28 February 2009


No I’m not referring to global warming, but the consequences of Obama’s new $645 billion carbon tax increase. This is a new and completely unnecessary element that will increase energy costs for everyone and permeate throughout the economy. If you think utility bills are high now, wait until this kicks in. It also takes energy to produce and transport everything we eat and use so the cost of everything will increase. Furthermore, it will trigger inflation, which could spiral out of control with the deficits now being established. This will hit senior citizens and those on fixed incomes the hardest. Sheep and cow belching produces more CO2 and methane than energy production does. Will they be taxed too? While Obama claims most of this will be returned to the people after the feds take a big chunk, the money will be targeted to the ”poor,” which won’t include you, so you will have less and less disposable income left.

Other tax changes and measures are designed to eviscerate the coal and petroleum industries, thus discouraging rather than encouraging the domestic production of oil. If they really want to reduce CO2 wouldn’t it be simpler to just plant trees?

27 February 2009


The sentiment that seems most appropriate for the present moment is shock and disbelief. Disbelief over the financial crisis, and shock at how the value of things could collapse so steeply. There is incredulity at how once solid institutions have fallen apart at how the economic intelligensia could have been so wrong at a point in history when there was a greater accumulation of knowledge and expertise. Others are waking from disbelief that Obama is actually president. Suddenly nothing is as it was, and may never be again. The best of times may have already past. These sentiments seem to be increasing, and we have not yet seen the worst of things. Gloom feeds upon itself, eventually leading to despair.

The government is now involved in all aspects of life, which unfortunately makes politics all the more important as the stakes are much higher while the competence is much lower. The administration, rather than calming the waters is inducing panic, and causing the market to continue to tumble due to lack of confidence. Money will not flow, capital will stay on strike, as things move in the wrong direction. Companies cut back, people don’t spend, or pour money into things like gold that don’t produce anything. The manageable is becoming unmanageable.
There is little reason for confidence in the direction of things, which may get steadily worse. But out of this we may regain a sense, in this most optimistic of lands, that life is ultimately tragic. But once that realization sets in, it can be followed by a calm resignation that things are what they are, beyond our control, except for those that are yet most immediate and dear to us.

21 February 2009


Tomorrow is George Washington's birthday. It is a national disgrace that it is no longer celebrated as such. It has been folded into the irritating, commercial "Presidents Day." However, even though it has been moved to the third Monday in February, Washington's birthday is still the official holiday, although you'd never know it given the dismal lack of recognition.

George Washington was not only the greatest American, but probably the greatest political leader in history. He led this country through a miraculously successful war for independence, then retired from power, where a lesser man might have grabbed it for himself. He guided the new constitution into being and served as our first President, setting a great example and establishing precedents, and again surrendered power voluntarily. How different history would have been but for him. In America we owe him everything, yet children no longer learn our true history.

He deserves better treatment, and accordingly I am launching a campaign to properly restore Washington's birthday to its rightful place. I have registered a site, restorewashington.com, which is still being configured as I want to add a petition link to accomplish this, and will announce when it is ready. If we cannot properly honor our founding ancestors we do not deserve to continue.

16 February 2009


At the core of most enduring traditions there is a practical rationale that is beneficial to society. Out-of-wedlock births have traditionally been frowned upon as immoral, but more practically because this places the burden of support on other family members, or in modern times, on society. Unfortunately as the state has become the provider for fatherless children the moral sanction has dissipated. It is perfectly acceptable in today’s western world to have children without regard to the consequences.

The stimulus bill contains a stealth provision undoing welfare reform passed in the 90s which discouraged such behavior somewhat, so we may now see yet more of it. It takes an extreme case to bring on any indignation these days, such as the woman in California who had octuplets without a father while already having six other children. A condition of social support in this case should be that she be prevented from having any more children. Out of wedlock births are the principal cause of poverty and social dysfunction, and why over recent generations there has been little social improvement despite progress in other areas. This can only change when there is some sanction and a significant social cost for irresponsible behavior rather than considering it simply a “lifestyle choice,” Marriage is the most effective way to reduce poverty and welfare dependency. Thus there are good reasons for traditional moral principles that transcend their basis in faith and it is time to bring them back.

15 February 2009


Three former Latin American presidents, all conservative, have issued a report criticizing the federal government’s war on drugs as a complete failure. Worse it is undermining democratic governments in Latin America by fueling corruption, insurgencies, and violent drug gangs. Yet despite billions of dollars in expenditures the supply of drugs has hardly been affected, driven by the demand in the United States. Drug violence is rampant just across the border in Mexico, where their federal government has had to call out the Army to try and deal with it.

Drug violence continues to plague poor communities in the United States as well. We have one of the largest prison populations in the world largely due to the drug war, although most are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. We have criminalized generations of young people to dead end lives for offenses that are often trivial. Note the nutty sheriff in South Carolina currently pursuing Michael Phelps for smoking pot.

Some states have come to realize none of this is working and have passed laws either allowing medical use or decriminalizing marijuana, but they have been trumped by the federal drug warriors. We should allow various kinds of experiments at the state and local level to see how things work. The most cogent arguments for legalization are libertarian- that individuals have the right to do what they want as long as they do not harm others. To this I would add that the laws are made by society’s winners; those for whom the system works. However there are also losers with lives of unrelieved misery. By what right do we deny them the choice to alleviate the pain of an otherwise hopeless existence?

At the very least marijuana should be decriminalized, even in just a few jurisdictions. The only possible argument against this is use by children. Here the law could continue to be stringent, even enhanced given that children are already exposed to it. It is true that some individuals can be negatively impacted in terms of abuse, while others can use it without any effects. As with addictions this is probably a genetic predisposition, but the same is also true of alcohol or cigarettes, which cause far more harm. There are also medical benefits for some people suffering from serious disease, and it is absurd to deny them the option to alleviate painful symptoms.  

I am not arguing for blanket legalization at this time, but rather that the feds stand down from their destructive, failed effort, support rehabilitation instead, and allow states and localities to try different approaches. Then we at least have a means of comparing various approaches.

This would also relieve friendly governments in Latin America, and deny our enemies a source of revenue and a weapon to use against us, as well as undercut drug gangs that are spreading into other areas such as smuggling and illegal immigration. In Afghanistan we could simply buy up the opium crop and thereby deprive enemies of revenue and recruitment tools, at much lower cost.

14 February 2009


The huge expansion of government we are now seeing may have profound consequences for the future. The debt will have to be paid by taxpayers, who are a shrinking portion of the population. As direct money transfers, services, and jobs provided by the government expand, resources are drawn out of the private sector. We will reach a point where those receiving money and support from the government or working for the government will outnumber those who do not. Those dependent on the government will be able to vote themselves continuing benefits at the expense of others in the private sector. This means that a minority of the population will be supporting a majority, which will require higher taxes and make work in the private sector all the more futile. Then the number of productive citizens will decline further while the unproductive increase. This would be disastrous and ultimately lead to social chaos and collapse. The stimulus package puts us closer to that tipping point than ever. Many expenditure commitments will be difficult to undo in the future, so all we can do is our best to make sure that the “temporary” increase in government will in fact remain so, lest the tipping point be reached.


I’m sitting here writing with one of my cats stretched across my lap napping while I try to type. I think of the vibrant personalities they have, for in so many ways they are individuals like us. They have emotions, they are capable of intentional actions, and they can communicate in a “language” we share. It is not just sounds but gestures, movements, and eye expression. It is something that is built up jointly over time to come to an understanding of certain things. The difference with our regular language is that that this is not passed on, so it exists only here, for as long as we do. In the wild cats are not social animals so there is little chance for aggregation of experience to take hold.

Individual personality is not something unique to us. It is present in other animals as well. I did not always feel this way, perceiving them simply as lesser, mindless beings, When I was much younger I remember sitting on a beach with a flock of seagulls nearby. Then they were just birds, an undifferentiated group. But as I watched them, individual personalities began to emerge, particularly the one who established that he was in charge and setting the order of things. It occurred to me then that each one was different. When I go diving I see it even in fish, such as an occasionally curious barracuda that leaves in a huff when waved off.

As a city boy I will never understand how people could raise domestic animals, intimately know them and then slaughter them. I am not arguing against it, for it is part of the tragedy of our existence. But it is something I could not do now. For if in fact some measure of distinct identity applies to other animals, whose lot is mostly to suffer and die, then nothing good can be behind this scheme of things.

10 February 2009


The present stimulus package contains provisions for electronic medical records, a good idea that was already started under Bush. However in this iteration it would be under the control of a federal board, which would set standards, grant permissions, etc. as a first step in taking control of the entire health care industry.

Never mind that many places already have begun this kind of system. At the hospital where most of my doctors are affiliated it is possible for doctors to look up tests, reports, etc. remotely via computer now. They are also responsive to Email.
The principle argument for a greater government role in health care centers on the fact that 40 to 50 some odd million lack health insurance and presumably care, even though many of these are in transition or refuse to buy it, so that the numbers are fungible. But let’s take the highest number; that still means 250 million already have good health care; so in order to accommodate 20%, 80% will find their health care degenerating into a Medicaid version of the British National Health service, with treatments, drugs, etc. dictated or denied by bureaucrats.

This is illustrative of a general left-wing principle: the notion that because some are poor or deficient, even though a minority, all of society must be upended for the worse in order to fallaciously accommodate their needs.

05 February 2009


The congressional "stimulus" continues to balloon into a monstrosity. At present it would increase the federal discretionary budget by 80%. That means all the programs and departments that have built up over the years provide a baseline to which 80% more spending is added. Thus the only thing being stimulated is the government. The Democrats have managed to pack in every agenda item on their list under the guise of stimulus. If it were to pass they could actually go home because they will have managed to install their entire agenda in one bill. Growing the government is no solution to the economic situation, particularly when these "temporary" expenditures are likely to become permanent and spread out over years. This will surely only make things worse, and as presently constituted no stimulus is preferable to this. A tax reduction would have far more impact without creating all the damage this bill does. A temporary reduction in the payroll tax would immediately put more money into the hands of lower income people in a meaningful way and jump start spending. Encouraging private spending is the answer, not government.