Friday, December 30, 2011

Let's be careful about what we say on the Internet

If you have new information about an ongoing criminal matter, it's usually best to share that information with law enforcement. Be advised that if this is something that you heard from someone else, without any independent verification, then it may not be something that you want to share on the Internet. Some lies can feel like facts when information is scarce. Remember when Richard Jewell was falsely accused of planting the bomb that he found at the Olympics? Before you write your next blog post or say something on Facebook, you should read what John Scalzi wrote about libel.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

This date in history

Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as Soviet president on this day 20 years ago. Russia had declared its independence the day before.

There are now adults attending college and serving in the military who do not remember this. We will be vulnerable to the same fate if we are arrogant enough to think that we are immune from it. Occupying Afghanistan and economic mismanagement tends to take a heavy toll on superpowers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why you should be worried about indefinite detention

There are religious terrorists out there. There are also secular terrorists out there. For that matter, I suspect some terrorists are as sincere about their religious beliefs as politicians are about their campaign promises.
There are also right wing terrorists, left wing terrorists, anarchist terrorists, and people with no coherent ideology who just want to blow up things and hurt people. Terrorists can be of any race or ethnicity.
Terrorists can look like anybody. Even elderly and disabled people have joined these movements. So anybody can be mistaken for a terrorist. Maybe a disgruntled neighbor might leave an anonymous type about you taking flight lessons or a chemistry class.

There are a couple of reasons why this will make us less safe:
1. When a suspect is captured, our justice system takes further steps to ensure that the right guy is in custody and the actual perpetrator is still at large. One of these steps is called a trial. Some people might insist that it is better to punish the innocent than let the guilty go free, but allowing people to establish their innocence helps ensure that guilty people do not go free.
2. Here's a hypothetical scenario. Let's say a bomb goes off in Chicago, and some group calling itself the Detroit Lions Liberation Army claims responsibility. The government arrests 10 Lions fans and doesn't give them a trial. Would this make Lions fans more or less loyal to America? Now replace "Lions fans" with "Southerners", "abolitionists", "African-Americans", "Mormons", "Japanese-Americans", "German immigrants" or any other group that has ever been placed under suspicion.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Brief update

We'll be having a meeting later this month. Since it's at a private residence, I'm not going to announce somebody's address to a bunch of trolls. But the odds are that we have a few lapsed members who haven't been getting our emails. Maybe you have a new email address or an over zealous spam filter. Anyway, contact me and I'll you where and when the meeting is.

Also, I saw this video, and I hope it drives a nail into Rally for Rail's coffin.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Regarding illegal activity at protests

Some people are upset that protesters are being allowed to camp in Freimann Square in violation of the law. But the most important job of the police is to promote public safety, so discretion must be used in situations where normal police actions could provoke violence. This isn't to say that illegal activity should get a pass just because it's nonviolent. Police simply have to do their jobs in a way that minimizes risk to themselves and others.

One way to handle the matter is to issue citations that require the violator to appear in court. Maybe he'll show up and pay the fine, or maybe a bench warrant will have to be issued. Getting arrested after a traffic stop three months after the protest is over is somewhat less glamorous as getting arrested while your friends film it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day

The best way to honor Veterans Day is preserve what they protected. We must not discard at home what they fought for abroad.

It should also be noted that November 11, 1918 was known as Armistice Day. It was a celebration of what was hoped to be a long and lasting peace. I suspect that among every generation in every nation there is an impulse to honor the heroes of the past by replicating their feats, by proving we are as brave now as they were then. There may very well be a time when there is no longer a need for heroes, but that is a problem we can only look forward to for now.

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Occupy protests

The Occupy movement has no consistent message, aside from the fact that they are upset with corporations, just as the Tea Party movement has no consistent message aside from the fact that they are upset with the federal government. Large organizations are like parents: necessary, but nobody is going to be happy with everything they do.

I do find some of the symbolism baffling. You would think that these people wearing Guy Fawkes masks would realize what Guy Fawkes actually stood for.

Here is something written by an Occupier that all other Occupiers should read.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Ken Burns' documentary on Prohibition.

I heartily recommend this miniseries. Prohibition was a case of good intentions gone awry. When FDR signed the Cullen–Harrison Act, which legalized 3.2% beer, it was perhaps the single best thing that any US president did for the American economy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Instead of raising taxes, or addition to raising taxes....

Ayn Rand said people should be willing to pay 90% in taxes if it were necessary for national defense. It was hyperbole, but the point is that if the revenue is needed, then the taxes must be paid. Even Ayn Rand thought so.
If the government is in a situation in which taxes must be raised on the rich and corporations, then I propose that the following steps be taken as well.
1. End all subsidies to corporations. Corporations are supposed to raise their own capital and generate their own revenue. If a company can't do either, we shouldn't concern ourselves with it. A company that can no longer make money is like a lawnmower that can no longer cut grass. It has completely failed at its purpose. It should be scrapped.
2. End all entitlements to the wealthy. If taxes are charged based on the ability to pay, entitlements should be paid out based on need. If the country is such dire financial straits, if certain people are demanding that their own taxes be raised, why isn't this one of the first things to be cut?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Positive signs in negative ads.

Recently I've been getting mailers from the Indiana Democratic Party. They want to point out all the times that Paula Hughes has voted to raise taxes. Listed without any apparent irony was the time that Hughes voted for a downtown arena in 2000.
I want to think of this as a positive sign. To me, it's a sign that prior support of subsidies of the entertainment industry is now a political liability.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Debt Ceiling

We all understand, or should understand, that politics is fueled by drama. It's hard to make people care about some policy issue unless you can show how if you don't get your way, it'll cost someone their life or job.

I suspect that both sides will reach a deal at the last minute. Give in anytime before then, and the side that gave concessions will look weak in front of their base. But aren't we all tired of having this debate every couple of years? Aren't we worried that there will come a time when both sides dig in their heels and goes into default? Is default inevitable in the long run? I don't have an answer for that. If it happens, it'll be one of those events that looks inevitable in hindsight.

The best way to prepare for and possibly prevent a default is to reduce the amount of power and responsibility that we assign to the federal government. If it's worth doing, and doesn't involve national defense or tangible goods crossing state lines, then it shouldn't be done by the federal government. Our healthcare and your children's education should not be subject to the whims of 536 people who cannot reach a consensus when it matters most.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tragedy in Norway

Things I wish I could have said to the perpetrator before it happened:
1. You might think that you are waking people up to the threat of Islam. But it's far more likely that they'll wake up to the threat of you and whatever movements you claim to support.
2. Islamic terrorists have planned attacks against Norway. They've planned attacks in a lot of places. I plan to pay off my house and lose 25 pounds within five years, but it doesn't mean it's going to happen. Why not take a wait and see approach? If foreign terrorists do attack, you can say that you were right and more people will listen to you. If they don't, you can rejoice in the fact that your country has been unharmed by the current crisis.
3. Are you really doing this for the reasons that you claim? Do you really want Norway to become a police state? Or are you doing this for the notoriety and the attention? Do you think that 100 years from now, historians will say "Boy, it's a good thing that this guy killed all those people"?
4. Lie face down on the ground, and put your hands behind your head.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Will Social Security checks arrive on time next month?

I think that they probably will. But the President says he cannot guarantee that they will. So let's talk about this. Would you buy a product from a company that could not guarantee that they would deliver that product? Maybe you could get your money back, but in the case of Social Security, your money is the product in question. Whether you blame the President or the GOP for the current fiasco, this is simply one more reason why the federal government should not control your retirement.

I think everyone reading this will agree with the following: "I take the time to weigh each candidate's qualifications and stances on the issues. But sometimes they break their promises once elected. And sometimes some douchebag from a different party cons a bunch of morons into voting for him." The fact is that the wrong people have a way of gaining power. People might disagree about who the wrong people are. But if you put your healthcare and your retirement in the hands of the government, you are putting it in the hands of those wrong people.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

City tries its hand at real estate speculation

The first paragraph in this article says it all:
Fort Wayne wants control over how the land near Parkview Field is used, despite having no specific plan for development.
One would think that officials would welcome almost any private investment downtown. Instead, the city has bought this land so that it can cherry-pick potential buyers. If the redevelopment commission tries to micromanage downtown land usage, fewer businesses will be interested in locating there. It seems like many businesses "support" downtown but refuse to move there.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Do we really need the Harrison?

Barry Real Estate still cannot get the financing to build the Harrison building, which is part of the Harrison Square project that is named after Harrison Street. (This city has a habit of shunning creative names, but that's another post.) Barry Real Estate insists that the recession could not have been anticipated.

It's hard to argue with that. Even economists have difficulty predicting what the economy is going to do. But the recession has taken a heavy toll on the real estate market. The City Council did not know that this would happen when Harrison Square was approved in 2007. Now that the real estate market has changed, perhaps it is time to reconsider what should be in the empty space next to the ballpark. If the goal is still to generate property tax revenue to put in the TIF fund and help pay off the bonds that were sold to pay for the ballpark, then a new developer should be found.

Of course, many important and influential people are going to have conflicting ideas about what should be in that spot. But they should resist the urge to declare "My way or the highway". The city should let a developer willing to invest his own money decide what should be built there, as well as guarantee that his business will be allowed to remain as long as he pays his bills and complies with local ordinances.

Whatever your opinion of the Harrison Square project is, you still need to understand that companies have a love/hate relationship with eminent domain. They hate it when a high-value location is taken away from them, but occasionally they like having the city take an albatross (remember Southtown?)off their hands. If companies have to worry about their buildings being bulldozed to make way for the next mayor's grand vision, downtown could stagnate even if the economy takes off. Whatever happens with the condos, and whatever you think about the project as a whole, let's agree to quit using downtown as a political sandbox.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dead Kids Make Bad Laws

Here's an interesting article about a New Jersey law that requires teen drivers to have a special decal on their car. It's not exactly the worst law ever passed, but this is an interesting case where both supporters and opponents of this law cite children's safety as the reason for their opinion. This shows how emotions can cloud the judgement of legislators.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

How you can be sure that OBL is dead.

Some people think that Bin Laden is still alive. While the US government has certain credibility issues, a little common sense would go a long way into understanding why they wouldn't lie about this.

If Bin Laden is alive, I would think that he would be motivated to put out another video in order to embarrass his foes. For him to stay silent and "play dead", you would have to think that it is in both Bin Laden's interests and the US government's interests to mislead everyone else into thinking that he is dead.

Truth may be the first casualty of war, and it can be argued that some lying is needed when the enemy has access to the same Internet as everyone else. But a skilled liar has to tell the truth occasionally in order to keep his lies believable. Whatever you think of this war or the current president, there is no doubt that Bin Laden is dead.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Bin Laden is dead.

A century before the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, President Theodore Roosevelt said "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." He claimed that this proverb originated in Africa. Insert your own joke about American Presidents and alleged African origins here.

It should be apparent to people of all nations, no matter their station in life or whatever god they believe in, that America carries many sticks of all shapes and sizes. Let's hope that this still-new millennium gives us the chance to speak softly to the world once again.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Planned Parenthood funding

Cutting funding for Planned Parenthood was the right thing to do. While it is my opinion that an organism needs a functional nervous system before it has any rights, I still think it is wrong for the state or the federal government to force people to pay for activities that they find morally abhorrent.
I enjoy violent video games, but I don't think Jack Thompson should pay for my fun. I enjoy hamburgers, but I don't think vegans should have to subsidize the beef industry. And I certainly don't think that environmentalists should have to pay to bailout a company that makes SUV's.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Attention birthers

Pick one and go with it.
1. Obama has cleared up a huge misunderstanding by doing more to establish he was born in the US than any previous president. It's time to focus on other issues.
2. There is a vast leftist conspiracy to make the president's critics believe in conspiracies. This conspiracy is intended to make Obama's critics look like whackjobs. Until this conspiracy is finally uncovered, the best way to counter it is to: (A)disregard any information you read about the president in a chain email (B) avoid relaying any information about "something that you heard happened to a friend of a friend who was a Marine or a cop or something" (C) remember that if the President attends church and says he is a Christian, that is an indicator that he isn't Muslim.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why bother raising the debt ceiling?

It strikes me as absurd that Congress and the President even bother to go through with the formality of raising the debt limit. Why have a limit at all when it can be raised at will?

The real debt limit is how much foreigners are willing to lend us before they decide Treasury bonds aren't a good investment anymore. Nobody knows what that limit is, and I just assume that we never find out.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thoughts on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War

1. Whenever the anniversary of a war rolls around, I wonder if there is a subconscious urge among our leaders to make themselves remembered, to make become "great" men as opposed to merely good men. I would like to hear a presidential candidate promise that his term in office will be prosperous and uneventful, and that school children a century from now will have trouble remembering his name. Learn from history, draw inspiration from it, but never, ever attempt to imitate it.
2. From time to time, we'll hear someone speak fondly of states' rights. But in my view, the right of individuals trump the rights of both state and federal governments. My right to leave your plantation is more important than your right to leave the Union.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Government Shutdown

The federal government might shut down all non-essential functions tonight. Some folks see this as a good thing. But it is my understanding that a shutdown will end up costing us more money in the long run, since furloughed government employees will get back pay for the time that they weren't allowed to work.

The possibility of a government shutdown brings up a good question: If it isn't essential, why should we be paying for it at a time when financial resources are scarce? Of course, we can all argue over what is and isn't essential all day long. But if a "non-essential" program is really essential to you, the possibility of a government shutdown is all the more reason that you shouldn't trust the government to provide it for you.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Is Mitch Daniels a Time Traveler?

When I first heard of Barack Obama, I thought that he was too smart to be a real American. But when he claimed that his uncle liberated Auschwitz, that was all the proof I needed that he was educated in the United States.

But after seeing this:



and this:



I am starting to have my doubts about where and when our governor is from. This raises several questions.
1. Are "Crewman Daniels" and Governor Daniels the same person?
2. If Governor Daniels intends to run for president, can he show proof that he is at least 35, both biologically and chronologically? For all we know, he could have skipped over several years of his own lifespan.
3. Was he born in a timeline in which the United States existed?
4. Couldn't he have prevented certain catastrophes with his knowledge of the future? Couldn't he have warned the Colts that the Saints were going to attempt an onside kick after halftime in last year's Superbowl?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Libya

Some thoughts:
1. Gadaffi deserves to be overthrown. But whoever kills him or otherwise ousts him will bear the responsibility of running Libya. America does not need that responsibility right now.
2. I really hope that we do not get in the habit of intervening in Middle Eastern civil wars. If the objective is to protect civilians, why not do the same for Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria?
3. Obama has promised not to send ground troops. Does he intend to keep that promise if Gadaffi defeats the rebels on the ground? This is yet another conflict fought with use of half-measures.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fort Wayne's drug house law

Here's a pop quiz for Fort Wayne landlords: Which of the following are you not allowed to lease a house or apartment to?
A. A convicted murderer.
B. A convicted child molester.
C. A suspected drug user who has not even been arrested or charged with a crime yet.

To be clear, Section 130.06 of City Code prohibits property owners from knowingly allowing gambling, prostitution, or illegal drug crimes to take place on their property. I would think that if a landlord knew that a tenant was selling drugs, he would notify the police and file for eviction, or he would insist on a share of the profits. People who run criminal enterprises go to great lengths to conceal their operations from law-abiding citizens.

So how exactly is a landlord supposed to know if a tenant is a drug dealer? Here's what the law says:
Upon completion of investigation by the Police Department revealing that such suspected illegal activity is taking place at a particular premises, the Police Department may send a Notice of Investigation to the owner of the real estate and a copy to the tenant/occupant whose premise is the subject of the investigation, by certified mail, return receipt requested, informing the owner that the investigation revealed suspected illegal activity and the fact that there is an on-going investigation. The Notice of Investigation shall inform the owner that it is a violation of the Fort Wayne Code for the owner of real estate to knowingly permit its real estate to be used as a site for any use or sale of illicit narcotics or controlled dangerous substances, gambling or prostitution. The Notice of Investigation shall also state that the city may initiate enforcement proceedings against the owner of the real estate if the suspected illegal activity does not cease. Finally, the Notice of Investigation shall advise that it is a defense to a proceeding to enforce this section if the owner of real estate institutes and completes eviction proceedings in compliance with division (F) of this section against the person suspected of engaging in the criminal conduct giving rise to the Notice of Investigation.

Got all that? What it means is that if the police thinks that a tenant is a drug dealer, they can pretty much require his landlord to evict him.

This law hasn't been enforced recently, but the city plans to change that. First, let me stress that my opinion of police officers is much higher than that of drug dealers. But I have three questions.
1. If the police think that a guy is selling drugs, why not simply arrest him instead of sending a certified letter to his landlord?
2. If a landlord did know all along that drugs were being sold at his house, why not simply charge him as an accessory and seize the house?
3. Mistakes do happen. If a man is found innocent, shouldn't he be allowed to go back to the home he had when he was arrested?

There are many anti-drug laws on the books, most of them harsher than Section 130.06. The reason why I am bringing this one up is because I think this law has the highest immediate potential for causing innocent people who pay their bills on time to be thrown in the street.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

What to do with the $75 million

Some of it, if not all of it, should be set aside for a rainy day fund. Remember last year when we were warned that property tax caps would cause revenue shortfalls? If that is the case, then the city doesn't need to find a new project to blow its wad on.

I've also been hearing for the past two years that the recession is either ending or is over. Property values and tax revenues may go back up, and they may go down. The mayor might hope for the former, but he would be wise to prepare for the later.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Right to Work"

"Right to work" laws have a misleading name. It's a given that everyone has a legal right to work in this state. Everyone has a legal right to get married too, but the reality is that not everyone who wants a spouse or a job will actually find one. You can't just hire or marry anybody who answers your classified ad. People have to meet certain requirements that vary greatly between potential employers and mates.

Employers have a right to require an employee to join a union, just as they have a right to insist that a worker receive training or attend certain classes. Admittedly, many now wish to give up this right and have lobbied the state legislature to that end. This is obviously intended to weaken unions.

The government has been used as a weapon by both labor and management against each other in disputes. It's wrong when either side does it.

It's my opinion that government should not interfere with either companies or unions. Our current economic state is the result of government interference. Asking for more interference is the wrong way to correct it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mideast protests and uprisings

If it were not obvious before, perhaps it is now: Not even the most powerful nation can ever force people to be free. It's a decision that they have to make for themselves.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The case against the internet kill switch

Egypt has activated its own internet kill switch. This was a desperate act, but the consequences of using such a contingency plan would be even more dire. I don't have to tell anyone reading this that much of the US economy depends on the Internet. If the Internet went offline tommorrow, many Americans would be unable to make phone calls, and thus would not have access to emergency services such as police, ambulances, and firefighters. Whatever the reasons for activating the kill switch, there will be panic and conspiracy theories galore. It could very well cause more civil unrest than it prevents.

Proponents of a US kill switch claim that it could be to prevent a cyberattack. Talk about destroying the village in order to save it. Thousands of IT departments ewploying various security measures can do a better job of protecting themselves than a single giant bureaucracy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bombing at a Moscow airport

My immediate thought about this is the federal government can spend billions of dollar turning every domestic flight into a flying Alcatraz, and terrorists will decide that they don't even need to board a plane to cause mayhem. If your highest priority is to avoid being killed by a terrorist, then perhaps you should stay home, hide in the cellar, and avoid saying anything inflammatory. But please let everyone else live their lives. The world cannot be as safe as we would like it to be. We should not let maniacs dictate national policy. Nail clippers don't hijack planes, people do.

Monday, January 24, 2011

This is what irony is.


I just saw this commercial yesterday. I find it ironic that my tax dollars bailed out the company that made the product in this commercial. Here's hoping Americans in Detroit start getting cars right, and Americans in Washington DC start getting freedom right.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Just a reminder...

If Maniac A advocates Idea B, that should never be taken as refutation of Idea B. Bad people can still have good ideas (example: the Volkswagen Beetle). Crazy people will attempt to imitate other people in order to appear sane, and therefore will espouse some of the same ideas. And some maniacs might attempt to apply reverse psychology by outwardly advocating for a cause that they secretly want to discredit.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Congresswoman shot, others killed

The first reports that I heard was that Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D, AZ 8th) was killed, but as of this writing she was merely wounded and was even responsive. I hope that she recovers enough to serve out the rest of her term.

After visiting the suspected shooter's Youtube page, (hat tip to DailyKos) I think that he was either mentally ill or trying to convince everyone else that he was mentally ill. Whatever the case, I hope he stays locked up for a long time.

Lastly, I hope that this does not have any undue impact on public policy. I hope that this does not affect any upcoming votes in Congress. I don't want any controversial bill to lose by a margin of one and have people say that it would have passed if Mrs. Giffords had not been shot. Finally, I hope that this is not used to rationalize more infringement on our civil liberties. The world can never be as safe as we would like it to be, but we can still live our lives as we choose.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Who should you take seriously in 2011?

If the Republicans in Congress vote to raise the debt ceiling, it's time to stop taking them seriously as fiscal conservatives.

If Democrats continue to push for more government spending as a cure for economic woes, it's time to stop taking them seriously on economic matters. If the recession isn't over by now, it's time for a different strategy. On the other hand, if you want to think that the recession is over, then there is no need for further stimulus.