Monday, November 29, 2010

Live from Cancun: Bureaucrats gone wild!

Yes, it's a catchy headline invoking thoughts of crazy spring breaks and outrageous behavior. But I believe it's a fitting title for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 16) taking place in that city today through December 10th.

*** Aside: At least they picked a place where it isn't likely to snow - wonder if they banned Al Gore?

And what, exactly, will the bureaucrats be doing in Cancun? Besides lounging on a beach, that is?

Well, they'll be talking about how to curb greenhouse gas emissions; transfer wealth and technology from developed to developing nations; and raise the cost of traditional energy in order to prop up politically popular new sources. At least, that's how Americans For Prosperity and other free-market groups describe it.

I plan to be there to find out. Thanks to a scholarship for travel expenses, I'll be attending COP 16 as well as the AFP Hot Air Tour on Thursday. If you're in the Cincinnati area, you can participate as well - in conjunction with AFP-Ohio and COAST.

Even the introduction to the conference explaining it, makes my eyes swim:

The United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Cancun, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010, encompasses the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), as well as the thirty-third sessions of both the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), and the fifteenth session of the AWG-KP and thirteenth session of the AWG-LCA.

To discuss future commitments for industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol, the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) established a working group in December 2005 called the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP). In Copenhagen, at its fifth session, the CMP requested the AWG-KP to deliver the results of its work for adoption by CMP 6 in Cancun.

But I'm sure bureaucrats love that sort of thing. As for me, I can't help but think of the scene in Monty Python's "Life of Brian" where they hold the conversation and decide to hold a meeting to form a committee to examine the options of acting together to form a plan .... to rescue Brian.

Or perhaps the Robin Williams 'acronym' scene from "Good Morning Vietnam" where he says, "Excuse me sir. Seeing as how the VP is such a VIP, shouldn't we keep the PC on the QT, because if it leaks to the VC, you could end up an MIA, and then we'd all be put on KP."

Here is a link to the various discussions and the schedule for COP 16.

I'll be blogging from the event beginning Wednesday and will cover AFP's event Thursday evening.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quotes of the Day

"In every declining civilization there is a small "remnant" of people who adhere to the right against the wrong; who recognize the difference between good and evil and who will take an active stand for the former and against the latter; who can still think and discern and who will courageously take a stand against the political, social, moral, and spiritual rot or decay of their day." ~ Donald S. McAlvaney

"Contrary to the Marxists, the Nazis did not advocate public ownership of the means of production. They did demand that the government oversee and run the nation’s economy. The issue of legal ownership, they explained, is secondary; what counts is the issue of control. Private citizens, therefore, may continue to hold titles to property—so long as the state reserves to itself the unqualified right to regulate the use of their property." ~ Leonard Peikoff

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

There are so many things I'm thankful for that they cannot be listed in a blog post and would take me more than a day to recite.

As I think upon those things, I cannot help but be forever grateful for our founding fathers and the courage and wisdom they displayed in bequeathing us this great nation:

"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated." ~ Thomas Paine

I'm also thankful that the nation has survived, so far, with the focus on freedom and what has become known worldwide as 'The American Dream.'

"America's abundance was created not by public sacrifices to "the common good," but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America's industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance -- and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way." ~ Ayn Rand

So as you enjoy your day with family or friends, don't forget that the reason we have so much to be grateful for, even when we don't have material possessions, is because we were fortunate enough to be born or now live in these United States.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fixing Transit and that 'evil' word: privitize

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, had a great article about how to fix transit problems that many think plague the United States. In Ohio, we're having the on-going discussion about so-called high-speed rail.

I write 'so-called' because the latest proposal to spend $400 million in federal stimulus dollars would give us a system that connects only three of Ohio's major cities; costs more than $400 million to build; won't be 'high' speed as it is projected to be slower than actually driving; and, worst of all, will require Ohio taxpayers to subsidize it to the tune of $17 million a year! Oh - and that $17 million of taxpayer funds it will need is only if the rail system actually meets its ridership projections. And that's the supporters' own projection of costs!

Incoming Governor John Kasich is opposed to the plan and wants to use the $400 million for other transportation purposes. But the federal government is threatening to 'give' the money to another state if we don't do what they want us to do with it.

Convoluted and completely lacking in common sense - I know. But, sadly, that is the way government works these days.

On a local level, voters just approved a renewal of the TARTA levy and Perrysburg is still trying to opt-out of that service because they believe they can provide a better service for the costs they're paying. Other communities are opposed to being forced to join the TARTA service area - or to have a county-wide sales tax fund the organization - because of problems they see in the operation, the service and the failed concept.

Which is why I thought this article from Cato was important to share. The transit needs in Los Angeles are much different from the needs in New York City - and those are much different from our needs here in Northwest Ohio. If we can get government out of the way, including not giving them our tax dollars for one-size-fits-all solutions, we'd all be better off.

Here is the summary of the article:

America's experiment with government ownership of urban transit systems has proven to be a disaster. Since Congress began giving states and cities incentives to take over private transit systems in 1964, worker productivity — the number of transit riders carried per worker — has declined by more than 50 percent; the amount of energy required to carry one bus rider one mile has increased by more than 75 percent; the inflation- adjusted cost per transit trip has nearly tripled, even as fares per trip slightly declined; and, despite hundreds of billions of dollars of subsidies, the number of transit trips per urban resident declined from more than 60 trips per year in 1964 to 45 in 2008.

Largely because of government ownership, the transit industry today is beset by a series of interminable crises. Recent declines in the tax revenues used to support transit have forced major cuts in transit services in the vast majority of urban areas. Transit infrastructure — especially rail infrastructure — is steadily deteriorating, and the money transit agencies spend on maintenance is not even enough to keep it in its current state of poor repair. And transit agencies have agreed to employee pension and health care plans that impose billions of dollars of unfunded liabilities on taxpayers.

Transit advocates propose to solve these problems with even more subsidies. A better solution is to privatize transit. Private transit providers will provide efficient transit services that go where people want to go. In order for privatization to take place, Congress and the states must stop giving transit agencies incentives to waste money on high-cost transit technologies.

The complete policy analysis is here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Toledo's 2011 budget

Press release:

November 15, 2010

Bell Administration Releases 2011 Operating Budget
Mayor Michael P. Bell today released the 2011 Operating Budget at a press conference that included his administration’s finance staff, Safety Director, Police and Fire Chiefs and other directors. The Mayor made clear that 2011 again poses fiscal challenges for the city, noting an environment of increased expenditures and declining resources, but also emphasized that the budget includes no new or increased general fund taxes or fees.

As previously announced, the administration is anticipating a slight increase in income tax collections and have projected $145.5 million in 2011, 3.0% over 2010 collections. However, also as expected, local government funds from the state are projected to drop by $3.8 million as the state works with an $8 billion projected deficit.

The Bell Administration has recommended bridging the gap with $6.3 million transfer from the Capital Improvements Fund to the General Fund; $4.85 million in sale of assets, part of real estate negotiations that are currently in progress, but not expected to come to fruition before the close of 2010; and $3.3 million from trust fund balances moved to the general fund.

The administration will also work on a health care dependent eligibility audit, reduced utility expenditures and medical coverage savings. An early retirement plan will also be pursued. Responding to a survey taken in Spring 2010, approximately 150 City of Toledo employees said they may be interested in an early retirement buy out, however the administration hopes that some may have re-considered since that time.

The budget also maintains city services with the addition of a fire class and police class. Both safety forces expect significant retirements in 2011 contributing to lower manpower levels and making it necessary to continue to train new recruits to ensure delivery of safety services. The proposed budget includes funding for a class of 50 firefighters as well as a class of 25 police officers.

The Bell administration has also proposed to turn control of the City’s refuse collection operations to the Lucas County Solid Waste Management District beginning September 1, 2011. It costs the City approximately $16.3 million annually to collect and dispose of refuse, including the debts service on the new automated trucks and carts, landfill cell development and replacement costs for vehicles and carts. Current refuse fees bring in approximately $8.9 million in revenue per year. It is expected that regionalizing the service with the county will bring greater efficiency in service delivery and will save approximately $2.8 million in 2011.

Finally, Bell emphasized the future challenges lying ahead as the administration looks toward collective bargaining with six of the City’s eight unions. As costs, especially wages and benefits, continue to outpace revenues the City must make significant structural changes in employee compensation and benefits. The Mayor noted the critical role cost containment plays for the financial survival of the City and asked for Council’s help in making those needed changes.

The full City of Toledo 2011 Operating Budget is available online at

Mayor's cover letter to city council is available here.
Budget is available here.

I'll be looking at the budget over the next several days and will post further after analyzing it.

Quote of the Day

As the lame duck Congress comptemplates the extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, it would be good to remind them of this quote:

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it." ~ Dr. Adrian Rogers

Also, the concept that government "cannot afford" to go without that income is ludicrous! The government can do without it much more than the small business owners can.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday's light moment

With the recent fog and mild fall weather, I still have roses in bloom, though I believe these are probably the last ones that will actually open. Hope you enjoy your Saturday!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Finding common ground on U.S. fiscal problems

I received this email from the National Taxpayers Union about a joint effort with U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, where they announce their joint effort to find common ground in addressing the nation's fiscal issues. NTU is a conservative group and U.S. PIRG is a liberal group - but they agree on numerous ideas to cut spending. Below is the email with links to their report. I hope you'll read it and support their efforts to help put our nation back on track when it comes to federal government spending.

NTU joined with the liberal group U.S. PIRG to release a list of $600 billion worth of specific federal spending reductions. It is available online at It can also be found on our blog here:

With all the talk about debt and deficits, we thought it would be useful to reach across the ideological divide to find spending cuts that the left and right can agree upon. We saw an opportunity to put together a true left-right coalition in order to begin the conversation about the difficult choices we’ll have to make as a nation.

The U.S. PIRG and NTU study identifies 30 specific, actionable items to cut in federal spending, including:

* $62 billion in savings by eliminating wasteful subsidies to farmers and large corporations.
* $354 billion in savings from reforming inefficient contract and acquisition procedures.
* $77 billion in savings by improving execution of existing government programs as well as eliminating unneeded programs.
* $108 billion in savings from ending low-priority or unnecessary weapons systems, along with rightsizing other programs.

We will be submitting this list to the President’s Fiscal Commission for consideration, as serious reductions in spending will no doubt play a large role in their report. Also, keep an eye out for post-election efforts we’ll be engaging in to further raise the profile.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank you, Veterans!

Thank you - for your service, your honor and the sacrifices you - and your families - have made!

Thank you - for preserving our Republic, protecting our liberties and ensuring our continued freedom!

Thank you - for your selflessness - for volunteering or being willing to serve when called; for the difficult conditions you've lived in while doing your duty to our country!

Thank you - for being the protectors so we can live our lives not worried about danger!

Thank you!

And a special thanks to my father-in-law, dad and brother on Veteran's Day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An end to out-of-state beer?

From National Center for Policy Analysis comes this summary of a pending bill:

The United States has seen a massive increase in the number of microbreweries in the last decade. Many bars now pride themselves on offering a wide variety of on-tap beers from smaller producers and stocking bottles from around the country. But that could soon come to a grinding halt pending the decision of H.R. 5034, the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2010 (the "CARE" Act of 2010), in the U.S. House of Representatives, says Michelle Minton, director of the insurance studies project at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The CARE Act is a response to a Supreme Court decision, Granholm v. Heald, in which the Court ruled that states could not pass laws that discriminate between in-state and out-of-state wineries in violation of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. While the ruling was specifically about wine, it should apply to all types of alcohol, says Minton.

If the CARE Act or a similar bill passes:

* It could potentially bar out-of-state beers, ensuring a captive market for home-state breweries.
* Not only would this eliminate certain beers from the market, but also it would likely increase the price of those out-of-state brews that could make it across state lines, as they would likely pay a fee for the privilege of competing with in-state breweries, vineyards or distilleries.
* It would also mean an end to online sales of alcohol.

The biggest supporter for the CARE Act comes from beer distributors and individuals who act as middlemen between producers of alcohol, says Minton.

Source: Michelle Minton, "An End to Out-of-State Beer?", November 8, 2010.

For text:

Happy Birthday U.S. Marines!

Today is the day we celebrate the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps. As they sing in their hymn, "first to fight for right and freedom," they are known for leading the way. This is the third stanza of the hymm:

"Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve
In many a strife we've fought for life
And never lost our nerve;"

To all Marines (as you're never a 'former' Marine), thank you - and Happy Birthday!

This website gives the history of the celebration if you'd like to know more.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Quote of the Day

As we look to the new Congress, I can only wonder if they will do anything about the bureaucrats to whom they have abdicated their authority. And then I came across this quote:

"[I]f we won’t choose to pay the price of liberty, then by default we shall suffer the cost of servitude -- whether it be the iron chains of a tyrannical oligarchy or the regulatory chains of unelected, faceless bureaucrats. When we witness our neighbors abused by tyrants, will we skulk away and hope we’re not next? Or will we stand by them and challenge -- as freedom-loving Americans—the tyranny of lawless leaders." ~ Phil Trieb

Friday, November 05, 2010

Alarms and a Quote of the Day

As you know, my posting has been very light with my work load leading up to the election. It will increase beginning next week, which is when I hope to have caught up with everything that didn't get done over the past couple of months - including sleep.

Last night, as I was finally having a good night's sleep and moving toward one of those 'catch-up goals,' I was brutally awakened by the sound of our house alarm going off. Once I realized it was actually my alarm, I got up and found the side door was locked, but ajar. Looking back on my decision to just turn off the alarm, I'm wondering if I did the right thing. Being half asleep, my first thought was that my niece must not have shut the door the entire way and the wind blew it open. It did not occur to me that anything nefarious was going on.

While that turned out to be the case, in hindsight, I'm grateful that I have the ability to own something with which to defend myself, should that be necessary...which leads me to the Quote of the Day:

"Pity the poor opponents of the right to keep and bear arms! They must distrust just everybody except criminals and except the tyrant to whom they concede the armed monopoly of their protection." ~ Pierre Lemieux

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 01, 2010

The impossibility of an informed electorate

This was article published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. As tomorrow is election day, I thought it timely:

The Impossibility of an Informed Electorate
by D.W. MacKenzie on October 11, 2010

Ordinarily I agree with John Stossel. Stossel does what many would have thought impossible: he uses economic reasoning to defend individual liberty and free markets on national media outlets. In a 2008 article Stossel claims that uniformed people should not vote. Stossel illustrates this idea by questioning audience members at a Rock the Vote concert. Many of the attendees of these events could not recognize pictures of the vice president or the Speaker of the House, and did not even know how many senators there are in the US Senate. Stossel suggests that people who lack such basic information have a duty not to vote. Conversely, people who are informed about politics should vote.

There is a veneer of plausibility to Stossel's argument. The idea that democracy works better when informed people vote would seem to make sense. However, the case for informed voting breaks down when we consider the difficulties of being well-informed about political options. In economic terms, voters need to evaluate alternatives for public policies and programs.

Strictly speaking, a rational voter must first estimate the overall effects of altering or abolishing specific public policies and programs. For each federal program or policy there are a range of reforms that might improve its functioning. A fully informed and rational voter would ascertain the best options for governmental reform. It is, however, very difficult to ascertain the effects of reforming even one policy or program. Changing one program or policy typically produces unintended consequences. Given the complexity of the United States — and the world for that matter — a significant change in public policy will cause a series of reactions from the people who feel the effects of these changes. No one person can predict these unintended consequences.

Another complication arises when you consider the sheer number of federal policies and programs that currently exist. The US government has dozens of agencies that implement thousands of policies. No one person can understand all of these programs and policies. The federal government is complex beyond anyone's comprehension. Of course, people who don't recognize the vice president do not understand what they would be voting for or against this November.

But how could even the most highly informed voters navigate the options that face modern voters?

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