Friday, March 16, 2007

Letter: Government has no place in personal decisions

My letter to the editor ran in today's issue of "The Republic" in Columbus, Indiana.

3/16/2007 2:10:00 AM

Letter: Government has no place in personal decisions

From: Bill Starr, Columbus
Received: March 10

I was glad to hear recently that a proposal to increase cigarette taxes was defeated in the Indiana House.

I am for smaller government, not bigger.

I am not a smoker, but I dislike seeing government trying to save people from the consequences of their decisions by raising the price on a pleasure that others consider a vice.

I think the best approach is to look for ways to make every person in society, including smokers, bear the responsibility and true costs for their own decisions to the greatest extent possible, not to try to create artificial consequences by making the hand of government ever heavier.

One way of doing this would be for state law to permit and encourage insurance companies and employers to take the voluntary lifestyle risks of their customers and employees into account when determining what rate a person is offered for health and life insurance, and even whether they are offered insurance at all.

This should help serve as a wake-up call to the true costs of this choice, beyond what is paid at the cash register.

There are many repeated lifestyle choices besides smoking that people make every day that have long-term consequences, such as whether to watch a game on TV or get out and take a walk, whether to order a salad or a milkshake. I would rather have my elected government representatives stay completely out of all personal decisions of this sort.

There are enough long-term natural consequences to these "little" daily choices, without paying our elected representatives to think up artificial ones and force them upon us at the point of a gun (what almost every government decree ultimately comes to if we do not comply voluntarily).

I think everyone "buys in" to better choices when they make them themselves voluntarily, rather than being coerced by their elected "representatives" in government into making decisions that someone else thinks are "better" for them.

Aren't our armed forces supposedly putting their lives on the line to preserve our freedoms? Why fritter them away?

As Patrick Henry wrote, "The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people; it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."

Thomas Jefferson also said, "I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, (A)nd if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education."

Let us apply our powers of education and persuasion to our children and peers.

If they are exposed to the same facts as we are, and yet reach a different conclusion about smoking than we do, that is just the way a free society is supposed to work, and I urge the busybodies to just get over it.

Letter: Government has no place in personal decisions

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Can Ron Paul Win? by Murray Sabrin

Murray Sabrin, Ph.D., is professor of finance in the Anisfield School of Business, Ramapo College of New Jersey, where he is executive director of the Center for Business and Public Policy.

Dr. Sabrin writes the following about my favorite candidate for president and one of my favorite Congressmen.

"Clearly, the establishment media’s virtually blackout of Ron Paul’s candidacy is a magnificent case study in: media incompetence? bias? laziness? All of the above? ..."

"Currently, the Internet is abuzz about Ron Paul. As the year unfolds, if more and more young Republicans people gravitate toward the Paul campaign just as young Democrats did for Dean in 2004, the GOP establishment will be apoplectic..."

"Ron can become a top tier candidate and a serious contender for the nomination if he can raise more funds than his own advisors, I suspect, think is possible by December 31, 2007..."

"Ron’s political base is fiscal conservatives, anti-tax citizens, anti-war Republicans, Democrats and Independents, constitutionalists, hard-money advocates, small business owners, civil libertarians, anti-universal healthcare physicians, pro-lifers, parents who home school, and anyone else who considers himself a real patriot..."

"In the final analysis, about 50,000 to 100,000 Americans could determine the next presidential nominees of both parties. In the GOP presidential primary, if Ron Paul, Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Tommy Thompson, or any other lesser known candidate excites GOP voters for the next 12 months, then Rudy, McCain and Romney will prove that in a marathon it is not who leads the pack that counts but who is the turtle in the race."

Can Ron Paul Win? by Murray Sabrin

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Battling the Current: Time...thought I made friends with time

On "Battling the Current", EC writes:

"The time change is always a rather bizarre event because the entire country suffers from jet lag for a few days. There is a legitimate reason for daylight savings time and then there is the one politician’s claim. The claim is that we do this for energy savings. That by shifting the clocks ahead an hour people will use less light bulbs and less electricity and the world becomes a nicer place. That is, in fact, complete and utter bullshit."

"The real reason is pure economics. Give people an extra hour of sunlight in the evening and they are much more likely to have a weekday barbecue. Or try to fit in nine holes of golf after work. Or go to Home Depot and get cracking on that home repair project. Or even do what I did today, take advantage of the warm weather and see if I can hit a restaurant while it’s light out. The idea isn’t that we’ll spend less money on electricity. It’s that we’ll spend much more money on everything else in our lives."

I definitely think he's on to something. Yesterday, I had the weird sensation that I was plunged back into the middle of winter in the morning, yet in the middle of summer by evening.

Columbus sunrise yesterday was 8:00, about the same as we had on January 18. Yesterday's sunset of 7:47 is what we used to get about May 12, when we were on central daylight time (aka eastern standard time) year-round from the 1960's until 2005.

At our latitude, the typical latest sunrise is 7:21 am, from Dec 30 to Jan 10, and the sun would typically set at 7:47 or later only from April 24 to August 22.

Battling the Current: Time...thought I made friends with time

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Masson’s Blog - A Citizen’s Guide to Indiana » DST: Bad for Drinking

Doug posted a musing on whether the governor has legal authority to keep the bars open an extra hour early Sunday morning when the clocks change. It kicked off a discussion of sunrise/set times and time zones. Following were my contributions (most recent to oldest).

Since it takes the sun about 15½ minutes to pass overhead from Indianapolis to the middle of our nearest time zone (90 degrees longitude), the corresponding times to 7 am and 5 pm would be about 6:44:32 am and 4:44:32 pm for Indianapolis.

So if Indiana were back in the central time zone again, we would expect to see the sunrise after 6:45 am from about Nov 29 to Feb 9 and the sunset before 4:45 pm from about Oct 31 to Jan 15.

This was the norm for Indiana on central time until the 1960's when most of the state went to year-round central daylight time (aka eastern standard time).

Fri, 9 Mar 2007, 7:43 am EST

"T" wrote, "And those of us who’ve hated the pre-5pm sunsets can’t wait…"

Although Hoosiers are not very used to them, pre-5pm sunsets are at least normal for our latitude.

Simplifying, it would be reasonable to expect that the sun would rise after 7 am and set before 5 pm during the time of the year that there is less than 10 hours of sunlight (5 before midday and 5 after).

Indianapolis has less than ten hours of daylight from about Nov 15 until Jan 26 -- just under 2½ months.

Before there were time zones, Indianapolis and everyone due east and west around the world (latitude of 39.8 degrees north) had their sunrise after 7 am the 2½ or so months from about Nov 28 until February 9 and had their sunset before 5 pm the 2½ or so months from Oct 31 until January 15.

If you look at the USNO riseset figures for the "sister" cities of Indianapolis at about our latitude and very near the center of their time zones (Philadelphia, St. Louis, Denver, and Reno), you can see that this is very typical for our latitude.

Most of us in Indiana just had full-time central daylight time (aka eastern standard time) for so long, which amounted to about 45 minutes of year-round daylight saving time for our longitude, that these times seem kind of unusual to us, although they are really typical for our distance from the equator.

Fri, 9 Mar 2007, 7:14 am EST

Hi, Doug. Thanks for the post. I had seen the news item, but had not thought about it going against the concept of the executive branch "executing" the laws duly passed by the legislative branch.

We seem to have enough trouble these days with legislation from the judicial branch, without the executive branch jumping in as well.

By the way, I think you're in the Lafayette area. It's just a little quibble, but the USNO gives a sunrise of 8:06 am for Lafayette on 11 March 2007 with DST.

Indy is only 8:03 am.

However, I am a big fan of establishing what is the baseline for reasonable, and also a fan of earlier sunrises for Indiana. The "normal" or "typical" sunrise time for locations at Indiana's latitude is 7:18 am. Before DST was shifted back to the second Sunday of March, it would have been 6:18 am. You can confirm this pretty easily by plugging in cities near Indiana's latitude and near the center of their time zones into the USNO page.

Philadelphia is 6:19 am (pre DST), Saint Louis 6:19 am, Denver 6:18 am, Reno 6:17 am.

Between being in the wrong time zone and going on DST earlier, the Hoosiers like me who like to see the sun in the morning are really getting robbed.

Regards, Bill Starr
Columbus, Indiana
Thu, 8 Mar 2007, 7:17 pm EST

Masson’s Blog - A Citizen’s Guide to Indiana » DST: Bad for Drinking

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Update on the Empire by Laurence M. Vance

Laurence M. Vance is a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor in accounting at Pensacola Junior College in Pensacola, FL. He is also the director of the Francis Wayland Institute.

Mr. Vance writes:

"If it is true, as Ambrose Bierce (1842–1914) said, 'War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography,' then empire must be God’s way of making Americans masters of the subject since the United States now has troops in 159 different regions of the world..."

"We know this is true, not because some opponent of U.S. imperialism says so, but because the Department of Defense publishes a quarterly report called the 'Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country.' "

"I first reported on this... on March 16, 2004... the U.S. had troops in 135 countries... I then showed on October 4, 2004... that the U.S. empire had increased to 150 different regions of the world. The last time I reported on the extent of the empire, December 5, 2005... it had grown to encompass 155 different regions of the world. Today it pains me to report that the U.S. empire has now extended its tentacles to 159 regions of the world: 144 countries and 15 territories."

"Since there are 192 countries in the world besides the United States, this means that the U.S. military has troops in over 70 percent of the world’s countries. And this doesn’t include territories that are not sovereign countries..."

"Although Donald Rumsfeld once claimed that the United States is not imperialistic and doesn’t seek empires, what else are you going to call this global presence in 159 regions of the world? Do all these countries want U.S. troops on their soil? Is there really any reason why the United States still has 64,319 troops in Germany, 33,453 troops in Japan, and 10,449 troops in Italy – sixty years after World War II? ..."

"The issue is U.S. troops on foreign soil. They have no business there. Period. No bases, no troops, and no military advisors..."

"Echoing the inscription on the Liberty Bell, President Bush closed his second inaugural address with the statement that 'America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof.' But rather than proclaiming liberty, the stationing of soldiers in 159 different regions of the world and garrisoning the planet with military bases does just the opposite. Instead of proclaiming liberty, it proclaims imperialism, interventionism, militarism, and jingoism – all with devastating consequences for those countries that dare to question American hegemony."

Update on the Empire by Laurence M. Vance

A call for separation of school and state - The Boston Globe

Jeff Jacoby is an award-winning political columnist for the Boston Globe. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Globe is the largest newspaper in the New England area, and is the 15th largest-circulation newspaper in America, with over 600,000 readers.

I agree with Mr. Jacoby. He writes:

"Parker v. Hurley, in other words, was not just a victory for gay-marriage advocates or a defeat for Judeo-Christian traditionalists. It was a reminder that on many of the most controversial subjects of the day, public schools do not speak for the whole community..."

"When school systems deal with issues of sexuality, religion, politics, or the family, there is always an overriding agenda -- the agenda of whichever side has greater political clout. Parents who don't like the values being forced down students' throats have two options. One is to educate their children privately. The other is to find enough allies to force their own values down students' throats..."

"Once Americans may have agreed on what children should be taught, but that day is long gone. On any number of fundamental issues, parents today are sharply divided, and there is no way a government-run, one-curriculum-fits-all education system can satisfy all sides. The only way to end the political battles over schooling is to depoliticize the schools. And the only way to do that is to separate school and state."

"Parents should have the same freedom in educating their kids that they have in clothing, housing, and feeding them. You wouldn't let the government decide what time your kids should go to bed, or which doctor should treat their chicken pox, or how they should spend their summer vacation, or which religion they should be instructed in. On matters serious and not so serious, parents are entrusted with their children's well-being. Why should schooling be an exception?"

"Get government out of the business of running schools, and a range of alternatives will emerge. Freedom, innovation, and competition will do for education what they do for so much else in American life: increase choices, lower costs, improve performance -- and eliminate conflict. So long as education is controlled by the state, the battles and bad blood will continue. With more liberty will come more tolerance -- and more resources spent on learning than on litigation."

A call for separation of school and state - The Boston Globe

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Words None Dare Say: Nuclear War by George Lakoff

George Lakoff is is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute. He writes:

"The time has come to stop the attempt to make a nuclear war against Iran palatable to the American public. We do not believe that most Americans want to start a nuclear war or to impose nation destruction on the people of Iran."

The Words None Dare Say: Nuclear War by George Lakoff