Monday, October 31, 2005

More Property Tax Blues

From the South Bend Tribune, we see once again a REPUBLICAN governor, "Butterknife" Daniels, and a REPUBLICAN-controlled legislature stick it to regular property owners and average Hoosiers. As the Tribune reports in its first paragraph:

A new cap on state property tax relief could save Indiana's government hundreds of millions of dollars, but thousands of homeowners and businesses could pay the price.

Notice how it's worded. This will save Indiana's government. The rest of us "could pay the price". Just to clarify, we the people always pay the price when the incompetents in the State Capitol can't balance the books. What we're saving with this giant screw against the Indiana property owner is the legislature from its own failure to balance the budget. We went through years of a Democrat legislature that spent money like it was going out of style. When they finally lost power, did the new Republican majority try to curtail the Democrat's massive spending increases? Not really. They made symbolic little snips here and there, but there main thought has consistently been "How do we stick the citizenry with this giant almost-billion dollar deficit and get away with it?"

Although the list of already existing hits on taxpayers is long and not-so-distinguished, the proposed income tax hike on high-income earners for example, it shows no signs of shrinking. In fact, rather than proposing new, real cuts in how the state of Indiana does business, they're still talking how to soak the taxpayers. The property tax relief cutback is just another in a long line of insults to us as voters. It's not the only measure that is out there to stick it to us.

A plan drafted last session by Republican Luke Kenley of Noblesville, chairman of the Senate Tax Committee, would have allowed counties, cities, towns and schools to impose new local income taxes to reduce their reliance on property taxes. The proposal failed after local officials said it was too complex and contained too many uncertainties.

Look for the legislature to end up passing some or all of the tax increases. With a supermajority of tax and spend Democrats merged with tax and spend Republicans, nothing can really stop them. Maybe, in honor of those old enough to remember the Transformers, we can see a merging of the Deceptocrats and Republicons into a new super transformer, Taxocron (Sorry, I couldn't resist).

What should truly shame Republicans is this little snippet.

Otis "Doc" Bowen made state-backed property tax relief his top pledge in his successful run for governor in 1972 because property taxes had more than doubled in the previous decade.

Doc Bowen is a revered figure in the Party. A stately old gentleman who really felt like the kindly family Doctor you visited or your grandfather, Bowen was a great and classy governor. He saw Indiana through its earliest attempts to step out of its long-standing rural image and develop a more diverse economic base. He also seemed to genuinely care about the plight of Hoosiers, seeing that the role of government should be limited, but encouraging.

This sort of thinking spits on his legacy. The Republicans should hang their heads in shame. There's a strong chance that if asked, Bowen would identify ideologically more with Libertarians than our current Republican Party. Daniels, of course, sees room to justify the cut in the citizen's relief.

Daniels hoped to erase that deficit within a year, and the property tax relief credits, or PTRCs, quickly became a target. Republicans controlling the legislature agreed to cap the relief at just more than $2 billion a year for the next two years.

Daniels later said the subsidy "eats you alive" as a state and that he would be reluctant to reinstate the system of automatic increases.

Of course, erasing the deficit doesn't mean anything like cutting unnecessary programs to the bone or fighting the feds for a larger control of our own income base. It entails how they can raise taxes on the citizenry. What eats us alive, Governor, is a party that acts like its ideological nemesis, the Democratic Party, while taking for granted the base of limited-government low-tax loving citizens who put you in office. I hope one day you wake up and see that, preferably the day that base abandons you on Election Day. You certainly can count on me singing the praises of all your tax increases to anyone that will listen. And I hope whoever the Libertarians decide to run against you gets a chance to shove that rotted piece of meat down your throat during a televised debate. Then, I think, dear Governor Daniels, you will see the true meaning of being "eaten alive".

Friday, October 28, 2005

When the Washington Post Sounds More Like Pravda Than Pravda...

That's a bit of a concern. This sort of thing to me is always good for a chuckle. North Korea and Cuba keep fighting it out as the left's favorite example of "working communism". The trend continues in the Washington Post in a fawning article covering Arirang, the festival celebrating the 60th anniversary of the takeover of North Korea by the Worker's Party.

While the festival is no doubt spectacular, the Dear Leader being big on entertainment and production of same, it's not much different than the Soviet's old May Day parades. I've often thought that if big Kim has lived just a little longer, lil Kim Jong Il might have been an exit visa and a marriage to Katie Holmes away from being the next big Hollywood producer.

Not surpisingly, the bulk of the Post's coverage of the fair contains puff statements about the "Worker's Paradise".

...analysts have said it amounts to a demonstration of public support for Kim, 63, in which hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are attending the festival -- many walking for days to reach the stadium. The festival is being so well attended, North Korean officials said, that its original run of two weeks was extended to the entire month of October.

That of course doesn't take into account that most were likely informed they would be going to show support for the Dear Leader, possibly at rifle point. The Post doesn't really touch on that aspect, preferring to portray it as a sort of Communist Mardi Gras.

Meanwhile, modest economic reforms made in North Korea since 2002 appear to have somewhat eased the country's bitter poverty and once-rampant starvation.

That, massive amounts of Western food aid and the dieing off of the "surplus population" I'm sure has made food more plentiful for the survivors. How positively festive.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, former UN ambassador under Clinton who was one of the invited foreign guests of course had to rain on the Post's parade.

"The atmosphere there is the best I've seen in 15 years," Richardson said during a stop in Tokyo after his visit. He said he went to Pyongyang by personal invitation from the government, and not as an official U.S. envoy. "Of course, there are still problems," he added, "but the atmosphere is much improved."

I mean, there's not the rampant starvation and poverty at this festival so at least those things are looking better. Bill of course didn't ask to visit any of the internal gulags where so many political prisoners and undoubtedly a few kidnapped foreigners rot away. I guess decorum had to be observed. That and I heard they had Bill's favorite drink, Fresca, to keep him occupied. Sarcasm aside, saying "Of course, there are still problems" is like saying "Of course, the Titanic still sunk and killed all those people, but..." There is no apologizing for a dictatorial regime of the level of hostility and inhumanity of North Korea, but a former Clintonite still finds a way.

He said the North Koreans, who contend that they had a bumper farm crop this year, would allow as many as 60 of the roughly 100 foreign aid workers in North Korea to stay.

That just struck me as funny. It reminded me of the Soviets saying they had bumper crops but still demanding food aid. What did they have, 70 years or so of bad weather? Asia must not be a very good place for agriculture.

Much of the rest of the piece talks about how wonderful and dazzling the show was, from a country where the population isn't even as free as prisoners in a US jail. The last paragraph was particularly eerie for me, though.

The spectacle often seemed particularly aimed at the South Korean visitors. At one point, participants held up flashcards creating a montage of South and North Korean children, while uttering the chant: "How much longer do we have to be split due to foreign forces?" Soon, most of the visiting South Koreans were chiming in for the chorus: "We are one."

Yes, how long do we have to wait for the Americans to leave so we can conquer your stupid southern @sses and integrate your GDP into Kim's next film project. Then South Korea can be just as prosperous and free as North Korea. Yay. I had a friend who served in the Army in Korea for years. He used to say there were two kinds of Koreans, young Koreans who couldn't see the big deal of why North Korea was so scary and who thought the US should just go home and old Koreans who had either survived the North Korean invasion or had developed some sense and whose greatest dread was that the US would do what the younger ones wanted and leave them at the mercy of the North. Wonder how many young Koreans were in that delegation...

North and South Korea couldn't provide a greater contrast in the differences of the success of capitalism and the failure of communism. That the Post fails to seriously address this, and prefers to sound more like Socialist Monthly Digest, is an all too common and all too sad failing of our major media outlets.

Hat tip to Newsbusters for this one.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Limited Choices Lead to Limited Opinions

A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll shows in its own way that people surveyed seem to prefer Democrats as leaders on a majority of issues, as noted in on the CNN web site. These numbers likely show a larger than normal disapproval of the President because many conservatives have joined liberals in their dismay over the President's handling of Supreme Court nominees, border issues, and out-of-control government spending.

Another important note is that such polls as these usually only offer the listener two choices. He can either choose whether he'd prefer Democrats or Republicans on handling a given issue. This is yet another dagger thrust at the third-party alternative.

It's often said that Third Parties never have a chance at big offices because they don't have a significant grass-roots base like the Big Two. While some parties challenge this, like the Libertarians and Greens and do get candidates elected at the local level, all of them have failed at the national level, at least to date. They are referred to, even by other bloggers and political pundits as spoilers. These individuals push the notion, correct or not, that only two big parties can survive and you either fit your beliefs somewhere under their tent or you're just hurting your own and helping those you don't agree with.

Again, that has some basis in fact. Perot spoiled two presidential elections for the Republicans and Nader spoiled at least one. However, perhaps these things are true, perhaps these things are reality, because the major news sources will absolutely NOT allow for anything other than two divergent opinions. The media's mentality in general, and this includes print and television, is that one is either in agreement with the Republicans or the Democrats. What if you're not in agreement with either? Let's look at some of the poll questions.

On separate issues, a majority of those questioned felt the Democrats could do a better job than Republicans at handling health care (59 percent to 30 percent), Social Security (56 percent to 33 percent), gasoline prices (51 percent to 31 percent) and the economy (50 percent to 38 percent).

Forty-six percent also believed Democrats could do better at handling Iraq, while 40 percent said the GOP would do better.

In 2003, 53 percent said Republicans would better handle Iraq and only 29 percent believed the Democrats would do better.

The only issue on which Republicans came out on top was in fighting terrorism: 49 percent said the GOP is better at it, while 38 percent said the Democrats are.

And there was a dramatic shift downward in the latest poll, compared with September, in the percentage of people who said that it was a mistake to send U.S. troops to Iraq.

This time, 49 percent said it was a mistake, versus 59 percent who felt that way last month.

Let's look at those. The Democrats could do a better job of handling health care? As opposed to what? First, where in the world does the Constitution grant power to even issue band aids, let alone spend copious amounts of tax dollars on full coverage for a significant percentage of the population. And don't throw out the General Welfare Clause. That's such an overused and improperly applied phrase I'm sure James Madison is turning over in his grave wondering why he ever allowed it in. Even setting that aside, what exactly could the Dems do better? Spend more money than the Republicans? Instead of a half a trillion dollar drug benefit, would they have made it a trillion? Very manganimous when it's someone else's money.

Social Security. Same animal. Not Constitutionally valid, but what are the Dems going to do, spend more money on it? Or more accurately, are they going to tax us more for it? Wow, they'd really be better at taxing. That's something they seem to know very well. People really WANT this eh?

Gasoline prices? You might as well ask why Bush hasn't weighed in on the price of Slim Jims. It's just as relevant. Gasoline and petroleum products are a market commodity. They are controlled by the market, for better or worse. Name me one time in history where price controls actually WORKED. You won't find one. All you do is decrease supply and boom 70's gas lines all over again (for those of us alive who remember that Carter fiasco). We could try to do what they've been proposing. Since the IC engine isn't going away anytime soon, allow more exploration and exploitation of the petroleum resources we do have to keep the price stable or lower. Are Democrats proposing that? Better or worse?

The economy? It's also ludicrous to assume that any body like Congress or the Presdiency controls the economy. This is a market economy, not a Soviet-style planned economy. The Democrat's answer so far to the economic boom is that we should tax it to penalize those profiting from it. Remember Reagan's mantra on government "If it moves tax it..." If you believe no one should profit from their success in the economy, then you believe none of us should profit, and your opinion would therefore be a little out there anyway. Democrats do not have better ideas on the economy. Come to think of it, Republican ideas aren't that great either.
The Democrats could better handle Iraq? Oh my God. That's bad comedy. I really don't need to go over the reasons, do I? The pollsters really need a followup on all these questions. Exactly how, sir or madam, do you think they could do better?

But this is what you get from the pollsters. Simpleton questions, questions with no depth such as these mean nothing except to the partisan hacks in the press who want to show "their guys" are the best. Be realistic, that's what the numbers are for. And this is why all the Third Parties take it up the tail pipe from the media, because the media doesn't want to have them join in and play their little reindeer games. Until Libertarians, Greens, Constitutionalists, and the like get recognition from the media king-makers, there will be no hope that the people of the US will be exposed in general to more than the most basic He said/She said political garbage that the MSM spews and none of this country's problems will actually get solved, except perhaps by accident.

More than anything, I believe such polls infuriate me because they aren't designed to determine what people think. They're designed to determine what the people that initiate them want to hear and rarely do they stray from this formula. You want a real idea of what people think will work? Give them more than Option A or B. Otherwise, you're comparing Pepsi and Coke.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Is It Worth It?

Mike Kole over at Kole Hard Facts today brought up a very interesting point. Can having a blog where one regularly espouses one's personal and political beliefs be harmful to one's political aspirations? If we were to ask the boys in the smoke-filled cigar room in the back as they sipped cognac, they'd probably say yes. The old school answer seems to be that the less people know about your opinions, the better off your political chances appear.

Mike, to his credit, is not taking the low road and obfuscating his spoken beliefs for political points. He's right out there slugging and should frankly be a lesson to other politicos, both entrenched and aspiring. After all, hiding one's beliefs got us Mitch "The Blade" Daniels, who might have been better nicknamed "Butterknife" for his weak budget cuts. It also got us George Bush Sr., a moderate masquerading as a conservative, Bill Clinton, a far-leftist masquerading as a moderate, and George W Bush, a once-thought conservative who never met a spending bill he didn't like.

Is this what we really want, politically? Do we REALLY want politicians whose political beliefs are largely unknown to us, or to which we can only infer from random, confusing and double-talking statements designed to appeal to the largest majority? Should we stay off Issue X because it will offend group Y who are really only interested in Issue Z? If we want to play the same old game, sure. But I would think we wanted candidates who were open book, whose views were very clear. I certainly want it in a Supreme Court nominee, and I definitely want it in an elected official. So should the rest of you, whether you hail from the left or the right.

If your candidate has to get elected by stealth, by hiding who she or he really is, can that person really be that desirable of a candidate? If the only way you can appeal to voters is not to be too appealing on any one topic, then you're probably not qualified to hold office, not in a representative republic anyway, representative being the key word. I would hope we'd all want candidates like Mike Kole, who were willing to be subjected to the scrutiny of the public. Those will be the truly great leaders, because they have the least to hide. That's who we want in charge, those more interested in representing us than in hiding their past.

I've run for office a couple of times myself, and if it's taught me anything, the only way you really gain people's respect, trust and vote, I mean really earn it, is to let them know where you stand. If you alienate some, that's democracy! That's how it's supposed to work. If they don't like you, they'll vote for someone they do like. Government class 101.

So cheers to Mike Kole, and cheers to any candidate with the balls to do what he does, put his real views right out there in the public for all to see, sink or swim, that makes a helluva candidate.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Another Voice in the Wilderness

Keep this up and we could have a chorus... Senator Tom Coburn has a press release out (hat tip to Michelle Malkin). Looks like the good Senator is planning to hold hearings on the abuse of the General Welfare Clause, among other things and reexamining Constitutional restrictions. From Michelle's site...

“A body that values tradition should welcome efforts to realign ourselves with the basis of our tradition – the Constitution. Today’s modern era of pork politics and spending free-for-alls is a radical departure from our founders’ vision. Our excess is threatening the long-term viability of the American experiment. As Congress struggles to make difficult decisions about priorities we need to reacquaint ourselves with the genius of our founders and their vision of limited government. I hope this hearing will help us build a bridge back to our beginnings and founding principles,” Dr. Coburn said.

Good luck and Godspeed on that, Senator. I'd be amazed if many of your fellow Senators paid attention, but you certainly have my support. I'd love to be able to sit at home and watch these on CSpan, but being a working man that isn't always possible. My advice for a ratings grabber: Subpoena the biggest spending Republican and Democrat Senators and demand they explain themselves in light of their flagrant extravagance in the budget at taxpayer expense. What a pleasant day that would be.

UPDATE: I normally wouldn't steal directly from another blog, but RightWingNews is one of the biggest and best sources on the right and they had this very good excerpt today from Pete Du Pont's WSJ editorial and since it was related I thought it worth noting also.

"But the better solution to the huge increase in federal spending would be a constitutional amendment to hold the growth of federal spending to specific percentages of revenue unless there is a supermajority override by both houses of Congress. It is not a new idea--Delaware, for example, passed a constitutional amendment in 1980, when I was governor, to limit state government spending to 98% of revenue unless there is a three-fifths vote of each legislative house to spend more. The extra 2% goes into a Rainy Day Fund--the kind of fund that could be used for relief in Katrina-type national catastrophes. The amendment has produced 25 consecutive years of balanced Delaware budgets, a fiscal discipline that the federal government needs even more that state governments do.

Another approach is the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or Tabor, which Colorado put into place via a constitutional amendment in 1992. It limits annual state government spending to inflation plus population growth, with any extra revenue going back to the taxpayers. From 1995 to 2000 Colorado ranked first in the nation in GDP growth and second in personal income growth. Its success has generated a furious effort to allow more spending that will be on the 2006 ballot.

Amending the Constitution is not easy, but is the best solution to the long term spending challenges that have faced every modern president since the Great Depression of the 1930s. And offering it up in our troubled big spending times would energize a policy debate that America needs to have."

Way to say it. Sometimes the federal government should look to the states for answers. It should look to the states for permission to wipe its nose domestically, but that's a dream for another day. A Balanced Budget Amendment is one of those steps along with things like the Fair Tax that might eventually bring government spending back in line and eventually even start reducing it. We can only hope (and write our Congressmen til they're sick of hearing from us).

Monday, October 24, 2005

A History Review

It's a dreary Monday here in the heartland. The skies are gray, the internet is funky, and I'm pretty sure there's a fine clinging cold mist out there attached to every surface including anyone foolish enough to go out in it.

With that in mind, I thought it worth curling up with a cup of cocoa, turning up the heat and having a brief discussion on recent history, or better, what is largely responsible for getting us in our current mess. I love history and enjoy discussing it. Of course, because it's so enjoyable, that's why there are so few good paying jobs for it, I'm guessing. Eric (catastrophile), my very worthy liberal contributor and I have started a little discussion on the 20th century and the rise of big government. I thought it worthwhile to bring it out of the comments section and into the mainstream of the blog for all to enjoy. Our last batch of comments can be seen below.

I said:

Libertarianism was quite compatible with our country, right up until the widespread introduction of socialism. The idea of self-reliance, personal responsibility in liberty, and doing for yourself were core beliefs for the earliest Americans and Americans up until the likes of Eugene V Debs. Perhaps even before him.

The problem, really, is power. Government accumulates power at the expense of the governed. The only thing that stops that is an educated, well-informed, and active populace, which is very hard to achieve and maintain. There's also government using force to grow its power, like the Civil War. The problems you speak of, where politicians play to interest groups, have likely been with us since the beginning. They have become a festering cancer, though, since the New Deal and then infiltrated most all of our culture after the "Great Society" programs.

By not only catering to special interests, but paying off the masses with inadequate and woefully inefficient government programs at the expense of individual and business economic activity, government officials and those in the corporate structure who came to depend on government subsidy or "corporate welfare" cemented themselves in positions of power.

The only question we seem to face is, do we want what's left of our freedom eroded quickly, or slowly?Libertarians may not be winning that fight right now, but we are a voice, and we at least fight. Maybe it's the whole "better to die on my feet than serve on my knees" mentality. I don't know. I just know I won't make it easy for them, and I'll let anyone else know who I can. Even a giant can die from a thousand pin pricks.

catastrophile said...

FDR's measures were a response to what had the potential to become very severe uprisings related to the Depression. And the Depression was a product of the collapse of the war economy.

Once we had opened the Pandora's Box of militarism, it was either socialism (to quell the angry mob) or fascism (to brutally enforce order), out of necessity, because the first priority of a government is always to preserve itself. And this is exactly my point. Between those two options, the people will always choose appeasement. Democracies tend toward socialism.

As long as the war machine exists as a massive, market-distorting government program, band-aids will be necessary to alleviate the pain of those market distortions -- to keep the people from becoming too angry and simply withdrawing their consent. But we can't very well dismantle the war machine, can we? Until that becomes possible (never, in all likelihood), we're stuck with this current state of affairs.

In fact, the only sustainable form of libertarian-anarchist state I can think of is the feudal monarchy, where the head of state owns everything, and therefore makes the rules, and has the requisite power to enforce those rules, typically by contracting with others to carry out his will.

With that said, we could certainly move in the right direction by removing authority from the federal government and returning it to the states -- starting with the pursestrings, the federal income tax. But I don't know if that's even possible any more.We're no longer a trade/defense alliance, we're a nation, one people, with one government and a bunch of withering administrative bodies which will be totally irrelevant before too long.

And this is why I remain a liberal, in spite of everything.

and he also said...

To clarify, though I believe in libertarian principles, I think that their "proponents" in what passes for our political mainstream aren't really interested in shrinking government or reducing interference, but in redirecting Leviathan to serve their ends, while the rest of us pay for it. So I can't get on board with what's called conservatism today. The Reeps currently in charge, for example, obviously don't have any problem with wealth-redistribution programs. They just favor a different distribution pattern that the socialists before them.

And now my retort. In regards to FDR's policies, most were ailing, poorly-initiated badly-planned and executed Hoover ideas in Hoover's vain attempt to help control the economy. Calvin Coolidge had not that many years before faced an economic downturn almost identical to the one Hoover faced. His response was to cut taxes, cut the federal budget and do nothing. The economy, not surprisingly, recovered. A combination of devastating tarriffs and higher taxes to run massively inefficient government programs led to the Great Depression and to even intimate FDR's policies did anything more than minor good on a small scale is incorrect.

So Coolidge faced the same situation and solved it in a year, but FDR follows with full-scale socialism and the economy doesn't get fixed (and gets worse) during his entire presidency but the New Deal is seen as successful? Sounds like the same logic used by those who advocate that if the Soviet Union had just had a few more years and less trouble from the US it would have achieved true worker's paradise.

Getting back from my tangent (sorry), to sum up that point, the "War Economy" was long surpassed by that point and several presidents had weathered the post-war period just fine. The post-war period had little do do with the Great Depression and bad economic policies by idealists who thought they could control free markets had almost everything to do with it.

I wouldn't say either that the two options were either facism or socialism either. One is more enforced than the other, but both basically exist on planned-economies and are almost "Communist lite" in their philosophy. History has shown that if you put men in bondage and put a select few in power, economies sink. If you allow men to thrive and be free, economically, morally and physically, economies in general thrive. Please point me to where a socialist economy is thriving and a more-capitalist style economy is sinking given those conditions.

No small cabal can ever hope to wield power over a global or even national market system and not make huge mistakes. It is inevitable. Market forces require small-scale leadership in order to meet challenges and thrive. If you have to wait months or years for a directive (5-year plan anyone?), your economy will falter and eventually die, leading to that anarchy and "only the strong survive" mentality. I want neither.

Yes, one could argue that the priority of government is to preserve itself and its power and that modern governments learned quickly that if they wanted to increase their power base they would have to provide their own opiate to the masses. They managed this in part by a huge entitlement scam that robs from those who work and gives to those who don't. This is fundamental Marxism and also fundamental bs. Those who object are demonized for being uncaring to the poor and the rest are kept so busy working that there is little incentive to object. "You can't fight City Hall" is practically taught in elementary and high schools. The choices to this are to roll over and take it up the tail pipe or call the government on their schemes and attempt to right them. If one were to assume such an effort was futile even though they disliked it, then I'd have to ask what was keeping that person from eating a bullet. We struggle or die, whether it's versus the state or each other and in struggle we can mostly prosper or all perish.

Our "military-industrial complex" is a stickler in that equation no matter what you do. It's an industry that has built up for the purpose of making wars and one could argue it's good for their business for there to be war. The argument was made with vietnam, although a failed President who had no idea how to win a war was largely to blame for creating a seller's market for limited global warfare. The argument was made for the Cold War, but mostly by anti-war left and almost exclusively Marxist groups like ANSWER. In those cases, the arguments faltered because of their bias in favor of the military war machine of the Soviets.

I can't say I've been fond of the fact that we have such a huge defense budget, but one of the primary purposes, one of the few purposes of our Constitutionally mandated federal government is to defend and protect the states and the people. Part of the existence of such a budget in our current world exists because the United States is arguably the most successful economic power on the planet. Sitting on that stool leaves a lot of nations, most much less free economically and politically who would seek to profit from a slip or knock the US off. Taken in a real-world setting and not in a vaccuum, the military power is sadly needed. Should we force project as we do? That's an argument for another time. Should we have the force that we have? Possibly. Do I think the military is doing the job that it should be doing? Not entirely.

Again, bearing all that in mind and returning from yet another tangent, I'm not crazy about the size of the military industrial complex, but it's gone hand in hand with the size of our economy. I want better accountability. I want greater efficiency and I will fight against the wind if necessary to make those in power bend their ear this way, but I don't believe it in itself is evil. I've listened to 15 years of conspiracy theories and Marxist dogma and haven't come up with a favorable argument to the contrary regarding the existence or growth MI complex. Nothing in our current world position is gonna put that dog on a leash.

Feudal monarchies were not about contracting with the people. Feudal monarchies offered the notion that the individual had no rights in that society and that they owed everything to the sovereign and survived by his leave. In many cases, the individual did not have the choice to pick up and go if he didn't like his liege's rules. His choice was serve or die. I would argue that the tree of Marxism found its root in individuals who wanted the power of the monarchs for themselves or felt they knew how to best apply it. Feudal governments have nothing to do with libertarianism and everything to do with poor communications and weak economic structure in a dangerous environment. We still see this a lot in Africa and Asia.

We definitely agree on the elimination of the federal income tax as a key turning point in the power of the individuals and the states in restoring themselves and in restoring the power of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. Government's bloated trough has to be emptied if we plan on any legitimate attempt to curb federal power. That states have been withered by this and other usurpations by the federal government, but I would hardly call them obsolete. Local control is the best control and the most efficient, and if this argument can be successfully made, there's still hope.

Also, we haven't been a trade alliance since the Constitution was written, and barely before then. The idea of local power over regional power meant greater accountability as the ruling class is that much closer and that much more accountable. This is not so much the case anymore, as you note, but it still could be. Again, if we simply say it cannot, then what's the point of any of this on the left or the right? It's just a matter of fighting red in tooth and claw for your little bit of the wealth redistribution. Currently, and likely for the forseeable future, that's not for me. I'll take the fight, thanks. And that's why I remain a libertarian with strong conservative leanings.

The final thought you had, about the current dominant parties doing what they do... I don't consider either "conservative". They're not operating in the philosophies of Goldwater or Reagan. It's all about power with them, power flowing from a major money well. Neither side is innocent, although I would note the Republicans are only now, as they've had a few years of full power, fully realizing their potential for this corruption. The Democrats not only mastered it during their reign in Congress and the White House, but they want it back so badly they're willing to make no secret of their naked desire in front of anyone who will listen.

Perhaps that's why I'm still a Libertarian, big "L" as well...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Out of Chaos Comes... More Chaos?

The Indianapolis Star today had a wonderful article on property tax reform. In short, there hasn't been any. A failed system has been replaced with a new failed system. The Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute, which produced the study found a litany of failures and noted that 85% of Indiana counties still had a wide disparity between what houses were appraised at and what they actually sold for.

In some counties, this helped for the better, but in others, it's caused nightmarish increases in property taxes, with ach horror story accompanied by the salving sentence "But at least things are now more fair and equitable...". That, in case you haven't heard it, is the war cry of the oppressor. Sounds positively Marxian doesn't it?

The IFPI's study found several key things wrong with the system, taken from the Star's coverage:

• Wide disparities exist from county to county, and even within counties and townships, between the assessed valuation of a property and what it sold for.

• There is a lack of uniformity in how assessments are made and inconsistency in how rules are applied.

• Often-incomplete records vary from county to county, and state rules are ignored, making a market-value tax system difficult to achieve.

They also suggested several potential fixes:

• Eliminating all 1,008 elected township officials who handle assessments and replacing them with appointed professionals.

• Moving primary assessment responsibility from the township to the county level.

• Enforcing compliance with statewide assessment data standards, with financial penalties for failure to comply.

Those sound good, except that the reality of them and the logistics would be rather difficult. Transferring whole layers of bureaucracy from local to county level, putting in merit personnel instead of elected officials and enforcing a set standard seem on the surface all very winnable ideas.

The reality of it will likely be a bitter fight against entrenched politicos ending in most of those individuals keeping their jobs and becoming the "professionals" at the county level, perhaps with a salary boost and obviously increased staff to handle their "professional" needs. No savings there. The uniform standards sound good, until of course you take into account that certain homes and certain areas are going to break the rules set no matter how they try to structure them. This will generate whole new encyclopedias of rules and subrules and addendums and post-its that will keep property tax evaluation a byzantine and somewhat unfathomable system for many years to come, at least until the next wild-eyed reformer sets his sights on it.

There is another crazy idea, that of eliminating property tax altogether and the massive bureaucracy it supports. I've said it before. Property tax funds going into the government are like providing in a main line to a junkie. There is no incentive for them to curb its use. It's a ready flow of cash, and if they want more, the mechanism is already in place to just raise it a little. And if you refuse to pay, YOU'RE the criminal, and you can lose that property to... drum roll... the government!!!

There are other alternatives to property tax, and several states have such programs underway. Like methadone for a heroine addict, it's not a panacea, just a lesser addiction. But it's a start, and as I've said before, property taxes have to go. We're not serfs. We're land owners. It's a fundamental right of owning your own land that it is your land. The property tax bureaucracy distorts and erodes that right by its very existence. The best way to reform property taxes in my humble opinion, is to cut it off at the root, use weedkill, then salt the earth where it grew.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Practice What You Preach

Governor Daniels was in town the other day to speak with the Carmel Chamber of Commerce on areas of government waste they had identified and possible ways to reduce and eliminate such waste. According to the Carmel Topics paper, he had found cases such as $8,000 copiers that could have been purchased for $3,000. There were also the floor mats that were rented and eventually cost more than if they'd been purchased. Who rents floor mats anyway? Another fun fact was the last toll stop in Gary where they discovered it cost an average of 34 cents to collect the 15 cent toll. Nice.

Daniels, for his part, has been doing what he can to curb and eliminate these little morsels of bureaucratic waste and I applaud him for it. Unlike his former boss, President Bush, Daniels seems actively engaged in wanting to streamline government and reduce areas that are a drain on the budget. If he could only learn to control his desire to use additional taxation as a means to further improve the budget condition, he'd be a very effective governor.

On the very same front page of Topics that discusses how Daniels is eliminating government waste, there's an article on Zionsville's consideration of the 1% restaurant tax that several towns, including my own Carmel, have already passed. This tax is Daniels' prized baby. The Topics article acts as a bit of a cheerleader for the tax, noting it could bring up to $100,000/year in revenue for "infrastructure improvements" for Zionsville. Doesn't that sound quaintly vague? A town that bills itself on being historic and unchanged looking to improve itself with a new tax. That's a good one.

Only one councilman, Art Harris, cast a dissenting vote, noting he'd rather park and road-impact fees be used to better the old historic downtown district. At least there was one voice of reason on the council. The article finishes with noting that the improvements will keep the crowds coming in.

Two things worth noting to rain on that little parade are that the idea of taxing people to make them come to your area more often in and of itself borders on idiocy. The other item of note is, as was noted in the Indianapolis Star recently, projected revenues aren't always CONFIRMED revenues. There's no guarantee you'll get that money, and if the tax causes some customers to go elsewhere, that's really going to cut into "projections". Also, economic downturns, poor business performance, and new retail areas opening up might cut into the projected revenues.

But governments don't think in terms of reality. They think in terms of projections. It's a quaint fantasy-realm where all their pet projects are fully-funded and the people happily give over money to accomplish that fact. Unfortunately, we have to live in reality, the reality of failed initiatives and floated bonds and resistant population and changing market forces. This likely will throw cold water on the ideas and projections of these deranged councilmen, but only after We the People foot the bill. Why not consider working that in your next speech on the responsibilities of government, Governor Daniels?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Hat Tip

Mike Kole over at his blog Kole Hard Facts has a nice piece this week on the failure of revenue collection in the new restaurant tax imposed on much of central metro Indiana to meet its revenue quotas. This after they left the mega-rich Colts talk the city out of a $3 ticket tax by thinking the restaurant tax would more than cover costs is even more of a knee-slapper. That such delicious irony befalls those who think more taxes are a good idea only sweetens the pot for me.

I'm reminded here again of the words of the immortal Ronald Reagan.

"The government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it".

We're just in phase one with the restaurant tax. Continuing to tax an industry doesn't benefit the industry, especially with a tax that shows that industry no benefit. The "temporary" taxes on the hospitality industry, the very industry Brainard, Daniels, and many others cite as the beating heart of the central Indiana economy, will only seek to sicken, weaken and eventually help to kill it off. I make such a dire prediction because such temporary taxes are usually only temporary in the amount they tax. It typically gets raised. Expect in the next few years to see more of the same when they still can't come up with the money to build this new monstrosity of a stadium.

Breaking the LiberalSpell...

John Stossel, author of the must-read book "Give Me a Break" has written a good column this week on gun rights. It points out, in his rather plain-speaking terms, that all forms of gun control have universally failed, and those on the left who still believe that they will work or have worked are deluding themselves. Is this a new argument? Not from the right or gun-rights advocates by any means. Stossel is not ravingly conservative, though. He used to be quite the liberal crusader and could now easily be described as libertarian in his leanings. It's refreshing and nice to see such reminders from prominent media figures that there is more than one side to be presented to an issue as fiery as gun rights.

Perhaps I felt the need to highlight it even more because CBS has decided once again to push their anti-rights agenda in one of their the puff opinion pieces. Dick Meyer, a well-known hater of all things right of Mao, trumpets a sarcasm-laden piece on companies wanting to limit employees from bringing their guns anywhere near their work. Sometimes it is all a matter of perspective. If you couch things as "sensible" and "progressive", two of the left's favorite words, then anyone opposed to such measures or in favor of the measures they ridicule is seen as fringe or extremist. But this is how we play the propoganda game in today's America, isn't it?

Starting in the modern era with Bernard Goldberg in his book, Bias, reporters have increasingly had to justify views they previously held as "common sense" and in the mainstream. Water was wet, the sky was blue and guns were an evil to be abolished from the landscape like cigarettes and non-designer coffee shops. This was one of the cornerstone issues back when I started getting politically active in my college days that made me look at the left and wonder what insanity affected them. I was a gun owner, and I thought a reasonable human being. However, every news article or TV piece portrayed people like me as fanatics or at the extreme fringe. Worse, such people were often portrayed as villains, especially in the TV shows of the time (and through today). Seeing kids die in Waco because Reno wanted to get a religious nut who was heavily armed and then another couple kids die at Ruby Ridge for much the same reason, I began to see an organized campaign on the left against guns. Luckily for people like me, the NRA and a host of newly minted groups like the Second Amendment Foundation came out and fought right back against it.

Their activism, conservative and libertarian activism, convinced me that the left didn't have the market cornered on fair and sensible positions. One by one, their other positions started falling before serious scrutiny, and here we all are today.

I didn't have much of a point to this piece, other than to note to you all to keep questioning those who tell you one thing is right or wrong. Do your own homework. Don't take my word for it, and certainly don't take Brian Williams, Katie Couric's, George Bush's or Bill Clinton's. What we say might point you in a good direction, but none of us is the only voice in the wilderness. There are 280 million Americans and I'm fairly sure most of them have their own opinions. On the issue of the right to keep and bear arms, I just return to the cradle of laws, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Last I checked, it and its historical predecessors stated that the right to self-defense against others and government was fundamental and inalienable. Keep reminding yourself of that when you see the next gun-related opinion dressed up as news on the networks.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Smoke 'em If You Got'em

So last "night" the Carmel Town Council, who I'm thinking of renaming the Star Chamber for their poorly-noticed late-night sessions, met to discuss, among other things, a new ban on smoking in public for the city of Carmel. From what I could ascertain, most of the speakers were heavily in favor of it, and the council made no secret of the fact that the vast majority of their membership was for it. I even recall the chair having a little outburst of his opinion on smoking and then trying to say that wasn't his opinion. Sometimes politicos are just priceless.

Sadly, I couldn't be there in person, but had I been, I would have liked for them to have heard this little bit of info. I also think smoking is a nasty habit. I come from a family of smokers. My grandparents, my stepfather, my uncles all smoked. I never smoked cigarettes. Never developed a taste for them, thought they were a disgusting habit. Besides, I got all the smoke I needed just being around family growing up. Two of my grandparents lost their lives, one very young, to lung cancer. I know it's nasty and I wouldn't wish its effects on nearly anyone. If I had my way, I'd never eat near smokers in public, or have to deal with them blowing that crap in my face. I always hated going to bars and smelling like smoke. I hate smoking.

That said, what transpired last night in Carmel, and last April in Indianapolis and last year in Monroe County (Bloomington) has absolutely NOTHING to do with the trials and tribulations of being around smokers. And yet, at each of these events, that's all I heard. Every iota of testimony was just like my statements above. They were emotional, laced with personal tragedies and experiences, opinion, and very tired old rhetoric.

In all consideration, if Carmel wanted to say when you're in our city and you want to smoke, don't do it in public areas, that's their right and in their charter. When they have the audacity to sit there, though, and tell a property owner that his private business is their jurisdiction and that they can tell him who he can and cannot allow into his business is segregation. Telling business owners that they cannot allow people to smoke in their establishments is yet one more onerous regulation on a body that already has enough regulations piled on their back that even Atlas shrugs at the sight of them.

Just because the President of the Council or a nurse from a local hospital or a concerned housewife or I think it's a disgusting thing to smoke cigarettes, doesn't give us the right to tell a restaurant owner that he must by law not allow a smoker in or we'll fine or possibly imprison him. What country does that sound like? It doesn't sound like ours.

If a business owner wants to go no-smoking because he thinks it'll bring him more business, and there are economic models that say that's the case, then more power to him. Good luck and I wish him all the best. There are several restaurants and businesses that do this and I applaud them for it. But trying to engineer social change just because you don't like the habit is somewhat facist. What's next, belching and chewing with your mouth open being banned? Hey, it's pretty disgusting. And what about obese people? I mean really big. Do we have to see them eat in public? And aren't they a health hazard too? They could keel over at any minute. There ought to be a law! Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? Well, that's the smoking ordinance for you.

I have not seen a definitive study besides a federally-discredited EPA study that shows second hand smoke is a sole causative agent of lung cancer. When that study comes, perhaps these lawmakers might have a little more justification. Until then, it's just bad laws thrown after junk science and personal opinion. That's a helluva way to run a city.

I keep remembering Stacey Keach's great line in the otherwise mediocre Escape From LA. "The United States is a No Smoking Nation". Well, here we come. We're a vote, a couple of quakes, and a John Carpenter score away as we speak. Perhaps not that close, but I see people in power eyeing the offramp.

Offer tax breaks to non smoking businesses. Encourage non-smoking. If you force people to stop an ingrained vice, they just go underground (for ex. Prohibition or Canadian cigarette smugglers). You may stop some, but you turn the rest of the honest citizenry into law breakers. I'm still not clued in on how that's good for anyone except those in power.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Happy Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week

From over at RedState there is a post on the House's declaration of " Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week" that is definitely worth reading. It brings us to a discussion that branches out from the posting on frivolous lawsuits against the gun industry.

Such lawsuits have been part and parcel of our legal system likely since we had a legal system. There have been attempts to curtail them in the past, most not meeting any success. Still, they are here to stay and they cost us dearly. According to the NFIB, such suits cost Americans over $200 billion a year, they note an approximate 5% tax on wages.

Some meaningful changes are being introduced, such as adding teeth to Rule 11 of Federal Rules and Civil Procedures, a section of the law actually prohibiting frivolous suits already on the books. Whether they will succeed is a coin toss, but as always those of you willing to call and right your Congressman please do so. Every little letter helps.

Going beyond that a little, beyond the "my neighbor's cat peed on my ficus and now I have mental anguish" lawsuits, to the "I'm overweight or I smoked or I participated in any vice for 50 years and now the company that supplied me with the means has to pay" type of lawsuits.

Such lawsuits, I feel fall under the realm of personal responsibility, a very libertarian and conservative quality. If you didn't have the willpower not take that last smoke, down that last creampuff, drink that last cup of mocha supercaff frapuccino or suck up glue fumes, it's really your own fault, now isn't it? Don't look over to your lawyer, this question is directed to those that believe such lawsuits have merit. Look into yourself, realize you just didn't have the willpower to avoid the vice, and live with it, or possibly die with it. We all make choices for good or bad. I'm certainly no exception. But I'm not going to sue Smirnoff for that particularly bad hangover from college or Ruby Tuesday's for placing in front of me the gift-of-the-gods Collosal burger. These are choices mature adults make, and it's not up to the rest of us (who are ALWAYS the ones such assailed companies pass on the higher costs to) to compensate you for your weakness.

My major commenter, castastrophile (what is your name btw? :)), believes that if such industries cover up or try to ignore product liability, then such cases have merit, and he has a point. If a company knowingly promotes a product as safe and healthy and people get injured or die from it, then that company is guilty of negligence, a law that I believe is quite worthy. But I'd also offer that at no time in living history did any sane person think putting tar-filled smoke in your lungs was good for you, or that the Big Mac was health food. Only infants are that naive and in my opinion would have any recourse. And it's not just like now people have been dieing from lung cancer and heart attacks from this stuff.I had two grandparents dead from lung cancer over 20 years ago. They smoked Lucky Strikes. Guess what we thought killed them then? LUCKY FRICKIN STRIKES. It didn't take a hidden tobacco study or to enlighten me either. I relied on this little thing called common sense.

The same goes for all VICE-related lawsuits. They are Vices, which are by definition bad for you. Let's check

An evil, degrading, or immoral practice or habit.
A serious moral failing.
Wicked or evil conduct or habits; corruption.
Sexual immorality, especially prostitution.
A slight personal failing; a foible: the vice of untidiness. A flaw or imperfection; a defect.
A physical defect or weakness. An undesirable habit, such as crib-biting, in a domestic animal.

See, this sort of denotes Vice as a negative thing. Not much room for warm and fuzzy there.

Therefore, if someone knowingly participates in a vice-related activity, even just eating the wrong food or smoking the wrong cigarette or engaging an unusual sexual habit or any number of other things that the "moral-free '90's" seemed to indicate are ok, then that's their personal choice and instead of being allowed to profit by proclaiming themselves victims, they must suffer the consequences of their actions. Can a junkie sue a pusher for selling him crack that was too good? Not likely. Same goes for Ronald McDonald being guilty for hooking you up with that Big 'N Tasty. It was your call. You went up to him. You knowingly ate that food. You pay the price. You you you. Personal responsibility, which goes hand in hand with personal liberty.

If you start eliminating personal responsibility as a prereq for these things, pretty soon big Daddy gubmint is going to come in and start removing personal liberty to try and stem the effects, either at the behest of their corporate donors or because some do-gooder leftist thinks he can run your life better than you can.

This sickness in our law was born in the courts. Time to smother it in its crib.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Time for Reform

A law that's been a long time in coming may finally soon get passed. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a version of which recently and resoundingly passed the Senate, may finally be coming up for a floor vote in the House.

For those living in a remote shack in Montana, this law hopes to finally eliminate the torrent of frivilous law suits, most of which have been thrown out of the lower courts. Rather than forcing the gun industry to keep paying lawyers and losing their insurance, thus slowly bleeding them of operating capital, they can now get back to just running their business.

I don't really care if someone likes guns or doesn't like guns. I don't feel like debating that. It's a personal choice to own and/or carry a firearm and that's it. It is however a fundamental right and one that has seen serious attempts over the last fourty years to erode it. Even still, this isn't about that, at least not directly.

Sure the Brady Bunch and their ilk want to eliminate the whole of the gun industry. Sure they want to destroy the rights of their fellow Americans. But this is about a trend that has already grown out of control and is getting worse. It is our litigious society. Some empowered liberals see lawsuits as a natural extension of using the courts to achieve their social agenda, the very agenda that has failed to win the hearts and minds of American voters.

After tobacco, guns were a natural, if more shallow-pocketed industry. Big Tobacco seems to have been the test case, and now anything the Left dislikes could be a potential target. Firearms and the fast food industry are the two current favorites. Undoubtedly cars, oil companies, and potentially even alcohol manufacturers could be next. Anything deemed "dangerous to society" by what amounts to an elitist cartel of trial lawyers, lobbyists and 'social justice' activists will be fair game.

It is ironic that individuals who would likely fight hard for other freedoms and against government restrictions in everyday life, would so readily champion the courts deciding how people live and carry out their lives. Doesn't that constitute rule by oligarchy?

So all this boils down to this Act being a good step, but only a scratch of the surface of tort reform. The whole system must be reformed, possibly even torn down and rebuilt. Any system that has become so abusive that it nullifies our system of government is one that has become not only a liability, but a danger in and of itself to the citizenry.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Whole Lot of Nothing

So much for the President's vaunted Tax Advisory Panel. I suppose we shouldn't have expected anything so radical (or intelligent) as a suggestion to adopt the Fair Tax. It would have at least been nice for them to discuss tax elimination or reduction, as everyone thought they might. Instead, they mostly spoke on hiking taxes and creating new taxes.

There was some discussion of elimination of the dreaded Alternative Minimum Tax, which is slowly engulfing the middle class in a nightmare of tax payments. Most of it was centered around what to replace the fountain of revenue they get with it, though. That will likely come at the expense of investors and people who own fairly valuable homes (fairly valuable homes including pretty much all of those east of the Hudson and west of the Rockies).

The panel decided not to endorse a national sales tax, although that it was even considered is appaling to me. Yes, we're not taxed enough on income and payroll and social welfare programs, let's add a national sales tax. Those sorts of taxes, as Canadians should well know, can slowly creep up and up as the government decides it needs the extra revenue. They're almost as juicy to raise as payroll taxes.

There was serious consideration given to the Value Added Tax or VAT. Most European nations seemingly swear by this tax that adds a burden on the manufacturers who produce goods. And where does that burden go? Does it stay with them? No, silly rabbit, it gets passed on to consumers and the economy suffers for it.

So what did this panel produce? A lot of paper, a few well-meaning incentives to help "the poor" and lots of ideas on how to stick it to "the rich" and otherwise a whole lot of nothing. Did they seriously entertain elimination of federal income tax or anything along that line? No, are you kidding? That's WAY too much revenue for them to walk away from. When most of the panel consists of Beltway insiders, it should be obvious that no benefit to the American taxpayer will come of it.

In drawing out further the old tired analogy, the foxes held a meeting in which was discussed how best to provide relief to the chickens who they were eating at the request of the chickens. The foxes decided that it would be better to fry or bake with cilantro and garlic the fattest chickens, but proposed setting aside the skinnier chickens until later for stir fry. So much for chicken relief.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Please Take a Moment

And remember the honored sailors who lost their lives in the attack on the USS Cole 5 years ago today. Michelle Malkin's site has a very good review with a considerable number of links. Don't forget how the Yemenis at the docks danced and celebrated as our men lay dead or dieing.

Never forget how the United States failed to significantly strike back for the loss of these men and so many others, like those at the embassies in Africa or those at Khobar Towers. Let us never again be so impotent in the face of those who wish us harm. That only 17 sailors died makes this no less of an attack against us than the attacks on civillians and military personnel on 9/11.

In these instances, the American government failed in its most sacred and fundamental duty, to protect its citizenry. Never let them forget how they failed us and how they must do better. This is a cruel world and things like this cowardly attack will likely happen again and again to more than just our nation. But we must never become complacent enough to ignore or accept such evil.

Glass House With a Lot of Broken Windows

There's a wonderful piece on the Newsbusters site about Bill Keller, esteemed executive editor of the New York Times. Once again, it comes time to show his and his paper's might, the same paper violently laying off a large percentage of its work force due to flat ad revenue and declining circulation, over the likes of mere mortals who "blog". He started out his salvo here:

"Most of what you know, you know because of the mainstream media," Keller said. "Bloggers recycle and chew on the news. That's not bad. But it's not enough."

What? I don't have a direct feed to AP or some journalism student writing copy in my den? What a horrifying thought. Folks, the age of investigative journalism, if there ever truly was one, is long gone, and the significance of recycled rags like the Times, which seem to have more in common with the Pravda of old Soviet days, is waning. From the paper that brought you Jayson Blair, they are the first to step up and show you how little they can offer us anymore.

Maintaining a Baghdad bureau in 2004 cost $1.5 million, and says Keller, "This kind of civic labor can't be replaced by bloggers."

Of course, if you don't report the stories out of fear of the regime and risking your "unique position" like CNN did, that money largely goes to waste. If you only cherry pick the stories that fit your paper's agenda, same goes. You're no better than any of us bloggers, except you have a credit card and frequent flier miles.

Keller cited more items to prove that the New York Times was better than bloggers. Some of the points he cited were laughable considering the paper's reputation of late, especially when discussing the Times' "rigorous set of standards."

"A worldwide network of trained, skilled [observers] to witness events" and write about them, and "a rigorous set of standards. A journalism of verification," rather than of "assertion," and maintaining an "agnosticism" as to where any story may lead. And he said the Times practiced "transparency," or, in math-teacher terms, "we show our work."

Oh, who's that ghost lurking behind you Bill? Why it''s still Jayson Blair. How many more of him do you have? How many good stories do you ignore because your personal opinion doesn't think they're relevant (Air America for ex)? I wonder if any snorts or guffaws followed his statements. I have seen voracious attempts at verification in the sea of bloggers who are willing to chew out each others' throats for the best and most accurate story while at the same time I've watched "where most people get their news in the MSM" run with story after story that ranges from poorly sourced to speculation to flat-out fantasy.

Maybe Bill needs to look through that Glass, Darkly and reverse the lens. He might be speaking of the reflection he sees in his own failings.

As for Fox News' slogan, "fair and balanced," Keller labeled it "the most ingeniously cynical slogan" in media marketing.

That's more than what can be said for "all the news that's fit to print."

Amen brother. "All the News That's Fit for the Unwashed Masses." Has a nice prole ring to it, wouldn't you say, Bill? Maybe that could do for a new subheading. There, I've recycled and chewed on his comments. I think that story looks much better now...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What Part of "of the People" Don't They Get?

In Indianapolis, there has been a long-standing problem of sewer reconstruction. The city has existed for most of its history with an older-style combined system, wherein waste sewage and rainwater go through the same pipes. Sounds delightfully Roman, doesn't it? For as long as I can remember, and back two Mayoral administrations, Indianapolis has been trying to decide what to do about that problem. Given the obvious massive costs involved, the last two Republican mayors shied away from it.

Of course, now that we have a tax-and-spend Democratic Mayor and Republican Governor combo, the sewer issue has finally come to a head, as it were. The proposed costs are, not surprisingly, enormous. With the costs being decided by a bureaucracy, there's no telling how much of it will be waste and how much will actually go to an efficient overhaul of the sewers (did I just use the word efficient to describe government?).

The trick is, of course, to have a lot of public input and scrutiny on a project that's already looking to cost upwards of half a billion dollars. I'd remind you that Indianapolis is also sitting on a lake of bonds the last Mayor floated to get his pet projects through in the 90's. Naturally, the local media is cheering the Mayor's proposal of doubling the sewer bill for everyone. This may not seem like much, but for businesses that use a lot of water, it's going to be devastating and likely result in higher costs and prices throughout the city.

With all this in mind, I can't stress enough how important it is for the citizenry of Indianapolis to have a say in this (as I wouldn't be surprised if the Mayor didn't try to go after the rest of the metro area to help him pay for it like he did the new Dome). This is why this article in the Indianapolis Star today is then all the more pathetic.

State and local government agencies in Indiana wrongly withheld records or blocked access to meetings in more than half the cases investigated by the public access ombudsman in the last year.

The Office of Public Access Counselor issued a record number of opinions last year as more Hoosiers, increasingly aware of their rights to government information under the law, filed formal complaints with the agency.

What are the odds this is an isolated phenomenon? Is there a possibility that we're just looking at a few misguided bureaucrats or selfish politicians? Likely not. This article, a rare one for the Star, I think exposes an endemic corruption in the state and local political scene, that once again they know better than you what records are kept and how they keep them.

These are the public's business, the people's business, and in a time when our State went through a major political change but still suffers from the same political machine, it's time we take note and again rededicate ourselves to HOLDING OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE.

Whether it's a stadium, a sewer, or a cesspool, those in power are going to find anyway possible to stick it to us to fund their pet projects. Our job as citizenry, and I've stated before I know it isn't easy, is to stuff it back down their throats and say "NOT ONE DAMN DIME MORE". Make them beg. Make them explain, make them massage and cajole the citizenry til they risk violating sexual harrassment laws. They must be held to a higher standard, and we are the ones that must do the holding.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Tale of Two Scandals

I'm still at a loss now that we've been discussing media bias in a focused way for several years and with multiple books written on both sides of the political spectrum, to understand why any news org that professed "objectivsm" or at least taking on all comers and not playing favorites STILL practice such blatant bias.

Case in point, this last week, Chris Matthews held a full panel discussion on Karl Rove in the Valarie Plame case. Given the primarily left-leaning panel, it was no surprise that they spent much of their time skewering Rove and other players (and perhaps rightly so). Although I've still not seen the definitive evidence that Plame was actually an undercover operative at the time (certainly likes to get her picture in Vanity Fair), if she was indeed still on those roles and her name was intentionally leaked, that's a crime. It's just dirty partisan politics, and if Rove is found complicit, he'll get what the law meets out.

That being said, I'm still not convinced Rove is the puppet master boy-genius that those on the left make him out to be. I think he's a shrewd politico, but you have to be if you make it to working in the White House, but I think the fact that most on the left can't conceive that Bush might actually be smart and wily enough to run the country has over-inflated Rove's abilities and importance. This of course follows the "stupid" chain. We'll sidebar to that for a second. If you follow the reports on US Presidents over the last fifty years or so, you have the intellectual giants Roosevelt, Kennedy, Carter and Clinton (jury's still out on how smart the left thought LBJ was) and the simpleton morons of Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan, and W Bush. The notable exceptions were Bush 41, where Dan Quayle deflected most of the "stupid factor" and Nixon who was "Tricky Dick". The pattern of these is that "if you thought that last guy was a simpleton, this next President is _really_ a retard". W Bush is just the end of that long train of an intellectual bankruptcy on the left that can't understand how people they view as intellectually inferior keep tarring them come election time. It must be the result of a political mastermind behind the throne and Rove has the current title.

That little diatribe aside, let's acknowledge at least that this is a potential scandal and news worthy. Does it deserve the mountains of print and TV time it's gotten because of it? Probably not, but it's received it all the same. Now, one could argue this is just because it's about a Republican and a member of a Republican administration. Therein lies the bias. Not possible, you say? I present people's exhibit #2.

Sandy Berger, former National Security Advisor to President Clinton, has released a statement to rebuff Louis Freeh's accusations of scandal in Clinton's presidency that will be read when Freeh appears on 60 Minutes this week. No mention has been made, nor I doubt will it during the hatchet piece on Freeh, of Berger's own recent scandal invalidating him as a "character witness" for Clinton. One may recall Berger's theft and destruction of classified documents from the National Archives of which he was found guilty (not just assumed by the press), ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and put on parole with community service. Let's look at this in perspective. The National Archives are nigh unto sacred, even in this increasingly secular world. It's like going into the Library at Alexandria in Ancient Rome and burning some scrolls that said Augustus Caesar knowingly let Brutus escape even though one of Rome's most hated villains was residing in the Seleucid empire who tried and were rebuffed in getting Augustus to take him off their hands.

Ok, maybe that was a little too in-depth of an analogy. Putting it simply, Berger destroyed documents that constitute a part of our nation's history in a pathetic attempt to rewrite it. He should have gotten the chair, but that's just my opinion. How is what he did any less of a national scandal than Rove allegedly leaking the name of a person who may or may not have been a covert agent at the time. A case that hasn't even been brought to trial yet has received more coverage than the Warren Commission compared to a case where an extremely high-ranking member of the last administration was found guilty of a heinous crime. If you were to do a Lexis search on MSM stories on Berger's scandalous activities, you'd likely get a return of crickets chirping. There wasn't much mention.

So, revisiting our initial point, why is bias still so prevalent in the MSM, even in pundit shows like Hardball which claims to go after everyone with equal vigor, after all the attempts to highlight, expose, and correct it? Perhaps no one in a position to do anything about it cares. It doesn't matter much since most viewers who dislike the bias vote with their remotes and watch other programs. Still, it deserves to be exposed even after the horse has been beaten to death and turned into glue. The reason for that is, our vaunted watchdogs, the defenders of the 'people's right to know' are just as corrupt and scandal-ridden as those they supposedly scrutinize.

Who watches the watchers? These days, us bloggers do, and apparently quite a bit of the general public. The point to this particular rant is, don't let your guard down and ignore anyone who says there is no bias in the media or if there is it's only conservative bias. They're either ignorant, blind, or have their own agenda and bias they're trying to sell to you. Stay objective, and Question Authority, even the authorities of the talking heads with the well-coiffed 'do's on your nightly news and pundit shows.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Another "Gunfight at the OK Corral" Charge

It seems especially common in high-profile states like Florida that anti-rights groups like Handgun Control (Brady Campaign blah blah blah) start spouting such ridiculous nonsense like they have been in this story on CNS.

The Brady Campaign is running ads in several American cities and in the United Kingdom warning Florida-bound tourists that they face a "greater risk of bodily harm" in the state of Florida. Travelers to Florida are urged to "use special caution in arguing with motorists on Florida roads." "The Brady bunch is essentially telling British subjects not to come here because legally-armed American citizens cannot be trusted and might murder them," CCRKBA said.

Under Florida's new self-defense law, an intruder who breaks into someone's home, occupied vehicle, or office is presumed to have criminal intent, justifying the use of force. The law also removes a person's "duty to retreat" if that person is attacked in any place he or she has a right to be. Supporters call it the "Stand Your Ground" law, but opponents such as the Brady Campaign call it the "Shoot First" law.

This is actually the law in several states, that if confronted by a violent attacker, you must attempt to flee at first opportunity. Deadly force is only permissible in such states (and sometimes not even then) when you cannot get away from the criminal.

In more common sense terms, if someone wants what is yours, be it your stereo, car, home or perhaps your daughter, you have a duty to let the piece of human trash do whatever he wants while you run like a frightened animal. I think I'll take the law where I'm rightfully allowed to defend what's mine and use not only deadly force but everything at my disposal to plant whatever vermin tries to harm me or my loved ones.

That this is even questioned, that this is even an issue, shows I believe a thorough disconnect from reality on the part of those on the left who buy into this. Where is the honest justification on this? I'd love for a comment from either our resident moonbats or new ones. Equal opportunity here.

On Monday, The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said it would begin distributing "educational materials" at Miami International Airport.Gun control activists plan to hand out pamphlets, written in English and Spanish, warning that the new law "may lead to the reckless use of guns on the streets of Florida cities."The flyer suggests specific steps visitors should take: "Avoid unnecessary arguments with local people" and "avoid shouting or threatening gestures if someone appears to be hostile," it says.Brady Campaign Communications Director Peter Hamm and Million Mom March South Florida Chapter President Dana Quist will be at the Miami airport on Monday to "meet interested journalists," the press release said.

So now since they can't convince Americans they're going to convince foreigners. I see, well expect that to be a tough sell, especially from people who come from ultra-socialist liberty-restricting countries anyway. Yeah, they'll see that the citizens of the US have more freedom than them and completely freak. So much they might even be able to make us change our laws and do their bidding, right? Again, let's step out of the Candyland reality of the left here and have a hot cup of double-java. Not only do I and most of America so not care of what other nations think of how we should be goverened, I honestly doubt that the Brady Bunch is going to say anything to such people that will really change whatever pre-determined views they have of the States. They either like us or hate us when they come here and I'm thinking this isn't going to be the scale tipper.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Why Does Anyone Keep Listening to Them?

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the DOJ, the Feds indicate that over the past decade there has been a remarkable drop in violent crime. Has it been, as Handgun Control Inc (I'm sorry the Brady Campaign to Rename our Organization to something more sympathetic) because of the mass confiscations of firearms from our citizens that's led to this great reduction in crime? No, that's Britain and Australia, who are experiencing rapid increases in violent and gun-related crime since their respective bans.

So why do they still push so hard for bans, taxes, and lawsuits? It can only be for an agenda of power. To remove freedom is to gain power. I'm curious why that's never addressed when I see ole' Sarah on Today or Good Morning America. Well, not really that curious. Katie Couric is about as 'for the people' as Uncle Joe Stalin, minus the body count of course.

According to the DOJ statistics, though, despite massive waves of concealed carry laws and the repeal of the ridiculous Assault Weapons ban and 10 rd. cap on clips, violent and gun-related crimes have gone down in the US.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics listed 5.2 million violent crimes such as rape, sexual assault, robbery or assault and nearly 19 million property crimes, including burglary and various types of theft.
The statistics mean that between 1993 and 2004 the violent crime rate decreased in the country 57 percent -- from 50 to 21 attacks for each 1,000 residents above the age of 12. Property crime declined 50 percent from 319 to 161 per 1,000 households, the study indicated.

The downward trend in crime rates has stabilized somewhat, but violent and property crime rates in 2004 remain at the lowest levels recorded since the survey's inception in 1973, according to Shannan Catalano, the lead Justice Department researcher on the project.

Of course, giving credit there is not something the Feds would normally want to do, but at least they give it to a group that is mostly deserving of praise for lowering the crime rate.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales attributed the low crime rates to aggressive enforcement of existing gun laws. Federal firearms prosecutions increased by 76 percent between 2000 and 2004, according to justice officials.

As a result, they said, only six percent of all violent incidents in 2004 involved use of a firearm, compared to 11 percent in 1993. The number of incidents of violent crime involving a firearm in 2004 was 34 percent lower than in 2000 and 73 percent lower than in 1993.

I have to wonder how many more crimes there would have been had regular citizens been unable to defend themselves with their own firearms. As we know, the Supreme Court has ruled that we have no constitutional right to police protection. Better policing and prosecution of criminals is critical to lower crime, but it's just as critical that people have the right and ability to defend themselves against these monsters.

These historic lows are a reality thanks to the dedication and hard work of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and corrections officers across America. We must continue to work each day to protect all Americans from crime and to bring justice to those who violate the law. That is a lofty mission, but a worthy goal.

Again, very glad the cops are out there and kicking ass on criminals. I'm just as glad, though, that if a criminal starts breaking down my door in the middle of the night, I don't have to wait and hope and pray that I can get the police there before that criminal harms my family. That'd be my little contribution to the reduction in crime.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

More on Stealing What Doesn't Belong to Them

John Hawkins has assembled some very good stories at Right Wing News on eminent domain issues across the country, including the case I discussed yesterday. Apparently, there's a war going on between state legislatures and local governments across the land to try and restrict eminent domain.

I'm not sure how much my own Indiana will restrict it. Certainly it's used here at least as much as it's used everywhere else. Local towns use it all the time for their own projects. When will it be used to bulldoze more houses to assist in commercial urban sprawl locally? I can't say, but I know a few areas (mine included) that feel that pressure daily. We all sit and wonder, will they come after our homes next? We just have to keep the pressure on the politicians and do our best.

On a positive note, one of our neighboring communities, Home Place, was able to fend off annexation from our town of Carmel. I applaud them. Sadly, our mayor will likely take it out on us in the form of higher taxes. Any justification, including the fact that it's Thursday, seems to be good enough for a local tax hike, so this may bring on a whopper of a property tax indulgence. They've already spent a lot on the assumption that Home Place would fall before the might of the Carmel town council, but it didn't. Of course, it's still a declining community, so it's not really won that much be keeping from being annexed. Still, it was a moral victory.

What can you think when your elected leaders are so openly dirty and the people don't seem interested in voting them out? I suppose there's the idea of moving, but I'm not leaving my home just because they suck. We'll just have to be loud and annoying, more annoying than they. I'm ready for that. Hope the legislature gets its act together in the meantime.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Hands Caught in the Cookie Jar

This should be the watershed, the benchmark action that convinces every state of the 50 that eminent domain laws need to be revisited and rewritten in light of the Kelo decision. Michelle Malkin brings to light a horrible incidence of local corruption from the pages of the Star-Ledger.

On May 21, Albert G. Mauti Jr. and his cousin Joseph hosted a fundraiser for Assemblyman Joseph Cryan at the Westmount Country Club in Passaic County. The two developers and family members picked up the $10,400 dinner tab, donated another $8,000 and raised more than $70,000 that night for the powerful Union County Democrat, according to state election records.

Three days later, the governing body in Cryan's hometown of Union Township -- all Democrats -- introduced an ordinance paving the way for the Mautis to build 90 or so townhouses on six acres of abandoned industrial land along the Conrail line in town.

There is just one problem: Union Township doesn't own the land.

Of course, the argument could be made that they're just doing a public service, taking old rotted land and putting it to good use by exercising eminent domain. I'm sure that's the argument the leftist Democrats are making as they get assailed by reporters. There's just one more little wrinkle...

It is owned by Carol Segal, a 65-year-old retired electrical engineer. Over the past 10 years, the Union Township resident says, he has spent about $1.5 million to acquire the property, and he, too, wants to build townhouses there.

Segal said he met with Cryan, who is head of the township's Democratic Party, and other local officials "scores of times" over the past five years to discuss the project. He claims the talks turned adversarial after he rejected proposals to work with various developers they proposed.

On May 24, the five-member township committee voted unanimously to authorize the municipality to seize Segal's land through eminent domain and name its own developer.

"They want to steal my land," Segal said. "What right do they have when I intend to do the exact same thing they want to do with my property?"

Cryan, 44, a rising star in state Democratic politics, denied any connection between the fundraiser and the committee's vote. He described the Mautis as "good friends," but said he played no role in shaping the township's redevelopment plan.

"My involvement is zero," Cryan said.

Cryan said he met with Segal no more than five times, and it was always at his legislative office. All discussions were initiated by Segal, and at no time did he recommend developers, Cryan said. Cryan said his message to Segal was, "I can't help you. I don't make those decisions; the governing body does."

In the immortal words of the late great Bill Hicks, could someone fetch a wheelbarrow for Cryan's huge balls? There's no involvement and no connection. Just happened to get lots of money from this guy and now we're illegally stealing land from one developer to give to another using our socialist dictatorial powers. Just a coincidence. Oh my God.

Please get Ripley's on the phone to document those giant cojones. Please someone call the police and have these men arrested and brought up on bribery and corruption charges. Please. This should be as all over the msm news as Delay's alleged improprieties if not moreso.

Make sure your state rep and state senators see a copy of this article and remind them this is why you're scared that unless they act, what you own is constantly at risk by corrupt, decadent and utterly criminal figures.

What's in a Photo?

Zombietime, a great photo blog has a brilliant essay on the coverage of the September 24th antiwar protest in San Francisco by the Chronicle. It also lists a link to the Chronicle's response, which appears to artfully dodge their obvious bias and love of communists and anarchists. Am I surprised that they pick a young, attractive girl out of the masses, especially a minority, to focus in on? No, that's pretty common. The pathetic and all too obvious problem is that they remove context by focusing solely on her and her "People of Color Say No to War" bandanna.

One picture really is worth 1000 words, no matter how you slice it and the Chronicle knows that. So does everyone else in the print and video business. If you only have space for one big photograph on your opening, which one do you pick? Do you pick one that shows what is actually going on, or do you pick something more specific to better market your agenda while still trotting out the perception that what you picked is what the whole scene was about? This is a fairly obvious question, and it's obvious to all but the most dullard that the Chronicle chose to frame this as a race issue than a communist agit prop vs. America issue, as it should have been. What her or the Asian handler's ethnicity had to do with anything is moot. They hate America in its current form. They hate freedom. They love Marxist communist crap and it shows.

The Chronicle should be resoundingly thrashed for this, just to remind them that if they wish to promote leftist agendas, they're actually going to have to come out and say "We promote leftist agendas". This attacking by assuming their readers are retarded just won't cut it anymore.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Moral Dilemna

The inestimable Brad Klopfenstein hosted the final hour of "Abdul in the Morning" on WXNT 1430 AM, a truly great show. Although I didn't get to listen to the whole hour, I did get to hear "Klop" state his query to the people of central Indiana. How do those of us who live here and consider ourselves even remotely fiscally conservative feel about the rampant spending and Democrat-like behavior of the Republican majorities that dot the landscape? Between the almost billion dollar stadium in Indianapolis starting construction, a project the city will see no real return on, a half billion dollar sewer renovation being paid for by doubling sewer bills, new restaurant sales taxes that feed the state coffers coupled with additional restaurant taxes that feed local and county coffers, backdoor meetings, closed agendas and generally unresponsive representatives, what are we to think, and more importantly, what do we plan to do?

As if that wasn't enough, we have out of control spending at the federal level while the Legislative and Executive branches are firmly in the hands of the so-called party of limited government. We have the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House mired in financial scandals (although admittedly mostly those appear to be partisan attacks designed to soften up the Republicans for 2006), we've got representatives like poor old Mike Pence getting royal butt-chewing for having the temerity to even suggest that we balance spending with cuts. What are we to think? What are we to do? These are all good questions, and I'm afraid we have no good answers.

This question cannot be answered in any hour radio show or daily blog post. It's one that will take a long time to sort out. First, there's the matter of voter awareness. Most voters aren't aware of the issues, nor do they consider that they have the time or need to be aware of most of the issues. Everyone grumbles about the latest headline saying there's going to be a tax increase or a new law restricting something that used to be ok. But how many people care? You could argue that there's been a concentrated effort by forces on both sides of the political fence to reduce voter awareness to better allow their fringe views to be pushed by radical and motivated elements who wish to face reduced opposition. You could argue that most people just don't care anymore to put in the time and effort it takes to stay on top of the issues and respond to them through their representatives.

A Republic is a hard thing to manage, almost as much as a participatory democracy (which we never really were), and we have to depend upon the efforts of those we elect who we believe share our views on key issues. This, many believe, is enough. You could also argue that "democracy" in this country has run its course, and that such governments are inevitably doomed to apathy and failure. Athens failed. Rome failed. Why should the Great Experiment be any different?

These are all good questions, but do we really want to draw this back to the roots of our government? Maybe we have to. Maybe that's the first place to start. Do we rededicate ourselves to the principles of our Founders? I think that's a good start. That's an excellent start. If we examine what they believed, we will find that such ideas transcend time and are as relevant today as they were 200 years ago. We should fight and intellectually smash those who would attempt to discredit those men's ideas by trying to attack those men. Those who have tried to wipe the slate clean of our history and rewrite it as they see fit are the greatest enemies of our future. They must be met with a learned and determined counterattack and thwarted. That, along with an appreciation of the thoughts of Washington, Adams, Madison, Jefferson, and even Calhoun will give us the basic ammunition to turn the tide against what seems a tsunami-sized wall of bureaucracy and political machine.

Then what? If we educate ourselves on history, then what? We have to make the time and make a concerted effort, not just for ourselves but for our fellow citizens, to learn and understand what is going on in our government, and start holding them to account. This might mean taking them to task more often. This will mean more work on our part. This will mean pestering and hounding the living hell out of them until they realize we aren't just going to take it anymore. And who of us will do this? Will it be the "liberal/progressive/sensible/word-of-the-month leftists, or the dyed-in-the-wool conservatives? If we want the politicians to be more accountable, to limit government, to pay attention to and respect the beliefs of those who put them in office, we have to work at it. Nothing worth doing is easy, and this is worth doing.
Mine is an old clarion call. It's an oft-repeated statement, but it's still the truth. We need to do the work. It's We the People, folks. Government of the people, by the people and for the people, remember? It's in the blog name. Pay attention! :)

Let us not let the Great Experiment perish from this Earth. Let us get involved. Make the sacrifice. Participate in your government. It's your government as much as mine, and perhaps with enough of us poking and prodding maybe those reps and councilmen and mayors and governors and even the President might turn their head and acknowledge it's not just about them anymore.