Prediction for 2017

If you thought the celebrity death toll was a “bad” in 2016, just “wait ‘till next year.” This may sound crass, but in a very odd way the increase in celebrity deaths is a very good thing indeed. Please note this is not in any way meant to disparage or disrespect those that have passed on. I am always saddened by the lose of human life, well, maybe not for people like Fidel Castro, but I digress.

Two main reasons exist for this increase in morbitity among the (sometimes rich and) famous:

Demographics

First, it is simply a matter of demographics. The baby boomer generation, of which many of the famous are a part, has for decades wreaked havoc with many of society’s institutions. For example, many schools, now abandoned, were built to accomodate their ballooning numbers in the late 1950s. It only stands to reason that as this generation reaches their average life expectancy the number of those who die will continue to increase.

Economics

Second, and more importantly in my mind, is the increase in wealth and standard of living that have occurred over the last 50 years. Simply put, many of the celebrities including sports figures are famous because we have more discretionary income to create more fame. Despite all the the-sky-is-falling rhetoric from politicians of all ilks, we (as in all of us collectively) are much much better off than we were a few generations ago.

Furthermore, the increase in “healthcare” spending is partially due precisely to this same reason — we can afford to spend more on healthcare.

But back to my main point, if it were not for this increase in the world’s wealth, a goodly number of those we know as famous would have likely died in obscurity. So in 2017 when someone famous passes on, just remember it is partially a sign of our increasing standard of living.

And in a year from now when people are talking about 2017 being the “worst year” for celebrity deaths, remember it is only likely to continue to increase until 2032 and beyond.

On public versus private sector receipts

Yesterday, I went to the United States Post Office location here in my hometown of Allen, Texas. I needed to send a package to a friend in Petaluma, California.

Upon arrival, I noticed a self service kiosk, so I decided to give it a try. The first step was to “Touch the screen to begin.” Okay, fair enough. Boop.

Up came a menu of five or six choices of service, “Send a parcel” being the top choice. Howver, underneath the description it said, “I am sorry I am unable to complete this type of transaction now.” Curiously, under all the choices it read the same. Hmmm, to the line I go.

It being after Christmas there was only one person ahead of me, so I waited only about five minutes since there was only one clerk working. I handed over my package and answered the needed questions and paid via my American Express card. 

No sooner had I put the card back in its proper slot in my wallet then did I receive a notice on my iPhone that a purchase of $6.65 had been made on my card. It came up so quickly that the receipt pictured below had not even finished printing. You can see why. It is so long that my scanner would not scan it in one pass, I had to cut the paper in half becasue it was perceived as a paper jam.

Does Algore know about this?

The Funny Thing About North Korea…

…is that there is really nothing funny about North Korea.

Dear ReaderI used to think there was, but earlier this summer I read this book, Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il, and it changed my perspective.

They are not funny, they are brutal and ruthless. If I bought into the “we need to protect them” narrative that is often used to justify foreign intervention (I don’t, but if I did) North Korea would be first on the list.

The people of the PDRK have been systematically repressed for decades. Even if we were to somehow liberate them today if would generations before they could recover. The ruling family is not crazy, there is a logic and rational to everything that is done. It is evil, pure and simple.

Read the book, it is like reading a slow train wreck, too horrifying to continue reading, too fascinating to stop.

I Was Wrong About Joe Biden

Several years ago, I posted a snide comment about the fact that my wife and I donated more to charity than Vice President Joe Biden and his wife. While this has remained true for the last few years, upon further reflection I was wrong to be critical of the VP.

C_Joe_BidenThe reality is that he should not be donating anything to charity. In fact, any donations he makes are quite hypocritical. No, rather than donate, Mr. Biden should instead pay extra money in taxes. At a minimum, he should be making voluntary contributions to pay down the national debt. I have come to believe that the majority of people should do this as well.

You see, most people believe that government does a better job than charities at helping people. After all, if this were not the case they would not support expansive government programs that do just that.

My belief now is that anyone who believes that government should be the provider of “the general welfare” should not in any way support any charity through their donations of time, talent and treasure. They should not volunteer their time, instead, they should get a part time job and in addition to the tax money that gets taken out of their paycheck from this job, they should send the rest of their paycheck to the IRS.

alg-springsteen To broaden this idea, when the next natural disaster occurs, musicians, like Bruce Springsteen, should not have a concert to help the people directly, but instead, give the money to FEMA. Most of these folks think like Biden. Clearly they believe that  government is the fulfillment of society. Why they would donate a penny or a second to any charity is beyond me. To do so is to admit that private charities perform these function better than their beloved government.

Sorry, Joe. I admit, I was wrong. Please don’t give any more to these institutions.

On Racism vs Bigotry

First, without question, I think Sergio Garcia’s comments about Tiger Woods and fried chicken were inappropriate, hurtful and bigoted. A bigot is some who treats other people with hatred, contempt, and intolerance on the basis of a person’s race, or other status.

That said, these comments along do not necessarily make him a racist. A racist is someone who believes in the natural superiority and, therefore, inferiority of all members a one race or another.

Now, Sergio Garcia may in fact be a racist, but that would mean I would know what is in his heart and unless he says outright that he believes that caucasians are superior to Africans then I can’t in good conscious call him a racist.

I mention this because I think it diminishes the word racist to use it incorrectly.

 

 

On Bailouts, Hypocrisy, and Circular Errors

This morning I came across a piece in the Huffington Post about Ally Bank.

It seems that Ally according to the author did not join a settlement with federal regulators with regard to foreclosure abuse of its customers.

This is notable because Ally Bank was once known as GMAC, the GM stands for General Motors, yes, the same General Motors bailed out by the federal government in 2008/9.

In fact, Ally Bank is still 74 percent owned by the US Government.

The story goes on to say how Ally Bank is now negotiating with federal regulators over the foreclosure abuse situation.

Am I missing something, but doesn’t this mean the government is negotiating with themselves?

Flunking My Son’s Report Card

My son, Sean, got his report card last week, oops sorry his “Student Assessment.” I think he did well. I am not 100 percent sure, because with all the education jargon it is difficult to really tell.

In fact, in order to decipher the gobbledygook (as my friend Michelle Golden calls it) I was sent an email from his teacher explaining it. Here is the email in part. I say in part because each of these required a full paragraph to explain the details.

  1. The Report Card- The specific skills addressed and assessed this grading period are listed with your students achievement.
  2. The First Grade Report Card Addendum- Indicates your student’s Independent reading level at this time.
  3. Student Success initiative (SSI) letter- this will inform you of how your student is performing compared to the grade level standard. 
  4. Math Inventory form- this form reports your student’s scores on the District Math Assessment given to all first graders.
  5. DRA Report- This is your child’s independent reading level.
  6. TPRI Report- This report has their beginning of the  year (boy) testing and middle of year (moy) testing for this assessment.

Now, while I am very grateful to his teacher for her assistance with this, I am dumbstruck with the amount of bureaucracy this must create. Each of these is assessed on a quarterly basis!

Notice the duplication of the second and fifth items. Actually, it is triplication because the first item covers reading as well.

If you want to know why the education budget is completely bonkers look no further. Think about the cost of driving all this crap through the system!

Please note, I believe my son is getting an excellent education so far, but I must say it is in spite of, not because of, all this nonsensical garbage with which teachers must concern themselves.

On the grading system I recall using, I give this an F!

A Modest (Marriage) Proposal

This week the media, traditional and new, have been bursting with conversations about the Supreme Court of the United States taking on both California’s Proposition 8 and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, both of which attempt to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

I wish to offer a libertarian proposal on the best trade-off possible to bring this situation to an expedient close. Not surprisingly, my remedy is to get the government out of the marriage business entirely.

The idea is simple, let the term marriage be defined by religious (or non-religious) institutions in the manner that best serves their beliefs. If two men wish to marry and your religion or belief system allows it, great. If five men and three women wish to marry and your religion or belief system allows it, great!

The term civil union should be adopted by governments to describe the contract between two people which confers certain rights with regard to child rearing, property ownership, and end-of-life issues. (There may be others as well, but I am not a lawyer. So be it, add them on.)

Let me be clear, as the POTUS, is fond of saying. I do not think that only gay and lesbian couples should be subject to this civil union, I am saying that it will apply to all. From the perspective of the state it is a special kind of contract in that only two people can enter into it and any one time.

R. Lee WrightsThis idea is not without precedent. As R. Lee Wrights, a great Texan and Libertarian candidate for President in 2012 said during the LP Presidential debate in Fort Worth last year, “George and Martha Washington did not have a marriage license.” Here, here!

In fact, it was inconceivable to them that one should even obtain permission from the government to get married.

I am sure many libertarians would say to me that we just need to eliminate the idea of government approved unions. While, in principle, I agree with this statement, we must acknowledge that undoing all of the law with regard to these unions will take years, if not decades.

Therefore, we must support something that achieves the goal of separating church and state and allows more freedom. This proposal does just that. It would allow maximum freedom for people to define marriage in any way they like.

I hope you say, “I do!”

Libertarians v. libertarians: the problem of purity

I was first inspired to begin writing this post over a year ago when I read the blog post entitled Libertarians: the problems of purity. It is over a year in the making, not because of its depth or greatness (hardly), but because of the challenge for the author of expressing my beliefs in a way that is comprehensible to others.

My plea is this – Libertarians (note uppercase L which indicates party affiliation) need to stop putting purity tests on libertarians (note lowercase l which indicates philosophical affiliation). My primary source for this plea is the World’s Smallest Political Quiz (aka the Advocate’s Quiz, aka the Nolan Chart).

Ms. Apple's Nolan Chart

Let’s take the above as an example. Ms. Apple is a school teacher who is intensely against adult possession and use of drugs including marijuana and even alcohol. She thinks that prostitution should remain illegal, but has no problem with homosexual marriage. She also is intensely pro First Amendment, against a draft and detests the idea of a National ID card.

In addition, Ms. Apple thinks the government safety net should definitely remain in place. To do this she believes spending and tax could be cut, but not drastically. She favors ending all forms of welfare, save the safety net and is a proponent of free trade.

According to the Nolan Chart Ms. Apple scores as a libertarian, falling just above the centrist line at a score of 70/70.

Now the problem.

Mr. Myself is an apex libertarian scoring 100/100 on the Nolan Chart. He  is very proud of his "credentials," but the truth is he has gotten to his positions over time. In fact, he started out very near where Ms. Apple is today.

The problem as I see it is when Mr. Myself encounters Ms. Apple online during a Facebook debate on marijuana legalization. It is likely Mr. Myself will attempt to persuade Ms. Apple to see it his way, citing innumerable statistics and Reason Magazine articles. After some time, it is likely reductio ad hitlerum will lead to Mr. Myself to believe that Ms. Apple is Dr. Mengele reincarnate and Ms. Apple will view Myself as Bill Murray’s groundskeeper character of Carl Spackler in Caddy Shack.

 Josef_Mengele   vs.    images-9

I have seen this played out (yes, even played my part in) countless conversations both online and in person and it always leads to one fewer Libertarian. We need to stop the madness.

My suggested remedy comes from Edwin Friedman, author of one of my all-time favorite books, A Failure of Nerve. In the preface is this gem, Friedman writes, "The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change." For more on this visit a previous post about this quote.

Friedman’s prescription is simply this – If you care about the relationship and want to advance your cause, figure out how to remain connected to the other person and let them know you are there to support them.

Yep, that is it. No cajoling, no more statistics, no more Reason.com posts. Just remain available in what he calls in a non anxious presence mode.

If the Libertarian Party is to advance we need more leaders who embrace this mode of thinking. We have to stop ostracizing people, especially those with whom we agree on so much.

Who will join me?

How Government Can Manipulate Us

US-75This morning, I sat down at my computer excited to fill out a survey I had received over the weekend from the US Department of Transportation. They sent me both a postcard and a letter saying that they wanted my feedback about my “experiences traveling through the US-75 Corridor.” For those of you outside the Dallas Metroplex, US-75 is one of three main north-south running roads which brings drivers to and from downtown Dallas.

The FAQ states that the purpose of the survey is “to learn how Dallas area residents use US-75 as well as other roads and DART light rail in the corridor.”

I went to the website and entered the password they provided me. The first question asked was about how often I travelled the corridor during rush hour. The answer that best represented my usage was “Weekends only.” After I clicked next, I received the following page in reply:

ReplytoSurvey

In case you eyes are weakening like my it reads:

Thank you for your interest in this survey.

Unfortunately, we cannot invite you to participate further because this study focuses on the experiences of people who regularly travel on US-75 on weekdays.

If you would still like to provide feedback, please email comments to dallas@rsgsurvey.com.

So you see, they are not interesting in the opinion of Dallas area residents; they are interesting in the opinions of rush-hour travelers. My bet is that the results of this survey will be used to justify more public transit.

This is the way governments and so-called urban planners operate. They ask obvious questions to a carefully chosen demographic to get the answers they want. For example, this survey I am sure asks about the congestion on US-75 and asks if it would be better to have more light rail service.

I have emailed and asked for the complete set of questions, we will see if I am correct. If you are in the Dallas area, you might want to ask to participate in the survey, you can do so by emailing dallas@rsgsurvey.com.