Life's Better Ideas

Occasional links to, and comments on, ideas that I think will make this a better world, and remarks about things that need fixing, too.

Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

Saturday, September 30, 2006

America: Freedom to Fascism

I watched America: Freedom To Fascism this evening with Jed, Nick, and Steve. It was a full house at the 8pm show which, I understand, was added only when the 7:30 show sold out. The film focused on the alleged unconstitutionality of the income tax and the efforts of producer Aaron Russo to find the truth. He covers the Federal Reserve Bank, the Council on Foreign Relations, mentions the banks who were supposed to be behind the whole thing, and interviews extensively former IRS agents and tax protesters. Congressman Ron Paul presents his views.

Russo covers the national id card, rfid chips for people, and the Ohio exit polls vs the real results. I found the Ohio exit poll part the most uncredible part of the whole film. Lets face it. Every poll has a margin of error of more than 3 percent. Bush won ohio by 51 to 49, less than the margin of error of the exit poll. The film was well received by the audience and there was clapping at a number of points in the show. It remains to be seen whether this film will motivate anyone other than the current crop of believers to do anything. There were a few conspiracy nuts in the audience.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I'm Certified!

I took this test today and scored 81 percent (62 to pass), so I'm now certified to do the work I've been doing for the last 28 years. My company needs a couple of people on staff to meet IBM's requirements to be a business partner and the boss was pushing for someone to do it. The test, like many of it's kind, was multiple guess choice about programming tools (and had some really obscure questions), and nothing about writing good quality code. But writing good quality code is sort of like obscenity. You can't define it, but you know it when you see it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hard Choices, session 3

I'm taking a course at Denver University, Hard Choices in Public Policy. The instructor is former Colorado governor Richard Lamm.

Today's class covered Education, which was also the focus of my previous post. The general consensus was that there's not much the schools can change that will improve things. Also, the modest experiments in the private sector haven't demonstrated significant improvements either. We discussed a lot of cultural factors including race, class, lack of good role models in minority communities, the women's movement, how Vietnam and Watergate seem to have changed society, not necessarily for the better.

The next class is on crime and punishment.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hard Choices, Notes 1

Gov. Lamm gave us some supplemental reading on Education, the next topic. One of the 15 or more books covered is "Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children" by Hart and Risley. Two excerpts:
There are remarkable differences in the relative amounts of children's early experience. Simply in words heard, the average welfare child was having half as much experience per hour (616 words per hours) as the average working-class child (1,251 words per hour) and less than one third that of the average child in a professional family (2,153 words per hour). These relative differences in amount of experience were so durable over the more than two years of observations that they provide the best basis we currently have for estimating children's actual life experience.

We can extrapolate similarly the relative differences the data showed in children's hourly experience with parent affirmatives and prohibitions. The average child in a professional family was accumulating 32 affirmative and 5 prohibitions per hour, a ratio of 6 encouragements to 1 discouragement. The average child in a working class family was accumulating 12 affirmatives and 7 prohibitions per hour, a ration of 2 encouragements to 1 discouragement. The average child in a welfare family, though, was accumulating 5 affirmatives and 11 prohibitions per hour, a ratio of 1 encouragement to 2 discouragements. In a 5,200-hour year, the amount would be 166,000 encouragements to 26,000 discouragements in a professional family, 62,000 encouragements to 36,000 discouragements in a working class family and 26,000 encouragements to 57,000 discouragements in a welfare family.

Simply stunning, with profound implications.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tone Deaf

More evidence that the Bush administration is tone deaf.

Hard Choices, session 2

I'm taking a course at Denver University, Hard Choices in Public Policy. The instructor is former Colorado governor Richard Lamm.

Today's class was focused on Health Care. We spent most of the class learning about the current state of affairs. Some tidbits: 58 percent of health care is paid for by some form of government. In 1960, we spent 6 percent of GNP on each of three sectors - Education, Defense, and Health Care. Today those percentages are 6, 4, and 16 respectively. It used to be that most health problems came from external events such as epidemics, but today 80 percent of health problems are self-imposed. One of the questions we need to ask is quantity vs quality of life. Much of our health care money is spent on end-of-life issues.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ballot Builder

The Rocky Mountain News has something they call Ballot Builder and it's a pretty useful tool, although I could quibble about their scoring techniques. I would prefer to see scoring on the same side of an issue as the candidate get a higher score and on different sides a lower score. I'd like to be able to give some weight to the questions, too. Stem cell research isn't nearly as important as the war. Minor party candidates are also included. Dan Ong and Dwight Harding, both Libertarians, need to get their act together and answer the questionaires.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hard Choices, session 1

I'm taking a course at Denver University, Hard Choices in Public Policy. The instructor is former Colorado governor Richard Lamm. Class size is about 22, predominantly liberal.

In today's class we talked about the culture wars. How the political parties are polarized but the electorate is not. The retirement of the baby boomers and the aging of society, and dropping fertility rates. Some people were shocked when I mentioned that red states have a 2.08 fertility rate vs 1.47 for red states. Can society be sustainably both economically and environmentally? The death tax, haves vs havenots or nows vs laters. Can the health care, social security, and long term care be solved separately or must they be solved as a single package?

It's a two hour class. Gov. Lamm lectures for 30-45 minutes followed by a free wheeling discussion. I contributed a few small facts today, like the one above, but I hope to deliver some strong opinions next time on some of these topics. It looks like we will cover several related topics over the course of several weeks which should give me and others time to think about the topic and respond.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Declaring Victory?

Well worth the read. HT sammler

Revolution of the Saints

A discussion of warfare from Clausewitz to the present day and the shortcomings of the current thinking. A must read for those of us interested in and supportive of the war on the jihadis. HT austinbay

Friday, September 08, 2006

Ballot Issues 2006

There are 14 amendments on this November's Colorado ballot. You can read all about them at the state legislature's web site.

Here's how I'll probably vote:
38) Petitions - Yes;
39) School Spending 65% - Yes;
40) Judges Term Limits - Yes;
41) Govt Ethics Restrictions - No;
42) Minimum Wage - No;
43) Marriage Definition - No;
44) Marijuana - Yes;
E) Property Tax Break for Disabled Vets - No;
F) Recall Deadlines - No;
G) Remove Obsolete Provisions from Constitution - Yes;
H) Limit Deductibility of Illegal Workers Wages for Business - No;
I) Domestic Partnerships - Yes;
J) School Spending Including Admin Expenses - No;
K) Sue Feds over Immigration - No

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Required Reading

for minor party candidates.


is lovely this time of year. HT instapundit

Furniture Manufacturer Profits

I was discussing Furniture Manufacturer profits with Walt who made the claim that profits were in the 75% range. Here's some real numbers for 3 publicly traded companies from the October 2005 issue of ValueLine, which is the latest issue I have since I stopped subscribing late last year. All numbers are for Fiscal Year 2005.

NameSymbolSales(Mil)Profits (Mil)Profit Pct
Bassett FurnBSET$33512.03.5%
Ethan AllenETH$94980.08.4%
Furniture BrandsFBN$240075.03.1%

The Securities and Exchange Commission will have more up to date numbers.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Reform Caucus debate

UPDATE: More posts below.

There's been considerable discussion on Libertarian Reform Caucus discussion lists about a short/tiny platform consisting of single sentence positions on 10-15 issues. I took exception to the foreign policy statement which reads as follows:

10. Bring our brave troops home from Iraq, maintain a strong national defense, and secure our borders.

Here's the rest of the discussion:

Robert Capozzi:

Including Iraq might become moot by 08. It will certainly date the document, whereas all the other points will probably be relevant for at least 10 years. We could go with this language, and – with any luck – adjustments could be made in 2010, if we’re out.

Anyone troubled by the Iraq inclusion?

David Aitken

Yes, I have serious, deal-breaker problems with #10. Whether or not you think Iraq is unpopular, in the real world there are real people who want to totally destroy western civilization, not alone because of our foreign policy, but because we, you and I, are not radical Islamofascists. Appeasement is not an option (and that's what you're doing by exiting Iraq), unless you want to be a second class slave for the rest of your life. Sometimes politicians have to do what's right, not what's popular.

Steven J Burden

I have been called a 'hawk' many times--it of course has nothing to do with the fact that I am retired military, speak Arabic, am considered a middle eastern expert by some, and was part of the UNSCOM inspections teams in Iraq--but even I can agree with this statement: I want my friends home, I support a strong defense and secure borders. As there is no timeframe specified, this statement is great to me because it allows all viewpoints and basic libertarian ideas.

David Aitken

I understand your viewpoint, but to me the statement ignores reality. I see that we have 4 options: 1) become second class citizens under Sharia law; 2) convert to Islam, 3) fight with everything we've got (which we are not doing) to preserve western values which, imo, are superior to other sets of values; and 4) die. Doing nothing will get you 1 or 2. If there are more options, I would like to know what they are.

Putting off the fight until some time in the future when it might be more popular is the cowards way out. The future is here, now. The fight, which we have ignored for more than 20 years, will be easier now than later.

IMO, options 1 and 2 will take a relatively long time to happen; you and I might not be around when they do. But if you love your family, and liberty as well, then I think you have an obligation to see that western civilization, and the values we love, survive.

My interpretation of any position that does not explicitly deal with the jihadist threat is that supporters are comfortable with options 1,2, or 4. I'm not, so, reluctantly, the only other option is to fight.

Steven J Burden

I can't agree more. I realize it; you realize it. But there are a lot of Cindy Shehan's out there. A lot of people don't want to know. Or they don't want the world to be that way. (not that I do, but hey, it is what it is)

The thing here is that the platform is not the place to put the 'fall on your sword' statements. That is reserved for your campaign. We are attempting to be as inclusive as possible, while still maintaining
libertarian concepts.

I agree, but there are a lot of people out there who don't. We are trying to build a platform upon which we can all base our candidacies.

David Aitken

Well, how about:

10. Preserve our western values of liberty and justice, maintain a strong national defense, and secure our borders.

M Carling

You have an implicit premise here that I don't agree with. Specifically, that fundamentalism can win in the marketplace of ideas.

Let's back up and take a look at fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is the belief that literal scripture trumps science. Good education is a vaccine against fundamentalism.

The war in Iraq is not a war against fundamentalism. We have replaced a secular tyrant who fought al qaeda at every turn with a democratically elected fundamentalist government that is sympathetic to al qaeda. There is no benefit to us from such a fight.

David Aitken

I don't think that fundamentalism can win in the marketplace of ideas either. Problem is, this is not a marketplace of ideas; it's a war. The jihadists don't negotiate; they don't listen to reason or science; they show up on your doorstep and blow themselves up. In some respects, they are more dedicated to their cause than we are to ours.

What Iraq has done is opened up a marketplace of ideas in the middle east. For the first time in hundreds of years, people are thinking about and discussing, and yes, fighting about the different ways to organize society.

Your preference for stability is implicit support for police states all over the world. Is that the side you want to be on?


That's where the debate stands right now. I realize my statements just above are a bit contradictory on the "marketplace of ideas" theme, but I haven't figured out how to deal with it. Any ideas?

UPDATE More posts:

Robert Capozzi

David, a coupla comments:

D: Intelligence on outside threats is, of course, necessary for the security of the nation. What is also necessary is a plan to deal with those threats.

B: I don’t disagree that a “plan” is necessary. I do, however, disagree that the PLATFORM is the proper vehicle for that.

D: In the last 20 years, the LP has never had any plan to deal with them, and given the sentiments expressed by a majority of the members, is not likely to have a credible one soon. Which means that the LP will not have any credibility when it comes to national security issues and will therefore not have any credibility in national election contests.

B: Under the model we’re suggesting, David, “credibility” will largely be a function of the positions that candidates take. And, given how poorly the Iraq War is going, an articulate LP candidate COULD make the point that Iraq was a mistake, but that we should be eternally vigilant against the jihadists.

D: That's why Kerry lost and that's one reason why Democrats and Libertarians will continue to lose.

B: Maybe in Kerry’s case. I think he was a weak, waffling, double-talking candidate on a range of issues. Libertarians will continue to lose for a while, even if we reformers are wildly successful.

D: So, what's the LP's plan to deal with the next version of Hitler? Thinking voters want to know.

B: Now, here, David, I have to question the credibility of this view. I simply don’t see the jihadists as the sort of threat that Hitler was. I’ve seen no evidence of that.

David Aitken

I would agree that the platform is not the place for a full blown plan. But nothing I've seen about platform statements has even hinted that a plan exists. I would argue that the platform is a place to at least mention that we do have a plan, and what the major components of that plan are.

In the 20 years I've been a member, I've never heard any LP candidate say anything other than "bring the troops home". None of them have even acknowledged that jihadists even exist, let alone that they might be a threat.

Here's some information on the individual who might be the next Hitler: Column by Victor Hanson

Carl Milsted

I side with David on such things. We do need a credible anti-terrorist policy.
That said, there are tools in the libertarian playbook which can help:

1. Ending the War on Drugs would reduce the funding of many terrorist entities. (But we would need reassuring points to deal with the hard drugs: full legalization of marijuana, strict controls over cocaine and opiates, etc.)

2. Use a tariff on foreign oil to defund radical Islam (which is heavily funded by the Saudis).

3. Practice approval voting at home to set an example for use by countries which suffer from deep divisions.

These may not be sufficient, but they are extremely useful. They reduce the need for increased powers for the NSA, CIA, etc.

Steven J Burden

I tend to side wit David on this type of thing, too. But to me the platform is not the place to put the policy.

I have no problem with having a policy, but what I think might work, does not fit with the pacifist strategies we support in the LP…not as it stands right now. I have spent many a night discussing this with others who have a lot of experience in the Middle East. And we did it long before 9/11. 9/11 was the wakeup call for Americans; it was not the wakeup call for those few who had spent time in the Middle East. This threat has been there for a long, long time.

Couple of general observations:

1) Arabs (as distinct from Moslems) profess to love Americans and hate American policies and American power. They like it when America is idealistic or stupid or both (ala’ Carter) and they hate it when America is pragmatic and arrogant (ala’ Regan) Part is due to the basic selfishness of all people. They like it when we are weak and giving, and they hate it when we are strong and stingy. Arab males—who rule the society—are spoiled brats who always want it their way. If we let them come out on top—through stupidity or weakness—they like us. They are the real top dogs in their minds. As individuals they can feel superior, as a nation they cannot. That offends them. We are not Muslims; we are not the true superiors, since we are only people of the book, like Jews: By definition, second-class citizens. Arabs—as they are now—will never peacefully co-exist with anyone who they perceive as being more important, or powerful then they are. It is not a plot, it is just they way they have been programmed from the day they were born.

2) Since its inception, Islam is an aggressive religious and social belief system. It is not like modern-day Christianity or Judaism which have lost most of the social portions nullified. It always has had a much stronger social/legal system than either. Like Christianity, but unlike Judaism, it has also always had a strong element of conversion, in a typical, practical Arab way: Islam was to conquer an area, then institute a Islamic social and legal system, and allow other religions to co-exist—as second class citizens who where discriminated against and had to pay a special tax because until they converted, they could not serve in the military. If you ain’t Moslem, you ain’t shit.

3) The only ‘big boy on the block’ MUST be a Moslem. Thus the problem with Israel; and the problem with ANY other nation which is not Moslem. Never forget, it is in base a very practical belief system. If you are nice to them when they are down, they appreciate it at the time, but later they resent it. It just rubs their faces into the fact that they are not on top. The practical people that they are, they know they can use or oil dependence—and our public, 20 year old fear of the impact of that dependence—to control us. Regardless of the fact that the real impact on the American public was cause by the Nixon administration’s price controls. (Ever notice how the gas lines never happened in the 79-80 boycott, which happened in the 73 boycott?)

4) In the practical sense, there is a lot we can do to mitigate this attitude:

a) Cut Israel loose; they are the big boys on the block in the region; let them do what they think they need to do. Sell them any weapons we wish, but give them nothing.

b) Stop applying the Carter Doctrine. Since oil has become a commodity; it is traded on the spot and open markets, we no longer need to consider threats to the middle east a strategic threat. (Carl, tariffs to control the free market is one of the reasons I am an L…please don’t start tossing that word about!)

d) Stop interfering in other countries—economically or militarily—unless they are supporting or present a threat to the US homeland or those countries with which we have treaties. So we need to re-think our treaties. Iraq was supporting Al-Qieda via money and training back as far as 1992. They were paying the families of suicide bombers between 10 and 25 grand if they died attacking our ally, Israel. Sorry, but true. We destroyed TONS of biological weapons and components to Nuclear weapons up until I left as an inspector in Feb 1997. That was a real threat, from a realist, Saddam, who understood America was hamstrung by the belief that we needed the international community (the UN)—ie, consensus—to validate if we were in the right or not.

c) Realize we can never get the pacifists--US and European--to defend themselves via aggression. And of course, when they are rudely awakened with a bullet in the head, we would go down with them. So develop a missile defense system ASAP.

5) But the really, really big thing we need to accomplish, is to somehow or another, get the American people to get real, and the laugh the MSM pacifist propaganda machine out of business. If we lose the will to fight (which we have) we will ALWAYS lose the fight. Even a voluntary military cannot do it. They love to fight, that is why they joined, but if we don’t show the same will, even though we don’t suffer the actual consequences, they will lose. As they are now. We have to have to balls to suffer the body bags because we believe in what we—as a nation—are fighting for—if we lose that, we need to stop being the big boy on the block.

a) Bush was right, but he misjudged the will of the American people. Everyone was pissed after 9/11. We won Afghanistan because it was short, it was obvious, and we were united. Good stuff.

b) He outlined the ‘Axis of Evil’ Iraq, Iran and North Korea. I have played out many operational plans in the military, and of the three, tactically, Iraq was the easiest. None was a direct threat to the US homeland other than through support of Terrorist opertions: NK was only threatening its neighbors and totally looney. Iran was only threateneing Israel via Hizbollah (Started by the Iranian Pazdaran Special Ops forces in the Bekaa Valley after the last time the Israeli’s got pissed about getting rockets and such fired over an international border) I can tell you a lot about the Hizbollah. The other issue with Iran is that it is a nightmare for invasion. Iraq wasn’t. It was tactically the easiest, as well as being both a threat to both the US and the Israeli’s via its well know training, equipping and funding anti-us and anti-israeli forces.

Larry Nicholas

Surprising to find another L with the same views that I have. We have a few in my county of like mind. Today's world is not the world of 225 years ago. There are threats to our country that aren't close to our borders.

I also have the view that in today's world, we can't tolerate so much of the world's population living under dictators who don't feed their people and maintain power by force. I don't know the answer to all the world problems, and maybe we need to slap Europe and get them to do their part, but I'm certain that our actions in the middle east are absolutly necessary and a big jump in the right direction. It may take years, decades but it's worth it.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

More evidence

that the government is completely stupid.
Among Lehman's questions was this: "Were you aware that it was the fine airlines if they have more than two young Arab males in secondary questioning because that's discriminatory?" ... "They said under oath that indeed the Department of Transportation continued to fine any airline that was caught having more than two people of the same ethnic persuasion in a secondary line for line for questioning, including and especially, two Arabs."
HT classicalvalues via anchoress