Friday, February 20, 2009

Know new taxes, Know more spending

Listening to Obama supporters it is almost surreal the justifications that are offered for the comments and programs coming from Washington. There seems to be no shortage of things that we can spend money on and no limit to the things that government can do for us.

Typically the discussion / positioning goes something like this: "Over the last 8 years the only folks that have achieved success in America are the rich. Everything has been given to them them and now it is time they started paying their fair share. Bush's tax cuts were given at our expense and if we hadn't done that the world would be a better place." Actually, this is way nicer than whining you actually hear.

Usually I get so frustrated in listening to this that I start yelling at the radio -- just Ed, Alan, and Rusty doing their part -- because these guys are flat out lying. And they know they are lying. But their audience just loves it.

No where in the presentation do you hear "Did you know that 50% of the tax payers pay 96% of all income taxes." or "Did you know that George Bush only veto'd 12 -- YEAH TWELVE -- bills and that four of these were overridden by Congress?" He had 8 years of being President, 4 years with a Democrat controlled Congress, and he successfully veto'd 8 bills. For all the complaining about his approach, W was nothing less than a rubber stamp. or "Did you know that George Bush increased non-defense spending by the largest amount since 1976? More than Clinton, more than Carter?" Nope. All you hear is "George Bush cut taxes on the rich". Over and over -- like its a fine wine that just get better with age.

And then you have the callers.

"If it weren't for the rich taking advantage of me I would have had life easy for the last 30 years". What you hear is -- and this is kind of ironic when you consider that the hosts are basically a bunch of rich guys -- "Life isn't fair. And it isn't fair because all of the money goes to the wealthy and nothing is given to me". Perhaps there are certain benefits to being wealthy but making the wealthy less wealthy will rarely put more money in the callers pockets. Life is not a zero sum game; if you want to have more money you'll have to get off your butt and earn it.

There's a thought that doesn't get shared very often.

And when it does, the people that most need to take it seriously are the most likely to assume that you're not talking to them.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Government Schools and Free Speech

One area of liberty that seems to be getting a pass is the control public schools are placing on the speech of students, parents, and employees. From my view there is a fine line that is being crossed here ... schools have a right and responsibility to manage the activities that occur on their grounds and at school sponsored events. Outside of school premises and activities, the ability of school administrators to act judge and jury should be significantly reduced.

I'm not sure if this argument has been made previously but a quick look at the Constitution says that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. As the supreme law of the land, the Constitution flows down to the state and local jurisdictions restricting the laws and regulations that may be imposed upon the citizenship.

Now the concept of free speech sometimes has a bit of nuance to it. You can't yell "Fire" in a crowded movie hall without an actual fire, slander or libel are off limits, and statements you make may have consequences. On the last point, what happens if you make comments that reflect poorly on your employer? Do they have the right to fire you? It would seem that they do because the Constitution doesn't say you can say anything you want ... it says the government can't tell you what or what not to say.

Now what happens if your employer is the government? Do the same rules apply?

If you make comments in public, on a blog, or social networking site -- outside of the work environment -- that government officials take issue with, can the government fire you? It seems like they would be overstepping their bounds.

How do you know government when you see it?

My view is that this is a very simple question. Public institutions where we elect representatives (i.e. school boards) and / or pay taxes (i.e. sales and property taxes) directly to the institution are part of the government and subject to the law of the Constitution regarding the exercise of free speech. Simple.

Well it seems simple anyway but there are lots of school systems and administrators out there that believe they have the right to inflict their regulations on students, parents, and employees and ignore the rights affirmed in the Constitution:

Teacher Placed on Leave for Facebook Photo
University of Florida Looks Out For Militant Islam
Kent State Bans Facebook

A quick Google on "free speech schools" provides no shortage of public school administrations run amuck.

The Fairness? Doctrine

Michigan seems to be cursed with representatives -- Debbie Stabenow, John Conyers, and Carl Levin for example -- who seem to think that we need more government and are unable to think for ourselves.

The latest debacle is Debbie Stabenow's attack on the First Amendment through the promotion of "The Fairness Doctrine". The idea behind this approach is simply that we need to control the flow of ideas and information that some find disagreeable. In a nation of "Yes we can", the notion that not everyone is in lockstep with the Democratic Party is unacceptable.

To Debbie and the rest of Americans who feel we need their help in deciding who and what we listen to, let me set you straight: all of the televisions and radios have a tuning dial and an off switch. I am fully capable of managing these controls without your assistance. I neither need nor want your help in determining what I watch or listen to.

As one of my representatives in Washington, could you spend a bit more time focusing on ways to expand our liberty vs. ways to eliminate it? It's a change in approach that would be refreshing.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Atlas Shrugged

I just finished reading this ... great book.

Let's start with the basis that I had no background on either the book, Ayn Rand, or Objectivism prior to reading Atlas Shrugged. I still have not done much research on either Rand or Objectivism but my first pass in reading the book is that it absolutely nails my economic and political philosophy.

If you happen upon this blog and love or hate Rand / Atlas Shrugged I be interested in your thoughts. I'm working up a post on my personal take aways that I'll share shortly.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Obama Status Check

So far ... just a couple of weeks into (at least) the next four years of an Obama presidency we are getting a good idea of what's in store and it has an ominous feel ...

  • Closing Gitmo. It's clear if you listen to news outside the US that there are lots of people that don't like our POW policy in Gitmo. Fair enough. But if you are going to take steps to close it, perhaps having a plan on what to do with some very dangerous individuals as a first step would be a good idea.
  • The $850 billion "bailout". Income tax refunds for people who don't pay income taxes; pork, pork, and more pork; most of the money included in the "bailout" program will not be spent for a couple of years; very little in the program will actually go to stimulating job growth in small businesses.
  • Same old, same old. It's funny to listen to the democrats complain about corruption and greed but when it comes to democrats, the bar is suddenly lowered.
  • Foreign policy. Nice letter to Iran; nice interview on Al-Arabia. Word is they were impressed.

Hopefully things get better from here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Meaning of Green

I'm watching a clip from the CES (Consumer Electronic Show) and they are talking about a battery powered bicycle.

The interview asks "Is this green?"

And the person representing the battery powered bike said "Yes it is".

Give me a break. Bicycle powered by your own two legs = green. Bicycle powered by a battery = not green.

On and on we hear about the importance of being environmentally conscious with an underlying theme being the electric / battery power is good while the internal combustion engine is bad.

You wonder if these folks have ever considered just how unfriendly things like lead, lithium, cadmium, and sulphuric acid are to the environment. Oh, and while were at it, those batteries don't charge themselves so you are probably using coal or nuclear power to charge your batteries -- neither of which environmentalists are keen on.