Audio Clips

29 September 2008

Obama - The Race Card in Diplomacy

McCain - Unreliable and Disloyal

Chicago Politics to Haunt Obama?

Is the Fair Tax Better For You?

The Fair Tax website has a feature that I hadn't noticed before. It's a calculator that can help you figure out if the Fair Tax is better for you than your current tax situation. I'll be honest and say that it only increased my spendable income by 1.89% but the reason I want the Fair Tax is that I can control when I'm taxed. If I choose to save then I'm not punished for it. I believe that it will increase the incentive for people to save money which is a good thing.

Genetically Modified Food

I just posted a short bit from A&G on genetically modified food. Funny stuff!

28 September 2008

It Took Longer Than I Anticipated

56 minutes 14 seconds. I didn't think it would take that long for McCain to invoke Reagan's name. Good thing I didn't take the under on that bet.

Another Obama Racket - Early Childhood Education

Obama just mentioned that he wants to increase spending on early childhood education. I'm sure he wants that because it's been working so well so far. Or maybe it's because it's not working and that if we give them more money they'll figure out how to do it right. Or maybe it's because the NEA and every other teachers union on the planet is sending money to him. Whatever the case may be, we don't need the government taking our kids any earlier than they already are. Parents do the job significantly better than the preschool educators do. Why do we feel that we need to take money from workers so that the government can get the kids in a classroom one year sooner? Parents, please stand up and demand your child's time back. Don't abdicate them to the school system when they're 4 years old. They need you at that age, not a babysitter.

It's Not a Dividend, John

Senator McCain just called the $3,500/child tax credit a "dividend". To be exact he said "I want to double the dividend from $3,500 to $7,000 for every dependent child in America." Listen, we have got to stop using words incorrectly. Failure to tax someone is not the equivalent of a dividend. It just means that government is not taxing you as hard as they were. A dividend is a completely different thing, it is a portion of the profits that is returned to shareholders.

I know it sounds like a simple case of semantics, but words mean something and if we allow our leaders to water down words or replace words that scare people with words that people like just so they can get people to do what they are proposing then that is a problem. Stop playing with words and just say it flat out. Say: "We are going to tax families less so that they can raise their children." Stop calling it a dividend. A dividend implies that government is giving us something. Government doesn't give us money. They just stop taking as much as they were previously. If the government IS giving Person A money then it's only because they took it from Person B first and trust me, Person B doesn't feel like it was a dividend.

Obama Doesn't Get It

I'm watching the debate right now on Hulu and Obama and McCain are trading barbs about the economy. McCain just brought up the need for people taking responsibility for their decisions. Obama responds by saying that he agrees and then meanders toward an answer that ends with people who are suffering and taking out debt to pay their mortgage payment. You see Senator, THAT is the problem. If you can't pay your mortgage, then you shouldn't HAVE a mortgage. People who lose their homes are not going to be living on the street. They will cease to be homeowners and become renters. Whoop-de-freakin'-doo. Learn your lesson. Don't take on a loan that you can't pay. Don't take a "creative" loan. And finally, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the fact that you made a poor decision in buying a home when you did. Stop asking the taxpayer to buy your way out the problem.

Renting vs. Buying

My dad emailed me a fascinating article on buying vs. renting and it reconfirmed in my mind why we are renting for the time being. I have run the numbers and it make far more sense to invest the difference between what I pay in rent and what I would be paying in mortgage and then buy a house outright at some point than to buy at current prices. Read the article and let me know what you think. I'm curious.

20 September 2008

All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They Don't Match Mine

Wendy Doniger, a History of Religions professor at the University of Chicago School of Divinity, wrote a brief article for the Washington Post and made a couple of statements that had me rolling my eyes. To start with, anyone who knows me knows that I really don't like McCain and I frankly don't know enough about Sarah Palin of any substance to be able to make a judgment about her. (I've heard plenty from the media, but who knows if it's true. I mean, it is the media, right?) However, I have found it quite amusing to talk to and hear from people who are practically apoplectic in their reaction to Palin. Ms. Doniger struck me as epitomizing the attitude of these people when she wrote:

Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman. The Republican party's cynical calculation that because she has a womb and makes lots and lots of babies (and drives them to school! wow!) she speaks for the women of America, and will capture their hearts and their votes, has driven thousands of real women to take to their computers in outrage. She does not speak for women; she has no sympathy for the problems of other women, particularly working class women. (italics added)

So now we find that radical-feminists can define who is and isn't a woman. Apparently it has nothing to do with chromosomes, it has to do with your beliefs. And if you don't believe the same thing that Ms. Doniger does then you are no longer a woman. I'm not sure what you are since you're also not a man. In fact, since you're neither man nor woman you must be subhuman. Perhaps you're best purpose in this life is to serve those who are, obviously, more intelligent than you. (I would imagine that the only purpose men serve in Ms. Doniger's world is to propagate the species, and that only because of some cruel trick of nature.)

Since Mrs. Palin does not conform to the type of woman that Ms. Doniger approves of then she cannot, indeed, does not, in Ms. Doniger's words, speak for women. Never mind that many women out there live lives very similar to Mrs. Palin's. They raise families. They keep their children in spite of life-impacting problems. They struggle through the consequences of their children's choices. They hunt. They play sports. They nurture. They serve. They try to make the world safer for their children. They go to church. They love their husbands. They love their children. Sounds downright subversive doesn't it?

Which brings me to a couple of other interesting arguments from Ms. Doniger. She again argues that Sarah Palin is a hypocrite.

...the hypocrisy of her outing her pregnant daughter in front of millions of people, hard on the heels of her concealing her own pregnancy (her faith in abstinence applying, apparently, only to non-Palins), is nicely balanced by her hypocrisy in gushing with loving support of her teenage daughter after using a line-item veto to cut funding for a transitional home for teenage mothers in Alaska.

This contains a common fallacy: because people are going to have sex anyway, abstinence-education cannot possibly serve any purpose. The fact of the matter is that the only way to prevent STDs and pregnancy is to abstain from sex. If we are not telling our children this then we are doing them a disservice. This doesn't mean that those of us who believe in teaching abstinence are any less compassionate to those who make poor choices. They need support and help, but if we lie to them and tell them that condoms and/or the pill are going to miraculously protect them from disease and pregnancy then we are fools indeed and we have set them up for failure in life. So the fact that Sarah Palin can teach the value of abstinence and still love her daughter in the face of a poor choice is not a contradiction at all. It is the human condition. Who among us has NOT failed to heed good advice and had to pay the consequences?

And let's get one more thing straight. Sarah Palin "outed" her daughter's pregnancy for one reason and one reason only. She's running for Vice-President. If she hadn't mentioned it early, the press would have found out and hounded her relentlessly for being a hypocrite for trying to hide her daughter's pregnancy. She was in a no-win situation and the only way to get out in front of a problem like this is to shine a light on it. If you try to hide something you'll get burned for it.

I also love the dig that she "hid" her own pregnancy. Is the failure to tell someone that you're pregnant "hiding" your pregnancy? If that's the case then my wife and I have "hidden" our last 5 pregnancies. That is, until we felt like "unhiding" them. What a silly argument. Is this the level of teaching that the University of Chicago pays for?

It is also not hypocrisy to veto spending on transitional housing for teenage mothers. Issues such as these should be solved on a local level and not funded by taking money out of taxpayer wallets. As a society we need to stop compelling charity by stealing money from taxpayers. The government has been resorting to this for generations now and it hardens peoples hearts to those in need because it creates a feeling of resentment toward those who are on the receiving end of the tax lottery. We are, by nature, still a giving people. We give more of our income privately than just about any nation on earth, but I'm afraid that we're losing that sense of caring because it is being taxed out of us. The more that the government takes, the less we have in discretionary funds to be able to help others. And when charity is forced and given third-party by the government who took it from us, it detaches us from the recipient and we feel no sense of obligation toward that recipient. In fact, we come to resent them and wish them evil. The fact that Sarah Palin vetoed a transitional home for teenage mothers has absolutely nothing with how she may feel about teenage mothers. To say otherwise is to be disingenuous and judgmental.

P.S. I'm still not voting for McCain.

16 September 2008

Nineteen Neglected Consequences of Income Redistribution

I am currently reading Robert Higgs' book Against Leviathan and it is very well-written. Robert Higgs is a Ph.D. economist from Johns Hopkins University and has been a proponent of limited government for decades and this book captures several dozen of his essays. I just finished "Nineteen Neglected Consequences of Income Redistribution" and I really enjoyed it. Several of the ideas behind it were things that I had already thought of (loss of independence, perpetuation of dependence on the government from generation to generation, bureaucrats entrenching and seeking larger and larger budgets, etc.), but others were forehead-slapping eye-openers.

For example, it hadn't occured to me that all the money and labor that goes into lobbying for those dollars is money and labor that is not going into creating goods and services that will be valued by consumers or make our jobs easier by increasing productivity. Also, all the money and labor that is going in to avoiding taxes to the best of our ability and all the jobs in the tax-preparation sector of the economy are distracting effort from creating goods and services that could benefit society.

In addition, Higgs makes an excellent point that the redistribution of wealth creates an animosity from the taxpayer to the recipient because the recipient comes to be seen, probably rightly so, as a moocher. So instead of the compassion that was a hallmark of charitable and fraternal organizations in the past, there is a resentment because the money was taken away at gunpoint. The loss of opportunity to voluntarily help someone is more detrimental than I think people realize. I believe it leads to a coarsening of society because people think "Hey, I've already paid enough in taxes to pay for that problem. Take it up with the government." That isn't a positive development.

15 September 2008

A Pretty Simple Concept

I'm reading Ron Paul's book Revolution and I always find it enlightening how simple the principles of the Constitution are. He is talking about Thomas Jefferson's view of the importance of adhering to the limits that are explicitly laid out in the Constitution. Let me share a passage.

Jefferson's approach to the Constitution - which he adamantly believed could be understood by the average person and was not some secret teaching that had to be divined by immortals in black robes - was refreshingly simple. If a proposed federal law was not listed among the powers granted to Congress in Article I, Section 8, then no matter how otherwise attractive it seemed, it had to be rejected on constitutional grounds. If it were especially wise or desirable, there would be no difficulty in amending the Constitution to allow for it. And according to Jefferson we should always bear in mind, to the extent possible, the original intention of those who drafted and ratified the Constitution: "On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." (Ron Paul, Revolution, p. 45)

Seems simple enough doesn't it. If we have questions then stick to the intent of the people who passed it. If we decide that they are mistaken on some point then there exists a means by which to amend the Constitution. Instead we just trust our leaders to make laws that will benefit us because it's easier than abiding by a long-dead document. We can't trust our leaders. It is too easy to acquire a taste for power.

Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism. Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence....In matters of Power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution. (Thomas Jefferson)

The only way to maintain our God-given freedoms is to make our leaders abide by the limits that are expressly listed in the Constitution. Otherwise, why do we bother to have the document? Let's finish the charade and burn it in that case.

14 September 2008

Lipstick on a Pig

So apparently the McCainiacs are up in arms claiming that Obama referred to Sarah Palin as a pig. For anyone who hasn't seen it here is the video. To claim that he is referring to Palin seems to me to require the most obtuse reasoning. Is this really the level of political debate that we're going to have? Is this the best that McCain and his lackeys can come up with? Give me a break. Why don't we stop talking about drivel and start addressing the actual problems that we're facing like a multi-trillion dollar bullet headed right between our eyes in the form of entitlement spending for tens of millions of baby boomers. Lipstick on a pig. Indeed.

12 September 2008

New Sign of the Apocaplyse

I tend to dislike it when government steps in and regulates us to death, but the reality is that some things need to be controlled and this is just one example of an area of human activity that government needs to lay down its iron fist and squash. It is an outrage that Ms. Clemens feels qualified to massage horses. What training has she had that would qualify her for the job? What assurances do the horses have that she won't push too hard on the deep-tissue massage? How can we know, as a society that she won't be causing wholesale harm to horses nationwide unless she is licensed and registered? Equine-Americans have a right to the protections guaranteed under the Constitution. This is a clear and present danger to the safety of horses everywhere and I won't rest until we have enough equine massage regulations on the books to choke a horse.

Seriously. We have have regulations against equine massage?! And we don't think that government has gotten too overreaching?

10 September 2008

If you want to check out the political claims and accusations that are happening and will continue to happen throughout the presidential race be sure to check out FactCheck. It is a fantastic resource.

La la la la, I Can't Hear You!

Armstrong and Getty read some interesting statistics (see A&G - Real Estate Delusion in the audio bites above) about what we believe is going on in the real estate market vs. what's happening to the value of our own home. The majority of people believe that in the last year the value of their home has gone up. That's is laughable. This is some special kind of self-delusion. The interesting thing is that those same people believe that everyone else's real estate has, for the most part, gone down over the last year. What!?

This reminds me of the congressional polls. Congress has lower approval ratings than syphilis and yet we keep voting them back in. It's the idea that "Well sure congress is awful, but not my guy. He's really fighting for me!" No he's not. He's one of Them. Maybe you need to look at his voting record!

08 September 2008

You Call This a Depression?

Armstrong and Getty, probably my favorite radio show, shared a great article from Newsweek to put the current economic environment in perspective. You can catch the clip at the top of the page.

06 September 2008

Non-Interventionism vs. Isolationism

I find it amusing when Group A tries to tell Group B what Group B's beliefs are. The neo-con fascists would have us believe that anyone who questions the presence of U.S. military in 130 different countries is an isolationist who wants people in other countries to starve to death and hates liberty. And they probably beat their children. They claim that these "isolationists" want to just hole up in their homes, put their fingers in their ears and say "La la la la la, I can't hear you. I don't want to deal with you." Isolationism is a far cry from the non-intervention that many conservatives favor.

Non-interventionists don't believe we should be using our national blood and treasure to police the world. It does not mean that we are pacifists, it simply means that war is so disruptive to freedom that it should only be a last resort. We believe in the counsel given by George Washington:

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to domestic nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.

Thomas Jefferson further explained what the U.S. role should be:

...peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.

Non-interventionists have a rich and respected tradition. However, neo-cons have hijacked the military tradition of the U.S. and have intimidated non-interventionist into submission by calling them cowards and unpatriotic traitors. Non-interventionism has been redubbed isolationism in spite of the fact that non-interventionism calls for robust relations with all countries. We should stop being bullied by those who would question our patriotism and initiate a debate as to why we need to have "the highest level of military spending since the end of World War II" when we're not fighting World War II.

Maybe we do need that level of spending. Maybe we do need troops in 130 countries. Maybe there's a reason they need to be garrisoned in countries for more than half a century at the cost of trillions of dollars. But right now we're not even having the debate. Right now the debate is how much more intervention should we do. Why don't we discuss whether we should cut back our intervention in other countries' governments. Instead we get people like Rudy Giuliani calling Ron Paul an America-hater because Paul asks about the consequences interventionism may bring about. People like Giuliani and the neo-con base are cowards because rather than discuss the issue they resort to thinly-veiled ad hominem attacks and wave dismissively with their hands that anyone who questions their assumptions is to be ignored. Talk about isolationist.

05 September 2008

It's Not the World's Oldest Profession, But...

Well, the prostitutes are out in force and money is changing hands faster than you can say "Goodbye Sweet America!" For the past two weeks we have been subjected to the circus that is the two-party convention system. And thank goodness for it! It is such a convenience to have all the politicians gathered so tightly together so that the lobbyists don't have to walk too far to hand out their checks and whine like two-year-olds that their industry just isn't capable of making it unless the politician steals some money out of your pocket to give to them. It's times like these that I nearly lose my steel-like nerves and just start calling and cussing out random congressmen. (I also sometimes wish there were an even lower lower-case lettering system so I could write "congressmen" with a lower-lower-case "c".)

Here's the latest prostitution ring. Detroit's three car companies are approaching congressmen and saying that they need subsidized loans totaling $50 billion. So let me get this straight. You ran your business so ineptly that you can't compete with better-run businesses because you're stupid? And I should give you money because....? Oh wait, that's right, you're not asking me to give you money, you're asking my congressman to put a gun to my head and take money from my wallet to give to you. That sounds fair. And reasonable.

If you can't compete as the company you are, then you better look to investors and sell them on why they should invest more or look to merge with a competitor to get better economies-of-scale and weed out the garbage that isn't working. You shouldn't steal money from families who are struggling to make ends meet because you're such an incompetent nincompoop.

Where are my blood pressure pills?

01 September 2008

Economics and Scarcity

I was reading my Freeman this month and I read one of the best explanations of how scarcity works in economics and why economists tend to not be worried about running out of resources. Steven Horwitz makes the point that the true resource is the end result, not the means that got you there. Let me explain what I mean by using one of his examples.

He makes the point that when we first started communicating via telephones, copper was the conduit for the human voice. However, copper is quite expensive. Eventually, the discovery of fiber optics led the way to more efficient and cheaper means of communicating. Mr. Horwitz' point is that copper and sand are not the true resources in this scenario, but rather the "ability to convey voice and data". The thing that people wanted to accomplish was to be able to speak over large distances. Human ingenuity found a means of doing it and with time has found more efficient and cheaper means.

This is the genius of the free market. Given a desire, "to create light in the home" or "to cook a meal in 90-120 seconds" for example, humans will find a way to transmit light, like we have with the light bulb, or cook a meal in record time, like we have with the microwave. We will continue to find more efficient and cheaper means of accomplishing human goals because that's what we do. We don't sit still. We look for solutions to the problems that we run into. And we use the means at our disposal to do it.