Blog

To differentiate, to make a distinction

Before I get started in what I hope will be a fine diatribe, let me say that I hold nothing against people who don’t vote, pretty much no matter what the reason.  I have thought about it long and hard and I don’t blame you.  However, I am not among you.  Over the course of my life, the two birthdays I looked forward to the most were when I would turn 21 (the day I could drink legally) and when I would turn 18 (and could vote).  Since then, I have never missed voting in a national or state election, although I cannot say the same of stand alone local elections.

Texas House Bill 25, which would end straight ticket voting, has passed a preliminary vote by the Texas Senate.  A final vote is still needed and may have already been taken by the time this blog post is published.

Those who are against it say it discriminates against minorities.  In all meanings of the word “discriminate” in English the foundation is to differentiate, to make a distinction.  If something affects everybody then it isn’t differentiating.  All people who vote are forced to go along with  this change.  So how is this discriminating?

According to James Barragan a reporter for the Dallas Morning News (May 18, 2017) in the Austin Bureau, opponents argue the bill “disenfranchises minorities, the elderly and those who need assistance to vote, such as deaf and blind people many of whom often use straight-ticket voting.”  If you are elderly or need assistance to vote, how does this bill change any of that?  As a senior citizen I can assure you that keeping the law the way it is, is not going to make you any younger nor cure what ails you.  If people are motivated enough to vote, an extra ten minutes (if even that) in the voting booth is not going to stop them from voting.  Hey Senators, I can afford an extra ten minutes every two years to vote.

I have no idea what the argument is behind “disenfranchises minorities.”  If they were disenfranchised before they will be disenfranchised after and conversely.  Disenfranchisement, what nonsense!  It sounds like the same paternalistic racism that the political establishment has practiced for fifty years.

I feel discriminated against by straight ticket voting.  The Libertarian Candidate for The so called Texas Railroad Commission (Mark Miller) got the endorsement of five major Texas newspapers and was certainly better qualified than the major party candidates. Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch – the Republican was elected.

According to the above cited article, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has told lawmakers that implementation of the law would cost the county $885,000 to implement in 2018 and would increase after that.  Balderdash!  I have experience with cost estimates that originate with government entities.  We called them SWAGs.  If you know what SWAG stands for then you will know they are not to be trusted and are either high or low depending on what the preparer is really going for.

And I have to say to Mr. Jenkins – Apparently we have decided that the conducting of elections is a primary function of state and local government.  This means you have to do it but, of course cost is always a consideration.  You are to be applauded for trying to save each person in Dallas County 35 cents every two years (that is what it works out to).  Or another option would be to find something that Dallas County is doing which is not a primary function of government and cut it out.

Texas is only one of ten states that have straight ticket voting.  Apparently the world will end if we join the other thirty-nine.  Just like Great Britain ceased to exist after the Brexit vote.

Sinking Ship- Government Pensions

I started a search on Google News to get the latest information on the Dallas Fire and Police Pension bill in the Texas Legislature. Before I could finish typing in the word “pension” Google had already suggested the search should be “pension crisis”. Yes indeed we have a “pension crisis” in America and have had one for decades. Almost all these pensions have one thing in common – government.

It is time to end the pension crisis once and for all. Let’s get rid of pensions. The problem with government pensions is that we are requiring future taxpayers to commit to past promises they had no say in. It is taxation without representation.

I, like all citizens of the US, are owed a pension; it is called social security. I am not going to go into social security and how it should be appropriately renamed social welfare, as it is a much different (albeit bigger) issue and it isn’t your “standard” pension plan. What I am going to address here is all the federal, state, and local pensions promised to government workers for working typically 20 or 30 years and then being fully eligible for 100% of their plan benefits.

These pensions have often been used to entice people into lower paying government jobs with a reward of a big payout in the end. Not that pensions are going to make you rich, but overall they are padded enough to encourage government employees to deal with lower pay right now for longer term rewards in the future. The problem is those longer term future rewards aren’t properly funded, they have been over promised, or in most cases – both. We know that politicians will never ever stop over promising.

The solution to the crisis is to eliminate all government pensions across the board. Current employees based upon age should be grandfathered or paid a lump sum to roll into a 401k or IRA plan. All future government employees should continue to pay into social security – yes, they need to be in the same sinking ship with the rest of us and also be enrolled into a 401k plan to have the same market based risk as everyone else too.

I am not saying 401k plans are the best retirement investment vehicle, as ideally everyone should be able to put their retirement savings into anything they choose; be it bitcoin, gold, land, stocks, or whatever else. What I am saying is eliminate the burden for taxpayers to fund pensions, which according to a Google search always seems to be in “crisis”

The libertarian approach of course would to be to pay whatever the job is worth in the market, let you keep your earnings without income tax and invest into your own future retirement as you see fit without any rules…but we know that will never happen. So let’s do what the private sector has decided is the most efficient method to attract workers based upon our current tax laws; that is 401k plans. Yes, government pensions should and must be eliminated before the crisis gets worse.

Apparently it was news to him.

15 May 2017

According to an Associate Press Dispatch published in today’s Dallas Morning News, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said “America’s founding fathers had created three co-equal branches of government with checks and balances, but with Trump as president, that was now ‘eroding.’”

It seems to me that is akin to stating that the moon is starting to become a dry and desolate place.

Maybe we need a President Trump to help the Congress of the United States find its backbone which it has lost piece by piece over several administrations.  I pray the cure is not worse than the disease.

It’s Sad Really

It’s sad really, The Texas Legislature spending all this time on hearings for “The Bathroom Bill.”  I cannot blame the LGBT community.  I think they are basically seeking a recognition of their humanity.  For the Legislator’s part, they are elected politicians and have to hold the hearings as theater the same way The President visits the area of a natural disaster or the TSA allegedly prevents terrorism.  Most of it is for show and doesn’t make any difference in the outcome.  How many Legislators have changed their minds because of the hearings?

The sad part:   Because of time wasted, other things that they should devote their time to examining will get rushed through, with unintended consequences.

Trust But Verify

13 April 2017

I had an aunt that lived in Chicago and voted Republican her entire adult life.  After she passed away she consistently voted Democratic.  That’s an old joke but one in which many of us suspect there is some truth, Chicago and Illinois being full of politicians who are, as we all know, of sterling character, upright citizens, etc. etc.  If you don’t believe me just ask the Wardens of the prisons that house how many ex-Governors?

I am being unfair to the people of Illinois and I know it but it is hard to resist.  Besides I needed an intro to talk about voter ID laws, particularly here in Texas.

The core issue is the integrity of the voting process.  The top authority on the voting process is the Texas Legislature, to the extent that things are not modified by the Federal Courts.  This smells very much like the fox guarding the hen house.  The best we can hope for is the red foxes will counter balance the blue foxes.  Off hand, I cannot come up with a better system.  Besides it seems like the people who actually work the polling places are sincere and idealistic people even though they are dems and reps (tempered with a few independents).  However, I can’t help but think that in recent history the Democrats have understated the incidents of voter fraud while the Republicans have overstated it.

In your personal and business life you probably do not enter into transactions with strangers unless you have some proof that they are who they say they are.  Sure, that is not one hundred percent effective but if you are in the hardware store and the person behind the register is wearing the hardware store logo vest and has a name tag with the logo on it, you assume that you can give that person money in a valid transaction.  You assume he is not some guy off the street just working a scam (although that has happened).  Conversely, if you want to pay by check he is going to want more evidence of your identity than your pleasant smile and personality.

You can see I am headed toward espousing some sort of voter ID requirement.  Let me just go with some personal experiences.  First of all, my career was in an arena where security clearances were necessary.  I am used to showing identification.  This doesn’t mean if I was walking down the street and a cop out of the blue wants me to identify myself that I wouldn’t think that legally I don’t have to, but I would probably show it to him.

I worked Libertarian Party petition drives several times in Maryland.  Now I don’t know how often the election board was influenced by higher political authority when they disallowed signatures but I want to say the requirements for a valid signature were not so much onerous as exacting.  OK, sometimes they were petty.  And Maryland is essentially a one party state.  It does make one suspicious.  Our work around was to get many more signatures than required.

One year there was a big to do in Philadelphia about valid petition signatures.  I can’t remember now who sued who but I volunteered to go up there and work on the auditing process.  Basically, a bunch of people in teams of two went through a whole bunch of contested signatures one by one and compared things to the voter registration data base and then made a determination for the court.  The two person teams, of course, never were of the same political party.  Every person I worked with was reasonable even though, ugh, they weren’t Libertarians.

In short (and headed toward a conclusion), I don’t trust those in power as much as I trust the average citizen.  I don’t like the government getting lots of information about me (although in my case, they have it) but in order to trust the voting process a reasonable minimum of identification at the polls is a good thing.

To the argument that just getting to the place to register is a hardship for some people, I ask, “How do they get out otherwise?”  I am sure there are many people and organizations that would gladly lend a hand or supply transportation.

To the argument that this is just a way to discriminate against fill in the blank I say if you feel you have been maltreated at the polling place then raise holy hell.  I don’t mean at the polling place (I don’t need a charge of fermenting a riot) I simply mean register your displeasure and pursue redress in an orderly and polite but firm manner even if the issue isn’t resolved that very day.  There are definitely organizations that would lend a hand with that.  Be gentle with the poll workers who are probably trying to figure out the latest guidelines themselves.

Citizens have a right to vote.  We are way beyond the point where only white male landowners get to vote.  Don’t like it; get over it.  But we as citizens need to know that non-citizens, dead people, and non-existent people don’t get to vote.  Trust but verify.

Too much of anything is a bad thing

***To each his own disclosure. This is an opinion post and is not a statement of official party position or party platform***

You don’t have to be a pure libertarian to be Libertarian. (the big L vs the little l debate won’t be settled here). If you’re curious and don’t know what the heck the difference is, the Capital L generally refers to the Libertarian Party (Libertarian Party).  Lowercase l refers to the ideology, which includes anarchists, minarchists (the LP is minarchist), left libertarians, right libertarians (the LP is right libertarian), etc. I am not a pure libertarian, never have been, never will be. I am a Libertarian, a badge I proudly wear even if pure libertarians roll their eyes at some of my viewpoints. I imagine that many of you are also Libertarians but have been scared away by some of the radicalism of some pure libertarians. Don’t be turned away from expressing your Libertarian views just because you don’t feel the same as a pure libertarian on the issues of taxes, roads, guns, wars or whatever else.

Too often you have heard the term “taxes are theft”, and in a pure libertarian point of view they are theft. However, as a Libertarian I have come to realize that the statement “death and taxes” is true and that just calling them “theft” isn’t going to reduce them nor eliminate them entirely. Calling a thief names when he has a gun to your head demanding your wallet might not work out well. So how can I, as a Libertarian, deal with taxes and rationally support the idea of paying them?

Since taxes are necessary to support the policies of our government, we need to look at those policies and support those that do the most good with the least harm. If a policy is bad, we must work to have it changed or repealed. We need to be vigilant against government waste as well as watching out for government excess and overreach. We must ensure that government doesn’t spend more than it collects, so if you don’t believe in a balanced budget you are not a Libertarian. Last of all you must support the ideas of fairness in taxes. While tax breaks are great, too often they are used as a tool to unfairly reward one group or special interest at the detriment of everyone else. For example, granting tax breaks to billionaires to build sport stadiums, even if it creates jobs, is not Libertarian.

If you are an anarchist, you are not automatically a “Libertarian”. Can you be both? Yes. Anarchism is one of the many philosophies that occupy our party but is not the only one we have. Being a Libertarian means you strongly support self-ownership and voluntary association, but quickly realize  these rights in our society are limited by certain acts; Be it the Constitution “statutory law” and by common law and no one is truly 100% free in present society. So while the libertarian side of me might want to walk down the street naked, smoking a blunt, drinking jack, carrying a rifle, and resisting anyone who tries to interfere with my rights to self-ownership, the Libertarian side of me realizes I need to work to educate others about personal freedoms and work within the rules to change the laws before attempting to do so.

Can you be a Democrat or a Republican and still be a Libertarian? My answer is a resounding no! While Ron Paul is often cited as a libertarian, associating yourself with Democrats and Republicans means that you support some ideas that are fundamentally opposed to libertarianism. While as a Libertarian I am forced to accept taxes as a necessary evil and accept government laws that limit my rights self-ownership, to use any of them as a tool to enforce my views upon someone else is absolutely wrong. Both the Democrats and the Republicans use government as tool to push their agendas. For example, I might believe that living wages are a great idea as it lifts people out of poverty, but to pass laws or to collect taxes and redistribute wealth to achieve such a goal is not Libertarian. I might also believe that a strong defense is necessary, but to deficit spend in order to build a bigger navy is not Libertarian, as all deficit spending is taking away rights from future generations without their consent.

So how do you know that you are Libertarian without embracing pure libertarianism? I would start by viewing the Libertarian Party platform (https://www.lp.org/platform/) if all or most of these principles apply to your way of thinking then you are a Libertarian. I have looked and “taxes are theft” is nowhere to be found in the platform, sorry purists.

So you might be a Libertarian, now what? We have way too many pure libertarians already taking up the position of armchair quarterback. So we need Libertarians who will show up when we have meetings, join us in events we either host or participate in, and help spread the truth about Libertarianism; that we are not here to abolish all government and spread anarchism but are here to protect your rights to life and liberty from government overreach.

 

James Felber,

Chair- Denton County Libertarian Party

 

**Edited by Rob Gammon 4/13/2017 (added context and detail)

MEDITATE ON THIS

07 April 2017

The latest news out of Syria concerns chemical warfare attacks against “civilians” with plenty of finger pointing and denials.  What follows is a poem by William Blake which I always think of when I hear the term “chemical attack.”  I am pretty sure it is the imagery that does this.

O for a voice like thunder, and a tongue
To drown the throat of war!
When the senses
Are shaken, and the soul is driven to madness,
Who can stand?
When the souls of the oppressed
Fight in the troubled air that rages,
Who can stand?
When the whirlwind of fury comes from the
Throne of God, when the frowns of his countenance
Drive the nations together,
Who can stand?
When Sin claps his broad wings over the battle,
And sails rejoicing in the flood of Death;
When souls are torn to everlasting fire,
And fiends of Hell rejoice upon the slain.
O who can stand?
O who hath caused this?
O who can answer at the throne of God?
The Kings and Nobles of the Land have done it!
Hear it not, Heaven, thy Ministers have done it!

 

Blake apparently wrote this as a prologue to an unfinished work on The War of The Roses.  He has a reputation for obscure references but I think this poem is clear as a bell.  I considered deleting the last line for this post because the next to the last line applies very well, really, to our modern democracies and whatever you call this crap we are trying to do in the Middle East.  But, who am I to mess with Blake?

…george k reynolds