Wednesday, September 17, 2014

If It Walks Like a Duck….A Commentary on Conspiracy Theories

A perp walks into a bank and robs it.  The teller claims the perp was a duck.  When police look at the surveillance video, the image shows a small, feathered creature with webbed feet waddling up to the teller and quacking instructions to her through its bill.  The police logically conclude that the perp is indeed the one duck who resides in the town.  They get a warrant and search the duck’s nest and sure enough – there’s the money.  But wait!  Someone comes forward to say it can’t be the duck, because they’re sure they saw the duck on the other side of town at the time of the robbery. 

And so the conspiracy theories begin. 

Maybe the video tape was doctored by the bank because the bankers stole the money and planted it in the nest to frame the duck! 

Maybe the entire police department is lying because they stole the money and they’re trying to blame the duck!

Maybe, maybe, maybe…

Whether it’s the assassination of JFK, the “disappearance” of Elvis or the horrific events of 9-11, conspiracy theories seem to have burgeoned into their own cottage industry, and call me a party pooper if you want but I tend not to be a fan.  It’s not that I believe conspiracies never happen, I know they sometimes do; but this trend of translating any questionable or missing piece of evidence into an elaborate plot that ignores both the known facts and common sense is very disturbing for a host of reasons, starting with its potential to wrongly ensnare and tarnish innocent people.  Imagine being a member of the Bush administration following 9-11 when it was suggested by some that Bush and others orchestrated the events of that day.  Consider what such theories imply, not just about them but also about the people peripherally involved or those who painstakingly investigated the events of 9-11.  Were they abettors to this terrible crime?  Are they liars?  Were they grossly incompetent?  Those are damning accusations, yet you can’t accept the conspiracy theories and come to any other conclusion. 

Conspiracy theorists aren’t required to observe the standards of reasoning and proof that tend to naturally lead official investigations in the right direction.  In the duck scenario, for instance, it would be much harder to credibly point to other suspects if you were required to explain to a jury why you discounted the video evidence and the testimony of the teller who was robbed in favor of the testimony of someone who could easily have been mistaken about some incidental sighting of the duck.  Given what’s at stake for others it behooves us to engage in a little self-policing before jumping into the conspiracy boat.  The people who perpetuated the 9-11 conspiracy theories, largely a who’s-who list of Bush-hating leftists, were clearly not motivated by a quest for the truth but were instead, consciously or subconsciously, trying to turn any unresolved question from that day into a convenient indictment of the man they hated, and they didn’t care who was sacrificed in the process.  I’d like to think that conservatives are better than that but the signs don’t always point that way.

Yesterday I turned on the radio in my car and heard a few minutes of the Michael Savage show.  The discussion apparently centered on Obama’s announcement that he was sending 3,000 troops to Africa to help deal with the Ebola epidemic.  A woman caller seemed to suggest that she believed this was part of a broader scheme to bring Ebola to the U.S.  She also suggested it was possible that the epidemic had been intentionally manufactured and introduced in Africa to initiate the scheme.  To Savage’s credit he quickly dismissed that suggestion, but this was followed by a caller who believed this was a plot to undermine the military.  It was disturbing to hear such calls and to know that they will help form the impression listeners have of conservatives. 

Generally speaking, the simplest and most logical explanations lead to the truth of what’s going on.  No doubt there are valid criticisms as to the wisdom of sending U.S. troops into a country infested with Ebola and it might be fair to speculate, based upon his history, that Obama isn’t concerned about the risks this presents to our soldiers, but a diabolical plot intended to bring an Ebola epidemic to the U.S.?  Come on.  That is the stuff of James Bond villains, the stuff that we find greatly entertaining because it is so far removed from reality as we know it.

Complex Orwellian plots and multifarious conspiracies really aren’t necessary in order for the Left to achieve their objectives, and this is painfully demonstrated to us on a daily basis.  Why engage in a fiendish plot to bring Ebola to this country or to destroy the military when you can legally (for the most part) harness people’s own natural nanny-state inclinations to achieve the bulk of your goals pretty much out in the open?  It makes no sense. 

I am not suggesting that there isn’t a whole lot of lying, secrecy and nefarious dealings going on.  On the contrary, I understand as well as anyone that scheming and dishonesty pervade government, particularly leftwing administrations whose goal is to control and harness the earning power of some to buy the loyalty of others.  It requires a great deal of manipulation and orchestration to accomplish that.  There is, however, a not-so-fine line between being justifiably wary and watchful of government and letting your imagination go too far.  You can only cry wolf so many times before no one takes you seriously.  Already the words “conspiracy theory” elicit eye rolls and images of red-eyed bloggers furiously typing away in their mothers’ basements.  That’s a tragedy for the genuine conspiracies that will be uncovered and then perfunctorily dismissed, but it’s the price that comes with the loss of objectivity.  I’m sure I’ll win no popularity contests with this post, but sometimes when something walks and quacks like a duck it really is just a duck.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why We Should Abolish the Minimum Wage

A free market economy depends upon the unhindered ability of all participants to pursue what they believe to be in their own best interests, hence the word “FREE.”  If I have something to sell that I think is worth $100 I don’t have to sell it to you for $50 and you cannot be forced to buy it from me for $100.  Each of us can decide how badly we want either the money or the goods when choosing whether or not to negotiate.  If we ultimately settle on a price of $75 with no one being physically or legally coerced into such a trade, then it can logically be assumed that each of us believes we have made a deal that maximized our trading power, because if we could have made a better deal elsewhere we would have done so. 

The mandate of a minimum wage undermines the free market by depriving people of the option to engage in a trade that could optimize their own best interest.  A person who lacks work experience or skills and would be willing to work for less than the market rate in order to obtain those skills may be prevented from doing so by a mandated minimum wage.  Likewise an employer who can’t afford or simply doesn’t want to pay the going rate and would be willing to relax his requirements in exchange for paying someone less than market rate has no such freedom with a mandated minimum wage.  All this begs the critical question: 

What gives the federal government the right to deprive people of the basic freedom to trade their labor for any price that they’re willing to take or the freedom to hire someone who would willingly accept their offered price? 

I would contend that our government has no such right, irrespective of the fact that it’s been using its might for some time now pretending as if it did.  The assertion of OUR rights to be free from government interference in commerce between willing participants should be the first line of defense for conservatives against the mandated minimum wage, because to take any other approach is to first make the fatal mistake of conceding the government’s right to establish a minimum wage, and then we’re simply arguing over how much, as is the case right now.  One person’s failure to obtain the skills, education or experience to earn a decent living shouldn’t entitle them to rob others of their freedom to pursue their own best interests in the free market, but that’s exactly what happens with a mandated minimum or “living” wage.

Unless it’s based on the free market, the amount of money that anyone thinks he deserves to earn is entirely arbitrary.  You are welcome to believe that your labor is worth, say, $50 an hour; but if nobody values your skills enough to pay you that amount then by definition, you’re not worth it, regardless of whether that’s the amount you need to support yourself or not.  Someone who washes windows for a living is not worth more pay because he’s trying to put himself through Harvard or because he’s supporting nine children, yet this is the type of argument that liberals always use to justify mandating and continually increasing the minimum wage.  “A family of four can’t live on minimum wage!” they cry.  If I shouldn’t have to pay the window washer an arbitrary $50 an hour so he can put himself through Harvard why should I have to pay the burger flipper an arbitrary $15 an hour because he has three kids?  A job is worth what a job is worth, whether it’s a 16-year old flipping burgers earning fun money or a 31-year old flipping burgers supporting a family.

Alas, liberals have already managed to convince enough Americans, Left and faux Right, that somewhere within the Constitution the government was given the power to deprive people of the right to engage in mutually agreeable commerce and they’ve established a completely arbitrary minimum wage.  I can only assume this was done in the name of the regularly abused “general welfare” language, but if that’s the case then this simply means that the policy fails on both a constitutional and a logical basis, because it’s easy to demonstrate how the minimum wage is harmful – not helpful – to the “general welfare.”

Some time ago I wrote a post about truisms (Truisms:  The Case against Liberalism), the inescapable and unchangeable rules of life that we ignore at our own peril and, much to our shame, to the peril of future generations.  Truisms are like gravity; you cannot avoid it simply by refusing to acknowledge that it exists, but it can be amusing to see people try.  What’s not amusing, though, is the predictable destruction brought upon this nation by democrats who ignorantly and/or willingly ignore basic truths when pursuing policies that affect us all.  The mandated minimum wage is a shining example of this.

Truism #1 – The more you reward certain behaviors, the more of them you’ll get.

As in my original post I challenge anyone to argue that this statement isn’t a fact, just like the law of gravity.  Now, what are you doing when you guarantee a minimum wage to someone who has made no effort to acquire the skills, experience or education to command a higher wage on their own merits?  That’s right – you reward them for remaining unskilled, uneducated and inexperienced.  That’s a great idea for the “general welfare,” isn’t it? 

Truism #6 –The law of natural consequences is necessary to a functional society.

The beauty of the free market is that it naturally rewards people who have or who acquire the talents, experience and skills we value, thereby encouraging more people to hone these valuable skills.  Given that no one owes you a living, this is unarguably a win-win for everyone.  It gives people the incentive and opportunity to make the most with what they have.  On the flip side, the free market has a way of discouraging behaviors that are personally and societally destructive.  In a truly free market (and without government assistance, which is a whole other topic) people are naturally forced to make smarter choices about careers and lifestyles that lead to greater personal responsibility and less risk to others that they will end up paying the price for your mistakes and failures.  This might be less enjoyable for the least responsible and ambitious amongst us, but certainly it is best for the “general welfare.”

Your average fifth grader can look at the images of angry fast-food workers marching around with signs demanding a higher minimum wage and compare that to people trying to achieve the same financial goal through education and job advancement and that fifth grader can tell you which way is better for the “general welfare.”  If only they could explain it to the average liberal.


Friday, September 5, 2014

How to Train Your Democrat

Dog trainers will tell you that the most important tool for training your dog is the tone of your voice.  By changing the volume and tone of your voice you can communicate a wide array of different messages to your dog and help to make him a better, more obedient pet.  So important are vocal tone and volume, in fact, that the actual words you speak are often irrelevant.  Except for a handful of commands to which the dog is trained to react, volume, tone and pitch will most likely dictate his response to your commands.

Recently I’ve noticed with great fascination that this works on democrats as well.  Their masters can tell them anything, and even if it is clearly untrue or defies basic logic, as long as the words are delivered with the proper technique democrats will respond as trained.   Tell them, for instance, that “You didn’t build that!” and as long as there is angry conviction in your voice it won’t matter that they DID build that.  They will respond on cue and bark along obediently.  Defiantly shriek, “What difference, at this point, does it make!” and they will howl in agreement despite the fact that the true story of the Benghazi attack and the tragic deaths of four Americans really does matter.

Just the other day Debbie Wasserman Schultz angrily told women democrats, “What Republican tea party extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back.”  Really?  Walker, of course, was the one who freed Wisconsin women from the grip of the union thugs, but the obvious absurdity of her statement was ignored by the lefty ladies so well-trained to salivate at any gratuitous comparison of republicans to cavemen.
And who could ever forget Bill Clinton?  Apparently his raspy southern accent and “charm” (ahem) were enough to convince democrats that a man with a long and sordid history of mistreating women was sincerely compassionate about women’s causes.  Bill Clinton was, in the words of top dog democrat Barbara Streisand, “just swell,” and the old southern charm is still working today as evidenced by the abundance of puppy love that still surrounds the aging woman abuser.

The true master, though, has to be Barack Obama.  He is the ultimate democrat whisperer, and could probably convince them to hop up in the car and go to the vet to be neutered without pain meds just by doing his bobble-head walk and broad grin at the same time.  Professor Obama waggles his dainty finger, furrows his brow and invokes a scolding tone to inform the dogs – er, excuse me – democrats, that congress won’t act (translation:  they won’t do his bidding) on this or that , and right on cue they erupt in angry barking as if his indignant tone suggests he speaks the truth.  Then he sticks his nose in the air and declares with just the right mix of defiance and resignation that he must make the ultimate sacrifice and “act alone,” and they clap like trained seals while he shreds the Constitution, their Constitution.  Empty promises delivered in loud, flowery rhetoric are all that’s needed to make democrats sit up pretty and beg with their tongues hanging out.  Confidently delivered untruths about the economy, Obamacare or our withdrawal from violence around the globe are predictably met with drooling, panting and vigorous tail wagging.

Good dogs.