Friday, December 12, 2014

'Tis the Season...

When we fired up the car this afternoon to run some errands the radio came on with a Planned Parenthood commercial playing... on the pop music station that has converted to an all-holiday music format for the season.

Nothing like celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus by promoting abortion services...

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tim Cook... iAssassination Dream?

Yesterday Tim Cook spoke up, publishing a statement where he proudly promoted himself from the title of "CEO" to the more descriptive and meaningful title of "Gay CEO".  Rumors concerning Cook's sexual orientation have bubbled up from time-to-time, so the news is not necessarily a surprise, although the announcement seems noteworthy.

The piece is remarkably focused on the self.  6.7% of the words in the piece (54 of 801) are "I", "me", "myself" or similar.  Over of 75% of the sentences (31 of 41) are self-referential, and all 10 of the paragraphs contain a reference to the writer.  This would be expected, since the piece is about Cook's own sexual orientation, but it does seem to contrast with the moral reasons he includes for writing this piece, and for publishing it at this time, which he states is to follow Dr. Martin Luther King's challenge of "What are you doing for others?"  Cook appears to be writing this for himself.

The nod to MLK would be in keeping with the Apple branding campaign "Think Different."  This campaign is referenced again in the final paragraph, as Cook pairs MLK with RFK, adding in Robert F. Kennedy and making reference to the posters of both men that adorn the office space at Apple's headquarters.  Cook doesn't "pretend that writing this puts [him] in their league."

What league are these two prominent public figures both members of?

Well... not only were the lives of both MLK and RFK stopped short by the bullet of an assassin, but the period between these two tragic events includes a memorable eulogy of Dr. Luther's life given by Robert Kennedy shortly after the first of these two murders.

Assassination is arguably the most prominent connector between the lives of these two men in the public's memory of them.  Search for "dr martin luther king AND robert f kennedy" on Google.  On the first page of results the word that appears most often (after filtering out their names) is "assassination".

created at

What does this mean?  The combination of the self-focused nature of the editorial and the inclusion, out of many impressive choices, of two famous persons that are persuasively linked by assassination makes it possible that Tim Cook hopes the public announcement of his sexual orientation will put him in the crosshairs of an assassin and thus earn him a spot in the vaunted ranks of revered, deceased pop-celebrities.

Perhaps this is how Cook intends to step fully out of the shadow of his predecessor...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ensuring Government Provided Preschool

The City of Seattle has figured out a fabulous way to ensure that the city residents support and pay for publicly organized pre-school.

Our ballots for this November ask Seattle residents to vote on Propositions 1A and 1B.  Both concern providing funding for and creating regulations of pre-schools in the city.  1A was added to the ballot through the collection of signatures.  1B was added by the city council.

The city council also decided that these two initiatives were in competition.  Rather than an up-or-down vote on each initiative we have a two-question ballot:

  1. Should either of these measures be enacted into law? [Yes / No]
  2. Regardless of whether you voted yes or no above, if one of these measures is enacted, which one should it be? [Proposition 1A / Proposition 1B]

We can choose to pass 1A, pass 1B, or pass neither... and the city has stacked the deck in favor of increasing government provided preschool by reducing exposure to the idea that voters can in fact vote "No" across the board... that the third option of rejecting both is actually available to the voters.

Seattle Municipal Code lays down the guidance that the city must produce an election pamphlet prior and mail it out the city.  Regarding initiatives, SMC 2.14.010.A.1 states that the pamphlet shall contain:

For each measure, the identification by serial number, the ballot title, the text, an explanatory statement, and arguments for and against the passage of the measure;

Since the two propositions are bundled together on the ballot, the pamphlet contains the explanatory statement for 1A, the explanatory statement for 1B, statements in favor of and in opposition to 1A, and statements in favor of and in opposition to 1B.

Notice what's missing?

The pamphlet does not contain statements in favor of and in opposition to the first question on the ballot.  The "Please do not allow the city government to become more deeply involved in the provision of preschool!" viewpoint is not represented in the pamphlet.

The absence is telling.

By deciding that these two propositions are in direct competition and combining them on the ballot the city council has reduced the likelihood that the voters will consider whether either of these initiatives is worthy at all.  The conversation in the pamphlet is about choosing between 1A and 1B, (and that is likely the case in the public discussion as well), and all voters are asked to select their preferred proposition, even if their answer would otherwise be "No" to both individually if they were presented with the option.

Politics is a messy sport.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Toll of Improper Attribution

The WSJ published an interesting article Tuesday about the growing use of toll roads to enhance traffic flow in and around the major metropolitan areas in Texas.

The following paragraph purports to explain the funding issue that is leading to the choice of tolls vs. taxes to pay for the road-building:

The toll boom is taking place in part because a primary source of highway-construction funding in the U.S., a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline, hasn't changed since 1993.  Many states also haven't raised state gasoline taxes for decades, including Texas, which hasn't increased its 20-cents-per-gallon tax since 1991.

Note that these statements are presented without any attribution.  No research study was referenced.  No budget documents were referenced.  No public hearings were referenced.  No politicians' statements were included in quotes.

We the reader are supposed to simply understand that toll roads would go away if only the citizens would agree to raise these specific taxes, and there are no other factors involved.

By not including some attribution, the paragraph above becomes the opinion of the authors (Miguel Bustillo and Nathan Koppel) and should be relegated to the Opinion section.  It allows the reader the opportunity to assume the authors would encourage the government to raise taxes.  It's possible the statements about fuel taxes are true and were validated by presentations at referenced public meetings, but by excluding attribution the authors deprive their readers of that truth.

The lack of attribution even proposes the possibility that the authors are engaging in a one-sided argument with the citizens impacted by the increase in toll road development, especially considering that one local man is quoted in the immediately preceding paragraph:

"We pay taxes for roads and bridges, and if that's not enough, if you can't afford it, don't build it."

News articles should be news, and the WSJ has an obligation to ensure the quality of the journalistic product of their authors.  A correction or follow-up is appropriate.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The PC Left Eats Its Own...

Last night NPR's Fresh Air program ran an interview with Ed Norton, promoting the new movie Birdman.   In a discussion of a fight scene, Ed Norton referenced a Dorothy Parker quote:

"Scratch an actor... and you'll find an actress"

The implication of the quote, as used in context (a discussion of a fight scene) was obviously that actors (male) were actually soft, over-emotional, perhaps even weak... like actresses (women).  In short: Women are weak, and men who act are actually weak as well, the men merely wear a costume of masculinity.

The conversation about the fight scene begins at 9:00 in the audio.  The Dorothy Parker quote happens at 10:22. (Audio of the interview is available at the top of the article linked above.)

Interviewer Terry Gross pounces on Norton's use of the quote and doesn't let go easily.

"Can you explain that to me?  I don't get that, honestly I don't get it."
[Pause, as Ed Norton mumbles]
"Is that that actors are effeminate? Is that the joke?"
[Norton responds a bit...] 
"Oh, so we're equating women with vanity, are we?"
 It was a pleasure to listen to Ed Norton attempt to dig his way out of that thread, and you could almost hear the sigh of relief when Gross moved on to the next topic (finally!)

I've not run into the quote before, but it seems a perfectly reasonable one... as long as you are someone that takes a traditional, and I would say reasonable view on the inherent differences between men and women generally.

But tread carefully if you want to be 'in the club' on the Left...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Initiative Measures of Insanity

The ballots in the State of Washington for this November's national elections will include three initiative measures. I took my first hard look at the three of them this weekend, after receiving my voters' pamphlet from the state.

All three initiatives make me very sad.

The initiative process itself bothers me. Why go through the effort of ensuring we have a representative form of government with careful assignments of authority and subject to regular election if we reserve for the people the right to overrule the government with a simple majority?

The presence of an initiative process would seem to dilute the seriousness of the elected government. Why should our elected representatives work hard to make the laws sound and reasonable when the people can write any rule they want into law themselves?

Initiatives would also seem likely to radicalize the government. As the use of the initiative process flourishes, the voters would begin to realize that it really doesn’t matter too much who gets elected (we can just overwrite the laws they pass!)  The politicians won’t need to tap into the pool of politically moderate voters to win elections, so they need not temper their messages or build compromises.

I like the idea of reserving for the people the ability to override their government when it goes astray, though. So perhaps an initiative process that would only be valid if sustained by a super-majority or more of the voters. Something that requires a significant uprising of the people to generate change outside of the normal legislative process.

Nonetheless, here we are. The three initiatives in Washington State this year are:

  • I-1351: Changes the allocation of state education funds to school districts and establishes new standards for teacher- and staff-per-student ratios in K-12 schools.
  • I-591: Prohibits the government from confiscating guns without due process and eliminates background checks for gun purchasers unless mandated by federal law
  • I-594: Requires private-party sales or exchanges of guns to complete the transaction with a third-party, licensed gun dealer who would perform a background check on the purchaser.
I-1351 is incredibly complicated, with tiers of funding allocation based on the wealth of the community or grade level or type of program, specific changes to staffing-to-student levels for eleven different class of educational personnel, changes to funding for services and materials, and a detailed schedule mandating when portions of the law must be implemented over a four-year span.

The complexity of the law illustrates why we hire (elect) a representative legislature, in the same way that we might hire a contractor to renovate our kitchen.  We simply can't spare the time and don't have the expertise, so we outsource the task.  This initiative is a great example of minimizing the importance and value of the legislative branch of government.

I-591 is deceptively simple.  I must say I am very attracted to the brevity of the language and that the law restrains the authority of the state as opposed to most laws that impose restraints upon the citizen.

However, on closer inspection it appears that this law will not accomplish much: The government can't legally take property without due process (so if they already were doing so, they wouldn't pay any more attention to this law than existing law...) and it appears our state laws for background checks already align to federal laws requiring the same.

Perhaps the language will protect a citizen gun-owner in some future case... but by using the initiative process, we are just as likely to see an initiative in the future that overrules this one, as the simple majority shifts over time.

I-594 is a great example of the majority attempting to enforce its whims on the minority.  If we were talking about an initiative promoted by white people to exclude black people from education or jobs or similar the people would be up in arms resisting this effort as racist.  This law is a different form of popular vs. unpopular competition, albeit with a similar result: Otherwise law-abiding citizens have their ability to transact business restrained by the power of the state at the behest of an oppressive majority.  The American form of government is supposed to establish a reasonable balance between the power of the majority and the rights and freedom of the minority.  So much for that.

This initiative is also very complicated to execute.  It adds new sections to state law, and revises specific lines and wording of the existing law.  Similar to I-1351, the average citizen, recognizing that they have neither the time nor expertise to consider the implications of these detailed changes, hired their legislators to provide the requisite expertise and debate the issues on their behalf.

I'm inclined to vote no on all three.  We'll see what happens when I crack open the envelope containing my blank ballot in a few weeks.

Perhaps we can start a new initiative to amend the state constitution and require a 3/4ths majority to pass any future initiative measures.  Would be fun to watch the majority vote away its own power in favor of a healthier state government, no?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Politician Approaching The Truth?

Paul Ryan wrote an opinion piece ("A Better Way Up From Poverty") published by the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, August 16th.  The piece contains a remarkable public acknowledgement: He was wrong.

Mr Ryan, a Republican congressman from the 1st district in Wisconsin and Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick in the 2012 elections, is well known for his efforts to inspire and bring about positive, constructive economic reform in the federal government.  He continues that effort in this recent piece.  He proposes a path forward in a continued attempt to reduce citizen dependency on the government and ultimately to eliminate poverty in America.

Here is where is piece is noteworthy: He begins by describing how a single question posed to him by a supporter of his political opposition led to a realization that he was viewing entitlements incorrectly.

He had been using the phrase "makers and takers" in order to highlight the idea that some citizens were generating more tax revenue than they were using, and some were doing the opposite.  A moral judgment is inherent with the use of this phrase.  The Makers are the good guys who should be honored and given respect for their self-sacrifice and hard work.  The Takers are the bad guys, lazy, good-for-nuthin's that live off the hard work of others while sitting on the couch clicking the remote.  The moral component is little considered by the small-government, conservative side... because it would require the 'good guys', those who think they are the makers, like Paul Ryan and his supporters, to realize that they are not so pure as they originally thought.

The challenge question, as Mr. Ryan wrote about the encounter with the unnamed Democrat:
"The makers and the takers," he said. "I know who the makers are, but who are the takers? Is it the person who lost a job and is on unemployment benefits? Is it the veteran who served in Iraq and gets medical care through the VA? When you talk about the takers, who exactly do you mean?" 
And Mr. Ryan's considered response:
Who is a taker?  My mom, who is on medicare?  Me at 18 years old, using the Social Security survivor's benefits we got after my father's death to go to college.  My buddy who had been unemployed and used job-training benefits to get back on his feet?
In many political arguments, this is the moment when the progressive left catches us in a trap we conservatives set for ourselves.  We have a moment of discovery... "Omigosh, we are the Takers, too...,"  We don't want to think we are the bad guys... and so we believe we have lost the moral high ground and must necessarily stand down, sit down, shut up, and let the left win the policy debate.

Mr. Ryan is able to see his own failing though, and realize that the Makers and the Takers are all the same.  This is a remarkable characteristic, especially for a politician.  Acknowledge his fault, accept his share of personal responsibility for the problem, do so publicly, ... and then continue to attempt to find a constructive solution for the problem, anyway (because it still needs to be solved!)
Like many of the challenges we're facing, the tipping point we're approaching is the result of a liberal progressive mindset that seeks a larger, more active government and lets bureaucrats decide what's best for everyone instead of allowing citizens to govern themselves.  
For as much progress as Mr. Ryan has made with his argument, this paragraph demonstrates there is more road for him to travel.  He states that the liberal progressive is seeking a larger government that decides for the citizen.  His proposed antidote is that the citizens should be allowed to decide for themselves...

...which presumes that the liberal progressive big government types have the authority to allow or disallow the free decision-making of the citizens.  The citizens do not need anyone's permission to govern themselves.  We own that as a God given right.  We citizens need only accept our responsibility, step forward, and seize that Natural authority for ourselves.

Another issue is present that deserves attention: Why does the liberal progressive seek a larger government where bureaucrats decide what's best?  The best answer I can come up with (and one that I was knocking around in a previous post) is: Because they seek power.  It is an irrational goal, but it appears to be the goal.

These two thoughts work together.  The citizens own their own right to govern themselves.  To ensure they always maintain that right, I propose requires the citizens to do two things:

  1. Always make their own decisions; and
  2. Ensure no law, if passed, could be used to undermine rule #1.

Mr. Ryan does do something remarkable.  He listens to an opponent's argument, applies the moral case of the argument to himself, finds himself wanting, acknowledges his failing, and thoughtfully revises his policy.  He does all of this publicly.  We are all better off for his efforts of self-improvement, and his willingness to continue to fight for what he knows is right.

I hope that he can make these next further steps and recognize that the citizens already have a natural authority to govern their own affairs and the efforts of the modern liberal progressive types are irrational attempts to control their fellow citizens.  I think this will allow him to advance his argument to the natural endpoint: Federal entitlement programs must be reduced and in most cases (if not all) eliminated.

I am impressed with Mr. Ryan's efforts so far, and may have to read the book he promotes with his piece.  This is the type of leadership we need to help all of us stand and resist our political opponents and their efforts to sap our freedoms and exert control over our daily lives.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Warming Up to Corruption

Back in April, Washington State's Governor, Jay Inslee, initiated an effort to develop a cap-and-trade style 'solution' to global warming.  These efforts recently came to my attention and caused me to wonder what we can do politically to push back, slow, delay, resist, or even squash similar efforts related to saving the planet from Global Warming.

The answer?  I don't know... yet.  The draw of Global Warming (or Climate Change, or whatever it's called today...) seems irresistible to a certain segment of the population, a very large segment of the population here in the Pacific Northwest.  That provides a lot of political space for folks like Inslee to operate.

A quick summary of the project:

Gov. Inslee's office laid out the initiative on April 29th by issuing Executive Order 14-04.  The order create's "The Governor's Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce."  The goal of the Taskforce is to "provide recommendations on the design and implementation of a carbon emission limits and market mechanisms program for Washington [State]."  The solution resulting from the Taskforce:

  • "...must establish a cap on carbon pollution emissions,"
  • must include "...binding requirements to meet our statutory emission limits,"
  • "...must include the market mechanisms needed to meet the limits in the most effective and efficient manner possible,"
  • "...must be designed to maximize the benefits and minimize the implementation costs, considering our emissions and energy sources, and our business and jobs."

In reviewing those objectives one senses the raw political power that Inslee is wielding here.  The goals are notably expansive, would likely impact quite a large portion of the population and businesses in our state, and may even be a bit contradictory.  A politician needs to be pretty confident that their position cannot be challenged before issuing a document with such boldly stated goals.

The executive order began with several statements of "fact" intended to validate the need for the document to follow. "Whearas" items counted up to nine, with more listed as sub-bullets.  The first was particularly stunning:

WHEREAS, the University of Washington, as required by statute, recently released its summary of existing knowledge regarding the causes, impacts, and effects of climate change on Washington State, concluding:
  • Human activities have increased atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases to levels unprecedented in at least the past 800,000 years; (...)
Wow.  A few words about the nonsense of Global Warming seem in order:

(A) The Error: Anthropomorphic Global Warming (AGW), the idea that humanity's daily activities are negatively impacting the environment, is professed to be scientifically proven fact.  In reality, though, it is merely a scientific consensus.  To be a scientific fact we would have to subject the theories of AGW to the scientific method.  The hypotheses would need to be testable through controlled experiments that generate consistent, predictable results.  In this case, we cannot re-create the environment of the Earth and all the myriad of inputs inside a laboratory.  We are left with mere hypotheses, unproven.  The hyptothesis does not magically convert to fact after crossing some imaginary level of consensus amongst scientists.

That does beg the question as to why scientists could be so caught up in the idea.  My take?  It's a bit of confusion resulting from the rejection of traditional western theology that is common in modern academic circles:

(B) The Theology: AGW is an expression of something very familiar to Christians: Original sin.  Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and we are all stained by the corruption of sin from birth.  AGW theory requires us to believe that simply by living a normal human existence we are damaging, perhaps destroying, the planet.  When we drive our car we emit carbon waste.  When we flip on a light switch we use electricity generated by a polluting coal plant.  Taken to an extreme, merely by breathing we exhale carbon.  AGW theory does not allow for any peace from this scourge of environmental sin, although True Believers would convince us all that we can earn our salvation by our good works: recycling programs, re-usable shopping bags, electric cars, state-wide carbon reduction regimes.

Then who are these people that are promoting such a flawed vision of reality?

(C) The Players: There are three types of people engaged in all of this AGW effort:

  1. True Believers: the people who feel redeemed by recycling that soda bottle instead of throwing it away, or by creating new regulations that force others to join them.  These are your rank and file soldiers (voters) for all of the pro-environment measures the Manipulators might propose; and
  2. The Followers: going along to get along, to be cool, to keep the pesky True Believers off their backs; and
  3. The Manipulators: the leaders that swoop in to take advantage of the guilty consciences of the True Believers and the weaknesses of the Followers.  By encouraging a concept of works-righteousness they strive to obtain wealth and power for themselves.
Odds are that Jay Inslee falls into this third bucket.  It is highly unlikely he is personally committed to Cap & Trade outside of his own political aggrandizement.

Returning to that sense of the Political Power being exerted by Gov. Inslee, as I read on through the executive order it became simply overwhelming.  With the swoosh of his pen on a document, our governor is seemingly moving heaven and earth and commanding all his citizens to march in step to his wishes.

And in that thought comes another clear indication of the foundational error of initiatives such as the governor's Taskforce to reduce carbon emissions:

(D) The Corruption: When most of us consider the idea of political corruption, we likely think of individual politicians lining their pockets or those of their friends.  That kind of run-of-the-mill graft is surely going to happen through the work of this task force.  A different sort of corruption leaps out of this document: corruption of purpose. 

Following is a list of each of the state and regional governing bodies tasked with additional responsibilities by Executive Order 14-04:
  1. Office of Financial Management
  2. Department of Commerce
  3. Department of Ecology
  4. Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission
  5. Northwest Power and Conservation Council
  6. Department of Transportation
  7. Regional Transportation Planning Organizations
  8. Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board
  9. Transportation Improvement Board
  10. County Road Administration Board
  11. Washington State University
  12. WSU Energy Program
  13. State Building Code Council
  14. Department of Agriculture
  15. Northwest Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnership for Washington
  16. Bonneville Power Administration
  17. Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
  18. US. Department of Energy
  19. Department of Enterprise Services
  20. Results Washington
  21. Sovereign Tribal Governments
  22. Pacific Coast Collaborative
  23. Department of Health
  24. Department of Fish and Wildlife
  25. Department of Natural Resources
  26. Office of the Attorney General
  27. Office of the Insurance Commissioner
A few of those departments exist to address issues related to energy and environment, such as the the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.  Organizations such as the Office of Financial Management would surely have a natural role in any new policy being proposed.  But most of the organization listed above...

...The Department of Transportation gained numerous mentions in the document.  It seems to be repeatedly assigned a leadership role and made responsible for marshalling the cooperation of other departments towards supporting key objectives.  This is a corruption of purpose.

WSDOT is on this planet for a specific purpose...
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is the steward of a large and robust transportation system, and is responsible for ensuring that people and goods move safely and efficiently. In addition to building, maintaining, and operating the state highway system, WSDOT is responsible for the state ferry system, and works in partnership with others to maintain and improve local roads, railroads, airports, and multi-modal alternatives to driving.
...and that purpose is something very unrelated to saving the planet from destruction via carbon pollution resulting from man's existence.

Organizations like WSDOT are created to facilitate efficient solutions to complex problems that are best solved through specialization.  This department allows the state to designate resources and round up talented personnel to provide for a specific need of the people of the state.  This executive order diverts transportation systems experts from their normal duties of ensuring traffic will flow smoothly on our highways (etc.) to making sure the planet doesn't sweat too much some fifty years in the future.  Money that would otherwise be budgeted to expand a bridge, open a new waterway, or ensure the smooth functioning of the airports is going to be redirected towards initiatives of questionable return.

An argument could be made that WSDOT isn't being taken off course.  The department already incorporates many factors into its projects that go beyond getting a road laid straight.  An example might be the overpasses recently constructed above WA-520 on the east side of Lake Washington that are virtual forests atop concrete.  An impressive amount of beautification.  Although planting those trees might be a sidebar to the function of moving traffic efficiently, that beautification generates immediate benefits.  Each of us that travels over or under that highway bridge enjoys the fruits of these WSDOT efforts to make something more than merely a bare pathway for vehicles.

There is an honesty and simplicity to creating the Dept. Of Transportation.  Here is a mechanism for the people to address an important common objective with clarity.  There is no mystery.  The head of the WSDOT and all the staff under him has one clear mission: ensure the efficient movement of people and things around the state.  The Governor can relax a bit knowing that the details of this challenging undertaking have been delegated to knowledgable experts, allowing him to turn to other pressing problems requiring his leadership.  The citizens of the sstate can rest easy in the knowledge that this work has been properly assigned and will be addressed by people properly accountable to the political process.

If the Dept of Transportation is going to be tasked to accomplish something other than meeting the transportation needs of the citizens of Washington State, then perhaps the department should be re-named something else entirely, allowing us to vote in the creation of a Dept of Only Transportation (seriously, and this time we mean it!) to replace the old corrupted entity and to manage our roads and byways.

Or perhaps we could recognize the corruption of purpose that is inherent in an effort like The Governor's Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce and direct our government to use limited state tax funds more effectively.

Which brings us back to the pressing question: How do we shift the political reality away from the nonsense of Global Warming and towards the common sense of managing to the daily needs of our state?  Hopefully this dialogue can help us develop meaningful solutions to that problem.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Non-Solution of the Government

The disappointing thing about the Bush presidency: so many of the solutions developed were from the perspective of Big Government.  I.e.: the government is the solution to the problem.

Examples are pretty easy to find: No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, the Patriot Act...

One such example is the Department of Homeland Security.  Under the right presidential leadership, it is possible for an organization like this to remain supportive of the people's liberty more than the opposite... But we are sinners... so perhaps we are best off not creating leviathan government departments that can gradually acquire more and more power over the people.

John Whitehead presents a nervous-making view of the Department of Homeland Security in his recent opinion piece which describes the agency as a standing army on American soil.  It's a worthy read.

As with education and healthcare, the most effective solutions to ensure liberty for our generation and the next is to eliminate, not create or expand, federal departments.  If the DHS was eliminated, solutions would quickly be developed at a local, state, and national level by the various private and public entities that are interested in securing our homes from any terrorist threats.  The void would be filled with a solution that the individual voter would have an opportunity to interact with and impact.

The question: How do we create a national movement specifically geared towards the elimination of federal departments?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The End of Historical Progress

The past two Saturdays, the WSJ included pieces by well-known political thinkers discussing the course of history as revealed by recent events that seem to be erasing borders around the world.

In the June 7th paper, Francis Fukuyama took a second look at an essay he wrote 25 years prior that focused on the idea that "History... appeared to culminate in liberty."  Fukuyama proposes that democracies fail because they are formed with too great a focus on protecting the nation from tyranny and too little focus on ensuring effective government.

This weekend's Journal includes an essay by Walter Russell Mead that considers how "history doesn't follow America's optimistic script."  Mead presents the idea that "Americans tend to think that history doesn't matter much, that win-win solutions are easily found and that world history is moving inexorably toward a better and more peaceful place."  He supports this by describing our nation's path to greatness as relatively pain-free in comparison to other nations.

Both pieces are excellent reads, but both also seem to miss the key of America's success: A well-educated, God-fearing populace that believes their government only exists as an extension of the people and that understands the success of the nation will be built on the successes of the individuals living within it who are able to reach out and seize the opportunity available to them through liberty.

To Fukuyama's discussion: The inability to govern effectively is a feature, not a bug.  The bumbling government is likely the best way to allow individuals to govern their own affairs.

To Mead's discussion: America's rosy view of history is based on the not naive belief but the intense knowledge that the concepts of freedom and independence foundational to our nation are equally true and available to any other population on the planet... and thus we hope that is what we are seeing develop as news reports flash across our screens.

These thoughts merge in considering the recent turmoil in Iraq, with cities falling to the ISIS terrorist army.  Americans in large numbers supported President Bush's effort to democratize Iraq because of our rosy outlook.  We hoped our military would give space for the Iraqi people to discover the truth of liberty and how to step up and seize it for themselves.  In the end they were left with an ineffective government because the culture does not have the theological, social, and academic traditions that developed in the West and allowed for the rise of individual liberty as the paramount virtue.

It leaves me thinking that my own support of the Iraqi invasion back in 2003 was mistaken... that we would have been much better served educating and evangelizing Iraqis (and many others) on what liberty looks like and how to take it for yourselves, rather than sending our military in to impose it.

I also am left pondering another idea that Mead includes, "the path of historical progress."  What does this mean?  Does history progress?  Are we getting nearer each year to some sort of utopia, some new Eden?  What would that look like if so, and how would we know when we get there?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Workaround Suggestion for Google in Europe

Google will now have to filter their search results in much of Europe to exclude personal information that is "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant."

This seems patently ridiculous.

In order to request the removal, the individual would have to file some paperwork somewhere with someone.  By definition they are then publicizing the information themselves.

I hope Google comes up with a creative solution... like entering all such requests into a publicly accessible database that is included in Google's own search index.

It is difficult to say the information is "irrelevant or no longer relevant" (are these two different states?) if someone believes the information is important enough to file a request to have it removed from the records.  That makes the information newsworthy in itself.

Government Provisioning for the Citizen Militia...?

Are cows now so aggressive and numerous that our government requires submachine guns to slaughter them?

The reasons why the USDA might desire to purchase submachine guns with 30-round capacity boggles the mind just a bit:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, located in Washington, DC, pursuant to the authority of FAR Part 13, has a requirement for the commerical acquisition of submachine guns, .40 Cal. S&W, ambidextrous safety, semi-automatic or 2 shot burts trigger group, Tritium night sights for front and rear, rails for attachment of flashlight (front under fore grip) and scope (top rear), stock-collapsilbe or folding, magazine - 30 rd. capacity, sling, light weight, and oversized trigger guard for gloved operation.

The USDA oversees the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), colloquially known as Food Stamps.  According to recent figures, there are a lot of people on Food Stamps.  Since these people are struggling to fund their own needs for basic sustenance, it is quite unlikely that they would be unable to locate the funds necessary to exercise their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms by purchasing weapons for their households... perhaps the USDA intends to distribute the guns for free along with the Food Stamps?  It wouldn't be the first time the feds stepped into the weapons distribution business.

Thankfully, these recipients of the government's largesse are very spirited and independently-minded folk as a general rule, so most certainly they would only use those weapons to protect their home and family and/or defend themselves from the tyranny of an overreaching state...

A ready-made militia who would be naturally inclined to support the government.

Look, I'm not saying this is what is happening, and I'm not a conspiracy-minded fellow.  It is perfectly reasonable to try and discern the possible motives driving such a request.  And since it is such a nonsensical proposition that the federal department overseeing farming should be inquiring about submachine guns, it is reasonable to consider nonsensical answers to the question.

And the mere fact that nonsense is in play is reason enough to recognize how this request by the USDA is separated from reality and should be opposed.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fake Photos of Nigerian Women in WSJ?

On Friday, May 9th, the WSJ published a photo on the front-page of their print edition (above the fold) and on the homepage of their iPad edition (image below) that appears to be a fake.  The photo is ostensibly of Nigerian women protesting the kidnapping of girls by the Boko Haram terror group and promoting the Twitter campaign #BringBackOurGirls.

The protest signs appear very... wrong.  The fonts... The colors... the wood-like framing around so many of them... the odd margins of the "RESCUE OUR YOBE GIRLS" sign...

The WSJ removed this photo from the same article on their website during the 10 hour (EDT) on Friday morning.  The photo has not turned up in any of the slide shows or other visual media related to the Nigerian kidnapping story since.

Are these signs faked?  Is this image a fake?

If this photo is a fake?  If so... Why?  What is the story that is not being investigated here?  Did the WSJ get duped?  Is the outrage over the kidnapping of the girls being ginned up under false pretenses?  Why are these women gathered?  Who organized them?  Who took the photo?  Who distributed this photo?

I think these are questions worth asking, and worth finding the answers to.  I hope some of the Wall Street Journal's competitors decide to look into it.

Racism Revisited

A few more words about Cliven Bundy and Racism:

Those that determine what is racist insist that we must forever and always be aware of race...
     ...but simultaneously insist that we never say or do anything based on that knowledge.

This highlights the simple and logical flaw at the heart of the idea of racism.  If we have to do and not-do the same thing at the same time we are all trapped in a room where the only way out is to prostrate ourselves to the whims of the fella standing at the only door.

Racism is an evil when it is used to formulate policies that restrain the liberty of another person based solely on their external, physical characteristics.

Cliven Bundy did nothing of the sort.  He merely commented on the world that he saw around, from within the racial awareness that is mandated by the very same thought police that promptly shut him out of the public sphere.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cliven Bundy: American to the Core

Cliven Bundy has generated (sustained) a media hurricane after some comments he made quite openly to the press last Saturday.

Watch the video clip yourself.

My take is this guy is actually quite intelligent and has thought this through more than most.  Since he is not a politician, but merely the favorite flavor of the media / politicos for a moment.  Far from unfortunate, his remarks are worthy of a fair hearing.

Remove our own veils of media spin, political objectives, and the PC language filters we all suffer.  What did he say?

  • The Watts rioters were discontent and unhappy because they thought they didn't have their freedoms when in reality they were as free as any other American and certainly more than most other peoples in the world.
  • We should work peacefully to take apart federal bureaucracies, they are killing the country.
  • Living off the federal dole makes a man a slave and reduces his natural incentives to work and live an honest life he can be proud of.  It even reduces his incentive to share in the gift of life itself, instead driving greater rates of abortion.
  • Mexicans might have come here illegally but now they are here and they are people and they work hard and pay taxes and have tight-knit families... why don't we embrace these people and improve the fabric of our society?
Not a single time did he say "Negroes are born inferior to the white man" or "Mexicans are wetback invaders."  In fact, he compared Mexican and white-American culture and found the white man's to be deficient.

I can't find a single point in his conversation that I myself don't agree with.

This man is not a racist.

This man is an American.

I think much is revealed about our current political class and the dangers that we face as a society in this episode.  It is increasingly difficult to have an honest conversation about what is broken in our society and government.  If we cannot talk about it openly, how can we ever hope to fix it?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Excusing Yourself from Rational Thinking

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has recently been subjected to a great deal of public criticism for comments he made concerning the root cause of persistent conditions of poverty in some neighborhoods in America.  As quoted in various sources available on the web:

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

One of the commentaries that came to my attention is by Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post.  Mr. Robinson criticizes Ryan:

My problem is that when you identify something so amorphous as culture as the fundamental issue, you excuse yourself for not proposing concrete solutions.

Ok... so if Eugene's criticism related to a lack of concrete solutions, it seems reasonable to take a look at what solutions the writer himself suggests:

Alleviating stubborn poverty is difficult and expensive. Direct government aid — money, food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance and the like — is not enough. Poor people need employment that offers a brighter future for themselves and their children. Which means they need job skills. Which means they need education. Which means they need good schools and safe streets.

So... basically the solution is that these afflicted poor require just about everything that mankind has required from the start of time... food, medicine, a roof over their head, a job that can provide them with funds, an education... If we went roaming through history would we not find these are the basics of life throughout time?

Somehow... enough people in history managed to overcome these challenges such that all of us are here today to contemplate Mr. Robinson's meanderings.  So what then is different today than in the past?

I'll take a stab at an answer: Culture.

The best and most effective solution for anyone living in poverty to rise out of that condition will come from the fruits of their own labors... their own efforts to learn to read, learn to write, learn to work, find work, etc. The desire to succeed and provide for themselves and their family... is most certainly a culture issue.

So maybe Paul Ryan is on to something... although I would guess his solutions to the culture problem would somehow source from well-implemented government programs.  In my mind, the current culture problems that our impoverished fellow citizens suffer from are the result of government programs.

For clarity: I don't presume to say here that striving as necessary to rise out of poverty is easy work, or that all of the impoverished will wake up tomorrow and start and succeed... nor that many are not already trying.  I'm not proposing a utopian resolution to the world's troubles.

I'm just pointing out that Eugene has not offered any better solution... which he notes himself in his next paragraph, as his suggestion can't actually be accomplished:

The list of needs is dauntingly long, and it’s hard to know where to start — or where the money for all the needed interventions will come from.

Just for fun... I'll point out that near the top of his piece Eugene suggested that money was indeed the problem:

The fundamental problem that poor people have, whether they live in decaying urban neighborhoods or depressed Appalachian valleys or small towns of the Deep South, is not enough money.
In summary:   Culture is a cheap way to escape from solving the persistent problem of poverty.  A much better way is to agree that the solution is more money distributed through more government programs that will all occur without any idea as to the source of the money in the first place.

I prefer Ryan's approach.  At least he's starting from a reasonable position.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Solution to IRS Overreach

The repurposing of the IRS to target and oppress individual taxpayers and select groups is a travesty for a nation such as ours.  Consider that these events cannot occur unless the entire organization has been corrupted.  To initiate these events requires the acquiescence of numerous staffers at various levels of the management chain.  To sustain these attacks requires nearly everyone to be complicit.

The people that are executing the oppression of American citizens through the overbearing application of the IRS enforcement powers are our fellow citizens... one person with one vote, just like the people they are oppressing.  They are our neighbors.  We all send their kids to the same schools.  We may even go to the same churches.

To halt this activity and restore the IRS to its intended non-biased activity would require a herculean effort of investigation and enforcement, an effort that would have to extend over multiple Congresses and multiple presidential administrations... and how would you prove that all of the canker has been rooted out?

Q: What circumstances allowed this corruption of the American System to occur?
A: The Income Tax.

The IRS was able to accomplish their treachery through the approval of 501(c)(4) status.  These tax rules are important because:

  • The entities do not want to pay corporate income taxes on the donations received
  • The donors do not want to pay income taxes on the money that they ended up contributing
The government is looming over the citizen on both sides of this equation.  This is an unreasonable restriction on the free movement of the money involved, and consequentially, on the freedom of speech that would be executed if the money were not subject to taxation.

Available Solutions:
  1. Eliminate the corporate income tax (Act of Congress)
  2. Eliminate tax deductions for charitable giving (Act of Congress)
  3. Eliminate the income tax (Constitutional Amendment OR Act of Congress**)

** ...Congress could make the current tax rate 0%.

Once the IRS, or any government agency, has been corrupted and converted into a weapon to suppress the opposing political party, the entire operation must be eliminated to ensure that the practice cannot be repeated.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Simply Put: The Purpose of Government... to create, enforce, and adjudicate laws designed to protect the common man from tyrannical acts his fellow man is capable of committing against him if otherwise unbound.  The government receives its authority from the former, who has voluntarily ceded some of his own innate ability to accomplish this protective task himself.  This power is traded away by the common man both to capitalize on the more comprehensive ability of the government to execute these laws and to allow this man to focus his time and energy on the tasks at which his talents allow him to excel and thus he secures both a safer and more robust life for himself and his family than would otherwise be possible.  The voluntary concession can be revoked at any time, should the government stray from its side of the contract.  Regardless of the authority vested in the government, the individual man always retains the right to act to protect himself and his family from immediate danger.

Seems straightforward, no?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Immigration Breakdown

In the midst of the WSJ editorial today lavishing support on the GOP for plans to bring an immigration policy bill to the floor of the House in 2014, was a lovely nugget that we need more "lower-skilled workers who can help fill the labor shortages in many parts of the country."

We have labor shortages in America?  Who knew?  We should tell this nation's unemployed, especially those who have dropped out of the workforce, and let them have a crack at these unfilled jobs.

Keep in mind, that the ranks of unemployed are not having any trouble feeding themselves... as you consider the next line in the same WSJ piece:
Agriculture is among the worst off, and millions of crop acres go fallow or are left to rot due to too few farm workers.
The farmers can't get enough workers to harvest the food, but at the same time we have so much food that even those without a job have enough to eat... sounds like we don't need that extra food at all... so why should we bother seeking migrant workers to staff these fields?

As I've said before, the best immigration policy I can think of would be to encourage as many foreign countries as possible to seek freedom and liberty.  We would all rise on that tide, and many foreign nationals could find success in their own homeland... and we can stop having nonsensical arguments like those in today's WSJ.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Plank: Public Employee Unions

As I went through American History in my schooling, I was instructed that unions grew in the United States for the noble concept of protecting the downtrodden employee from the mean and evil corporate boss who was trying to take vicious advantage of the common man.  The lesson would not be completed until we heard about the Triangle Factory FIre in 1911.

Ok.  So if that's what unions are here for... why do we have public employee unions?

Public employees work for the government.  The government is made up of the people.  The leaders of the government are elected by the people.  The wages of the employees are paid by taxes on the people.

Two thoughts:
  1. Public employee unions operate in opposition to the people and the people's representatives.  I.e.: they are fighting with their own neighbors
  2. Public employee unions are operating against the interests of their own members, by increasing the costs and burdens required to provide public services.
Position Statement: Public employee unions should be abolished as they are illogical by nature.

Remove the Veil of Income Tax Withholdings

Has anyone challenged in the federal courts the laws requiring an employer to withhold taxes from their employees paycheck and remit those payments to the government?

The requirements for income tax withholdings began with the Current Tax Payment Act of 1943.  Overturning this withholding requirement would push tax remittances back to the people who are being taxed.  The blinders we all have currently as to the amounts paid, and the separate line items we must pay for, would be removed.  The idea that we receive a "gift" from the feds each year when we receive a tax refund would be wiped out.  See this article from The American Thinker, which approaches the issue from a legislative direction.

In several searches on the web, I haven't yet encountered references to any cases that challenge the requirements placed on employers by these tax withholding policies.  Yet it seems this would be ripe for a challenge.

  • The employers are accomplishing the withholding at their own cost
  • The employers are accomplishing the remittance at their own cost
  • The employers are serving as an agent of the federal government, impacting the natural relationship forged with employees
I would think the first two bullets above would fall under the 5th Amendment, as private property taken for public use without just compensation.  The third bullet, and I think the most compelling, might reasonably be considered a 1st Amendment claim...

Washington State, being one of the several states without an income tax, would seem an excellent place from which to launch the lawsuit, as the issue would be limited to federal withholdings, and no separate state laws would enter into the picture to muddy things.

This in and of itself is a very appealing reason to run a company.  I would love to launch this lawsuit.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Questioning Authority

I opened a new tab on my Chrome browser this afternoon... and saw something unexpected at the bottom of the page...

In case you can't make that out:

"Your chance to ask the President a question"

...which resolves to this page plugging President Obama's upcoming State of the Union address and his policy agenda.

Google is now quite openly serving as a propaganda machine for Obama... while at the same time allowing me to publicly criticize them on one of their products, Blogger...  It's a trade off.

Lyrical Writing

Burt Bacharach appeared as the author of an op-ed in the Opinion page of today's WSJ, about compensation for songwriters in the digital music era.

As songwriters, we want these new digital services to succeed. But they exist because of our music—and those who create the music deserve to be fairly compensated. I am not sure a young writer can survive in the online and mobile world restrained by a compensation regime that couldn't fathom "streams" that come from "clouds." We live in a free-market economy and should be able to negotiate rates that sustain a marketplace where both services and creators can thrive.


[...] I am not sure a young writer can survive in the online and mobile world restrained by a compensation regime that was created when the only thing "streaming" from "clouds" were those raindrops keep fallin' on my head. [...]

I'm jus' sayin'.  It is his song after all, and Oscar-winning at that.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I am Post-Abortive Life

Roe v. Wade was decided on January 22nd, 1973.

I was born later that same year.

I was a choice.

      The right one.

            Choose life.

40 years ago today, seven men on the Supreme Court decided in favor of a case presented to them from a 27 year-old, unknown, post-abortive lawyer, Sarah Weddington. That case was Roe v. Wade and, along with its companion Doe v. Bolton, it legalized abortion in all 9 months of pregnancy, for any reason, in the United States.


After repeated encounters with stories of the declining quality of the education doled out in our public schools and the influence of the Glenns (Glenn Reynolds @ Instapundit and Glenn Beck @ The Blaze TV) I've gradually taken an interest in homeschooling.  Could I accept sending my kids to public schools?  Could my wife and I manage the homeschooling effort?

A huge unknown, that last one.  The greatest obstacle I can imagine is gaining the knowledge ourselves, so that we can impart it to our children.  I know there are plenty of sources and good curricula out there... but gosh it would be easier if our knowledge of Latin, etc., existed at all prior to trying to teach it to our kids...

So I've started to take an interest in the concepts of classical education, particularly from a Lutheran perspective.  It is eye opening.

The most interesting thing that I have learned so far is how much extraordinarily interesting information is out there that our modern popular society simply ignores on a regular basis.  And all of that information is available to all of us at anytime.

Self-learning.  It is a very viable solution.

A post on the American Conservative about homeschooling, which I found via Instapundit, began with a great anecdote:
Years ago, when I lived in Brooklyn, a Catholic priest friend listened to several of us grip [sic] about how bad the homilies were in most parishes, and how lousy was the catechesis. He told us that we were absolutely right, but that we didn’t have the right to complain. “All of you can get on Amazon right now and order the kind of libraries that Aquinas could only have dreamed of, and have them delivered to your front doors within a week,” he said. “There are so many resources out there if you really want to teach yourself about the faith. Don’t be so passive.”
Don't be so passive.  Get out there and feed yourself.

Selfishness in Public

Peggy Noonan's contribution this past weekend took American politicians to task for behaving primarily in their own interests, rather than the best interest of the country.  Michael Medved picked up the conversation as well on his radio program yesterday afternoon.

Question: do either of these two, or any of us for that matter, believe that we are more civic minded than selfish?  Is Noonan or Medved placing their livelihood at risk to run for Congress in 2014 to ensure the installation of a better type of person in office?

Answer: No, I thought not.

Step into the fray, people, if you have a better solution than those that have already volunteered and then were approved by us in the population.  Don't expect others to fight on your behalf while you sit comfy and secure in your home / life / job on the fringes.