Friday, December 28, 2007

Huckabee and the Fair Tax

I received a questioning email and a link to a Washington Post article about Mike Huckabee and his backing of the Fair Tax. The inquiry was, "why aren't you backing Huckabee? Ron Paul isn't endorsing the Fair Tax?" Good question, and long overdue in addressing.

Mainly, I've given up on the Fair Tax, not because I don't think it will pass (I don't), but mainly because I am not convinced that it is fair after all.

The Fair Tax would eliminate all the various taxes we have at the federal level: income taxes, social security taxes, payroll taxes, and myriad other hidden taxes that are embedded into the cost of goods and services. It would eliminate the IRS.

THAT is the basis of my earlier support for the Fair Tax. I am in favor of all of the above.

Problem is, the Fair Tax would replace those things with a 23% sales tax on services and new goods.

So, what's unfair? It charges the same rate to all people, regardless of income, regardless of age, regardless of wealth. It eliminates all the loopholes currently in the convoluted tax code. If you don't want to pay the Fair Tax, don't spend. (That's kind of like saying, "if you don't like air pollution, don't breathe. You can't avoid it.)

Fine, but I don't think that the amount you spend is any kind of a measure of one's fair share in the cost of government.

I thank the critics on the left for spurring this thought. It's been churning inside my mind for months. So many on the left argue that the basis for payment is one's fair share. I agree! But they have it wrong. I do not believe that because you worked longer, or harder, or smarter, such that your wealth increases, that your share in government correspondingly increases.

True, if you use government services more than others, you should pay more than others. That is fair! But what correlation does that have upon spending (Fair Tax)? Or income (The Left)? Well, none whatsoever.

So, the Fair Tax has become in my mind, something that is typical of anything good that ever comes of government anymore. Mainly, it has some rotten component that I have to hold my nose over in order to enjoy the other parts.

Not exactly the basis for getting all excited, and certainly not enough to make me a single-issue Huckabee supporter. On the balance, I still prefer Ron Paul on all things economic.

I will say that I am glad at least one presidential candidate is talking about the Fair Tax. I still think something useful can come out of it, like really getting towards all of us paying a genuine fair share. That would be very useful, because I have to think that if we were sharing in the tax burden equally, fairly, a whole lot of people would discover that they've been getting a free ride, and that maybe, just maybe, some of this government really isn't so 'essential' or 'necessary'.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Short Romance Is Over

It wasn't so long ago (June '06) that popular leftward blogger Daily Kos was courting libertarians. I took note of it, and thought then that it was merely a cynical ploy to grab a small constituency, but one sizeable enough to swing an election.

Consider the cynicism well justified. The onslaught of Ron Paul bashing by the top left blogs is begetting a slurry of ugly comments from the True Blue Left. From a recent Kos post calling Paul a racist:

If he has "moral responsibility" for his comments, then why not apologize or retract those statements? Why not express outrage that his good name was misappropriated with scurrilously racist sentiments and demand an honest admission and retraction in his newsletter?

Why? Because he agreed with the sentiments. That's why. And it's precisely writings like those, and his refusal to disavow them, that have made him a favorite of the Stormfront/Neo Nazi crowd.

Of course, Paul's supporters will take this post, along with any other criticism of their demigod, as evidence that he is "feared" or other such nonsense. Hardly. When he cracks single digits in the polls in any state we can start worrying. Until then, he doesn't even reach "Ross Perot-like nut" status. I worry about McCain. I worry about Huckabee. I used to worry about Giuliani. But Paul? Nah. He is what he is -- fringe.

But it's also clear that some of his supporters would benefit from a full airing and education about what Paul stands for and has stood for in his years in the public limelight. If people still want to support him despite his bigotry, then that actually says more about his supporters than about Ron Paul himself.

Let's break this down. What are the racist comments? Kos has highlighted some:
Indeed, it is shocking to consider the uniformity of opinion among blacks in this country. Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty, and the end of welfare and affirmative action.... Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the "criminal justice system," I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.

If similar in-depth studies were conducted in other major cities, who doubts that similar results would be produced? We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings, and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers. (emphasis as in original Kos post.)

I have to say, I don't like Paul's generalizations in that first paragraph. 95%? That's nonsense. Paul's off-base here, and should apologize for his generalizations. I wish he would do that right away.

As for the second paragraph, I do have my own experiences. I have been mugged exactly twice, both times by black men. I have had my house burglarlized exactly once, by a black man. I caught him tearing the aluminum off the house. Given my experience, I still don't generalize all or most black males as criminals or semi-criminals. Generalizing the whole on the basis of the subset is incorrect and absurd. But, would it be rational for me to conclude that should I be mugged, the likelihood is higher that a white man will mug me? Am I a racist is, based on my own experience, if I conclude the likelihood is greater that a black man might? Moreover, factually speaking, do "black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings, and bulglaries all out of proportion to their numbers"? If so, why would an apology be warranted? For the crime of saying something that is a source of sensitivity to the racial group in question? It isn't the same as racism, that's for sure.

I would like Paul to revisit his statements with regard to race, use some care to examine them, and to apologize for and retract the ones that are bunk. (I suspect, though, that the ones that are not bunk, and are actual fact, and that might not be retracted, would still be a source of complaint and "ah ha, gotcha!" by Kos and so many others on the left.)

So, is this any kind of dilemma for me? Not especially. I've never found a perfect candidate, one that I agreed with on everything- besides myself. If I had to eliminate all candidates from the possibility of my support or vote on the basis of a single objection, I could never vote in good conscience. I kind of think that this is what Kos is after- creating cognitive dissonance in the minds of Paul backers, such that they just stay away from the process until after the 2008 election. For me, the kind of law policy Paul would actually put forth is what is important, and I'm betting that even if he is the most venomous closeted racist the world has ever known, he still wouldn't be advancing racist policy. So, is Kos' work what we call a red herring?

At any rate, I find it very interesting that Kos chose to discuss the angle of moral responsibility for the comments made available on a publication with his name on it. Kos must believe that is what is right and correct. Very well. Let's look at some of the comments that follow Kos' latest anti-Paul article:
"Libertarianism (or his style, anyway) is effectively racist itself. I mean, the guy wants to do away with the FDA, I can't imagine HUD, civil rights departments or similar are going to fare much better."

"Poisoning pooties and children is a rational business decision to the libertarians"

"Ron Paul fanboys are better known as Paultards."

Kos' apostles do exactly what Kos criticizes of Ron Paul: generalizing libertarians in the extreme and in the negative. Then there's the word, 'Paultards'. Well now that's intelligent. I guess from this we can infer that Kos believes it's okay to use a derivative of "retard" as a pejoritive, because he permits the use of it as such on his site. Kos could argue that Paul is running for president, and thus open to such scrutiny. It's also a way of saying that few Kos readers could qualify themselves. I see the word "Paultard" all over the comments on the Kos site, but no rebuke from other users, and certainly not from the man himself. The same is true at Wonkette and a host of other left sites.

Looks like Kos is the man in the glass house, but without any mirror. If Kos believes his own words, he should be striking about a third of the comments. Exorcist, heal thyself! Alas.

And if Paul was the sort of non-threat Kos makes him out to be, would he even be worth a post on his site? Right. Perhaps this was just Kos' announcement that henceforth, Daily Kos is merely an exercise in the trivial, unimportant, and miniscule. Yeah- saw through you on that, big guy.

But, reading the comments was truly depressing. It showed me what the left thinks of me, in essense. Libertarianism isn't perfect. Nothing is. But I am just astounded at the impression the left has of liberty. Astonished. Disappointed.

I guess the courtship is over.

Monday, December 24, 2007

New Poll

How Did Ron Paul Do on Meet The Press? Vote at the right.

If you didn't see MTP, here's the You Tube for the first part of Paul's appearance. The other three parts are linked below.

Part 2 of 4
Part 3 of 4
Part 4 of 4
Old Poll Results

I had a long running poll: Who would you vote against. Here are the final results:

Who would you vote against?

Selection ........Votes
Hillary Clinton 53% 121
John McCain 7% 16
Mitt Romney 9% 21
Ron Paul 4% 9
Dennis Kucinich 3% 6
All of 'em - I'll vote Libertarian 25% 57

230 votes total

Clinton and McCain have long been on top of my 'vote against' list. I'm happier to have a possible 'vote for' candidate, in Ron Paul. I remain highly doubtful Paul can win the Republican nomination, so after that event, I will probably be searching for a new 'vote for' candidate.

New Linkage

I've added a link to Hoosiers For Ron Paul- an excellent clearing house of links to active Ron Paul supporters around Indiana, and to national sites. The link now resides under "My Fellow Hoosier Libertarians".

Hoosiers For Ron Paul and website organizer Michael Hargett were referenced in an Indy Star article this morning, on Hoosiers backing presidential candidates:

"People want to be free, whether it's free from the foreign trade deficits, or free from the Patriot Act or free from our own oppressive policies, Hargett said of Paul's appeals to backers. They think that the best way to be free is that you take away this notion that we're fighting the whole world."
For me, it boils down much simpler: Our government does more than it should, costs more than it should, and would be greatly improved by reduction. Ron Paul is the only candidate enunciating a plan for smaller government.
Note: I've also eliminated the link to Indy Undercover, as that blog has been deleted by the owner. I'm keeping the link to Rob Beck's "Shall Not Perish", for even though he's been inactive for almost a year, the archives are good reading. I wish he were active right now!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dirty Money Non-Controversy

I'll take the recent "controversy" over Ron Paul keeping a $500 campaign contribution from a racist as a sign of his growing relevance. If you're irrelevant, they don't inspect the sources of your receipts, after all.

I like Paul's response- especially his decimation of Faux News' Neil Cavuto.

Neil Cavuto: There are reports, sir, that your campaign has received a $500 campaign donation from a white supremacist in West Palm Beach. And your campaign had indicated you have no intention to return it. What are you going to do with that?

Ron Paul: It is probably already spent. Why give it back to him and use it for bad purposes? And I don't even know his name. I never heard of it. You know, when you get 57,000 donations a day, are we supposed to screen them and find out their beliefs? He sent the money for my beliefs. And if he promoting my viewpoints and my attitudes, why give it back to him if he has bad viewpoints?

And I don't endorse anything that he endorses or what anybody endorses. They come to me to endorse freedom and the Constitution and limited government. So, I see no purpose for me to start screening everybody that sends me money. I mean, it is impossible to do it. It is a ridiculous idea that I am supposed to screen these people.

If you think Paul is off-base here, consider this comment from a Reason Hit & Run reader:

The same people who criticize Dr. Paul for accepting donations from a racist hate group probably don't have a problem with the State seizing assets from drug dealers and using that tainted money for the children rather than incinerating it with the drugs.
Paul's using the money to promote liberty. I'm a-ok with that. Beyond that, I highly doubt anyone reading this considers the relative moral standing of all the people behind their paychecks. In the odd chance you do, is it the case that you shred the check if it turns out the boss is a racist? Or if a shareholder in the company beats his wife? Right. Didn't think so. Glass houses and rocks, folks.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Today's Notable Ron Paul Item

In the wake of Ron Paul scoring the biggest fundraising day ever, the question that pops into my head is, "will it continue to generate buzz?" Looks like it will. Here's today's notable item: an NPR blog item that asks Paul supporters to comment on who they are, and why they are backing Ron Paul.

There are several hundred entries. I was going to grab one or two of the best, but I found myself scrolling and scrolling and found no distinct best one, but that the mass of it was rather moving.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Various Thoughts on Ron Paul

I've had two Ron Paul bumper stickers on my car for about three months now. I am supporting him until I can get more excited about someone else. True, that's not a ringing endorsement, but what it comes down to is that I'm not excited about voting Republican.

I am excited about the strides the Paul campaign has made. I've watched his coverage go from hatchet job to serious interview on Bill Maher's HBO show. He's been on Leno, and is going to be on Meet The Press, on December 23rd. The big news is that he raised over $6 million in one day- yesterday.

Even the press on the left is taking notice, and not merely sneering. Mother Jones has an article online today. From The Nation's report:
And Paul is continuing to raise money -- largely small contributions from individuals who in many cases have never before given money to a campaign -- at a remarkable rate.

The congressman's campaign is dramatically exceeding fundraising expectations in the current quarter. The campaign's unreasonable goal of $12 million has been exceeded by more than 50 percent already and there is every reason to believe that Paul will almost certainly finish the quarter with more than $20 million raised.

Paul could well end up raising more than any of the other Republican contenders and providing the only serious competition for Democratic money leaders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

There is an article in the Washington Post online that doesn't look much like a Ron Paul article in the WP, and notable blogger Andrew Sullivan has endorsed Paul. Of course, with success come hatchet jobs. The most notable is from Daily Kos, calling Paul and his supporters "white supremacists". How's that go? First they ignore you, then they attack you...

So, it's exciting. But I'm torn. I'm a Libertarian Party partisan, but I also support non-LP candidates who will promote liberty. I'm not about to get too hung up on who gets the policies of liberty across, so long as they do.

But fact is, if Paul gets even moderate support from the Republican Party leadership, the Libertarian Party is done. The GOP will be able to say, with a straight face, that their party is the rightful home for supporters of limited government. They can't do it now, although some people refuse to see the GOP for what it is- a big government party that looks like a small government party, only because it has the Democrats to compare to.

With the burst of money and press, Paul is probably going to surge, and that's great! But as more primary election deadlines approach, many Libertarian partisans, many of whom voted for Ron Paul the LP candidate in 1988, will be changing their affiliations from 'L' to 'R'.

According to Paul's website, the following states have the following deadlines to change registrations, so as to be eligible to vote in the Republican primaries:

New Jersey - Today, Dec 17
Nevada - Dec. 19
Hawaii - Dec. 26
Kentucky - Dec. 31
Florida - Dec. 31

As enthusiastic as I am right now for the Paul campaign, I truly believe there is no way he will win the Republican nomination. It's just too much to ask of the GOP core to go from standing with the President on Iraq, and then switching 180 degrees to supporting Dr. Paul. In the meantime, earnest supporters will change their affiliations from 'L' to 'R', thus weakening the standing of the Libertarian Party in those states, and possibly threatening the ballot access for the LP. Indiana is not a registration state, so this won't be a factor here.

The LP has done nothing to make me look past Ron Paul. It's ironic, but the one libertarian candidate in the big dance might be the death of the Libertarian Party.

I'm open to other views on this. What say?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oprah and Campaign Finance "Reform"

(Fishers, IN)- If I want to support Ron Paul with a check in the amount of $5,000, I am prohibited from doing so by law. $2,300 is the annual limit I can give. You can see this as the top amount on Paul's donation page, or on any other candidate's. For instance, here's the link to Barack Obama's, with the same top figure.

Oprah Winfrey has acknowledged that her check is pretty useless, compared with her endorsement and stumping for Barack Obama. From the NY Times Politics Blog:
She said she has not written a check to Mr. Obama’s campaign.

“Well the truth of the matter is, whether I contribute or not contribute, you are limited to how much you contribute, so my money isn’t going to make any difference to him,” Ms. Winfrey said. “I think that my value to him, my support of him, is probably worth more than any check.”

Yep. Probably. We'll call that the understatement of the year.

The Cato Institute's Daily Podcast for Dec. 11 poses the interesting question: In light of the "campaign finance reform" laws, which are ostensibly aimed towards making contributions more fair and level, should appearances by celebrities also be banned because such appearances skirt the spirit of the law? Link to the Cato Daily Podcast archives.

I believe the law is garbage. Contributions should not be limited, because they amount to political speech- just as sure as an appearance and endorsement by Oprah is also political speech, no matter how much value anyone could place on her appearances.

All this shows is that the law was really intended to keep influence in the usual hands, and keep those candidates who cannot yet draw on value outside the grassroots at bay.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Presidential Quiz

(Crystal Lake, IL) The Washington Post has an interesting quiz online right now, and it's worth taking if you're into this sort of thing.

You have to choose either the Democratic or Republican ticket. From there, you are faced with a number of issues and the positions of the candidates. You pick the statement that best matches your position, and then you rate it on a scale from being not important to you to very important. In this way, it weighs the outcome and steers you towards someone you are most likely to be interested in. The best feature is that you do not know who the statement is coming from when you cast your vote.

I took both D & R because I wanted to see if I would find any surprises. I did!

No surprise that I found myself most aligned with Ron Paul. No surprise also that I found almost no affinity for Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, John Edwards, or Hillary Clinton. I was surprised at having some affinity for Fred Thompson and Bill Richardson, and almost none for Barack Obama. Here are my scores, combining Ds & Rs in this tally:

Paul - 58 pts
Richardson- 27
Thompson - 20
Chris Dodd - 13
Mitt Romney - 9
McCain - 7
Obama - 5
Clinton - 4
Edwards - 4
Huckabee - 4
Giuliani -0 pts

There were some issues where I liked nobody's answer, so I picked the least intolerable, and called it 'not important' so as to give it as little weight as possible. It probably explains many of the points earned from Romney on down.

Among R's, Paul got points with me on Iraq, trade, taxes, and scope of government. Thompson got some on immigration and also scope of government. I figured Paul would get virtually all of my points, but alas. I'm going to have to look over Paul's positions on immigration!

As for the D's, there were several questions I just didn't want to cast a vote at all, but had to in order to get through the thing. For instance, there was a question on the ban on federal funding from stem-cell research. All of the Dems were in favor of repeal of the ban and getting funding going, shading it in their own ways. I'm opposed to any federal funding, but not in favor of banning research. I just don't believe scientific research should be the role of the federal government. I don't think there is any D or R candidate that I agree completely with on this issue, though.

Anyhow, Richardson got my points for Iraq and same-sex marriage issues, but also some tax issues. Dodd also got my points for tax issues. It was funny- I was guessing that Richardson was Dennis Kucinich for the Iraq items. I was surprised to see Kucinich left off the quiz, while Ron Paul was included. I take it as a sign that Paul is increasingly found viable by the MSM.

I got a stronger feel for the Democrats than I had before. So long as they are talking civil liberties and Iraq, I 'm kind of in there with them. As soon as they get to domestic fiscal policy, I want to run screaming. They are big on pointing out the fiscal disaster of the Bush Administration- which I agree with- but then they have huge programs they want to empower, all while claiming the mantle of fiscal responsibility. Sorry, raising taxes to the sky to cover the cost of these programs is nothing at all like fiscal responsibility. It may not leave a deficit, but neither will it leave an economy standing.

I'll give both Thompson and Richardson a look. I wouldn't have considered either of them worthy of even a look until taking this quiz. I'm still ardently backing Ron Paul until one of two things happens: a Libertarian candidate arises that makes me forget about Ron Paul; or, Paul fails to win the Republican nomination. He's not perfect by me, but he's the best of the bunch.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Interesting Banter

(Crystal Lake, IL)- Doug Masson's blog is one of my favorite Hoosier reads. It's been on my link list for 2-3 years now. He and I agree on a lot of civil liberty issues, but we sometimes part company on economic liberty items.

Doug brought up the topic of inherited wealth. It generally bothers him, so he posted about it. A great discussion has ensued, with me taking the side opposite him. It interests me that some can be very strong advocates for some kinds of individual liberty, but also strong opponents of others. Freedom is not an a la carte item for me. It may not be perfect, especially when placing isolated cases under the microscope, but it's better than the alternative.

It's easy for some to become frustrated with the practice of passing wealth to others when your examples are Paris Hilton or the Astors- the former for bad behavior, the latter for the sheer longevity of that wealth. But what does it matter to you or me? It doesn't pick my pocket. It doesn't prevent me from living my life. No harm, no foul.

Just like issues of civil liberty. Look at gay marriage. How does that pick my pocket? Or prevent me from living my life? Or threaten my marriage? It doesn't, and yet there are plenty of people who are bothered by it enough to want to restrict others from engaging in it.

Right and left pick and choose when it comes to examining policy in these terms: Does it pick my pocket? Does it prevent me from living my life? I think that's just it. Too much policy is emotionally driven, and not examined in such terms. If it were, I do believe our society would become a much more tolerant, and happy, place.

As for me, I intend to leave a little behind to my successors, but not a huge amount. I share a good deal of Doug's concern that inherited wealth creates problems for those who receive it. I know I value my own struggles as developmental. But as a parent, I want to endow my children, or perhaps more likely my grandchildren, with a little assistance. Doing so will leave me a happier man at the end of the trail. I do waver on what an appropriate amount is. Being able to make the choices as seems fit to me when the time comes is all I ask for.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Florida Fun

(Marco Island, FL)- I've always wanted to ride on jet skis. It's always looked like loads of fun.

It is! I highly recommend taking the opportunity when it presents itself. In my case, the hotel we are staying at in Marco Island rents the "Waverunner", which is an excellent ride. I got it up around 38mph in the channels between the mangrove stands.
Departing the beach, heading into the deep salty seas, arrgh matey. 

That wasn't the highlight, though. In this particular area of Florida, the dolphins are numerous, and the actually enjoy playing with boaters. So, I kept my eyes open for dolphins, and sure enough, spotted the fins bobbing above the waterline, about 2,000 feet out from shore. I raced over to the spot (as I recalled it- with the wave action, even when you thing you're cutting a straight line, you generally aren't). It wasn't long before I spotted the creatures again, so I moved over to them. Several revealed themselves, about 10-15 feet away. I was just idling there, enjoying their presence, and lack of fear.

Then just as suddenly, they were gone. In retrospect, I think they wanted me to go zipping off, so they could play a game of chase. That's what the guys at the rental shop said the dolphins like to do. Anyhow, it was great fun, and well worth the expense.
Time Woes

(Marco Island, FL) I've been wanting to comment on the time zone issues facing Indiana for a while, but it seemed like petty nonsense most of the time. It still is, but here's the two cents anyhow.

There are some who clamor for a statewide switch to Central Time. To them I say, please just move one state west. Not only do I strongly prefer Eastern Time, I'd be even happier if Eastern Time occurred one hour earlier than it currently does.

I've been working in the Chicago suburbs for the better part of the last month. Now that DST has ended, dusk begins around 4:30pm, and sunset happens at 5:15! It seems like endless night time, especially to someone who is doing outdoor work on projects that pay by the job rather than the hour, and would dearly love to continue field work beyond a mere 10-hour span. How great Summer EDST was, working outdoors until 9pm! Now I'm vacationing in Florida, far to the east of the eastern time zone, and the sunsets come around 6pm. It's crazy early! I'm not ready to get off the beach yet!

I can understand those in NW Indiana wanting to be linked with Chicago time, what with the obvious business links and the convenience of knowing what time your favorite TV shows will air on the Chicago stations. Apart from that? Darkness before evening? Hermits may not care, but those of us working outside would like to finish the day with natural lighting, thank you very much.

I was always chucking at the opponents of DST who argued against it on the basis that mornings were dark, leaving kids waiting for buses in the scary darkness. Well, where are the complaints about kids arriving home from school in the dark?

Here's the business argument for Eastern Time:

New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore, Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Toronto, Montreal, Detroit.. to say nothing of Buffalo, Rochester, Cincinnati, Columbus, Newark, etc.

Compare that list and the populations there with the list of Central Time cities:

Chicago, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, New Orleans, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Memphis, Kansas City... with places like Tulsa, Omaha, and Birmingham.

It's really no contest from this standpoint. In fact, Central Time is downright foolish in these terms. But at the end of the day, most arguments are purely subjective- just as my main argument is. I'm not a morning person, and I like daylight late into the day. Morning people seem to complain the most about the recent institution of DST in Indiana. But if you are going to be objective and make a business oriented argument, look no further than the lists of the cities within the zones. Let NW Indiana associate with Chicago, but the rest of the state really belongs on EST.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ocean Fun

(Marco Island, FL) The first two times we took Isabel into ocean waters, she was positively unhappy with the experience. Now that she's a little bit older and bigger, the waves aren't so scary. Finding starfish makes it downright exciting!

Look! Starfish!

We even found a starfish with six arms.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Shocking Upsets!

(Crystal Lake, IL)- I decided to check in to see whether or not the voters of Central Indiana would match act with anit-incumbent rhetoric. It looks like they did just that!

Most notably and surprisingly, Indy voters appear to have shown mayor Bart Peterson the door. I am postitively astonished. Greg Ballard received almost no financial or party support and won anyway.

It really restores my faith. Don't get me wrong- I would have been much happier had Libertarian Fred Peterson won. My faith is restored because I came away from my own electoral contest last year convinced that money is the single-most important thing by a longshot. This election disproves my findings. The electorate can be infuriated into ballot box action. Quoth Ballard, from the Indy Star article:

"This is the ultimate example of grass-root politics. The Beatles used to sing, 'money can't buy you love.' But it can't buy you elections, either," he said.

It can also buy you harm. I have little doubt that the outgoing Mayor's negative ads hurt him badly. Bart Peterson seemed aloof, indifferent, and arrogant at various times after raising income taxes in the face of the property tax mess.

Really, it restores my faith that the Democrats lost their majority on the City-County Council in the wake of their tax hikes. From the Star's early report

Before today, Democrats held a 15-14 majority on the council. But Republicans won at least 16 seats today, early returns showed.

That support could be a critical boost for Ballard as he vows to move Indianapolis in a new direction.

Another 10 seats appear solidly Democratic, with three still up for grabs.

I hope the grassroots tax opponents get some credit for all of these upsets. Hoosiers For Fair Taxation comes to mind as being among the top of the list of the praise worthy. Their Tea Party events, their dogged attendance at public meetings, and overall energy was most admirable, and I think, effective. Sweet vindication for them after enduring sneers from Democratic operatives and even the Mayor's office. Ex-Mayor, that is.

I'll enjoy elections more when Libertarians are elected, so I can be certain that the jobof dismantling these greedy governments is taken to the necessary extent. For now, it's pretty darned satisfying watching this batch of taxers turned out of office.

(I won't put 'futility' into my blog tags this time!)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Amazing Night of Leno

My dream Leno: Ron Paul and the Sex Pistols! Every now and then, the blind squirrel finds a nut! Check out Paul's fine showing on the Tonight Show from last night, Oct 30, 2007:

I've really been delighted to see the shift in how Dr. Paul has been treated by TV hosts. Leno really allowed the man to speak. He was probing, but he wasn't cherry-picking issues that he felt would make him look bad, say, as Bill Maher did the first time he had Dr. Paul on his HBO show.

Now I have to find a clip of the Sex Pistols' performance. Johnny Rotten had a kind word for Ron Paul before getting into "Anarchy in the UK". JR always seemed a libertarian to me.


...Here's the Sex Pistols:

How about that- JR saying "Hello, Mr. Paul!" and directing "When are we getting out of Iraq?" to Paul during the first solo. I really like a presidential candidate who shakes Johnny Rotten's hand.

On the comments section for this You Tube clip, you will see some interesting banter on the way Leno introduced the Sex Pistols and their song "Anarchy in the UK" as being perfect for Ron Paul.

Paul's no anarchist. He believes in a federal government that adheres strictly and exclusively to its' Constitutional roles.

Here's a link to discussion on a Ron Paul net group that discovered a Time Magazine article that makes Paul out as an anarchist, and his supporters as kooks. Note that his supporters are dismayed about the anarchist tag.

Well, that's the mainstream political media for you. They'll crab about politicians who say nothing in particular when their lips move, but then cut to pieces anyone with a clear, unique position. Thank goodness for the entertainment media. They still understand ratings.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Indy Star Endorsed Who?

Check out this opening to the article, and see if you can guess who the Star endorsed:
Indianapolis has many strengths. Its Downtown is energetic and growing, cultural amenities are maturing, emerging sectors of the economy such as the life sciences are thriving, the cost of living is low, and the overall quality of life remains attractive.

But challenges to the city's vibrancy are mounting. Crime has shot up in many neighborhoods. Thousands of abandoned houses drag down property values and spoil once-attractive residential areas. Rising taxes make it cheaper for some homeowners to live in suburban communities than the urban core. The city, despite higher tax rates, can't afford to fix crumbling streets and sidewalks.

Funny enough, I moved my family OUT of Indianapolis three years ago, for Fishers. This was before the spike in crime, before the rising taxes. My assessment was that the crime and taxes were too high then. I did not feel that downtown Indy was even as interesting as Cleveland, where I spent my first 34 years. Indy had too little to offer, and posed risks I deemed too great to safe and smart living.

But the Star endorsed the Mayor for re-election. Is this a condemnation of Republican challenger Greg Ballard? Or, is it a demonstration of how worthless the Star endorsements have become to readers- transparent in the desire to pick the winner, so as to have the best possibility of full access to the office holder later?

Certainly, the Star condemned the candidacy of Libertarian Fred Peterson. they couldn't even use the good man's name!
Voters will have three choices for mayor when they go to the polls Nov. 6. One is an experienced incumbent who has struggled at times in his second term but who has a proven ability to complete major tasks that have pushed the city forward. The second is an inexperienced and ill-prepared political newcomer. The third is a Libertarian candidate who has not shown he is a contender for the office. (empahsis supplied)

I already voted on Bart Peterson, in May of 2004. With my feet. Bart Peterson has his priorities completely out of whack. I don't know how anyone couldn't have run successfully against him. Here's the platform: Lower crime (stopping the killings, in particular), lower taxes, better infrastructure, and all else is fluff. Who can really say that things are better in Indy these days, and Bart should be rewarded? With a straight face?

The Star and Bart Peterson can have their filthy crime and poverty magnet called Indianapolis. I never second-guess my judgment that screamed "Flee!"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Road Trip iPod Lineup

Gregor brought to mind that since I am working on the road so much, I really don't get to listen to much local radio. As a substitute, I cram the iPod with podcasts. All of these are free downloads. Simply go to the iTunes Store page and type in the names in the "search" window. Make sure you have plenty of hard drive space!

Here are my regular listens:

1. Cato's Daily Podcast. These are short (4-9 minutes) topical discussions. The program was greatly improved when new host Caleb Brown was introduced. Brown interviews Cato policy analysts on issues of the day. The ones I've enjoyed most have been on the subject of regional planning and light rail mass transit, although the insallment titled, "Is Hilary a Neo-Con?" was a goodie. Cato's main page.

2. Jonesy's Jukebox Jury. Steve Jones, guitar player for the Sex Pistols, lives in LA and hosts a great daily freeform radio show on Indie 103.1. It plays like the best of college radio that I was lucky enough to be a part of back in Cleveland (I was at WCSB, but also check out WRUW), with Jones playing tunes he wants to hear (no 12-song playlist!) and sharing insider tales about the musicians heard on these songs. Jones also plays his guitar and sings from time to time, even sometimes breaking it out spontaneously as he reads a set list. He also hosts LA scenesters. This has led to the "Jukebox Jury". Every Friday, Jones hosts a panel of four guests who comprise the "Jury". They spin a tune and then each declares it "Mustard!" if they like it, or "Pants!" if they don't. They're British terms that Jones uses. (His Cockney is a crack-up.) There are always huge laughs during the show, and Jones will surprise you. Think "Sex Pistols" and you'll have a firm impression. Jones breaks his own mold.

The podcasts are only of the "Jury" show, which is too bad. Indie 103.1 can be heard for free by streaming via iTunes, so I sometimes listen live (Noon-3pm Pacific). Average podcast length is 90 minutes, and I generally listen to the whole show in one shot while on the interstate. There isn't another show this length I can say that about. Jukebox show page.

3. The Watt From Pedro Show. Mike Watt, together with Jones, is my other punk rock musical hero. How grand is life that each has a podcast? Watt (bass) played in the legendary band The Minutemen with childhood friend, the late D Boon (guitar, vocals), and George Hurley (drums). Watt currently plays in the Stooges (yes, Iggy Pop's band), and has four other current working bands that are more or less his.

I find Watt endlessly engaging. I share his blue collar background, and while I don't share his politics, I really soak up his ethic, and his vocabulary. (He has his own lingo. Check out his Hoot Page and look for terms like "econo", "konk", "boat", and "thudstaff".) He's a workaholic musician who doesn't take part in the rock star BS, but instead takes in the places he visits and their people. The podcasts are intensely personal, as he talks about his past with Boon (especially) and the people in his life. He often interviews musicians he's touring with.

Unfortunately, I skip a great deal of this 3-hour show. Watt has a format: Open with music from John Coltrane, play a few rock tunes, talk/interview, Brother Matt's Spin Cycle (dance & beat DJ stuff), and an old radio theatre bit. I listen for Watt and his insights. The Spin Cycle can be as long as 50 minutes, and I skip the whole thing every time. Ditto the radio theatre, which can be up to 40 minutes. That's a lot of filler, if you ask me. But hey- the show is a free download, so I don't mind skipping over. I just wish it was three full hours of Watt instead of about an hour and twenty minutes. TWFPS homepage.

4. Free Talk Live. This isn't the best radio in the world, but when I'm out and about and not likely to hear libertarian views via terrestrial signal, this is where I turn. There isn't much in the way of contrarian views on FTL, so it gets to be a bit too much of a know-it-all fest at times, and that's saying something because I agree with the vast majority of what they're saying. A lot of Ron Paul coverage lately, for which I am eternally grateful. FTL's homepage.

Which podcasts make your playlists?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This is a Joke, Right?

I just got an email alert from my favorite talk station in Indy, WXNT 14030-am, advising that there will be a new host, Phil Hendrie, on the station. Get a load of his "credentials":

Hendrie's views are unique for modern talk radio. He is a registered Democrat who vocally supported Bill Clinton, voted for Al Gore over George W. Bush in 2000, and both Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. At the same time, he supports troops in Iraq and the War on Terror. Phil voted for and supported George W. Bush in 2004 and feels that Bush will someday be viewed as one of the country's greatest presidents.
So, Hendrie can best be described as... misguided in every way? For Carter, Mondale, and George W. Bush? Ranking Bush up there with, say, Lincoln? Well, WXNT is airing him from 1-4am. Seems like a good place to stash this guy.

Update: WXNT is shaking things up even more than this. I just received an email from the station saying that Neal Boortz and Glenn Beck are going to trade times. From the email:

The other major change to our lineup involves two of our most popular hosts: Glenn Beck and Neal Boortz. Both hosts have very passionate fans. However, based on the results of several listener surveys, Beck & Boortz will "flip" timeslots effective tomorrow. Glenn Beck will now be heard from 10:00am to 1:00pm weekdays with Neal Boortz moving to the 6:00pm evening slot.
Well, that sucks! Boortz was the one syndicated show I listened to, because of Neal's largely libertarian views and because it was a time that I tend to drive. That's when I listen to the radio. I never listen in the early evening, and my understanding is that this slot is sort of the graveyard for the daytime airwaves.

Glenn Beck? The guy does good radio, so long as he isn't talking politics. I don't want to hear him talk policy. He's clueless there. He is very entertaining when talking about having been a drunk, or going on about popular culture, but as a whole, I don't care about an ex-drunk or celebrities.

Looks like the iPod is going to get even more use in the car when I'm in central Indiana. Bummer.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Road Work A-Plenty

(Crystal Lake, IL) No sooner finished with site verification worh in Champaign IL, and I was summoned to take on at least two projects in northern Illinois. Can't really call it Chicagoland. The work is 55 miles west of Chicago, and about 15 miles south of the Wisconsin border. These jobs will be a combination of verifications, easement acquisitions, and assorted title work. It will easily consume the rest of 2007.

I'm really missing the political season this year. Well, I'm not missing it exactly. At this time last year, I was 30 pounds lighter due to a kidney stone and general neglect, completely stressed out, nursing a severely broken hand, and generally dying to pour myself into my new business. So, here I am, right where I wanted to be. Well, I wouldn't mind if I hadn't put the weight back on. And I'd really love it if this kind of work were available in Indiana, right close to home. I miss being home with Ame and Isabel day in, day out. But in terms of the work, it's grown beyond my wildest dreams.

Moreover, my drive to the United Center for Wednesday's Sharks-Blackhawks game will be a relatively short one! But apart from that diversion, the nose will be to the grindstone.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pleasant Dreams

As I'm about to turn in for the night, I'll allow a delightful, wistful item from Radley Balko float through my mind as my head hits the pillow and I drift into sleep. It's a list of questions he would like to ask presidential candidates at debates. Here are my faves:
— A recent study found that over half the country now derives part or all of its income from the federal government. Three of the richest counties in the country are in the D.C. suburbs, a telling indicator of just how bloated with taxpayer dollars Washington has become. Do you think these trends are healthy? Would you agree or disagree that the federal government is getting too large, too influential, and too pervasive?

—Name five government agencies that are either superfluous, anachronistic, ineffective, or otherwise no longer necessary, and that you would eliminate? To make things interesting, let's take everything under the Department of Defense
off the table, with the acknowledgment that there's plenty of cutting to be done there, too.

—The U.S. currently has troops on 6,000 bases spread out over 135 countries. Do you believe this is a good or bad thing? If bad, from what countries would you remove U.S. troops?

I'm picturing stunned faces, immediate evasive maneuvers, and snickers at the squirming power-seekers from across the USA. Ah- sweet, sweet dreams...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Open Up and Say, "Arr"

(Fishers, IN) - Or, "Arr, Matey". I'm fond of "Off me wooden leg, ye salty dog!"

Yes, today is Talk Like A Pirate Day. Make sure to do your part.

Hat tip: Mike Watt.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Big Relief!

(Parma, OH) - Here's some major good news: my Dad's surgery was a success, and he's recovering nicely.

He had the least invasive treatment possible for repair of three Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms, at Parma Community Hospital. The alternative was a complete opening of the abdomen, and that scared the hell out of all of the Koles. So, being able to receive the EVAR treatment was a big relief, and the successful outcome an even greater relief.

I'll take Isabel to see Grandpa in a short while, now that most of the grogginess is gone, and he's up to seeing more wiggly visitors. No 'hop on Grandpop', or airplane rides for a while, though.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Hardest Part

Road trips with Steve are big fun for me. The hard part is leaving the family behind. The reunion is only a few hours off, but in Cleveland.

Ame and Isabel are already in Cleveland, and I'll leave Fishers shortly. My Dad is having a pretty serious abdominal/cardiac surgery on Monday, so we're going to be there for him and my Mom.

No telling when I'll be back in Indiana. I'm going to stay until his condition is stable.
Someone's Gotta Win? Says Who?

(Fishers, IN) After a week on the road, I finally turned my eyes to college football- and what do I see? Notre Dame and Michigan have lost again? While Ohio State won? I really am living the life these days!

So, 0-2 Michigan faces 0-2 Notre Dame, and the headlines on the Indy Star and ESPN all say, "Someone Has To Win". Says who? How about a nice tie? In fact, how about a nice scoreless tie? Let's see hightened futility for these two! How delightful that would be!
Another Road Trip Photo Post

I could do these for weeks. Maybe I will! For now, here are a variety of water-oriented photos. The first three are mine, the fourth is Steve's. Captions soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Road Trip Notes

(Madison, WI) - It's been difficult to get wireless internet connections in the various places we've been visiting, so the posts aren't exactly on the spot reporting. That's ok. The main thing is the trip itself, of course.

Today's start was in Duluth, where temperatures were cool, but the cloudy skies did not mean anything more than sporadic rains. In any case, a little rain wasn't going to dampen a trip to Duluth's waterfront, where we were going to check out huge ships leaving the harbor, and trains carrying ore and stone.

A ship called the "Canadian Progress" left the harbor carrying a load of coal, for power plants or steel mills unknown. The US Army Corps of Engineers posts the expected times of arrival and departure for tankers, so it's easy to plan to be at the channel at the right time. Navigating these ships out of Duluth and into Lake Superior isn't nearly as treacherous as the course through Cleveland's Cuyahoga River "Collision Bend", but it's still fun to watch the trip.

The Canadian Progress in the ship channel on Minnesota Point connecting Duluth and Lake Superior

Hitting the road out of Minnesota and into Wisconsin revealed the best wildlife sightings of the trip thus far: Four bald eagles, several elk, deer, and dozens of wild turkeys. Neither Steve nor I had never seen a bald eagle in the wild before, so we were very excited at seeing one on the road, finishing off a deer carcass with the help of some crows. Only about ten minutes later, I spotted another perched atop a dead tree in a swamp. Steve stopped the car so I could approach for some pictures. As I made my way closer, a second bald eagle chased the first off its' perch, taking its' place. Unfortunately, in getting closer for better photos, both birds were spooked off, and they flew away.

I wish I could have gotten closer, but the bald eagles didn't seem eager for my company

This was the first real serious backroads jockeying we did, and it really paid off. We use the DeLorme's Atlas & Gazatteer series of maps. These are backroads maps, created with road trips in mind. DeLorme's publishes an edition for most states. They aren't great for city travel, but they really help you find alternates to the highway that make up in scenic beauty for whatever time might be sacrificed. I recommend them highly.

The road less travelled, in northern Wisconsin.
Road Trip Photo Post, 2

(Duluth, MN)- Here are some pics, courtesy Steve Wainstead, of my interview with Craig Coxe. I met with Craig in Harbor Springs, MI:

Craig studies a printout of his NHL fights, as compiled on

Funny to see Craig react to the list. Users vote on winners and losers. "They really thought Kimble beat me?" We laughed.

Craig & I, posing for the camera. Craig Coxe is one tall man.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Road Trip Photo Post

(Thunder Bay, ON) - Some of my pics of our flight from Charlevoix to Beaver Island. This is a small handful of the 70 or so images shot from the plane. I was especially pleased with a 20-shot study of the landing gear against the surface below. I selected three favorites here.

On The Road, and In The Air

(Sault Ste Marie, MI) - Quite a day yesterday, despite missing on Mark Rutherford's pointers for the Charlevoix area!

The interview with Craig Coxe at Springs Harbor, MI was about the best I've ever had with an athlete. Many, many thanks to Craig for taking the time (about 90 minutes!), his enthusiasm, and for being so open about every topic. My experience had always been that hockey players are more humble and forthcoming than other pro athletes, such as NBA, NFL, or MLB players. But Coxe was so accommodating, and truly a fun interview. I can't wait to transcribe and even to begin posting some video interview clips.

From Springs Harbor and after lunch, we went back to Charlevoix so that we could get a ferry boat or plane to Beaver Island. We struck out on a couple counts. On Mondays this time of year, the ferry makes only one trip to and fro- and had already made it. We really wanted to enjoy each available mode, water and air. Well, water wasn't available, so we agreed that it would be better to fly each way than to miss out on a trip to this remote place. We got to the airport and learned that there was only one round-trip remaining in the day. We would take it, but these would be back-to-back flights- only a 15 minute wait between trips!

It was totally worth it! On the flight out, I was the last to board, so I sat next to the pilot on a very small twin engine propeller plane. I was extremely nervous, but went with the thrill. Took many pictures from the air. We hit the ground, chatted up local Islanders for ten minutes, then boarded again to skip back to mainland. Steve sat next to pilot for the return, and I sat at the back, shooting a collage of the plane's interior and a series of shots down to the surface. It was a study of the fixed landing gear and whatever was below: Lake Michigan, treetops, a quarry, the runway, etc. I'll load some of these later.

In the late afternoon, we drove up to Sault Ste Marie, deciding to stay in Michigan one more night before crossing into Canada. We went to Kewadin Casino, which is run by the SSM Chippewa Indians. I'm usually pretty down on non-Vegas casinos, but this one was very good. It had a huge number of slots, and a fair number of table games. But here was the best part: $1 video poker was 9-5, and the texas hold-em table was 1-2. What's that mean? High payback for longer play on slots, low stakes entry on poker. So, Steve and I could play and not feel like we were going to break the bank.

Actually, we both left with more money than we started. That usually doesn't happen, but Steve doubled his money on roulette, and I won a small amount on hold-em. We had a real laugh at the end of the night, when I was simply trying to get a metal $1 token for my dad. I put a $5 into the video poker machine with the idea that I would take one or two out of the five and play the rest, probably losing them. I got two nice ones, but then kept winning small hands- two pair & three of a kind. I would play, win, cash out, look at Steve, and we would laugh... and repeat. Nothing big. I left with ten buck, plus the two tokens. It was just the situation- no investment in winning, yet doing so.

Today we'll make tracks, trying to get to Thunder Bay. Of course, we never know what may divert our attention!

Monday, September 10, 2007

On The Road

(Traverse City, MI) Several years ago, I would take a crazy road trip with my best friend, Steve. I looked up and found that it had been nine years since we took a road trip! Fortunately, it all worked out so we could do a trip that had been long-standing on our list: a circle tour of Lake Superior.

Ultimately, the plan is for a figure-eight tour: North from the Indy area, through Michigan along the western coast of Lake Michigan; then heading west theough Michigan's Upper Peninsula along the southern coast of Lake Superior, to Duluth, MN; then east along the northern coast of Superior; then west again through the UP- this time on the southern coast above Lake Michigan; then south through Wisconsin, Illinois, and back into Indiana. Route will vary on a whim- any time, any where, for no reason at all. About a week, all told.

Steve flew in from New York to Indy on Saturday. Ame and I showed him Hoosier hospitality with a nice dinner that included veggies from the garden and Indiana pork. Sunday, we hit the road.

Starting in Fishers, we meandered through Hamilton County, passing a bison farm on Six Points Road, just south of 296th. We meandered through Tipton County and got onto US 31 in time to let Steve feast his eyes on the famed Sherrill's "Eat Here and Get Gas" sign.

US 31 is a straight shot to Canada, but we did jump off from time to time to check out various sights. One misadventure was in Niles, MI. I truly thought that there was a tavern on trackside, full of railroad decor and a dining caboose. I was mistaken. My memory failed me. We asked around town- even at the Amtrak station- and everyone was stumped. Well, it had been ten years since I had been to that tavern, on a long work detail. On reflection, I think it's in Sturgis, MI. Who knows? I'll have to dig through my old photos.

Steve was astonished by the cheap land prices in Mi. $10,000/acre sounds ridiculous to a New Yorker. This was for property within 1,000 feet of Lake Michigan, north of Muskegon. Fun listening to him laugh at the prices.

We ended up in Traverse City, where the temperatures are lower and the wind is gusting. Today's adventures include an interview with former NHL player Craig Coxe, and a day trip to Beaver Island.

Could be trouble ahead- I forgot to bring my birth certificate and passport. I don't know if this will pose problems getting into Canada. I suspect that it might. If so, it would severly alter the pre-trip planned course, potentially eliminating the north shore of Lake Superior in Ontario. That would be a bummer. I was hoping to stop in Thunder Bay, and to take in the sights along the way.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Voting With Your Feet

One fabulous recipe for driving away wealth is to raise income taxes or property taxes. The more money a person earns, the more incentive that person has to leave so as to preserve their rightful earnings. When property taxes outstrip the perceived value of contributing to the upkeep of a neighborhood or a municipality, the higher the tax, the greater the incentive to find a place that will be worth the bill.

I've long said that people vote with their feet. I've done it twice in my life. My great-grandparents crossed an ocean to do it. One place I voted with my feet on is Indianapolis. I did it before the City-County Council, on Mayor Peterson's recommendation, raised the income tax. I did it before the property tax assessment issue came to fore. Thank goodness!

Even NuVo gets it:

When the deleterious effect of high taxes is apparent even to NuVo, then it's as plain as the nose on your face. Wayne Bertsch at NuVo.

I love the "World Class Mayor" bit on the t-shirt. Peterson likes to crow about making a "World Class City" and that high taxes are the price to be paid. What a load. When the murder rate is higher than Detroit's, Indy is not a World Class City in any sense, except perhaps Third World. The priorities are a wreck. Public safety should be fully funded while everything else plays second fiddle. It isn't the way things are done in Indy, so I left. Now that I'm making more money than when I lived in Indy, I'm damn glad I did, because it would be a crime to pay more for getting less.

The people who remain in Indy have to decide something: Do you want to have Indy as a cauldron of poverty and crime? Or, do you want to have increasing wealth and decreasing crime? It's a simple matter of policy, and while I'm no fan of the Republicans (because they create disincentives for wealth, only are slower on the implementation), the Democrats are quickly destroying Indianapolis. So, while too many partisan Democrats would rather fiddle like Nero and keep their people in office, will the independents be swayed to vote Libertarian? Or at least stop voting Democrat? (I can't even bring myself to say 'vote Republican'. They haven't earned it.)

I'll keep looking from a safe distance.

Hat tip to Hoosiers For Fair Taxation on the strip!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Excellent Time for a Protest

The NFL season opener is in town tomorrow night. The Super Bowl champ Colts host the Saints for a big deal game, with big deal entertainment on Monument Circle. (Kelly Clarkson is ok by me, because she had Mike Watt play bass on recent recordings.) The national TV cameras will be focused on Indianapolis.

What better time to dunk some property tax assessment tea bags into the canal? Details:

NFL Opening GamePan Am Plaza - Across from RCA Dome.
Thursday, Sept 6th - Meet at 6pm.
Bring your assessment (or facsimille) to put in the giant tea bag.
At 8pm we march to the Downtown Canal to dunk the tea bag once more

I've heard some grumbling about this, along the lines of, 'why can't you just enjoy the moment and not try to give the city a black eye?' Har har, the city already has the black eye. Check out the murder count, murder rate, general crime rate, tax rates, wealth flight, and then see if people trying to right the ship is in fact 'giving the city a black eye'.

Sometimes, embarrassment is the only motivation for fixing obvious and huge problems.

Update: Matt Tully wrote a truly unfortunate column for the Indy Star, urging everyone to enjoy the 'circus' part of the 'bread & circuses' charade, essentially sneering at the tax protesters. From his column:
"We want to communicate with the rest of the country what's going on in our city," event organizer Melyssa Donaghy, also the city's best-known dominatrix, told me.

All I can say is, huh?

A little perspective, folks. Something tells me people in Dubuque, Detroit and Durango don't care about tax increases in Indianapolis. And I'm betting NBC will steer its cameras away from those protesting in the streets. But since you're going to be here, Kelly and Faith, I thought you could use a primer on what's going on.

A. Why must Tully identify Melyssa Donaghy as a dominatrix? Does he identify every person he writes about by their proclivities? Or, is this just his shabby attempt to smear her? That was rhetorical. Matt Tully lives to smear the earnest little people who endeavor to make our region a better place to live. I know, he's done it to me.

B. The point of shining the light of truth on the tax situation for people outside to see is not because they have an interest. It's because this event is a sham designed to prop up the gilded face of the city. Underneath the glitter is a hell of a lot of decay. The protesters are, as the kids say, keeping it real.

C. Perspective? It doesn't matter what the problems of New Orleans or the third world are. We live in Indiana. All politics being local, we work to make home a better place. If we ignored home and focused elsewhere, home would get worse. Why does Tully want home to decline? What kind of 'thinking' is that? Perspective, indeed!

Maybe it's just that the Star sells a lot of newspapers and draws a lot of website hits by running pictures and stories about the Colts, thus selling a lot of advertising. Maybe that's Tully's motivation for this slime-dripping hack job.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Red River Gorge, III

Ame, Isabel & I took our third trip to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky earlier this week. It was an excellent trip!

Posing on the deck of the cabin. Awesome views!

For me, the highlight was watching Isabel enjoy participating in the action. She really wanted to do some hiking rather than simply being carried in the backpack. So, we let her walk the trail to Balanced Rock.

We figured this would be a short walk on her part, that we would end up carrying her after some short distance. She only turned two this past June.

She's a tough little girl! She fell down twice and brushed it off, saying, "I ok. Let's go". She scaled all of the stairs by herself, at her insistance. This is no small feat for a 2-year-old, as you can judge by the photos.

Isabel leads Mommy up the stairs, up the mountain.

This is the joy of being self-employed: Take off on a non-holiday Monday for a couple days. It's ok, the boss approves.

Goofy Daddy and Isabel at Balanced Rock

Excellent College Football Weekend

What could be better? Ohio State wins large, Michigan loses to the first cream puff on its' schedule- at home, and Notre Dame gets pounded at home.

Repeat this, oh, four or five more times, and we'll see a memorable season! (It's a shame both teams can't lose when Michigan hosts Notre Dame later this month. Oh well.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

If You Have To Read Just One Article On The Michael Vick Case...

Here it is- on, that fountainhead of deep social analysis. Seriously, Howard Bryant's article on the Vick plea is excellent. From Bryant's writing:
Still, for all the emotion and anger, for all of the societal hot buttons this case has pressed at once -- race, class, privilege, the debate about cruelty to animals versus the value of human life -- this conclusion feels unsatisfying. Here is the saga of a man who financed and oversaw an inhumane operation, who was party to all of its graphic brutality and who, to date, has not shown an ounce of remorse. The fact that he still has a chance to avoid jail seems incongruous, even unfair, especially in a world in which it appears that hard time seems to exist only for the guilty poor, the average or the unconnected.

Sums it up well. The thing that always occurs to me when a pro athlete is involved with the law is that they get a different deal than the rest of us. It isn't right. Justice is supposed to be blind.

I know- we're supposed to be a nation of laws and not men, too. Alas. There's that pesky idealism that's supposed to be on the wane.
Scary Ride

Besides the raw workload, one thing has been on my mind that has made it hard to get too worked up about much of anything political.

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving on I-74, back home from Champaign, Illinois. It had been a good road trip- I finished earlier than expected, so I was going to be home earlier, which is a major plus. But it was raining, and being that I was early, I decided to take it easy. I normally drive about 75-78mph on the interstate. I knocked it down to 65, set the cruise control, and eased on down the road.

I learned something about cruise control and rain. They don't mix. Moving in the passing lane ahead of a slower semi, I noticed that I was going backwards. It happened so smoothly that I didn't really grasp that I was hydroplaning until I was facing the semi. This was bad. It was behind me.

It was astonishing that I remained completely calm. I had the thought that I was going to be hurt badly, and yet, everything seemed to be suddenly a lot slower, and I was really calm.

I grew up driving in Cleveland, so I know how to drive on ice at speed. I thought it through. I let off the gas (no brakes) and turned the wheel to right the car. As I did this, I was sliding from the passing lane to the thru lane. About 1,000 feet later, the car was reasonably pointed forward, so I began tapping the brakes. I saw that the drainage ditch off-road was pretty deep. This still didn't cause me any alarm. Then, I felt the rumble strips in the berm, so I hit the brakes hard.

Sure enough, the tires grabbed on the strips and I stopped. I had one tire over the edge of the ditch. I hit nobody and nothing.

Well! My heart was pounding through my chest, and with the realization that I was safe, I actually felt some panic. I looked in all my mirrors to see what lay behind me. I was sure that someone else would have wrecked or run off the road in reaction to my movements. But, no! The semi was up the road, as were other cars, moving along as though my spin-out never happened. Nobody had run off behind me.

I sat there for a minute to collect my wits. It really took that long for it to sink in that all was well. It was just a scary moment, but with no harm done.

I was pretty spooked about continuing on the highway, so I got off at the next exit for a slow road home. Luckily, that was SR 32, which I could take home by way of Noblesville.

So, if anyone wonders if the political fire is out of my belly, the answer is that much of the time right now, it is. I did get riled about an anti-capitalism post on Bilerico recently, so it's not gone. It's just that perspective comes easy to me right now, and perspective is very dangerous to the pen of the idealist.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Life, Illustrated

Pretty simple these days: work & family. Some of it even happens here in Indiana.

Isabel admiring the bunnies with Ame, at the State Fair. She really loves bunnies!

On location Friday in Champaign, Illinois. 110 sites near cross-connect boxes. I've perfected the 80-hour work week.

Watching trains with Alex in Bedford, Ohio on Saturday. Bedford is his hometown. He visited with relatives here all week.
Playing house with Isabel and Sasquatch in the backyard. She outgrew the old playset, so we donated it and found this one. She really loves the house! Now, if a bunny were to come out of the woods and join her, well that would just be heaven on earth for her!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

An Online Petition To Sign

This is pretty straightforward:
To: Indiana General Assmebly, Governor Mitch Daniels

We, the People of the State of Indiana do hereby DEMAND that our State Legislature act immediately to abolish property taxes and institute a fair system of taxation.

The Undersigned

Follow this link to sign online. I did!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Marion County Tax Burden, Illustrated

My friends at the Marion County Libertarian Party have compiled an interesting set of data, showing the change in the tax burden from 1997 to 2005.

'Change' is to say, 'growth'.

Observe this chart, which shows the local tax burden as a percentage of income. This is not state or federal, mind you. Just local:

So, considering that I felt that Indianapolis-Marion County government was underperforming miserably, is it any wonder I left Indy in 2004? Should anyone be surprised when people of means leave across borders to other counties? For 12% of my income, I want results!

Keep in mind: Immigrants have historically crossed national borders to enter the United States in order to give themselves a better deal. If you curse me, you curse them.
New Linkage

Speaking of lazy blogging, I've been slow to add new links to sites I like, even though I visit some daily. Shame on me!

Anyhow, the links are to Advance Indiana, Indiana Barrister, Indy Undercover, Eric Schansberg's blog, and Sean Shepard's "Shepard Politics".

Check 'em out!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Lazy Blog Entry

OK, not so lazy. I've been working my tail off. But here are some excellent items I've read lately. You should read them, too.

UnCivil Defence's take on the TSA screening bus riders for dirty bombs, anthrax, and other WMD's, I guess:
I am reminded more and more of my years in South Africa during the Apartheid era. I never thought I'd see the day come when I could make that sad comparison while living in the States.

Rex Bell's letter to the Richmond Pal-Item, on property taxes, and why they are what they are:
There's a good chance that we won't see any reduction in our taxes as long as a majority of voters keep demanding that government should oversee and manage every aspect of our lives from the cradle to the grave.

If you don't think it has come to that, just try to name three things that our government doesn't tax or regulate.

That's a worthy challenge. It is left as an exercise for the student.

Doug Masson's blog entry breaks down in six steps the twisted property tax mess caused in the Statehouse, via an article by Purdue economist Larry DeBoer. It's an excellent demonstration of how fixes can be worse than the problems in their effects. I liken it to driving a car on ice- the harder you jerk the wheel to straighten it out, the more you lose control.

Advance Indiana was the first to take Jen Wagner of the Indiana Democrats to task for her belittling treatment of tax protesters, from Saturday's "Tea Party". Jen Wagner is the Communications Director for the Indiana Democrats, and she posted a blog entry calling the 500 or so protesters, "attention-starved", in her blog Taking Down Words. Per Advance Indiana:
Having attended several of these protests, I can attest to the broad, cross-section of voters they attract, including Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and independents. I frankly don't understand from a communications standpoint why Wagner would want to attack these citizen protestors. Is that good politics?

No, it isn't, and it isn't pro-democracy either. I can see disagreeing with the point the protesters wanted to make. But when the Communications Director of a political party sneers at people for participating in the political process by protesting- largely the domain of Democrats and leftists- she should at least get a mirror, and at best apologize. If there's one thing we need of Hoosiers, it's to shed their apathy and to participate. Wagner was way off-base in her commentary.

Go to Indy Undercover. It's always great stuff.

And then, it's back to work...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Indianapolis Tea Party

Hoosiers For Fair Taxation are organizing a tea party of sorts, on the canal in Broad Ripple. They ask those who believe their assessments are absurd to bring the printout so that it may be added to the giant 'tea bag' and dunked in the canal. Here are the details:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Your Home, Seen Through The Eyes of Others

Courtesy Tim Maguire, here's how it goes....

Your home, as you see it:

As seen by a buyer:

As seen by your lender:

As seen by your appraiser:

As seen by your Assessor:

Tim Maguire is a Libertarian candidate for City-County Council, at-large. Could any candidate but a Libertarian circulate this joke without a sense of deep shame or guilt? I think not.
Pluses & Minuses

I was fairly floored when I saw that Mayor Peterson's recommendation for the budget crisis was the cut all departments by 10%, with the exception of public safety. My gosh, where have we heard this before?! Hoosier Libertarians, myself included, have recommended this as a good policy direction for the entire five years I've been in Central Indiana. That's a plus.

But Peterson also recommended passing his proposed tax hike. Cutting budgets is so good and so necessary that I want to be all praise, but I just cannot. Tax hikes drive out wealth. It doesn't take a genius to understand this. Peterson, being in the land development business, should understand this better than the average politician. And yet, he stands by his tax. It's senseless, breaking things as he fixes them. If he were your child, you'd smack his ass and straighten him out. This is a minus.

The City-County Council passed the tax. Couldn't tell by reading the Indy Star this morning. How could this not be headline news? The CCC just did something to drive more wealth out of the County, giving me more new neighbors here in Hamilton County. Are they hell-bent on making Indianapolis a poverty magnet? It sure seems that way. Reminds me of Cleveland, how it went from a city of about 1 million to 400,000 in 20 years. How? A few small policy decision: a move from neighborhood schools to forced busing. An income tax increase. That's all it took. Major minus.

As usual, my decision to flee Marion County has been reaffirmed. I take very little pleasure in noting this.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Where To Cut First?

The City-County in Indy needs to cut somewhere. The arguments are always about where to do it. Every department head sees their department as the One True Necessary Governmental Agency, and their fiefdom besides. Every sepcial interest group that is served by a particular department holds it as sancrosanct. To paraphrase many great thinkers, there's nothing as permanent as a government office.

A few posts back, I showed a list of the Indy Government page. True, not every link was in fact a government office or program. At the same time, several links begat several more offices and programs. The point was to show that there is a lot of government. The point was to get readers to see the list and have at least a few of the departments seem so wholly irrelevant or of a wish list priority that suggestions could be made as to where to cut so as to more fully fund real priorities, such as public safety- without having to resort to a tax increase.

To me, there are two ways to achieve cuts.

1. The fastest is to decree a percentage budget cut. This eliminates the territorial defense of certain departments that comes with the proposed cutting or elimination of selected departments or programs. If there is the desire to spend a certain amount of money in order to bring public safety forces up to snuff, simply take that dollar figure and divide it by an equal proportion to each of the non-public safety budgets. Voila, there's the money.

Tightening the belts of the non-public safety departments and programs is something that should be happily done by them. It's a sacrifice to them in the name of the greater good. That's the hallmark of government, as I routine hear it told.

2. Target departments or programs for outright elimination. Again, select the amount of money needed to bring public safety up-to-date, and then eliminate programs and departments until you have your figure.

How to do this? Let the 29 City-County Councilors get a list of all the departments and programs. They review this list and vote a ranking, from 1 to 150 or whatever the number is. The votes are weighted by ranking. Public safety is exempt from the vote. Once complete, the lowest voted departments fall until you have the savings necessary to fund public safety.

If you think this type of vote is difficult to tally, keep in mind that the Major League Baseball Writers do exactly this every year in voting retired baseball stars to the Hall of Fame. A handful make the Hall, but those who fail to receive a certain basline number of votes are forevermore excluded from the Hall ballot. If baseball can tally priorities for something as innocuous as Hall of Fame status, certainly the City-County government can do so in tight financial times with the services it delivers.