Saturday, December 3, 2016

Uber Positive

One of the bright lights of the new economy is the ride-sharing service Uber. There's a short 46-page book now available, Uber Positive, that describes the motivation behind opposition to Uber in New York City from the entrenched taxi medallion owners and blowhard Progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio. The opposition has nothing to do with safety and consumer protection, just the effort of a highly-leveraged medallion owner to cover his ass by enlisting the support of sympathetic politicians. And "enlisting the support" of course follows the legalized form of bribery known as campaign contributions.

The author is a brilliant young man named Jared Meyer. And I'm not just saying that because he's my cousin Julie's son. He pops up from time to time on Stossel and other Fox News/Fox Business shows.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Smug

The LA Times recently carried a delusional op-ed about how a small band of plucky grass roots organizers were victorious in passage of a South Dakota ballot measure for public financing of political campaigns.

Like so much surrounding Initiated Measure 22, this is a load of crap. The public finance aspect of this 34-page measure was NEVER mentioned by proponents in their advertising, which by the way was largely financed by out-of-state Progressives. The advertising implied that South Dakota elected officials were thieves who needed to be reigned in by creation of an ethics board and limitations on gifts. I believe the measure gained traction because of a high-profile case of unelected bureaucrats stealing from a Native American education program. Elected officials were guilty of inadequate oversight of the program, but not of corruption. I believe nothing in the measure does anything to address the issues raised by this notorious case, but 52% of the voters were motivated to pass something, anything to crack down on government ethics.

The op-ed piece rightly gives credit to the extremely smug Rick Weiland for this victory. After Weiland lost the Senate race in 2014 by 50-30 to Mike Rounds (arguably the weakest prominent Republican in the state) and other Democrats experienced similar drubbings, the op-ed notes that Mr. Smug turned to promoting ballot measures. Weiland and his henchmen found three issues where they could find out-of-state money to back them. It's somewhat ironic that the only one that passed with this massive outsider financial support was IM 22, which was supposedly about campaign finance reform.

The benefit of having a Constitution at both the state and federal level is it is more difficult for demagogues to seize on transitory issues. IM 22 appropriates $12 million from the state general fund for public campaign financing. This aspect of the measure may be unconstitutional because only the current legislature can appropriate funds for the current year, and cannot write a law binding future legislatures to make specific appropriations. (The other aspects of the law could be a pain in the ass for candidates but don't really matter to most citizens.) I will rejoice when this ridiculous drain on the state treasury is declared invalid. The $12 million is better spent on roads and schools.

Update: In his 2017 proposed budget, the governor has recommended that the legislature appropriate $0 to the public financing fund. In other words, go f--- yourself, Rick Weiland, we have priorities other than your stupid slush fund.

Another update: The Legislature repealed the law. There are some bills being considered to reinstate pieces of it. But Rick Weiland's slush fund will not be one of them.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pandering to the Right

Out of the blue, Donald tweeted that flag burners should be punished with a year in jail or loss of citizenship. Why he's bringing up this issue now is questionable. Is he trying to put Progressives on the defensive, forcing them to defend flag burning? Or is he just pandering and trying to show conservatives how tough he is? As is often the case, Donald is on shaky legal ground. First, the Supreme Court has ruled that flag burning is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. Second, as Andrew Napolitano has pointed out, citizenship cannot be taken from a natural-born citizen, and can only be stripped from naturalized citizens in very rare instances. I thought Kellyanne Conway took away Donald's Twitter account during the campaign to shut down the stupid tweet pipeline. Apparently it's back in production.

When I was young, it seemed as though the Constitution was something that had always existed and therefore always would exist. Recently it occurred to me that 25% of American history has occurred since my birth. This demonstrates that the guarantee of free speech really hasn't existed for very long on the cosmic scale of things, and it should not be taken for granted. The First Amendment and the other rights guaranteed to us in the Constitution need to be protected constantly from the control freaks at both ends of the political spectrum.

The country is not the flag. The country is the people who consent to be a part of it. Soldiers don't put their lives on the line to protect a symbol, no matter how powerful; they do it to protect the people who live in the country represented by that symbol. People have Constitutional protection, symbols do not.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Education

Eliminating the Department of Education has been a fashionable idea ever since it was brought into existence during the oh-so-memorable (for all the wrong reasons) Carter administration. Since then, the bureaucracy has done nothing but grow. Now school districts and colleges must abide by the dictates of the Obama administration or risk losing a huge chunk of their funding. Under a more conservative Trump administration, the dictates may change but the risk remains: Do what bureaucrats in Washington tell you, or else. The Department of Education is a political weapon, and the nation would be better off if neither the Democrats nor the Republicans were able to wield it.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

On the other hand...

I admit my biases. I target Progressives the most because they work tirelessly to grow Big Brother and take away liberty. But sometimes the religious right rises up and proposes something stupid. I'm not going to spell out a lot of background here, so Google "bathroom bill" if you don't know what I'm writing about.

North Carolina passed a bathroom bill recently and has lost quite a few concerts and sporting events because of it. The NBA took its All-Star Game out of Charlotte even though the City of Charlotte passed an ordinance taking the "correct" side. In a state where basketball is king, the NCAA has taken its tournaments out and given them to other states.

In my state of South Dakota, the legislature passed a similar bill last session, but Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed it. His veto message steered clear of the emotionally-charged language used by both sides and addressed only practical matters:

"It removes the ability of local school districts to determine the most appropriate accommodations for their individual students and replaces that flexibility with a state mandate. If and when these rare situations arise, I believe local school officials are best positioned to address them. Instead of encouraging local solutions, this bill broadly regulates in a manner that invites conflict and litigation, diverting energy and resources from the education of the children of this state.

"Preserving local control is particularly important because this bill would place every school district in the difficult position of following state law while knowing it openly invites federal litigation. Although there have been promises by an outside entity to provide legal defense to a school district, this provision is not memorialized in the bill. Nor would such defense eliminate the need for school or state legal counsel, nor avoid expenses relating to expert witnesses, depositions and travel, or other defense costs. Nor does the commitment extend to coverage over settlement or damage expenses. This law will create a certain liability for school districts and the state in an area where no such liability exists today."

Whether the 2017 Legislature will reconsider a bill remains to be seen, but one proponent wants to collect signatures and get it onto the 2018 ballot. I'm guessing the Libertarian position would be to oppose such a bill on principle, but I'm opposed to it for purely practical reasons: Sioux Falls has a new arena to pay for, and as a city taxpayer I'm concerned it may not pay for itself if the state draws the ire of the NCAA and concert performers. What we have is a solution in search of a problem and two emotional sides waging a pointless battle that causes expensive collateral damage.

Death of a Dictator

A word of advice to Colin Kaepernick: If you want to be credible when you speak out against oppression, don't put yourself in the position of attacking some oppressors by defending others, namely the murderous dictator Fidel Castro. Shortly before the death of Fidel this week, Kaepernick did just that. Your praise of an oppressive regime suggests that your stance is contrived and political rather than heartfelt and humanitarian. Yes, Cuba has lots of schools and hospitals, but as you visit South Florida this weekend, there are hundreds of thousands of Cubans who would be happy to share their experiences under Fidel's evil dictatorship if you would just care to listen. The world is a better place today now that Fidel is dead.

Update: The Miami linebacker who stuffed Kaepernick on the last play of Sunday's game happens to be the son of a Cuban father. Kiko Alonso spoke for most Cuban-Americans when he said he felt some "bad blood" going into the game. Kaepernick's comments after the game were muddled as he tried to play both sides, continuing to praise the totalitarian Cuban system but claiming that didn't mean he supported the oppression that is integral to Castro's creation.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sanctimonious Hypocrites

A fashion designer whose name is irrelevant has stated she will not work with the new First Lady. I haven't heard the official Trump response but I'm guessing it is, "Nobody asked you."

This person also has asked other designers to boycott the Trumps. This is perfectly within her right to associate and work with whomever she chooses. Alas, Progressives do not grant the right of free association to everyone, only those on the "correct" side. A Christian bakery in Oregon was driven out of business and hit with a $135,000 fine by state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian because the owners refused to violate their religious beliefs. In a case of "Payback is a Bitch," Avakian's activist agenda was rejected by Oregon voters this month when he ran for secretary of state. His opponent became the first Republican to win statewide office since 2002.

Sometimes rights conflict, but reasonable people can work it out. Or you can have a tinpot dictator trampling on his enemies and helping his friends.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Staking out the Center

I named this blog "Center of the Nation" because (a) I'm physically located near the center of the nation and (b) I believe the Libertarian Party should be the party of choice for centrist citizens who are disgusted by the rude partisan politics of loony left Democrats and wacko right Republicans. Why do we allow the extremists of the left and right to take turns in control of the U.S. goverment? The Libertarian Party should be the haven for those centrists who believe in individual freedom and abhor government meddling in everyday life.

That word "fascism" is thrown about freely by both extremes to define the other. What is fascism? Merriam Webster defines it as, "a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition." For those left wingers who accuse Tea Partiers of being fascists, people are starting to notice that supposedly-inclusive and tolerant "Progressives" also show some fascist tendencies with their actions to suppress dissent and free expression.

Neither side fits the definition perfectly, but I can see a bit of both of them in there.

Inappropriate Glee in the Anguish of Snowflakes

I did not vote for Donald and fear that he will be a disaster in office. But I take inappropriate glee in the reaction of condescending Progressives and their Snowflake Millennial minions. They just can't understand how 67 million people (Trump+Johnson) voted against their plans for a Socialist utopia and its divisive foundation of identity politics and class warfare. They can't believe that those stupid hillbillies in flyover country, who are forced to pay the bills but get little benefit from their "contributions," lied to the pollsters and repudiated them in the voting booth. Deplorable!

One remark I heard on TV this week was that Donald entered the presidential race just to get some free publicity for a few months and was surprised as anyone when he started winning primaries. Seeing him visit the White House for the first time after his win seemed to show that the egomaniac has a humble side. Some interpreted his reaction as a realization that he was in over his head.

But, removing all possibility that he was going to surrender to the anarchists who are demanding...something, not sure what, but they are very strident about it...Donald spent the next few days making personnel announcements that pissed off and/or scared the pantsuits off everyone who voted for Hillary. The choice of Sen. Sessions for Attorney General was a particular poke in the eye. The mere recitation of his full name, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, sounds like a return to Jim Crow. The only thing I've heard in his favor is that Sen. Elizabeth Warren has demanded that his nomination be retracted. Socialists sure like to demand things, don't they? The irony is that it will be easy to get Sessions confirmed by the Senate due to rules changes passed by the Democrats to jam through Obama's nominees.

Hillary got 48% of the popular vote, a plurality but NOT a majority. If you boot California out of the Union (please), Donald got a plurality. So Donald has support from most of the country, but I wonder about the depth of that support if he continues down what appears to be a hard right path charted these first few days.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Earth Needs Libertarians

"Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right...."

-Stealers Wheel

I am a Libertarian. I voted for neither Hillary nor Donald. I voted for Gary Johnson, who was an imperfect candidate, but most of his stated positions on the big issues were in line with my beliefs. I believe most Americans are centrist and resent the takeover of the so-called major parties by extremists. The Democrats are beholden to Progressives whose intolerance of differing opinions borders on fascism. The Republicans, at least until the rise of Donald, were dominated by Tea Partiers who would purge all who don't pass litmus tests on issues such as abortion and bathrooms rather than try to grow the party and win elections. Donald, who knows what he believes in other than the Trump brand?

I believe core Libertarian beliefs are centrist, perhaps a bit to the left on social issues and a bit to the right on economic issues. And I believe many Americans are Libertarian at heart but don't identify themselves as party members because (a) the party has an undeserved perception of being "out there," (b) the party by its very nature does not pander to voters by promising huge spending programs, or (c) the party just hasn't attracted their attention.

Here's a list of Libertarian Party positions on various issues.

  • Free market approaches are the most effective at improving people's lives.
  • All people have equal rights.
  • There should be a free market in education in which parents, teachers and students, not government, would makes their own choices.
  • Libertarians seek a U.S. at peace with the world.
  • Healthcare should be freed from government meddling and control.
  • Every person has the right to arm themselves in self defense.
  • Peaceful individuals should be allowed to immigrate to the U.S.
  • The justice system needs to be reformed. Sentences for many non-violent crimes are too harsh and inadequate rehabilitation leads to recidivism.
  • The war on drugs is a failure and unduly punishes minorities.

I agree with this broad outline, but the devil is in the details of course. I'm not going to rehash the wedding cake controvery but there was concern that candidate Johnson seemed willing to trample on religious freedom in certain circumstances. This and other issues caused some to label Johnson "not Libertarian enough."

But I voted for him. The other choices were a racist, sexist buffoon and a pandering, corrupt opportunist. I would like to believe that even in this era where a game show host can get elected president, a growing number of Americans will discover they really are Libertarians at heart.