Friday, August 31, 2012

The Libertarian Problem

I think I have voted for one or two Libertarian candidates in the past and will probably vote for more of them again in the future.  At the federal level at least, their aversion to government intervention is more in line with my own  beliefs that the federal government has far exceeded it's Constitutional authority.   But that's more a symptom of the total failure, corruption, and dysfunction of the two-party system than it is agreement with libertarian principles.  

I am not a philosophical libertarian.   I'd like to begin to explain why here, because I think a lot of activists are not comfortable with the philosophy but can't put their finger on why.  To be sure, not all of them have a legitimate reason for their discomfort.    There are people walking around right now who believe they are "conservative" and label themselves as such, but whose actual beliefs are much closer to fascism.   That is, they believe that individual rights should take a back seat to national security and even national greatness- often defined in militaristic terms.

Such folks prefer a strong central government which makes uniform rules for everyone, as opposed to classical limited-government conservatism which has a healthy skepticism of the ability of governments in distant capitols to make our lives "better" if only we cede them more money and control.    I understand why fascio-conservatives are uncomfortable with libertarian ideas, but I consider the real reasons for their objections to be roughly as objectionable as any problem I might have with a libertarian approach.

With that said, let me begin to explain why I am not a libertarian by noting that of the three libertarian pillars, the only one I agree with is the Rule of Law.     The other two pillars are non-aggression and Self-Ownership.  Today I would like to talk about Self-Ownership.   Here is the definition from Wikkipedia:
Self-ownership (or sovereignty of the individualindividual sovereignty or individual autonomy) is the concept of property in one's own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to havebodily integrity, and be the exclusive controller of his own body and life. According to G. Cohen, the concept of self-ownership is that "each person enjoys, over himself and his powers, full and exclusive rights of control and use, and therefore owes no service or product to anyone else that he has not contracted to supply."
Who could argue with that?  Lot's of decent people, once you apply that absolute to some sticky situations.  An example might be whether a man who got a woman pregnant had any obligation to pay child support.   Insisting someone share the bill for national defense, or anything else with "free rider" issues, might be another example.   

The great Scottish writer George McDonald,  who wrote both Children's books and works on Natural Law, once said "The first principle of Hell is 'I am my own.'"    Understand I am not saying that the state owns us, or that we own each other.    My position is that God owns us, and though He has placed us in this world and granted us much freedom to become who we want to be, we are and will be accountable to Him for the use we have made of our freedom.

If you think about it, it's really hard to make the case that we "own ourselves."  We did not create ourselves.  We did not determine when or where we entered this world, and we do not get to decide whether or not we get to stay in this world.   Others did many things to us and for us- some with our permission, some without, which permitted us to reach adulthood.   Each day a thousand things we cannot control in the heavens and on earth are necessary to sustain our lives.  Nor can we stop the ravages of time in our own persons.  Though we might live 100 years, still our destiny is a slow fade in this life as we begin our journey to the next.   We can dye our hair, but we cannot really turn even one hair of our head white or black.     Self-ownership does not seem a rational position.

A much better case for "self-ownership" can be made in any eternal afterlife that might exist.    There it might be argued that our place of entry is determined by our own choices, that the being we have become is the result of our own choices.   So while we may have had no hand in our own creation in this life, we would in the next.   And the condition would be, unlike this world, permanent.   What McDonald called "the First Principle of Hell" makes sense as a reality in Hell.   In this life, if God exists, we can only be as children in the womb, preparing for the next life but no more "sovereign" in this one than children yet unborn.

The concept of personal sovereignty, in the absolute sense Libertarians present it, implies individuals get to determine their own morality (except for the few absolutes they attempt to impose such as the conditions under which force might be used).   Again, measured against the vast scale of the cosmos, the enormity of time which has passed in all ages, and the value of wisdom which has endured for generations before us, the idea that the four pounds of grey matter in our skulls can be the final arbiter of right and wrong, even for ourselves, seems ridiculous.  

We can try and discern right from wrong, and a worthy life will spend time doing so, but the idea that each generation, and even moreso each person, gets to re-write morality from a blank slate seems ridiculous.    Any one of us is only a tiny part of the natural world.   We remain in it only an infinitesimal portion of the total time it has existed.  The idea that we can construct our own personal morality, to apply only to us, displays what seems to me an almost psychotic misinterpretation of our place in the universe.

It seems to me the balanced approach, rejecting the extremes of both fascism and libertarianism, would be one in which government power was dispersed.   Instead of fighting over who gets to hold the single gun that is pointed at the rest of us from sea to shining sea, the central government would get no gun for enforcing moral imperatives.

States and localities would, retaining their right to sanction moral behavior such as mandating child support.  But let them be careful how they use such power!  For in such an arrangement states who go too far (that is, impose rules for moral behavior outside the underlying moral reality of the universe or beyond the scope of government compulsion) are bound to lose productive citizens to states which do not.  States and localities who did not go far enough would too. And in each case government would look more like what the citizens who live there would want government to look like,. Decentralizing power would make the government subject to the marketplace,

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Highway Commission Hubris

The State Highway Commission is exhibit "A" for a malady which I call "fiefdom government."   Every time you fill your gas tank, every time you renew your vehicle tags, you are sending money to five unelected and largely unaccountable men to spend as they wish.  Power that should belong to the elected representatives of the people, the legislature, has been transferred to a few powerful individuals - often individuals who are large donors to one political club or another.

But it gets worse.   The state is divided into ten districts with each commissioner "representing" two districts- one they live in and the other they do not.   Each commissioner has two of ten districts, and controls an equal share of the money, but the districts are simply based on geography, not population.   That means that some districts get four or five times the discretionary highway dollars per person as do the more heavily populated districts!   This results in a massive misallocation of resources as districts like 1,2, and 7 get new roads with light traffic while districts like 9,6, 4 and 10 are clogged with traffic congestion.

UPDATE: Highway Commissioner Madison Murphy and I had a cordial conversation. I asked him what he most objected to in this report.   Besides the use of the word "hubris" in the title, he most objected to a couple of things about this article.  One was the above paragraph and the connection between the advocacy zones on the map and the way each commissioner can spend money.

Each commissioner does control an equal share of the money, but Murphy pointed out that the ten advocacy districts no longer play the same role in new construction that they did prior to some changes he helped initiate.  So while the districts I have numbered above are congested/less congested as I indicate above, the connection to a given commissioner and any one district is more tenuous, at least formally, than the paragraph above implied.    Of course, just because someone no longer has defined lines they advocate for does not mean a commissioner still does not negotiate for his own home town and surrounding area.

Of the ten urban highway segments with the highest level of congestion, four are in Pulaski County, two are in Benton County with two more in Washington County.  Those are in districts with the lowest per person funding.  White County and Faulkner county had the other two highest congested spots.   Craighead county did not have any one stretch make the ten most congested, but they also had a rather high level of overall congestion compared to other parts of the state.    At the risk of oversimplfying, if you live in a county through which I-40 passes, or in a county above that, you are getting ripped off by the way dollars are distributed in our current state highway system.

But it gets worse.  I knew some of this information, but at a symposium put on by Conservative Arkansas and the Washington County Tea Party I learned some shocking details.   State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson passed a bill through the senate which would allow the districts to be redrawn so they kept up with changes in Arkansas' population patterns.    When it passed, a member of the Highway Commission called and asked him what he wanted.   He said if they agreed to redraw the lines more fairly themselves he would pull the bill, but they had to go on record.

The Highway Commission voted to redraw the lines, and sent an operative to a committee meeting to read a statement to that effect into the record.   Hutchinson withdrew the bill.   He later learned that the Highway Commission then met again and voted to rescind their previous commitment to re-draw the lines!

UPDATE: This was the other part of the article that Murphy objected to, although he had to end the conversation before we got into too much detail.  He would only own up to "not keeping Jeremy informed enough of the process."   Based on what I heard Sen. Hutchinson say, I would be surprised if Hutchinson considered that was the real problem- his problem seemed to be that he understood them to have made a commitment that they did not keep rather than a failure to be informed of the way a study was trending.   Did the commission promise to change the lines and funding or did they only promise to study the question?  That seems to be a key question to know to clear up this mess.

In addition to that unfortunate situation, funding has not been allocated fairly in the past and Murphy acknowledged that.    I view the system as flawed even when the men running it have the best of intentions and are men of talent and ability.    The principle of "reversion to the mean" will ensure that over time a flawed system will produce the kind of flawed results we have seen in Arkansas highways.

 A college football team might get a great coach once in a while who takes the program to new heights but Kansas St. is never going to be Alabama on a regular basis.  The great coach leaves, and Kansas St. "reverts to the mean" and goes back to being Kansas St. again.  Ergo, even if Madison Murphy is doing a great job as highway commissioner (and he is in terms of efficiency, it's resource allocation where we mostly differ) the mean for our present highway system is a lack of accountability to the people and miss-allocation of resources.

Hutchinson acted very nervous when relaying this information.  He kept saying they were "honorable men as individuals" and that "they were very apologetic."      He would not even take a position on the November sales tax issue.

Well, the people in that room had no problem taking a position against a tax increase to pour more money into a flawed state highway system.   Both Conservative Arkansas and the Washington County Tea Party, as well as an increasing number of candidates, have linked up to join Better Spending First, a group dedicated to stopping this madness.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Founders on Political Parties

"If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all." - Thomas Jefferson to Francis Hopkinson, 1789

"...Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
21 This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
22 The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
23 Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
24 It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."  President George Washington in his Farewell Address.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Can America Survive 4 More Years of Obama, or 8 of Romney?

It is only human to want to believe that there is a way out of disaster.   At some point though, dedicating your efforts to escaping a disaster which is inevitable actually increases the magnitude of that disaster.  Our hope works against us.     Once it's clear that momentum is going to carry the Titanic into the ice berg, fighting over whether the red team or the blue team mans the wheel is only going to get you killed.   At that point, it is a far better use of your time to make sure that the lifeboats are well equipped and in good order.  This is especially so when red team and blue team are funded by the same entities and have taken turns steering us into the same fiscal iceberg.

I don't say quit fighting, that's not in me.  I say fight rationally.   At this point we need to focus on getting our state and local governments in order and quit tying up so much emotional energy into national politics. Those are the life boats in this analogy.   It does not matter which team is running Washington, they are in the process of crashing our ship of state.  Here are the numbers from Wikki's page on federal spending...

Romney only proposes $300 million in specific "cuts" vice Obama.   That's if he gets everything he wants.    Even if those were real cuts, and they are not but merely reductions in Obama's planned increases, will a reduction in the annual spending from $3.8 trillion to $3.5 trillion in spending make much difference?  Bush II was the last Red Team President and he took spending from $1.9 trillion to $3.1 trillion in eight years.   Although his publicist has done a terrific job of revising his image with warm shots using disabled veterans as props, at the time most conservatives were aghast at the amount of money that Bush II spent.   Romney, even if he gets everything he says he wants, will not even get us back to where Bush ended.

Conservatives tend to be passionate people, but our emotions do not change the math.  My first choice would be for all conservatives to pick their battles rationally.  Failing that, I would ask they at least quit the sniping at those of us who are.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Race Hustlers Trying to Get Jonesboro Chief Michael Yates Fired - Wild Lies As Excuse

We need to help support our Jonesboro police Chief - Chief Michael Yates. Outsiders are coming in and trying to stir up all kinds of racial tension and have openly called for the firing of our police chief and have called the two arresting police, in the Chavis Carter incident, murderers.

Outsiders, including at least one report of involvement by the black supremacist (i.e. racist) group "The Nation of Islam", are flinging wild accusations [which are proven lies] at Yates and posting it on nationwide blogs and sending it to the city council members. They are even trying to thwart the state recertification of the Jonesboro Police Department. If they can pick these isolated incidents and make enough noise and get enough media attention over it, they can intimidateevery other police department in the nation. Documentation is given below.

This incident with Chavis Carter is not the real issue here - the real issue is a vendetta against Yates because he won't hire enough black police officers to suit these liberal blacks. They (the Diversity Coalition) were already trying to get Yates fired back several months ago. (See letter to the Sun below for details)

The battle goes back to his job in Americus, Georgia where an unusually extreme black NAACP member went after Yates. While Chief Yates was chief of the police department in Americus, he cut the crime rate about 50%. In our research we found that the Americus city is made up of 64% black, 5% Hispanic and 31% white.

Therefore, in order to cut the crime rate that much, Yates would have had to arrest more blacks than whites, which enraged some of the black leaders. We are including a three page opinion piece from the Americus Times-Recorder newspaper in May 2, 2003, that describes this battle in Americus, but we want to include some excerpts here. The paper totally supports Yates and denounces the particular NAACP group involved.

"Dr. John Marshall and Craig Walker, claiming to represent the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Sumter County Branch, have engaged in a campaign to destroy racial harmony in Americus. Over the last 18 months or so, Walker has regularly attended meetings of the City Council to beg, plead, implore, curse and threaten that elected body to remove Police Chief Michael Yates. He claims Yates wrongfully demoted Commander Nelson Brown; illegallyrequested Open Records Act and Georgia Crime Investigations Center checks on Walker; and drove by Walker's residence in an attempt to intimidate him.

"An internal review by City Administrator Sybil Smith and a legal opinion rendered by City Attorney Jimmy Skipper found Yates guilty of no wrongdoing, yet Walker and Marshallpersist in their dogged and tired vendetta. They have refused every overture by the City to negotiate a resolution, insisted the City's legal opinion was incorrect and Yates acted illegally, insisting their attorneys have a differing opinion.

Yates whipped the department into shape, instilling a new professionalism, better morale and a renewed respect for enforcing the law. Evidence of Yates' effectiveness? The city's crime index has dropped from more than 400 last year to 109 in April. One-hundred represents the national average. And the APD expects to be the first local law enforcement agency to achieve state certification." End of Excerpts [See entire article below.]

Race hustlers are still spreading these lies all over the blogs and using this Chavis Carter incident to stir the pot again. They are also sending emails to the city council of Jonesboro even though they have been proven false over and over. See Email Sent to City Council Members by Liberals below for copy of their long email including articles from several left of the leftists blogs - filled with lies.

For rest of article see this link:

Infowars Telling Truth, FOX (FAUX) Misleading on DHS Ammo Purchases

I have often made the case here (and here, and here) that FOX NEWS is no friend to pro-American limited-government conservatives.  Rather, they are both statist and globalist.  Their function in the drive to globalism is to pose as your friend so that the might assume the role of dictating who the "acceptable" candidates are for those on the right.

The top owner of FAUX is an Australian with significant business interests in Communist China.  The second biggest individual owner is a Muslim and Saudi Prince. Who are they to tell Americans who their acceptable choices for President are?  Yet to my amazement, many conservatives willingly choose to get their disinformation from FOX.

Alex Jones of puts out a lot of wild stuff- but on a gigantic recent story his reporting was far more accurate than FOX, by any fair standard of measure.   Tonight I searched both sites with the terms "DHS ammunition."    I was looking for what sort of coverage they have of the fact that various agencies under the DHS umbrella have ordered hundreds of millions of rounds of ammunition, mostly hollow-point ammunition.   DHS in total has ordered more than ten times the amount of ammunition used during the average year of the Iraq war.   They have ordered about five rounds for every American citizen.   This is not our military doing this, this is the Department of Homeland Security.  Most of the ammo is not even in one of the standard military calibers.

This is one of the many stories that Alex Jones and Infowars had on this shocking development.  It even has a link to a PDF. which shows the types and quantities (or at least did, I understand the numbers were later "redacted") of ammo they wanted  bids on.   Here is the FOX news story, which was the ONLY hit I got on the first page of their results that was related to this issue.)    I urge you to read both of these stories and compare the coverage.

It's clear that FOX is the one in total damage control mode for the government.  "Obscure federal agencies triggered a firestorm of conspiracy theories this week after they put out orders for thousands of rounds of deadly hollow-point bullets." the lone article reads.   "The bullet purchases drew widespread attention as the website published several stories on them that were linked off the widely read Drudge Report and other sites." it continues shortly thereafter.      Nowhere in the article does FOX give any hint that the total ammunition purchases from these "obscure agencies" equal an amount sufficient to shoot every single American citizen several times.    It leaves the impression that the issue is a matter of thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands of rounds from a few obscure agencies rather than hundreds of millions of rounds.

FOX also reports at face value the government's claim that the hollow point rounds were required for "training."    Hollow point rounds are more expensive because they are designed to open a larger wound channel.    Training is typically done with wadcutter or round nose ammunition which is easier and cheaper to make.    While police use hollow points, military units are not allowed to use such ammunition under the Geneva convention because they would tend to kill when a regular bullet would only wound.  Yet for some reason, our government thinks they need to stock up on an estimated total of 750 million rounds, most of which is in the hollow point category.   The government's story does not add up.  Ask anyone who goes to the pistol range.

I am shocked at the lengths FOX has gone to in order to discredit and underplay the seriousness of this story.  What does the ruling class know that we don't?   

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fiefdom Government

The state government is increasingly composed of a bunch of fiefdoms with their own funding mechanisms.  For all practical purposes, they are unaccountable to the people.   Think of the Highway Department and the State Game and Fish Commission.   Those are large examples that have direct access to your pockets through state tax revenues which they control.  More subtly, there are plenty of boards and commissions which have the power to levy professional license fees.   That's a cost of doing business which is indirectly passed onto the consumer.

Our system of government where these boards run things with quasi-autonomy work great as fund-raising mechanisms for politicians.  Board appointment is often given to big-contributing industry insiders that want to capture their regulating body.    This manifests not as government regulation but as insider regulation that has the backing of the government.   Think about Monsanto controlling all farm regulations and making it increasingly harder for their small competitors to stay in business.   Not only is this over-reliance on self-funded boards bad for competition, its bad for consumers and taxpayers.

Fiefdoms are not "separation of powers" in the sense that the three branches of government are.   They are rather a series of petty tyrannies.   The legislature ought to be the strongest branch of government, because it is closest to the people.  Instead, in Arkansas it has become the weakest.    One reason is the rise of fiefdom government.

The Highway Commission does its own thing with many millions of taxpayer dollars each year. The Game and Fish Commission has its own structure and seeks to escape legislative purview. University Presidents now routinely flout the expressed will of the legislature concerning financial aid for persons in this nation illegally. I find the principle of semi-unaccountable fiefdoms with a secured line of taxpayer funding disconcerting. I think it is a recipe for arrogance, corruption, and a loss of a service-oriented mindset.

I am all for separation of powers as a principle, and local control as a principle too. I guess what worries me here is that this is not a true separation of powers or local control issue. Each of these fiefdoms has full or near full power within their sphere of operations. They are not reliant on the legislative branch for their funding, and the executive branch can only indirectly influence them through board appointments. They each promulgate a lot of their own rules. They are their own legislative, executive and judicial branches all in one. It is not a separation of powers, but a division of government in a way that makes each fiefdom less accountable to the people.

IN the same way, each of these institutions has a statewide reach. It is not a true local-control situation, it is just that instead of one set of bosses in Little Rock there are many sets, each with their own little kingdoms that are centrally controlled.

John Brummett gave this interesting quote when noting that the highway commission took a baby step toward addressing a local pet peeve; "It is not like the Highway Commission to be even remotely flexible, so I should applaud the effort."    That's right.   It's not like them to be even remotely flexible, because flexibility flows from accountability.   The way the Highway Commission is set up they are not much accountable to anyone.  Basically it consists of five powerful people who are probably more accustomed to speaking than listening.  They are such big players that individual legislators from either party are usually afraid to cross them.    They are a self-funded kingdom unto themselves. 

You are not going to get flexibility, accountability, and responsiveness from an organization set up like the highway commission.    They are structured as an oligarchy, autocracy is built into the design.  Sure, they will feign attentiveness to the public immediately before a tax increase is on the ballot, but in the long term our experience with them will conform to the well-known scientific principle of "reversion to the mean."   The mean, or average, setting of the highway commission is that the personal agendas of the highway commissioners will take precedence over local needs on the ground.

If you have any doubt that I am right, consider that the five commissioners are picked to represent districts whose lines were drawn based on Arkansas' population distribution in 1936!   Think of what Northwest Arkansas looked like back then verses now.   Think about how Little Rock has grown in those decades.  Obviously, population has shifted from South Arkansas and the Delta to central and northwest Arkansas during that stretch of time.   The have not even been responsive and flexible enough to assign representation by current population patterns.

That alone makes it obvious that it would be dumb for anyone in the second or third congressional district to vote to give the highway commission any more money.     You would be voting against your own interests.   You would be throwing away all your leverage to force them to update their representation to the modern day from a time in which not only was music stored on plastic records, but those records spun at 78 RPM.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Two Party System to Blame for Our Non-Representative, Dysfunctional Government

"Sometimes you have to take one for the team"
Rick Santorum on voting for federalizing schools

Our political system has turned into an ugly mudfest where Red/Blue Operatives barely even try to sell their own candidates anymore.   They just try to terrify voters into voting against the other person.    At the same time, legislators no longer represent their "constituents", rather they represent the interests of their party.  When the chips are down, and the president or governor is of their own party, today's legislators vote the way the Boss wants them to vote, no matter what they told the folks back home when they were running.

 People are giving up on our political system because they recognize it is dysfunctional and no longer represents true self-government.     These problems, while immense, have a simple source and therefore solving them is also simple (but not easy).   These problems stem from our two-party system and first-past-the-post method of electing our government officials.  If you fix the party problem, you fix the political system problem.  Conversely, if you continue to support the two party system (and the first-past-the-post voting method which artificially props it up) then you are part of the problem - a problem which will effectively end in the destruction of the United States as a Constitutional Republic.

Let's first take the issue of mud-slinging and fear mongering.     It is well known that people are sick of negative ads, but they are used for a simple reason- they work.  And the reason they work, is that people have no way of punishing candidates whose operatives simply throw dirt at one another.  They vote defensively.   They may not like it that candidate A threw mud, but they don't want to vote for candidate B just in case some of those attacks might be true.   In this system, there are no "clean" winners.   Whoever has the least mud on them wins by default.    There is simply no incentive to not throw mud.  

Contrast that with what we saw in the GOP Presidential primary, and indeed any crowded election field.   Michelle Bachman was very effective at pounding on her rivals with negative attacks- but because people had other candidates to go to, those attacks did not help her, they merely hurt the person she was attacking.    Other candidates benefited.    Mud slinging and negative attacks only pay off when people have no place else to go with their vote.   It only works when people are artificially restricted to two choices and have nowhere else to go even if they are disgusted by content-free negativity and hysterical fear-mongering.

The second problem, that legislative branch officials represent their party more than their constituents, is a little harder to solve.    Many legislators have "safe" seats where even a 2nd party has no chance of winning.  In those districts, once you have the protection of your party you pretty much have it made.   If voters in their district would not even think of voting for the other party, then the legislator need only concern himself with keeping the party's favor.   This explains why even some of the most conservative districts often have wishy-washy representation that the people can't count on for tough votes.   It's no longer about how the district feels, but about how the party feels on an issue.

In Arkansas, Mike Huckabee turned out to be a big-spending Republican.   Most of the Republican legislators went along with it, not because the people back home wanted them to, but because Huckabee was the head of their party.  They were "taking one for the team", as Santorum put it.   And of course Santorum did the same when Bush was pushing through his big-spending ideas.  Take one for "the team?"  Well, my opinion is that the people of your district should be your "team."    This party loyalty over constituent loyalty is ruining our representative form of government.

Another thing it is doing is ruining the vital concept of "separation of powers".   The legislature is basically fading away because legislators no longer represent the folks back home so much as they do the party.  And the party is funding by moneyed interests who want to "get things done."   The Rule of Law gets in the way of their Big Plans for our country.   There in no way that independent legislators would keep voting to give the executive branch more power, but legislators that are of the same party as the head of the executive branch would.

If it was up to me, I'd vote for independents for all legislative branch offices.    I see it as the only possible way your legislator will ever represent you.     And the legislature was meant to be the most powerful branch of government, both because it was the most divided by number and because it was the branch closest to the people.   The rise of the two-party system has greatly reduced the authority of the legislature, and therefore the ability of the average citizen to contribute to self-government.

If you care about a political party, continue to support one Washington based faction or the other.  If you care about the country, demand run-off elections for all public offices, most especially for legislative offices.   Combine it with a grass-roots movement to elect independents who answer only to the voters of their district to the legislature, and what you have is a real solution.   Everything else at this point is mostly noise.

Realism and Ryan

This article is a realistic look at Vice-Presidential pick Congressman Paul Ryan.   Because it is realistic, people who want to believe things that are not true should quit reading this article right now.    This article is for people who want to understand the facts as they are, not how I or anyone else would wish them to be.

I find it remarkable that many of my Tea Party Friends are in agreement with the Obama campaign about Paul Ryan.  Of course, they have different ideas about what that means.   To these Tea Party types, Ryan is a "true conservative."   To the Obama campaign, Ryan is an extremist with "an extreme budget plan."      I would find these claims of extremism, which the Democrats seem to use as a reflex response, comical, except that too many people seem to give them credibility. 

Mitt Romney would not pick "an extremist."  Mitt Romney appears to be executing a game plan of being 1% less socialist than Barack Obama.  That's why his spokesperson, when asked about the false super-pac ad blaming Romney for the death of someone who died without health insurance, answered by saying that if the person was in Massachusetts they would have had government health insurance.    The concept that government cannot and should not provide health insurance to the entire population from cradle to grave does not appear to be on the table.

This realization gives clearer meaning to Romney's words when he said we should "repeal and replace" Obamacare.  As has been their way the last 30 years (and this is one of those truths that so many on the right are unwilling to face, lest their awareness morally obligate them to do something about it) the Republicans don't want to stop big government so much as make big government more efficient.  And by that of course, they mean that their friends are to get the money rather than the other team's friends.

Look, Paul Ryan is a policy wonk, and I am a policy wonk, and for that reason I am naturally inclined to be positive on the choice of Ryan.   It's about time people got fired up about candidates for their policy expertise instead of their style or likability.   Well, it's hard to say that in Ryan's case, because he does have a large degree of those traits as well.    But people are at least acting like that's the reason they are so fired up about him, and I am all for that stated reason being the actual reason.

The problem comes for those of us who believe that people who hold public office should be judged by their votes, not how tough they talk or how good they sound.     Ryan's fiscal record is the exact opposite of his talk.   Here are some of his big-spending votes...
  • Voted YES on TARP (2008) 
  • Voted YES on $15B bailout for GM and Chrysler (Dec 2008)
  • Voted YES on $192B additional anti-recession stimulus spending (Jul 2009)
  • Voted Yes on Medicare Part D prescription drug expansion (2003)
  • Voted YES on $70 million for Section 8 Housing vouchers. (Jun 2006)
  • Voted YES on No Child Left Behind further nationalizing education (2001)
  • Voted YES on Head Start Act (2007)
  • Voted YES on making the PATRIOT Act permanent. (Dec 2005)
He also voted YES on NDAA, CISPA wiretapping.   He is a reliable vote for expanding the police state both at home and abroad.   In addition., he helped cut the deal by which the debt limit was raised.  And not only was it raised, but the "blame" was shifted to a small group of people from each party who were in safe seats so that Americans could not hold their own representatives accountable for soaring debt.

I find his record to be that of another of those Republicans who are against more spending in theory, but in favor of it when it's crunch time.    "The Ryan Plan" is much hyped, but I since I am a policy wonk too I look at the details and I see an unrealistic plan.  Now I say that, but I must add that the Democrats have produced no budget at all, so Ryan is to be credited for at least trying something.    With that caveat, there are no cuts in military spending in the Ryan plan, just increases.   In other words, he expects all the money to come out of social spending while we continue to nation-build and pour money into foreign mud holes.

But it gets worse.  The plan postulates a balanced budget in 30 years, but the cuts don't start for about ten years.     His plan is completely unrealistic because it makes no tough choices now but expects future congresses to make even tougher choices later.   When year ten gets here and its time for the tough cuts, the next generation of Paul Ryans will balk just as he consistently balked.   

Plus of course, numbers that far out can be influenced by unrealistic assumptions about the health of our economy.   I could produce a plan that would "balance the budget" just by assuming higher grown numbers and continuing to spend.   I could produce another "plan" that would keep spending going for 29 years and then "balance the budget" by cutting 90% of federal spending in year 30.  But these plans would be a farce, and unfortunately the Ryan plan, while not farce, is hard for a policy wonk like me to consider a serious effort at balancing the budget.   What really matters in these budget cutting plans is what is cut in year one and year two.   Anything beyond that is conjecture.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

PC Speech Police Gone Wild at the Olympics

Jesse Owens in Berlin in 1936, settling it on the field.

Will the amazing Gabby Douglas be kicked out of future Olympics for making statements such as the ones she made at this Olympics?  It could happen. Honoring God is getting more and more controversial every day, and the Olympic speech police grow more bold.  Two athletes have already been sent home for making racially insensitive remarks.   In one case, I don't even know if the remarks were racist, just a bad joke about mosquitoes from Africa having more Africans to feed on.     

I don't care for racism, but I don't care for fascism either.  Do we disqualify people with controversial opinions from competing in the Olympics?  What happens when Gabby Douglas agrees with Chick-Fil-A founder Dan Cathy about homosexual "marriage?"  Will she be banned from the next Olympics for expressing those "controversial" beliefs?

Look, the Olympics have been overtly racist in the past.    The 1936 games were held in Berlin, the capitol of Nazi Germany.  Hitler wanted to use the games to highlight his theories about Aryan Supremacy.   But black American Jesse Owens was the star of the show, winning what was then an unprecedented four gold medals.   The issue was settled on the field, not by political correctness.    I am not comfortable with throwing athletes out of the games simply because they said something that might indicate they hold an opinion that I find abhorrent.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Should Our Government Detain Itself Under the NDAA?

Should our federal government detain itself indefinitely?  Certainly they meet the definition of who is covered under the indefinite detention provision from section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).   

(b) COVERED PERSONS.—A covered person under this section
is any person as follows:
(1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided
the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001,
or harbored those responsible for those attacks.
(2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported
al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or ..........

It is well known that the so-called "Syrian Free Army" fills its ranks with al-Qaeda.  The Libyan rebels who overthrew Gaddafi were also partially composed of al-Qaeda operatives.    Our government has given substantial support to al-Qaeda in both nations.  
In a sense Al-Qaeda has always been a creature of the United States and the West.   It got its start as a conglomeration of jihadist groups in Afghanistan. Rather than a pre-existing and singular entity, it is more like a loose collection of various Sunni Jihadi groups that accepted U.S. aide in Afghanistan back in the 1980s.  We gave them material assistance in fighting the Russians.  And it seems we are still giving them such assistance now.   9-11 appears to have been a case of a faction from Al-Qaeda turning on its American allies and pay masters when it realized that we did not just mean to help them chase out the Russian occupiers, but meant to replace them as occupiers.  
The American government is now providing material assistance to Al-Qaeda fighters from across the middle east.   I reported on this earlier in the article "The good Al-Qaeda".    For some reason, the elites in our government want Sunni Islam to prevail against Shia Islam.   Why would they want to unify Islam?   They would not do so if they didn't believe they could control it with the help of their Saudi friends.  That's a bad bet.  By unifying Islam instead of letting them go at each other as they have done for centuries, our state department puts the west in greater danger.
The fact that our government is funding Al-Qaeda makes it even more surreal and ludicrous that they would use Al-Qaeda as an excuse to violate our God-given rights as spelled out in the Constitution.      Yet that is exactly what they are doing.   The NDAA is an attempted de-facto repeal of the U.S. Constitution, as I explain here, here, and in particular here

If our government really wanted to keep us safer from Al-Qaeda, instead of passing laws taking away our freedoms, perhaps they could simply quit funding and providing material assistance to these Islamofascists.   But of course, in a Machiavellian way it makes perfect sense for our ruling class to create a monster which they can then point to and say "we have to take your wealth and freedom to protect you from this monster."      I predict the oppression codified in the NDAA will rarely be used against Al-Qaeda, but rather be used to tamp down on legitimate political dissent by citizens of this nation, be they Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, or anyone in between.