April 24, 2007

Muddying the lily

Andrew Klavan details the perils of being a conservative.


The thing I like best about being a conservative is that I don’t have to lie. I don’t have to pretend that men and women are the same. I don’t have to declare that failed or oppressive cultures are as good as mine. I don’t have to say that everyone’s special or that the rich cause poverty or that all religions are a path to God. I don’t have to claim that a bad writer like Alice Walker is a good one or that a good writer like Toni Morrison is a great one. I don’t have to pretend that Islam means peace.

Of course, like everything, this candor has its price. A politics that depends on honesty will be, by nature, often impolite. Good manners and hypocrisy are intimately intertwined, and so conservatives, with their gimlet-eyed view of the world, are always susceptible to charges of incivility. It’s not really nice, you know, to describe things as they are.

...

Still, mannerly as we would rather be, truth-telling continues to be both compelling and ultimately satisfying. There is, after all, something greater than courtesy. “Firmness in the right,” Lincoln called it, “as God gives us to see the right.” We find ourselves at a precarious moment in an endeavor of great importance: namely, the preservation of Western rationalism and liberty. It does mankind no good to allow so magnificent an enterprise to slip away merely for fear of saying the wrong thing.

When my friends and family want their egos stroked, they ask other people for their opinions. When they want the unvarnished truth, they ask me. I've never had problems answering the following question honestly: "Does this (whatever) make me look fat?" I realize that it's supposed to be the one question that men are supposed to lie about, but I think that letting my lovely wife go out in something unflattering does her a great disservice. Hence, I tell it like it is.

A good friend - someone I've lost touch with over the years- once criticized me as being "brutally honest". I wear that comment as a badge of honor. For the record, I understand the meaning of the word "tact". Being honest doesn't mean that you have to be a complete dick about things.

Link found via McQ.

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Turn out the lights

The party's over.

Looks like California will actually try to ban regular incadescent bulbs. My guess is that people like Bill Quick will order truckloads of the damned things, just to eff with the legistlature.

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The end is near?

McCain-Feingold to take it on the chin this time? Excerpt:


The Supreme Court has taken up the WRTL case again and the real agenda of McCain-Feingold has been exposed. Senator McCain and the other congressional sponsors argue in their Supreme Court brief that broadcast ads would be “sham,” not “genuine,” if they “took a critical stance regarding a candidate’s position on an issue.” Thus they admitted that stifling criticism of public officials is at the “core” of the “electioneering communication” prohibition.

It is now apparent that the “electioneering communication” prohibition was misrepresented from the outset, that the arguments to justify it were shams, and that its real purpose is to silence criticism of public officials. This is irreconcilable with the First Amendment and with our form of government created by the Constitution.

But what will the Supreme Court do? Oral argument in Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. v. FEC is scheduled for this Wednesday, April 25, and a decision is expected by the end of the Court’s term in June.

I will be watching this case with interest. For the record, I will post whatever information about a candidate that I wish to, at any time. If our federal government elected officials disagree with my position, they have my permission to blow me.

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April 20, 2007

Maybe some in Vermont should actually read the Constitution

Then again, based on this ludicrous vote in the Vermont state senate, it's unlikely that any of Vermont's elected officials know how to read:


For its second story at the top of the hour (1PM Central time), NPR just reported that the Vermont State Senate has voted in a 'non-binding resolution' for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Great, now that they've voted for the impeachment, it's time for... umm, what exactly? The Vermont state senate has exactly zero power to affect the current power structure in DC, no matter how much the member might wish otherwise. The US Constitution clearly gives the US House of Representatives the authority to impeach the president. It also gives the US Senate the authority to vote to remove the president from office if he's impeached. Nowhere in my copy foes it say "unless the Vermont senate votes otherwise". Then again, my copy is simply dead paper, unlike the Doctor Frankenxerox creation, which both lives and breathes.

Sure, I know that it's simply poltical grandstanding. I also know that the Vermonters in question wear little cups under their collective chins to catch the drool sure to be dripping out.

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April 17, 2007

The tax man cometh

Again. And again and again.

Reprinted from Neal Boortz's website, albeit an entry that has disappeared into the bit bucket:


Message:
APRIL 15th TAX DAY

http://www.boortz.com/nealznuz.htm
From Neal Boortz

"Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed."

-Robert Heinlein

"There are two methods, or means, and only two, whereby man's needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth; this is the economic means. The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others; this is the political means."

- Albert Jay Nock

The income tax is a vicious, inequitable, unpopular, impolitic and socialistic act. The crusade for an income tax is the most unreasoning and un-American movement in the politics of the last quarter-century.

Editorial - New York Times. 1894.

TAX DAY- FOR ABOUT ONE-HALF OF US

It's April 15th. That day is important for just about one-half of Americans; the one-half that actually carries the load for all of us. For the remaining one-half of income earners it's either just another day, or it's a day they revel in their ability to not only avoid paying taxes themselves, but in their ability to loot the pockets of those who do through such gimmicks as the rancid Earned Income Tax Credit.

April 15 is depressing ... and not just because your taxes are due.

OK , I know you've heard this before, but it doesn't do any harm for you to review the facts just once a year.

This is the day when a simple question can lead to the discovery that most people have no idea how much income tax they pay, though this is becoming less and less true as we go along. There is one group that does know how much federal income tax they pay every year, and this group is growing ever larger. It's that segment of wage earners who pay nothing. So, we'll revise this statement to read: "Most people who actually do pay federal income taxes have no idea how much they pay."

For proof, try this little test: Approach a friend or co-worker whom you actually suspect may pay federal income taxes and ask them what their tax tab was. You will get one of two responses. For the majority of taxpayers who actually get refunds, the response will be "I didn't have to pay anything! I'm getting some back!" Taxpayers who actually have to write a check on April 15 will quote the amount of that check as their tax bill.

This is all by design. Politicians know that if those who pay federal income taxes knew what they were really paying there would be an instantaneous and ugly tax revolt. To hide the ugly truth, these politicians have kept alive our wonderful system of withholding. With the magic of withholding, the money is gone before the wage earner even gets the slightest whiff of it. It's almost as if it was never really there in the first place ... so, what's to miss?

Not only do most people not know how much tax they pay, they don't even know what they make!

You've already asked your co-worker how much tax they had to pay in 2001, and they didn't know. Now, ask them how much they make! Most will tell you it's none of your business. Some will respond, though, and their response will begin with the words, "I take home ..."

If you wanted to be particularly obnoxious at this point, or if you fancy yourself to be a radio talk-show host, you could say: "I didn't ask you how much you took home. I asked you how much you made." Then, standby for the inevitable blank stare.

See how well this system of withholding taxes has worked! The majority of wage earners can't even tell you what they earned! Just what they "took home." It's as if they viewed their "take home" pay as their total earnings! No wonder they don't think they paid any taxes when they get that refund check from the IRS!

But --- if you happen to work for youself then it's a good bet that you DO know how much tax you paid. The owners of small businesses, the businesses that employ about 80 percent of the workers in this country ... you know. You are the people who have to sit down four times a year and write a check to the IRS for your quarterly tax payments.

WHY WE'LL NEVER HAVE A TAX REVOLT.

One word. Withholding.


Withholding was sold to the American wage earner as a purely temporary measure to speed up cash flow to the government during World War II. As soon as the war was over, things were supposed to return to normal and the wage earners would get their entire checks, just as before the war.

In case you haven't checked, the war has been over for about 58 years or so, but withholding is still with us. It's still with us because the proliferation of the "I take home ..." workers and the "I didn't have to pay anything, I'm getting some back" taxpayers are such a boon to our politicians. As long as the majority remains ignorant of the extent to which their paychecks are plundered, politicians will be safe.

Now ... get those tax returns completed and then completely forget what they say so that you can join the ranks of the unknowing.

PROTECTING POLITICIANS

I can't let this April 15th go by without reminding you of what a wonderful job politicians, especially Democrats, have done insuring that there will never be enough angry taxpayers to cost them their jobs.

Politicians pay attention to polls. Polls are indications of the presence or lack of job security. When politicians read a poll which says that the majority of Americans (a) don't think they're paying too much in taxes, and (b) don't see any need for a tax cut, they sit back and smile. Politicians, and especially Democrats, have been working for generations to shift the burden for the payment of federal income taxes to a small minority of high-income earners. They have succeeded marvelously. Today the top 10 percent of income earners pay over one-half of all federal income taxes. The bottom 60 percent of income earners, a majority, as you can see, pay less than 10 percent of all income taxes. Even someone educated in a government school can tell you that this leaves politicians free to increase taxes on the upper-income minority and then spend that money on the middle and lower-income majority in return for votes.

AND NOW --- TIME FOR SOME TAX AND SPENDING OUTRAGES.

We begin with a statistic that should jolt you right out of your seat. Have you ever stopped to consider just how many cumulative hours are spent across this entire country every year just handling the paperwork associated with the federal income tax? American businesses will spend about 3.4 billion man-hours doing tax paperwork this year. Individuals will spend another 1.7 billion man-hours. These figures represent 3 million people working full time all year just to do tax preparation work. Now --- get this. It takes more man-hours in this country to pay federal income taxes than it does to build every car, van and truck produced in this country during the same year. (Money Magazine)

Where does your tax money go? Try this:

Between 1986 and 1998 the IRS spent $5 billion of your money on a computer system that they were never able to get to work. Five Billion, that's with a B.

Taxes now comprise 31% of the cost of a loaf of bread, 30% of the cost of a hotel room and 43% of the cost of a bottle of beer. (Money Magazine)

The two major tax writing committees of congress are the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. Money Magazine reports that seven out of ten members of these committees cannot figure out their own taxes. They have to hire professionals.

Your government recently gave $170 million to a group called PSI. PSI was founded by Philip Harvey. Philip Harvey runs a mail-order porno business called Adam and Eve. PSI wants to hand out condoms around the world. They now have $170 million of your money to fund their project.

At a series of employee retreats workers played children's games and sang We are family. They wrote Christmas carols, went on treasure hunts, dressed in cat costumes and talked to imaginary wizards and magicians. It was a team-building exercise for the U.S. Postal Service. Cost? $3,600,000.00.

There are 1.2 million paid tax preparers in the United States. That's six times more than the number of troops in Iraq. These 1.2 million people add absolutely nothing to our quality of life or standard of living.

Do you know what IRS form 8845 is? It's the form you fill out to get your Indian Employment Credit.

In 1969 the congress discovered that there were 155 taxpayers who paid no taxes because their deductions eliminated their tax liability. That's when congress passed the Alternative Minimum Tax, just to catch those 155 taxpayers. Today the AMT nails 3 million taxpayers. Within 7 years that figure will soar to 36 million.

The IRS still insists that the income tax is voluntary.” If you believe that then you believed Bill Clinton when he said that oral sex isn't sex.

THE SOLUTION

The solution is twofold.


First --- reform the tax system by getting rid of the income tax, repealing the income tax amendment and moving to a national retail sales tax. I've been promoting such a system for over 15 years. You can find out everything you want to know by studying the website for Americans for Fair Taxation at http://www.fairtax.org.

Second -- Government must be reduced to its constitutionally appropriate size. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are up to the task. That's why I'm a Libertarian.

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April 16, 2007

Bring it back

The drinking age of 18, that is. I've hated and bitched about the federal drinking age since it was instituted. For what it's worth, I was 18+ at the time the law was implemented, so it didn't affect me at all. However, I find the law, as well as the strong-arm tactics of the feds, to be completely at odds with personal liberty. There are even some self-described conservative pundits who want to raise the drinking age to 25 or higher (Ross Mackenzie, I'm looking at you). My reply to scolds like those? Blow me.

Let's examine the things that you can do and are responsible for at the age of 18:


  • You can be drafted, if necessary. If not, you can still enlist and go to a foreign land and risk life and limb.
  • You can vote in pretty much any election in this country, including but not limited to, federal elections, including those for the presidency.
  • You can -and will- be tried as an adult for any crime that you commit.
  • You can legally enter into contracts, which are binding(some states may restrict that to 21 in certain instances, I suppose)
  • You can get a job, work hard and pay taxes.
  • You cannot, however, enjoy a beer at the end of a hard day.

Radley Balko revists the drinking age in this article, which I highly recommend. Here's one of my favorite quotes:


The age at highest risk for an alcohol-related auto fatality is 21, followed by 22 and 23, an indication that delaying first exposure to alcohol until young adults are away from home may not be the best way to introduce them to drink.

Emphasis mine. Notice that the magical age of 21 isn't quite so magical.

Update: Not surprisingly, Bill Quick and I are on the same page.

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April 14, 2007

Quote of the day

From Dean Barnett:


What happens to Nifong?

It’s hard to imagine he won’t be disbarred. If he has any brains (admittedly a highly dubious notion), he’ll remove himself from the bar and pursue his lifelong passion of plucking the wings off live butterflies on a full-time basis.

That will have me chuckling for a while. Not as much as a verdict that would allow the Duke lacrosse players to work over Nifong with a tire iron for a few hours, but I'll take what I can get.

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April 09, 2007

Non-useful idiots

After the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA should control CO2 emissions unless it finds scientific reasons not to (crikey, that turns logic on its head), our elected officials have started to weigh in on possible solutions to the emission problem. Interestingly, former allies have started in-fighting over the prospect of more nuclear power plants. Excerpt:


The renewed push for legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions could falter over an old debate: whether nuclear power should play a role in any federal attack on climate change.

Congress, with added impetus from a Supreme Court ruling last week, appears more likely to pass comprehensive energy legislation. But nuclear power sharply divides lawmakers who agree on mandatory caps on carbon dioxide emissions. And it has pitted some on Capitol Hill against their usual allies, environmentalists, who largely oppose any expansion of nuclear power.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Barbara Boxer — Bay Area Democrats with similar political views — are on opposite sides.

Pelosi used to be an ardent foe of nuclear power but now holds a different view. "I think it has to be on the table," she said.

Boxer, head of the Senate committee that will take the lead in writing global warming legislation, said that turning from fossil fuels to nuclear power was "trading one problem for another."

[Editor's note: Like, say, electing one Bay Area brain donor instead of another?]
...
"I've never been a fan of nuclear energy," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has called it expensive and risky. "But reducing emissions from the electricity sector presents a major challenge. And if we can be assured that new technologies help to produce nuclear energy safely and cleanly, then I think we have to take a look at it."

The public's attitude toward nuclear power is more favorable when such energy is seen as part of an effort to fight climate change. Polls over the years have shown that a slim majority backs nuclear power, but a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg survey last summer found that a larger majority, 61%, supported the increased use of nuclear energy "to prevent global warming."

Legislation introduced recently in California seeks to repeal a 1976 ban on new nuclear plants in the state.

I predict that pigs will fly before that last statement comes to pass. San Francisco residents will garb themselves in human excrement to stay warm before they'll consent to using power generated by nuclear power.


On Capitol Hill last month, former Vice President Al Gore, who has become a leading advocate for swift action on climate change, said he saw nuclear plants as a "small part" of the strategy.

"They're so expensive, and they take so long to build, and at present they only come in one size: extra large," he said.

No article on energy policy would be complete without a comment from the Goreacle. However, he does make a valid point, albeit one contained in his usual inanity: nuclear power plants usually come in only the "extra large" size due to several reasons:

1) When a utility has to borrow several billion dollars to build a plant, it will want to generate enough energy during the plant's lifetime so as to ensure an adequate return on its investment.

2) Part of the reason that nukes were so expensive in the past was the ridiculous number of hearings, lawsuits, et al that the utility had to wade through before even breaking ground. A lot of that cost has been eliminated with the combined site permit and operating license process. Now, if a utility builds an NRC-approved design on a site that receives a permit, all systems are go. In fact, the company that I work for will probably attempt to build a monster plant sometime within the next 10 years. For the record, once the construction phase begins, the plant could be completed and go online within about three years, although normal construction delays could add a year or so to that figure.

3) All of the currently approved designs are pretty damned large. The Pebble Bed design has not been approved for construction within the United States. South Africa is working on one, and the US will gain lots of useful knowledge from its operation, which will -probably- lead to that design's eventual approval. You would then have a nuclear plant design that you could build in a modular fashion, where 300 Mw(e) plants would become economical.

We'll see where it all goes. For those of you who are opposed to the generation of power via the burning of fossil fuels, but are also opposed to nuclear power, I have this to say to you: you had better move south, because it gets cold in the winter. Just an FYI.

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