Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rand Paul's reading list

I've got high hopes for newly elected Senator Rand Paul, despite his unfortunate alignment with the Boehner Boehlout Roehpublicans. 
Every time I've heard him speak or read his interviews, I come across familiar, comforting phrases and concepts. 
I think the guy is libertarian to the core. 

I just picked up a copy of his new book, The Tea Party Goes To Washington. 
The "suggestions for further reading" in the back look like they were written by someone trying to get more Karma for his Libertarian Reddit account. 
Seriously.  Nobody's reading list is this perfect.  Well, there are a few outliers....

If you're looking for a good place to start learning about the libertarian philosophy and movement, you could do a lot worse than this list.  Man, can you imagine discussing this stuff with Dr. Ron Paul around the dinner table every night? 
Here's what he lists under "Must-read classics in the cause of liberty":
  • The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich A. Hayek
  • The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry Goldwater
  • Human Action, Ludwig von Mises
  • Conceived in Liberty, Murray N. Rothbard
  • Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
Some of you might quibble with the inclusion of Barry Goldwater, but I think Goldwater gains admission to the pantheon of great libertarians because of his firm stance against the theocrats of the religious right.  His quip that "Every good Christian should line up and kick Jerry Falwell's ass" was some sound advice that fell on deaf ears. 

Rand Paul's next reading category proves that he is, after all, his daddy's boy:
  • The Revolution: A Manifesto, Ron Paul
  • End the Fed, Ron Paul
  • A Foreign Policy Of Freedom, Ron Paul
The Foreign Policy title is almost unknown, but I wish more Libertarians would check it out.  It took some guts to write that thing at the time Dr. Paul wrote it.  His advice that the U.S. should mind its own business wasn't and isn't popular among Republicans, Democrats, Defense Contractors, or anyone else whose wealth depends on us periodically going overseas to blow up brown people. 

Next, he lists some economics titles:
  • Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse, Thomas E. Woods Jr.
  • The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal, Robert P. Murphy
  • Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure, Glenn Beck
  • Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt
Why do Libertarians concern themselves so much with economics?  Because they know that debt restricts freedom.  They know that taking money from productive people and giving it to political parasites restricts freedom.  And Libertarians don't like restrictions. 
A brief aside about Glenn Beck and his inclusion....I can't watch his TV program without dosing off, although he often quotes many of the writers listed here.  His "weepiness in front of the chalkboard schtick" exhausts me.  His books look like they are formatted by the same people who produce middle school Social Studies textbooks, and that format makes my eyes hurt.  But I've browsed his "Broke" a couple of times, and can't find anything in there to disagree with.  Even a blind hog can sometimes find an acorn. 

Next are some titles about how the Constitution relates to the Tea Party, and vice-versa:
  • Who Killed The Constitution?: The Fate of American Liberty from World War I to George W. Bush, Thomas E. Woods Jr. and Kevin R.C. Gutzman
  • The Constitution in Exile: How the Federal Government Has Seized Power by Rewriting the Supreme Law of the Land, Andrew P. Napolitano
  • Red State Uprising: How to Take America Back, Erick Erickson and Lewis K. Uhler
  • The Last Best Hope: Restoring Conservatism and America's Promise, Joe Scarborough
If you've never set up a Libertarian Party Booth at a Tea Party rally and discussed the constitutionality of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, well, you've missed a controversial afternoon.  If memory serves, the Woods and Napolitano titles deal with this issue, but I'm not familiar with the other two.  Let's just say that there are a lot of people who call themselves economic conservatives who think Jefferson, Madison and Monroe woulda loved the idea of an entrenched welfare state. 

Here are Rand Paul's suggestions for Foreign Policy reading:
  • The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, Andrew J. Bacevich
  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, Chalmers Johnson
  • Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror, Michael Scheuer
  • Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency, Patrick J. Buchanan
  • Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914, Stanley Weintraub
I've only read Blowback, by the late Chalmers Johson, Silent Night, and the Pat Buchanan title.  Blowback is greatness.  Buchanan is good on the evils of an American Empire, IMAO, but he wants to turn us into something like Feudal China when it comes to foreign trade. 
My little brother, the history prof, turned me onto the Silent Night book a while back.  If you aren't familiar with the Xmas Truce of 1914, it's a beautiful story.  The troops on both sides of the trenches said "screw this", played soccer, made toasts, swapped a few presents, and just generally hung out and wondered why they were trying to kill each other.  The next day, the mindless slaughter resumed.   

Ok, here are some of Rand Paul's suggested Websites and Organizations:
  • Cato Institute
  • The Heritage Foundation
  • Campaign for Liberty
  • Young Americans for Liberty
  • The Ludwig von Mises Institute
  • and several others
I don't have time to look up links all night, but you can Google them.  The Cato and von Mises folks make me look like Harry Reid.  Hard-core libertarian to the core. 
And finally, Paul lists several other people, thanking them for permission to quote from their original material.  Included are:
  • Peter Schiff
  • Matt Welch (of Reason magazine)
When it comes to freedom and liberty, those two guys are greatness. 

So....I think we can safely say that Senator Rand Paul is a Libertarian.  That's a great reading list, and I hope you'll check out some of the books he listed.  Good, good stuff. 

Pictures from the Collusion Banquet

"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." - Adam Smith, The Wealth Of Nations

I can think of no sane reason for the guy to Mark Zuckerberg's left to bring all of these people together.

You might not be familiar with John Doerr, of Kleiner-Perkins.  He heads up the venture capital firm that's behind Al Gore's quest to make the government (and you) purchase a lot of unnecessary crap that's painted green.  Steve Westly, the guy with his back to you, is in charge of an outfit called The Westly Group, another clean energy venture capital firm.  Before that he was Chief Financial Officer Of The State Of California. 

God knows what this dinner will wind up costing taxpayers. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Borders Books - Burleson Texas, R.I.P. We'll miss you, but don't ask for a bailout

Dang it, dang it, dang it. 
Border's Books has declared bankruptcy. 

They're closing 200 stores, one of which is their Burleson/I-35 store where I've spent many a lunch break.  I got to hear one of my alt-country heroes, Deryl Dodd, play an acoustic show in their coffee bar during the store's grand opening.  (I'm typing this in that same Border's coffee bar, BTW.) 

They're also closing their 30,000 square foot monster store on Preston Road in Dallas.  I used to run stores for Bookstop/Barnes and Noble, and that Border's store kicked my Preston/Forest Bookstop's rear end.  Hard.  Bookstop couldn't compete on selection or service, and couldn't beat them by very much on price.  It was ugly.   

(Full Disclosure:  I left Bookstop because of illness and fatigue.  They got sick and tired of me.)

The Preston Road Border's has great sales but is probably burdened with rent from hell.  Oh well.  They're closing it.   

The Fort Worth Hulen/I-30 store looks safe for now (congratulations, Jackie G.!) as does the south Arlington location. 

Gary Hoover founded Bookstop, sold it to Barnes and Noble, and went on to create business data provider
Gary (once my boss's boss's boss) also doubts that Border's will survive:

Now, the survival of Borders depends on the financial stability of the company, the ability to secure interim funding (GE Capital has promised $505 million in financing) and the willingness of publishers to supply books, Hoover said. But in retailing, unlike the airline industry, it’s uncommon for a company to emerge from bankruptcy, he said.

“If the same management team who has been running it the last several months stays in place, it is only a matter of time until they close up completely. But whether that is six months or six years depends on many variables,”
That's not a vote of confidence. 

I  love books.  I keep them stacked in dangerous piles on my bedside table, I keep them in unlikely piles on my truck seat, and I have various books "started" at my mother's house, my sister's house, a church library, and in two different vehicles.  Until my eyes went bad, I had books beside the bathtub.  (Reading glasses fog up in hot water.) 

I'm sure that I'll eventually get a Kindle or a Nook, but I'm fighting it. 

I'm the same way with CD's.  They're all over the bedroom, leaking by the dozens out of a bookcase across from the bed.  I can't quite go digital.  I don't trust any electronic device with my stuff.  Do a Google search on "symptoms of old age" for more details. 

The Aggie hasn't bought a CD in 6 years.  The main draw at Border's Preston used to be the massive CD selection.  It's now dwindled to a few lonely rows. 


Name an industry worthy of a bailout.  Explain why. 

Did you pick Border's?  Would you be willing to prop up a failing business model and product line with your own money?  Would you take that risk? 
Did you pick Chrysler?  Would you be willing to prop up a failing business model and product line with your own money?  Would you take that risk? 
Did you pick a bank or a Wall Street firm?  Blah? Blah? Blah? Blah?  Would you encourage them to carry on as usual with your money? 

If Texas Governor Rick Perry were to intervene and throw a hundred million taxpayer dollars to the Texas Border's stores because they were "too big too fail", would it give you a warm and runny feeling?  What if he did it to "save and create jobs"?  Would that work for you? 

I didn't think so. 

The marketplace has spoken, which is another way of saying that YOU have spoken.  Rick Perry doesn't know any more about Bookselling than John Boehlout Boehner knew about Wall Street or banks.  There is no difference.  For capitalism to work, government can't support any form of screw-uppery. 
There came a time when the last American Buggy Whip manufacturer had to close its doors.
Ditto for Betamaxes, Edsels, the TRS-80 computers, the Commodore 360's and my beloved Sour Lemon "Now and Laters" candy. 
Within 5 years you won't be able to purchase a new car with a CD player in the dashboard. 

I'm betting that within 10 years, you'll be able to approach some sort of device in any public place and access all of your "stuff" - work, health, movies, music, books, email, pictures, and things we can't even imagine.  Maybe the device will even be portable.
Oh, wait a minute....that has already happened.  I'm typing this on a contraption called a "laptop".  You may have heard of them.  And they've almost killed the filing cabinet industry, the movie rental industry, Virgin Music Megastores, Border's Books, the U.S. Mail, and Eastman/Kodak, and the IBM Selectric typewriter, and World Book Encyclopedias, and the career of Dan Rather.

I used to think that one day I would write a book.  And if it was really good, maybe 3 or 4 thousand people would read it.  I called it my dream.  Now, because of this website, that's not called a dream, it's called.... "Friday".  Or "Monday".  I now reach more people every day than my hometown Sunflower County News used to reach in a week.  The dinosaurs have died out, but the possums lived on....

But I'll miss the Border's in Burleson.  (At the risk of sounding totally contrived and corny, they've already closed the cafe at the Border's Burleson, where I'm typing this, but the Wi-Fi has still been working.  The staff just came by, thanked us for our support, and told us that they're about to turn off the wireless internet.  For good.  I'm switching over to a Sprint/Nextel aircard....speaking of devices that need to be replaced QUICKLY with something better.) 

Heck, you're reading the words of somebody who violently resisted the switch from 8-tracks to cassettes. 

This is what has to happen in order for things to improve.  Dammit. 

The picture of the Debt Star came from here. 

The Mississippi Delta Blues - Ed LaMastus

One of my co-workers claims that I use the LaMastus family on these pages the same way that country comedian Jerry Clower used the Ledbetter family. 
In other words, if a story is already too bizarre for reality, I sprinkle some LaMastuses around it to take it all the way over the edge. 

Hit this link for a couple of my favorites. 

They lived a couple of farms over from us and had three boys about the same ages as my three younger siblings.  Eddie, Alan, and Trent (the EAT Boys).  We went on several vacations together, went hunting together, our parents would play cards together, and Mama and Arlas LaMastus would sometimes get together and cook enough animals to fill the Fort Worth Zoo. 

That's Alan, Eddie, and Trent from left to right. 
We once went on a trip someplace in the early 1970's, and Ed, the LaMastus patriarch, brought his guitar with him.  I remember going outside one night and listening to Ed play and sing Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson", and thinking it was the coolest thing I'd ever experienced.  Just being able to sit down and accompany yourself like that. 
A few years later, "Mrs. Robinson" was one of the first songs I learned. 

Here's Ed LaMastus on YouTube, doing "Mississippi Delta Blues".  The photographs are by #2 son, Alan Lamastus.  If this doesn't make you want to go to the Delta and eat some decent catfish, then it can't be done.  Get thee to a mall food court, and take your place amongst the Philistines where you belong. 
Lord have mercy, I love this. 

If you live in the Delta and need a photographer, go here to see some more samples from the Alan LaMastus Photography website.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Think of this when you hear how many jobs a government project is going to create

Here's something I've been pondering for the last few weeks. 

My employer, Jukt Micronics, is about to lease a new mega-warehouse.  My boss and I have been working on the deal for a couple of months. 
We already have several warehouses and had to justify the deal to the company owners, and to our president, Marvel Variants

(On one of our tours of the facility, Mr. Variants took this pic of me lounging at the spot where I hope to take my lunch breaks.  I consider it to be one of the greatest Libertarian portraits ever produced, and I hope the jury will remember this deed when Variants is put on trial for ripping off comic book geeks.)

Anyway, to justify the new warehouse, my boss and I had to determine how many forklifts we could eliminate.  The lease at this space is less per square foot than one of our other locations, so that helped.  We figured out how much time we could save by consolidating some locations.  The calculations for how much we would save on fuel took up a couple of days. 

Here's the big one, the one that probably closed the deal for us....
We won't have to hire as many people. 

I repeat - we won't have to hire as many people. 

I think my employers have a good relationship with their employees.  In years past, they've actually gone to the bank to borrow money so they could give Christmas bonuses!!  But the process of purchasing labor from people is only a means to an end, and that end is to provide display fixtures to grocery stores in exchange for money.  We do not have a goal of saving and creating jobs. 

(Otherwise, we would lobby for the government to outlaw forklifts and trucks.  Think of all the jobs that would save or create.) 

Now, think of the yammering you hear when Congressman Felcher is trying to justify a new project in his district. 

This new Perpetual Motion Facility will bring 1,397 new jobs to North Texas ! 
Our investment in Bottled Fairy Flatulence will employ 257 citizens of the D/FW area ! 
The Porkulus Plan has saved or created 2 million jobs since 2009 ! 

And on and on and on.   The higher the number, the more likely the boondoggle will come into being, right? 

So if you had control of your tax money had an extra $15,000, and wanted to invest it in a place that would use it wisely, where would you put it? 
Would you want to give the money to John Boehlout Boehner and The Teleprompter Jesus so they could hire as many people as possible?  Even if a lot of those people are just standing around or doing busywork?
Or would you want to invest it in a project that was trying to use the money as efficiently as possible? 
How much more would you be willing to pay for a computer that was produced by 6,000 people instead of 4,000 ??

One last question....Since Washington is now infested with Keynesian economists who are trying to stimulate the economy by "creating jobs", is there any doubt in your mind why our economy is in the tank? 

Leave employers alone to fight it out and compete.  Stop using tax money to fund insanity.  The entrepreneurs, not the Community Organizers, will come up with the best use for it.  The jobs and the prosperity will follow. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From the emails of The Blogfather

From an email sent to Glenn Reynolds....

Reader Geoff Lackey emails: “You’ve been writing about this lately, so I thought I’d pass this on: Yesterday, about a week after Verizon announced its iphone data plans, AT&T notified me that the size of my data plan was now doubled (2GB up to 4GB) with no rate increase. Wow, this free-market competition stuff kinda works. Someone tell Obama.”

Is there any doubt that opening up the medical/pharmaceutical monopolies to some unregulated competition would help with costs?  Give me a choice between something that Joehn Boehner and Barack Obama have regulated and a product with an "unregulated" sticker on it at a lower price?  Guess which one I'm picking. 

Lord have mercy, I love Glenn Reynolds' site (Instapundit).  From now on, Mr. Reynolds shall be known as "The Blogfather". 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Have you ever noticed....?

I have no idea where I'm headed with this. 
I have no idea what it means. 

Let's assume that all of our Pledges Of Allegiance, Flags, National Anthems and other such things are merely an overgrown expression of something like school spirit.  Mostly because they are. 

Have you ever noticed that those most likely to support every government program - spending, Medicare, Medicaid, public schools, environmental regulation, quotas, etc. - are sometimes least likely to fly the flag in front of their house, least likely to put a flag bumpersticker on their car, or wear a patriotic T-shirt?

And the people who want to shut down 50% of the government don't think twice about wearing patriotic garb?    And will show up at an anti-government rally dressed like Uncle Sam?  And get p.o.'d when kids don't take off their hats during the national anthem? 

What's up with that? 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Where to cut the Federal budget

The chatterers were breaking out in rashes, boils, and stigmata on yesterday morning's political talk shows. 
We have a 14 trillion dollar debt. 
This year's budget deficit will be 1.5 trillion or so. 
The primary amusement on Meet The Press yesterday was David Gregory trying to get John Boehlout Boehner to admit that he would do anything significant, anything at all, to improve the situation.
We are broke, broke, broke.  End of story. 

Obama has proposed a plan that will chop 1.1 trillion from the deficit (not the debt, just the yearly deficit) over a ten year period. 
Good lord in heaven, can you imagine what that hole will look like ten years from now? 

Here's a chart on where they're doing the spending.  Or at least where it is budgeted.  Various politicians are slowly coming to terms with the fact that our military couldn't survive an audit. 

I'm a shipping manager.  I have no background in economics.  But I read a lot.  The path we're on is very well marked.  Would it hurt us to stop borrowing from China and expecting our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to pay all this back? 

We could confiscate every penny from the infamous top 5%, and use the money to continue paying for Bridges To The 21st Century, for "Investments" In Infrastructure, and Winning The Future. 
All it would do is continue to scare the Bejeebers out of anyone considering investing here.  Including you. 

Let's start at the top of the dial, and work our way around the chart. 

In the top right corner, we have Social Security.  Is there anyone who thinks Social Security will be around in 25 years?  Anyone?  Anybody?  Didn't think so.  It's broke as the 10 Commandments.  What would be so horrible about continuing to pay the current retirees with money from the Chinese Benevolence Fund, and taper off the expected payments to, say, everyone under 50 ?  Raise the payoff age to 70.  That would get the life expectancy-to-payoff-ratio close to where it was when FDR got drunk and came up with this scheme. 

Next we have the Department Of Israel, South Korea, Germany and The Philippines Defense (from the 2:00 to 4:00 section of the chart).  We have more military than the rest of the world combined.  China is in 2nd place, and our military is six times larger than theirs.  Cut the military by 50%.  Bring the remaining boys and girls back to the house.  Defend the borders.  Do you think our manufactured products might be more attractive to the rest of the world if Asian manufacturers had to pay a little more in taxes to provide for their own defense? 

From 4:00 to 7:00, we have a mis-named category called "Unemployment, Welfare, and Other Mandatory Spending".  Save it for the mentally ill, the injured, and the elderly.  Give everyone else a bumpersticker that says "Don't Breed 'Em If You Can't Feed 'Em."  Think of how much private charity would be available if we didn't have to funnel so much aid and assistance through the current collection of inefficient government programs.  I'm all for compassion, and when I'm old and broke and feeble, I hope someone gives me some.  I just don't want to force anyone to do so. 

From 7:00 to 9:00 we have Medicare and Medicaid.  Go here for a Free Market proposal to cut medical costs in half.  Stop protecting the medical and pharmaceutical monopolies with regulators and barriers to entry.  Open up the market to more competitors and watch the costs go down.  It worked for telephone service (now almost free) and air travel (thank you, Jimmy Carter) and trucking (thank you again, Jimmy Carter). 

At the 9:00 mark, we have interest on the national debt.  Let's stop borrowing. 

These are the categories that our politicians have previously regarded as "untouchable", "off the table", and "the 3rd rail of American politics".  They are also the only areas big enough to cut and make a difference. 

Can anyone think of any other ways to get out of this mess? 

The piper is coming, and he wants to get paid.  Please hurry. 

Oh, one other thing....Any politician who doesn't favor nuking the Departments of Energy, Agriculture and Education is not a serious person.