Archive for September, 2011

The Future

September 28, 2011

Listening to Skousen’s Cleansing of America, I realize a few things about the Christian faith that makes it special among all thought patterns in the world.

To take a moment to explain why I use the term “thought pattern”: The way we think about things, our expectations and our values, determine what we do. Really, that’s what’s important. Our actions change things and record in time some unalterable event or thing. Our thought patterns govern, completely, what actions we take.

Some thought patterns are empowering, putting us in charge of what we choose to do. Others are defeating, making us feel like a “shrimp on a whale’s tail” (to borrow a phrase from Korean).

The Christian thought pattern, when it comes to the future, is this.

Some really, really bad things are going to happen, so unimaginably bad that you really can’t imagine it. Don’t worry, as long as you are doing what’s right right now, you’ll be OK. After the bad stuff, then this wonderful new utopia will be created where people treat each other right and live according to the ultimate laws of what is good and just and merciful.

Different Christian sects, as far as I know, have different definitions of what precisely happens and when. Some claim ignorance, but admit only to vague ideas and possibilities. The LDS religion is no different.

Christian religions, in general, teach their disciples to simply love their neighbor. If someone is really, really mean to you, and you reach out to them often an to try and clear things up, and they insist on being mean, you can just write them off, because one day God will take care of things. But if you really, really care for them, then you’ll try just one more time (for many times over) to reach out and clear things up, because whatever punishment you think they deserve is far less than whatever the future holds for them.

Isn’t this 180 degrees different than the way Christians are portrayed in pop culture? People who have their heart set on living in a perfect, millennial society know they have to train themselves to proper behavior and attitudes today. They know that those people who do not qualify will meet a fate worse than anything we wish upon them, so we are inspired to continually reach out to them, compassionately, quietly, and respectfully, hoping that perhaps this next time their hearts have softened.

I can’t name any other religion that has this kind of attitude in their thought patterns. I think the Jews have a similar feeling, but I don’t see this kind of thought pattern among Hindus, Buddhists, or Muslims. I certainly don’t see this kind of attitude. And what thought patterns does humanism and atheism inspire? Certainly nothing even remotely similar to this.

As we set into these last days, and the ride of 2008 is going to look like the rising tide before the tsunami, let’s consider, carefully, what thought patterns we allow to govern our minds. I prefer to keep the thought patterns that inspire me to individual charity rather than any other.

Why I am a Tepid TEA Partier

September 24, 2011

Lloyd Marcus writes at American Thinker about the tepid response of the Romney supporters at his Tea Party Express V stop. (link)

I strongly agree with almost everything the TEA Party stands for.

However, I don’t believe in getting worked up into a frenzy.

Someone’s military service is a very serious, very somber thing for me. Three of my four grandparents served in the military. All 3 of them won’t talk about it, except for the bits that are mostly mundane. They don’t get rallied or riled up. They are very calm, very serious people. That is my culture as well. I love the troops, I think very highly of anyone who chooses to put on a uniform, and I give them several benefits of a doubt.

At the one TEA Party rally I attended, the presenters tried to work us up into a frenzy. I don’t care for that kind of stuff.

I guess I don’t allow people to work me up about much at all. There are things that are right, and things that are wrong. There are things that I can do, and things that I can’t. I guess I am a Vulcan when it comes to these things.

Mitt Romney reflects, almost to a T, the feelings and sentiment I have. He is a very serious, very real person. Rick Perry is increasingly turning into a fraud in my head because he is making unserious attacks against Romney.

Those who get worked up in a frenzy about anything political I find to be tolerable at best. I don’t go to rock concerts. I don’t like being part of a crowd with too much energy.

I guess that’s one of the reasons why I’d probably still attend services with the LDS church if I questioned all the tenets of its faith. Their services are exactly the kind of energy level I expect, calm, subdued, quiet, and reverent.

I guess that’s the right word: reverent.

The Rich Shouldn’t Pay Any More in Taxes

September 23, 2011

In the Old Testament times, Moses needed money to buy the resources needed to build the tabernacle. The tax imposed on the people was a per-capita tax, imposed such that no one could even cover the tax for another. Each had an equal share in the construction of the tabernacle, and no one could claim any more ownership than anyone else.

If you think of government in those kinds of terms, then you remember things like we are all equal under the law, that no one person is more important than any other, and so on and so forth.

And when you think of a fair kind of tax, you will naturally be lead to the idea that everyone should pay equally into the system, because they are all equal owners and all equally benefit.

Of course, leftists don’t see it this way. To them, taxes are merely another device to exercise their covetousness. Rather than work and earn money, they believe those who have worked and earned their money should be forced to give it to the poor. Thus, the rich should pay more. This is the system we live under, and it is grossly unfair.

One of the most important ways it is unfair is that it discourages wealth creation.

I saw a political cartoon once. In the left panel, the boss is telling the unemployed worker that he can’t hire him because he doesn’t have the cash to do so. The title is “Reality”. The right panel has the boss telling the unemployed worker that he can’t hire him because taxes are too high, the future is uncertain, and some other obviously invented reasons. The title is “Republican’s Ideas” or something like that.

Of course, the cartoon shows more about the artist than it does in real life. A successful business doesn’t need cash to hire workers. Or rather, if the business is successful, and if expanding it would make it even more successful, then hiring is not an issue because it’s a no-brainer to find more cash to hire people.

However, changes in the tax policy and government policy in general which make predicting which business actions will be successful mean that even if the business is flush in cash, it will not spend it. The simple reason is because that may not be a wise investment of the cash. Certainly in uncertain times, when taxes are high and profit margins low, businesses without surplus cash have an even more difficult time finding cash to invest in their business.

What tax policy would most encourage wealth creation? A system that builds stability and consistency, that doesn’t punish in any way the act of wealth creation.

The latter requirement means that wealth creation, that is, manufacturing, buying, selling, hiring, firing, any economic activity is strictly off-limits for taxation. Sorry, Fair Tax crowd. Your tax still discourages wealth creation because it is a disincentive to spending.

What kind of tax are we left with? The only thing left to tax is life itself, a per-capita tax like Moses had.

What the government could do is offer two taxes. For a higher rate, taxpayers could pay their lifetime per-capita tax, and never owe another dime in taxes again. For a lower rate, taxpayers can pay weekly, monthly, or annually. Everyone ends up paying the same amount per year, with taxes increasing as the dollar falls in value. (That’s why lifetime payers pay a higher rate.)

Of course, those who understand what money really is and where it comes from know that we can run government without raising a single red cent in taxes.

To understand this, consider King Henry I of England. He took sticks, polished them, cut notches to indicate their value, and then split them down the middle. He kept one half, and used the other half to buy things. These Tally Sticks are still valuable today, several hundred years later. Of course, he made people pay their taxes with these tally sticks, so people had to get their hands on at least a few of them, driving their value up.

If sticks can be money, then anything can be money. We already know, quite well, what makes some money more useful than others. It’s not rocket science. We can create money by printing colors on pieces of paper. It’s not rocket science, and it isn’t expensive. Congress can, using the powers it already has through the constitution, simply start printing money, in appropriate amounts (according to our modern understanding of money), and use this money to buy the things the country needs.

Simply put, they would print about as much money as the economy grows. If there is 3% growth in a $14 trillion economy, then they can print $420 billion, and not cause a single bit of inflation or deflation. $420 billion is more than enough to run the government for a year. Without any taxes at all, I suppose we’d see growth rates of 5%, 10%, maybe even 25% or even higher. This would make the amount of money congress has to print to keep the money supply stable ever larger. At 25% growth, congress would be printing 1/4 of the national economic value: #3.5 trillion dollars this year, .$4.375 trillion the next. The economy will double in size about every 3 years, so even if congress spends at hat accelerated rate, we would hardly notice because working in real jobs would benefit us far more than pursuing congresscritters for a piece of the pie.

After a while, congress would run out of ways to spend the money, at which point they can simply forward the surplus to the states in proportion to their representation or population. Thus, the states can enjoy the benefits of a tax-free economy.

This isn’t rocket science, but it does put a whole lot of rich people out of business, particularly banks who believe they have a natural right to create money out of thin air, and have a monopoly on money. They are free to create their own moneys. They demand they control the American dollar through the Fed is simply because they have found they need the artificial authority of government in order to fully exploit the people.

If you’re wondering whether anything like this has ever happened, it has, at least twice in our history alone. Kings and emperors stumbled upon it, creating vast empires and realms of unfathomable wealth, but they did not fully understand it.

The two times we experienced it were during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. In the Revolution, congress issued scrip which ended up being better money for the Americans than anything else. In the Civil War, it was greenbacks, which the Northern states began using extensively. Since those times, incompetence and greed at various levels drove people back to more unreliable methods of managing money. After the Civil War, we experienced one deflationary cycle after another as the economy started to grow at unimaginable rates but money supply diminished.

The British Empire ruled the world by reading Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which explains this phenomena quite clearly. It wasn’t until after WWII that they began to stop using this method of creating wealth, and that only because of the cancer that is communism that slipped into their drinking water.

Why There Isn’t a Whole Lot of Debate on Global Warming

September 23, 2011

Short answer: Warmists are corrupted scientists, who no longer remember how to make a scientific argument. More.

Heat Can’t Hide

September 22, 2011

One of the most absurd things I’ve heard coming from recent global warming news is this idea that somehow the heat has been hiding in the ocean.

Folks, heat is not a substance that can be stored. It’s a substance that is transferred from one system to another, a hotter system to a colder one.

Any student of thermodynamics should laugh at this latest piece of balogna.

But this is par for the course. If the theory doesn’t fit, it’s not the theory that’s wrong. You just have to invent new theories to explain why reality doesn’t match what you wish it would match. See: the Big Bang.

Romney = Firefighter

September 22, 2011

I’d like to do a thought experiment with you. This is a good way to imagine how good a potential candidate for a job is based on past performance.

The question is never “look what happened while they were there”, but “look what would have happened without them.”

For instance, firefighters. Oftentimes, they don’t win, but merely contain the blaze. If you could count the number of people who died in fires when fire fighters were on the scene, I am sure you would be astonished. If you counted the amount of property damage that occurs after they show up, not just the damage they directly cause, but all the stuff that happens under their watch, I am sure you could come up with some fairly convincing statistics to make them look bad.

However, we don’t measure firefighters based on how many people died in the fires they fought, or how much property damage occurred. Instead, we ask, “What would’ve happened without them?” That gives us the true value of firefighters.

Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts during a time when the people wanted state-run health care and when the democratic legislature had enough votes to override Mitt’s veto.

Mitt had a choice. He could’ve run away from the entire discussion, vetoed the bill, then had it pass over his veto.

Or he could have tried to sabotage the people and their representatives, dividing factions one against another until the fighting got so bad that no political compromise could be reached.

Or, he could have joined in the scene and grabbed as much power and money as he could for his party and friends.

Or, he could have done what he did: brought the most reasonable, acceptable health care plan to the table, gently eliminating the worst parts of the plan, and setting Massachusetts up for as soft a landing as possible when they finally realized they don’t want state-run health care.

Mitt did not get everything he wanted in the final bill. But his mark is obvious. Some of the worst parts were completely eliminated. Some fairly intelligent ideas were added.

Mitt did not have a choice to stop the bill. This was impossible, for reasons I’ve outlined.

Rick Perry wants you to believe that Mitt thought up the health care plan by himself, then imposed it on an unwilling population with strong-arm legislation tactics. This is, after all, what Obama did.

To phrase the events this way shows a lot about Rick’s character. It shows what kind of president he will be in a disaster. (The disaster Rick faces is the all-too-likely fact he will not be nominated.) Do you want someone who doesn’t level blame where it is due? Do you want someone who doesn’t recognize the good work people do in disaster situations?

Ultimately, when considering Mitt vs. Rick, consider what would’ve happened without them, or with a different, more mainstream governor.

In the case of Mitt, Massachusetts would be bankrupt, the economy completely desolate. Without him forcing the legislature to balance the budget, and impose a semi-sane health care plan on the people, Massachusetts would be in worse shape than California.

The health care bill Mitt worked on is one of Mitt’s finest moments. He doesn’t back away from it because he can safely say, “Disaster averted.”

In the case of Rick, you can’t really point to anything positive he did that someone else wouldn’t have most likely done as well. With full cooperation from the house and senate, and with a freedom-loving population, you see Rick’s failures against a different background color. Rick’s gray appear black, while Mitt’s gray appears white.

By the way, what was the biggest disaster Rick Perry ever faced as governor? Was it the wildfires? Was it the national economy? You can’t really tell, because he doesn’t dwell on these things, even though these are the things that count. The worst disaster Rick Perry is facing is his nomination prospects, and his worry that the inside dealings may get recognized for what they were.

If I were the person in charge of hiring the next president, I would pick Mitt, every time, over Rick. I’d probably hire most of the potential candidate field, even names you’ve probably never heard of, before Rick. It’s the same reason I’d hire a firefighter who had countless buildings burn down, or why I’d hire a systems administrator who was on call when the servers melted, or why I’d hire a programmer who worked endlessly on a failing project. You have to ask, “What would’ve happened without them?” And if the answer, “It would’ve been a lot worse,” you know what kind of person he is.

In this time of uncertainty and disaster, I don’t think Rick brings anything special to the table. Mitt, on the other hand, knows how to work disaster, since that was his job, and that’s what he did in Massachusetts. He turned outright disaster into a much less disastrous disaster, brought stability where instability was obviously coming.

Socrates’ Wisdom

September 22, 2011

One of the most profound statements that doesn’t come from the East is Socrates simple statement true wisdom is knowing how little we really know.

Randall Hoven at American Thinker beautifully explains how stupid he is. He is so stupid that he asks for evidence and data when it comes to the impossible theories we are being fed. If, at the same time so-called scientists demand no doubt, but we are faced with the reality that scientists know so little of what they are purported to know, one can see why science, at least, science as we have it today, is on the decline.

What should replace it? The science of Socrates, the science of Newton, of Einstein, of every great scientist who understood that to presume wisdom or knowledge is to obtain ignorance.

Rutherford is one of my all-time favorite scientists. Why? He was not exceptionally brilliant. Great scientists tend to be only slightly smarter than average. Rutherford was an experimental physicist. He tortured nature to obtain answers to those pesky questions that so-called scientists presumed were simply true of false.

As we come out of the standard model, with the understanding that the Higgs Boson is 95% likely not to exist, we should remind ourselves of how little we really know.

On to religion! The topics of science and religion are inseparable, not as polar opposites, but as two sides of the same coin. Religion is the realm of belief. There is no evidence in religion, or at least no evidence at the foundation. The foundation of science is the belief, and it is only a belief, that the universe is ordered and structured in such a way that pure logic and experimentation can be used to determine its structure. Do you see how beautifully these ideas combine?

I am awe-struck by the ignorance on the topic of religion just as much as many are awe-struck in scientific ignorance.

There is, of course, outright apathy, the idea that God does not want us to know, so we should not try to obtain knowledge. Or, the idea that knowing more about religion and God is not beneficial to us. This is, of course, when you think for a moment about it, absurdity. Is there any difference between such a person and someone who says the universe has no order and it’s pointless to try and find it?

Then there are those who claim that God is unknowable, so why try? But we know from what God has already showed us, both within scripture and in the universe around us, even the tiniest fraction of God’s knowledge is power, power to save (and power to damn.) If you were only to obtain a few slivers of knowledge and wisdom of God, happy are you! How is this any different from those who think science is “too hard” so they should just abandon it altogether?

Then there are those who suppose they understand things better than God. This is a rather easy trap to fall into, particularly for those who know a few things that are true about God. The thinking is simply this. Take a few points of knowledge, combine them with what you think to be logic, and then suppose that the logical conclusion is the real state of the universe. The problem is, just as in physics, we are incapable of doing anything but the most basic logical reasoning, and even then, we get a lot of it wrong. Show me a scientist who trusts in theories before experiments, and I’ll show you one who is barely a scientist at all. These are priests who do not practice, or preachers of supposition and fantasy.

Our quest, the purpose of our mortal life here on earth, is obviously to obtain knowledge. With that knowledge, we obtain power, the power to choose how to use that knowledge. We can fruitlessly try to invent our own knowledge, or we can turn to the source itself. Whether we obtain knowledge through divine revelation, or careful and methodical experimentation, we can obtain the knowledge we need for our lives.

This is How Government Works

September 21, 2011

Thomas Lifson at the American Thinker Blog reports on the inspector general’s finding in Chicago’s weatherization program.

For those of you who are too young to understand, or too naive to “get it”, this is the way government works.

Politicians promise something wonderful that everyone (but particularly those who would most likely vote for them) support. Let’s suppose the thing they promise is “Educating our children”.

They bring out ideas to provide the thing they want to promise. Government can only do three things:

  1. Tax.
  2. Spend.
  3. Regulate.

So they tax, spend, and regulate to get what they want.

So far, so good.

The next step is where corruption enters in.

See, with all that tax-in and spend-in and regulation-in, the politicians decide to carve out exceptions or benefits for their friends and themselves. They are, in effect, picking winners. They give them beneficial tax codes, a little extra spending, or regulation that makes their lives a little easier than their competitors.

And their friends, now flush with cash, give a few dollars back to their political benefactors, who repeat the cycle from the beginning.

Notice that missing is any form of feedback loop. In real life, if you set out to do something, you first understand how to measure success, and then you carefully minimize your resource expenditure to achieve maximum results. If you want to build a bridge between points A and B, you define the parameters for success and then you spend as little money as possible to get the bridge you need, so that you have more money for other things.

Of course, in real life, we don’t have the power to tax and to regulate. And our power to spend is limited to how much money we can command either through our personal assets, the assets of investors, or the money we can borrow. Government has a virtually unlimited spending budget because they know that the taxpayers (that’s everyone else, even the poor) will simply make up the difference with interest payments and future principal payments.

When you hear someone say something odd like, “I love education, so let’s get the government out of the education business”, your gut reaction is “What? But the government is helping to do so much good there!” In reality, the tax-in, spend-in, and regulation-in the government does nothing to help, and plenty to hurt.

Let’s look at education.

I would think that having more teachers and smaller classroom sizes would be ideal. In order to do this, we have to either come up with a bunch of money to hire more teachers, or we hire teachers that cost less. Guess which way government goes, every time? With today’s technology, we should be able to increase the benefit of a single teacher without increasing the workload. In fact, I can foresee a day when a handful of talented teachers can educate a million children, provided they were given access to the appropriate technology.

Parents are often mentioned as a critical component in the child’s education, and any sane education program would include them into the equation, respecting their time and resources. Of course, parents are not one to be swayed by government policies. They have a nasty habit of doing whatever is best for their kids, no matter what the politicians want them to do. A government-run education program puts parents in the back of the bus. They can come forward if they’ll behave like good government bureaucrats, but otherwise they need to keep their mouths shut and ideas to themselves. A private education system puts parents in charge of the entire program, even giving them power in critical decisions like curriculum and hiring.

Our state constitution makes some bold promises, promises which it does not keep, when it comes to education. It reads, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders…” You’d think that with such a bold promise our schools would be made out of gold and teachers would fly around with jetpacks between classes. But the problem isn’t our constitution. It is the system. It is the simply fact that government can only tax, spend, and regulate, and those three programs are wholly insufficient to provide any kind of service, let alone education, and too prone to fraud to trust anyone with the powers over it.

It’s noteworthy that the very things the state constitution does not guarantee–shelter, food, and clothing—are the very things that we have massive surpluses of. We complain because our poor eat too much food. If we used the same system we use to provide education, our children would have education pouring out their ears, and so much education that we would complain because there was too much of it. That system is the same system that has created wealth since the beginning of time, indeed the only system that can create anything: free market economics.

It works like this. People can only persuade each other to do things, since force is out of the question. Because of this, only when two people can arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement do they transact a trade with each other. The net benefit of both people is the wealth that is created—from freedom alone.

In education, it would work like this. Parents would hire teachers, buy books, rent classroom space, and otherwise secure the education they want for their kids through the free market, which means they buy, sell, and barter to get what they want. This will naturally drive the price of education down, and the quality up. Even if no charitable organizations were created to secure these same blessings for those who could not afford it, the price of education would fall so low that for pennies on the dollars, no, pennies on the Benjamins, the poor would be able to get what their children needed. Even the scraps that fall off the table in the day-to-day bustle of the free market would be more than they are getting now.

People are scared of this idea. What if the price doesn’t fall, and what if quality doesn’t go up? Indeed, if you measure education in the way you’d prefer it would be, you’ll likely find that the one thing you think is most important is not as important as you think. Arugula is not a cheap vegetable. But it is not necessary, either.

But to address the concern, look at every commodity over the history of time. Whenever that commodity has been traded in free markets without government interference (except to limit force and fraud), the price has fallen, and supply has risen. Even non-tangible goods and services, say the skills of a designer or programmer, have done the same.

We need to understand, and remember, that government can only provide the things it promises by force: taxation, spending, and regulation. Also, that government, in providing the things it promise, merely creates corruption. Finally, that if you want the price to fall and quality to improve, you simply need to put the free market to work by getting government out of the picture.

The Tacoma Education Association Does Not Want This to End

September 21, 2011

As you can see from how the Tacoma Education Association is negotiating with the school district, one gets the sense that they do not want the strike to end, continually bringing new proposals to the table. See the balanced report from the district to understand how their actions differ from their rhetoric.

I can’t blame them. The writing is on the wall. Teacher pay cuts are coming, one way or the other, thanks to the incompetence of the state legislature, run entirely by the Democratic Party, and the lack of any leadership by our governor, also a democrat. In addition, political ill will towards the union spells the end of the union at least in Tacoma. Superintendent Art Jarvis has been more than fair with the union, and they have reciprocated with childish and illegal behavior.

I think it’s time the district play hard ball. The teachers do not wish to resolve this because they think they will get their jobs back with pay restored. All the superintendent needs to do is declare that unions are unnecessary, and that he’s already interviewing teachers to replace the union members who fail to show up to work every day. When the teachers come running back to the negotiation table, this time to resolve it quickly, he needs to bring forward his proposals on what a fair contract would look like, going beyond his initial proposals at the beginning of the process.

Taking Names of Criminal Teachers

September 16, 2011

The judge in the case asked for names of teachers who failed to comply with his order. This is to keep the innocent separate from the guilty. On Monday, the district will likely comply with that request.

We don’t know what the judge has in mind yet for penalties, probably a fine. I doubt, at this point, we’ll see anyone thrown in jail, although it remains a possibility.

The negotiations appear to be hung up on three points: teacher salary, classroom size, and seniority.

The district is running with less money per student than it had last year. This is because of the democratic legislature, which has been incapable of balancing the budget without cutting school funding, or in relaxing regulations so that schools can shift their budgets into teacher salaries.

Demanding one fewer student per class means that the district will need more teachers per student. This means they have to spend more money on teachers and the costs of supporting a teacher. If you want to reduce classroom size, you either have to bring in new money or reduce the cost per teacher. The Tacoma Education Association doesn’t seem to understand this.

The district would like to send the best teachers where they are needed the most. The Tacoma Education Association wants teachers to choose where they should go based on how long they’ve been around. I don’t know why the TEA cares. I’ve never understood why unions care how people are assigned. I can only think it is to not allow the best teachers to get the best assignments. Or maybe it’s so they can carefully distribute the union agitators among the schools. Any insight into why they are sticking to this point is helpful. It’s obvious that they don’t have the interest of the kids at heart on this point.

The state is facing another massive budget shortfall. The Democratic Party is incapable of balancing a budget and keeping it balanced. It is very likely that the democrats will, once again, take money out of education to support their pet re-election projects. They believe that the voters will approve tax hikes if they are cutting funding to the most important services, rather than streamlining government.

It’s clear now that the union is NOT negotiating in good faith with the district. They intend to strike, and keep striking, until they believe the taxpayers will approve tax hikes in our state. They chose Tacoma because Tacoma is a large district with a lot of visibility. The fact that they came to a table regressing to a previous proposal is a sign of this.

I hope the district does what is right and starts holding hiring interviews. They should contact the neighboring school districts and ask for as many substitute teachers as possible at the same time. Those teachers who fail to show up to work need to be fired for insubordination.

Perhaps we’ll be a union-less district when this is all said and done. I hope and pray it is so. There is no other condition whereby I’ll send my kids to the Tacoma School District again.