Archive for August, 2011

Tenn. woman threatened for allowing daughter to ride bike to school

by David McElroy

We see programs today encouraging kids to ride bikes to school — just like the Beaver did years ago — but the Nanny State in Elizabethton, Tenn., apparently thinks that a mother can’t be trusted to decide whether her 10-year-old daughter is mature enough to ride her bike to school.

The mother says she’s been threatened with being charged with “child neglect” for allowing her daughter to bike a mile to school and back each day. Teresa Tryon tells her story:

“On August 25th my 10-year-old daughter arrived home via police officer, requested to speak to me on the front porch of my home,” Ms. Tryon said. “The officer informed me that in his ‘judgement’ it was unsafe for my daughter to ride her bike to school.”

Ms. Tryon called the mayor’s office and the chief of police office in order to determine what laws she was breaking by allowing her daughter to ride her bike to school.  Her daughter’s route to school was reasonably safe.

Major Verran of the police department returned Ms Tryon’s call.  She said he told me, “He had spoke with the District Attorney’s office, who advised that until the officer can speak with Child Protective Services that if I allow my daughter to ride/walk to school I will be breaking the law and treated accordingly.

She asked, “What law she would be breaking, to which the answer was ‘child neglect.'”

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Calif. lawmaker says Mary Poppins needs vacation pay, rest breaks

by David McElroy

If California Democrats have their way, hiring babysitters and nannies is soon going to get pretty complicated. It’s going to take more than a spoonful of sugar for this medicine to go down.

California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has proposed legislation that would require any adult hired as a sitter to be paid at least minimum wage, but the bill would also require parents to “provide a substitute caregiver every two hours to cover rest and meal breaks, in addition to workers’ compensation coverage, overtime pay, and a meticulously calculated timecard/paycheck.”

The bill has already passed the lower house of the California Legislature and is on its way through the Senate now. The only good news so far is that the Senate has stripped out the part about paid vacation days.

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U.S. wasted $60 billion in war funds: Is anyone honestly surprised?

by David McElroy

A commission investigating U.S. wartime spending over the last decade estimates that the federal government has wasted $60 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan due to “lax oversight of contractors, poor planning and payoffs to warlords and insurgents.” Is there a single person who’s surprised at this?

The Associated Press got an advance copy of the report Tuesday from the Commission on Wartime Contracting, but it will be public Wednesday. As disgusting as it is, I just find myself wondering why commissions bother to investigate such things. This happens with pretty much every government-run project of any sort, doesn’t it? Except for some super-scrupulous manager in a fairly small local state office, it’s almost impossible to stop it from happening.

Why can’t we stop it? Simple. There’s no incentive to stop it. When bureaucrats are in the middle of spending money — especially for what counts as a “crisis” — there are no brakes on the system. They simply spend the money and do the accounting later. It’s always this way. It can’t be any other way, because they have no incentive to stop.

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Taxing ‘the rich’ to fix economic problems shortsighted, won’t work

by David McElroy

It’s sometimes hard to say whether economic ignorance is more severe among the poor and uneducated or the rich and overeducated.

We recently had Warren Buffet issue a call to raise taxes on wealthy people such as himself in this country. (As I pointed out then, Buffet is welcome to donate his own money, but for some reason, that’s not the route he’s taking.) Now some of the elite of Europe’s rich are getting in on the act, too, as various wealthy people in a number of countries are calling for their taxes to be raised.

A German group is proposing that wealthy people pay a special 5 percent wealth tax for two years. Does anyone sane think it would stop at two years?

Why is it that these people are being treated as sacrificial when they’re actually demanding that other people have their money confiscated? If these people believe they owe their money to their fellow citizens, they’re perfectly capable of voluntarily turning over every bit of their money. Instead, they’re demanding that the state force other people to turn over their money.

Anyone who believes that taxing the rich — however you define that group — will end the coercive state’s economic problems is delusional. What’s more, it’s wrong.

I’m not among the rich. I’d like to be, but I’m not. However, they don’t owe me anything. They have no responsibility to subsidize the lives of the rest of us. Taxation is a moral evil. Progressive taxation — which simply means that you are penalized at an even higher rate if you’re successful — is both evil and stupid.

In praise of the weirdos who most people don’t really seem to like

by David McElroy

There’s tremendous pressure in society to conform to what everyone else wants and expects. That might seem like a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your temperament and values. Are you a “conformity enforcer” or a “diversity generator”?

If you drove down my street, you’d have a pretty good indication that the people in one particular house aren’t conformers. While pretty much every other home on the street has closely cropped shrubs like something out of a landscaping magazine, this house has bushes that have been allowed to grow up almost to the roof of the second floor.

The yard is carefully kept and there’s a lot of other greenery in a side garden, so it’s obvious that this is intentional, not just a matter of being too lazy to cut shrubs. Is this a good thing or an eyesore?

It depends on your point of view. Personally, I don’t think I’d want my bushes that high, at least not with such a traditional style of architecture, but it doesn’t bother me in the least. I’ve talked to a couple of people on the street, though, who find it nothing short of scandalous.

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Those Libyan ‘freedom fighters’ we paid for? They’re murdering thugs

by David McElroy

Every time the U.S. military (or U.S. taxpayer money) is used to knock off some government around the world, we’re told that it has to do with freedom or self-determination for the people or whatever else politicians think it takes to get us to let them have their own way. When will we learn that they’re lying to us?

Now that Libyan rebels have overthrown the dictatorial regime the U.S. opposed, members of the rebel groups are going around the country rounding up suspected sympathizers of the old regime. Read this account of people working for The New Boss going into a hospital and summarily executing wounded men who they believed worked for The Old Boss.

Is this what you want your tax money being used for?

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Failure to communicate: Angry, bitter people misunderstand each other

by David McElroy

I did very few things in my political work over the years that I’m ashamed of, but one case sticks out. I was simply helping a client try to win a campaign — and I made $10,000 doing it — but it was just plain wrong. It’s done all the time, though, and most people don’t realize it’s wrong.

I’m not going to mention names because I feel as though that would be unfair to people who paid me to work for them, but the names don’t matter. I was doing some last-minute work for a state gubernatorial campaign. My candidate was the incumbent, but he was weak and expected to lose. Those around the campaign were desperate for ideas and willing to throw money at the problem.

Some in the campaign leadership were obsessed with tying the opponent to a bunch of ’60s radicals. They had very shaky grounds for doing so, but the facts didn’t seem to matter. I produced a direct mail piece that went to hundreds of thousands of people that was accurate insofar as the facts it stated, but was dishonest in the implications it made. I’m ashamed of it, but that didn’t stop me from cashing the check.

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What’s your goal? Do you want to blow off steam or find solutions?

by David McElroy

It seems as though I’m seeing stronger and stronger expressions of political anger lately. If you read that and thought, “Well, of course we’re angry. The other side is so unreasonable,” this is for you.

The people you’re angry with are just as convinced they’re right as you’re convinced that you’re right. “But they’re dishonest,” you say. “They must know that they’re wrong. They have other motives.”

I’m here to disagree with you about that. There are a very few people who get into politics purely as charlatans, but very few. Mostly, they got into it because they were attracted to the political process (and the power involved in it) and they believed that the political position they took was obviously the right one.

The vast majority of liberal progressive Democrats sincerely believe that conservative Republicans are selfish, greedy racists. The vast majority of socially conservative Republicans honestly believe that liberal Democrats are immoral, evil idiots. Various other groups have similarly distorted views about people they oppose. The truth is that almost everybody honestly believes he’s right. The problem is that we have a system that allows only one group to get its way.

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THE McELROY ZOO: Meet Anne, the cat who’d love to live in a shoe

by David McElroy

Every animal I’ve ever been around has had some kind of personal quirk, but I’ve never seen one like Anne. She seems to want to spend her life inside of a stinky shoe.

You might remember a story from a few weeks ago about Molly, the homeless young cat who I placed into a home — only to have her returned to me by the new family, who deemed her unsuitable. She was also pregnant when she returned from that experience. Anne was one of the kittens born to Molly two years ago.

Molly had four kittens, but only three of them survived. Anne is solid black, and she’s the runt of the litter. She’s the smallest cat I’ve ever been around, weighing in at only 5 pounds.

Her biggest oddity is that she loves shoes. I’ve had cats who love specific types of shoes — such as leather for trying to scratch on — but I’ve never seen one who so consistently wants to crawl inside my shoes. Given the smell of the human foot, you understand why this seems an unfathomable mystery to me.

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How do renegade ‘weird ideas’ grow and spread to win acceptance?

by David McElroy

Why do some ideas limp along for years and then suddenly jump to public acceptance seemingly overnight? Why can the tiny minority opposed to a government languish for decades and then suddenly succeed? Scientists say they have an answer. The magic is in winning 10 percent of the population.

I never seem to be part of majorities. In fact, I typically find myself in a very small minority — sometimes a minority of one. The people I’m attracted to have never been like everybody else, either. Most of all, though, the iconoclastic ideas that I fall in love with are rarely popular with most people. And when you’re in those sorts of minorities, you get accustomed to staying there.

Social scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are now offering hope for the crazy people like me — and maybe you — who believe in ideas that others reject. Their research suggests that you don’t have to win a majority to change a population. You merely have to find 10 percent of the population to agree with you:

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

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David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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