12.23.2013

Drinking White Wine in the Sun

It's hard to be an atheist around Christmas sometimes. As we are reminded, often loudly, Jesus is the reason for the season. But I, like many atheists, enjoy Christmas for all of the beauty it brings unrelated to religion. Singing songs, spending time with family, loving each other.

Tim Minchin, whose work I have mentioned before, has a beautiful song that sums up the conflict of the unbeliever, but in a gentle, sentimental way. The bonds of love and family that come around this time of year are worth celebrating.
 


If you purchase White Wine In the Sun from iTunes in the month of November, December, or January, all the proceeds go to the National Autistic Society.

Merry Christmas to you, no matter why you celebrate or what you believe. Love each other.

12.22.2013

The $1,000 Challenge

There are only two ways to improve your financial situation.  You can bring in more money or you can stop spending as much money.  In my quest to do the latter, I read The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheeseby Brian J. O'Connor.

Mr. O'Connor is a personal finance columnist at the Detroit News.  The book follows his quest to cut his monthly budget by $1,000 ($100 in each of ten categories). The prose is easy to read and humorous and the tips are broken up into three categories in each chapter, depending on where your personal financial situation is.

None of the recommendations are life-changing or that new to those of use familiar with Mr. Money Mustache or Early Retirement Extreme, but the book helps you with how to think about your budget and figure out where you can cut.

If you can cut $1,000/month from your budget, you can reduce the nest egg required to retire (or reach financial independence) by $300,000.  This is based on a 4% safe withdrawal rate and the amount of money required to support $1,000/month.  (1000 x 12 x 25 = 300000)

Check the book out from Amazon or your local library and let me know what you think.

11.18.2013

Simple shelf from one hardwood plank

When you do "knowledge work" for a living, there's an inherent frustration in not creating something concrete from your efforts.  Negotiating a case, reading cases to prepare a brief or a motion, appearing in court, all of these things have value to a client, but the value does not manifest itself as a thing you can touch and feel.  Matthew B. Crawford explores this concept in eloquent detail in Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work, a book Mark Bennett recommended I read and I, in turn, recommend you read.

One of the ways to get that feeling of accomplishment, of making a "thing," is having a hobby where you make stuff.  I built a workbench so I could have a place to do woodworking.  The first project I wanted to build, a simple tic-tac-toe shelf from Spike Carlsen's book, Ridiculously Simple Furniture Projects: Great Looking Furniture Anyone Can Build, is done now.   

The completion of the project is shown in pictures below.  Total time was probably 3-4 hours, with gaps for the finish to dry.  All that was required was a 1" x 6" x 8' hardwood board (I used poplar).

The raw plank:

Cut down to four equal lengths:

Notched:


Cut into arcs:

Ready for finishing:


Dry fit:


Finished with Medium Walnut Danish Oil:


Close up of the finish:


Mounted on the wall with picture hangers:

With a canister to give a sense of size on the wall:


Less than $30 worth of materials and about 4 hours of work and I have a very nice shelf for our dining room and a "thing" I can look at and think, "I built that."

11.03.2013

Organize your shirts with the Army roll

I have a lot of t-shirts.  They're kind of like a scrapbook of places I've been and things I did over the last 20 years.  The problem with a lot of t-shirts is that they get crumpled and jammed in to make them fit, making it hard to find the right one, popping the hardboard bottoms out of the IKEA dresser drawers, and leaving a wrinkled t-shirt at the end.

The solution (other than getting rid of some of them) was to use the technique in this video:


To turn a drawer like this:


Into a drawer like this:

10.27.2013

More thoughts on the Washington Redskins name controversy

Back in March, when the Washington Post was leading the preseason charge to pressure the Redskins to change their name, I wrote a short post suggesting the team shouldn't change the name, making two main points: (1) the word "redskin" is no longer commonly used to refer to Native American people at all, and (2) the linguistic origins of the term are not actually offensive, with the offensive usage taking hold for a much shorter period later. (See Ives Goddard, "'I am a red-skin': The Adoption of a Native American Expression (1769–1826)", Native American Studies 19:2, 2005)

It's October now and the Washington Redskins are visiting the Denver Broncos for the first time in eight years. My mother-in-law flew out for the game and we went downtown to the Redskins Rally at the Tavern last night. The organizers said it was the largest turnout for any event they had ever had in a visiting city; I guess waiting eight years will build up some excitement. Chris Cooley was there and took a picture with Joel. Valerie and Ruth took a picture with Dan Snyder. Several renditions of "Hail to the Redskins" were sung. There were also a couple of spontaneous chants of "keep the name."

That got me thinking about why I still don't support the name change, even though I try not to use other offensive words like "fag" or "retard" or "nigger."  I don't use those words because I love beer, freedom, and other people and see no value in hurting others.  (I do slip from time to time and use offensive terms like "Cowboys fan."  Mea culpa.) 

Many years ago, I read a book by Miss Manners, the etiquette columnist. I recall her suggesting that the polite thing to do is to refer to someone how they would like to be referred to. It came up in the example of someone named James who would be called Jim by strangers and really preferred to be called James. Since then, if I meet someone with a commonly shortened name or nickname, I always ask them which they prefer.

This situation came up more recently after the Manning trial. The Pfc. Manning was an Army soldier who leaked a number of videos and cables to Wikileaks and was court martialed. After the conviction, Manning came out as transgendered and asked to be referred to as Chelsea Manning (as opposed to Bradley, her male birth name). Having transgendered acquaintances in the past, this was just common sense and the polite thing to do. However, a number of journalists and commentators thought it was absurd.

The point that's often overlooked in the Redskins name debate is that the activists who want to team to change the name are not asking that people not refer to Native Americans as "redskins," they're asking that we not refer to a football team as "the Redskins." They are taking offense at the use of the word per se, not at use of the word as an offensive slur.

It's fine to have the opinion that some words are just offensive and not want them used at all. I have many friends who are on the other side of this issue and I respect their position. But there is a fundamental difference between campaigns like The R-Word that seek to stop the use of a term to disparage individuals and a campaign to change the name of a football team because you are offended by the word's use in any context.

In short, there's a difference between saying "you're a filthy redskin" to a person and singing "Hail to the Redskins" after a touchdown. I would never do the former; I hope to do the latter many times this afternoon when they beat the Broncos.

10.15.2013

Build a $50 workbench and start woodworking

A few weeks ago, I picked up a book at the library with some furniture projects I wanted to build around the house, "Ridiculously Simple Furniture Projects: Great Looking Furniture Anyone Can Build."  Author Spike Carlsen breaks projects down into just one or two pages of instructions with beautiful pictures and minimal material and tool requirements.  The second project in the book is a Tic-Tac-Toe Shelf that looked nice and easy to tackle.  The author uploaded it to Pinterest if you want to take a look:



However, as I was contemplating cutting out a curved piece of wood with a jigsaw and notching it with a chisel, I remembered that I'd be doing it on the floor of my garage.  Since buying my first house back in 2001, I've collected a fair number of tools, but have never had a proper workbench to build things on.  So I decided I needed a workbench to build a tiny brick-a-brac shelf.

The bench I decided on was one I found on Family Handyman after a lot of web searching. Entitled "Super Simple $50 Bench," people were talking about it only taking 4 hours to build a very sturdy and practical bench.  The materials required are straightforward: 15 2" x 4" x 8' studs, cut to various lengths, one sheet of 1/2" plywood, lots (I used about 2 1/2 lbs) of 3" screws for framing, and some 1 5/8" screws to secure the plywood bench tops.

The nice guy in lumber at Home Depot did most of the long cuts on my studs and plywood for free.  The only downside is that some of the lengths were off by 1/2" or so, so my finished bench is not entirely square.

A couple of warnings: This project takes longer than 4 hours if you're working alone, especially if you're building on the garage floor because you don't have a proper workbench.  Also, $50 is low for current prices.  My final costs were about $100 for basic materials, and another $40 or so for a light, pegboard, and a power strip.

All that said, two weekends later, I have a completed workbench in my garage.

Finished workbench with pegboard and light


While it might not be exactly square, it's incredibly sturdy.  So sturdy that I had to have my neighbor come over to help me move it to the other side of the garage, since Valerie couldn't lift the other side of it up for more than a second.  I put on some pegboard, a light and a power strip, but still want to run pegboard all the way across and apply some polyurethane or Danish oil to the plywood tops to protect them.

Now I'm ready to tackle that shelf.  Next weekend.

 

10.08.2013

Facing the truth on the debt limit

David Friedman has a very good post on The Debt Limit and Default that makes two essential points for cutting through the hyperbole in the news about the risks of not raising the country's debt limit.  (1) Our government takes in enough revenues to make all interest payments on existing debt and (2) even defaulting on all of those interest payments would not be enough to deal with the budget deficit.  Read the whole thing, it's short.

Joe Nocera has an op-ed in the New York Times trotting out the parade of horribles that would occur if the Federal government did default on its interest payments, but never acknowledges that not raising the limit doesn't automatically lead to default.

Matt Yglesias, writing at Slate, acknowledges that the Federal government could make all of the interest payments, but says it would be really hard and require the Treasury Department to figure out how to rework its computer systems to do it.

Both authors uncritically repeat a widely believed falsehood about United States debt.  Nocera: "The second point worth making is that U.S. government debt is the only risk-free asset in the world."  Yglesias (on impact of payment prioritization): "But nobody in the future could seriously treat U.S. government debt as a risk-free information-insensitive asset."


There are no risk-free investments.

I had to put the above in bold because it's so basic and important.  The real effect of not raising the debt limit is not default, but rather facing the reality that there's nothing magical about the United States that lets it borrow money it doesn't have indefinitely and without negative consequence.  That truth hurts, but it's time we faced it.

10.01.2013

Why are you buying enchilada sauce?


We just got back from vacation late Friday night and I was going to make dinner for the family to give Valerie a break.  Simple bean and cheese enchiladas; refried beans, corn tortillas, pepper jack cheese, and enchilada sauce.  We had the first three things in the house, but no enchilada sauce.


I considered driving out to the grocery store to pick up some more enchilada sauce, but decided to do a quick Google search first to see if there was a recipe to make our own.  Third link down, I found this recipe for homemade enchilada sauce.  The ingredients were as follows:
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 4 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 2 cups chicken broth

I had all those spices in the house and the 15 minutes necessary to simmer the sauce.  The result was delicious.  Two cups of rich, spicy enchilada sauce for probably $0.20 worth of ingredients. Compare that to spending about $1.29 per small can of store-bought sauce (and needing two for a full batch of enchiladas).


Just like making your own bread with a breadmaker, making your own enchilada sauce is a simple way to eat better and save a few bucks in the process.


8.14.2013

Why I Cancelled My PNC Bank Credit Card

My wallet is one credit card lighter this morning.  I cancelled my PNC Bank Visa that I've had since it was still National City bank.  Their business practice of charging exorbitant fees with zero grace period is not something I want to support with my purchase dollars.

The facts are these:  Back in January, my payment was sent in the mail and arrived a day late.  The next statement had a $25 late fee as well as $1.50 in finance charges.  I called PNC Bank to complain about this fee and they reversed it.

My July payment was due on July 20 (a Saturday).  PNC Bank posted my payment on July 22 (a Monday).  Boom, another $25 late fee and $1.50 in finance charges.  I called them this morning to ask them to reverse the late fee, as the payment was posted one business day late and $26.50 is a pretty ridiculous amount for one day.

I was told by the representative that he could not reverse the fee because they had reversed the late fee in February.  I asked to speak to a supervisor and was transferred to Ralph.  Ralph told me that he could not reverse the fee, that it was "company policy" that they would not reverse more than one fee every 12 months.  I asked him if it was worth it to PNC Bank to lose a customer of over a decade over $26.50.  He apologized, but said that he could not reverse it and that there was nobody else I could speak to who could.

I explained that I didn't need to do business with a company who had those kind of business practices, that I have plenty of other credit cards and can get plenty more.

Then I had him cancel my card.

Apparently, PNC Bank has been making record profits on the back of increased fees.

Highlights for the quarter included higher client fees, larger gains on asset sales and larger asset valuations stemming from the rise in long-term interest rates.
It looks like I'm not the only person who is done with PNC Bank.

The bottom line is that PNC Bank is free to use whatever nickel-and-dime fees they want to bleed their customers.  But it's going to suffer the consequences as those customers leave for a bank that doesn't try to bleed them with fees. Just ask Bank of America how their $5 debit card fee went.

PNC Bank sucks and I would encourage you to take your business elsewhere if you agree. Vote with your dollars.  I will update this post if I receive a response from PNC Bank.

UPDATE: After posting on Twitter, I received a phone call from PNC Bank customer service and spoke to someone in their "Retail Escalation Department."  They told me that, under the new credit card law, they have to apply the same policy to everyone and so can't waive any fees besides one per 12-month period. Assuming that she was referring to the CARD Act, I read through the law and saw no such provision.

FURTHER UPDATE: Based on my reading of Section 106 of the CARD Act of 2009, the company is not supposed to count as late payments received on the next business day after a due date that falls on a weekend or a holiday.  As such, I've filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has been logged as complaint # 130814-00160.

8.04.2013

My First Bottle Bomb

August 3, 2013.  A day that will live in infamy in my house.  After over 15 years (off and on) of brewing, I had my first bottle bomb.

My peach weizenbock had some suspended peach bits in it when I bottled.  I was already using a higher than normal amount of priming sugar to get carbonation true to the Bavarian style and apparently the combination of the sugar and the residual sugar from the peach bits was just too much.

The laundry room was covered in shards of broken brown glass and still smells of beer.  Thankfully, nobody was in there when the bottle exploded.


Lesson of the day: when you brew with fruit, make sure to filter it out before bottling and maybe cut the priming sugar back just a bit.

7.31.2013

Get rich with a breadmaker

The three biggest expenses the average family has are food, transportation, and housing. Savings in one of these three categories will have the biggest effect on your budget, and consequently your ability to get rich.

A loaf of whole wheat bread costs us about $4 at a grocery store, maybe $3.50 at Costco. With two small kids, we go through two loaves a week.  Assuming we shop at Costco (we do), that's $364 per year on bread.

Enter the breadmaker.
We got this Black & Decker breadmaker for $5 at a yard sale down the street a few months ago. Since then, we haven't bought a single loaf of bread from the store.

We modified one of the recipes in the manual to make a nice honey wheat with a 2:1 bread flour to whole wheat flour ratio.  The only ingredients are flour, water, honey, butter, salt, and yeast. It's delicious.

Bread flour is about $8 for a 25 lb bag at Costco. 
Buy a jar of yeast at the grocery store, a 5 lb bag of whole wheat, and the normal honey and butter you have around the house.  Set the timer and you have a fresh baked loaf of bread in the morning at a fraction of the cost.

As an added bonus, it makes super easy pizza dough for family dinner on Sundays, again at a fraction of the cost of ordering pizza.

Saving $300 per year may not seem like much, but little things like this add up.  That's $300 extra to be invested, producing an extra $20-30 in annual income.


7.10.2013

How Much Do You Get Paid for Breathing?

This post from Brave New Life talks about how he has the world's best job.  Essentially, he breaks down what he gets paid for breathing.  He's taken the advice of Mr. Money Mustache, and making his army of dollar bills work for him.

We all know what we make per hour when we're working.  If you're paid hourly, they tell you up front.  If you have an annual salary, drop three zeroes and divide by two to get a reasonable approximation.  For example, if you make $50,000 per year, drop three zeroes to get $50, then divide by two to get $25.  You make about $25/hour while you're working.

The problem with the traditional job is that you only get paid while you're working.  Also, that annual salary conversion trick only works if you work 40 hours a week.  I assure you, I work more than 40 hours a week, mostly because keeping poor people out of prison is hard and doesn't lend itself to 9 to 5 hours.

My father once told me that his goal in life was to become "gainfully unemployed."  That is, to make money without having to work for it.  It's a simple goal, but a profound one.  Getting paid for breathing more than it costs you to live.  This goal is attainable, but it takes effort and discipline.

The nice thing about having your dollars work for you is that they are earning money 24/7/365, not just the 40 hours you're at work every week. 

As a motivation, I thought I'd break down what I currently get paid for breathing, not counting any of my salary as a public defender:
  • Lending Club (peer-to-peer lending) pays $11.45 as of last month in interest.
  • My non-retirement stock accounts paid $62.40 in dividends last year.
  • The house we don't live in, that I rent out, $2,740.17 after expenses in rental income.
  • Interest on various savings and checking accounts was $12.89 for last year.
 Breaking that down, it comes to $2,952.86 annually.  That's $246.07 monthly.  $8.20 per day. $0.34 per hour.

$0.34 per hour is about how much I get paid to breathe. 

It's a horribly low wage, but I get paid it every hour of every day, whether I'm awake or not.  Every dollar I invest pushes that number up a little bit higher. And at some point, some day, I will be gainfully unemployed.

6.18.2013

Peach Weizenbock and Bozenweiss Raspberry Wheat

I made a batch of The Brew Hut's Bozenweiss Raspberry Wheat a couple of weeks ago. The recipe is as follows:
6 lbs. Wheat LME
1 lb. Crystal 10L (Briess)
12 oz. Flaked Wheat
8 oz. Acidulated Malt
1 oz. Tettnanger (60 minutes)
1 oz. Tettnanger (30 minutes)
Safbrew WB-06
ADD RASPBERRY PUREE (3.1 lb. Can) AT "HIGH KRAUSEN" (the second or third day of fermentation). Be sure to sanitize the top of the puree can as well as the can opener before opening the can and adding to the primary.
ADD RASPBERRY FLAVORING (1-4 oz. to taste) INTO THE BOTTLING BUCKET OR KEG.
Lately, I've been trying to expand my brewing knowledge (and save a couple of bucks) by devising a recipe I can pitch on to the yeast cake from the prior recipe. Saves money on yeast and challenges me to come up with my own recipes. The general rule for pitching on a previous yeast cake is to do a batch of beer that is stronger and darker. I decided to keep with the fruit theme and came up with a recipe for a Peach Weizenbock. I decided on a whim to use peaches instead of some kind of berry. I used CaraAroma malt to steep to give it a darker color and decided (also on a whim) to use frozen peaches. Because peaches are one of the most subtle fruits, I decided to rack the beer out of the primary on to the peaches in the secondary. There's some small danger from putting a non-boiled ingredient into the beer at the secondary stage, but I sanitized everything and figured the freezing process killed most bacteria or wild yeasts. Things I learned about working with frozen peaches:
  • If you don't have a funnel, you can make one by cutting the top off of a soda or water bottle.
  • When you put frozen peaches into a Cuisinart,what comes out is very similar to Italian ice.
  • Italian ice is very difficult to put through a makeshift funnel made with a cut off water bottle.
  • Briefly microwaving Italian ice makes it much easier to get through a funnel.
  • Three pounds of frozen peaches don't take up very much room at all in a 6.5 gallon carboy.
Peach Weizenbock in the carboy
Peach Weizenbock in the carboy
I'll find out in a week or so whether the peach flavor comes through in the finished beer and whether I need to rack it off into a tertiary to clear up the tiny peach chunks.

6.11.2013

June Square Foot Gardening Update

It's been a little more than a month and the square foot gardening beds are really taking off!

That's a sunflower, radishes, peas, tomato, pepper, parsley, beets, spinach, strawberry, and zucchini. 


We already picked a few radishes and spinach for salads.


In the other bed, more of the same, including some peas almost ready to pick.


The plants are doing well, though the heat has caused some of the spinach to bolt early.

Also, the soil mix doesn't allow for overwatering, but that makes it susceptible to drying out in the summer.

Still, way more success than last year's attempt at gardening in the ground.

5.25.2013

2 Gs, an N, an I, an E, and an R....

Words have power, and some words are only allowed to be uttered by people who are part of the group.



Be careful with your words.

You can purchase this song, Prejudice on iTunes.

5.09.2013

Peer to Peer Lending with Lending Club

Inspired by Mr. Money Mustache, I've decided to add peer-to-peer lending to my investment portfolio.  I opened an account with Lending Club and just invested in my first two notes today.

The way it works is that Lending Club acts as a loan originator and servicer for consumer loans.  They then allow investors to fund a portion of the note (minimum $25).  The interest rates run from approximately 7% for A borrowers up to 24% for G borrowers.  The low minimum investment lets you spread the default risk across a portfolio of notes instead of taking a risk on any one borrower.

Basically, you get to be a credit card company.

I started with $1,000 and will post periodically on how it's going.

5.07.2013

Square Foot Gardening Update

After some scares with late season snow storms (like May 2 late), the seeds I planted in April stayed alive for the most part.

This past weekend, Ruth and I planted the warm weather seeds like zucchini, beans, and flowers.

Here's a couple of pictures showing the progress to this point.






5.04.2013

Registration Leads to Confiscation

As Brian Doherty recently noted in Reason, officials in California are using that state's gun registry to "visit" known gun owners who may no longer be allowed to own guns. They're not going to take everyone's guns, just the ones from those people who are no longer allowed to own them.  It's not like they're seizing all guns.  At least not now.  But they know where the guns are, because California has registration.

If the government has a list of where the guns are, then they can take them. 

They can take them if they think someone is a felon.  Or they can take them if the person seeks mental health treatment. Or they can take them if that person lives with a person who seeks mental health treatment. Or they can take them if the legislature decides that that type of gun is no longer legal to possess. 

The point of background checks is to have a list of people who aren't allowed to purchase a gun.  When someone tries to buy a gun from a firearms dealer, that dealer checks the list to make sure the purchaser isn't prohibited from buying a gun. 

However, the point of registration is to know where the guns are and who owns them. 
  
To be able to take them.

3.18.2013

Trying Out Square Foot Gardening


I've decided to give gardening another try even after last year's abysmal results (about 4 small zucchini, a couple of beans, and 3-4 tiny tomatoes).  The soil at the house sucks and the previous owners did very little to care for the overgrown yard.

This year, I'm going with a square foot garden. The concept is that, rather than rows of the same plant, you plant in raised beds, divided by a grid into 1-foot squares.  Each square is planted seperately with different plants.  It's all described in this book:

 

The other big shift is that you don't try to fix your soil.  Instead, you fill the 6-inch deep beds with a 1:1:1 ratio of vermiculite, compost, and peat moss.

It's a bit of work to build the beds and mix all the soil ingredients together.  Also, the soil is expensive (Vermiculite is $21 for a 2 cu/ft bag here), but those should be one-time outlays.

I got the beds placed today and planted some of the early start seeds like peas, beets, spinach, etc.

Here's what it looks like so far:




Hopefully all the investment in soil and building the beds will pay off.  Now if I can just get the lawn to grow.

3.16.2013

The perils of not using your credit cards

  A credit card company just sent me a letter informing me that:
We have closed your AT&T Universal Rewards Card due to the length of time that has passed since it was last used.  Please destroy all cards and convenience checks in your possession.
I guess it's cool that I have my life together enough that I can avoid using a particular credit card for years, but it's still kind of sad that they closed my account.

3.11.2013

Why the Redskins Shouldn't Change the Name

The Washington Post is once again on a quixotic crusade to make the Washington Redskins change their name.  Leading the charge is columnist Mike Wise, but the paper has been devoting tons of space to the topic.  The core of the argument is that the term "redskin" is a slur against Native Americans.  We would be offended by a team named after any other racial slur, so we should be equally offended by a team called

But the difference is that "redskin" has virtually no currency as a slur.  It's an anachronism that is unused except in the context of the Washington NFL team.  It's more like having a team named the Washington Blackamoors or the New York Mooks. Yes, you can go back in time to find a point where the name was used as a racial slur, but it's so far in the past that it has no relation to the modern age.

There is a very small, but vocal, group of people offended by the name Redskins.  According to a 2004 poll of Native Americans, 91% of respondents were not offended by the use of the name.  The charge to change the name is driven by vocal activists and liberal guilt.  And the Washington Post.

Hail to the Redskins!

Update (3/12/13): A friend who used to live in the upper Midwest informed me that she has heard people in Minnesota and Wisconsin use the term "redskin" as a racial slur. 

Also, I found a very good article on the Language Log on the Origin of Redskin.  It's worth reading if you want to know the actual linguistic history of the word.

2.28.2013

Government Benevolence is a Lie

There is a common myth that government is generally run by people who are concerned for the public interest over their own.  And there are some examples where this is true.  I work for a salary significantly below the market rate (and that has been frozen since 2009) because I care about defending people from the government's efforts to convict and imprison them.  But on the whole, it's a giant lie.



The fight over the sequester is revealing the lie.  As soon as budgets are threatened, the government threatens to furlough air traffic controllers, causing huge travel delays, furlough food inspectors, threatening that the food we eat will no longer be safe, and various other plans to cut most needed services first.  In other words, give us more money or we'll make sure to hurt you in the application of the budget cuts.

That's not public service, that's extortion.  It's a clear willingness to hurt the American people if that's what it takes to get more money for their agency.  A benevolent public servant would work to make the budget cuts impact the citizenry as little as possible.  Our government prefers to threaten to make the cuts hurt the citizenry as much as possible.

Public choice theory says it will always be this way.  We can't change the nature of people, but we can acknowledge it and stop buying the big lie.

2.06.2013

Not being drone murdered is an individual right

We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.
 - Statement of Principles, Libertarian Party

That line, especially the bit about the "cult of the omnipotent state," has been the subject of many internal battles within the party at conventions.  There is a group within the party and the broader libertarian movement that believe that language prevents us from growing as a party.  After all, the two legacy parties don't have that kind of language and they win elections.

I come from the libertarian wing of the Libertarian Party.  I've been a Libertarian since I was 10 or 11 years old and my father would take me to meetings of the Maricopa County Libertarian Party.  I vote for Ernie Hancock when he runs for Chair because I've known him longer than anyone else in the party.  I've never been anything other than a big-L Libertarian.

You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Lee Wrights once said, "We can make a difference by being different."  I believe that.  The Libertarian Party is still much smaller than the two legacy parties.  We cannot beat them by playing the game on their terms and by their rules. 

This is not to say that our candidates should not be professional in appearance, nor that we can ignore the mechanics of running political campaigns.  But it is to say that we can't just be "Republicans who mean it," or "Democrats who really believe in civil liberties."  If all we offer is a slightly better version of a legacy party, most voters won't risk their vote for something slightly better when the legacy party candidate could, you know, win.

We can win by being the only party that supports actual freedom.  Social freedom.  Economic freedom. All of your freedoms. All of the time.  Without exception.

These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise.
- White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney

According to a memo obtained by NBC, the Obama Administration has decided that they can kill anyone overseas with a drone strike, including American citizens, with no trial, charge, or any due process protections at all.  The Democrats don't have a problem with this, since it's a Democrat making this unilateral decision to kill people. Oddly, the Republicans don't have a problem with it either, possibly because they want to have that power in 2016.
 
Libertarians are the only ones who have a problem with it.  The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution clearly states, "nor shall any person be...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." There is no more stark and frightening example of "the cult of the omnipotent state," than the idea that it's okay to murder people drone missiles as long as it's the President doing it and he's pretty sure you're a bad guy.

I'm a Libertarian and I challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual, and that most certainly includes the right to not be murdered by the government with no due process at all.