Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Don't Touch My Junk: A Practical Critique of Bureaucracy

Well Thanksgiving was last week (hope you all had a great one), and a lot of controversy has been stirred up over the new screening policies (or as some might call them, public displays of affection) of the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA).

Security, as we all can agree, is very important at airports since we don't want another 9/11 on our hands. But is Uncle Sam best suited to keep us safe? The following question was on my exit exam for SDSU, and I elaborated using the TSA as an example:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Bureaucrats are lazy, inefficient workers who are part of an entrenched, powerful institution?"
To which I responded:

I agree with this statement, for the most part. I'll start with where I disagree. I disagree that ALL bureaucrats are lazy. There are some very civic-minded people working for our bureaucracy that have the best of intentions and have the good of our country at heart and try to do the very best they can.

That being said, bureaucracy, but its very nature is not conducive to efficiency and hard work. In the private sector, workers have to work hard and prove themselves efficient to maintain their job, and the business itself craves efficiency and hard work to maintain profits and remain competitive against other competitors. A private organization's goals are profits.

A bureaucracy's goal, but contrast, is to legitimize its existence. Government workers unionize and strike to protest paycuts, etc. Should a private business become inefficient, the business could become insolvent and fail while the good businesses thrive. If a bureaucracy becomes inefficient and shows few results, a bill will probably be passed to throw more funding at the agency!

Bureaucracies are also very powerful and entrenched institutions. I can't think of a single instance where one was successfully abolished. Abolish the Department of Education? Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency? It seems that once these responsibilities have been ceded to inefficient government, it somehow becomes blasphemy to say that someone other than the government may be better at tackling these issues, and the agencies hence become immortal, and the government has a virtual monopoly over the activity in question.

A perfect current example is the TSA situation, where a lot of people are becoming very unhappy with the extensive scanning the government monopoly (TSA) is requiring at all airports. After 9/11, in rash action to a massive tragedy, the Senate voted 100-0 to approve the TSA, essentially taking over airport security in the United States.

What does the TSA have to lose if they prove inefficient and a shoe bomber or something gets on a plane? They won't be fired, they won't lose customers, and they'll simply have more money dumped into their budget.

Private airlines would best be suited to handle their own airplane security. They have skin in the game and will lose customers if they show to be unsafe airlines or treat customers in a way that will turn them away.

Better yet, the private sector has an advantage, where airlines could exploit niches. One airline may boast themselves as being the safest in the air, and customers know going with that airline will subject them to higher, more invasive levels of screening, and the customer accepts that.

Another airline might realize that other customers would rather keep some dignity and sacrifice some safety on their flight by using lesser screening methods. There is a tradeoff; but customers get to decide for themselves. It's impossible to prevent all the 9/11 type incidents, but since private industry has the most to lose, they also have the most incentive to prevent such a tragedy. Bureaucracy, on the other hand, is one-size-fits all and does not let customers decide what level of security is important to them.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Idiots on Parade

Lefties love to make fun of misspelled signs at Republican rallies. Well, here's a sample of some geniuses at the Stewart/Colbert rally.

Just FYI, "Keynesian" is not implying Obama's nation of birth.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Noem's On Fire

Newly elected SD Representative Kristi Noem is already having some impact on the national level:

From the Washington Post:

GOP leadership creating new post for freshmen GOPers -- may be occupied by Tea Partyer
By Greg Sargent

Now this is interesting: With many wondering how the House Republican leadership will accommodate the newly elected House GOPers who are soon to arrive in Washington, many of whom are Tea Party-backed, I'm told the leadership has hit on a solution. They are creating a new leadership post: Representative of the incoming freshman class.

A GOP aide tells me that the decision has been made to create the post, and newly elected Tea Party favorite Kristi Noem, who unseated Dem Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in South Dakota and is known to her fans as the "next Sarah Palin," has "indicated a strong interest."

In another nod to the incoming freshmen Republicans, the position will be elected by only those freshmen, not the leadership.

If Rep. Noem or some other Tea Partyer does get the post, which has been in discussions for weeks, it could satisfy the Tea Party's demands for some kind of representation within the leadership.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Tax System Explained in Beer!

My friend Jake G found this:

Suppose that, every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to £100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this...

* The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing

* The fifth would pay £1

* The sixth would pay £3

* The seventh would pay £7

* The eighth would pay £12

* The ninth would pay £18

* The tenth man (the richest) would pay £59

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement; until one day the owner threw them a problem. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by £20."

Drinks for the ten now cost just £80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men? The paying customers? How could they divide the £20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share? They realised that £20 divided by six is £3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

* And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings)

* The sixth now paid £2 instead of £3 (33% savings)

* The seventh now pay £5 instead of £7 (28% savings)

* The eighth now paid £9 instead of £12 (25% savings)

* The ninth now paid £14 instead of £18 (22% savings)

* The tenth now paid £49 instead of £59 (16% savings)

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. "I only got a pound out of the £20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "But he got £10!" "Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved £1 as well. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!" "That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get £10 back when I got only £2? The wealthy get all the breaks!" "Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill! And that is how our tax system works.

The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up any more. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier. For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

And just in case you were curious:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Freedom? Whazzat?

If you ask 100 different people what exactly freedom means to them, you'll probably get 100 different answers. To liberals, it may mean the right to marry whomever you wish (even a dolphin), smoke what you want, or the freedom to abort whatever you want (ignoring the right of the unborn to live)...but I can't think of many more pro-freedom positions they take. Progressive Democrats are very good about taking away your choices/freedoms. Another way to look at it is to look at what liberals consider rights. A right to Social Security, a right to health care, a right to food stamps, unemployment "benefits", etc. None of these are real rights, because to provide them you first must take from someone else, and who gets the goods is purely based on the benevolence of the government. AKA, we can get votes "providing" a right or a freedom we deem worthy. Conservatives do not believe that rights are granted by a chest-beating, power-hungry government to whomever they please; they are universal guarantees that apply to everyone equally without taking away another person's rights.

Conservatives offer something greater: economic freedom. The Declaration of Independence states that we have the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Life was put first. Why? Well we certainly have the right to have our lives protected from harm, but I feel in this context it means a whole lot more. How would you define a good life? I define it as being financially able to live out your dreams. Being able to sleep at night because you easily paid your bills. To be able to see the sights you want to see. To work your dream job. To be able to feed your kids without having to worry about how. I interpret it as a right to a life as you see fit through your own efforts. To pursue your own definition of happiness.

Let me put it this way. Liberals will try to help the poor by taking from the rich and providing assistance to those in need in some form or another, which creates some dependence, rather than creating independence (freedom). They try to bring the bottom up, and those on top down, making us all some form of middle class. How is that really allowing/encouraging people to pursue their dreams? The message is that we'll raise you up just to where we want you, and then we'll hit you hard with taxes to bring you back down.

Shouldn't the goal be to get as many people as possible to the point where they can start to take advantage of compound interest and investing, freeing people from the 9-5 job cycle and putting them in better position to pursue their dreams? To live? Redistribution will not do that, it only disincentivizes ambition and promotes mediocrity. Only economic freedom and opportunity to fail/succeed based on one's own talents and to keep the money that you rightfully earned will guarantee the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness as each individual sees fit.

Imagine you're walking head first into the wind toward a door. On the door is the phrase "financial independence". The closer you get to the door, the harder the wind blows, making it harder for you to walk and take another step. Harder and harder until you finally get your foot in the door and it's calm and peaceful. Wouldn't it be nice if the wind blew more gently as you worked your way to the door?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

India vs. Hong Kong vs. U.S.A.

This is an excerpt from the book I'm currently reading, Give Me a Break by John Stossel. It really illustrates how free market capitalism makes life better for everyone--especially the poor--by raising all of society up.

Again, this is the work of John Stossel, not mine. Any typing errors, however, are mine.

Economic Freedom

You may doubt that a relatively free market is the prime reason America is prosperous. Isn't it our natural resources? Or democracy? Something unique about Americans' character?

No. If you look at societies that succeed at bettering the lives of their people, and compare them to those that fail, it's clear that what makes the difference is economic freedom.

India is desperately poor. When we were filming in Calcutta for the ABC special "Is America #1?", I was surrounded by kids begging. Yet India has democracy, and plenty of natural resources. Then why is India poor? The popular answer is overpopulation, but that's totally wrong. The population density of India is roughly equal to that of New Jersey. New Jersey does pretty well.

If overpopulation or lack of resources created poverty, then Hong Kong should be poor. Hong Kong has 20 times as many people per square mile as India, and no valuable natural resources. Yet Hong Kong is rich; the average income there is higher than in Great Britain or Canada. This is a recent development. In the 1920s, Hong Kong was as poor as India. But in a relatively short time it became rich because of one key ingredient: economic freedom.

Economic freedom prevailed because Hong Kong's British governors provided limited government. They built roads and schools, and enforced simple and understandable laws against murder and theft. But that was about it. Hong Kong thrived because its rulers didn't do too much. After keeping the peace, the British officials basically sat around and drank tea.

No Federal Trade Commission, no OSHA, no labor laws or minimum wage. "When you leave things alone, people just get on with it. It's very simple," said David Tang, who's made lots of money running an elegant club in Hong Kong and selling clothing at a chain of stores called Shanghai Tang.

Bretigne Schaffer, who worked in Hong Kong for the Asian Wall Street Journal, told us that without the "crutch" of government handouts, people in Hong Kong are inspired to create things. And thanks to Hong Kong's flat 15 percent tax, they get to keep more of what they create. "It's possible to save enough money that you can start your own business," says Schaffer, "and become very rich." Easier than in America, she says, "with all the different taxes, all the different employee benefits you have to pay out, and all the regulations."

To illustrate that on TV, I decided I would try to open a business in Hong Kong. I found out that I could, without a lawyer, set up a legal business in just one day. All I had to do was wait in one line and fill out one form. The next day I had a booth in a shopping mall selling ABC Frisbees. I failed, of course. ("Is America Number 1?" showed shoppers not buying anything from my store.) But the freedom I had to try, and fail, is what allowed Hong Kong to thrive. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman put it, Hong Kong is just a rock, but "on this rock people can produce for themselves a higher standard of living than they can produce in Britain with its centuries of history. Incredible. [It's] because of freedom."

This freedom may not endure. Communist China now runs Hong Kong. So far the island's stunning success has deterred the Communists from imposing their usual rules, but they may yet kill the goose that's been laying golden eggs.

By contrast, I dare you to try to start a business in India. We didn't even try to open one while I was in Calcutta, because the paperwork takes years. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you must submit reams of papers, and then wait for days, months, or even years while bureaucrats debate the merits of your application. When Kentucky Fried Chicken wanted to open outlets in India, Parliament spent months debating whether the request should be allowed. A government minister worried the chicken wasn't healthy enough.

The regulation is all well intended--to make sure the food's clean, the building's safe. But the result is that good ideas die in the piles of paper forms that we saw bundled on regulators' shelves.
Give Me A Break. Pages 233-235. Copywrite 2004 by John Stossel. HarperCollins Publishers Inc. New York. Used with permission per the reproduction allowances detailed with the copywrite information.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Education Sham

It took a high school valedictorian to finally put into words what I've been feeling all these years while I work through our education system. I'm sure many of you can relate to what he says. It seems the more I've been in college and education, the less creative and innovative I feel with no sense of self or direction in what I want to accomplish in life.

I bold-italicized some of the better points.

Here I stand

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years . .” ?The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?” ?Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

This is the dilemma I’ve faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn’t you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don’t do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not “to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States.”

Comment: The full passage reads: “The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever pretensions of politicians, pedagogues other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.”

To illustrate this idea, doesn’t it perturb you to learn about the idea of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

This was happening to me, and if it wasn’t for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren’t we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don’t have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can’t run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be – but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn’t have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let’s go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we’re smart enough to do so!

Monday, August 2, 2010


In this video, a congressman claims that there is "little that the federal government cannot do" at this point.

Call me stupid, but I didn't know that "limited government" that our founding fathers desperately sought was synonymous with "can do pretty much everything government."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thune for President?

Could the dragon slayer of 2004 become a dragon slayer again in 2012? Hmmm....

With speculation growing that he’ll join the wide-open 2012 Republican presidential field, South Dakota Sen. John Thune plans to roll out a sweeping proposal Tuesday to remake the congressional budget process.

Thune’s budget plan would create a joint House-Senate panel on cutting government spending, call for a line-item veto and mandate that 10 percent of the deficit be cut each year until it is eliminated.

As he tries to build up his policy credentials, Thune is also stepping up his political travel, headlining a Republican Party of Virginia event on Wednesday, to be followed by trips to Arkansas, California and Ohio on behalf of GOP Senate candidates. With Thune in heavy demand on the campaign circuit, more such trips are expected soon.

Thune’s political travel and his efforts to make a name for himself on budgetary matters has his Senate colleagues, both publicly and privately, offering encouragement if Thune decides to enter the 2012 presidential race. Never mind that his budget ideas will never see the light of day in a Democratic Senate — they help raise Thune’s policy profile within the Republican Party.

“I think he’d make a great candidate,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “The party would be well served by having someone like him.”

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Thune “has all the qualities [for president].”

“John’s future is in his own hands,” Cornyn added. “It depends on what he wants to do.”

In an interview with POLITICO, Thune wouldn’t say whether he is serious about 2012, but he wouldn’t rule out a presidential run.

Thune said his “near-term goal” is to get through Election Day while helping elect more Republicans to Congress, and he declines to discuss his plans after that.

“Like everybody else right now, we’re focused on trying to help elect more [Republican] senators and create some checks and balances with the November 2010 elections,” Thune said. “I have the time and opportunity, so I’m going to go out and help some other candidates.”

Thune would be in a strong position if he wants to make a White House run. Handsome, articulate and very popular among conservatives and evangelical Christians, Thune is unopposed in his bid for a second Senate term, an unprecedented position for any Senate candidate in South Dakota history.

He also has $6.9 million in cash in the bank for his Senate reelection fund, according to his June 30 report with the Federal Election Commission, money that could be used to jump-start a presidential campaign.

“I think this is a very critical time for this country. It’s a difficult time,” Thune added. “One of the reasons I think this whole budget debate plays into that is because that’s what most Americans have in terms of their agenda for Congress to be dealing with front and center.”

Thune’s viability for 2012 is openly acknowledged by top Democrats. Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, the Democratic National Committee’s executive director, told a gathering of progressive activists last week that Thune was a potentially difficult opponent for President Barack Obama to take on.

“This is personal, but John Thune is somebody that I have nightmares about,” O’Malley Dillon said at the Las Vegas event, though DNC officials later tried to walk her comments back a bit. “I’ve worked for Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle, and he is just a guy you can’t ever count out. He has his head down and is doing some policy stuff. [You’ve] just got to start looking at him.”

Thune’s new budget-slashing plans may also give him some credibility with the tea party movement, which is heavily focused on deficits and spending cuts. As part of his budget plan, the South Dakota Republican wants to beef up pay-go budget rules, require Congress to adopt a two-year rather than an annual budget, institute a line-item veto and return unspent stimulus funds to the Treasury.

Few of these ideas are groundbreaking — most have been bouncing around Republican circles for some time — but in packaging them into one major policy proposal, Thune is trying to show he’s got a mind for budget issues.

While Thune voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program — probably his biggest liability among conservatives and tea party activists — he has since switched positions and tried to end the program.

A source close to Thune said the senator now believes the bank bailout vote “was a bad vote,” an acknowledgement aimed at limiting the political fallout with the anti-government-spending faction of the GOP.

Some Republicans find Thune appealing because they think that everyone on the current list of GOP presidential wannabes — Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and Haley Barbour, among others — has serious vulnerabilities.

“I’m worried about the slate of candidates likely to run,” said a Senate Republican, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s hard to see any of them giving Obama a real challenge. But John could do that.”

But a major hurdle for the 49-year-old Thune is convincing potential supporters, big donors and party honchos that he has the “fire in the belly” to take on better-known figures within his own party and then square off against a sitting president backed by tons of cash and an experienced campaign team.

“It’s not a question of whether [Thune] can win” the Republican nomination, a GOP strategist said. “It’s whether he really wants to do it, really go for it. I think he has to show people that, if he runs, he’s really serious and not looking to be a [vice presidential] option or just get some headlines.”

“If he runs, John will be a first-tier candidate. Don’t mistake him as a dark horse,” said Curt Anderson, a longtime GOP political consultant. “He is the complete package — smart, savvy, telegenic, and he has a national fundraising base ... that he developed from defeating Democrat leader Tom Daschle.”

Jonathan Martin contributed to this report.

Friday, July 16, 2010

How to Win a Lawsuit

Did you guys hear about Apple being sued? If I could make class-action lawyers stick it where the sun don't shine, I would.

But here is a simple tutorial on how to win a class-action lawsuit:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More From the Calorie Cops

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm sick of the government thinking it knows what's best for me. I understand that burgers, salt, BBQ wings, beer, pop, and ice cream are all bad for me. Our shoddy public schools taught me that much at least. But I want the freedom to use those things in moderation if I choose to. If I die 5 months sooner because I enjoyed some of those things throughout my life, well then so be it. That's my choice.

"But Brandon," my liberal friends will say, "when your health care costs go up, we all pay for it." Socialism's a bitch, ain't it? Perhaps if we had a health care system reliant on personal health savings accounts rather than shared (socialized) risk through insurance, people would be responsible for, pay for, and take an interest in their OWN health without imposing costs on their friends and neighbors.

What brought all this up was one of the more ridiculous headlines I've read in a while. From Politico.com, the headline Childhood Obesity: A Security Issue jumped out at me. Apparently many of our military recruits are a tad overweight and aren't qualified for service.

I think it's a bit of a stretch to extrapolate fat kids to a national security risk. We have plenty of people qualified for the military, and those who don't make it that want to join will probably get after their weight problems so they CAN join.

But manufacturing a "security risk" is certainly grounds for taking away freedoms, isn't it? Higher taxes on foods deemed bad for you--in the name of national security--are on the way. Just another excuse for the government to control your life and take away your choices. Don't think it can happen? British school systems are already severely limiting the things that kids can eat/bring to school. And don't forget the girl in Texas who got a week of detention for having a single Jolly Rancher.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ketchup and Capitalism

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I was reminded of some reasons why free market capitalism is the best system out there.

If any of you just happened to visit a Walmart and saw the pre-Fourth of July insanity--I literally saw two separate Walmart parking lots COMPLETELY full--then you might have seen a little of what I'm talking about. Even with the crazy amounts of people buying everything in sight to stock up for their weekend adventures, I still managed to buy all the staples that I, and everyone else, needed to celebrate. Never was Walmart sold out of what I needed.

A keen eye probably would have noticed that the prices were probably a little higher than usual, although I failed to pay attention because I was hungry looking for chips. One of the great features of the free market is the ability for sellers to raise prices in times of high demand. Some may use the terms "gouging" or "profiteering", but who is hurt in the exchange? Yes, I paid a higher price...but did so willingly, of my own accord, because I needed my Fourth of July kicks more than I wanted the money I gave the cashier. These free market mechanisms also gave me an added benefit: since they were able to raise their prices, I was able to actually find what I needed, and there were few shortages/empty shelves.

Smart shoppers would have realized that prices will be higher leading up to the 4th, so they'd check through their cupboards for the lost ketchup bottle, bag of chips, or can of baked beans. Which points out another free market benefit: efficient use of scarce resources. There's nothing efficient about buying a higher priced ketchup when there's a perfectly good bottle already purchased sitting in your cupboard. Raising prices helps guide consumers in making these decisions, reducing shortages by creating efficiencies.

Another free market benefit shows itself AFTER the 4th. I found myself wandering into Walmart again. Since the store stocked up heavily so they could make a killing profit-wise for the 4th, many things were over-stocked. Surplus 4th of July goods were a fraction of the price they normally are any time of the year. I got a 40 ounce bottle of Heinz ketchup for only $1 dollar. I also noticed baked beans, chips, pop, paper plates, beer, etc. etc. were all dirt cheap as well. Less demand for the cliche 4th of July goods coupled with over-supply makes for some great deals.

To give another example, look at gas prices before/after hurricane Katrina. Leading up to one of the worst hurricanes ever, gas prices steadily increased in anticipation of broken oil rigs, higher travel, etc. Conventional wisdom says we should hate oil companies for doing such a thing, but the unseen side is that oil companies were stocking up barrels in warehouses (reducing pre-Katrina supply) in anticipation of shortage problems post-Katrina. Just as there was no shortage of ketchup in Walmart, after Katrina, which involved essentially evacuating entire states, gas was soon available after the hurricane. There were massive shortages, yes, but that shows the magnitude of the hurricane was beyond even the most risky oil speculators' wildest dreams. But to get things back to normal, allowing prices to do what they wish was the key; using price caps would only have resulted in massive shortages. Hell, I'm sure oil companies would have air-lifted entire gas stations into New Orleans if they knew they could make $120/gallon on gas. But when you're fleeing for your life, I'll buy gas for that much. People fleeing for their lives prior to the hurricane had to pay high prices for gas, but luckily for the "greed" of oil companies trying to make a profit, the most people possible were able to fuel their cars for evacuation with the fewest shortages.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Real Leadership

Recently elected New Jersey governor Chris Christie answers a reporter's question quite bluntly. I think this is what a lot of people would prefer from politicians. One of the biggest elements of leadership is following through with what you said you were going to do. Telling people what they want to hear might get you reelected in the short term, but it's not leadership in the long run, and people catch on to that. The GOP has been struggling for leadership for a while now, and hopefully more people like Chris Christie can turn that around. I like this guy.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Who Elects These People??

Just another reason for people to pay more attention to elections, otherwise you get people like this in charge:

Doesn't know where Arizona is, but is making policies to boycott the state?

If that weren't entertaining enough, she got a letter from Senator Jon Kyl:

Senator Jon Kyl Instructs Supervisor Peggy West in Geography

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hilarious Headlines


Obama's Stimulus Visit Results in Lost Payday for Construction Workers

A public relations (PR) stunt to promote the failed stimulus--designed to create jobs--ironically resulted in several construction workers missing out on a day's worth of pay. Say they work an eight hour day at $20/hr. That's 160 bucks they missed out on. As a poor college student, I can relate to these blue collar workers who are trying to make ends meet as well and pay their bills. One hundred sixty dollars goes a long way when you're struggling to pay rent, phone, and utility bills! Democrats for the little guy. Riiiiiight....

Ahh, government efficiency at its best. I challenge anybody to find me an example of a private business having issues like this. OBVIOUSLY dead people shouldn't receive pay, but government is usually the kryptonite to common sense. I commend the administration for trying to find ways to be more efficient, but step one in saving money: DON'T SPEND SO MUCH!

Friday, June 4, 2010

What Do Katrina and the Oil Spill Have in Common?

Ok. Regardless of how much you pay attention to the news, I'm pretty sure you're aware the worst oil accident in United States history is going on in the Gulf of Mexico, right?

Many are saying this is Obama's equivalent of George Bush's hurricane Katrina, where there was slow national/federal governmental response to the worse natural disaster in U.S. history. Both presidents, regardless of political affiliation, have been accused of a lax response to a huge disaster.

What has annoyed me, in conservative circles, has been the accusation of Obama of a slow response to the oil spill. Sure, his responses have been lame, such as skipping out on speaking at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in favor of vacationing in Chicago and getting serenaded by Paul McCartney while the disaster continues--but that's beside the point.

True conservatives, like myself, realize that the national/federal government simply by its nature is inept when dealing with problems, regardless of party. Not to say either Obama/Bush are disingenuous, lazy, or poor leaders; simply the nature of top-down government is inefficient, wrought with red tape and tied in how quickly needed resources get delivered. Local governments know what they need, when they need it, and in what quantities better than anybody. Bobby Gindal is begging for resources, but national governmental red tape delays what is needed and dictates what the locals can do. The same was true post-hurricane Katrina.

Both Gulf Coast situations are less of a statement about leadership, but rather case examples of how smaller government closer to the people is much more effective.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Arizona and Immigration

Sorry for the recent hiatus on blogging...semester was ending and things are getting crazy on the campaign trail. But summer is here, and having fewer distracting (but awesome) friends around gives me a chance to punch out some more social commentary.

Oooo, things are getting so fun on the national level. Then new Arizona immigration law has a small minority of the country up in arms in disagreement to the bill. The rest of us realize that the bill explicitly states that lawful contact (speeding, etc.) must be made first prior to asking a suspected illegal immigrant for their documentation (which is required by law anyway if you are not from the U.S.). I know the illegal immigrants/open borders crowd would love to let illegals roam freely about, but this bill is a godsend for law enforcement and the families on the border trying to live lawfully in peace and not feel threatened or possibly shot on their own property. Local law enforcement can uphold the national immigration laws already on the books, which will help cut down on illegal immigration.

Some other thoughts.

1) I love immigrants. America's history IS immigration; that's how our nation was settled. Great minds from around the world flock to the United States for the freedom and opportunity allowed in our country. I have nothing wrong with having more legal immigrants and even raising the quotas of new immigrants allowed in, but the key word is legal. Not only are we a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. In the U.S. citizenship test that legal immigrants have to take, they are asked "what is the Constitution of the United States?", to which the correct answer is "the Supreme Law of the Land." We are provided with the ability to protect our borders within the Constitution and outsiders must respect the process for which we welcome people into our country. Do we really want to accept millions of people into our ranks whose first acts as citizens are to break the law to get here in the first place? I would prefer all who come here to be law-abiding citizens every step of the way.

2) Some try to make this a racial issue, which is a completely fallacy-ridden argument. It is important for the integrity of our country to know who is here and why. Simply because the propensity of illegal immigrants are from Mexico--which happens to have a large Latino population--does not mean immigration enforcement is inherently racist. What if it were the same situation, but Mexico was mostly people of white European dissent? The problem would still exist. Apparently I can only be pro-immigration enforcement if the individual in question is white.

3) Mexico's close proximity to the U.S., coupled with a corrupt government/country offering few opportunities helps explain the flood of illegal immigrants in the south. If Canada's citizens had zero chance of a good life, they would be flooding over our border as well, in which case, it would be important to have strict immigration enforcement policies in Canadian border states as well. Illegal Canadians should be deported just as much as any Mexican, and under the Arizona law when the illegal Canadian cannot show a valid U.S. drivers license or provide visa documentation for their right to be here, they will also be caught as an illegal.

4) The argument I hate most from liberals in the immigration debate is the "they do jobs Americans don't want to do" argument. I've never heard anything more dehumanizing and degrading in my life. So liberals are fine with illegal immigrants being used for all our farm, landscaping, and house cleaning labor in our country? This is nothing short of elitist snobbery under the false claim that no American will do these jobs. At its very least, this is just shoddy economics. It's called a labor market. If a farm or maintenance company needs a job done, someone will fill that job, and if no one is willing to, the company will offer a higher wage in order to entice someone to do the job. It might be a lower wage job, but there are people out there willing to do it for each wage rate. I'd make a fancy economics model, but I don't want to bore you.

Imagine this:

Southern California's schools are in terrible shape, with unruly students, astronomical dropout rates, etc. Picture a different California where these hard-labor jobs were filled with high school students in their first job wanting to earn a little extra money. Not only would they have something to occupy their time instead of gang warfare, they might learn a thing or two about work ethic! I don't think it's too much of a stretch to believe it might carry over into the classroom and help get the schools back on the right track. Rather than illegal immigrants being paid under the table sub-minimum wage, high school students could earn minimum wage (or more) and also bring some character back to the younger populations.

This is just an example, but it shows how there will be someone to fill these jobs. Just watch an episode of Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel. People will fill unpleasant job positions--for a price. It just looks like they're jobs Americans won't do because illegals can be paid under minimum wage. With our minimum wage laws, those of us willing to do nasty jobs for cheap are not allowed to do so because employers would run into legal trouble. Since illegals are more under-the-radar, they can fill those positions for a lower wage rate while the Americans willing to do the job for the same wage are snubbed.

5) Are you a legal immigrant to this country? How does that make you feel that you went through the process and followed all the rules, yet illegals are protesting against immigration enforcement to make others go through the same process you did to be here?

6) America is a melting pot, but in order for that to happen, you must be willing to melt. Over our history, people did not come here to recreate Ireland or Germany or Russia in the United States, people came and still come here for the freedom and opportunity to maximize their lives as they saw fit. Of course immigrants settled in Irish or German communities, but their expectation was not to make everyone else honor Irish or German traditions in everyday life. The beauty of America is that we take the best from all cultures and hodge-podge it all together in a new, unique culture that is completely unpredictable--essentially the definition of American culture. Taco pizza combines three cultures in one!

We all come from different backgrounds, but Americans and the immigrants that comprise our nation all have common values that unite us. Love of freedom, appreciation of the best the world has to offer, creativity, exceptionalism, neighborliness, entrepreneurship, charity, opportunity, and hard work are just a few ideals that we all hold close, regardless of what hyphenated-American you are.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reality Trumps The Onion for Insane News

Tourism is a human right. Now I've heard everything. Why can't we be entitled to everything? Then none of us would have to worry about anything!

Health care has already been deemed a human right in Europe, so logically the next step in universal entitlements is subsidized tourism. Can't wait for the government (aka, rich taxpayer dollars) to buy me a vacation, then I don't have to work for it!

In America, we don't have the right to happiness, we have the right to pursue happiness.

From the U.K. Times:

AN overseas holiday used to be thought of as a reward for a year’s hard work. Now Brussels has declared that tourism is a human right and pensioners, youths and those too poor to afford it should have their travel subsidised by the taxpayer.

Under the scheme, British pensioners could be given cut-price trips to Spain, while Greek teenagers could be taken around disused mills in Manchester to experience the cultural diversity of Europe.

The idea for the subsidised tours is the brainchild of Antonio Tajani, the European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, who was appointed by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister.

The scheme, which could cost hundreds of millions of pounds a year, is intended to promote a sense of pride in European culture, bridge the north-south divide in the continent and prop up resorts in their off-season.

Tajani, who unveiled his plan last week at a ministerial conference in Madrid, believes the days when holidays were a luxury have gone. “Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life,” he said.

Tajani, who used to be transport commissioner, said he had been able to “affirm the rights of passengers” in his previous office and the next step was to ensure people’s “right to be tourists”.

The European Union has experience of subsidised holidays. In February the European parliament paid contributions of up to 52% towards an eight-day skiing trip in the Italian Alps for 80 children of Eurocrats.

Tajani’s programme will be piloted until 2013 and then put into full operation. It will be open to pensioners and anyone over 65, young people between 18 and 25, families facing “difficult social, financial or personal” circumstances and disabled people. The disabled and the elderly can be accompanied by one person.

In the initial phase, northern Europeans will be encouraged to visit southern Europe and vice versa. Details of how participants are chosen have not yet been finalised, but it is expected the EU will subsidise about 30% of the cost.

Officials have envisaged sending south Europeans to Manchester and Liverpool on a tour of “archeological and industrial sites” such as closed factories and power plants.

Tajani’s spokesman said: “Why should someone from the Mediterranean not be able to travel to Edinburgh in summer for a breath of cool, fresh air; why should someone from Edinburgh not be able to travel to Greece in winter?”

The idea is based on a project in Spain in which holidays in the winter off-season are subsidised by the government for European residents aged 55 and over. Spain calculated that for every €1 it spent in subsidies, €1.6 was gained for its resorts.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Reputation Tarnished; Not Good Enough for Headhunters

Toyota today agreed to pay more than $16 million in penalties because of the faulty gas pedal fiasco, representing the

Although it sounds good to stick it to a company that has hurt its customers, an investigation and penalty like this (a favorite pastime of headhunters like Henry Waxman) is a redundant penalty unnecessary to keeping companies honest and consumers protected in a free market.

Why? Reputation. Toyota has already lost millions in sales from its tarnished reputation. It has lost the faith of its consumer base, and millions of people in the next few years will think twice before buying a Toyota, which is a much larger cost than any arbitrary penalty anti-business congressmen can think up.

As economist John Lott puts it in his book Freedomnomics:
"...future profits are what a firm stands to lose if it cheats its customers. The potential loss of profits stemming from the loss of a good reputation helps keep businesses honest. This holds true so long as a business is concerned with its future profits."
How many moms out there do you think will be buying a Toyota any time soon?

To get a little more conspiratorial, it's interesting to note that General Motors (Government Motors) is more than 50% owned by the government, so perhaps the government is simply trying to kick the legs out of its non-union worker automaker competition?

Monday, April 12, 2010

How the Great Depression Really Ended

A lot of people think that FDR ended the Great Depression with his big-government, New Deal policies, but a closer look really shows that his policies in reality perpetuated the depressed economy, rather than fix it. I fear that some of the same actions taken by the current administration are pushing us down the same path, creating a stagnate economy for years to come and provide government with excuses to take from us more of our freedoms in the name of "security."

I read a great book on just this topic which looks into this subject in depth, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depresson, by Amity Shales, which I highly recommend if your reading list is getting short.

From today's Wall Street Journal:

Did FDR End the Depression?
The economy took off after the postwar Congress cut taxes


'He got us out of the Great Depression." That's probably the most frequent comment made about President Franklin Roosevelt, who died 65 years ago today. Every Democratic president from Truman to Obama has believed it, and each has used FDR's New Deal as a model for expanding the government.

It's a myth. FDR did not get us out of the Great Depression—not during the 1930s, and only in a limited sense during World War II.

Let's start with the New Deal. Its various alphabet-soup agencies—the WPA, AAA, NRA and even the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority)—failed to create sustainable jobs. In May 1939, U.S. unemployment still exceeded 20%. European countries, according to a League of Nations survey, averaged only about 12% in 1938. The New Deal, by forcing taxes up and discouraging entrepreneurs from investing, probably did more harm than good.

What about World War II? We need to understand that the near-full employment during the conflict was temporary. Ten million to 12 million soldiers overseas and another 10 million to 15 million people making tanks, bullets and war materiel do not a lasting recovery make. The country essentially traded temporary jobs for a skyrocketing national debt. Many of those jobs had little or no value after the war.

No one knew this more than FDR himself. His key advisers were frantic at the possibility of the Great Depression's return when the war ended and the soldiers came home. The president believed a New Deal revival was the answer—and on Oct. 28, 1944, about six months before his death, he spelled out his vision for a postwar America. It included government-subsidized housing, federal involvement in health care, more TVA projects, and the "right to a useful and remunerative job" provided by the federal government if necessary.

Roosevelt died before the war ended and before he could implement his New Deal revival. His successor, Harry Truman, in a 16,000 word message on Sept. 6, 1945, urged Congress to enact FDR's ideas as the best way to achieve full employment after the war.

Congress—both chambers with Democratic majorities—responded by just saying "no." No to the whole New Deal revival: no federal program for health care, no full-employment act, only limited federal housing, and no increase in minimum wage or Social Security benefits.

Instead, Congress reduced taxes. Income tax rates were cut across the board. FDR's top marginal rate, 94% on all income over $200,000, was cut to 86.45%. The lowest rate was cut to 19% from 23%, and with a change in the amount of income exempt from taxation an estimated 12 million Americans were eliminated from the tax rolls entirely.

Corporate tax rates were trimmed and FDR's "excess profits" tax was repealed, which meant that top marginal corporate tax rates effectively went to 38% from 90% after 1945.

Georgia Sen. Walter George, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, defended the Revenue Act of 1945 with arguments that today we would call "supply-side economics." If the tax bill "has the effect which it is hoped it will have," George said, "it will so stimulate the expansion of business as to bring in a greater total revenue."

He was prophetic. By the late 1940s, a revived economy was generating more annual federal revenue than the U.S. had received during the war years, when tax rates were higher. Price controls from the war were also eliminated by the end of 1946. The U.S. began running budget surpluses.

Congress substituted the tonic of freedom for FDR's New Deal revival and the American economy recovered well. Unemployment, which had been in double digits throughout the 1930s, was only 3.9% in 1946 and, except for a couple of short recessions, remained in that range for the next decade.

The Great Depression was over, no thanks to FDR. Yet the myth of his New Deal lives on. With the current effort by President Obama to emulate some of FDR's programs to get us out of the recent deep recession, this myth should be laid to rest.

Mr. Folsom, a professor of history at Hillsdale College, is the author of "New Deal or Raw Deal?" (Simon & Schuster, 2008). Mrs. Folsom is director of Hillsdale College's annual Free Market Forum.

Monday, April 5, 2010

No Kidding

A political cartoon I found on the internet. Most of us can agree that political correctness has run hog wild and needs to be reigned in.

Friday, April 2, 2010


I can't believe the lengths to which liberals will go to try to paint us conservatives as angry, racist, violent, extremists in an effort to detract from the red flags our side raises with regards to the radical changes that are being shoved down our throats today.

It's come to the point that it's completely laughable.

For example, recently Sarah Palin released a list of 20 Democrat Congressional seats that her Political Action Committed (PAC) is targeting with funds to win for the Republican challengers in the 2010 midterm elections. Here is the picture that was released:

Now, us normal Americans would look at this and think that it's a perfectly normal idea. These are political targets for 2010, so sweet! Let's play off that and mark each district with a crosshair.

But oh no. Some liberals out there are SO desperate to discredit our side, they try to spin this simple campaign publication as outside the bounds of decency. Some on the lefty blogs, the mainstream media, etc., have accused Palin of "inciting violence" against the opposition by using crosshairs, as well as using language like "don't retreat, reload."

Can I get an "are you kidding me?" Liberals of all people, who seem to have a fondness for symbolism, should be able to recognize a literary metaphor when they see one. OBVIOUSLY Palin is not calling for supporters to snipe each of these representatives as they're heading to Starbucks for their morning non-fat, organic, cup-made-out-of-recycled-tire, dolphin-friendly hippie brew.

We can all pick out a few crazy people on either side who would take these kinds of thing literally and try say that represents the entire opposition. But is that honest? NO. This is a very hasty generalization.

Eric Cantor, a staunch opponent of Obama's health care reform, reportedly had a shot fired into one of his offices and has also received threats in the mail. So it swings both ways, and you don't see us conservatives out there smearing the entire Democrat party because of a few threatening letters and a shot fired at a Congressional office. Come on. A few bad apples doesn't define the entire orchard.

*On a side note, I just want to point out the geniuses at CBS news. I found a CBS article talking about Palin's target list. See how after each representative on Palin's list it says what state and congressional district the rep is from? If you notice, Representative Earl Pomeroy, from North Dakota, has ND-AL after his name, presumably to mean he is "At Large," because ND, like SD, only has a single House of Representative district. CBS really did its homework, as they took the ND-AL to mean that Earl Pomeroy is a representative from Alabama. Nice reporting, keep up the good work, haha.