The Troth's position is clear to anyone who cares to read. In a recent discussion, a member described talking to someone who insisted that all Heathens are racist. This member pointed that someone to our website where we say what we do and don't accept in our membership. This person just scoffed and wouldn't accept what it says there in plain English.
Have you noticed that everyone's viewpoint makes sense… to them? Also, have you noticed how easy it is for people to latch onto any opportunity to feel like they are better than someone else? To identify someone else as being wrong? To be angry about something, and to not give that up, no matter what? If you think I am talking about someone else, you are certainly right. If you think I am not talking about you, too, you are could easily be wrong. If the previous sentence makes you angry, you are not listening. Are humans the tool-using animal? The animal that talks? All good, but look at history and here is something else we are: the animal that looks for cheap excuses to feel good about ourselves, often at the expense of others, often with deadly consequences.
As Lorrie pointed out, The Troth exists because of the issue of racialist Heathenry. Racialist Heathenry is what we don't do here. Homophobic Heathenry is what we don't do here. And as we have learned over the years, sectarian Heathenry is what we don't do here. This sometimes begs the question of what we do do here. And that's a good question. But here is the line: if you can't or won't sit at table, or stand in blot, or have a civil discussion about your differences with other honorable people who call themselves Heathens, and accept them as such even if they aren't like you, don't be here. And if your definition of honorable includes exclusive issues of parentage or ethnicity or sexuality or religion or politics, your definition of honorable is not honorable enough for The Troth.
Earlier in this discussion, Hraffy talked about various attempts at purges this organization has been through over the years. The topics varied. Some of them just blew over. Some of them needed careful solutions. In the retrospect, I see in our own Troth history what the whole Freedom of Religion issue becomes for too many people: their own religion should be free; anyone else's, they're not too sure about. Am I talking about you? I don't know who you are, reading this. Maybe I am. Don't assume that I'm not.
Are there boundaries? Yes, there are, or we are just a nothing with a name. Those boundaries don't necessarily mean we think someone is bad, although it might. Sometimes it just means they are not here for what this organization is about. Yes, we can and do and have kicked people out of The Troth over these issues, and I'm sure we will again. If you didn't or don't hear about it, that's because a lot of what we do in Rede work is done quietly. If you expect The Troth to ballyhoo that So-and-So is no longer a member and Rah! Rah! Rah! then there is something about this organization that you don't understand. If you want that aspect of how we do things to be different, I will simply oppose you in that. I will oppose you in that while I am Steersman, and I will oppose you in that when I am just another member, which will be in a little over fourteen months by my count.
Perhaps you will say that no one has said we should do that. But people have wondered if there are ways to get kicked out of The Troth. Yes, there are, and I want to be sure you know that. I have more than once been their instrument.
Do we have racists or homophobes creeping into our membership? I don't know. Unless they open their mouths, I have no way to know. If you know something I don't know, my first response is going to be to ask you how you know that. I will listen to your answer. It had better be good. And as I listen to you, I am going to be asking as many questions about you as I am about anyone else. If the wrong kinds of people join and just listen, maybe they will change their minds about some things when they see what we are about. Maybe they won't. I have no magic wand to change them. Neither do you. Neither do they. People change for their own reasons, and only when they are good and ready.
Meanwhile, are we going to check up on people? I have been on the Rede for almost eight years now, and that has been proposed more than once. Really. Perhaps you didn't know that. Answer: No, we are not. If this organization ever institutes such a policy, that is the day I quit. Sometimes we hear people say what boils down to "No, we don't want you checking up on members. Of course not. That would be awful. We don't want that. We just want you to, well… you know… those people over there." Even when you read this in an email, you can just hear their voices getting smaller and smaller as their sentences trail off.
No. Deal with it.
Once again, has anyone suggested this today? If not out in the open, it is still there clearly enough.
As for the folkish-universalist spectrum, it really is a spectrum. As I said earlier, my own viewpoint makes sense… to me. I'm sure yours does to you. I don't call myself folkish. I know people who do call themselves that who understand our rules for membership just fine and support them wholeheartedly. I also know people who call themselves folkish or universalist that I'd rather not be in the same county with, given a choice, as they leave me with an uncontrollable urge to bathe. I know people at both ends of that spectrum who give me a whole lot to worry about, assuming that our goal is to have more people know about Heathenry and take it seriously, even if they don't take it for themselves.
Perhaps you are curious about my relationship with Steve McNallen. If anyone says, even flippantly, that Steve and I are chummy, let me make this clear to you: that's not how it is. Our disagreements are right out there in front of us, to the point that we don't even bother to discuss them. What we don't do is bitch at each other. What we do is talk now and then about things that matter to a Heathenry that is larger than either The Troth or the AFA. And that talk generally works out pretty well. I am happy about this. If you ever get to be Steersman and think you can ignore the AFA, you don't understand your job. And unless The Troth manages to destroy itself with internal bickering (always a threat), the AFA can't afford to ignore us either. Depending on who you are, that realization may take a greater toll on you than it does on me. You will still have to deal with it.
One of my interactions with McNallen has become more public in the last few months. Perhaps you remember when some nutcase in the Midwest shot up a synagogue and Jewish community center last year. This guy had once claimed to be Heathen, some time back around 1990, but has made a lot of other claims about his beliefs since. Nevertheless, some reporter got ahold of this moldy factoid and it became a part of the standard reporting on the story. Somebody at HUAR had the idea of raising funds within the Heathen community to offer to repair at least the physical damage to the buildings. Nice idea. I signed up right away, back before they purged me from HUAR. I also contacted Steve McNallen to see if he wanted to get in on this. He did so immediately, with a significant amount of his own money, and then came back a few hours later with even more AFA corporate money. The folks at HUAR didn't like this at all. They were worried about their "position". Here was my thinking. Imagine two headlines:
1) HUAR Denounces Racist, Says That Shooting Up Your Local Synagogue is Not OK
2) Steve McNallen Stands with HUAR to Say That Shooting Up Your Local Synagogue is Not OK
Is there any information in the first headline? Who will read it? Does anyone care? Does anyone outside of HUAR care that they care? Are we here to accomplish something, or to congratulate ourselves on what wonderful human beings we are? Do you need even a moment to answer these questions to yourself?
It is hard to measure things that don't happen. But it seems to me that the second headline might make its way into the mind of some troubled someone who then wouldn't shoot up a synagogue or church or school bus or whatever five or ten or twenty years from now. Yes, it's a chance, but there it is. Statement That No One Cares About vs. Maybe Someone Doesn't Get Shot. Do you see that as a choice?
This is not a hypothetical story. This happened over a few hours one morning when I probably should have been at work. If you want to know why I maintain a respectful constructive relationship with Steve McNallen, it is so that things like this can happen.
If you didn't hear about this, the guy who set up the donation site set the goal too high, and it was not reached. I think in this case that meant the project failed, which was really too bad. That was an opportunity for us to do a good thing and get some good press for it, too.
It has been suggested that I am being suckered by Steve, that he is devious, that he cannot be trusted. Here is what I have observed: he can be disagreed with, and we do, but he has never dealt crooked with me. I suppose I could wonder about what he is really up to, what his agenda really is, etc. I have been encouraged to do such wondering. But I don't live in a bad spy novel, and until my relationship with him starts to look like one, that is not how I will spend my time.
We have people with dual Troth/AFA membership. If you think these Troth members should not be, you can propose that to the membership, and to the Rede. Perhaps we will vote on it. It would not be the first time this came up. There are people in the AFA who clearly should not be Troth members. There are others who fit into both just fine. Perhaps you don't think this is possible. But everyone's viewpoint makes sense… to them. I prefer to think of people as individuals. How about you? I will oppose any such blanket motion in any case.
A recent issue involved whether to make a strident public statement about the Ferguson issue, and what came before and after. The Rede was evenly split on this point, which means that I got to vote for a change. We did not make such a statement as an organization. Several individual Rede members did, including myself. This approach was not good enough for some people. Some complained that we didn't really say anything. My response to this is not something you will read here, but it can be summed up in three monosyllables.
The Troth does not jump into making media statements whenever something hits the news. Not even for this. We have a diverse membership in more ways than what you read about on our position statement. I don't know anyone who believes that we fixed the race thing back in the Sixties. I don't know anyone who approves of Casual Murder by Cop. I do know people who see the killing of Michael Brown as nothing other than Casual Murder by Cop. I also know people who see this as set of conflicting accounts and a bundle of other related issues, and who don't want to have their specific responses to this tangle of issues be bundled into an aggregate something that isn't true for them. Perhaps you understand one viewpoint and can't see the other at all. But everyone's viewpoint makes sense… to them.
If you want to make strident public statements about the nature of your Heathenry, please do. If you want to accomplish something, consider volunteering time or money to the InReach program, which actively and successfully battles racist Heathenry in prisons. The budget for this program was multiplied by six for 2015 over The Troth's previous budget. If you want to know our priorities, that might give you a pretty good idea.
Time. Yours. Seriously.
I am very much aware that being other-than-white, or gay, or transsexual, can be dangerous, even lethal, in this country. I am very much aware that there are experiences that I as a white straight man don't have, or even know about, and that these things need to be known about and to change. The Troth is a place where we come to Be Heathen Together, regardless of who your parents are, or what shade of human you are, or your choice of adult to sleep with, or how you feel about the body you were born with. We say as much, right out in public and in plain English, and we always have. If you want The Troth to remake the world the way you would want it made, that is beyond our reach and not why we are here. If having a relationship with the Aesir and Vanir and other Heathens is why you are here, then be here. There are some fights we will fight together, and others where we will cheer for or at least respect you as you fight them yourself. If you need more assurance than what this organization says and has always said: I am the Steersman, and this is what I say.
2014/6/1 But We Must Do Something!
Here's an old one:
A motorist is driving along a quiet lane. Suddenly, there is a BANG! followed by Whump! Whump! Whump! Whump! So he pulls off the road to change his tire. Looking around, he notices that he has pulled off near the Garden View Mental Hospital, with its nicely manicured lawn on the other side of the roadside ditch and a fence. Also on the other side of the fence is one of the hospital's patients. He stands there with a blank expression, watching as the motorist changes his tire.
The motorist takes the jack out of the trunk and sets to work. Being careful not to lose the lug nuts, he places them into the hubcap after unscrewing each one. Pretty smart, eh? When all the nuts are off, he pulls the wheel free from the hub and lets it fall to the ground. Unfortunately, he hadn't thought beforehand what would happen when he did this. When the wheel flops down flat, the edge of the tire lands hard on the edge of the hubcap, flipping the lug nuts into the air, up and over his car.
So he goes around to the other side of the car to survey the situation. The lug nuts are in the ditch, or else in the tall grass by the side of the road. Finding them will take forever. More to himself than to anyone else, he asks "What am I going to do now?"
The mental patient is still watching, apparently unaffected. But the face with the hollow eyes also has a voice, and after only a moment comes the reply. "Take one lug nut off each of the other three wheels. Use them to fasten on your spare tire. If you drive reasonably, you can go safely enough to the gas station in the next town to buy more."
The motorist is amazed and impressed, and he asks "If you can solve problems like that so quickly and easily, what are you doing in a place like this?" To which the mental patient replies:
"I'm here because I'm crazy, not because I'm stupid."
Here's another good one:
A Drug Enforcement Agency officer is driving around, looking for illegal drug plantations. He pulls into a farmer's driveway and honks his horn for the farmer to come out of his house. When the man in the straw hat and overalls arrives, the officer states his business, to which the farmer replies, "Sure, look around all you want. Just don't go into that field over there, OK?"
The DEA guy puts on his hard face, pulls out his badge, and growls, "Hey, Farmer John, do you see this badge here? This means I can go into any field I like, whenever I like, whether you or anyone else likes it or not. Got that?" The farmer shrugs and says "Suit yourself." Then he goes on about his chores, leaving the officer to do whatever he is going to do.
Not long after that, the farmer hears screams coming from the field he told his visitor not to enter. A bull is chasing the officer, whose ability to run is obviously not up to the task. On the officer's face is terror writ large. Trying to be helpful, the farmer yells, "Show him your badge! Show him your badge!"
Now let's try this one:
Very shortly after the 9-11 attacks, there was a TV interview with some Big Senator on the Capitol steps. I don't remember which senator it was, but he's standing up there with another senator, talking in his Big Senator Voice and making lots of Very Definite Hand Gestures, telling us all that we don't need to worry. Why don't we need to worry, you ask? Because he and his colleagues are working hard to make sure this kind of thing Never Happens Again.
Yup. Osama and his buddies are flying airliners into buildings, but I feel better already, because The Senate is On The Job.
When the laughter subsides, I suppose we can at least try to be charitable to the man. In the face of war and disaster, it is probably natural that a person wants to Do Something! He is a lawmaker, so what does he do when he feels a panicky need to Do Something!? He dreams up new laws, of course. Making laws is his reason for being. He might even imagine they will do some good. This reminds me of an old saying: If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail.
What kind of nails have he and his friends in DC been pounding? Well, there's the TSA, and the Patriot Act and, more recently, something that says it is OK for our government to imprison US citizens indefinitely on a whim, without charges or trial, without even habeas corpus. And what have they been pounding these nails into? Yes, I really feel better now.
Another perennial bad joke of both lawmakers and news reporters is the word unimaginable. Hmmm. Unimaginable, to whom? For example, it may be true that planning mass murder is not something that nice, normal, everyday people do very often. But they don't have to do it very often. The Omnipotent Ones in Hollywood and New York, who feed us our TV, movies, and news, are very good at imagining for us, and then making sure everyone knows about it. I heard about the possibility of flying airliners into buildings from a mainstream news source back in the 90s, shortly after the first attack on the World Trade Center. Then, after their wildest well-publicized dreams come true, we hear that these events were unimaginable. Perhaps they do it to reassure us, to make it clear to us that it was someone else who did these things, and that we are nice, normal, everyday people, for all the good that does anyone.
No proposals for laws or regulations on the Omnipotent Ones in Hollywood and New York will come from me. Instead, I will ask you to note one of the major subtexts of what they like to feed us. It is this: that nice, normal, everyday people are ignorant victims who need protecting. They are talking about you here. Who will do the protecting? People hired by the Omnipotent Ones in DC. Do you feel better now?
There are people who embrace this notion. These are often the same people who believe that laws can protect them from anything. Make something illegal, and the problem must by definition be solved. Then there are people who believe that other people are the ignorant victims, and that the laws really only apply to those people. Pass a law, and you can protect the little people from themselves.
Except that you can't. What you can do, however, is try to persuade people that it will work this time for those people. If you pass that law, everything will be fine, and we can all relax.
But crazy people are not necessarily stupid, and laws don't really count for much in human affairs. Crazy people are often very, very smart, and the laws that count the most in human affairs are often very, very bad laws. The interesting part of history often has to do with people figuring that out way too late.
When you think about laws in terms of preventing something, you need to think about several things. First, of course, is what bad thing you want to prevent. Second, by preventing this bad thing, what good things will you also prevent? Third, by preventing this bad thing, what bad things will you also enable? Think hard about these last two. If you don't, there are others, at least as clever as you, who will do that thinking for you. That which is unimaginable to you may be a small effort for someone else whose motivations are different from your own.
If you believe that guns are some arcane and nearly mystical high technology, you are wrong. Guns adequate for home robberies, or for knocking over the local convenience store, assuming the homeowner or store clerk is unarmed, are easy to make from items found around the home. Fully-automatic machine guns, not just the semi-automatics demonized by the media and legislators today, are easy to make in any automotive machine shop. You might look in your local Yellow Pages to see how many of those there are near where you live. Manufacturing modern ammunition is a little harder and more dangerous, but note the proliferation of highly explosive meth labs in our country, and the willingness of a certain kind of person to operate them. Make these things illegal, and you get the same result we saw from Prohibition and the War on Drugs. A large portion of the population becomes consumer outlaws, and a small portion of the population becomes producer outlaws. The former, finding themselves in outlawry, see less and less reason to behave themselves, while the latter become fabulously wealthy, powerful, and deadly. More laws to fix these problems only tend to make things worse. One can wish it were not so, but wishing does not solve problems.
If you believe that, if guns can somehow be made to go away, then mass murder will become impossible, you are wrong. But you are a nice, normal, everyday person who probably has not ever thought about what a modest knowledge of chemistry, physics, and human behavior can achieve. The technology of death is ubiquitous and cheap, if all you want to do is kill people. Do not ask me to prove this claim, or even to describe its proof. I will not. When you decide to spend a few minutes thinking like a crazy smart person, you will quickly discover for yourself that it is horribly true, and that no law or regulation can stop them, especially if they don't intend to live beyond the event.
If you believe that gun control laws can prevent the kinds of public massacres that we've been seeing, you are very ignorant indeed, and ripe to be a victim. Depending on the nature of your moral viewpoint, you may see this as a virtue. If so, I do not share your view. In fact, I see such a moral view as more deadly, and even lower, than the men behind the triggers.
If you believe that no one ever, or even very often, stopped an attack with a personal firearm, you are wrong. The reason you might believe this has to do with the much lower body count in the many cases where someone actually did. They don't draw the kind of press coverage that events like the big shootings get, where the victims had no real defense. There are various estimates of how many defensive uses of firearms actually occur every year, ranging from high to low, and one can fairly well estimate the political stance of the person making the estimate based on their numbers. Even the low numbers are not very low.
Some have suggested that our Second Amendment doesn't apply to modern firearms, which its authors had not imagined. I will ask these same people if the First Amendment doesn't apply to radio, TV, movies, or the Internet, because these are also technologies its authors had not imagined. (Did you know that typewriters required a license and nightly lockup in the old Soviet Union?) I will ask these same people if the First Amendment doesn't apply to the proliferation of religions in our country, which its authors had not imagined. (As a card-carrying Hail Thor! Heathen, this particular generality matters very much to me.) Having read some of the Founders other works, I think they were dealing with an understanding of the world and human behavior far beyond what such limitations would imply. They were smart guys, and not crazy. I'm not so sure we can say the same about our current crop of politicians.
Some have suggested that modern firearms are military weapons, not needed by hunters and target shooters. But the Second Amendment is not about hunting or target shooting, and anyone who announces that it is is either an idiot or a con man. The Second Amendment is primarily about the common populace being dangerous to invaders and tyrannical governments. Dangerous. Got that? Gun control advocates often cite the Supreme Court's Miller decision as an example of legitimate government constraint on the kind of weapons owned. Whether Miller is good jurisprudence is easy to argue against, but let it stand as it is for the moment. Miller was specifically about a sawed-off shotgun. The justices concluded that it could be banned because they thought it would not be useful in a military setting, and therefore was not covered under the Amendment's Militia clause. In other words, according to the Supreme Court, for a weapon to serve the Second Amendment, it must be a military-style weapon. So if you want to argue with me using Miller, you might want to think again.
Some have suggested that firearms are like a disease, and should be treated as such. If any biological analogy is appropriate, it is better to say that firearms in private hands are like the body's immune system. Having an immune system does not guarantee that you will not become sick. Having an immune system is expensive and brings significant risks, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other diseases that range from annoying to deadly. But not having an immune system is simply fatal, as AIDS has made clear to us.
If you think I am advocating a society bristling with firearms in every pocket, or if you think I think defensive guns are the sole solution to our current problem, you are wrong. The dichotomies proposed by gun control advocates are broadly false, but these are the stories they will continue to insist upon you. Trying to talk to most gun control advocates about guns is like trying to talk to a creationist about biology. The world has more possibilities than they are happy to let you imagine. I suggest that you defy them. You might start by acknowledging that life on Earth has its dangers, and that you bear an inescapable responsibility for dealing with them yourself.
If you find yourself uncomfortable in this discussion, perhaps you will cry out, "But we can't just stand by and let these things happen. We must Do Something!" I agree. One concrete step you can take is to ensure that neither you, your spouse, nor your children ever enter a so-called Gun Free Zone, whose material consequences are very appealing to the occasional crazy person who has decided that Today Is The Day. If I really have to explain why, you are almost too stupid to pity. I will just point out that most of the recent mass murders happened in Gun Free Zones. There must be a reason, and it is obvious, even to a crazy person. Ignoring this is some kind of crime if there ever was one.
There is probably no way to stop those who insist on being ignorant victims. But trying to call such a viewpoint some kind of moral high ground is both crazy and stupid. Morality only matters to the living.
2009/9/24 Credit Where Credit is Due
I disagree with just about everything President Obama does, or at least the things I hear about in the news. But I have to give him credit for some good things. For example, former President Carter has been saying in public that opposition to Obama's policies is based on race: disagree with Obama, and you're a racist, plain and simple. Hearing this kind of judgment from Carter makes me increasingly happy that he's an ex-president. Meanwhile, Obama has said in public that he thinks this "disagree with me and you're a racist" notion is just not true.
Even though I didn't vote for Obama, I am very happy to live in a time when a black man can become President of the United States. It shows we're getting somewhere positive on some issues, anyway: the color of your skin is no longer a significant obstacle in this country. We have a long way to go on a lot of issues, and much of that distance involves repudiating much of what Obama thinks, or what he wants to do. But being black or brown or red or yellow or white or whatever has nothing to do with it.
So I want to applaud President Obama for being upfront about Carter's boorish race baiting. I may disagree with Obama's policies, but in this regard, anyway, he's being the kind of straight-up guy this country needs.
And when Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a man of East Indian
parentage, runs for President, it appears likely at this point that
I'll vote for him. Jindal is not the fabulous public speaker that Obama
is, but what he thinks and does is more in line with the way I think things should be.
And now I have to applaud someone else I generally disagree with. To say I generally disagree with Iranian President Ahmedinijad is an understatement. But in his address to the U.N. yesterday, he said something to the effect that a system that survives by printing money is a failure. He's right about that. The strange part is that he applies this complaint to "capitalism", which can only result in a guffaw. If he wants to complain about "current American monetary policy", that's just fine: so do I. I'm sure the actual root of his complaint is that worthless American funny money is what he's being paid for his oil right now, which is a very capitalist kind of complaint to make.
2009/3/10 They're Not Listening
Nancy Pelosi says we should get ready for another "Stimulus" Package real soon now. This news came along with news of the passage of the pork-laden spending package. Who are these people? And why did we elect them? Do you believe we can borrow our way out of a problem caused by excess borrowing?
2009/2/6 Bailing Out
Perhaps you've seen the diagrams used by economists to describe the flow of money through a working economy. These pictures have lots of loops in them, as money in one part of the cycle feeds back into other parts of the cycle, and the amount of money in any part of the cycle is indicated by the width of the arrow representing that part. Some people think this is interesting.
A few decades ago, some economists claimed that, if you want to pump up the economy, it doesn't really matter where in the cycle you do it. If you fatten up one part of the cycle, the other parts will follow suit, because the money flows around through all these loops. This was the underlying claim of Roosevelt's New Deal, and it is the underlying claim of the current "Stimulus Package" being promoted by our new President.
I have news for anyone who accepts such a claim: if you want to fatten up the economy as a whole, there is only one place in this cycle that matters. That place happens between two private people for private reasons. At this place, one person says "I have or can make something that is worth more to you than it is to me." And the other person, of his own free will and at the same time, says "I agree." That's it. This is the place where Value is created, and it is the place where Value's tangible proxy, Money, begins to flow. Anything else a government does to improve an economy is purely a matter of not making it worse.
If you want to understand the Stimulus Package, here is a very good analogy. The language is a little harsh here, but it is appropriate in this case.
The Stimulus Package is a matter of someone from the government reaching way far up your ass to take the food you would have eaten tomorrow out of your mouth so that you can eat it today. Or, more likely, so that someone else can eat it today. The claim is that, without this treatment, you, or that someone else, will die today. Whether that is in fact true is debatable: hunger is not the same as death. What is not debatable is that people who make such claims don't want to talk about the tomorrows that will probably follow their version of today.
Let's talk about history a little bit. Wanna know how the Great Depression came about? In the 1920s, the stock market was going crazy. Lots of people were getting rich, at least on paper, buying stocks. So lots of other people started buying stocks, too. A lot of them borrowed money to buy stocks, because the market was only going up, and it was obvious that you couldn't lose. Then people started borrowing money to buy tangibles, where their collateral was their stock holdings. Herbert Hoover, our President at the time, and a very smart man, noticed this and thought it wasn't a good thing. He suggested to Franklin Roosevelt, then Governor of New York, that something ought to be done about this. This was considered the right way to approach things at the time, because the Feds weren't what they are today and the Stock Market was in New York, Roosevelt's state. Roosevelt told Hoover to go pound sand. Eventually, somebody figured out that all these stocks were just a bunch of paper, and any value they once had had been borrowed against and already used up far into the future. In other words, they had no value today. When the stock market crashed, Hoover got the blame, and Roosevelt got the White House. Go figure. Perhaps we'll talk about what Roosevelt did next, and what it actually accomplished, another time.
Wanna know how we got into this current mess? Real estate values were going up like crazy, and credit was cheap. Lots of people either took out loans for expensive houses they didn't really need, or else borrowed the equity in the houses they had. Furthermore, the government insisted that banks give loans to people who normally couldn't afford them. It didn't matter if you lost your job or couldn't make your payments, because you could just sell your house for a lot more than you paid for it and everything would be fine. It was obvious that you couldn't lose. Is this starting to sound familiar? A few years ago, some Republicans were saying this whole situation was looking more than a little shaky, but the Democrats said things were just fine. Yes, that's really what happened. Eventually, somebody figured out that any value all this real estate once had had been borrowed against and already used up far into the future. In other words, it had no value today.
Now keep in mind: I'm not a Republican, and George Bush is not my idea of a great president. One reason he's not is because he went along with the Democrats and didn't reign in the mortgage market, and then he borrowed $700,000,000,000.00 from us to try to fix it after it was too late. And John McCain is not my idea of someone who would have been a great president, either, because he went along with Bush's $700,000,000,000.00 borrowed-money bailout. Now we have Barack Obama, who is telling us we not only can, but must, find our way out of this mess with another $1,000,000,000,000.00 of borrowed money. The underlying claim is that we can somehow hang onto the absurdly fictive sale prices of our homes if we just borrow against them further.
What we need to do now is discover the value of what we have. There is one way to do that: sell it. A lot of things need to change hands so we can find out what things are really worth. This is going to hurt. It is going to hurt a lot. I will probably be hurt along with everyone else, even though I didn't go out and casually borrow my future away. But I would rather get started on that unpleasant process and get it over with, preferably without the additional $1,000,000,000,000.00 loan against all our tomorrows to pay off.
The time for borrowing money is over. It is now time for me and you to create Value. Barack Obama can help us do that by not making it harder for us. We'll be hungry for a while, but we'll get through that. Or we can do what our new President says we must do today, as he tries to fatten up the loops in the economist's diagrams by pumping negative value into them in arbitrary places. That is, by the way, what Roosevelt did, and the Depression lasted for ten years.
2009/1/24 The Employee What Act?
I saw a commercial on CNN on Friday. Slick production: assembly lines, happy smiling workers, welders emitting sparks, the whole range of industrial stereotypes. This commercial was promoting something called the Employee Free Choice Act. I looked it up online. Currently, to certify a union in a workplace requires a secret-ballot election among the affected workers. The Employee Free Choice Act proposes a different mechanism: a Union Guy comes to visit you, and asks you if you want to be represented by a union at your job. You can say Yes or No. If you say Yes, he checks your name on a card, thereby relieving you of the effort of checking Yes on a ballot, which I suppose might be too much for some people.
Now let me rephrase this scenario along more realistic and useful lines: Say Yes to the Union Guys, or they will know whom to ostracize, vandalize, harass, and assault. Don't even open your mouth to say that Union Guys would never do that. Secret ballots exist for a reason: to prevent just this kind of vicious nonsense.
I think it takes a lot of nerve to present this bill under such a name. People who display that kind of nerve need to be shown the door, and don't bother being polite to them as they're leaving. These are the kind of people who will use your good manners against you. Don't let them. And if this topic ever comes up amongst your circle of friends, be sure to refer to it as the Union Goon's Free Coercion Act, just so there is no mistaking the bill's true effect and probable intent.
2009/1/22 Obama Has Taken Charge
It's interesting watching our new president. He speaks forthrightly, and I always feel like he means what he says. Today I heard him on TV, telling those folks over in the Middle East that things are going to change. Yay, say I to myself.
I read an article this evening: a leader in Hamas says that Obama is already making all of the same old mistakes. He should concern himself with keeping Israel from attacking Gaza, where Hamas is, but not with Hamas firing rockets into Israel. Hmmm. Am I surprised? Not at all.
There are some things that really can change if people only want them to. There are other things that can't, or that won't. I want a president who can think in terms of the first kind of thing, the kind of thing driven by hope. I need a president who can see the second kind of thing, and recognize that no amount of rationality, or benevolence, or hope, will ever bring them to right. It will be better if he can see such things coming, rather than going.
What kind of president do I have? I really don't know. I do have an opinion. I hope he'll surprise me.