Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Great Changes, Delayed

I started a series called Great Changes in Progress a while back intending to bring the discussion decade by decade to the present. Unfortunately, that has been delayed a bit. My sweet bride has been having a bout with breast cancer.  Mammograms, biopsies, two surgeries, and she will start radiation treatments next week.

The cancer was ductile in situ, meaning we caught it early before it was able to spread, and the second surgery assured us as much as possible that all of the tumor has been removed. So we are very thankful to say the least. The radiation should take care that it does not recur.

As a result, the continuation of the series will have to await the time when I can get my mind back on it.

I do intend to finish it. For what it will be worth.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Great Changes in Progress; Part I

Introduction

After I posted Part I it occurred to me that this needed some kind of introduction so any reader might understand where I am going. I think great changes are coming to our country, some of which are already underway. What follows is my thoughts about these changes, starting with some history. This history is not intended to be all inclusive. It is all from my memories of the times unless I have provided a link. I am starting with the 1960s because this is the time I entered adulthood. Some of the trends had been in progress for many years before, but 1960 seems as good a point to start as any.

I do not know whether anyone is interested in my thoughts. I am doing this as an exercise for myself. But readers and comments are welcome. If you think I have made a factual error, please let me know and I will correct it if I agree.

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When I sat down to write the reflections after my 75th birthday, I first read those comments posted after my 74th, and determined that in that year, not much had changed.

Upon further reflection, I realize that that is not true. We are undergoing great changes in our country, culturally and politically. As an old timer, that is a bit unsettling.

I suppose every generation as it reaches elderhood thinks the younger generations have lost their minds, or is getting off the track, or are failing somehow. Mine is probably no different.

My thought today is that we have failed the younger generations.....our children and grandchildren. We have failed them both in our actions and our inactions.

My cohort (which is pre-baby boomer) had a great childhood. America was ascendant, everyone that wanted to work had jobs, and although the Cold War was in progress, and we had the "police action" in Korea, we had relative peace at home.

That world ended on November 23, 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. From that date, it seemed that the world we had known simply fell apart.

We had already gotten committed in Viet Nam, and that commitment soon escalated, even though there was no broad public support for the war. This of course led to the anti-war protests, which gradually escalated throughout the decade and beyond until the end of the war.

This was paralleled by the great civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. Although peaceful, this movement too frequently incited violence from die-hard segregationists.

Through the 1960s and well into the 1970s, these two movements led to a great deal of civil unrest throughout the country.

At the same time, our culture rapidly changed. The old social mores were thrown out, and license took their place. A revolution took place in our music, language and in sexual relationships. The Baby Boomers really fundamentally altered our society as they came of age.

With these revolutions came the beginnings of some really harmful trends. Divorce rate soared, as did the number of out of wedlock births. The concept of family began to fall apart, abetted by the welfare requirement that made a household ineligible if there was a man in the house. This latter requirement virtually destroyed the African American family and did significant harm to other groups as well.

All of the social and cultural trends remain in place today.

The economy has also seen great changes which stem from events and policies that began in the 1960s.

When Lyndon Johnson escalated the war in Viet Nam, he also began the War on Poverty. Nobody likes poverty, but LBJ determined that he was going to wage both of those very expensive wars without raising the necessary revenue to even start to pay for them. He would borrow the money.

This, of course, was very inflationary. Theretofore, the Bretton Woods Agreement had made the US dollar the world's reserve currency, used in all international trade. Other governments could freely convert the dollars they held into gold from the US Treasury.

The "guns and butter" approach by LBJ left the US with huge deficits, both fiscal and in trade, and other nations, particularly Switzerland and France, began to convert their dollars to gold. This forced Nixon, in 1971, to close the gold window, essentially ending to Bretton Woods Agreement, and detaching the dollar from gold. This made the dollar a purely fiat currency. It has also led to very large changes in the nation's economy which have been very costly.

More in Part II.

Great Changes in Progress, Part II

We left Part I with the end of the gold standard. This was the pivotal point in this history as will be shown.

1972 brought the election, and Watergate. The Viet Nam War was still in progress, with the attendant demonstrations and domestic violence from the anti-war crowd. With Nixon's re-election, he was able, at least some what, to pacify Viet Nam, and our troops were pretty rapidly with drawn, leaving a viable, but needy South Vietnamese government in charge, dependent upon American aid to be viable.

At the same time, shocks in the economy were constant, a result of the abandonment of the gold standard and a de facto devaluation of the dollar. OPEC caused oil prices to skyrocket, and the result was inflation throughout the economy.

The entire remainder of the decade saw inflation and a stagnant economy. This was commonly called "stagflation."

The 1970s was not a good decade for the United States. Stagnation, inflation, scandal dominated the scene. Viet Nam was ultimately lost when Congress pulled the aid from the South Vietnamese government, which promptly fell to the North, rendering the 52,000 American live lost purposeless.

We continued to have high inflation and energy woes through the end of the decade.

One may now ask why the gold standard was so important. What that did was require the US Government to exercise some fiscal restraint or face losing our gold. Without the convertibility, the government and the Federal Reserve had the ability to spend and print money as they wished, without an immediate apparent penalty, even though there would be an invisible penalty. Politicians love that kind of money availability, for they can then spend their way to re-election after re-election. And they did.

One thing that occurred in the overall economy was the beginning of the financialization of it. Manufacturing jobs began their decline, and Wall Street began to grow in power and influence. Money was "free" more or less.

And the invisible penalty began to be paid. Inflation adjusted earnings for men age 25 and up peaked in 1972, just as the gold standard was axed and the dollar devalued. They have never recovered to that point. Only the top quintile has done better, and particularly the top 5%. And these latter groups do better only when you count the households, not individuals.

We heard a lot about the "misery index" back in those days. Voters tended to hold the politicans responsible for that, and they were certainly partly to blame, but the Federal Reserve had the power to rein in the excesses, but failed to do so.

The president being forced to appoint a tough Chairman of the Federal Reserve marked the end of the decade. Paul Volcker would, in 1980, bring inflation to it knees. And that is where we will start Part III.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

More Reflections, After My 75th Birthday

Three quarters of a century have come and gone, and there is much to reflect upon.

There are new scandals in our government since the last birthday, and some that we knew about then appear much worse than we thought back then.

Our politics are proving even more corrupt than I feared, and it is not confined to one political party. The dominant wing of the minority party is also corrupt.

What I refer to is the dominance of money in our politics, and the fact that politicians of both parties take money, in the form of political contributions, and pass out special legislative and regulatory favors to those who contribute.

A lot of those same politicians amazingly acquire fortunes while on the government payroll.

What the politicians do is give those individuals and corporations advantages economically that are not available to everyone else.

Special tax breaks, subsidies and regulations are all enacted to give those "friends" of politicians a leg up.

One example might be the Keystone Pipeline, which lacks only Obama's approval to be constructed. This would result in a cheap, and environmentally friendlier way of delivering the Canadian oil to our Gulf Coast. But Obama will not approve the pipeline, so it is now being delivered, at a cost of $30 per barrel, by rail. This is a lot more environmentally dangerous, of course. Why the hold up? Guess who owns the railroad? None other than Berkshire-Hathaway, Warren Buffet's company. Obama's big friend.

Everyone has seen how the megabanks have cheated and defrauded their way to great riches, got themselves bailed out at taxpayers' expense in 2008, then continued down the same path to this day. Not a single major individual at any of the big banks has been prosecuted. They are too big to fail and too big to jail. Why? Check out their huge campaign contributions to Obama and major members of his party. Also check out the contributions to politicians belonging to the members of the dominant wing of the other party.

This list could go on ad infinitum.

In our politics now, money is the only name of the game for most.

And too few people even seem to care.....as long as they get their stuff.

There is no rule of law in this country now that is applicable evenly to all.

Sad.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

About Modern liberals

Andrew Klavan of PJ Media had an interesting post today entitled "A Pause for Life" in which he states something very close to my view of liberals, or Democrats, or Progressives, which are really all pretty much the same. I don't capitalize the term "liberal" because to do so might confuse things because a Liberal (classical) is something entirely different.

I don't really like the terms we all seem to use in a shorthand way to classify folks with different political philosophies. Terms like liberal, conservative and progressive are very difficult to use to describe the complexity of political thought. The meaning of the terms seem to be adjusted with some frequency.

I have always considered myself a classical Liberal.....Jeffersonian, with a touch of Jacksonian populism. That is a far cry from modern liberalism (or progressivism), but is also not really adequately described by the terms "conservative" or "libertarian".

I have dear friends who are liberals as well as many who describe themselves as conservatives. I often disagree with the former on policy, and occasionally with the latter.

However I might disagree however, the following quote really describes how I feel about the disagreement:

In moments when I do pause, it comes back to me that, while people like Barack Obama or Harry Reid may be small, dishonest and corrupt individuals whose actions and philosophies are antithetical to the greatest ideals of the American state, many of the people who voted for them are far better than the men they voted for. They are people of good will who make their political decisions in keeping with their reason and traditions and in accord with what they think they know. So many of their hopes for the country are the same as mine. Often it’s only the methods we disagree on.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

LEAVING HOME

On my twelfth birthday, my family and I moved into our new home on the west side of Lubbock. We came from Austin, where I was born and completed elementary school.

The move, of course, meant that I was leaving behind all of the friends of my lifetime to that point, and coming to a town where I knew not a soul.

That was rather traumatic for a twelve year old. And so, on our second day, we had a very serious dust storm....called haboobs nowadays. Talk about trauma.

We settled in that summer and I started school at J. T. Hutchinson Junior High that fall. And started making friends, and continued to do so. Many of those original friends are life-long friends. No need for names....they know who they are, and I am afraid if I tried to start naming them I would leave one out.

Except for a brief sojourn away at college and a brief stop in Midland for a year and a half, Lubbock was my home for 62 years. I love Lubbock and the people there. I married my wife there and we had our daughter there, and raised her  until she left for college. Lubbock is/was home.

Times change, however. Our daughter went away for college, and except for a brief boomerang, has returned only for very brief visits.

She now lives in the area just south of Ft. Worth, has a small farm, and a full time job. Because she had so little time to come to Lubbock and visit, and because we wanted to be able to have her in our life much more than had been possible, my wife and I decided to move closer to her, and bought a home near Granbury, Texas.

More trauma! Murphy's Law is alive and well, as we have discovered. The remodeler screwed up, and from then on it seems like everything that could break down, did. Moving to a new place to live is not for sissies, I can tell you.

Of course, we miss all of our dear friends, and that is the sad part. On the other hand, we see our daughter with great frequency, and are able to participate in her life much more than we could before. That makes the whole thing worthwhile.

Otherwise, I would feel like I did when I was twelve coming into a new town.

But enough of that. I hope to blog more....it has been almost a year since the last one. I don't know if anyone is really interested in that, but it gives an elderly guy something to do.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Reflections upon my 74th birthday

Nothing much important happened in June of 1939. America was still mired in a long running Depression. Much of the rest of the world was as well. Around the world, many of the great powers were marching toward war, but it was not until September that the Second World War broke out with Germany's invasion of Poland.

It wasn't until December 1941 that America was attacked by the Empire of Japan, which unleashed the mighty power of our country against the Germans and the Japanese.

My Sis and I, of course, knew nothing about this until we were older, and  our early lives were not much affected by the war. The mobilization for the war did have the effect of ending the Depression, but with rationing, it was hardly noticeable.

Ice was still delivered for the ice box (no refrigerator then) and the milkman still delivered pasteurized (but not homogenized) milk to the back door.

The war was there, but we were confident we would win.

A 1944 picture in my scrapbook shows me with a military style  helmet and a toy rifle. I suppose this would not be politically correct now.



The war years went fleeing by. There was some awareness of what was going on, but the only real effects it had on our lives was the rationing. I can remember the stamps for sugar, gasoline and the like. Mother would use egg yolks on her stockings because they just could not be replaced. One didn't do much driving. Tires were just impossible to replace.

Toward the end of the war we moved to a new and larger house on the cliffs above Shoal Creek. Behind our house was a cliff, and below that a virtual wilderness, right in the middle of town. All kinds of critturs inhabited the area, and the creek had fish in it. This was paradise for a growing boy.

All of the boys in the neighborhood had a Red Ryder BB gun, and we almost daily deployed to the woods to hunt whatever we could find. It turned out that about all we could sneak up on were large red wasp nests in the trees. That earned us all numerous stings from time to time.

Later, in 1951, we moved to the South Plains. Talk about culture shock! But we soon got used to it, made friends of a lifetime, and went on about our business.

The post war years were fabulous for the most part. Our economy was sound and growing. Everyone was excited about what the future would bring. Perhaps every generation thinks that its coming of age years were the best years ever, but I don't think any generation had it as well as ours.

America after the war was proud, strong and very free. As yet, the government did not control so many aspects of our lives. It was limited in scope.

For many of those years we had a fear of nuclear war, but not so much until the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957. Suddenly, they had the means to deliver a nuke to our shores.

The "missile gap" among other things, led to the election of John F. Kennedy in 1961, with Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate. JFK was the first of a "new generation" to take office, and created a great deal of excitement. Although he made some errors, he also had some successes. His commitment to land a man on the moon and return within a decade was symbolic of the confidence Americans had in their country.

As Kennedy took office, a new generation of youth were beginning to come of age: the Baby Boomers. They were to change America in drastic ways.

With the assassination of John Kennedy in 1963, the whole mood of the nation turned darker. Instead of having pride in our country, the Boomers had little but criticism. Over the next decade and a half, they changed our politics greatly. Everything became about race, gender and whatever other category that our people could be divided into. Instead of Americans, we became everything else: African-Americans, Mexican Americans, Anglo-Americans, American Indians; the poor; gays, lesbians, and so on.

The onset of affirmative action together with LBJ's War on Poverty divided the country into those who depended upon big government for favors, and those who just wanted the government to leave them alone. Too many have become dependent upon the government for their well being, and vote accordingly.

There is no argument that the poor should not be cared for, or that racial segregation was not terrible and needed to be ended. Racial discrimination just cannot be tolerated.  Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that should apply to everyone:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Perhaps everyone should be judged, not by their classification, but by their character.

Big business has always depended upon government favors. But what we now seem to have is an oligarchy that uses the various groups dependent upon the government to stay in control of the government. At least one can conclude that from a study of campaign contributions to political candidates of both parties. This is fine for the people that clip coupons for a living, for the big bankers, and for those who are entitled to various government benefits of one kind or another. But it is terrible for our great middle class and the small businesses that class depends upon.

Just take a look at how the huge financial institutions perpetrated some of the greatest frauds in history that led to the financial crash of 2007-08, and to the depression that has followed it, but have totally escaped prosecution. Then take a look at the political donations to our president for 2008. They were led by the perps, and it bought them the attorney general and his chief deputy for criminal prosecutions, both of whom worked for a big law firm that represented most of the  institutions. No wonder there have been no prosecutions.

There are plenty of laws. Since 1963, thousands of arcane things have been criminalized. There are thousands of pages of criminal statutes and tens of thousands of pages of federal regulations. Every citizen is presumed to know each and every one of them, however vague or arcane. Federal prosecutors have the sole discretion to bring charges, so the result is that if you make an enemy in the government, they can probably find some statute or regulation you may have violated, then prosecute you for it.

This gives the government almost unlimited power, far in excess of the powers it should have. If we have a Nixon, or as we have seen, an Obama, this creates a great danger to America.

If you want to know what happened to our country, just look carefully at the years between 1963 and 1980. The radicals that created so much change during those years now inhabit the Congress, the Administration, the government agencies, and our schools and colleges. We have instance now where a convicted terrorist from that era now holds a responsible job at Columbia University, and the leader of the terror group is ensconced at the University of Chicago and is a close friend of the president.

My generation failed to stop this. I am not sure we could have. Our politics is controlled by the big money not by ideals or principles.

Who is going to step up? Hopefully, the two generations that followed the Boomers will come awake and return our government to its proper course.

Certainly, we cannot return to the idyllic days of my youth. Too much has happened for that. But we can restore our country to constitutionally limited government like we used to have.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A bit of perspective

This month I was going to post a bit about my thoughts upon turning 74, but other things have arisen that needs to be addressed first.

We have all been reading about the "scandals" in the current Obama Administration. The last one, that of the NSA snooping, needs to be put into some perspective.

When the program was started in 2007, there was no really good software available to get a lot of detail from the program. Since then, software that can do amazing things has been developed. This is a good program, and could help combat terrorism if used properly.

Obama wants us to trust the government on this, and, IF we could, I would have no problem with it, as long as it was not used for other than combatting terrorism.

This is where the other "scandals" come into play.

From the beginning, the Obama Administration has just ignored laws it didn't like. They do not feel like they are required to follow the immigration laws, for instance.

The Justice Department is rife with favoritism. They will not prosecute lawbreakers like those responsible for the 2008 financial train wreck, caused almost entirely by fraudulent behaviors by banks and bankers. There are many other such issues. The entire department has been unduly politicized.

The Administration lied and lied over the Benghazi attack.

There is a whole litany of acts and omissions by that bunch which render them completely untrustworthy.

Congress needs to vigorously inquire into this NSA program to make certain the law is and will continued to be used to protect our citizens, and not snoop on them for political purposes. Protections need to be put into place to make them accountable to the people. Absent that, it needs to be stopped.