San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Friday, June 1, 2012

You Have Heard About The 99% But What About The 25%?

As I write this Congress will soon be voting on a bill designed to prohibit abortions that are performed exclusively due to the sex of the baby.  I was unaware that this bill had even been drafted but heard a report on the radio yesterday discussing the possible legislation.  Several very interesting things were reported in the radio discussion about the bill. According to the reporter, a full 80% of Americans interviewed about this bill were in favor of it.  In other words, 80% of Americans want the state to prohibit abortions that are conducted exclusively because of the sex of the baby.  That huge majority should be sufficient to ensure passage of the bill.  But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that voting for the bill could actually be political suicide.  The whim of the public is a difficult thing to measure.  One day the public favors a particular behavior, the next day that behavior is out of favor.  Trying to guess what the public wants in advance is a very difficult task indeed.  Of course, politicians have dedicated their entire lives to trying to guess what the public wants prior to really giving it to them.  This time should be no different.
I am not particularly interested in the vote.  I do not see how this law will make any real difference in the abortion debate.  I do not believe it is possible to ascertain the motive of a person coming for an abortion, then legally determine if the motive for the abortion is due to the sex of the baby, and then arrest that person for a violation of the new law.  Once the law is known nobody seeking an abortion will admit that the sex of the child is the motivation for the abortion.  Can you imagine this scenario in the waiting room....a customer comes in for an abortion and is asked to fill out a checklist.  One of the questions on the checklist says "Do you want this abortion because of the sex of the baby?"  If the customer checks "Yes", she is arrested.  If she checks "No", she is ushered into the operating room.  Guess how folks will answer that question.  It really is a silly proposal.  It may make people feel good but it will not change the rate of abortion in this country one whit.
 I am more interested in what the debate tells us about the citizens of this country.  According to various Internet reports, the American public favors abortion in general at a rate somewhere around 55%.  In other words, 55% of US citizens believe it is morally proper to abort a baby.  Put another way, 55% of Americans believe that there is no moral issue involved when a mother and doctor agree to kill a baby.  In fact, that 55% would say that it is wrong to use the word 'kill' because the 'baby' is really not a human and, therefore, cannot technically be killed.  In their view, it is just tissue.  Simply put, 55% of Americans believe that abortion is not murder.  55% of Americans believe that abortion is an amoral medical procedure, along the lines of a tooth extraction or an appendectomy. 
The key question for me is what to think about the 25% of US citizens who believe that abortion is not murder yet still want to make it illegal to get an abortion due to the sex of the baby.  These are the 25% of Americans who believe that it is morally wrong to kill a baby simply because the mother does not like the sex of the baby developing inside her body but, at the same time, believe that killing a baby is a morally proper thing to do.  Pure logic dictates that if abortion itself is a moral behavior (or at least amoral), then it does not matter what the reason given for the abortion might be.  If abortion is nothing more than a medical procedure then it makes no difference why the mother wants to have one.  A mother could decide to have an abortion simply because it is Friday, and she wants to have an abortion on Friday, and it should make no moral difference whatsoever.  Nobody ever says that it is wrong to have a medical procedure because the motivations of the patient vary.  Why should abortion be any different?
It is startling to me, as an abortion opponent,  that 25% of the citizens of this country would believe that killing a baby is morally proper yet, at the same time, believe that killing a baby because of its sex is immoral.  How can this possibly be true?  Either abortion is murder or it is an amoral medical procedure.  If abortion is murder it should never be done.  There is never any excuse for murder.  Murder is always wrong.  There is no justification for murder, ever.  On the other hand, if abortion is an amoral medical procedure (or even more, if it is a moral action) it can be done anywhere, anytime and for any reason.  There are no other options.  To distinguish between different reasons for abortion and then label the abortion either immoral or moral based upon the reason for having one is logically inconsistent.
The people who make up the 25% in this discussion are logical infants.  I suspect it would be fair to say that they are forming their opinions based exclusively upon their emotional appraisal of the issue and their desire to control the behavior of other people.  As is so often the case with emotional responses, they can lead to logical contradictions.  This debate is a perfect example of the schizophrenia experienced by so many Americans who make the irrational decision to make life decisions based upon emotion rather than reason.  Amazingly,  these people participate in our democracy.  These people vote.  These people are involved in making the laws in this country.  These people will be selecting our next president.  These people want to criminalize behavior that they otherwise consider to be moral simply because they feel good about their irrational position and have a strong desire to control the behavior of others. These are the types of people who want laws mandating a maximum soda size of 16 ounces.  These are the types of people who want laws making cooking oil containing trans-fats illegal.  These are the types of people that need to mind their own business.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Buy Stocks Now, For Income And Growth

Really good investment opportunities rarely come along.  Today presents an extraordinary investment opportunity for those with the courage to purchase stocks and stock mutual funds.  Here is why.
First, ignore what you are hearing about Europe.  Read blog postings for May 18th, May 16th, May 14th, May 10th and April 27th for additional information.  Several European countries are going through a rough patch, that is true.  The conclusions being drawn by those who have a vested interest in fomenting panic are not based upon a rational analysis of the European economic environment.  Ignore the bad news.  It will eventually end.
Second, now is the time to buy European stocks and European stock funds.  When was the best time to purchase real estate in Hawaii?  Right, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  If you were alive then, did you take advantage of the opportunity?  When was the last great opportunity to buy US stocks? Right, March of 2009.  Did you take advantage of that opportunity?  Remember how the great majority of investors in March of 2009 were convinced that the economic world was coming to an end?  Of course you know that in the three year period following March 2009 the US stock market doubled in value.  How many people had the wisdom and understanding to buy back then?  Not many.  As a result, not many investors realized a 100% return in a three year period.  European stocks are deeply discounted and present a tremendous value.  Bad news is the only news we hear and that is almost always a sign of the bottom.  Buy European stocks and funds now.
Third, as a result of inferior risk appraisal by US investors, the US stock markets are also ridiculously undervalued.  Many investors continue to sell stocks and buy bonds.  This flight from equity to debt has driven the yield on the ten year Treasury even lower.  As I write this it sits at 1.538%!  An amazing investment opportunity exists in US stocks at this time.  Right now 56% of the stocks on the S&P 500 stock market index have higher dividend yields than the ten year Treasury.  You heard that correctly but let me say it again.  56% of the stocks on the S&P 500 have a higher dividend yield than the ten year Treasury bond.  Do you understand what that means?  If not, allow me to explain
If you purchase a $10,000 ten year Treasury bond you will receive $154 in interest per year for ten years.  At the end of that ten year period you will get your $10,000 back.  By comparison, you could invest $10,000 into a basket of high dividend paying US stocks (or a good growth and income stock mutual fund) and receive dividends of $240/year.  The present dividend yield on the S&P 500 is 2.4%.  If you just focused on the higher paying companies you could easily realize a dividend yield that is double the ten year Treasury.  Ah, but you say, the problem is you will lose all your money because the value of the stocks will go down.  Wrong.
The first decade of this millennium is infamous for the fact that it was the worst decade, in terms of total return performance for stocks, in modern history (post WWII).  In other words, the worst ten year period in stocks was a ten year period in which stocks did absolutely nothing.  The value of the S&P 500 at the end of the ten year period was exactly the same as it was at the start of the ten year period.  Hummm....that sounds a lot like a ten year Treasury, does it not?  Even if stocks repeat their worst ten year performance in modern history you would still be much better off owning them when compared to a Treasury bond, just from the perspective of investment income.  What are the odds of stocks repeating their performance of the first decade of this millennium?  Slim to none.  Almost certainly stocks will realize some capital appreciation over the next ten years.  That capital appreciation must then be added to the dividend yield to give you a total return figure that will dramatically exceed the rate of return realized by those who are presently fleeing to bonds.  Buy US stocks now.  This is an opportunity of a lifetime. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Envy Makes Statists Stupid

A week or so ago I had the misfortune of watching an interview with a Greek citizen.  The interview was on CNBC.  This person, who was portrayed as representative of the Greek populace in general, was asked what bothered him the most about the present state of his country.  He told the interviewer that he had been rioting over the recent weeks because he was angry about two things.  First, he was angry that the government of Greece had managed to incur so much debt.  Second, he was angry that the government of Greece had just cut his generous pension benefits.  Apparently neither he nor the interviewer was capable of seeing the contradiction in what he had just said.
The Denver Post has an article in the Business section today entitled "Protesters Call Out 1%".  It turns out the Service Employees International Union is in town for a convention and they have decided to target Wells Fargo with their wrath and ire.  As the article reported, the protesters are "calling on the wealthiest 1% to pay their fair share of taxes."  They are also demanding that 1%ers like Wells Fargo "create good jobs with good benefits".  The article also reports that the group specifically targeted Wells Fargo's downtown office because "the bank hasn't done enough to stem the mortgage crisis by helping homeowners who are in foreclosure or who owe more than their homes are worth."  Once again nobody seems to see the contradictions inherent in these assertions.  Allow me to enlighten them.
I have addressed the "not paying their fair share of taxes" argument in previous blog postings.  That argument is so patently false that it takes a truly brazen liar to continually use it.  The fact that the protesting members of the Service Employees International Union use the argument does not bode well when they are assessed for moral character.
 I was particularly amazed that they believe they have a moral claim on jobs that are somehow supposed to be created by Wells Fargo for their benefit.  Let me get this straight....Wells Fargo is a bank and, therefore, necessarily evil.  Wells Fargo makes profits and profits are evil because they are derived by oppressing the little guy.  Yet, the members of the union want the evil bank to use their immoral profits to provide them with jobs?  Furthermore, according to the union members, the bank has a moral duty to provide them with "good jobs with good benefits"?  Of course, what constitutes a "good" job and what constitutes "good" benefits is never defined. 
For those who have no logical ability whatsoever, here is where the contradiction becomes most evident.  At the same time Wells Fargo is expected to realize profits and create jobs for the members of the union, the bank is also expected to write off its delinquent loans and suffer massive financial losses.  What universe do these people live in?  They are just like the Greek citizen who seems incapable of making the connection between government spending and his pension.  Just like he apparently believed that government is capable of producing wealth by fiat, the members of the union believe that Wells Fargo can expand operations and hire new employees while, at the same time, suffer massive losses due to the writing off of bad loans.  There is only one conclusion I can draw.  Envy makes statists stupid.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Click It Or Ticket Nonsense

I was watching the Rockies on the television last night when I was accosted by a commercial produced by the Ad Council. The Ad Council is a company that produces advertising campaigns for non-profit organizations and the federal government. The non-profit advertising campaigns are paid for with private donations. The advertising campaigns purchased by the federal government are paid for with taxpayer dollars. The commercial I witnessed last night was from the federal government and was, therefore, paid for with my tax dollars.
Colorado has a "Click It or Ticket" propaganda campaign. Perhaps other states have them as well, I don't know. The government propaganda associated with this assault on our senses informs us that we are all worse than Hitler if we do not wear a seat belt while driving a car. Although I am not sure about this, I believe it is considered an act of criminal child abuse to be driving a car containing children who are not wearing seat belts. This particular commercial informs the hapless citizenry that uniformed police officers have been specially trained to be able to spot citizen-criminals who are driving without an affixed seat belt. The commercial goes on to make fun of citizens who have the misfortune of seeing a cop parked alongside the road who then attempt to fasten their seat belts prior to being pulled over for this gross violation of our moral sensibilities. As expected, the highly trained officer is able to discern that the violent offender was not driving with his seat belt on and he issues him a ticket. While issuing the ticket the police officer is frowning sternly, like a disgruntled parent, and the poor recipient of the ticket is groveling under the intensity of his frown, like a fearful child.
I do not know about you but I am tired of being bullied by the government. Even more, I am tired of having my tax dollars taken from me and used to pay for commercials that are specifically designed to bully me. Why should I be forced to pay for a commercial that informs me that police officers enforcing immoral rules are paragons of virtue while, at the same time, I am portrayed as a ignorant peon in desperate need of state salvation? I am tired of being bossed around by the omnipotent state. I am tired of being told that "The Heat Is On" and that there are "Checkpoints Everywhere".  I am tired of being surveilled by costumed members of the state intent upon finding violations of rules and regulations that have nothing to do with morality or immorality.  I am tired of the nanny state telling me which risks I am permitted to take and which I am not.
It is not the business of the state to manage individual risk.  Each person should be free to live his life assuming as much or as little risk as he wants.  If a person wants to drive a car without wearing a seat belt, he should be allowed to.  Even saying that he "should be allowed to" goes too far.  It should not even be an issue.  The idea that somebody (the omnipotent state) grants him permission to drive without a seat belt misses the point.  It should never even be an issue for the state.  Men should be free.  Freedom is not granted to us by the state.  On the contrary, the state exists (in theory only I am afraid) to protect the freedoms we innately have. 
Many people would object to what I have written by saying that I am making a mountain out of a mole hill.  After all, what harm does it do to make a law that saves lives?  Answer:  it does a tremendous amount of harm when the state is permitted to micro-manage our lives and determine which risks are acceptable and which are not.  Risk is all around us.  There is a huge risk (greater than not wearing a seat belt?) associated with driving a Mini-Cooper.  Drivers of small cars are far more likely to be injured or killed in an accident than drivers of large cars.  If public safe is the real issue, should there not be a law mandating that all cars be of a certain minimum size?  Should drivers of small cars not also be demonized as evil people for assuming risks that society will eventually have to pay for?  What about driving cars at all?  Those who never drive a car are at no risk from dying in an accident.  A simple rule prohibiting all cars would save thousands of lives and greatly reduce the drain upon the social safety-net that pays the medical bills of those injured in car accidents.
Of course, government has justified this intrusion into our freedom under the guise of "public safety" and the need to issue regulations to reduce the need for government provided health care.  Any thinking person can immediately see that the problem is not the fact that some people who are injured in car accidents have their medical bills covered by the taxpayers.  The problem is that taxpayer dollars are being used to cover any medical bills at all.  The problem is not the public health.  The problem is socialized medicine.  Eliminate socialized medicine and the problem of public safety and seat belt wearing is gone.
The government has focused a tremendous amount of attention upon the issue of bullying in recent years.  It has been recognized that government schools are seed beds for bullying.  Programs are being instituted and educational efforts have been stepped up in a vain attempt to eliminate school yard bullying.  I was bullied on a regular basis in the government schools.  I was kicked, knocked down and spat upon with some regularity.  I had my money forcibly extracted from me on more than one occasion.  But, all of my government school experience of bullying did not prepare me for my experience as an adult in the hands of the nanny state.  The biggest and baddest bully on the block is the government.  At least the government school bully did not use the money he took from me to purchase an advertising campaign informing me that he is really acting in my best interest when he detains me, verbally abuses me and extracts even more of my money.