answer is: yes, we can fix it, and no it’s neither simple nor easy. But you probably knew that already. You’ll have to skim the middle bits more thoroughly to see why we can fix it, and how.
Godspeed to us all.
The media are spinning heavily to cover it up, but you can’t fool the unemployed. The US economy is still in bad shape.
The debt problem is growing worse, not better, because we’ve squeezed all we can from interest rate reductions and we’re still borrowing like crazy to cover our out-of-control spending. The well-connected will get rich (or richer) in 2014, as usual—and so will many among the clever and the brilliant. Just like always, right?
But lack of real growth has consequences. The middle class has been trapped in a misery-inducing, employment-diminished downglide with no end in sight. It’s crushing the economically-depressed areas and destroying families. The unemployment among minority groups is still ridiculously high, and Congress is investigating allegations of tampering with unemployment data in 2012. So it’s getting hard to believe our own data.
One thing is certain: the economy has been in perpetual crisis mode for six years running. It began when the Republican-led government decided that people who couldn’t afford to buy homes should be talked into getting mortgages with payment schedules they couldn’t cover. It was an incredibly unwise, central-planning solution to a very local problem, and it became the disaster that led to the TARP bailouts and a steep recession, turning into to several years of nearly-imperceptible growth and continual uncertainty. And the crisis isn’t over.
The recession-plus-economic-slowdown has devolved into a sovereign debt crisis and a political war where neither side is willing to reverse spending. Every serious financial adviser is urging caution for the coming year because they know the Fed has printed massive amounts of money, weakening the inherent value of the dollar (creating a stock market “bubble”). We have the recent double downgrades of the US Credit rating to prove it. This so-called recovery being touted by the media and your political leaders in Washington—one of the weakest ever—has stayed in fractional positive territory only due to the triumph of private-sector human ingenuity in the face of government-induced disaster. Heroic, yes, but we all know it cannot continue.
The debt and debasement of the money supply have placed us firmly on the exit ramp from prosperity. Only a major economic boom can prevent the coming collapse, and the things needed to do that (a true reduction in government spending and a loosening of the straightjacket placed on our business community—or a breakthrough in energy prices) are not happening. So a different solution is in the works. Another massive, central-planning fiasco of a solution curiously called Immigration Reform.
Because of the lack of progress toward establishing major economic growth, the Progressives in both parties see importing cheap labor as their salvation. But encouraging low-wage immigrants to come here so we can rebuild our economy on their backs is an uncanny reminder of the pre-industrial age of Western growth in the late Eighteenth century.
Solving your problems on the backs of the poor is always a very bad idea, but that doesn’t deter the thinking among central planners. They know such a major importation of labor will cause civil unrest. They think they can control such unrest by a combination of “benefits” to keep you docile—as your high-paying union jobs disappear, and a massive surveillance state to keep you from doing anything to change the situation. Don’t expect Washington to veer suddenly from this long-range plan. If you like your warrantless wiretap, you can keep your warrantless wiretap.
Neither political party in Washington thinks we’re in a crisis anymore, because financial markets felt “heartened” by the recent, meager decrease in unemployment numbers (paragraph three, above, notwithstanding). So this past week, the Big Government party leaders pretended to solve their budget crisis with a deal promising to fix it all later. They think you should thank them for it. Clearly they will never do anything to cut back on the growth of spending, their increasing control over your life, and the state’s expanding control over the means of production.
We’ve seen this before. These ever-growing amounts of control over the people were major features of the rise of totalitarianism and fascism in the early Twentieth century. Under both systems, both Labor and the Middle Class were assured it was all to their benefit.
To expect a different outcome this time is to give in to human weakness rather than rely on human strength. The central planners want you to believe otherwise.
The world has always been full of dreamers who swear that, “This time it will be different.” They told us once again that this time the “right” people are in charge. But thanks to six years of uncertainty, we can all see that it was another busted dream. And this is what has sent the central planners racing to implement the expedient measures of tyrants through the ages.
One glimmer of hope is that trust in leadership is at such a low level that it may as well be non-existent. All who are capable of independent thought, whether on the left or the right, can see things are not working. More importantly, you can see that your federal government leaders are not working for you. The media clowns who tell us otherwise are getting more red-faced and Baghdad-Bob-like with each passing day.
If Politics could end this situation, then something would have come from the years of rancor and divisiveness that have been the norm since the 2000 elections. All we have to show for those years was was a glimmer of the American Spirit after the 9-11 attacks. (And some really cool smartphones.)
No, the problem isn’t who is in charge. When you step back and take a cooler, more logical view of the situation, you can see that the age-old battle between left and right cannot solve the problem caused by centralization of power. At the center of power, there is no left or right, there is only control.
Clearly our problems are structural. History has shown that decentralization of power was the key element in making America the land of opportunity. It was built into the framework of our government. Decentralization encourages economic mobility. Decentralization means your local representatives are more important to your life. Since they are local, they will listen to you more than someone several states away who claims to represent your interests.
The solution to our structural problem is to restore the decentralization of power that the framers carefully placed into the Constitution. Only by doing so can we stop the federal system from growing unchecked. As our friends at ConventionOfStates remind us, “It’s the only solution as big as the problem.”
Since Congress is unwilling and incapable of taking the necessary action toward this restoration, we have only one legal way to get it done: An Article Five Convention.
Regardless of your position on any political spectrum, this is the solution that works for all of us. We are fortunate to have several state legislators from both parties interested in pursuing this goal.
Further, one subject covered at the recent Mount Vernon Assembly was that each state ought to send delegations to the Convention of the states, such that each delegation would have the same number of members from each party. (The expected number will be two delegates from each state.)
This is the most bipartisan effort undertaken since the Greatest Generation liberated Europe from totalitarian and fascist regimes, ending the Axis alliance. This is not a “conservative” solution: it is an American solution.
1. It took a Civil War to put an end to such over-reliance on unskilled human labor, but the idea seems new again to the dreamers in Washington.
2. To say they were bitterly disappointed would be an understatement.
3. This doesn’t mean they are bad people. As we’ve seen many times in history, much horror is caused by good people getting swept up in expedient solutions to the problems created by centralization. Historians do not blame the farm workers whose production failed under Lysenkoism. Historians barely blame Lysenko himself. After all, one mere man should never have been placed in such a position of responsibility over so very much farm production. However things have gotten bad, even where good people have made them that way.
4. In fact, decentralization of power is one critical factor that enabled our ancestors to end slavery (which exposes the fact that centrally-planned “Immigration Reform” is not a move further away from slavery)
5. No, decentralization won’t solve all problems, but it helps keep them from growing to immense proportions.
6. In other words, each participating state’s legislature will commission a delegation, and empower said delegation to participate on behalf of that state, representing the will of the legislature. Each member of such a delegation would serve at the pleasure of the legislature, and will serve under restrictions as set forth by the Resolution of commission. For those concerned about the fears of “runaway” conventions, I suggest reading the text of the SENATE ENROLLED ACT No. 224 of the Indiana General Assembly.
I confess I thought finding this information would be trivial, but so far it’s been like trying to find out whether the President ever attended a single class in college. Reports claim 32 States sent 97 men and women to the meetup. Several of those attending were quite open about it, and “live blogged” the event by adding photos and comments to their twitter stream(s). I’ve found some who were reportedly attending who do not appear to have twitter accounts, and some who do, but haven’t made much mention of the Assembly. The list I have so far falls far short of Ninety-Seven. If anyone has more info, please provide it in the comments, thanks.
|Legislator Name||Twitter ID||Chamber info|
|Legislator Name||Twitter ID||Chamber info|
|Bill Taylor||@TaylorSCHouse||(R-Aiken) South Carolina House|
|Brett Hildabrand||@Brett4ks||R-Dist17) Kansas House|
|Kelly Townsend||@KellyTownsend11||(R-?) Arizona House|
|Jason Rapert||@RapertSenate||R-Dist 18) Arkansas|
|Alan Hays||Unknown||(R-Umatilla) Florida|
|Bob Ballinger||@Bob_Ballinger||(R-97) Arkansas House|
|Nate Bell||@NateBell4AR||(R-20) Arkansas House|
|Kelli Ward||@kelliwardaz||R-5) Arizona Senate|
|Randy Alexander||@RepRandy88||(R-88) Arkansas House|
|Buzz Brockway||@buzzbrockway||(R-Lawrenceville) Georgia House|
|Bill Cowsert||Unknown||(R-Clarke) Georgia Senate|
|Chris Kapenga||@chriskapenga||(R-99/Delafield) Wisconsin House|
|Bruce Williamson||@williamson115||R-Monroe) Georgia House 115|
|Andrew Welch||@andywelchga||(R-McDonough) Georgia House 110|
|Jason Spencer||@Spencer4Georgia||R-Woodbone) Georgia House 180|
|Trip Pittman||Unknown||(R-Montrose) Alabama Senate 32|
|Arthur Orr||@SenatorAOrr||(R-Decatur) Alabama Senate|
|David Long||Unknown||(R-Fort Wayne) Indiana Senate 16|
Note: Highlighted names are event co-organizers
Apologies for the lack of alphabetic sort. These are brave people, and they deserve your support. Sent them a congratulatory tweet today!
Bonus: You get a no-prize if you mention the ArticleFiveProcess website to them!
The AFP Data Engine is designed to track the opinion of your state legislators. Simply put, if a majority of the legislators in statehouses among the Several States are supportive of an Article Five Convention, then it’s quite likely that the Convention will be held. The “scores” provided are simply your best estimate of your representative’s opinion. If twenty people decide to update Senator Soandso’s position on the issue, and the breakdown is fifteen of you say he is 100% in favor of the Convention, and five of you say he is not at all in favor, then his average score will be (15 / 20) = 75%.
Each of you may submit one “record” on each statehouse legislator across the fifty states. If you submit more than one record for a given legislator, each new record replaces the previous one you submitted. We ask for an email confirmation to make sure we catch those multiple submissions. That’s the process in a nutshell. Your submissions count. They cannot be replaced by other people’s submissions. The more people participating, the more accurate the score will be.
Thus, if the scores indicate that most of the people in a district believe their representative is supportive, then it’s a very strong indicator that he is truly supportive. If most of his constituents believe he is not supportive, then the score will indicate it. A low score means you need to call that representative today, and ask him why!
We can’t win if we don’t know the score. Please be sure you update your district’s legislators at the AFP Data Engine, and stop by regularly to check on the score!
December 3, 2013 – K-Bob
President Reagan made a point of asking for a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) during his annual visits to the People’s House. For a few years, it looked possible that we’d get some movement on the issue. But since then, the activism on the BBA seems to have faded into the background because no President since Reagan has championed it so well. However, the rise of Obama and his massive debt has fanned the budgetary firestorm to the point where more people seek relief from the immense growth in government that has occurred since the 2006 elections. Last year, the BBA movement picked up steam, and now quite a few states are on board, with Ohio being the latest to pass a resolution applying for an Article Five Convention for the purpose of sending a BBA to the states for ratification.
In other words, we may want our Article Five Convention so we can address the items brought up by Mark Levin in his book, The Liberty Amendments. But “they” want their application process to continue, so they can hold their Convention to discuss the BBA. Does this mean we have competing groups, fighting over the same Amendments Convention turf? Does it mean that in order to succeed in a Liberty Amendments type of convention, we have to elbow aside all of the hard work done over the past few decades to bring the BBA Convention to life?
Today I asked Rob Natelson if he could provide his take on this state of affairs.
Most of us are still learning about the Article Five second process. So it’s natural that people think of one, big, hullabaloo of a convention. I mean, hey, there’s only ever been one “Constitutional Convention,” so how likely are we to have more than one “Amendments Convention?” Don’t we have to cram everything we need into that one, big chance?
It turns out, the answer is a definite, “No.”
Natelson said that many of the groups working toward an Amendment(s) Convention are essentially helping each other to promote the idea of using the Article Five second process provided by the Framers. The fact is, many of the thousands of applications presented to Congress (going back to the ratification of the Constitution) are still essentially “alive.” If the requisite number of states is met on any group of similar applications, then Congress, “shall call a Convention.” Therefore, when Ohio’s legislature has finished the process of resolving their House and Senate versions of the Bill, it will become the twentieth Application for a Convention to discuss the BBA (the Ohio Application requires exclusive focus on the BBA.) This means if fourteen more states pass similar resolutions applying for a BBA convention, then it shall be called.
Natelson pointed out that several of the groups participating in Article Five ventures are actually in communication with each other, and view their work as a common interest, even though their Convention goals differ. He stated that the Colorado chapters of organizations calling for the BBA or for a broad-based Convention have already met to discuss cooperative efforts. So, what is at work here?
The answer is that the Article Five Amendment Convention process is not an exclusive, one-time deal. Just as Congress has the power to put forth an Amendment whenever it suits them to do so, so may the several States. In fact, nothing about the process precludes simultaneous Conventions. I asked if it might be probable that the BBA Convention may be held, and produce an Amendment for ratification, while the Liberty Amendments Convention might produce several Amendments, to the effect that all such amendments would then be subject to ratification by the states when their legislatures see fit to do so. His answer was, “Yes,” and that you could also see cooperation between the Conventions to produce only one Balanced Budget Amendment between them (Levin calls for a balanced budget in his fourth proposed Amendment, which limits taxation and spending). “Or,” he continued, “Perhaps Congress might simply decide the Applications for the BBA coincide with those of the broader interest groups, and call for one convention to deal with both camps.” (I’m paraphrasing, here.)
Without getting into more detail, the bottom line is that any effort undertaken by the states to amend the Constitution merely needs to meet Article Five requirements. Upon ratification, any amendments so produced become law, regardless of which convention spawned them, or when. Remember, the Twenty-Seventh Amendment took over two-hundred years to complete ratification.
As we finished our conversation, Rob Natelson left me with this thought:
If either group succeeds in getting one amendment produced for ratification, be it the Balanced Budget or say Term Limits, then that takes the fear out of the process, and we can then use it again to pass other important amendments. I think ultimately, the effect is, they’ll all help each other.
Many thanks to Rob Natelson for helping clarify this situation.
Right now, the only state far enough ahead to show any “heat” is Colorado. The two reasons for that are 1) They have a score of 18% Legislator support, and all of the others are at or below 4%. and 2) We really need folks to update the AFP Data Engine for their representatives. Some states are actually taking the lead on the Article Five Application process (Indiana and Virginia, for example) but we don’t have their legislators on record yet.
If you are a legislator, or work for a legislator, or just happen to know a legislator, please stop by and click the big Article Five Shield to go to the Scoreboard and update your status!
The heat is on, folks, and now we can prove it!
We finally got to the comment section stuff. If I did it right, you’ll have to submit a verified email to comment.
Why? Mostly because right now, I don’t plan a lot of chatter at this particular site, because it’s more of a workplace environment. Folks should feel free to bring up anything important to succeeding at a Convention for Proposing Amendments. Follow the general Comment Policy over at TheRightScoop, but with more of a mind for things important to our cause. All of this may change. Right now though this is a construction zone, and it’s probably best to wear hard hats.
A K-Bob post:
Union and States’ Rights: A History and Interpretation of Interposition, Nullification, and Secession 150 Years After Sumter (&Law)
I just found out about this, but I’ll grab a copy shortly and review it. Evidently the book is a complation of several leading legal scholars on the subjects of Nullification, Interposition, and Secession, As well as the Convention of States approach we’re all working toward.
In my various writings at TheRightScoop, many of you’ve seen me mention Nullification and Interposition before. I suspected the book Mark Levin was working on this past spring and summer was going to address a way to make interposition happen. Instead he surprised us all with the Liberty Amendments. This new work by Cogan should help explain why Levin and many others have wisely chosen to avoid the problems faced by men who have tried those tactics. Unlike the Article Five second process, nullification, interposition, and secession are pathways toward revising the Constitution that are not actually found within it.