Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Outsourcing Critical Thinking

September 13th, 2023 No comments

Recently, I had the misfortune of dunking my mobile phone into a lake.  Not on purpose of course; the phone was in the pocket of my swim trunks and I’d forgotten that it was there when I waded into the water.  I’m sure I’m not alone in having these kinds of mishaps with their cell-phones.  The aggravating part is not so much the moisture permeating the phone and causing it to not work.  It was the reality that without access to the information and features on the phone, I was somewhat handicapped from doing everyday things that I’d taken for granted.

Who amongst us can easily recall the actual telephone numbers or co-ordinates of our regular contacts….much less casual friends or especially of business contacts? We’ve all programmed the phones to access them via voice or key strokes.  What about access to doors whereby we wave our phones over a Bluetooth sensor?   Don’t forget the most important function of all phones these days and which is responsible for their high cost….the camera.  Once that’s out of commission, our everyday shortcut for recording events is no longer available.  Of course, without camera phones, how does one eat food or take vacations? Girls would be helpless. It’s like the old chestnut about preventing an Italian from driving by breaking his middle finger.

Our dependence on such devices has been such that people are more anxious without their phones than they are about almost anything else.  That’s rather frightening to think that our lives are tethered to a 3 by 5 piece of plastic and silicon. This transition has been gradual, so gradual that we’ve failed to notice our increasing dependency on our phones.  Like all consumer items, the hook is convenience.  Who doesn’t want more convenience?  The issue with convenience is that our minds naturally ignore the processes involved in finding a solution and we become dependent on ‘things’ or others for decisions.  Once routine things are taken care of, we presumably turn our mental efforts to more worthwhile things.

Except that this doesn’t happen. If anything, we are likely to become lazier.  Why go through the trouble of researching anything in depth when by merely clicking a few keys, a ‘source’ will provide the information for us.  The onset of Artificial Intelligence will only make this worse.  We have as a society, offloaded lots of our critical thinking to sources that make our minds up for us.  The advent of the phenomenon of social media has created an entirely malleable generation of people whose opinions are shaped by prolific posters.  The veracity of this claim is proven by the amount of money that corporations are willing to throw at ‘influencers’, in order to shape views and opinions and of course, hawk goods.

To be sure, corporate television and media still exert their influence, but distrust of them has grown so much that few take any media utterances seriously any more.  They have collectively become America’s version of Pravda or Xinhua. For those that have outsourced their critical thinking of major issues to media, their ability to grasp simple realities withers and suddenly their ability to logically assess situations disappears.  They may have positions which they parrot on any given issue, but not the ability to defend them critically.

The real wake-up call for people is that people whom have been relied upon to provide rational responses and opinions have been outed as being utterly incompetent or incapable of rendering any views at all.  They are like a virus; their stupidity has the ability to infect untold naïve minds.  For example, recently, a politician offered an idea to fight rampant crime in her famously violent city of Chicago.  Her brainstorm: ask gangs to only shoot people at night.

In a previous post, I postulated that a school child will tell you that 2 plus 2 equals 4; not so much because they can prove it, but mostly because the teacher told them it was so.  It’s a rather frightening thing to agree to a set of beliefs just because it’s convenient to agree with everyone else.

What Happens If They Don’t Pay?

June 6th, 2023 1 comment

The topic on which the most virtual ink was spilt over the past few weeks was the drama surrounding the passage of the spending bill in the US Congress.  This spending bill included many provisions which required an increase in the mythical debt ceiling.  As long as I’ve been paying attention, (and it’s been over 40 years) this melodrama is played  out on a regular basis with the associated handwringing and forecasts of doom by the TV experts.

Unfortunately, the debt problem continues to expand without any chance of ever being resolved by the people elected to take care of these kinds of things.  Let’s be clear about this: in my view, the debt will never be repaid.  That’s not to say that some level of debt isn’t acceptable, but it depends on circumstances and of course a robust economy.  What’s occurring now is the real life version of the Wimpy character in the old Popeye cartoons:  “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”, except that Tuesday never comes.  It’s the US debt twist on Waiting for Godot, now known as Waiting for Tuesday.

Most cannot even comprehend the amount of debt that is at issue.  At the moment, the figure is north of 31 trillion dollars.  Courtesy of, some perspective is given as to just how large this number is.

Their illustration of how much constitutes one trillion dollars shows the scale of debt that’s been accumulated.  They show that if one were to have spent one million dollars every single day since Jesus was born, they still wouldn’t have spent a trillion dollars.   And we’re talking an order of 30 times that!

So when people are in anguish about how this will be repaid, they should stop worrying; it will never be repaid.  It’s like death, why worry about it; it’s going to happen.

As long as politicians are placed in elected office by way of popularity, no one will ever vote for austerity…at least not their own.  Politicians are notorious for one common trait; they love to spend OPM, other peoples’ money.  Recently, Rand Paul made a speech in front of Congress in which he cited an incident from American history which illustrates just how this process of debt accumulation began.

During a session of Congress in 1884, a proposal was put forth to give money to the victims of a fire in Georgetown. The sum of $20,000 was passed by the house to help the victims.  Upon campaigning the next year, Davy Crockett encountered a citizen and the following is a summary of the conversation as copied from the site

“Several years ago I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some other members of Congress, when our attention was attracted by a great light over in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and drove over as fast as we could. In spite of all that could be done, many houses were burned and many families made homeless, and, besides, some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on. The weather was very cold, and when I saw so many women and children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done for them. The next morning a bill was introduced appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business and rushed it through as soon as it could be done.

“The next summer, when it began to be time to think about the election, I concluded I would take a scout around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there, but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn up. When riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more a stranger than any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward the road. I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came to the fence. As he came up, I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but, as I thought, rather coldly.

“I began: ‘Well, friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called candidates, and–‘

” ‘Yes, I know you; you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine. I shall not vote for you again.’

“This was a sockdolager… I begged him to tell me what was the matter.

” ‘Well, Colonel, it is hardly worth-while to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in the honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it in that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the constituent to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting or wounding you. I intended by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine; and I will say to you what, but for my rudeness, I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest….But an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is.’

“I admit the truth of all you say, but there must be some mistake about it, for I do not remember that I gave any vote last winter upon any Constitutional question.

” ‘No, Colonel, there’s no mistake. Though I live here in the backwoods and seldom go from home, I take the papers from Washington and read very carefully all the proceedings in Congress. My papers say that last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some suffers by a fire in Georgetown. Is that true?’

“Well, my friend, I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing Treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just as I did.’

” ‘It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing to do with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can beintrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any thing and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose

Indeed, from this event, Congress has been doing exactly this for the past 150 years, assigning public monies for all manner of issues that have nothing to do with the welfare of the nation.  It may start off as good intentions, but eventually it’s just intentions and ultimately as whims by whomever is in charge of the purse strings, because it’s always OPM.

What most do not understand is to whom all this money owed? Foreign nations of course, but the vast majority, over 24 trillion dollars of this debt, is owed to….Americans.  In case of default, neither Japan, nor China, nor the UK are going to come and collect pieces of the US as payment, though giving away DC is not a bad idea.  It’s the American people themselves who are owed the biggest chunk of debt.  This is in the form of debt that the public owns by way of pension obligations, insurance policies and other savings bonds.

In the case of any default, the brunt of the pain will be felt by people who will be denied pension payouts, insurance claims and even modest savings.  There are really only a few ways for this to be resolved.  They can just one day decide that pension obligations will not be paid, or at best, be severely reduced.  They can inflate the currency so that even if paid, the currency will have significantly reduced buying power.  A loaf or bread may cost you $300  for example. Another darker possibility is that the beneficiaries not be able to collect.  Suffice to say, this debt monster has been allowed to grow so much that repaying the sum is out of the question.  Rather than worry about the ability to pay, people should start to worry about what to do when they don’t.