People may wonder why I don’t typically engage in long, circular internet arguments. That’s because I’ve been there and done that many times. I was engaging in pointless digital arguments long before the internet was a thing, much less a cool or hip thing where everyone lived. This old fashioned debate involved BBS discussions dialing up to single systems and browsing for a little while and leaving. It’s very old, and very repetitive….even when the arguments are over Gigabit fiber.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun and educational exercise to throw thoughts out there and see what sticks, or to try a certain flavor of rhetoric and see who likes and doesn’t like it. But after awhile you start to realize that it’s the same old thing over and over again. There really isn’t much new out there. And it’s pretty rare to actually see someone change their mind.
So, it’s only really interesting now when something actually does change. A couple key things have here and there. Thus, I’m noting them.
The first thing is Europe. I tend to fall on the libertarian/conservative side of pop-political thought, and for years my friends on the more liberal/progressive end had one wild card they could always play:
“Well look at Europe! At age 5 they give everyone a free puppy! And they get 7 months vacation and retire at 45! Everyone is in a union! And they get free healthcare and college and Europe isn’t blowing up!”
You don’t see people saying that much anymore. That’s because the bills are coming due in Europe and it’s not pretty.
Stop one is Greece. Turns out all these progressive, populist ideas are expensive. You have to borrow a bunch of money. Eventually you can’t borrow anymore so you have to print the money.
Only Greece can’t print money because it uses the Euro, not it’s own currency. But Greek debt is so big they can’t leave the Euro because has it’s own set of problems. But if people lend to it they want them to cut back spending and social programs (austerity). But people are now dependent on this spending and social programs, especially the elderly. But austerity is actually making it harder to pay off debts. But you can’t trust the Greek government and they need an independent monitor. But that means they aren’t sovereign anymore.
That’s alot of buts and they just keep coming. But at the end of the day, the Greek populist economy is unsustainable and many people are going to be hurt because it was tried. If “solution” means “everything’s going to be just fine”, then this is an unsolvable problem. It’s not going to be fine even though they announce a groundbreaking bailout package every few months. It’s clear that the math just doesn’t add up and the next time will be worse until Greece completely defaults–unable to pay it’s people or it’s external creditors.
Meanwhile, the very same mathematical situation is rumbling in several other European countries. Math is also setting up shop here in the U.S. too…although the endgame will be much different.
So consider it noted: you don’t hear many people referencing Europe’s populist utopia anymore. Europe is actually experiencing the very difficulties that many people warned about.
So the “Occupy” movement is currently the darling of the media and internet. Criticism, support and comparisons abound. Some compare it to the Arab Spring, but until they are walking into bullets or disappearing in a large government building somewhere there’s really no comparison. There are also many who have billed it as a progressive tea party, which of course makes the tea partiers mad.
But from my perspective, I don’t see any more coherency in the Tea Party message than in the Occupy message. The were just as many contradictions there (“Government out of our lives, and hands off Social Security!”) as there are in the various Occupy displays. But the Tea Party was able to affect elections and congressional votes, and that’s what counts. I doubt the Occupiers will have that success, but if they do it will be just as pointless in the long run.
Both groups miss the point of what’s wrong with our country. The problem isn’t less or more capitalism or government. The problem is we have eliminated great gobs of free market capitalism. There is a huge difference.
Capitalism is about ownership and profit. Free market capitalism (FMC) is about competitive ownership and profit by free players in an framework ruled by supply and demand. Economic freedom comes from free market capitalism. Plain ol’ Capitalism oppresses just as well as any government (because ultimately they becomes one and the same.)
In the two governing groups, we know where Democrats stand when it comes to FMC. Generally they will do whatever they can to try and engineer reality for the greater good or to solidify their own control. But when you look close, Republicans have done just as much to destroy FMC for the smaller good or to solidify their own control.
Whereas Democrats are always pushing policies that benefit large, established government; Republicans are always pushing policies that benefit large, established businesses. Republicans love increasing the power of monopolies via Intellectual Property, Patent, and copyright laws. They love big banks and telecom companies and tweaking the rules under the direction of the big players. They love big agribusiness and subsidies. They pass laws that benefit those businesses, talking about how these capitalist measures will increase jobs and benefit everyone. The problem is, they won’t. When you institutionalize big business, it’s no better than institutionalizing big government.
Laws that benefit big business (capitalism) are just as destructive to equality, employment, and Democracy as laws that benefit big government. What we need is more free market capitalism.
The first response to this will usually be from progressives and how free markets (lacking in regulation) actually caused our current crisis’. Up next I’ll discuss why the opposite is actually true. Regulation created this mess.
So Bin Laden is now cryogenically frozen in Area 51 with Elvis and Bruce Lee. Or, as conspiracy theorist will have us believe, he is dead.
Which led to tons of positive response across the twitterverse, facebookverse, ground zero, 24 hour news channels, and red-blooded wolf shirt wearing Americans everywhere. Some Christians celebrated death. And predictably some Christians starting being critical of other Christians…because hey! look! Other Christians are doing something and I have a Bible!
But if you really look at the situation, it’s much more complex than that. The concepts are more complex. The reactions are more complex. You can’t generalize everything into one big blob and say “this is bad” or “this is good”, much less “this scripture applies”. So here’s a quick breakdown of *some* of the reasons, and what I think about them.
(Note that these are from a Christian perspective, so getting all meta on it by criticizing Christian concepts won’t accomplish anything.)
“Yay! Some Muslim guy is dead!” – Not good. Generally we should never be happy when a lost person is dead.
“Yay! A bad guy is dead!” – That’s ok. When a bad guy is dead that means they won’t be doing bad things anymore.
“Yay! Our enemy is dead!” – Not good. Loving it when crap happens to your enemy is a gang mentality. Christians are supposed to do the opposite for the Bigger Purpose.
“Yay! A bad guy who did some bad things is dead!” – That’s ok. Justice is a Biblical principle. (Yes, mercy is too.)
“Yeehaw! He just busted down the gates o’ Hell!” – Not good. Trivializes hell, which is a pretty damned serious topic.
“Yay! It’s over!” – That’s ok. In some ways this means the 9/11 chapter is over. Until a TSA agent grabs your junk or you get 20 years for buying a counterfeit watch because somehow that’s related to terrorism.
“Waving flags will help terrorism!” – Well, everything helps terrorism. Buying a tank of gas helps terrorism. Not beating our women helps terrorism. Justin Bieber helps terrorism. Not beating Justin Bieber helps terrorism.
“Martin Luther King would said the following…” – 78% of statistics are just made up on the spot. And to quote Thomas Jefferson “you can’t believe everything you read on the internet”. Seriously, I think about 78% of the quotes on the internet are inaccurate. But a web poll could clear that right up.
“USA! USA! USA!” – This is a tricky. In the few minutes it takes you to find scripture regarding nationalism, our failing Democracy will have borrowed several million dollars. Or printed it, depending on which suppressed news report you ignore. It’s hard to decide what we think about the crumbling of our government because all the singers are so good this year.
So in short, we’re all wrong! And you’re all wrong! And we’re all right! And wrong! And when was the last time YOU read Habakkuk hmmm? Because I did. Twice!
I’m planning on getting back into blogging/bjournaling in 2011, so this is just as good a time as any.
It seems like tragic and downright depressing events in AZ today have brought out the best and worst in political commentary. So far it’s outside the mainstream but it will likely expand. Without going into it, people are going to blame the shooting of a congressman on the rhetoric of talk show hosts and politicians.
This is not a phenomenon isolated to any one political group. Whether “All muslims are terrorists” or “all Christians want to kill gays”, every side of anything has it’s component of folks who will take a shortcut and make the other side look bad by generalizations and associations.
Remember when the guy went into the Discovery channel with guns and bombs? He actually named an author as an inspiration, and demanded that the channel promote the views in a couple books. Had this person killed anyone, would their blood be on the hands of the cited author, or environmentalists as a whole?
Of course not. But there were no political points to be made in such an association.
Defamation by association is the mentality of a gang. Whether you’re red or blue, blood or crip, the ultimate goal is to shortcut humanity and pop an intellectual cap in the other side. It doesn’t matter about the tactic or the real people involved. Just do a driveby association.
I’m no fan of Palin. But it’s impossible to create any real association between the “crosshair image” and the actions of this guy who’s trying to recalculate grammar, re-adjust the numerical years, quantify mind control, and talk about creating a currency of the sun and the moon.
I’ll go ahead and call it. The shooter in AZ is clearly psychotic. I’m not a psychologist, but I’ve had some unfortunate encounters in observing mental illness. The Youtube videos and writings of this person are strange, rambling talk that have no resonance with reality, much less political rhetoric. If anything, he would have seen a talk show as mind control.
He was clearly experiencing some serious mental difficulties. And if there is any serious issue to be discussed over his influences, it should surround how we deal with mental illness. But that’s another post.
So whatever your political thoughts, don’t ignore the human reality of all this and be a gangsta. They don’t solve anything, even in the movies.
In a nutshell: I used to be more partisan in my political beliefs, I was state chair of College Republicans (including sitting on the state steering committee) and my degree was in Political Science. I’ve basically lost hope in the process, since it’s too broken to fix itself before collapse.
However, I do enjoy watching it and analyzing the same way I’d watch football or a movie.
So I’ll admit I’ll get a long chuckle from watching the incredibly arrogant Democrat party get its donkey handed to it next week. How they ever thought they were going to pull off those kinds of stunts and still get re-elected is beyond me. Maybe they watch too much prime-time.
Whatever the case, their cluelessness enabled a leaderless, abstract opposition to completely clobber them. This is also known as the Tea Party effect.
The Tea Party effect is a logical response to that arrogance and cluelessness. However, this tea will be served to the country before it’s even lukewarm. Unlike the takeover in ’94–which was basically a midterm carefully nationalized by an organized Republican party (via the Contract with America)–this takeover won’t even have a sketch of what sacred ground looks like.
You see, the motivation behind the Tea Party would historically have been drawn off to a real 3rd party where ideological and logistical organization would have taken place. Solving current problems of our runaway government is going to absolutely require this type of organization. Instead, the raw material was funneled into the old rusty machinery of the Republican party, which these days is far more like a t-shirt and bumper sticker company than a political organization.
Unfortunately this obtuse power shift means the only mandate that R’s will have is that “well, they aren’t Democrats”. This won’t be sufficient to fundamentally fix any of the problems of Government, but they’ll still be really busy. Which brings us to the other key difference.
The other key difference is that in ’94 the well organized Republicans marched head first into the buzzsaw of the Clinton campaign machine. It wasn’t long before Republican politicians were out to steal babies and run over your dog. The inept (and very presidentially Democrat) machinery of the Obama Whitehouse will have but a fraction of that coherence.
So, you’ll have a bunch of newly elected Republicans with no guiding ideology, no mandate to actually get anything difficult done, and an imperative to “look busy!” This will lead to the following results.
Contemporary Republican Bizzarro Free Market Capitalism:
* More policies that favor large, established businesses
* More policies that create very monopoly-like industry sectors
* More policies that favor mass consumption and minimal production and/or innovation
Contemporary Republican Bizzarro Concepts of Freedom
* More policies that strip individual liberties (All for National Security, of course.)
* More policies that make removal of said liberties very profitable to someone
* More drug enforcement policies that are worse than the drugs themselves
In short, you’re going to have bigger government…more intrusive government….and more centralized economic planning. Just, you know…the Republican kind. And all of this will be ensconced in very warm sounding names. “The Thomas Jefferson Airport Funding Act”, “The Telecom Wholesomness Act”, “The Bill for Automotive Prosperity Act”. You’ll feel downright patriotic when grandma gets tazed for baking a pie without the proper permits.
These actions will continue to infuriate real conservatives, continue giving Joe and Jane American the uneasy feeling that something just ain’t right, and contine making bumper sticker conservatives happy until the next rout. At which point the whole process continues until we’re broke or the whole thing collapses when the money machine wears out.
The problem is that details matter. Capitalism (the real kind) matters. Freedom matters. The Republican party has a pretty bad record in these recently and they’re about to be back in the political driver’s seat. And thus our long, national broken record will continue.
So JFK has those naked body scanners now. To recap:
Israeli airport security experts laugh at these things. And they know air security better than anyone and they say it’s a waste of time and money.
The government has repeatedly lied about how these machines work. First they said they can’t store images, now they say they can…but just “aren’t set to save them”.
The very nature of these images, the dismal record of the government in keeping anything secure…things like images, video, and oh…hundreds of thousands of top secret government documents should immediately cause outrage.
The consistent and blatant corruption and crime by lower level TSA personnel make any trust of scanner operators laughable.
All this pretty much guarantees that these images will be abused in some form or fashion….
…and…my goodness…stop and think for a second. The government is taking naked pictures of citizens. How the heck did we get here?!?!? Why aren’t people freaked out about this? Why are we doing this?!?!?
Well, the machines are expensive. There’s your answer.
But even with that, don’t look to a new Republican Congress to change this. In the increasingly bumper sticker driven world of our political system, “war on terror” trumps any concept of liberty or personal privacy. And again, these things are making alot of money for a district somewhere.
Kinda sad…if you’re one of those people into thriving economies of liberty and democracy.
I maintain that all of this talk about “when things get better” and “when the economy improves” are missing a key component: how?
I believe our economy is:
* Too dependent on government spending (Thanks Dems!)
* Way too biased toward established mega-business (Thanks Reps!)
* Gutting it’s manufacturing base (which results in over-dependence on consumption and debt)
* Way too engineered by elected officials. (Thanks everyone!)
All of these characteristics work toward one result–”bye bye growth”.
Now granted, growth has it’s own set of problems. But our economic model currently depends on it, and before you change that you better understand the implications. But it’s kinda hard to get that picture when several generations have only had half the pieces to the puzzle.
It looks like the Rep’s are going to make significant gains in Congress, partially due to this mess and partially due to the President’s Quixotic health care efforts.
This will not improve anything. It will just result in more anti-growth policies of a different tact. Meanwhile, the sea keeps receding towards the debt tsunami just over the horizon.
Not that Obama has violently overthrown the bourgeoisie with his rag-tag band of suicidal Democrat proletariat workers, it’s not uncommon to hear that we are now in a “socialist country”. I would submit that this is not the case.
First of all, a socialism and/or communism generally have a policy of seizure and redistribution that applies to people who have already been born. In our case, most of of the money we’ll be spending (over the long haul due to interest) will be paid by future generations (either directly or via inflation). This is not socialism. It’s a pretty brilliant new conflict theory, but not socialism.
Second, socialism generally has a plan. Our government is clearly making this stuff up as it goes along…although like soc/communism there are people getting mega-rich in the process.
So while I don’t think we’re anything close to a socialist nation, I do think we are definitely entering an era of a “Command/Control” style economy.
All cats are animals, but not all animals are cats. Similarly, socialist economies are generally command/control economies, but not all command/control economies are socialist. So it’s a fallacy to to think that just because our government is increasingly legislating the minutiae of our economy, that this style must be socialism.
But they are legislating the minutiae of our economy. And it won’t be long before everything is defined in the lawbooks.
Want an example? Check out the laws on credit/debit cards. That’s right, the same political entity that told King George to go jump, who wrote the Bill of Rights, expanded our country and enshrined our freedom in Constitution and Law…is now writing a law that will make it possible for merchants to require minimums for credit card purchases.
This is a law. Think about that….not a regulation. A law. And it’s digging down into the nitty gritty details of how even the most basic transaction can occur.
Everywhere you look, energy, healthcare, telecom, the automotive industry, banking….everything, is slowly being installed into an economic framework wholly defined by laws. Very soon (if not already) we will be working in an economy that is set up and functionally defined by politically designed laws that are very difficult to change, much less eliminate.
If this had happened earlier, by law we’d still be riding horses.
Back in middle school (during the cold war) we actually learned about how these command/control style governments were bad and how free market capitalism was going to kick their tail. Apparently not all middle schools were teaching this.
When you combine the looming energy crisis, the eventual debt disaster of the Federal Gubmint, and the collapsing market efficiency of our command/control economy, it’s pretty clear we’re headed for a really dark period of American history. Hey, it happens. Let’s just hope there is some sort of eventual rational response that doesn’t end up in a huge, terrible war.
A decade or so ago, when comprehensive health care policy began to really take center stage, it was not uncommon to hear something like “well look at Europe, they have a centralized government sponsored health care system, and none of the doomsday scenarios have come true!”
This point was notably absent in the most recent healthcare debate. This was primarily because there wasn’t really a debate–more of a rapid expenditure of political capital to ratify a bazillion pages of text as law–but it was also because Europe had actually started wobble pretty badly economically.
One person on Facebook tried to use that argument a few months back, and I said something to the effect of “If you read what’s going on over there, actually it is starting to cause major problems…it’s starting with Greece and will continue to Spain, Portugal, and throughout Europe”. And here we are. Europe is facing it’s very own collapse, and there are rumors that they will announce their own massive bailout this week….a bailout that will rival the U.S. bailout in 2008.
Basically what’s happened is that European countries have bankrupted themselves due to Socialist utopian policies (with a little bit of corruption tossed in). And I’m not just shouting “socialist” for effect here…that’s the name of the ruling parties. They call themselves that. Over there they don’t mind the term.
Granted, such a collapse would not be completely due to health care. Health care is only one of the policies that is bankrupting them. But the lesson is clear. Populist/utilitarian and government-centric policies can use debt to skirt the economic concept of scarcity for awhile, but sooner or later debt won’t work. Then you have:
A) a bunch of people who lent money to a supposedly secure and trustworthy government who now have nothing to show for it
B) an economy dependent on government spending that suddenly disappears.
C) a bunch of people that require government to survive (literally)
Then everything goes crazy while the socioeconomic and political layout is up for grabs. Riots in Greece are just starting.
The EU is a little different in that no individual state controls the money. This forces the situation to resolve more quickly because the country can’t just print money to pay the debt. Thus they have to either restructure their entire worldview or find someone else to foot the bill for a little longer.
The UK will last a bit longer with the pound because it’s their own money. They’ll try to fix things internally and it won’t be so obvious.
Like the U.S. bailout, a European bailout will simply kick the proverbial can down the road with more and more debt. The clock is ticking on all this. The can will hit the wall.
Last night we went to our daughter’s future school for information on enrollment for next year. We were extremely impressed, and are really looking forward to our daughter’s experience there.
During the presentation we were asked several times to vote for a tax extension on April 27th.
The tax extension will extend a property tax from 17 to 36 additional years, which will enable them to refinance debt that was originally used to build a substantial chunk of very advanced (and apparently effective) educational infrastructure. They talked about the cash flow, and that refinancing would free up 6 million dollars for new teachers, etc.
So it seemed like a great idea as presented, but this is not the freewheeling, borrowing times of the 1990′s or early 2000′s where debt was no big deal. As our effectively bankrupt county illustrates, refinancing debt can get a municipal governments in a heap of trouble. The City of Hoover is obviously a tighter ship than the county, but it’s still a dangerous world for governments and debt.
There are plenty of things a government can do to raise cash and hire teachers. But are they all good things? I wanted to find out exactly what the numbers were with this refinancing. Are we being asked to make great short term choices at the expense of long term flexibility? Or is the rate environment so favorable that this is a no-brainer? Are we shoveling more debt on future residents or is it a wash?
Unfortunately there’s not much of information out there. The only number you see consistently is the increased cash flow (approximately 6 million dollars per year), and that’s troubling. In the world of debt you can easily make a boneheaded long term decision for increased cash flow.
The only numbers I saw were these from this article:
The school system spends about $16 million per year making payments on that debt. On a per-student basis, Hoover schools spend more on debt service than any other system in the state, Craig said.
The school system’s debt now is scheduled to be paid off in 17 years. With an extension of the 24-mill tax, the system could stretch out that debt over a 30-year term, lowering payments to an estimated $10 million to $13 million per year during tough financial times.
(first of all, that 10-13 million dollar figure illustrates some spin of the message. It looks like saving 6 million per year is the high estimate and 3 million is the conservative estimate).
Other than the sample ballot, I can’t find any further info on the tax at the hoover web site.
Using this info as a blunt estimator, the cost of refinancing is as follows:
Current total payments (17 years X 16 million) = 272 million dollars
Optimistic extension estimate (30 years X 10 millioin) = 300 million dollars
Conservative extension estimate (30 years X 13 million) = 370 million dollars
So there you have it….extending this debt will cost anywhere from 28 million more dollars to 98 million more dollars over the term. Assuming this info as presented is reliable.
One thing should be clear, the city wouldn’t be saving any money. They’d be lowering the payments.
The problem I have is that this is a pretty broad range of figures. And it’s a large amount of additional money at the conservative end of the estimate. I’m also not comfortable with the presented 6 million figure (which seems variable), since we really don’t know what the final cash flow will be.
Lastly, the assertion that the money will be used for teachers is questionable…it’s my understanding that the money can be used for anything the city wants. As I said, we were very impressed with the school and staff and clearly we should give them every tool we can to educate our chillun’s.
But are we taking tools away from future generations with this decision? I realize dumping junk on future generations is the American way, but if that’s what we’re doing we should at least know how and how much before we vote.
I guess this is just a large amount of money to be throwing around in a small municipal vote during a severe recession. It could have significant implications down the road, and I don’t think we’re being given complete information. We see the catastrophic results that can occur. I hope this choice is being made in an intelligent way.