Vulnerable

The response of the body and the soul are the same
To gird self with armor, to flee from the shame
The scars form without, to protect the within
I rip off the callouses, again and again

My natural instinct, not feel pain more than once
But my deepest desires are more than my wants
I will not grow dull, to a pain stricken world
A white flag of surrender, I slowly unfurl

The wisest of counsel, to remain not exposed
My invulnerable cloak feels its death throes
For I will not feel dull to the hurt all around
Mail and plate are removed and thrown to the ground

Here I stand, full exposed, and naked by choice
That the world for a moment may hear my small voice
You may be alone – I’m alone here with you
Stricken, wounded, abandoned…but now there are two

I’ve one life to live, this the life that I choose
Reaching into the tempest, that I may be you.

-Jason Crathes

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The Conversation – Keynesian and Austrian Economics

Gary Johnson describes himself as fiscally conservative – what does he mean by this?

Well, there are many elements to fiscal conservatism, but one of the most foundational is the difference between Keynesian and Austrian economics; two different schools of thought regarding how macroeconomics work. Below is a great infographic from The Austrian Insider. (It may seem a bit complicated at first, but don’t tune out – I’ll break it down below.)

(image)Keynesian vs Austrian Economics

Keynesian economists essentially believe that savings are bad for the economy at large. Savings pile money into bank accounts, under mattresses, and in cookie jars – what this prevents is the money circulating in the economic system. Wealth is created (slowly), but it isn’t out in the economy working, and that’s why Keynesian economists view it as bad. The fluid flow of money and credit through the system is what allows the economy to function.

Austrian economists view savings as good; when people are given an incentive to save, they protect themselves from personal tragedy (like being laid off, or unexpected medical bills) and from public disaster (like Hurricane Katrina wiping out their possessions). Although the rate of growth may not be as explosive, it builds on a more solid foundation that can withstand this big thing called “Life,” where the only constant is change (and not always good change, at that). These savings will eventually be spent, but generally only on sound investments.

If you boil it down even further, Keynesian economists believe that the fundamental responsibility of stimulating the economy and protecting citizens from inevitable disaster, small and large, lies with the government, and that through effective central planning and monetary policy, the government can effectively eliminate economic slumps and keep us on track for steady growth without any real setbacks. Conversely, Austrian economists believe that the fundamental responsibility for how the economy works lies with the consumer, and that each individual should have the power, the freedom, and the responsibility to manage their own money. Austrian economists accept that booms and busts are part of normal economic cycles, and that both small- and large-scale setbacks can be weathered through personal responsibility (e.g., savings) and wise choices (e.g., sound personal investment strategies).

The clearest difference between the two schools of thought is that Keynesian economics believes that the most important economic factor is spending money, and Austrian economics believes that saving money is the most important economic factor. Austrian economists assume that spending money will happen (after all, you can’t just stop eating, paying rent, and buying clothes) and that saving money puts the onus on the consumer to make wise choices, thereby building a firm economic foundation that can withstand the shocks and challenges of life. Keynesian economists believe that with a strong enough central government, savings are essentially unnecessary – there will always be a program to bail you out of whatever problem you may get into.

OK, so that all makes sense. So how do these two schools of thought affect you and me, as consumers and taxpayers?

Well, the US government has operated under Keynesian principles since the creation of the Federal Reserve bank in 1913. One of the effects of this is what is known as the fractional reserve banking system.

On the surface this looks good: effective investment of capital makes the economy work. There are several problems inherent within the system, however. One of them is answering the question of what happens when a certain percentage of people decide to withdraw their money from the system – since that money is now spread all over the place, most of it not really existing, what happens? The Keynesian answer is what’s known as a bank holiday: close the banks and prevent people from withdrawing their money. Wow, that doesn’t sound very empowering. Let’s hope that never happens.

Another problem is that fractional reserve banking places huge pressure on investments to actually be sound, while failing to put in place solid measures for that to be accomplished. Let’s take the recent housing bubble, for example. Let’s assume, for simplicity’s sake, that every single investment in the chain in the above video was placed into the housing market. Since everyone was buying, property values skyrocketed – until everyone realized that (a) they were participating in a buyer’s frenzy and the real property values didn’t support the price tags, and (b) banks were lending to many borrowers who did not possess the ability to pay the bank back. When people started defaulting on bad loans and property values collapsed, all of the money and credit created in this balloon rapidly evaporated – because 90% of it was fake to begin with. That’s a problem.

In a fractional reserve banking system everything works well as long as the money created by the expansion of credit continues to exist (e.g., there’s no significant devaluation of assets the value is used to create, like the housing market collapsing), very few people ever default, and few people withdraw their money from the system at any given time. When those things happen, this shaky façade of a system is at risk of collapse – and Keynesianism’s answer is more government bailouts, exactly like you saw in the Great Recession.

Libertarianism’s basic philosophy embraces the role of small failures in life by allowing us to experience, first hand, what is good and bad behavior. For example, if you’ve ever sold anything on Craigslist and accepted a bad check, you know that you’ll never accept a check again. You risked something, you lost, and you learned from that mistake. A Keynesian response to this would be to create a government program where you could submit proof of having received a bad check and be reimbursed by the government. This rewards bad (i.e., unnecessarily risky) behavior by bailing you out of a situation you never should have put yourself in – now, there’s no need to avoid accepting checks. People would take advantage of this and start writing bad checks for stuff all over Craigslist, most people would accept the bad checks because they know they’re going to sell items more quickly, at a higher price, and still get paid regardless (if the check is good, by the buyer – if not, then by the government). The government then picks up the tab, and pays for it in one of two ways: by taxing you more (so it can pay you for risky behavior) or by printing new money (which slowly destroys the purchasing power of the money you already have by inflating its value). Imposing new taxes is never politically popular, so since 1913 the easy answer has been to create more money. Unfortunately, the effect of that has been to erode 95% of the purchasing power of the dollar in the last hundred years.

Over the past hundred years we’ve experienced incredible economic growth, but it has come at a cost. The current US debt stands at more than $19.3 trillion and continues to grow. The greater problem, however, is what is known as our unfunded liabilities; these are things we’ve promised to pay, can calculate the approximate cost of, and are bills coming due within the next few decades. These are things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – we know people will use them, and we can do a pretty good job of calculating the approximate cost. These costs currently run in the range of a staggering $127 trillion. To put that into perspective, in 2015 the federal government took in a record-setting $3.2 trillion in taxes – more than it ever has before. In order to pay for the programs we’ve already obligated ourselves to under the Keynesian mindset explained above, we would need to continue to tax at this record-setting rate and then spend every single federal tax dollar we took in on these unfunded liabilities for the next forty years to fund them. That, on its face, is simply impossible.

This is a problem that must be addressed, but neither Trump nor Clinton have made it a central tenet of their platform. Conversely, the very first sentence on Gary Johnson’s campaign website under the “Issues” tab addresses our current financial situation specifically. Johnson also rightfully calls this arguably our single greatest threat to national security. Johnson has spoken about our financial situation at every opportunity.

Government growth, government debt, and government unfunded liabilities are unsustainable. This is probably the single greatest issue in the presidential campaign, and it deserves to be addressed as such.

The Conversation: An Introduction

There are a few things we can all go ahead and agree on:

  • Trump and Clinton are the respective GOP and Democratic nominees.
  • Those who are going to vote for Trump and Clinton have already decided to do so, and there is absolutely no convincing them to vote for the other.
  • The vast majority of people vote along party lines.

There are also a few things the majority of Americans can likely agree on:

  • The two party system is broken, for a variety of reasons.
  • Most Americans feel like they’re voting for a lesser of two evils in any given election.
  • Most Americans feel like voting for someone they truly believe in is wasting a vote, and essentially casting a vote for the other side.

So with that in mind, let’s assume a couple of things. First, you’ve likely already decided who you’re going to vote for, and there really isn’t a chance of dissuading you. Second, discussing Trump versus Hillary in almost any context, sharing memes, poking jabs at the other side… none of this is going to do any good with regards to gaining more votes for your side. The lines have already been drawn. The conversation thus far has been almost exclusively about two people, and any discussion of the issues at hand has been almost completely forgotten.

So let’s start a conversation. What’s the harm? Let’s talk about Gary Johnson. No, I’m not trying to persuade you to vote for him (I’ve already assumed your mind is made up and you can’t be dissuaded). I think that one of the main things that the Johnson/Weld ticket brings to the table is the opportunity to examine the status quo, the two-party system, from the outside. We can go ahead and assume that this ticket isn’t going to win the presidency.

So why not talk about it? Why not use this opportunity to discuss the actual issues, rather than throwing jabs at Trump or Hillary. Let’s forget, for the moment, about Trump’s supposed arrogant belligerence (as seen by the detractors) or his propensity to speak his mind (as seen by his supporters). Let’s forego Hillary’s criminal activities (as seen by her detractors) or her extensive political experience (as seen by her supporters). Let’s forget about the people, whose supporters have already been assembled along ideological lines, and let’s have an actual conversation about the issues this country faces.

Johnson brings that opportunity. We can forget about the actual election, the results of which may have already been decided but not yet seen, and for a few months we have a unique opportunity to bring a fresh perspective and a new accountability to the system by simply asking that we talk about the issues. We should have a conversation, not about the people who are running, but about where this country actually needs to go to move forward. We can skip the dirty politics, the cheap shots, the clever but stupid memes full of low blows, half truths, and personal attacks. We can simply talk about what should happen, regardless of who is elected.

Is that something you can get behind? Just having a conversation – that’s all I ask. This isn’t the opportunity for anyone to grandstand and beg for votes; this isn’t the place for us to persuade someone to switch political parties or exchange cheap shots about pasts and character. I’m simply inviting you to take part in something I’ve termed The Conversation.

Will you join me?

The Conversation

The Problem Is Us Versus Them

Us Versus Them

Unless you’re living under a rock, it seems like the only thing people are talking about over the last 24 hours is black versus white, cop versus thug, and rare is the person who isn’t taking one side or the other. People are reminding us that black lives matter, telling us that to be a person of color is to be a target, and that certain minorities live in daily oppression for fear of their lives – all the while the other side is reminding us of how much we need police in our lives, how much we owe the thin blue line, and if we really have a problem with law enforcement then the next time we have an emergency just call a crackhead instead.

Stop it. Seriously. Stop it, all of you.

First off, the overall problem is that everyone is turning on each other. This whole thing is becoming an Us versus Them scenario, we’re squaring off, and the entire situation is devolving into a rapidly downward spiraling scenario of hostile and fatal acts. We’re Americans, together. Yes, there are several problems which need to be addressed. But the most important thing we need to remember is that we’re in this together.

Now let me address both sides. I’ll start with law enforcement, because I always start with authority. You have the greater responsibility.

There is a problem with the law enforcement community in America today. The problem is that you have a higher allegiance to your own than you do to the law. The main topic that cop apologists seem to be spouting these days is compliance with both cops and the law, and they’re searching for all of the subtle nuances to condemn Philando Castile, who notified the police he was legally armed, didn’t move until he was ordered to, and then reached for his ID after being specifically told to, and was shot five times. Somehow in that seemingly clear situation we can find enough murkiness to let the cop off the hook completely.

Funny how none of that murkiness was apparent in the case of John Biehn, a former cop who was arrested three times in 11 hours for DUI, then let go each time. Why did he leave active police work? He left the force after an incident in 2004 when he went on a drunken rampage at a housing complex, firing his gun at random and shooting out several windows. Three residents testified that Biehn pointed the gun at their heads and tried to shoot them. Others said Biehn fired at them but missed. Not only was he able to be peacefully apprehended, he was acquitted of attempted murder and assault and his sentence suspended.

Let’s talk about Erasmo Mata, Jr, a Pharr police officer who was charged with raping a minor five times, all on duty, all in uniform, and all while other members from his police department stood by and watched. “The Pharr Police Department did an internal investigation, but the family claims Chief Villescas told them not to hire an attorney and that he would personally take care of the allegations against the officer. While the officers were terminated, neither Mata, nor the officers who allegedly watched, initially faced any criminal charges for the 2013 attacks.” It wasn’t until the family of the victim reported the crimes to the Texas Rangers and he was investigated by someone outside of his own department that Mata was indicted.

Or we could talk about Eric Roberts, an Oklahoma State Trooper who raped a woman he pulled over on a traffic stop. After he was arrested multiple other women came forward and revealed that he had done the same thing to them, showing Roberts to be a serial rapist.

Virginia State Trooper Chris Allen Carson was was originally charged with forcible sodomy, aggressive sexual battery and indecent liberties with a child after exposing himself, providing pornographic materials to, and sexually assaulting a child. Carson exposed himself to the child and masturbated in front of and with him. One night, Cook said, the boy woke up to find Carson performing oral sex on him. The presiding judge in this case ruled in a similar case to give a non-police officer 66 years in prison, a hefty fine, and required the perpetrator to register as a sex offender. In this case, however, the presiding judge approved a plea bargain for the cop sentencing him to 9 years (and then suspended all but 30 days of it), and did not require the cop to register as a sex offender.

We could discuss William Monberg, who was pulled over for drunk driving and was so inebriated he didn’t even realize his penis was hanging out of his pants, couldn’t perform basic sobriety tests, and couldn’t even understand what the police officers who stopped him were saying. He was cuffed and put in the patrol car… until the police officers realized he was also a cop, at which point they uncuffed him and took him home instead of to jail.

None of these are anomalies, but are becoming increasingly frequent. If you want more stories like this, click here. The problem isn’t necessarily that horrible people become cops – in any profession you’re going to have people who do the wrong thing, to abhorrent levels. The problem is that, all too often, the thin blue line covers for their own. Guys, when these kind of actions are happening, you’re not law enforcement officers – you’re a gang. And that’s why people hate you.

The only ones who can change that are you. No one outside of the law enforcement community can bring integrity back to it. You have to stop being worried about being a “bro” and start being worried about enforcing the law among your family first and foremost. People like Erasmo Mata should be executed… and you’re covering for them. Is it any wonder that people feel the need to start doing the executing themselves?

It is a common saying among LE types that “the most important thing is coming home safe at the end of your shift.” With all due respect, no. It isn’t. You signed up, commissioned, and put on a badge to protect and serve. Sometimes that involves sacrifice – which may involve taking a bullet, or it may involve losing your job because you did the right thing. Stop acting like your personal safety, career, and the personal safety and career of others wearing the badge is the most important thing in the world. It isn’t. Making the community you signed up to protect and serve a better and safer community, is. And you’ll have to sacrifice to do it. If you’re not ok with that, put down the badge.

OK, now for the other side.

There is a problem with the black community. Seriously. First and foremost let’s cut the crap about you being oppressed in America. You’re not. If you think you are, pick pretty much any country in Africa where your ancestors may have come from and look at the problems THOSE people have. The average per capita income across Africa is $315 annually. The life expectancy of someone born in Africa is decades below the world average. Cannibalism is still an active problem in multiple places in Africa. If you want to gripe about problems black people who were born in America face, realize it’s the equivalent of a 26-year-old man complaining about that one time he stubbed his toe when he was two.

If you want to complain about problems your ancestors faced, then realize first that if you can’t name who those ancestors were or tell their story, you need to shut it. 95% of the people I know, black or white, can’t name their great grandparents, let alone trace their lineage back to days when slavery was a thing in America. So if you’re not even sure if your ancestors were ever slaves, then quit whining about the troubles your people faced. Here’s a hint: study history. Every race has been enslaved, and every people group has had troubles unimaginable to our twenty-first century, first world minds. Just because you assume your ancestors had trouble doesn’t mean you get to wear a chip on your shoulder.

You have incredible opportunity just by being in America. You don’t face the problems your ancestors did. If you think either of those statements is incorrect, you’re just flat out ignorant.

But let’s talk about actual problems with the black community. The rate of fatherlessness in the black community has ballooned to an unbelievable 72%. While this is a problem in other communities (31.2% in Hispanic/Latino communities, 20.7% of white communities), it is at an epidemic level among blacks. White people did not make black males abandon their children. Cops did not force this level of fatherhood absence. This is a black problem, with measurable and demonstrable social repercussions, which holds the black community back and down – and it is caused by blacks. And, more importantly, it can only be fixed by blacks. Whites and cops can’t make the black community embrace fatherhood.

Black mothers abort their children at an exponential rate compared to other communities. Whatever you think about abortion, you should recognize that it’s generally not a sign of exceptional social health. While blacks comprise only 12.8% of the population, they account for nearly 36% of abortions in America. In New York City in 2012, more black babies were aborted (31,328) than born (24,578). Whites and cops don’t make the decision to abort black babies.

The black community loves to highlight the relatively few black people who are killed by cops and security guards each year. However, they neglect to relate the other side of the story, where over the last thirty years 93% of murdered blacks were killed by other blacks. That statistic alone makes the whole #BlackLivesMatter movement absurd on its face – if black lives matter, then tell the black people that.

If you want to look at the number one killer of black people in America, statistically speaking it is the black mother. The number two killer of black people in America is the black man. There is a problem with the black community. No, it doesn’t make me racist to call obvious facts obvious facts.

No one outside of the black community can fix this. Whites can’t come in and tell you how to parent, or live your lives in such a way that the aforementioned problems disappear. In fact, if they do, they’re called racists. If whites say there’s a problem, they’re called racists. If whites stay silent and simply address the problem by jailing an equivalent percentage of blacks as are committing crimes in society, they’re called racists. Let’s get over the two-year-old name calling and simply face the facts.

Again, the problem is that each side is acting like they’re inculpable and the others are completely evil. We’re turning this into an Us versus Them situation and ignoring the reality that there are massive, society-impacting problems on both sides of the fence, and that the only solution is an infusion of integrity by the people in those groups. This is not an external problem. It cannot be fixed by an external solution. The problems within the law enforcement community can only be fixed when the law enforcement community decides it wants to, and the problems within the black community can only be fixed when the black community decides it wants to.

As a white, non-law enforcement officer, I’m cheering for both of you. God help us all if you don’t.