LBJ Shoulda Been a Bell Ringer Instead


Christmastime is here and that means my favorite pastime; ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. Ha. Who woulda thunk it? A died-in-the-wool pro-lifer working for an army.

Actually, they fed and boarded me for a time when I arrived in Alaska too early for the logging season. I’ve felt indebted to them ever since and sent a check for years. Then the opportunity arose to beg for them here in Hampton. Tomorrow will be a special day as I’m privileged to ring again. It is unbelievable to me that bell ringers have to be paid in some places.

This special day we can be thankful for John Lennon, a walking dichotomy, who was gunned down 45 years ago (as I write this), on December 8. He was a powerful voice for peace and yet advocated for just the opposite in his communist ideals. Communists don’t ask nicely. They have murdered 100,000 non-compliant comrades in establishment of their brutal system worldwide.

There are a lot of people like John who campaigned against the Vietnam War and yet today root for that most brutal of economic systems, although they might call it social justice or equality. It puzzles me.

Even more of a special day was yesterday, Pearl Harbor Day. December 7, 1941 was the day Japan retaliated for the maritime blockade Franklin Roosevelt imposed, stopping all raw material imports to a country that had little of its own, and the confiscation of their assets in the United States. FDR was a true poster boy for the evils of big government.

Were his domestic programs any less destructive than his dragging us into World War II? A Great Depression that lasted 16 years can hardly be called benevolent domestic policy. Warren Harding’s hands-off approach reversed a worse downturn within a year in 1921.

FDR’s toughest competition for most evil president would have to be Lyndon Baines Johnson. Lauded as a compassionate advocate for civil rights, further investigation reveals a swath of destruction from which our country may not recover.

It would be dishonest to deny the association between LBJ’s Great Society programs and the generational welfare state that has become as much a quagmire as Vietnam. The idea that our property was our own to control, was lost due to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and his other social programs.

It might be politically incorrect to say it, but government programs are more profitable today than private business, all the way from government funded homeless shelters to huge alternative energy scams run by seemingly respectable people. The cost to the average working person cannot be estimated in such a complex web of deceit.

Did Lyndon Johnson know that replacing family and charity with government would destroy the self esteem of millions of Americans? Did he know that sending my classmates off to die in a war he knew was unwinnable would devalue life to the point where the destruction of the Middle East would hardly bring a sigh?

Without government there is us, helping neighbors in need. And using The Salvation Army as a charity, where gratitude takes the place of pride in cheating the system. We lift each other up through tough times. We appreciate each other.


Best Laid Plans

The movie, “The Founder,” had the early McDonald’s stores running like a well oiled machine. I still like the Filet-o-fish, although, as food, it is pretty expensive. The niche it filled that night was just right except for one thing, the person assembling it didn’t give a damn. Is it just me, or is this an increasingly prevalent problem?

When you are undercharged do you point it out and pay your fair share? Do you test limits? Why didn’t this idiot just toss the fish, bun, cheese, and tartar sauce in the bag and let me screw it up myself.

When I asked Chuck Grassley where in the Constitution it gives the federal government the duty to control drug use he said the courts incrementally granted those powers to our betters, so there. Grassley and the rest are only our betters in the sense that we allow it.

See the movie “Children of Men,” for a glimpse at the future because of this.

The Best Laid Plans

On my way home from recording my guest DJ gig with Bob Dorr, I stopped at McDonald’s for a couple filet-o-fish sandwiches. I figured I could eat such a simple thing as I drove home in the dark.

Ray Kroc’s rigid standards have influenced my life ever since my first job on Pico Boulevard when I was 16 and saving up for my first car. I used to complain about the blandness of McDonald’s. My dad pointed out that the value of a place like McDonald’s was the sameness. You always get what you expect.

In the movie, “The Founder,” Ray Kroc was not nice. He knew that familiarity made people comfortable. He knew his vision depended on that one thing. When one of his stores offered fried chicken in addition to the company’s regular menu, he came down on them like The Deep State on a peace loving president (JFK?).

A principled position is the key to success in much of this world. You don’t quit smoking and then bum one once in awhile. If you do, you haven’t quit.

When Robert Mugabe led the nationalist Marxist takeover of the government in Zimbabwe he had a grand vision of a society of equals that was not dominated by European colonialists. In the year 2000, the economy deteriorated because of those Marxist ideals. He blamed white landowners for the poverty and pushed for all of the privately held land to be confiscated by the government. Of course the government was called “the people.” It sounded nice.

The blacks who had worked for the white imperialists were expected to run the farms. They were not ready for a management role. Crops failed. Money was printed to create an illusion of prosperity that didn’t exist. By 2008, inflation was 100,000 percent.

As unfair as a white management / black workforce arrangement was, at least it didn’t produce widespread hunger and poverty. Mugabe’s vision was based on Marxism. It was based on theft. There were too many victims to inspire a society of equality and mutual respect. Mugabe’s vision went awry.

He has now been deposed. In all likelihood, another dictator will take his place. The luxury of the life of a head of state can tempt a man to stray from benevolent ideals, especially when the rules restricting his power have a history of being ignored.

The rules of our own country have been ignored for a long time now. Signed in 1787, The Constitution was designed to do one thing; limit the power of a central government. The rule of England over her colonies had taught the colonists that central planning, while having noble intentions, was too broad to make sense on a practical level.

The evolution of constitutional restraint now has The President traveling all over the world forming alliances with other elitists and creating enemies. Our fear of these enemies convinces us to hand over half the fruits of our labor to government. We are convinced the government is here to correct all injustice, foreign and domestic.

The founders’ vision was a government combating force and fraud, enabling the best role in society for each of us individuals. The government we now have is not only intrusive on our freedoms, but ineffective in enforcing its original role because it is too big. It has gone awry.

Ray Kroc’s vision of simple, high quality fast food is now long gone. Other companies see an opening. No government intervention to prevent monopolies is necessary. I thank Ray Kroc for showing me the value of consistent high standards and welcome new ideas and people when those standards are corrupted. 

Rethinking Defense

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Not long ago Rock Island Clean Line was threatening Iowa landowners with an eminent domain taking of their property for a power line to supply Iowa wind energy to the East. I have never been a fan of eminent domain. “Just compensation” (cash promised in exchange for property lost to eminent domain) can only be determined by the two parties involved in the deal.

This proposed power line project hit close to home. Those of us who have lived in the city and now live in the country don’t take an uncluttered horizon for granted. Farming around and dealing with compaction caused by construction is pretty hard on which to place a value.

With “just compensation” for the impact of a power line in mind, let’s consider the cash we’ve had seized for national security.

On the radio today a woman was saying that flying is now “not so much” fun anymore. And she blamed “those people… I mean the terrorists.” In the news today it was revealed that the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General did a study on the effectiveness of Transportation Security Administration procedures at airports. They found that 70% of weapons in the test made it through undetected.

It looks like “those people” who make flying miserable are more likely TSA agents than the fabled terrorists that have us shaking in our boots. What if the airlines were responsible for the safety of their customers instead of a tax eating bureaucracy? Wouldn’t you choose the airline with the most effective security rather than the security with which you have no choice?

A new study by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs found that our wars beginning in 2001 have cost $5.6 trillion. The Pentagon’s estimate is $1.5 trillion. The Watson study estimated overall costs compared to if no war had occurred, not just the ammo, fuel, machinery, and so-forth. I tried to find a problem with this, such as Islamic extremists coming over here and covering womens’ faces, banning alcoholic beverages, or stoning adulterers. I couldn’t find any conceivable scenario where Americans would put up with those sorts of things.

I also can’t imagine that Americans would be less safe without having spent that $5.6 trillion. In fact, revenge for U.S. meddling was mentioned as a cause of the attacks on the Twin Towers in the 9/11 Commission Report, indicating that the War on Terror has made us less safe. We have not received “just compensation” for our property that was taken to conduct the War on Terror.

I remember days after that horrific morning when the towers came down, Congressman Ron Paul stood in front of Congress and urged them to grant “Letters of Marque and Reprisal” to capture Bin Laden. Of course, he was ignored because that wouldn’t enrich the legislator’s defense contractor contributors back home. What would it say about our politicians if it were found out that a small band of mercenaries could take out an enemy but our gargantuan Defense Department had failed to protect us. (Letters of Marque are a license for a bounty to be paid for apprehension of criminals in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.)

Eric Prince is the founder of Blackwater, a military contractor. He was asked why the Navy uses 35 people to do the same thing as 8 contracted employees. He said, “When you get a free good, you use a lot more of it.”

In Switzerland every able bodied man serves in the military. They all keep their rifle when they return to civilian life. Switzerland has a neutrality policy with all nations, thus no enemies. Any potential enemy of Switzerland knows that it is a country full of armed citizens trained to defend what is most dear to them.

As we celebrate Veterans Day, let’s consider a new way to honor their service by calling our military to serve when actually necessary to defend our country. The big stick bravado that has maimed and killed so many has caused our military to stray from its mission.

Rock Island Clean Line was sent packing. It is a good start.

Note: I will be a guest DJ on Bob Dorr’s Backtracks rock and roll history show, November 18 at 4pm. That’s next Saturday on Iowa Public Radio (90.9fm, 91.5fm ect.). I hope some of you can tune in.

History Made, Or Not Known

Back in my college days I had an interest in Buddhism. I carried around a little book that basically said a clear mind enables a happy and productive life.

I thought Buddhists were supposed to be peaceful. But then comes Burma, now known as Myanmar, where 7,000 Rohingya Muslims have been murdered, untold numbers raped, and 600,000 driven from their burned villages. A few dozen radicalized Rohingya attacked some police outposts and that led to the government declaring all Rohingya as illegal residents of Burma.

So far, those 600,000 refugees have crossed into a welcoming Bangladesh for asylum. The leader of Bangladesh declares them welcome as she remembers her own people’s war of secession from East Pakistan in which two to three million rebels were killed by the Pakistani government. What is compassion? Bangladesh is a flood prone country the size of Iowa with a population of 198 million people.

I was an art student in college and the architecture of Barcelona fascinated me. The architect responsible was Antoni Gaudi. He designed buildings by hanging strings and sketching them, then turning the sketches upside down. Barcelona is part of Catalonia, a region of Spain that has declared independence from Spain. As I write this, Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy has dissolved the Catalan parliament.

To put this in perspective, I just read a story about a man whose grandfather made a business of interviewing Civil War veterans back in the 1930s, both from the North and the South. The one thing that struck him as he related those interviews to his grandson was that not a single veteran, on either side, thought of the war as about slavery, only preservation of the Union. By the way, don’t assume I am pro slavery. That is why I oppose a progressive income tax.

An interesting bit of history that I’ve become reacquainted with is the Carnation Revolution of Portugal. On April 25, 1974 a military coup with popular support took over the government of Portugal. Portugal had three colonies in Africa at the time and guerrillas in each were fighting for independence. It was taking a toll on budgets and military men who saw a world changing around them. Imperialism was on the wane. Why fight for a government and its cronies so they, and only they, can reap the benefits of imperial hegemony? The military leaders who returned to Portugal to challenge their government urged the citizenry to stay off the streets in order to avoid casualties. But thousands joined the soldiers and few shots were fired. The soldiers placed carnations in their rifle barrels, and after a tumultuous rebuilding, Portugal became a country focused on freedom.

Today (as I write this) is the day that Donald Trump, amazingly, changed his mind citing national security. He was the only one with the power to expose all the facts behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The CIA and the FBI got to him. If ever there was an admission of guilt, government agencies’ desire to keep 50 year old information secret is it.

National security? Ha!

Social Justice?


A Lesson From Bastiat and Marx

I was at the “Evening Like it Used to Be” at the theater in Hampton and met an old friend. He mentioned The Alternative and said he disagreed with me; that there needs to be some government. Well heck, did I ever say I think there should be no government?


Anyone who has read this column before, knows the long list of activities that I believe should be “… reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” That quote comes from The Tenth Amendment. The role of government is at the root of every issue in the public sphere today.

There are a lot of important and interesting stories in the news nowadays. It was a hard choice to go back to basics. But without a firm understanding of what the role of government means, how are we supposed to put these stories in perspective?

A foundation for understanding what the role of government can be are spelled out in two excellent books that should be required of any student before he sets out to impact the world around him. The first is The Law (1850) by Frederic Bastiat. The second is Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto (1848).

A quote from Bastiat’s The Law answers my friend’s concerns so well I see no point in paraphrasing:

“… Every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to it being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”

Bastiat leaves it up to you and me to be productive in service to society. In return, our neighbors do the same thing and an aggregate of all these specialized skills meet society’s demands by way of a free pricing system.

Marx’s collaboration with Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, sees “class struggle” as the path to an equitable society. Individuals don’t exist in that world, only groups, notably the proletariat, workers who are exploited by the other main group, the bourgeoisie, who control the means of production.

The role of government comes in where these two opposite philosophies need to be enforced by something more peaceful than the gang warfare used in the illegal drug trade.

In Bastiat’s example, all law is predicated by the sovereignty of the individual. Marx’s system depends on elimination of the individual as a means to enrich the good of all.

The (ever shrinking) free economy in the United States, based on an expectation of a reward for our efforts, drove us to the luxurious society we enjoy today.

To enforce Marx’s ideal in Ukraine, as an example, private property was abolished. The most successful farmers, called Kulaks, had their farms taken and given to “the people.” Grain in storage and in the fields was confiscated. Gleaning (collection of leftover crops) of fields was even made illegal, often leading to the death penalty. Stalin’s Holodomor resulted in up to 10 million deaths from starvation because the farmers were viewed as exploiters of the collective. Individuals were not important.


Let’s not forget that NAZI stands for national socialism and can’t be separated from Soviet, Chinese, and other socialist movements that murdered a total of almost 130 million people in the last 70 years. All this in the quest for social justice.

“The Biggest No-Brainer In the History of Mankind”

Seattle's Lenin statue.

Equality is a huge deal nowadays. But a distinction should be made between equality of outcome, as promoted by Vladimir Lenin, and equality of opportunity. Equality of opportunity results in the closest thing to equality of outcome because no one has a favored status dictated by the elites necessary for enforcing equality of outcome.

If this seems a bit hard to digest, look at it this way: Do you see the people responsible for spreading the wealth around living in squalor? Where is the greatest concentration of wealth in the United States? The answer: The neighborhood around Washington D.C.

I’ve always found a bizarre relationship between the so-called Left and Right. The Left used to oppose war. The Right used to oppose the welfare state. They are both equally destructive and the common thread between the two is they both require huge, intrusive and confiscatory government to exist.

The conflict reported in the news between the Left and the Right is contrived in order to make it seem like there is no such thing as the alternative, a limited government that works. This is because there is just too much to be gained by those with connections to the unlimited government for any limits to gain traction.

Government limits opportunity and limited opportunity limits equality. If you doubt this, try selling your house and then and buying a similar one near D.C. with the proceeds.

So in this column I try to attack the Left and the Right equally. I want to be fair.

Thanks for reading The Alternative. I’d love to hear back from anyone who agrees or disagrees. Please let me know if you would like to stop receiving this. And, as always, permission is granted for sharing in any way you want.


“The Biggest No-Brainer In the History of Mankind”

Back in 1977 I got a letter from my grandpa in Dumont. This was different. Grandma was always the one who wrote. But she was in the nursing home dying of cancer.

At 27 years of age I figured I’d survived the choker-setter life well beyond the odds and so I struck out for Iowa. My mom and sister were tied down and I looked forward to being Grandpa’s friend instead of a distant stranger, as had been the case forever.

But this column is about investing. I’ve been an accidental investing genius. The first one is a personal thing so I’ll just say that my wife, Dawn, is the best investment I ever made. Second best was the 1963 Chevy pickup I bought in Portland in 1978 for $500.

That pickup served us well on the farm for thirty years hauling hogs, feed, and seed. We just sold it for $500 to a young man who plans to use it to pull his camper. Good investment?

I could list some bad investments I’ve made but they are too embarrassing, so I’ll just discuss some investments that other people have made. But before I go on, a word about the word: investment. I’ve found the word is passed around by politicians like cigars in a maternity ward. Invest in education, invest in jobs, invest in national security, and invest in equality come to mind. Those things are not investments any more than Medicare is insurance.

There is a huge difference in the old Chevy and the investments made by politicians. I worked for the money I invested. Politicians simply take the money from one person and hand it to another, claiming it will be spent more wisely there.

A good example of a great investment would be “put options” on Morgan Stanley Dean Witter (who occupied 22 floors in the twin towers) in the three days before the 9/11 attacks. Volume of buying these bets against the international banker’s stock increased 1200% in those three days. The result was $10 million in profit for someone when trading resumed. The same thing happened with the airlines involved in the disaster; United and American.

After the attacks by mostly Saudi Al-Qaeda, the United States attacked Iraq (go figure), beginning a $4 trillion spending spree by our defense department in the Middle East. Take a guess on how defense industry stocks have fared in the last sixteen years.

But let’s be fair. Government doesn’t only lay waste in phony “defense” schemes. Here are some statistics on our “investment” in the War on Poverty. The year 1964 has the same significance as September 11, 2001 as a turning point.

Children from fatherless homes are more likely to drop out of school, die by suicide, join gangs, and commit crimes. In 1960, 22% of black children were raised in single parent families. After a generation of living with the investment of the War on Poverty, that number jumped to 75%.

It is no coincidence that the initiation of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was a turning point in the decline of equality for black people. For 100 years with no investment but a granting of freedom, blacks made steady progress. Then along came the academics, civil rights leaders, and politicians who believed investing can’t be left to individuals but can only work when guided by superior beings like themselves.

Rather than blame the sad state of equality on something that happened a hundred years prior to that, the blame should go on the welfare state that obviously started it.

As the radio ad for some investment scheme goes, “It’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind.” We were not using our brains when we decided we can’t invest for ourselves; that it has to be done by people whose primary skill is getting elected.

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The Richest Company in America. But Not Rich Enough.

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The case of Iowa government giving Apple $208 million dollars is a good example of extortion. When the payoff is so minuscule one has to wonder why. Does the governor get a sticker?

Here are some facts to consider:

$208 million given to Apple will “create” 50 jobs at over $4 million apiece.

The claimed “up to” $100 million Apple will invest in local infrastructure in return uses the same misleading terminology as the Volkswagen diesel scandal’s “up to” 40 times of emissions standards. “Up to” in Apple’s case would only happen if unrequired expansions occur. Like VW’s emissions, neither is certain.

Governor Kim Reynolds claimed that tax credits are not the same thing as subsidies. Check the balance sheet and get back to me.

Apple just gave rabid hate group, the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) a million dollars. Whether SPLC is right or wrong in their activities is not as important an issue as the fact that Iowa government has no place funneling taxpayer funds through Apple toward any advocacy group. I just happen to hate SPLC myself.

Donald Trump endorsed such economic development extortion in December saying … “they can negotiate good deals with the different states and all of that.”

Economist Richard Florida, in a 2012 study found… “virtually no association between economic development incentives and any measure of economic performance.”

Another study found even slower growth associated with these handouts because management ignored real business efficiencies as they focused the extortion of taxpayer money.

Iowa State economist, David Swenson says of the Microsoft and Google data centers already in Iowa, “They’re just big, sterile, hot boxes that don’t feed into Iowa’s economy.” In fact, employment there has shrunk as computer babysitters are replaced by automation.

Doesn’t this, and other economic development scams still smell like Iowa’s film incentive program that resulted in several felony corruption convictions? Profit, earned through willing transactions between people free to walk away, has no victim except through fraud. Government has no such restraint with dollars confiscated through taxation.

Another thing, having traveled around this country before settling in Iowa, I see it as sinful to cover Iowa soil with “hot boxes” when there is plenty of unproductive soil to build on elsewhere.

For those who feel the need to hate success, there is the fact that some single mom in Waukee is donating to the richest company in America and probably doesn’t even know it.

I can’t see any benefit to anyone in this except for a politician needing a rose pinned on their nose. Might there be something we are missing?