Saturday, January 17, 2004

Hamilton County Sign Issues II

Ham Co is said to be the most Republican county in Indiana. If you were to assume that would mean "business friendly" or "pro-property rights" you would have assumed incorrectly. The Hamilton COunty Sign Police are making their presense felt with local small business owners with resulting bewilderment and anger, mainly because these good people had made the same assumptions.

Alas. Read a few lines of reporter Michelle Evans' account of the People v. the Cicero Sign Police. (I'd give you a link, but the Noblesville Daily Times makes you subscribe even to view their stories online.)

When Cicero resident Michelle Wiatt made the plunge to start her own travel agency this past November, she didn't know she would need a lawyer to decipher the community's 30-page sign ordinance.

"I just think that the rules are too strict and too hard to understand; I think they need to be updated," she said. "We're just trying to stay in business and support the community and we have to worry about whether our sign is two inches too big."

She's not alone. More than 50 business owners and a hanful of residents attended a Cicero Town Council special meeting Tuesday night to voice concerns about the ordinance.

In sleepy Cicero, that's almost like a Boston Tea Party. The important things to remember are:

1. The ordinance was drafted by Republicans.
2. The ordinance is enforced by Republicans.
3. The Libertarian Party is defending property rights and is the advocate for small business owners.
4. Democrats would make it worse.

Wide World of Sports III

The cries of "censorship!" will shortly be raised. What in the wide world of sports?

Two ads that were intended to be placed on the Super Bowl broadcast have been rejected by CBS. One is PETA's. The other is's. Article.

CBS explained thusly,

"We do not accept advertising on one side or the other of controversial public issues, partly because we don't think the debate ought to be controlled by people with deep pockets," said Martin Franks, CBS executive vice president.

CBS also covers these issues in a balanced way with its news department, Franks said.

Although it is amusing to make it a money issue, which is what the left likes to make matters of political speech, if I were Mr. Franks, I would have explained it in a different way. I would have reminded these would-be advertisers that they are asking to use a resource that they do not own. CBS owns the resource that is their signal, therefore, they decide what goes across it. This assertion of property rights needs no further explanation.

But the jilted advertizers do whine.

Although founder Wes Boyd said he had no evidence the ad was rejected because it was anti-Bush, "I worry that it's about ideology," he said.

Worry not. America is a free country when its citizens and institutions can refuse to do something they do not want to do, which means, the ad should be rejected if CBS does not like the ideology.

But MoveOn blathers onward,

"It seems to be there's a capricious approach as to what ads are taken and which are not," Boyd said.

That's because it should be capricious. CBS owns the signal. They should be free to pick and choose as suits them.

Here's a way that perhaps Mr. Boyd could begin to understand. Let's all go to his house (assuming he owns it). Let's each hold a picket sign. One will be pro-Bush. One will be anti-Howard Dean. One will be anti-Bush. One will be pro-MoveOn. Who do you think will be asked to get the hell off his lawn, and which will be invited in for a cup of fair trade coffee?

Your guess will be correct, in every way. Or, perhaps we can approach Mr. Boyd with pop-up ads to be placed on Will he "deny us our right to free speech"? Will he take a capricious approach as to what ads are taken and which are not? Will it be based on ideology?

But, of course.

Friday, January 16, 2004

A Brief Political Reflection

I once was a leftist. Long before I was born, Churchill addressed why with an excellent quote:

"To be young and not liberal is to not have a heart. To be older and not conservative is to not have a brain."

Now, most Republicans fail to see me as a conservative, unless we are talking about economics, in which case I make the average Republican seem downright socialist. But, when I was a young man, I was a leftist because I believed that the poor got a raw deal. I believed the left's old saws:

1. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
2. The poor stay poor because the system (the man, the GOP, etc.) keeps them poor.

I also believed this one, that is shared by some on the right, such as the Buchananites:

3. As manufacturing jobs are "shipped overseas", our standard of living is plummetting.

Walter Williams has summed up in one nice column what required of me about 15 months of independent observation and thinking:

1. The rich frequently lose ground, while the poor often gain it; sometimes it is easier for the poor to advance than it is for the rich to prevent dropping back.
2. The poor who stay poor do so because they haven't done what is necessary to get out of poverty. (Living in an impoverished neighborhood for five years proved this notion thoroughly.)
3. Manufacturing jobs are on the decline, but the standard of living is skyrocketing.

Quoth Williams:

According to the 1995 Annual Report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, only 5 percent of those in the bottom 20 percent category of income earners in 1975 were still there in 1991. What happened to them? A majority made it to the top 60 percent of the income distribution -- middle class or better -- over that 16-year span. Almost 29 percent of them rose to the top 20 percent.

So, if you are on the left, and these are the facts, what to do? This was my dilemma, after all, so many years ago. Do you ignore the facts and plow onward, hoping the emotion and the tone of the rhetoric will resonate with those who are currently poor? This is what the left seems eager to do. Being a fan of honest discourse, I turned from the left, and continue to find distaste in their approach.

I couldn't ignore the facts. Cognitive dissonance leaves me with sleepless nights. I will add my own conclusion, which Williams unfortunately did not draw: Although the standard of living did skyrocket, it still was relatively shackled by the levels of taxation all Americans, rich and poor alike, are burdened with.

I'd like to see a speculative column by Williams that would project the numbers if taxation and government spending were cut by just 5% over a five year period. That would be illuminating.

It would also be illuminating to see the left sport the courage and integrity necessary to declare that they are aware that the programs and spending they cherish have an enormous cost to our economy, but that they accept it and are willing to pay it. I certainly wouldn't vote in support of such schemes, but I would nod in approval of the honesty and suspect we could begin to look one another in the eye.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Curious Bedfellows

I love it when common expectations or conventional wisdom is thwarted by an unexpected pairing, especially when it occurs in the political arena, leaving both Left and Right scratching their heads.

The ACLU and Rush Limbaugh? How marvelous!

"For many people, it may seem odd that the ACLU has come to the defense of Rush Limbaugh," ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said in a released statement.

"But we have always said that the ACLU's real client is the Bill of Rights, and we will continue to safeguard the values of equality, fairness and privacy for everyone, regardless of race, economic status or political point of view," Simon said.

If only that were entirely true and the ACLU backed all ten Amendments of the Bill of Rights. Still, this will confound some, and more importantly, delight me.

Monday, January 12, 2004

What's Your Rhetoric Worth?

Probably not much.

After work today, I stopped into a little shop in Westfield hoping to catch the owners present. I was in luck, so I introduced myself and asked if they wouldn't mind discussing their hassles with the town's planning commission regarding placing signs on their commercial property.

They definitely wanted to talk about this. It seems the planning commission has dictated what an acceptable sign is, and it wasn't the one they had near the street. Understand that the point of a sign is to catch the eye of the passerby in the hopes of luring would-be customers. This purpose is lost on the planning commission, who believes the purpose is to create objects that are nearly invisible, so as not to be 'clutter'. This is not a saftey issue, where, say, the sign blocked visibility on the roadway. This is an aesthetic issue.

I offered the services of the Libertarian Party. I was met with skepticism. The man expressed concerns over differences between his views and the party's. I explained that I expect that, just as there are Republicans who support abortion and Democrats who support war in Iraq. Then he expressed a bigger concern- that the LP might not be able to be effective for him.

This is the real deal issue. If the party cannot be effective, it doesn't matter how great the rhetoric is, nor how much agreement there is. At the end of the day, he agrees with our stand on property rights: that the property belongs to the owner, and should be used as the owner sees fit. And although nobody else- no Republican or Democrat- had come to offer their support, he was skeptical of a representative of the one party that offered support.

The task for the Libertarian Party in Hamilton County is to get the planning commissions to listen to property owners in Westfield (and Cicero), and to remember that the property owners own the land, and that the commissioners are public servants, working to serve the citizenry, not to forward their aesthetic agendas.

This issue interests me greatly, as (rhetoric, please!) planning commissions are beginning to run amok throughout Hamilton County, which is commonly known as the most Republican county in the state. Republicans are ostensibly pro-business, but you'd never know it to learn of the pronouncements of their planning commissions. I was told that the Italian restaurant near this business was told that the colors of their signs were not permissible. What colors were used? Red, white, and green- just like in virtually every Italian restaurant worldwide.

It is important to get the attention of planning commissions, since they aren't just focusing on signs. They zero in on any property usage, dictating by whim as suits their tastes. This means homeowners in addition to commercial entities. Every fence, deck, swimming pool, and shrub is being scrutinized. Fees are charged, and the citizens made to beg for permission to use their own land as they see fit. In America?

Well, that last bit is rhetoric. You probably agree with it. It means nothing if we can't move policy in our direction.
Wisconsin Libertarians

Should I make that singular instead of plural? When work training took me to Madison, I decided to phone ahead so that I could meet up with other state-level party officials for dinner and to swap info.

I met up with Rolf Lindgren, who just left his position as State Vice Chair so that he could more fully pursue being a pain in the governor's backside, with his recall effort.

I would never dream of doing such a thing, but Rolf says he's getting tons more media attention for his stunt than he might for a traditional campaign. Then again, Ed Thompson is getting huge milage out of his traditional campaign for governor, where he polled better than 10%. The day I arrived in Madison, the local paper, the Madison Capital Times, had an article on what Ed Thompson thinks about Russ Feingold. I'd really like to have the LPIN at the stage where entire articles are devoted to what one of our guys thinks about one of the other guys.

But, Wisconsin is a different state with different rules. For instance, Thompson was elected mayor in his home town, but did not run that race with the party label. It seems most races are non-partisan in Wisconsin, unlike Indiana. I imagine that makes it easier to run for local races, being free of the albatross that is the national party, but it can't help in building local party name support.

It was fun listening to Rolf give me a narrated tour of his political landscape. I strongly recommend that other libertarians similarly network when out on business trips.
Running Into Pain

Getting into running for the first time in 20 years, my biggest fear was for my knees. My biggest surprise was not experiencing any pain in the knees as I noticed quick improvement.

Then I went to Madison, WI. There, I reached the 1.5 mile mark, but did it on a treadmill. I had never run on a treadmill belfore, and somehow it didn't feel right, but I didn't think anything of it. Ever since, I feel pain in both knees with every step I take.

I thought that it might just be one of those adjustment things, that I should run through tht pain, so I have run twice more since. Pain's still there. I'm opting for rest temporarily, but I'm hoping that I am able to start again so that I can run with Alex in Spain about two weeks from now.