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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Locke talked of the importance of the collective

blog Entry

The battle between "rugged individualism" versus "collectivism" is a kind of false choice battle that has been raging in this country for a little over a century. I know it has antecedents in the 19th century because shaming folks (especially men) that they should be tough guys and never take collective action has been a tool of management and suppression for a long time. Even so some of the terminology used now wasn't used 150 years ago and even in earlier forms the arguments were absurdist, deprecatory and demeaning. In the 20th century progressive writers had to fight the natural prejudice against the "dole" and this notion that people should pull themselves up by non-existent boot-straps or it's their own fault if they should starve. Yesterday I made the claim that John Locke and Henry George didn't use the word "collectivist" in their arguments. So this morning I did a search on the word "collective" in John Locke's Twin Treatises and to my initial horror I found the word collective. But then I read what he said and it has nothing to do with how modern writers use him:


John Locke refers to the necessity of action from the "collective" in terms of restoration of commonwealth in the face of arbitrary power:

94 cont..."could never be safe, nor at rest, nor think themselves in civil society, till the legislative was so placed in collective bodies of men, call them senate, parliament, or what you please,"

There is nothing in Locke's argumentation to justify the RW arguments.

Details On Chapter VII Of Political or Civil Society

In Chapter VII of John Locke's "Twin Treatises on Government" (which I have multiple concordant copies on my hard drives & backups) Chapter VII is a long discourse on civil society that opens:

77. God, having made man such a creature that, in His own judgment, it was not good for him to be alone, put him under strong obligations of necessity, convenience, and inclination, to drive him into society

It's not good for us to be alone. We need a society of others. And Locke opens his argument by talking about this and marriage. marriage in his originalist argumentation was the "first society" and 78 "Conjugal society" "is a compact between man and woman" [or updated for our own times Man and Man or woman and man :-)]. He ties that conjunction to the "continuation of the species", and he then goes on to explain that though society and men may wish it (this was after all the period before Women's liberation) the bond between husband and wife is not absolute (patriarchal) monarchy.

82 "the wife has, in many cases, a liberty to separate from him where natural right or their contract allows it, whether that contract be made by themselves in the state of Nature or by the customs or laws of the country they live in"

He then switches the topic to the "master servant" relationship first noting that there are two kinds of servant, and in one the servant is

85 "a free man makes himself a servant to another by selling him for a certain time the service he undertakes to do in exchange for wages he is to receive;"

And then talking of slavery, which he ties to war:

"being captives taken in a just war are, by the right of Nature, subjected to the absolute dominion and arbitrary power of their masters. These men having, as I say, forfeited their lives and, with it, their liberties, and lost their estates, and being in the state of slavery, not capable of any property, cannot in that state be considered as any part of civil society"

At the time of Locke's writing the institution of permanent black slavery hadn't been instituted, and so slavery was still the consequence of being on the wrong side of war. But that is out of the scope of this post. And he brings it up as a segue into this next topic because the slaves become part of the "little commonwealth" that is the family.

He brings it up to refute the notion that the family is the model on which general society should be ordered because he's still arguing against Sir Roger Filmer who was arguing that commonwealth is like a family with the King as an absolute father monarch. He goes on to explain that communities are created to protect the property (life, liberty, personal things as well as homes and land) he has giving up power:

87 "into the hands of the community in all cases that exclude him not from appealing for protection to the law established by it. And thus all private judgment of every particular member being excluded, the community comes to be umpire"

For mutual protection. Concluding:

88. "And thus the commonwealth comes by a power to set down what punishment shall belong to the several transgressions they think worthy of it"

He then continues his transition from discussing the laws in the "state of nature" behind society to explaining how folks act when they are part of a collective group, a "civil society" and how they create a commonwealth:

89. "Wherever, therefore, any number of men so unite into one society as to quit every one his executive power of the law of Nature, and to resign it to the public, there and there only is a political or civil society. And this is done wherever any number of men, in the state of Nature, enter into society to make one people one body politic..."
"setting up a judge determine all the controversies and redress the injuries that may happen to any member of the commonwealth"

And he notes that where no fair judiciary exists men are still in the state of nature. He uses all that to setup 90 the argument that "absolute monarchy" "is inconsistent with civil society." For

90 "For the end of civil society being to avoid and remedy those inconveniences of the state of Nature which necessarily follow from every man’s being judge in his own case, by setting up a known authority to which every one of that society may appeal upon any injury received, or controversy that may arise, and which every one of the society ought to obey."

The process terms a civil society depends on separating judge, jury and executioner functions and by having known standards by which to judge the fairness of adjudications so that they will be acceptable to all and can be obeyed. For tyranny lies in persons who have authority but are still in a "state of nature" and not part of a commonwealth.

91 "have all, both legislative and executive, power in himself alone, there is no judge to be found, no appeal lies open to any one"

A tyrant has all the powers of legislative, executive and judicial in his own person and thus may judge cases arbitrarily and this is incompatible with commonwealth principles [See my post on earlier chapters Commonwealth According to Locke] And Locke notes how at least in a State of Nature a person can defend themselves. But in absolute monarchy he

91 "is denied liberty to judge of, or defend his right, and so is exposed to all the misery and inconveniencies that a man can fear from one, who being in the unrestrained state of Nature, is yet corrupted with flattery and armed with power."

Locke notes:

92. For he that thinks absolute power purifies men’s blood, and corrects the baseness of human nature, need read but the history of this, or any other age, to be convinced to the contrary.

And goes on to illustrate the horrors of absolute monarchs and aristocrats. He points out the insecurity of an absolutist security state and the danger of even criticizing it.

93 "For if it be asked what security, what fence is there in such a state against the violence and oppression of this absolute ruler, the very question can scarce be borne. They are ready to tell you that it deserves death only to ask after safety."

Locke had had personal experience with the arbitrary power of states that eschew the principles of commonwealth. He had been forced to go into exile. So when Locke brings up the word Collective it is as part of the antidote to tyranny. Not this newspeak that labels "collective action" as another form of tyranny. On the contrary he notes, talking about tyrants [Government small enough to drown in a bathtub] and how people who find themselves in an authoritarian society where individuals have no appeal against arbitrary power:

94. "...whatever flatterers may talk to amuse people’s understandings, it never hinders men from feeling; and when they perceive that any man, out of the bounds of the civil society ... and that they have no appeal, on earth, against any harm they may receive from him, they are apt to think themselves in the state of Nature"

And he talks about how this comes about due to the drift that occurs when virtuous and excellent men are given authority and then::

94 "when time giving authority, and, as some men would persuade us, sacredness to customs, which the negligent and unforeseeing innocence of the first ages began, had brought in successors of another stamp, the people finding their properties not secure under the government as then it was."

Civil Society which "(has no other end but the preservation of property),

94 cont..."could never be safe, nor at rest, nor think themselves in civil society, till the legislative was so placed in collective bodies of men, call them senate, parliament, or what you please,"

So when John Locke refers to the collective, he's referring to the restoration of representative power, to the restoration of rule of law. There is nothing deprecating or tyrannical in his reference. He's talking about a basic right of representation, rule of law and against the tyranny of individual power. He's also talking about the property rights of commoners and ordinary people against the claims of noblemen and others who assert properties in their power to own the rents of those commoners.

94 cont..."by which means every single person became subject equally with other the meanest men, to those laws, which he himself, as part of the legislative, had established; nor could any one, by his own authority, avoid the force of the law, when once made, nor by any pretence of superiority plead exemption, thereby to license his own, or the miscarriages of any of his dependants. No man in civil society can be exempted from the laws of it."

On the contrary, Locke and his disciple Henry George are arguing against the arbitrary rights of aristocracy and for civil society and the right of ordinary people to form collective institutions to protect those rights. Yes, we band to together not to impose some kind of committee tyranny, but to protect our individual rule from arbitrary power of persons acting as if still:.

"For if any man may do what he thinks fit and there be no appeal on earth for redress or security against any harm he shall do, I ask whether he be not perfectly still in the state of Nature, and so can be no part or member of that civil society, unless any one will say the state of Nature and civil society are one and the same thing, which I have never yet found any one so great a patron of anarchy as to affirm."

And Locke affirms the idiocy of anarchal arguments in this passage too. I know this is a long exegesis, but I wanted to guide people through the passages and logic for the sake of those who don't have time to work through Locke's extended reasoning.

Laughing Out Loud!

Now I'm sure that the word collective is used differently by Henry George and the founders because the founders of our country were more afraid of parliament than of tyrannical Kings. They feared direct democracy and mob rule. They did not fear representation. They just felt that they were being denied representation as colonists. In any case the argument represents the Burkean fears stoked by the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, combined with arguments inherited from the royalists that Locke and other enlightened philosophers were at odds with. At any rate I was planning my annual Dickens Sermon but I first wanted to do this bit.

Most references in this post were either to other posts or
John Locke's 2 Treatises on Government.
For more on this subject:

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Common Property and the Commons

Dan Sullivan writes a fairly decent article on the commons based on Henry George which is worth reading critically. Here's the URL. Please read it. He's fine as long as he sticks to exposing Henry George's ideas. But he continually tries to fit them into the 20th century libertarian box which distorts them and also degrades their importance.


Dan Sullivan writes:

"One of the great tragedies of socialism has been the confounding of common rights (natural rights common to each individual) with collective rights (those that have been delegated to the community or its government). Common rights are inalienable, individual rights -- the very opposite of collective rights. Classical liberalism was based on the idea of common rights."

But the problem with this formulation is that this "tragedy of socialism" is also an error of Libertarianism. The reason is that common rights are inalienable, individual rights; but they require collective effort to produce, guarantee and sustain. This seems like a minor quibble until you think about it. But both Libertarians and Socialists are involved in creating a false choice for the rest of us. And that is the focus of this post.

The Right to Free Speech...

Dan starts the article talking about Free Speech. Rightfully concluding:

“The legitimate role of government being to protect these rights, government acts rightfully when it insures that all may speak,..." [commonrights.html]

All may speak because the right to free speech is a common right because it is an inalienable right. It is wrong to suppress speech. Free Speech is inalienable because it is necessary to the function and survival of a commonwealth as a place that protects the rights and meets the needs of it's inhabitants.

So far so good, but then he confuses the concept when he says:

...“but [government] acts wrongfully when it decides, or lets the majority decide, who may speak or what may be said. In doing so, it subverts a common right into a collective right, effectively destroying the rights of those individuals who are excluded.”

This reduces an inalienable right into an absurdist argument about collective versus an individual rights. An inalienable right is a common right. A common right is both an individual right and a collective one. The collective of US have to protect that right. Rights are not "socialist" or "collective" they are inalienable. Inalienable

The point is that an inalienable right is inalienable because when alienated it causes suffering, harm, dysfunction, confusion and blocks good communication and process. Rights like free speech exist for a reason. If you don't let me speak then you might not hear a legitimate criticism or learn something. Also if you don't let me speak and I don't let you speak, I might not hear you when you try to correct my error. We are time-space locked in this world so only one person can speak at a time. So reasonable limits on how much one person can dominate the speech of a forum are sometimes necessary so that one person might not dominate or bully that forum. A forum is a collective affair. How it is governed is the issue. Whether we have well constituted governments that protect individual rights and meet individual needs is always the issue. An inalienable right can be denied and infringed, but it remains a right no matter whether a person, or group, tries to block someone from talking on a forum or merely drags them off. Ultimately freedom of speech is necessary to the sane function of society. Denying it is oppression.

Reductio Ad Absurdum

Thus Dan needlessly reduces the concept of common rights to a socialist versus libertarian argument. In the process he hijacks, subverts and rebrands Henry George's ideas as merely another exposition of libertarianism. Not much different from Ayn Rand or the Austrian School, except that none of it makes sense. Henry George is thoroughly American and he wasn't a Libertarian. He was a pragmatic follower of the concepts of the enlightenment as expostulated by John Locke and other luminaries.

The "People" is a collective construct, so is the commons

The "people" construct is designed to protect the individuals within that construct. "The people" is collective by it's very nature. It is because we are individuals that we band together to protect our individual properties, which include our rights. The rights themselves are inalienable but since they are time-space locked they are not absolute. My right to free speech has to be negotiated with your right to free speech. You can suppress my speech by say blocking my facebook account, but that simply illustrates the importance of free speech as you have now denied, alienated, infringed on my individual right. The reason I have a right to free speech is that when you deny my right to free speech, you not only risk someone else denying your right to free speech, but you also risk me not being able to save you from your own mistakes. Don't listen to me and I can't warn you that a rift just opened up in the direction you are running. Reducing this argument to the absurdist "collective" versus ??? fight is designed to channel Georgism into Libertarian channels.

Common Property Ownership vs. Collective Property Ownership

Dan distorts other Georgist/Lockean ideas in a similar manner. To me "a commons" and "a common property" are tautologies. But Dan tries to conflate the proper government of a common property with it's commons nature. which has specific meaning to him. But "common government of property" is versus private government of property and both can be arbitrary or troublesome. Dan writes:

“A parallel confusion exists between common property and collective property, and the classical liberal concept of common property has been all but obliterated.”[commonrights.html]

The confusion exists because Dan is confused. There is no such thing as a collective land property. All property is either part of the commons or fenced off into private property. A "collective" property is common property managed by some collective government. But when the King owns a commons it is still a common property. A commons can be managed well as a commons, or it can be badly managed. If it is managed as a common property then one can apply concepts that were developed over a long period to managing that commons rationally. The odds of managing a property wisely are improved if one manages it according to such principles. If it is managed poorly it will be treated arbitrarily by it's governors. That occurs whether it is managed by a mob, by a bureaucracy, or by private owners. The management of a commons is it's government. Managing a commons as a common property is a way of governing that property. Over the years the concepts involved in common property have been subverted. And Dan is right to point that out. But in his argument he confuses the thing "the commons" with it's government, and he doesn't clear up the confusion he identifies but instead adds to it. You can see that in the next passage:

"An open park perhaps comes closest to the idea of common property, for anyone has an equal right of access to the park. However, restrictions on what one may do in a park, to the degree that they are arbitrary, render the park a collective property.”[commonrights.html]

If Arbitrary Government is the definition of a collective well I've been misreading my dictionaries. No the point of having a park is that a trustee and the people in trust manage a park for the sake of the general welfare of the commoners who must use that park. A park can be badly governed or well governed, but it is either governed or ungoverned. If it is ungoverned then the people using that park govern that part of it they enter. A park that is ungoverned by anyone comes closest to helping us understand the meaning of the term commons. For John Locke the term was his weapon against Kings. In his Twin Treatises on Government he combats the King with his exegesis on Adam and later on Saul and David:

“§24. In opposition, therefore, to our author’s doctrine, that “Adam was monarch of the whole world,” founded on this place, I shall show”
1. “That by this grant, Gen. i. 28, God gave no immediate power to Adam over men, over his children, over those of his own species; and so he was not made ruler, or monarch, by this charter.” ["]

Locke was responding to claims that the world, or specifically Britain, was rightfully privately owned by the monarch (and the British Aristocracy) when he made this statement.

Locke was arguing for the fact that the whole earth is a commons:

2. “That by this grant God gave him not private dominion over the inferior creatures, but right in common with all mankind; so neither was he monarch upon the account of the property here given him.”

Locke goes on to define the concept of common property. He expands on the above in 99:

“§99. Whatever God gave by the words of this grant Gen. i. 28, it was not to Adam in particular, exclusive of all other men: whatever dominion he had thereby, it was not a private dominion, but a dominion in common with the rest of mankind. That this donation was not made in particular to Adam, appears evidently from the words of the text, it being made to more than one; for it was spoken in the plural number, God blessed them, and said unto them, have dominion.”[ Twin Treatises John Locke]

Locke was asserting that the world is a common property of us Humans using exegesis and reason. So when he asserts that a government maintenance building is a "collective property" he is but misrepresenting the concept itself. The building is a property established by the government and run by the government for some purpose.

“A government maintenance building, on the other hand, is truly a collective property. Nobody is granted a right to trespass except on government-sanctioned business. This is another distinction blurred by socialists, who refer to "common property," but who propose to put that property under the control of governments, collectives, and majorities.” [commonrights.html]

In my time, most of the time I can visit my government maintenance property freely. But it's not treated as a commons because it is property in use for a specific purpose of the government. It might be part of a commons. There is a stream behind the one in my area that if I were a little one I could float boats down. Both Forests and maintenance properties are part of the commons but they are governed differently.

The reason we had a concept of "common property" was to rationally manage the commons. A property can be privately owned, collectively owned, and still be a commons. So the right way to manage a commons is to run it as a common property. This isn't a matter of "collective versus tyrannical" in both cases you end up with a dictator keeping some people from having a right to own property. An open park is a commons and should be operated as a common property for reasons of principle. No matter who has the title. Mr. Sullivan even gets the history of the commons wrong:

“Prior to the degeneration of common-law communities into feudalism, land other than royal estates (government property) was held, not collectively, but "in common." This meant that any person had a right to take up land and use it, and in so doing, hold it in his exclusive possession for as long as he continued using it. The limit to this right was that he could not hold land out of use, nor take up so much as to deprive others their own right to similarly take up land. "Lords" (literally "great people") were given responsibility to serve as land stewards, and to settle disputes over access to land. (The royal family name "Stuart" is an early spelling of "steward.")”[commonrights.html]

Origins of the Commons

The above is slightly off. Common-law communities were always under the dominion of a King and the lords of the dark ages and middle ages were either his fiefs, or tried to make themselves co-equal with their king. Common law was a German (and maybe Celtic) inheritance that involved tradition law and judges who interpreted traditional law using "common sense." Unclaimed land belonged to the King (or was fought over by multiple Kings or lords) and the folks who lived there created common law to govern those properties with the cooperation of "ordinary magistrates" who were often members of the aristocracy or clergy but was an innovation of the Anglo-Saxons that enabled common law to function without becoming despotic law. In England the best way to govern commons was to hold them in common. This represented best practices in Europe where the alternative in most countries was between despotic ownership of property and an anarchic ownership that usually destroyed the property. As the Sierra club article notes in it's refutation of Gareth Hardins BS about the "tragedy of the commons":

“For this widely cited oversimplification, Hardin offered no evidence. In fact, many historic commons were better managed than their privatized successors. Native Americans used the commons of the Great Plains for millennia; private farming nearly blew it away in a generation. The English countryside commons of the 17th century harvested, sustainably, a huge variety of resources. Its replacement, the enclosed sheep pasture, was plagued by overgrazing. The English commons was not privatized because commons management had failed, but because landlords wanted to monopolize it for their own gain—and enclosure accomplished their goal.”[]

The Rights of the Collective derive from the rights of the Individual & Vice Versa

His Master Henry George and Locke could clear Mr. Sullivan's confusions if he'd just stop trying to fit George's round and clear ideas into the square peg of libertarianism and just be true to his and Locke's vision:

Derives the right of common property from the fact that we people have property in ourselves:

26. “Though the earth and all inferior creatures be common to all men, yet every man has a “property” in his own “person.” This nobody has any right to but himself.” [commonrights.html]

Henry George Comments:

“Locke was not in error. The right of property in things produced by labor—and this is the only true right of property—springs directly from the right of the individual to himself, or as Locke expresses it, from his "property in his own person."[]

And Henry is segueing off of this passage from John Locke which continues:

“The “labour” of his body and the “work” of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever, then, he removes out of the state that Nature hath provided and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with it, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state Nature placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it that excludes the common right of other men. For this “labour” being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others.” [commonrights.html]

All rights derive from individual rights. And we form communities and civilizations to protect ourselves and our rights because those rights in turn flow from our need to survive, to thrive, to pursue a livelihood and happiness.

So land is an individual right and is common because it is an individual right. Henry George is in the Lockean tradition:

“It is as clear and has as fully the sanction of equity in any savage state as in the most elaborate civilization. Labor can, of course, produce nothing without land; but the right to the use of land is a primary individual right, not springing from society, or depending on the consent of society, either expressed or implied, but inhering in the individual, and resulting from his presence in the world.” []

If the world were empty of people save one, that person would own all the world. But when the world is full of people we have to share:

“Men must have rights before they can have equal rights. Each man has a right to use the world because he is here and wants to use the world. The equality of this right is merely a limitation arising from the presence of others with like rights. Society, in other words, does not grant, and cannot equitably withhold from any individual, the right to the use of land. That right exists before society and independently of society, belonging at birth to each individual, and ceasing only with his death. Society itself has no original right to the use of land. What right it has with regard to the use of land is simply that which is derived from and is necessary to the determination of the rights of the individuals who compose it. That is to say, the function of society with regard to the use of land only begins where individual rights clash, and is to secure equality between these clashing right of individuals.” []

The commons exist to adjudicate individual rights where something cannot be safely divided up.

“What Locke meant, or at least the expression that will give full and practical form to his idea, is simply this: That the equal right to life involves the equal right to the use of natural materials; that, consequently, any one has a right to the use of such natural opportunities as may not be wanted by any one else; and that the result of his labor, so expended, does of right become his individual property against all the world. For, where one man wants to use a natural opportunity that no one else wants to use, he has a right to do so, which springs from and is attested by the fact of his existence. This is an absolute, unlimited right, so long and in so far as no one else wants to use the same natural opportunity. Then, but not till then, it becomes limited by the similar rights of others. Thus no question of the right of any one to use any natural opportunity can arise until more than one man wants to use the same natural opportunity. It is only then that any question of this right, any need for the action of society in the adjustment of equal rights to land, can come up.” []

We have to share our toys. That is the essence of commonwealth. And that right is founded in labor.

“Thus, instead of there being no right of property until society has so far developed that all land has been properly appraised and rented for terms of years, an absolute right of property in the things produced by labor exists from the beginning—is coeval with the existence of man.” []

Thus we have commons and commonwealths for the sake of all of us together.

“In the right of each man to himself, and his right to use the world, lies the sure basis of the right of property. This Locke saw—just as the first man must have seen it. But Mr. Spencer, confused by a careless substitution of terms, has lost his grasp on the right of property and has never since recovered it.” []

Extrapolating from General Principle

All land property and interconnected properties such as communications, transportation and power transport are also by their nature commons. Commons is an identity not merely a construct. And while modern infrastructure didn't exist when the concept of the commons was developed. System theory is as much the product of common sense as the concepts that went into Common property ownership of lakes, rivers, forests and mountains, and they are analogous. The property constructs are the elements divided into nodes, connections, fenced off sub-divisions and private holdings. The commons is the parts that cannot be divided or that must be managed by collaboration. When a commons is divided and fenced it loses it's property as a connected, interlocked, resource available to all as they need. Essentially what makes a commons a commons is that it has many dependent elements. A forest is a commons and so is an electrical system. And for the same reasons that land is.

But that is a topic for another blog post. This one was just explaining why Sullivan's post is very good, but very misleading. The collective is a term invented in the late 20th century to setup a strawman argument pitting group behavior against individual behavior. The opposite of collective government is aristocratic/monarchal government. A Mixed Government republic seeks to use principles of democracy, republicanism, Federalism and commonwealth to govern justly under rule of law.

Stronger Together in Commonwealth

But we also are stronger together in commonwealth. We don't just band together because otherwise we'd own the whole thing. But also because we are better off together. Locke Also says:

“21. The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of Nature for his rule. The liberty of man in society is to be under no other legislative power but that established by consent in the commonwealth, nor under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact according to the trust put in it. Freedom, then, is not what Sir Robert Filmer tells us: “A liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws”; but freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it. A liberty to follow my own will in all things where that rule prescribes not, not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man, as freedom of nature is to be under no other restraint but the law of Nature.” [ Twin Treatises John Locke]

A commonwealth is neither a "collective" (whatever that is) nor an aristocratic construct, but as Locke describes it.

Further Reading

Sullivan's post:
Anglo Saxon Law:
Sierra Club:
Related Articles:
Commonwealth According to Locke
Twin Treatises John Locke (Actually my copy is a PDF)
Supporting posts on Locke, Spencer and Burke:

Burning Bush -- The Cage

This poem like all the burning Bush poems
comes to me in that moment between asleep or awake
When the voices in my soul are clear, but fading
When I see the divine sometimes clearly, always late.
The depth and magistery of the vision
Always fading away while darkness yet reigns
and still comes the day.
And the warnings fade
But the dread remains.
But more often the darkness is hovering near and dearly.
And part of me answers in trepidation.
I understand the Fear of the Lord of Creation.
For in those moments I understand
the mortal danger of my own annihilation.

The Burning Bush

There ain't no burning Bush
No beckoning pillar of fire
That will save us from ourselves
Or pull us from the mire.
We are mortally responsible
For everything we do
From our thoughts, words and actions
comes everything we rue.

The Cage

It seems scientific
The monstrous things we do
We put people in steel cages.
We stick probes and things in their heads
The robes are clean and white
The science is dry and peer reviewed
But when you torture someone
you have to live with images of hands chewed right thru
Needles in the head
Some hurt and tortured instead
Animals caged and fed
Lab rats, alive but really dead.
Yes, I know the object above to all below.
Testing on animals is supposed to save human lives.
They tortured the living to save the future.
But the ashes of the past
Are fiery dry dust in our mouths now.
Refrain -- There ain't no burning Bush
It looks so scientific, so clean and brave.
To lock up persons and turn them into animals.
The gowns may look the same
But the torturers of hell on earth
Operate Cages for human beings.
Splayed up against walls
They give their reasons, but it's all a lie.
Torturing persons to make them cry.
Exercising power as if that power can hide one's own mortality.
Not even human
Not even scientific
Just depravity laid on thick
They claimed exigency but it all was just sick.
And in the end both torturer and tortured both will die
in screams of agony.
Germany, China, Indonesia
The ancient trade goes on.
Take, beat, degrade, destroy.
an ancient trade, gainful employ.
But the tortured scream
inside their tormentors head.
Better a trial, more merciful instead.
Then what awaits them at the end.
A former colonel in Argentina asked for a pension;
He said "I can't sleep at night"
"for the voices of all the people I interrogated"
"for the screams I still hear in the half light
Screams even I hear in my dreams.
For all of us are connected, whether we like it or not.
Our conscious may seem clear, but our dreams are not.
We may think we go unpunished to the end.
but we don't.
And Penance, Teshuvah, absolution
We seek, and seeking, it's no joke where we are heading.
We either turn away or we perish.
And we took ourselves there, either way.
This is but a snippet of a much longer nightmare.
There ain't no burning Bush...
... but there is a beckoning pillar of fire
Do we really want to go there?

Christopher H. Holte

Another Holte who can write poetery:
Further Reading
Not enough Torture?
Three Simple Truths

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Time for a Christmas Truce

In 1914 there was a bottom up Christmas Truce between the warring sides on the French Front between the German and British Armies. The war was the work of ambitious Felonious descendents of inbred royalty but it was fought by good people under instructions from ambitious and war-mongering officers and general staffs. Thus to the officers a bottom up truce was a seditious and treasonous thing. After two days of this revelry they were ready to shoot anyone who didn't get back to fighting and killing. But the folks in the trenches had no particular reason to hate each other except their respective propaganda machines told them to. Thus the Christmas Truce was a precious thing and is still remembered in a bittersweet manner among the children of those who participated in it.

The point is that salvation is talking to us all the time. And so are the fetid breezes of darkness. A literal Jesus may not walk among us all the time. But the spirit of salvation blows like a breeze, usually chased by darker spirits. We choose which ones we listen to; the evil inclination and lies from the ambitious and warlike, or our better lights.

Anyway, we buried two policemen the other day. All were torn and anguished by their murders. A foolish man, burning with hate and hopelessness murdered two random policemen while they were sitting in their patrol cars. He, an african-American, picked for his targets Asian-American; Wenjian Liu and Hispanic-American ancestry; Rafael Ramos, citizens. He didn't pick them for any deed they themselves had actually done but as a means to "suicide by murder" for himself and a last burst of rage and hatred before death. And we buried them this week not long in the aftermath of police killings of unarmed men around the country which had sparked demonstrations, also around the country.

We need a Christmas Truce. Not sure we'll get one. The Right Wing Press has been vilifying Al Sharpton, Jackson and New York Cities own Mayor De Blasio over this killing Instead when he attended the funerals for Ramos and Liu the officers turned their backs on him. Blaming Di Blasio for the murders of their officers. Fox News put out scurrilous reports blaming protesters for those deaths. And the Police seem to be closing ranks and preparing to escalate their war on more than half the citizenry of this country. We need a Christmas Truce. Not sure we'll get one.

Personally, if I were Di Blasio I'd tell the subversive officers to either come meet me and talk to me or face disciplinary action. I don't see how any city can tolerate subversion and law breaking by it's police force. The police should remember they are there to serve and protect all the citizens of their city and not act like a standing army occupation force. If they are upset with the Mayor, they should talk to him and listen to him. They supposedly work for the people of their cities. And if it were me as mayor I'd be figuring out how to fire Lynch and the other inciters. But that is me. There is a need for a Christmas Truce but I don't think we'll get one.

The point is that the Police should be listening to the protesters songs. They are singing the same tunes.

On the other hand, the issue is that Police need to remember that 99% of the citizens they deal with are good people, and that is true even about the criminals, the momentarily unhappy, or troublesome folks they catch on a bad day. They should not be asking us to accept that they have impunity or immunity. The Police need to surrender the argument that somehow they have the right to summarily execute citizens or that New York's "Mayor instead should have been encouraging parents to teach their children 'to comply with police officers, even if they feel it's unjust.'" Yes we live in a police state where we probably should comply with police orders even when they are unjust or illegal. But that doesn't mean that police have the right to ignore the law or behave unjustly. Though they seem to think they do. I fear a coup.

Further reading:

The Burning Bush

There ain't no burning Bush
No beckoning pillar of fire
No visible alien God
going to raise us from our mire.
We are responsible instead
For everything we do
From our thoughts words and actions
comes deeds we can take pride in or rue.
Yet, among us winds do blow
some gentle and loving
some fetid and fell,
that rot and swell
Salvation walks among us
Quietly telling us what we should do
And where he goes the king of lies follows
blocking our understanding too.
Whether lies or truth we hear
is up to us my dears
So let us listen to our better voice
Because in the end it's still our choice.

A Christmas Truce

I hear echoes of Christmas Songs
Sung on the battlefield one day
when a truce in fighting happened
broken by the forces of authority.
They crossed the lines to dance and sing
And dared prosecution for treachery to do the right thing.
To their Hellish Masters and the king
It was seditious to laugh and sing.
They were supposed to fight and die
for the lord of ambition and flies.

Christopher H. Holte

Note, this is two stanzas in a longer poem composed of stanzas I've written since the 70's

Saturday, December 27, 2014

It Socks to Be Alone

It socks to be alone.
Without socks our feet are cold.
Old socks have many holes.
Socks won't protect you from burning coals.
Good Socks are the best.

Cartoon from George Takei:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Militia Second Amendment and Democracy

In an earlier post I argued:

"In Switzerland, the purpose of the second amendment is on display. It's cantons are each prepared against invasions that nobody in Switzerland ever expects to happens, but they are prepared to keep their neighbors neighborly. The concept behind the second amendment was invented in places like Switzerland. The purpose of the second amendment was to avoid a standing army by having a strong militia. (

In Switzerland all the males are drafted. In the USA we have the National Guard, and then we have militia which often are no better than USA Nazi or fascist Brownshirts. I believe we need to bring back a nationally organized militia to avoid the brownshirts and to strengthen democracy. If we want that, maybe we need to imitate the Swiss."[Thoughts on Defending Democracy]

Since writing that article I started re-reading the Federalist Papers, especially enjoying the writings of Alexander Hamilton and I started understanding what he was really driving at. I've criticized him in the past but now I'm starting to appreciate him and wish he hadn't been murdered in 1804 by Aaron Burr. The man was brilliant, and he's been blamed for things that he tried to forestall. One of those things is the twin risks of a standing army and no standing army (chaos). He sought to create a collaborative government that would enlist existing States and local government in making a Federal Government that could keep the peace, improve and defend the country. His vision was in dialogue with the other founders, sometimes opposed sometimes congruent. That is why he switched sides in 1800. And doubtless why he was murdered. He had real integrity and that got him killed.

Federal Government Militia & 2A according to the Constitution

Article 1 Section 8 spells out these provisions for the militia:

"The Congress shall have Power To ... provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States [US Constitution (COTUS) Article 1, sect 8];

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years [US Constitution (COTUS) Article 1, sect 8];
To provide and maintain a Navy;[ibid]
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; [ibid]
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; [ibid]

People think that "Militia" is the specific division of the Military and that somehow Army, Navy, Airforce, etc... are separate institutions. But in the framer's vision, at least that of Hamilton, Militia was seen as an expression of a collaborative structure intended to protect the States from each other and the people of the States from Tyranny: The Military as a Whole.

"The framers of the existing Confederation, fully aware of the danger to the Union from the separate possession of military forces by the States, have, in express terms, prohibited them from having either ships or troops, unless with the consent of Congress. The truth is, that the existence of a federal government and military establishments under State authority are not less at variance with each other than a due supply of the federal treasury and the system of quotas and requisitions." [Federalist 25]

Indeed Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution says:

"No State shall ... keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power..."

On the contrary the President is the one given that authority to carry out the laws of Congress:

"The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States" [Constitution Article 2 Section 2]

The constitution requires a division of effort and collaboration:

"To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;" [Constitution Article 1 Section 8]

As I said collaborative. Even the appointment and training of the militia, which was delegated to the States was to be under the "discipline" prescribed by Congress. This is why the National Reserve is structured the way it is. The Constitution envisions collaborative government, not a rigid top down hierarchy, nor a chaotic temporary association of States.

Thus it is congress that has this powers:

"To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers"....[ibid]

Necessary for the Security of a Free State

Then of course we have the 2nd Amendment:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." [2nd Amendment]

This is a vision for collaboration. States are to be part of this, but Congress has the "General Role". Like an army with many colonels or divisions guided by a General Staff and a General. The President and Congress were intended to provide a general role for the military.

The Second Amendment is much more than a license to carry weapons for rednecks and insurrectionists. It is part of a vision of a collaborative government that would be able to "preserve the peace" and involve everyone.

But what constitutes the attributes and requirements for the "security of a free state" and why would a well regulated militia be one of them?

Collaboration with the States

To answer that question you have to go to the Federalist Papers to see what Hamilton said on the subject. Because Hamilton has a very clear vision of how the Federal Government should work and why it should work that way.

But first, there are some parts of the constitution that get passed over. One of the purposes of the Militia was:

"The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence."

Hamilton was very clear that the reason we needed a "Well Regulated Militia" was to reduce the need for a standing army at the Federal level, but also to reduce the need for standing armies at the State level. Thus the militia was to be organized by the States and available to them when needed, but that organization was to be centered on the "magistry" of the United States. Not just to avoid tyranny from the Federal Government, but to avoid State tyranny, and even scarier states having standing armies and using them against one another. In [Federalist 22] Hamilton warns against the dangers of the establishment of State Armies:

"The interfering and unneighborly regulations of some States, contrary to the true spirit of the Union, have, in different instances, given just cause of umbrage and complaint to others, and it is to be feared that examples of this nature, if not restrained by a national control, would be multiplied and extended till they became not less serious sources of animosity and discord than injurious impediments to the intercourse between the different parts of the Confederacy." [Federalist 22]

Hamilton's vision of Military Service

Hamilton's vision of the Military Service is in Federalist 29 In it he refers to the essence of the concept of the militia:

"The project of disciplining all the militia of the United States is as futile as it would be injurious, if it were capable of being carried into execution. A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, or even a week, that will suffice for the attainment of it. To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss. It would form an annual deduction from the productive labor of the country, to an amount which, calculating upon the present numbers of the people, would not fall far short of the whole expense of the civil establishments of all the States." [Federalist 29]

Universal Service and "Militia of the Whole"

In this passage Hamilton is referring obliquely to the concept of the "militia of the whole", which is the notion that the "militia" is an expression of the body politic, all the able bodied men (and in modern thought, women) of the country. And the cost of maintaining a mobilization of the entire "militia of the whole" would be ruinous:

"To attempt a thing which would abridge the mass of labor and industry to so considerable an extent, would be unwise: and the experiment, if made, could not succeed, because it would not long be endured. Little more can reasonably be aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped; and in order to see that this be not neglected, it will be necessary to assemble them once or twice in the course of a year." Federalist 29

Hamilton is endorsing the notion of voluntary Universal Service. 2A not a prescription for folks being armed for the heck of it, but in this context of Universal Service. And that service involves the importance of disciplining (at least training folks to handle weapons safely and not shoot themselves in the foot. And what he describes next is the basis for the notion of a National Guard and a Universal National Service:

"But though the scheme of disciplining the whole nation must be abandoned as mischievous or impracticable; yet it is a matter of the utmost importance that a well-digested plan should, as soon as possible, be adopted for the proper establishment of the militia." Federalist 29

What is needed is a core cadre of well trained persons. Well trained volunteers and officers can both defend the country and prevent the need to have a giant standing army.

"The attention of the government ought particularly to be directed to the formation of a select corps of moderate extent, upon such principles as will really fit them for service in case of need. By thus circumscribing the plan, it will be possible to have an excellent body of well-trained militia, ready to take the field whenever the defense of the State shall require it. This will not only lessen the call for military establishments, but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens." Federalist 29

Hamilton advocates that we need Universal Service, with volunteers trained to be ready for any necessity. He knew that Universal Service is an antidote to Standing armies.

"This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.''" Federalist 29

Regulating Arms

The Founders, especially Hamilton, did not endorse a loose confederation. Hamilton saw real danger in too much power exercised by the States, and importance of Union:

"the importance of Union to your political safety and happiness. I have unfolded to you a complication of dangers to which you would be exposed, should you permit that sacred knot which binds the people of America together be severed or dissolved by ambition or by avarice, by jealousy or by misrepresentation." [Fed 15]

He wasn't calling for a Federal Government that couldn't enforce it's own laws:

"Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation."

And he clearly saw the reality that there is no choice between coercion and some kind utopian anarchy but also that the commonwealth has to have the ability to apply coercion.

"This penalty, whatever it may be, can only be inflicted in two ways: by the agency of the courts and ministers of justice, or by military force; by the COERCION of the magistracy, or by the COERCION of arms. The first kind can evidently apply only to men; the last kind must of necessity, be employed against bodies politic, or communities, or States. It is evident that there is no process of a court by which the observance of the laws can, in the last resort, be enforced. Sentences may be denounced against them for violations of their duty; but these sentences can only be carried into execution by the sword. In an association where the general authority is confined to the collective bodies of the communities, that compose it, every breach of the laws must involve a state of war; and military execution must become the only instrument of civil obedience. Such a state of things can certainly not deserve the name of government, nor would any prudent man choose to commit his happiness to it." [Fed 15]

Exceptional Principle

In a series of articles Hamilton reviews history of Federations from Greek times to his present moment with mention of the Netherlands and Poland -- which were both suffering disarray at the time he was writing. He summarizes his central point in Federalist 15:

"THE tendency of the principle of legislation for States, or communities, in their political capacities, as it has been exemplified by the experiment we have made of it, is equally attested by the events which have befallen all other governments of the confederate kind, of which we have any account, in exact proportion to its prevalence in those systems. The confirmations of this fact will be worthy of a distinct and particular examination. I shall content myself with barely observing here, that of all the confederacies of antiquity, which history has handed down to us, the Lycian and Achaean leagues, as far as there remain vestiges of them, appear to have been most free from the fetters of that mistaken principle, and were accordingly those which have best deserved, and have most liberally received, the applauding suffrages of political writers. [Fed 15]

Federations that depended on sovereign subdivisions or unanimity of consent eventually fell apart and dissolved into war as Federations formed by "uniting in a common interest a number of lesser sovereignties, there will be found a kind of eccentric tendency in the subordinate or inferior orbs, by the operation of which there will be a perpetual effort in each to fly off from the common centre."

This was his "exceptional principle":

"This exceptionable principle may, as truly as emphatically, be styled the parent of anarchy: It has been seen that delinquencies in the members of the Union are its natural and necessary offspring; and that whenever they happen, the only constitutional remedy is force, and the immediate effect of the use of it, civil war." [Fed 15]

Dangers of Standing Armies and of No Standing Armies

In Federalist 20 Hamilton warns []:

"I make no apology for having dwelt so long on the contemplation of these federal precedents. Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred. The important truth, which it unequivocally pronounces in the present case, is that a sovereignty over sovereigns, a government over governments, a legislation for communities, as contradistinguished from individuals, as it is a solecism in theory, so in practice it is subversive of the order and ends of civil polity, by substituting VIOLENCE in place of LAW, or the destructive COERCION of the SWORD in place of the mild and salutary COERCION of the MAGISTRACY"

Hamilton pretty much dismisses the notion that the States could possibly be sovereign and independent without the country dissolving into permanent civil war.

"Independent of all other reasonings upon the subject, it is a full answer to those who require a more peremptory provision against military establishments in time of peace, to say that the whole power of the proposed government is to be in the hands of the representatives of the people. This is the essential, and, after all, only efficacious security for the rights and privileges of the people, which is attainable in civil society."

Tyranny depends on Standing Army

Tyranny either at State or Federal level depends on the creation of standing armies. He warns that there is no viable alternative to the monopoly of force at the Federal Level because if the Federal Government doesn't have that power sectional factions or powerful states will step into the vacuum:

"It remains to inquire how far so odious an engine of government, in its application to us, would even be capable of answering its end. If there should not be a large army constantly at the disposal of the national government it would either not be able to employ force at all, or, when this could be done, it would amount to a war between parts of the Confederacy concerning the infractions of a league, in which the strongest combination would be most likely to prevail, whether it consisted of those who supported or of those who resisted the general authority. It would rarely happen that the delinquency to be redressed would be confined to a single member, and if there were more than one who had neglected their duty, similarity of situation would induce them to unite for common defense. Independent of this motive of sympathy, if a large and influential State should happen to be the aggressing member, it would commonly have weight enough with its neighbors to win over some of them as associates to its cause. Specious arguments of danger to the common liberty could easily be contrived; plausible excuses for the deficiencies of the party could, without difficulty, be invented to alarm the apprehensions, inflame the passions, and conciliate the good-will, even of those States which were not chargeable with any violation or omission of duty."

Sectionalism and Tyranny

Sectionalism proceeds from the ambitions and greeds of the leaders of any society. And the alternative to Union and commonwealth is the unleashing of the ambitions of such perverse and vicious persons:

"This would be the more likely to take place, as the delinquencies of the larger members might be expected sometimes to proceed from an ambitious premeditation in their rulers, with a view to getting rid of all external control upon their designs of personal aggrandizement; the better to effect which it is presumable they would tamper beforehand with leading individuals in the adjacent States. If associates could not be found at home, recourse would be had to the aid of foreign powers, who would seldom be disinclined to encouraging the dissensions of a Confederacy, from the firm union of which they had so much to fear. When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation. The suggestions of wounded pride, the instigations of irritated resentment, would be apt to carry the States against which the arms of the Union were exerted, to any extremes necessary to avenge the affront or to avoid the disgrace of submission. The first war of this kind would probably terminate in a dissolution of the Union."

So while there is risk at both Federal and State level from standing armies. The only real alternative to them is the "Citizen Soldier" and a collaborative system of Volunteer Army. This concept can mitigate the risk:

"If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers, may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual state. In a single state, if the persons [e]ntrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair. The usurpers, clothed with the forms of legal authority, can too often crush the opposition in embryo. The smaller the extent of the territory, the more difficult will it be for the people to form a regular or systematic plan of opposition, and the more easy will it be to defeat their early efforts. Intelligence can be more speedily obtained of their preparations and movements, and the military force in the possession of the usurpers can be more rapidly directed against the part where the opposition has begun. In this situation there must be a peculiar coincidence of circumstances to insure success to the popular resistance."

And without the checks and balances of a Union those "Force of Arms" solutions become something no individual or disorganized citizenry can resist. The country becomes vulnerable to usurpation and real tyranny. It can happen, People like Mussolini were able to use militia and collaboration from authorities to impose tyranny. Hamilton understood a disorganized and poorly trained militia would be helpless.

"The obstacles to usurpation and the facilities of resistance increase with the increased extent of the state, provided the citizens understand their rights and are disposed to defend them. The natural strength of the people in a large community, in proportion to the artificial strength of the government, is greater than in a small, and of course more competent to a struggle with the attempts of the government to establish a tyranny. But in a confederacy the people, without exaggeration, may be said to be entirely the masters of their own fate. Power being almost always the rival of power, the general government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state governments, and these will have the same disposition towards the general government. The people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other as the instrument of redress. How wise will it be in them by cherishing the union to preserve to themselves an advantage which can never be too highly prized!"

That is enough for now.

Monday, December 22, 2014

How to Rebuild our infrastructure

This post summarizes earlier work and lays out a concept for how to rebuild and sustain our infrastructure better.

"We must repair our infrastructure. This is a critical capability that has to be fixed. According to the Society of Engineers We must spend 3.6 Trillion dollars by 2020 to fix our infrastructure to the point where it is minimally serviceable. [see details] This is a security issue more important than Al Qaeda or ISIS as they have nothing to attack if we let our bridges collapse from neglect. And it is a jobs program both in the direct sense that it requires labor to fund, design, build and sustain; and in the direct sense that infrastructure is what enables a civilization and the communication that makes it possible to thrive. The Cons will tell you that their programs are jobs programs but as we've seen most of them represent Jobs in China.
Summary of Demands:
Demand 1: Must invest minimum of 50 billion per year and 250 billion total for infrastructure over next 5 years.
Demand 1a: Should create an Infrastructure Finance Authority to Fund and regulate Infrastructure projects
Demand 1b: Should make Membership in that Finance Authority a State & Local Role to ensure that spending reflects community needs.
Demand 1c: Should create an Infrastructure Trust fund to manage SuperFund monies and other Federal investments in strategic cooperation with EPA and State Branch authorities.

Infrastructure Investment a Critical Need

Repairs Needed
  1. Dams: 21 billion Total needed, 4.2 billion per year over 5 years needed.
  2. Water Infrastructure Safety requires a minimum of 1.25 billion per year total of 7.5 billion $ over 5 years.
  3. "At the dawn of the 21st century, much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States. Assuming every pipe would need to be replaced (or at the minimum relined), the cost over the coming decades could reach more than $1 trillion, according to the American Water Works Association (AWWA)."

  4. Environmental Projects Superfund needs a 500 Million Dollar Refresh to meet needs.
  5. Report also talks about roads, rails, and bridges needing repairs. The infrastructure Authority contributes to that.

Infrastructure Finance Authority Critical to Sustainability

We need to make all existing Infrastructure Authorities and states automatic members of the Infrastructure Finance Authority unless they opt out. It costs more to fix a broken system than to sustain it and without both support and oversight from the Federal Government local authorities are liable to engage in poor long term strategy for spending on infrastructure projects. The role of the Federal Government in infrastructure is rightly a General one; advising, guiding, regulating, overseeing and imposing standards. But the role of localities is equally important and the requirements for a functional system require that localities have maximum local authority and accountability; and a say in overall budgeting and allocation through the representation process.

Any infrastructure Authority should have representation for requirements & budgeting in the form of a "legislative advisory body" organized in a bottom up manner to ensure that funding decisions are both representative (through bottom up representation) and strategic, through being vetted up a selection hierarchy and then reviewed by Congress and executive officials before being allocated to branches. Such a body can help keep the body less bureaucratic and also more representative.

Infrastructure Trust Fund

An infrastructure Trust fund is necessary to replace and extend the role currently played by specialized funds such as the Superfund that is being used to clean-up poisonous environments so people and our food supply don't get sick. The advantage of doing this in a Finance Authority associated with the Treasury is that it can be allowed to issue notes and pay bills based on future revenues. And because an Infrastructure Trust fund can be dedicated to projects within a large scale framework that are already needed. Short term appropriations are 2 years usually, but a Trust fund can hold funds authorized in advance for years of sustained efforts. And Such an authority can be made semi-self funding if it is chartered the right way and has the proper Republican features (legislative, access to ordinary courts, and separation of powers).

This is for those who want more details

Sourcees and details:
Engineers Report:
Report Card:
It also builds on some Articles that lay out the challenges:
Bernie Sanders 12 Points:
William Donhoff "Who Rules America:
Common Dreams, The real Reason Cons Win:

Friday, December 19, 2014

Disciples and Rebels

One of the things I learned from 30 years with the Gakkai/NSA was an important lesson: That lesson is that to be true to a teacher one must be true to the truth of what that teacher is teaching.

Loyalty to Law or Dharma

Personal loyalty is part of the path of a disciple but it is separate from loyalty to "dharma" or Law/truth/reality. Buddhist teachings (and western literature) are full of stories of the "loyal rebel" -- a person who has to rebel against a beloved Father (King Lear) or King (King Richard the Lionhearted in Robin Hood Legend for example) in order to be true to the principles that back the person's honor or integrity.

None of us gets it perfect

It's a theme of tragedy and farce that teachers, sages, religious founders are still human beings and are fallible. My favorite teacher, a Japanese Buddhist named Nichiren spent a lot of time criticizing people who, it turns out, had been the sources of much of what he was teaching himself. He emphasized "follow the dharma, not persons" and he himself had squabbling disciples who have squabbled ever since because they don't know how to make a distinction between loyalty to principle and loyalty to person. And so when they realize a person is gray, not perfect, they tend to desert his side and attack him. The history of religion and politics is a history of folks who were once intensely loyal like guard dogs, turning on their masters like attack dogs who never knew them.

Revolution becomes evil when it rebels too much

That is not the way. Even Martin Luther in the end, still considered himself a (reform) Catholic. He turned on his own disciples when they started burning Churches and becoming extremists. He turned loose "his" nobles on a purge of them. Lutherism was still Trinitarian Christianity, even though it defined it's initial orthodoxy from the work of Martin Luther. Paul famous confrontation with his own Rabbi, led to that Rabbi not being part of the later Jewish work of the Pirkei Avot, they mention Gamliel II but not the original. But even there Paul in his deliberate provocation of bringing Timothy to the Temple and letting the people assume he was uncircumcised (a capital crime according to the Torah) his last meeting with his Rabbi ended with the Rabbi letting him go alive. He had broken with his own faith in order to pursue a new one. He would imprint his own spin on the new Church and in the end that would supplant and override the message of his new Master's own disciples. He was like Esau, his hand raised against both fellow Christians (in his mission to the non-Jewish Nations he was in conflict with Jews) and his fellow Jews. Some of that may reflect later conflicts written into the narrative but he felt he was being true to the Law and that gave him license to betray his own masters.

Come to think of it, I apologize because I am criticizing these people. I feel they rebelled too much. Their critiques transgressed the boundaries of loving criticism to rejection of alternative paths. For both Paul and Luther it was "my way or the highway." Despite evidence that neither was exactly a perfect saint (Saul had been a ruthless killer), they claimed to speak for the ineffable one while claiming to be disciples of people whose views weren't exactly as theirs. That is the danger of rebellion. Rebels aren't perfect either. Sometimes I think the ineffable is speaking through me. I don't agree 100% with all my teachers either. But I don't borrow their authority and seek fame and power either. I think that becomes the real issue. Even people who seek fame and power often have something important and true to say. It's just power corrupts that message and every religious teacher who sought authority over others has been corrupted by that power. Except in myth of course.

An Alternative path of Loving Thinking Reading

I'm not a thorough expert in either Martin Luther or Paul/Saul. My concept of what happened could change in a moment with revised facts. Rather I'm suggesting that all teachers, and rebels, bet taken in their own context with a supreme awareness that they are human beings first. Then one realizes that one doesn't want to turn the wheel too far until people are out of the way of it's path. A turning wheel can run over a foot, or even people. A wheel turns too much and it comes back to where it started. We want improvement not destruction and revolution because when we reject a master or a teacher we tend to throw out the water with the baby and kill the "baby" of wisdom that they might be passing on. We can learn from bad teachers what not to do ourselves. But they typically teach much worth listening to. Moreover, every teaching can be understood on a variety of levels. Taking them as offered (Peshat/Literalism). Taking their lessons as the lessons teach (Reshit (allegory/figurative meaning). Finding deeper meanings through struggling with them and then using that meaning to guide others (Drash/Sermons). And then we have our own insights based on that struggle (Sot or moments of enlightenment/inspiration). Religion inspires us, and even teachers whose teachings we might not fully agree with later deserve respect and loving analysis. Throwing ink pots at the Devil may not be the most productive way to excise demons from this world, but such writings can motivate revolutions in thinking and positive unintended consequences. Without the Protestant Reformation Europe would have remained moribund and if it broke out of the dark ages, might have been an even more nasty colonial power than it was as multiple contending states. The religious conflicts between Orthodox and Catholic, protestant and catholic gave ordinary people little cracks they could take refuge in from the tyranny and oppression of authoritarianism and paternalism. The enlightenment was as much a product of the exhaustion of 16th century wars of religion as of the Renaissance. If one king hated a thinker he often would take refuge in the Kings Rival in another country. That is what Kept Luther alive. And it also kept Luther's enemies alive.

Rebels and Critics

I also spent the last 12 years involved in Judaism. I learned that Judaism and Jews are not as portrayed in the Bible or Christian literature. And that has prepared me to look at other religions and see the echoes of long ago personal fights in exaggerated consequences. Paul rejected Gamliel and his teachings were the germ for non-Jews to reject Judaism and Jewish Christians, which meant that eventually Jews were forced to reject Gamliel and Paul. They never really rejected Jesus. He just wasn't the promised Savior as portrayed in the literature. When Christians talk of a Second Coming they are referring to the same prophesies. Jews do reject the notion of Jesus as God. One of my teachers tells me that the notion of people being filled with the "wind" or "spirit" of the divine is one thing. Jesus being God, contradicts 90% of the Torah and Haftorah ("Old Testament"). Indeed the myths around Jesus are identical to those around the Baal worship depicted in Kings and Chronicles. Modern Christians worship the Bull of the Market. Unconsciously they are practicing the religion of Canaan. For Some, Jesus is an intermediary and image of the supreme Being, but then for ancient Israelis, so was Ba'al (and the Asherah). Maybe the conversation needed to be had, but the ultimate answers were bigger than any of the partisans. Pagan Judaism lives as Christianity. Hence Jews refer to Christians as "Esau" (which also means "Red". I still talk to Jesus, (and G-d, my late wife and the walls) but I don't see him as God. Just a semi mythical guy who said some really cool and true things.

Coming at it from Light and Honesty

But it's all Good when we come at it with light and honesty. The Prophets might have been criticizing paganism, but it was from a devotional community who wanted people to accept the Ecstatic God that all mystics "feel" when they feel the unity of all things. And it was from the POV of a community constantly distressed by a majority that was pagan. That is enough for now. The point is that one can and should admire all teachers, while being ready to argue with them and struggle with what they had to say. When confronted with paradoxes and contradictions; "Maybe both are true and once I understand it I'll understand how it can be true and that the real problem before was my faulty understanding." That leads different views. In the end the issue is that usually they are talking about different things. Some truths are provisional and contextual. Others are figurative. Some are about human laws or promises we need to keep for our own sakes and others. And some truths are about this material world and are like clay that can be used either to build a house with or a prison. It makes no difference to the clay. It does to us.

And finally, at the core of all spiritual quest is that faith in the ultimate existence of some kind of ultimate "being" and truth is not incompatible with the profound humility of the four words: "I could be wrong."


Christopher H. Holte

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wall Street's Long Con swindle of America

I saw the reports of the changes in the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, before today. They were overshadowed by the swindle of Wall Street (Citibank lobbyists) putting in language making Tax Payers responsible for Bank bets. But they are part of the same long swindle that has been going on for more than 30 years. Back in 2009 I wrote about the PBGC in a Blog entry titled "Boomers and Our Grandparents". In that long ago blog entry I recounted the history of bucket shops:

"In the late 19th century and early 20th century ordinary people were encouraged to invest in the Stock Market through “Bucket shops” scattered all over the country. People also invested indirectly by depositing their money in banks, and the banks would invest in stocks or where-ever they thought they could maximize risk. There was no thought about risk. Some of this was through Bucket Shops. The way a bucket shop worked is that a local salesman would sell a derived security that allowed a number of investors to pool together to buy a security on wall street. This allowed ordinary people to play the stock market, and was sold as a way to protect their investments. Unfortunately the same stock could be sold 10 times and the profit pocketed by rich and well connected con men 9 times before anyone caught on. Some bucket shops actually bought stocks, but many of them turned into simply cons. And eventually even “legitimate” bucket shops would get caught short when the stock market did something expected and didn’t perform as expected. As a result of tens of thousands of people being scammed bucket shops were outlawed." [boomers and our grandparents]

These Bucket shops were a long con run by the giant banks with help from con artists around the country. Now we have another long con involving banksters who are happily transferring wealth from ordinary citizens to themselves.

"Even after the bucket shops were exposed, ordinary people were still encouraged to invest in the stock market. Worse, most people put their money in banks, and many of those banks over-leveraged (borrowed more than they had assets to cover) or invested in the Stock market. Eventually the stock market crashed, the banks closed. And ordinary folks realized that this whole idea was stupid, they’d been had. Meanwhile unemployment levels went to 30% while the rich, many of whom had created the casino in the first place, continued to live a life of inconsiderate luxury."

I was hoping that Obama was going to champion law and order and prosecute the latest round of swindles. I didn't expect that Wall Street would continue it's long term plans and just lie low until his last years. But that seems to be what they are doing. In the 20's Wall Street hoodwinked ordinary people directly. They had to have hucksters out there actually selling their worthless securities. Congress eventually passed Glass Steagle and other laws to ban these practices because they were fraudulent and risky. Wall Street was offloading risk so that they would have loaded coins. Like Batman's frenemy Two-face. It's Heads they win, Tails you lose. And I warned of what was happening with the PBGC in 2009:

"What most people didn’t understand is that getting people to invest in a casino is only good for the casino owners. As a result most of us now have inadequate 401K’s and Keogh’s and no pension plan. Those of us with pensions have them in the able hands of the PBGC, which usually has to cut benefits to keep them solvent. And we are facing a demographic disaster. And what are people doing? Blaming themselves. Well to a certain extent we deserve some blame. We are the ones who didn’t pay attention in history class." [boomers and our grandparents]

I was referring to a Washington Post article written by David Ignatious named The Baby Boomers' Retirement Bummer where David Ignatious was warning about what was about to happen:

"People have accused the baby boomers of being whiners almost since we were born. But just wait until we get to retirement age and discover that we don't have nearly enough money to take care of our "golden years." That's going to be the ultimate generational bummer." [The Baby Boomers' Retirement Bummer]

In 2009 PBGC was cutting future benefits. I thought that was wrong then. Wall Street and comfortable folks were fine with it because it wasn't their work being stolen and their future being swindled by the CEOs and investor class. It was the workers fault that the companies they work for won't pay them the worth of their labor. It's the retirees fault that companies chose to recklessly convert pensions to the pockets of insiders and CEOs -- according to Wall Street and savvy "pundits" who serve them. That was bad enough. What is different now is that they are cutting present benefits also thanks to the influence and clout of Wall Street money which the corrupt SCOTUS legalized in Citizens United. Either those benefits get cut, or Wall Street has to be forced to pay for it's privilege and power. In our current corrupt times which do you think will prevail? Well as Ignatious noted back in 2009 and it's only gotten worse since then:

"Let's start with the basic fact that only about half of Americans have any employer-sponsored retirement plan at all. The other folks will have to depend on Social Security. For a typical boomer worker, that would mean a monthly benefit of about $2,400 at a retirement age of 66 in 2020. On that, you won't be able to afford many Starbucks lattes."

So at least our corrupt congress is an equal opportunity economic stiffer. They are only stiffing about 1.5 million people. The rest of us have already been stiffed through direct theft from 401K and IRA accounts and simply not getting paid enough to have a surplus we can save. David predicted what is happening in 2009, when he noted:

"What's going to happen? Certainly, people will try to save more. But my guess, knowing my generational cohort, is that we'll want a government bailout to supplement our too-meager retirement savings. Unfortunately, the Treasury won't have enough money to fund our Medicare benefits, let alone a top-up in Social Security." []

All Part of a Long Con

I suspect what our elites have done is that they saw these provisions, publicly pay lip service to protecting the retirement of baby boomers, while privately agreeing with the investor class that it's our own fault and Wall Street gets a pass.

But the problem is that Treasury has plenty of money through the Federal Reserve to bail out Wall Street thefts, such as the Derivative fraud, but is owned by Wall Street and so has a double standard.

Wall Street crooks are running a long con. They snuck this provision in the same bill to protect themselves from bad bets that could quickly dwarf the entire amount of Baby Boom pensions. Our 1% was born with silver spoons in their mouths but will be darned if they will even let the rest of us folks keep the pewter ones the rest of us are stuck with.

"if there's another economic downturn, they can count on a taxpayer bailout of their derivatives trading business." []

It's a long con folks. The fix is in, and we can only fight it -- by Fighting it

Further reading:

History of the Bailout Swindle of 2008 from Rolling Stone:
Mother Jones Article:
Crooks and Liars