Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Selecting a Political Proxy by Proxy

It has become a staple of the election season. Every election cycle, we get treated to a parade of names splashed across the media. Pairings of politicos with papers, pundits, personalities and power-brokers stream across the news-tickers like up-to-the-minute stock quotes. But to what end? The resultant undulation of poll numbers like waves raised by a boulder in a pond tell us that these endorsements actually mean something to the alleged "voting public." But why?

In the small beginnings of representative republics (which America is by design and still purports to be), people generally knew the people that they were sending to office - and vice versa. The typical "campaign" was nothing more than

"I like Chuck the blacksmith. He is pretty wise. We all go to him for advice and counsel anyway. He also knows how to make his point very well... maybe we should send him to [Capital] to speak for us here in [Podunk]."
There are two very relevant, core points in play in that simple scenario.

  • Our citizen knows Chuck, knows his character, and knows what he feels about issues.
  • Chuck knows the citizen, knows his needs, and knows what he feels about issues.

Even if Chuck didn't know everybody by name, it is likely that he could easily be approached by people in his district that had a concern that they wanted to bring up. It was also likely that if a given citizen didn't know Chuck directly, he likely had dealings with someone who did.

"Well, I haven't met ol' Chuck the blacksmith, but Ralph the baker says that he's a good man and knows what he's talking about."

There was no "6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon" necessary to find someone who could give an adequate assessment of Chuck the blacksmith.

As the population grew, the number of people that a representative... uh... represented... grew as well. Where Chuck the blacksmith may have gone off to Washington to speak for a few hundred or a few thousand people... today's politicians represent hundreds of thousands of constituents. At that scale, it is logistically impossible for a representative to personally know all the members in his (or her) district. Likewise, it is impossible for this person to know what their wishes are or what is in their best interest. It is because of this that most Representatives hold more allegiance to their political party (and the inherent ideals) than to their constituents. That, however, is tinder for another post at a later time.

The other side of this equation is that it is impossible for the citizens to know the person they are selecting to speak for them on matters. They can't even ask Ralph the baker for his opinion since it is just as likely that Ralph has never met our modern-day Chuck. That puts our lowly citizen at a decided loss...

"Who is Chuck? What does he believe? Does he care about my issues?"
Added to this interesting mix is the fact that most people in America have very little, if any, idea about how [insert a seat of government here] works. Our educational system ejaculates students into the world that know that the Pilgrims landed on this continent but with little true understanding of why. They know that there is a document that begins "We the people..." but don't know what momentous occasion it heralded. They know that we have a Constitution - but very often mis-understand and mis-quote (typically with the blank-eyed rote repetition of the superficially knowledgeable) its contents. What that means is that a significant, almost overwhelming, portion of the populous doesn't actually understand what is being said (sold?) by those either already in positions of governmental power or by those who strive to be so.

All of the after-the-fact complexity that government has interwoven into their purported job descriptions only serves to obfuscate their real roles - and likewise their real stances on issues. Not many people are able to even notice when a politician's sound-byte contradicts a Constitutional principle. Most people wouldn't even notice when a politician's sound-byte on an issue contradicts that same politician's own stance from a day before. There's simply too much for most people to grasp. They have neither the tools nor the patience.

However, since the people are given at least the appearance of having a choice (shell games like gerrymandering aside), they like to believe that they are part of The Process. But whom to choose? Gone are the Ralph the Bakers that we can ask. I don't discount the influence of hearing the babble of friends, family and co-workers. Certainly, that plays a part - but is as reliable as the theoretical "wisdom of crowds". It definitely has a familial and even regional effect - very similar to the premise "we worship the Gods of our fathers." If you are born into or live in the midst of a predominant mindset, it is likely you will absorb some of its dogma.

No, people like to put their trust in an institution. Often, there is the comforting belief that "an organization knows better." Yes, this is a spin-off on the "wisdom of crowds" but with one additional trump card: credibility. People assume that something bigger than themselves (or their direct peers) must also know more than themselves. If the person trusts that entity - they become a de facto Ralph the Baker... albeit one with which they are almost as unfamiliar as the political figures they are seeking information on.

There are plenty of examples:

  • Newspapers report the news - they must know all the ins and outs of how The System works, right? Who better to turn to for information!
  • Religious organizations are ethical - they must know which candidates represent the important societal issues!
  • Labor unions stand for the "common man" - they must know which candidate is going to work for me and my family's best interests!
  • Political bodies (including parties) are already part of the The System - they must know who will support their very same issues.
  • [A special interest group] supports [cause] - they will obviously choose the candidate that will advance my pet issue (unspoken implication: "which is not only Constitutional valid but more important than any other governmental responsibility")!

There are a few problems with all of the above. First, those organizations don't truly exist as a thinking entity - they are a collection of individuals... each with their own agenda, their own perceptions, and their own conclusions. Certainly, in the case of some organizations, religious organizations for example, there may be a single figurehead that may, to some degree, speak for the group... and even set the course in general - but by and large, they are a group of people that project what is really an aggregate into some sort of homogeneous image. In the end, however, the lone voter avoids making a decision as to whether to trust the candidate by deciding whether or not to trust the group's wisdom and subsequent stance on that candidate. There has been an extra layer inserted into the process. To pervert the chain even further, there may have been other entities involvement into whether or not the proxy group, themselves, should be trusted in the first place. Yet again, another layer between the individual and the person they are allegedly making an informed choice about of their own free will.

What's worse is the de facto nomination of individuals as the surrogate thinker. These range from the mildly annoying such as talk show hosts to the completely inane such as a Hollywood or music-industry figure. It is one thing to subscribe to the candidate of a political talk-show host such as a Rush Limbaugh - his listeners know his stance on political issues to a great degree. Michael Moore is also someone who has made his views known on a variety of issues. You know what you are getting into with these people. However... what are Oprah's political views? She is a very visible talk-show host... but her topics are once removed from the arena of politics. Sure, we may know her beliefs on life issues - but how many of them map over onto political issues? How many of them should? So how relevant is her endorsement? And how transparent? And yet, when she announced her support for Barrack Obama - the media was sucked in to cover it so swiftly it was as if the cliff was crumbling towards the lemmings faster than the lemmings were running to the cliff. And because the media cared about Oprah, so did the people (note the 2 layers of proxy).

With the entertainment world figures, the association is even more flawed and bizarre. While we know something about Oprah's views, what do we really know about an actor or a musician? The actor was in a movie written by someone else, playing a role conceived by someone else... and yet we associate them with... what? Perhaps the musician wrote lyrics that moved us... or the author wrote fiction that inspired us - but those are likely as trustworthy as believing that Stephen King actually thinks there are children in the corn and nasty stuff happens when you walk out into the fog. But there are those that trust these people as their political proxies. [Some actor] believes that [candidate] is evil - therefore, so shall I. [Some musician] believes that [candidate] will [do nifty thing] - therefore, I will support said candidate.

Put that simply, it seems ludicrous. And yet it happens every election cycle. If it didn't, it wouldn't be newsworthy. (Of course, the claim can be made that much of what is covered by the media is not necessarily newsworthy.) And yet it parades on... Why? What does that say about the American public that we trust so many other sources of opinion above our own? What does it say that we pay more attention to the lives and personalities of the candidates on "American Idol" or "Dancing With the Stars" than we do to the people who, literally, control our every day lives? (The fact that people don't even grasp that last fact is actually rather startling as well.)

Does it say they don't understand? Possibly.

Does it say they don't want to take the time? Probably.

Does it say they don't care... ?

I don't know the answer to that - but I know it scares me to even consider it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

New baby = environmental tax?

Well, they are seriously considering this in Australia. If you have more than two children, you would be forced to pay a $5000 (Australian Dollars) baby tax at birth and an additional $800 per year in order to offset the carbon usage that the kid will supposedly use.

Professor Walters said the average annual carbon dioxide emission by an Australian individual was about 17 metric tons, including energy use.

"Every newborn baby in Australia represents a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions for an average of 80 years, not simply by breathing but by the profligate consumption of resources typical of our society," he wrote.

OK... think between the lines a moment. Let's skip over the debate about the legitimacy of the idea of carbon taxes, etc. on this and look simply at the money flow...
  1. The carbon tax is paid to the Australian government.
  2. The Australian government pays Mother Nature. Uh.... then what?

I suppose the government could do something token with the money like planting trees or something - but would they? And how would you know that your $5000 + $800 per year is actually being used in such a way as to truly replace the carbon your rug rats are burning? Do they give you a receipt? Do they give you a little framed certificate like the Star Registry people that give you the directions to your kid's particular tree(s)? Or does the money disappear into the coffers?

The bottom line is that they are just collecting more money that they are then not forced to be accountable for. Nothing new here.

I did like one quote in the article, however.

Australian Family Association spokeswoman Angela Conway said it was ridiculous to blame babies for global warming.

"I think self-important professors with silly ideas should have to pay carbon tax for all the hot air they create," she said.

How brilliant is that?

Update on guns in Omaha mall

This is a follow-up to my post about concealed weapons being banned in the Omaha mall.

Well, a blogger has posted pictures of the signs at Omaha's Westroads mall that state that concealed weapons (or even openly carried ones, I suppose) are were not allowed in the mall.

Here's an amusing tidbit, however... a further along, he shows pictures of the same spot - where the signs were removed. Good call.

Perhaps the most moving point is in a further blog post on the same site. Here is copied a first-hand account of the shooting. The kicker is this - the man has a gun but, despite having taken the training class, has not bothered to get the "concealed carry" permit. His reason? He isn't allowed to carry at all in the places where he would need it the most. That came back to haunt him that day in Omaha...

I do not have a Concealed Handgun Permit. I have completed the training class, but I keep putting off applying for the permit because I think it is useless. In the places I would need a gun most, I am not allowed to have it. I will not be a person living in fear and not go to Van Maur because they don’t allow guns.

My point that Open Carry needs to be easier in Omaha, and places like Westroads need to take down their “no guns” signs.

If I had my gun deeply concealed, I wouldn’t have been able to draw it very fast. However, If I had open carried, I could of drawn instantly.

Either way though, I could have drawn and taken a clean shot. However, in both cases, regardless of the laws, I am not allowed to carry a gun at all in Westroads Mall. If the laws did not oppress my rights, I would carry a gun most places (except work). I would certainly have had it in the mall as mall shootings have been on my mind since the incident at a mall involving a shotgun back in February.

My wife is somewhat cautious about guns as is my sister-in-law. After this event, both are now pro-guns. In addition, I will never again be caught without a gun.

I later learned from the news that people were shot at customer service (to my right) and the children’s section (in front of me, off to the left). This means it was only luck this guy did not target me, as I was closer to him than some of the people he shot. I have a second chance at life.


I were allowed to carry a gun, I would have and I would have used it. That is a hard fact. I am not trying to be a hero and say that I would have tried to save lives. I am saying that I was trying to save my life, and if my family was there, their lives as well. There is nothing "hero" about what I am saying, it's about survival.

Doesn't that about say it?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Concealed weapons banned in Omaha mall

This article from the Omaha World Herald dated March 28, 2007 reports on how Omaha businesses have elected to post signs saying that they don’t allow concealed weapons on their premises. Included in the article is Westroads mall – the most famous shooting gallery in the country this week.

Here’s a couple of excerpts, but I recommend you read the whole article.

Almost three months after the start of a state law allowing people to carry concealed weapons, signs banning guns from privately owned businesses haven't exactly popped up all over the Omaha area.In fact, although some chains such as Bag 'N Save have posted signs and shopping malls such as Westroads Mall have added "no weapons" clauses to their posted codes of conduct, many small businesses haven't seen the need. And at least one that did later reconsidered. Under the law, concealed handguns are banned from some businesses, including bars and financial institutions. Other businesses and employers can ban concealed weapons from their property by posting a sign that guns are not allowed.

And the award for the most obvious comment goes to this person:

At Countryside Village, Diana Abbott, manager of the Bookworm, which does not have a sign, laughed at the question."It's not like a robber is going to look at the sign and say, 'Oh, I'm not going to rob the place.'"
This is very similar to the Virginia Tech massacre where the State of Virginia had chosen to NOT allow concealed weapons on campus. Dude went out and mowed down a couple dozen people. What if any one of them or one of the bystanders had been packing? He probably would have been stopped at some point. Same thing with yesterday in Omaha. Do you think the people in that store/mall were glad that no one else around them had a gun? Or perhaps they were hoping that someone nearby them (or even they themselves) had a gun tucked away under a jacket or pant leg.

What an interesting quandary… the police logistically can’t protect us with enough speed to prevent things like this from happening. They can only react after the fact. And yet, the government insists that we can’t protect ourselves either. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to make sure that we are not allowed to. Anyone wonder what the point of that is?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Save me from myself, Mrs. Clinton

In the first days of December, Mrs. Clinton came out with an entirely new tack for her. She called for a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures as well as a five-year freeze on the rates of adjustable mortgages. (choose your source) This is such a blatant invasion by government into the free commerce of the private sector that it is almost a spectacular display of chutzpah that it is being suggested openly rather than under a cloak of darkness. And it is not just being proffered by a secure, sitting Congressman (Congresswoman not only sounds kinda silly but may be inaccurate anyway.), but by one actually betting their future sought-after political office on what they say on a day-to-day basis.

Note that these loans were all allegedly perfectly legal contracts when they were written and entered into. If the issue were that they were illegal, that would be what is being addressed here. And Government (be it State or Federal) would be well within their rights to investigate the situation, nullify the contract and prosecute accordingly... because a law would have been broken. However, since that doesn't seem to be the case, it is difficult to ascertain the premise on which Ms. Clinton's request/demand/expectation (it's never just a request with her) is based.

According to Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, a document, which, by now, Ms. Clinton should have had an opportunity to familiarize herself with, Congress has the power to "regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes". This is commonly referred to as "The Commerce Clause." There are three sections to The Commerce Clause, "Foreign...", "Interstate...", and "Indian..." respectively. Unless the banks involved in the mortgage loans were either outside the U.S. or on Indian reservations, the 2nd section ("interstate") of the clause is the only one that could possibly apply. However, even if the Interstate Commerce Clause applied for whatever reason, it remains that the Constitution only says that Congress has the power to regulate. Left alone, that power is not law. Congress' only ability to do anything with that power is to draft and submit a law.

It is no secret that Congress has done their utmost of the years to take the solid granite block concept of free market economics and whittle and carve and chisel it until what remains is barely able to sustain its own weight. They have passed untold laws that have gone over and above the power granted by the Commerce Clause. In fact, most people don't even realize that there is a limitation on this power. We have many government-spawned regulatory bodies that tell us what we can and cannot buy, sell, or trade; how, where and when we can advertise; and what terms we can and cannot set for those sales. It would be pointless (and off-topic) to go into the complexities of the commerce laws that the Federal Government has passed. The point does still exist, however, that - even in light of all those laws on the books - the contracts that were put into force between the mortgage lenders and the borrowers... were legal.

The Executive Branch of the Federal Government exists solely to enforce the laws that are enacted by the Legislative Branch. (Again, not time for a digression into the Judicial Branch's foray into writing law.) That means, in theory, if Congress didn't write a law that in some way covers a specific action, it isn't illegal. No one other than Congress can make it illegal. If the act isn't illegal, it is not within the Government's purview to take any sort of action on it. After all - The Legislative Branch makes laws, the Executive Branch enforces laws, and the Judicial Branch administers the courts when laws are broken. Notice that Government's only power to meddle in the private sector are through the common conduit of law. If there is no law, the Government has no role.

Which brings us back to the issue du jour for Ms. Clinton. If there was:

  • a contract between two ostensibly competent parties,
  • entirely involving commerce in the private sector,
  • that were constructed so as to not violate any laws in force at the time,

... what business is it of Government's?

Ms. Clinton's purpose here is allegedly that she wants to help the poor, struggling families who are about to lose their homes. Let's forego the titular purpose of this blog for a moment and take her at her word. Let's also lay out some other premises that should cover the majority of the situations involved here. The people she is trying to save:

  • were not forced to purchase a house at that time,
  • were not forced to use credit to purchase the house,
  • were not forced to select an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) over a conventional fixed rate one,
  • were not forced to agree to terms that later became inconvenient (e.g. prepayment penalty riders),
  • were not forced to stay with that mortgage (inconvenient penalties not withstanding) as the rates rose.

To sum up, the people involved exercised their freedom and entered into an agreement with another party that, at the time and to the best of their knowledge seemed agreeable to them. Apparently this is what Ms. Clinton finds so scandalous. Given her track record of indirectly implying that the people of this country, as individuals, are incapable of making proper decisions on their own (her health care plans being a prime example), it would logically follow that she believes that the average home loan borrower is incapable of entering into a financial contract with the legal burden of mental competency. Therefore, by applying this assessment with the broad brush of sweeping generalization, she would perform what amounts to a de facto class action judgement via edict and render the contracts that were entered into - in good faith - null and void. (Or at least suspended for a time.)

Even with only a short suit of creativity, this sort of mechanism can be applied in an impressive myriad of ways. In short, any action or decision that, in retrospect, became harmful to an individual should be forgiven. Actually, it only needs to be simply regretted rather than harmful. However, unlike bankruptcy which has its burdens of proof, penalties and long-term ramifications, the person escapes relatively unscathed from the "Hillary suspension." It amounts to the ultimate financial mulligan. It's as simple as saying "I didn't like what came out of my decision, so I'd like you to cut me a break." Not bad - unless you are the one on the other side of the transaction.

This mentality can actually be taken even further - and already has if you recognize the signs. For example, let's say that a retailer sets a price that he wants to sell his product for. For the most part, a seller is free to do that. In a free market, that price is an offer - not a demand. No on is forcing a buyer to agree to it. If the buyer does not agree, there is no transaction. If some buyers do and some do not, it is up to the seller as to whether or not he likes only selling to some people or whether he wants to entice more of them to purchase his product by lowering his price. He can even choose to sell his product to person A for one price and person B for another price. (For example, different negotiated rates for exactly the same product happen all the time between businesses.) There are a number of instances of the concept of "choice" in the above series. The choice to offer for sale, the choice of price, the choice to purchase, the choice to pay a price. All are free choices in a free market.

However, if the government comes along and says, "we understand that you normally sell your product for $X, but to this person we are going to insist that you sell your product for $Y instead," choice has been removed from one of the parties. This happens all the time in our over-regulated, quasi-free market.

One example... After hurricane Katrina, government tried to force insurance companies to pay of claims that were specifically not covered. Some companies chose to raise their rates for future hurricane coverage in order to cover what had become a massive liability for them. Government tried to force the companies to offer lower rates than what they needed to. Some insurance companies did not want to get involved in the issue in the future and chose not to sell insurance in Gulf states any more. Government then tried to prevent those companies from pulling out or force them to offer hurricane insurance in those states once again.

"Gray-out" Davis' price controls on electricity in California only led to the utilities not being able to purchase power from other states when it was needed. The result was rolling blackouts statewide. So, despite having their electric rates frozen at arbitrarily (and unsustainably) low levels, Californians went without reliable power for a good portion of the summer of 2001. (I could have littered this paragraph with all the requisite bolded "chose" words, but I figure at this point, it should be intuitively obvious to most people that they should be in there.)

There are other examples of where government has interfered with the market - allegedly to help the (euphemistically) "less fortunate" - and it has resulted in disaster. But even if the government managed to exorcise the spectral "law of unintended consequences" that is endemic to any large governing body, and instead wielded some Midas-like power, it still would not be their job (via the power granted to them by the consent of the governed) to step in and make changes to any private contract or transaction. It is simply not their business to meddle in our business, so to speak.

So we return to Hillary's proposal... which, at the moment, is theoretically not in the purview of the Federal Government. Why bring it up then? It sure does sound nice. After all, Auntie Hillary (it's OK to call her that since, as a member of "The Village", she has shared in the responsibility of raising us) would like to kiss it better and make the boo-boo go away. Who wouldn't want that?

The timing and nature of the idea couldn't be better - or more obvious. With the election season pre-game show coming to a close and the first round about to begin, Hillary knows that she is being scrutinized. She is also well aware that the turnip that is her health care proposal is not going to yield any more accolades or acolytes than she has already squeezed out of it after 15 years. She was in need of one last, preferably timely and topical, broad-appeal proposal to unfurl like the a banner streaming hope behind her as she appears, galloping at the cavalry van.

But that's not really all that different from most political proposals made during a campaign, is it? We can hardly fault her for trying to come up with something splashy in time for the mighty Dioscuri, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Really, Hillary's true purpose, with this and many of her other proposals, is actually "hidden" in plain sight. Take the generalized ideal that she proffers:

By enacting this plan, the Federal Government will be able to help you get what you want and need.

Through a linguistic slight of hand, she has directed the attention of most people (and most importantly, her potential voter base) to the one hand of her sentence... "get what you want and need". To witness the power of the enticement of this mental analgesic, look no further than a common theme in questions from the public to candidates in debates and the misnomered "town hall" meetings. Surprisingly often a person will ask, "how will you help [me]?" or "what can I expect that you will do for [me]?" or "will you promise to fix [me]?"

So, with the audience fully entranced by the visions of sugar plums, there is little risk that there will be left-over consciousness to ponder what the other half of the statement entails. What people fail to realize fully in their heroin-like euphoric trance is that, "by enacting this plan, the Federal Government" has surreptitiously taken up a little more residence in your life - the wave-by-wave erosion of the beachhead of your freedom. It's made even more clandestine by what you seem to be getting out of the deal in the short term. Even the frog is comforted at first by the slow, even soothing warming of the waters until he is no longer capable of hopping out.

And thus, the mortgage proposal falls into line with other offerings from Ms. Clinton. Under both the rousing fanfare to the Power of the Masses and the soothing lullaby of the nurturing nursemaid, is masked a steady tattoo of deprecation.

You can't do it. We can do it for you. Submit.

It's all there when you think between the lines.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

AMT reluctance exposes Congress' real motives

The fact that Congress has been reluctant for years to repeal - or even adjust - the Alternative Minimum Tax exposes something very telling. It is obvious that the fact that the AMT is encroaching on the middle class is a result of a phenomenon that is particularly endemic to governing bodies - the "law of unintended consequences". By not indexing the AMT to inflation when it was instituted back in 1969 - and leaving it that way for the almost 4 decades since - they created one of the most stealth taxes ever seen. In fact, it is almost surreal that it has taken 38 years to boil this frog. After all, how many of the current hoard of zombies that haunt the halls of Washington were around when the AMT was created? (Ted Kennedy being the obvious standard-bearer.) While it is unfair to hold the current class of Congress responsible for the initial installment of the AMT, it is entirely up to them as to what happens to it now... or last year, or next year.

But they won't. They will spend many hours wearing out the rubber-stamp cliches, certainly. Check out some of these quotes:

Jim Manley, a spokesman for the Senate Majority leader, said. "Senator Reid is committed to paying for AMT relief, but the Republicans have made it clear that they are not." If you pick apart the two phrases, the only issue is that Reid wants to keep the tax money - that they never should have been getting - in Washington where as the Republicans realize that they shouldn't be getting this revenue in the first place were it not for a mathematical oversight 40 years ago.

A spokeswoman for Senator Obama of Illinois said only that he "supports a fiscally responsible fix to the problems with the AMT" and would look carefully at legislation the Senate considers. "Fiscally responsible" to whom? It should be intuitively obvious, even to the most casual observer of political regurgitation, that Obama is wanting to be "fiscally responsible" to government - not responsible to the people he purports to represent. He doesn't care if the people come up shorter on their take-home pay this year, as long as government doesn't have to give back their happenstance windfall.

At least Charles Rangel is honest about it. The gravel-voiced chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said he instead would attempt “the mother of all tax reforms”: total repeal of AMT, with lost revenue paid for by massive taxing of the rich. So - again we pause to think a bit between the lines:
  • The AMT was supposed to hit the rich who were not paying taxes.
  • They goofed and now it is hitting the middle class.
  • To pay for the removal of the middle class from the AMT roles, we are going to charge the rich more despite the fact that they are already paying the AMT (and most of the country's tax burden anyway).

So... to encapsulate the general reaction... "We can't do that," they state with pompous certainty. "What will it cost us?"

My response to this line of reasoning is "why can't you?" In truth, it doesn't cost Congress anything at all to remove the AMT. It costs the taxpayers to pay it. Therein lies the problem. Congress believes that our tax revenue is their money. If they cut a tax revenue stream, they truly believe that they have to replace it... or do with less. I don't see a lot of serious consideration about what it will cost the taxpayers... either via the AMT or the other taxes that they want to install to replace the "lost" revenue.

In fact, by costing the proverbial "average household" extra money, they are in fact asking us to rearrange our spending priorities to accommodate less disposable income. That is, we have to either cut back on certain things we are used to having or not take on new discretionary expenses. Why can't we expect Congress to follow that same logic - i.e. cut back on certain things that they are used to having or not take on new discretionary expenses?

The truth is, they don't want to cut back on their expenses - and really don't think they should have to. That is why they are balking at doing anything about the cash cow that is the burgeoning AMT receipts... at least until they can make it up some other way. They don't care about us being able to buy what we want for ourselves - only about continuing to be able to buy what they want for us (whether we want it or not).

UN: "Climate Change Irreversible"

According to a "Nobel-winning U.N. scientific panel", the earth is hurtling toward a warmer climate at a quickening pace. (Since we have seen that the Nobel committee is not really interested in fact anymore - just hype, and the U.N. isn't really interested in objectivity anymore - just control, I'm curious as to the credence that one should lend to the aforementioned "Nobel-winning U.N. scientific panel".) As early as 2020, 75 million to 250 million people in Africa will suffer water shortages, residents of Asia's megacities will be at great risk of river and coastal flooding, Europeans can expect extensive species loss, and North Americans will experience longer and hotter heat waves and greater competition for water, the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says.

OK... scary and all that. We've heard much of it before. However, let's think between the lines on this. All the way through the various gushings from the report and its commentators, we see phrases like "we can do this together" and "we all need to pitch in" and "this effects all of us." Also, it points out that the targets are "places where carbon emissions are highest" and "all industrialized nations". On the surface (reading only the lines themselves), that sounds well and good.

However, why is it that the Kyoto Protocol, heralded as the Great Savior document, specifically excluded India and China? Why is it that "developed nations" must pay billions of dollars and supply technology to "developing countries"? I thought we were all doing this together?

Ostensibly, this whole "payment" thing is because the industrialized countries contributed to the problem in the past, so they "owe" the other something. However, they now want a few things out of the deal... rephrasing the above:

  • You stop doing what you are doing to be successful

  • Allow us to continue to do things to be successful

  • Give us the money that you made from all your success

  • Give us technology that you developed during all your success

Strange that all this "us and them" stuff doesn't seem a lot like "we all have to do this together". If the U.N. and its agencies were truly concerned about handling the problem, they would look at the disgusting state of industry in China and India and give them an admonition...

"Hey, you need to be a lot better about cleaning up your stuff. In fact, can you be a little more like what the U.S. and Europe are doing? We know it will cost you money and slow down your growth a little - but we are all in this together, right?"

But that's not what the U.N. wants. Just as the Sudan isn't really abusive according to the United Nations Human Rights Council, and Muammar al-Gaddafi in Libya is a cornerstone of stability and peace according to the United Nations Security Council, obviously China and India, with their raw sewage, chemicals spilling, and sulfur dioxide being detected all the way across the Pacific in the U.S. are obviously the U.N.'s star pupils for promoting the cleaning up of the environment. In fact, the industrialized nations of the world need to pay homage to them with our ill-gotten gains in the hopes that someday, we too can hope to be excluded from a Protocol that is Our Only Hope.

After all... "we are all in this together"... right?

Friday, November 16, 2007

State-sponsored vs. State-allowed Religion

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not a terribly religious person. Really that's irrelevant. Often times, I am annoyed by all faiths and their imposition into government and even just life in general. At times like that, I find myself often siding with athiests in fights against the encroachment of other people's religious beliefs. However, sometimes the athiests choose to shoot themselves in the foot.

Such is the case in Utah right now where there is a battle between a small group of atheists and the state patrol. In short, the Utah Highway Patrol has put up 13 crosses to honor officers that have died in the line of duty. The atheists claim that this is a violation because of the implication that the Utah Highway Patrol is endorsing Christianity by using the cross as the symbol.

One question that I didn't see asked or answered in the article, however, was whether or not the fallen troopers were Christian or not. That is an important issue because if falls at the crux [wince] of the matter. If a trooper was Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Hindu, etc. and the State Patrol insisted on using the cross, then that is forcing a religious belief on someone. However, if the families chose the cross (and I believe the families were involved in this process), and the State Patrol allowed the cross, then that is a different story.

The following is a quote from Brian Barnard , a lawyer representing American Atheists.

"The use of those crosses constitutes and endorses Christianity. Although it's an acknowledgement of the death of these troopers, it is also an endorsement of Christianity." [emphasis mine]

If we change the one word endorses (twice) in the prior quote, the whole situation is moot. That is, the government isn't endorsing a religion... but allowing one. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Notice that there is no law involved in our cross issue. There is no prohibition of exercising a religion. All that is happening is that there is an allowance being made for the families to have a memorial that is religion-specific to the officers involved.

The interesting flip-side of this issue is, if the State Patrol were to have said "no, you aren't allowed to use crosses despite your religious beliefs," (exactly what the atheists would hope to have happen) then they would have been "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion. And that would have been un-Constitutional.

The moral? Be careful what you wish for... you might just get it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The fallacy of health insurance as a "right"

At some point in the past 30 years, there was a transition - or series of transitions - that brought the collective mindset of the American public to the conclusion that health insurance (or health care) is a "right." We hear it all the time from the halls of government, from political pulpits and political pundits, from news "anchors" who amaze us with their ability to read words from a teleprompter spun by some invisible, high-tech Cyrano de Bergerac. Eventually, we hear it around the proverbial water cooler from those that ejaculate moral certitudes with the righteous indignance endemic to those that lack the will to go beyond the prima facie. How did we come to that point? And is that belief flawed?

The first things that must be defined in order to be able to balance this equation of logic are:

  1. What is "health insurance".
  2. What is a "right" for anyone to have and expect?

The first item seems to be relatively simple at first glance, but, as is often the case, we need to think between the lines. The common mistake that is made by people - be they spigot or sponge - is to confuse the notion of "health" with that of "health insurance". Even the difference between "health" and "health care" causes similar stumbles amongst people, and yet that is a significant crux of the entire issue.

Health, lest we diverge in our understanding, is defined formally as:

  1. the general condition of the body or mind with reference to soundness and vigor: good health; poor health.
  2. soundness of body or mind; freedom from disease or ailment: to have one's health; to lose one's health.

(There are two other definitions that are not relevant here.)

In either case, it is obvious that "health" is specific to the organism - i.e. the person. So, without the clutter of the "care" or "insurance", let us deal with "health" by itself for the moment.

Do people have a "right to health"? The premise that would have to be in place for that statement to be true is that our health should not be taken from us. We should always be in a state of healthiness unless someone came to deprive us of it. While certainly a person could deprive us of health due to some action, that isn't the only way that our health could leave us. Mother Nature does an admirable job of depriving us of health. Allergies, gravity and even the occasional wild animal can do damage to us in spite of our alleged "right." I can't imagine trying to reason with the shark or tiger that may want to maul us by explaining that we have a "right" to not have our limbs removed from our person. In fact, our own bodies are often instrumental in the reduction of our own physical well-being. If my thyroid or pancreas or heart go on the blink, there is no authority to which I can appeal to say that I have been wronged. There is no entity that is responsible for the deprivation of my health. I simply do not have a "right" to continue to be healthy. I can't live as long as I claim the right to live.

We do have the right to care for our health. If we are injured, we can tend those wounds. If we are sick, we can try to fix what ails us. We even have the right to seek assistance from others, if we so desire. This is the point where the argument comes.

Out there in our society are people who have chosen medicine (or some sister-discipline of it) as a profession. They have chosen to expend and invest their energy, their time, usually their money (which is simply a representative symbol of their energy or time), and hopefully their talent in the education and training that is necessary to become a medical professional. Let me repeat something - they chose to do this. Free will is still in effect at this point.

So... here we are sick and miserable and, having realized that we have not spent the energy necessary to acquire the skills to heal ourselves, we are choosing to search for someone else to help us out. And over there is someone who has chosen the training and route and they are hoping to practice their craft on someone in need.

After meeting this doctor, we may very well decide that they are capable enough for our needs. After meeting us, this doctor may very well have decided that they are capable enough for our needs.

At this point, both parties have decided that something could take place. The doctor could treat us and make us better. We both know that. So what is the final step that must take place? The only thing that is lacking is the human volition to actually begin the process. We have to agree to be treated, certainly... but no less important is the fact that the doctor has to choose to agree to treat us. It doesn't matter how badly we want his services if he doesn't consent... which is no different than if we were refusing our end of the deal by saying that (for whatever reason) we don't choose to allow the doctor to treat us. There are only 4 outcomes here:

  1. The choices are both in agreement for action - treatment happens.
  2. The choices are both in agreement for no action - no treatment happens.
  3. The choices are in disagreement on action - no treatment happens.
  4. The choices are in disagreement on action - but one person or the other is forced to do something against their will.

Taken out of the medical field, this contrast is more obvious. If the medical service was replaced with physical labor, the scenario is still familiar. "Will you build that deck for me?" "Will I hire you to build my deck?" "OK?" "OK." Everything looks fine... except for number 4. "I don't care what you say, you are building my deck whether you agree to my proposal or not." That looks strikingly like forced labor - which is a euphemism for slavery.

If you apply the statement made in #4 above to most any situation, the result is negative. In labor, it is slavery. In payment, it is robbery. In sex, it is rape. The entire premise is based on the idea that no one has the right to demand something from someone else when they are not in agreement with the terms of that exchange. Put another way, no one has the right to something someone else has.

We don't have the right to receive medical services from that doctor unless he agrees to whatever terms I am offering. While we may have the right to seek someone to take care of our ailments and we may have the right to propose terms under which we would like to be treated, we don't have the right to those services whether or not the person agrees to our proposal. We do not have the right to health care.

The addition of insurance brings in a new factor. Insurance is a gamble. A wager. We choose to purchase insurance because we believe something negative will happen to us. If something did happen to us, we would like someone else to carry the burden of it.

Insurers, on the other hand, choose to insure someone because they are wagering that something won't happen to us. Of course, eventually it is likely that eventually something will happen - but they are gambling that it won't be as often or as soon as you think it will be.

Regardless, the exchange is similar to what we have already covered. Both parties have to come to an agreement on the terms or else there is no insurance contract. In the end, they both have to choose to go through with it. So, again, we do not have the right to insist that the gambler insurer choose to take that wager about our health on our terms - or at all. We do not have the right to health insurance.

Going back up to my 2 points at the top, I have defined both health care and insurance. The casual reader will have noticed by this point that the word "choose" and its variants are sprinkled liberally throughout. But what is choice?

Choice is about volition. Freedom. Options amongst which we can discern our preference. We have a right to make choices... until and unless those choices involve someone else's rights as well. I can choose to like food. I can choose to eat food. However, I can not choose to eat someone else's food. At that point, it is countered by a reciprocal choice that the owner of the food faces - do they choose to share their food with me?

Rights are the same way. I have the right to want food. I have the right to eat food. However, I do not have the right to eat someone else's food - unless they have made the corresponding choice to exercise their right to give me their food if they so desire.

"Rights" can be a complex issue at times - but there is always one underlying tenet that has a way of simplifying the process. An individual right should never (or at least rarely) trump another individual's right. If there seems to be a contradiction between two rights, there is likely an error in the underlying premise of one or the other.

For example, if I claim I have the right to yell loudly when you are sleeping, you may claim that I am violating your right to sleep (therefore claiming that I do NOT have the right to yell loudly). Of course, I can tell you that your choice to sleep is violating my right to yell loudly. There is a seeming contradiction. So what is the issue? Well, while you certainly have the right to sleep where and when you want, you do not have the right to do so without interruption. Your alleged "right to sleep" without my yelling is not really a right after all. You can choose to go elsewhere if my yelling bothers you. (Not that the above doesn't make me look like a real ass.)

So, while I may have the right to seek my own health, I cannot do it at the expense of someone else's right - for example the doctor's right to choose who to treat and who not to. While I may have the right to seek to insure myself against the possibility of tragedy, I cannot do it at the expense of someone else's right - for example the insurer's right to choose to cover me or not.

One question that I cannot answer here is...

Where did this very basic concept go astray?
And why does so few people even realize the fallacy?

(I will leave for another day the argument about how federalized health insurance/care is actually violating the rights of those that pay for the well-being of those that are treated. That is a far larger subject covering more than just socialized medical care.)

I wish I was poor - they get richer!

Here's a brief tidbit... we've all heard the claims that "the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer." Actually, there are a variety of those claims whittled into a handy quiver of cliches. But how true is it? Or is it true at all?

According to the Treasury Dept.'s latest statistics... well... see for yourself...

In the 10 years between 1996 and 2005, the lowest quintile (20%) almost doubled their median income. Not bad, eh? What's more, people didn't stay in their income groups. Nearly 58% of income tax filers who were in the poorest income group in 1996 had moved into a higher income category by 2005. About 25% of them jumped into the middle or upper-middle income groups (third and fourth quintiles), and 5.3% made it all the way to the highest quintile. Of those in the second-lowest income quintile, nearly 50% moved into the middle quintile or higher, and only 17% moved down. (I'm not entirely sure how that is possible mathematically unless there is an increase in the number of people overall.)

Let's think between the lines here... this is not simply your income increasing along with everyone else's. That is your income increasing fast enough to have passed other people's. Sure, there's a bit of "churn" there since people must have moved down. That will always be happening to some extent as people get promotions, demotions, lay offs, their businesses do better or worse, etc. The important implication of all of this is that people are not locked in to their lot in life. There is no inherent "caste system" either implicit or explicit (like how the evil Republicans must be trying to keep people repressed in order to protect their cronies).

So how do things change? Unless there are an overwhelming number of "life's lotteries" (see my commentary on how Barack Obama thinks) going on that we don't know about, there must be something specifically individual to this phenomenon. Could it be that... if you try to do something valuable, you may succeed at doing something valuable... and you will be rewarded with something valuable?

Welcome to the individualist, capitalist market at work. Adam Smith would be proud.

(Some of the statistics here were taken from a Wall Street Journal Opinion Feature.)

Cows - not cars - should eat corn.

We are all familiar with the outrage over the price of gas. We have all felt it to some extent or another. We have even been told about how the increase in the price of gas trickles throughout the economy in the form of price increases for any good that is transported using some gas-burning vehicle. None of this is untrue. Gasoline is something that touches pretty much anything. Even the service sector has people that commute to work and need more money to cover the cost of doing so. Ostensibly, that is why the politicians are so interested in reducing the cost of gas - and the trendy suggestion is to pimp the ethanol industry. I won't go into how ridiculously impossible this solution is - it is well documented. However, one thing should have been obvious to even the non-scientists out there (i.e. politicians). Despite being touted as a "renewable" fuel, there is a caveat. At any one point in time, there is only so much that we can have available to us.

Take water, for example. Every child who has seen studied the water cycle in school has seen the diagrams that show how water is a recyclable material. It goes down, moves around a bit, gets evaporated up, moves around some more and comes back down. However, despite that, we can still have "water shortages" such as what is plaguing some of the southeast US right now. How can this be? The same school children learn that a vast majority of the surface of the earth is covered with water... so how can we have a shortage?

The answer is not that there is a "shortage", but that there is a "temporary supply problem". There is not a shortage of water - it's just that we are demanding more than is reasonably available at the time. We ignored our observations about how much water is available in a certain location over a certain period of time - and decided we wanted more than that. Demand for that time period exceed supply for that time period. No matter how badly we want it or any act of Congress or Executive Order, there is only so much to be had. We have to decide what uses are important to consume the temporally finite resource. If you want to add a use, that supply doesn't change - so another use needs to go away. If you get too many people making claims to the finite resource with each insisting that their usage is more important, the price per share will go up. Economics 101.

Corn, and in a more general sense, arable land, is a temporally finite resource. Sure, if you wait long enough, the ground will keep kicking out the corn that we plant in it. However, there is only so much that we can have at a time. It varies from year to year depending on the conditions, but we can make a guess as to how much we can expect to get out of a specific number of acres.

What has happened is, just like the drought areas of the southeast, we have ignored for too long the amount of the resource we can reasonably expect to receive in a period of time. Instead, we decided we wanted more than that. Of course, not many in a position of power or influence bothered to do the math. They were more interested in an agenda. It sounded good. It felt good. Never mind that man behind the curtain.

Of course, it didn't seem to occur to anyone to question why that corn was sitting in the field in the first place. One can imagine some politician either driving through or flying over the Midwest and plains states and thinking "Wow. That sure is a lot of corn out there! Someone should do something with all of that corn. It would be a shame for it to go to waste." Is it so far fetched to think that a career politician would have no idea about what cows eat? Of the fact that when he is eating a steak (privately so as not to upset his PETA contributors) he is actually eating processed corn?

Well, as we know (with a little education on the subject), cows do eat corn. There is a direct demand chain there. We demand milk and meat, cows demand corn (in a bovine sort of way), corn demands land and water resources... OOPS! That is finite, isn't it? And now there is competition for that corn. For those resources. And that competition is heavily subsidized by those who are blinded by their agenda. The competition ratchets up the price of the corn, which feeds back up the chain. The cows charge us more for their services (via their rancher agents) and we have to pay more for their products. Wow, my ground beef that was $2/lb three years ago is now $4/lb! How did this happen?!

The relatively amusing end-note to all of this is to watch the same politicians that decry the price of gasoline as hurting their less fortunate constituents are now moaning with scripted sympathy about how the cost of food is taking meat from the mouths of those same less fortunate voters and their progeny. The realization that they themselves are the cause of this issue seems to escape them - or they simply don't care. Or... and this is not really a stretch, they will propose that more people need the social programs such as welfare in order to pay for the skyrocketing cost of fuel. (On a similar note, the Federal Government makes far more in taxes on fuel than the oil companies make in profits. If they were that concerned about pinching people in times of gasoline crisis, they would suspend their taxes.)

So... the question is, if we are insistent on pushing corn stalks into our cars as a form of inefficient fuel, are we willing to pay the cost of the results? After all, we cant pour gasoline down our throats in place of the now prohibitively expensive food. None of this is really hard to see... as long as you are being objective about the totality of the situation rather than dealing specifically with a monolithic ideal. But do our politicians ever really look at the whole situation? The lobby-driven economy in D.C. does not allow for that. That is unfortunate. All we are asking our (alleged) representatives to do is...

... think between the lines.

Hillary continues to reap what she sows in Iowa.

(And it isn't corn!)

The latest story about Hillary and Associates planting questions comes from a well-spoken college student by the name of Muriel Gallo-Chasanoff. Really, the details are similar to the rest that I have already covered so I won't rehash the CNN story here.

However, one thing struck me as amusing. This is Hillary's announcement that she was running from about a year ago.

Notice some of her words:

  • "I'm beginning conversation." (It would seem like she begins it by telling people what she wants them to ask her.)

  • "We all need to be part of the discussion if we are all going to be part of the solution." (So she's just making sure that people get a chance to be part of the discussion, I guess.)

  • She then rattles off a list of things that she suggests we talk about. That's what her staffers were doing in Iowa, right?

  • "Let's definately talk about..." (or else what?)

  • "So let's talk. Let's chat. Let's start a dialog about your ideas and mine..." (And if I don't like yours, my staffers will give you a list of mine.)

  • And then she has the - ahem - nads to say "because the conversation in Washington has been a little one-sided lately, don't you think?" How amusing is that?

  • She does finish up with this... "So let the conversation begin. I have a feeling it's going to be very interesting."

Guess so, Hillary. Guess so. Especially for those of us that are...

... thinking between the lines.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hillary doesn't have control?

Hillary Clinton, in response to the issue of whether her staffers planted questions in the audience of her appearances, said "Well it was news to me. And neither I nor my campaign approve of that. And it will certainly not be tolerated." (FoxNews.com, NewsMax)

OK... so when various levels of the Bush administration and the military were confronted with issues such as the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, it was not an acceptable answer to say that they did not realize what their subordinates (oft times many levels below their own) were doing. So the (un-planted) question now becomes, are you or are you not responsible for the actions of people in your organization?

And now we hear from Hillary's senior campaign spokesman, Mo Elleithee, that “The senator had no idea.” How believable is this? Is someone perhaps taking the fall for her? I'm sure it wouldn't be the first time.

Mo is a founding partner of Hilltop Public Solutions, a company that specializes in public relations campaigns. According to the site, he is also a "veteran of a half dozen major campaigns of the past eight years." So is this something that happens all the time? If so, wouldn't Mo say so? Or is this something that is specific to Hillary and co.? Wouldn't we like to know! In the mean time, we will have to continue...

... thinking between the lines.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Obama wants more for SS.

Barack Obama stated on Nov. 11th that he would raise the amount of income that would be subjected to the Social Security tax, if he were elected president. On the surface, this doesn't seem to be a bad idea. After all, you eventually get it back, right?

The problem with this idea is twofold. One, the whole point of this is to make sure that there isn't a cut in benefits to existing seniors. Well, if you always get back what you pay in, why isn't there enough money to pay the existing seniors now? That's largely because the money isn't separated out - not only from person A to person B, but Social Security from the rest of government revenues. So if there is a shortfall now because of mismanagement, why won't there be a shortfall in the future despite any increases that happen now? And if the Feds have been raiding the money that is supposedly targeted for Social Security benefits on and off for 30 years in order to pay for some of their "important programs", why can't they simply just lay off the "important programs" so as to begin paying off what they took from the program. Why now take from us to make up for their short-sightedness?

Two, what makes Social Security such a fantastic idea anyway? According to research by the Heritage Foundation, the rate of return on monies paid into the system from a two-income household with children is 1.23%. Compare that to the fact that the historical rate of return on the general stock market over the past 50 years range anywhere from 5-8% depending on who you ask. Even on the low end, it is more than a 3:1 difference in the public markets to what the Federal Government is offering. Worse still, the Heritage Foundation report states that African-American males may actually pay more into the system than when they will get back. Does Mr. Obama know that statistic?

Obama said "some tough decisions will be in order because Social Security is the most important social program in the country." I wonder how often it has occurred to him that maybe the fact that a social program is that important to the country is, in and of itself, an alarming problem?

One last note on what Obama said on the subject. He was paraphrasing his "friend" (I don't know whose term that is), Warren Buffet by saying "and he has said, and I think a lot of us who have been fortunate are willing to pay a little bit more to make sure that a senior citizen who is struggling to deal with rising property taxes or rising heating bills, that they've got the coverage that they need." [emphasis mine] So the "fortunate" should help those that "need"? That sounds strangely familiar. May I quote the noted wellspring of modern communism, Karl Marx?

"From each according to his ability,
to each according to his need."

Since success is not the lottery that liberals such as Obama purport it to be, "fortunate" doesn't seem to work there. Swap "fortunate" out for "working their asses off" and you have a completely different character to the sentence. But not everybody who listens to Obama et al are deft enough in dealing with political lingo to catch that. It really only happens for those of us who are...

... thinking between the lines.

Hillary seeds the audience? No surprise.

According to various articles on the net (FoxNews.com, ABCNews.com, among others... but strangely not on CNN.com), Hillary Clinton has been accused a 2nd time of having her staffers seed the audience of campaign stops with questions. This is hardly a surprise.

Obviously, the point of this would be for her to have issues addressed that she wants to bring up. This is something that all candidates would like to have happen. Anyone who has watched debates or interviews should be able to ascertain that the modus operandi for all political wannabees is to take any given question and, within a few sentences, transition into a pre-prepared talking point. If the question happens to be on one the prepared topics, this process is seamless. However, if the question is out in the middle of nowhere, the process of segueing can look more like a topic-based version of six degrees of separation. This serves to expose the fact that the candidate either hasn't been coached on that particular subject or would rather obfuscate their position on the topic.

Of course, the opposite side of this process is to make sure that you get to use all those delightful pre-prepared orations. But what if people don't ask something that allows you to get to your issue? Well, the way to solve that is to make SURE that they ask the right question. And the way to do that is to send your operatives out amongst the Great Unwashed and, ever so subtly, suggest to them that they should ask a particular question. As we have seen with the case with Mr. Geoffrey Mitchell in this latest Iowa situation, the Great Unwashed actually can manage to think for themselves once in a while and don't appreciate being lead by their proverbial noses.

Hillary has quite a reputation amongst the media on a similar issue to this. She won't let an interviewer ask any questions that are not pre-approved by her staff. That just eliminates the problem entirely, doesn't it? However, while that may work with a single interviewer (who may very well be sympathetic anyway), the odds of pulling that off with a crowd of allegedly random people are fairly thin. Even if the attendees are as stupid as Hillary believes the general public to be, someone is going to say something that you don't want them to. After all, in Hillary's mind, her whole calling is to "save them from themselves".

The irony of all of this is that Hillary (along with other Democrats) alleges to be the "voice of the people," but she is recruiting "the people" to be the voice of Hillary. Maybe, in her eyes, he's claiming to say what The Voice of the people would have said if they were as smart as her.

Too bad that people don't care too much that Hillary and other political candidates only tell us what they want us to hear rather than answer to what we are really concerned with. That makes it awfully tough for most of the "sound-byte voters" to know anything at all about a candidate. To bastardize a forum that is designed to be something led by the people rather than led by the candidates or even the media, is almost criminal. Instead, we are now forced to...

... think between the lines.

A Genesis of Thoughtful Commentary


I'm not sure where this will go - my posts will be driven by my thoughts, which will be driven in part by the media, which (ostensibly) are driven by events of the real world. If it catches my eye or tickles my brain, it will show up here.

Please be aware that I espouse no traditional dogma, support no platform, and by no means endorse a particular party or candidate. I am neither Republican nor Democrat (nor, for what it's worth, a socialist, communist, fascist, anarchist, or any other -ist). If anything, I am a libertarian in the true sense of the word. That is, "as long as I am staying out of other people's business, stay out of mine." Keep that in mind as you read my posts. Don't try to associate me with any movement our cause, political, religious or secular. I'm just me.

That being said, I'm not trying to convince you, the reader, of anything. I merely am saying what I believe and leave it to you, the reader, to add it to your experience of the world around you. Use my opinions and the information I provide as you would any other tidbit. If it makes sense, believe it. If not, discard it. If it makes you question, research it further. By all means, however, feel free to comment on what I say. I may very well learn something from you. All I ask, however, is that you don't regurgitate cliches or "party lines". At the minimum, I ask of you what I ask of myself...

... think between the lines.