Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Q & A time on Civil Disobedience

Q: What costs city governments millions of dollars, and has been associated with fatal drug abuse, riots, looting, confrontation with police, socialism, communism, suicide, murder and just plain old poor sanitation?

A: The Occupy Wall Street movement.

I'm not so sure that's the message they intended to send.

Civil disobedience is a valid protest mechanism, but it works best as a last resort. That means you use it after you've tried electing officials who share your views, have tried taking issues to the courts, and have spent time writing and speaking in public to share your point of view. Unfortunately these preliminary methods all appear to be too slow for those with limited patience or intellect.

Civil disobedience also doesn't cover anarchy, looting or riots. People who do that are just thugs, ruffians and thieves.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Don't leave your brain home

At a recent presidential Q&A session, President Obama was asked the question "Would you please raise my taxes?"

Apparently, Doug Edwards (an ex-Google executive) forgot his brain when he asked that question. What he wanted was improved job training, better education and new infrastructure. What he asked for was for a horribly inefficient organization to take his money by legislation, run it through a wasteful bureaucratic process, then eventually spend it on three areas, two of which he could spend money on himself with zero overhead.

Yeah, infrastructure such as roads are government controlled and are easier to deal with through taxation. But if Doug wants better schools, donate time and money to schools. He's got enough money to sponsor chairs or scholarships at universities, or buy crayons for every elementary student in the country. If he wants better job training, then hire or train some people. He's been an executive at a big company before. He should know how those sorts of things work. Why not organize a job training program, or volunteer to help or donate to one that already exists?

It just boggles the mind how people (even very successful people who understand finance and business) assume government involvement will improve things more than large scale personal involvement will improve things. Get involved! Make a difference! Stop whining about what other people (or government) aren't doing, and make yourself useful.

We don't need more taxes. We need more people taking ownership and making a difference so the need for taxation goes down.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sin Tax

Tax what you don't want people to do and you get less of it. Stop taxing what you want people to do and you get more of it. People sometimes call those Sin Taxes. Now, I'm just confused by this plan from the deficit reduction Gang of Six.

Rather than taxing vices, they're going straight after the smart folks who have been doing all the right things to provide both for themselves and for others. Wonder of wonders, that seems to be where the money is.

The home mortgage interest deduction? Charitable giving? Retirement savings? I guess the new plan is for us to be uncharitable greed-mongers who are forced into government housing and a tiny Social Security check when we're too old to work, rather than having a home and a retirement fund. A concrete studio apartment in the projects is good enough for retirement, ain't it?

Still, the answer is not to go regressive and just tax booze, smoking, sleaze and gambling either. I figure it's going to take painfully deep cuts across just about everything (particularly entitlements) to get out of the hole Congress has dug for us, and I doubt many of our esteemed Senators and Representatives have the nerve to cut deep enough to solve the problem.

That's what you get for bickering over deficit reduction until the last minute. You get a poor job slapped together in a hurry by people more interested in posturing than production, which will need to be fixed again next year if it lasts that long.

Unfortunately, there is a tipping point waiting out there somewhere. A point of no return where we just can't recover without major international disaster. Even worse, we may not even know when we've crossed that threshold. Let's hope common sense can actually be common, just this once, so we can move on in a more sensible manner as a country.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

White House says stimulus is working

I saw an article in the paper today about the stimulus package, and how it appears to be on track to create or save as many as 3.5 million jobs at a cost of $862 billion, as promised by Congress. Now, that may sound like success to a lot of people, and I'll even ignore the whole "on track" bit and assume it's true. But let's do a little bit of math and see what that means.

Doing some simple division, you get $246285 per job, give or take a few cents. Now, we need to quantify what "a job" is just a bit, so I went out to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and found a 2010 jobs report. In the report, you find this quote:

The average person born in the latter years of the baby boom held 11 jobs
from age 18 to age 44

So it's time to break out the calculator again. The study says men were employed on average 85% of that span of years, That gives a span of 21.84 working years, (26 years times 84%), and eleven jobs. One more divide tells me that the average job lasted 1.98 years based on the info provided by the BLS. That's somewhat below my own average job duration, but I'm in high tech which pushes average job lengths up a bit.

Now the magic begins. Taking our dollar amount, and the average job length, (and dividing once again. Am I being too divisive?) we get an annual wage of $124386 per year. There are several professions with high education requirements and detailed skill sets where that is a reasonable annual salary.

I haven't mentioned yet is that this would be the cost if they were paid TO DO NOTHING, as if they were a little monetary black hole, sucking in government funds. The government can, of course, employ them with government labor and get some value from them on things like road construction or hiring new IRS agents to handle foreclosure paperwork, but those are by definition not private sector jobs. We need jobs in the private sector.

Even assuming the government pays 3.5 million people to pick their noses, they can do better with minimal effort. The average personal income in the US is about $43000. By applying this wage to the amount being spent, and assuming the same average job duration, you can employ 10.1 million nose pickers. I assume it would be a simple matter to triple that to 30 million if people were hired to do actual work with value near their pay.

Then there's the trickle down effect of jobs, um, created or saved by the majority of that money going back into the economy as rent, house payments, groceries, and so on. This should make jobs per dollar go up.

I know this is counter to the way government is designed to work, but isn't it about time for the government to spend efficiently? They could have done better by randomly mailing out stimulus checks. Oh, wait. They did that already. My bad. If I remember right, members of Congress complained about how too many people paid off debt or invested their stimulus check, rather than buying stuff. People did things which take longer to show an impact, and that irritated those who wanted immediate gratification.

We as citizens can fix this problem, and we are fixing it gradually. It takes time, hard work, and thinking as much about your neighbor's job as you do your own. Small businesses are the engine of the economy. As a group, we provide the goods, services and jobs which will bring us back to a stable economy which is capable of sustaining a lower and healthier unemployment rate. If we wait for the government to bail us out on this one, it will be a long wait and a burden to be shouldered by our children and grandchildren.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jobs Created or Saved?

We've been hearing since 2008 how large numbers of jobs have been created or saved via government intervention. Hooray for us! All those folks are employed now! Everything is just great! But wait. Recently, they announced that some education stimulus funding was going to have to be continued in the last half of 2010, or we would suffer massive teacher layoffs, and children would have to deal with gargantuan class sizes.

This got me thinking that the stimulus-related jobs aren't described in enough categories, so I'm going to define my own. Each category defines a particular group of jobs which exist now because of the stimulus.

Jobs Created
  • These jobs are self-sustaining long-term jobs created through a bootstrap process which was funded by government intervention. This means government jobs don't get counted here, which I think is a good thing. This could include things like spin-off companies from universities which receive federal funds.
Jobs Saved
  • These jobs return to being self-sustaining long-term jobs after suffering a short period where the job would have been lost without government intervention. Still, don't put goverment jobs here. Some small businesses are saved through loans, or through tapping into house equity. Too bad most lenders seem to be in lock-down.
Temps Created
  • These are short-term jobs which result in the temp workers filling jobs with known end dates. There are actually two sub categories here, since there are those temp jobs where the employee earns more than the government spent to create the job, and there are those where the government pays at least equal to their wages. For this category, think new construction projects like roads, or things like census takers. The majority of the paychecks come either directly or indirectly from the government.
Temps Saved
  • These are short-term jobs which would have been eliminated (as all temp jobs are) if it had not been for government intervention putting off the ending date. Most of these would be employees of small businesses who found some sort of windfall through the stimulus which allowed them to keep employees longer than they had planned. Meh.
Government Jobs Eliminated
  • Woudn't it be cool if they would report this as a positive number? I'd want it to be a net value so it would be an actual reduction in the number of government employees rather than the elimination of X jobs while the government is off creating Y new ones elsewhere.

Jobs Subsidized

  • These are long-term jobs which require ongoing funding to avoid collapse. This is where you count government jobs (both created and saved) as well as any others which would go away without continued government efforts to prop them up. Granted, some jobs such as teachers could be on their way to being self-sustaining at existing taxation levels, so it's a matter of deciding how long we're willing to pay and pray.

So, which do think we have the most of now that we've been stimulating the economy for nearly two years to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars? It should be blindingly obvious if you follow the news. Now for the tough question. Since the government can't and shouldn't take care of everything, what do we as citizens do about it?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Another Argument Against the Death Penalty

In a recent pronouncement of The American Board of Anesthesiology, Inc., this organization has finally spoken against the use of their profession in a way that defies or ignores the Hippocratic Oath of preserving human life.

According to this document: "The majority of states in the United States authorize capital punishment, and nearly all states utilize lethal injection as the means of execution. However, this method of execution is not always straightforward (1), and, therefore, some states have sought the assistance of anesthesiologists (2). This puts anesthesiologists in an untenable position. They can assuredly provide effective anesthesia, but doing so in order to cause a patient’s death is a violation of their fundamental duty as physicians to do no harm."

Yes it IS! And to those that argue the rightfulness of the death penalty not-withstanding, this is the accurate and ethical reading of the Hippocratic oath. Yes it means that medical people should not participate in the death penalty, and yes it means that those involved in the medical professions should never consider dealing death as a part of their calling. While I strongly disagree with those that argue that it is the right of the state to take life, I also strongly disagree with those that would take life and couch it in terms that it is somehow "painless" or "humane." The problem is deeper than that. The argument that it is a reflection of biblical texts makes the issue a method in ethics in the christian west. That is, by the way, what we are.

We here in Texas have always enjoyed the strength of law and somehow pretend that the old Calvinist attitudes of the Anglo settlers here must prevail in the arguments of law and ethics. I am here to tell you that the old Spanish laws of anti-slavery could have prevailed in the old Texas, and the modern Catholic understanding of capital punishment deserve an audience. The old Spanish laws of preserving the right of women to own property were outside the common law of the United States and were a unique milestone in the US until much later. The modern view that the right of the state to take a human life is a throwback to an earlier and violent age when that was the only reserve of a state that had little alternative compared with the numbers of crimes committed in that day and age. We no longer live in that day or age and other considerations have to come to the forefront.

The death penalty has not proved to be a preventative measure to violent crimes, but it does provide the state with a lot of ethical problems. It appears that the best measure against violent crime is to have an armed and educated people that are trained to use their firearms and the willingness to only use them in times of severe distress. The result is what Robert Heinlein offered back in the 60's, in that an armed society tends to be a polite society. When the State is armed with this measure of taking human life, something else seems to happen. It happens this way because ethics is not a normal measure of the strength of a bureaucracy, but rather the small letter attitudes of what a bureaucracy does.

It happens the same way with the total and unrelenting stupidity of the so-called "Zero Tolerance" laws that have infected this great nation. What is more stupid than a zero tolerance law? It means that literally our judicial system is not able to cope, and when there are things that occur that NO PERSON could have possibly predicted, then what we have to do is abandon good sense. How can we say that a kid that had his hunting rifle in his truck when he went to school is in any way related to the wack-job that killed their parents before bringing their firearms to school and then opened fire?

I will tell you how. It happens when we, as parents and uncles and guardians and mothers, decide to abandon our own good sense and our own willingness to participate in society and leave it to the government to make these decisions on our own behalf. In other words, we decide that we cannot deal with these people but need to have someone else make these decisions.

The death penalty is the same abrogation of our right as a society to think. If we actually kept a murderer behind bars until he/she could clear their name, then we do not have to take on the abrogation of human life by killing them. It does not mean set them free until that happens, but rather that a life sentence have actual teeth. It does mean that when we find the state's evidence wanting, we can actually free the innocent that has been incarcerated. It also means that we can free the victims of a wrongful death the thing that makes them most afraid; namely, killing the wrong person in the name of justice.

This is the kinder and gentler Phelonius that some readers have asked for, and thus ye receive.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Obama Wins Big

In another spectacular win, President Obama has evidently won over another well know humanitarian and leader in human rights. That would be none other than the great dictator and murderer of Christians, His Excellency Brother Leader Moammar Gaddafi, Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya! Our friends at the Washington Post have pointed out this rather dubious distinction, and suggest that Obama and his crowd are going to be embarrassed by this revelation. I suggest that if the shoe fits, then one should wear it.


Moammar goes on to say that: "'I really endorse and support the policies that he has adopted so far,' Brother Leader said Monday afternoon in a video teleconference arranged by the World Affairs Councils of America. Gaddafi referred affectionately to the president as "our son Barack Obama," helpfully translating Obama's name from the Arabic: 'Barakah -- blessing.'"

He is their son, they claim, and so we must be sure that we want to claim the same thing. His policies of American weakness, American culpability and American egregiousness have now finally taken root in the international stage, and the chickens, as they say, are coming home to roost. He recently promised third world dictators that we will limit our responses to aggression to a non-nuclear response. That's good isn't it? The fact that "Ahmadinnerjacket" of Iran just pissed all over Obama must not have a lot of meaning to this administration. The fact that North Korea did the same thing has evidently had no impact on the idiots in this White House. The fact that dictators and enemies of freedom all over the world both applaud his new approach and, at the same time, deride him for our weaknesses makes no impact. I fear what kind of impact that it will take to bring this country to our senses.

Obama is my FREENS!

Obama recently made the comment that the US is a superpower "whether we like it or not." Whether we like it or not?? Who does not like the US as a superpower? The Jews and others that we freed from the Nazi concentration camps fear the US as a super-power? The free people of eastern Europe that were liberated by a collapse of the Soviet Union? The people of the Soviet Union itself fear us? Who is so unhappy that after the Second World War that we fed Berlin? Who is so unhappy that the Pacific Ocean is not held by a dictatorship under the Imperial flag of Japan? Who, exactly, is terribly unhappy that this nation, which bled for freedom in this last century, is a super-power? I lost relatives in WWII, and most who read this post lost relatives in that conflict. Who mourns for the loss of Khrushchev and the old age of Fidel Castro? Who wants to support the animals that are the leadership of Argentina? Who hates the idea that the US is the place of freedom and opportunity?

I will tell you who it is, and the nexus of it lives in the White House at this moment. The religious left of this country and those that swallow their cool-aid are the Nancy Pelosi’s and the Harry Ried’s of this nation, and they are bathing us in the colors of shame, ineptitude and cowardice. They are disgracing the memories of our for-fathers that fought for freedom here and abroad. They are disgracing the ideals of the Constitution that our own blood flowed for. They are ashamed of our freedoms and our way of life because it conflicts with a true socialist ideal of what the whole planet should look like.

In their world-view, there should never be inequalities and there should never be economic advantages. It is the short reading of Marx and it is a short reading of economic reality. The short reading of Marx is the same thing that is happening with the short reading Adam Smith. Smith never promised a utopia, where Marx's reading should never read free society. There is, therefore, a choice that has to be made in a rational society.

I say ENOUGH! I say that we vote our minds and our conscience, and we vote. It makes no difference minding the political affiliation or the type of dog that they own or whether they drive a Toyota or not. I am saying vote your conscience. Vote that you do not desire the Federal Government as your Master and Owner, but that you desire to be free of them and all of their idiotic solutions to your every need and desire. If your local representative is a Democrat, and he/she has been a vocal opponent to Obama, then vote for them. This is not about party lines but about freedom. Find the people that represent you and represent freedom and vote for them. But, for the love of all that is good and desirable, vote!