Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rick Warren, Barack Obama, and John McCain (but not Bob Barr) at the Saddleback Church Civil Forum

A few things about the Civil Forum at Saddleback Church....

1) I thought Barack Obama did a good job. He's going to get some heat over listing his wife, grandmother, and Ted Kennedy as people he thought of as "wise" and that he would listen to as President. McCain, on the same question, instantly came up with General David Petraeus, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, and EBay founder Meg Whitman. But Obama has now demonstrated that he can speak fluent Evangelical.

2) John McCain did a good job. He's going to get some heat for joking that you're rich if you make upwards of five million. McCain's answers came so quickly that he appeared incredibly decisive. (Addition from Monday August 18th....Rick Warren joked that during Obama's question and answer session, John McCain was backstage in a "Get Smart"-style Cone Of Silence. People are starting to question the integrity of Warren's precautions.)

3) I grew up in churches that didn't clap, applaud, or cheer. The idea is that you're there to bring glory to God, not man, so I get squirmy when people are applauded in a church sanctuary. (I'm going somewhere with this....) I believe that McCain came out ahead in this format, but McCain was getting most of the applause from the Saddleback congregation and that could've swayed me. It would be interesting to have some creative recording engineers reverse the applause between the two candidates on the soundtrack, and then play it back to a group that didn't see the original broadcast. Perhaps the perception of that viewing audience would be dramatically different.

4) Rick Warren (an alumni of Fort Worth's Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) came across well. Did he seem to be spoon-feeding McCain some of the questions? It seemed like Warren's queries to McCain went on a little longer before they finally got to the question mark.

5) Libertarian candidate Bob Barr was not invited to participate in this program. This is from the email that went out yesterday from the Barr campaign:

This Saturday, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain will take the national stage for their first combined national event. It will take place at Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. For the past several weeks, we have put in requests and phone calls to the church's pastor, Rick Warren, who was quoted this week in Time Magazine as saying, "I want what's good for everybody, not just what's good for me. Who's the best for the nation right now?"

Unfortunately, Pastor Rick Warren doesn't care to know the true answer to that question as he has willingly excluded Bob Barr and other candidates from his forum on Saturday. After weeks of negotiations and calls to Saddleback Church from leaders from every corner of the political spectrum supporting Bob Bar's inclusion, we've been left out in the cold. The only people getting into the event are Obama, McCain and those who reportedly paid $500 to $2,000 to the church to sit in the audience.

Yesterday, I reported to former Congressman Barr that we've exhausted every avenue. I told him, "We've had calls placed to Pastor Warren from very powerful leaders from the left and the right, we sent in our personal request, and placed numerous phone calls that have not been returned. You are not going to be included. "Our only option left is to threaten to file an temporary injunction as our attorney's believe they are in violation of the law."

Bob responded by saying, "No, don't threaten to do that . . . Just do it."

As you read this, our attorneys are filing an injunction against Saddleback Church to include Bob Barr in their forum this Saturday. You are the first to hear about this. The complaint is based upon a violation of McCain/Feingold campaign finance legislation. While we're no fans of that legislation. However, we don't write the rules, we're just forced to play by them.

In this case, we're using McCain/Feingold to our advantage.The reason I am disclosing so much to you is because this is just the beginning.At every way you look at it, we're at a disadvantage.

- We are being blocked from the national stage by the media, debate commissions and now evengroups like Saddleback Church.
- Both the campaign and our party have put most of its manpower and money into getting on the ballot in every state.
- And we have our hands tied behind our backs by laws like McCain Feingold that benefit the two major parties.We are being blocked from the national stage by the media, debate commissions and now even.

6) I hope people don't think they saw a debate tonight. I hope they don't confuse any of this with sharing varying points of view.

What we saw tonight was a discussion between The Daddy Party and The Mommy Party about who is going to drive the family car down the highway for the next four years. Unless 3rd parties are given access to these "debates", Daddy or Mommy might slide the seats back, change the radio stations, or turn down the air conditioner. The winner might stop for lunch at McDonald's instead of Burger King. The winner might speed up or slow down.

But neither one of them is going to change the direction of the car. The Daddy and Mommy Parties have already shown that they share the same map.

This is your brain. This is your brain on audio files designed to induce drug-like effects. Any questions?

Our "Weekly Radley", the name I've given to the best post each week from ultra-libertarian Radley Balko, is about digital drugs.

Yes, digital drugs. Those mind-numbing, perception-altering, hallucination-inducing tracks your kid downloads into his iPod. Those who produce these "special" recordings claim that by subtly manipulating the beat patterns in the MP3's, they can help you reduce anxiety, overcome addictions, or help you lose weight.

Here is where it gets interesting, says tech radio host Kim Komando.

However, most sites are more sinister. They sell audio files ("doses") that supposedly mimic the effects of alcohol and marijuana.
But it doesn’t end there. You’ll find doses that purportedly mimic the effects of LSD, crack, heroin and other hard drugs. There are also doses of a sexual nature. I even found ones that supposedly simulate heaven and hell.

I worked in the Literary Retail industry during the beginning, peak, and end of the New Age boom. We used to sell New Age subliminal message music cassettes that would supposedly help you lose weight, be more assertive, stop smoking, stay out of the passing lane, and overcome a great host of other maladies. Customers would ask me if they really worked. If I was feeling particularly bold, I would respond with "Do you believe they work? That's 90% of their usefulness."

Most customers would laugh, and say something about a sucker being born every minute. But the True Believers would always look disappointed with that answer. So I would then sell them an expensive bag of special crystals and a book about where to bury the crystals around their house in order to improve their overall sense of optimism and well-being.

(I don't need to buy an audio file to simulate Hell, since I'm probably going there....)

Anyway, these digital drugs are something different and evil. We're talking about sounds that can replicate the experience and sensations of LSD, crack cocaine, and heroin ! ! ! !

It's just a matter of time before a politician decides we need government intervention.

I'm betting that the first one to do so will be a Democrat. Anyone think otherwise?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Free Association Friday, belated Saturday edition

Way back in October, I went out on a limb and predicted this.  The current presidential election will probably cost $1,000,000,000.00

If these hunches keep paying off, someone is going to make a fortune during football season.

Thanks to Robert Love for for the link. He's got a great general economics blog, and I wish he would post more often. 

Robert has also posted a link to an interactive graphic that ran on the New York Times site that shows how they calculate the consumer price index. If you go there and spend less than five minutes clicking on the various pieces of the pie, then you have the soul of a ditch-digger. Almost any category of stuff you could purchase for a household is inside that pie, growing and shrinking every day.  Mr. Love notes that "consumers spend the same amount (about 1% of total) on cable service as on doctor visits. The portion of consumer spending allotted to "computers" has declined 12% year-on-year."   Possibly because most of us now own one. 

Speaking of how some costs decline while others go through the roof.... Wal-Mart never gets enough credit for holding down inflation. Yes, the squeeze their suppliers. Yes, they don't pay their employees a penny more than they have to. And yes, especially for those at lower income levels, a lot of people are better off because of it. Not all of us can afford to shop at places with 600 kinds of cheese.

I've held onto this next link for a few months, waiting on a place to use it. Wal-Mart has been accused of a lot of things, but this one is a first: Someone named Peter Flaherty has accused Wal-Mart of being too liberal and politically correct. Let me try typing that again, just to be sure my fingers won't explode. Wal-Mart is too liberal and politically correct. Wal-Mart is too liberal and politically correct. Wow.

Speaking of Political Correctness, Dr. Rowan Williams - the Archbishop of Canterbury - recently declared that Christian doctrine is offensive to Muslims.  Here's Andrew Ian Dodge at Dodgeblogium:

Dr Rowan Williams also criticised Christianity’s history for its violence, its use of harsh punishments and its betrayal of its peaceful principles.

Muslims would probably get worked up over that.  The Spanish Inquisition and The Crusades are a major distraction from Allah's work of hijacking airliners, hand amputations, clitoridectomies, stoning adulterers, executing apostates, and all-around jihad.   

As a Baptist, I'm often offended by the Methodist practice of "sprinkling" converts, instead of total immersion.  If someone blows up a Wesleyan Student Center anytime soon, well, that means they finally pushed me too far. 

But getting back to Dr. Rowan Williams.... Perry de Havilland of Samizdata had this brilliant quote about the Anglican Archbishop last year.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is like a compass-that-faces-south... always wrong but useful nevertheless because as long as he is dependably wrong, he can still be used when plotting a course.

I used to send emails copies of any of my Ultra-Libertarian posts, in hopes that they'd add me to their blogroll.  I never succeeded.  I eventually started groveling and wrote an epic poem entitled "Whoring For Links":

But before I posted it, without warning, Perry linked to something I wrote about the new trend for locally grown food.  So I put this online anyway:

When I began this little blog
To dissipate the Statist fog,
And fight against Bill Clinton’s bride,
My other goal was to provide
A Libertarian Intifada,
So I could be on Samizdata.

I said Thomas Sowell’s great!!
And criticized the Nanny State !!
I said Hayek’s pretty cool !!
And called Lou Dobbs a freakin’ fool !!
Yet all’s in vain because there’s not a
Single link from Samizdata.

I’m on Carnivals Galore,
Plus Satan’s Ho and Soobdujore.
Texas papers let me shine,
And so did Baptist friends of mine.
But there’s just one Big Enchilada,
That Limey blogroll - Samizdata.

I quoted Popper and Von Mises,
Laughed at those who think they’re Jesus,
I quoted Friedman (who’s now dead),
Plus, “Atlas Shrugged” and “Fountainhead”.
I get hits, but links? No, Nada.
Still no links from Samizdata..

But now I lay me down for sleeping,
And pray the Lord my soul is keeping,
‘Cause if I die before I’m waking
The Lord can have my soul for taking
To Heaven, Hell, or other strata,
My Blog is now on Samizdata !

But they still haven't added me to their blogroll.  What a bunch of ungrateful British pigs.  If it weren't for FDR and the Lend-Lease act, they'd all be speaking German.  And what kind of self-respecting nation still has Kings and Queens, anyway????  They should evolve into a pure democracy like us, so they can vote for their head of state.  What happens in their system if the next monarch turns out to be a total idjit? 

Which gets us back around to the beginning. 

Boy, I'm glad we'll have a chance to spend $1,000,000,000.00 to narrow our choice down to....Barack Obama or John McCain. 

The Real Minimum Wage And Its Beneficiaries

The phrase "minimum wage law" contains an inherent contradiction. You can't raise the minimum wage. The minimum wage has always been zero, and it always will be zero. Wrap your head around the implications of that, and, as Jesus said, you're getting very close to the kingdom of God.

I was looking for a chart to show what I meant. The simplest one I could find, thanks to Robert Love, contained a cat.
Here's an excerpt from Voters Mandate That More Teenagers Remain Unemployed, posted at The Libertarian Party of Colorado blog.

The Denver-area inflation rate for the first half of the year was 3.7 percent, propelled by rising energy costs.
It’s not just another economic statistic: Thanks to a 2006 ballot issue, Colorado uses the measure to set the state’s minimum wage.
Now $7.02, the minimum wage will increase Jan. 1 to $7.28, the Rocky Mountain News calculates, based on the Colorado Department of Labor’s rules.

Combine that with fun fact #2. Many long term union contracts are tied to a specific multiple of the minimum wage. That's why they lobby so hard for increased minimums.

Fun fact #3. Many government contracts specify that all workers must be paid the "prevailing wage" for each profession in that area. This wage is often expressed as a multiple of the minimum. (This is another way of stating that no government project manager will ever have to spend any significant time looking for a good deal.)

Fun fact #4. Cost Of Government Day (how long the nation has to work each year to pay for all government spending) was on July 16th in 2008.

So what does all this mean?

It means that the comedy team of Reid and Pelosi are doing as much as they can to devalue the dollar. Yes, everyone gets more dollars, but they're only worth fifty cents.

Milton Friedman liked to talk about the four types of spending.

1) When you spend your money on yourself. What you do with the after-tax remains of your money.
2) When you spend your money on other people. What you do when you purchase a birthday present.
3) When you spend other people's money on yourself. What you do with a yearly budget in a "use it or lose it" situation (sorta). What you do when you find a $50 gift certificate on the street. What you do with a government subsidy.
4) When you spend other people's money on other people. Also known as government spending.

These are ranked in order of efficiency, BTW. People make their best money decisions with category #1 decisions. They make their worst decisions in category #4.

The Colorado voters who passed this minimum wage legislation thought they were creating a new category:

5) Forcing other people to spend more money on other people.

They were mistaken. Once inflation is taken into account, they've merely given more power to the people in category #4. And guess which people wind up with most of this money?

Hint: it's not minimum wage earners.

Back to The Libertarian Party of Colorado blog (and I think they might have been inspired by the closing line of this rant at another source....)

Next year the headlines will read "unemployment rises", and the people will never put 2 and 2 together.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

She's Gone

Just a few days ago, we brought our baby daughter home from the hospital. It couldn't have been more than a couple of weeks ago.

I looked up, and she's turned eighteen.

She left for Texas A&M University's orientation/indoctrination/brainwashing "fish camp" around 5:30 this morning.

Reverend Charles Johnson, the interim minister at Broadway Baptist Church, recently told us that grief is another way of saying "something ended too soon". I didn't fully agree with that statement until now.

I think we've done a good job with her. She's polite to her elders, loves animals, has a great sense of humor, knows what she's doing on a guitar, and if you ask her about politics, she consistently says she's a libertarian. People like being around her.

When I went away to college, all of my friends from my hometown drove back home at the first weekend opportunity. They were visibly homesick. Not me.

At that time, I'd had enough of Mississippi rice fields, tractors, and the flat landscape between Drew and Merigold Mississippi. When all of my friends were leaving school to go back home, I gave a friend of mine two bags of dirty laundry and a flat tire to drop off at our farm, and asked him to pick it up on the return trip.

I recognized the same look in my baby girl's eyes this morning. She was ready to be gone. Ready to fly.

Reason TV - The Ethanol Scam

Reason TV has put together a video explaining the ethanol scam.

Thanks to GW at Wolf Howling for posting it first. His commentary is helpful, as usual, so I'm scraping all of it to post here:

This is a good, short video from Reason TV discussing the utter boondoggle of ethanol. It is not a viable alternative to gas. It is driving the cost of food prices through the roof. It is hurting the environment and takes nearly as much energy to produce as it produces in energy when mixed with gasoline. In short, it is hurting America and the world.

That said, the opening scene is a real cheap shot of John McCain of the type I would expect from the NYT. They use old video of him when he supported the idea of ethanol. He long ago changed his position on ethanol, voting against the Farm Bill discussed in the video above and telling the people of Iowa that ethanol subsidies had to end. Mandates need to also.
McCain, unlike many other members of The Party Of Small Government, has since spoken out against the ethanol mandate and subsidy and oughta get some credit in the video.
Click here to read a New York Times piece written when oil was only $50 per barrel and there were not yet any 3rd world food riots. People were starting to figure it out.

I need an OK caption for this picture

I need a Presidential caption for this picture:

Congratulations to Sandersonmom for submitting the best caption last week. In the words of the evaluation committee, "we're just relieved that she can finally get something right". A two dollar donation has been made in her name to The Whited Sepulchre Outreach Ministry And Social Club For Shipping Personnel.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Is A Libertarian?

One of this blog's Serial Commenters recently asked me "What is a Libertarian?"

My off-the-cuff answer was something like this: "You know all the personal freedom issues that the Democrats seem to support, like Gay and Lesbian rights, reform of drug laws, and abortion rights, but never do much about? Libertarians support your right to personal freedom. And all the economic freedom issues that Republicans seem to support, like limited government, free markets, and free trade, but never do much about? Libertarians support your right to economic freedom."

I thought it was an OK answer. There are hundreds of sites out there trying to define libertarianism. This is my shot at doing it. The other question that I get is "Why can't you people ever get elected?"

The difficulty with getting Libertarians elected in the U.S. lies in the very nature of Libertarian beliefs. Imagine every state, county, city, town, and individual in America pouring hog slop into a large communal trough. Let's call this feeding trough "The Treasury".

Various people campaign for the right to stir the swill, and spoon it back out to the states, counties, cities, towns and individuals that contributed it to the trough. Let's call these people "Politicians".

Politicians are considered effective when they can give your hogs more swill than they contributed. They are considered ineffective and corrupt when more of your swill goes to other hogs than back to you.
For instance, Fort Worth TX doesn't need a huge air force base. There is no eminent threat from, say, Oklahoma. But when it came time to downsize the military at the end of The Cold War, politicians from both of the major parties fought the closure of Carswell Air Force Base. It was the leading conduit of hog slop back into the city.

Another good example would be Alaska's infamous Bridge To Nowhere. There was no real need, but that's irrelevant. Ted Stevens, The Alaskan Swineherd (R), was doing his job, and doing it well.

So any group like The Libertarian Party that wants to shrink the hog trough by 90% is going to have a hard time raising funds. Libertarians don't want to throw any graft your way. No lucrative contracts, no subsidies, no quotas, no set-asides. Very few people understand that the savings would be massive, the economy would boom, the displaced government workers would have a relatively easy time finding employment, but perhaps have a difficult time finding employment that's as easy.

Here's the Wikipedia entry on Libertarianism. Note that it's synonymous with "Classical Liberal", a fact that I had a good time with on this post. Liberal is a good, honorable word, and we need to reclaim it from the Big Statists.

Here's some attempts at a definition from The Cato Institute. Good folks.

Here's The World's Shortest Political Quiz - a chart that lets you see where you fit on two different political continuums. It's also one of The World's Most Biased Political Quizzes, since most of the people who take it test out as libertarian, but they don't vote that way.

Here's a link to a better than average sampling of libertarian vs. collectivist quotes. Here are a few contrasting examples, provided as a public service:

"Among other grand achievements, F. A. Hayek had a remarkable career pointing out the flaws in collectivism. One of his keenest insights was that, paradoxically, any collectivist system necessarily depends on one individual (or small group) to make key social and economic decisions. In contrast, a system based on individualism takes advantage of the aggregate, or 'collective,' information of the whole society; through his actions each participant contributes his own particular, if incomplete, knowledge—information that could never be tapped by the individual at the head of a collectivist state." -- Sheldon Richman

"A man's admiration for absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him"-- Alexis de Tocqueville

"The unity of a nation's spirit and will are worth far more than the freedom of the spirit and will of an individual; and that the higher interests involved in the life of the whole must here set the limits and lay down the duties of the interests of the individual." -- Adolph Hitler

"We need to stop worrying about the rights of the individual and start worrying about what is best for society." -- Hillary Clinton

"...we understand only the individual's capacity to make sacrifices for the community, for his fellow men." -- Adolf Hitler, 10-7-33

"We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good." -- Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, June 28, 2004.

"To be a socialist is to submit the I to the thou; socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole." -- Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, National Socialist German Workers' ("Nazi") Party
Thanks to the Middle Class Myth blog for the photo of piggies at the trough. Thanks to Sheldon Richman and de Tocqueville for the great Libertarian quotes. Deeply heartfelt thanks to Hillary and various Nazis for the excellent Collectivist quotes.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Doctors Against Sharp Pieces Of Metal That Don't Have A Blunt Round Nose, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I posted something about British doctors lobbying to eliminate kitchen knives.

Here's an excerpt from the BBC article:

One idea, first proposed in 2005, is a response to a grisly mundane truth expressed by Met chief Ian Blair this week - that "the most common knife involved in these deaths is a knife from a kitchen".
The proposal came from three emergency medicine specialists, and it's a simple one: getting rid of the points on the ends of longer kitchen knives

Now, since the grisly beheading of a Greyhound bus passenger, the Canadians are making similar proposals. (Even if you know all about the beheading, go ahead and hit that link. I bet you didn't know that God allowed the beheading to take place because Canada has legalized same-sex marriage, did you?)

According to The Toronto Sun....

Some of our parliamentarians have been getting a bit too much sun during their summer holidays.
That's the only explanation for the discussion by some opposition MPs about the possible introduction of a knife registry, following the gruesome, fatal attack on a Greyhound bus passenger late last month.

You've got to ask yourself this question: What the hell are they thinking? There are millions and millions of knives in Canada. Canadians go hunting. Canadians cook things. Canadians cut ropes. Canadians are ready and able to cut just about anything but their ties to England. (Sometimes I think they would've done that years ago, if it wouldn't mean a victory for the French-Canadians.)

Here's Kerry Thompson again, writing for the Toronto Sun:

A knife registry? Really? What would I have to declare, paring knives, a bread knife, the plastic knife I used to put tuna on crackers while I was having lunch at work the other day?
Most knives are sharp. That helps them serve their purpose, you know, to cut things. There would be no way to single out knives that are used for hunting and ones used to cut chicken for that stir-fry you're making for dinner. Or ones used to, say, kill people?

Now we get to the good part. Doesn't Canada already have a gun registry? Here's Thompson again:

I'm not going to say the gun registry has turned out well, but I think there's a need to register firearms. But knives? In terms of dollars, if you think the gun registry went over budget (ballooning to $1 billion from an estimated $2 million), try to imagine the cost to register millions of knives (how many come in each new set of flatware from Ikea alone?) in this country.

The freakin' gun registry budget went from $2,000,000 all the way up to $1,000,000,000 ? How often do people get budgets wrong by that many orders of magnitude? Have you ever taken your car to in for repairs, gotten a $200 dollar estimate, and then gotten a bill for $10,000 ? (I think I got those ratios right.)

Here's more Kerry Thompson, who stated above that there's a need to register firearms, even if "the gun registry has not turned out well". This is the second thing that Thompson gets wrong:

This is clearly a problem of some politicians failing to think before they speak, something they're known to do from time to time. In this case, the summer sun obviously got to them.

No, Mr. or Ms. Thompson, your politicians knew exactly what they were doing. They once sold you a two million dollar gun registry, and charged you a billion dollars for it. You, for one, obviously bent over and took it. You're a journalist who can't find a way to speak out against your country's Victim Disarmament Laws.

Now, they're coming back for another billion. Yes, billion. And we're talking about valuable Canadian currency, not the USA play dollars that are already devalued from being overcommitted to political schemes like this one.

This is about expanded government control and expanded government revenue, nothing more.

And if you need to have something cut, mail it to me.