Letter to Journal on Pot and Jason Riley

Dearest Editor,

Jason Riley fails to make his point in “Legalizing Pot Is a Bad Way to Promote Racial Equality” ( Aug. 9 Wall Street Journal). The War On Drugs is a war on responsibility. When we are truly liable for our mistakes in life we quit making those mistakes. As long as the welfare state exists, drug use that has negative effects will continue. Drug users who quit do so because they want to improve their lives, not because some authoritarian busybody sics a uniform on them.

Riley departs from his usual principled view in the direction of restitution and affirmative action. Consistent opinions are more credible than those backed by emotional calls for “somebody must do something in this special situation.”

By the way, in an Alaskan logging camp in the seventies, pot was allowed, but possession of alcohol would get you canned.


Love, Fritz


If It Isn’t Here, It’s Somewhere Else


In the news this morning, “Nearly 300 members of Sioux City’s Iowa Air National Guard 185th Air Refueling Wing will be deployed overseas beginning in October.” Also in the news, Iowa’s aging roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair.

As I drove through Dumont the other day I saw a neighbor and his crew eating lunch by their worksite. I stopped to say hello. The neighbor’s main helper had just quit to take a job with the windmills (which wouldn’t exist if not for your tax money). It was also the last day for two young men who were quitting to go out for the football team. To me, that’s three more productive people lost to a declining civilization.

As a kid, I was an LA Rams fan. (The team that inspired the label on modern consumer goods, “choking hazard.”) Then I adopted the Oakland Raiders because I moved there and because they were a team of misfits and has-beens. I look at the colonists of 1776 as being in the same groove. Now the Raiders are moving to Sin City (Las Vegas), where their bad boy image will fit better anyway. I can easily abandon any dedication to the modern day version of Karl Marx’s opiate of the masses. No big loss for me.

Adding to my disdain for the NFL is a new study of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopothy) published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The gist of this study is that 87% of brains donated for study from deceased football players from high school through the NFL showed signs of CTE. The kicker is, of the 111 brains donated for the study from NFL players, all but one showed evidence of CTE.

No amount of improved protective technology will eliminate the danger to our kids. The brain makes sudden moves because it is there. One commentator said the best way to make football safer would be to eliminate helmets and let self-preservation take over. Other body parts can be repaired or heal but as Steelers’ quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger says, “You can’t have a brain transplant.”

The Iowa National Guard has a responsibility to guard Iowa and the nation, not Qatar, United Arab Emirates, or Kuwait. How is it that no connection is made between sending able bodied workers and cash over there, and the same to football practice or a bunch of wasteful bird killers?

Some of us voted for a man who claimed to see the folly of intervention, both foreign and domestic, but nothing changes. Local tradesmen lack not for skilled workers provided by state schools, but for workers who care about their work.

The state can’t outguess the market. Young people entering the workforce should be free to find their niche without distortions like government trade schools, foreign intervention, phony energy schemes, or modern-day gladiator events.

The evidence is now available; football risks permanent disability, foreign intervention doesn’t bring peace, and domestic intervention (such as government trade schools) diverts scarce resources to wasteful uses.

Much of this is out of our hands. Government officials are mere tools of industry. Their original purpose of preserving our rights as individuals was sold a long time ago. But there is something we can do. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our kids find alternatives to football.

Government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way.” -Henry David Thoreau


Fair Week

I’m writing this in the middle of fair week. No, that doesn’t mean everything is fair this week and unfair the rest of the time. The Franklin County Fair is one of the great perks of living here. It is also the topic at the top of my unscientific survey for requested topics.

There are still enough independent livestock farmers to do competitive livestock shows at the fair, not to mention other judging events. There’s the antique farm machinery and demonstrations, and the draft horse pull. There’s the midway that we walk through to get somewhere else, but produces lots of noise and excitement to keep the atmosphere charged. There’s fair food. All these things make for the uniqueness of the week.

We rush to get done with things at home to make time for the fair. I’ll never forget the night that Craig, who runs the local radio station, wanted to do a live interview with me because I was running for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. He asked me if I liked the fair. What I said would have passed as mainstream in other markets, but people don’t talk like that outside a close circle of friends out here in the country. As far as I know, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) never came after Craig. Maybe they were busy with 9/11 truthers or JFK conspiracy theorists instead. The government lost my Selective Service records too. It shows we’ve got a ways to go to become an efficient totalitarian state.

This afternoon Dawn and I work in the ice cream stand, possibly the most popular attraction at the fair. We are so fortunate to have a friend like Marcus who asked us to work there. He and Robin and the other fair board members deserve all this praise that is heaped upon them all the time. If everybody worked that hard, there wouldn’t be a market for economy cars.

While I’m on the subject of individuals as an essential element of a whole I can’t help but mention a letter to the editor that was published in the Hampton Chronicle last week. The writer was pointing out how vocal music director, Jesse Bunge, had evolved from focusing on groups to a focus on individual achievement as a path to success as a group. (Jesse is moving away. His contribution to the school vocal music program was notable but he helped mold the individuals in Franklin Chorale into an exceptional group as well.)

What struck me, was how this writer saw the same thing as I did in Jesse’s career. The philosophy of the founders of this country are symbolized by Jesse’s approach as described in the article.

Thanks to all those individuals out there who bring the pieces together for the rest of us in this beautiful community.

Only Slave-owners Can Give Rights

I can’t remember a more spectacular fireworks show than what we had at the fairgrounds in Hampton July 3rd. I suppose Thomas Jefferson was pounding away on his keyboard on that day, 241 years ago.

We were at the Municipal Band concert and hadn’t planned on staying for the fireworks due to the yawners they used to have out at Beeds Lake. But the show that night came awfully close to the degree of genius of that declaration penned so many years ago.

Steve Huling did a fantastic and heartfelt job singing the Lee Greenwood classic, “God Bless the USA,” at the concert. It occurred to me that a lyric in that song embodies why we are burdened with this ongoing debate about healthcare.

And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me”

Men gave that right to me? I don’t think so. Jefferson had it right; we are endowed by our Creator (or any amorphous form you personally deem responsible). A man may have died to preserve those rights or guarantee those rights, but no man gave us those rights. Those words may apply to slaves and slave-owners, but not a citizen of the country founded on the words in The Declaration.

If a man can give us rights, he can take them away. The reason we have this vast pool of wealth the single payer advocates want to tap into, is because of the guarantees provided by government that we may be enriched by our own efforts.

The number of people on the dole for healthcare may be thirty percent since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society began in 1964. But the dollar amount is much greater. Medical costs skyrocket after age 65. Two thirds of medical costs in this country were borne by government even before The ACA (Obamacare).

Goods and services with no government subsidies or interference have shrunk to a quarter of their cost of 60 years ago in terms of hours worked. Healthcare has quadrupled during that same time with the help of government’s elimination of most of the competitive marketplace in 1964.

There are other reasons for higher costs such as the limiting of the number of doctors and hospitals that trade associations lobbied for over the years. Truman’s establishment of IRS deductibility for employer-provided health insurance distanced the patient from healthcare decisions and that led to increased demand with less restraint on costs. Nixon’s wage and price controls further isolated prices from patient choice.

The problem really is that the productive people who fund all this are starting to step aside. There have been 250,000 jobs lost due to the 50 employee cap on exclusion from mandated employer insurance. The businesses not started and not expanded because the extra work only went to taxes can’t be measured. Who wouldn’t want to simply enjoy life rather than work for free?

What to do? The money will run out. The haters who look at medical care as something they rightfully own will want to protect it like anyone would protect their property from thieves. These people must be appeased or they will become increasingly violent. Remember the so-called conservatives screaming, “Keep your hands off my Medicare!” a couple years ago? They thought it was theirs too.

Appeasement to me looks like continuing the socialist system for those who’ve planned their lives around it but advocacy of an insurance industry that only insures individuals and adjusts rates to reflect risk. Smokers, race car drivers, and Sumo wrestlers should pay what the insurance company offers or find a new lifestyle and pay less.

To blame high medical costs on free markets is to ignore the facts. That Jefferson guy said government will grow and liberty will shrink. A good first step would be to stop celebrating liberty that doesn’t exist, recognize the problem, and notice that immediate gratification is a sign of an uncivilized society. That is what single payer is. It is legalized theft that is not justified by wishful thinking.

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.

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.