Category Archives: Totty

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Rule Five Friday

2015_07_03_Rule Five Friday (1)Could conservatives and libertarians form an alliance that will launch the GOP to a new ascendency?  It’s possible.  Excerpt:

The Republican Party, broadly speaking, is comprised of many factions that are often at odds with one another. Prominent examples are the battles between the grassroots and the national party establishment and between defense hawks and non-interventionists.

Perhaps fiercer than any of these fights is the long-standing conflict between social conservatives and libertarians. But when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage last month, they created an opening for 2015_07_03_Rule Five Friday (2)a wedding between these two groups, which could benefit the Republican Party ahead of the 2016 election.

To be clear, libertarians come in many stripes. There are those who reject the political system, those who ally themselves with the Libertarian Party itself, some who are working to change the Republican Party from within, and those who would only consider voting for a Republican candidate under certain circumstances.

In the considered opinion of yr. obdt., the recent Supreme Court decision has taken a question off the table that would not have helped the GOP next fall.  Younger voters are broadly amenable to libertarian ideals and also support gay marriage by large margins; support it or not, GOP candidates can now, in response to questions on thee topic, simply 2015_07_03_Rule Five Friday (3)reply “it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks now.  Next question?”  That will turn off some (maybe many) social conservatives but appeal to many libertarians and younger voters, and it’s important to note that the former as a portion of the populace is decreasing while the latter is increasing.

Strategically it may be well to have that issue off the table.  You can talk about principles all you want, and nobody agrees more than I that principles are important, but before you can apply any of them, you first have to 2015_07_03_Rule Five Friday (4)win elections.

This decision and a proper response to them may help the GOP win a slam-dunk victory in 2016.  And given than Hillary Clinton is probably the candidate for the Dems (give Bernie Sanders a 1 in 10 long shot) it’s the GOP’s race to lose.

Never, however, should the electorate underestimate the GOP’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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Rule Five Tax Plan Friday

2015_06_26_Rule Five Friday (1)I’m liking Rand Paul’s tax plan.  Excerpt:

As he (Sen. Paul) said when he unveiled the plan on video, this is the boldest rewrite of the income tax system in 100 years. Even Ronald Reagan — who dramatically improved the federal tax system — didn’t perform such a sweeping cleanup of the tax code.

For full disclosure, I spent the last several months helping design this plan with Sen. Paul — so I’m biased. But there is no doubt that this plan, which reduces income tax rates from as high as 40% and business taxes from 35% down to a flat 14.5%, can only be described as explosively pro-growth and pro-jobs.

The 14.5% tax would apply to wages, salaries, capital gains, rents and dividend income. It eliminates the estate tax, telephone taxes, Internet taxes, gift taxes and all customs and duties.

2015_06_26_Rule Five Friday (2)This plan would take America from being one of the nations with the highest income tax rates in the world to having one of the lowest. It would suck capital and jobs from the rest of the world almost immediately to these shores.

This is the best bit:

For low-income and middle-class families of four, the first $50,000 of income would be tax-free. Moreover, because this plan eliminates the payroll tax withheld from worker paychecks, the average worker with a $40,000 income would get a $3,000 raise in take-home pay. At a time of falling wages, that would be a big boost to middle-class financial security.

Perhaps the strongest case for the Fair and Flat tax is that it eliminates all of the special interest loopholes and carve-outs in the tax code.

2015_06_26_Rule Five Friday (3)Tax lobbyists in Washington would become an endangered species — and it couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people. The richest 1% get the preponderance of the tax write-offs, so getting rid of the big deductions would increase their taxable income while lowering the rate.

This isn’t quite as good as the FairTax, but it will do.  The best part is the elimination of withholding; every taxpayer should be required to write a check to the IRS, every quarter, like us self-employed folks have been doing for years.  That will have most people a lot more concerned with what the Imperial Federal government is doing with their money, when they actually see it going to Washington; the current withholding system 2015_06_26_Rule Five Friday (4)(purposely) makes it too painless.

That’s not all Senator Paul would attempt to do if elected (Congress still has some say in these things.)  He would also like to eliminate, for one thing, the Department of Education – a good idea, as there’s no good reason or Constitutional justification for Imperial involvement in education.

To be honest, we could get rid of Commerce, Energy, the EPA and plenty of other dead weight in the Imperial City as well, but those plans may come out farther down the campaign trail.  To be honest, it’s wildly unlikely any of this will actually 2015_06_26_Rule Five Friday (5)happen, but it would go a long way towards slowing the Imperial Federal government’s fiscal disintegration.

Back to the tax plan:  The other big advantage of a plan like this would be undoing at least part of our nation’s insane obsession with punishing success, in two ways:  First, we have the highest tax rates on corporate profits in the world, and second, our tax code is so insane that nobody – not the IRS, not tax accountants, not tax attorneys, nobody – understands it.  Senator Paul’s plan would go a long ways towards addressing that as well.

Senator Paul has had some trouble getting any traction in this pre-pre-pre-campaign season, but this plan may get him some movement in the polls.  We’ll see.

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Rule Five Friday

2015_06_19_Rule Five Friday (1)Why do religious people feel the need to recruit?

I’m asking this as a serious question; I know some of you out there are religious, and this is something I’ve never heard answered to my satisfaction.  By way of telling you where I sit before I tell you where I stand, there are three aspects to my personal thoughts on the matter that apply:

First, my atheism.  I was not raised in any faith.  The Old Man is an agnostic, my mother a sort of Jefferson-style Deist, and the only thing they ever said to me about religion when I was young was that I would figure it out myself when I was old enough.  I did.  The tipping point was when I thought about what I later discovered was Descartes’s concept of duality; the idea that there is a magical “me” that transcends the physical.  I never believed that and still don’t.  Also, I never could – even as a teenager – reconcile the idea of an 2015_06_19_Rule Five Friday (2)omniscient God with the claim of man’s free will.

Second, my personal stance on individual intellectual freedom.  Robert Heinlein, speaking through his recurring character and (I always thought) personal avatar Jubal Harshaw, said “ninety percent of all human wisdom can be summed up in the words ‘Mind your own business.’”  He was right.  It doesn’t bother me if others are religious, unless (see ISIS) they try to spread their faith by force.  I admit proselytizers annoy me if they knock on my front door and try to convert me, but that’s just an annoyance and no more – unless they refuse to vacate my property when asked.

Third and finally, my take on matters social is simple, as I have repeatedly stated in these pages.  I really don’t give a damn what people do, as long as they leave me alone.  I expect that of religious proselytizers just as I do advocates of anything else from floor 2015_06_19_Rule Five Friday (3)brushes to political causes.

With those in mind, I find it impossible to understand why religious people seem to feel the need to recruit new members to their faith.  The exception seems to be Judaism; we have some close friends who are Jewish, and it seems to me that the difference is that Judaism is as much an ethnicity as a religion.  An exception on the other end is the jihadi nutbags in Islam, who wish to spread their version of Islam by force, that force including rape, beheadings and fire, but Islam is as much a socio-political system as a religion, so I won’t include that in this discussion.

I speak instead of the mainstream Christian religions.  All of them seem to feel the need to gather new recruits to their cause.  Why?  If, as Heinlein said, ninety percent of all human wisdom can be summed 2015_06_19_Rule Five Friday (4)up as “mind your own business,” then why do Christians feel the need to intrude into other people’s business by proselytizing?  You can’t convince me that you’re concerned for my soul; I don’t have one.  You can’t convince me that your God loves me; I don’t accept his existence.  So why try?

It doesn’t bother me if you believe.  In fact, if it brings you comfort and peace of mind, I say, good for you.  I don’t share your belief, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it has value to you.  I would never interfere with your free practice of your faith, in fact I once swore an oath that I would give my life in defense of your right to do so.  I still think that oath has value and still stand by the principles behind it.

2015_06_19_Rule Five Friday (5)Why – and this is the question I would really, really like answered – do you not have the same attitude in return?

This is something I’d really like to know.  I’ve asked it before and never heard an answer that didn’t refer to a Biblical injunction to do so or something along those lines, and honestly I don’t see that as sufficient justification to try to influence my belief – or non-belief.  Is there any non-Biblical reason to proselytize?  I suspect I know the answer to that, but I’ll leave that for any ensuing discussion.

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Rule Five Friday

2015_06_12_Rule Five Friday (1)You’ve got to give joke candidate Bernie “That Loopy Old Guy From Vermont” Sanders credit for one thing – he, at least, is open and unabashed about being a socialist.  That doesn’t make his economic plans any less daffy.   Excerpts and my comments:

He (Sanders) objects to “the dizzying (and socially useless) number of products in the deodorant category. (C)utting poverty and inequality is worth a reduction in innovation, and oh by the way, the kinds of things we call ‘innovation’ are often little more than new marketing gimmicks with dubious social value.” And that, friends and neighbors, is why “we should distribute the national income more evenly.”

Here is Illustration Number One of Sander’s economic illiteracy.  There is no such thing as “national income.”  Only people – individuals – have income.  And that income is not distributed, it is earned.  It is the property of those who earned it, not the property of politicians to be confiscated to purchase votes.

2015_06_12_Rule Five Friday (2)This is superficially appealing. We can all think of products that strike us as stupid and useless (Uggs? Pickle-flavored potato chips? Country music?). And we can all think of better recipients for the money spent on them: Starving children. Endangered elephants. Cancer research. In what kind of universe does Kanye West deserve millions in income while homeless veterans are eating out of garbage cans?

Much as I despise Kanye West, he deserves his millions in income because he produced a product (I hesitate to use the term “music,” but lack a suitable synonym) that millions are willing to pay him for – in a free, voluntary exchange of value.  West’s product is of no interest to me, but then, I don’t buy it, and nobody is forcing me to – nor is anyone forcing West’s fans from buying his work.  It’s all about free choice.  Leftists are supposed to be “pro-choice,” right?

Right?

But the superficial appeal quickly fades in the face of two competing considerations—one practical, the other principled.

For a peek at the practical argument, avail yourself of a fine little vignette from The Washington Post: “In an Online World, Cuba Remains a Stand-in-Line Society.” At Havana’s state-run retail hubs, reports Nick Miroff, “Customers with long shopping lists face no fewer than seven places to stand in line. One for butter. Another for cooking oil. A third for toothpaste. And so on.” The caption to a dismal accompanying photograph shows people waiting “hours for their government ration of chicken.”

2015_06_12_Rule Five Friday (3)Those of us old enough to remember the old Soviet Union will remember similar examples – long-faced people in the typically shabby, ill-fitting clothing of the Soviet Union waiting in long lines for potatoes or toilet paper.  This is, and always has been, the end result of economic policies like those promoted by Sanders.

Which brings us to the principled objection: socially useless to whom? In a world of hungry children, Jones might think it’s idiocy to spend a single cent on one more song by Kanye or Taylor Swift (and Jones would be right!). But that isn’t Jones’ choice to make for anybody except Jones. If Smith wants to waste his money on a pop singer’s latest release, he has every right to do so, and nobody else has the right to force him to do otherwise. After all: If Smith has no right to decide how he will spend his own money, then by what means does Jones, whose money it isn’t, acquire such a right?

2015_06_12_Rule Five Friday (4)Granted, this can lead to great inequalities. But that is not synonymous with injustice, as Robert Nozick explained in his Wilt Chamberlain hypothetical. (Wilt Chamberlain was a famous basketball star.) If everyone entering the arena freely agrees to pay Chamberlain a dollar for the pleasure of watching him play, then at the end of the season he will be much richer than anyone else. But since the spectators actually wanted to participate in the exchange, then no harm has been done.

This is the greater argument, this one of principle; that is the argument of property rights.  My income is my property, to dispose of as I please, whether I choose to buy concert tickets, guns, beef jerky or a different brand of deodorant for every day of the week.  Nobody – no politician, no bureaucrat, no government functionary – has the 2015_06_12_Rule Five Friday (5)right to tell me how I am or am not allowed to spend the fruits of my own labor.  (I am obliged to recognize my own dear Mrs. Animal as an exception to that rule.)

Liberty and Property!

That’s the problem with pols like Sanders – and Clinton, and Obama, and many others.  While I know the fruits of my labors are my property to be disposed as I choose, they see my income as belonging to government first, and that I should be humbly grateful for whatever crumbs they deign to leave me.

Granted Sanders is a joke candidate, in an election cycle that seems to be full of them (although daffy old Uncle Joe Biden has yet to announce, leaving the Daffy Crown up for grabs.)  But there are too many who share his economic delusions.  One of them sits in the Imperial Mansion even now.

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Rule Five Commencement Speech Friday

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday (1)It’s a bit past the usual graduation season, but here in the blogosphere you still occasionally see the usual posts on “what would I say to the graduating class of My Olde University, were I invited to give the commencement address.” So, in the unlikely event my alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa (yes, really) ever was incautious enough to offer me this chance, here’s what I might say:

“Graduates of the Class of 2015, let me be the first to extend to you my congratulations on this, your day of entry into reality.

For the last four years you have been working towards this goal, towards this day. That’s a good thing. One of the most important skills you will ever need, one of the most important ways to achieve success in the world into which you are about to enter, is the ability to formulate goals, to plan how to achieve those goals, and to see things through until you reach those goals. Today you’ve shown you can do that. Congratulations and good job.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday (1)Now, before you go out to enjoy the rest of this day, before you go out to celebrate this goal you have achieved, let me tell you a few harsh truths about the world you’re entering. I’m not going to give you any trigger warnings; if you can’t handle what I’m about to say, there’s damn little future for you out there in the real world, so cowboy up.  Moments ago I congratulated you on your day of entry into reality, so to get you started off right, here is a hefty dose of reality for you.

In spite of what you may have been told during all your years of education, nobody owes you anything, and you aren’t special. Any perceived ‘need’ you may have does not entitle you to anything – most especially, not to one red cent of the product of anyone else’s effort. If any of your professors have told you that, then they are economic illiterates, moral frauds or outright charlatans.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday (2)Our wonderful Constitution, which has stood for well over two hundred years as the founding document of our Republic, guarantees you the opportunity to your pursuit of happiness. It does not require anyone to provide you the means to your happiness at their expense. You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You have no moral claim on anyone else’s productivity. Accept that fact and you are already one step ahead of most of your peers.

You are entitled to what you have earned through your own efforts, and not:

One.

Damn.

Thing.

More.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday (3)If you are accepting a degree today in LGBT Studies, or Women’s Studies, or any of the other assorted bullshit Underwater Dog Polishing degrees our universities crank out today, then you have my sympathies. You are the victim of a fraud perpetrated by our university system, a vicious and cynical fraud that has resulted in you spending a lot of money for no gain. But more importantly, you are the victim of your own poor judgement. You decided to pursue a useless degree, and now you’re stuck. Here is another harsh reality: You are responsible for your own situation.  It’s not anybody else’s fault.  Nobody else is responsible.  You are.

Your university experience had one goal – producing a young adult with marketable skills, someone who can provide value to an employer and to the economy. In this your university has failed, and in choosing this degree, so did you. You have relegated yourself to uselessness in the workplace, and when a few years from now you are working as a barista or checkout clerk and crying over your six figures of student debt, remember what I said a few moments ago: You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You made a decision; now you get to deal with the consequences of that decision. Pull yourself up, look around at the other opportunities around you, and figure a way out of this mess your youthful indiscretion has landed you in.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday (4)But you still have one thing going for you. You have shown that you can set yourself a goal and achieve it. Do so now.

So, where do you go from here?

Because nobody owes you anything, including a living, one of the tasks ahead of you now is finding gainful employment. If you’re going to find employment, it will only be because you can demonstrate to the employer that you can provide value to him or her in excess of your costs of employment. Employment is an economic transaction.  In any free market transaction, both parties have to realize a perceived gain in value or the transaction won’t happen. If a prospective employer doesn’t think you’re able to provide value to his/her business in excess of your cost of employment, which includes not only your salary but all the extra taxes, fees and other various government extortion that you never see in your pay stub – then they won’t hire you. So be able to present yourself as someone who can provide value, in whatever field you have been studying these last few years.

Once you have gained that employment, once you are in the workplace, remember these three rules for success:

  1. Show up a little earlier than the other guy,
  2. Work a little harder than the other guy,
  3. Never pass up a chance to learn something new.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday Extras (1)Words that should never pass your lips include such things as “that’s not my job,” and “I don’t have time for that.” Your reputation in the workplace should be, to put it bluntly, the one who can get shit done. Results matter. Be the one that the boss can count on. Be the one who brings things in on time. Be the one who finishes the job. Be the one that produces value and you will never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.

Bear in mind also that you are entering the workforce as a tablua rasa as far as potential employers are concerned.  You’re not going to leave these halls and be CEO of General Motors.  You will be working in an entry level job, probably not making a lot of money, probably doing work your longer-term co-workers don’t want to do.  Suck it up.  There are no lousy jobs, only lousy people.  Any work that produces value is worth doing.  How do you know if your work is producing value?  The answer to that is trivially easy:  If someone is willing to pay you to do the work, then you are producing value.  Bear in mind also that the job belongs to the employer, not to you, and if you don’t meet the employer’s expectations, someone else will.

How do you meet those expectations?  Better yet, how do  you exceed them?  When you are doing that job, keep these things in mind:

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday Extras (1)Be known for your integrity. Don’t say anything you don’t believe and don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who means what you say and who delivers on your promises.

Be known for your reliability. Show up on time, every day, for every event. Show up on time for meetings. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who will always be there when you’re needed.

Be known for your responsibility.  If you take on a task, finish it.  If you commit to a timeline, meet it.  If you accept responsibility for something, own it.  It’s yours.  Don’t expect anyone else to take care of it for you.  Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who, when put in charge, takes charge.

Be known for your dependability. Plan your tasks to bring them in on schedule. If that means long hours, work them. If that means working a Saturday, work it. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who can get the job done.

Success isn’t a mysterious thing. It’s not that elusive and it’s not even all that hard. I did it, and you can too, but it does involve one four-letter word:

Work.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday Extras (2)Thomas Edison once said “people often fail to recognize opportunity when it knocks, because it usually shows up in overalls and looks like work.” At these commencement events it’s common to be told to follow your dreams, and that’s nice, flowery stuff, but in most cases nobody is going to pay you to follow your dreams. They will pay you to produce value, and that means work.  Follow your dreams on your own time.

Finally, I will leave you all with some unsolicited advice:

All through your life, people will promise you things. Most of them won’t deliver. Many of those people will be people seeking political office, and many more of them will be people pushing some sort of supposed business opportunity. Some years ago the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein observed a fundamental law of the universe, which law is represented by the acronym TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Remember that; if someone offers you something for nothing, they are lying. If someone is offering you something at someone else’s expense, they are offering to commit theft on your behalf. The only moral answer to such offers is outright refusal.

There are only three types of economic transactions and only one of those – a free, unfettered, voluntary exchange of value – is morally acceptable. If a transaction is done by force, that is theft. If a transaction is done by deceit, that is fraud. Have no interaction with anyone who advocates either.

Accept responsibility for your own successes. Accept responsibility for your own failures. Learn from both. Rely on yourself. Rely on your own skills, your own abilities. Many other people will let you down, but you can always rely on yourself.

2015_06_05_Rule Five Friday Extras (3)In her epic novel Atlas Shrugged, author Ayn Rand presents the protagonist, John Galt, describing his decision to solve society’s troubles by an epic act of creative destruction. He describes the ultimate moment of his decision process with two sentences, two sentences which I have found more inspiring than any long-winded ethical or political monologue ever delivered since the times of Plato and Aristotle.  These words are the very essence of the self-directed man of achievement:

‘I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.’

Those are good words to live by. Now, today, you graduates see what has to be done.

Go out and do it.

Thank you and good luck.”

If anyone was offended by anything contained in this hypothetical speech, too damn bad.

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