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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Corruption is easy.

Step one: raise lots of money for winning presidential candidate.
Step two: get lots of tax money back from winning presidential candidate.

Real life example: George Kaiser is a billionaire and campaign donation bundler for Obama; his "family foundation" owned 1/3 of Solyndra; Solyndra goes bankrupt after getting $528 million from Obama administration.

The more power the government has, the more it will give away in exchange in for political favors.

The notion that "getting money out of politics" will stop the corruption is well-intentioned and completely wrong.  As long as the government has power to dole out favors, someone will be willing to bid for those favors. The more rules and regulations instituted to prevent this exchange of money for political largesse just means more lawyers and financial advisers get paid to find the loopholes.

More campaign finance rules discourage honest people from getting involved. No honest person wants to run afoul of regulations and subject themselves to government sanction. Dishonest people are not subject to the same concerns.

Campaign finance rules do nothing but make it harder for small groups and individuals to engage in the political process. They actually make more and more money necessary to participate, thereby defeating their purpose.

The only way to effectively limit corruption is to limit the power of the government to grant favors. The less they can dole out, the better.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reject failure. Envision Success. Don't quit.

A.  Reject failure.

"We live in a two party system! We have to work within it!"

That's exactly what Wall Street, Big Agribusiness, Big Pharma, Big Government Contractors, Big Insurance and all other cronyist corporatist rent-seekers want you to believe.

It matters not if Democrats or Republicans control the White House, the House of Representatives or the Senate. Wall Street, Big Agribusiness, Big Pharma, Big Government Contractors, Big Insurance and the other corporatist rent-seekers get paid regardless.

I am embarrassed when I hear any liberty minded person embrace the "two-party system" as a physical inevitability, as if it were Newton's Fourth Law. Liberty minded people proudly embrace and admire revolutionaries who fought the biggest military in the world... and won. Liberty minded people proudly embrace and admire revolutionaries that fought, killed and died to defeat a political system that oppressed them.

Then these same liberty minded people dismiss out-of-hand the mere notion that defeating a two-party duopoly that perpetuates an ever-growing leviathan as "impossible." What American revolutionaries did was nigh on impossible. Changing a political system is merely hard. Let's adopt that revolutionary attitude. Let's drop the timid meekness of impossibility. You think it is impossible? Then it is.

The first step in changing the status quo? Quit accepting it as inevitable. Reject the notion that it is an impenetrable bulwark that can not be breached. Admit it is broken and must be thrown out and replaced.

Quit enabling the behavior we want to stop. Quit telling yourself, "this time, it will be different." We pity abused spouses that keep taking back their abuser. How many more times will you accept being lied to? How much more abuse will you take?

It is shameful when liberty minded people - in the name of liberty - accept the system that oppresses them.  If the GOP nominates a big government candidate, what do they tell you? "Vote for the Big Government Republican," whose beliefs you do not share, "or you are just helping the Big Government Democrat!" Where else in your life would you accept such a Hobson's choice?

I submit nowhere. Yet we have been indoctrinated into thinking that two bad choices are inevitable. That nothing can be done. To just accept it. Lie back and enjoy it. There is nothing you can do.

As long as people believe that there is nothing that can be done... there isn't.

Do not accept tripe just because it's not offal. Do not accept losing a pinkie just because it's not a thumb. If you are told, "well, those are the only choices, so choose!" Say "No! No more! I will not choose just because that's the way we've always done it! I will suffer, I will fight, I will sacrifice, but I will not voluntarily partake in a system that does not serve me!"

B. Envision success.

Once we refuse to participate in a system that rewards cronyism at the expense of liberty, then what?

I do not know. Not exactly. But John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and our other revolutionary heroes did not know exactly what they were going to do once they defeated the British. The first attempt, The Articles of Confederation, failed.

But they knew they had to throw off their shackles. They knew they wanted liberty. That's a good start for us, as well.

The first step in fixing a problem is to admit there is a problem. Then we can start coming up with alternatives.

I do, however, have some suggestions. One suggestion is to question plurality voting. Plurality voting is where each voter can pick one candidate to support, regardless of the number of people running. The candidate with the most votes, a plurality, wins. A majority is not needed. The winner frequently is opposed by a majority. What sense does that make?

63% of the electorate could vote against you, and you are the victor. Stupid, right? Yes, it is stupid. Yet we blithely accept it as "the way it is."

I am not making this up. Steve Hogan, the newly elected Mayor of Aurora, was rejected by 63% of the electorate, yet won. It is nonsense. Is it not reasonable to question such a system?

Let's look at the 2011 Aurora mayoral election results:


Steve Hogan 37.5% (13,498)
Ryan L. Frazier 30.2% (10,856)
Jude Sandvall 14.5% (5,244)
Debbie Stafford 11.4% (4,107)
Sheilah Thomas Davis 3.5% (1,291)
Barbara J Yamrick  2.5% (924)


For the sake of argument, let's assume that the 63% of voters whom voted for someone else hated Hogan. (Hogan is probably a wonderful person and a great mayor. I use his election for illustration only). Each of them would have voted for any of the five other candidates before they voted for Hogan. We really have a perverse result, don't we?

There are many ways to avoid this perversion. Some of them are:

Score voting - Voters gives each candidate a score from 1-5. (Or 1-10 or 12-68, the range is irrelevant.) In our example above, 63% of voters would have given Hogan a "1," the lowest possible score. He would have lost - and the voice of the voters would be more accurately reflected.

Approval voting - Voters look at each candidate independently and decide if they approve of that candidate or not. If they approve, they vote "yes." If they disapprove, they vote "no." The candidate with the most approval votes wins. Once again, 63% of the voters would have disapproved of Hogan and he would not have won. The voice of the voters would be more accurately reflected.

Other forms of voting exist, as well. Our slavish devotion to an absurd voting method, plurality voting, is based on nothing but tradition. Nothing. It is not in the U.S. Constitution. It is not in the Colorado Constitution. It is statutory. It can be changed by the state legislature.

But like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, people are frightened and confused by anything new.

I highly recommend "Gaming the Vote" by William Poundstone as a great nonpartisan resource on alternative voting methods.

So why do we use plurality voting? Perhaps because it is easier for the corporatist rent-seekers to control. In partisan races, third party candidates have nigh on zero chance with plurality voting. That just leaves two traditionally viable choices. It is far easier to tell the public that they must vote for one candidate over another candidate or horrible things will happen. The rent-seekers, however, don't really care who wins, as long as it is one of the two.

As a result, government gets bigger, corporatists get their money, and voters think they have a real choice between two very different candidates. (And on abortion, immigration, homosexuality and other hot-button issues voters care about, they do differ. But neither will stop the corporatism. And that's all the corporatists care about).

But what if voters could score, or approve of, 10 different candidates? It is much more likely one of those ten would buck the corporatist system. That is against the interest of those in power.

It is, however, in your interest.

C. Don't quit.

Just give it some consideration. Our current system has failed to protect individual liberty. It has allowed the Constitution to become a mere suggestion. I know many liberty minded  people hope to change the system from within. I wish you all the best.

It just appears to me, however, that such hope is misguided. For instance, if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee, our choice for President will be between two people whom believe in government run healthcare. Do you accept those two choices? Or do you believe defeating Obama is more important than limited government?  I grant we will be marginally better off with Romney than with Obama. Marginally.

But just looking at 2012 is shortsighted. It is exactly what the corporatists want us to do. If they can keep us looking ahead no more than the next election, the two-party duopoly will never end. We'll have great arguments between choosing Corporatist A or Corporatist B. And Corporatism wins.

We have to look at the next hundred years, not just the next ten months.

Dropping plurality voting is relatively painless. It is a start. It's not the only one. But it is something.

But like Andy Dufresne slowly scraping away at his jail cell, year after year, one tiny bit at a time, freedom won't come quickly. And we'll have to crawl through hundreds of yards of vile smelling foulness we can't even imagine.

But freedom is worth it. Isn't it?

Ignorant epithets should not be illegal - just condemned.

English Premier League soccer star John Terry has been accused of making racially abusive statements toward an opponent.

If he did it, (it is my understanding that there is audio or other "smoking gun" evidence), he needs our ostracism. He needs to be fined by the league. He needs to be suspended from playing games. He needs to lose endorsements. He needs to lose friends. He needs to lose respect.

He does not need to face criminal prosecution. But, indeed, he does. British prosecutors have charged Terry with a "racially aggravated public order offense." Translating the Orwellian Newspeak into English, he has been criminally charged with name-calling.

I am thankful the First Amendment protects Americans from such criminal prosecution (at least for now). The British prosecution, however, is symptomatic of a pervasive belief in this country that all problems must be addressed by the government. Name-calling, especially of the most vile kind, must be condemned. It does not follow that it must be criminalized.

Prosecution for name-calling, no matter how vile, is a dangerous precedent. Where does it end?

==== postscript:

Here is the pertinent language of the statute at issue:
Harassment, alarm or distress.
(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—
(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,
within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

Public Order Act of 1986, Chapter 64

Thus, "a person is guilty ... if he..... uses ... insulting words... within the hearing .... of a person likely to be caused .... distress therby."

Can you imagine trying to enforce such a statute at a Yankees' game? Or a political convention?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Neither tort reform nor the "War on Drugs" trump the Tenth Amendment

It is de rigueur for some politicians to declare themselves believers in constitutionally limited government.

It seems this belief is limited, all too often, when the principles of constitutionally limited government conflict with something they believe to be a "great idea."  Apparently "great ideas" trump the constitution. 

Many Republicans are proponents of tort reform. They believe frivolous lawsuits drive up the cost of doing business and that capping damages in civil lawsuits is a great idea.

There is such a bill pending in Congress. It would

"...put a three-year statute of limitations on medical lawsuits, cap non-economic damages at $250,000, and limit punitive damages to $250,000 or twice the economic damages, whichever is greater. It would apply to lawsuits in federal and state courts..."

Apparently this is such a great idea it trumps the Constitution. 

Nowhere among the enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8 is Congress given the authority to tell states how to run their civil justice systems. To argue that the Commerce Clause authorizes Congress to do so is a purely progressive notion. It is a repudiation of the Tenth Amendment. It is  repudiation of a constitutionally limited government. 

Yet it is Republicans, the party that proclaims itself the "limited government" party, that is behind this bill.

Those Republicans in favor of this bill believe tort reform trumps the Constitution.

They either do not understand what they are doing or they have very malleable principles.

Likewise, any congressperson proclaiming to be a believer in the Tenth Amendment should be working to defund the DEA's effort to crack down on medical marijuana providers in states that have legalized the plant for such use.  To the extent marijuana is planted, cultivated, harvested, sold and consumed entirely within a state, one cannot be consistent and support both the DEA enforcement of these federal laws and the Tenth Amendment. The federal government has zero legitimate authority to enforce federal laws against such medical marijuana. (Yes, I know the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to the contrary. However, the Supreme Court can declare the sun is the moon, but it does not make it so.)

The current conflict between the DEA and state law presents an excellent opportunity for states to assert their sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment. Colorado, for example, should tell the federal government that enforcement of federal marijuana laws in Colorado is ultra vires and msut be stopped. If the feds persist, the federal agents acting unconstitutionally should be arrested by local or state law enforcement. 

Of course, such action in Colorado would require not only a principled belief in the Constitution, it requires balls. Sadly, both are entirely lacking among state officials.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Three things beyond my meager ability to understand...

1. Quantum physics.

2. Women.

3. Paying $250,000 to a firm to provide a list of potential football coaches.

Denver Post sports writer Chris Dempsey reports that Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham fired football coach Steve Fairchild. CSU now needs a coach.. To that end Dempsey reports that

Graham has enlisted the help of the executive search firm Spencer Stuart to help identify candidates. At a price tag of $250,000, the firm is being charged with drafting a list in the neighborhood of '60 to 70' initial candidates.

Wow. Just wow.

I understand how space bends and why women, well, do anything better than I understand that expenditure.