Saturday, January 30, 2010

First and Tenth....

Car companies have designed and manufactured a lot of different styles of cars over the years. Some I thought were really sharp. Some I thought were too ugly to drive down the street. Back in my younger days, when I paid more attention to such things, and thought it mattered more, AMC seemed to have the corner on the ugly car market. The Pacer and Gremlin come to mind.

Last week a buddy of mine was showing me a new car that he had just purchased. It was some kind of an electric and gas combination, really tiny, and certainly not very attractive, in my mind, anyway. But I guess he liked it, just like the people that bought Pacers and Gremlins liked Pacers and Gremlins.

I kind of had the same feelings about my old buddy Stinky Wilmont's girlfriend, Rowena. An awful, spiteful woman, mean-spirited and bossy, and just a touch on the plain side. Still, Stinky thought the world and all of her, and I guess that was what mattered.

The saving grace in these instances was that I didn't have to buy a Pacer or a Gremlin if I didn't want to. I didn't even have to ride in one if I didn't want to, and to the best of my memory, I never did. Neither did I have to date Rowena, or even hang out with Stinky when Rowena was around. It seemed like a pretty workable solution, to me, anyway.

I'm thinking that maybe when the Founding Fathers put our Constitution together, a few of them may have had a buddy like Stinky, who had a girlfriend like Rowena. After they decided and listed specifically what duties the federal government would have, and what specifically it would be allowed to do, they tacked on the 10th Amendment, which states " The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Again, sounds like a pretty workable solution to me. The government takes care of its enumerated duties, and we get to decide how to handle the rest of our business. While our founders may not have been able to foresee every issue that might arise, they seemed to realize that a central government probably wouldn't always be able to come up programs that suited everyone in the country.

Not that it hasn't tried. Currently, the federal government is working feverishly, amid occasional setbacks, to come up with a health care plan that will work for everyone in the country. We all know that it's not going to be able to come up with such a plan, and it wouldn't be a big deal, if, like AMC and its ugly cars, the American people could take it or leave it. But again, we all know that's not going to happen. That's not how the government works.

Somewhere along the line, the federal government decided that it was no longer going to honor the 10th Amendment, and then somewhere along the line most of the states and people decided that was okay, and pretty soon the federal government began to believe that it has the authority to dictate any solution to any problem it thinks we might have.

Fortunately, there is a growing movement among many people and states to reaffirm their 10th Amendment protections. Regarding the feds growing involvement in education, health care, gun rights, and the exploding debt that accompanies an ever growing government, people are looking for ways to simply say "thanks, but no thanks".

I saw a t-shirt one time that read "Life is too short to dance with ugly women". I don't know about that, but it is too short to drive ugly cars.

And it's way too short to let the government run it.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hog Heaven

I'm sure the people that want the government to make me wear a seat belt have the best of intentions. I suppose everyone that petitions the government to oversee my life thinks they're doing it for my own good. But I'm not convinced those people always get the big picture.

I felt the same way when I saw this story about PETA's efforts to replace the the famous ground hog, Punxsutawney Phil, with a robot. Apparently, PETA thinks Phil might be better off fending for himself in the wild.

Well, maybe. But it could also be that Phil knows that a lot of his relatives in this neck of the woods end up hanging on a fence post with a .223 slug through the skull.

Either way, I won't assume to know what Phil wants, or what is best for him. I don't think PETA should either.


Oh, the irony!

Sometimes the irony is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Sometimes it's so thick you can't cut it at all.

Radley Balko has an interesting article on asset forfeiture laws over at One part of the article dicusses a case here in Indiana, over in Putnam County, where the police seized $17,500.00 from Anthony Smelley. Mr. Smelley had just received the money in an insurance settlement.

Although no drugs were found on Mr.Smelley's car or person, and no drug charges were filed, the police kept the money,to supplement their budget, with the prosecutor claiming that it could be used to commit a crime in the future.

Last week, the police chief in Richmond Indiana offered to use his share of the money he gets from asset forfeiture laws, to help fund the Human Rights Office.

Now that's ironic.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hey, it's not my fault!...

There was a time when one of the signs of reaching adulthood was the acceptance of responsibility for your actions. Somewhere along the line we decided to start blaming someone else, or addictions beyond our control for our shortcomings.

If you buy a house you can't afford, it's the banks fault. If you spend money you don't have, it's the credit card company's fault. If you don't pay attention in school, it's the school's fault, or some recently discovered affliction.

If drugs or alcohol have taken control of your life, it has to be the fault of the drugs or alcohol, or the person that sold it to you, or some desire that is beyond your control.

I saw the other day that Tiger Woods has allegedly checked into a clinic to cure his sex addiction. I suppose if I was looking to get addicted to something, that would probably be near the top of the list, although at my age it would take a little more effort.

I've made a lot of bad decisions and choices in my life, and I know that every one of those decisions and choices was on me. And making the same bad choice over and over again doesn't mean that I'm an addict, it just means that I'm a slow learner, or that I prefer bad choices over good choices.

One of the most troubling aspects of Tiger's current situation is that the government always wants to outlaw or regulate anything that is considered addictive.

Probably if I was younger it would trouble me more.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I saw another article in the paper today about Pat Robertson's comments concerning the cause of the recent earthquake in Haiti. I suspicioned that he has been getting a lot more publicity over the incident than he should be getting, and when I googled "Pat Robertson Haiti", my suspicions were confirmed. It listed 11,300,000 references.

I suppose he does make an easy target for journalists and bloggers. And there are more than a few non-Christians who are having a heyday with his comments, and as far as I know, he may be fair game.

But, boring as it may be, there are also millions of Christians that are quietly continuing to donate billions of dollars, along with their time and talent, to people in need all over the world. I imagine there are millions of non-Christians doing the same thing.

And everyone of them deserves more coverage than Mr. Robertson.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Beyond Repair...

I have a friend that runs an auto body repair shop. He can do some pretty amazing things with a dented fender, but sometimes the damage is so bad there is nothing to do but replace it. Sometimes there are so many problems with a car that it simply can't be fixed.

There are a lot of things in this world that can't be fixed. One of those things is property taxes. We've seen a good example unfold in New Castle over the last few years. The owners of the Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant on Memorial Drive saw their property taxes increase from $5751.26 in 2005 to $31,453.61 in 2009, based on the increased assessed value of their property.

Last week, the New Castle Courier-Times reported that after a two year battle, the Indiana Board of Tax Review has ruled that the property's assessed value should be reduced by almost half. While that is certainly good news for the property owners, it points out just one of the many flaws in the property tax system.

Regardless of rules and guidelines that are set in place, deciding property values remains arbitrary. In this case, using the same rules on the same property, two different agencies arrived at values more than $400,000.00 apart. A person has to wonder what would have happened had the property owners not come up with the resources to pursue the fight for two years . What might have been the outcome if a different set of people with different opinions on property values had been sitting on the review board? What would a person with similar properties but lesser resources do to achieve similar results?

In one of their latest attempts to fix property taxes, the legislature has proposed making our questionably constitutional property taxes constitutional by way of a constitutional amendment capping those taxes at 1% of the assessed value for homes, 2% of the assessed values for farms, and 3% of the assessed value for businesses. Of course, there is no provision to keep assessed values from rising, or how we are to arrive at assessed values. Certainly if replacement cost is included in the equation, the newly added caps will be no deterrent to another explosion of property tax bills.

I can understand our representatives addiction to property taxes, and their attempts to convince the voters that they can somehow make them fair through tweaking the Indiana Constitution, or by somehow making them fair without tweaking the Constitution. Property taxes have provided them with a steady and predictable source of revenue for longer than any of them have been in office.

And they might make them less arbitrary if all homes were taxed equally on a per square foot basis, with a similar system for farms and businesses, but you can't fix a tax that allows the government to seize a person's home. There are other taxes and user fees that will spread the cost of government more fairly, and allow us to fund the necessary functions of government without relying on the confiscatory property tax.

There is no use trying to fix property taxes. It's time to replace them.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

House rules...

Uncle Woody used to have a real estate business in Hagerstown. He liked telling the story about a man who decided to sell his house so he could buy a nicer one. Woody wrote a glowing description of the property, and when the listing was published in the local paper, without an address, the man came into the office and said the home described in the ad sounded just like what he was looking for.

When my wife and I started looking for a home years ago, we saw a lot of that. Sometimes the homes didn't quite measure up to the description in the Sunday paper. Sometimes they weren't even close. Sometimes a third bedroom in a newspaper ad turns out to be a stair landing in the house.

I imagine we've all been guilty of embellishing a story or two from time to time, if circumstances warrant such. And probably if the truth were told, we've all down played certain events when it seemed appropriate.

I'm thinking the Republicans have probably been guilty of getting a little carried away over Harry Reid's colorful description of President Obama's complexion and enunciation. The Democrats, on the other hand, have decided to describe it as a meaningless gaffe. On one occasion it was even called a compliment. Same event, but quite a variation depending on who's telling the story.

I suppose if you're telling the story, you can tell it however you like.

I saw a couple of stories the other day about a horse thief. This is how one person told the story:

"Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889."

Another person, possibly one of Remus's descendants, chose to tell the story this way:

"Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory . His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."

I don't know what Harry Reid was thinking when he made his comments. But as an outsider looking in, I'm not going to put much stock in the story the Republicans are telling, and I'm not going to put much stock in the story the Democrats are telling.

And I'm not going to look at any houses described as a "handyman's special".

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thanks a lot, but....

I've eaten a lot of pizza in my life. The first I remember were the ones Mom would make. I think Chef Boyardee was the name of mix, and you had to mix the dough for the crust. I think it included a can of tomato sauce and a can of cheese. As I remember, you were on your own if you wanted anything else on it. We all thought it was quite a treat at the time. Do they still make that stuff?

When I found my way to Hagerstown a few years later, I discovered Dale's Pizza. Their thin crust sausage, mushroom and onion was the best pizza ever, in my opinion. It still is, in my opinion.

They knocked down the original Dale's Pizza a few years ago and built a bank on that corner, and Dales moved up on Main Street for a while, and then a couple of years ago they moved across the street and added a dining room.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

Dale's is adding a bar to their operation. The other night, we were discussing the the new addition with the owner. I was happy to hear that it was going to be smoke-free. Even though I won't be frequenting the bar section, I appreciate the fact that there won't be any smoke from the bar wafting over into the pizza part. Aside from my personal preference, I think it makes good business sense. Non-smokers out number smokers nowadays, so there's a larger pool of customers to draw from, besides the fact that you don't have to wash the windows quite as often.

Then he told me he figured the government was going to outlaw smoking in all businesses before to long, so he might as well get a jump on that by going smoke free right from the start. Now, like I said, I'm glad he's not allowing smoking in his business, but I hate it that, like so many other Americans, he expects and accepts that our government is going to continue to grow and extend its reach into our everyday lives and decisions.

That's one of the things that attracted me to the Libertarian Party. Libertarians don't expect government to continue to grow.

Or accept that it has to.

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