Saturday, December 20, 2008

When Idealism Becomes Realism

Many of the things that have come home to roost lately are things libertarians have been warning against for years. Back then, it was the stuff of conspiracy, of loony tinfoil hat wearing eggheads, studying things that looked like such minutiae in the glory days of the 90s bubble.

So, let's look at some of the things that we are doing now, and consider that we were right on our predictions then, so we might just have a grasp on what to expect with what is being done now. We looked idealistic then. Applying our principles now would be a good, necessary dose of realism.

The bailouts are a disaster. It is said that these businesses being propped up are too big to fail, or too important to just stand back and do nothing about. So, our federal government, with bi-partisan Republican and Democratic support, is giving them money.

If the problem is that President Bush approved budgets submitted by Congresses that had majorities from each party that were characterized by deficit spending, and much of our economic distress can be traced to our deficit, does it make sense to expand or contract the size of government, and therefore the cost of the government?

If the problem in lending is that lenders made bad, greedy decisions in making certain loans, which would correct the problem most swiftly? Letting them fail on the outcome of those decisions, or rewarding them?

If the problem is that borrowers took loans that they had no hope of repaying, or put them in a situation that they were one hiccup from foreclosure, which would correct the problem most swiftly and make sure it doesn't happen again? Letting them fail on the outcome of having extended themselves dangerously, or forgiving that behavior?

If the problem is that some automakers have legacy costs so severe that they cannot compete with others, will they be inclined to address their legacy cost issues if they are flush with cash, or if they are on a tight budget?

If the problem is that companies' executives lavish themselves with outlandish compensation packages, will that problem be best corrected by giving the companies free money, or if they have just enough to continue operations?

We can look at some local issues, too.

If the problem is that citizens of Indianapolis feel unsafe because of violent crime in the city, will they feel safer if they, as law abiding citizens, are stripped of their guns? Or, will they simply move out of Indianapolis for the suburbs, leaving the criminals who are not inclined to follow the law to remain, making the city even more violent and criminal?

If the problem is that employers leave the city for a rural area because of high taxes, will more businesses stay or leave if taxes are raised?

How is additional regulation supposed to fix these problems? Why are we putting our faith in more government? Americans have looked to the past for clues, and are convinced that we 'did nothing' about the problems that led to the stock market crash of 1929, and therefore created the Great Depression. Whatever the merit to that argument, it does not correspond to today's situation, where doing nothing would be exactly the right tonic for bad lenders, bad borrowers, and bad business leaders. It would be corrective, and instructive. It would also be just.

I cannot think of anything more unjust than what we are doing right now- taking from everyone to reward failure. It's just as wrong as wrong can be. It's wrong from an idealistic standpoint, and from a realistic standpoint.

Well, maybe we could do something. Our leaders could be leaders, and send the right signals to the people, by browbeating all these groups in public forums.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Smoking, Again

It appears that Indiana is poised to consider a statewide ban on smoking in places of public accommodation. No sir, I don't like it.

I don't smoke. Never have. I detest the smell of tobacco smoke. What I do like are property rights.

There's no doubt that smoking can kill you, and that secondhand smoke can also kill you. I'm not advocating smoking or hanging around in smoky bars. But people engage in this behavior, using a legal product, for a variety of reasons, none of which especially needs to be justified to me.

I trust business owners to set their own policies. Some restaurant owners long ago set smoke-free policies as a matter of their business plan, hoping to attract a clientele that prefers a smoke-free atmosphere. But there is clearly also a market for restaurants that permit a post-meal smoke. If the owner permits it, and you chose to walk in, who is harmed?

Some say that the people who work there are harmed. Sure they are, if they choose to work in a smoky environment. Who is taking what gun and pointing it to their heads, forcing them to be there? But, it's their job!

Well, no. It isn't their job. The job, like the building, belong to the employer. The employee is one who agrees to be there, on an agreed-to set of terms. Now, there may be some stupid employees out there, who didn't bother to discuss the terms, or who were somehow non-observant of the conditions of the workplace when they accepted the job of their own volition.

If the employer permits smoking by employees, the smoker isn't 'intervening' into the non-smoker's space. He is smoking in the space provided by the employer. The life, liberty of the property owner comes before the non-property owner who is invited into the building. It's the primacy of the property owner over the visitor that is important.

Consider your home for a minute. Would you not consider it absurd to invite guests over and then have them determine the policies of your home? So, why is a place of business any different?

America is really losing its' way with regards to freedom, and understanding freedom. When anybody but the property owner can dictate the policies affecting that property, there is no freedom, but fascism.

But, since it's clear that there are health risks associated with the use of tobacco, it seems prudent for those offering smoking policies to warn their potential guests. We have warning labels on cigarette packages. There is no reason why we can't have the smoking policy of various establishments clearly posted at all entrances so that informed choices can be made. This way, those who hate smoke, like me, can figure out if we want to enter or not. those who smoke can go where they want to as well.

Seems like a nice, King Solomon compromise solution- One that respects freedom.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And, Here's The Inflation

Well, I guess the rate can't be cut much lower than 0.5%, so what's left to do? Fire up the printing presses! Make some of that 'money' out of thin air! From CNNMoney:
...the Fed will likely continue to use its new favorite tool, quantitative easing, "Fed-speak" for pouring new money into the economy.

In addition to lowering rates, the Fed has increased its lending to financial institutions and foreign central banks throughout the year to ease the credit crunch. But when the financial markets exploded into crisis-mode in mid-September, the Fed's reserve of Treasurys to support its lending began to run low. As a result, the central bank began firing up the printing presses, financing drastically increased lending to banks, purchases of corporate debt and bailouts of troubled institutions like AIG.

So, I hope you did invest in gold, or some other commodity that can hold its' value. Your currency isn't going to be worth anything.
"The end result of all of this could be the next major problem: the crisis of confidence in the dollar," said Baumohl. "At some point, foreign investors are not going to come to the table to buy U.S. debt, leading to a dollar decline."

I'm more worried about by purchasing power, although to hear the disciples of FDR, a body blow to my purchasing power is a blessing.

I can't wait to watch the left struggle to explain itself. How is it that the Clinton era was so prosperous under the anti-inflationary eye of Alan Greenspan, and we are to return to prosperity with Obama under an inflationary course?

I get to thinking about my favorite stories of Weimar Germany, hoping it never reaches us. From a nice, short history via PBS:
Pianos, wrote the British historian Adam Fergusson, were bought even by unmusical families. Sellers held back because the Mark was worth less every day. As prices went up, the amounts of currency demanded were greater, and the German Central Bank responded to the demands. Yet the ruling authorities did not see anything wrong. A leading financial newspaper said that the amounts of money in circulation were not excessively high. Dr. Rudolf Havenstein, the president of the Reichsbank (equivalent to the Federal Reserve) told an economics professor that he needed a new suit but wasn't going to buy one until prices came down.

Why did the German government not act to halt the inflation? It was a shaky, fragile government, especially after the assassination. The vengeful French sent their army into the Ruhr to enforce their demands for reparations, and the Germans were powerless to resist. More than inflation, the Germans feared unemployment. In 1919 Communists had tried to take over, and severe unemployment might give the Communists another chance. The great German industrial combines -- Krupp, Thyssen, Farben, Stinnes -- condoned the inflation and survived it well. A cheaper Mark, they reasoned, would make German goods cheap and easy to export, and they needed the export earnings to buy raw materials abroad. Inflation kept everyone working.

So the printing presses ran, and once they began to run, they were hard to stop. The price increases began to be dizzying. Menus in cafes could not be revised quickly enough. A student at Freiburg University ordered a cup of coffee at a cafe. The price on the menu was 5,000 Marks. He had two cups. When the bill came, it was for 14,000 Marks. "If you want to save money," he was told, "and you want two cups of coffee, you should order them both at the same time."

and
The flight from currency that had begun with the buying of diamonds, gold, country houses, and antiques now extended to minor and almost useless items -- bric-a-brac, soap, hairpins. The law-abiding country crumbled into petty thievery. Copper pipes and brass armatures weren't safe. Gasoline was siphoned from cars. People bought things they didn't need and used them to barter -- a pair of shoes for a shirt, some crockery for coffee. Berlin had a "witches' Sabbath" atmosphere. Prostitutes of both sexes roamed the streets. Cocaine was the fashionable drug. In the cabarets the newly rich and their foreign friends could dance and spend money. Other reports noted that not all the young people had a bad time. Their parents had taught them to work and save, and that was clearly wrong, so they could spend money, enjoy themselves, and flout the old.

The publisher Leopold Ullstein wrote: "People just didn't understand what was happening. All the economic theory they had been taught didn't provide for the phenomenon. There was a feeling of utter dependence on anonymous powers -- almost as a primitive people believed in magic -- that somebody must be in the know, and that this small group of 'somebodies' must be a conspiracy."

When the 1,000-billion Mark note came out, few bothered to collect the change when they spent it. By November 1923, with one dollar equal to one trillion Marks, the breakdown was complete. The currency had lost meaning.

I hope it never comes to this. Perhaps we will only go as far as revisiting the 1970s economy. This crisis has all the markings of history repeating itself, though, by way of willful ignorance of economics, and a mindless scoffing at sound money as 'mere ideology'.

Best be prepared.
Recession Economics

When times are tight and money isn't a-flowing from your wallet, would you prefer that your dollar had greater purchasing power, or weaker? Would you prefer that your cost of living increased, or decreased?

With the economic in the tank, government intervention is seen by many as the best way to revive it. One person held as a hero to many for economic turnaround is FDR. One of the tools FDR used to try to revive the economy was inflation. One of the hallmarks of the prosperity of the 1990's under the Clinton Administration and Alan Greenspan's Fed was the very low rate of inflation.

These endless bailouts are going to generate inflation, whether that is the design or not, because the money being doled out doesn't exist. It has to be printed or borrowed, and with our borrowing capacity nearly tapped, it's going to have to be printed- created out of thin air.

Obama is in favor of the bailouts, so by extension, he is in favor of inflation.

Here's an interesting bit of propaganda from 1933, extolling the virtues of inflation, i.e.: the weakening of your purchasing power and the raising of your cost of living.



(h/t: Chris Spangle)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Actual Hope!

(Crystal Lake, IL)- Here in suburban Chicago, the scandal of their governor is everywhere. Through it all, I found the one thing I really hoped would come of it all: President-Elect Obama has called on Blagojevich to resign. From the Washington Post:
President-elect Barack Obama believes that Gov. Rod Blagojevich should resign, his advisers said on Wednesday. "The President-elect agrees with Lt. Gov. Quinn and many others that under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois," Robert Gibbs, the incoming White House press secretary, said.
Now, there seems to be no good reason why Obama couldn't have gotten in front of a camera and made the statement himself, but I'll take it on principle, which is that corruption cannot be tolerated, especially when it come from within your own party.

Maybe he can have someone speak for him against this auto industry bailout. That would bring hope in bushels.
Reactions To Blagojevich

First, the most predictable and unfortunate response, from the man himself, via his attorney, and via Politico.

The attorney for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said the governor will be vindicated and has no plans to resign.

"He didn't do anything wrong," attorney Sheldon Sorosky told reporters after Blagojevich appeared in court on Tuesday. "A lot of this is just politics."

Blagojevich should be in the office on Wednesday, Sorosky added.

So, reporters asked, he doesn’t intend to resign?

"Not that I know of, no," said Sorosky, who added that the governor was "surprised" by the day's events, but his spirits are “good.”


It seems that Democrats never resign when caught seemingly red-handed. I can't remember the last who did. It's always, "I'll be vindicated" and a legal fight, clinging to that delicious power for dear life.

On the upside for the Democratic Party, Senate majority leader Harry Reid has said that he won't seat a Blagojevich appointee. That's a good first step in distancing the Party from the man.

I think it's time Obama calls for the man to resign. That would signal to skeptics like me that he is serious about a change in politics. It's safe enough for Obama to do. It's not like he has any other office to chase. It's one thing for him to have come out, as anyone would, to say that he has no ties to Blagojevich's alleged actions. It's another entirely to say that it isn't condoned, it isn't to be swept under the rug. It is to be called out and confronted, opposed and smashed. Anything short of a call for resignation by Obama is weak. You've almost certainly heard his initial statement, here via ABC News:
"Obviously like the rest of the people of Illinois I am saddened and sobered by the news that came out of the US attorney's office today," said President-elect Obama this afternoon in Chicago, speaking of the criminal complaint against Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich for corruption. "But as this is a ongoing investigation involving the governor I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the issue at this time."

Asked what contact he'd had with the governor's office about his replacement in the Senate, President-elect Obama today said "I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening."

Distance yourself, make no statement on the content. That's pretty typical, and not much in the realm of change. I think a definitive statement of condemnation is not only appropriate, it's necessary.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Corrupt Illinois Democrat

I know- Big surprise. It's just incredible though how brazen Illinois' soon-to-be-former Governor appears. From the AP:
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on charges he brazenly conspired to sell or trade President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder

and
Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in an attempt to strong-arm the newspaper into firing editorial writers who had criticized him.

The 51-year-old Democrat was also accused of engaging in pay-to-play politics - that is, doling out jobs, contracts and appointments in return for campaign contributions.

Well, this is what virtually all elected officials do. Not condoning. Oh no! In fact, it should be just the beginning of the witch hunt. Let's indict all elected officials who steer contracts in return for campagin contributions.

I love this one:
Prosecutors said Blagojevich also talked about getting his wife placed on corporate boards where she might get $150,000 a year in director's fees.

In court papers, the FBI said Blagojevich expressed frustration at being "stuck" as governor. "I want to make money," the governor, whose salary is $177,412, was quoted as saying in one conversation.

Bwaahahaha! "Stuck" being governor! Sick of making a mere $177k! Oh, my side hurts! Bwaaaahahaha!

Ok, my ardent Democratic friends. It is time for you to condemn Blagojevich and his naked greed roundly. Demand his resignation. Today, he has made himself the face of the Democratic Party. If you fail to demand his immediate resignation, you condone his corruption.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Calorie Counting Report

Overall, I stuck to the plan of keeping at or under 2,000 calories/day, being greatly aided on Tuesday by intestinal flu, where the thought of food itself was nauseating. I lost eight pounds, going from 202 to 194. There were two cardio workouts and last night's hockey to boost the restraint.

On the downside, I was still quite drawn to the sugary stuff, and gave in to the temptation of soda three times. I'm weak! Once I saw that I was dropping pounds, it was very easy to allow myself to give in.

The main thing here is that putting the plan together and into action yielded results. Hmm. That's just like everything else in life.
Automaker Bailout Analysis

In a word? WRONG! But, here's a piece of what I've been thinking, from Russell Roberts at Cafe Hayek:
Why don't the Big Three save the money it takes to put together Congressional testimony and the time it takes for the people in charge to make the trip. Why don't they just take out ads in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times outlining what they're going to do with the money. Then they can try this really novel idea. They can sell bonds and borrow the money. If the plans look good, people might lend them the money. If the plans are lousy, they won't get the money.

This was the same advice I had for the funding of the then-proposed Lucas Oil Stadium. Alas.

Friend Michael Jarrell relates the automaker-Congressional begging to child-parent interaction, and to a drug addict intervention.
I doubt many of us would say yes to an alcoholic or drug addict when they asked for a fix, so why do politicians "have" to say yes when companies addicted to bad habits come begging for a fix from the "lender of last resort"?

Excellent.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Calorie Counting Begins

Well, I'm no spring chicken anymore, and I can't just eat whatever I want to. Like so many Americans, I have a little extra around the waist, and am determined to lose it.

So, I am beginning to count calories today, and to exercise regularly.

I've been playing hockey weekly, and lifting weights occasionally, so I'm in some kind of shape to begin a regular schedule. I'll do an hour of cardio daily, and lift three days a week. That's probably more than enough to get me where I want to go, but I realized that I have never tracked what I eat. I generally avoid fried foods, but I indulge greatly in sugary foods, knowing that it just isn't good for me.

Laying off the sugar will probably be the tough part. I love, I mean LOVE root beer and sodas. I had sworn them off once in 2003, in the interest of watching my weight, switching to diet sodas. I was drinking six cans of Coke or root beer every day, which is good for nearly 1,000 calories by itself. I lost eight pounds in just four weeks, doing nothing other than switching to diet. Problem is, I had a kidney stone in 2006, and was advised not to have diet drinks, so I swore those off and went back to sugary drinks, just having far fewer than I used to have.

My plan now is to drink water with lemon. I'll get the double benefit of drinking calorie-free water that is so good to do, and with the lemon, I'll be fighting off potential kidney stones. After that, I'm pretty clueless. This is why I need to track my calories. I have no idea what I consume right now. I suspect that some days I take in 1500 or so, and other days up to 4000. That's pretty ridiculous, when I think about it.

Side Note: Running for office was great for my waistline. I went from 195 lbs at the start of the campaign, and finished on election day at 168 lbs. Now I'm back to 195. Why not just do that again? Well, it didn't seem as healthy as constructing a way of living that works and is healthy by design.

My ceremonial last sugary drink last night was a Berghoff' Root Beer. It was delicious.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No Place For Libertarian Thought In Huckabee's Republican Party

As I was driving Monday afternoon to Nashville, Tennessee, I did a little AM-radio dial hopping to see what was out there. I found a trashing of libertarianism, at the hands of Mike Huckabee and Sean Hannity.

Now, I've long felt that Republicans don't really believe in liberty. They really believe in big government, just as Democrats do, merely using the power of government as an instrument of plunder or oppression for a different set of beneficiaries, or over a different set of acceptable minority victims. It was just interesting to hear it plainly spoken.

Huckabee was promoting his new book, which features a chapter that trashes not the Libertarian Party, but libertarian thought. From Time Magazine:
In a chapter titled "Faux-Cons: Worse than Liberalism," Huckabee identifies what he calls the "real threat" to the Republican Party: "libertarianism masked as conservatism." He is not so much concerned with the libertarian candidate Ron Paul's Republican supporters as he is with a strain of mainstream fiscal-conservative thought that demands ideological purity, seeing any tax increase as apostasy and leaving little room for government-driven solutions to people's problems. "I don't take issue with what they believe, but the smugness with which they believe it," writes Huckabee, who raised some taxes as governor and cut deals with his state's Democratic legislature. "Faux-Cons aren't interested in spirited or thoughtful debate, because such an endeavor requires accountability for the logical conclusion of their argument."

The logical conclusion of our economic argument is self-sufficiency and non-dependence. Is that what Huckabee is afraid of? The logical conclusion is to not reward failure, and to not punish success. I guess that's what the Republican Party is done with. Just in time for the bailouts.

Not interested in spirited or thoughtful debate? That's something libertarians are actually accused of- too much debate. He does get one thing right, and that's calling libertarians "Faux-Cons". That's because we're not 'cons'. Libertarianism is classic liberalism. It's only conservative in the sense that the tradition extends back to Thomas Jefferson, and libertarians intend to maintain, i.e.: conserve, that tradition.

Jon Henke has much of value to say on his blog:

We've come quite some way since 1975, when Reagan said "I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism."
Oh, and it happens that Huckabee does, in fact, take issue with what we believe. In May of 2008, Huckabee called blamed election losses on Republicans being too "libertarian" (this is obviously some strange usage of the word "libertarian" that I was previously unaware of), accused us of being un-American (my response to that is unprintable, but I would be glad to say it to his face if he wanted to repeat his comment to my face) and then proceeded to make the standard, cartoonish Democratic argument against libertarianism.

and
Huckabee is a Rawlsian liberal + social conservative: Mike Huckabee describes his political philosophy as (a) the Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto to you", and (b) a passage from the Bible ("Inasmuch as you have done to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me"). This is not "conservatism"; it is basic Rawlsian liberalism.

and
Social conservatives have to realize that they need the fiscally conservative, socially moderate/tolerant voters if they want to be a part of a winning coalition. The limited government message won revolutionary victories for Republicans in 1980 and 1994; it is the only viable organizing principle for the current Republican coalition.

Well, the weak, tenous link between the Republican coalition is finally exposed. Social conservatives wish to use goverment to oppress minority groups they don't like. Fiscal conservatives want government to get out of the way of business and the economy. How is it that one can reconcile the desire for a heavy-handed government in one area of life with a desire for a relative absence of government in another? It doesn't make any sense.

There is actually a better chance, in my estimation, of the fiscal liberals joining forces with the social conservatives, then of small-l libertarians staying with the GOP long term. After all, social conservatives and fiscal liberals both believe that freedom produces bad results, and only the wise, heavy hand of government can force people to act more 'correctly'.

They have their leader. His name is Mike Huckabee, the anti-libertarian who would raise taxes and interfere in your bedroom. I'm glad he thinks libertarians should be cast out. Nobody who believes in liberty can support his brand, the Republican brand, of conservatism.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cheap. Pitiful.

I see that Indy's Mayor is proposing a cut on the County Option Income Tax (COIT) for Marion County. From the Indy Star report:
Mayor Greg Ballard has introduced a proposal to lower the county income tax by three-hundredths of a percentage point, to 1.62 percent.

The adjustment would give a $6 million break to taxpayers. That works out to about $12 a year for the average $40,000-a-year wage-earner in Indianapolis.

Well, ain't he Santa Claus! Is this the same Mayor Ballard who was greatly aided in his election by tax protestors? Is this the level best reward he can give to a constituency that rallied to make itself heard?
Last year, the council increased the county income tax from 1 percent to 1.65 percent to cover an ongoing shortfall in public safety and criminal justice costs. The 2007 state law authorizing that tax increase required 0.3 percent of the money to go toward freezing property tax spending.

On Nov. 7, the state certified the county tax rate at 0.27 percent and gave counties the option of returning excess revenue to taxpayers. In Marion County, that excess is 0.03 percent.

It's very safe, very likely to gain passage by the City-County Council. It's a gain. But it's pitiful. It's a pittance. It doesn't reflect any genuine cut in government, it only represents not taking that small amount which isn't deemed 'necessary', in returning 'excess'.

In times of economic hardship, government is a luxury, not a necessity, and people at home should be allowed to keep a greater share of what they earn so that they can provide for their households.

At what point can we expect to see actual cuts in government?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

When Do We Call It 'Socialism'?

One of my favorite things to observe in the jubilant Left these days is an unwillingness to embrace the possibility that the first 100 days of Democratic rule might be socialism.

I think The Left knows well enough that socialism is not going to be broadly embraced, but I think it also knows that given bits and pieces of socialistic policy here and there, especially if dressed up with different words, like 'benefit', can make for broad enough an embrace.

My greatest fear is that we will be treated to socialized medicine in the first 100 days. If I learned anything from Mitch Daniels' first term, or Bill Clinton's, it's that you do the controversial things very early, and then you spend the next three years doing innocuous things. Well, it also helped that in both of these cases, the response to their first year was that they lost their parties' legislative majorities and returned to divided government.

When I mention this to my Obama-supporting friends, I get a heap of resistence, pooh-poohing the idea that there are any socialistic intents, just an improvement of benefits, or increasing access, or something, anything besides socialism.

I'd like to see how some of you would define socialized medicine.

Here's a definition I consider useful, from the Cato Institute, in a recent publication:
Socialized medicine exists to the extent that government controls medical resources and socializes the costs. Notice that under this definition, it is irrelevant whether we describe medical resources (e.g.,hospitals, employees) as “public” or “private.” What matters—what determines real as opposed to nominal ownership—is who controls the resources. By that definition, America’s health sector is already more than half socialized, and Obama’s health care plan would socialize medicine even further.

There is one main reason I oppose socialized health care. I believe it inherently unjust to involuntarily cause one person pay for any good or service consumed by another person.

I've always been mystified by The Left's gigantic blind spot, willfully or otherwise, on this point. How can one oppose involuntary servitude, or involuntary conscription into the military, and yet accept involuntary responsibility for the cost of another's health care? In any of these cases, an individual is denied the full decision of the allocation of his resources. They are taken by the state, against the will of the individual, and given elsewhere, on the basis that the state has first claim, and knows best besides.
Interesting Take On Transparency

A few of my friends have recently been touting with excitement the Obama transition plans, as shown on the website change.gov. Isn't it nice to see exactly what's coming down the pike? No secrets, all there to see.

Well, my friend Michael Jarrell has been watching with interest as well. He notes that while things may be transparent, they aren't permanent.
Apparently Team Obama keeps a sharp eye on their opposition these days. It seems that they saw the many commentaries on their new plans for involuntary servitude and decided to attempt to memory hole them.

He lays out an interesting change. One day the website said this:
Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. (emphasis supplied)

The next day:
Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by setting a goal that all middle school and high school students do 50 hours of community service a year and by developing a plan so that all college students who conduct 100 hours of community service receive a universal and fully refundable tax credit ensuring that the first $4,000 of their college education is completely free. (emphasis supplied)

The initial hope was to require the oxymoronic 'forced volunteerism'. When noticed, it became a 'goal', and now comes with a transfer of wealth.

That's all pretty shady, if you ask me. All of it.

What is hopeful in any of this?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Oh, what's this? A nice rah-rah piece on Amtrak, that suck-hole of tax dollars and inept provider of passenger transportation, courtesy the Lafayette Journal-Courier:
Recent spikes in gasoline prices, airport congestion and environmental awareness are among the reasons why Amtrak is reporting record ridership for the 2008 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Nationwide, Amtrak carried 28.7 million people this year, compared to 25.8 million in 2007. That was an 11 percent increase.
So, since the gasoline prices are now lower than when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, back in August 2005, ridership will certainly have already begun to tank, if it were such a factor in driving an increase in ridership. I love this quote from a rider:

"We're students and we're poor," she said with a chuckle, noting the train's comparatively cheap cost.

A round trip ticket between Lafayette and Chicago generally runs between $30 and $50 depending on the days, according to Amtrak's Web site.

Well, poor student, you aren't learning mathematics at Purdue, that's for sure. With gas now around $2/gallon, even if you drive a Hummer or some other beast that gets 10mpg, you can drive from Lafayette to Chicago for $25.20.

126 mi / 10 mpg = 12.6 gal x $2 = $25.20

You're going to be poor for a lifetime if you can't do the math. Amtrak isn't the solution. Oh? Riding for the environment? Ok, then calculate the ride in my Toyota Corolla:

126 mi / 40 mpg = 3.15 gal x $2 = $6.30

Seriously. What kind of stupid do you have to be to lap up what this article is offering?

Update: In response to the astute comment that caught where I didn't (shame on me!) that the Amtrak pricing is based on round trips, and my car pricing is based on a single leg, I decided to shore that up. Doubling my auto prices is the easy part:

252 mi / 10 mpg = 12.6 gal x $2 = $50.40
252 mi / 40 mpg = 3.15 gal x $2 = $12.60

I went to Amtrak's website to see the various prices. Turns out that the article is wrong. One cannot get a $30 round trip fare. It varies pretty significantly depending on the days of departure and arrival.

$36 - Depart Lafayette Nov 19 or 20, Return from Chicago Nov 24
$41 - Depart Lafayette Nov 19 or 20, Return from Chicago Nov 22 or 25
$52 - Depart Lafayette Nov 21, Return from Chicago Nov 23 or 26
$58 - Depart Lafayette Nov 19 or 20, Return from Chicago Nov 22 or 25
$67 - Depart Lafayette Nov 21, Return from Chicago Nov 23 or 26

So, the J-C's range of 'generally between $30 and $50 for a round trip' is misleading. You can't get a fare as low as $30, and most combinations are more than $50.

I guess we're both shoddy journalists, quick to make our points. In any case, my ride in the Corolla is still WAY cheap.
Doing The Math

Harvard Economist Greg Mankiw offers advice to President-Elect Obama. Here's the bit the struck me most:
during the campaign, you promised that you would cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, that you would vastly expand health insurance coverage, and that you would never cut Social Security benefits or raise the retirement age. You will almost surely have to renege on some of these promises. As your economic team will often remind you, even if the laws of arithmetic are ignored during campaigns, they provide a real constraint when making actual policy.

One of the best criticisms of the Bush Administration offered by the Left was an attack of borrow-and-spend. So, if Obama is to try to deliver on his campaign promises, how can he do it but to borrow and spend?

btw, Mankiw's had some really good posts lately, including an analysis of the GOP's failure, with the remedy being to run more libertarian. FWIW, he authored the textbook I used in my MBA Econ class.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Glad The Barrier Is Broken

The major upside to the Obama victory is that now the color barrier is broken for the highest office in the land. Now The Man will be a black man. 

Well, it's about time. When the contest came down to a white man with bad ideas and a black man with bad ideas, it may as well have been the black man with bad ideas. At least then Black America can at last stop thinking of the country as a place run by racist redneck crackers. We can put the race card away for once and for all.

I would have been miles happier to vote for a black man with good ideas, but there wasn't one running for President. This year. Obama will have helped clear the way for the future.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Now For The Bad News

Ok, idealism aside, my practical take is that if Bob Barr can't win, my best hope for minimizing the growth of government at the federal level is for McCain to win.

I feel ill typing that. Going back over a year, John McCain was one of two (Hillary Clinton the other) candidates I felt I could be pursuaded to vote against. But, divided government can be more deliberative, even though they weren't with the bailouts. It can be more restrained, even though they weren't with the bailouts. Sigh.

I fully expect an Obama landslide. That means unfettered Democratic rule. From this, I expect Obama to be a rubber stamp for his party's Congressional leadership, just as George W. Bush was for his. I expect government to expand dramatically, which is the bad news.

The only upside is historical precedent. Any time either the Democrats or Republicans take a majority, they piss off the American people in short order. We saw what Republicans did with their recent majorities. When Bill Clinton was elected in November 1992, he came into a Democratic Congress. The result? They pissed off the American people to the extent that the Republicans stormed back in 1994. Government was restrained at that point as best as has been in my lifetime.

So, there is some potential good news. It would be better if the American people took notice that they are alienated every time one party rule grows government, and went for REAL CHANGE and voted to restrain it, not by switching back and forth between the two parties proven to grow government, but to the one committed to scaling back the growth, the Libertarian Party.

But, since I'm being realistic here and not idealistic, my hope is for a structural repeat of the Clinton era: Dems take over, Dems screw up, divided government rules the day once again.

It's kind of like praying to have your breast bone brokem, because it's better than having your skull caved in.

Now, back to holding my little newborn guy!
An Appeal To My Friends In Ohio

You probably know that I ran for office in my 'new' home state of Indiana. Do you know why I didn't run in Ohio?

It was because the Republicans and Democrats erected great barriers against me from running as a Libertarian Party candidate. If I wanted to run I would have had to spend my time wastefully petitioning, rather than campaigning. This handicap is intentionally placed, discouraging third parties from participation. 

In America! Home of the free! 

Republicans and Democrats merely need to sign up to become candidates in Ohio. Libertarians can have this same kind of automatic ballot access, if Bob Barr gains 5% of the vote.

That's a tall order, as Ohio is a battleground state, and the Electoral Votes up for grabs could come down to anybody's vote. That's just as the Rs & Ds would have it. They set the bar that high because they believed it an impossible threshold.

I know that some of my friends are ardent partisan Rs or Ds. But for most of you, I know that the two parties only represent you to a point, that Rs & Ds don't match up very well, leaving you only to decide who to vote against, or whether sorting your sock drawer is a better option than casting a vote at all. Many of you would be partisan Libertarians, if you only had the choice.

This year, vote for Libertarian Bob Barr for president. Help the Libertarian Party of Ohio gain automatic ballot access so that Ohioans can begin to have broader ballot choices, in the interest of greater participation, and more choices that represent the broad spectrum of views found across the state.

Vote for Barr!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Vote Libertarian!

I am sending this appeal to any voter, but in particular, I want to urge the people who supported my 2006 campaign for Indiana Secretary of State to get out to the polls and cast votes for Libertarian Party candidates.

When I ran for that office, it wasn't just in seeking the office. It was to ensure continued automatic ballot access for all of Indiana's Libertarian party candidates. This is the day that effort was put forth for.

If you supported my campaign, with your effort, your time, your money- do yourself a favor and protect your investment. Make sure the showing is as strong as possible for our Libertarian candidates.

If you support libertarian policy, please do not be discouraged by the perceived likely results in the various races. Show up and cast your vote. When we score strongly, our ideas are taken seriously. If we don't? Well, why should anyone take us seriously?

But truly, we're running some strong races out there. Steve Keltner is running a fantastic campaign for Indiana Senate in District 30. Ed Angleton is also running strong, for Indiana House in District 100. Rex Bell scored 15% in his three-way 2006 run for Indiana House in District 54, and this time it's a two-way race. Rex could win! Dr. Eric Schansberg is running another strong campaign for US House in District 9. And on, and on.

Full list of Libertarian candidates on the ballot in Indiana.

Do it for me! Do it for yourself and your children. Just do it- vote Libertarian.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

It's A Boy!

Ame delivered a healthy, BIG (9lb, 11oz) baby boy at 7:02 this morning, on the back porch- the same spot Isabel was born 3+ years ago.

We haven't picked a first name out yet, but we're pretty set on Anders for a middle name, as a nod to Ame's Danish heritage. We'll post again when we arrive at a name.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This Redistribution of Wealth Is Trickier Than I Thought

To be fair, both Obama and McCain stand united in their belief, their faith, in the justice and value of the redistribution of wealth. I haven't seen anything from McCain to suggest otherwise. Of course, Obama has come out and said that he favors it.

Nobody seems to think himself wealthy. The blind spot here is that wealth is relative. Even if you are comfortably a recipient of redistribution today, what happens of the upper class begins to be eroded? Or, get this, if you earn a fat killing? Or, if there are just an awful lot of poor in greater need than you?

I love this personal experiment in wealth redistribution. It involves a businessman who sees a homeless man and a waiter with an Obama tie. Who needs the businessman's tip more? That's who gets it.
The waiter stammered a few "Why practice on me? I’m just a local college student!" retorts and then angrily stormed away from the table in a steaming huff of progressive self-righteous indignation.

Apparently, after experiencing firsthand the application of such socialistic governance from the perspective of the rightful wage earner, my young liberal-minded waiter was quickly convinced that income redistribution was much easier to support as a noble, magnanimous social policy than when his own hard-earned income was about to be redistributed, against his will, to another I deemed more needy.

Or, as Monty Python nailed it many years ago:



That clip only boils down to the punchline. The whole skit is a beauty, but long, spread out over Flying Circus Episode #37. Find it here.

(h/t Charleston Watch)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Meltdown Blame Game

I've been fairly astonished to see some of the vitriolic piling on against libertarianism with the meltdown of the derivative markets and subsequesnt bailouts.

Does anyone think Libertarians have been running the Federal Government? Really? Here's your reality check.

Ok, some point to Alan Greenspan, the erstwhile Ayn Rand devotee. You know- the same Greenspan that presided over the Fed during the entire Clinton Administration- that mythical period of time of milk & honey. I wouldn't call Greenspan a libertarian. Any libertarian running the Federal Reserve would have done anything in his power to return our dollars to specie-backed legitimacy. That certainly didn't happen. Link to Murray Ruthbard's libertarian critique of Greenspan.

Moreover, what made the trading in derivatives legal in the first place? A law signed by Congress, unanimously, in 2000. Catch 60 Minutes last night?
The vehicle for doing this was an obscure but critical piece of federal legislation called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. And the bill was a big favorite of the financial industry it would eventually help destroy.

It not only removed derivatives and credit default swaps from the purview of federal oversight, on page 262 of the legislation, Congress pre-empted the states from enforcing existing gambling and bucket shop laws against Wall Street.

"It makes it sound like they knew it was illegal," Kroft remarks.

"I would agree," Dinallo says. "They did know it was illegal. Or at least prosecutable."
In retrospect, giving Wall Street immunity from state gambling laws and legalizing activity that had been banned for most of the 20th century should have given lawmakers pause, but on the last day and the last vote of the lame duck 106th Congress, Wall Street got what it wanted when the Senate passed the bill unanimously.

So, at what point do we blame lawmakers. It seems pretty clear that they didn't even read what they voted on. Just like the Patriot Act. Just like John McCain and the proposal for the bailout when it was merely 3 pages long.

The bucket laws were good regulation. The bets on stocks without any skin in the game affects the stock price. It's not like a football game, where the bets do not affect the outcome of the game. (This leaves aside point shaving, NBA refs, the 1919 Black Sox, and other notorious interactions with gambling.)

Unfortunately, I believe that this one place is going to place America squarely in the pro-regulation camp for everything. It's kind of ironic, because the critics of deregulation and capitalism decry its' adherents as 'dogmatics' and 'idealogues' in the pejoritive, when they themselves as dogmatically and idealistically pro-government, pro-regulation, and anti-capitalist.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Buchanan Has It All Wrong

Pat Buchanan is whining about a double standard being applied to the candidates. He cites the treatment of Sarah Palin as his proof.
The media cannot get enough of the "Saturday Night Live" impersonations of Palin as a bubblehead. News shows pick up the Tina Fey clips and run them and run them to the merriment of all.

Can one imagine "Saturday Night Live" doing weekly send-ups of Michelle Obama and her "I've never been proud" of my country, this "just downright mean" America, using a black comedienne to mimic and mock her voice and accent?

I take it a different way. It says to me that women have come to treated be on par with men in the political arena. Well, white women. White women have come to be treated on par with white men.

After all, everybody knows that white men run this country. White men in high places have been subject to ridicule in media, and especially on SNL for years, thinking all the way back to Chevy Chase's bumbling Gerry Ford routine. White men in high places, and now white women in high places, are all subject to spoof, satire, send-up, and all manner of piss-taking the media is capable of- because it is safe to ridicule them.
When the New Yorker ran a cartoon of Michelle in an Angela-Davis afro with an AK-47 slung over her shoulder, New Yorker editors had to go on national television to swear they were not mocking Michelle, but the conservatives who have so caricatured Michelle and the Messiah.

Is there a media double standard? You betcha.

Nah. It just means that white women have made it. They are fair game for ridicule. No more kid gloves. And it isn't strictly partisan, because as we note with the first Tina Fey send-up of Palin, there was what? Yes, a matching send-up of Hilary Clinton. So, it isn't partisan at all. Sure, Biden's an idiot who lets loose with just as much absurdity as Palin. It's just that Tina Fey is a dead ringer and hilarious as Palin. Who's a dead ringer for Biden who would be funny? Besides, the media doesn't regard black politicians as being on par with white politicians. Obviously. Or they would send 'em up.

That will change soon, or should. After all, a black man is going to be running things pretty soon. I eagerly await the satire.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Deficit No Longer An Issue?

It was just a few weeks ago that a key part of the Democratic attack was that The Bush Administration has been guilty of fiscal irresponsibility, in its' borrow and spend ways. Quoth Barney Frank:
"I think at this point, there needs to be an immediate increase in spending, and
I think this is a time when deficit fear has to take a second seat."
So, in the interest of consistency, can some Democrats please attack Barney Frank?




This is foreshadowing. The Democrats feel they have won the election already, so they are letting everyone see what their governance will be- a different kind of fiscal irresponsibility. Borrow & spend & tax.

Voting McCain will only give you borrow & spend. Bob Barr will give you spending cuts, and end to borrowing, and an eventual lowering of taxes.

Choose accordingly.
No Wasting Votes!

(Warrenton, IN)- This year, there is no reason to play the game of Prisoner's Dilemma with your vote. The lesser of two evils isn't a factor, because it's already clear who will win the big races come November 4.

Per Rasmussen, Obama has been ahead of McCain or tied nationally for 33 straight days, and has Obama ahead in Electoral votes by a 286-174 count.

Don't like Rasmussen? Zogby has the Electoral count at 273-163, for Obama. That leaves 102 'unsure', but Indiana is among the unsure. If McCain can't take Indiana, he can't take much. Zogby also shows Obama leading for 14 straight days. It might have been more, but the report only shows 14 days.

If you are libertarian, pro-free market, pro-individualist, anti-tax, anti-socialism, there is nothing to gain in voting against Obama at this point. He's going to win, and besides, McCain hasn't proven himself to be libertarian, pro-free market, pro-individualist, anti-tax, or anti-socialist. Vote for Bob Barr! When you give your vote to a candidate who makes no promise to deliver for you what you want, you tell him and his party that they can safely take you for granted.

Likewise, the various polls for Indiana Governor show Mitch Daniels comfortably ahead of Jill Long Thompson. Pollster.com has an aggregate poll with Daniels up 51%-37.5%.

Daniels is going to win in a landslide. No worries about 'wasting your vote' here, either. Vote for Andy Horning and boost the numbers for the Libertarian agenda of constitutional government, smaller and less intrusive government, lower spending, and lower taxes. Even with Daniels claiming 51%, a Horning return of 13-14% will open eyes and make the other parties sure to co-opt some important parts of his message.

Those who fall for the Prisoner's Dilemma approach to voting are suckers, anyhow. Don't want socialism? Then why vote for candidates who bring to to you at a clip of 75% of what they other team will do? You're still getting the thing you don't want by voting for the lesser of two evils.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Decision Made

I just watched tonight's debate between Obama and McCain and found it affirming of my decision to vote for Bob Barr, which I did today, casting my absentee ballot at Noblesville this afternoon.

Obama's closing statement wrapped it up well for me. He spoke of the need to do something different, because the policies of the past few decades have resulted in an economy teetering on disaster.

Well! Different means increased spending on virtually everything? In what way is that different? It wasn't just  Obama promising more spending on everything being spoken of. McCain was promising more funding also, in every area possible. With what these guys are promising, I absolutely expect similar results.

Libertarian Bob Barr is the only one talking about cuts in spending. Barr is the only one talking about not rewarding bad decisions with borrowed or freshly printed dollars.

Make no mistake- If we are in a crisis, it was made by Republicans and Democrats. Hanging it strictly on today's President is intellectually dishonest. What have the Democrats done with their majorities in the Congress? They may as well be the brothers and sisters of George W Bush, because haven't been acting to cut spending, or to end borrowing or inflating the money supply either.

Obama's right. You aren't going to get any changes by sticking to the policies that got us here. Obama and McCain are mere retreads of all the losing policy that is bringing us to the brink of depression. Change is more than swapping one team for the other. It's breaking clean.

The only way to break clean is to vote for Bob Barr, and any Libertarian candidate you find on your ballots.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Obama's Inroads

I can tell that the Obama campaign is reaching people that the Democratic Party hasn't been reaching. I need look no further than my own neighbors, a firmly Republican stronghold. Look at the returns from my home precinct, Delaware #3, in 2004:

Bush = 65.7%
Kerry = 32.8%
Badnarik = 0.9%

Link to Presidential results for Delaware 3.

Daniels = 66.7%
Kernan = 32.5%
Gividen = 0.8%

Link to Gubernatorial results for Delaware 3.

Notice that the results were almost identical, as relating the presidential and gubernatorial results by each party's candidate. That's going to change.

Now, obviously no votes have been counted yet, but my visual clues are the yard signs. I like observing yard signs off the main drags, because the parties and campaigns fill the right-of-ways with the things. I prefer to look at the residences themselves, where the property owner paid the money to get the sign, and put it out there for the world to see.

I did a count of signs in my neighborhood today, because it seemed like I was seeing a lot more Obama signs than I saw of Kerry back in 2004. Here's the tally:

Obama sign only: 38
McCain sign only: 15
Thompson sign only: ZERO
Daniels sign only: 55
Obama & Thompson signs: ZERO
Daniels & McCain signs: 53
Obama & Daniels signs: 3
Barr signs: zero
Horning signs: zero
Weingarten: 1
Burton signs: 3

What to make of it? Certainly, the Jill Long Thompson campaign is completely moribund. Either nobody is supporting her, or her campaign hasn't gotten signs made or distributed yet. In any case, moribund.

But how about the Obama and Daniels signs together? In Fishers! I have to get some pictures of these.

I think this little survey shows that the Republican base is very satisfied with Mitch Daniels as governor, but I sense a lot of buyer's remorse on John McCain, or plain alienation by McCain. The man has no real ideology to speak of, just this 'maverick' thing, which seems to be on all non-military subjects little more than a panic button that screams, 'DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING!'. That doesn't inspire anything but uneasiness, even for regular Republican voters.

If this is going on in a precinct that reliably goes 65% Republican (It also did in the 2006 Secretary of State race, Rokita 65.7%, Pearson 29.2%, Kole 5.1%), I can only imagine how precincts across America that have greater Democratic leanings are going to tilt greatly towards Obama on November 4.

The lack of anything but Obama signs shows that the Democratic organization is still very thin here. Now, that stands to change significantly. As the Obama campaign inspires people to work in his Fishers office and to put up his yard sign, surely it will yield future candidates.

As for the Libertarians, the Barr signs are available. I'll be getting one soon enough, as the Indianapolis area coordinator for the Barr campaign just got them in. I wish I had seen some anyhow.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Survivalist Instincts Kicking In

I've found myself doing things to live more simply and more frugally over the past 7-8 months. Business has been down about 60% for me this year, which isn't devastating, thanks to Ame's salary, and thank goodness. Toss that together with an economy that had been slumping badly in my opinion for a couple of years (start with the rash of foreclosures a couple years ago), and it made sense to me to begin to look after some measures that would keep my family secure should it get worse.

Of course, it has gotten worse, but I'm not feeling pinched yet. There were some steps we took:

Pay off debts.

Last year, we knocked out a ton of debt, from old college loans, to all credit card debt, to paying off a car loan early. It wasn't sexy, but it's been fantastic not having those payments hanging over us. We don't use the credit card for anything but convenience or travel, and we haven't carried a balance since. 

Live more simply.

I've actually enjoyed much of this. I went to great lengths to plant a functional garden, raising it up off the surface, within cedar walls. It drains well and has excellent topsoil. It even has a section of sandy soil for the cucumbers. The yields were great, and best of all, the food is delicious. It has been a real pleasure to eat organic carrots and tomatoes. They just burst with flavors lost in the process of shipping food great distances to our tables. 

It wasn't big money saved in the garden up front, but just the process of making more soups and stews with lots of leftovers has meant more meals at home, which is a terrific savings. Plus, Isabel loves cooking with us, which is great fun.

I've looked for places to save money at every turn. Even business travel has been improved by crashing at friends' homes, with the obvious added bonus that I get to enjoy their company. When I do stay at motels, I stay within chains where I get points towards free stays. The Choice Hotels chain is great- reasonable rooms, plenty of promotions for points, easy redemption of free stays. 

Get out of the market.

With the inflation that has been going on, and with the foreclosures, I began sensing that having hard assets was going to be essential. Slowly, I moved the investments to gold. Wow, am I glad I did! I know this is regarded as kook stuff by so many in good times, but it's not so kooky now, is it? I urge my friends to do this now. Get out of the market. It isn't done sinking, because our government isn't done engaging in the problematic behavior that caused the problems in the first place. This bailout is going to mean a lot more inflation. Even if the price of gold doesn't go up any more (it will), the worst you will do is preserve your purchasing power as paper money buys less and less.

Still more to do.

I have been accumulating canned foods for emergency use, but I still don't have a full supply for a minimum three-month period, as I would like. Our house has storage issues, so this is a problem. I need to remove old junk to make the space. I would really love to get a freezer and perhaps even an extra fridge. I used to have the bonus fridge, and it was great, buying things that would keep in the fridge at low prices and storing them.

If we didn't have Ame's relatively recession-proof job (she delivers babies at Methodist Hospital), and we hadn't taken the steps to eliminate debt, I would probably be pretty worried right about now, with my own enterprise suffering. It's amazing to find out that you can still live pretty well even in trying circumstances, so long as the preparation is there. 

If you haven't altered the way you live towards preserving your family's security, I urge you to do it right away. Not like a Chicken Little thing here, but the news is getting worse, and I do expect some shortages in the near future. It will be temporary, no doubt. Hell- the Great Depression was temporary, if you catch my drift.
Governments And Prices

I've been blogging for five years about the relationship between taxes and the relative attractiveness of cities. Also, about how government officials don't get said relationship. I had the issues put clearly before me once again, but in a discussion about water policy, in a post title "BassAckWards":
Although I welcome this bit of news (higher prices!), both JN and I noticed the perverse order of things:

1. People use less water.
2. Prices rise.

As I have mentioned before, this order of events is terribly annoying to people. The reason it occurs so often in water is because most water utilities are run on a break-even basis, i.e.: if they sell less water, they have to raise prices to generate the same revenue.

Mainly, government officials never seem to understand the relationship between price and revenue. If the price goes up, consumption goes down. That's great for water consumption and for consumption of other natural resources, if conservation is your goal. It's disastrous in this example, because the city is trying to generate more revenue in response to lower usage. Their result is going to be even lower usage, hence, even lower revenues. (Still good for conservation, though.) If they wanted greater usage, they should lower the price. Well, government officials aren't to be confused with the sort of people who have a clue about economics.

Which brings me back to taxes. Cities that drive away businesses and people of means with their higher taxes tend to look at their falling tax revenues and conclude that to make up the shortfalls, they need to raise taxes. 

Well, duh! That's what drives people away! The revenues aren't going to rise. The population is going to fall. Just look at Cleveland, Detroit, and a host of other cities that have chased their tails, and their wealth away, by failing to understand the relationship between price and use.

As the man so named his post, most government officials are BassAckWards.

Short-Term Disaster

The Bush-McCain-Obama bailout isn't working in the here and now. The Dow is having its' worst week ever. That's a pity, because short-term success is the only success this train wreck could have achieved.  From CNN's early report:
Stock futures pointed to a dismal open Friday as markets around the world got hammered and General Electric reported quarterly results that were in line with Wall Street estimates.
and
US markets took a beating Thursday, with the Dow industrials plunging nearly 700 points to a five-year low, as panicked investors dumped stocks.
The unholy trinity of Bush, McCain, and Obama make Larry, Curly, and Moe look like Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, and Adam Smith. Heavy reliance on government solutions isn't breeding confidence in Americans. It seems the people have begun to get wise. Allowing the investment giants to fail would have actually generated greater confidence.

Better be out of the stock market and into gold. Libertarians have taken a lot of ridicule over the years for our economic outlooks, but everything that is happening now was predicted- by libertarian and free market economic analysts and policy wonks. Government isn't working. Maybe it's time to give up on what doesn't work, and to embrace the policy recommended by those who predicted this mess. 

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Where Will We Defend Freedom?

(Fishers, IN)- If either John McCain or Barack Obama came out tomorrow and said that he had a plan that would eliminate about half of the newspapers in this country, and furthermore tell you which ones you could read, would you get behind that plan, or would you fight it? Would you say that there was a free market for newspapers in such a scenario? Or freedom of the press?

The Cato Institute's Michael Cannon so describes the Obama health care plan:
"He would let the Federal government dictate the content and the price of every private insurance plan in the United States."
and
"Imagine Barack Obama as President propose that he was going to have the government dictate the content of every news program in the United States, and eliminate half of the existing programs and newspapers that are out there. Would
you call that a government-dominated system? You certainly wouldn't call it a free press. And that's largely what Barack Obama wants to do with health care."
So says Tanner in the October 7, 2008 Cato Daily Podcast.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is both wilfull ignorance and deceptive talk among the backers of 'health care for all'. They tend to bristle at the word 'socialism', or the phrase 'socialized health care'. Well, what else would it be, then?

Oh! I know! Another drain on our ailing economy.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Gas Prices & Chicago Taxes

(Valparaiso, IN)- It's been interesting to note gas prices over the past two weeks, as they've been dropping. One thing that remains is that there is a huge difference between what you pay in Chicago and anywhere else. Here's what I've observed, and what I've paid for regular unleaded in the past two weeks:

9/18, Chicago: $4.60/gallon
9/21, Fishers, IN: $3.69/gal
9/22, Rock Island, IL: $3.74/gal
9/23, Prairie du Chien, WI: $3.56/gal
9/24, Viborg, SD: $3.29/gal
9/25, Western Nebraska: $3.14/gal
9/26, St. Louis, MO: $3.39/gal
9/27, Fishers, IN: $3.53/gal
10/1, Fishers, IN: $3.39/gal
10/4, Fishers, IN: $3.24/gal
10/5, Lebanon, IN: $3.18/gal
10/6, Joliet, IL: $3.79/gal
10/7, Blue Island, IL: $3.78/gal
10/7, Valparaiso, IN: $3.39/gal

Chicago and the adjacent small towns & cities are consistently 60 cents a gallon higher. I make it a point NEVER to buy gas in the Chicago area. Fill up by Merrillville at the latest when going up I-65, as a rule.

Cost of living is certainly one difference to explain it. I imagine taxes are another. What I can't explain is why Chicagoans are good with it.
Update: Three more prices to report from last night:
10/8, Joliet, IL: $3.79
10/8, Gary, IN: $3.36
10/8, Lebanon, IN: $3.07
Really- Why do Chicagoland residents accept being gouged so? It isn't merely on gas prices, but on all prices. I bought in Gary on the drive back. I ran the tank down pretty low to get the heck out of Illinois. At 43 cents/gal difference, on a 12-gallon fill-up, I saved $5.16. Imagine how many times per day this decision is made, and how the Illinois economy suffers, and the Indiana economy benefits accordingly.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Wide Market For Politcal Satire

One market that isn't collapsing is the one for political satire. SNL, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report are great, but you're missing out if you don't check out The Onion from time to time.


Obama Promises To Stop America's Shitty Jobs From Going Overseas
Bailout = Security, Huh?

So much for the transfer of wealth from earners to bad decision-makers ending up as some kind of immediate safeguard. It was supposed to make investors and markets here and around the world secure and stable, right? From an early AP report today:
Wall Street tumbled Monday, joining a selloff around the world, as fears grew
that the financial crisis will cascade through economies globally despite
bailout efforts by the U.S. and other governments. The credit market remained
under strain, and investors piled into government bonds. The Dow Jones
industrials skidded more than 200 points.

and

Over the weekend, governments across Europe rushed to prop up failing banks. The German government and financial industry agreed on a $68 billion bailout for commercial-property lender Hypo Real Estate Holding AG, while France's BNP Paribas agreed to acquire a 75 percent stake in Fortis's Belgium bank after a government rescue failed.

Would have been better just to let the bad actors fail. If you believe in the common good, you cannot accept that it was best to give bad actors a gigantic infusion of cash at the short-term and long-term expense of everybody. We are getting hit with tomorrow's taxes because of the bailout. We are getting hit with a weakened dollar because we will borrow to 'afford' the bailout. And our markets are not stabilizing. They are crashing. Way to go, geniuses.

Punish those who voted for the bailout. Vote against McBama. Vote against Andre Carson.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Stick With What You Know

Sometimes sportswriters try to get cute and prove they have some depth, so they trot out a story that reaches into politics or everyday life. Bob Ley and "Outside The Lines" are notable exceptions, in that they can pull it off. They have the depth, because they are in touch with people.

Bob Kravits showed that he is out of touch, and out of his depth, when he posed this question in Sunday's Indy Star column:
When Michael Vick was led toward a federal courthouse, weighted down by handcuffs, leg shackles and several charges involving the depraved sport of dogfighting, protesters and unaffiliated citizens stood on the sidewalk and hurled invective at the doomed NFL quarterback.

When Helio Castroneves was led toward a federal courthouse Friday in Miami, also weighted down by handcuffs, leg shackles and felony charges of tax evasion, curious onlookers and IndyCar fans around the country prayed that the charges were false, and that Castroneves would eventually be found guilty of nothing more than ignorance.

So where's the righteous rage this time?

Real simple, Bob-O. America found what Vick did to dogs heinous and loathsome. America similarly finds paying taxes heinous and loathsome. I know that even if Castroneves is guilty of tax evasion, I'm rooting for him, because I believe it's his money. I have no soft spot for a guy like Vick who bred dogs to fight and electrocuted dogs that didn't do it well enough.

Kravits tried to make it racial. Load of Crapola. Must not have been paying attention the last five or so years to Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, or any of the other modern Know Nothings, who have demonized anyone with darker skin and a Hispanic sounding name.
Time To Talk About The Federal Reserve

It's rare that circumstances make it such that Americans take an interest in monetary policy and the Federal Reserve. Usually, such talk is the kind of thing that gets 'tinfoil hat' comments. However, we are living under such circumstances, and people are beginning to see that printing money without backing by assets is dangerous business, and is the business of our Treasury.

Here's a link to a debate about the Fed that is already underway. A shame place for comments wasn't made available. I am at your service.

I find it instructive to look back on the Federal Government's recent actions against NorFed and the Liberty Dollar. Mainly, it shows a deep commitment to valueless paper money and to inflationary policy.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Idiots

The House has now joined the Senate in passing the stupid bailout, and President Bush signed it. A few days ago, I cheered the House. Today, they are back to being regarded as assholes. Here's the House vote:

Democrats: 172 yeas, 63 nays
Republicans: 91 yeas, 108 nays

So good that the Democrats can see so clearly eye-to-eye with the President they regard as stupid. Looks like Andre Carson was one of the turncoats that changed his vote to stand with the President. Well, they're in league now. Can't wait for the days of 'change' coming ahead.

These are the days you vote Libertarian. These are the days we need 'None of the Above' on the ballot.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bob Barr To Visit NW Indiana

Of all times for me to be working in the home office and not up north! Bob Barr will stop in Valparaiso tomorrow. From the Libertarian Party of Indiana:
"We're very excited," noted Law Libertarians of Valparaiso University president Jonathan Morris. "We've been working hard to bring Bob Barr to this area since his nomination in May. More people need to be exposed to his common sense approach to government. We're pleased that our efforts are assisting with getting that message out."

Barr's on-campus remarks to students, faculty and the public will be followed by a Meet and Greet with the candidate at Pesto's Italian Restaurant in Valparaiso.

WHAT: Barr Address at Valparaiso University
SPONSOR: Law School Libertarians at Valparaiso University
TIME: 6:30 p.m. (CT)

Go see Barr if you have the chance. He will sound vastly different than McBama. Presidential, even.
It Had To End

That was a nice run of good news there- two in a row! With trends in this country being what they've been, I knew it had to end. The Senate, predictably, tweaked the bailout to make it a little worse than it already was, thereby making it more palatable to our Senators, including McBama. The House gets to take its' vote tomorrow. From CNN:
The legislation, if passed by the House, would usher in one of the most far-reaching interventions in the economy since the Great Depression.

Advocates say the plan is crucial to government efforts to attack a credit crisis that threatens the economy and would free up banks to lend more. Opponents say it rewards bad decisions by Wall Street, puts taxpayers at risk and fails to address the real economic problems facing Americans.

CNN got my opposition right, that's for sure. So, under the Bush Administration, yet another bureaucracy stands to be born:
the Senate version would set up two oversight committees. A Financial Stability
Board would include the Federal Reserve chairman, the Securities and Exchange
Commission chairman, the Federal Home Finance Agency director, the Housing and
Urban Development secretary and the Treasury secretary.

Financial Stability Board? What next? An 'Equalization of Outcomes Bureau'? A 'Forgiveness of Stupidity Department'?

I don't know about you, but for me, this doesn't inspire confidence. It terrifies. Glad I got out of the market when I did, and got into gold, silver, and oil. Best decisions ever. CNN covers some reactions by random Americans, none of them speak of confidence. Best advice there: Live within your means, and plan now for your future.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Parade Of Good News

I was angered to read about the case of Robert McNally, who upon finding a man in his daughter's bedroom, had confronted the attacker, who died as a result of the confrontation. I was putting myself, a man with a daughter, in his shoes and dreading some unsane, unjust set of charges being leveled against the hero- such is our world these days.

But no! Sanity prevails twice this week! The Marion County Prosecutor will not bring charges against McNally's successful defense of his daughter! From the Indy Star:
A Northwestside man who killed a would-be rapist in his home last weekend was justified in his actions, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi announced today.

Robert McNally will not face criminal charges in the death of David Meyers, Brizzi said in a statement.

Two great outcomes in a mere three-day span? I can hardly stand it! What next? A cutting of the federal budget by half? Eliminating the property tax? Come on! Hit me while I'm weak!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Random Road Trip Photos



Here are some more.



Dubuque, IA, along the Mississippi. The locals try to cash in on the riverboat past, but only to a point. This one isn't going anywhere. There are dozens of 'riverboat' casinos, but only one plies the River, and then for only two hours a day. Mark Twain spins in his grave.



Prairie du Chien, WI. Now on the eastern bank of the Mississippi, you know you are in Wisconsin when the gas stations let you know they sell cheese AND food.
Not Worried About Short Term Effects

The most irritating comments I hear about the financial crisis are along the lines of 'having to do something', or 'needing to minimize the pain'. I'm seeing through that rhetoric for what it is, and calling it out as dangerous.

Needing to minimize whose pain? I have come to believe that for the President and lawmakers like Barney Frank, John McCain, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Dick Lugar, it's all about not having a deep recession happen on their immediate watch. That's exactly the problem. Forestalling what needs to happen only will beget a bigger problem- later.

These bad loans are nearly worthless assets. They have been overvalued for far too long. They should be valued as worthless or nearly worthless. Those who gave out these loans should be losing their asses. Those who took loans they couldn't pay back should be losing their homes. Politicians who encouraged the Federal Reserve to endlessly print money or borrow severly from China and Russia deserve to have a crash happen on their watch. This is actual economic and social justice. Prolonging the necessary means that it will be worse later. Want a depression? Promote a new bailout package.

The market is making correction- as it should. Propping up prices means artificially making things appear to be worth more than they are. That's what Bush, Frank, et al want us to do. This is why I am so pleased that so many members of the House voted against the bailout. It's senseless. It does not have to happen. It is sane that it does not.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Excellent News!

I cannot believe it. The Bush Bailout plan is dead in the water, thanks to the House of Representatives! From CNN:
The measure needs 218 votes for passage, but it came up 13 votes short of that target, as the final vote was 228 to 205 against. About 60% of Democrats voted for the measure, but less than a third of Republicans backed it.

President Bush is "very disappointed" by the House vote, his spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Good. President Bush deserves to be disappointed. In fact, he deserves to be desperately distraut, and flat out depressed. Well, he'll have the rest of his lifetime for that, upon reflection on his legacy.

Let's give credit and thanks to 40% of the House Democrats, and about 2/3 of the House Republicans for killing this. I liked Mike Pence's reasons. I don't care about the others' too much right now, although I probably will soon enough, when the next bailout is proposed.

Interesting to see a greater percentage of House Dems lining up with George W. Bush. I should like to see this allignment spun against their re-election efforts in the way their party leader Barrack Obama is assailing his opponent with the 'He voted with George Bush' lines in his ads. What's good for the goose, right?
Random Road Trip Pics
Here's the pride of Blue Earth, MN. Yes, it's the Jolly Green Giant- 55 feet of concrete. Kinda weird in that it isn't on the main highway or in the center of town. It was the pure dumb luck of the 'what the hell, go that way' road trip ethos.

Jolly!

Oh Shit! Steve 'cowers' under the Giant's shadow.
Pence Has It Right

(Fishers, IN)- Here's something positive to note, in the dim bleakness that is our political landscape, from an AP article:
Indiana Rep. Mike Pence said Sunday that he opposed the financial industry rescue plan that the House is expected to vote on today.

"We now have a deal that promises to bring near-term stability to our financial turmoil, but at what price?" the Columbus Republican wrote in a statement to his colleagues Sunday. "Economic freedom means the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail. The decision to give the federal government the ability to nationalize almost every bad mortgage in America interrupts this basic truth of our free-market economy."

It isn't just nationalization that is worrisome. It's that we can count on getting more of anything that is subsidized. We know that to be true by watching the subsidization of corn and ethanol. What are we subidizing with this bailout? Bad decision-making. If we prop it up, we tell lenders they don't have to be careful with extending credit. We tell borrowers they don't have to afford their mortgage payments. We tell all that someone else will deal with their messes. It's rotten policy.

So, freedom to fail is important. Bad decisions should fail. They shouldn't be rewarded.

Kudos and thanks to Mike Pence. Nice to see some rational thought eminating from our state every now and again.

Update: Doug Masson offers what he calls 'cynicism' in a comment, not believing that his stand is principled. I find this cynicism wholly reasonable, what with the general absense of principle in the Congress. Besides, news stories don't always pick up the whole thing, so I went to Pence's site for the whole statement. Here's what's pertinent for me:
Republicans improved this bill but it remains the largest corporate bailout in American history, forever changes the relationship between government and the financial sector, and passes the cost along to the American people. I cannot support it.

Before you vote, ask yourself why you came here and vote with courage and integrity to those principles.

If you came here because you believe in limited government and the freedom of the American marketplace, vote in accordance with those convictions.

Now I like Pence's statement even more. Sure, we'll never know what kind of horse trading takes place behind closed doors, but what the man put in black & white is exactly what I want to see and hear. Link to Pence's statement.

Democrats can oppose this bailout in accordance with their own stated principles as well. I'd really like to see it from one of Indiana's Congressional Democrats.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Old Rockin' Friends

(St. Louis, MO)- It was a great moment when Steve & I surprised our fellow ex-Clevelander friends Doug Enkler and Robert Griffin with our attendance, at a show in their hometown of St. Louis. Prisonshake played at a place called the Bluebird, in celebration of the release of their new double album, "Dirty Moons", that was some 15 years in the making. It was my guess that I hadn't seen either of them in at least that long.

Doug Enkler at center stage.

Robert Griffin playing the Les Paul. That was a new wrinkle. He played the same Stratocaster as he had in Cleveland all those years, but added the Les Paul for songs with a harder edge.

It was fascinating for me to hear Robert's guitar again. Although most of the songs were new to me, (They did play "Carthage Burns", and "It Seemed a Brilliant Idea") his intonation was distinctly his own. I really enjoyed hearing, and seeing, the guys once again.