Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Halloween: The Safest Day of the Year"

From Lenore Skenazy in the WSJ on "stranger danger"..."the classic Halloween horror".

Even when I was a kid, back in the "Bewitched" and "Brady Bunch" costume era, parents were already worried about neighbors poisoning candy. Sure, the folks down the street might smile and wave the rest of the year, but apparently they were just biding their time before stuffing us silly with strychnine-laced Smarties.

That was a wacky idea, but we bought it. We still buy it, even though Joel Best, a sociologist at the University of Delaware, has researched the topic and spends every October telling the press that there has never been a single case of any child being killed by a stranger's Halloween candy. (Oh, yes, he concedes, there was once a Texas boy poisoned by a Pixie Stix. But his dad did it for the insurance money. He was executed.)

Anyway, you'd think that word would get out: poisoned candy not happening. But instead, most Halloween articles to this day tell parents to feed children a big meal before they go trick-or-treating, so they won't be tempted to eat any candy before bringing it home for inspection...

So stranger danger is still going strong, and it's even spread beyond Halloween to the rest of the year. Now parents consider their neighbors potential killers all year round. That's why they don't let their kids play on the lawn, or wait alone for the school bus: "You never know!" The psycho-next-door fear went viral.

Then along came new fears. Parents are warned annually not to let their children wear costumes that are too tight—those could seriously restrict breathing! But not too loose either—kids could trip! Fall! Die!

Treating parents like idiots who couldn't possibly notice that their kid is turning blue or falling on his face might seem like a losing proposition, but it caught on too....

But Elizabeth Letourneau, an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, studied crime statistics from 30 states and found, "There is zero evidence to support the idea that Halloween is a dangerous date for children in terms of child molestation."

In fact, she says, "We almost called this paper, 'Halloween: The Safest Day of the Year,' because it was just so incredibly rare to see anything happen on that day."

Why is it so safe? Because despite our mounting fears and apoplectic media, it is still the day that many of us, of all ages, go outside. We knock on doors. We meet each other. And all that giving and taking and trick-or-treating is building the very thing that keeps us safe: community.

We can kill off Halloween, or we can accept that it isn't dangerous and give it back to the kids. Then maybe we can start giving them back the rest of their childhoods, too.

It certainly relates to a host of safety-related pursuits and emanates from a strange form of idolatry. I wonder if it also connects to environmental scares, over the last 40 years, as well.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jake at Page One blows up the C-J for its coverage of Hal Heiner vs. Greg Fischer

Jake at Page One / The Ville Voice blows up the C-J for its coverage of Hal Heiner's first wife-- divorced 35 years ago and since died-- vs. their cover-up of far worse by Greg Fischer. do these people sleep at night?

C-J coverage of Democratic financial support of Libertarian candidate

Lesley Stedman Weidenbener in the C-J on something I blogged about last night: the Indiana Democratic Party mailing out a flyer to support Libertarian Greg Knott at the expense of Republican Todd Young.

My favorite line and an excellent observation:

Despite the Democrats’ mailer, Young has been conservative enough that Hill has sometimes called his views extreme.

Knott is using this to play the other angle-- that he's (also) the most "progressive" candidate, on issues like the war, lobbying reform, tax reform, corporate welfare and I-69-- and is getting airtime (especially in Bloomington).

It'd be interesting to know the extent to which Hill's strategy works or backfires.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Democrats spend to do a mailing for a Libertarian...tasty!

According to Jim Shella, the Indiana Democratic Party is sending out mailers to support Libertarian opponent Greg Knott.

Awesome for Greg and Libertarians in general.

Might hurt Todd Young a bit.

Shows us that Baron is desperate (probably) and smart (as a politician). Very interesting!

Harbeson blows up Morton Marcus

Debbie Harbeson in the Jeff/NA Tribune...

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but it’s very fashionable this election season to talk about “job creation.”...

I also noticed the way this message is being conveyed by some candidates really has Morton Marcus, an economist who used to be with IU’s Kelley School of Business, upset. In his latest column he complains that a candidate for state representative has promotional items that say, “it is private business — not government — that creates jobs.”

According to Marcus, “This is stupidity if believed; a lie otherwise. A job is created when a person is hired and paid for his/her work. It does not matter in the grand scheme of things if this person works for the private or public sector.”

Marcus is right. And wrong. He’s right that government can create jobs....We can see that they are actual jobs....However, Marcus is wrong when he says it does not matter whether a person is working in the private or government sector because, at some point, the worker has to be paid.

How does the government get money to pay people holding government jobs? They have to take it from people doing productive work in the private sector. And when this wealth is forcibly taken to pay for government jobs, it lessens the private sector’s ability to invest in private sector jobs, which are the ones that actually pay for government jobs....

It must be true that the private sector pays for government jobs because if not, then we wouldn’t have a jobs problem at all. The government could just create a job for everyone and we’d all be just’s an illusion that a government job actually moves the economy forward.

Morton Marcus wants us to believe that “in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter.” But if we continue to listen to people like him, then at some point “in the grand scheme of things, we’re all going to be broke.” Not to mention morally bankrupt if we keep supporting these schemes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

nice coverage of the 9th District race

Four articles by Lesley Stedman Weidenbener in the C-J on ...

Baron Hill

Todd Young

Greg Knott

and the Dems' ridiculous ads about the Fair Tax (taking aim at Todd Young who hasn't even made it a campaign issue)

it depends on what the definition of prop is OR if you can't define "prop", then you shouldn't be elected to Congress

In the Bloomington debate...

Democratic incumbent Baron Hill
Republican challenger Todd Young
Libertarian challenger Greg Knott
(all of them have nine letters in their names; hmmm...)

Hill and then Young insisted on using props, despite the rules.

Here's coverage of the debate from HuffPo and coverage of the props shenanigans in the Bloomington Herald-Times (hat tip: Seymour TribTown):

The most memorable exchange of Monday night’s 9th District congressional campaign — a face-off between Democratic incumbent Rep. Baron Hill and Republican challenger Todd Young — was, maybe, a violation of the event’s ground-rules.

It all depends on what the definition of a “prop” is.

Debate ground-rules definitely prohibited props, according to a pre-debate agreement signed by all candidates and provided Tuesday to media members by Libertarian candidate Greg Knott...

At various points during the debate, both Hill and Young held up pieces of paper...

Immediately after the exchange, Knott said he would have brought props of his own, had he known the debate rules weren’t going to be followed.

Later in the debate, Young held up his own piece of paper: a list, he said, of scientists who were climate-change skeptics.

After the debate, Hill’s campaign denied that the event’s ground-rules prohibited props.

Young’s campaign said pieces of paper weren’t necessarily props.

A copy of the rules provided by Knott read: “Candidates may bring limited notes to the podium for the debate. Excessive amounts of notes may be limited at the discretion of the moderator. Campaign buttons are not allowed, nor are posters or other props.”

In any case, Knott said, the fact that both his opponents waved pieces of paper should tell voters something.

“Hill and Young both violated the debate agreement they signed in advance,” Knott said in a statement. “If they don’t have enough integrity to keep debate agreements, how can voters trust the more important campaign promises they are making?”

Three funny things:

They, especially Baron (by starting it), might like to make rules, but don't like to follow them. (See also: PAYGO rules!)

It appears that they're more interested in pieces of paper than policy.

We don't know about Todd since he has not been in Congress, but Baron is clearly more interested in posing (with or without props) than policy stances.

Knott blows up Hill on his lobbying and a $300K earmark

Here's the related TV ad on YouTube...

More details here...

And then, commercial #2:

Todd Young up by 65 points

According to The Onion, that is...

Nice satire on political slogans and how little most people know about politics.

A blue corrugated plastic sign bearing the name of candidate Todd Young has invigorated and galvanized voters in southeastern Indiana's 9th District congressional race, catapulting the Republican to an all but insurmountable lead over his opponent, Democratic incumbent Baron Hill.

The 24-by-18-inch signboard, which political pundits have called an "instant game changer" since its appearance on Jasper, IN's Jackson Street last Friday, features a red, white, and blue color scheme, four stars above Young's name, and the slogan "Promise of a New Tomorrow." It also includes the word "Vote" and a check-mark-filled square next to the candidate's name, a strategy expected to triple turnout at the polls as throngs of voters rush to support Young.

"When I drove by the sign two days ago, I had to pull over to the side of the road and catch my breath," said Jade Williams, 34, a lifelong Democrat and former supporter of Baron Hill. "I'd never felt such a profound connection to a candidate before. Then I saw the powerful red line under his name and knew I had to drive to City Hall immediately and register as a Republican."

"It's the promise of a new tomorrow," Williams added...

Experts across the country are calling the small but legible sign a "brilliant political move," and have praised Young's campaign for making the sign double-sided so it can be seen by motorists driving in both directions.

A new Gallup poll now has Young ahead of Hill by nearly 65 points....

Indiana University political science professor Henry Trout echoed Matalin's analysis, telling reporters he believes Young will easily carry all 20 counties in the district. Trout said he bases his landslide prediction on the fact that by Election Day most residents will have either viewed the sign personally or heard from their peers how its array of stars "makes one understand that Todd Young is a bright, shining beacon of hope, somebody capable of restoring faith in American politics."

"If that sign could talk," Trout continued, "it would say, 'Voting for a candidate other than Todd Young would be an affront to everything that makes this country great."...

"That sign has destroyed us," said a senior Hill staffer speaking on condition of anonymity. "We've been brainstorming nonstop for days, and we think the only way to regain any ground would be for Baron to somehow appear in each constituent's living room, if only for 30 seconds, and either state his moral and political beliefs while his wife and children stand at his side or else rip into questionable statements Young has made in the past. But unfortunately, there's no way to achieve this."

Curran on Knott vs. Hill the Lobbyist and Young the Lawyer

From Kelley Curran in the Jeff/NA News-Tribune...

Libertarian Party candidate Greg Knott...has campaigned actively, issuing several press releases critical of incumbent Democrat Baron Hill, making appearances and maintaining an online presence. He also is someone, surprisingly, progressives should check out.

“I am running because Baron Hill has proven to be more interested in giving favors to his former lobbying clients and campaign donors than representing the people of Southern Indiana. I am running because Todd Young’s victory would make Joe ‘I’m sorry BP’ Barton a committee chair and give the rest of the lame-stream Republican establishment power to impose their failed borrow-and-spend, undeclared wars of choice, Wall Street bailout policies of the past....

An anti-corporate, social justice theme runs throughout Knott’s statements. He describes himself as a “ populist progressive libertarian realist” who is concerned with ending corporate welfare and argues for the FairTax and Social Security reform as fairer to those with lower incomes....

Lobbying for perceived favors is another key theme in Knott’s campaign, with most of the criticism directed at Hill. Knott’s NO BULL contract lists contributions to Hill he describes as linked to favors. He also criticized Young’s receipt of support from Massey Energy’s CEO....

Knott has a novel response to those who argue voting for a third-party candidate is a wasted vote...

“There are thousands of voters from both parties that think I am the best candidate, but fear voting for me will help their least favorite candidate. I encourage all of them to recruit someone from the opposite party to vote for me also, so they can cancel out any benefit that a vote for me would give their least favorite candidate.

The common assumption about Knott’s Libertarian candidacy is that he is a threat primarily to Young. There’s a libertarian element within the Republican party. The anti-incumbent vote could split between Young and Knott, giving Hill a win. However, given Knott’s intense criticism of Hill and his progressive positions and concerns, he may do significant damage to Hill’s campaign....

Unlike Baron Hill, I am not a career politician or former lobbyist. Unlike Todd Young and 235 current congressmen, I am not a lawyer,” Knott said.

More information about Knott and his campaign for Congress can be found at

Chard Reid endorsed by the Indy Star AND I would have been endorsed by the Indy Star this time!

They endorsed Hill this time;

they rated me above Hill last time;

and not much (good) has changed since then.

And Libertarian Chard Reid was endorsed by the Indy Star-- over incumbent Republican Dan Burton and the Democrat challenger.

Voters are blessed with two attractive choices in the race for this Central Indiana seat. Neither of them is from a major party.

Democrat Tim Crawford lacks recognition by his own party despite winning the primary. Republican incumbent Dan Burton owes his primary victory to the breadth of opposition in his own party; thanks to multiple challengers, he survived with less than one-third of the vote.

Neither Crawford nor Burton responded to invitations to meet with The Star's Editorial Board. Independent Jesse Trueblood and Libertarian Chard Reid did. Both were impressive....

Reid, a young economics teacher at Plainfield High School, has taken the fight to Burton on taxes and the deficit. He maintains that the 14-termer has not worked for systemic change despite his conservative persona. Reid also offers thoughtful ideas for cutting spending, simplifying the tax code and reforming entitlements.

Reid represents the best of Libertarian small-government ideals. He would be a refreshing departure from the incumbent's complacency and cavalier attitude toward ethics.

why isn't anyone talking about Hill's plans in 2012?

One more reason to send Baron Hill home-- or to another short-term lobbying job: The buzz, for some time, has been that he plans to run for Governor in 2012. (I don't understand why running for Senate is not considered a viable option for him.)

If he's voted out on Tuesday, he can focus on his pursuit of higher office without it hurting his "job performance" in the House.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Barefoot and Progressive" practices corporate censorship on me

Surprising, sad, and ironic...

I commented on this thread-- and the first reply was a combination of ad hominem, non sequitur, a grammatical error, and a misrepresentation of my position, combined with anonymity.

My response pointed out these things and joked that this might be barefoot but not progressive. From there, I segued to Democratic support for the payroll tax and its hypocrisy in dealing with the working poor and middle class.

The comment showed up in the "recent comments" section on the right-hand side (although never within the thread) and then disappeared. Too much to handle, I suppose...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

local major-party shenanigans

Republicans have their own troubles-- with Ron Grooms receiving an endorsement from a group to which he sent taxpayer dollars (with an update here) and the controversy about Charlie White.

But here's a problem for the Dems-- in an email to Tea Partiers by way of Dave Matthews, chairman of the Floyd CO. GOP. (complete with a "Cheater Chuck" reference)!

Or maybe this is all just a lot of partisan bickering? If so, let me know!

Hey GOP Team,
I need you all to be aware of circumstances surrounding one of our races in Floyd County. A couple of weeks ago, I was notified that Chuck Freiberger and other Democrats were leaving campaign literature and signs at the entrances of our schools in Floyd County, particularly Floyd Central, Highland Hills, Greenville Elementary and Grant Line Elementary. They also advised me that signs and literature were being passed out at football games.

I consulted with our Election Board, the school board and principals from Greenville and Floyd Central. It was made very clear to me that the policy in play here was the vote by the teachers' union, the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA), that allowed teachers to distribute campaign materials to other teachers whom they had endorsed. When I asked if Republicans would also be allowed equal access to teachers at our schools, I was informed that the ISTA had not voted in favor of endorsing Republican candidates and that our candidates would not be invited to do so.

Upon further discussion, I was informed that although Chuck was allowed to distribute information to other teachers, he was not allowed to do so in open public and should not have left his signs at entrances to schools. I was assured that they had been removed, that this would not happen again and advised that it was probably best to take the "high road" on this issue and not worry about it happening again. I took that advice as wise and let it go but continued to watch.

Sure enough, Chuck is cheating again. Yesterday, a Floyd Central high school student noticed Chuck in front of the door to his class leaving an open box of his campaign stickers at the entrance to his class. This student even took a photo of the box of stickers in front of his class and shared it with us. Apparently, Cheater Chuck didn't get the word that public distribution of his campaign literature at our schools, which are paid for by our tax money, isn't legal. Of course, he probably figures that since Baron Hill can distribute thousands of campaign brochures to all of us with our tax money, it must be good enough for him too.

Now, here's what I want us to do. Number one, the election board is pursuing this matter to see whether legal action should be taken against Chuck Freiberger and the Democratic Party. We'll let you know when we know more on this front but I wanted you to know that action is being taken....

Thanks for all your help,
Dave Matthews
Chairman, Floyd County Republican Party

"Muslims do not 'hate our freedom', but rather, they hate our policies"

More from Robert Pape's reseearch on suicide terrorism-- this time, via Glenn Greenwald in Salon...

In 2004, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld commissioned a task force to study what causes Terrorism, and it concluded that "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies": specifically, "American direct intervention in the Muslim world" through our "one sided support in favor of Israel"; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, "the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan" (the full report is here).

Now, a new, comprehensive study from Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political science professor and former Air Force lecturer, substantiates what is (a) already bleedingly obvious and (b) known to the U.S. Government for many years: namely, that the prime cause of suicide bombings is not Hatred of Our Freedoms or Inherent Violence in Islamic Culture or a Desire for Worldwide Sharia Rule by Caliphate, but rather. . . . foreign military occupations. As summarized by Politico's Laura Rozen:

Pape. . . will present findings on Capitol Hill Tuesday that argue that the majority of suicide terrorism around the world since 1980 has had a common cause: military occupation.

Pape and his team of researchers draw on data produced by a six-year study of suicide terrorist attacks around the world that was partially funded by the Defense Department's Defense Threat Reduction Agency. They have compiled the terrorism statistics in a publicly available database comprised of some 10,000 records on some 2,200 suicide terrorism attacks, dating back to the first suicide terrorism attack of modern times - the 1983 truck bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed 241 U.S. Marines....

As Professor Pape documents: "when you put the foreign military presence in, it triggers suicide terrorism campaigns . . . and that when the foreign forces leave, it takes away almost 100% of the terrorist campaign." It hardly takes a genius to figure out the most effective way of reducing anti-American Terrorism; the only question is whether that's the actual goal of those in power.

problems with the proposed Indiana property tax caps

An edited/shortened version of this essay from Jim Baker appeared recently in the Jeff/NA News-Tribune...

The referendum that will be before Indiana voters this fall has been a source of much discussion and disagreement since it has been proposed. Those in favor generally represent the majority of property owners who are homeowners and who will benefit the most from this possible change in the state's constitution; however, most of these owners are unaware that they are still going to be subject to property tax increases every year. Those who own farms or investment properties in the 2% category and especially those who are in the commercial 3% category are negatively impacted by this potential change because of the additional annual expense this places on their properties.

As with many things that are political in nature, this appears to be another form of redistribution of wealth from one group of taxpayers: commercial real estate owners, landlords, tenants and farmers, to another group: homeowners. Also, it appears that the motivation of those who have proposed and favor this change is due to the fact that there are many more voters in the latter category than in the first one, thus making this easier to be passed in to law. However as with many things that look good politically, what seems to be best for the most can actually be harmful to everyone when examined in a larger context.

Therefore, I will attempt with the following examples, to show the reasons why I believe the proposed property tax caps are bad for Indiana businesses and property owners:

1. The 1% cap for homeowners does not keep property taxes from increasing due to future increases in the home's assessed value. For example a home that is now assessed at $100,000 is limited to $1000 per year in taxes under the 1% cap, but in a few years that could easily double if for example the property 's value increases to $200,000. Also, as long as property taxes exist , a homeowner never really owns their home and will forever be renting their home from the state.

2. The 2% cap on rental homes/apartments and farms is also flawed due to future increases in the property's value and thus increased assessment. Also, it difficult for the landlords/owners of rental homes and apartments to pass property tax increases to their tenants in the form of increased rent for fear of losing the tenant. However, if a landlord/owner is able to pass the increased property taxes to their tenants, then the tenant (who generally represent those from families in our state that are the least able to pay more) are penalized twice as much as a homeowner who only pays 1% of the assessed value. Many landlords have indicated to me that the 2% cap amounts to as much as 3 months or more of the annual rent that they collect and thus makes the property very difficult to cash flow, maintain and own. As a result of this, most landlords feel as if the government has a greater interest in the property and benefits more from it than the landlord/owner.

3. The 3% cap can represent as much as 30% to 50% of the property's gross income and therefore decreases the total value of the property by 20% to 30%. This can easily be proven by the following formula: the additional 2% (as compared with properties in neighboring states such as Kentucky that pay about 1%) when divided by a capitalization rate of 10% = 20% of the property's value. When a lesser capitalization rate is used, say 9%, the loss in value jumps to 22.22. At a capitalization rate of 8% the loss in value is 25%. This literally represents hundreds of millions of dollars in lost property values when applied across the entire State of Indiana.

4. The 3% cap for most income properties usually represents 30% or more of the property's annual income and therefore makes these properties difficult to cash flow and maintain (not to mention difficult to pay the existing mortgage payments and debt service). For example, a $1,000,000 property that has a 10% annual net lease rate based on its market value would produce $100,000 in annual income. If the property taxes are 3% of the property's value/assessment, the property taxes would be $30,000 per year and therefore 30% of the gross income. There are no examples that I am aware of where a business in any industry is able to pay 30% or more of GROSS REVENUES (not net revenues) in taxes and thrive, or even survive, in today's economy.

5. The 3% cap on property taxes creates losses of jobs. Those who pay these additional property taxes are not just the commercial property owners, but are also many times the tenants who have NNN (net, net, net) leases. Most small business tenants are finding it difficult to stay in business and some have gone out of business due to the added pressure that the additional property taxes have created for them. A tenant or owner who is paying $30,000 per year in taxes on a $1,000,000 commercial property (as in the above example), is paying an additional $20,000 per year in taxes versus a business in a state that is only paying 1%. This additional amount per year could easily represent another job that now can't be added or that needs to be eliminated from the business due to the higher property taxes.

6. Two other major issues which I feel need to addressed concerning property taxes and property tax caps are:

A) Property tax assessments will always have inaccuracies due to a subjective system that determines the amount of the assessed values. There is no method or system to accurately assess every property for the correct current market value. Appraisals/assessments always: 1) vary from one appraiser/assessor to another, 2) are the result of a non-scientific process and 3) are the opinion of the appraiser/assessor (even when the very best sale/lease comparables and methods of valuation are employed).

B) Until our political leaders are willing to create spending caps there will never be a limit on the amount taxpayers will be taxed to fund government. Since many property tax rates are currently below the 1%, 2% or 3% cap, the taxes needed to fund increased government spending will be met by increasing property tax rates to the maximum caps allowable.

In summary, the proposed property tax caps are not the answer to limiting property taxes for Indiana property owners and will only create more inequities, loss of values, loss of jobs and greater tax burdens for property owners if permanently enacted.

letting the "Bush tax cuts" simply expire will cause a lot of trouble, especially for those in lower-income classes

From Nick Kasprak of the Tax Foundation (hat tip: David Eplion)...

On December 31, 2010, a decade's worth of tax code changes will expire. Most pundits have been predicting for months that Congress and the President would only permit the expiration of tax cuts for high-income people, but if election year politics create gridlock, the Internal Revenue Service will be ready to roll the clock back ten years.

Most of the changes will kick in because of the sunset provisions of the 2001 and 2003 laws, known popularly as the Bush tax cuts. But other, more recently enacted tax cuts—temporary tax provisions passed in early 2009 as part of the stimulus bill—are scheduled to expire at the same time. Both sets of changes would have substantial effects on low-income taxpayers.

While many people view the Bush tax cuts as targeted towards the wealthy, taxpayers across the entire income spectrum received a significant tax cut. It's certainly true that wealthier taxpayers received a bigger cut as measured in dollars because they were paying higher taxes to begin with. However, a better measure of tax cuts is the percentage change in after-tax income, which reflects tangible lifestyle benefits...

Comparing changes in after-tax income shows that the benefits of the tax cuts were distributed much more equally along the income spectrum because the Bush tax cuts included a number of provisions targeted specifically at low-income people. Moreover, low-income taxpayers also benefited from some temporary stimulus measures enacted in 2009 that are also set to expire at the end of this year: an expansion of the earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit, as well as expanded credits for college education....

The biggest single tax cut among all the provisions in the Bush tax cuts was the introduction of a new low tax rate on the first $6,000 in income ($8,500 in 2011 dollars). Previously, taxable income up to $27,950 ($34,500 in 2011 dollars) fell into the 15-percent bracket. The Bush cuts split this bracket into two, and set a rate of 10 percent on the lowest bracket. This provision affected all taxpayers; even billionaires saw a small savings because their first $6,000 in income was taxed at the lower rate. However, the change had the biggest effect on low-income earners from a percentage standpoint....

To plug in your own example to see how a hypothetical family of your choosing, would fair under these alternative policy scenarios (as opposed to our three chosen examples above), visit the Tax Foundaton's calculator.

local politicians commended for embracing voluntary behavior and competition!

A beautiful piece from Debbie Harbeson in the Jeff-NA Tribune...

This week, I would like to focus my energy on commending and praising Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galligan. For the third year in a row, he’s helping promote the United Way by entering into a friendly competition with New Albany Mayor Doug England.

The cities compete in a contest to see who can get the most city employee participation. The winner gets possession of a traveling trophy and the loser has to sweep the street around the winner’s city hall.

I find it very refreshing to see local politicians putting their energy into promoting something that is voluntary. It’s also kind of jarring because it’s so odd to see this happen with no ordinances written, no property being forcibly taken from other people, no one controlling anyone else — just respect and voluntary action. And yet it still works somehow....

Of course, adding the competition factor is a nice way to inject some spark into this charitable effort. The mayors and city employees may give a bit more to the United Way as a result because competition can help motivate people.

Isn’t it interesting to see government officials so deep into freedom-oriented ideas of competition and voluntary cooperation?

...compared to other work mayors do using government control is instructive. There is no controversial edge to critics, no one is forced into it kicking and screaming, everyone involved is respected enough to make his or her own decision.

This kind of action brings forth a completely different energy doesn’t it? It’s by far the best thing Galligan has done since taking office....More cheerleading and less controlling would make us all better off, don’t you think?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chris Matthews slams Jack Conway

Via YouTube...


Greg, the C-J editorialists didn't interview me either... they prefer warmongers who give lip service to the working poor

From Greg Knott's letter to the C-J-- as an unendorsed candidates...

Why did The Courier-Journal not interview me before endorsing the corrupt incumbent who, like President Richard Nixon, has lost the public's trust?

Unlike the incumbent, I have not accepted tens of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees in return for $625,000 in taxpayer-funded earmarks. In fact, I am the only candidate in this race who has signed the pledge at The pledge includes co-sponsoring the Lobbying Reform Act which will make it illegal for any congressmen or their staffs to work for a lobbying firm without a five-year waiting period, and vice-versa.

The C-J editorialists didn't interview me in 2008 either. Apparently, talking to an economist for an hour would not have been helpful to them. Given their tin ear, it probably would have been a waste of my time too.

In this race-- and the races in which I ran-- the C-J preferred a warmonger candidate who gives lip service (and bad policies) to the working poor and middle class. Sadly, that's what often passes for a "proud liberal" these days.

changes to the IPCC?

From Daniel James Devine in World...

...reports are created every six years by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Last year critics upbraided the IPCC for relying on non-peer-reviewed "gray literature" to substantiate dire environmental predictions in its 2007 report...Critics say the organization has downplayed climate views that aren't mainstream and failed to disclose the scientific disagreement that exists.

So in March IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri invited the InterAcademy Council, representing scientific academies from several nations, to review his organization's report-writing process. The Council released a 113-page assessment on Aug. 30 recommending significant changes in IPCC structure and policy, including more guarded treatment of gray literature and a more transparent writing process overall...

The assessment recommended changes within IPCC management as well—including reducing the term limit of the chairman to six years. That provision may be an indirect call for the resignation of Pachauri, the chairman since 2002 who has been criticized for his handling of the past year's controversies.

(limited) kudos to the Guber-nator from Reason!

Tim Cavanaugh in Reason with a few (surprisingly?) nice things to say about Gov. Arnold...

Most commentators, including editors of this magazine on multiple occasions, say the Schwarzenegger administration has been a failure...led the state into deficits as large or larger. His repeated high-profile struggles with public-sector employee unions ended in humiliating defeats, including the failure of several gubernator-backed ballot initiatives...In policy terms, the Schwarzenegger administration was a protean monster, lurching from limited-government quests to epic socialist debacles.

So is there a case for Gov. Schwarzenegger? Here’s my best defense:

First...Schwarzenegger’s time in office has been marked by almost constant public struggles with teachers, prison guards, nurses...willing to fire heavy weapons at his opponents. He has furloughed state employees, sued refractory state officials, declared states of “economic emergency,” and rolled out every pay-cut gimmick and spending freeze in his arsenal.

These fights have paid off in unexpected ways. The looming public pension crisis—a vital but boring issue—has unexpectedly become an item of national media interest thanks in large part to Schwarzenegger’s war with state employees.

Schwarzenegger...set yearly state records for percentages of bills vetoed, memorably adding an acrostic F-bomb in the memo accompanying his rejection of a Port of San Francisco boondoggle....

Finally, while Schwarzenegger failed to shrink government, he did limit its growth. His year-to-year spending increases averaged 1.4 percent...

under ObamaCare, a not-so-happy meal for McD's workers

From Janet Adamy in the WSJ...

McDonald's Corp. has warned federal regulators that it could drop its health insurance plan for nearly 30,000 hourly restaurant workers unless regulators waive a new requirement of the U.S. health overhaul.

The move is one of the clearest indications that new rules may disrupt workers' health plans as the law ripples through the real world.

Trade groups representing restaurants and retailers say low-wage employers might halt their coverage if the government doesn't loosen a requirement for "mini-med" plans, which offer limited benefits to some 1.4 million Americans.

The requirement concerns the percentage of premiums that must be spent on benefits.

While many restaurants don't offer health coverage, McDonald's provides mini-med plans for workers at 10,500 U.S. locations, most of them franchised. A single worker can pay $14 a week for a plan that caps annual benefits at $2,000, or about $32 a week to get coverage up to $10,000 a year.

Last week, a senior McDonald's official informed the Department of Health and Human Services that the restaurant chain's insurer won't meet a 2011 requirement to spend at least 80% to 85% of its premium revenue on medical care.

McDonald's and trade groups say the percentage, called a medical loss ratio, is unrealistic for mini-med plans because of high administrative costs owing to frequent worker turnover, combined with relatively low spending on claims....

McDonald's move is the latest indication of possible unintended consequences from the health overhaul....

From the WSJ editorialists...

Among President Obama's core health-care promises was that Americans can keep their current coverage if they like it. Among the reasons that a new ObamaCare squall blows in every other day is that this claim simply is not true, as people are discovering....

But Democrats hate mini-med and other skinny-benefit plans, calling them "underinsurance." ObamaCare is meant to run them out of the market by mandating benefits, eliminating coverage caps and certain technical rules about how premiums must be spent. This despite the fact that Arkansas, Connecticut and Tennessee sponsor their own mini-med plans for state residents as better than having no insurance at all.

In other words, the choice is between relatively affordable coverage that isn't as generous as Democrats think it should be and dumping coverage entirely....

a practical (and predictable) implication of trying to mandate child-only health insurance plans

From Patrick Howington in the C-J...

Health insurers summoned to the state capital Wednesday to explain why they were curtailing the sale of child-only policies said they could resume selling those plans — if the state required all their competitors to do the same....

The insurers laid out their positions at a hearing before Kentucky Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark, saying they were curtailing sales of child-only plans in response to the new health reform law, which required insurers to begin accepting children with pre-existing medical conditions starting Sept. 23. Previously, insurers could refuse to cover sick children.

Insurers around the nation — including Louisville-based Humana and Anthem, Kentucky’s largest health insurer — responded by halting the sale of new child-only plans before the new provision took effect.

The move angered consumer advocates, who said it amounted to an end run around one of the reform law’s most prized consumer protections.

But the companies argued that sick children can still get coverage as part of new family policies. And insurers will continue to cover children who already have child-only policies — they just won’t write new ones.

The insurers were concerned that the law created an incentive for parents to wait until children were very sick before buying coverage, secure in the knowledge than an insurer couldn’t turn them down.

Once one insurer announced it was suspending child-only policies, the others followed suit, saying they could end up with so many chronically ill children that other customers’ premiums would be driven up....

drastically reducing govt with economic growth in post-WWII America

A set of three small articles in Reason on three historical success stories of cutting government significantly.

I'm going to re-print excerpts from one of those-- Arnold Kling on post-war America. (The others are more contemporary examples in Canada and New Zealand.) This one's especially important because of the kick in the pants it delivered to Keynesianism, which remains popular today among politicians, statists, and those ignorant of basic economics.

When World War II ended in 1945, President Harry Truman faced a problem. Public opinion called for a rapid demobilization that would bring the boys home as soon as possible. But the Keynesians who were gaining prominence in the economics profession warned that a rapid decline in government spending and the size of the public work force would produce, in the late economist Paul Samuelson’s words, “the greatest period of unemployment and dislocation which any economy has ever faced.”

Thankfully, Truman ignored the Keynesians...In addition to the demobilized servicemen, the federal government let go of more than a third of its civilian employees—over 1 million workers...Government spending plummeted by nearly two-thirds between 1945 and 1947, from $93 billion to $36.3 billion in nominal terms. If we used the “multiplier” of 1.5 for government spending that is favored by Obama administration economists, that $63.7 billion plunge should have caused GDP to fall by $95 billion, a 40 percent economic decline. In reality, GDP increased almost 10 percent during that period, from $223 billion in 1945 to $244.1 billion in 1947. This is a rare precedent of a large drop in government spending, so its economic consequences are important to understand....

Huffington on K-12 education as a lottery and the demise of the middle class

From Sean Rose in the C-J on the occasion of Arianna Huffington's visit to Louisville to promote her most recent book...

The middle class is rapidly shrinking, and one author thinks that's putting America on the road to becoming a Third World country...

Huffington said all Third World countries have extreme wealth and poverty. What makes America different is a vibrant middle class, but a lack of job growth is threatening its existence....

The problems contributing to this class decline existed before the recession and begin with education, Huffington said.

She compared public education to lotteries, saying students' success depends largely on what school they attend...

“This system works great for adults and terrible for children,” Huffington said....

trying to help the economy? quit trying to help (small) business

From Veronique de Rugy in Reason...

During recessions, small businesses are inevitably hailed as the key to recovery and showered with still more targeted programs. This latest recession is no exception.

In his State of the Union address this year, President Barack Obama announced that “jobs will be our number one focus in 2010, and we’re going to start where most new jobs do, with small business.” Since then he has proposed and signed a series of targeted tax breaks. The president also asked Congress recently to use $30 billion that had been set aside from the Troubled Asset Relief Program to start a new program providing loans and tax credits to small businesses.

These policies are based on a myth. It’s not true that the key to boosting employment is to help small businesses, even though Washington’s definition of the term is far more expansive than you might think. According the Small Business Administration, a small business is a firm with fewer than 500 employees—not just your average mom-and-pop shop. By this definition, 99.7 percent of all employer firms are small. Still, big companies—the ones that employ more than 500 workers—account for about half of the country’s total employment. jobs come from small and big businesses. If your goal is to boost jobs, it doesn’t make sense to favor one over the other...Neither small nor large businesses can flourish in an environment of anxiety about government intrusions and burdens....the government is injecting uncertainty into the marketplace and making it harder for the economy to recover. To start helping American business, Obama needs to stop trying to help.

I'd vote for Baron Hill (D-IN) over Alan Grayson (D-FL)

Thankfully, I have two choices who would be vast improvements over Hill!

From World...

Freshman incumbent Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., took a nose-dive in polls after he labeled his opponent "Taliban Dan" in a controversial ad aired in late September...Grayson played clips of Webster, who is a Christian, saying that wives should submit to their husbands and replaying the refrain, "Submit to me. . . ." But unedited footage of the speech showed that Webster was in fact telling husbands to focus not on the Ephesians 5:22 verse but on later verses that tell husbands to love their wives. and the Orlando Sentinel also take Grayson to task.

It's good to see voters preparing to penalize Grayson for being a jerk and a kook.

one more sign that the GOP is not ready for prime-time leadership

U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., expressing disappointment that his GOP colleagues allowed Sen. Lisa Murkowski to retain her ranking status on a committee even as she mounts a write-in campaign against the party's nominee for Senate in Alaska (hat tip: World).

"I respect the friendship component of this, but our country is much more important than our friendships here."

Good for DeMint, but boo for the GOP as a whole.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"struggling finances"? make other people struggle instead!

From Ben Hershberg in the C-J...

Moving to shore up Clark County’s struggling finances, the County Council has voted to seek state approval for a special property tax increase of $7.7 million.

That's the govt's "struggling finances"-- to be more specific. The policy prescription: during a recession, increase the "struggling finances" of its citizens.

The money would be generated by raising property taxes up to 15 cents per $100 of assessed value....

The request, to be submitted no later than Tuesday, must be approved by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance to take effect...

Eggerman said the county’s financial reserves have been spent to keep departments operating. Without more revenue next year, he said he believes more county government layoffs like the 20 estimated at the end of last year may be necessary.

But council member Dave Abbott disagreed. “I think we can make do with what we have,” said Abbott, although he acknowledged that continuing without an increase “might cost us a few projects.”

The council voted 5-2 Monday night to request the increase, called an excess levy. Abbott and councilman Chuck Moore voted against it....

If approved, the increase would become part of the county’s permanent tax base....

The bigger picture: such scenarios will increasingly play out in local/state govt finances in the next few years, especially if the economy continues to struggle. It should be interesting but painful to watch-- and especially to experience.

discretionary spending booms under the Dems

From the WSJ editorialists...

Late last week the Congressional Budget Office released its preliminary budget tallies for fiscal year 2010, and the news is that the U.S. government had another fabulous year—in spending your money. We didn't expect President Obama to hold a press conference, but why are Republicans so quiet?

Spending rolled in for the year that ended September 30 at $3.45 trillion, second only to 2009's $3.52 trillion in the record books. But don't think this means Washington was relatively less spendthrift. CBO reports that the modest overall spending decline results from three one-time events.

The costs of TARP declined by $262 billion from 2009 as banks repaid their bailout cash, payments to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were $51 billion lower (though still a $40 billion net loser for the taxpayer), and deposit insurance payments fell by $55 billion year over year. "Excluding those three programs, spending rose by about 9 percent in 2010, somewhat faster than in recent years," CBO says.

Somewhat faster. You've got to laugh, or cry, when a 9% annual increase qualifies as only "somewhat faster" than normal....

Once again domestic accounts far and away led the increases. Medicaid rose by 8.7%, and unemployment benefits by an astonishing 34.3%—to $160 billion. The costs of jobless insurance have tripled in two years. CBO adds that if you take out the savings for deposit insurance, funding for all "other activities" of government—education, transportation, foreign aid, housing, and so on—rose by 13% in 2010....

The nearby table shows the increases in spending overall and in certain major categories over the last two fiscal years. You might call it the fiscal scorecard for the 111th Congress, and that's before the ObamaCare subsidies begin in earnest. (We've excluded TARP and deposit insurance to better capture the underlying spending trend.)...


Thursday, October 14, 2010

greed is universal; ignorance and hilarity when it's depicted as a purely market phenomenon

Greed is all over-- whatever the market system; whatever the occupation; however it's defined (and that's tough if you try earnestly!). But a lot of people seem to think it's relegated to business, capitalism, and economic markets. They need to brush up on-- or take for the first time-- Economics 101 and Philosophy 101.

Here's Thomas Sowell at on government and greed...

Those who are always accusing people in the private sector of "greed" almost never accuse government of greed, no matter what it does. Indeed, the question of whether the government is greedy almost never comes up...

Sowell talks about government seizing passive bank accounts and discusses "escheat laws"-- when the govt seizes the assets of the deceased whose heirs have not claimed those assets after awhile.

The theory is that there is no reason why banks should get that money. On the other hand, there is no reason why politicians should get it either, but the politicians write the laws....

Escheat laws are just one of the ways governments seize money. Income tax rates have been as high as 90 percent in the top brackets. Even after you have paid the taxes on your income and saved or invested part of what is left, the government comes back to take more of that same money, after you die, with estate taxes.

Perhaps one of the most unconscionable acts of greed by government is confiscating people's homes, in order to turn this property over to other people, who are expected to build things that will pay more taxes.

The Constitution allows the government to take private property for its own use, provided "just compensation" is paid. That way the government can build reservoirs, bridges, or highways, for example, even if that requires displacing some people. But judges over the years have expanded this power to include taking private property just to turn it over to some other private individual or business....

And after all this, Sowell is hardly touching the massive greed that informs the decisions of special interest groups and politicians.

One Southern Indiana gets political-- and that's not typically good for "one-ness" or So. IN

Here's Debbie Harbeson in the Jeff/NA Tribune, criticizing One Southern Indiana-- the local Chamber of Commerce-- and its decision to become explicitly and aggressively involved in local politics. The funding from Jeffersonville's City Council is the most troubling observation in a troubling article...

Until recently, I had never given a lot of thought to the chamber of commerce, now known locally as One Southern Indiana. I always thought of the chamber as a private voluntary organization whose main objective was to help local business people network with each other.

To me, they were simply a business-to-business marketing tool that some found useful.

Although I knew the individual businesses within a chamber of commerce would unfortunately have to deal with governments, I never really thought the chamber itself would purposefully get enmeshed in sticky political activities.

But One Southern Indiana has jumped headfirst into the nasty goo of politics now that it has created a political action committee....[and] endorsed specific candidates for office.

What a mistake. Business owners, even in a given geographical area, have far too many disparate interests for a chamber of commerce to speak for the area as a whole politically.

Before even looking at details, we already know political action will firmly gel around specific special interests, because that’s the only way government operates. When a politician votes for or against any government action, some businesses win and some lose....

Which means One Southern Indiana will now help government more than free enterprise....

You could also say that as a private, voluntary organization anyone who disagrees with their actions can simply opt out and refuse to support any of their functions. And I would agree with you if that were the case. But...did you know that according to 1si’s website one of the “top investors” in One Southern Indiana is the city of Jeffersonville? How does having a government entity as one of the top investors affect what is being done in a so-called business organization?

In addition, one of the candidates endorsed is Ron Grooms, a current Jeffersonville city councilman who is hoping to get a job as a state senator. This means an endorsed candidate is working for a government that is one of the top investors in the, umm, business organization...

How do you think all this mixing of government and business would tend to affect the workings of One Southern Indiana? It can’t be in the best interests of those who are working toward more freedom from government control that’s for sure.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Easter in October

Tonia and I attended funerals for two friends on Monday morning. Both died from cancer-- one, colon cancer; the other, a brain tumor. One died after a short battle; the other had battled for 11 years (with an eight-year period of remission). Both died "early"-- at 51 and 38. One was single; the other was married with two young children. Both will be missed by friends and family.

Both were believers-- and thus, one of the pastors' comments, that it was Easter in October.

There were a handful of memorable lines.
-If wealth is measured as the quality of one's friends, he was a wealthy man.
-In line with John 5, her arrival in Heaven was met with "pick up your mat and walk".
-Her body changed a lot during the treatments, but it changed even more when she died-- in line with I Cor 15.
-The most powerful line in the story of Lazarus (Jn 11): not "Lazarus, come out" (since it only impacted one person), but "I am the resurrection and the life" (since it impacts all).
-Heaven: where his limitations will no longer be limitations.

One other thing: On the one with "limitations", Joe noted that he had continued to "grow"-- and noted further, that many adults fail to continue their growth, stagnating at some level in their "mature" years. May his growth encourage us to continue striving to grow as well.

May the families sense God's presence in a special way in the weeks, months and years to come-- as they continue to grieve their loss and as they celebrate the lives of the ones they've lost.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

reducing the money multiplier

A nice effort from Dave Coverley in Speed Bump...

Baron Hill wants a 15.3% tax on EVERY dollar earned by the WORKING POOR and MIDDLE CLASS

The payroll tax, that is.

That's the way the Dems are doing advertising against Todd Young on the "Fair Tax". They say that Young wants a 23% sales tax-- without mentioning the little detail that his proposal would also get rid of all income and payroll taxes. (If Baron Hill thinks this is dishonest, then he should condemn the ads. If not, he's equally guilty.)

Politicians are famous for talking about the benefits of their own proposals, but not their costs. (And Hill is quite good at that.) But they're also proficient at talking about the costs of their opponents' proposals, while downplaying or ignoring the costs. That said, this effort may take the proverbial cake.

What kind of person would talk about a huge new tax without mentioning the huge tax it would replace? Not the sort that should represent us in Congress.

UPDATE: A nice article by Daniel Suddeath in the Jeff/NA News-Tribune...