Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

26 June 2009

Gov. Mark Sanford

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is a curious mixture of libertarian and conservative political ideas. His concepts of family life as publicly espoused are based upon common moral viewpoints of the Christian religion. It has become a major news story that this man who has been recently in the news for rejecting bailout money and his libertarian/conservative fiscal viewpoint has violated the Christian moral idea of marriage. Indeed, he has. This does show him to be a hypocrite.

But, all Christians are sinners. Some sin worse than others. At least Mark Sanford was not one of the common breed of governors who believes in hugely expanded government with all the additional use of force that entails to select the people's values for them and to force them to live their lives in accordance with those selected values. So, he is a sinner as an adulterer in accordance with his own stated moral principles, but these are impractical principles from a religion which frankly says they are impractical. That religion does not say that a politician has to lust mightily for power and to thwart the free will of the people, yet most of our politicians do just that. Compared to them, Mark Sanford is just a little sinner.

Judged by a more rational moral code than that of Christianity, it is not clear that his loving an Argentinian woman was immoral at all. Perhaps she is worthy of his love. We do know that she had long been a friend and that this was unlikely to have been a casual love. This may be a very genuine and deserved love and Mark Sanford may love his wife also, for all I know.

I can say that he should not accept the conventional Christian morality as being moral, but many people have that fault. Pretty much every politician claims to accept it, at least for the most part. This is also a fault of the people who elect politicians to office. We are hardly likely to see anything better in a democracy.

Clearly, he did fail to perform a duty as Governor of the state of South Carolina by disappearing and not staying in touch with the state government apparatus. It is fair and appropriate to take note of this.

In the end, this is another illustration of why even very capable and thinking people cannot live in accordance with Christian morality, which is inappropriate for human beings living on this earth. We all have an obligation to ourselves, to those we love, and to those we wish to live with in a civilized nation, to discover a rational moral code for life appropriate to human beings in the real world. Mark Sanford may be a tragically damaged man due to his and many Americans holding a much less than rational moral code for life.

Loving Good People

A college student asked me today what I think of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a blended libertarian-conservative, who has confessed to scandalous behavior in the form of an affair with a woman other than his wife. My answer to that question will only make sense in the context of the discussion to follow.

The common morality in America today allows a man to love his mother and his father. It allows him to love as many brothers and sisters as he may have. It allows him to love one unrelated woman and as many children and grandchildren as he may have. In other words, you are allowed to love anyone closely related to you, but no more then one person, and that a woman, who is not related to you.

This common morality had its basis in a religion that believes in one and only one god, a god doomed never to have any equal or near equal to love. This god was never to have the intellectual stimulation of discussions with another great and interesting mind. This god was never to have a worthy lover to love and never to know the heaven of love and sex with that worthy lover. Yet somehow we are said to be made in his image, while yet we are both beings thrilled by the quest for knowledge and sharing it with others and eager lovers as sexual beings. Yet also, we are said to be but sheep compared to the Lord, even as we know sheep to be peculiarly dumb, uninteresting, and helpless animals. So, we are at once made in the image of God, yet we are as dumb, uninteresting, and helpless as sheep in his eyes. This must be incredibly frustrating in his eyes. We can be no consolation to the supreme loneliness of such a being. To be God would surely be an eternal torture. And being so tortured, perhaps He has been cruel in providing man with a morality which is not suitable to man in his quest to live life as man on this earth.

Perhaps man should take it upon himself to establish that morality which will serve as useful principles for a man living on this earth and usually among other humans, many of whom are intelligent, productively helpful, and respectful and supportive of others living their lives. Man, unlike God does not live forever. Man must use his mind in order to provide himself, through considerable work and application of that mind, with the means to enjoy a rich, healthy, and secure life on an earth full of powerful natural forces and other life striving in its interest sometimes against the interest of man. Then again, man must have moral principles suitable for guiding his interactions with many other men and women. These are not the problems of God, so why should one think God can guide man in dealing with them? It makes no more sense to turn to a mythological God for one's morality than it makes sense to turn to a celibate priest for marriage counseling.

This is an unorthodox manner of addressing the issue of who it is appropriate morally for a man to love. But, you cannot get to the correct moral result through the traditional beliefs of religion, which cannot even prove that God exists. More and more, Americans are not very serious about Christianity or the religion of the Hebrews. Yet, they flounder on in the general moral beliefs left as legacies of those religious systems. Most people try at least half-heartedly to live within the construct of those old religious moral beliefs and, not surprisingly, most fail to do a good job of it. They fail so badly that Christianity made it a teaching that no one could live in accordance with its morality, that all were sinners. The very Christian leaders who developed the tenets of Christianity have often been particularly notable for their own sins, as measured against their stated beliefs. St. Augustine and a great many Popes being excellent examples.

Some of the shortcomings of the idea that a man can love only one woman not closely related to him are very obvious. First, many married couples have one or two of them engaged in extramarital affairs during the marriage. At some point as many marriages as not are ended, so the erstwhile couple can find another person to couple up with. There are many marriages in which one member falls in love with someone not in the marriage and the spouse reacts in great anger that they are no longer loved or that their spouse has been unfaithful. Well, in the context of the old religious morality the unfaithfulness is the case. But tragically, it often is not the case that one is unloved simply because one's spouse has come to love someone else also. But, in this primitive religious morality (in its modern version, not its older traditions), the non-monogamous spouse of a marriage is thrown out and assumed immoral simply for loving more than one person not related to him or her.

The morality of love follows from whether the person loved is worthy of being loved by the one who is doing the loving. But, this is not a simple matter to figure out. If the one loving is a very intelligent, productive, nice, interesting, rational, and sensitive person, then each and every person he comes to know who is worthy of his love is a treasure and he will not find many such people. If the one doing the loving is fairly average, then many are worthy of his love and one can understand why conventional morality would tend to say that chaos will result from all the couplings and the likely instabilities in family life which will result. Social pressures to reduce sexually spread diseases and to keep spouses from spending all of their time in bars trying to pick someone up tend to push people toward a general preference for monogamous relationships. So, there is an ongoing conflict between men and women finding others of great interest to them, or sometimes just a bit of interest, and wanting sex outside of marriage and a desire to keep sexual events outside of marriage under some level of control.

But, the unusually intelligent, rational, nice, sensitive, and interesting person who finds someone similarly extraordinary cannot morally be condemned for loving them. In fact, probably no one should be condemned for loving someone who is nearly their equal. Personally, they are doing nothing wrong. They are responding appropriately to the good human qualities of others, though those qualities are less and less good as they fall toward the average or less than the average. But, it is not the fact that someone loves more than one person nearly their equal which we should be condemning.

My primary interest returns however to the extraordinarily intelligent, rational, nice, sensitive, and interesting people. Perhaps conventional morality is as good as it is going to get for conventional people. But the extraordinary person should be free to offer justice, respect, admiration, pleasure, and intimacy to those few others who are extraordinary. If this person is married, they do have obligations to keep and loyalties to maintain. But, these do not necessarily translate into an exclusive right to love or even to sexual relations. They do require that one continue to provide the support of a marriage partner, which in most cases should include love and sexual relations. Circumstances might arise in which divorce is appropriate, but often the extraordinary person has loved and married another extraordinary person and there is no reason that either should stop loving the other.

Yes, conventional morality says that should one spouse have sexual relations outside the marriage, the couple should split up. This in fact very often makes no rational sense. In fact couples often have had long histories of great happiness with one another and have long been good life partners in many things to one another. This should not be forgotten in the light of one of them perhaps coming to love someone else in addition to their spouse. Those married for some time have made many investments in their human and personal capital in coming to know one another, learning to get along with one another, learning to please one another sexually, having children, developing joint careers, building savings and retirement investments, and making a home to provide them with comfort. These jointly held and developed values are very important and any developing interest in others outside the marriage should never lose the context of them.

Jealousy and envy are not worthy emotions. Extraordinary people should not be governed by these base emotions which commonly result from self-doubt about one's worthiness and competence in living life. One spouse should take delight that the other spouse has a wonderful friendship, even if that friendship includes sexual relations. A loving spouse wants his spouse to experience pleasure and to enjoy the richness of life that knowing and being intimate with another extraordinary person can give. The loving spouse wants and should be provided with love himself, but this need not always be an exclusive love, just a very real love. The spouses should be careful to maintain all aspects of their partnership in life, if they wish their marriage to continue and to be strong. These are the moral obligations which are real.

The love of rational human beings is not fickle and it is not usually capable of being turned off once it has been turned on. If someone has proven so good and appealing that you have come to love them, then it really ought to take quite a lot of character development down different paths before you should be able to stop loving them. Love becomes too deeply seated in the rational and good person for it to be dependent upon exclusive love or such things as moderate changes of appearance. Commonly, we do not readily stop loving our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children and grandchildren for fickle reasons. We should not stop loving others we have loved either for fickle reasons.

If a married person is having sex outside of marriage with unworthy persons, this is clearly immoral, as having sex with unworthy people always is even when unmarried.

In this discussion, I have only spoken of marriage as between a man and a woman. Morally, there is no reason to limit marriage to that and only that combination. That is a topic for another discussion.

So, conventional morality has a very simple rule with respect to marriage. This rule is much too simple to actually provide a rational concept of marriage and its real meaning or of love and its real meaning. Life can and should be more rich and wonderful than conventional morality allows it to be.

Democrats - The Party of Mass Destruction

As I noted earlier, the Democrats in the House of Representatives have made the compromise they were working on to assuage agricultural and Midwest interests and pass the carbon cap and trade tax. This legislation rests for justification on the not only unproven, but actually incorrect claim that man-made CO2 emissions are causing a catastrophic global warming. Yet, a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration would only cause about 0.5C temperature increase! The multiplying effects put into the bogus computer models which spew out larger temperature increases are now known to be of the wrong sign. Increased CO2 causes feedback which moderates, not increases, the heating effect of CO2 by means of more cloud cover.

In the face of the global cooling due to the decrease in solar activity, the microscopic temperature increases due to increased atmospheric CO2 should be welcomed. In addition, the cooling is likely to cause crop yield decreases, which are offset by the growth enhancement provided by higher levels of CO2 fertilizer. So, the present rates of CO2 atmospheric concentration increases are good, not bad. But to prevent this good thing, our very insipid Democrat power elite is trying to wreck the American economy. What they are doing is stupid in so many ways that it is clear that many of them must have been bought and sold for some combination of power lust and goodies from special interest groups.

The carbon tax will cause the loss of many more jobs than it will create. Many jobs destroyed will surface in other, wiser parts of the world. Americans will not be able to affordably produce high energy input goods such as aluminum, steel, concrete, and much more. We will lose jobs in the oil and gas industry and the pipeline industry and much of the transportation industry that supports it. The coal, power, and railroad industries will all suffer and many of their jobs will be lost. Meanwhile every small business, home owner, and apartment renter will see major increases in their heating, cooling, and power costs. Cars will become still more expensive, harder to maintain, and some will be more costly to operate. For what?

Yes, a piddling number of jobs in wind generation and solar power will be produced. A few industries given free carbon permits will have an advantage for awhile over others. Big business will wheedle these permits out of Washington and small businesses with no political clout will suffer in comparison. But, in the end, the entire American economy will suffer a serious Democrat kick to the head. Eventually, the taxes will be increased on most of the big businesses initially exempt and the many jobs produced by small businesses will be greatly curtailed.

Already the American economy is staggering under the weight of huge government debt and taxes to pay for mostly unnecessary bailouts. The Medicaid and Medicare welfare programs are staggering under unfunded debt, which is about to become far worse. Taxes will be raised to pay their bills. The personal retirement savings of many a soon-to-retire baby boomer crashed when the stock market plummeted by 40%. The Social Security system is clearly going to stagger as the same Baby Boomers retire in a slow-growing economy, so social security taxes will go up. The new government subsidized health insurance program will cost still more. The energy tax and many other taxes will greatly depress the American economy for a very long time.

It is not possible to come up with a more wrongheaded plan to rule the country than these power-lusting Democrats are pursuing with incredible vigor. There is something truly awesome in such a determination to blow-up and pulverize the mechanisms of a voluntary, productive free market to make room for a fascist command economy. The new economy will be run by bureaucrats and motivated by envy to destroy all that is free, individual, and enlightened. All the lessons of history are being ignored.

The Democrats are the party of awesome mass destruction and that destruction is directed inward upon ourselves. This is a party to celebrate self-immolation as it has never before been celebrated in the United States of America. Is this really the Change Americans wanted?

24 June 2009

Samuelson - Our Sinking Welfare State

Robert Samuelson is hardly a principled believer in limited government, but he is sometimes useful for his willingness to examine the economic numbers and assess whether a particular or general government modus operandi is possible or impossible. He has no great love for the free market, but he does recognize some limits on what government is capable of doing.

His article of 22 June 2009 called Our Sinking Welfare State, is a case in point. He points out that companies in the private sector have long provided security shelters, but these have been faltering.
GM exemplified the large corporation as private welfare state. In contracts with the United Auto Workers, GM promised high wages, lifetime employment, generous pensions and comprehensive health insurance. All this is ancient history: new workers get skimpier benefits.
In 1983, 62% of male workers 50 to 54 years old had been with their firm for at least 10 years, but in 2008, the percentage was down to about 50%. In 1999, health insurance coverage by companies covered 63.9% of the population, but this was down to 59.3% in 2007. Workers used to have defined benefit retirement programs, but now they usually have defined contribution programs such as 401(k)s. A survey of 141 major companies found 22% cutting matching 401 (k) contributions, 21% reducing pay, and 72% have recently cut positions.

The situation with government security programs is also bleak. Samuelson notes that:
The trouble is that the public sector also faces enormous cost pressures, driven by an aging population and rising health costs. The Congressional Budget Office projects the federal debt to double as a share of the economy (gross domestic product) to 82 percent of GDP by 2019.
He further comments:

What most Americans identify as government "welfare" are payments to single mothers, food stamps and (perhaps) Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor. But that's not the half of it. Since 1960, government has changed radically. Then, 52 percent of federal spending went for defense, 26 percent for "payments for individuals" -- the welfare state. By 2008, 61 percent consisted of "payments for individuals," 21 percent for defense.

Social Security and Medicare -- programs for the elderly -- represented the lion's share: $1 trillion in 2008. Most Americans don't consider these programs "welfare," but they are. Benefits are paid mainly by present taxes; there's little "saving" for future benefits; Congress can alter benefits whenever it wants. If that's not welfare, what would be?

He concludes that either taxing more heavily or allowing the debt to increase more to continue this present consumption, will only weaken the economy and make it still more difficult for the economy to bear the costs. He says, "The U.S. welfare state is weakening; insecurity is rising. The sensible thing would be to decide which forms of public welfare are needed to protect the vulnerable and to begin paring the others." Instead, we are only talking about increasing the liabilities of government by taking over the health care insurance business and with it the entire medical industry. This is doing as good a job of addressing the impossible welfare obligations of the government as GM and the Auto Workers Union did the problems of the GM welfare state. Samuelson says the coming collapse of the government welfare state seems to be following the same path as GM did.

This is just simple common sense. It is really hard to believe this is not clear to almost everyone.

23 June 2009

Obama Lied

Obama claimed he was going to eliminate disease throughout the world and he would also eliminate poverty in his speech accepting the nomination of the Democratic Party. He was either an unbelievable megalomaniac, or he lied to us. He told many a group whatever they longed to hear. He somehow gave the message to Peggy the Freeloader that he would pay her mortgage and other expenses if only she voted for him. He told us all that his many grandiose spending plans would cost little money because he was going to find ways to make them cost little. But now that he occupies the presidency as a result of his many profligate promises, his spending programs are turning out to cost (surprise, surprise) a whale of a lot of taxpayer money. Whatever they cost, he claimed during the presidential campaign that only taxes on the rich, which eventually was claimed to be those making more than $250,000 per year, would go up. He promised everyone else that their taxes would not go up and would mostly go down. Obama is not worried about taxes anymore. He is leaving the worries about how to pay the bills to the Congress.

In particular, Senator Baucus (D - Montana) seems to be very active in proposing the new taxes which will pay for Obama's spending deluge. He is now saying that anyone making $100,000 per year will now see their taxes going up. This will really stimulate the economy in this recession big time! I suppose Obama will claim that he did not raise the taxes of those making more than $100,000 per year. No, Congress forced the tax raise.

But, we are not going to buy that nonsense, are we? Obama lied. Obama lied. Obama lied!!!!!! But then it was very clear to any thinking evaluator that he was doing just that. But, you can now fool most of the people most of the time, apparently because the public schools have dumbed them down a lot since Abraham Lincoln's day. And, it has also taught them never to be confrontational, so they will no longer even discuss politics. It is great to say you want the government to do good things for groups with fewer worldly goods and it is great to have it use brutal force to redistribute the goods, but it is bad manners to offer rational reasons why this is a bad concept of government. It is gauche to note that such a redistributionist government must be fascist and/or communist in some combination and that this is a clear violation of the wise limits on government put in place in our U. S. Constitution.

So, with the best of manners we steal from anyone productive enough to make more than $100,000 per year and we provide easy money for Peggy the Freeloader and for every special interest group Obama personally likes which cannot make it in the real world without subsidies and mandates, such as wind mill farmers, solar panel spreaders, labor union controlled car makers, very big financial companies, ethanol makers, highway construction companies, and inexpensive housing. Let's have no confrontations now. Be good and open your pockets for Obama and pickpockets.

Of course, those making less than $100,000 will pay more taxes also, but more indirectly so they will not notice. Besides, compared to other people throughout the world of our One World Government Leader, most Americans are wealthy. It is only right that he tax them so he can cure world hunger, disease, and poverty. Obama is increasing taxes on companies. The Dems are also likely to increase tobacco and soft drink taxes. The plan is the usual one of hitting us all with so many little or indirect taxes that we cannot keep track of them and do not notice them. Except, of course, we must notice them since taxes and the costs of regulation were already taking away 44% of the economy before Obama went on his lustfully crazy spending binge. But, we only notice that life is harder than it should be and still do not understand that it is because we are greatly overtaxed. Obama and our other politicians are masters at plucking the goose so that it does not squak too much.

21 June 2009

Carbon Cap and Trade Promotional Techniques

Edward Felker and Stephen Dinan of The Washington Times reported in the 19-20 June 2009 print edition that the Democratic think tank Third Way recommended that the plan for carbon cap and trade that House Democrats agreed on can not be sold to the taxpayers using the terms "green" jobs and "global warming." Apparently, too many voters have the old fashioned kind of jobs that depend upon energy being affordable and available and many have begun to notice that the temperatures are far from becoming unbearable. Perhaps some have even noticed that they have failed to increase for about a decade now, despite the predictions of the computer models having been quite unanimous that they were going to rise as the CO2 atmospheric concentrations increased. Well the CO2 increased, but the temperatures failed to follow that increase.

Congressman Peterson (D - Minnesota, Agriculture Committee Chairman) has been dickering with Congressmen Waxman (D - California, Energy and Commerce Committe Chairman) and Markey (D - Massachusetts) to change the bill's treatment of farmers and rural cooperative electricity utilities. The Democrats are about ready to push a compromise bill through the House.

So what is Third Way telling the Democrats to do to sell this bill to the people? They say it should be sold as a clean energy bill. This is nonsense in terms of what it is, so hopefully the American people will come to realize this. This bill is designed to reduce CO2 emissions, which it is most likely not going to do in any significant way. This at least is the rationale for the bill. Really, it is more about stealing money from some industries and private individuals and redistributing it to special interests, including many large companies playing the alternative energy game. Third Way says the people want clean energy. But, what on earth does CO2 have to do with dirt? Absolutely nothing, except that plants thrive in it, just as they do in good rich soil. There is no dirt in CO2.

Now, CO2 has been ridiculously called a pollutant by the EPA because there are completely false claims that a doubling of the CO2 in the next 100 years will lead to a catastrophe for the earth. In fact, the warming effect of increasing CO2 is minimal by the time its concentration exceeds 100 ppm in the atmosphere. At the start of the Industrial Age, it was about 280 ppm and it is now about 380 ppm. The temperature effect due to the 100 ppm increase of CO2 in the atmosphere has been minimal. If we were to double it from 380 to 760 ppm, the increase in temperature is less than 0.5 degree C! See Fig. 17 of David Archibald's report The Past and Future of Climate read the succinct and sweet Letter to the Oil & Gas Journal (11 August 2008) by him called Warming or cooling? This is no catastrophe. The earth has gone through innumerable temperature swings many times this, with only those in colder directions bringing on a catastrophe for man.

But, this so-called pollutant, which causes no problems for human health, does greatly benefit plant growth, which with a growing world human population will be very helpful in feeding us all. Perhaps the catastrophe for man is that we will have to cut our grass more often! Is that supposed to be why we call CO2 a pollutant, and by implication, it is therefore dirty? This is an incredibly weak reed! On this basis we are going to sell huge increases in their energy bills to homeowners and businessmen who have not been bought off with free coupons? I do not think so.

20 June 2009

Employee Free Choice Act Revisited

The union benefactors of Obama and the socialist Democrat Party want nothing more than passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as Card Check. Opposition to this tauntingly misnamed legislation has been strong enough that it appears unlikely to pass without some compromised revision. As written, not only is secret ballot voting by employees no longer required or even likely to occur in most cases, but there is an important requirement that any failures of the union and company management to come to an agreement on a union labor contract will be settled by a federal arbitrator within 120 days of the union winning an election to represent the company employees.

There is now fear that this arbitration power will be used to force newly unionized workers to take on pension plan coverage with already existing union multi-employer pension plans. An editorial in the Washington Examiner discusses this. It gives some very interesting information on how badly funded these pension plans are. It notes that:
Pensions for nearly half of the nation's 20 largest unions are classified as either "endangered" or in "critical" condition due to underfunding, according to federal actuarial reports. Pensions with less than 80 percent of the assets needed to cover present and projected liabilities are considered "endangered," while those below 65 percent are classified as "critical" under the Pension Protection Act of 2006. The average union pension has resources to cover only 62 percent of what is owed to participants, according to the government-backed Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. (PBGC). Less than one in 160 workers is presently covered by a properly funded union pension plan. Failed pension plans are bailed out by the PBGC.
It appears that getting more union members into these underfunded pension plans is to be used to improve the likelihood that these critically underfunded pension plans will either be paid up by additional companies forced into them or by the taxpayers through the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp.

19 June 2009

Erecting a Ladder

Last Saturday, I helped a friend remove a large branch which had fallen on her roof in a storm earlier in the week. She had borrowed an extension ladder from a neighbor who had stored it in his yard. The rope for raising the extension had rotted away and the springs which would cause the latches to lock in place on each rung as they came into alignment with it had rusted away. We wanted to put the ladder against a particular edge of the roof over a room which made a right angle with the main part of the house from the deck. The deck was edged with a somewhat high rail and two sets of parallel wires ran outward perpendicular to the main part of the house. We needed to erect the ladder amidst all of these obstacles and then extend it to a safe height.

When we finally maneuvered the ladder into the upright position after a couple of false starts, she asked me how many Ph.D.s does it take to put a ladder up. I laughed. She has a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering. We then had to use a stool to raise and lock the ladder a couple of rungs higher than we could reach from the deck. This was still not a safe height, so we brought a 5-foot ladder up from her basement and raised the extension ladder another two rungs and locked it. We took note that most any tradesman in the roofing business or tree-trimming business would have been equipped with a proper ladder and would have gotten it erect more efficiently than we had. Most American workers are fairly competent at what they do for a living.

But, I also reflected on an issue I have often thought about over the years. While I sometimes, well maybe frequently, am frustrated that most Americans give little thought to what I believe is the most essential issue of our time, and probably of most any time, namely the ever on-going fight for the rights of the individual, this does not mean that I have a low opinion of most people's ability to manage their own lives. The socialist elitists who want the government to make almost all decisions for the people, believe this is necessary because they actually do hold most people in contempt. They really do believe most people are unable to intelligently manage their own lives. Yet, when you see how well most people do their jobs, which is something most do care about and do put some real effort into doing, shouldn't you be able to understand that most people are also capable of generally managing their own lives? Besides, they showed that they could historical in the American wilderness, which we now are inclined to forget.

Now it is interesting to examine who is most likely to be an elitist who believes that others cannot manage their own lives. One such group is college and university faculty. Another is the teachers of the public school systems. Another is politicians and government employees. Lawyers and accountants are special interest groups looking for a validation for expanded government mandating the extensive use of their services. Another yet is women.

College professors have often become professors because they have a low regard for people who enter the free market and are willing to trade their productive work products with others using money as a medium to facilitate these exchanges. Professors are quick to heap scorn on these "money grubbers", losing sight entirely of the fact that money is the means to making voluntary exchanges much easier to arrange. They believe they deal in the realm of ideas, while others are simply materialists. This is a terrible oversimplification. Yes, there are many people in business who are very motivated by a desire to acquire money. But, then there are many in academia who are very desirous of prestige and the power to influence government to use force to make all of the people live by the values dictated by the professors. This is not a superior motivation. Power has served as the motivation of many a brute going back in human history to times long before money was even invented as a facilitor of trade. Few of these professors live like monks either, since most are fairly well paid. These same professors who decry the materialism of the businessman, analyze every difference of worldly goods that exists among Americans and people generally in the world and claim that all variations from equality are clear signs of injustice. They ignore the choices the people involved have made, the differences in dedication to learning and to hard work, the differences in intelligence, those of place, those due to partitioning the use of their time differently, choices of occupations based on factors other than remuneration, and those due to better or worse governments. They protest against materialism, but then they use almost entirely materialistic equality as the measure of social justice.

The teachers of the public school systems are to a degree the guardians of the children who study under their direction. To some degree, the teachers extend this accustomed mode of thinking as guardians into their relationship with the rest of society. Disproportionate numbers of the public teacher ranks are also women, who will also have maternal instincts in many cases for the care of others. The children they deal with are not yet mature adults and are not generally ready to fully manage their lives. The way the public schools work, they are not particularly encouraged or helped toward taking on the responsibilities of a self-managed individual. They are not even much encouraged to view themselves as individuals. Then, as though this is not enough to understand why teachers have a strong tendency to favor governmental nanny states, they are public employees who do benefit from transfers of wealth from the private sector to the government sector. Teachers are also union members. Teachers see their interests almost uniformly then as being tied to ever-growing governments.

Politicians and government employees are constantly looking for reasons to justify their positions and to increase their powers and budgets. This is clearly done effectively whenever they can convince the voters that many of the people are dumb sheep and need them as sheepherders. The lawyers find massive employment and income from the huge number of overly complex government laws and regulations. They play a disproportionate role in drafting the legislation that produces this end result. They work especially hard as a special interest group in control of the actual levers of government. They also enjoy the court system, which they principally control. That system's many delays, strange trial logic, and by and large, the choice of judges is all determined by lawyers. Accountants are more and more massive beneficiaries of our overly complex government taxation and regulatory requirements. Companies and individuals are forced more and more to pay accountants for help in producing the mountains of government-required paperwork on income, expenditures, employment, and taxes.

Finally, there is the predominant role of women in the socialist Democrat Party. This is the party of feminism and anti-masculinity. This is the party of those elitists who view themselves as the caregivers for the many adult children who do exist and the many more who are imagined to exist. As women have long been particularly prone to the appeal of the traditional religions, so too are they prone to a religious approach and zeal for socialism, equality of material results, the politics of envy and class warfare, the politics of group identity, anti-man environmentalism, and anti-business attitudes. They have a tendency to feel uncomfortable unless they are enveloped within a group. Male individuality, analytical thinking, and self-confidence are often offensive to them. Women are less than comfortable in the analytical thought required to gain mastery over science, technology, and economics than are men. It is not difficult to understand why the Democrat platform appeals to many of them. There are, of course, many women who are exceptions to these statements, but they are definitely a minority of women. There are also many men who are also susceptible to the Democrat platform, but for several decades, they have generally been a minority group among men.

I continue to believe strongly that most American men are capable of running their own lives with minimal interference from government. Despite the way they vote and the uncertainties that women seem to feel about having such an ability, I also believe most women are capable of managing their own lives, especially with the help of a decent man.

18 June 2009

Tax on Health Benefits Considered by Democrat Senate

Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee) is drafting a health plan which will include a new tax on employer-provided benefits. This is discussed in this Washington Post article. Baucus's plan is to tax any benefit exceeding the current basic plan offered federal employees of $13,000 a year for a family of four. My first thought is that there are few private sector plans with such high benefits, but apparently many union workers actually do have such a high level of benefits because the unions squawked at this plan. As a result, the Democrats have shown a blind eye to the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and they are making an exception of the unions on this tax, at least while they are under any current labor contracts. This makes the rest of us second-class citizens. Or is it simply that the unions are treated as though they are Muslims in a Muslim country and the rest of us are held in a state of Dhimmitude?

Baucus says the tax on health benefits is likely to be phased in over several years. Given that the new health plans will immediately cost much more money and Washington has printed as much money as it can already without drastic inflation resulting, it is hard to see how this can be a very gradual phase in. The Democrats expect to raise nearly $420 billion over the next 10 years this way. Of course, over $1 trillion is needed over the next 9 years, according to government estimates for the health plan to be funded.

Quiz: Are government estimates of program costs systematically high, dead-on, or low historically? Well, if you did not answer low immediately, you are a very other-worldly creature indeed!

So, the Senate Finance Committee will be proposing still more taxes to pay for this health insurance plan to cover some fraction of the uninsured. Obama suggests limiting the itemized tax deductions of families making more than $250,000 per year as one such tax. The Joint Committee on Taxation, in a closed door meeting last month (exemplifying the new transparency in government operations promised by Obama), estimated that repealing deductions of certain large medical expenses will produce revenues of $180 billion over 10 years, a new tax on health reimbursement accounts and flexible savings accounts will bring in $70 billion over 10 years, a $0.03 tax on sugary drinks will yield $50 billion, and an increased alcohol tax will add another $60 billion. Or, one can generate enough revenue in new taxes by taxing half of all employer-provided health benefits, yielding $1.2 trillion in new revenues.

Given that increasing numbers of businesses do not offer a health insurance benefit to employees now, one would expect that any plan to tax half of the health premiums paid by companies would greatly reduce the value of such a benefit to employees and hence cause more companies to choose to offer no health benefit. Well, the government plans not to allow this. They are planning to require almost all companies to provide a health benefit plan. Unfortunately, with more people having health benefit plans and the government driving down the costs in the additional government insurance plan, while driving them up in the private plans, businesses are going to see escalating health benefit plan costs such as they have never seen before. This despite the fact that these costs have been rising very rapidly and are causing many businesses a great deal of dispair. So, since American businesses will soon be strapped with much higher health benefit costs, many American jobs will not be created and many will be lost. Our competition in other countries will reap the benefit of the Democrat Congress Health Insurance Business Death Plan.

Taxing health benefits offered by companies and taxing health reimbursement accounts will leave many Americans with a worsened ability to obtain quality health care. Many people will not be able to afford their large medical bills when they can no longer take a tax deduction on them. The health care industry will fall under still more government pressure to limit quality of care by further reducing doctor-patient interface time and by preventing research into the use of new techniques and drugs. Less money will be invested in new equipment with increased capabilities. Expensive procedures will be rationed, probably especially for the elderly. The command will be given more and more to let them die, for they have too little time left to make the procedure worth the cost to the program. [They have few votes left in them to cast at elections.] The more capable future doctors and pharmacists will not wish to enter the field of medicine due to increased control by bureaucrats and the shear boredom of dealing with additional mounds of paperwork.

The dream of every government bureaucrat is that private industry will function using the same management methods used within government. These methods include the assumption that anyone working in the bureaucratic agencies is a child, a stupid and thieving child. In some government agencies, this is the case. So, the pressure will be cranked up to see that this is also the case in every hospital, pharmacy, and doctor's office, because only people of the low quality of those working for government agencies will soon want to be in the health care industry.

So, these bums plan to tax my source of caffeine, but not coffee. Damn, that makes me angry. I drink coke and I do not like coffee. Besides warm drinks make me drousy. Artificial sweeteners give me headaches or make my stomach upset. I will not touch those poisons. I suppose I will just fall asleep driving home one morning and die. Thanks Congress! You elitists are so, so, so, good at managing our lives!

Given the incredible low confidence ratings that the American people consistently have been giving Congress over the last decade or two, how is it that we keep allowing them to exercise ever more control over our lives? Have the American people become totally spineless? Once the proud standard bearers for the sovereign rights of the individual to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, have they now become nothing but sheep herded by the fools who imagine themselves the elite?

Mark Calabria - A Fake Financial Fix

Mark Calabria, the new director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, has written an op-ed in the 18 June 2009 New York Post entitled A Fake Financial Fix about the Obama plan to acquire further power over the financial industry while refusing to address the huge problems already caused by federal control over the banking system and in many respects over other parts of the financial system. This is worth reading.

Of course he asks how the government which was caught unaware of the Citibank and Bank of America problems might be expected to offer any real safety net to the broader financial markets. He failed to note that this same government forced Bank of America to take a $16 billion loss in acquiring Merrill Lynch, which weakened the Bank of America greatly. He notes that the federal plan will essentially designate some private institutions as too big to fail and will commit the government to future bailouts of those institutions. This provides these bigger institutions advantages in giving them lower interest rates for money they borrow and makes it harder for smaller financial firms to compete. This system would rig the financial markets to make the very big companies bigger and to protect them from competition. This is the usual pattern followed whenever government increases the regulation of business. It increases the cost of doing business and slows down decision-making processes. It distracts business management from making real business decisions by funnelling their time into handling government paperwork, petting government bureaucrats, and forcing them to devote more time and money to political influence peddling.

Calabria notes that 40% of the subprime mortgages passed through the hands of Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac, the government-sponsored institutions, which may cost the taxpayers more than $300 billion. This is twice the cost incurred in rescuing AIG. Despite this, these politician favorites are not included in the financial regulation plan by Obama. In other respects there is also no intention in this plan to reduce government efforts to encourage homeownership by subprime borrowers. This is really the way to address the problem, right folks?

As Mark Calabria notes, this is just politics as usual. The government messes up big-time and the problem is blamed on business or Capitalism. The government, in the throes of economic crisis, claims the solution to the problem is more government. It gets many big companies to go along with the grab for power by government by offering them special advantages and protected markets. It then moves quickly to pass new laws, before wiser heads have time to identify how what they are doing is foolish and above all before wiser Americans can inform the general public about how badly they are about to be taken advantage of. Small businesses and consumers are the big losers, even as the politicians and the main stream media will pretend that the increased government regulation is for the purpose of protecting them.

15 June 2009

A Response to an "Obligated to Give Back" Commenter

Back in my post of 28 March 2009, I wrote about how hard my daughter Katie had worked as a biotechnology major in the Honors Program at Rochester Institute of Technology. Today I received a comment which I posted. If I only did that, few will see my response, so I am going to give it here. The comment was this:
Obviously Katie has done alright by herself...but what has she done for those less fortunate.
Does she tutor, mentor act as a big sister?
As a father you measure your daughter by what she has accomplished...why not add a little of "what she has given back."
Quite possible, she has learned with "me" behavior from her objectivist father.
If you ask these questions from the viewpoint that Katie or I or anyone is obliged to do things for the "less fortunate" then I completely deny your premise. Katie might not do so as completely, but she fully understands that her success has been the result of some very dedicated work on her part. Nobody gave her the knowledge she has acquired. She made a huge effort, which she might have chosen not to make, just as most people do choose not to make it.

However, Katie happens to like helping other people. She has tutored, been a notetaker for classes, collected money and gave time to a number of charities, and she worked very hard as President of the Habitat Club at RIT to build homes for people. I certainly have no problem with this as long as Katie has chosen to do these things because she enjoys doing them, rather than because she feels obliged or forced to do them while feeling little but pain. No one is obliged to feel pain for the sake of others, though they may choose to take it on for a friend or someone of great value to them.

It is a sad mistake that many people believe that the choice one faces in life is either one of only I matter or one of I am but dirt and only others matter. Only the person who knows he is very worthy of life is able to respect and care for others. We cannot help but assess others from the viewpoint of our own introspection. We are only really familiar with our own mind. If your mind is not respected and valued enough by you, you will not be able to perceive anything in others which is worthy of respect and to be valued. I believe that, like me, Katie really is able to see value in others because she sees value in herself.

You and many others make the false assumption that Objectivists cannot care much about others. This is not true about me and it was not true about Ayn Rand. She was personally a very charitable woman. I know the roommate of a man, to whom she was not related, whose B.S. degree in engineering she paid for just because he otherwise was not going to be able to go to college and she wanted him to. She was in many other ways a very caring and generous person, unlike such pretenders as Obama, Biden, and Gore who claim that their lives are dedicated to the good of others. These pretenders instead simply use force to make others give to the less fortunate through governments as the enforcer and conduit. These governments, in turn, provide the Obamas, Bidens, and Gores with power, the lust for which existed among the worst men long before money was invented.

Let me point out one more thing about Katie. Katie is extremely dedicated to doing medical research. She is at this time particularly interested in the study of immunology. She finds the field fascinating and she is looking forward to solving some very real problems so that many will live healthier and richer lives. The altruist who has not done alright by himself and chooses to tackle less arduous studies and to work at a minimally demanding job, is probably going to be objectively of less value to other human beings than Katie is likely to be. If you care so much about others, then you should have no objection to Katie's becoming a great medical researcher, even if she were never to give to charities or to never "give back" in any other way.

There is a terrible sense of the thug in this demand that others serve him or that others should be bowed down before an obligation to serve others. We should resist this by all means at our disposal. There is nothing wrong with exercising the choice to perform an act of charity for someone you care about or even for those who have met misfortune through no or little fault of their own, provided it is your free choice. But, do not attempt to force me to give up my values and adopt your values. Do not attempt to force me to live my life in accordance with your values. I am proud to manage my own life in accordance with the values I choose.

What we are obligated to give back to others is agreement to the principle that our relationships are voluntary and none of us, not even a majority, are to initiate the use of force to make others do our will. I am not to force you to live for me and you are not to force me to live for you. This principle then allows us a wide range of mutually beneficial interactions and trades of values, while yet respecting each other's life and the values we have each chosen as goals in our living.

14 June 2009

WHO - Continued Incompetance at the U.N.

The World Health Organization (WHO), is an agency of the United Nations. It has a history of mistaken policies, such as its virtual ban on DDT for mosquito control, its exaggeration of the AIDS death toll, and its over-regulation of biotechnology for the development of agricultural products. Henry I. Miller, a physician, molecular biologist and former flu researcher, the past head of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993, and now a fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, wrote A premature 'pandemic' call WHO swine flu policy different than on other outbreaks which was published in the 14 June 2009 Washington Times Sunday Opinion Section. He notes that WHO's reaction to the swine flu events has continued their tradition of seeking attention and control of situations which do not warrant it. The IPCC, which has done so much to mislead the world on catastrophic man-made global warming, is far from the only discredited U.N. agency.

For the first time in 41 years, WHO has declared a pandemic, which only means that the flu is widespread, not that it is spreading particularly rapidly or that it is particularly lethal. It is proving to be neither of these, but very much like ordinary seasonal flu. To be sure, the WHO definition of pandemic only considers how widespread a disease is, so every seasonal flu should be declared pandemic by that definition! The seasonal spread of this flu in Australia caused WHO to declare it at the highest level of a pandemic, Phase 5, in the week of 27 April 2009. Miller argues that this was very wrongheaded.

Miller writes about his experience in working with the U.N. Codex Alimentarius Commission under both the U.N. WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization that sets international food standards.
The group established standards that were unscientific and excessively stringent and ensure that new, innovative foods will be so expensive to develop that they will remain largely unavailable to the poorest of the poor, who need them most.
Miller says of WHO:
WHO's dubious decisions demonstrate that its officials are either too rigid or too incompetent to make needed adjustments in the warning system - perhaps both, because that's what we have come to expect from an organization that is scientifically challenged, self-important and unaccountable. WHO may be well-equipped to perform and report worldwide surveillance - i.e., count numbers of cases and fatalities - but its policy role should be limited drastically.
He concludes that the U.N.'s:
involvement in international public health policy is just one manifestation of the organization's even grander designs: The United Nations has become the regulator-wannabe for all manner of products and human activities, from desertification and biodiversity to the regulation of chemicals, uses of the ocean and new genetic varieties of plants.

The United Nations' regulatory policies, requirements and standards regularly defy scientific consensus and common sense: ...
To which I will add that the U.N. not only wants globally to become our government, but it will not do so with even a nod toward the Constitution, which is the greatest bulwark protecting the right of the individual to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness which man has ever produced.

Higgins, World War II Winner, Closed Shop Rather than Allow Unionization

In reading Larry Schweikart's book America's Victories Why the U.S. Wins Wars and Will Win the War on Terror, I came across a couple of paragraphs on Andrew Jackson Higgins which I found very interesting. Higgins was from Nebraska, but he set up a lumber company in Louisiana, which ultimately failed, but while running it, he had designed some low draft boats for hauling lumber. There was demand for these, so he became a boat builder. He took his designs to the Navy, but they were uninterested. But a Marine Captain, Victor "Brute" Krulak was interested and visited Higgins' boat yard. Over the years, he and other military professionals told Higgins about their ideas, needs, and observations of Japanese and German technologies and Higgins incorporated these ideas and improved on them. In 1934, a study by the Marines concluded that Higgins' boats best fit many of their needs. Still, it was a long struggle to convince the Navy that there was a great need for the small landing vessels that Higgins made.

Schweikart says:
When the U.S. 5th Army landed at Salerno, Italy, in 1943, and General Douglas MacArthurs's men invaded New Guinea, of the fourteen thousand vessels in the Navy, 92 percent were designed by Higgins Industries and almost nine thousand of them were built at the Higgins plants in New Orleans. His plants produced more than twenty thousand vessels during the war, cranking out an astounding seven hundred boats a month.
His boats included PT boats, landing craft infantry, and landing ship tanks. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called Higgins "the man who won the war." Hitler called Higgins the "new Noah" and understood his value.

After the war, as Higgins was transitioning to civilian products, Higgins opposed the unions and supported open shop laws. He wanted to hire veterans, whether they were union members or not. The National Labor Relations Board dropped a ton of bricks on him. In a letter called Give Me Liberty!, Higgins said the Wagner Act was oppressive in its operation. He closed down his company, rather than to submit to union coercion.

The man who won the war had to shut down his beloved company in order to be a Free Man. Andrew Jackson Higgins is a hero worthy of our rememberance!

Now 21 Obama Czars

Fox News had a rundown on the Obama Czars early this morning. They showed pictures of 21 Czars with their function. Did you know that in addition to the Compensation Czar, Car Czar, Climate Czar, and Cyber Czar, there is a Great Lakes Czar?

I suppose that we can now blame any bad weather on the Climate Czar and since he works for the Great Despot, we can also blame it on Obama. Today's thunderstorm, which knocked out power for 45,000 residents and crushed a home and two cars under falling trees was brought to you by the tyrants in charge of the climate! OK, I am sure the socialists will claim this is an unfair criticism, but after all, it is their megalomania that causes them to appoint 21 Czars.

And why do they appoint Czars? Mostly because the position and the powers of these Czars are not constrained by 233 years of American laws and agency rulings, and certainly are not constrained by our greatly ignored Constitution. The very term Czar should make any American's blood run cold. When the socialists can make these Czars fly, then there is nothing in their path capable of stopping them from developing a totalitarian government to manage our society from top to bottom and cradle to grave. In this scheme, the socialist elites are the adults and everyone else is a child. In this scheme, the children are being screwed (the bottoms) by the gloating dominant tops. Yes, it is as obscene as that.

12 June 2009

Edward Hudgins: Uncharitable Attack on Charity

Edward Hudgins of the Atlas Society wrote an interesting article on a group called the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy (NCRP) which is the kind of organization Ellsworth Toohey would have encouraged. While in general Ayn Rand's novels are dramatizations of the conflicts between an individualistic, rational, life-centered morality and philosophy and collectivist, irrational, and anti-life moralities, the real world really does have evil-doers who are perfectly capable of replicating a stark dramatization of evil and irrationality from an Ayn Rand novel.

This charitable watchdog group is headed up by a former ACORN organizer. This group issued a report saying
Philanthropy at its Best must serve the public good by contributing to strong, participatory democracy that engages all communities.
It adds that a well-managed charity must:
Provide at least 50 percent of its grant dollars to benefit low-income communities, communities of color and other marginal groups…
Provide at least 25 percent of its dollars for advocacy, organizing and civic engagement to promote equality, opportunity and justice in our society.
Ed Hudgins points out that this is nonsense, which it most certainly is. Charity at its best serves the purposes of the voluntary contributor and does so in a manner which does not use force to impede others in living their lives. Period. There is nothing wrong with giving to a charity that supports the Classical Music station of WBJC in Baltimore even though few people living in the often rich poverty of today in America choose to listen to it. In fact, doing so may help to preserve a rich heritage in intelligent music and be a very decent thing to do. Or, one might choose to give money to The Atlas Society, which directs its programs and education efforts at everyone about equally. There is no reason why they should target their message to groups defined by race or income. And, of course, as Ed points out, a charity dedicated to finding a cure for epilepsy should probably give as much of its money as possible to medical researchers without regard to the 50% and 25% rules produced by NCRP.

Ed also quotes Xavier Becerra (CA Democrat) as saying
“Taxpayers have rewarded [foundations] for being there for America.” But, he added: “At the same time, those of us at Congress have an obligation as the representatives of the people to make sure that their money—taxpayer money—is being well invested.”
Ah....so Congress has the right to redirect the money that individuals give to charities to see to it that Congress believes the money is being well-used. In fact, he twists the individual into being a taxpayer, uses that to say the money given to charity is taxpayer money, and then claims the usual power to spend taxpayer money that he would have for government revenue from taxes. One would think anyone would see through this extremely faulty argument, but surprisingly many do not.

Ed also noted that there was a move afoot in the Obama despotism to tax the charity gifts of the so-called wealthy, before many howls forced them to back down. Clearly they wanted to remove capable and wealthy people from the boards of charitable organizations and keep them from having a role in directing the purpose of those organizations. This would also make charities more dependent upon government grants, which would let the government re-direct their purposes.

It is clear that the so-called Progressives want total government control over charity in America and want it used for their agenda only. Of course, if you recognize that the Progressives have an agenda of mixed fascist and communist goals, control of all charity is readily recognized as being essential for the purposes of their total control of the American people. Individual choices even in charitable giving will not be allowed. This is the Totalitarian Dream, that Obama oulined in his acceptance speech before the Democrat Convention in Denver, CO.

Tyranny by Czars

Robert Tracinski made the following observation in TIA Daily yesterday:
I will have to revise my estimate of Russian efficiency. They managed to establish tyranny with only one czar. Obama needs fifteen of them, by the latest count.

11 June 2009

Government Thugs Extort Bank of America

Today, Judge Andrew Napolitano announced on Fox News that several government agency officials threatened to remove Bank of America members from the Board of Directors if they did not continue with the government demanded purchase of Merrill Lynch for $50 billion. Bank of America auditors had discovered that Merrill Lynch was only worth $35 billion and Bank of America had a clause in their agreement to purchase Merrill Lynch that allowed them to back out of the deal if ML was worth less than $50 billion. They consequently told the government that they were going to back out of the deal, but a number of government officials from the Treasury Department and other agencies with power over the bank refused to let them exercise their escape option. Later, Bank of America found that ML was worth not more than $34 billion due to bonuses paid.

The government forced Bank of America to take TARP bailout money, which they may have needed due to the very bad deal in acquiring ML that they were forced into. A $16 billion loss will cause most any company some considerable pain! But, the federal government does not own any voting stock in Bank of America and should have no say in who serves on the Board of Directors. It can threaten the bank with audits and many very costly and time-prohibitive requirements as part of its massive regulatory control over banks and the financial industry. So, this is what it did and the executives of the Bank of America did not have the courage to then announce to the public that the executive branch of the federal government was using extortion to force the bank to throw away $16 billion of stockholder's investment, while making depositor's risk escalate.

Similar instances of federal government extortion are becoming commonplace under the despotic regime of Obama. His government is simply an extortion ring on a massive scale. In addition to the threats against individual companies to confiscate and destroy their property and wealth, Obama has used extortion to gain unprecedented control of the financial industry and the auto industry.

He is threatening to takeover the health services industry, which is already being squeezed by the various Medicare, Medicaid, and new prescription drug benefit programs. These government programs have long driven up the costs of private insurance, since the privately insured have long subsidized the government insured. The government is now moving to increase the number of people insured by government insurance massively. This will massively drive up the cost of private insurance until no one can afford private insurance and all private insurers are driven out of the market. The government will be left in control of all payments and in complete control therefore of the entire health care industry. There will no longer be any control on costs, except the limiting of services and the rationing of care. Medical equipment will become obsolete as it has in the United Kingdom and in Canada. Fewer able people will choose to enter the field as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and administrators. Bureaucrats will tell doctors what medical procedures to follow. Our medical system quality will collapse and the wait for low-quality care will become life-threateningly long, as it has been in Canada and the U.K. Efforts to make innovative improvements and new developments in medical care will decrease, both due to shortsighted government efforts to cut costs and because the personal motivation of researchers and doctors will decrease.

The Capitalist system of free markets allows individuals to choose the goods and services they want and also makes huge quantities of decision-making information available to them. This system requires that the laws be known and stable. It requires protections of property rights and the roles of investors and employers. These are very much among our individual rights whether as investors and employers or as consumers and employees. When our government forsakes its responsibility to provide these protections and instead becomes an organized gangster mob shaking down businesses, whole industries, and their customers, the Capitalist system of free choices collapses. Tyranny is all that remains. Obama is the head tyrant and he has a strong following of thugs in the upper echelons of the Democrat Party and among his appointments to powerful positions in the executive agencies who also lust for unbridled power. There are still further long-term government employees who also too much enjoy power when the President and high-level appointees do not set a higher-minded standard for good, limited government. The damage to our society is massive.

10 June 2009

Ann Coulter on Obama and the Middle East

The Left hates and despises Ann Coulter. She is a fairly classical Conservative and I disagree with her on many issues, but I often enjoy reading her column, which is funny and spirited. Sometimes she is right on the money and sometimes her logic is sloppy and she is misled. Since I have little trouble sorting out which is which, I often enjoy her spirited attacks on the Socialists.

In a recent Human Events column titled Welcome Back, Carter, she gives a particularly fun display and she is very unpolitically-correctly dead on. Have some fun and take a look at it. She makes good fun of Obama and his recent antics in the Middle East.

09 June 2009

Regional Electricity Sources in 2008

The 2008 power sources for electricity in the Pennsylvania - New Jersey - Maryland Interconnection Region according to Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. are:

Coal 51.2%
Nuclear 33.2%
Natural Gas 6.4%
System Mix 4.3%
Oil 0.3%
Renewable Energy 4.7%

The breakdown on the renewable energy is:

Hydroelectric 2.8%
Wood or Biomass 1.5%
Captured Methane Gas 0.3%
Solid Waste 0.1%

Geothermal, solar, and wind are all reported as 0.0%. Clearly this mid-Atlantic region is going to be in a heap of trouble when Obama bankrupts the coal-fired electric power plants! My laboratory is going to be in a heap of trouble with much less power, erratic power, and much more expensive power. Our electric bill is one of our bigger expenses each month already. As I have complained here before, we have suffered from unreliable power over the last few years thanks to childish Maryland policies in regulating the power utility companies. Since those problems were brought on largely by energy cost increases and the desire of state government to shield the voters from the consequences, imagine what Gov. O'Folley's mandates for more alternative energy and Obama's similar mandates are going to do to the power costs and availability in the future throughout this area.

We have a future it is awful to contemplate. However much each politician waves his magic wand, the portion of our power coming from solar and wind power will not become impressive. It will remain puny, since each is too unreliable and too expensive. Of course, it might be that I am wrong and one or both of these politicians is such a great scientist and businessman that he will develop cheap, reliable alternative energy in the nick of time. If you are one of their supporters, you might hold your breath until they do. I am not obligated to do so, since I have consistently noted that these men are so little able to recognize reality that it is very fair to assess them as insane.

The situation will not be very different in many, in fact most, other areas of the U.S. Coal is cheap and reliably available and natural gas is a very serviceable adjunct. Both create CO2 when burned, so both sources will be condemned or made outlandishly expensive with CO2 scrubbing requirements. All this destruction is justified with a false theory that emissions of CO2 due to man's use of fossil fuels are causing a catastrophic global warming. In fact, natural forces have caused the preponderance of such warming as has occurred globally and urban heat island effects have made that warming appear much greater than it has actually been. Not that such warming as has occurred should not be welcome. The CO2 should also be welcomed as further plant fertilizer. But, no, the alarmist religion requires that the activities of man be shrouded in guilt, so warmth and healthy plants are both painted catastrophes.

08 June 2009

Stimulate the Economy by Deregulation

An Op Ed in the Washington Examiner on 8 June 2009 by Wayne Crews and Ryan Young called To stimulate the economy, let it be free made some very good points. Wayne Crews is the Vice President for Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Ryan Young is a Fellow in Regulatory Studies at CEI. They note that:
Taking money out of the economy, wasting some of it on bureaucracy, and then putting it back in is not going to spark economic growth. About the only thing that has been sparked is a lobbying feeding frenzy over stimulus funding. Even the Democrat-controlled Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admits that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will hurt long-run economic growth.
So what would a more rational policy be for stimulating the economy? They first give us this perspective:
Businesses spent $1.17 trillion in 2008 to comply with federal regulations. The government spent another $49.1 billion to enforce those regulations. The total amount spent on regulation is on par with Canada's entire 2006 gross domestic product of $1.265 trillion.
The 2008 Federal Register weighed in at 79,435 pages, an all-time record. More than 60 agencies passed 3,830 new rules last year. The federal regulatory pipeline now has 4,003 rules at various stages of implementation. Of those, 783 affect small businesses.
The government calls a regulation “economically significant” if it costs $100 million or more; 180 such rules came onto the books in 2008, costing the economy at least $18 billion. This is an increase of 13 percent over 2007, which in turn was up 14 percent from the year before.
Among these $100 million-plus gems are rules for right whale ship strike reduction, reducing open-flame ignition of bedclothes, and at least $600 million worth of energy conservation requirements for everything from pool heaters to battery chargers.
With such perspective, it is clear that a great way to stimulate business is to reduce its costs and its frustrations and dangers. Something has to be done to reduce this regulatory nightmare. George Bush sure did not do it. He enacted more than 30,000 new regulations. The President and the Congress must reverse this sorry trend. Crews and Young suggest that unless a regulation is renewed by Congress, it should expire in 5 years. Obsolete or ineffective regulations should be packaged together and sent to Congress for their up-or-down vote. Congress will have to take on far more responsibility in the process. Congress passed 285 bills last year, while government agencies added 3,830 rules.

As a small businessman, it is impossible for me to know what the many laws and regulations are which may apply to my laboratory business. There are some I know about and these do impose impressive costs in time and money on my business. Then there are the many I do not know about. These me reason to have to fear that some government bureaucrat hungry to exercise his power will some day become aware that I am not compliant with some one of thousands of regulations about which I know nothing and use it to milk my business dry. This is not the way to encourage businessmen to take the risks of investing their money and time in building a business, hiring employees, and training them to do the job well.

Fox News: Obama says U.S. is Muslim Nation

Sean Hannity was saying on Sunday on Fox News that Barack Hussein Obama, as Obama now calls himself, says the U.S. is a Muslim Nation. He was very upset that the U.S. is no longer a Christian Nation.

What did Obama actually say in his interview on French television?
And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. And so there's got to be a better dialogue and a better understanding between the two peoples.
It seems clear that Obama was not likely implying that the U.S. was less a Christian Nation than a Muslim Nation. He was simply playing the game that parallels that of saying if California were a nation, it would have one of the largest GDPs of countries in the world. He was simply saying that enough Americans were Muslim that their numbers are very important relative to the number of Muslims in the world. This is not as inflammatory as Sean Hannity was making it. It is wrong however.

Muslims in America like to say that they number somewhere between 3 and 8 million or between 1.0 and 2.6% of Americans. This is an exaggeration used to try to project more political influence than they really have. The Pew Research Center in 2007 says that Muslims are 0.6% of the adult American population. In comparison, 78.4% are Christian, 1.7% are Jewish, 0.7% are Buddhist, 0.4% are Hindu, and 1.2% are Other (Native American religions, Unitarians, New Age, Wiccams, etc.). In addition, 16.1% are unaffiliated. Of these, 1.6% are atheists and 2.4% are agnostics. Apparently Muslims are not a very large fraction of the American population. The present population is about 304 million people, so 0.6% is 1.8 million people. There are several tens of countries in the world with more Muslims than the U.S., including France. For this reason, Barack Hussein's statement is a gross exaggeration and therefor false.

Of course, when Barack Hussein said in Turkey that we were not a Christian Nation, he really inflamed many Christians like Sean Hannity. A country that trumpets its claim that its citizens have freedom of conscience through such explicit rights as freedom of religion (which should have been called freedom of conscience and certainly includes the freedom to any religion or to no religion), freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, and the freedom to petition government, is not a Christian Nation. This need not deny that most Americans are and have been Christians or that this fact has not played an important role in our history. It simply says there is no requirement that a citizen in good standing need be a Christian.

I am and will remain very critical of Barack Hussein Obama. However, I am very busy fighting his program for converting Americans into a nation of servents to socialist governments. I have no desire to manufacture issues with him. There are plenty of real issues and I could easily make it my full time profession to simply address those real issues. Furthermore, those who accuse him of errors he has not committed and faults he has not revealed, undermine their credibility, and to some degree that is taken as undermining the credibility of everyone who is critical of him. So, you Conservatives need to be a good deal more rigorous in your arguments against this despot.

07 June 2009

Freedom Ranked in the 50 States

William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens have published Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom through the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, dated February 2009. This is an interesting document. William Ruger is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Texas State University, who is currently on military leave and serving with the Navy in Afghanistan. Jason Sorens is an assistant professor of Political Science at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.

From the Executive Summary:
This paper presents the first-ever comprehensive ranking of the American states on their public policies affecting individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres. We develop and justify our ratings and aggregation procedure on explicitly normative criteria, defining individual freedom as the ability to dispose of one’s own life, liberty, and justly acquired property however one sees fit, so long as one does not coercively infringe on another individual’s ability to do the same.

This study improves on prior attempts to score economic freedom for American states in three primary ways: (1) it includes measures of social and personal freedoms such as peaceable citizens’ rights to educate their own children, own and carry firearms, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure; (2) it includes far more variables, even on economic policies alone, than prior studies, and there are no missing data on any variable; and (3) it uses new, more accurate measurements of key variables, particularly state fiscal policies.
They compare their study to the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of North America 2006 Annual Report which omits "such interventions as gun control, homeschooling regulations, and marijuana laws." They also compare it to the Pacific Research Institute's U.S. Economic Freedom Index: 2004, which puts gun control and seatbelt laws under Regulatory Sector with occupational licensing, recycling programs, and labor regulations, while ignoring other personal freedom issues. They make a good case that their methodology for weighing the variables makes more sense and that they consider more significant issues pertaining to our individual freedom. The report is based upon the laws of the states and local governments as of the end of 2006 and on arrest data through 2006. They say that the other freedom measurement studies have similar lags from policy to evaluation.
The database covers fiscal policy, gun control, alcohol regulation, marijuana policies, tobacco and smoking laws, automobile regulations, law enforcement data, education policies, land-use and environmental laws, labor market regulations, health insurance policies, utilities deregulation, occupational licensing, asset forfeiture rules, eminent domain reform, court systems, marriage and domestic partnership regulations, campaign finance laws, and sundry mala prohibita.
Table I gives the state ranking for Fiscal Policy, Table II that for Regulatory Policy, and Table III gives the ranking for Economic Freedom based upon the sum of the quantifiers for Fiscal Policy and Regulatory Policy. One of the important improvements in the study is that the fiscal policy measurements are made with respect to the size of the state economy. This corrects for too much credit being given to low cost of living states. The results of the Economic Freedom Ranking are:

Table III: Economic Freedom Ranking
State Economic Freedom index

1. South Dakota 0.385
2. New Hampshire 0.345
3. Colorado 0.337
4. North Dakota 0.315
5. Idaho 0.257
6. Georgia 0.253
7. Texas 0.225
8. Tennessee 0.225
9. Missouri 0.210
10. Alabama 0.200
11. Arizona 0.190
12. Iowa 0.177
13. Virginia 0.175
14. Utah 0.164
15. Michigan 0.161
16. Indiana 0.159
17. Oklahoma 0.144
18. Kansas 0.126
19. Pennsylvania 0.120
20. Wyoming 0.098
21. Montana 0.096
22. South Carolina 0.062
23. Nevada 0.058
24. Delaware 0.052
25. Florida 0.047
26. North Carolina 0.041
27. Nebraska 0.036
28. Louisiana -0.012
29. Illinois -0.025
30. Mississippi -0.032
31. Minnesota -0.075
32. Ohio -0.081
33. Kentucky -0.086
34. Maryland -0.110
35. Wisconsin -0.111
36. Oregon -0.113
37. Massachusetts -0.133
38. Connecticut -0.142
39. Arkansas -0.148
40. West Virginia -0.177
41. Washington -0.219
42. Rhode Island -0.267
43. New Mexico -0.288
44. Hawaii -0.295
45. Vermont -0.310
46. New Jersey -0.337
47. Alaska -0.343
48. California -0.351
49. Maine -0.406
50. New York -0.596

South Dakota holds the honor of being the economically freest state, though New Hampshire, Colorado, and North Dakota are not far behind. Then there is a gap in index and Idaho and Georgia follow. The next group is led by Texas and Tennessee with Missouri, Alabama, and Arizona on their heels. Iowa and Virginia lead the next group which includes Utah, Michigan, Indiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is the second highest ranked Northeastern State at position 19. Delaware follows in position 24, then Maryland at 34, Massachusetts at 37 and Connecticut at 38. Maine and New York are 49 and 50, respectively, and they are far outliers. These are two states no economic freedom-lover could choose to live in. They scream out for domestic out-migration. The average ranking of the Northeastern States is 35 including number 2 New Hampshire. Without New Hampshire, the others average a ranking of 38.4. Outside of the awful Northeast, California (48), Alaska (47), Hawaii (44), New Mexico (43), Washington (41), West Virginia (40), Arkansas (39), Oregon (36), and Wisconsin (35) all deserve very dishonorable mention. Thus, the Pacific States including Hawaii and Alaska, average a particularly dishonorable ranking of 43.2, which is even worse than that of the Northeastern States.

The Personal Freedom ranking and index is given in Table IV:

Table IV: Personal Freedom Ranking
State Personal Freedom index

1. Alaska 0.272
2. Maine 0.193
3. New Mexico 0.138
4. Arkansas 0.125
5. Texas 0.121
6. Missouri 0.110
7. Oregon 0.104
8. Idaho 0.100
9. Virginia 0.100
10. Wyoming 0.095
11. Vermont 0.093
12. Arizona 0.089
13. New Hampshire 0.087
14. Utah 0.086
15. Kansas 0.085
16. Colorado 0.084
17. West Virginia 0.080
18. Tennessee 0.059
19. Indiana 0.049
20. Michigan 0.045
21. Montana 0.029
22. Mississippi 0.027
23. Florida 0.022
24. South Dakota 0.007
25. Iowa 0.006
26. Kentucky 0.003
27. Oklahoma -0.002
28. Hawaii -0.009
29. Pennsylvania -0.018
30. North Carolina -0.022
31. Minnesota -0.036
32. Nevada -0.045
33. North Dakota -0.047
34. Nebraska -0.055
35. Washington -0.055
36. Delaware -0.060
37. California -0.063
38. Connecticut -0.082
39. Wisconsin -0.089
40. Louisiana -0.098
41. South Carolina -0.102
42. Georgia -0.106
43. Alabama -0.107
44. Massachusetts -0.109
45. New Jersey -0.120
46. Ohio -0.124
47. Rhode Island -0.163
48. New York -0.188
49. Illinois -0.213
50. Maryland -0.294

Alaska is far ahead of the pack in personal freedom or freedom from state paternalism. Maine, while far behind, is also separated well ahead of the pack. New Mexico, Arkansas, and Texas are the next grouping. All of these leaders except Texas were bad performers in the Economic Freedom index. Texas was ranked 7th in that index, while it is 5th in the Personal Freedom index. Missouri, Oregon, Idaho, and Virginia are next in Personal Freedom. Of these, all but Oregon did well in Economic Freedom. The so-called Free State of Maryland distinguishes itself as the very worst Personal Freedom state. It is really separated from the pack too. The next worst is Illinois, which also is separated from the pack, though no where near to the extent of Maryland. New York and Rhode Island are also uniquely bad.

The report also provides an overal freedom ranking and index produced by adding the Economic Freedom index and the Personal Freedom index for each state. The result is:

Table V: Overall Freedom Ranking
State Overall Freedom index

1. New Hampshire 0.432
2. Colorado 0.421
3. South Dakota 0.392
4. Idaho 0.356
5. Texas 0.346
6. Missouri 0.320
7. Tennessee 0.284
8. Arizona 0.279
9. Virginia 0.275
10. North Dakota 0.268
11. Utah 0.250
12. Kansas 0.210
13. Indiana 0.208
14. Michigan 0.206
15. Wyoming 0.193
16. Iowa 0.183
17. Georgia 0.146
18. Oklahoma 0.143
19. Montana 0.125
20. Pennsylvania 0.102
21. Alabama 0.092
22. Florida 0.068
23. North Carolina 0.019
24. Nevada 0.013
25. Mississippi -0.004
26. Delaware -0.008
27. Oregon -0.009
28. Nebraska -0.018
29. Arkansas -0.023
30. South Carolina -0.040
31. Alaska -0.071
32. Kentucky -0.082
33. West Virginia -0.097
34. Louisiana -0.110
35. Minnesota -0.111
36. New Mexico -0.150
37. Wisconsin -0.199
38. Ohio -0.205
39. Maine -0.214
40. Vermont -0.217
41. Connecticut -0.225
42. Illinois -0.238
43. Massachusetts -0.242
44. Washington -0.275
45. Hawaii -0.304
46. Maryland -0.405
47. California -0.413
48. Rhode Island -0.430
49. New Jersey -0.457
50. New York -0.784

New Hampshire and Colorado are the winners. The next grouping of good states includes South Dakota, Idaho, Texas, and Missouri. The third grouping is Tennessee, Arizona, Virginia, North Dakota, and Utah. The next is Kansas, Indiana, Michigan, Wyoming, and Iowa. And which states are the bad actors? New York is the very most awful state with an overall freedom index which is abysmally negative and lies far below that of the runner up awful states of New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland. The next bad group is Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The states ranked 35 through 50 have tended to be controlled by the Democrat Party in recent years. Ohio at a 38 ranking is the closest to a swing state.

As noted, my state of Maryland is an awful state for a freedom-lover at a ranking of 46. One of my sisters lives in the relatively good state of Kansas with a ranking of 12, though she is often upset by the pressure for the teaching of Intelligent Design in Kansas schools and attitudes towards a woman's right to abortion. A larger portion of my family lives in Oklahoma with a fairly respectable ranking of 18. Then there is an Anderson Clan contingent also in North Carolina with a ranking of 23. So, only the Maryland branch of the Anderson Clan lives in a state fully committed to the infringement of our freedom. Shame, shame on Maryland and on its voters.

06 June 2009

Slavery in the Free State

Maryland was once called the Free State, mostly due to its long ago history of relative religious tolerance. Maryland also had the distinction of providing some of the best units of Washington's Continental Army. These units fought bravely under General Washington and then fought equally well under Major General Greene in the very important Southern Campaign that ended at Yorktown. Of course, one then had to turn a blind eye to Maryland also being a Slave State, so even then Maryland should have been ashamed to call itself the Free State. Maryland practices a different form of slavery now.

What is the situation now in Maryland? Marta Mossburg writing in the Washington Examiner has given us an update. State and local government employees grew by 20% from 1997 to 2007. I have looked up the overall population growth of the state in that time for comparison and find it to be only 10.3%. Now the amount of mischief that government's can do is likely to go up as the fraction of the population working for government goes up. We would be very lucky if it only went up in strict proportion, but these government workers are actually very "productive" in two tasks: increasing their power through spending and their own benefits!

Unfortunately, Mossburg only gives us the state budget for 2010, when what we need to find is the growth in the sum of the state and local government expenditures in Maryland to compare to the population growth rate and to the government employee growth rates. After some searching (Do the governments want these figures to be hard to find?), the sum of the state and local government expenditures in FY 2000 was $27,446,000 and it is $57,600,000 in FY 2009. This is a growth in government expenditures in Maryland of 210%. Seems the burden of government is getting worse in Maryland at about a rate of 20.4 times faster than the population to bear the expense is growing! Thus, Marylanders are working ever longer hours to pay this burden, which is the equivalent of spending many more hours as slaves to the state and local governments.

Mossburg points out that the state budget for the health insurance of state government employees is going up 17.4% from 2009 to 2010. The 2010 budget includes a 22.1% increase in money for teacher retirement benefits. This represents a 207% increase since 2001! Of course, Democrats are in control of the governorship and the state assembly in Maryland, so they have to pay off the teacher's unions for their critical political support and for indoctrinating Maryland children in the thesis that every problem has its solution in an additional government program.

Overall entitlement spending in Maryland is increasing rapidly also. In 2001 it was 16.2% of the budget, but in 2010 it is 20.8%. At this rate of growth, entitlements will be 40% of the budget by 2050. State retirees just received a 3.8% cost-of-living increase. Meanwhile, unemployment in Maryland is the highest it has been in 17 years.

What effect is this tax and government burden having on Maryland's population? For five years running, Maryland has suffered a net domestic out-migration. Marylanders are seeing other states as better places to live. Its overall population growth in each of the last two years was 0.3%, pretty similar to that of most of the states of the Northeast which also have oppressive government burdens. From 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008, its growth rate was 44th lowest of the 50 states. In the earlier part of the last 10-year period, Maryland did somewhat better. Its growth rate since 1 April 2000 has been 6.4% compared to the U.S. growth rate of 8.0% in that time. This ranks it 24th among the states. Its position has worsened since a comparatively good Republican governor, Robert Erhlich, was replaced by the present governor, Martin O'Folley. The Democrat legislature is no longer somewhat frustrated and is instead being encouraged to cause mischief and harm. As we have seen, it and the local governments are very effective in this effort.