Politics & Society

Be careful what you wish for…

I suppose after decades of insane, counterproductive and suicidal economic and social policies espoused by much of the Western world, no one ought to be surprised at our foreign policy being equally insane, counterproductive and suicidal. And yet, I admit, at times I still marvel at the monumental scope of our stupidity.

The myth of man’s improvement and progress notwithstanding, it ought to be obvious that we have, over time, become progressively more delusional, removed from reality, and with an attention span and memory shorter than a goldfish’s.

Even by the standards of the demented policies and acts our governments routinely engage in, the war against Libya is as calamitous and unhinged as they get.

Have we really suffered mass amnesia on Afghanistan and Iraq? You know, those other regime change wars that have, over a decade, resulted in nothing but a million corpses, at a cost of trillions of dollars the bankrupt Western nations can hardly afford to spend. Apparently our enlightened leaders see military interventions in much the same way Messrs. Obama and Krugman judge economic stimuli – the only problem being we haven’t done enough of them or on large enough scale.

Now that the NATO-supported Libyan rebel forces took over Tripoli and the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) announced the end of the Muammar Gaddafi era, I suppose we are ready to celebrate another of those “mission accomplished” moments. But no amount of self-congratulation about “protecting civilians” can change the fact that the Libya intervention is an entirely counterproductive and irrational (not to mention illegal) act.

The laughable excuses about a responsibility to protect people at risk from their own governments notwithstanding, regime change was the objective of the British/French/US intervention all along. At least G.W.Bush had what seemed to be a half-plausible justification for his wars (e.g. WMDs). Presumably a Nobel Peace prize laureate president needn’t bother with such inconveniences. (Or have a Congressional vote or public debate before attacking a sovereign country.)

It’s patently nonsensical to claim that the US or Europe have any sort of “duty” to protect foreign people from their governments or, worse still, to pick sides in another country’s civil war. If the West truly cannot stand idly by while atrocities take place, why have we tolerated countless evil regimes all over the world? There have been dozens of tyrants far worse than Gaddafi. Why not intervene elsewhere too?

The West has had diplomatic and business relations with Gaddafi for years. Yes, he is evil and ruthless, but has fulfilled his part of the deal cut years ago – renouncing and stopping support to terrorism against the West, ending Libya’s nuclear weapons program, blocking African immigrants from heading toward Italy, keeping the oil flowing, and giving European companies nice fat contracts. Then, faced with a rebel uprising, he used force against those attempting to oust him (as almost any government would), and suddenly he became the biggest threat to the world and needed to be removed from power?

The UK, French and US forces, acting under the auspices of NATO, have clearly violated their mandate (under UN Security Council Resolution 1973) to protect civilians. No authorization was granted for military assault, boots on the ground, supply of weapons to the rebels, elimination of Gaddafi and regime change.

Dennis Kucinich summed it up quite well:

“In March of this year, the US, France, Britain and their North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) allies launched military operations in Libya under the guise of a “humanitarian intervention”. US diplomats and world leaders carelessly voiced unsubstantiated claims of an impending massacre in Benghazi. You hear no such appeals to humanity while Nato, in the name of the rebels (whoever they are), prepares to lay siege to Tripoli, a city of nearly 2 million people.”

“The use of military force on behalf of the rebels, in an attempt to impose regime change, has undermined international law and damaged the credibility of the United Nations. Countless innocent civilians have been killed, and Nato air strikes continue to place many at great risk. So much for the humanitarian-inspired UNSCR 1973 as a means to protect civilians.”

“The leading donor nations of Nato – the US, France and Great Britain – have been free to prosecute war under the cloak of this faceless, bureaucratic, alphabet security agency, now multinational war machine, which can violate UN resolutions and kill innocent civilians with impunity. War crimes trials are only for losers.”

Legality questions aside, the (rather foreseeable) consequences of the Libyan aggression are likely to ultimately come to haunt us. Lest we want Libya to descend into chaos after the collapse of the Gaddafi regime, we may be looking at a long military engagement. There are already mounting calls for boots on the ground for as long as it may be necessary.

Such presence will not be too welcome by the Arab world, and soon the West will (quite justifiably) take the blame for attacking yet another Muslim country. Just wait for it.

Perhaps one desperate enough to find any sort of rationality behind our involvement in Libya’s internal conflict might have uncovered a hint of such if the rebels could, in any way, be expected to be better for our security and relations with the Middle East. In reality, while Gaddafi posed no threat to the West, the same cannot be said about the fighters we have now legitimized as the new Libyan government.

The little we know about the rebels is not exactly encouraging. A number of them have been known to be Al-Qaeda linked Islamic fundamentalists. Furthermore, several Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood leaders (as well as radical British Islamists) have backed the uprising, saying it would lead to the imposition of a “State of Islam” in the country.

Nor can commercial interests provide a plausible enough reason for the intervention. The war against Libya can hardly be called a war for oil. Gaddafi has been more than happy to sell as much oil as we wanted, and Western energy (and construction) companies were welcome in Libya and have been operating there for a long time. The US is unlikely to see any economic benefit from Gaddafi’s fall. Europe has long had preferential business relations with Libya, with Italian companies being prime beneficiaries. Italy, France and Germany are now scrambling for new oil and construction contracts from the Libyan rebels.

As much as one would like to have a plausible reason for the aggression, unseating Gaddafi was not a rational decision; the grounds for this wholly unnecessary war were emotional, irresponsible and entirely counterproductive.

“Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” 

This age-old wisdom, attributed to Euripides, appears to fit the Western world better and better each year.

What is Libya likely to look like in the coming years? What will replace the Gaddafi regime?

Despite not having any strategy, or even idea of what we hope to achieve in Libya, you can always count on idiotic media commentators and dim, historically ignorant politicians to wax lyrical about the spread of freedom and (Western-style) democracy.

One of the above lot, UK PM David Cameron said this:

“Our task now is to do all we can to support the will of the Libyan people for an effective transition for a free, democratic and inclusive Libya.”

“This has not been our revolution but we can be proud that we have played our part.”

“No transition is ever smooth or easy but today the Arab Spring is a step further away from oppression and dictatorship and a step closer to freedom and democracy, and Libyan people are a step closer to their dream of a better future free from the terror of Gaddafi.”

One would have to be extremely naïve to expect a blossoming of democracy in Libya. If our past military adventures have taught us anything (doubtful, I know), it should be that it’s much easier to overthrow a government than to put something better and stable in its place – especially in a country that was, for decades, held together by the raw power of a dictatorial regime.

It is clear that the NTC is a disparate mix of various rebel factions – from secularists to former Gaddafi loyalists to radical Islamists – that have had little in common beyond the desire to oust Gaddafi. That goal achieved, one could easily imagine the NTC fracturing and falling into internal fighting over their (often mutually contrary) interests, resulting in a long and deadly civil war.

Libya is a deeply fractured country, encompassing an estimated 140 different tribes divided by a myriad of dialects, loyalties and ancient histories. Gaddafi’s iron fist and alliances kept sectarian tensions in check and held the country together. These issues are now likely to reemerge, leading to a wider ethnic conflict. Jihadist elements (such as the anti-Gaddafi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group) will undoubtedly take advantage of the tumult. Whoever will succeed Gaddafi doesn’t stand much chance of controlling a country split by tribal hatred and (thanks to the Western involvement) awash with arms.

And if the optimists are right and freedom and democracy do come to Libya they may not be the kind of freedom and democracy we expect or want to see. Had we not been so busy with bestowing “democracy” on foreign peoples we might by now have realized that free elections in the Middle East tend to give rise to precisely the type of Islamic states we most seem to fear.

Western leaders should probably be more careful about what they wish for in the future. They just might get it.

Entitlement nation and spending cuts

“I place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.” (Thomas Jefferson)

I was reluctant to waste time commenting on the debt ceiling and ‘spending cuts’ farce, but here it goes anyway…

Washington provided us with quite a spectacle this summer; first the tantrums in the debt ceiling debate, followed by the finger pointing and blame shifting in the aftermath of the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of long term US credit rating from AAA to AA+.

Regardless of how much – or rather little – credibility the S&P has left, the downgrade should not have surprised anyone, nor was it unjustified. Sure, the US is unlikely to default on its debt (after all, it can count on the printing press magic), but nobody seriously believes it will pay its creditors the $14.6 trillion (and counting) in anything but devalued currency.

Instead of confronting the problems, politicians aim at postponing any painful remedies ad infinitum, while debts continue to snowball. According to recent Congressional Budget Office projections (based on unrealistically rosy GDP growth forecasts) the national debt will grow by $9.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Even if the reductions proposed in the debt ceiling deal were to be implemented, the US would still accumulate $7.1 trillion in new debt by 2021!

The debt ceiling deal (allowing Obama to borrow a further $2.4 trillion – just enough to carry him to the end of his first term) and fight about a meager $2.4 trillion in “spending cuts” over a decade denounce an inability or unwillingness to face reality.

Does anyone truly think that $2.4 trillion “spending cuts” spread over 10 years will do anything to solve the problem when US federal debt stands at some $100 trillion, including the unfunded entitlement liabilities that lurk beneath the debt ocean?

(Not to mention, even the $2.4 trillion are heavily back-loaded, so the vast majority of these cuts won’t be implemented by the current Congress. The deal calls for a laughable $25 billion of savings in 2012 – in a $3.8 trillion budget! – and some $47 billion in 2013.)

Only politicians, intellectuals and academics would want to fix a debt crisis by issuing yet more debt. The problem wasn’t too low a debt ceiling but too high a debt. Yet far from attempting to remedy that… what Washington spent months arguing about are not even actual spending cuts – they are cuts in the rate of increase in spending. For anyone with half a functioning brain cell, cutting the projected rate of spending growth does not equal a spending cut!

It is also rather disingenuous of the politicians and media to talk about a $14.6 trillion national debt, when the true figure – including unfunded liabilities (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) – stands somewhere between $80 and 100 trillion (depending on estimates). While it’s true that people have been making payments for Social Security and Medicare, those earmarked funds have over the decades been plundered by both parties to pay for wasteful, vote-grabbing spending.

The reality nobody wants to acknowledge is that the US government has been on a historically unprecedented spending binge, accumulating debts for seven decades, and that the welfare state – enthusiastically embraced by Americans since the 1960s – has bankrupted the country just as European welfare states have bankrupted most of the old continent.

The truth is, neither party wants to do much to cut public spending. Laughably, Obama and the Democrats found the scapegoat for their failure to meaningfully cut spending (and the subsequent ratings downgrade) in the Tea Party, when Tea Party politicians have been the only ones taking the debt problem seriously.

If one wanted to cast blame, it would appear we mostly have the Democrats to thank for the gigantic entitlement liabilities of a welfare state that has created mass dependency on the government and destroyed the values that made America strong (self-reliance, industriousness, family, traditional morality): FDR’s Social Security, LBJ’s Medicare and Medicaid. (You can also include Obamacare – yet another under-funded, dependence-creating monstrosity.)

Entitlement reform (i.e. large-scale entitlement cuts) is absolutely essential if the US is ever to get its debt and deficit crisis under control. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that by 2025 all of the government’s income will go to entitlement spending and interest payments, leaving nothing for any other expenditures.

Debt reduction and balancing the budget can not be done without significant pain. The problem is, Americans (government and citizens) have lived so far above their means for so long that meaningful belt tightening holds little appeal. Hence poll after poll has shown people’s theoretical support for the idea of balancing the budget and cutting spending – provided they don’t have to bear the consequences. (Everyone agrees with spending cuts as long as their own programs and entitlements are not touched, and the 51% of Americans who pay no income taxes gladly approve of a higher-still tax burden for the ‘rich’ but not a much needed broadening of the tax base.)

The chances of the US voluntarily making a dent in that $100 or so trillion debt mountain are precisely zero. The government will do whatever it takes to keep the party going, which most likely means borrowing, printing, inflating and shifting debts onto future generations. Eventually, and quite inevitably, the country will default on its internal obligations to its citizens (i.e. Social Security, Medicare promises).

In the meantime, the massive $1 trillion+ annual deficits are here to stay for years to come. Borrow, tax and spend is what politicians do. More spending means more votes, especially once more than half the population has become reliant on government largesse. Federal government is now a giant wealth-transfer machine, taking money from a shrinking number of taxpayers and handing it out to a growing list of dependents.


“Payments to individuals” (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public assistance, food assistance, housing assistance, unemployment assistance and student assistance) account for nearly 70% of total federal spending – the highest rate in history. The US now pays out more in benefits than it collects in taxes. More than half of Americans (59%) receive a Government payout in one form or another. Government transfer payments account for 18.4% of personal income.

National debt – at $14.6 trillion – has now surpassed 100% of GDP. The government currently borrows about 43 cents for every dollar it spends.  In 192 years – from George Washington to Ronald Reagan – US government accumulated only $1 trillion of debt. In the last 30 years it has added $13.6 trillion in additional debt. (When G.W. Bush took office the debt was just under $5.8 trillion. By the time he left office, it had nearly doubled, to $10.6 trillion. Under Obama it’s already at $14.6 trillion – a staggering $4 trillion increase in just two and a half years.)

The government has, in the last few decades, been piling up debts at an unprecedented speed, creating more and more bureaucracy, employing ever larger percentage of American workers and ensnaring countless millions into welfare dependency. More recently, it spent trillions of dollars on stimulus and QE I + II, with the sole result of greatly increasing the levels of debt.

The problem is relatively easy to grasp – the US spends vastly more than it earns. As such, the solution is simple as well, at least theoretically. All we’d need are enlightened voters willing to accept short term suffering for the sake of their (and their children’s) long term prosperity, and principled politicians willing to do the right thing even if it was to cost them reelection. Well, I did say theoretically simple.

Thanks to a huge expansion of entitlement spending over the decades, the debt the US has piled up is too large for the country to be able to grow or tax its way out of it. The focus has to be on massive spending cuts. Paring back entitlement programs should be accompanied by scaling down of the public sector, as well as a tax reform. The tax code should be simplified, loopholes, exemptions and deductions eliminated, the tax base broadened and tax rates cut for individuals and corporations alike. (A flat tax would be better still.) Lifting some of the crushing burden of bureaucracy, regulation, counterproductive taxation and immoral, dependency-creating entitlements would revive the growth-generating dynamism and industriousness the US used to be known for.

Unfortunately mass democracy doesn’t lend itself to doing unpleasant things for the sake of a better future.

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It is not just the US. The entitlement nations of Europe have too, for decades, been spending more than they earned. And, much like in the US, the so-called spending cuts are, more often than not, merely cuts in the rate of spending increase. Welfare is still booming, and politicians – while paying lip service to slashing spending – are as set on voter-pleasing as ever.

London in flames: The un-PC truth

It’s been three days and three nights now that London has been burning, and there is no end in sight. An orgy of violence, destruction and looting has been raging across the capital; gangs of mostly black youths continue to smash up and plunder shops, vandalize and torch properties and set cars ablaze.

Yet politicians and much of the media (including the BBC, the bastion of political correctness) persist in ignoring the facts while dishing out fashionable propaganda. And so gang members and criminals become poor, misunderstood and ‘socially deprived’ young people, and looting and violence are justified as alleged consequence of government spending cuts, poverty and inequality. Not surprisingly, the fact that vast majority of these savages (sorry, disadvantaged youths) belong to certain protected minorities has barely been noted by our PC, diversity-worshipping media and politicians.

Let’s put things straight. Spending cuts (which are in any case more imaginary than real – public spending will continue to increase each year for the next four years, according to the government budget) and inequity have nothing to do with what’s been taking place in London (and now other UK cities as well). The criminal gangs of looters and arsonists are not victims of the economy or society; they are worthless, feral thugs who never had any interest in honest work, choosing instead to live off welfare and proceeds of crime.

That they – and many millions more – have been allowed to make such life choices, paid for by one of the world’s highest tax rates imposed on the hard working and productive Britons, is a consequence of the suicidal policies the UK has adopted in recent decades. Britain has bred (and imported) a vast underclass of savages and degenerates lacking any moral values, oblivious to ideas of hard work and social obligation, ingrained with a sense of entitlement with zero responsibility, and indulged in instant gratification.

Such people should have no place in a civilized society. But then, the UK can no longer claim to be one. It is a crumbling nation that has slowly but surely been descending into utter madness, with its celebration of moral inversion, non-judgmentalism, tolerance for the intolerable, support and protection of all that is evil, criminal, ugly and destructive. What we’re seeing in London is the product of a self-indulged, decaying society lacking any moral codes and sanctions or penalties for unacceptable behavior.

Unsurprisingly, even staring reality in the face (in the form of torched buildings, burnt out cars, wrecked buses, Molotov cocktails, and looting gangs) is apparently not enough to wake people from their carefully constructed delusions. The escalating violence has – predictably – brought out a growing army of apologists reveling in an orgy of excuse-making for the widespread lawlessness and violence.

There are also those who blame the feral violence and mass thuggery on alleged police brutality and – what else? – ‘racism’. The police certainly have plenty to answer for. They could start by explaining why they have been standing aside, allowing wholesale looting and violence in broad daylight. Their lack of intervention led to a complete breakdown of order, sending out a message that gangsters can act with brazen impunity. From there it was only a matter of time for the attacks to spread across the capital (and now other UK cities).

The British police, courts and justice system have long been a joke, going out of their way to protect and appease law-breakers, while denying both support and any right to self-defense to the victimized, law-abiding citizens whom they unleash the criminals on. It is the soft policing approach coupled with laughable sentencing (no incarceration even for serial violent offenders) and focus on the ‘human rights’ of the perpetrator that are partly responsible for the plight of all those who were made homeless, had their businesses destroyed and their lives ruined over the last three days (and counting).

Then there is the pervasive culture of political correctness that has, over the years, fatally wounded all British institutions, police force including. That the police made little attempt to restore order in the streets or intervene as looters were lining up to plunder stores and torch buildings has much to do with the ‘sensitivities’ of the minority population. For years police have been trained to be oversensitive to issues of race and to gently ‘engage’ and ‘reach out’ to those who use imaginary discrimination and grievances as excuse for criminal behavior. Police, much as everyone else in the UK, are paralyzed by fear of being called racist. It’s safer for their career to stand aside when it comes to minorities’ crime.

The Hate Crime guide published by the Association of Chief Police Officers in 2002, and periodically updated, dismissed the strict impartiality principle on the basis that impartial justice was unfair; “colour blind” policing – described as “policing that purports to treat everyone in the same way” was deemed flawed and unjust because it “fails to take account of the fact that different people have different reactions and different needs. Failure to recognise and understand these means failure to deliver services appropriate to needs and an inability to protect people irrespective of their background.” Officers who practiced such policing were to expect disciplinary action.)

Years of ‘sensitivity training’, health & safety focus and false priorities (such as being non-threatening, non-confrontational, and non-provocative instead of effective in crime fighting) have also created a new breed of police officers who are simply too cowardly and unable to do what their job requires.

Hence the appalling scenes of police standing by watching violent mobs destroy vast swathes of the capital. Despite the 16,000 officers on the streets, London has descended into chaos, anarchy and brutality, and law-abiding, tax-paying citizens are getting zero protection as their lives and property are being threatened and ruined. The cops, although fully armed and armored, are not reacting (unless one considers retreat an appropriate response) even as teams of young men are throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at them.

Today, after three days of mayhem, Home Secretary Theresa May ruled out the use of more appropriate tactics: “The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon. The way we police in Britain is through consent of communities. Not that this comes as a surprise; the elites have long proven to be completely out of touch with the reality of ordinary Britons. After all, Ms May et al don’t have to suffer the consequences of their delusional and evil policies and decisions.

The black community, unwilling to control its youths and happy to tolerate the criminal activities of its members, rarely accepts any responsibility, yet is always eager to voice indignation against the police. The death of Mark Duggan, a North London gang leader allegedly involved in drug dealing and gun crime (but of course praised by some as a leader of his community) was no exception. His killing on August 4, in an apparent shoot-out with officers from Operation Trident (a unit that deals with gun crime in the Afro-Caribbean communities) sparked a protest rally that soon escalated into demands for vengeance and the mass violence that has now spread across London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham and Manchester.

If Britain was a civilized country with its priorities right, the police would have stepped in immediately and with full force, arresting every looter, arsonist and gang member. Were the police unable to do so, the army should have been sent in to wipe out the scum.

But of course this being a ‘caring’ and ‘compassionate’ nation (instead of say zero tolerance, low crime Singapore or Japan), David Cameron et al will instead continue to spout their touchy-feely “hug a hoodie” garbage and throw billions more on ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘disenfranchised’ special groups. Meanwhile, the country will keep spiraling down into the depths of moral and spiritual poverty and degeneracy.

And if London’s burning now, just wait to see what happens in the coming years, once the economy collapses and the welfare checks stop coming. If you happen to live in the UK and haven’t left yet (as I thankfully did earlier this year), better start preparing for war.

The end of the future

I’m not known for overt sentimentality, but watching the TV coverage of the last Space Shuttle returning to earth last Thursday morning was one of the saddest moments I can recall. Once Atlantis touched down it was all over; there would never be another Shuttle.

Atlantis - final landing (Nasa.gov)

Atlantis - final landing (Nasa.gov)

atlantis-final-landing

I’ve always had a penchant for all things space related. As a child I dreamt of space ships, aliens and far flung galaxies, religiously followed every NASA mission, and was glued to the TV screen each time a Shuttle rocketed into the sky or landed. I’d often wished to have been born some years earlier, to have witnessed the thrill of watching Neil Armstrong step onto the moon. (Undoubtedly influenced by my dad’s recollection of that incredible event as one of the most memorable of his lifetime). It didn’t matter that we were in the then Eastern Bloc; we watched the various US advances into space with awe and pride, just as millions of Americans did. It was yet another milestone for Western civilization and human achievement. The greatest of human adventures.

I was convinced some years later we’d get to Mars and beyond. Alas, it was not to be. I suppose it’s fitting that all this is over now. The US (and the West) have given up. The end of manned space flight is just one more symptom of the cultural, moral and economic decline.

The space program was an expression of the energetic, vigorous, optimistic, united America of the late 1950s. It symbolized the country’s ambitions, aspirations and hopes for a better future, its belief that Americans can achieve great things and do them better than anyone else. All that is history now. Today’s America lacks a sense of identity and vision, its confidence is on the wane, exceptionalism has become a nasty word, unity has been replaced by tribal rancor, idealism and pioneer spirit are long gone, substituted by all-pervasive bureaucracy and political correctness.

Is it surprising that instead of reaching out to the stars manned space flight is returning to where it started – science fiction?

The landing of Atlantis ended the 30-year Space Shuttle program. The entire US space age lasted just five decades: it was May 5, 1961 when Alan Shepard’s 15 minute sub-orbital flight made him the first American in space. Just eight years later Apollo 11 blasted off for the Moon.

The Space Shuttle fleet began setting records with Columbia’s launch on April 12, 1981 and continued with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor. The Shuttle has, during its 135 missions, carried people into orbit, launched and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station. One of its key successes was the deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope (launched into space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990); the Shuttle and its astronauts were also crucial for each repair and servicing Hubble needed over the years. (Hubble, aside of giving us hundreds of thousands of awesome images, has revolutionized our knowledge of astronomy.)

Countless technological innovations we take for granted today are also result of the US space program and Shuttle research. The Space Shuttle program alone has generated more than 120 technology spinoffs, including miniaturized heart pumps that save lives, thermal protection system materials, bioreactors (help chemists design new drugs and antibodies), compact laboratory instruments, sensitive hand-held infrared cameras, light-emitting diodes for treatment of cancerous tumors, lighter and stronger prosthetic limbs, an extrication tool to remove accident victims from wrecked vehicles, and many more. (NASA has an entire website dedicated to spinoff technology.)

Now the Shuttle is gone and there is nothing to take its place. The US no longer has the ability to put astronauts into orbit. NASA will have to rely on the Russians to hitch a ride to the International Space Station – on the old-fashioned Soyuz spacecraft, at some $50 million per ride.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. A few years ago George W. Bush announced the return to manned space exploration with the Constellation program. Missions to the Moon (by 2020) were to be followed by a manned flight to Mars and beyond. Then came Barack Obama who, believing in social programs and wealth redistribution rather than science and exploration, promptly cancelled Constellation, the country’s only chance at continuing with human space flight.

In any case the space program no longer seems appropriate for today’s America. Space exploration was a symbol and inspiration for Americans who believed in excellence, courage, self-reliance, achievement, science (hard science, not the politically correct pseudo-science of today). That country no longer exists; its spirit has been broken. The “virtues” America, and the West, worship today – equality, diversity, feminism – are a fast-track to a third world status, not to the stars.

As much as we may want to convince ourselves otherwise, it seems clear we no longer have the ability to achieve great things, space flight or otherwise. I suspect Bruce Charlton is onto something when he writes that “human capability reached its peak or plateau around 1965-75 – at the time of the Apollo moon landings – and has been declining ever since”.

“This may sound bizarre or just plain false, but the argument is simple. That landing of men on the moon and bringing them back alive was the supreme achievement of human capability, the most difficult problem ever solved by humans. 40 years ago we could do it – repeatedly – but since then we have *not* been to the moon, and I suggest the real reason we have not been to the moon since 1972 is that we cannot any longer do it. Humans have lost the capability.

The US space program started on its downward trajectory in the early 70s, slowly drifting away from further development of deep space missions and new technologies. (The Shuttle itself is 1970s technology and should have been replaced by a new generation of spaceships years ago.) NASA has been gradually taken over by technologically and managerially inept bureaucrats lacking any vision and imagination. Instead of attracting the brightest engineers, scientists and innovators, the agency has cared more about politics and displaying its commitment to ‘diversity’. Well, at least now that manned space flight is no longer, NASA can work on its preferred mission – Muslim outreach.

Those who claim the US could no longer afford its space program would be well advised to look at the actual NASA budget. While during most of the 1960s NASA spending came to between 2-5% of the annual federal budget, since mid 70s it’s been less than 1% and in the last few years only about 0.50% of the federal budget ($17-18 billion p.a.).

So you can’t afford to spend a minuscule share of the annual fed budget – one half of one percent! – on space exploration, but consider it a good use of money to waste a couple of trillions on entitlements and welfare programs and $700 billion on stifling bureaucracies (i.e. various executive departments and agencies, most of which would serve the nation best by being abolished)? Not to forget the estimated $3 trillion cost of ObamaCare.

And what about the supposedly too expensive Space Shuttle program itself? The total cost of the Shuttle program over its entire four decade lifespan (including 10 years of R&D) was just under $200 billion. Expensive? Well, the US federal government, at present rate, spends $200 billion every three weeks!

I don’t see anything that has brought taxpayers a comparable return in industrial and technological advancement, increased understanding of our world and universe, as well as prestige, pride and inspiration as the manned space program.

But this isn’t about money or savings… it’s about a nation’s priorities. An America that spends trillions of dollars a year on welfare, entitlements and bureaucracy is an America that lacks any purpose, identity or belief in future; a space program is something such a nation has no use for.

Mankind has always felt the call to explore and push back the boundaries of human capability. I have no doubt there were people in Columbus’s day who wanted to find a ‘better’ use for the money that was to finance his voyages. Thankfully King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain had more vision and sense than Barack Obama.

We can only hope that a more enlightened people, perhaps the Chinese or Russians or Indians, are going to take over space exploration and become a beacon of hope and inspiration to those in the rest of the world, as America once used to be.

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Thank you, Space Shuttle, for all the memories.

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NASA – The Shuttle Program: A tribute in pictures (mission by mission)

Major moments in the Shuttle program (incl video)

NASA’s Space Shuttle pages

Hubble website (awesome images)

Atlantis – final landing (video)

atlantis-liftoff

Atlantis (Nasa.gov)

discovery-nasa

Discovery (Nasa.gov)

Dunning-Kruger effect

Guest post by Cantillon

On occasion it can be remarkably frustrating putting the case for an investment thesis to an unreceptive audience based on its intrinsic and rational merits.  Over time one perhaps learns that the approach one takes to forming an insight into likely prospective market developments is simply not compatible in the general case with the best way of persuading people of the correctness of that view.  Markets have their own intrinsic logic, and people have their own logic and the different logics do not play nicely together.  Indeed it could hardly be any other way, for were that to be the case we would see many more incidences of consistent investment success than we actually do see.

It is interesting how people do not generally seem to learn from their mistakes in the market.  If in July 2008 they listened to the hawkish rhetoric from the ECB and were swept up in the general climate of inflationary fear and as a result remained positive on inflation hedges and negative on European fixed income with unfortunate financial repercussions, then in May 2011 with perhaps a very similar setup it seems that they are quite content to make the same mistake.  And then as commodity prices correct, inflationary expectations ebb, and European fixed income rallies they say “well, the facts change”.  But the facts changed in an absolutely predictable, and predicted way that could be identified based on the initial conditions before the moment of hysteria started to exhaust itself due to natural forces.  And I wager that, once again, many commentators and economists will learn little from this experience, and what they learn will be the wrong thing.

But the world is so noisy, and our culture so unreflective and reactive that often being needlessly wrong has little adverse career impact.  In fact it is much better not to upset people with then-unconventional (and therefore unsound-seeming) ideas though they may yet become conventional wisdom with the passage of years; the path to success for most is to reinforce the audience’s self-esteem by uttering the conventional and acceptable platitudes and bromides of the time, paying lip-service to originality and the importance of recognizing reality, but without actually letting such a dangerous creature into the room.

In this context, I find it worth reminding oneself of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to appreciate their mistakes.[1] The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their own abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. As Kruger and Dunning conclude, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others”

Perhaps one must therefore adopt the rules appropriate to the domain one is working in.  Form one’s market view based on relevant considerations; communicate it informed by the rules developed by authors of antiquity. And reserve most conversations about the nitty gritty behind the view for the elect who have proven their competence and discernment in previous interactions.

Liberty…it was nice while it lasted

The erosion of people’s rights by the government continues at breakneck speed, and virtually unopposed. A ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court from last week should have been a grave cause for concern to any Americans who still value their remaining liberties. But of course very few noticed, or bothered to pay attention.

In Barnes v. State of Indiana, the Supreme Court held that, quoting Justice Steven David, “there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers”.

In a 3-2 decision the SC basically ruled that police can forcefully enter a Hoosier’s (resident of Indiana) home without a warrant, without probable cause, and that a person confronted with such an illegal police assault has no right to resist.

“A right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest.” (Justice David for the majority.)

So the Indiana SC, blaming “escalation of violence” on citizens who defend themselves from unlawful activity, completely disregarded people’s Fourth Amendment rights in order to prevent harm being done to illegal intruders (in this case government thugs).

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

— 4th Amendment to the US Constitution

Well, apparently, the “modern Fourth Amendment” does not apply when it comes to police acting unlawfully.

Justice Robert Rucker and Justice Brent Dickson dissented from the ruling stating it ran afoul of the Fourth Amendment:

“The common law rule supporting a citizen‘s right to resist unlawful entry into her home rests on a very different ground, namely, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Indeed, the physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed… In my view it is breathtaking that the majority deems it appropriate or even necessary to erode this constitutional protection based on a rationale addressing much different policy considerations. There is simply no reason to abrogate the common law right of a citizen to resist the unlawful police entry into his or her home.”

“In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally – that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances. And that their sole remedy is to seek refuge in the civil arena. I disagree and therefore respectfully dissent”, said Rucker.

The Indiana case involved an argument between a husband and wife outside their home. Upon arrival of the police the couple went inside and shut the door on the officer who tried to follow. When the officer forced his way inside, the husband shoved him against a wall in defense of his property. He was shocked with a stun gun, arrested and charged with resisting law enforcement and battery on a police officer.

In court the defense intended to argue that a citizen had the right to resist unlawful entry into his home. The judge refused to let the defendant make that argument to the jury, denying him his defense, and the man was convicted. The case was appealed all the way up to the Indiana Supreme Court.

That’s when things took a bizarre turn…

The SC deemed that the police officers entered the Barnes home illegally. The Justices also agreed that one’s right to resist illegal entry had existed since the Magna Carta (1215). And yet, in what amounts to eliminating this ancient legal right, the Court stated that when a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, the homeowner is not allowed to do anything to block such entry.

The Indiana SC essentially gave the police free reign to do whatever they like, including breaking the law. Willful and illegal police action now trumps citizens’ rights.

But not to worry; as Justice David noted, a person arrested following an unlawful entry by the police could still be released on bail and would have plenty of opportunities to protest the illegal entry through the court system.

Now, isn’t that comforting? After the harm has been done, all you can do is try to argue in court that your rights were violated. And hope & pray for an enlightened judge to vindicate your rights against the police or other government agents (not to mention dismiss any unrelated incriminating evidence that such unlawful entry might have produced). Good luck with that, judging by the Indiana ruling.

Of course there are plenty of other problems with this concept. Criminals have sometimes impersonated police officers during home invasions. The SC has now taken away any legitimate right to self-defense in such situations.

All this may be an indication of what’s yet to come.

First it’s the police and agents of the government who get to invade your home for any reason or no reason at all. Next your right to self-defense of person and property will be stripped away entirely (look at the UK and much of Europe, where the law now firmly stands on the side of the criminal and self-defense is punished with a jail sentence).

Although the Barnes case has the most worrying implications, it’s not the first ruling against once sacred citizens’ rights.

Just a few days ago the US Supreme Court, reversing a Kentucky SC decision, ruled 8-1 that police can forcefully enter a home without a warrant if they believe to smell marijuana, knock, and then hear (what they think is) evidence being destroyed.

Justice Ruth Ginsburg dissented, saying: “The court today arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases. In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant.”

She asked, “How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?”

In another case this month (Lacey v. State of Indiana) Indiana SC Justices ruled that police serving a warrant can enter a home without knocking. (Before police serving a warrant had to obtain a judge’s permission to enter without knocking.)

Much like the UK and a few other so-called “free” countries, the US is getting ever closer to becoming a totalitarian state. The government and its agents have full authority to violate a person’s privacy and seize their property; the victim having little recourse to a fair and impartial court.

The Fourth Amendment and the right to remain free from illegal search and seizure of person and property have long been deemed irrelevant and inconvenient. Americans have been stripped of any rights at airports, border checkpoints, and increasingly at train stations, bus terminals and so on. (And now also in their own homes.)

The abuses of government power continue to grow, gradually training the masses to accept a police state. You are subjected to wholesale searches at airports, including naked scanners and intrusive pat downs of men, women and children that would be considered a criminal act if committed by anyone but government officials. Try to resist the molestation and you’ll be fined and thrown in jail. (A new bill is to give TSA similar sweeping powers over “surface transportation” including train stations and bus terminals. Undoubtedly shopping malls and other places will soon follow.)

Not only can government agents search you virtually any time and under any excuse (and use whatever they may find against you), they are also allowed to spy on your communication and keep track of everything you do.

How long before other basic rights such as freedom of speech (or whatever still remains of it), assembly, possession of guns, are abolished too? (Of course always for the greater good and your own security and protection!)

The Constitution no longer has any force of law. Politicians, government officials and judges interpret the laws as to fit their desired outcomes. Brave men have, over centuries, died for these ideals and freedoms. Today everyone happily endures even the most grotesque overstepping of government. We are on a fast track back to tyranny and, unlike our ancestors, don’t even seem to notice, or care.

Americans, just as Europeans before them (and similarly citizens of any totalitarian states of the past) have surrendered their liberty and freedom without batting an eyelid, buying the government’s excuse of having to give up their rights in exchange for safety. We don’t need any terrorists to destroy our freedom and way of life; we have relinquished them voluntarily.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

There has scarcely been a time when Benjamin Franklin’s words rang truer than today.    

On Royal wedding and female empowerment

The Royal wedding and accompanying media frenzy are finally over. The masses got to celebrate an opulent, fancy show and can now go back to their reality TV.

The Royal family has presented a fresh, modern face to the world, proving it keeps with the times… with a nice, politically correct wedding. Let’s wish the couple a long and successful marriage and hope the very modern, progressive wedding vows will not prove to have been a bad omen for their union.

Now, this may seem a silly little issue to pick on, but, would it have been too intolerably oppressive for Kate Middleton to have kept to the traditional vows including promising to ‘obey’ her husband? Yes, I know such a thing is not just hopelessly out of fashion but considered almost a crime against their human rights by feminists and millions of brainwashed modern women. But if the Royals won’t preserve the last remnants of tradition, who will? And what’s the point of Monarchy if not tradition?

Of course Kate Middleton wasn’t the first to break with royal tradition. No, she had a great role model at that; Princess Diana refused to promise to obey Charles in her wedding vows thirty years ago. And we know just how well suited she proved to be for her role and responsibilities. Some example to follow…

While Diana’s break of protocol caused a scandal at the time, Middleton was praised for her decision to ditch the promise to obey. We’ve become so much more enlightened and ‘progressive’ since then, after all. What modern woman could possibly accept such an offensive, oppressive, sexist, paternalistic monstrosity?

Undoubtedly the decision to modernize the vows was taken to show the Monarchy being in step with contemporary culture and to present the new Duchess of Cambridge as a thoroughly modern woman and role model for millions of young women throughout Britain. And that’s the biggest tragedy of it all… The country doesn’t need any more progressive ‘role models’ infected with feminist ideology. What we do need, if this society is ever to reverse the present degeneration, are those who stand up for traditional values and mores.

Of course vows don’t mean much these days anyway, and barely anyone entering into marriage really takes them seriously. But even the symbolic value is enough to offend feminist sensibilities and so vows must be ‘fixed’ and politically corrected. Am I alone in thinking that a bride’s revolt to say traditional vows (as well as, for instance, the increasingly widespread refusal to take the husband’s surname) is a bad sign for the health and longevity of a marriage?

Marriage today is, to many women, just an extravagant social occasion and party, their very own ‘princess’ fantasy. It doesn’t seem to include any consideration on what marriage really means, much less on how to be a good wife. Undoubtedly the mere concept of a ‘good wife’ would be deemed oppressive these days. (Are you saying women should have responsibilities and not just rights?!) After all, millions of women feel entitled to ditch their marriages and perfectly decent husbands for no better reason than feeling bored or ‘unfulfilled’. The princesses deserve to be happy – and if they harm their husbands and children in their insatiable quest for fulfillment, so be it!

To see to what extent our decaying society has succumbed to feminist ideas (and cultural Marxism/political correctness in general)… even the church has become completely infested with the misguided, morally bankrupt dogmas. Granted, if any church has eagerly embraced liberalism and political correctness it’s the Church of England; so one should hardly be too surprised to hear Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s views on the vow of obedience.

(In 2006 guidelines) he stated that a wife promising to ‘obey’ her husband was an outdated concept that could even justify domestic violence (!). Not surprising, I suppose, coming from a church leader who supports women- and gay clergy and gay marriages, in clear breach of Christian principles. It seems only a hopeless optimist could expect the (Anglican) church to promote traditional marriage and sound morality instead of trying to redefine Christian values to fit the moral inversion of our era. (And anyway, why should we, as the enlightened, progressive people we are, want to promote such an antiquated, oppressive institution as marriage?)

But why are modern women so scared of traditional marriage vows?

Apparently, ditching them is proof of being a strong, independent woman demanding ‘equality’ in marriage. Of course! What else? Our ever-present equality delusion! Gender is, after all, just a social construct (or so we are told) and no real differences between men and women exist; ergo, all traditional gender roles must be evil, sexist and discriminatory. Has there ever been a civilization suffering from as complete a denial of reality as we do?

Of course promising to ‘obey’ one’s husband has nothing to do with being oppressed, a second class citizen with no power or say in a relationship, or a servant to a man. It’s a statement of trust and respect, acknowledging the authority of the man as head of family, responsible for and dedicated to his wife’s and their children’s welfare. Despite us wanting to pretend otherwise, a woman’s natural role is to be loving, nurturing and supportive in a relationship. When women usurp the masculine role (power and leadership) and emasculate men it doesn’t bode well for marriage.

Women are deluded in thinking they have been ‘liberated’ from some imaginary shackles, when in fact they’ve only sabotaged themselves and contributed a great deal to the rotten state of our society. The anti-male bias is ever present in the West today; we are ‘empowering’ females at the expense of males and conditioning women to disparage men.

The self-absorption and sense of entitlement of today’s women make it nearly impossible to form healthy, sustainable marriages and relationships. The results can be seen all around us; disintegration of family, sky-high divorce rates (over 70% of divorces are initiated by women, and nearly 90% among college-educated couples), rampant single motherhood, culture of welfare dependence, damaged children growing up without a father figure, sexual depravity (especially exhibited by young women), drug abuse, and a general lack of values and mores. It is well documented that children brought up by married parents fare considerably better in all aspects of life than those raised by single or co-habiting parents. But who cares about children? As long as women are ‘empowered’ and feel good…

Of course I don’t expect the progressive women of today to agree with any of this. After all, if they did, they would have given up one of their favorite excuses to scream ‘discrimination!’ Imagine the catastrophic consequences of admitting women have long been enjoying – and often abusing – a privileged and protected status (as the ‘oppressed sex’): less ability to blame men for any and all problems and bad outcomes, less affirmative action benefiting the undeserving, fewer rewards for ‘discrimination’ claims.

The truth is that a woman can be intelligent, independent and strong and yet find it perfectly natural and satisfying to let her husband lead and be the head of the family. You may think that traditional marriage is an oppressive, antiquated institution that should be rooted out. But if you don’t, here’s an idea: Let your man be a man, show him the respect he deserves… it will do miracles for your marriage. And, if replicated enough, it might just save our fallen society.
—-

P.S.

Isn’t it ironic that so many self-proclaimed ‘strong’ women consider themselves entitled to special treatment and privileges yet are unwilling to accept any corresponding responsibility? And what about pride of being ‘independent’ from any one specific man while demanding support (in a myriad different ways) by the state apparatus (paid for by many men – taxpayers)? How about intelligence? Would an intelligent person pursue their short term gratification at the cost of destruction of family, morality, social fabric (while dooming their own offspring to suffer the consequences)? So much for the myth of the strong, independent and intelligent modern female.

What’s truly sad is that women don’t realize they have been serving as an instrument of cultural Marxism and, having swallowed its propaganda, allowed themselves to be manipulated and used to destroy society.

Gramsci and other Marxist disciples realized that the Christian culture in the West was an obstacle standing in the way of a communist conquest, and in order to succeed Marxism had to make a “long march through the culture”, discrediting and undermining all foundations and values. The culture and institutions had to be radically transformed and the social and cultural order turned upside down (Gramsci envisioned a ‘new proletariat’ of women, racial and sexual minorities and even criminals placed in power).

And indeed today our schools, colleges, academia, media, entertainment industry, civic organizations and government have been fully converted to cultural Marxism and are almost universally hostile to family, traditional sex roles, Christianity and traditional morality.

People can’t be taken over by Marxist ideas while they have refuge in their religion, families, culture and convictions; once they lose those traditional supports they only have the government to go to, and the path to socialism and communism is cleared. Family is the building block of a nation’s middle class; by destroying (family and hence) the middle class one can ruin the economic engine and capitalism itself.

Marxists clearly identified family and religion (as well as nation, property) as targets for destruction. The chief tactics – invalidating traditional gender roles and promoting dysfunctional social structures as normal (including single motherhood, same-sex marriage etc), endlessly portraying marriage and family as oppressive, painting fathers as restrictive and controlling and men as exploiters, propagating sexual revolution and ‘free love’, legalizing abortion and making it acceptable and accessible, attacking Christian institutions and values, encouraging youth and women to reject Christian morality, monogamy, parental and church authority, etc. Divorce, promoted as understandable and always justified, was made ridiculously easy (no-fault) and wives have been incentivized to leave their husbands (taking their money and children with them).

The bored baby-boomers were the first generation to really have swallowed the cultural Marxist propaganda whole. Hundreds of millions have since been indoctrinated with the new morally inverted ‘values’. Today cultural Marxism has completely overtaken Western society.

Women, who eagerly jumped on the ‘empowerment’ and ‘liberation’ bandwagon (just as Marx and his disciples foresaw), have been instrumental in the dissolution of family and traditional values. Worst of all, not only are they unaware of what’s taken place, they are seemingly proud of the hubris they helped create.

——

[Note: Naturally this may not apply to all women; but to shockingly many.]

——

Before I sign off, here are just a few of the countless recent examples of the absurdity and intolerance of the sickening brand of feminism that has taken over life in Britain.

Glencore chairman attacked over “sexist and primitive” views (i.e. for stating perfectly obvious truths)

Sky Sports football pundit sacked over “sexist tirades” (off-air comments about female referee)

Outrage over David Cameron’s “hideously sexist and patronizing remark” (‘calm down, dear’)

Paying tribute to the heroes

Today people in the US, UK and many other countries celebrate Veterans Day (or Remembrance Day), recognizing the sacrifices of the soldiers who served in the various wars since WWI.

Please take a moment to honor those who have served their country, who have fought and often died to protect your freedoms. And if you see a veteran, take the opportunity to express appreciation and thank him or her for their service.

Freedom doesn’t come free.

To all veterans and soldiers (and military families):

Thank you for your service and your sacrifice. It shall never be forgotten. God bless.

———

(And in case you happen to be one of those disgraceful people who feel the need to disrespect soldiers – because you disagree with a war, or because deep down you know that every one of our soldiers is a better man or woman than you -express your dissatisfaction at the ballot box when electing your political leaders instead of bashing those who put their lives in danger and often make the ultimate sacrifice so that all of us can carry on with our lives and sleep in peace at night.)

Equality Act: How Cultural Marxism conquered a delusional society

The UK government has unleashed its latest weapon ready to destroy any still surviving business – as well as whatever remains of our individual freedoms. The vicious new Equality Act came into force earlier this month.

The progressive Con-LibDem coalition decided to implement the draconian equality laws proposed by Labour’s Harriet Harman and championed by current Home Secretary and minister for women and equality Theresa May. (Note: Safest way to recognize a nation is doomed? Look for things like ministries for ‘women and equality’.) Undoubtedly David Cameron, our faux-conservative leader and champion of political correctness, is feeling all warm and fuzzy for having imposed on Britain the most radical-PC law to date.

The Equality Act introduces a myriad of ‘rights’ which will allow staff to sue for any perceived offense imaginable.

It also creates the concept of ‘third party harassment’, meaning an employee can overhear a joke which was not even directed at them, perceive it to be offensive and then sue the employer. Workers can sue if they feel any comments ‘violate their dignity’, create an ‘intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’, etc. A one-off incident is enough – the ‘victim’ doesn’t need to have warned the ‘offender’ that their comments were unwelcome.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the legislation extends to everyone in the workplace; hence staff can sue their employer even if they were offended by something said by a vendor, customer or contractor.

Basically, the law aims to prevent anyone being offended by anything and any person, and allows workers to sue if their fragile feelings do get hurt. And as the years of rampant political correctness have already created a nation ready to take offense at even the most trivial remark, the lawyers and employment tribunals will undoubtedly soon find themselves very busy.

But wait, there’s more. Questions about a prospective employee’s health are now banned; it is for example illegal to ask how much time off work a person has taken. ‘Discrimination’ of any sort based on health is also illegal – for instance, staff who take a large number of sick days or periodically miss work because they are looking after an elderly or disabled relative will find it easy to sue for discrimination if they feel they have been treated unfairly.

Employees will be able to claim they were discriminated against because of a disability of any nature. Worse still, they no longer have to prove they were treated less favorably than non-disabled colleagues – the employer is guilty until proven innocent! (For instance, dyslexic workers who have been barred from carrying out certain tasks because of their tendency to make spelling mistakes can sue under the legislation.)

Another new category introduced by the law is ‘discrimination by association’, which allows workers to sue if they feel they have been disadvantaged because of an employer’s perceived prejudice against a relative (e.g. a gay brother). Combined discrimination has also been introduced – workers can claim they were treated unfavorably because of a combination of factors, for instance age and gender… to make sure some will stick, in case one allegation fails.

Shocking enough? Well, we aren’t finished yet! It is also illegal to discriminate against someone for the ‘perception’ that they are one of the ‘protected’ groups (for instance gay) – even if they are not. As you can see, anyone can sue for discrimination on any ground, whether plausible or not, and the burden of proof is not on them but on the employer (who clearly has no way to prove his or her innocence in such cases.)

On top of that, employment tribunals will have power to ‘recommend’ changes to a company’s business practices, such as imposing diversity and equality standards, rather than just dealing with the case of the individual who brings a claim.

A small part of the Equality Act is yet to be implemented (but undoubtedly will soon be) – the requirements for larger companies to publish the differences in pay between male and female employees and take action to remove them; and affirmative action to recruit more female and ethnic minority staff (regardless of their suitability for the position).

Who will benefit from all this lunacy? Lawyers of course, and a (likely significant) number of people keen to extort money from their employers or exact revenge on their co-workers and bosses for perceived wrongs. One thing is certain – discrimination claims will skyrocket and the burden of red tape will increase exponentially. And if businesses – already struggling to recover from the recession – end up facing ruin, so be it. Who needs those evil, greedy capitalists anyway? (According to the British Chambers of Commerce the employment law ‘reforms’ will burden business with £11.3 billion in extra costs.)

The UK has already been one of the worst places to run a business (at least based on my experience from a handful of countries worldwide): the burden of an ever-growing stream of new rules and regulations, massive bureaucracy and red tape strangling companies of all sizes, constant changes (and rarely for the better) to the law including tax laws (which have already been among the most complex); not to mention the ever increasing tax burden (especially when one includes individual taxes).

Yet all that has not been enough for our progressive governments. And the madness will undoubtedly not end with the Equality Act either. Why would anyone in their right mind invest their money, time and hard work to build a business in such an insane anti-business environment?

One might have thought there would be some resistance to such disastrous ‘progressive’ experiments, especially at a time when we could use all the jobs and entrepreneurial activity we can get.

But, alas, it appears much of the country has been successfully infected with the equality/diversity/fairness disease and as such sees nothing wrong with the so-called Conservative party wholeheartedly embracing this highest of all ideals. Sadly, in a country that has long ago rejected and destroyed any traditional and moral values – along with last remnants of common sense – equality/diversity/fairness (i.e. the chief tenets of political correctness or, if you prefer, Cultural Marxism) have become the new, true religion.

In a culture where nobody takes any responsibility for their own actions and everyone is a victim, taking offense has become a national sport. People’s lives and livelihoods are routinely destroyed for falling foul of any of the myriad new laws, rules and regulations aimed at enforcing PC; freedom of speech and individual liberties have been stripped away.

Supposedly, this is all for our benefit – for we will create a fair and equal society and everyone will be happy in our new Utopia.

As a wise man once said: Marxism didn’t fail with the fall of the Soviet Union; it has instead been fully implemented in the West.

Having grown up in a formerly communist country, it seems the UK (and much of Western) population is far more brainwashed with political correctness than we ever were with communism. Worst of all, they don’t even realize it. Perhaps that’s what inevitably happens with complacent, comfortable, distracted peoples who have thrown away the values that once made them great. (Of course the mere concept of objective and true values is now rejected; everything, morality included, is relative. That which makes people feel good about themselves is good, everything else is judgmental and hence evil.)

I can see why imposing equality of outcome has proven so popular with the very many who benefit from it. And when it comes to those who are forced to pay dearly for such ‘progress’? That’s where indoctrination and coercion come into play. After all, who could ever object to the pursuit of “social justice” (code for forced equity), right?

Collectively as a society we are in complete denial of reality, having happily embraced our pretty illusion that we are all special, all equal, equally important, equally smart, equally valid.

Therefore, if some people earn more than others and wealth is not equally distributed, it is a clear sign we live in an ‘unfair’ society and some people are oppressed or discriminated against. Such injustice must therefore be rectified by government intervention. If women earn on average less than men it can only mean gender discrimination (you didn’t think the fact women take months or years off work to bear children, work far shorter hours, and tend to choose professions that are financially less lucrative could have anything to do with this, did you?). If certain groups of pupils do worse at schools than others, it must be racial discrimination, or class discrimination (how dare you think intellectual faculties, hard work or dedication could be the true reasons).

And so we have, step-by-step, legislated a perverted, delusional and coercive version of equality and increasingly made it a crime to treat (and pay) people according to their abilities, efforts and achievements.

Many consider this a good, ‘fair’ thing. As C. S. Lewis recognized, “The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept. And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation.”

Self-interest aside, for anyone who does believe such preposterous fairy-tales – it may be time to wake up from your Marxist dream. People are self-evidently unequal. Some are more virtuous, intelligent, attractive, fit, moral than others. Some are more apt for certain tasks and professions than others. Some work hard and others less so. There is nothing ‘unfair’ about them being employed and rewarded accordingly.

Everyone who wants to can be a valued member of society, in whatever role fits their God given and acquired abilities. But one can not force others to consider him or her a better man or woman than they are – it’s not something that can be legislated; it has to be earned.

When people are free, outcomes are naturally unequal. Whether you like it or not, human liberty results in economic and social inequality. You can have either equality or liberty, but not both.

And so it is of no surprise that these great ideals we like to worship are never reached by protecting individual freedoms. Quite the opposite; they are always achieved by removing rights and liberties. Equal outcome requires tyranny, forced suppression of the rights of some in order to enhance the rights of others, be it through progressive taxation and redistribution, affirmative action and special rights for certain protected groups, or rules and laws which restrict freedom of some for the benefit of others. Wherever you look, we’re enforcing equal outcomes rather than equal standards for all. (Of course this near absolute control over all aspects of life and business goes hand in hand with the creation of an ever-growing and all-powerful bureaucracy.)

And yet all that is apparently a price most people are more than willing to pay. For what were once (granted, a rather long time ago) proud, self-reliant and free people, decades of welfare state and ever expanding and intrusive government have transformed into mere slaves, dependent on the state for handouts and guidance. Indeed the only freedom many wish for now is freedom from any responsibility.

As Ben Franklin wisely said, “Those who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety, and will lose both.”

I shall leave you with the timeless words of C. S. Lewis…

“Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose… You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal… You remember how one of the Greek Dictators (they called them “tyrants” then) sent an envoy to another Dictator to ask his advice about the principles of government. The second Dictator led the envoy into a field of grain, and there he snicked off with his cane the top of every stalk that rose an inch or so above the general level. The moral was plain. Allow no preeminence among your subjects. Let no man live who is wiser or better or more famous or even handsomer than the mass. Cut them all down to a level: all slaves, all ciphers, all nobodies. All equals. Thus Tyrants could practise, in a sense, “democracy.” But now “democracy” can do the same work without any tyranny other than her own. No one need now go through the field with a cane. The little stalks will now of themselves bite the tops off the big ones. The big ones are beginning to bite off their own in their desire to Be Like Stalks.” (C. S. Lewis; Screwtape Proposes a Toast)

America’s ruling class – exposed as the traitors they are

If you’ve ever wondered how we’ve come to see America’s economic, social and moral decline, Angelo Codevilla’s insightful essay, published in the American Spectator a few days ago, illustrates how the pieces fit together. It’s rather lengthy, but well worth the time to read!

A brief summary is below… do make sure to read the full article: America’s Ruling Class – And the Perils of Revolution.

In the past the upper crust was diverse, drawing its wealth and status from various sources (industrialists, financiers, landowners, oilmen, etc).

“Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.

Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters – speaking the “in” language – serves as a badge of identity.”

No matter what their profession or income, today’s ruling elite (progressive Democrats and Republicans alike) climbed up via government channels and public money. As the author explains, professional position, money or academic achievement do not secure a membership in the ruling class – what is essential is an absolute commitment to the progressive doctrines and willingness to fit in.

The ruling class believes in its own intellectual and moral superiority and considers the rest of Americans “retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained”.  As the more enlightened human beings, the elite see it as their task to improve the lesser mortals, which is where social engineering comes in.

Mr. Codevilla traces the beginnings of the progressive era to Woodrow Wilson, “the first American statesman to argue that the Founders had done badly by depriving the U.S. government of the power to reshape American society.” The progressives, while looking down on the American people, were sympathetic to Soviet Russia as well as, in many cases, to Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

And the elite have demonstrated contempt for ordinary Americans ever since (see Obama’s remark of ‘clinging to God and guns’ as typical of their inferiority), and have ruled based on the presumption that they, the enlightened ones, know best what the people need.

“Americans think it justice to spend the money they earn to satisfy their private desires even though the ruling class knows that justice lies in improving the community and the planet.”

And so the political elite, via taxation and intrusive regulations, strive to ‘improve’ the American people, and redirect them to tasks more worthy than those they choose for themselves.

Naturally their solution to all matters is a larger and more powerful government, allowing them to reward political support with jobs, contracts, handouts. Hence we see the continuous drive to redistribution, regulation of every aspect of life and business, opaque laws that benefit some and ruin others (in accordance to their political support), patent disregard for the Constitution, and discretionary powers of officeholders.  The ruling class has become the arbiter or wealth and poverty.

“But it surely increases the number of people dependent on the ruling class, and teaches Americans that satisfying that class is a surer way of making a living than producing goods and services that people want to buy.”

Not content with control over people’s economic lives, the elite use further lessons out of the Marxist handbook: indoctrination in schools and colleges, attack on religion and values, destruction of traditional family and marriage. All to fulfill their god-like mandate to ‘improve’ those who are beneath them.

“The ruling class is keener to reform the American people’s family and spiritual lives than their economic and civic ones. In no other areas is the ruling class’s self-definition so definite, its contempt for opposition so patent, its Kulturkampf so open. It believes that the Christian family (and the Orthodox Jewish one too) is rooted in and perpetuates the ignorance commonly called religion, divisive social prejudices, and repressive gender roles, that it is the greatest barrier to human progress because it looks to its very particular interest – often defined as mere coherence against outsiders who most often know better. Thus the family prevents its members from playing their proper roles in social reform. Worst of all, it reproduces itself.”

The war waged against marriage by the government, academia and media has produced the desired results: decline of the traditional family (and its replacement with the state), new ‘progressive’ family models, single motherhood – creating millions of faithful liberal voters largely dependent on government services.

Schools, aside from weapons of social engineering, serve as indoctrination institutes set to undermine the authority of parents and instill children with progressive ideals and statist worldview. (See also link at the bottom of this post.)

“Consensus among the right people is the only standard of truth. Facts and logic matter only insofar as proper authority acknowledges them.”

The ruling class’s main characteristic is its dislike for (the rest of) America, its condescending, patronizing attitude and dismissal of the American people’s moral, spiritual and intellectual values.

“Seldom does a Democratic official or member of the ruling class speak on public affairs without reiterating the litany of his class’s claim to authority, contrasting it with opponents who are either uninformed, stupid, racist, shills for business, violent, fundamentalist, or all of the above.”

Mr. Codevilla then goes on to describe what he, for the lack of a better word, calls the country class. They come from all walks of life, but are united in their core values and their desire to rule themselves rather than be ruled by others.

“The ruling class wears on its sleeve the view that the rest of Americans are racist, greedy, and above all stupid. The country class is ever more convinced that our rulers are corrupt, malevolent, and inept. The rulers want the ruled to shut up and obey. The ruled want self-governance.”

The clash, Mr. Codevilla recognizes, is certain to come. But what might be the outcome of this new revolution? See the full text of this must-read essay here.

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And speaking of education being misused for social engineering purposes, here are the details of a shocking recent study.