Bankers and Politicians Are Robbing People Everywhere

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Before you shed tears for the plight of elite bankers, let this statement sink in:

Cyprus’ banking sector must shrink. As did Ireland’s, the hard way. What is essential, as every Irishman and woman will tell you, is that the politicians do not load up the weaker citizen’s/taxpayers’ shoulders with enormous debts on behalf of bankers that refuse to wither.
Read more at http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/03/yanis-varoufakis-while-waiting-for-cyprus-godot.html#dCKwchxGzzT2ljPx.99

Wall Street on Little Guy

That’s from Yanis Varoufakis, professor of economics at Athens University. It explains what’s going on throughout Europe in the United States.

Top bankers and politicians created a phony wealth system that crashed. Or is crashing. Instead of letting it crash and rebuilding on sound economics, the big bankers and politicians are a) loading us up with debt, or b) confiscating our savings.

The elites refuse to accept the consequences of their own failed system. Tyler Durden makes the point here on ZeroHedge.com:

Throughout all of this, the global elites have displayed consistently worsening signs of decadence, psychopathic tendencies, and overall detachment from reality.

The core problem here is that Westerners have ceded almost all political and economic power to the elites. Representative democracy was designed to prevent elites from accumulating power, but it only works if people hold onto their power jealously. Here’s how William F. Buckley put it in Up From Liberalism:

I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power as I see fit.

Buckley is dead, and so is his ethos.

Debt hasn’t diminished since the crisis began. It’s grown like an infected boil on the face of democracy.

As massive debts accumulate to governments and ever larger banks, the temptation among the elites to rob the rest of us grows stronger. And the longer we wait to pop this zit, the deadlier the pus explosion when it ruptures.

SLU Billikens

Go Bills

Reading Time: 1 minutes
SLU Billikens
St. Louis University Billikens advanced to Round of 32 in NCAA Tournament. They meet Oregon St. at 6:10 p.m. Saturday

I’m not the biggest NCAA basketball fan in the world, but the SLU Billikens rev up my heart whenever they make a push in the tournament.

It’s heartwarming to see all the love spilling over from Mizzou fans to the Bills, as Bernie Miklasz documents in a post today.

Anyway, I thought I’d present the Twitter responses to my question. There’s a good mix here … some humor, some bitterness and some harmless “hater” stuff too. As well as some anti-Kansas sentiment and a shot at Ole Miss hot dog Marshall Henderson. I even heard from a couple of Illinois fans, including the mayor of Jacksonville, Ill.

Wouldn’t you love to see the Bills drive into the final four? And while I’m asking questions, if you’re a Mizzou fan, have you adopted the Billikens?

 

We Need a Stronger Third Eye

Reading Time: 3 minutes

What do we look like to people who aren’t politics wonks?  And why does it matter?

This question is for my friends on the right. By “on the right,” I’m talking about conservatives and right-leaning libertarians. (I’m not going to debate definitions, so accept mine or stop reading.)

Developing a Third Eye

When I was an acting student many long years ago, I had a director, Don Garner, who stressed the importance of the actor’s third eye.

He wasn’t talking about make-up and special effects. He was talking about developing an ability to see yourself on stage as if you were watching yourself through a camera in the house. Great actors, he claimed, had this third eye. They could see what they looked like from the audience’s point of view. Until you developed that sense, your physical presence was at the mercy of your fickle mind.

In other words, you might look like dolt.

I think we on the right could use that third eye skill. And a third ear.

Most People Want To Get Through Life as Best They Can

When I was going through a divorce that was none too pleasant, at some point I had to stop fighting my ex-wife. I kept waiting for her to stop fighting, to be reasonable. Then someone (I don’t remember who) made a point.  He said, “it’s like goin’ through a crappy little town on your way to vacation, Bill. She’s just trying to get through life the best she can.”

He was right. That’s what we all do. We’re all trying to get through life the best we can, and it pisses us off when someone interrupts the comfortable route we’ve been driving.

Sure, some people take a stupid route to get from A to B. Some people choose destinations that are the places people like us are trying to get the hell out of. And some people drive drunk. But they’re all just trying get through life and they’re driving the best vehicle they can afford.

When we tell them their car’s ugly or their destination’s a toilet or their map’s out of date or their left blinker’s been on for the last 20 miles, they don’t say, “thank you.” They say, “mind your own damn business, ass hat.”

Why are we surprised?

The Challenger Launched

Roger Boisjoly was right. The O-rings on the Space Shuttle tended to fail during cold-weather launches. He tried to stop the launch, risking his career, on the eve of the January 28, 1986 launch of the Challenger.

He failed. The Challenger launched as scheduled. And exploded in mid-air to a nation’s horror.

We are right about much. We on the right. But being right doesn’t necessarily translate into winning. Sometimes, they just don’t listen.

Why?

Third Eye Blind

If Roger Boisjoly had developed a strong third eye, the Challenger launch might have been delayed. But he didn’t. The brave engineer expected others to see his charts and tables through his two eyes. And they couldn’t.  So the Challenger launched and people died.

The people at NASA, the families of the astronauts, the students of teacher Christa McAuliffe, were on a path through life that included a Space Shuttle launch. They didn’t want to hear Roger Boisjoly’s arcane warnings about O-rings. They didn’t want their trip interrupted.

Why Should They Listen to Us?

Government debt is is a problem, but it’s not the real problem. The real problem is freedom. Government spending is a better proxy than debt for the loss of freedom.

Government spending represents decisions that someone else makes. Decisions that obligate you and me and our kids. Decisions that limit our futures.

Every penny spent by a bureaucrat is a choice denied to you and me.

You and I can’t understand why others aren’t as freaked out about this as we are. So we blame them.

We call them ignorant, selfish, mis-educated, drunk, stoned, communist, brain-dead.  And we might be right.

Why are we surprised when they tune us out?

The NASA bosses should have figured out a way to see things through Roger Boisjoly’s eyes. They didn’t. They will go to their graves wishing they had, but that doesn’t bring Christa McAuliffe and her crewmates back.

In the end, it’s up to the person, to the people, with further vision to explain the situation in words that others understand. It’s up to us to turn on our third eye and see what about us blinds them to our vision.

It’s not their fault; it’s ours. They’re trying to get through life as best they can with what they’ve been given. If we look dangerous or crazy or mean, they won’t stop and ask for directions. Until they do, we can’t give them a better map.

That sucks, I know, because it’s hard work, and we’ve already done so much. But it’s way more productive than standing around bitching that no one sees the horrors that we see until it’s too late.

That third eye and third ear will tell us what we look like and what we sound like to people who have no idea what our little play is about. Until we turn on those senses, we’ll keep playing to an empty house.

Let’s turn them on before it’s too late.

 

Rockwood School District Wants More Money But State Audit Found It Mismanages The Money It Has

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Were Rockwood School District to shut down, the entire bond-issue-campaign-financing industry would slump into depression.

Rockwood School District Hasn't Learned
Rockwood School District wants another $38 million bond issue on the heals of scathing audit of its financial management practices.I’ve lived in this district since 1996, and I honestly don’t remember an April in which the board wasn’t asking for more money to carpet the football fields or remodel 12-year-old theatres or build an observatory or whatever.

Yes, the education is good. But it was good before the building binge started in the late 1990s. And a lot of that quality education has to do with great teachers and strong families. I’m no expert, but my guess is that if you replicated Rockwood’s structural facilities inside the city limits of St. Louis, the quality of education in the city wouldn’t budge.

A few years ago, Eileen Tyrell and Lisa Hunt Earls formed Rockwood Stakeholders to give some oversight to the district. Their work has been remarkable. They pulled together real experts and sincere, level-headed citizens into an organization that should be replicated in every school district in the country.

Last year, Rockwood Stakeholders succeeding in getting an audit of the district from State Auditor Tom Schweich.  The results were less complimentary to the district. (Yes, that’s understatement.) And mismanagement of construction money was the biggest problem uncovered.

So now RSD has another ballot initiative on the April 2 ballot. Here’s how Rockwood Stakeholders summarized the temerity of asking for money when you can’t handle the money you’ve been granted:

As an advocate group for taxpayers, parents, employees and students of the Rockwood School district, RS for RS feels the Board and district officials needs to work on rebuilding the community’s trust and credibility which was lost over the recent disclosure of questionable and unethical business practices involving bond construction, vendor and consultant contracts and the lack of transparency.

I agree. So I say:

Vote No on Prop S on April 2.

While some of the objectives of the proposal are worthwhile, most of the board and its administration remains the same people called out in the state audit.

Vote for New Blood on the Board on April 2

Now comes Andrew Bemus, student Opinion Editor of the Marquette High School online newspaper The Messenger.

Andrew reviews the audit’s findings and proposes a smart solution: elect two new board members on April 2, and make it two people with fresh perspectives.

That leaves voters with two candidates for two seats. Those candidates are teacher Loralee Mondl and Business Executive Jeffrey Morrell. Both of these candidates bring something to the table that is badly needed.

A Rockwood teacher and a businessman who come from outside the present board.

Make sense to me.

Thanks for the tip, Andrew. You saved me a lot of research for the April 2 election. And thanks to Eileen, Lisa, Doug, and the folks who work so hard to keep Rockwood School District effective and efficient.

How the Condorcet Method Could Save The GOP

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The RNC’s Autopsy report wants to do away with caucuses and conventions, replacing them with regional primaries. But I’ll propose a different reform that will make candidate selection more interesting, whether in a caucus or a primary.

A Word About The Autopsy

The idea of compacting the primary season and eliminating caucuses has some merit, but also a lot of downside. On the plus side are splashier events to showcase the party, fewer Tuesdays littered with politics, and, believe it or not, some economies as candidates can focus on one geographical region at a time. On the downside are some scary issues, like eliminating insurgent candidates, cutting out activists and grassroots, and favoring candidates with huge war chests. In short, the system would favor Establishment candidates.

FreedomWorks and other grassroots groups are furious over the the recommendations. They see the report as an attempt to eliminate the grassroots from the process, letting big money candidates favored by the Establishment to run the table quickly.

But I think a more basic problem with the presidential candidate selection system is the way we vote. I mean, aren’t you sick of seeing grassroots voters split their votes among three or four or six candidates allowing the Establishment’s candidates to skate through?

What If We Had To Vote On Every Candidate?

Instead of choosing one person from a field of six, eight, twelve candidates, why not vote for each pair of candidate in a head-to-head race?

Yes, each voter will need to punch more chads or touch more buttons, but each decision should be very quick. Here’s what it might look like, using some presumed candidates for 2016.

Let’s assume these are the candidates in the Missouri primary in 2016:

  • Rand Paul
  • Marco Rubio
  • Chris Christie
  • Paul Ryan
  • Ted Cruz
  • Bobby Jindal

Under the current system, voters select one candidate and move onto the next race. But under the Condorcet method, each voter would vote for each pair:

  • Paul vs. Rubio
  • Paul vs. Christie
  • Paul vs. Ryan
  • Paul vs. Cruz
  • Paul vs. Jindal
  • Rubio vs. Christie
  • Rubio vs. Ryan
  • Rubio vs. Cruz
  • Rubio vs. Jindal
  • Christie vs. Ryan
  • Christie vs. Cruz
  • Christie vs. Jindal
  • Ryan vs. Cruz
  • Ryan vs. Jindal
  • Cruz vs. Jindal

I realize that I just turned one vote into 15 votes, but I’ve also forced the voter to actually think about each possible pairing. Additionally, voters will actually stack rank the candidates, which could be invaluable information for VP selection. And it really won’t take much longer to get through the list.

A Condorcet Sample Scorecard

The Condorcet winner would be the candidate with the lowest maximum votes against.  In a precinct with 200 votes cast, here’s how the scorecard might look:

image

Jindal wins with the lowest maximum votes against.  In other words, Jindal is unacceptable to the smallest number of voters. Put another way, Jindal has the lowest negatives when actually comes to voting.

Rand Paul came in second, followed by Rubio, Ryan, Cruz, and Christie.

(For the record, I just made up these numbers. They don’t reflect my expectations of an actual vote.)

Condorcet Voting Gives Insurgents A Chance

This voting method would allow the RNC to impose its regional primary format while negating some of the advantage of big money. Think about it.

Suppose the RNC favorite is Chris Christie. He goes into the primaries with lots of cash and buys lots of ad time. He has the highest name recognition by far.

In our current system, people walk in, scan the ballot, see the name they recognize, and punch it.

In the Condorcet system, they can’t do that.  They actually have to look at each name and compare Christie to every other candidate.  Since most voters are low-information voters compared to the readers of this blog, this may be the first time they realize a person they like is even on the ballot.

And because the winner is the candidate with the lowest votes against in any match-up, Christie is likely to rack up a high votes against total in at least one of the match-ups.

This gives insurgents a chance because name recognition alone isn’t enough to run the table.

Best Of All, Condorcet Eliminates The Problem Of Divided Votes

Do you really think Romney would have won the nomination if we added up the voters who didn’t want him?

No. Romney won because conservatives (of various stripes) split their votes across a range of preferable candidates. In most of the early primaries, Romney never got above 30 percent. Romney was nobody’s second choice, but no other one candidate was anybody’s first.

In the Condorcet method, you get to vote for all your preferred candidates. Plus, as in the example above, you get to vote against Chris Christie five times in one day!

The Condorcet Method Spices Things Up

Besides leveling the playing field and forcing voters to actually consider the pairings, the Condorcet method would breathe new life into the system.

Sure, some will balk at the extra votes to cast. Many people hate to think. But we really don’t want them voting, anyway.  Not in a primary.  Caucuses weed out the casual voters because of the time and energy commitment.  Primaries make voting too easy.

By making voting a little harder, you’re going to favor the true base of the party and discourage the casual or cross-over voter from messing things up.

Injecting a little thought into the voting process will make primaries a big more like caucuses, punishing candidates with high negatives, and rewarding candidates to appeal to the the broader base, not necessarily the broader electorate.

I say let’s give this a try in 2016.  What do you think?

The Weednesday Post: You Want the UN Deciding Your State’s Laws?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The United Nations wants our federal government to negate the laws of Colorado and Washington regarding marijuana. Attorney General Eric Holder mulls it over.

UNNA0001

Americans Believe In Federalism

In polls, Americans are consistent: the US government must not impose its morals on states regarding marijuana. After ballot measures in Colorado and Washington approved legalization of pot, Gallup asked whether the United States should honor the will of the people.

On this issue, Americans believe in federalism:

Sixty-four percent of Americans are against the federal government’s taking steps to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states where marijuana is legal. Americans who personally believe that marijuana should be legal overwhelmingly say the federal government should not get involved at the state level, along with four in 10 of those who are opposed to legalized marijuana.

I don’t need a poll to tell me that Americans will not change their minds because the United Nations told them to. And if there’s any hope of left and right holding hands in protest, federal prosecution of a United Nations mandate could be the trigger.

The United Nations Believes In Central Control

The UN relies on the 1961 U.N. Convention on Narcotics, of which the United States were a signatory. According to the head of the UN’s international drug control agency,we’re a bunch immoral degenerates even for holding a vote.  In his words, ballot initiatives on legalization or decriminalization, even for medical purposes,  “undermine the humanitarian aims of the drug control system and are a threat to public health and well-being [via Reason Magazine]”

Seriously?

Besides its salute to federalism, that Gallup gave us a party ID breakdown on marijuana prohibition sentiment.  Democrats favor legalization, Independents are evenly split, Republicans favor continued prohibition.

The Party of Individual Liberty Should Mellow About Marijuana

I have long argued that Republicans are on the wrong of this issue, and it makes them look hypocritical to many, especially the young. If we are the party of individual liberty, why do we make smoking a legal issue?

I don’t know if I’ve changed any minds with my weekly Weednesday Posts, but A. Barton HInkle of Reason thinks the UN might.

Here in the U.S., United Nations disapproval can only help the cause of legalization where it needs help the most: on the right . . . Republicans favor continued prohibition, by a 2-1 margin.

They might favor it less if they knew the U.N. were, implicitly, telling states what to do. Just look at the conservative reaction to Agenda 21 — a voluntary U.N. program that encourages bike paths and urban planning. Conservatives see it as nothing less than the first step on the road to serfdom.

(Well, perhaps the thousandth step on the road to serfdom, but why quibble?)

I hope conservatives will realize that, to many, they sound a lot like the UN on the issue. Gallup found that 18- to 29-year-olds favor legalization 60 percent to 39 percent. Those young voters might ask, “what’s the difference whether the UN imposes its views on us or if the Republican Party does?”

That’s a tough question to answer to the satisfaction of young voters. (Satisfying yourself with an answer doesn’t really do any good.)

America is in danger of extinction as a free society. Fighting to hold onto old laws that make us less free, just because they’re old, is bad policy and terrible strategy.

The Republican Party would be smart to champion decriminalization or legalization wherever it’s on the ballot or in the legislature. Get this issue off the table. Trust people to do the right thing. Trust the research that shows decriminalization doesn’t lead to significant increases in usage. And get on with the next item on the agenda.

Now go read my original post on The War on Weed

Then check out The Weednesday Post archives