Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Critique Of Role Of Nation And Role Of Government

All around us, people are willing to stand up and claim countless numbers of rights that ought be bestowed upon people of all kinds.  The right to a fair wage.  The right to food.  To housing.  To clothing and even medical care.  The list is seemingly endless.  There is no satiating the claims upon the grace of the blessed.

Of course, no right exists that compels one man to labor for another; that is tyranny and we’ve rejected that long ago.  Though it rears it’s ugly head again and again, perhaps never to be truly defeated, we must continually be vigilant.

Tonight, while having dinner with my 6 year old son I started a conversation surrounding those less fortunate than ourselves.  I asked him, for example, are we lucky, are we blessed?  He answered that we are blessed and lucky.

Then I asked him what our family, literally, mom and I, should do to help those less fortunate in our community.  His answer was that we should give them what they need because “not everyone can be lucky.”  I smiled and agreed that indeed, we should take great care in making sure our neighbors and friends have what they need.

But then I asked him if he thought it would be okay if that same person came and took what he needed from our house.  It might be money, or food or clothes.  Or maybe that person would make me get up and go to work but would get the money instead of me.

He didn’t think that was okay.  I asked him why:

Because that would be like a robber.


Look, I get it.  I want the world to be a better place too.  I want people to take care of other people and be nice.  To contribute to those who need to be warm, and full and safe and healthy.  But that does NOT mean that I can steal from some in order to meet that want.

And a six year old understands that.



The Concept Of Human Rights

This, this right here, is what is wrong with America today.  When you hear words like this, ideas like this, thoughts like this, run.

Run for your very life.  Because somewhere, someone is wanting to restrict your liberty in the name of charity:

Oil Spills – Oil Companies – BP

BP has been issued a bill for the oil spill in the Gulf back in 2010:

NEW ORLEANS — BP said Thursday that it will pay $4.5 billion in a settlement with the U.S. government over the disastrous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and plead guilty to criminal charges related to the deaths of 11 workers and lying to Congress.

The day of reckoning comes more than two years after the nation’s worst offshore oil spill. The figure includes nearly $1.3 billion in criminal fines — the biggest criminal penalty in U.S. history — along with payments to certain government entities.

The settlement, which is subject to approval by a federal judge, includes payments of nearly $2.4 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences and about $500 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC accused BP of misleading investors by lowballing the amount of crude spewing from the ruptured well.

Now, I’m all for BP having to pay for the cleanup to all agencies that were harmed by the spill.  I think that allowing companies to poison rivers that does nothing to harm the company is a moral hazard that creates problems for everyone.*

And I don’t mind that government sets the amounts of those fines.  What I DO object to is the nature in which these fines are arrived at; politics, deal making and more than likely cronyism.

If we want to protect ourselves from oil spills we have to acknowledge two things:

  1. We can not prevent a spill from ever happening again.  The only thing that we can hope for is to increase the mean time between failure and decrease the meant time to repair.
  2. What we really object to is the damage done by the spill, not that there was a spill per se.  Therefore, if we can quantify the dollar cost to restore the damage, we should be alright with the transfer of that cost.

If we’re able to do this, and codify it so that the rules are clear and understandable, the oil companies will understand this and include it in their business models.  In fact, I suspect that the fines will be significantly high that those companies will have to take out insurance policies to protect them in the event of a spill.  And this is a good thing.

See, if the oil company requires insurance they’ll have to get it from another company that sells insurance.  These insurance companies, being rational, will not issue said policy UNLESS the oil company can demonstrate adequate safety processes.   In short, the insurance will drive increased safety and prevention.  And it will do it in a mostly free market way.  Today prevention agencies are government run and filled with execs from oil companies that are named based on politics.  These agencies aren’t adequate in writing and enforcing the rules.  But if insurance companies are in charge of that, we can be MORE sure that the whole thing is more modern and appropriate.

So, hell yeah BP should pay.  But the fine should have been known and predictable up front.  If it was, I claim that the next oil spill will occur further in the future than it otherwise would and be restored much quicker and wit less overall damage to the environment.

* I do NOT object to the poisoning of rivers that DOES harm the polluter.  In this case “rivers” is the name I’m giving to the general environment.


I think two things:

  1. If you have a lot of money and talent and don’t use that wealth and skill in order to make your community a better place you’re an asshole.
  2. If you steal money and property from those that have it in order to make your community a better place you’re an asshole, a thief and a dreamer.

Trade Offs

I’ve done a bit of reading in the last few weeks and have been on a “trade offs” kick.

So lemme ask ya.  Would you rather:

  1. Live in a place where there was more equity but people were poorer; that is the poorest ranked 2 out of 10 while the rich ranked 4 out of 10.
  2. Or, live in a place where there was less equity but everyone was wealthier; that is the poorest ranked 4 out of 10 but the wealthiest ranked 9 out of 10?

In the second case the wealthiest are not only more wealthy in terms of ratio; more than double the poorest, but they are more percentage points richer as well – 5 rather than just 2.

This is the fundamental choice before us.  There are those that think that we should be more equal, that the spoils of the rich should be more equitable to the spoils of the poorest among us.  And these people are willing to live in a world that is poorer in general, less advanced in general, in order to achieve this equity.

Then there are people would rather increase the overall prosperity of the world even if it meant that the wealthiest among us were astronomically rich.  Rich too the point that most of us couldn’t imagine.

Notice that in the example, the second option puts the poorest at the same level as the wealthiest in the first.

I’m for option #2.


Elections Have Consequences

It’s simple, really.  When there is an incentive to save money, there should be no surprise that incentives will drive behavior.  Consider Community College of Allegheny County:

To Community College of Allegheny County’s president, Alex Johnson, cutting hours for some 400 temporary part-time workers to avoid providing health insurance coverage for them under the impending Affordable Health Care Act is purely a cost-saving measure at a time the college faces a funding reduction.

But to some of the employees affected, including 200 adjunct faculty members, the decision smacks of an attempt to circumvent the national health care legislation that goes into effect in January 2014.

“It’s kind of a double whammy for us because we are facing a legal requirement [under the new law] to get health care and if the college is reducing our hours, we don’t have the money to pay for it,” said Adam Davis, an adjunct professor who has taught biology at CCAC since 2005.

Temporary part-time employees received an email notice from Mr. Johnson on Tuesday informing them that the new health care act defines full-time employees as those working 30 hours or more per week.

As a result, the college as of Dec. 31 will reduce temporary part-time employee hours to 25 per week. For adjuncts, the workload limit will be reduced from 12 to 10 credits per semester.

The decision affects only temporary part-time employees and not permanent part-time employees who already are eligible to participate in the college’s health care plan.

My hope is that the folks impacted voted for Obama; you should reap the rewards of the decisions you make.

But that’s not all:

Darden Restaurants Inc. — parent of the Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Capital Grille eateries in Colorado and elsewhere — is cutting back hours of workers at some of its locations in an apparent effort to reduce insurance costs related to the new health-care reform law.

The Orlando, Fla., Sentinel newspaper reports that the Orlando-based company (NYSE: DRI) “has stopped offering full-time schedules to many hourly workers in at least a few” of its locations.

The Sentinel quotes the company as saying it plans to limit employees at some restaurants in four unidentified markets to 28 hours a week. Darden said the move is intended “to help us address the cost implications health care reform will have on our business.”

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, the health-reform law that some call Obamacare, companies with at least 50 employees must provide health insurance, starting in 2014, to all those who work at least 30 hours a week. Those that don’t will pay a penalty.

I suspect that this will play out across America more and more.  As the ramifications of electing Obama continue to see the light of day, more and more we are going to see this reaction by business.  Fewer people hired, higher ratios hired as part time employees, more efforts to drive productivity by more and more automation.

It really is important to understand that there really aren’t solutions; only tradeoffs.

Want healthcare?  Lose jobs.  Sacrifice growth, accept higher unemployment.

If you voted for Obama, this is on you.  This is what you wanted, this is what you explicitly put into motion.

We warned you.


Creation, Evolution, Democrats and Post Graduates

So, I’m just reading around when I came across a Gallup poll on creationism, evolution and who believes in what.  I grew up Christian, went to church almost every Sunday for 18 years, Sunday School ’till I graduated high school, sang in the choir and take my kids to church today – though not every Sunday.

I don’t think I can remember ever thinking, when I was old enough to begin to think independently, that God created humans in human form.  I certainly NEVER believed that science was wrong.  I’ve always accepted that rocks were very old, that people once couldn’t read, write and do the things we can today.

In short, I’ve always felt that evolution was very clearly how we got to where we are today.

So, I’m stunned, freakin’ STUNNED, to learn that a plurality, 46% of American’s, believe that God created humans in current form just 10,000 years ago.


The first thing that came to my mind was that it was that group of people that the Left loves to hate; the Tea Party:

Certainly republicans are leading the charge, but not by the margins I would have thought.  I mean, 41% of democrats think that God created, what I have to believe, is Adam and Eve in literal form.

Only slightly less surprising is the numbers that support my view that God guided evolution to get us where we are today [I’m not sure that we’re the finished form, by the way.  Which may explain my “meh” attitude on supposed crisis like overpopulation and global warming].  I would have thought that as education increased, the view that God guided evolution would decrease:

Nope.  In each case, high school, college and then postgraduate, the rate increased supporting God involved evolution.

I can’t explain it.

Anyway, no commentary, just cool.

Election Patterns

I recently saw this map on my Facebook page.  The point my friend was trying to make was that from a geographic standpoint, America is dramatically conservative.

Whatever, votes aren’t awarded by landmass they’re awarded by population.

However, I noticed a pattern that I blogged about earlier in the election cycle.  Notice the think blue line running from Louisiana through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and then North and South Carolina.  A small and thin band no more than 1 or 2 counties wide in most cases.  All situated in the heavily republican deep south.

The explanation?

Ancient Oceans:

It’s an image of North America as it looked during the Cretaceous era, 129 million to 65 million years ago. As you can see, much of the continent was still covered by water. The Deep South had a shoreline that curled through the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, and there, in the shallow waters just offshore, were immense populations of floating, single-celled creatures who drifted about, trapped sunshine, captured carbon, then died and sank to the sea bottom. Those creatures became long stretches of nutritious chalk. (I love chalk.)

When sea levels dropped and North America took on its modern shape, those ancient beaches — so alkaline, porous and rich with organic material — became a “black belt” of rich soil, running right through the South. You can see the Cretaceous beaches in this map, colored green. McClain got these maps from geologist Steve Dutch’s website, at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay.

And because this stretch was so rich and fertile, when cotton farmers moved here in the 19th century, this stretch produced the most cotton per acre. Harvests of 4,000-plus bales were common here. Notice that the most productive plantations mirror the ancient coastline.

Then came slavery.

McClain, quoting from Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, Up From Slavery, points out: “The part of the country possessing this thick, dark and naturally rich soil was, of course, the part of the South where the slaves were most profitable, and consequently they were taken there in the largest numbers.” After the Civil War, a lot of former slaves stayed on this land, and while many migrated North, their families are still there.



Katrina – Sandy

Two different storms.  Two different regions of the country.  One often seen as poor and republican.  One often seen as affluent and democrat.

Both offered significant time to leave.  Both offered significant time to prepare.

Was there a difference in government response?

Should the government accept the burden of response?  If so, which government?  Local, state or federal?