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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mencken's imaginary hobgoblins of today

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

H.L. Mencken

See Warming, Global; Terrorism, War on; Drugs, War on; Fracking, Oil; Social Security, Checks Withheld; et al.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"To dissemble: to conceal one's true motives or thoughts by pretense."

Linda Meric is one of the leaders of 9t05, a group behind a proposed ballot measure that would mandate certain employers located in Denver provide 9 paid sick days to employees a year.

In a letter to the Denver Post editor, Ms. Meric says the proposal is a "public health issue" because "[j]obs in food service, child care, nursing homes and home health care typically don’t come with paid sick days." Since people in these industries come into contact with the public, Ms. Meric reasons, it is important that they be able to stay home when thy have a communicable illness.

So the proposal is limited to employers in those industries? No. It is not.

Then why is Ms. Meric's argument limited to the public health angle? After all, she says "[i]f you don’t want flu with your fries, vote 'yes' to protect jobs and the public health in November."

Perhaps because it is easier to sell a proposal against someone sneezing on your food than it is to sell what the proposal really does: Provide government control over what is otherwise a private business decision between labor and management.

Statists hate it when people make their own decisions, especially when the statist is so much smarter than the stupid workers and so much more compassionate than the evil and greedy small business owners. 9t05 knows what is best for us all, and instead of convincing us they are right, and getting us to voluntarily implement their policy, they want to force us to obey their dictates or face official government sanction.

These social engineers and central planners do not believe in free choice. They believe workers are "powerless" to improve their working conditions. Therefore, the powerless workers need the authority of the state to force the greedy employers to treat them "humanely."

They fail to see that the most inhumane force that has ever existed on this planet is the state. Every government atrocity ever committed was done in the name of making the world a better place - for someone.

"But Dave!" you say, "the state ended Jim Crow laws and busted price gouging monopolies to make the world a better place, just to name two examples of the awesomeness of our benevolent government!" Yes, that is what we have been told.

But who enacted the Jim Crow laws? Who enforced them with police dogs and water hoses? The state. Who subverted them? Who opened underground jazz clubs so people of different races could mingle together, voluntarily, without fear of government retribution? Free individuals.

And who allowed the monopolies to prosper? Who created artificial barriers to entry so competition was thwarted? Who gave government assets to private individuals and corporations so that cronies of politicians could run monopolies and get rich? The state. Who fought the monopolies? Who tried to beat them in the marketplace by providing a cheaper or better product? Free individuals.

Looking to the government to provide a better life for individuals is like giving the keys to your liquor cabinet to a drunk and expecting him to take care of it.

The government, all too often, is a malignancy wrapped in a pretty bow and presented as a gift that we eagerly accept. Look behind the bow.

Derek Boogaard's sad death and the counterproductive war on drugs.

What kind of sick individual gives his brother, just one day removed from drug rehab, an oxycodone pill? This kind: "Brother charged in Boogaard death." Aaron Boogaard gave his brother Derek an oxycodone pill in preparation for a night on the town. The next day, Derek was dead.

No doubt the sad death of Derek Boogaard will prompt calls for an increase in government resources to fight the Drug War. This is akin to a blackjack player deciding he needs to place bigger bets to recoup his losses.

We all know how that works out.

Until we get past the absurd notion that more of a failed policy is needed to fix the failed policy, we will just make the problem worse.

The "War on Drugs" is the conservative version of the progressive "War on Poverty:" Great intentions. Disastrous results. An absolute, mindless and stubborn refusal to acknowledge the failure.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Enviro-Cult's war on the poor.

I have often referred to the "Al Gore Cult of Global Warming." The name is no longer appropriate. They have abandoned the "global warming" scam and now refer to it as "climate change." Alas, changing the label on the snake oil does not change its contents.

They have also branched out. They are now against "fracking" for natural gas despite no evidence of groundwater contamination at all. They hysterically point to burning tap water, but that is caused by naturally occurring methane and not any man-made contamination. They never let science, however, get in the way of the horror story they are shilling.

"Look! There is an evil well put their by an oil and gas company! And look! This tap water is on fire! The evil, profit-seeking company HAS to be blamed! It is the evil, profit-seeking, soulless CORPORATION'S fault!"

Except it is not.

So, I will no longer refer to the "Al Gore Cult of Global Warming." Henceforth, they are the "Enviro-Cult." It is more inclusive. I think the progressives will appreciate my inclusiveness.

The Enviro-Cult must be distinguished from actual environmentalists, like Ducks Unlimited. DU actually cares about the environment and is not using it as pretext to push a socio-political movement.

The Enviro-Cult is waging a war on the poor. And they do not care. They oppose technology that makes energy cheaper. They support the subsidization of technology that makes energy more expensive. In the winter, rich folks will just write a bigger check for heating. Poor folks will just get cold.

And some of the old and frail will die.

But the Enviro-Cult does not care. When the collective well-being of the entire earth is more important than the individual, some individuals will be sacrificed. Sorry, grandma, but it's for the good of the earth.

Then, as poor people freeze to death, the Enviro-Cult will kick in Phase II. They will publicly decry the deaths - conveniently leaving out that their policies caused them - and demand that the rich folks pay "their fair share" for the poor folks' heat.

It is beautiful in its simplicity: Use the environment as a pretext for achieving purely political ends.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Of corporate jets & corporate welfare: The Gaylord Hotel in Aurora

David K. Williams, Jr.

I need a little help understanding something. This, as those of you that know me personally can attest, is not unusual. Let me lay it out:

  1. President Barack Obama decries tax breaks on corporate jets because companies that can afford corporate jets need to pay MORE taxes and not get tax breaks.

  2. The City of Aurora is going to give Gaylord Hotels hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks because they need to pay FEWER taxes.

  3. Gaylord Hotels owns a corporate jet.

In fact, Gaylord Hotels CEO Colin V. Reed, just two years ago, was criticized by a major shareholder "for excessive corporate waste" involving use of the jet.

According to the New York Times, Texas billionaire and 15% owner of Gaylord Hotels, Robert Rowling, wrote a letter to all Gaylord shareholders complaining of

Mr. Reed’s use of the company’s $15 million Gulfsteam G150 private jet, which has been used 36 times to fly back and forth between Florida and Mississippi over the last two years, according to flight logs provided by the company.

(See "2 Tycoons in a Tiff Over Flights on a Corporate Jet.")

This begs the question of why anyone would think giving millions of public dollars to a company when its private investors complain of excessive corporate waste is a good idea, but I shall leave that for another time.

I need some help on the larger policy question: If giving tax breaks to Gaylord for its corporate jet is bad government policy, how is handing Gaylord $300 million in tax breaks good government policy?

I do not have a Ph.D. in anything (not even an honorary one, and even Mike Tyson has one of those), so I am clearly not smart or educated enough to understand how the government letting a company keep money is bad but the government giving them money is good.

I know this is crazy talk, but how about this?

  • Have one set of rules for all companies. None of them get tax breaks that the rest do not also get. None of them get any subsidy that all the rest do not get.

Of course, this would stop politicians from being able to give out favors to certain corporations and industries at the expense of others.

Perhaps I understand it after all.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Central planning lives!

David K. Williams, Jr.

Right here in Colorado, the state Public Utilities Commission is its own little politburo.

The PUC sits in judgment of how many taxis are needed in Denver. They study, they take testimony, they listen to arguments and they decide exactly the number of taxis needed to best serve the people of Denver.

Recently, they decided Denver has exactly the correct number of taxis and denied applications for an additional 300 taxi licenses.

PUC Commissioner James Tarpey explained the decision: "Cabs would rather be downtown no matter how long the lines (at taxi stands). The market has more than it can handle." (See the Denver Post story "PUC denies taxi permits.")

See, Mr. Tarpey and the rest of the PUC are only looking out for the best interest of the public. See, they are smart enough to tell potential cabbies that they will only fail if they invest their privately raised money. See, the ignorant cabbies are so stupid that they are willing to invest their own money - even though they are only going to fail. See, the ignorant cabbies' private market research is inferior to the government's superior knowledge.

Thankfully the PUC is there to save them from their folly. Whatever would we do without smart people in government? Without them, private individuals would spend private money to provide services that the market does not want. How silly of them!

Those private business people sure are stupid for wanting to invest their own money somewhere it is not needed. They should thank the PUC for saving them the trouble of failing.

Of course, there is another way to look at it. It is a quaint, old-fashioned and completely discredited idea called "supply and demand." It is supposed to work like this:

If a private person thinks he can provide a good or service to those that want it, he provides it. If enough people want it, he makes money. If not enough people want it, he goes out of business.

It is rather radical. Only crazy right wing nuts - you know, those ignorant "tea baggers" - profess to believe in such magic as a "free market."

The scariest part of this "supply and demand" concept is that it is supposed to work without any government oversight. Crazy! I know. Thankfully, the PUC is there to make sure such unbridled lawlessness does not take over our economy. The collective judgment of the PUC is far superior to the business judgment of cab owners.

Can you imagine if cabbies were just allowed to enter the market and compete without any government permission at all? The thought is horrifying. It would be complete anarchy.

Thankfully, we have central planning. Historically, central planning has worked very well. (After all, why would we still be using it if it had a history of failure?) Central planning is based on the premise that the free market is way too complicated to be left on its own, and that smart regulators in government need to decide how much of a good or service is needed to best serve the public. The Soviet Union did an excellent job of this when it came to deciding exactly how much bread to produce for its people.

It is pure coincidence, of course, that existing cab companies just happen to be opposed to further cabs on the street. After all, they only want what is best for the public. More cabs on the streets means more competition for them and less market share and less money. But that is beside the point.

Existing cab companies do not care about additional competition. They only care about the good of the collective, and they know central planning is the best way to make that determination.

Guilt and innocence and Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the rest of us.

David K. Williams, Jr.

The rape case against French politician and former head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is running into problems. He was released from house arrest earlier today. (See The New York Times' article "Strauss-Kahn Is Released as Case Teeters.")

Good for him. But how about all the other people charged with crimes, sitting in Rikers Island, or Denver County jail, waiting for the disposition of their case?

They do not have the money to hire a team of lawyers and investigators. They do not have the money to pay for their own guard while on house arrest.

Nope. They just sit in a cell. And wait.

And every single one of them is innocent. Every. Single. One. Of them.

"But Dave!" you say, "that is outrageous! Almost all criminal defendants waiting for disposition are actually guilty! You know that!"

I do not. I know the opposite. And so should you.

There is a basic common law concept in Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence that too many of us have let become a mere afterthought.

That concept is the presumption of innocence. It means that we are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that, in fact, every single person charged with a crime is absolutely and completely innocent until a "guilty" verdict is entered.

It does not mean that we must reserve judgment as to the person's guilt or innocence until we hear the evidence. Not at all. It means he is actually and totally innocent and we are to consider him actually innocent until and unless he is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

We would do well to keep that concept in mind as we deal with the criminally accused. Accusation is not proof. It is mere accusation.

Any of us can be accused of anything by anyone at anytime. We all will want to be afforded that presumption of innocence when we are accused. We must therefore give it to others.

Or it is useless.