Monday, October 8, 2018

Why every Californian should vote yes on Proposition 6

In 2003, California voters recalled then-Governor Gray Davis, largely over one issue:  increased car registration fees.  California is a huge state.  Despite what the Democrat party would have you believe, public transportation can't fulfill California's transit needs.  In most parts of California, we don't have the population density required to make public transportation effective.  In short, we need our cars.

For some reason, California's politicians treat cars as a luxury instead of a necessity.  Californians just trying to live and get to work, see this differently in an otherwise very liberal state.

Voting yes on Prop 6 provides immediate tax relief when you renew your car's registration.  "State law requires vehicle owners to pay two specific taxes for the privilege of operating a vehicle on public highways.  These are (1) vehicle license fees and (2) recently enacted transportation improvement fees." (California Official Voter Information Guide, emphasis added.) 

Voting yes on 6 reminds politicians we don't consider driving in California a privilege, but a necessity that shouldn't be burdened by extra taxation.  We have to drive to get to work to pay our taxes and to get to the store to feed our families.  We expect politicians to prioritize spending on roads so we can do that.  We expect that to be paid for from the massive amount of taxes we already pay, because we consider it a basic function of government.

Voting yes on 6 also repeals a big gas tax increase.  Maybe you noticed the hike in what you pay at the pump.  It was about 12 extra cents per gallon.  In my case, that's about $30 extra per year added to my commute.  I drive a small, gas-efficient vehicle.  If you drive an SUV, it could easily be hundreds of dollars a year.

Opponents of Prop 6 tell two lies:

(1)  If you pass Prop 6, then road repair spending will drop to, like 1990's levels! 

This is a scare tactic, and good policy shouldn't rely on scare tactics.  There is no reason road repair spending has to drop.  Vote yes on Prop 6 and then write your representatives a letter saying you oppose new taxes but want them to prioritize spending on repairing and upgrading roads.

(2)  All the money goes to road repair, not the fake high speed rail project!

First of all, if you have to say that you admit that the high speed rail project should be shut down, because obviously most voters have recognized it's another lie and waste of money (it isn't even high speed--it's now going to be "mixed use" rail, so it'll go more slowly than most cars).  Secondly, it's true the money is earmarked for transportation projects, but high speed rail is a transportation project.  Nothing prevents the diverting of funds to that idiotic crony train project.

Voting yes on Prop 6 promotes fiscal responsibility.  There's a trend I saw years ago.  These are some older figures, but they prove the point.  When you give the California government more money, it spends less responsibly than if you give it less.  Here's the proof, which I've posted before:

It's ridiculous.  Even more ridiculous is the idea that a tax cut means less spending on roads.  This was created in 2008 as part of a post on how to address California's budget difficulties at that time.  Here's the amazing part:  10 years later, we could still cut the programs proposed here (Mish's California Budget Proposal) and raise more than enough money to more than make up for the "revenue" cut voting yes on Prop 6 will cause.

VOTE YES ON PROPOSITION 6:  Never miss an opportunity to cut taxes on yourself and force greater fiscal responsibility on the government, whether state, local or county.  Yes on Prop 6 is good for California and Californians.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The single, biggest threat to national security

The past few weeks have been exciting for really dumb reasons.  The Kavanaugh confirmation hearing fight was long and pretty awful.

It was also a bit of a distraction.  Much of our political infighting is.  For years, politicians have been buying our votes.  Not directly, but by promising that if they're elected, they'll bring lots of taxpayer dollars to their home districts.

I'll skip the lecture on how immoral making our children and grandchildren pay for our spending is.  Let's talk about how dangerous that kind of debt is to all of us.

We've had at least two warnings from people who know about our national debt.

"On Sept. 22, 2011, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen warned: 'I believe the single, biggest threat to our national security is debt.'"  Opinion and analysis column here.

The writer goes on to warn:  "The United States is racing toward a fiscal cliff. We are taking few measures to save ourselves from the fall and ruinous fate once we go over the edge."

Although there are some who disagree, one of the biggest reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union was unsustainable spending.  Most people who disagree don't want to give Ronald Reagan credit for ending the Soviet Union through an arms race and to be fair, that wasn't the only factor involved.  Overspending was definitely a part of the collapse, though, and if most analysts are to be believed, it was probably the biggest part.

It is folly to believe the US can't do the same to itself.  Ask former entertainment and sports stars who thought they'd never run out of money how shocking it is when they do.  The US is on the path to do the same thing on a much larger scale.

I wouldn't expect readers to accept Mullen's word alone regarding this danger.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, outlining a series of rising global and cyber threats the United States faces from adversaries including North Korea, Russia, Iran, and China.

But he also warned against an internal threat that he says could undermine US economic and national security: the national debt.

"I'm concerned that our increasing fractious political process, particularly with respect to federal spending, is threatening our ability to properly defend our nation both in the short term and especially in the long term," Coats said alongside five other top intelligence chiefs. "The failure to address our longterm fiscal situation has increased the national debt to over $20 trillion and growing."

"I would urge all of us to recognize the need to address this challenge and to take action as soon as possible before a fiscal crisis occurs that truly undermines our ability to ensure our national security."

(From Business Insider on 02/13/2018, source here)

The really scary part of these warnings is that I have no idea how to stop it.  I don't know how to make politicians see that this matters more than everything else, especially when all people seem to care about is Roe v. Wade.   If enough of us wrote our representatives, we might make a difference, but I don't think most people care.  They're distracted, busy fighting one another over important, but lesser concerns.  I fear we won't do anything until the crisis is upon us.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Nike, Kaepernick and the Memes

Nike and Colin Kaepernick stirred things up quite a bit recently.  For those who don't remember, Kaepernick is the football player who took a knee during the national anthem (instead of standing and saluting) to protest police mistreatment of Blacks in America.  He wore socks depicting police officers as pigs.  Despite his protests to the contrary, Kaepernick's protests were perceived by much of the nation as anti-American and anti-military.  I actually think he's sincere and that he should probably have considered more deeply the ramifications of way he chose to protest.

Further, while there is definitely injustice with regard to policing of Blacks in America that needs addressing, insulting the good officers you'll need to both help expose the bad ones and combat the injustice doesn't help your cause.  Finally, the fellow who sparked it all, Michael Brown, is a terrible symbol for the movement, because he was a criminal engaged in assaulting an officer and even the Obama Justice Department couldn't find a problem with that particular shooting.

With that background, Nike's choice to make this ad is fairly inexplicable, and I've bought my last bit of Nike gear (I bought shoes a few weeks ago).

It didn't take long for folks to point out that there was a far more appropriate fellow for this kind of ad.
Pat Tillman was an actual hero, who actually did sacrifice everything to protect all Americans without regard to race. 

The trend didn't stop with the pantsing of Nike, though.  The political savagery followed and was hilarious.

Naturally, the purely hilarious followed.

So, thanks, Nike and Colin Kaepernick.  I won't support either of you, but I sure do appreciate the entertainment.

Monday, July 16, 2018

A fact on arming women

While I reject gun control for a number of reasons, there's one fact that has always stuck with me.

In 1979, the Carter Justice Department found that of more than 32,000 attempted rapes, 32% were actually committed. But when a woman was armed with a gun or knife, only 3% of the attempted rapes were carried out. -U.S. Department of Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, Rape Victimization in 26 American Cities (1979), p. 31

This single statistic should end the debate.  I don't understand why feminists aren't serious about this one.

We know for certain that privately-held firearms do not exacerbate crime.  Dr. Gary Kleck is the most often cited researcher because although his mind has changed, he's still politically very left. As a criminologist at Florida State University, Kleck began his research as a firm believer in gun control. In a speech delivered to the National Research Council after years of studying the issue, he said while he was once "a believer in the 'anti-gun' thesis," he has now moved "beyond even the skeptic position." Dr. Kleck now says the evidence "indicates that general gun availability does not measurably increase rates of homicide, suicide, robbery, assault, rape, or burglary in the U.S."

There's even growing evidence that private gun ownership actually has a very slight impact in lowering crime rates. Concealed carry laws have dropped murder and crime rates in the states that have enacted them. According to a comprehensive study which studied crime statistics in all of the counties in the United States from 1977 to 1992, states which passed concealed carry laws reduced their murder rate by 8.5%, rapes by 5%, aggravated assaults by 7% and robbery by 3%.  -One of the authors of the University of Chicago study reported on the study's findings in John R. Lott, Jr., "More Guns, Less Violent Crime," The Wall Street Journal (28 August 1996). See also John R. Lott, Jr. and David B. Mustard, "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," University of Chicago (15 August 1996); and Lott, More Guns, Less Crime (1998, 2000).

While anti-gun folks will dispute that last bit of research, even if we discount it entirely, we're left with two important facts:

1.  Private firearms ownership doesn't make crime worse.
2.  Women who have access to self defense tools, including guns, are victimized far less than women denied these rights.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Michael Shellenberger: Why I changed my mind about nuclear power

I've made the case for nuclear power many times.  It turns out that a far left, super green fellow who is a self-proclaimed hippy made the case better than I ever have.

I had always thought that solar and wind power would likely be great variable output supplements to baseload energy production.  That baseload production should be nuclear.  Mr. Shellenberger changed my mind on the renewable energy sources.  I didn't know about the statistics he presents. 

Here's Michael Shellenberger:  Why I changed my mind about nuclear power

For those who would like the direct link:

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Oceanside minister supported Trump, now he faces deportation

Here's a sad story missing some critical details:  Oceanside minister supported Trump, now he faces deportation

Jorge Ramirez, an Oceanside minister and unauthorized immigrant, didn’t think he would end up in line for deportation when he encouraged his U.S. citizen daughter to vote for now-President Donald Trump.

Ramirez said he does not know why he is being targeted for removal from the U.S. The Trump administration has said that it is targeting criminals and those who have already been ordered deported. Ramirez said he falls into neither category.

“Trump said, ‘Let’s keep all the good people here and all the bad people out,’” Ramirez said.
It's an interesting read, and I agree with Ramirez.  We shouldn't deport him.  I am left with one critical question that the article doesn't answer.  It looks like more than once in life, Ramirez' legal status held him back.  Has he been working to change his immigration status?  If not, why not?

"Easier said than done" is an easy answer.  Yes, I'm aware.  My wife is an immigrant, so we've worked through the process together, and she didn't claim citizenship by marriage, or because our child was a U.S. citizen.  However, it isn't as hard as the "No borders" crowd seems to indicate, nor as expensive, and there are organizations set up to help.

I also understand the idea that legalizing the status of people here illegally can encourage more people to enter our country the wrong way.  However, the biggest problem with an influx of immigrants is trying to help them acclimate to our culture.  The reason people are coming here is that we have something that has worked really well to promote prosperity and security, and that's an important set of ideas based on personal liberty.

Folks like Jorge Ramirez and DACA recipients have acclimated.  They get our culture and most have gone to U.S. schools.  These are the folks we want to keep here.  They're not trying to turn the U.S. into the country they fled.  They're trying to be a part of the success of the system that has worked so well.

It's in the hands of judges now, but I hope this is something the Trump administration and the courts will address. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Trump shouldn't do it, either

In 2014, I decried President Obama's responses to businesses fleeing his unfriendly policies.  Obama's solution, as a proper disciple of Saul Alinsky, was name-calling, because that works so well.  He says they're corporate deserters who want to avoid paying their fair share. For the interested, here's that full post.

Every president comes up with crappy policy or two, and President Trump is no exception.  I get what he's trying to do with tariffs, even though they haven't ever worked in the past.  I think tariffs may cost a tremendous number of Republican seats in Congress, and if they're disastrous enough, they'll probably cost him reelection. 

While presidents have plenty of power to do stupid things, there are things they shouldn't do.  Presidents shouldn't attack businesses or call them names.  President Trump targeted Harley-Davidson for making some tough decisions to deal with tariffs.  Note that Harley-Davidson hasn't been doing tremendously well financially, but overseas markets are helping them.  Or rather, overseas markets were helping them before the tariffs.  Their solution?  Make bikes where they won't be subject to the idiotic tax.  President Trump didn't care for that.  Here's what he had to say:
Surprised that Harley-Davidson, of all companies, would be the first to wave the White Flag. I fought hard for them and ultimately they will not pay tariffs selling into the E.U., which has hurt us badly on trade, down $151 Billion. Taxes just a Harley excuse - be patient! #MAGA
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2018

Early this year Harley-Davidson said they would move much of their plant operations in Kansas City to Thailand.  That was long before Tariffs were announced. Hence, they were just using Tariffs/Trade War as an excuse.
Well, except they're not moving production to Thailand to reduce cost.  They're moving some of it to Europe to get around the tariffs.

Harley-Davidson explained:  “Increasing international production to alleviate the EU tariff burden is not the company’s preference, but represents the only sustainable option to make its motorcycles available to customers in the EU and maintain a viable business in Europe."

It wasn't okay when President Obama was attacking businesses who made difficult decisions to stay profitable.  It's not okay when President Trump does it.  This isn't a school yard, and even in school yards name calling and attacks don't make things better.

Good policy replacing stupid policy would do far more to remedy the situation.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Why it's okay that The Red Hen Restaurant refused Sarah Huckabee Sanders service

Right now, if you do a web search on Sarah Huckabee Sanders, you'll see a lot of information on a current kerfuffle.  The Red Hen Restaurant refused service to her and her family members (including her extended family members who are politically liberal). 

A lot of conservatives are pretty upset, pointing out that if the political Left believes bakers and florists can't refuse service to anyone, The Red Hen Restaurant should certainly model this demanded level of service.  Note that the baker didn't even refuse service, he was happy to have any couple in his store and sell them any already made product.  He just declined to use his artistic talent to support a cause he didn't support, very much like the Supreme Court has said other artists can do.  For example, you can't force a Jewish custom t-shirt shop to make swastika print t-shirts.  They can decline to provide that service.

A chef can certainly consider her food art and refuse to make it in support of politics with which she disagrees, but there's an even better reason that refusing service shouldn't bother conservatives and doesn't bother libertarians.

The free market works to correct discrimination quite well.  It's hard to stay in business as a restaurant, or really as just about any small business.  It's hard to achieve the financial stability necessary to turn away customers, and it's never profitable to do so.  The free market favors nondiscrimination.

The free market also favors nondiscrimination in employment.  Allowing personal prejudice to shrink the available labor pool means an employer won't get the best candidates for a position.  Worse yet, they may pass on incredible talent that would have made their business more successful.  Instead, that talent will go work for another business and give a competitive edge that will put the prejudiced employer out of business.  One great example is Vivien Thomas, whose skill was so incredible that it forced prejudice out of the way of progress.

The only failing in the free market push toward total nondiscrimination is that it's not very fast and it doesn't have a great defense mechanism against government interference.  In Vivien Thomas's case, it took decades for his tremendous talent to break through the barrier of prejudice.  For an example of government interference, Jim Crow laws in the U.S. South prevented businesses that didn't want to engage in racial segregation from refusing to discriminate.  Had Jim Crow laws simply been struck down, the free market would have eventually done the rest.  Businesses that didn't discriminate would have succeeded over time and racist business owners would have been put out of business by smarter folks.  Laws against discrimination hastened that process, but they weren't actually necessary.

That's why I'm okay with Sarah Huckabee Sanders being refused service.  By everyone's account of the events (even the prejudiced business owner), Sarah Huckabee Sanders was very gracious about being asked to leave, even offering to pay for the food she'd ordered.  She probably understands she can just take her business elsewhere, and she'll help the free market process of putting prejudiced businesses like The Red Hen Restaurant out of business in time.  It's not fast, but it'll work.  Also, no one will spit in her food, which is a bonus.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Conversion of Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist passed away this week.  He was a good man.  The people near him all found him kind, thoughtful and thoroughly decent.  There's been some ideologically-based vitriol against him, people who think it's okay to hate just because one disagrees with another.  Krauthammer showed us a better way.  He was thoughtful, persuasive and didn't hate when he discussed.  He was thoroughly rational in part because he was a fully-trained doctor (completing medical school and residency despite being rendered nearly quadriplegic early in medical school by a diving accident).

How did a speechwriter for Vice-President Walter Mondale ever become a conservative, though?  He's given the explanation many places, but I like the explanation he gave on the Armstrong and Getty Show well enough to transcribe it for those who wish to read it.  Note that A&G are great hosts, thoughtful men and fun to listen to.  They aren't like the ranting shows you may have encountered elsewhere and they're worth a listen.

Discussing his book, "Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics," Krauthammer explained his writing on politics:  "...there's a lot on politics because in the end, if you get the politics wrong in this society, you can have all the beautiful, elegant stuff in life but it can get swept away and that's why I devoted my life to politics.  I left medicine to do that."

The question that prompted it came from Jack Armstrong:  "How did you come to your political beliefs?  Or maybe the better question is 'How do most people end up where they are?'"

Charles Krauthammer:  "I think people initially are born into their political tribe.  You get it from your folks, you get it from your environment, you get it from your school.  And then I think around the time of your mid-teens, you start to go to college, you start to form your own ideas.  And for me, I was a Cold War liberal; a Democrat in my 20's.  And then the change that happened to me was very simple; I'm open to empirical evidence.  As you know I was a doctor before became a writer.  And when you're a doctor and it turns out the treatment that you're giving is killing your patients, you stop the treatment.  And I remember when the first empirical, statistical studies from the Great Society, the War on Poverty started to come in, in the 1980's when I was in my 30's, it was clear that not only was the War on Poverty and the Great Society a failure, but it was undermining and destroying the very communities it was trying to help.

"So, I didn't have an overnight epiphany where I woke up in the morning and said, 'I think I'll be a conservative.  The Lord has spoken to me.'  It was absorbing all this social science evidence and realizing that for all their good intentions, liberals were ruining things.  I mean really ruining things.  And I began to examine the alternate way to do it, and that led me to be a kind of small-government conservative."

Hear the full interview here:

This is how many of us come to conservatism.  We want to help others, but we see the evidence that liberalism doesn't do that, and worse yet, big government is dangerous to liberty.  We all feel the urge to lead with our hearts, but the results can be disastrous, and Charles Krauthammer showed us a better way:  leading with reason while being compassionate.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Making gasoline from carbon dioxide

I've posted a lot about energy in the past, but I've seen something that surprised me.  Evidently, this technology has been in use for a while, but I had no idea we could do it.

Scientists say they've found a cheap way to convert CO2 into gasoline

A team of scientists claims to have discovered a cheaper way to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into gasoline or other fuels, which could arm humanity with a new tool in the fight against climate change.

Published in the scientific journal Joule on Thursday, the research demonstrates a new technique that pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and converts it into liquid gasoline, diesel or jet fuel.

Canadian clean energy company Carbon Engineering, in partnership with researchers from Harvard, used little more than limestone, hydrogen and air for the process, which can remove one metric ton of CO2 for as little as $94, the scientists say. It cleans up the environment, and produces eco-friendly liquid fuel at the same time.

"Until now, research suggested it would cost $600 per ton to remove CO2 from the atmosphere using DAC technology, making it too expensive to be a feasible solution to removing legacy carbon at scale," David Keith, Harvard Professor and founder of Carbon Energy said in a statement. "We now have the data and engineering to prove that DAC can achieve costs below $100 per ton."

DAC refers to "direct air capture" technology, or the technique by which Carbon Engineering extracts CO2 from air.
Who would have thought we'd turn gasoline into a renewable resource?  We'll still need lots of nuclear power to make this happen, but I guess hydrogen fuel cells might not be necessary in the future. 

The political ramifications are huge.  If this technology does become sufficiently inexpensive, the Middle East will no longer matter at all.