Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Politics vs friendships

Over the past several weeks, friends and family have reported hostility from their friends when discussing politics. Although my political discussions with others often expose differences of opinion, I never encounter hostility. I think that this is because, in my line of work and in my leisure time, I am usually surrounded by intelligent, thinking people.

Here is the advice, somewhat amended, that I gave to one young family member on facing hostility in political debate:

Just because someone disagrees with us doesn't mean he or she is hostile toward us. Some people sense hostility or rejection only because they aren't comfortable with their own opinion or they don't feel comfortable with the fact that others might have opinions different from their own. Confidence comes from experience in debate and with fully developing one's own opinions through study, reason, and prayer -- not emotion.

I think that it is even more true that those who truly are are hostile (or defensive -- a form of hostility) in debate also generally lack confidence in their own opinion. Because they consciously or unconsciously know their argument is weak, they rely on emotion to argue their side rather than reason and facts. They generally cannot be taught or convinced. Debate with these people is not worth the bother and it only spoils friendships.

Those who base their arguments on emotion rather than legitimate statistics, facts, and logic will not be convinced by using facts or statistics until they are willing to allow facts to override their emotion. Failing that remote possibility, the only way for the facts- and logic-based party of such an argument to get out of the argument is to simply walk away.

Then, there are those who argue simply because that's what they like to do or it's all they know how to do. The result is the same: wasted effort and ruined friendships.
I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it. — George Bernard Shaw
If our political opinions are well researched, based on facts (not emotion), soundly reasoned, and we can explain ourselves clearly, we're all free to have whatever political opinions we like. The reason we have the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech and of the press is not to protect pornographers, but to ensure a diversity of political opinion from which we all can learn.

Politcal debate sharpens and clarifies one's own opinions. More imporantly, we learn from each other. Discussing politics with people who agree with us on everything cannot do that. But, debate opponents must have something to add to the debate. Those who resort to hostility or emotion do so primarily because they have nothing to add.

Most importantly, never assume that a difference of political opinion is a personal attack. It's only politics. Never take offense at another person's statements -- accept them in the spirit in which they should have been said, not in the spirit in which you perceived them to have been said.

So, keep on discussing politics with well-read, thinking people. Have boring apolitical friendships with everyone else.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The cost of a bureaucrat

The US population is approximately 312 million divided into approximately 114 million households. Each household earns an average of $51,914.

There are over 2.65 million federal government employees in the executive branch -- most of whom do things specifically prohibited to the central government by the US Constitution. That is over 2.3 federal bureaucrats per 100 American households!

The average federal employee compensation is $75,000 -- 45% higher than average per-household private-sector compensation (figures don't include benefits and retirement)! Some 20% of federal civil "servants" make more than $100k per year! The privilege of supporting 2.3 bureaucrats per 100 households costs each american household $1,725 per year! Then, there are over 5.6 additional federal contract and grant jobs per federal civilian employee!

Add to that the estimated cost of $1.75 trillion a year in regulatory burden imposed by and through those bureaucrats -- $15,351 per household or $660,377 per bureaucrat! The typical employer in the private sector shoulders over $10,000 in regulatory-compliance costs per employee -- a very real cause of our current high unemployment rate!

There is no doubt that federal employees think they're essential. But are they really worth that much money and is their economic impact worth it?

Then, there is the cost of all the bureaucrats and contract employees working for the local and state governments and schools. On average, state and local employees are paid about 45% more than workers in the productive sector. Many of those state and local civil "servants" exist only to ensure their agencies comply with federal bureaucratic mandates.

We no longer have, as Abraham Lincoln described it, a "government of the people, by the people, [and] for the people." Our form of government isn't a republic, a democracy, a monarchy, or a dictatorship. It is an aristocratic bureaucracy -- government of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, [and] for the bureaucrats.

Ya got enough government yet?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My past (and future) comments on sexual identity

From time to time, I have made comments on these pages regarding homosexuality and marriage. I occasionally get comments about how intolerant I am. Please let me [hopefully] clarify my opinions on the matter.

My moral values have their roots in my religious upbringing and in the values of my parents. I am satisfied that God views sexual relations outside of marriage as sinful. I am satisfied that Biblical marriage is between a man and a woman. That is the stand that most Bible-based churches (including the LDS Church) have taken. I believe that private organizations such as churches should be free to define their own standards of conduct and membership -- even if that stand is not politically correct. My personal experiences convince me that the people chosen to lead the Church are divinely inspired. How can anyone dare challenge a church to change its divinely-guided stand on anything for their own convenience? Does not doing so defy God himself?

I accept that other people have some form of different lifestyle from mine. Their choices do not change the fact that we are all sons and daughters of God and everyone deserves love and respect at least because of that divine status. In fact, He has commanded us to "love thy neighbour as thyself." That commandment allows no exceptions for characteristics such as sexual identity, race, marital status, ethnicity, politics, economic status, etc.

The fact that a person adheres to the concepts of Biblical marriage and keeping sexual relations within the bonds of marriage should not necessarily be taken as a personal attack on those who have other values. Sadly such differences have resulted in unnecessary but serious conflict between people of differing values.

All that said, I believe that government should not interfere with consenting adults defining their own relationships, including marriage. (I must, however, draw the line at infringing the rights of others. For example, I oppose marriage between adults and children.)

I am opposed to the use of government, including public schools, to impose the will of one group of people on, or indoctrinate, others. Marriage law does exactly that.

I am opposed to governments banning businesses because politicians don't like the religious beliefs and practices of the owner or management.

I understand that some people aren't happy in the traditional man-woman form of marriage. I believe that the choice of companions, including marriage, should be what it traditionally was -- a family and religious event -- not another form of government regulation and taxation.

We all have differing opinions on everything. We all can learn from those differences, if they're not infused with emotion. I hope I can be at least as accepting of your opinions as you are of mine.

Screening gun buyers

Victims of a college mass shooting 5 years ago are pressing for more intrusive screening of gun buyers.

Gun buyers (and concealed firearm permit applicants) are already screened for (Source: ATF Form 4473 which must be completed by gun buyers in all 50 States -- followed by an FBI background check to verify the answers to each of these):
Criminal history (indictment or conviction)
Misdemeanor domestic violence
Outstanding warrants
Drug/alcohol abuse
Mental illness
Restraining orders
Illegal alien status
Certain other non-immigrant alien status
Whether the individual has renounced US citizenship
(BTW, the much-maligned NRA supports and helped write the above criteria.)
What else do these people want gun buyers to be screened for?
Political party affiliation?
Sexual identity?
Marital status?
Who he or she voted for in the last election?
Religious affiliation?
Level of education?
Economic status?
Arbitrary need?
Whether the applicant was a Boy Scout?
Bank account balance?
Whether the applicant smoked a joint or drank a beer 10 years ago?
A fortune teller's prediction that the applicant might be do something naughty some day?
(BTW, the much-celebrated NRA is unlikely to support any of these criteria.)
This -- and everything else that's wrong with government -- is what happens when people let emotion cloud their judgment and demand the government do something.

We need smarter voters!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Politics and the honey bee

The honey bee plays a vital role in putting food in our grocery stores and in producing better and more vegetables and fruit in the family garden. All aware people know about the threats to the honey bee which include bee-specific diseases and parasites, large-scale migratory commercial beekeeping which move those diseases and parasites around the country, and large-scale mono-culture farming which use heavy doses of toxins and genetically-modified crops.

I am convinced that the survival of the honey bee rests on the shoulders of small-scale urban and suburban hobby beekeepers because their bees don't face the level of threat as do commercially-kept bees. But, urban and suburban bees now face a new deadly threat -- local city councils.

Even here in the "Beehive State," cities and home-owners' associations are restricting urban beekeeping. Those restrictions are based on paranoia and emotion -- both stemming from good old-fashioned ignorance. Fellow beekeepers, in some cases, were unaware of the City Council actions and let the restrictions fall in to place. In other cases, beekeepers tried, with little success, to educate their city councils.

Saratoga Springs, in Utah County, seems to be the next likely "Beehive State" county to ban bees. Their city attorney reportedly seems to believe that anything that is not excitedly allowed is by default, prohibited. He should know better. That is something I would expect a third-world dictator to say.

The way our Common-Law-based system works is that we all have a right to do anything that is not explicitly restricted or that infringes the rights of others. In our nation, law does not "allow" us to do anything. It only prohibits whatever is deemed to be bad. Our nation's founders established our government on the concept that we have a God-given ("endowed by their Creator") right to do anything that is not prohibited or which infringes the rights of others. The Saratoga Springs city attorney knows that. He just doesn't care.

Regardless of what the Saratoga Springs city attorney reportedly thinks, if beekeeping -- or any other activity -- is not specifically prohibited, it is legal by default. (A new ordinance would certainly establish that prohibition.) I don't think Saratoga Springs City Council and its attorney can effectively base their case on the current open-ended "No land shall be used or occupied except as specifically permitted in the regulations for the land use zones in which it is located." The question of raising tomatoes by one beekeeper is good example. Does their land-use law specifically allow one to have children? A wife? A car? A goldfish? How far do the dukes and duchesses of Saratoga Springs think their power over the behavior of their subjects goes?

Everyone frets about the damage Congress and the Whitehouse do to the nation. Politicians in both major political parties are culpable -- the Democrats are evil; the Republicans are stupid. It really doesn't matter which of the two parties is in control. But, most of the damage to our nation is happening right in our neighborhoods -- in our City Councils, County Commissions, and local School Boards. And that is where our future State and federal politicians get their political feet wet. That is where we must weed out the ones who threaten our freedom and pocketbooks.

Few people ever attend these local meetings -- and then only when they are specifically affected. By then, it is far too late. Your local politicians have already established substantial momentum against your pocketbook and your liberty. How many Saratoga Springs beekeepers went to a City Council meeting before this issue came up? These meetings are usually so sparsely attended that a frequent attendee really stands out -- even if he only sits and watches. If they see your face in their meetings 3 or 4 times a year, they will immediately recognize you when you eventually stand at the microphone with an opinion. You will have a lot more authority than if you only show up when they finally hit a nerve.

Your city attorney and the other unelected employees in City Hall have a lot of power over what your City Council does. They steer the agenda. They advise the Council on "facts" as they want the City Council to see them. They have a lot more control over the outcome than do even a crowd of citizens they've never seen before.

The fact that few ever attend these meetings equates to open public meetings effectively conducting secret business -- in the open! Don't ever count on your local "news" reporter to tell you everything that the City Council is doing. They won't. They will protect your local politicians in every agenda item the reporter agrees with. Go to your School Board, County Commission, and City Council Meetings even when the items on the agenda don't obviously affect you because in the end, it will -- and it now has for beekeepers.

Beekeepers and gardeners in Saratoga Springs must unite to put beekeepers (or at least people very sympathetic to beekeeping) on the City Council and in the Mayor's office. The current lot must not be allowed to remain.

Utah desperately needs the State Legislature to pass strong legislation that severely restricts the authority of local governments to regulate beekeeping. I am told that Florida has such legislation in place. My legislators here in Iron County know how I feel about this. Do yours? I believe that anyone who hasn't yet written his State Representative and State Senator on this issue is a part of the problem. If you are required to give up your bees, don't blame City Hall. Look in the mirror.

While this commentary focuses on suburban beekeeping, the principles apply to every political attack on our pocketbook and our liberty. We need smarter voters!

Statistics and context when tracking the economy

It's amusing to see how statistics can be used to deceive. For example:

The creator of the chart somehow wants us to believe that the wasteful and unconstitutional "Obama Stimulus" saved to global economy while the similarly wasteful and unconstitutional "Bush Stimulus" of a few months earlier had nothing to do with a recovery.

The creator also wants us to believe that George W. Bush (Bush II) caused the global financial meltdown. As we near the sunset of Barry Soetoro's first term as US President, Democrats and Soetero himself are fond of blaming everything on Bush II and the Republicans. This chart is a part of that pattern.

Sure, the current financial crisis came to a head at the close of Bush II's (Republican) administration. I agree that many Republican politicians are as stupid as many Democrat politicians are evil. Some of Bush's decisions (eg signing TARP) didn't really help the situation -- at great expense. If government would simply stay our of the way, the economy would take pretty good care of itself.

What the chart creator fails to disclose is that the current financial problem has deep roots. Start by taking a look at the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) generously given to us in 1977 during the Jimmy Carter (Democrat) presidency when Congress was also controlled by, uh, Democrats. That bill required banks issue millions of non-qualifying bad loans to individuals who had no chance of paying their bills. This fundamentally stupid law eventually led to a housing boom based on shoddy loan practices and totally unqualified buyers and to what we have today -- financial disaster.

Before this idiotic bill, there was no such thing as a "sub-prime" loan. The non-qualifying, zero down, 100% financed Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARM) were unheard of. These absurd instruments had to be invented by lenders as mechanisms to give deadbeat borrowers trillions in what has turned out to be the taxpayers' money.

To enforce the CRA, banks became shakedown targets of the likes of ACORN (haven of Democrats and corruption) and Jesse Jackson (Democrat), channeling billions of dollars in blackmail payoffs to those groups.

Then in the Clinton era, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac got involved, buying up these bad loans from banks, and securitizing them for sale on world markets. The seeds of the global subprime meltdown were planted.

During the Clinton era the Democrat-controlled Congress made changes to the CRA under the leadership of Barney Frank (Democrat) and Chris Dodd (Democrat). With the full approval and encouragement of Frank and Dodd, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac developed more products that allowed "sub-prime" borrowers to qualify for a mortgage with a much lower down payment and interest rate. Lenders felt comfortable giving mortgage loans to these borrowers with poor credit history because the ratings agencies, Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch's gave these mortgages the same ratings as US Treasury notes, backed by the full faith and credit of the US government.

Republican attempts to reform Fannie and Freddie as early as 1999 failed due to Democrat opposition.

In 2003, Alan Greenspan (political affiliation unknown), Chairman of the Federal Reserve, testified that Fannie and Freddie's loose practices could endanger the financial system. About the same time, Bush II (Republican) warned that the housing and lending markets were about to crash. In fact, starting in 2001, Bush II asked Congress 17 times to stop Fannie and Freddie because these practices were financially risky for the US economy. Barney Frank (Democrat) said these institutions were fundamentally sound and should be even more aggressive in loaning money to low-income people.

In 2005, John McCain (Republican) supported Senate Bill 109 that would have stopped Fannie Mae and Congressional Democrats from forcing banks into making even more risky loans and investing what the Conservatives knew would eventually be the taxpayer’s money into toxic loans. Chris Dodd (Democrat), the Chairman of the Senate Banking committee, acted in lock step with the other Democrats to kill the bill in committee and continued to encourage Franklin Raines (Democrat) at Fannie Mae to buy up as many of the diseased loans as possible. Barney Frank (Democrat) continued assure that everything was okay.

Pin the tail on the donkey!

The next financial crisis? Student loan defaults. Who's behind it? Yup, Democrats!

In 2008, many voters went into the voting booth armed with knowledge and sound judgement. Others, with slogans such as "hope" and "change" and even thoughts of skin color. Knowledge and sound judgement lost that election, only to get the blame for 30 years of sinister Democrat attempts at forcing the economy to work on "hope," "change," and skin color. Most of those voters will be like Barney Frank -- they will forever deny that they might have made a mistake.

This nation cannot afford voters like that. We need smarter voters!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Another unnecessary mass shooting

The Washington Post reported on yesterday's mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. The alleged journalists wrote that the now-dead gunman "...sprayed automatic-weapon fire..."

This is what constitutes journalism today: Conjure up the most hysterical, inflammatory, and graphic wording possible and call it "unbiased news."

Here's some "unbiased news" for the writers of this piece:

1 - Automatic weapons fire multiple shots with a single pull of the trigger. According to your report, this shooter used a semi-auto -- not automatic -- pistol which is capable of shooting only one round per trigger-pull. Your job is to use words -- try to use them correctly!

2 - A common double-action revolver can "spray" bullets just as rapidly as can a semi-auto pistol (see video below).

3 - Mass shootings tend to occur in so-called "gun-free" zones -- not at shooting ranges or the much-maligned gun shows. Maybe you should write a story about why that is so.

Here are some questions the "reporters" should have asked:

1 - Why did the writers fail to tell us whether this Sikh temple was a so-called "gun-free" zone?

2 - If it was, indeed, off-limits to firearms, why did that status not stop a gun from crossing the threshold?

3 - Why did not the writers report on why none of the victims or their family members in that building were prepared to stop a violent attack?

4 - Why did not the writers report on whether the temple had a reasonable level of security to prevent or stop this attack? (There is absolutely no security at the church building I attend. Unless a world-level official is present, it must be treated as a so-called "gun-free" zone.)

As usual, this news report and its countless echos lacks meaningful depth. But, it does broadcast hysteria. Journalism is dead.

The problem isn't "automatic weapons." It isn't guns at all. It's people. Some people are crazy. They need to be treated. Some people are violent. They need to be locked up.

Everyone is responsible for their own health, well-being, future, past, and safety. It should be obvious that the world is a dangerous place. Take steps to protect yourself and your family at least until the police arrive.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Not carrying a gun is selfish

Not carrying a gun for self-protection is selfish because:

▪ You think the police should drop whatever other case (or donut) they're dealing with and save you instantly
▪ You don't mind depriving your family of your lost income
▪ You don't mind depriving your family of your love
▪ You don't mind depriving your family of your experience
▪ You don't mind depriving your community of your leadership and charity
▪ You don't think your family members are worth defending
▪ You don't mind witnessing the murder or rape of your wife, daughter, sister, or mother
▪ You don't mind witnessing the murder or torture of your husband, son, brother, father
▪ You don't mind your children or spouse witnessing your own rape or murder
▪ You don't mind your family having to pay your hospital bills
▪ You don't mind your family having to pay for your burial
▪ You don't mind inconveniencing all your relatives and friends when they have to rearrange their schedule to attend your funeral
▪ You don't mind society having to feed, clothe, and house your murderer for the rest of his life

All that seems kinda selfish to me.

The opposite of love isn't hate; it's selfishness. See what Packing Pretty has to say about why you should carry a gun. It isn't about selfishness!

If you're a responsible adult, get a gun, learn how to use it, learn the law, get a permit where required, then carry -- everywhere and anytime you're allowed!

If you deal with a business that doesn't think your life is worth defending or doesn't trust you with a gun, stop it -- and tell 'em why!

If your local or state government doesn't think your life is worth defending or doesn't trust you with a gun, elect a better government!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I'm Mormon, and I endorse this message

We desperately need voters who vote based on wholesome values and time-tested principles -- not party affiliation or skin pigment.