The other day we were told, by one whose buisness it is to predict these things, that no matter who wins the upcoming presidential election, our taxes are going up. He may be right. If they're serious about stimulating the American economy, raising American taxes seems a foolish approach, but the public keeps demanding more services, and there's always a bill for services rendered.
So I got to thinking, at lunchtime, as I munched on my barbecue potato chips, about Switzerland. They have some wonderful potato chips there, somewhat like our barbecue variety, but better—though that impression may have been due to Favorable Emotional Circumstances. One day I made a hasty stop at the grocery store and grabbed some food for a train trip, only to discover, too late, that I had paid over $5 for a medium-sized bag of chips!
The bag I was munching from was more than half again as large, and priced at $2.50. I actually paid half that; I generally don't by chips unless they're on sale. It occured to me that a price tag of $7.50 would be a significant deterrent; I would probably still buy them for very special occasions, but casual purchasing would defintely be out. Thus it would be in my best interest, health-wise, if the potato chip manufacturers decided to triple their prices. But they wouldn't do it. Without illegal collusion in the industry, competition would force the price back down immediately.
Unless the government stepped in. Imagine a $5/bag tax on potato chips; applied to all, no one manufacturer could undercut the market, and suddenly Americans just might start reducing their consumption. I only pick on potato chips because they are my own weakness, but let's not stop there: corn chips, soda, candy, cookies, Happy Meals—all those top of the food pyramid, artificial ingredient, and preservative heavy "foods" that make up so much of our modern diet and have nutritionists and health professionals wringing their hands.Sin taxes have their problems, I know. The last thing I want to do is create yet another opportunity for organized crime to fluorish. (Pssst! Wanna buy an Oreo?) But it would be my favorite kind of tax: likely to provide significant income for the government, yet completely avoidable simply by eating as we know we should.
Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty
Whether you attribute that quotation to Wendell Phillips, Thomas Jefferson, or Patrick Henry, it's the truth, and no less true when it comes to the rights of parents to educate their own children. (More)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver (HarperCollins, 2007)When we were visiting Janet, a friend of hers was reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The friend wasn’t totally happy with it, but it sounded intriguing enough that I borrowed it from the library when we returned. (More)
Two years ago, Andy F. alerted me to a National Review article by Rod Dreher entitled Crunchy Cons. This was actually a reprint, the original having been published 'way back in 2002. Andy suggested I might enjoy both the article and the opportunity to turn it into a blog post, and he was right. It's not his fault it's taken me so long to write.
I always get depressed when guests leave. Those who know me know also that I am basically an introvert and am energized by solitude and by being at home. But that in no way lessens the empty feeling when company leaves. I mean good company, of course, but we've never had any other kind. We truly enjoyed Stephan's brief visit and are looking forward to spending more time with him at the Maggie P. this summer. So I deal with my depression by writing. It's healthier than some choices, even if it only worsens the time pressure I'm also dealing with.
Not that this is anything new, but I've decided that love and growth are inextricably intertwined with risk and pain, and each new opportunity comes with mixed joy and sorrow. I love the new ideas, knowledge, viewpoints, and friendships Janet is gaining from her overseas experiences—and that we are gaining, also. But with that comes the inescapable truth that she is planting roots a long distance from home, and developing a heart that can never again be monocultural without pain and loss.Ah, well—it's been a long time since most people were born, lived and died in the same town, and we enjoyed the benefits (as well as the tribulations) of several generations living together. Now, at least, we have e-mail and inexpensive phone communication and not-impossibly-expensive plane fares to ease the sting a bit. And Skype. Stephan introduced us to Skype this weekend. I hadn't been enthusiastic about it before, since our phone calls to Switzerland are only six cents per minute and we can use our regular phones. But Skype can handle video, and it was so good to see Janet's face! Something tells me I need to invest in a camera for the computer (Janet said it wasn't expensive, even in Switzerland)—and convince the Daleys to do the same. :)
I'm trying to clean up my office. There's too much stuff that needs attending to, and it's getting lost in the paper shuffle.
Unfortunately, one of the things that needs attending to happens to be my sample ballot for the upcoming Florida presidential primary. It inspired me to go online and try again to find help deciding for whom to vote. Now that was depressing. I suppose it doesn't matter, because the Democratic National Committee has chosen to play the bully and not count our votes. (They're still sore over 2000, I guess.) What hurts so much that it's hard to think about is how opposed all of the Democratic candidates are, in their stated positions, to so many things I hold dear. What I once believed to be the party of the little people seems bent on being the party of big government, big unions, big education, and big medicine—the bullies that are pushing around the little people I know. "Litmus tests" on the issues are of questionable value, but it's hard to see all the candidates failing all of them. Sigh. I can't say I'm impressed by any of the Republicans, either, but some of them at least give lip service in favor of my positions. So I could always cast my primary vote hoping to put forth the least electable candidate. If I could figure out who that was.
Clinton the First wasn't as bad as he threatened to be, partly because it seems one must be extreme while campaigning, and partly because Congressional opposition kept him from accomplishing all his goals. Perhaps my best hope is a similar stalemate.
There's always the temptation to set up a Bush - Clinton - Bush - Clinton - Bush line of presidents (all different people). :)
I normally don't mind that most news stories are bad news. After all, the different, the unusual, that which makes "news" should be bad; good should be so common that it doesn't make headlines.
However, I'm beginning to suspect that some folks actually enjoy reporting bad news, as stories that have both good and bad sides always seem to be reported in the negative. Take the latest housing "crisis." Yes, I know, people who should have known better, and bankers who did know better, behaved stupidly and even wickedly, which led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and I understand how that's a problem for a lot more people and businesses than those directly involved.
I certainly sympathize with those who are trying to sell their houses and find that prices have fallen and they have to sell for less than they could have received a year ago—maybe even less than they paid. But this is not news. There have always been "buyer's markets" and "seller's markets," and I grew up knowing that one is more likely to be on the wrong end of the swing. Yet now the headlines scream disaster because housing prices keep falling.
Sure, this is bad news to some. But a few years ago the headlines cried woe and doom because housing prices kept rising, squeezing people—especially first-time home buyers—out of the market. We certainly felt that way when we looked at buying a house in the Boston area.If it must always be bad news, if the country is headed toward disaster when housing prices rise, and again when they fall, I'm likely to cry, "A plague on both your houses!" and toss the paper over in favor of my World of Puzzles magazine.
So states an Orlando Sentinel article with the bizarre and ominous headline, "Hong Kong Tests Toys for Date Rape Drug." It appears that the Chinese manufacturers of a children's arts and craft item called Spin Dots (also known as Bindeez), instead of using the non-toxic compound 1,5-pentanediol, substituted 1,4-butanediol, which metabolizes into the "date-rape" drug gamma hydroxy butyrate when swallowed.Surely the article's author was being facetious, for it is abundantly clear why the substitution was made; as the article states, the non-toxic compound is between three and seven times more expensive than the dangerous one. It is the Chinese-made toothpaste scandal all over again, in which toxic diethylene glycol was substitued for harmless, but more expensive, glycerin.
Heard in passing: Money you pay in taxes doesn't come out of your pocket.
There's a chance I missed something critical here, since I just walked by the radio and didn't hear the whole story. But what I heard was the results of a survey of people in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and some other countries, about which the reporter stated, with a serious and worried tone, that people in the United States pay about $1000 more per year in out-of-pocket health care expenses than those in most of the countries surveyed.
Most of the countries have socialized medical care and their people pay heavily in taxes for their services. I should hope they'd be paying less out-of-pocket!But somehow, if you pay money to the government, rather than to a doctor, it doesn't count. As an economist I know keeps reminding me, "A dollar is a dollar is a dollar." And so is a pound, a euro, or a franc.
Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize. While I don't think well enough of the committee that makes these decisions to be impressed, many others are now suggesting he run for president. I'll admit I do find him in many ways more attractive than the current Democratic candidates, but I don't think he should join the fray.For his own sake. (More)
Central Florida is the most dangerous place in the country, at least if it's lightning strikes that worry you. The tragedy of a girl who was struck by lightning just after descending from her school bus is still fresh in our memories, so it's no wonder the Orange County school board policy errs on the side of caution: No student is allowed outside until 30 minutes after the last lighning flash, if thunder follows the lightning within 30 seconds.They are wisely reconsidering the policy, however, after a recent debacle. A long-lasting storm coupled with rigid enforcement of the rules kept some 2000 students trapped at two schools until nearly 9 p.m. Snacks were trucked in (the district apparently caring less about the safety of their employees), and no doubt many of the students thought the excitement high adventure—at least for the first hour. But most of the children—not to mention the teachers—must have been anxious to get home to their families, with not a few kindergarteners crying for their mommies. (More)
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Not really. I do want my vote to count. But I can't help finding the Democratic Party's attempt to disenfranchise Floridians amusing. I do believe they're still sore over Bush's 2000 victory, even though Al Gore has every reason to be thankful he lost that election.
Florida has defied Democratic National Committee rules by moving its primary date into January, a month reserved by party rules for Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Now the DNC threatens to deprive Florida's delegates of their votes at the national convention if we don't change our primary date to suit them. There is a certain validity to their claim that they're only enforcing the rules, but what they are doing is missing the perfect opportunity to revise a totally antiquated system. Who can blame Florida, and other states, from wanting a say in the choosing of presidential candidates? That decision has already been made by the time of the primaries in many states. It's time to settle on one, national primary date. The candidates can still get in plenty of campaigning time, travel time from state to state being nearly negligible.On the other hand, the DNC has also threatened to penalize candidates who would dare campaign in Florida or other wayward states. This sounds like such a good thing to me I'm tempted to support the Committee's decision.
I acknowledge that sometimes the government is better than the market at accomplishing good things. In the classic example, Company A might want to reduce its emission of pollutants, but knows that if it does it will no longer be competitive with Company B. Company B might be in the same position. But if the government requires all companies to make the reduction, none is left at a competitive disadvantage.Nonetheless, I believe the market can often do a better job, being more flexible. Take low-flow shower heads, for example. I'm all for saving water, but I'd rather choose the method. I'm a quick shower person: get in, do the job, get out. Low-flow shower heads frustrate me, because I have to go more slowly—and I suspect thus use at least as much water as before. I would much rather be able to purchase a high-flow shower head for my house, and save water in other ways. What we don't spend watering our lawn would probably supply a small city. (More)
I have a friend who is a faithful e-mail forwarder. I don't mind, because she is pretty much the only one who sends me the dusty sweepings of cyber space, and occasionally she finds some gems. One of her recent offerings was not treasure, however, but fool's gold.Note that the words of the e-mail, the majority of which I reproduce below, do not belong to my friend. She gets credit for providing blog-post inspiration, not for the embarassing sentiments. (More)
So just what kind of people are we dealing with here? According to this article, the eight suspects in Britain's recent failed terrorist attacks are doctors. I can almost understand the desperate suicide bomber recruited from a population of uneducated, poor, and hopeless young men. But doctors? Those whose training and profession are supposed to be about relieving suffering and saving lives?
Well, there were doctors who served Hitler. The scariest attitude in the world is one that dehumanizes other people. Be it Jews in Nazi Germany, natives in colonial days, slaves, unborn babies, or "infidels" of any stripe—once we convince ourselves that a group of people is less than human, we find it all too easy to justify the most hideous and inhumane actions. (More)