Far From the Thundering Herd

Life was good at “The Dead End.” Louie and Joyce let Mike and Len and me live in this run down shack up Elk Creek from Heron, Montana for free. All we had to do was put plastic on the windows (since they were all broken), install a wood cook-stove and wood heater and find a couple buckets suitable for hauling water up from the creek.

Louie and Joyce had lived there while they built their house after moving from Los Angeles. Louie had a concrete contracting business there and saved enough to buy this little ranch in the Western Montana mountains, not far from Idaho.

It was high praise when Louie said, “you sure you’ve never done concrete work before?” as we finished the footing for his shed.

Coincidentally, Louie and Joyce had Angus cattle, just like Dawn and I do today. Their cows calved in the mountains and brought their calves down when the snow came. Here, we see our cattle every day. Louie even proposed to us that we build a hog confinement building. That’s as far as that went, but a strange sort of hint of things to come for me. The isolation from the hog disease pool would have been amazing. As it turned out, Dawn and my partnership with swine bought us our farm (with the help of three kids). I’ve tried to track Louie down to share where he helped guide me. But to no avail.

As savings started to dwindle, a friend mentioned some good jobs were becoming available working for a helicopter logging company in Idaho. The money was real good and the work was hard, but like a sport; a sport that actually produces something worthwhile.

In an area that rivals Mississippi for low incomes, we were the rich folks. When the weather got cold I left the seat cushion out of my ’59 Bug so I could easily take the battery in the house for the night. Where we were, the moisture that made it past the Cascades was ours. Old timers said if we could see a fence post at Christmas, it was a drought. Fog was a problem too, for the chopper. But with momentum and chains I always made it to work in that Bug. I had it easy compared to the log truck drivers.

They didn’t need OSHA on those jobs. We simply wanted to live. On my first day of work, Lou Morgan (in his red and black checkered shirt and big black beard kinda like…) took my leather gloves and tossed them over the edge of the landing. They wouldn’t tear and your hand would stay in them and leave you if they got caught on something. He made me cut the hem off my jeans for the same reason. The plastic hardhat I got in Sandpoint was soon replaced by an aluminum one with a brim that would keep the rain off my neck. As I look back, I wish they had already found that EPA regulations and legislation could have kept my gloves dry and the rain off my neck. Science is so incredibly wonderful nowadays.

I was so fortunate to have that job working for Columbia Helicopters. The logs were moved out of the woods without tearing up the fragile soil. And we always got the cream because we logged places conventional loggers couldn’t access, like swamps and cliffs. Ironically, cliffs scare the heck out of me today.

If we were in town and saw a truck go by with only one or three logs on it, they came from us. I still see a long straight log as a thing of beauty. And my love for undisturbed soil may be rooted in that six-year career as well.

Then there were those nights in the peace and quiet of The Dead End with Len and Mike as we solved the troubles of the world and listened to the cracking fire.

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Lefty is Billy’s Friend

We were honored today to attend the Butler County Fair and hear Billy Hendren and Friends do some old time country music. The steel player is a great pal to Bill and we are so blessed with live music in our lives, not to discount the contribution of the other players.

But I’m posting this for Lefty Schrage because he admits to enjoying a vast sampling of musical genres.

Good Luck, California

Image result for looney californians

An interesting letter appeared in the Wall Street Journal the other day. It compared a “single payer” healthcare system to the present so-called private system.

The socialistic system proposed in California would be funded partly through a 15% payroll tax. With a $57,000 average household income and $18,000 family health insurance cost per year, a government run single payer system would cost almost $10,000 less per year.

The comparison is between the present socialism in denial, and the honest socialism of the proposed Healthy California Act. What the costs and service would be like with a system where users pay for care and insurance as individuals is totally left out of the comparison.

The road to this exclusion is an incremental one. It is rooted in nonsense also mentioned in The Journal, “democratic capitalism.” No kidding, democratic capitalism.

Democratic means majority rule. Capitalism means private ownership. The two are mutually exclusive. The incremental destruction of a chaotic, but perfectly logical, relationship between customers and providers began with Woodrow Wilson’s creation of the fed. Money backed by a promise is easy to spend. And dire needs become more dire when the cost is shifted to someone else or some other time.

When the business cycle swung toward inflation during the Nixon years, he instituted wage and price controls. Especially today, when an employer finds an employee who does his job impeccably, he desperately hangs on to him. With wages frozen, the only way to do this was to pay that employee more through benefits. This was the birth of the group plans most people use today. It was also the beginning of the end of a natural and efficient mechanism of price control. Group plans made people think the cost was not related to their choices. And there was no honest way to establish prices or rein in excessive ones.

I understand the urge to nationalize medical care. I also understand why someone who makes it a point to stay fit would resent paying for the care of people with more reckless lifestyles. The democratic way of solving this problem would leave close to half the population elated and the other half resentful.

My solution is once again rooted in federalism. If a reader of this column can show me where, in the Constitution, healthcare is authorized as a function of the federal government, do it now. The founders purposely stated what the federal government was allowed to do and even encouraged the states or individuals to take up the slack.

What is going on in California serves as a perfect example of the “laboratories of democracy,” described by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. He said a “… state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

So go ahead California. Proceed with your $400 billion experiment. If it works, other states will adopt it. If not, good luck.

Impeach or Prison?

There are a lot of legitimate reasons to impeach Donald Trump. The trouble is, why now? It’s not like Trump has started something new with his unconstitutional abuses of authority. Presidents, and congressmen for that matter, seem to think the so-called general welfare clause in the Constitution obliterates the rest of the document.

The $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia is enough of a reason to impeach the man. I’d even call it treason.

With the constant drumbeat of Iran being the world’s biggest exporter of terrorism, we forget that almost all of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi. Most of the 61 groups that are designated as terrorist organizations by our state department are Wahhabi inspired and Saudi funded. Their declared enemies are the West and Iran. Iran has a relatively minor presence on the list; not that I would favor a presidential blessing on arms sales to that country either. Saudi Arabia sponsors thousands of “madrassas” (religious schools) across the world teaching children jihad. And the “Podesta emails” confirmed Saudi support for ISIS.

Being a free-trader, am I guilty of hypocrisy in calling for a ban on trade with Saudi Arabia? Technically, yes. But then enter Trump. How do you think the friends and families of the 9/11 victims feel about their president schmoozing with Saudi royalty? Besides that, is it the job of a president to spur economic development for any industry?

Remember the 28 pages? That was the part of the congressional report on 9/11 that President Bush had sealed. It was big news a year ago when those pages were released to the public. However, almost anything of substance in the report was redacted (blacked out). It is common knowledge that many Saudi nationals were spirited away by jet following the 9/11 attacks just before all air travel was grounded.

As a free-trader I have no problem with industry in the U.S. doing business in the Middle East. As Bastiat said, “When goods fail to cross borders, armies will.” But when the president goes around promoting these alliances and business deals with terrorist governments, that’s a problem, especially when Mr. Trump owns property there.

In fact, any time our federal government, as my agent, is being friendly with a foreign government in any military matters, it ought to directly involve defense of these United States, not business interests abroad. Who can count the number of U.S. servicemen maimed or killed with arms acquired through careless disposal of or direct sales of hardware like this? ISIS is almost totally armed with U.S. weapons.

It is easy for politicians to act as if they have our best interests at heart, while their actions leave us vulnerable. They are surrounded by a vast security infrastructure. The children in Manchester, England were not protected in the same way as Prime Minister Theresa May. The runners in Boston did not have hoards of secret service surrounding them. The politicians and war profiteers don’t feel the cost of their interventions so their decisions are not guided by the risks shouldered by ordinary people.

The luxurious lifestyles of the Saudi and U.S. presidential royalty is built on the blood of our servicemen, productive people minding their own business, and the children.

Our government should heed Trump’s original slogan to put America first and exit the Middle East today. To remain there is treasonous.

Today’s News

Trump ‘true friend of Muslims,’ Saudi prince says after meeting

Visiting the biggest exporter of Islamic terror, Saudi Arabia for a $110 billion arms deal. (it’s Iran? What BS) Visiting Israel, Why go there when they are already here? Visiting The Vatican, residence of the most powerful communist in the world.

Gee. Might there be a controversy here at home? I’m getn’ out. Exactly like the blue dress and Kosovo.
And today is Armed Forces Day. Gosh there’s only 365. Might we have to double up? like Armed Forces/Canine Drug Sniffing Dog Day. Big government knows no limits and both “sides” bend over and kneel down in compliance.

Letter to War Street Journal

Note: Josef Stalin (FDR’s pal) first coined the tern American exceptionalism.

Dear Editor,

Juliana Geran Pilon’s claim that “Our Constitution is the Longest-lasting in the world today…” has not been true in my lifetime. A literal reading would reveal almost every bit of federal spending as unconstitutional. Congress’s whims replaced The Constitution as the law of the land with such examples as Social Security or fuel mileage standards without so much as a whimper.

The American exceptionalism she is writing about would more likely mean constitutional restraints “except” for all these programs that are destroying the founders’ vision for a government that simply enables private property as a path to prosperity.

 

Love, Fritz

Freedom, Not Just Freedom of Speech

 

I moved to Oakland for college during some interesting times.

This was a time when leftists were proud of their advocacy of free speech. Across the city limits, Berkeley was even known as the home of the free speech movement and the scent of tear gas. Well, things have certainly turned around. People who want to control other people there have too much power.

Recently, conservative columnist, Ann Coulter was invited by the Berkeley College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation to speak at the university. A previous conservative speaker had provoked a childish violent reaction in the not-too-distant past and so more shenanigans were anticipated. The college tried to reschedule to a safer place but Coulter’s schedule didn’t allow it. To top it off, the conservative groups who invited her were the ones who dis-invited her. As Ms. Coulter said, “I looked over my shoulder and my allies had joined the other team.”

This seemed strange to me. Being a conservative in Berkeley is already as rare as an educated woman in our blessed ally Saudi Arabia, so what made them knuckle under this time?

My answer came as I read an April 12 column by Ann Coulter about President Trump’s bizarre conversion to Neoconservatism. It seems more and more conservatives are learning that to be conservative means to conserve rather than waste.

In that column, she points out how our foreign policy has strengthened enemies worse than the ones we target. Some critical thinking as we visit our memories of past U.S. military adventures will reveal the same sort of truth Coulter suddenly stumbled upon, summed up this way: “Our enemies – both foreign and domestic – would be delighted to see our broken country further weaken itself with pointless wars.”

I wouldn’t doubt that these college conservatives share the common and contradictory belief that we should honor our veterans and abuse them at the same time in an obvious effort to drive up defense (yeah right) industry stocks (go ahead, look at the charts). Ann Coulter’s column would be confusing or offensive to someone trying to take those two positions at the same time.

Freedom is consistent with a strong nation. The waste caused by violations of individual liberty makes us weaker than the perceived benefits of an authoritarian state. Individual freedom is how better ways are discovered and adopted.

Labeling Ann Coulter’s lack of freedom in Berkeley as a free speech issue categorizes it in such a way as to exclude freedoms that don’t have an official designation.

Alongside Interstate 35, there is an old semi trailer with the words, “stop eminent domain abuse.” This would mean there is a point where property rights no longer exist. I imagine the painter of that sign thinks that if a use was deemed agreeable to him (a family farming museum?), the landowner would not be abused when his property was stolen.

In the case of the bakery in Colorado that refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, religious freedom was cited as being violated. The bakery owners’ general self ownership was ignored in favor of the religiousness classification. Activists backing the baker’s religious freedom could then justify aggressions of their own based on other grounds.

We all want a totalitarian state as long as its policies suit us. The drawback to this idea is that freedom, as long as that freedom does not allow limiting the freedom of others, is how society improves. Products, practices, or services that work well are adopted while those that don’t work are dropped.

The conservative students and the leftists (and our society in general) at Berkeley could have benefited from a civil reception of Ann Coulter’s message.