Monday, January 30, 2012

Gimme Shelter....

Sometimes a really good thing happens that just makes you want to scream. I read this story last weekend about a woman who had left $700,000.00 to one of our local animal shelters. I thought it was a nice gesture on her part. If I had $700,000.00 to leave to charity when I go, I probably would have chosen a different outlet, but it was her money, and she certainly had the right to give it to anybody she desired.

I know that animal shelters often have a hard time making ends meet. Especially during economic downturns, when both public funds and private donations get a little scarcer, and more people have trouble caring for their pets, and either abandon them or turn them in to the shelters. My first thought was that $700,000.00 would buy a lot of cat food, and nueter a lot of pets.

I went on to read that the shelter was going to use $500,000.00 for remodeling their building, and save the rest of it until they were able to raise another $400,000.00, so that they could do some more remodeling.

That's where the screaming part came in.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Screw that....

Among my many faults is that sometimes I assume to much. We're building a house over in the next county, and today we fell victim to another one of my faults, that of not always ordering enough material for a particular job. While finishing up hanging the drywall, I was informed that we were about out of collated drywall screws. Since there is a lumber yard about a mile down the road, and since I naturally assumed that a lumber yard would carry collated drywall screws, I just naturally assumed it wouldn't be a problem. I quickly discovered that while every lumberyard in Wayne County carries them, nobody in New Castle does. I assume you can't buy them anywhere in Henry County.

This is what collated drywall screws look like.

They fit in a cordless gun that looks like this.

They make it so much easier than the way we used attach drywall, I just assumed everybody used them nowadays. Most of the salesmen I talked to today looked at me like they didn't know what I was talking about. I assume they didn't.

Sometimes I have the same problem with certain libertarian ideas. When I first heard Harry Browne explaining them 12 years ago, they made so much sense to me that I just assumed everybody would appreciate them as much as I did. One of the anchors of libertarian thought is the Zero Aggression Principle, or ZAP. It has to do with the realization that no one has the right to initiate force against another person or their property. And since you don't have the right to do that yourself, you don't have the right to designate another person or group of persons to do it for you, either.

Sometimes when I discuss that with people, they look at me like I'm asking them for collated screws.

Or that I'm just screwing with them.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Great Divide...

In the GOP rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union Address, Mitch Daniels claimed that the president is trying to divide us. I'm not sure who Mitch thinks "us" is. If he's talking about people in general, we've been divided for a long time. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.

Out in Indianapolis next week, they're having a big football game where a bunch of people are going to be cheering for one team, and a bunch of people will cheering for the other team, and some of us won't even know who's playing. For the most part, after the game is over, everybody will go their separate ways.

I've been married for 35 years to a woman that is just a little over the top where cows are concerned. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not really interested in them until they get just a bit past medium rare. I don't think our different views on the role of cattle in our lives has caused any irreparable harm to our marriage.

I suppose Governor Daniels might have been talking about how divided people are politically. That seems to pose a little bit more of a problem. There is something about politics and government that causes people to be a little more demanding. For some reason, when the government is involved, people get the notion that their good ideas ought to be laws. And they tend to get pretty insistent about it.

That's probably where division gets to be a problem. It's not just that people have different opinions on how certain situations should be handled, but that they want to use the force of government to make sure that everyone complies with their opinions.

Libertarians believe that in situations that don't involve initiating force or fraud against another person or their property, people should be able to make their own decisions. Barack Obama and the Democrats don't believe that. Neither does Mitch Daniels and the Republicans.

That's why I decided to be a Libertarian. Because nobody forced me.


Friday, January 13, 2012

They've come a long way baby....

The first pack of cigarettes I ever bought cost 40 cents. The last pack of cigarettes I bought cost a dollar. That wasn't the main reason I quit buying them, but I do remember a nickel seemed like a lot to pay for just one cigarette.

I went on a field trip with some buddies down to the Ohio River the other day, and made a stop at a Riverboat down in Lawrenceburg.

We walked by a cigarette vending machine on the way in, and I noticed that a pack of cigarettes cost $10.00. I'm sure you could buy them cheaper than that somewhere else, but I'm still glad I got out at a buck.

Probably should have done that at the blackjack table, too.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

What are those choices again?...

Usually, for the most part, I watch Republican and Democratic presidential candidate presentations as a somewhat disinterested bystander. From a libertarian standpoint, there isn't enough actual policy difference between the Republican candidates, or the Democratic candidates, or between the Republican and Democratic candidates to warrant much attention.

It's usually a case of all of the candidates offering up government solutions for government created problems. Some one may try to convince us that there is a significant difference between Obamacare and Romneycare, or between having troops in Afghanistan or Pakistan, or between giving $3 billion or $2.95 billion to Israel this year, or between trimming 1% or 2% from next years proposed budget increase.

This year, the majority of the Republican hopefuls are pitching themselves as the conservative standard bearer that should be put in power to defeat the Barack Obama, the liberal standard bearer. Republicans and Democrats seem to get caught up in the excitement, and the fall election ends up being promoted as a contest between conservatism and liberalism, when actually it ends up being a contest between the Republicans version of statism and the Democrats version of statism.

I have been paying a little bit closer attention to the GOP race this year.
Ron Paul, the libertarian leaning congressman from Texas, has added a little variety to the mix. While his opponents continue to offer up Republican versions of big government as the solution for problems we face from Democratic versions of big government, Dr. Paul steadfastly offers the libertarian solutions of smaller government, individual freedom and personal responsibility to solve those problems.

For many elections, people have believed they were choosing between liberalism and conservatism, when they were really simply choosing statism. This spring, the GOP has the chance to give voters a chance to choose between the freedom of libertarianism, or the status quo of statism when they go to the polls next fall.

If the Republicans fail to take advantage of that chance, I hope the voters who embraced freedom and limited government in the spring, will continue to embrace them in the fall.

There is a political party that has been offering that choice all along.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Stepping out of line...

Back when I was a student at Millville Grade School, there was a restaurant down the road in New Castle called Bud Alexander's Cafeteria. Once in a while, after we got out of church, I was allowed to accompany my old buddy Stinky Wilmont and his family to Bud's for Sunday dinner. We all lined up, walked down the serving aisle, loaded our plates with chicken and mashed potatoes, and when we reached Gladys, the cashier, we pointed back towards the end of the line where Stinky's father was standing with Mrs. Wilmont, and explained that he would be paying for our meals.

And he always did. I understood that he was kind of obligated to feed his family, and I appreciated that he fed me whenever Stinky invited me to come along. I suppose he probably would have paid even if a stranger had managed to sneak into the line.

I recall the panic Stinky and I went through one time when we directed Gladys's attention to end of the line, only to realize that Mr. Wilmont had wandered away from his post. It was our good fortune that Mrs. Wilmont located him before Gladys repossessed our chicken, but I did wonder at the time what might have happened if things hadn't turned out like they did. I guess we could have simply told the cashier that the next person in line would pick up the bill, but I'm not sure he would have felt the same obligation to us that Stinky's dad felt, and there's a better than average chance that Gladys would have ended up with the chicken.

In the last several years, since I have had children and grandchildren of my own, I've spent a lot of time at the end of the line myself. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I figured that was part of the deal when I got married. And sometimes when we go out to eat with our children now, one of them ends up grabbing the bill. I'm not sure why, but I don't want to offend them, so I don't argue about it much. We never really signed a contract or anything. We've just kind of worked things out as we went along.

I have heard a lot of talk the last few years about something called a "social contract". I guess it's something that binds all people to a certain set of rules, even if you never signed it, and regardless of whether you agree with the rules or not. I'm a big fan of certain aspects of social contracts. To be sure, we are all bound, even without a contract, to abstain from initiating violence or force against another person or their property, just as we are bound to refrain from infringing on another person's rights. But unfortunately, social contracts of today have morphed into something much more than that.

Several years ago, our government, and many voters at the time, decided that it would be a good idea to put a bunch of government managed retirement and health insurance programs into place. And, as is the case with most government programs, things didn't work out quite as well as planned. Currently, the federal programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and hundreds of state and local government pension programs across the country, are underfunded by about $61 trillion, give or take a trillion or two, which means the people collecting from these programs are relying on people a little farther down the line to kick in enough to pay their benefits. And a lot of those people down the line never signed up to do that.
Thomas Paine, the author of colonial America's Common Sense, stated that: "Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and generations which preceded it...Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow."

If enough people at the end of the line decide old Thomas was correct about today's social contracts, those of us getting ready to step up to the counter might want to start figuring on another way to take care of the bill.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year....

As many of us had feared, President Obama signed the NDAA into law, allowing for the arrest and detention of American citizens without being charged, without the benefit of counsel, and without a trial.

I suppose there is a chance the Supreme Court might rule the law unconstitutional, although they run the risk of being arrested and detained without trial if they do.

I watched a documentary the other evening where soldiers were hauling citizens off to concentration camps and executing them, all according to the law. I wondered then, as I have many times in the past, (and as I did when I first heard of the provisions in this most recent bill), if there ever comes a time when a soldier, or a policeman, or a guard would simply refuse to carry out an order.

Does there ever come a time when the law becomes so corrupt that even people hired by the state to enforce that law refuse to do so.

I haven't seen a lot of evidence of that in the past.

I pray that we start to see some evidence of it soon.