A Modest Proposal.

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As I write this (2020) the estimated Federal deficit for the year is about $1 trillion.  To give you some perspective, you could have started at the Birth of Christ, spent One Hundred Thousand dollars a day from that day until this, and you still would have spent only about 3/4 of a trillion.

And whenever anyone talks about “cuts” it’s almost never actual cuts but reduction in an expected rate of increase.  And the cost of government keeps spiraling up and up and up.  Did I say spiraling?  No.  I misspoke.  They’re going straight up.

But if we cut anything, police and firefighters will be out of work, schools will shut down for a lack of teachers.  Doom will be upon us!

In that vein, perhaps, might I make a modest proposal.  We lived through previous years without facing doom.  It might not be as comfortable as we would like, but perhaps we could live with, say, the Federal Government size and scope of, say 2004.  I mean, 2004 and “fighting two unfunded wars” (we paid for them, the claim was that we didn’t raise taxes enough to cover them).  And that was with the “Bush Tax Cuts”. So, surely we could live within not even the budget but the amount we spent that year:

$2.23 trillion dollars.

Oh, sure, prices have gone up since then.  $2.23 trillion doesn’t buy today what it did then.  Fair enough.  So let’s allow for inflation.  That’s 36.56 percent.  So, with an inflation adjustment that comes to:

$3.05 trillion dollars

But wait, somebody is sure to complain, our population has increased.  We’re going to have to spend more on things like police, fire, and education, as well as all the other “services” government provides because there are simply more people needing those services.

Again, fair enough.  Now, not everything government does (whether it should or not is a different matter, but suffice to say that it does) scales with population.  The size of our military, our coast guard and border patrol, agriculture department, and so on don’t really scale with the size of the population.  But let’s ignore that.  Let’s just say that government expenditure has to go up proportionally with population.  The US population at the end of 2004 was 293 million.  By the end of 2020 it’s estimated to be 331 million.  That’s a 13% increase.  So, let’s increase that budget by another 13% and we’re at.

$3.44 trillion dollars.

That’s a lot of money.  However, the estimate of government revenue (and that’s with Trump’s tax cuts) for 2020 is:

$3.71 trillion dollars.

Oh, look at that.  Revenue is projected to be higher than expenditures.  That means we can put $265 billion toward reducing the accumulated national debt.

So, if we simply rolled back Federal expenditures to what they were in 2004, adjusted for inflation and population, we would not only balance the budget but begin to pay down the debt.

Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be everything everyone would like, but surely, surely we would survive it.  After all, we survived it before.  What we have done, we can do, right?  I mean, we’re certainly no less capable of surviving than we were 16 years ago.

And because not all things scale with population we’d even have some extra money to pay for some other “nice things” my friends on the Left would like to have.

And that’s my Modest Proposal.

Can You Get More Pedantic?

Short one today.

almond milk

Not long ago over on the Book of Faces a friend of mine got into a fine old rant about the various “milks” on the market today.  The claim was “nothing with an adjective before the word ‘milk’ is actually milk” (implied, of course, was that he wasn’t talking about “chocolate milk” or other flavored milks). Someone else made the comment about “if it doesn’t come from a mammal’s teats…”

Can you possible get any more pedantic?

First, do you actually think this is confusing to anybody?  Does someone see “Almond Milk” and think that somewhere on the almond plant is a mammary gland?  I don’t know of anyone except these pedantic types that think it does or should.

Also, the term “milk” has been used as a descriptor for things that resemble milk for a very long time and in common parlance.  The earliest recorded use of the term “coconut milk” goes back to 1698.  Almond Milk apparently goes back even farther to the 14th century.  In this parlance Milk of Magnesia (suspension of Magnesium hydroxide used as an antacid and laxative) is a latecomer from 1872.

And yet there are some people who want to ban the use of the word “milk” for anything that doesn’t come from a mammary gland because it’s”confusing.”

Again, do you know anyone who actually is confused by this?  I don’t.  A whole lot of people are engaged in high dudgeon on behalf of others who are supposedly confused.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of almond and other milks, or wouldn’t be except the sugar content of cow’s milk:  12 grams of sugar in a single cup of cow’s milk.  That’s about 2/3 of the sugar in a Hershey’s Cookies and Cream candy bar and about half of that in an Almond Joy or Mounds bar. (Fans of milk will say “yeah, but…”.  But nothing, it spikes my blood sugar just like any other source.) I can use Almond Milk to make hot cocoa, in various recipes, or with low-carb cereals.  Whereas one cup of milk and I’m more than halfway through my net carbs for the day.

Yeah, I’d prefer the taste and “weight” of “real milk” but that’s not an option for me in most cases.  With that limitation “almond milk” or “coconut milk” (the unsweetened varieties) are an inferior but adequate substitute.

And, like everyone else I know, I know it’s a substitute.  I don’t think there are little mammary glands on the nuts.

So stop with the excessive pedantry already.

This…Actually Works (An Auto “Repair” story)

I’ve never been a big fan of various “additives” for fluids in the car.  Most of them are pure “snake oil” in the metaphorical sense–the “cleaning” job they do is cleaning your wallet of any unwanted cash…and wanted cash as well.

Let me give a little background.  The grocery store I use most of the time provides “points” which can be worth a discount for fuel.  To get the most benefit from that, I tend to run the car to nearly empty then fill it up.  With a 22 1/2 gallon tank, if I run it down to the last couple of gallons each $0.10 per gallon off is worth a couple of bucks.  It adds up over time.

However, that requires that I have a truly reliable fuel gauge.  Now, a while back it started getting squirrelly.  Specifically, it would sometimes just drop to zero even though I had plenty of gas in the tank.  Now, this isn’t earthshaking.  I could use the odometer and a knowledge of how far I can get on a full tank .  But that depends on how what kind of driving I was doing.  More highway, less stop-and-go in traffic.  Carrying heavy loads or not.  That sort of thing can effect how far I can get on a tank of gas.  Which means I would need to leave more margin…which means I wouldn’t get all the benefit form the “cents off” that I could if I had a more reliable measure of remaining fuel.

It got to the point where I was considering replacing the fuel gauge sending unit (having eliminated other parts of the system as likely sources of the problem.  It wouldn’t be worth it to take it to the shop, but as a DIY project, the cost/benefit ratio looked good.  Researching it I found that it would be a pretty big project, and something I’d have to rope friends into since it did not look like a reasonable one-person job.

As it happened, while researching the procedure for dropping the tank to get access to the fuel pump/fuel gauge sending unit, I came across a video where someone described the very problem I was having and said that the cause was the “high sulfur” fuel in his area which gunked up the sending unit causing it to fail.  The “fix” was to run a couple of tanks worth with a detergent fuel additive, specifically Chevron concentrate with Techron.

I thought…”Worth a try.” So I bought a couple of bottles (12 oz size at local store–the above link is for the 20 oz size).  Two bottles of the 12 oz size or one 20 oz were appropriate for the size tank in my car.  I added them and filled the tank, ran it low, added two more and filled the tank and…

My gauge started working properly again.

I was seriously, seriously skeptical when I first tried it.  Like I said, most such products are snake oil.  However, for this particular application, this particular product does seem to work.

Saved me a wasted afternoon and a chunk of change swapping out the fuel pump and sending unit.

Pretending to Sleep

Available on Kindle

Read this story. It’s not long. I read it in a sitting last night. And frankly, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

There is no slap-bang action in this book.  No chase scenes.  No daring rescues.  No climactic battles.  It is no spy or resistance thriller.  It’s simply the baldly told tale of a girl, Renata, at the mercy of forces far beyond any control of hers, and her treatment for the “crime” of simply having the wrong relatives. Her helplessness in the face of those forces paints, in a few broad strokes, the grim nature of life in Communist Romania.

The book’s very understatement provides much of its power and provides a perennially topical warning about the danger of too-pervasive government, where every aspect of ones life is mandated by the State.

The author, Monalisa Foster, is a friend of mine.  She’s also a survivor of communist Romania under the tyrant Nicolae Ceaușescu.  Her own personal experiences provide a backdrop for the events in the book and provides a reminder of how important it is to retain our American freedoms.

Buy.  This.  Book.

Hockey vs. Figure Skating: An Ice Follies Post

I was looking for some instructional videos on a technique that’s giving me a particular challenge of late and I came across these two videos in the “related videos” section. (That my search contained both “figure skating” and “hockey” probably pushed them up high in terms of “related.”) It was interesting seeing athletes in each of the two fields, hockey and figure skating, trying out each other’s sport. (Spoiler, they’re both very good at what they do yet each finds the other’s a significant challenge.)

Review of Ice Follies to Date

I’ve continued to progress in the ice skating.

“Learn to Skate USA” has two basic skills progressions for people learning to skate.  For the children (6-14) they have the Basic 1 to Basic 6 progression.  For “Adults” (15 and up) they have the Adult 1 to Adult 6 series.  There are some differences between the two progressions, some things introduced at different levels in one compared to the other and some things included in one and not the other.

I’m currently working on things in the Adult 4 to Adult 6 range as follows.  Bold indicates things I’ve more or less learned.  Italics means things I’m actively working on.  Plain text means that I’m still working up to it.  In addition to the Adult progression ranking, I’ve listed here where the various things are introduced in the Basic progression.

Adult 4

  • Forward outside edge on a circle, R and L (Basic 4)
  • Forward inside edge on a circle, R and L (Basic 4)
  • Forward crossovers, clockwise and counterclockwise (Basic 4)
  • Backward one-foot glides, R and L (Basic 4)
  • Backward half-swizzle pumps on a circle, clockwise and counterclockwise (Basic 4)
  • Hockey stop, both directions (Basic 5)

Adult 5

  • Backward outside edge on circle, R and L (Basic 5)
  • Backward inside edge on a circle, R and L (Basic 5)
  • Backward crossovers, clockwise and counterclockwise (Basic 5)
  • Forward outside three-turn, R and L (Basic 5)
  • Forward swing rolls to a count of six (Not included in “Basic”)
  • Beginning two-foot spin (Basic 4)

Adult 6

  • Forward stroking with crossover end patterns (Not included in Basic)
  • Backward stroking with crossover end patterns (Backward stroking is Basic 6, the “crossover end patterns” is not included)
  • Forward inside three-turn, R and L (Basic 6)
  • Forward outside to inside change of edge on a line, R and L (Not included in Basic)
  • T-stop, R or L (Basic 6)
  • Lunge (Basic 4)
  • Two-foot spin into one-foot spin (Basic 6)

There are some additional skills included in the Basic progression, not included in the Adult progression.  Since I plan to continue with Free Skate once I complete Adult 6, I think it advisable to learn these as well:

Basic 5

  • Advanced two-foot spin — 4–6
  • «Bonus skill: Side toe hop — R and L

Basic 6

  • Moving backward to forward two foot turn on a circle — clockwise and counterclockwise
  • Bunny hop
  • Forward spiral on a straight line — R or L
  •  «Bonus skill: Shoot the duck — R or L

The hockey stop is my current bugaboo.

It looks so simple but in practice it’s…a challenge (at least for me).

On the other hand, I am just about ready…wanting a bit more stability on my backward edges…to start trying the forward outside three turn.

(Edit:  Wrong link in the clipboard when putting that video up.  Now fixed.)

I still find it kind of amazing.  A year ago I never would have imagined I would come so far.

 

“The Christian Left”: A Blast from the Past

Once again, I have been running into claims that to be “Christian” one has to be “Left” (politically, as the Left exists in America).  So, once again, here’s the rebuttal to that nonsense.


I keep running into this idea that Jesus was a socialist.  There was a meme going around during Christmas with various “Christmas Heroes”.  There’s a quote misattributed to former President Jimmy Carter about how you can’t say you want a Christian nation if you object to your tax dollars being used to help the poor.  All over the place people on the left arguing “Jesus was a socialist.”

Utter rot.

Now, full disclaimer.  I am not a Christian.  I grew up in a sort-of Christian religion (many dispute that characterization because of differences in the nature of what more conventional religions call the trinity and in the belief of ongoing revelation and prophecy, but I go with a more basic definition, summed up in Simon Peter’s declaration “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God”) but I long since found I could not believe it any more and once I separated from that one, none of the other Christian sects appealed to me any more.

However, I understand Christianity far better than these “Christian Left” people.

Christ taught giving.  Giving means taking ones own property and passing it on to someone in need.  Nowhere did he advocate taking from others by force and “redistributing” it.  He certainly did not advocate taking from others, using what’s taken to fund a huge government bureaucracy, and pass out a pittance of the remainder to the poor (have to justify that bureaucracy somehow).

Nowhere in the Bible is there a passage similar to this:

NewAgeLittleRedProgressiveTranslation

When people advocate socialism enforced by government, they are advocating using force to take from some to give to others.  Nowhere in his teachings did Christ advocate that.  Nowhere.

This is where some people say “but Christ said Render unto Caesar.” Yes.  He did.  In response to a question intended to trap him.  Context matters.  Christ had rising popularity among the masses which concerned the Jewish leadership greatly.  So they planted the question of whether they should give tribute to Caesar.  If Christ had simply said “yes” he would have lost his popular audience and his ministry would have died right there.  If he had said “no”, he would likely have been arrested (“we caught him forbidding tribute to Caesar” was one of the charges the Sanhedrin laid against him when handing him over to the Romans for execution).  And his ministry would have died right there.  Instead, he asked for an example of the tribute money, asked whose picture was on it, and gave his famous answer.  And if people followed him in that, the Roman reprisal, destruction of Jerusalem, and diaspora would have occurred before much of Christ’s mission was fairly begun.  If you accept his divinity, you have to accept that he knew this and gave the answer that allowed him to complete his mission.

But did “render unto Caesar” mean an endorsement of everything that tax funds were used for?  Did he endorse gladiatorial games?  Wars of conquest?  The capture and importation of slaves?  The use of government troops to put down slave revolts?  Let’s not be absurd.  Just because the Roman government did something with tax monies, or modern governments do something with it, “Render unto Caesar” is not an endorsement of that use.

Government is force, pure and simple.  That’s essentially a definition of government:  the legitimizing of the use of force.  Socialism imposed by government has nothing to do with Christian charity.  It is, in fact, very nearly the exact opposite, wearing a mask to confuse the unwary.

Beware of Socialists who come to you in Sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Woe to you agents of government and socialists.  Hypocrites!  For you are like unto whited sepulchers, which outwardly appear beautiful but within are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanliness.

The Nail.

16d nail

Imagine you’re the Minister in Charge of Nail Production in a centrally planned (i.e. socialist–where the “means of production”, in this case nail making, are publicly controlled rather than privately owned and controlled).  Should be an easy job, you would think.  Nails, after all, are pretty simple.

You are now considering sixteen penny (16d) nails. (Side note:  “penny” as a measure of nail size derives from how much 100 nails would have cost “back in the day” and the “d” is simply an archaic abbreviation for a penny, deriving from the ancient “denarius.”) You have central control so that means you have to decide how many of these 16d nails to have made.  So, you look into it.

The 16d nail is a very common nail used in securing two-by-fours in wood-frame buildings.  There are other sizes that are sometimes used, but the 16d is popular for that role.  You want to be efficient (after all, one of the things supporters of socialism claim is that it’s more “efficient” than the anarchy of “the market”) so you call your buddy over in “Ministry of House Production” and ask how many houses are going to be built over the next year, oh, and by the way, how many nails are used in building an average house.  Well, your buddy doesn’t know yet.  He’s still working on figuring out how many houses to plan to build for the next year (we won’t here go into his particular problems in figuring that out), so give him some time and he’ll come up with a figure.  As for how many nails are used in constructing a house, he superciliously informs you that he deals with houses, not trivia such as nails.

So, while waiting for at least a number of houses from the Ministry of House Production, you call the Ministry of Shed Production, the Ministry of Garage Production, the Ministry of Doghouse Production, and every ministry which might involve people nailing two-by-fours together.  They all give you the same answer, they’re still working on their numbers.

Oh, and Ministry of Doghouse Production?  They turn back to you and ask how many nails you can make available to them so they can figure how many doghouses to make.  Doghouses, after all, are more flexible in their numbers.  If nails and wood are available, folk can make doghouses.  If not, well, the dog will just have to shelter under the porch. (And you make a note that you need to call the Ministry of Porch Production to get their numbers too.)

Oh, wait, you just remembered.  Schoolkids use nails as cores to demonstrate electromagnetism.  So you also need to call the Ministry of School Science Projects.

You have so many calls to make that you have a dozen assistants (provided by the Ministry of Administrative Personnel) making calls.

So, you’re sitting there and you don’t even know how many structures using the nails that are your responsibility are going to be built, let alone how many nails each one will need.  It’s enough to make a man snatch off his hat, throw his hat on the ground and stomp on it. (Has Ministry of Hat Production accounted for that loss?)

In the meantime, the Ministry of Steel Production is calling you asking how much steel you’re going to need for nail-making so he can figure how much steel to produce. (And Ministry of Pig Iron is calling him to see how much iron to produce for his steel making.  And the Ministry of Mining is calling them.  And…)  Ministry of Personnel is calling to see how many nail makers you need.  Ministry of Machine Tools is calling to see how many Wire drawing machines, cutters, and head stampers (whatever they’re called) you need for nail making.

And you don’t know because you still don’t know how many nails to make.

But you’ve got to come up with a number because if you don’t, then nobody’s making nails.  So you make your best guess and that, by God, is how many 16d nails is going to be made.  If it doesn’t match up with what the other ministries want, well, that’s just too damn bad.

And that’s just one particular size and style of nail.  You’ve still got to go through all the other varieties:  Box nails, finishing nails, all sorts of designs in all sorts of sizes, each for a particular purpose and how many of each is the “right amount” depends on a whole host of other choices made by others in the economy.  And not just nails.  Every single product, every single good or service in any kind of centrally planned economy must also be decided the same way.

It is simply impossible one person, or one small group of people to have the information necessary to determine just how much of not even nails but one particular size and style of nail is “needed” in an economy of any size (after all, in a medieval village the “minister of nail production” would be the village blacksmith, and he would make the nails as needed if he didn’t have something more important–meaning something for which people were willing to pay more–to do).

In a market economy, somebody makes nails.  If the nails are excess to “need” they’ll end up sitting on the shelf and the producers will see that their product is not selling, reduce the amount made and shift instead to maybe a different size that is selling better.  The ones that aren’t selling get their price dropped (“clearance sale”) and somebody decides to build that doghouse they had been putting off (after all, the porch had already been built) or maybe more kids make more electormagnets.  Or people start using 16d where before before they’d been using 12d.  I mean, it’s a little large, but it will still work and at that price…

And if they haven’t made enough nails, then the shelves get empty, the retailers clamor for more (because sales not happening because of lack of product means revenue not coming in).  Producers see that they can sell more nails and that means maybe running some overtime, or hiring more people so they can churn out more nails.  But that’s okay because the extra demand means they can charge more for the nails and still sell more–maybe not as many as they would sell at the current price but more than they had been making at the current price.

Unlike the Minister of Nail Production, these producers don’t need information on all the various uses to which the nail is put.  All they need is information on how well their nails are selling and what their raw materials cost (which speaks to the supply of same).  Sure, it’s helpful to look at what’s happening with housing or how energy costs affect steel prices so as to be positioned to take advantage of changes in both supply and demand.  The people who are good at doing that will be rewarded by higher profits–they’ve got nails on the shelves when everyone else is scrambling to catch up to the boom, or they’ve reduced production (and therefore their own costs) in advance of a downturn when others have unsold nails having to be unloaded at clearance prices (if only to make room on the shelves for something that is selling).

This is why market economies simply work better than command economies whatever one might call them (communist, socialist, fascist–all different flavors of centrally controlled command economy).

Freedom, including economic freedom, is not just preferable from a philosophic/moral point of view (since anything else is just some variation of slavery), it’s also superior from a practical point of view.

So, as for me, make mine freedom.