31 December 2019

2020: New Year, Old Problems

By any measure, 2019 has been an extraordinary year. 

Interesting Times

For the world, 2019 was the year that Brexit became official--while the final separation between Great Britain and the European Union is not until the end of January, 2020, Boris Johnson and the Tories' commanding electoral victory has been yet another affirmation of British desire to stand apart from the rest of Europe. 

24 December 2019

A Savior Is Born

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus, the only begotten Son of God was born in the town of Bethlehem, in Judea. Christian tradition tells us He was born on December 25, the day we know as Christmas.

22 December 2019

Persuading The People On Impeachment

The great impeachment story of the past week, after the House voted Articles of Impeachment against President Trump, was Speaker Nancy Pelosi's sudden decision not to transmit the articles to the Senate for the impeachment trial that is the second phase of the impeachment process. According to statements she made to the press immediately after the impeachment vote, she has a concern the impeachment trial procedures would be unduly biased towards the President.
“So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference just moments after the House charged Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”

20 December 2019

Trump Is Still ALMOST Impeached

Even the sobriquet "Clown World" fails to do the absurdity of the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives justice. Having engaged in an unprecedented act of political self-immolation in voting ludicrous Articles Of Impeachment against President Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi now seeks to nullify her party's effort at nullifying the 2016 electoral outcome by refusing to send those Articles on to the Senate for an impeachment trial.

Her reason? A concern that the Senate trial will not be "fair" to the Democrats.
“So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference just moments after the House charged Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”
The answer to Casey Stengel's immortal question "Can't anybody here play this game?" for the House Democrats is a resounding "No".

Democratic Republic Of The Congo: When The Blessings Of Liberty Are Denied

The Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman, in his seminal work Capitalism and Freedom, argued quite powerfully for the intertwining of political and economic freedom, asserting that a free polity and a free market were the foundations of economic prosperity everywhere. That thinking has guided much of the political and economic rhetoric on matters affecting the developing nations of the world.

During his tenure as Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan added an additional element to the prosperity equation--technology.
When historians look back at the latter half of the 1990s a decade or two hence, I suspect that they will conclude we are now living through a pivotal period in American economic history. New technologies that evolved from the cumulative innovations of the past half-century have now begun to bring about dramatic changes in the way goods and services are produced and in the way they are distributed to final users. Those innovations, exemplified most recently by the multiplying uses of the Internet, have brought on a flood of startup firms, many of which claim to offer the chance to revolutionize and dominate large shares of the nation's production and distribution system.
Technology makes life better for everyone. Technology raises everyone's standard of living, and ends crushing poverty.

We know this because Alan Greenspan has said so. We know this because experts and academics have said so. Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas states the case quite thus:
Technological progress is the key to a country’s long-term increase in its material well-being, the work of Nobel laureate Robert Solow and economist Trevor Swan showed in the 1950s. The contribution of factors of production, such as capital or labor, is only temporary. The Nobel Prize-winning work reshaped our understanding of why countries such as the United States exhibit sustained labor productivity growth, while others such as Niger and Zimbabwe become impoverished. Technological progress also might hold a key to understanding persistent differences in the rates of improvement in the standard of living among countries.
The science is settled, as it were. Technology is the magic elixir to bring prosperity to everyone. The secret for poor countries to climb out of poverty is technology. Technology powers economic growth, and economic growth powers rising living standards.

Except, of course, when technology does not power economic growth. Then technology can make life much, much worse. Then technology can foster new ways to exploit and disadvantage people and nations.

14 December 2019

Trump Is (Almost) Impeached

It comes down to this. All of the Democrats bluster, and posturing, and pontificating, all of the hearings, secret and public, all of the testimony, all of the direct and cross examination of witnesses, are now reduced to a single House Resolution--number 755--containing two Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump, alleging high crimes and misdemeanors.

As of this writing, this resolution was voted out of the House Judiciary Committee on a strict party-line vote, 23-17. Not one Republican voted for the resolution. Not one Democrat voted against. Over the next several days, the resolution will be voted on by the full House of Representatives. 

10 December 2019

FISA: The Absolute Corruption Of Power

The release of Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz' report on the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) applications related to the FBI's Operation Crossfire Hurricane investigation into possible Russian interference and/or coordination with Donald Trump's 2016 Presidential Campaign has succeeded in producing more questions than answers. To say that Crossfire Hurricane became a fiasco would be the acme of understatement.

The report established that there were multiple errors in the FISA applications made seeking surveillance warrants of Trump Campaign associate Carter Page.
We identified at least 17 significant errors or omissions in the Carter Page FISA applications, and many additional errors in the Woods Procedures. These errors and omissions resulted from case agents providing wrong or incomplete information to OI and failing to flag important issues for discussion.
At the same time, the report failed to establish any clear willful misconduct, although Horowitz quite pointedly declined to rule it out (emphasis added).
While we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct on the part of the case agents who assisted OI in preparing the applications, or the agents and supervisors who performed the Woods Procedures, we also did not receive satisfactory explanations for the errors or problems we identified
Attorney General William Barr articulated additional problems with Operation Crossfire Hurricane uncovered by the OIG. Most disturbingly, the investigation was never terminated despite consistent revelations of exculpatory information:
It is also clear that, from its inception, the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory.  Nevertheless, the investigation and surveillance was pushed forward for the duration of the campaign and deep into President Trump’s administration.

06 December 2019

Our Post-Federal Government

the distribution of power in an organization (such as a government) between a central authority and the constituent units
James Madison, near the conclusion of Federalist 9, offered up this characterization of his vision of what the nascent United States government under the Constitution should be:
The definition of a Confederate Republic seems simply to be, "an assemblage of Societies," or an Association of two or more States into one State. The extent, modifications, and objects of the FÅ“deral authority, are mere matters of discretion. So long as the separate organization of the members be not abolished; so long as it exists, by a constitutional necessity, for local purposes; though it should be in perfect subordination to the general authority of the Union, it would still be, in fact and in theory, an Association of States, or a Confederacy. The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State Governments, makes them constituent parts of the National Sovereignty, by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of Sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import of the terms, with the idea of a Federal Government.
This was the government the Constitution established for the United States. This was the government that Benjamin Franklin opined was America's posterity "if [you] can keep it." 

Keeping the Republic has always been the great challenge of this country. From the bloody carnage of the Civil War to the various oppositions of individual states to various pieces of national civil rights legislation, Franklin's skepticism about the durability of the Republic has repeatedly been shown to be well founded. The enduring constitutional controversies surrounding the Patriot Act are but the most vivid example of ways in which the national government challenges and arguably undermines the shared sovereignty model of federalist government articulated in the Constitution, with the ongoing debate over the Constitutionality of ObamaCare running a close second.

The Constitution, as well as Constitutional governance, are subject to constant challenge. To date, elections and the courts have proven sufficient to meet the challenge, but the danger these means will eventually prove inadequate to the task has always hovered over all debate over the nature and future of the Republic.

With the spectacle of Adam Schiff and his Clown World Impeachment arrayed before us, it is time to acknowledge these means are failing us. The courts have not proven themselves immune to the contagion of partisan politics, with many jurists abandoning their sworn duty to impartially apply the law without fear or favor. Our elected representatives see fit to act in ways directly hostile to the Constitution, to champion such hostility, or are simply supine in the face of such hostility. Federalism, as promoted and promised by the Constitution, is no longer a distinguishing characteristic of the national government of the United States. Ours is now a "post-Federal" government--and that is not sanctioned by the Constitution.

03 December 2019

Impeachment: The Case For, The Case Against

After weeks of closed-door depositions and two weeks of public hearings, both the Democrats and the Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have released their reports on Adam Schiff's impeachment inquiry into President Trump. 

We now have Adam Schiff's case for impeachment, and we have the Republican rebuttal.

01 December 2019

This Is The Way The World Ends

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper. 

One of the more popular speculations among economic writers is the coming collapse of the US Dollar as the world's reserve currency. Several theories abound as to how this happens, most of which posit either President Trump as the author of dollar destruction, Fed Chairman Jay Powell as the destroyer of dollars, or an unholy alliance of both men leading the US economy over a cliff and into the abyss.

Readers of this blog will recall that I have written briefly of the chimera of US economic growth during the past decade, noting the unmistakable shift in financial market dynamics that occurred in 2008-2009, with a greatly expanded supply of fiat dollars steadily inflating financial asset prices. For the record, I freely confess to having an imperfect understanding of the financial and economic dynamics at play.

Still, there is sufficient data to suggest that the Cassandras decrying the coming collapse are all both right and wrong.