Tuesday, October 16, 2012

You Should Save Money Right Now

This is not the most interesting or even the most exciting topic in the world, but for people of any age, it is one of the most important of your life (with the fate of your immortal soul being unarguably more important). Whether you are 61 or 21, saving money can make a big difference in your later years.

For those older folks, this is much more of a reality than to those in their 20s like myself; you have to prepare for retirement. Social Security is broke. You cannot rely on the government to provide for your retirement. The treasury is broke, your state is broke, your municipality is broke. Years of fat contracts to union workers, welfare spending, and fascist economic management has deprived our governments of any possibility of fulfilling future contracts. The US budget alone pays nearly 25% of all expenditures to maintenance of federal debt. In other words, a quarter of all expenditures are just interest payments. Try to imagine that you had so much debt that 25% of your income (and actually more than that since government is always running a deficit) went to interest payments on your credit cards. You would declare bankruptcy in no time. The government is essentially bankrupt, so you have to prepare for your own retirement, and the sooner you do it, the better.

There is only one way to become rich: save and invest. Sure, there are those who live off of an inheritance or who stumbled upon an oil field in their backyard, but it's time to get real, that isn't going to happen for you or for me. Part of being an adult is being responsible, and one of the easiest ways to become responsible is to grow your wealth and save money. The best reason to save money is for a rainy day. You never know when you will have a job loss, an illness, or any big expense. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you will have no way of dealing with these issues besides going in debt. Remember, debt is the biggest hindrance to growing your wealth. When you owe people money, and that sum gets bigger just because of interest payments, you're going the wrong direction. So have a rainy day fund. Second of all, with savings, you get the benefit of compound interest. For instance, if you save just $100 a year, in 25 years you will have saved $2500. With 8% interest (a big underestimate), you will have an extra $5000. That's basically $5000 in free money! And all you had to do was save $100 a month.

It is all well and good to be mindful of your future, but don't ignore the present either. Sure, you could save money by eating really bad food, working all the time, and just being miserable, but at some point present losses outweigh future gains. Ask yourself whether going without something is worth your future expected earnings. In general it is better to do without, but not always. Make a plan and be prepared for your future, and you will have security for yourself and your children. Don't put this off for some day, start budgeting now!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quote from Cicero: On Old Age

Cicero, using the voice of Cato the Elder: "You may be sure, my dear Scipio and Laelius, that the arms best adapted to old age are culture and the active exercise of the virtues. For if they have been maintained at every period - if one has lived much as well as long - the harvest they produce is wonderful, not only because they never fail us even in our last days (though that in itself is supremely important), but also because the consciousness of a well - spent life and the recollection of many virtuous actions are exceedingly delightful."

This is a theme that I have come across more than a few times now while reading the classics. Specifically on the theme of death, or in this case old age, the ancients constantly harp on the point that we should look back on our lives and be sure that we are pleased with what we have done. That is, we must live virtuously and not squandering our team on amoral pursuits. 

So what about you. What are you doing to prepare for your death? Are you preparing a saving fund? What about your virtues and your character. Have you also been preparing and developing that?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ready to Take on Syria?

I was listening to the radio today and heard some neo-con talking like some expert about what is going on in Syria. Nevermind the fact that his position was quite clear by the rhetoric he used (the Assad "regime") though he tried to come across as unbiased. The guy was making an asinine point. He says yes, Assad needs to go because he has huge stockpiles of chemical weapons and we can't allow these to get into the hands of enemies (sound familiar?). Then he says that we should be wary of supporting the opposition because they may not support us (well duh, you'll be hard pressed to find people in the Middle East that support the US government after all the meddling it's done). But nonetheless, we must provide air support because Assad needs to go. Why? Because it will leave us with at least some influence. Sure, and that air support will also gain more hatred and disillusionment with the US. Is this really what we want? Many innocent people would die from such air strikes, and we would be taking sides in a war that I don't see a clear "better" side in, but ignored all that, says the neo-con. We have to do something!

Meanwhile, will you find Obama or Romney disagreeing on the subject? Of course not. What a sham of an election we have this year.

James Loney's Power Outage

James Loney, in the midst of an awful slump and utterly forgettable season, is on pace to be an obvious DFA choice this winter. And who could blame the Dodgers organization? His current HR/FB ratio is lower than all qualified first basemen in the majors (note that Loney himself is not qualified). His OBP is teetering precipitously above .300. His defense is still there, but his offense has been so bad that he has earned a WAR of -0.2 so far this season. Juan Rivera, his competitor, has put up an amazing WAR of -0.3 which explains why the Dodgers have seemed to prefer him at the position to Loney (well okay, it's not as if they just spurn these statistics and do the opposite, but perception seems to be more important than performance). So there is no hope left, right?

Here is the issue. Loney's power has just been completely eviscerated. His HR/FB ratio is at just 2.7%. Even Tony Gwynn Jr. has bested that value the past two years. Power does not just suddenly vanish at age 28. Something is amiss. The first issue could be luck, and yes, you would have a point. Loney has just 280 plate appearances, and luck could play a huge role at this point in the season. In fact, his .275 BABIP (career .307) that Loney has been an unlucky guy up to this point in the season. His K% and BB% are not very different from career norms. In fact, using his power numbers and plate discipline numbers from this season, and career BABIP, Loney should have a wRC+ of 91. It's still bad for a first baseman, but Loney's wRC+ currently sits at 66. That is a huge improvement that is mostly BABIP fueled.

But still, what about the power? Looking at career numbers, I saw the HR/FB ratio when Loney Pulls/Middle/Opposite. The numbers are 27/3.1/1. The closest I could find to these numbers was Casey Kotchman, whose numbers are 26.6/3.5/0.8. They are essentially the same in terms of power. Combining both of their stats, I made a scatter plot using season ratios of pull/opposite. Here are the results.

Admittedly this is not very informative, but the trend is there. In general, pulling the ball more often will get these guys better numbers. However, some of the best numbers came when they did so a little less. The peak may be somewhere between 1.4 and 1.6. But there are so many other variables that can impact performance that trying to look at just one gives you a muddied picture. Still, anything less than 1.3 seems to be the formula for average at best production.

I was much more fascinated by this chart. The trend in this is much stronger and even sharper. These guys will get more power when they pull the ball more. That low number near 2% is James Loney this year, and barely pulling the ball more than he hits the other way seems to be the culprit. If Loney could get his HR rate just to 2010 numbers (and that was a low point for his power), he would have a wRC+ of roughly 101. Even average offensive production would be a huge boost to the dreadful Dodgers lineup.

But I guess now would be a good time to note that Kotchman gets a better wRC+ when he goes the opposite way, even though he has more power when he pulls the ball. That's due to BABIP issues, though I wonder how often he is shifted against and how responsible that could be. Loney, on the other hand, is giving opposing teams no reason to shift. Kotchman has a wRC+ of 90/92/107 when he pulls, hits up the middle, and goes the other way respectively. Loney, on the other hand, has a wRC+ of  153/99/87. When your offensive and power numbers have this great of a disparity, why would you not take advantage of it?

Loney still has some upside, and pulling the ball more often may be the only way he will buy his way back onto the team. I don't know why Mattingly gave him the advice to go the other way so often. It hasn't worked and it won't work. Just pull the ball, and if you please, quit hitting groundballs, we're all sick of the double plays.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Getting At Least Some Contribution

Last night, the Dodgers put together a lineup that consisted of:

Abreu .319
M. Ellis .336
Kemp .452
Ethier .365
Kennedy .286
Loney .269
Cruz .278
A. Ellis .351

Maybe you will notice the bottom of that lineup looking pretty atrocious. That number next to their names are their respective wOBA's. Besides the issue of putting a guy with a .351 wOBA 8th behind guys that cannot even crack .300, your other problem is something more troubling. Using their career BABIP, this is what their wRC+ should be at:

Abreu 91
M. Ellis 101
Kemp 188
Ethier 111
Kennedy 81
Loney 92
Cruz ---
A. Ellis ---

Cruz and Ellis do not have enough data yet for this kind of analysis, so they are left out of it. Besides, there is no other possible replacement for them. For Abreu, I could not use his career BABIP since he has not even been at that level since 2006. Without doing real math, I eyeballed his BABIP at this point of his career to be about .310. I was generous with Kennedy and gave him a BABIP of .290. It did not help him much, though.

So what, Tony? You might ask. We know the offense is terrible. And yes, it really is. The first problem would be lineup construction, since you generally want decreasing wOBA to optimize run production with minor tweaking for your power guys (in other words, you do not want Kemp leading off since he would drive in nobody). The more important problem, in my mind, is that you are playing people that have no business ever starting. Specifically, I am thinking of three people (Abreu, Kennedy, and Rivera, who did not start yesterday, and one still special exemption).

Bobby Abreu was signed for his bat, and for his bat only. He's no longer the base stealer that he once was, and he does not even really try for them anymore. His fielding is quite atrocious, yet he has been lucky this year in that regard as the small sample size makes him look not so bad according to UZR. However, we all know the real defensive value. While with the Dodgers, his wRC+ has been 102. However, you expect it to be at 91, in other words, below average. So you have a player that is a terrible fielder, is no longer a good baserunner, and is a below average bat. So then, why would you ever start him? And no, he does not have much of a platoon split this year. He's just been bad. He has racked up a WAR of 0.5, and is expected to regress. Not good. My choice for left field would have to be Tony Gwynn Jr. He is not going to get you anything with the bat. However, he will at least give you great fielding and good baserunning. There is no expected regression with him, which is good. He will be a marginal improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. Then you still have the hope that he can learn how to walk again. In San Diego he peaked at a 12.1% walk rate. Since coming to Los Angeles it has has not topped 6.8%.

Adam Kennedy was signed for some reason. That is really all I can say on the subject. He has not topped a WAR of 1 since 2009 when he was 33. Do we really expect him to do that at age 36? Jerry Hairston, on the other hand, hasn't not topped a WAR of 1 since 2009. Again, this is basically a marginal improvement, but it is an improvement nontheless. Adam Kennedy has no reason to still be playing.

Juan Rivera is not a good fielder. Juan Rivera is not a good batter. Juan Rivera is not a good baserunner. Juan Rivera is supposed to be a good platoon guy. A wRC+ against lefties does not strike me as platoon-level. It strikes me as decent, but not good enough for a guy who cannot field. Furthermore, the last time he topped 100 wRC+ against lefties besides last year was 2009. He is just awful this year. For all the nonsense Loney gets, at least he can field his position. Sure, he has a negative WAR, but he is looking to improve his offensive numbers. The issue here is that Rivera has been even more negative. It's awful that the decision is between below replacement and really below replacement, but that's what the situation is.

Finally, there is the one guy who is known for his glove yet has a bat. I should support him, too, right? Juan Uribe has been so bad with the bat that his inflated defensive numbers do not make up for it. He still has a negative WAR. Enough already. There should be a simple rule in baseball. He who does not have an OBP above .250 shall not swing the bat.

So I'd like to see this lineup at some point (wRC+).

A. Ellis 123
M. Ellis 113
Kemp 193
Ethier 133
Hairston 120
Loney 68
Gwynn 60
Cruz 74

Oh well. I guess I forgot the speed at the top. I must not want to win. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

How Obama's Immigration Policy of 2012 Affected His Re-election Campaigns

Today we have a guest post from Kathleen Hubert who will be talking about immigration and how this will affect Obama's re-election chances. Enjoy.

At this writing we are three months short of arguably the most important election ever held in America. Not since 1860 have the issues been so diverse or so devastating in the possibilities as a result. Our nation will be much improved. We will be more potentially glorious and more able to save, and lead the world according to one side. Our nation will be totally ruined, reduced to a 2nd class collection of dependent, bumbling beggars according to the other side.

The opinions are tightly held, tightly preached, and seem to be based on the same input .Depending on who reads it two and two are four, five, six, or who cares. We could be naming our country the USS Titanic and no one seems concerned, except the fanatics on one side, not the fanatics on the other. So how many fanatics are there? According to which pole, taken on what day, at what time, where.

If we could ever get straight answers from straight news services we could answer those questions. We will in about three more months, but not now. The morning after the election it should all come clear, confusing, but clear. Right now, however it appears that everything, and nothing, makes the slightest bit of difference to the voters. Well, everything makes the difference in the level of their rage, but nothing makes a difference in their vote.

Obama’s change to the immigration rules has caused a definite increase in blood pressure. The blood pressure reaction seems to be limited to only those not affected. Marc Rubio, a potential Vice Presidential candidate for the opposed to Obama was quoted as saying the change will be welcome news for kids. Hardly, this is a fire eating type speech against an opponent’s policy. Note that nothing was said about voting against the candidate who ordered the change.

A quick look at the comments made country wide about the change is all much the same. The constitutionality of the change seems to sum up the oppositions concern. A collection of newspaper articles, and several comments by politicians all stressed its legality. One opposing candidate stated that “Presidents can’t rule by decree”. This is a definite view but not an attempt to obtain an opposing vote.

A review of the 12 articles or political comments by printed Google claim that the public are in favor of the change in 6, 1 is opposed and the remaining are neither for or opposed. Of the 12, however 11 concern themselves with the conditionality of the change. Not a single reference is made to whether a vote would be changed by them. Not even a hint as to whether Obama would be looked on more favorable because of them. The public seems to find the changes good, but more or less just good policy. Overdue but not earth shaking, not particularly debatable as an election point.Obama gets points from the voting public for his actions but not votes and “attaboys” don’t count.

Kathleen Hubert is a blogger who writes on a variety of different sites. Check out more of her work at autoloan.org.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday Passage

Today, an excerpt from Psalm 117

The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do unto me. The Lord is my helper: and I will look over my enemies. It is good to confide in the Lord, rather than to have confidence in man. It is good to trust in the Lord, rather than to trust in princes. All nations compassed me about; and in the name of the Lord I have been revenged on them. 

 A nice reminder as we bicker over politics that our trust and confidence should be in the LORD, rather than the leaders of mankind.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Regional Rail, Why Not?

The real answer to the question is quite obvious. The state never willingly lets go of anything that they have taken control over. See healthcare, transportation, banking, justice, law enforcement, etc., for proof of this principle. The more relevant question has to do with the people of this country. Why do they willingly accept the rail system that we are provided with and assume that state control of it is the best solution?

This was never the case up until the 1950s when the government started building roads. Rail went out of fashion and city government across the country started taking them over. In New York, the private operators were regulated out of existence. But before that, these rail outfits were quite successful for many years.

Now today, we are left with rail systems that are horribly lacking. They do not go where we need them to go, they are filthy, and they are egregiously expensive to run and maintain. What is the argument for continuing government control of this industry? With roads there is a little more argument since these often are the only way to get to residences and businesses. With rail, that is never the case. Some make the externality argument, but private companies always internalize positive externalities. They would buy properties surrounding stations and build parking lots at the stations, for example.

Meanwhile, we who languish in traffic continue to direct our rage at fellow drivers who clog up our path home. Our enemies meanwhile remain in their ivory towers, decreeing from afar what they "know" to be best for us.

Old Los Angeles rail coverage map:

Current Los Angeles rail coverage map:

Thank you county government of Los Angeles for this "improvement". 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Introducing the Love/Hate Ratio

So while having fun on Twitter this morning looking at the ridiculous comments left about Billingsley, I wondered if I could quantify the reputation that a pitcher has. Capuano and Billingsley have very similar statistics like xFIP, yet their reputations are wildly different. Is there any way, then, to look at the statistics and predict reputation? I came up with a little formula and here are the numbers that I pulled out.

Capuano: 3.5
Billingsley: -1.6

Well good so far. Billinglsey has a negative value and Capuano is positive. What about the others in the rotation?

Kershaw: 2.4
Harang: 0.6
Eovaldi: -1.0

This also seems to make sense. Kershaw has a positive number, but not as high as Capuano's. Harang has a low positive number since expectations before the season were not too high for him. Eovaldi has a negative number, but not as bad as Billingsley.

Well that's fine, but you can easily claim that I'm just fitting the numbers to the names. True enough, so let's see how it works for pitchers outside of the Dodgers rotation.

Zach Greinke: -1.1

This one was interesting. Greinke is having a great year by xFIP, but was snubbed from the All-Star game. Love/Hate predicted this.

2011 Tim Lincecum: 2.2
2012 Tim Lincecum: -3.7

Lincecum had a nice reputation last year, but his star was diminishing, which is why his number is high, but not as high as Capuano. His number this year is the lowest by far, which is indicative of the near universal scorn he has garnered this year.

2011 Ian Kennedy: 2.0

Ian Kennedy was a 20 game winner despite having a 3.5 xFIP. Far exceeding expectations, he had an excellent reputation last year.

In all, it seems like a fun statistic. It's not really serious, but the main point is that expectations warp our view of the effectiveness of a pitcher. No one expected much from Capuano, everyone expected the world of Billingsley, hence the big difference in reputation. Now what happens when regression sets in?

Love/Hate Ratio Formula:

Try out the formula and see what you think.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dee Gordon's Plate Discipline

2012 has been nothing but trouble for Dee Gordon. Sure, he is leading the majors in stolen bases, but that is about the only bright spot. He is currently sporting an OBP of .278 and a wRC+ of 61. His fielding, in addition, has been atrocious. I usually do not pay much attention to traditional fielding statistics, but at the extremes they usually give you valuable information. In this case, Gordon is at the extreme in a bad way, posting a fielding percentage of just .947. That is 17 errors. I can assume that this will only get better with time as he is still raw with regards to defense. But what about offense?

In his 56 games last season, Gordon put up a respectable 99 wRC+. It's not amazing, but remember that SS is not exactly known for offensive production. So what has caused the tremendous drop in runs created for Gordon? The first target is always BABIP. It is at .282. With a career average BABIP, his wRC+ for this year goes up to 69. It's a nice bump, but he still has problems. As usual, it comes down to plate discipline. Last year, he struck out about 11 percent of the time, but this year it is all the way up to 19 percent. That number can be mitigated with a high walk rate (ala A.J. Ellis), but a 5.7% walk rate is not going to do it. What's interesting is that this walk rate is actually higher than last year.

So how to improve? Gordon needs to focus on strikeouts and BABIP. He should be hitting more balls on the ground, which is where his speed will allow him to get on base where most others would not. He can't take advantage of his speed with a ball hit up in the air. Gordon right now is sporting the 5th highest GB/FB ratio in the majors. It's high, but with his speed, it is not high enough. Next is the problem of K%. Gordon is swinging at just 34% of balls outside of the zone, and 60% of balls inside the zone. His swinging strike percentage is at 6.3%. The average hitter swings at less balls out of the zone, more balls in the zone, but swings and misses much more. If Gordon wants to get his peripherals higher, he needs to swing more. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it seems as though Gordon is allowing to many strikes to go over the plate without being challenged. He could get more balls in play if he's swinging more and this would result in less strikeouts. He may walk a little less, though, but the gain would be worth it. If he strikes out just 15% of the time, but walks 5% of the time, he would have a wRC+ of 75.

What will get Gordon to an average wRC+ is bringing up the BABIP, striking out way less, and with time if he's striking out less, he may end up getting more walks. Gordon needs to be a little more aggressive on balls in the strike zone. His speed will get him on base more often than most if he just gets the ball in play.

ShouldHit predicts that with a BABIP of .330, a BB% of 9, K% of 12, and his current homerun rate, Gordon will be an average hitter. Get at it Gordon, stop letting those balls go over the plate without challenging them.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

OpenSecrets Campaign Contributions

Quick, name the top industry donors for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama!

Barack Obama:
Health Professionals

Mitt Romney:
Real Estate

So besides retired people, Obama gets supports from law, teaching, and medicine. Romney gets his support from law and finance. I thought that medicine was supposed to be against Obamacare? Do you think that Obama is going to do anything about education problems when the teachers have given his performance a huge thumbs up? Lawyers like both of these guys, because they are the status quo. Romney's other big supporter is finance, essentially the enemy of consumers. Tell me again why you have faith in either of these puppets?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Chad Billingsley versus Chris Capuano Deathmatch

Image courtesy: http://www.fangraphs.com/not/index.php/chad-billingsley-has-the-heater-you-can-live-with/

The big debate has been about how much better Chris Capuano has been versus Billingsley, the worst pitcher to ever play the game. At least, this is the way it usually goes with casual Dodgers fans. And it is not as if they do not have an argument. Look at the list of Dodgers starters by ERA:

Billingsley: 4.15
Capuano: 2.60
Eovaldi: 4.04
Harang: 3.81
Kershaw: 2.74
Lilly: 3.14

I guess that this is the source of the argument that I've heard that Capuano has been pitching better than Kershaw. It seems absurd, but the ERA numbers are right there. Billingsley looks to be the worst pitcher on the staff. But let's go one step further. Let's look at ERA- which corrects for park and league.

Billingsley: 108
Capuano: 68
Eovaldi: 105
Harang: 99
Kershaw: 72
Lilly: 82

Aha! Even by more advanced statistics Capuano is leading the pack. Billingsley is still the worst. Lilly is surprisingly good. However, ERA is subject to some dangerous lurking variables, namely BABIP, LOB%, and the whim of the scorekeeper (what counts as an earned run and what does not). So what if we look at xFIP-? This is an advanced statistic that only looks at strikeouts, walks, and flyball rates. So any issues from defense, scorekeeper, etc., are not factored in.

Billingsley: 100
Capuano: 99
Eovaldi: 110
Harang: 116
Kershaw: 85
Lilly: 120

Now we're starting to see something change. Kershaw now becomes the best pitcher on the team, while Billingsley and Capuano are about the same, and Harang and Lilly are just awful. This agrees more with our expectations.

So now I will add in my final statistic. This looks at SIERA, which is easily the best ERA predictor that is publicly available. From that, comparing to a SIERA of 5 as being the worst possible, I can look at how many runs each pitcher has prevented, and since not all of these pitchers have pitched the same amount, can look at SIERA runs prevented per game played. This way, I can account for how well they pitched, and how deep into the game they went. Here are those numbers. SIERA/GS stands for SIERA per game started while also considering how deep a player went into the game (any inning not pitched in a game is given a value of 5 SIERA). SIRP is Skill Independent Runs Prevented which compares to a SIERA of 5. It is a counting statistic and not a rate statistic, so keep that in mind when comparing players.

Billingsley: 4.16, 12.55
Capuano: 4.07, 13.97
Eovaldi: 4.65, 2.11
Harang: 4.60, 6.00
Kershaw: 3.64, 21.74
Lilly: 4.75, 2.04

Some interesting facts come out of this analysis. First of all, Kershaw has easily been the best pitcher in the group this year. He's almost equal to the production of Billingsley and Capuano combined. Lilly and Eovaldi have basically been the same pitcher. Harang is bad. Capuano has been better than Billingsley, but they are not miles apart. They're fairly similar pitchers.

In the end, everything is just as we expected. Kershaw is great, Billinglsey and Capuano are about the same and good, Harang is not so good, and Eovaldi has been matching Lilly's production (which apparently isn't much). I guess, then, that I could see getting another starting pitcher, but the offense just seems so much worse right now. More importantly for right now, though, can we stop the Billingsley hate and Capuano praise? If you want more out of Billingsley that's fine, but don't act as if Capuano is suddenly the second coming of Koufax.

The Corporate Board Meeting: Welfare

The Pitch: Good morning, gentlemen. Today I'm submitting a proposal that is guaranteed to increase our sales, increase profits, and expand our business to vast new markets. Just by a simple investment, we will have more business than we can even dream of handling, and our stores will be flush with cash to either expand or branch out. What is this simple idea about which I can be so sure of success? Simple, we pay money to people who are not yet our customers. And I do not mean some trifling sum that would just be the equivalent of a sale or a discount, I mean enough for them to buy the product multiple times over. Here is how it will work. We hand out checks to those who cannot afford our products. They, then, will use that money, and even if they do not spend it all on our products, at least some of it will be spent on our products. Our store owners, then, will be getting more money, and they will be able to expand their stores because of the increased business. The money that was not spent in our stores will be spent in other places. It may be spent on movies, it may be spent on dinners, it may be spent on booze, etc., it really does not matter. The people who own those businesses will be getting more money which will mean that they will hire new employees and expand their businesses. This means that more people will be making more money, and those people will be able to spend more money in our stores. This will basically start a chain reaction whereby we will give up a lot now, but make up multiples of that in time because economic activity will boom! There is no way that we can lose in this scenario. Why invest in factory equipment and new machines that will take years to become profitable and come with great risk? With this proposal we face no risk, and guaranteed success. This is a sure-fire winner. Do you have any questions?

-The simplicity of the proposal may be its most endearing quality. Now, when you mention expansion, do you mean to say that businesses will expand just by making more money? It would likely take a long time for those businesses to make enough money to expand just by the profits that they make. Eventually they will have to take out a loan. Historically that was the purview of our business. Shop owners run and maintain the stores and we provide the capital for expansion. With the amount of money required for this, businesses will have to go outside to find sources of capital. Does this not decrease our profits?

-In the short run yes, it will decrease our profits. However, as they money starts coming in, we will eventually be able to provide that capital, and at that point we will already have become much richer.

-Why would we just give out this money? Historically, when faced with increasing profit margins, we have been forced to invest in capital so as to decrease our prices so that we could keep up with the competition. With this proposal, we will not have the money for such an investment. While we are handing out money to new customers, competitors will be investing in new production methods and will undercut our prices. In this scenario, why would customers ever buy anything from us? They would go to the cheaper companies, buy their products, and we would be completely shut out of the market. There is no way for us to win with such an expenditure.

-Indeed, I have already thought of this scenario, and found a solution. Instead of us alone providing this money, we should do it in concert with other companies. But trusts have historically failed, I know, because of outside competition or one of the companies dropping out of the trust. The best approach, then, would be to have government dole out the cash. This way, no other companies could undercut us as the entire industry would have to go through this. Even better with this approach is that instead of us furnishing the bill, we could have the customers themselves pay for it. We, in essence, would get the benefit of the customers themselves spending more money and we reap all the profits without doing anything to deserve it! It is the best solution.

-The only problem I see is that this would mean that the pool of savings among consumers would go down as they would be forced to pay more taxes. Would this, then, be a hindrance to capital accumulation and production?

-Of course, and usually this would be a problem for us. However, as all of the companies in the industry would have the same problem, we would have nothing to fear. We would be making more money without having to invest anything into production. Sure, the consumers would suffer as prices would otherwise fall making goods cheaper for them, but what does that matter to us? We will make more money and solidify our position in the industry since start-ups would have a tougher time finding the capital they need to compete with us. Gentlemen, our future lays with supporting the welfare machine.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dean Russell and George W. Bush

Dean Russell, in 1955, "Those who advocate the ‘temporary loss’ of our freedom in order to preserve it permanently are advocating only one thing: the abolition of liberty. . . . However good their intentions may be, those people are enemies of your freedom and my freedom; and I fear them far more than I fear any potential Russian threat to my liberty."

George W. Bush, in 2008, "Well, I have obviously made a decision to make sure the economy doesn’t collapse. I’ve abandoned free market principles to save the free market system."

There is no such thing as a freedom loving right in this country. They are warmongers and economic fascists. Their rhetoric is nothing but a diversion from their real actions, much in the same vein as Reagan.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Inflation, Minimum Wage, and Unemployment

With some spare time I had today, I decided to look at the relationship of unemployment and minimum wage. I started with the year 1978 since it was simplest to track minimum wage using this year. I only used the federal rate, so state rates that differ could explain much of the variation in the following regressions. Additionally, I used CPI numbers from the government instead of some alternative, and as different methodologies have been used over the years, it is a little difficult to track inflation consistently (as it is also difficult to track it by only using one number). Finally, I did something which may seem unique. Instead of using the government unemployment figure U3, I decided to use the Civilian Employment-Population Ratio. This number is prone to bias due to demographic changes, labor participation, etc. However, these are the graphs produced. Enjoy.

The figure seems to have limited use. I used the nominal minimum wage rate, and you can see just how wildly the unemployment rate fluctuated at a given minimum wage. This graph is essentially useless because of that. Also, the years when nominal minimum wage was this low saw tremendous inflation, so it cannot just be ignored.
But this figure, on the other hand, corrects for inflation. You will probably first notice that there are many less data points. For this figure, I only used yearly data instead of the quarterly data I used for the last regression, mostly because it saved me some time on data entry. Now, you will notice a clear trend, but an r-squared value that is pretty low. That is to be expected, because there are so many things that affect this employment ratio besides just minimum wage. But the trend is there and undeniable. However, as with most economic data, you can poke holes in it. The highest minimum wage data points in the chart are from earlier in this analysis, and the reason employment may have been lower there is because women were still not completely entered into the job market. However, you could make the point that lowering economic productivity is what pushed women into the job market into the first place, and that minimum wage was at least partly responsible for that. I cannot answer that question with complete certainty, and this is why we should not use data to try to prove our hypotheses. That said, we expect higher minimum wage to produce higher unemployment due to lower productivity labor being pushed out of the market. The data seem to agree, which is nice for those who are addicted to data, but remember that data is not where an argument ends.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Interest About Inflation Seems to be Creeping Back

As usual, Paul Krugman has been going on about how we need more inflation. There is no surprise there, as this has always been his position (though one has to wonder how he feels about the woes of Argentina and Venezuela). Christina Romer has always come forward recently to discuss the need to further inflate the currency. Meanwhile, those of us separated from the Ivory Towers are left to deal with the real effects of currency inflation.

Barley. Think about how helpful lower food prices would have been with incomes crashing and people losing jobs. No, rising food prices are exactly what the farm lobby wanted.

Beef. These prices never fell. Looks like we're losing a lot of nutrition, and this is a population that is already starved for quality food.

Iron. Construction was hit particularly hard by the depression, due to malinvestment accumulating in higher goods industries. Think about what wonders lower prices of raw materials would have done to the failing industry.

Meanwhile, inflation rates in Argentina and Venezuela are near 25%. Is your income doubling every 2.8 years to keep up with that kind of inflation, not to mention your investments? Good luck with that.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A.J. Ellis and the New Power

Just some interesting information I stumbled upon while fooling around on Fanrgaphs one day:

Mar/Apr TSL: .291/.443/.400 Which is good for a wRC+ of 131
May TSL: .333/.419/.556 Which is good for a wRC+ of 168

Now here is the interesting part. Ellis' BABIP is still pretty high, but we really don't know yet what it should regress down to. That said, his BABIP was better in April, yet his stats are better in May. He has dropped in OBP, but he has jumped big time in slg%. So what gives?

Pitchers wised up quickly to the fact that Ellis is a patient hitter. In April Ellis was getting 2.5 strikes per plate appearance and 2.2 balls. In May, Ellis is getting 2.9 strikes per plate appearance and just 1.8 balls. Pitchers know now that they cannot afford to throw any balls out of the strike zone to him. But unfortunately for pitchers, it just is not that easy to shut him down. Because he's getting more balls in the strike zone, his LD% has gone up. This signals better contact, which could explain the completely unexpected power production (4 homeruns in the month is much more than anyone ever expected from him).

Over the past 14 days, we have seen much more of a human A.J. Ellis, as his strikeout rate has gone up to 27% of all plate appearances, whereas over this year it is at 19%. His BB% is also down to just 8% of all plate appearances, whereas over the year it is at 16%. How does he deal with a slump? We will wait and see.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Competition of the States

I post this image here not directly to comment on the problem that is federal spending and debt (and be sure, it is probably the greatest threat to national sovereignty that this country faces, despite the shill protestations of the war hawks who are ever-ready to consternate us with threats of terrorists). I instead want to point out a shift of the relations between the states and national government around the early 20th century. It is notably around this time that national spending begins to soar.

What does this have to do with federalism? Frank Chodorov wrote in his book The Income Tax: The Root of all Evil that the income tax is what has allowed the national government to become the behemoth that it is today. The main point of the argument is that before the 16th amendment, the US government was not able to do much because it did not have many revenues. Relying on excise taxes can only get you so far. Once the income tax was instituted through an amendment (this, incidentally enough, was not the first time that an income tax was imposed on the country), the direction of this country fundamentally changed. Rather than being a generally free market economy that espoused the principles of classical liberalism, the US would morph into an essentially fascist country (allusions to Hitler can be ignored, as this country started to look much like Mussolini's Italy in the few decades after the income tax was instituted). Since that time, the military has greatly increased, taxation has increased, regulation has increased, and the size and scope of the national government has increased. As a result, economic production is down, we are much less safe (due to resentment from our global presence), and the prospect for increased standard of living in the future is greatly diminished.

The competition between the states and national government, it could be argued, is what guaranteed a small government and personal liberty during the 19th century. Since it has been eliminated, the check on the growth of government has been all but eliminated. This is not a new argument. Frank Chodorov made it decades ago, and Tom Woods recently made it in his book Nullification. The question now is how to restore this lost competition and regain our liberty that we have been robbed of.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Create Jobs or Create Wealth?

This has been going on for years. All that we hear from politicians and their ilk is that we need to create jobs. It seems simple enough. We have high unemployment, so creating more jobs would help that. It sounds innocuous enough, and it is true that more jobs are better than less, but I think that we are focusing on the wrong subject. Yes, jobs are a problem, but what about production?

We could have full employment by paying everyone to dig holes in the ground and then refilling them. However, we would all be poorer in the scenario. Instead of those people eventually finding jobs and doing something productive, they would be creating new wealth and we would be paying them for it!

With investment, we measure success by seeing if we earn more than we put in. Thus, if we put $100,000 into a business, but get only $50,000 in value back, then we consider this a loss. Hiring someone, along these lines, is much like an investment. It is only worthwhile if you get more than you put in. So when we hire people for a freeway project or a rail project, are we getting more money back than we put in? I do not think that this is usually the case (at least we have no way to measure the success of this, so maybe government intrusion here has lead to the absolute failure of rational economic calculation).

So sure, we can create full employment, but we need to make sure that the investment is worthwhile. If not, then this focus on employment is just making us all poorer.

Time to End the FDIC

As most people are already aware, J.P. Morgan Chase lost some money. Well, maybe this is how the congress would put it, since $2 billion is chump change to them, but this is a big deal. Chase may go down for this one. They invested poorly and are now in pretty bad shape.

So what does this have to do with FDIC? Well, how many people who have money saved with Chase have looked into their business plan, their profit margin, their investments, or anything? They do not need to. Savers just put money into a bank and do not care how the bank is run because they are covered by FDIC. In essence, this allows banks to do whatever they want as long as the savers keep coming in. Banks then only need to market well to stay in business. Is it any surprise that the big banks have stayed as the big banks for as long as they have?

What does this mean for economic efficiency? If banks can do whatever they want, then they are not interested in making the best investments. This is a net loss for the capital structure of our economy. Instead of loans going to the best projects, it goes to whoever the banks like most. This is pretty similar to the problem that we have with government spending.

And the alternative? Without FDIC, savers would need to look at the business practices of banks to determine who is doing the best and where their money would be safest. This would ensure that at least we are tending toward optimal investment.

This is a great opportunity to open up a debate about the merits of FDIC. Without FDIC, would Chase have been big enough to have had this great of a loss? I doubt it. It is time for FDIC to end and allow for more competition in the banking industry.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Sun King to the Lizard King

Louis XIV, the Sun King, can in many ways be seen as the climax of the medieval monarchy. He was able to achieve an unparalleled reign and change the course of European history (and thereby changed world history). France became the leading superpower of its day and in just 100 years after his death would come to nearly conquer all of Europe. The model that Louis established became the model that James II would follow in England and would lead to his demise. It was a model that the French peasantry revolted against, and a near antithesis of what the American model was supposed to be during the days of the Articles of Confederation.

Yes, this is an interesting history lesson, but what is the relevance? The point I am trying to bring up is that this model has come to dominate the world's political landscape. The medieval model is largely abandoned (much of what changed is good, such as the abolition of serfdom, but other things are more questionable), and the protections that it afforded were tossed. The baby, in effect, was thrown out with the bathwater. This has culminated in the rise of the total state. Yes, conservatives talk about federalism and states rights, but even this, I feel, grants far too much to the totalitarians. In essence, the people of this world in modern times have basically conceded that the source of and means of organization lies within the use of force.

This potency model of organization is today best exemplified through the state apparatus. Ask a random person on the street today who is in charge of the economy, the answer is the state. Who is in charge of health care? The state. Who is in charge of transportation? The state. For many of these organizations and services, most people envision that it is the domain of the state. Why is this so? How did this happen? This is not the historical case by and large. Yes, there are historical examples of all of these things, but this is not the medieval model.

The popular conception of the Middle Ages envisions a king in charge of the domain and the final word relying on him. There is no separation powers; the king is judge, jury, and executioner. This concept is laughably false. In some cases it is more true than in others, but for the most part, the best example of this model is Louis XIV, and even he needed to pay off the aristocrats in order to achieve it. The king was restrained by the nobles of the realm who themselves owned offices and titles that afforded them certain rights and privileges. The king could not encroach upon these or risk a rebellion. Even the courts were not subject to the realm of the king; King Edward II had to set up his own Court of Star Chamber in order to have some power in the judicial realm. In fact, even the medieval concept of law has nothing to do with the king. The law was something to be discovered, it was some kind of fundamental truth. Today, law is pictured as legislation, something to be decreed. Even beyond law and aristocrats, we have the influence of the church. Education and health care historically have been functions of the church. The Catholic church set up the universities of Europe and religious organizations provided health care. This medieval system, at least the parts that I mentioned, were more indicative of a voluntaryist society than a totalitarian state. Sure, there were the problems of serfs being tied to the land and other laws against natural rights, but the actual state of affairs in the Middle Ages are a far cry from the popular idea.

Since abandoning this model, the totalitarian state has grown had tried to take more and more power for itself. Long gone are the days of the Sun King who had to buy out his nobles in order to secure more power. In fact, today government leaders seem to espouse the quote of Jim Morrison, "I am the Lizard King, I can do anything." The clearest examples would be Communist regimes of the past century, but even today the so-called liberal states are going after that model. States have a role in the economy, health care, education, transportation, safety, and many other day-to-day aspects of our lives. The Communist regimes of the past were always quick to outlaw religion and institute a kind of religion of the state. Do today's wars on religion seem much different? The Obama administration does not try to buy out the Catholic church when it comes to its legislation. No, it simply has decided that it has power over the church and can make it do what he wants it to do. Look at the role that the church had in the past. Is there any reason to wonder why the state hates religion? The state wants more power, but the voluntary organization that heads these services, the church, is in the way.

The Lizard King is on the prowl, and voluntaryism is its enemy. What better espouses this peaceful principle than the decidedly non-interventionist and non-aggressionist institution? The last bulwark of protection against our exploiters are these voluntary institutions. Let us not go down quietly.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why Do You Oppose Obamacare?

The following is a quote from Stuart Butler of The Heritage Foundation.

In a civilized and rich country like the United States, it is reasonable for society to accept an obligation to ensure that all residents have affordable access to at least basic health care — much as we accept the same obligation to assure a reasonable level of housing, education and nutrition.


He continues on.

But as part of that contract, it is also reasonable to expect residents of the society who can do so to contribute an appropriate amount to their own health care. This translates into a requirement on individuals to enroll themselves and their dependents in at least a basic health plan - one that at the minimum should protect the rest of society from large and unexpected medical costs incurred by the family. And as any social contract, there would also be an obligation on society. To the extent that the family cannot reasonably afford reasonable basic coverage, the rest of society, via government, should take responsibility for financing that minimum coverage.

So this is from The Heritage Foundation, the bulwark of conservative thought against the onslaught of socialist triumph. And this is the best that they can mutter up? This is an implicit agreement with socialist thoughts about equality. If this is supposedly the conservative thought, then what is the source of opposition to Obamacare? It makes me wonder what the popular opinion would have been amongst conservatives had a Republican president pushed such legislation.

For the libertarian, opposition to the bill is simple. It is too demanding on employers, infringes on liberty, forces young people to buy insurance when they usually do not really need it (thus making them poorer), and does nothing to fix our corrupt medical establishment (medicare, medicaid, forcing employers to provide healthcare, the HMO favoritism which obscures a price system, etc.).

So I will pose the questions to you. Do you consider yourself a conservative? Do you agree with the thoughts of Dr. Butler? Do you oppose Romneycare on principle or was what he did okay because it was at the state level? Do you oppose government ownership of industries?

I would love to see the discourse on this issue, especially among those who portray themselves as vehemently against Obamacare, yet are supporting Mitt Romney.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The National Defense Resources Preparedness

Just a quick post today and I will update on what sounds like a shocking executive order that no one has heard about.

Quoting from the article at the Huffington Post:

Last Friday, March 16, President Barack Obama may have quietly placed the United States on a war preparedness footing, perhaps in anticipation of an outbreak of war between Israel, the West, and Iran. A newly-propounded Executive Order, titled "National Defense Resources Preparedness," renews and updates the president's power to take control of all civil energy supplies, including oil and natural gas, control and restrict all civil transportation, which is almost 97 percent dependent upon oil; and even provides the option to re-enable a draft in order to achieve both the military and non-military demands of the country, according to a simple reading of the text.

He wants to control all energy supplies, restrict transportation (sounds like martial law), and even re-enable the draft? Bloggers, this is up to you. Spread the word about this monstrosity. The reason that you have not heard about this is because both Democrats and Republicans support our military and police state. Do not let them get away with this. We have at our hands the power to spread awareness about this. Do not let the state hide this!

Sourced at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/edwin-black/obama-national-defense-resources-preparedness_b_1359715.html - Thanks to Edwin Black

Monday, March 19, 2012

Do You Really Want Another War?

Let's think clearly about this. Do we really want to get into another war in another Middle Eastern country? Do we really want to take on another regime that supposedly poses some great threat to our safety? Do we want to go down this road again?

Do we have the money to go and invade another country? Have we been cutting spending and reducing our debt? Is our economy improving? Are employers hiring? Is our standard of living rising? Do we have the financial resources to topple and install a new regime?

Have we studied and do we know the enemy? Do we know what their people are like? Do we know generally how they feel about their government? Do we know their religion? Are they Sunni or Shiite? What is the difference between a Sunni or Shiite? How does the Iranian government feel about the new Iraqi or new Afghani government? Do they support Hamas, Hezbollah, or neither?

As to the actual threat, do we know that they are building a bomb? What type of bomb are they building? Where are they building it? Do they have the resources to actually pull it off? Are they even enriching uranium for weapons? Are they allowed to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes? How does the Ayatollah feel about acquiring nuclear weapons? Do the people of Iran like the idea of their government acquiring weapons?

Before we even begin a hot war, how would we asses our cold war? How effective has our intelligence been recently? How well do they know the area of Iran? What effect have our sanctions had? Have they crippled the government? What do the people of Iran think about our sanctions? What do they think about the US national government? What do they think about American people?

Have we remembered one of the most famous quotes from Sun Tzu's Art of War, "It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle."?

And this is just a short list of question. I would hope that at the very least we would be able to answer these questions before we push for war with Iran. I think that most people who are agitating for it cannot answer even half of these. And if history teaches us anything, it is that this does not matter, and we will invade anyway and ignore the consequences of our actions. Iraq was only 10 years ago. Do we really want to do what seems to be almost the exact same thing?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Strange Happenings from the Alabama Election

Take a look at the instructions from the Alabama ballot:

"Votes for delegate candidates pledged to someone other than the voter's choice for President ARE NOT ALLOWED UNDER REPUBLICAN PARTY RULES."

In other words, you vote for the delegates of the candidate that you voted for and only those delegates. Now with that said, does someone want to try to explain this?

//Popular Vote
Ron Paul: 5.0% 30,494

//Delegate Votes
Ron's delegates Place 1: 75,385
Ron's delegates Place 2: 71,069
Ron's delegates Place 3: 67,953
Ron's delegates Place 4: 68,630

Sourced from peluski17 at the Daily Paul.

How is it that Ron Paul got more delegate votes than he received from the popular vote? At the very least, Paul must have received 75,000 votes (because voters can choose 4 delegates). So how is it that his popular vote total is less than half of the minimum that he could have actually received?

Something stinks in Alabama, and it isn't the water. If you are offended by the apparent vote manipulation, and even if you aren't a Ron Paul supporter this should offend you, then repost this on your blog. This should be headline news. If you care about the truth, then spread the word!

Results from the Alabama election can be viewed directly here:

The Slow Return Back, Part 2

As I slowly return to my posting habit, I want to point out something else that is irritating me. It is very specific and the problem is very obvious, but you shall not dare to talk about this. If you try to discuss this, you hate kids, the elderly, and the sick.

Now what could I be discussing that would garner this kind of personal attack against me? Let me first discuss the economic principle lying behind my contention. Economists have known for centuries that increasing demand raises price caeteris paribus. So naturally, we should expect that by trying to raise demand, that we will raise the price. When we speak in generalities, I assume that everyone would agree with this. Of course, we also have monetary inflation that plays a role in why prices rise.

So now finally to my point. I speak of course about financial aid, student loans, medicare, and medicaid. We wonder why prices rise so high in these areas more than any other, and it is because of these programs. Why is it that we cannot talk about this? What is so horrible about discussing these issues? These are apparently off-topic because the intended benefits are more important than the actual consequences? This seems to be a common theme that runs through American politics. It is disgusting, and it is aborrhent, yet it apparently is the modus operandi of our news media and politicians.

If we want to get out of the black hole we currently have of debt, unemployment, endless wars, and the increasing totalitarian nature of our national government, then we must always call for open dialogue, and we must make certain that we never engage in these emotional appeals that destroy free discussion. Until we demand this, the media will continue to suppress the truth by their logical fallacies, and the elite will retain control of the hearts of Americans (the fact that we are discussing a Romney v. Obama contest tells you how completely the elite dictates acceptable dialogue). Support independent blogs and alternative news sources. These are our way out of the intellectual cell the the elite have tried to lock us away into.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Actual Employment Picture

With the talk of an improving economy especially with regards to unemployment numbers, what is an Austrian economist to do? After all, it was Austrians who predicted that the economy would start to crash, not improve. By all the recent data, it seems that these economists were wrong. Instead, the mainstream economists have triumphed and Austrians have once again been thrown out of the mainstream. Right?

The issue is that we are playing by the rules of the establishment economists. They produce all of the data. In essence, what they have done is set their employment numbers to show changes in unemployment. If employment numbers begin to stabilize, then their data will show that employment is actually recovering. Why is this a problem? Because what if we have stabilized in a horrible situation? And if we have, is there any way to prove it?

Fortunately for Austrians, there is. The graph of civilian-employment population ratio is not subject to the same fudging as unemployment numbers. There is a word of caution with using this data as social trends can also change the data (think housewives who started entering the workforce in the 1960s and '70s. Recently, there have not been any major changes like this, so this data should be pretty reliable. How does it look?

Is this really how we want our economy to stabilize? Does this look good to anyone? Can anyone defend this?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Slow Return Back, Part 1

Yes, after quite a long hiatus, I feel as though I have too much to say to keep this mouthpiece of mine muted. Much has been going on in the world: a presidential election, reform in Europe, tensions in the Middle East, and the continuing monetary fiasco, among other things.

I have been keeping up with the news, and frankly the things that I have begun to notice are horrifying me. I have many things with which I am taking issue, and I will deal will them in due time. However, I thought that I would touch upon what seems to be at least somewhat related to all of the issues: the triumph of rhetoric over reason.

What I mean by this is quite simple, but in a way, quite sinister. For probably decades if not longer, people have discussed the bias of the media. They have shown evidence of some issues, but they are mostly partisan ones. While this is important and should not be ignored, I feel that there is a much larger problem that is much more sinister. Essentially, the media (and our politicians!) dictates to us the bounds of discussion. Let me list a few examples.

The income tax is probably the most blatant example of the issue. The debate with which we are presented is whether we should raise or lower taxes. This works for both income and capital gains taxes. Funny, why do we never hear the argument raised by those who feel that this country should have no income tax? Frank Chodorov made the point earlier in the century that essentially it was the income tax which allowed the federal government to become the behemoth that it is. Without that, we would have the same government that we had during the Gilded Age. Isn't it interesting that this is just seen as laughably absurd? After all, how would the government function without an income tax, they would say. It it just too extreme for rational discussion. Funny, the federal government functioned quite nicely before the income tax, and that system allowed the United States to rise to prominence. Now it is laughably impossible?

The second issue is war with Iran. This has been a particularly hot issue lately, and it is understandable. Discussion of war and nuclear bombs will easily pique the interest of those worried of the Islamist menace. But how much of a menace is it? Is it too extreme to discuss the possibility of our military actions raising up anti-American sentiment? Is it too extreme to say that our debt is far too large to be going into more wars? Is it too extreme to discuss the practicality of a war for peace that kills 100,000 people and displaces millions (I'm looking at you Iraq)? Why are we not allowed to even discuss these things? Are these not valid points?

One issue particularly close to me concerns the election of Ron Paul. From the start we have all heard that Ron Paul is never going to be elected. After all, he is too old, too extreme, and too crazy. Funny, whenever somebody mentions that he is unelectable, they never discuss why exactly that is. Is it his crazy idea that we should be concerned about our debt? Is it his crazy idea that we should not be so trusting of the rising police state (if he's crazy about this, then so were our forefathers)? Is it crazy that we should understand our enemy before we attack them? Is it crazy to vote against unbalanced budgets? Ultimately, the opposition to Ron Paul relies on flash and not substance. What he says makes sense, but just because he is not great at oration he gets dismissed easily. This is nonsense. Ron Paul deserves a look, especially among conservatives who claim to be concerned about our national debt and unfunded liabilities since he is the only candidate that has a plan that would actually lower that debt.

The most entrenched issue revolves around welfare. We all hear about how welfare spending is out of control or how social security is broke. We hear all kinds of proposals to fix it or given the programs back to the states (even this is deemed as too extreme!). When was the last time that any of us heard about just getting rid of these programs? Oh no! Why, if we did that, we would be branded haters of the old and sick, Social Darwinists, or any other kind of dismissive label that is placed on real fiscal conservatives. Hmm, that's funny, how did the poor, old, and sick survive before welfare spending? Did all of the old people die of starvation before social security? Were people dying because of access to care before medicare? Of course not! But can we ever discuss it rationally? Of course not. We're not allowed to.

If this sounded like a rant, it was intended to be. The state of politics in this nation is despicable. We no longer judge proposals on their ultimate conclusions, but rather on superficialities. This is nonsense. If we are ever going to have significant change in this country, we must demand a real discussion, not the pandering that is doused upon us daily. If you want to escape this cespool or pseudo-intellectual discussion, I would suggest visiting sites that actually offer opposing viewpoints. Recently, I've been visiting antiwar.com, rt.com, al-Jazeera, lewrockwell.com, and others. Do I agree with everything on these sites? Of course not. However, they actually present another viewpoint. Read them with a grain of salt, but read them, and don't just rely in big media. They've lied to us before and will again. Be bold, search for the truth, let propaganda not your source of information be.