Thursday, May 21, 2015

It Bugs Me

Column for week of May 18, 2015

     The best our esteemed legislators could do for fixing the
roads was to offer a plan so gruesome that four out of five
voters rejected it.  This was a historic smack down.  No other
proposed amendment to the present Michigan constitution was
so thoroughly drubbed.  Until now I suspected that it might be
impossible for the legislators to come up with something that
voters would so soundly reject.

     Now that the sales tax increase and all of its baggage
are road kill in the rear view mirror the legislators can get on
with important matters.  One of those pending matters is a bill
to designate an official state insect.  The current nominee is the
ladybug.

     There are supposedly over 5,000 types of ladybugs.  I
don't know if there are as many types of gentlemen bugs.  Do I
see a hint of gender discrimination?  The proposed law doesn't
specify which of the ladybugs is to be honored.  Perhaps each
will get a turn.  We could have a different state insect each day
for more than 13 years.  I'm so excited I can barely type. That
is no big deal.  I can barely type when I'm not excited.

     Perhaps we should limit the honor to ladybugs that live
in Michigan.  Naturally this will require appointment of a
subcommittee to study and identify the ladybugs living in
Michigan.  This could take years.  Don't even ask what it will
cost.

     The bigger question is, How much longer can we
survive without an official state insect?  The legislators have
been fumbling the ball on this one for longer than they have
been tripping over pot holes.

     Speaking of potholes, Why not have the legislators take
time off from choosing bugs and go fill some pot holes?  For
what we are paying them, we ought to get a bit of useful work
out of them.

     In recent years four bills have been offered to designate
the monarch butterfly as the official state insect.  What chance
do ladybugs have in a contest where the mighty and colorful
monarch failed four times?  Is it possible that there are
unenlightened heathens who don't recognize our dire need for
an official state insect?

     The nomination of the green darner dragonfly also
failed to gain ratification as the official state bug.  It appears to
be more difficult to get an official state bug confirmed in
Michigan than to get a Supreme Court justice confirmed in D.
C.

     Is it possible that the legislature will choose the brown
Japanese ladybugs?  They are the ones that congregate on the
south side of my house every October and then attempt to
sneak inside for the winter?  Even I might be ever so slightly
offended if they chose those pests.  Besides, wouldn't it be
unpatriotic to designate a recently arrived foreigner as the
official state bug?  At least it wouldn't be quite as bad as
choosing the Japanese betels that eat my raspberries.

     The last time I checked Michigan had an official state
bird.  I believe that at the time someone was campaigning to
replace it.  I don't know who won.  What would happen if the
official state bird ate the official state insect?  Perhaps the
result could be designated the official state indigestion.

     Other matters the legislators have pondered include
designation of an official state poem and official state cookie. 
How about considering a return to a part time legislature?  A
legislature that has time to worry about an official state insect
and state cookie has far too much time on its hands.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Tax Dollars at Work

Column for week of May 11, 2015

     The headline was an eye catcher -- "Ohio killer caught
after more than 50 years on the run."  Just seeing the headline
will likely make some people feel safer.  What is more
dangerous and threatening than a killer on the loose?

     Headlines are written to attract attention to the articles,
not to accurately describe them.  This headline was up to its
job.  On the other hand, the article was worth reading.  The
real message of the story wasn't that anyone was safer because
a killer had been removed from circulation.

     The killer was convicted of manslaughter for running
into and killing a pedestrian in 1957.  His sentence was one to
20 years in prison.  This sentence was suspended by the judge
who placed the killer on probation.  Apparently even then the
judge didn't believe the defendant was public enemy number
one.

     The defendant was eventually sent to prison for
violating probation by getting a drivers license.  "Man
apprehended for getting a drivers license 56 years ago" might
not be an exciting headline.  It would be far more accurate
though.  The man escaped from a prison camp in 1959.

     The killer was caught once before in West Virginia in
1975.  The governor of West Virginia refused to grant
extradition to Ohio.  After that the man was released and
moved on.  Apparently he still hadn't been promoted to public
enemy number one.

     Even based on what we have seen so far, Why was
Ohio spending time and tax dollars to find this man who was
now almost 80 years old?  Ohio must be a really safe place if
it faces no greater threats to public safety.

     Law enforcement and imprisonment should be about
making the world a safer place, not about some detective
scoring a headline grabbing catch.  How much better off is
anyone in Ohio for having the privilege of paying to catch and
imprison this 79 years old convicted of manslaughter?  Of
course, the Ohio taxpayers might get a break.  Perhaps the
governor of Florida will follow the example set by the
governor of West Virginia and refuse to grant extradition.

     This is a reoccurring story.  Individuals who have
escaped the grip of government get caught after decades of
living a clean life.  What are the benefits of spending a small
fortune to then send them to prison?

     Such imprisonments are merely blind allegiance to
arbitrary rules.  Anytime people blindly enforce rules without
any understanding of, or regard for, the purpose of the rule,
foolishness happens.  Such foolishness is merely an example of
zero tolerance run amok.

     Rules serve one legitimate purpose.  That is to be
guides to harmonious, peaceful living.  Any rule enforced
without regard for its purpose is a trap waiting to spring on
someone.  Rules that become ends in themselves are disasters
waiting to happen.

     Bureaucrats usually lose sight of the purpose for the
rules.  Even if they recognize the purpose of the rule, they are
commonly discouraged from considering the purpose when
enforcing the rule.  This is one of the big reasons why
government is so ham handed and counter productive.

     There is an interesting sidelight to the story of the day. 
The killer was convicted for being a bad and dangerous driver. 
For years after that the man worked as a truck driver.  During
this time apparently he never did anything worthy of legal
attention.

     Perhaps some still believe the man has not been
adequately punished for getting a drivers license in the 1950s. 
Might having to live on the run for 56 years be almost enough
punishment?

     These "justice delayed" stories sometimes end with a
different twist.  I recently read of a man who turned himself in
after years on the run.  It wasn't a matter of conscience of
tiring of life on the run.  It was his way of seeking medical
treatment he couldn't afford.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, May 7, 2015

It Is All About Individuals

Column for week of May 4, 2015

     Some people, especially politicians, wax elegant about
the need for individuals to sacrifice for the good of society, or
the common good.  They are either liars or ignoramuses, or at
least twisting words.

     Only individuals enjoy satisfaction and suffer
dissatisfaction.  Whenever any individual sacrifices his
satisfaction, the sacrifice either benefits other individuals, or no
one.  Those who claim individuals should sacrifice for the
common good in reality advocate that some should, at their
own expense, serve others.

     In addition, only individuals can act.  Everything we
have is either the product of nature or of the efforts of one or
more individuals.  Most of what we have is the fruits of nature
greatly enhanced by the efforts of individuals.  The sum of the
fruits of individual actions equal everything we have.  Some of
those individual actions are negative.  Such actions make us
poorer rather than richer.

     Those negative acts include theft, destruction, and
interfering with the productivity of others.  It might be argued
that individuals sacrificing for society only means that
individuals should sacrifice their negative actions.  That is,
individuals should quit stealing, destroying and interfering.

     It doesn't take much thought to see that this in not the
sacrifice that politicians demand.  Most of the negative actions
are perpetrated, or at least sanctioned, by government.  Anyone
in favor of reducing negative actions would be for shrinking
government by eliminating its actions that have negative
impacts on the productivity and satisfaction of individuals.

     That which is negative to one may be positive to
another.  Certainly the thief may gain satisfaction from his loot. 
When government takes from some to give to others it follows
the game plan of the common thief.  When government keeps
part of the loot, usually most of it, government employees and
other accomplices benefit from the sacrifice they impose on the
victims.

     Some claim that government must take from some to
help the poor and needy.  Considering how little of the loot
trickles through to the poor, I defy anyone to make an honest
and convincing argument that the poor are better off relying on
government rather than private, voluntary charity.

     The case grows far weaker for corporate welfare to
Hollywood, sports stadiums, banks, manufacturers, etc.  The
claim that such welfare is essential to create jobs is bogus. 
Most of the jobs promised to result from corporate welfare
never materialize.

     The few jobs created are insignificant compared to the
millions of new jobs created every year by the private sector. 
It takes millions of new jobs every year just to replace the jobs
lost in the changing economy.

     Government is run by an elite, and usually exploitive,
ruling class.  The members pursue their satisfaction, not yours. 
Government is so vast and so opaque that voters have almost
no impact on it beyond a few hot button issues.  How can any
voter possibly keep track of the tens of thousands of
government actions?

     If the voters simply demand that the politicians shrink
government, the ruling class's response is predictable.  They
will, with straight faces and voices dripping with sincerity, say
that the only thing they can cut is whatever the voters want the
most.

     For so long as voters can be conned into sacrificing for
the wealthy ruling class, be sure that the ruling class will
demand and accept the sacrifice.  False gods always demand
sacrifices.

     Our only way out is to recognize and defend the rights
of individuals to live their lives free from the "Sacrifice to us,
or we will hurt you" demands of the ruling class.  The only
greater enemies we face are those among us who are blind to
the reality that government is controlled by a deeply and firmly
entrenched ruling class.  The quarrels between Republicans and
Democrats are nothing more than family squabbles.  Neither
has any intention of saving us from the other.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Are You Ready for Extortion?

 Column for week of April 27, 2015

     On May 5 Michigan voters will be asked to approve a
$2 billion tax increase.  Of course, the $2 billion is only a
starter.  With time and inflation the tax increase will grow. 
The $2 billion tax increase is the price our "public servants"
demand before they will do anything to fix the roads.

     The legislature says only 65 percent of the tax increase
will be spent on transportation.  Transportation is loosely
defined to include mass transit and recreational grants.  The
remaining 35 percent is the price our "public servants" demand
in exchange for their tossing a few of our dollars at pot holes.  
They say "Give us an extra $700 million dollars to squander as
we see fit or we won't allow the roads to be fixed." This is
extortion.

     Will voters grovel and lick the politicians' boots while
expressing gratitude for the crumbs?   Or, will the voters stand,
scream "No way," and boot out the extorting politicians at the
next election?

     Those politicians who can't find money to fix the roads
are spending hundreds of millions on corporate welfare,
including millions for "impoverished" Hollywood movie
makers.  The claim is that those gifts create jobs.

     The number of jobs promised is insignificant.  The
number delivered is even smaller.  Also, they fail to deduct the
jobs that would have been created by taxpayers spending their
own money.

     In addition substantial amounts of highway tax revenue
are now diverted to non road uses such as city buses.  The only
justification for the high tax on motor fuel is that it serves as a
toll where by road users pay for the roads they use.  Diversion
to any other purpose, worthy or not, is the kind of breach of
trust we have grown too accustomed to.

     Some legislators claim there is no other plan to fix the
roads.  They want us to believe it is either submit to extortion,
or potholes forever.  An alternate plan was introduced in the
legislature in December 2014.  It included a way to provide
money for roads without raising taxes.  I don't recall the details
of the plan.  The important point is that its existence proves
that those saying there is no alternative are either liars or suffer
from severe amnesia.  Either way they don't belong in the
legislature.

     If the legislature's great plan didn't include a sales tax
increase it wouldn't require voter approval.  There is no reason
why sales tax should be involved in road work.  Use road tax
money and only road tax money for the roads.  And, spend
road tax money only on roads.

     The politicians included more money for schools in
their package.  Every scam must include "Do it for the
children."  No matter how much money we pour down the rat
hole of failed schools, many voters still fall for the claim more
money will fix the schools.  Never mind that the worst schools
are already getting the most money.  Failed schools, like any
other failed enterprises, need to be junked and replaced.  There
is ample evidence that fixes don't work.

     There is another neat feature to the tax package. 
Vehicle registration charges used to be based on vehicle
weight.  This made sense.  Weight bears some relation to how
much vehicles damage the roads.

     Then the politicians changed the formula and charged
based on price of the vehicle.  Price has nothing to do with
road damage.  At least they let the registration charges decrease
as the vehicle aged.  The May 5 tax package eliminates that
decrease.  If you drive a worn down old car you will pay an
annual fee based on what it cost new.  When you are on a roll,
Why not rip off the low income people too?

     I'm voting NO on the May 5 sales tax increase and all
its baggage.  A NO vote will also be a stick in the eye for the
conniving politicians trying to ram the garbage down the
taxpayers' throats.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Is It Happening Again?

Column for week of April 20, 2015

     A news item at Bloomberg News reports that the gulf
stream in the North Atlantic is slowing down for the first time
since 900.  The gulf stream caries warm water north from the
tropics warming the North Atlantic and surrounding area,
including Europe.  Slowing of the gulf stream could cause
cooler, dryer weather in the North Atlantic region.

     Supposedly the cause of the slowing is melting ice
diluting the salt water in the ocean.  So far this all sounds
reasonable.  The force that drives the gulf stream is the
difference in pressure between the cold, dense North Atlantic
and the warmer, lighter tropical water to the south.  The light
water is forced up by the heavier water from the north.  This
creates a hill in the tropical ocean.  Water flows endlessly north
being replaced by cold northern water.  The cold water warms
and then flows north too.

     Fresh water from melting ice is less dense than salt
water.  Thus, it reduces the pressure that drives the  gulf stream. 
For this to continue there must be an endless supply of fresh
water.  Otherwise, the fresh water soon mixes with the salt
water.  Then the gulf stream returns to its faster flow. 

     So far we are talking science.  Then the article jumps the
fence into politics.  It claims the recent slowing of the gulf
stream is caused by man made global warming.  Few, if any,
people would even dare to claim that the slowdown in 900 was
caused by humans.  Why aren't they considering that the current
slowdown may be caused by the same natural forces that caused
the one in 900?

     The year 900 was during the Medieval Warm Period that
peaked around 1100.  Then the world slid into the Little Ice Age
that held on until the mid nineteenth century.  For 150 years or
so the world has slowly and intermittently warmed a degree or
so from the Little Ice Age.  There is no reason to believe that
the world is as warm today as in 1100.  Likewise there is no
reason to believe the present warming has different causes than
the warming during the Medieval Warm Period.

     If the slowing of the gulf stream cools and drys the air
over the North Atlantic, it will slow the ice melt.  This will
restore the density of the North Atlantic.  This in turn will
restore the speed of the flow in the gulf stream.  As is so often
the case, nature will have restored its own equilibrium.

     Of course saying that the current slowing of the gulf
stream is merely repetition of a age-old phenomenon is barely
news worthy.  For anyone who isn't a gulf stream fanatic, it
would be a yawner.

     The fashion of the day is to blame every ripple in our
ever changing weather and oceans on man made global warning,
sometimes called anthropogenic (Can you believe I spelled that
right on my first try?) warming.  Scare mongers like big scary
sounding words.

     Human activity may be causing some warming.  It is well
established that building and paving a major city creates an
urban heat island.  The effect of this on average world
temperature is incredibly small.

     The "proof" of carbon dioxide caused warming is almost
all based on computer models that exaggerate warming and
completely missed the current pause in warming.  We should
back off on draconian actions to prevent man made global
warming, at least until we find data that show dangerous
warming is actually occurring.

     So far we have had three warming periods of 20 years or
so since 1860.  The warming periods were separated by cool
periods of 30 or so years each.  Most of the warming was prior
to 1940.  Most of the carbon dioxide was produced after 1940.

     The warming periods simply don't match the carbon
dioxide emissions.   Those who claim that the carbon dioxide
caused the warming have a lot of 'splanin' to do.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How Infantile Are They?

Column for week of April 13, 2015

     Some people are different, really different.  They do
unbelievable things.  I have grown accustomed to this.  When I
hear of someone doing something I would never even imagine
doing, I don't usually jump to the conclusion that it can't
possibly be true.

     A recent article from Reason.com strained my limits.  If
it had been April first I might not have believed it.  The article
was about safe space on college campuses.  There is nothing
wrong with safe space.  The world would be a better place if
all space was safe from violence.  The space in question wasn't
designed to protect against violence.  It was a place to flee
from frightening ideas.

     The Reason article quotes Judith Shulevitz as follows
regarding safe space at Brown University: "The safe space, Ms.
Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find
comments 'troubling' or 'triggering,' a place to recuperate.  The
room was equipped with cookies, coloring books,
bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a
video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and
staff members trained to deal with trauma.  Emma Hall, a
junior, rape survivor and 'sexual assault peer educator' who
helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate,
estimates that a couple of dozen people used it.  At one point
she went to the lecture hall -- it was packed --  but after a
while, she had to return to the safe space. 'I was feeling
bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my
dearly and closely held beliefs,' Ms. Hall said."

     My first thought is, Why would someone terrified by
new ideas even set foot in a university?  Next thought, Why
would a real university cater to such a phobia, rather than
seeking to cure it?  One more thought, How has our society
reared children with infantile minds to physical adulthood?

     I see two threads that may help sew this together.  One
is the obsession with self esteem.  Earned self esteem is a good
thing.  Unwarranted self esteem can be a killer.

     Imagine a falling down drunk who feels good about
himself.  Why should he change if he is pleased with himself?
Giving everyone a trophy doesn't encourage effort and self
improvement.

     The second thread is the claim that all beliefs are
equally good.  We must not criticize anyone's beliefs and make
them feel bad.  Why would a college student break down into a
babbling blob merely because her beliefs were challenged? 
Most likely because those beliefs were never challenged before
and she has no idea how to defend them.

     In all probability those beliefs were passed on to her by
others who merely said "believe me."  They provided no
foundation or reasons why the beliefs were valid.

     Individuals who feel good about their beliefs and have
never faced challenges to those beliefs are in beyond their
depth when they venture beyond the intellectual wading pool. 
They certainly aren't ready for a real college.  And, a college
that isn't willing, and even eager, to challenge students isn't
ready for real students.

     Pretending to make the world idiot proof retards
development.  People need to take responsibility for their own
lives, including their safety.  Encouraging people to believe
everything is safe to buy and use only discourages them from
developing beyond infancy.  It also makes them less safe by
lulling them into believing their world is far safer than it is.

     As someone observed, attempts to make the world idiot
proof only produce more idiots.  I believe "idiot" is the wrong
word though.  "Fool" fits better.  Very bright people can still
do very foolish things.

     All of the above and more converge to assure adult
bodies are occupied and controlled by infantile minds.  This
shreds the fabric of civilization.  We stagger toward the point
of no return.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Are There Reasons for Hope?

Column for week of April 6, 2015

     A look back over the years can be quite depressing. 
Liberty has been trampled as long as I can remember.  Even a
cursory glance at history reveals the stomping was in full swing
before I arrived.  People in the USA are far less free than when
I was born.

     Liberty has gained ground in a few small corners.  It is
no longer illegal to sell yellow margarine, or to sell milk in
gallon jugs.  On the other hand, it is now illegal to sell raw
milk in any container.

     The law making it illegal to own gold fell by the
wayside.  That repeal came at a high price.  Our money is no
longer backed by gold.  It is merely ink splashed on paper by
the government.  That is why a dollar is now worth about what
a nickel was worth when I was born.

     Before World War II about 5 percent of workers needed
government permission to pursue their work.  Now 30 percent
have to jump through government hoops and get licenses to
work.  This has little to do with health and safety, and
everything to do with protecting established service providers
from competition.  How many people have died from bad
interior design, poorly arranged flowers, or bad hair braiding?

     Government controls the size, shape, color and location
of your house, as well as how far your cupboards are above the
floor.  It also controls what you plant or don't plant in your
yard.  A Michigan man was jailed for not planting grass.  An
elderly woman was cited for planting herbs instead of grass.

     I have watched government ride roughshod over us for
decades.  When I spoke out most people's eyes glazed over.  If
it didn't affect them personally, they didn't care.  If it did affect
then, they learned to live with it.  I doubted that the sheep
would wake up until they were in the slaughterhouse.

     I now see some signs of people rattling their chains. 
Civil asset forfeiture went big time in the 1960s.  A cop or
prosecutor would claim property was somehow involved in a
crime.  Government seized the money, house, car, whatever
without warning, or any kind of court hearing.

     The cops keep the property, unless the owner proves the
property innocent.  Sometimes the owner has to post bond for
the privilege of trying to reclaim his property.  Try posting
bond or hiring an attorney when everything you own has been
taken from you.  This is nothing more than legal theft.  In 80
percent of the cases the owner isn't even charged with a crime.

     Finally civil asset forfeiture is on the radar.  Politicians
are talking about the abuse.  Two states outlawed it.  Even the
national government has tweaked it down a bit.  Politicians are
followers, not leaders.  If they see votes to be had by reining in
civil asset forfeiture they will do it.

     Government kills people wholesale by denying them
access to medical treatment that hasn't endured years,
commonly a decade or more, of testing.  This wanton killing is
outrageous.  Until recently few seemed to care.  Some states
are now considering laws to restore some of the right for
individuals to have the treatment they chose.  There is a bill in
Congress to back down national restrictions on the access to
new treatments.

     Even those who hate marijuana should be thrilled that
marijuana prohibition is staggering on its last legs.  We all pay
the price of prohibition with little or no benefit.  Drug use rolls
on.  Criminals grow rich.  The police are distracted and
corrupted.  Perfectly good employees are fired and perhaps sent
to jail.  Families are broken and welfare rolls expanded.  Those
who profit from the war on drugs would block the ending of
prohibition if it weren't for the ever growing pressure from the
people.

     Perhaps people are finally fed up enough to stand up for
the liberty to control their own lives.  Perhaps there is some
reason for hope.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum