Remembering D-Day and the Fight for/against Democracy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 6th, 2011

D-Day

It happened 67 years ago today.  The beginning of the end of Nazi GermanyJoseph Stalin finally got his second front.   After a couple of years of hell on earth.  The Eastern Front.  Where the war was the cruelest and most savage.  Killing people by the millions.  The Soviet Union fought and sacrificed to throw the Nazi invader out of their homeland.  A horrific price indeed for their nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany that gave Adolf Hitler the green light to launch World War II.

After years of total war most European countries lay in ruins or were conquered.  Yet they still had armies in the fight.  But by 1944, the Americans would take over and lead the fight.  Untouched by war (other than Pearl Harbor), the world’s largest economy was intact.  Took over war production for the Allies.  And American men volunteered to fight.  Including Hollywood greats like Jimmy Stewart who piloted B-24s.  The most dangerous place to be in World War II.  Before the P-51 Mustang entered service with her drop tanks to provide fighter protection all the way to and from their targets.

The second front opened with the greatest amphibious assault of all time.  The Canadians were making their second assault against Fortress Europe.  Their first, at Dieppe some two years earlier, ended badly.  Most were killed or captured.  But the Germans were tested.  And the knowledge put to use in 1944.  They and the Americans assaulted those beaches not to repel Nazi aggression from their soil.  But to help other nations to throw out the Nazi aggressors from their soil.  They didn’t fight to conquer.  They fought to liberate.  A rather new concept.  Even our then ally the Soviet Union didn’t quite do this.  They did liberate Eastern Europe from Nazi aggression, but they paid themselves handsomely for their efforts.  By taking Eastern Europe as spoils.  Exchanging the Nazi oppressor for a Soviet oppressor.

A lot of men died on this day in 1944.  And many more would die in the following year.  Their deaths helped keep liberty alive for millions.  Let’s not forget them today.  Let’s remember their selfless acts of courage.  For we live free today because they gave their lives for an ideal.  General Matthew Ridgeway, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, reflected on the promise God made to Joshua on the eve of battle.  “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”  The planners projected that 9 out of 10 paratroopers would die in battle on D-Day.  Thankfully, their losses were not that bad.  God did not fail them.  Nor forsake them.  And nor should we.

Recession?  What recession?

Of course, not everyone serves for an ideal.  A lot do it for the money.  As is evidenced during the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Because while the rest of the country suffers, the communities in and around Washington are doing just fine.  Home to 5 of the top ten richest counties in America (see Meet America’s Richest Counties by Nathan Vardi, Forbes.com, posted 5/13/2011 on Yahoo! Real Estate).

It’s No. 1, but it isn’t alone. In fact, four of the top ten richest counties in the nation are concentrated in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, and a fifth, Howard County, Md., is equidistant between Washington and Baltimore.

In recent decades northern Virginia has become an economic dynamo, driven by a private sector that feasts on government contracting. These counties are also home to corporate lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who work in or around the nation’s capital, soaking up federal government spending. And government-related hiring manages to keep the unemployment rate in places like Falls Church City down to 5.7%.

Recession?  What recession?

So while home values continue to fall throughout America and the national unemployment rate hovers at or above 9%, U.S. tax money is still flowing out from Washington as if there is no recession.  Government contracts.  Corporate lobbyists.  Lawyers and Consultants.  Feeding on all of that government spending.  This is not the ideal that men stormed beaches and jumped out of airplanes for in 1944.  To make people rich off of taxpayers struggling through difficult times.  God may not have failed these men.  But perhaps we did.

Inadequate Demand causes Unemployment, not Cheaper Workers in China and India

It would appear that Washington is more interested in the money than the people they represent.  And they’ve grown tired of the people they represent.  That uneducated rabble.  They don’t know how to vote (based on the 2010 midterm elections).  And they don’t understand monetary policy.  There are some who are tiring of this charade we call democracy.  Because what good is a democracy if the people are too stupid to know what’s best for them? 

And it’s just not the voters.  It’s those in Congress with an ‘R’ next to their name, too.  An Obama Fed nominee was shot down by the Republican opposition.  And he wrote an Op-Ed piece about it.  In it you can feel his exasperation of those less smart that he (see When a Nobel Prize Isn’t Enough by Peter A. Diamond posted on 6/5/2011 on The New York Times).

But understanding the labor market — and the process by which workers and jobs come together and separate — is critical to devising an effective monetary policy. The financial crisis has led to continuing high unemployment. The Fed has to properly assess the nature of that unemployment to be able to lower it as much as possible while avoiding inflation. If much of the unemployment is related to the business cycle — caused by a lack of adequate demand — the Fed can act to reduce it without touching off inflation. If instead the unemployment is primarily structural — caused by mismatches between the skills that companies need and the skills that workers have — aggressive Fed action to reduce it could be misguided.

In my Nobel acceptance speech in December, I discussed in detail the patterns of hiring in the American economy, and concluded that structural unemployment and issues of mismatch were not important in the slow recovery we have been experiencing, and thus not a reason to stop an accommodative monetary policy — a policy of keeping short-term interest rates exceptionally low and buying Treasury securities to keep long-term rates down. Analysis of the labor market is in fact central to monetary policy.

Well pahdon me while I play the grahnd piahno.  Nobel acceptance speech.  You can see why Obama nominated him.  He’s a good Keynesian economist that will toe the Obama line.  And encourage government growth.

These Keynesian policy wonks can’t see the forest for the trees, though.  Their answer to every recession is more government spending to correct for the lack of adequate demand.  Despite the fact that it was excessive government spending that gave us the mess we’re in.  Easy money from the Fed.  Which created the subprime mortgage crisis.  Well that and bad policy putting people into homes they couldn’t afford.  There’s the root cause for this never ending recession.  It wasn’t inadequate demand.  Or a mismatch between jobs and worker skills.  It was bad policy.  Fiscal, monetary, regulatory, etc.  This is what sends jobs to China and India.  Not inadequate demand.

Quantitative easing (QE) has not helped.  Unless you were a Wall Street investor borrowing money for free to invest.  They did okay during QE.  But it didn’t help anyone else.  In fact, it hurt everyone else.  Because there is inflation now.  It’s what pushed gas over $4/gallon again.  And made food prices go up.  Inflation courtesy of that QE.

But we should all worry about how distorted the confirmation process has become, and how little understanding of monetary policy there is among some of those responsible for its Congressional oversight. We need to preserve the independence of the Fed from efforts to politicize monetary policy and to limit the Fed’s ability to regulate financial firms…

Analytical expertise is needed to accomplish this, to make government more effective and efficient. Skilled analytical thinking should not be drowned out by mistaken, ideologically driven views that more is always better or less is always better. I had hoped to bring some of my own expertise and experience to the Fed. Now I hope someone else can.

The problem is that there are apparently too many dumb people.  And too much democracy.  Monetary policy and financial regulation should be in the hands of unelected experts chosen by people from the ‘correct’ political party.  Because these people know what’s best for us.  And the economy.

The NLRB goes after Boeing, helping Competitor Airbus

Or do they?

Boeing employs over 160,000 people.  To build all those planes.  Which is the leading export of the United States.  They’re not doing as well as they once did with Airbus on the scene.  Because Airbus doesn’t play fair.  They get government subsidies.  While Airbus claims Boeing does, too.  Planes are expensive to make.  And with Airbus taking such a large chunk of the market from Boeing, one would believe that the reason for this has to be cost.  And if Airbus planes are cheaper it’s probably because their governments subsidize them.

But that’s neither here nor there.  The point is that Boeing is a huge part of the U.S. economy.  It’s an economic juggernaut.  And you’d think government would do everything to help them to keep those 160,000 people employed.  And to keep exporting all of those airplanes.  So what does the Obama administration do?  They’re taking action against Boeing to make them less competitive.  They’re trying to prevent them from using a new factory in North Charleston, South Carolina.  Where they will use non-union labor (see Spat over Boeing plant sparks political firestorm by Allison Linn posted 6/6/2011 on msnbc).

The new factory is set to open in July. But in April the NLRB, a government agency charged with safeguarding union rights, filed a complaint accusing Boeing of violating labor law in its motive for locating the work in South Carolina.

The NLRB isn’t asking Boeing to close the new facility, but it does want the company to make a temporary production line in Washington state permanent.

Yes, Boeing is trying to be more productive.  They’re tired of fighting subsidized Airbus AND the high cost of union labor AND the costs of labor strikes.  Because they’re losing too many sales to Airbus.  Seems like a reasonable thing for Boeing to do.  But the National Labor Relations Board disagrees.  Because union dues support Democrat candidates.  And Barack Obama.  And even though “skilled analytical thinking should not be drowned out by mistaken, ideologically driven views,” it is.  For ideology always trumps analytical thinking when it favors Democrats.

“U.S. tax and regulatory policies already make it more attractive for many companies to build new manufacturing capacity overseas. That’s something the administration has said it wants to change and is taking steps to address. It appears that message hasn’t made it to the front offices of the NLRB,” McNerney wrote.

Boeing spokesman Tim Neale said the editorial should not be read as a threat that Boeing, the nation’s largest exporter and a major domestic employer, will mo[v]e operations overseas.

Moving manufacturing oversees results in higher unemployment.  So higher unemployment can result from U.S. tax and regulatory policies.  Because it moves manufacturing overseas.  Interesting.  Because there are some who believe unemployment is caused by inadequate demand.  Or a mismatch between jobs and worker skills.  And they would never entertain the thought that government policy caused this unemployment.  Because that’s just silly.  For government is full of experts using skilled analytical thinking.  Who know that in the ideal world they would be proven right.  And the only reason their policies fail is because the world isn’t ideal.  Yet.

Again, not quite the ideal that men stormed beaches and jumped out of airplanes for in 1944.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #16: “The military part of the military has been a success story. The Big Government part of the military has not.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 1st, 2010

IN THE TUG of war between Big Government and limited government, the proponents of Big Government like to point to the military as a Big Government success story.  Now, the U.S. military has been a success story.  But not because of Big Government.  Unless you want to call paying $200 for a toilet seat a Big Government success story.

People are not perfect.  Anything man does, then, will be imperfect.  The same is true of the military.  Those doing the fighting are by necessity doing the absolute best thing to guarantee victory.  They die otherwise.  Those furthest away from combat tend to look more towards personal self-interest.  And, typically, the Big Government bureaucrats tend to be the furthest away from combat.  They’re never in any personal danger.  If they aren’t doing a stellar job, other people suffer and die.  They don’t.

The military is big business.  Which means big money.  Which means big graft.  And big kickbacks.  Military contracts are replete with pork.  It’s not necessarily the military contractors at fault, though.  When there is only one customer for your goods and services, you have to play by their rules.  Politicians have enormous power when awarding contracts.  And if you think pure merit is going to land you a contract on its own, think again. 

There’s a reason we’re paying $200 a toilet seat.  How else is a contractor going to get the money to pay all those bribes demanded by Washington bureaucrats?  High-end call girls don’t come cheap, especially if you want them to do the ‘weird stuff’ (to quote a little Dr. Bob Kelso from the television show Scrubs).  Private yachts.  Golf resorts.  Vacation junkets.  Campaign contributions.  These things are expensive.  And if they are the price of admission, how are you NOT going to pay to play?

SITUATION NORMAL, ALL F*cked Up.  That’s a SNAFU.  It implies a sense of hope.  FUBAR doesn’t.  F*cked Up Beyond All Repair (or Recognition).  That’s when things pass irreparably past SNAFU.  And usually when they do, it’s not the fault of the grunt with a rifle in his hands in the middle of the SNAFU.

These ‘military’ terms represent various degrees of incompetence of the generals/civilians above them that results with placing combat forces in very difficult situations.  Or simply what happens in the ‘fog of war’.  D-Day was a carefully planned assault on Hitler’s Atlantic Wall.  The generals and the politicians made their plans.  And when General Eisenhower gave the ‘go’ order, everything rested on the shoulders of the teenagers and young men far down the chain of command who would do the actual fighting.

Air power would soften up the defenses and isolate the coast from the interior, hindering the movement of German reinforcements.  Paratroopers and glider troops were to land behind enemy lines and take/hold key bridges and knock out specific gun emplacements.  A naval bombardment would further soften up the beach defenses.  Then the troops and tanks would hit the beaches.  They would open up beach exits to allow following troops and armor to pass through and break out of the beachhead.

Yes, that was the plan.  But the best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew (to quote the Scottish poet Robert Burns), don’t they?  And so they did.  The aerial bombardment fell too far inland.  When the paratroopers jumped they scattered in the wind.  Few landed on their objective.  Once the naval bombardment commenced there was so much smoke on the beach no one could see where their rounds were landing.  When the beach assault began, they shifted their fire inland to miss hitting their own men.  Which made them miss the Germans, too.  Still, of the 5 beaches, 4 went somewhat according to plan on D-Day.  One, though, was going from SNAFU to FUBAR pretty darn quick.

Omaha Beach.  The ‘softening up’ did little to the guns aimed on that beach.  Artillery and machine gun fire swept hellfire across Omaha.  It was raining lead and iron.  This is the beach at the beginning of the Steven Spielberg movie Saving Private Ryan.  The first wave of troops littered the beach with dead and dying.  The armor didn’t make it ashore.  These teenagers and young men were on their own.  And there is only one way to go on a beach.  Forward, into the enemy fire.

Close to FUBAR, the generals were considering abandoning the invasion.  Of course, they were powerless to do anything at the time other than to call retreat.  Nothing they could say or do would change a thing on the beach.  They were too far away.  They couldn’t see.  Or hear.  Or feel.  But junior officers and noncommissioned officers in the fight could.  And, using personal initiative, they took action.  Paratroopers gathered into fighting units and moved on their objectives.  A destroyer captain, closer to shore due to his shallower draft, could see the troops on the beach had no fire support. He took his ship in closer and ran up and down the shallow waters of the coast, providing some of the only effective fire support during the assault.  Junior officers and noncoms gathered shattered men from shattered units and led them inland and opened the beach exits. 

OMAHA WAS COSTLY, but we prevailed.  Not because of any general or governmental bureaucrat.  We prevailed because ordinary men did extraordinary things.  Nameless men.  Our fathers.  Our grandfathers.  They did incredible things.  Things that we cannot even imagine.  And we worry what would happen if circumstance once again puts ordinary people in a position like this again.  Could we do what they did?  We know a few who can.  They’re doing it today.  But could we?  Could we be as extraordinary as our fathers and grandfathers?  As those serving in the military today?  No doubt some have their doubts.

How, why, do they do it?  For God?  Country?  Family?  Perhaps.  Or is there another reason?

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remembered-

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother

(St. Crispin’s Day Speech from William Shakespeare’s Henry V)

And so it goes in war.  Circumstance places ordinary men into extraordinary situations.  And they do extraordinary things.  And in the heat of battle, most thoughts flee their minds but two.  Survival.  And their brothers.  Alongside them in battle.  Who are as frightened as they.  Who are facing the same enemy fire as they are.  Terrified.  But standing fast.  He will not leave his brother just as his brother will not leave him.  This is courage.  And this is why American soldiers win battles.  This is what makes them give that last ounce of effort.  To go above and beyond the call of duty even.  To do the extraordinary.

SO THERE YOU have it.  The two parts that make up the military.  The military part.  And the Big Government part.  And the two parts couldn’t be more different. 

Big Government doesn’t make the military successful.  Kids barely out of high school do.  And we must never forget that.  We need to honor them on Memorial Day.  On Veterans Day.  And every other day of the calendar.  And we should never insult them by saying their actions are the result of a bloated governmental bureaucracy.  For nothing could be further from the truth.  Ironically, it’s their selfless service that enables that corrupt bureaucracy to become bloated in largess; a secured nation makes a safe place to turn public office into personal gain.

And Big Government will continue to buy their $200 toilet seats.  Because that’s who they are.  And, unless you’re part of Big Government, you don’t like it.  On principle.  And for the fact that if you have ever sat on one of those toilet seats, you know there just ain’t anything special about them.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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