Monday, November 28, 2005

Same Train, Same Cost

As pointed out by my good friend Mike Kole, Republican mayor Jim Brainard will be giving a talk at a Democratic luncheon this week. One of his featured topics will be discussion of the proposed billion dollar elevated train from Noblesville to Indianapolis. This is an issue both Mayor Brainard and the Democrats happen to agree on. The train, they say, should be built, must be built in order to alleviate the heavy traffic congestion developing in the quickly grown-out areas east of Noblesville.

Never mind the proposed reduction in expected traffic flow, even by their own studies, is around 2-4%. Never mind that the train will only go to the outskirts of Indianapolis, thus having very limited functionality. It will cost an estimated billion dollars (up from last year's estimate of $800 million) to construct and then there's the yearly maintenance and operation costs, also projected in the millions. As has been pointed out to me, but if it helps, why not build it? It can't hurt, right?

Sure, alleviating traffic by building mass transit is a good idea in theory. Social Security and Medicare were good in theory. Everyone loves to come up with big, bold ideas like this to solve seemingly insurmountable problems. The fact always comes down to, who's going to pick up the check? Does it sound like a good idea to them. As I try to point out to proponents of these initiatives. If it costs you an extra $100 a month in property tax or an extra $50 in income tax or both, is it worth it to you? What if a couple years from now that becomes $200 a month? Or $300? Is it still a good idea? If you have a family and are living paycheck to paycheck, as most Americans are, then the answer typically is NO.

Grand public works and projects meant to "help the people" always sound good when they're proposed. People that deal in budgeting these projects, though, are so used to dealing with big numbers, they usually disregard what it might mean to the average family, what undue burden it will put on them. THAT is selfish. That is self-serving. That is not caring and it is not "for the people". Call it for what it is, socialist, and most assuredly not for the people.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Trotting Out the Old Warhorse

It cost Democrats elections in 1996, 1998, and 2000, maybe even some in 2002, but sometimes an old-guard leftist like Dan Carpenter of the Indianapolis Star can't resist trumpeting a discredited cause. In his November 20 op-ed, Armed for Trouble, Dan goes over the recent public awareness campaigns meant to curb violence in the Indianapolis area. This may be the Midwest, but Indianapolis is still a metropolitan area of over 1,000,000 people and amazingly that means there's crime. We have gun violence just like other parts of the nation, and like most of the rest of the nation, it's related to gangs mostly mixed up in drugs and drug trafficking.

Does Dan discuss that? Does Dan discuss why we have gun violence in Indianapolis, like most major U.S. cities? Well, although he flippantly points out the concerns of others (drugs, unemployment, education failure, values loss, etc.), his main concern is the tired old canard that there's just too many guns available. He includes a couple of obliging quotes from the city's prosecutor, a RINO in his own right regarding gun rights, but trots out the old Clintonian/Reno talking points of the mid to late 90's.

Yet the so-called gun show loophole, which allows handgun purchases without background checks, is just one feature of a state with few peers when it comes to ease of obtaining and carrying lethal firepower.

No assault weapons ban. No one-handgun-a-month limit to curb straw purchases for criminals. No restrictions on Saturday Night Specials. No requirement that guns be sold with child-safety locks.

On and on. No wonder the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives Indiana a D grade for protection of its citizens from bullets. No wonder the Americans for Gun Safety Foundation said in a 2003 report drawn from federal records that guns bought in Indiana were used in more gun crimes than those obtained anywhere else in America, Wild West of the Western world.

Boy, really nailed the head on it there, Dan. Most of the country doesn't have these laws and in general even he admits crime nationally is on a downturn. Did the assault weapons ban do anything? Even the DOJ says no. Do all those ridiculous laws like one handgun purchase a month or bans on cheap, affordable guns or child safety lock laws reduce crime? Even the CDC, not exactly a gun-loving organization said no...TWICE. And the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence (formerly known as Handgun Control Leading the Way to a Better Socialist Utopia where People Like Us Are in Charge - You can see why they changed the name) as a source? Quoting a major left-leaning heavily agenda-driven lobby-group like Handgun Control on gun issues is like quoting Bill Clinton on sexism in America. You're not going to get a truthful, useful answer.

Perhaps Dan thought it had been a year since the last election and that the proles might be have forgotten all the retorts to these nonsensical ideas people like John Lott and Gary Kleck have done. Well, no Dan, most of us haven't forgotten, and you're still the same tired old leftist soldier trotting out the same tired old war horse. Please do us all a favor and send that old nag to the glue factory already.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Grab Bag

There are just too many stories today to pay attention to only one. First, we look at France, where rioting is still out of control. At least it's getting better, only 814 cars were burned a night ago compared to 1400 the night before. Only in France could that be termed "getting better". It's a little ridiculous to paint this as disenfranchised youth with no prospects. These are Muslim kids, indoctrinated in radical fundamentalism by those who would exploit the chaos for their own ends. The USA Today piece is fairly typical, and also fairly comprehensive, in blaming just about anything else for the fires. They don't have jobs, they have no prospects, it's all the government's fault. Cry me a river.

This exemplifies the socialist welfare state. This is what the left idolizes and what they believe America should emulate? These are hoodlum thugs. Notice they're destroying French citizen's property, French Catholic churches, and they're attacking French authority (never thought I'd see those two words together again outside of a Napolean biography). Mosques aren't burning. Their neighborhoods aren't burning. Muslims are not dieing at their fellow Muslims' hands. This isn't South Central. This is orchestrated. Sadly, the French government doesn't have the balls to seriously crack down on the gangs. But, this one's out of our court, so all we can do is watch the pretty fires.

Then there's the $61 million dollar judgement against Ford. RightWingNews has a great discussion on it. A company gets blamed for someone dieing at the hands of another using their product. The jist of the case is this. One person carelessly fell asleep at the wheel, rolled a Ford Explorer, and the passenger died. That passenger's parents sued Ford and this was their finding.

Ford was liable in the accident because it sold a vehicle with poor handling and stability, the jury said Tuesday.

Ford blamed defective Firestone tires for the Explorer's handling and stability problems, and the company knowingly continued to produce unsafe vehicles, Bruce Kaster, an attorney for the family, said Wednesday.

"This tragic accident occurred when the driver of the vehicle fell asleep at the wheel while traveling at highway speeds. Real-world experience and testing show that the Explorer is a safe vehicle, consistently performing as well as or better than other vehicles in its class," Ford spokeswoman Karen Shaughnessy said.

Well, I guess the jury believed the plaintiff on this one. The difficulty I'm having is this. If perhaps, the Explorer doesn't have the greatest handling, does that release anyone from poor driving? Falling asleep at the wheel sort of negates any control ability. Although it looks like the driver woke in time to attempt to regain control, he failed. Accidents happen, and now a kid is dead. You don't see the parents going after the driver, though, in this suit. Why? I'm imaginging the driver doesn't have $61 million. I just have difficulty seeing how they can justify saying Ford is liable to the tune of $61 million.

If the product is unsafe, and they could prove that in court, which I'm not entirely sure they did, then the cars shouldn't even be on the road. This isn't a Grisham novel where a mother of three died because she tapped the break when she got hit in the rear quarter and the car exploded. It flipped over four times after the driver carelessly lost control. Cars flip, especially SUV's. We know this. It isn't a news flash. So how's it worth $61 million? Because the jury played to emotion and decided consequences be damned, let's stick it to Ford. So now, if this holds, Ford will end up having to either pass the cost on to the consumer (because cars aren't expensive enough) or fire people, lots of them. Did that give the rest of us justice, or just a couple of parents capitlizing on their son's loss? I sympathize for the parents, I do. No one wants to lose a child. But $61 million I guess can cushion the blow at least. Maybe they can share it with all the workers that will get laid off as a result. Still think we don't need tort reform? If not, please explain how this case was legitimate.

Then there's the story of GM laying off potentially 30,000 people. It sucks, it's horrible, and according to the headline I saw on USA Today, it's all GM's fault. And it might be, they're a big company with a history of poor financial management. But come on, let's not dodge the fact that the unions are just as much to blame. Ridiculously high wages coupled with unbelievable pension benefits have assisted to a big degree in GM's woes. But you won't likely see a major news story on that anytime soon. Just guessing there. Even Delphi, one of GM's former success stories, is taking a big hit and having to downsize or seriously cut factory wages. Did you know one of its regular programs was to find workers who, for whatever reason, couldn't stay employed at the plant a job doing some type of community service at their same wage when they left the plant?

Again, I'm not entirely sure here, but although that sounds very altruistic on the big corp's part, it doesn't speak much for Delphi's bottom line, and I'm sure this became a huge drag on them. I'd have loved to be making $20/hour+ being a mentor in a community center also, but I'm not really working for the company paying me anymore. There's no tangible benefit to them, and given enough employees (and I hear it was a fair number), that's a giant red mark.

In the end, there's going to be no winners in this GM tragedy, and I feel for everyone of those workers getting laid off. I've been there more than once. But it should serve as a big nasty lesson to the rest of us on how not to run a corporation.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Would You Expect Any Different?

I don't think you could honestly say this is a shock. The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals is unquestionably the most left-leaning and the court with the most decisions overturned by the US Supreme Court, not exactly a conservative body itself. In yet another schizophrenic ruling, the Ninth ruled it was Constitutional for schools to have students act like Muslims, even praying, as part of a mandatory class project. While "Under God" is not acceptable, praying to Allah five times a day is. I suppose it's all a matter of what side of the multicultural bed you sleep on. Multicultural, by action, means anything that is currently the darling of the social left. The irony is, the flip side of their feeling is wild intolerance for those outside their current mainstream (in this case, anyone openly espousing Christian beliefs).

This ruling is actually based on a previous ruling regarding Wiccan apparently, thus continuing the activist tradition of building bad decisions off bad precedent. In the purest sense, what the Contra Costa schools did was not a violation of the First Amendment, in my opinion, because they are not Congress and therefore aren't covered by the Bill of Rights. But this has been mine and others' arguments for some time. You cannot tell one group they cannot freely exercise their religion because you think it might offend someone and then freely endorse and even force individuals who are a captive audience to exercise as you see fit. That is at least hypocritcal and at most illegal. If it's alright for students to spend three weeks learning about Islam, it's at least as relevant that they take three or more weeks to learn about Christianity or even Judaism. But... I hear crickets chirping. You don't see this outside of religious private schools.

Here's a fun one for those among you who are shouting at the screen how intolerant Christians are. At my Catholic grade school and high school, we DID learn about Islam. We learned much of what I've seen on Michelle Malkin's site and others that they're saying kids are being taught in Contra Costa. We also had religion class once a day that taught us about Catholicism, the religion that sponsored our school. So, the school didn't give equal time, because that would be ridiculous in such a setting, but it was covered and we were asked to try and understand those that were different than us, without making those people seem inferior in our eyes.

Will the California educators do this? Hell no. They have no respect for Christian values anymore than they have respect for the US or its traditions. They have respect for the favorite enemy of the day, like the useful idiots they are and here we see collusion by the higher court, the Ninth Circuit. These people don't want equality or tolerance or fairness. They want what they feel is best for the rest of you. Please keep that in mind as you listen to them spout those very words. You'll find they don't really treat them with reverence, so much as they treat them like a punchline.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Economics Lesson

Two great Townhall contributors have written very good articles on prices and controls lately. Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have produced some first-rate commentary on price controls in the US economy. With their usual skill, they break things down to make them as digestable as possible for the average citizen, not an easy thing to do with Economics. If you don't read their columns regularly, you should.

My own, less-informed view is pretty similar. Nowhere have I seen price controls work, anymore than I've seen wage freezes help anybody but the ones paying the wages, be it a corporation or government (mostly government). I was really young when the gas lines dominated the American landscape in the '70's, and I'm fairly sure I didn't notice what they represented at the time, but my reflection on them now was that an attempt to control oil prices failed miserably in the past, because those who owned the oil simply sold it elsewhere. How did that benefit us, and how would it have benefitted us, I ask those who called for price controls after Katrina, if Bush had done similarly? By reducing profits on an already scarce product, who would eat the costs?

What happened instead, Bush keeping his hands off the oil industry, has already allowed the regular laws of supply and demand in those short months since Katrina the price of gas to fall (locally at least) from a high of $3.19 to a current $2.05. That's lower than it was before Katrina. Do I have Congress, Bush, or Ralph Nader to thank for this? No, rarely does anyone have anything to genuinely thank such societal leaches for. I have the free market working the price back down to thank. Those other entities could have helped by making it easier to get gas to us, reducing gas blend requirements (which ok I owe Bush that one) reducing or eliminating gas taxes, even temporarily or creating new refineries (no one to thank there, didn't happen). But otherwise, most what else they could've done would have only hurt those who could least afford it. That'd be us average citizens.

The media should be blaring this loudly as an example of what the market can do when it's left to do it, but you won't hear that. If there's not a regular whipping boy of the press to blame, they won't cover it. Good things that don't come from the promises of government largesse aren't newsworthy. Perhaps that's why the news is usually so negative. Hmm...

So, my advice today is take some time to read the columns of Sowell and Williams, especially Williams. You'll be the richer for it.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Those Who Forget History...

Are doomed to be exploited by it, at least by those who know it well enough to twist it to their ends. A recent New York Times editorial written by Vietnam activist and grandson of the famous WWII general Lucien Truscott contained a wonderfully false but almost throwaway conclusion that stretched the truth beyond breaking. It is best covered on the blog John in Carolina. To reproduce the quote at least from this anti-war editorial that seeks to use history to describe why the military could be in trouble from a leftist viewpoint, see below:

There was a time when the Army did not have a problem retaining young leaders - men like Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, George Marshall, Omar Bradley and my grandfather, Lucian K. Truscott Jr. Having endured the horrors of World War I trenches, these men did not run headlong out of the Army in the 1920's and 30's when nobody wanted to think of the military, much less pay for it. They had made a pact with each other and with their country, and all sides were going to keep it."

Now, my major wasn't even in history, and yet I still saw this as blatantly false the minute I read it. Patton was the only one of those men to actually see combat in WWI and that was as a tank commander. Interestingly, he's credited with being in the first mechanized battle in history where he could even claim a kill, while he was part of Pershing's expeditionary force on the Texas/Mexico border hunting down Pancho Villa. But I digress.

These men did understand the difficulty of a shrinking Army that was not a national priority. They understood that very well. But none were trench fighters, and to do so makes the implication that by enduring that horror, they have a greater moral authority. While I'd stake any one of the listed soldiers as excellent men, even Ike, I think it's pathetic that a Vietnam war protester is now using his same West Point classes to try and snow the general public.

But even this isn't the core of my reason for posting today. What is the reason is my offense that likely Mr. Truscott viewed the public would be too ill educated to pick up on his lie. And it's not an unreasonable assumption on his part. How many of you knew the histories of those men or would have cared enough to look them up? Well, probably more of you than most if you're seeking out this isolated little blog. I'd wager, though, the average NYT reader does not know or care to do the same. In general, I'd imagine they would accept that a former West Point grad would know his stuff and that he or the NYT Op editor wouldn't intentionally lie to them. Well, as you can see from the links, one or the other did lie, and it was a big lie given how it was used.

It saddens me that so many readers, and even with a declining circulation the Old Grey Lady still has a big following, are going to be duped by this, and unless the Times runs a correction will possibly spout off this fact over their next decaf latte lunch chat, because they're either too uneducated or lazy to care. Again, as a disclaimer, I know most of us do this on issues we believe heavily in. We don't all check the facts as much as we probably should, but historical manipulation is a GIANT pet peeve of mine, so when I see it, I spend a bit more time on it than a casual glance between sips of my morning coffee.

Let's take this little lie for what it is, a reminder to always be vigilant on the facts, even the little things, regardless of who is telling us the story. It might also be a reminder to always keep an eye on our collective history. With some going to such great efforts to rewrite it these days, I'd venture it's more important than ever.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

If You're Going to San Francisco...

Don't bring a gun or speak your mind if your view on a subject is to the right of Mao. And for godsakes don't be a military recruiter. Y'know, I've been to San Francisco a couple of times. I ate a great Mongolian barbecue there, drove up Mount Diablo. Great place, very picturesque. Apparently, that inspires, instills, or just attracts those whose views are anchored hard left and they've moved their in droves. Between a homeless welfare system that is arguably one of the best in the country, and one of the most overrun because of it, and their views so far outside of even other Californian citizens' line of sight, it's not a wonder a slew of online articles and blog posts are being written about the latest developments. And no one is very positive.

If any municipality wants to act like the Constitution doesn't hold sway there, either State or Federal, they often find, usually at the end of a judicial boot, that their efforts range from futile to clinically delusional. San Francisco is no exception, with gay marriages that were in violation of state law and even another gun ban in 1982 that didn't stand up to the legal test, the rulers of San Francisco feel that they are the highest authority in the land and that they should be the only ones necessary to consult. The fact that the majority of the city's citizenry seems to suffer the same mass delusion only feeds the flames.

How such a ban is supposed to work, especially in the light of such failed bans as Chicago's and Washington DC's, is anyone's guess. I keep hearing that this was more of an opinion poll or feel-good gesture, and that's the left's excuses. Laws are not meant to be opinion polls or feel-good gestures. Perhaps that's why such law and judicial cases that foster similar laws are so poorly grounded and like so many houses of cards. The reason those who foster them are so paranoid to keep them is because deep down, they realize this too. Perhaps they hope that once, just once, someone will look the other way and they can have their facist day in the sun.

As goes California, so goes the rest of the nation, the old saying says. God, I hope not. As San Francisco goes, so do the nation's asylums (or major political parties --- same difference), it would seem.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I'm not the only one bringing this up, but it's still funny. Just how out of the mainstream are Ms. Mary Mapes' views, the former CBS producer who brought us Rather-Gate? In an interview on Good Morning America, she rather openly and without mincing words said it's not up to news agencies to verify stories. It's up to other people to prove her wrong. Sound like I'm making it up? Well, let me let Ms. Mapes explain, this coming courtesy of Newsbusters:

Mapes: "I'm perfectly willing to believe those documents are forgeries if there's proof that I haven't seen."

Ross: "But isn't it the other way around? Don't you have to prove they're authentic?"

Mapes: "Well, I think that's what critics of the story would say. I know more now than I did then and I think, I think they have not been proved to be false, yet."

Ross: "Have they proved to be authentic though? Isn't that really what journalists do?"

Mapes: "No, I don't think that's the standard."

You almost have to take a step back and let that sink in. The "standard" is not that stories have to be proven authentic. That's not the media's job. It's whoever wants to disprove the story's job. WOW.

The real question is not why she would say such a thing. She's proven quite delusional since she first produced the story, she and poor ole' Dan. What's the big question, and what others are asking is, is this the new journalistic standard? How many other journatlists think that's the proper way to treat facts and anonymous sources. Prove me wrong? What's next, I'm rubber, you're glue...?"

So yes, this is amusing, but at the same time, not terribly reassuring.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Energy Independence and Why We Still Need Oil

I'm a big fan of energy independence. I'd like to see most countries in the world gain access to cheap, clean efficient energy systems. They are theoretically possible and there are companies everywhere, most notably the energy and oil companies of our day, looking to develop and capitalize on this new technology. Here's the reality. These technologies aren't ready for the market. They won't be ready this week, after breakfast, or possibly even in ten years. I have an optimistic hope they will be available, but in the meantime, all we can do is support such companies and pray they get lucky.

In the meantime, we still need petroleum and natural gas. Love it or hate it, we need it. Our economy lives or dies by it. So I see no inherent contradiction in trying to tap every last reserve we have of both and use them until they run out. In the meantime, I expect any company capable to bust its rear to develop alternate energy, but this is what we have. I see less development of existing deposits than money spent on alternate energy. Most issues are regulatory. Natural gas and oil exploration and exploitation are practically forbidden on the remaining identified, and massive, fossil fuel deposits. Likewise, refinery construction is unheard of in the US these days. This leaves us with a much more finite supply than we would otherwise have. Law of supply and demand says that because of this, prices will go up whether demand levels off, increases, or even diminishes.

We have mulitple sources of competition for fossil fuels these days. The developing nations of China and India are requiring more and more fossil fuels than they ever have, and the US in an attempt to keep ahead or at least parity is requiring an equally gargantuan supply. More need means higher cost, period.

Let me give a real-world example. Fifteen years ago, natural gas was cheap, because it wasn't in widespread use for home heating like it is today. It was certainly available, but electric heat had overtaken it in new home construction and passed it by. The natural gas industry, in an effort to raise their waning industry, started a campaign to create more customers and it worked like gangbusters. It got them, in spades. Now, the market is glutted with buyers, but the natural gas companies cannot tap anymore reserves. Those are generally forbidden by Congress, like the Florida shelf. So, supply has diminished, while demand has increased. So what cost less than half a dollar per cubic foot over a decade ago, costs over a dollar now per cubic foot. Doesn't sound like much until you realize how much cubic feet of natural gas it takes to heat just one home through the coldest winter months. $200 bills become $400. $400 become $800. You get the idea. Could your wallet take that kind of a hit? Mine can't.

With this in mind, are you willing to let natural gas and oil continue to face minimal exploration out of current stocks, and push further and further back any chance they may be developed and exploitable within the next 10 years? Are you willing to let our foreign oil dependence continue to increase past 60% to 80% or more? Considering the nations who could logically be considered hostile to the US include a good number of OPEC nations, and not just in the Middle East (Venezuela comes to mind), is that a smart or dumb decision to allow foreign dependency to increase? I'm thinking it's pretty damn dumb.

We have the resources. They won't last forever, but they will buy us a little more time; twenty years, thirty years maybe, but time nonetheless. At the end of that time, we can pray we finally have those usable alternative energies, and the possibility of that seems a lot better now than it did in the 70's and 80's, but at least we bought ourselves the extra time and possibly spared a war or two overseas. How's this a bad thing?

Friday, November 11, 2005

OPEC Lobby Congress, Keep Using Our Oil!

I admit the title is a bit melodramatic. Congress, though, has shown it still has nothing in common with reality. It has, does, and will always bow to special interests. OPEC doesn't need to lobby Congress, actually. Congress seems to be able to divine their will and follow it sans cue cards.

Most recently, this has come in the form of keeping the US dependent on foreign oil by any means necessary. The boys at OPEC, socialists, thugs, and dictators included, are likely doing a little happy dance knowing that for the time being they have nothing to fear from the US Congress in regards to their own well-being at the expense of Americans.

Congress is far too busy looking elsewhere for that. On practically the same day, the Senate blasted oil executives for profits made during this year's gas crunch, the House showed it has no interest in expanding American drilling or refining capacity, the current key cause of our immediate price hikes and massive dependence on foreign oil.

Explain to me how it's any business of Congress to determine which industries in the US are not subject to supply and demand. The BS about how "Oil is infrastructure" doesn't hold because so are computers and no one seems to care that Microsoft had a bumper year also. It's politically motivated, as always, in an attempt by both sides to be seen as doing something immediate, and picking on wealthy executives is a favorite past time of the Senate regardless of who is in charge.

Also, given that they're upset because of high prices, why does the House veto every attempt to expand refining capacity or drill not only in Alaska but also in the Plains states and their huge oil shale reserve, a reserve I remember them talking about in the '70's as one of the greatest on the planet.

I also don't buy that all this is the oil companies' fault. They've invested billions in alternate energy and cleaner, more efficient oil exploration. Why, because it's in their best business interests! They know oil isn't inexhaustable, and like any good business they want to be in on the next big new thing in energy, because everyone on the planet needs it! These are not morons, but Congress seems to be. Congress knows all this too, but it's easier for them to play to the loudmouth left than it is to try to find real solutions to the U.S.' s energy problems.

Given time, we'll have fusion power and hydrogen fuel cells in abundance. It's theortically possible and in the long-run could be much cheaper than what we have now. And when that time comes, you'll see names like Exxon, BP, Cinergy and the like plastered all over those sites, along with Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda, etc. The big companies know they can either try to save energy or eventually cease to exist. Other than the furthest left enviro freaks out there, what do the rest of you think they'll pick?

Time to let Congress in on that little secret also.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Another One of Those No-Brainer Cases

This sort of thing should be relatively cut and dry. It shouldn't really be newsworthy, but there it sits in the Duluth News.

Charges will not be filed against a 45-year-old man who shot an intruder who fell into his Janesville home through the living room ceiling last week, the Rock County district attorney says.

Hmm...charges won't be filed against a man defending his home from some lowlife scumbag trying to break into his home to do God knows what. I'm thinking a good pat on the back, an "Atta' boy" and a good "Criminals don't try this at someone else's home" spot on "The More You Know" series might be in order. Of course, you could make your argument, "Well, they had to investigate, I mean, we don't know what really happened!" And you'd be right. Anything like that should and does get investigated. But that's not the real point now is it?

The point is a man shot an intruder and the main focus of the local news story discussing it is whether he should be tried. Amazingly, no one seems to agree that he should be, at least not of the quoted sources.

(DA) O'Leary said he would never be able to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the homeowner was unreasonable in believing that he and his family were in danger.

Wisconsin law did not require the homeowner to retreat, O'Leary said.

Not exactly couched authoritatively is it? Well, this guy says it's not required, we're not going to look up Wisconsin law or anything, just letting you know it's all about this guy and what he's saying, so you can disagree if you want to. Do ya Chesta? Huh? Yah wanna disagree or somethin!!" like the yippy little dog this article is.

Perhaps I'm being a bit overreaching in my analysis, but a more unbiased approach might not have focused so much on the cons being disproven rather than the pros being stated. This story exhibits a sort of passive bias. It doesn't come right out in your face and say that the author thinks what he did was "cave manesque" or "criminal", but it does hope to make you think twice before even entertaining the thought of doing the same. It's worth pointing such things out. Now, I'm sure I'll get arguments that these are just my point of view or my interpretation and that's correct, but it's quite the educated little opinion I'm fielding here and it's that this story could have been written better.

Monday, November 07, 2005

What's So Fair About Income Tax?

There were a handful of letters to the editor in the Indianapolis Star today, such as this one, that seemed confused on the point of the Fair Tax plan currently being pushed by Rep. Mike Sodrel. I thought it worth a dissection of the letter to better understand the mentality of those who oppose it.

U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel in his letter on Oct. 31 supports a national sales tax, which he calls a "fair tax." He doesn't indicate the percentage of the tax, but it will be much greater than a state sales tax.

Ok, here we see the first point of confusion. The writer notes that of course this is bad because it will be much greater than a sales tax. That's implicit in his statement. Considering this tax would be the primary replacement for the income tax, it's also an unnecessary and obviously partisan statement, one designed to reduce this to a "tax the poor" letter from the getgo. Of course it would be higher than Indiana's 3.4%. The likelihood is it will be quite a bit higher. Anyone actually considering the Fair Tax proposal, though, sees that everyone pays the same rate based on consumption of consumer goods. There are no loopholes or shelters or havens for the rich who currently get out of paying much of their assessed taxes at present. We all pay the same on consumer goods regardless of our income. And in a stunning reversal, the "poor" will actually get kickbacks for basic necessities to reduce their tax burden.

And although I often see the comment "the rich don't spend as much of their disposable income" as a reason not to use it, do you think "the rich", which is a loose Us/Them term at best, pay their 'fair share' of the income tax? Most don't pay near the current rate, because they can afford the lawyers and accountants who understand the tax code who ensure that their guy gets every break written in by every special interest lobby they can. Is that better? I've yet to see that answered.

Anytime an alternative to federal income tax is suggested, the first thing we here is how unfair it will be to the poor and middle class (although the middle class is usually tacked on only as an afterthought). It's Marxian bs class warfare at its finest. The federal income tax law was an unconstitutional piece of garbage no one would sign on to until the feds started promising the states they'd get a kickback. Sound familiar ye olde central Indiana counties who voted in that restaurant tax? Of course, we now see the states by and large got the short end of the stick for accepting that deal with the devil, but again this isn't mentioned.

Providing special interest tax-breaks and using the tax code as a means to keep people divided based on income is so pathetically corrupt and wrong for this country, I can't see why anyone beyond the seriously mentally deficient (and/or leftists) agree with it. There ARE alternatives to income tax and the Fair Tax is a damn good one. Is it perfect, maybe not. Have most of its opponents fully read what it entails? Usually not. Please do yourself that much of a favor before bad-mouthing it. It's full of its own kickbacks to the poor, sort of reversing that whole class warfare thing. Perhaps another reason it's a danger to the Left in this country. Add to this that it will basically replace without hardly raising the basic burden most companies pay in various "hidden taxes" and it's even more appealing. But that's not the issue, because it's difficult to debate that. It's easier to say:

I don't understand how that would be fair to those on fixed incomes.

I have listened to enough talk radio to know that there are those who think being poor is a behavioral problem and compassion isn't in order. However, there are many retirees who have paid taxes all of their lives and are now living on Social Security and pensions. How is this tax fair to them? What about the disabled who live on fixed incomes? Call this tax what it is, a national sales tax, but don't call it a "fair tax."

Guy didn't even read what the hell the Fair Tax is. He's just spouting the leftist talking point. I wonder what talk radio exactly he's listening to. Poor is a behaviroal problem? When you subsidize it, yeah it kinda becomes one. Is everyone who's poor mentally ill? That's a retarded leftist statement if I ever heard one. Compassion isn't in order...yeah. When was that said? Did Al Franken say that about Rush or was that Jerry Springer talking about Hannity? If you're basing your economic advice on what any one pundit says, you need to have a warm glass of milk and rethink your day. I don't care what side of the aisle they're on. Give the alternatives, Flat Tax included, a chance, or continue suffering in the payroll/FICA tax quagmire that is our modern monetary black hole for working Americans. The choice should be clear.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Good News on the Eminent Domain Front

Finally, some good news on eminent domain. It looks as if Congress passed the law forbidding federal funds to be used by states and local governments who use eminent domain to seize private property for non-public interests. As reported in the Indianapolis Star, the House approved the measure 376-38.

On the Indiana front, Pete Viscloskey, a Democrat, voted against it, but the rest of the Indiana delegation voted for the provision, even socialist Julia Carson. I, honestly, am shocked she voted for it, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

David Wolkins, an Indiana legislator from Winona Lake, received a nice write-up in the piece in the Star.

Wolkins had sponsored a bill before the Kelo decision that would have banned property seizures for commercial use. After the high court ruling, a study committee was formed instead and held public hearings on the issue.

Wolkins said Thursday the committee's draft report would recommend curtailing the use of eminent domain to a "last resort" and limiting its use to blighted areas.The panel also would recommend increasing compensation to displaced property owners and paying a larger share of legal expenses, he said.

"I think it makes it a whole lot easier in the state," he said, referring to congressional vote's impact on Statehouse efforts to regulate property seizures.

Cheers to Congress on this and cheers to Wolkins' committee for good suggestions. I'd rather see it cut off at the knees in his committee, but what he is proposing, should it make it through the Legislature, I think will make things more equitable and just for the citizenry, as it is intended to be.

Why Is It So Hard?

I've been wondering why it was so hard to just pass what should have been a slam dunk of a bill in Congress. HR 1606, the Online Freedom of Speech Act, was designed to rewrite part of the ridiculous campaign finance laws, which themselves seem to have done absolutely nothing to stifle money in campaigns and may have in fact caused it to get worse. A judge ruled not long ago that the FEC had full authority to regulate political blogs and web sites, regardless of partisan affiliation. The FEC, much to its credit, has been dragging its feet in writing rules regarding such regulation in the hopes Congress would get off its rear and correct the matter. Alas, they're still waiting.

HR 1606 failed the other day to be passed without special rules (which requires a 2/3 majority). The roll for the vote is here if you want to see how your Congressman voted. Rep. Dan Burton predictably voted for it. Say what you will about him, he likes free speech. Julia Carson of Indianapolis predictably voted against it. Say what you will about her, she hates free speech, mostly if it comes from anyone to the right of Stalin. Just thought I'd add those for the viewers in central Indiana.

On a separate note, I'm not sure why people in Indianapolis have tolerated having a socialist Representative for so long. It's not just that she's a Democrat. Except for the pathetic vote on the Assault Weapons Ban, Andy Jacobs wasn't that bad of a Rep before her. Regardless, she's pretty horendous, politically. Her belief in this Republic in its original form is nil. She wants a purely socialist facist state, but I digress. She's a topic for another time.

So I keep wondering, why did so many vote to stifle free speech on the Net? I think many are still afraid of its power, minimal though it still is. Others, and I have to agree with Congresswoman Blackburn's analysis on this, voted for it only because they voted for campaign finance. And now, through lethargy, simple political machine continuity, or actual intent, they don't want to see the original law challenged this way. They'd rather restrictions get worse than lessen and they'd rather more control be placed on free speech. Not exactly a set of ideal Representatives if you ask me. Instead of wanting to work for the people, they want to work against us. Hope you voters keep this in mind next November.

To those who did vote for HR 1606, I applaud you. Keep fighting the good fight. Keep your fingers crossed, people. We may yet see it pass.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Court is Mother, The Court is Father...

Today, the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled, essentially, that no parent has a fundamental right to approve or manage what their children are taught.

As reported by CNS News, the case revolved around a sex survey given to 1st, 3rd and 5th grade children that was, to say the least, a little in poor taste. Asking a 6 year old about whether they touch themselves or think about sex all the time generally falls outside the bounds of education I think.

The parents basically argued that they should be able to approve or disapprove such serious topics, especially for such young children. The Orwellian court ruled the following:

"There is no fundamental right of parents to be the exclusive provider of information regarding sexual matters to their children...Parents have no due process or privacy right to override the determinations of public schools as to the information to which their children will be exposed while enrolled as students."

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the panel, said "no such specific right can be found in the deep roots of the nation's history and tradition or implied in the concept of ordered liberty."

I'll let that sink in for a moment. That's a federal appeals court judge, the guy who's supposed to interpret the Constitution. So we have a privacy right to use condoms and abort babies according to some emanation of a penumbra, but we have no right to decide how to raise our own children? Guess that penumbra didn't emanate enough. I suppose Hilly is right, it does take a village, at least according to ole' Reinhardt and company.

I'm even having difficulty absorbing that. That I, as a parent, don't have the right to decide how my child is raised. Where, exactly in the Constitution was the federal government given that power? I'm checking, but I can't find it.

Judicial activism, long a tool of the left, has recently been twisted by the left in the regular media outlets to apply to conservative judges who don't legislate from the bench, but who try to counter such previous attempts. Expect this court ruling to get little air play on the big Three, but know this, if you ever doubted leftist judges will do or say whatever they feel like to restrict your rights as they deem best for your simpleton mind, you should doubt no more. This is an outrage, nothing less and the men and women of the courts who've taken this view need to be off the courts before they cause even further damage.

Never did I believe Judicial tyranny would become so rampant or so abhorrent, to use the word others have attached to this, but I believe it now and am more dedicated than ever to see that such judges and those who appoint them do not come to power. This is a sad day.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Just to Elaborate

In reading more of my commenter's responses over on Mike Kole's Kole Hard Facts, I thought it worth elaborating on the commenter's thoughts:

In short, that is Governor Bowen's plan taken to its logical conclusion. Bowen's plan shifts LOCAL SPENDING to the STATE BUDGET. Why does the Libertarian Party believe that the STATE should pay for LOCAL spending?

Again, no, I don't think this and I don't think any Libertarians do. However, removing Property Tax Relief or capping it really doesn't hurt the counties terribly. It hurts the citizenry and the citizenry is who will suffer the damage. PTR should be only a first step in severe reduction or elimination of the serf-like system of paying property taxes. The counties must find other sources of income, and it is out there. Several states have experimented successfully with alternatives to property tax, and Indiana should be no different.

I don't necessarily see it as some sort of subsidy either, since the state is holding our money anyway. Governments don't create wealth. They take it from the citizens. Taking less of it, no matter the level, is a good thing to me. I'd think a Republican would agree with me, being from the party of limited government, lower taxes and all, but that doesn't seem to be the case these days. True fiscal conservatives are rare birds in the Republican party anymore and it is a shame.

So again, no, Libertarians don't want government subsidizing other government. We want it leaner, meaner, and more responsive to its citizens. Daniels may yet prove me wrong and accomplish that at the helm, but don't give me the "wait and see" and "trust me" lines. You're just being insulting when you do that. Waiting and seeing has produced a laundry list of tax hikes and increased burden on the citizenry. I think, even in all the months since he took office, Daniels has since found that bathroom you say they're having trouble finding and gotten down to business. And even as it is a new administration, the legislators have been there for a long time. Power changes, but agendas don't, and the Republicans who have been there, now that they have the power, don't seem interested in exercising it to the citizen's benefit in terms of tax relief. I don't have to have a crystal ball to wait and see where that's going.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Where Do We Cut the Fatted Calf?

Apparently, my little post yesterday caused a bit of a stir. That was entirely my intention. It even prompted an interesting comment, an anonymous comment to be sure, but one with points that obviously required addressing. So, I shall attempt to do that in the limited forum we have available. From the general tone of how it began, one would think the commenter felt Libertarians don't like any budget anywhere. This isn't true. They just believe in responsible and well-managed budgets, not fairy tales. The commenter does bring up some interesting figures, all the same, as shown below.

The state's annual budget is about $12 billion divided as follows:

Education: $5 billion
Medicaid: $3 billion
Property Tax Relief: $2.2 billion
Corrections: $1 billion

Total: $11.2 billion

You have $800 million left for DNR, DLGF, Dept. of Health, Dept. of Labor, IDEM, State Police (currently about 250-300 troopers below authorized staffing levels), Dept. of Revenue, Secretary of State, Auditor of State, Treasurer of State, Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction, etc., etc.

I notice he doesn't mention (I'm just going to assume it's a he, if it's a she, my apologies) FSSA. Remember that glorious agency? It is an example of an agency that does nothing and does it well for no one. I've worked for the state. I've seen Family and Social Services in action. It is a typical bloated-government agency that could use serious cutting. Frankly, so does Workforce Development, which from what I've seen has never actually developed a workforce. They hand out unemployment checks and pretend that they can find you a job. Been there to. Lots of dead weight hanging around. And I'm not p!ssing on the employees (ok, well some of them), but those agencies suffer from being legislated into existence, and anything that can be tinkered with and tweaked like a state agency is bound to develop useless apendages, and a lot of them. DNR, IDEM, the State Police, they run decent operations. I'm not saying all agencies can't handle their money. Most do a whole lot with very little. Again, I've seen it.

Secretary of State? What do they do? I mean officially, does our Sec State handle Indiana's relations with foreign governments, anything like that? No, they manage Corporate Division. Cut, cut, cut. It's a library function. And those are just the small agencies he mentions. What about the big ones? If you're going to honestly tell me that there's not significant bureaucratic waste in Medicaid, I'd like some of what you're smoking. That budget could be manhandled down at least 10% without even trying, if a real Republican wanted to do it. Assuming we can only save $10 or $20 million from the peanuts agencies, 10% of Medicaid is by your numbers $300 million. Now there's some change and we didn't even have to raise a tax to do it. No, I don't like Medicaid. It's one of the things helping hospital costs soar out of anyone's reach. It was a benevolent and well-meant program arrived at with the best of intentions, and its claims very clearly pave the road straight to Hell.

Same goes for Education. How much of that $5 billion is going to educate our students and how much goes to administration? You came up with the big numbers. Now's the time to own up to them. Not that the DOE would tell how much goes to Admin, but there's no shortage of studies to tell us that the public school system has gotten top heavy all over the country. How many students are there in Indiana in the public school system? From the looks of it, we could safely guess a little over 1 million. Setting aside that local property taxes already cover almost half of the public school cost, how much does that mean we're spending per kid? A little over $5,000 a piece. Doesn't seem like much does it? But how many teachers is that paying versus how many administrators? Not as easy a statistic to come by? We are paying the State for administration. We are paying for bloated bureaucracy. Is it necessary? What has it gotten us? If parochial schools can do the same job often better with a fraction of the staff, why can't the public schools seem to do it? Explain me that one. If you're dealing with an average 30 student classroom and the total budget for it is $10,000 per student, that's $300,000 an average available per class. And how much are teachers paid again? And I hope you're not going to tell me the other $270,000 to $280,000 goes to the utility bills for the ONE classroom every year. Parents pay for text books. Parents pay for supplies. I know, I am one. So how much is going to the mystical admin? If even 10% of it could be eliminated, and I think that's being exceptionally lightweight,, there's another $500 million.

So, taking a look at that, let's see $10 or $20 from the peanuts agencies, $300 million from Medicaid, $500 million from Education with a redirect of the remaining $4.5 billion to more direct education and less admin, "cultural initiatives" and "awareness programs". It's a school, not a Wellness Center for Pete's sake. Ta-da! I just saved the State of Indiana over $800 million! That's our deficit, and I didn't even break a sweat. Next.

Too easy you say? Easy for me just to say 10% and be done with it? Well, it was just as easy for you to demand it. It's also just as easy for the Governor and legislature to take an honest look at the budget and see that those number's more realistic than they're willing to admit. They can do it. I'd like to have faith that they'll do the right thing, but they ain't exactly blowin' up my skirt with talk of tax increases and symbolic cuts.

Again, reaching back to the great Bill Hicks, this is more of the same from them. "Well, your leaders mispent your tax dollars. And now it's time for you to dig into your pockets, and start payin' this back." I feel like a parent whose kid keeps wrecking his and other people's cars and expecting me to pay for new ones. Well no damn more. It's time to stop. Period.

Ok, now onto another point of our anonymous commenter.

Also, why do Libertarians believe that state government should subsidize local government expenditures? Why shoud the state subsidize town x's police force, or street department, or mayor?

I must've missed the Party meeting on where we expected the State to pay for the Counties. Your point is somewhat moot, because I've never heard one Libertarian anywhere advocate this. Please show me where at say the Indiana Lib site where that's said. If anything, I agree with you on the Counties. They need to get their acts together and significantly tighten local spending. If they can't do that, vote them out and put people in that will. Pet projects dominate local politics. If you want responsible government, those projects must be exposed, and the corporate welfare they engender must cease. Only way to do that often is to expose those in power for the game players they are, which is what we're trying to do. Care to join us?

If 100 percent of local expenditures must be paid for by local taxes, don't you believe that local taxpayer pressure will reduce the spending habits of local government? Also keep in mind that local expenditures have been growing at 6 percent per year for 30 years while state revenue has grown 4 percent per year for 30 years. Local governments have found that it is easy to spend if "their" taxpayers don't have to foot the whole bill.

And again my point exactly. Get the locals to control their spending and the State won't have to fleece the citizenry as much. I see nothing there but a good thing. If the State cuts off some of the counties' allowance, and the counties cut off the State playing with their ill-gotten gains, like the COIT, maybe both will become a little more responsible. Bravo, you sound like a Libertarian already.

So thanks for playing, and we hope to see you here again soon. Buh-bye!