Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Darned if you do, Darned if you don't....

Early on in our tenure at Millville Grade School, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont and I learned that there were dire consequences involved whenever we committed some transgression against another student, or one of our teachers, or even the Millville Grade School building or the property upon which that building stood. It was fairly simple concept to understand, even if it didn't always deter us.

Shortly afterwards, we learned that the same misfortune that befell us for doing something wrong could also befall us for not doing anything at all. Sometimes the punishment would come because we didn't do our homework, sometimes it would come because we didn't hold the door open for Bernice Hawkins, and sometimes it would come just because we weren't paying attention to something the Mrs. Terwilliger thought we should be paying attention to. It wasn't always as easy to predict when not doing something would cause as much aggravation as doing something, but it kept things interesting, and helped prepare us for the challenges ahead.

The consequences of our choices to do something or not to do something are with us every day. If you decide to drive to Grandma's house this Christmas, you could end up getting a ticket along the way for speeding, or you could get a ticket for not fastening your seatbelt. I understand why you could get a ticket for speeding, but I've never understood why you should get a ticket for not wearing your seatbelt. I suspect Mrs. Terwilliger had something to do with it, though.

Sometimes the difference between doing something and not doing something involves higher stakes. Up at Penn State University, there has been a lot of fallout among the coaching staff involving both deplorable actions and deplorable inactions. Apparently one of the coaches was molesting children, while some of the other coaches knew about it but didn't do anything, or at least enough, to stop it.

I could probably find it in my heart to excuse Stinky if he neglected to open the door for Bernice from time to time, and I have the utmost sympathy for drivers that have been ticketed for simply not fastening their seatbelts. I have no idea how anyone could make a conscious effort not to prevent child abuse.

Recently, the so-called super committee, comprised of a few Democratic and Republican congresspersons, reported that they weren't going to make any recommendations for decreasing the federal debt. It wasn't like they started out to do much, anyway. At the best, their aim was to reduce federal spending by about 2% over the next 10 years. And I don't imagine there are very many people who honestly expected them to achieve even that modest goal. It's practically impossible to raise taxes enough to pay for all of the government programs both parties hold so dear.

Regardless of whether our current congress does or doesn't do something, our federal debt will probably reach about $20 trillion in the next 6 or 7 years, up from today's $15 trillion. That is a lot of debt to pass on to our children and grandchildren. It comes dangerously close to bordering on abuse.

For years voters have been sending the same people and ideas to Washington, knowing that the size and cost of government was going to increase because of it, and the people who didn't vote allowed it to happen by simply going along for the ride.

I suppose there might be some small degree of difference between malignant intent and callous indifference in such matters, but I wonder if the children who will eventually bear the brunt of our decisions or indecisions will feel obliged to recognize it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

4th down...

It's been a bad year for individual freedom and the 4th Amendment in Indiana this year. The Indiana supreme court ruled that individuals don't have the right to resist an unlawful police entry into their home. Of course, the court was wrong. We always have had and always will have that right. What the court actually ruled is that the government will no longer protect that right. Since the one of the few legitimate functions of government is to protect our rights, it kind of makes me wonder why we keep it around at all if it can't even do that.

As if the court's decision alone wasn't bad enough, it also has the side effect of contributing to another government injustice. As local governments and police departments everywhere face increasing budget shortages, many have been subsidizing those budgets through asset forfeiture, the practice of seizing a persons property before they have been convicted of committing a crime, and then keeping that property whether that person is convicted or not.

Indiana's own Radley Balko recently relayed this story about the billions of dollars that are now taken through asset forfeiture programs, with some of the most infamous cases taking place in Indiana. Legally, the police can now enter your house without a warrant, grab the butter and egg money out of the cookie jar, and the burden of proof will be on you prove why they shouldn't have entered your home in the first place, and why they shouldn't be able to keep your money.

Luckily, (or unluckily), I don't have enough butter and egg money to make an unlawful entry into my home very profitable for anyone. And I still hold out some hope that there are enough police officers out there who respect the Constitution and individual rights enough that the court's decision won't be as detrimental to freedom as it might be.

But however things turn out, I still maintain that no one is coming into my home without a warrant or an invitation.

At least not without some resistance.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kneedful things....

When I started driving nails and building things some 40 odd years ago, I had several of my mentors suggest that I should be wearing knee pads when the project I was working on involved crawling around on a floor or roof. Since I had always found them to be hot and uncomfortable, I considered the notion quite silly at the time. Somewhere in that 40 years my knees reached the point where the notion wasn't so silly anymore.

The knee pads I wear now make the crawling around a little more bearable,and they are certainly better than nothing, but I imagine a little of the suggested preventative knee pad wearing might have saved a lot of wear and tear in the first place. If it hadn't taken so long to decide that I needed them, I probably wouldn't need them quite as much now.

The federal debt is up around $15 trillion now, and the congressional super committee just announced that they couldn't come up with a suitable plan to cut federal spending, the federal deficit, or the federal debt. That doesn't really surprise me, because everybody on the committee benefits somehow from big government, most of the time in the form of money and favors they can hand out to the people that helped them get to Washington in the first place, and stay there now.

Libertarians have been warning for a long time that the government's current level of spending is unsustainable. It's gone on so long now that the taxes we pay as individuals don't raise enough to cover the money the government hands back to us through its social programs. If we are to survive as a free nation, eventually we will have to accept and deal with that fact.

Hopefully while we're still standing.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

I'll vote for that...

I imagine just about everybody who has children and grandchildren has spent a fair amount of time answering "Why?". Sometimes, for varied reasons, the answer ends up being "Because". Sometimes that seems to be a suitable answer, and sometimes it isn't.

I read several stories and editorials this last week about the poor voter turnout during the recent election. Some of the editorials sternly chastised those who didn't take the time to vote. I'm not sure why.

One of our local cities had about a 27% turnout. The implication is that the outcome would somehow have been different if there had been a 54% turnout, or an 81% turnout. I have read studies that a higher voter turnout sometimes favors one party over another. I suppose that might be the case. While working the polls, I did see both Republicans and Democrats hauling voters in. I assumed Republicans were hauling in Republicans and Democrats were hauling Democrats. I would also assume that whichever party hauled the most would benefit the most from the resulting higher turnout.

I also suppose that a different amount of votes might occasionally produce a different outcome, giving the victory to one party over another, at least when the candidate doesn't depend on a politically gerry-mandered district for all of his or her votes. But most of the time that's about it.

If people are choosing between a Republican or a Democrat, the policies after the election won't be significantly different. One tax might be replaced with another, or raised or lowered a percent or two. It might be lowered on on group of people and raised on another. Some government office might be consolidated or expanded, and a government program or two might be expanded or contracted. You might get to choose between Obamacare or Medicare, but in the end result, you're really only choosing whether Republicans or Democrats control your life.

That's not to say that I don't vote. I vote in every election when I find a candidate that doesn't want to control my life. It just so happens that most of the time that candidate is a Libertarian.

That's why I vote.

Not just because.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Like I always said...

On my very first day of first grade at Millville Grade School, our bus driver, Howard Tucker, picked me up in the morning and brought me back home that afternoon. 12 years later he was still hauling me to school in the morning and bringing me back home in the afternoon. Early on, my Mom had told my old buddy Stinky Wilmont and me that Howard was also her bus driver when she was in school, so Stinky and I kind of assumed that Mr. Tucker had always driven a school bus. I guess "always" isn't near as long when you're six years old.

When I was growing up, one of our farmer neighbors up towards Mooreland raised tomatoes. As far as I knew, he and his family had always raised tomatoes. He told me the other day they weren't going to raise tomatoes anymore. I also found that they hadn't always raised tomatoes. Apparently they had been raising them for 44 years. They raised about 200,000 tons of tomatoes in that amount of time. That's about 400 million pounds of tomatoes. As near as I could figure, that's about 312,454,680 bottles of ketchup, give or take a couple of bottles or so, or about 1 bottle of ketchup for every man, woman, and child in the United States.

I imagine that that a lot of people involved with that farm thought they had always raised tomatoes, or at least thought it seemed that way. Certainly they had been raising them longer than some of those people have been alive. And while they won't be raising them anymore, I'm pretty sure that someone else will. At least I'm confident enough that I'm not going to start stockpiling any ketchup.

I saw a clip from the television show "Meet the Press" the other day, where host David Gregory was interviewing one of the GOP presidential candidates, Ron Paul. When Mr. Paul mentioned getting the federal government out of the housing market, Mr. Gregory replied "But the governments always had a role in housing". I have no doubt that Mr. Gregory believes that. The government has probably been involved in housing for as long as he can remember.

It's hard to think of very much that the government isn't involved in these days, and the government has been involved in most of it for as long as most of us can remember. I don't imagine there are very many people who can remember when we didn't have an income tax. And there are getting to be fewer all the time who can remember when Social Security and Medicare weren't a fact of life.

The federal government is currently the provider and administrator of hundreds of social and service programs. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, it hasn't always been that way. (Prior to 1913, unless we were at war, most people were blissfully unaware of the federal government.) The cost of those programs has put the government currently $15 trillion in debt, with untold trillions of dollars more debt facing taxpayers in the near future, in the form of promised but unfunded benefits and pensions.

Nobody knows for sure when the government will run out of credit, or no longer be able to collect enough revenue to continue funding all of its programs, or which programs will be reduced or eliminated first, but the government can't always continue to do what many people believe it has always done.

When you spend more than you make it eventually catches up with you.

It always does.