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Whenever you are talking to someone about politics, pay attention to what they mean – not what they say.

Modern day liberals claim to want people to have equal opportunities as everyone else, but typically they want to use the power of government to make this come about. Government by it’s nature is force. Why do you need to use force to give everyone opportunity?

One reason is because one person (Person A) is in a position to deny another person (Person B) to take advantage of opportunity. That is all well and good, but unless A actually denies B his liberty, then A has done nothing wrong. To bring sanction against A preemptively is an over-reach of force (government). If A actively denies B of his liberties, then A should be stopped and punitively damaged so as to set precedent to discourage similar future acts by A and anyone else who decides that what A did was a good idea. Otherwise, let people have freedom of association and deal with each other on the merits of their own situation. Punish the bad guys who do bad things, but leave the good guys alone. Also, assume everybody is a good guy until they prove themselves otherwise. Innocent until proven guilty, and all, ya know.
The modern day liberal is against this idea. The modern day liberal wants to convict you because of where you ARE, ignoring what you did to get there. Because of what you HAVE, ignoring how you got it. Because of what you take, ignoring what you give.

If you have more than they think you should have, they want to use force to take it and transfer it to those who have less. Forget all the physical or mental work you did to get it, there are people out there who need it and you have more than what they determine you need. Bring in the guys with the guns.

If you have plenty, should you, by some moral compass, decide you should give to those who don’t? Sure, but YOU are the one who knows what you need and what you want to give and who you want to give it to. The modern liberal doesn’t trust YOU to do with what you have earned what they want you to do with it. They only trust the people who can lie well enough to the requisite number of people in order to get the sanction of the populace to use force to hopefully do what they want. See, a modern liberal DEPENDS on forcing others to do what they want done. They’ll condemn you for not “giving to the less-fortunate” then take your money so you can’t. They depend on force; not freedom, not choice not compassion. They want you to do what THEY want, not what you or somebody else wants. So they co-opt the only legal use of force available – government.

Many modern day conservatives do the same thing. Where the liberal wants the state to enforce his fluid definition of right and wrong, the theological conservative thinks he has God on his side and wants the state to enforce his idea of what God says is right and wrong. Both sides have lost sight of the fact that it is not a legitimate function of government to determine morality. The only legitimate function of force is to prevent or punish illegitimate force. In other words, government is supposed to protect the citizens’ rights to life, liberty, and property.

Determining who a citizen freely gives property to is not a protection of liberties. Determining if one citizen owes another property by contract IS a protection of liberties. By the way, Property = Time, Labor, Money, Goods, and/or Services.

Determining what one citizen charges another for goods or services provided is not a protection of liberties. But making sure one person delivers what they promised for what they charged IS a protection of liberties.

Telling one citizen that he cannot freely choose who he associates with in commerce or trade is NOT a protection of the freedom of association. Making sure one or more people do not interfere with the ability of someone else to freely associate with whom they choose, IS a protection of the freedom of association.

Preventing a person from expressing religious beliefs or mandating that religious beliefs be expressed is not a protection of religious freedom. Preventing someone from mandating or suppressing the free expression of religious beliefs IS a protection of religious freedom.

Mandating who one person can or cannot marry just flies in the face of freedom on every level. I have no idea what the anti-gay marriage folks think they’re doing to further freedom by trying to prevent two people who want to get married from getting married. That being said, it shouldn’t matter to the government whether you are married or not. In a legitimate government, what business of theirs is it if you claim to be married or not?

Mandating what a person chooses to ingest, drink, smoke, or whatever is not a protection of freedom. Preventing an intoxicated person from presenting an unreasonable risk to others IS an protection of freedom.  Also, determining which days or times a person may purchase or indulge in those behaviors falls right in there with the rest of it.

It is natural to want to prevent people from doing what you think is wrong. But before you get on some bandwagon and start calling for a use of force against that person for their choices, ask yourself, “Does his choice present an unreasonable danger to the rights of anyone else? Is he engaging in a fraud that will cost someone else their time, labor, or property without some agreed upon recompense?” If the answer is “No”, then feel free to speak out against what that person is doing. Criticize him and ostracize him if you will, but don’t fall back on the use of force to stop him.

Because pretty soon, he and a bunch of like minded people could possibly gain political power and bring sanction against you for doing things you do that doesn’t hurt anyone but that they don’t like. And they will use the precedent YOU set against you.

Ya know, it’s high time I “got my write on”.  For those who care but don’t know ( as opposed to those who know but don’t care – a much larger group, I’m sure), I have been on “assignment” for over a month. I’ve been living in a motel about 250 miles from home, working on a project that I have been involved with for about two years.  It’s been fun and a constant mental exercise so I have had precious little time to blawg. Even before I came up here, I had a lot of preparation to do for this job.  I had to study a lot of things and go back and dig up past experiences so I could look like I’m as smart as the guy who writes the check expects me to be for the invoice I send him. That’s pretty tough when you have a lot of other stuff going on but it’s just one of those things you gotta do.

I know I have been vague about the project to those who have asked and that is not only intentional, but for good reason. The Customer is writing a big check to a lot of people in hopes he can have a machine to do what very few people in the world are doing. He has lined up many resources to make this happen. I am not privy to his marketing plans as that is none of my business. Suffice it to say, what ever they are, I have hooked my wagon to his horse and it is in my best interest that his horse runs right where he wants it to. If he wants the world to know what he’s doing – he’ll tell them. I am just a cog in the machine, so to speak, so it is not up to me to release that information.

But relax, regardless of what he decides to do, this is not earth shaking stuff to very many people. You will not see anything about it on the news. If you did, you wouldn’t care. But to me and the customer, this is a big deal and we are very proud of what we are doing. We are trying our damnedest to make something work for our own benefit. As a by-product of our selfish greed, there will probably be openings for two or three more jobs in Customer’s plant. Jobs that flat out DO NOT EXIST right now.  Somebody, somewhere, is sitting at home right now with no job that will be working in the coming months because of what I, along with MANY people much smarter than me, have been working on for a couple of years. The people who will find new jobs because of this may not even work in the plant this machine is in. Probably not for the same company. But the people hired to work on this new line and work because of this new line will not be among those taking other jobs they might otherwise have taken. That will leave a vacancy in those jobs that others will have to fill. In other words, the guys that will work on this line I’m helping build would have had a job regardless because they are going to be better than average people. The other jobs they DO NOT have to occupy that they otherwise would have, have to be filled by someone and that someone is probably sitting at home praying for a job right now. Does this make me a soldier of the Lord? Maybe so, but if so, it is because I like the money I’m making right now doing what I’m doing. Truth is, I like what I’m doing and would, given the opportunity, do it for free. But SWMBO would not be pleased and so that is all academic. Also, I like the bucks.

While the unemployment rate dropping by 3 people will not make the news, nor will the couple million dollar addition to GDP for the US, it is undoubtedly going to lend a positive bias to the employment and productivity numbers of the present economy. This is misleading because this thing has been in the works for over two years. No recent program or policy made this project happen. It was mainly inertia of past policies and the influence of recent and, hopefully, present market conditions that made this happen. I can assure you that no “stimulus” money played into this. And there was not a damned nickle of Cash For Clunkers ever even SAT next to a reason for it.  But those in power will take all the credit and none of the blame for what happens regardless. The “buck” no longer “stops here” – it stopped with the last guy that was here. There are very few, if any, presidents or other gov’t officials who accept responsibility for their policies any more – just a bunch of  “we inherited  the worst economy in {fill in the blank} years {or decades or centuries, blah, blah, blah}. In other words, The buck stops somewhere else, “…don’t blame us and also don’t blame us if we totally screw you up in our desperate attempt to fix what we know JACK SHIT about. It’s the other guy’s fault so leave us be.”

Tangent. I got off on a tangent. Who saw that comin’?

Anyway, I am home right now for Thanksgiving and have enjoyed being with my family. We put the tree up today and, as is tradition, went through about two or three bags of pork rinds in the process. Nothing says Christmas like fried pig fat with artificial Bar-B-Q seasoning. How that tradition got started is a WAAY more boring story than you might think it is, but suffice it to say, it got started. We always get the tree down on what many might call “Black Friday” because we are at home and might as well put up the tree that day. SWMBO used to go shopping with my mom on that day before we had kids but that tradition gave way to common sense and they both stopped doing it long ago. Now, the closest thing to a line we stand in is waiting for the page to load at amazon.com.

Amazon has a wing named after me – I just know they do. I first started shopping Amazon when few people had ever heard of it. It was an online book store with a great selection and great prices. Books. That was it. Then they started selling music. Then clothes. Pretty soon, they were doing it all. I remember when they teamed up with Target to have a ‘brick and mortar” presence. I remember how relieved I was they had done that. They wanted to focus on what they did good and partner with someone else to do what they did good. It’s a little trick in business that often works out well. It lets you know the guys at the top of that company are taking a long term view of things. How? Well, look at it this way: Amazon wanted to sell what Target was selling. Target would like to get a big internet presence. Amazon would like to have the ability to sell an item and let the customer pick it up at his leisure. So, either Amazon throws out tons of money to have a brick and mortar presence that will never come close to the market penetration of Target or Wal-Mart, or they partner with someone who already has that presence. Why not Wal-Mart? Wal-Mart has proven itself to be dedicated to one thing and one thing only – low prices. Low prices mean lower margins but volume makes up for that if the margin is steady. WalMart will throw it’s vendors under any bus to shave a nickel off the price. I’m not criticizing Wal Mart here because sometimes I take advantage of that low price commitment. But if you are a company looking to maintain as high a margin as possible and make your name in service over price, you are better off partnering with a company that shares those values. Target and Amazon were a perfect fit.

Can you get stuff cheaper than at Amazon? Yep, everyday. Not a lot cheaper but it’s not hard to shave a nickel off their price. Can you get better customer service than you get at Amazon? Maybe, I don’t know. But I can tell you that anytime I have ever contacted Amazon about an issue on a purchase I made, it was resolved in no time with no problem. Not only that, whether I called or communicated via email, I communicated with a real live Homo Sapien (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I knew a long time ago that Amazon would be the future of retail. With the hassle of crowds at retail outlets and the marked lack of customer service after you have traveled to a store to spend your money, it is no surprise that many brick and mortar stores are having increasing difficulty staying viable. Sure, some retail outlets will always be there. There are the places that sell items you just have to touch, feel, try out, etc. There are some places that rely primarily on the personal retail experience to sell their wares. There are some places that cannot be done over distance. But many typical retail stores are in more trouble than they may want to believe. The times, they are a changing and though old habits die hard, they do die.

How long ago do you think it was when people were thinking that people would ALWAYS have to go to the bank? And not just go to it, but go INTO it.  Then, in Atlanta, at least, came Tilly the All Time Teller. Along with ATM’s came direct deposit, online banking, debit cards, added to drive through windows and when is the last time you went into the bank? Do you think you go into a bank half as much as your parents or grandparents did? Banks offer a lot of services they didn’t 30 years ago but my guess is there are less than half as many “feet on the floor” per branch as then. Sometimes you have to go into a branch but with technology making it easier to stay out, why go in unless you have to? True, there are some who are set in the old ways. They go in and probably always will. I, myself, who likes to think of himself as an eager adopter of technology in all areas where it increases efficiency have used ATM’s for about 30 years but have yet to make a deposit in one. It just never got that necessary to me. But I probably will one day, if I ever get a check and can’t get to a drive-through window in a reasonable amount of time.

My point is, retailer beware. If you want to buck the “Virtual” trend, you better have a hook; an angle that makes people WANT to come into your store – almost NEED to. Otherwise, the customer will be at your competitors website, spending money galore and all the pretty decorating schemes in the world won’t get a nickel out of them. You sell clothes and think people will never go to buying clothes without trying them on or touching and feeling them? You may be right. They will come to your store and touch and feel and try on your inventory, and then go home and buy it. They may buy some from you, but they will look at a lot more than they plan to buy from you and order the balance from your online presence or competitor in a heartbeat. And remember, some people WILL buy clothes without laying eye nor hand on it ahead of time. As people get used to buying everything else sight unseen, they’ll have very little problem doing clothes the same way.

OK, tangent #2 I guess but the whole point of this post was to let you folks know I didn’t die or drop the blawg or anything. I’ll be here and hopefully with more frequent updates.

See ya later!!!

Cross posted to http://www.directionforamerica.com/

When I was a kid, the field across the road from my house was a cotton field tended by share croppers. Big field – big for our area, anyway. Later, it became a garden with peas and corn and such and as I became a mid-teens kinda guy, it was a wheat/rye field. See, rye can be about a foot taller than wheat. And if you do it right, you can plant both in the same field and jack up the combine to only harvest the rye heads, then come back in and harvest the wheat heads. I don’t really know, I didn’t do much with the harvests, but I got a whopping $2.00 an hour to get the straw up. This was waaaay back in the day when straw and hay were done primarily in rectangular or “square” bales. I would go out there and throw the bales up onto a trailer pulled behind a tractor or truck and another guy would stack it and we’d take the load to a barn to unload it and the guy that owned the straw would sell it to feed stores, landscapers, homeowners, etc. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

After the “Straw Days” of that field were left to grovel in the half forgotten history of area, the family that owned the field planted pine trees. This IS Georgia and at the time, I believe there was some type of really good tax break if you planted trees on land you owned.

Pines

Fast forward about seven or eight years and there are some really nice trees in that field. They’re probably about 12 to 16 foot tall and a recently un-employed fella living across the road from them (that’d be me) noticed that the pine straw that covered the ground under these trees not only looked like bare shiny copper wire, but it was also about three or four inches deep on average. It seems a couple of years before, our hero of this tale (that’d be me, again) had gotten married and built a house next to the house he grew up in and directly across from these trees. The First Gulf War (I hate to call it that because it’s inaccurate but that’s for another post) had broken out about three months after the aforementioned marriage and said hero had really gotten into AM radio to keep up with the news. (On a side note, Rush Limbaugh owes his very life and fortunes to Saddam Hussein because of that war and his timing in going into syndication, but that’s for another post)

I was raised in a conservative household. In Georgia at the time, everybody and I mean EVERYBODY was a Democrat. My mom and dad were the radicals – they were Republicans. The Southern Democrats of the day were conservative, too. They just practiced Southern Democrat conservatism. I believe that stemmed from Lincoln being a Republican and leading the forces of “evil” against the South in the “War of Northern Aggression” as it was called down here. See, in the world of the 60’s, 70’s, and into the 80’s, Democrat and Republican had more to do with South versus North than anything else – it has all just flipped over since then. Anyway, my brothers and I never got the lectures about ‘All people are the same – red and yellow, black and white” – we just picked it up through osmosis. Our parents were the original racial visionaries. We were right wing as hell and people were people. Race wasn’t a really big deal in our area. Most folks were white and there were a few black families and one Jewish one and my brothers and I grew up with these folks and made some of them our best friends. Anyway, that’s not what I want to talk about so much as the point that we were conservative Republicans before being conservative Republican was cool in this area. And we liked black people. WOW! We really knew how to live on the edge, didn’t we?

So, to re-cap, I’m a right winger, unemployed, with a field of pine trees (and therefore straw) across from my house. I had a rake and I built a rectangular box out of plywood and the shipping “pallet” from a dishwasher that I had gotten when I delivered appliances for Sears. It’s 1993. I’ve been hooked on talk radio for over two years and I have a mortgage to pay. So I take to baling and selling pine straw.

pine straw bale

God, it was like money lying on the ground three or four inches thick. It was beautiful straw with hardly a stick in it and it was free for the taking. I had an old 1970 Ford pickup that had belonged to my father-in-law and I would pull it out there in the midst of the trees and rake and bale straw, load up the truck, drive it across the road, unload it and go back for more. All the time, drinking beer, and listening to talk radio. What a cool time….

I sold it for three dollars a bale and I couldn’t rake it up fast enough. I was living the good life though it was hard work and I was by myself all day while my wife worked. It got the bills paid, so it was good. I also had a lot of time to think and with my newly found political fervor, I realized that a lot of what I was raised to believe was true and fit in very well with a lot of what Rush and Boortz was talking about in the day. So I start looking around…

I see trees. Lots of trees. Some are short, not many; and some are tall, fewer still. I notice that about 95% of the pines are the same height. There were a few little hardwoods in there but not many and they were much shorter than the pines. Now, I’m a guy that likes to ponder on how things work and not just accept that they do. So I ask myself, “Why are there no hardwoods taller than the pines? Easy enough question – the field was bare when the pines were planted. The pines got a head start because the tree planters didn’t plant hardwoods. The hardwoods were “planted”, most likely, by squirrels burying seeds and birds crapping seeds while sitting on a pine limb and the pine limb was only there because the tree (along with a few thousand of its brethren) was a couple of years old, at least, in order to have a limb for the bird to sit on. I realize this means the hardwoods were late to the party and were having a hard go of it because of that. The pines created a canopy that almost completely shaded the ground. They were all competing with their neighbor for the available sunlight. But there was enough to go around so it wasn’t like they had to “take” any sunlight from their neighbor to survive, just work for what was available. And by “work for”, I mean be at the right height in the right place and everything was hunky-dory. *I CANNOT believe my spell check didn’t hit on “hunky-dory”! Cool.*

So it occurs to me that all these trees are “equal” in a way but each is an individual. If one is short, it doesn’t get enough sun which further retards it’s growth and it either dies or stays short and gnarly. If one is tall, it will catch more wind during storms and likely be damaged and have to stop growing and heal and that will delay its growth until it is about the same as the others. Then no more damage and a self-feedback loop style auto regulation of its growth. Remember, I’m listening to talk radio at the time and getting into the philosophical aspects of the differences between Socialism and Capitalism.

Socialism, it seems, requires an outside entity to attempt to ensure equality. Capitalism relies on self regulation by allowing excessive growth to have its own consequences. If the individual is strong enough to weather those consequences, it will succeed and flourish, if not, it gets knocked down a notch or two.

lottery winner

About that same time, Georgia had started up its lottery. There was a lot of talk about how bad it was. The churches were against it. The advocates for people who don’t know when to say when were against it. The advocates for the poor were against it. I voted for it. I don’t play it and don’t have any dreams of becoming rich from it but I voted for it because it looked like it was a choice between letting some people do what they wanted to do or preventing them from doing what they wanted to do – I tend to favor letting people do what they want as long as they don’t do it in my yard – figuratively speaking. Anyway, there was all this talk about how people who win huge awards in lotteries are something like 80% likely to be broke in five years. That intrigued me. Why would that be so? Well, a guy that spends $200 on lottery tickets per week is more likely to win $1M than a guy that spends nothing on them. “Can’t win if you don’t play!” or so they say. I beg to differ. But either way, a guy that spends $1 a week on tickets, theoretically, has 1/200th the chance that the big spender does.

monopoly man

But the problem is a guy that would spend half his paycheck a week on lottery tickets is demonstrating his lack of financial management skills. So lotteries are kind of set up to increase the chances of winning of the very people who are least able to handle money wisely.

So, I start putting it all together. These pine trees are, in a strained metaphorical kind of way, like people and this field of trees is the society in which they live. The only thing influencing them toward equality is the set of the laws of nature. It challenges the stronger ones and is brutal to the weaker ones. The resultant population is a general state of equality. I notice that the only way to force equality is to challenge and do harm to all that do not conform. Well, nature does that and you understand it. It’s the way things are. Life is not fair. Nature’s laws don’t change when too many trees are small or large – it is not an activist regulator. The laws are the same today as they ever were. But those trees don’t have the ability to help their weaker neighbors or to prop up and lift up their stronger ones. People do. People have to work against the challenges of their nature just like trees do but in their ability to reason; they have an ability to make choices. They can decide to remain average and have a happy balance of prosperity without undue exposure to the elements. They can choose to strive and reach high to get the most sun or prosperity with the knowledge that nature will be a bit tougher on them. Or they can choose to be short and low. Protected from the elements of responsibility because their neighbors absorb those blows collectively, yet struggling with the lack of prosperity or sun. With sun comes wind. It’s a yin and yang kinda deal.

What really sux is that man has established governments to protect their individual rights. In our metaphorical forest, government is akin to the pine straw farmer. A big tree gives more straw and should be prized. But if a few trees get too big and spawn an overlying canopy that cuts off the sun to the masses of the other trees, they may have to be pruned. A small tree may have to be moved or fertilized a little more than the others in order to get it up to speed. Maybe it’s small because of pine beetles or some other affliction and that affliction must be dealt with. But for the most part, the farmer just leaves the trees alone and lets them be trees because trees know enough about how to make straw that the farmer couldn’t possibly begin to tell them how to do it. Just let them make straw.black-and-decker-electric-pole-chain-saw

Now I said this is a strained metaphor mainly because trees cannot help each other. They cannot sell their own straw to buy their own fertilizer or beetle repellent etc. But the relationship between the farmer and government is a little less strained. The farmer can exercise force and coercion over the trees. And a busy-body government will in an increasing manner. No matter how well the stand of trees is doing, he’ll see a couple of trees braving the elements and reaching high and he will over react and cut them back because of the possibility that those trees could block just a little light from their neighbors. And if he sees a small tree, instead of promoting that tree’s growth, he cuts back all the trees in the vicinity so the sun can get lower to the weak one. In both cases, he is destroying an inordinate amount of production capacity to hopefully save a small amount of capacity.

As I thought of this, I realized I was basically a benevolent dictator in this realm. No one would stop me from pruning trees but I figured nature had made this wonderful field of money and who was I to second guess it. I will admit to certain fits of ethnic genocide as even a glimpse of a sweet gum tree would send me into a murderous mission to purify the race of trees. Now, I would never advocate the corollary in the real world but I was unencumbered by guilt or second thoughts in that there was not a market in sweet gum leaves.

Fertilizer

When I look at taxes and cumbersome regulations, I see pruning saws. When I look at free market incentives and lessening of regulation, I see fertilizer. Sure there is a place for pruning saws when nothing else will do, but I’d rather fertilize the whole forest evenly and get all the trees twice as high as they are. They’ll hold each other up and the smaller trees will benefit more from the fertilizer than the normal or higher trees. What is our government doing today – telling us how they are spreading fertilizer or sending out armies of guys with saws?

Something to ponder on…

Beginners

Typical blog format - chronologically, bottom to top. You are welcome to comment, but read "Da Rulez" first.

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