San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Friday, May 10, 2013

Chris Duarte Did Not Steal My Money

A week ago today I had the pleasure of attending a concert featuring Chris Duarte.  Chances are pretty good you have no idea who he is.  He first hit the national music scene in 1994 with the release of his first CD entitled "Texas Sugar/Strat Magik".  Since then he has released ten other CDs filled with high quality music.  He is a virtuoso of the electric guitar.  His style of play defies classification.  He incorporates elements of rock, blues, jazz, fusion and classical guitar into his play.  He also is a relentless "Road Warrior", touring around the country in his van almost constantly with his bass player and drummer by his side and without the services of any roadies. 
I have seen Chris probably about a dozen times.  I have traveled to Las Vegas to see him.  I made a trip to Albuquerque to see him.  I try to catch him during his frequent trips to the Denver area.  I remember the first time I saw him in 1995.  He was playing a venue in Boulder, Colorado.  I was standing near the stage when he came out.  I knew very little of him or his repertoire.  After he had been playing for an hour or so he launched into an instrumental that I did not know.  I would later learn it was entitled "Shiloh".  I watched absolutely mesmerized for the next 15 minutes as he put on the most powerful and passionate guitar performance I have ever seen in my life.  When it was over I was speechless.  I turned to the gal who had accompanied me to the show and said, "I don't know what that was but it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen or heard."  Since then I have had the pleasure of reliving that experience many times.
Chris is not very popular.  He plays a style of music that very few people seem to understand.  He is not necessarily melodic.  He goes on wild flights of fancy that can last for very long periods of time.  I remember seeing him at a brewpub in Lyons, Colorado a couple of years ago when a lady who was attending the show got up and walked out while exclaiming "he's out of control!".  It may have appeared that way to her but to seasoned veterans of Duarte's performances he was in total control and it was wonderful.  I don't think I have ever seen more than maybe 50 people at any of his shows.  He will usually wander into the venue and begin to set up the stage.  Those who do not know him might think he is a stagehand.  Eventually he will pick up a guitar and tune it.  At that point, if you know anything about the electric guitar, you know you are in for a treat.
Chris plays mostly in bars and small venues.  As a result there will always be a segment of the crowd that is made up of drunks, winos and people looking for someone to have sex with.  They will talk loudly and generally behave like jerks.  The nice thing is however, that Chris just keeps on playing.  He flat out wears them out.  They will eventually leave the venue and leave those of us who appreciate what is going on onstage to enjoy the show.  I am always amazed at the number of guitar players who come to Chris' shows.  The conversations that they share with one another between songs are fun to eavesdrop on.  The reactions are always the same...amazement.  They can't believe what they are seeing and hearing on stage.  Maybe that is a big reason why Chris seems to love the small venues.
Chris usually plays two sets.  The sets can last for several hours each.  Between sets he will take time to talk to anyone who wants to talk to him.  He hangs out beside the stage talking, signing autographs and selling CDs and T-shirts.  When everyone who wants to talk to him has talked to him he picks up his guitar for the second set.  I have never known him to play for less than three hours.  Many times I have been one of the last two or three people sitting in the audience when he finishes.  Chris once said that some of his best music is performed for empty bar stools.  I believe him.  One venue owner once told a friend of mine that "Chris has only one problem....he does not know how to quit playing."  That is a fairly accurate description of the man.
I have never paid more than $10 to see Chris.  Many times the charge for his performance was simply the requirement of purchasing a couple of adult beverages.  I honestly do not know how he manages to make enough money to keep going.  I have no idea how much money he makes but I am thankful he has been able to make enough to keep going over the years.  It is also amazing to me that the size of the audience seems to have no impact on him whatsoever.  He will play with the same fury to a crowd of ten that he will play to a crowd of fifty.  He never lets up, ever.  He is the consummate professional when it comes to musical performance. Chris is the perfect example of a free market guitarist.  When he does not work he does not get paid.  He is not on food stamps.  He is not on disability.  He gets no government subsidies.  I hope he pays very little in taxes.
I have complained a lot this week about how I am getting ripped off by career politicians all the time.  Politicos from the city, state and federal government are stealing my money on a regular basis.  In exchange I get nothing.  Or, even worse, I get things I do not want and that I believe are immoral.  That is the nature of the beast.  As I was sitting here today, remembering the concert I witnessed last week, I realized that Chris Duarte did not steal my money.  In fact, he gave me an amazing show for a very low price.  I frequently find myself wishing that Chris would hit it big and become wealthy and popular.  I would like to see it happen just for him.  He deserves it.  He has paid his dues.  But then I think about what happens when guys make the big time.  It reminds me of Joe Bonamassa (see 4-24-13 "Joe Bonamassa Fans Are Selfish Jerks").  I would hate to see that happen to Chris.  Maybe he is onto something.  Staying small is not such a bad thing.  So I say, thanks Chris.  Thanks for giving your all all the time.  Thanks for giving me much more than my money's worth every time.

Go to http://www.chrisduartegroupfans.org/ to find out more about Chris.  Also, for your listening pleasure, a short sample:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ftyl6FFLl-s&feature=relmfu

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Federal Government Steals My Money

In keeping with the theme that has evolved this week, today I will show how it is that the federal government of the Socialist Democracy of America routinely steals my money.  On Monday I exposed a total of 22 pieces of congressional pork.  Each of those carnitas was an example of Congress stealing money from me to give to someone else.  On Tuesday I showed how the Metro Mayor Caucus for the Denver metropolitan area was stealing my money and giving it to rich people who then use the money for down payments on homes.  Yesterday I showed how the State of Colorado has used money stolen from me to extravagantly decorate the new office building that houses the Colorado Supreme court and its associated legal entourage.  Today I take aim at the federal government of the SDA.
It is a strange thing when one comes to think about how much money the government is entitled to take from its citizens.  The topic rarely comes up.  It is almost as if every taxpayer simply assumes that whatever rate of extraction the government wants is the right amount.  Indeed, it seems as if the whole question is believed to have nothing to do with morality whatsoever.  The handful of times the topic is actually discussed it is always done in a utilitarian fashion.  The question is not phrased in moral terms like "at what point does the amount of money taken from us via taxation become immoral" but it is phrased in purely practical terms like "how can the government maximize its revenues while doing the least to harm the golden goose?"  In all cases it is assumed that the government has the right to as much of my money as it wants.  That is a problem.  In fact, it is a very serious problem.  Since government has the moral right and responsibility to "bear the sword", it is in the unique position of being able to exercise tyrannical control over its citizens, extracting vast amounts of wealth from those citizens immorally.  That is why the question about the legal and moral upper limit of taxation is so crucial.
Several things must be acknowledged prior to asking how much money the government is allowed to take from me.  First, the government does have a right to take some of my money.  Anarchy is wrong.  There is a legitimate need and function for civil government.  Those who believe that men will be able to live peacefully in a totally voluntary society in the absence of civil government are utopian dreamers who refuse to acknowledge the reality of sin, both actual and original.  Second, government programs must be funded and government employees who administer those programs must be paid. Today's post is not about what should or should not be on the agenda as far as proper government programs are concerned.  What I am concerned about today is how much of my money does the state have a moral claim over in order to fund its essential programs, whatever they may be.  Third, I assume that there is a limit to the government's claim on my money.  In other words, there is a moral principle that declares a particular value.  Taxes in excess of that value are immoral.  Taxes below that value are moral.  The question is, what is that value?
A friend and reader of this blog set up a spreadsheet program last year in which he tracked, to the best of his ability, all of the taxes he paid in 2012.  He included income taxes, payroll taxes, real estate taxes, sales taxes, fuel taxes, use taxes and ownership taxes in his spreadsheet.  This fellow makes a decent amount of money.  He also is an expert in the tax law and he does everything he can to legally reduce the total amount of taxes that he pays.  For 2012 he spent a total of 22.6% of his income on taxes paid to the state.  Now here is the question....was the state within its moral right to extract 22.6% of his income last year or not?  If you say this is not a moral issue, you must also be willing to admit that the state could extract 100% of your income and not be morally culpable for theft.  If you disagree with that assertion and say that the state does not have the right to take 100% of your income then you have just jumped into the camp that asserts that there is a moral principle that questions how much the state may extract.  You can't have it both ways.  Either it is an amoral issue and the state can do whatever it wants, up to 100% of your income, or it is a moral issue and there is a figure that determines what is moral and what is not. 
God has an opinion about how much the state is permitted to tax its citizens.  That little revelation will always take most Christians by surprise.  Most Christians never even think about the issue.  Most Christians believe that God has no opinion at all about state taxes.  When I claim that God does have an opinion about taxes they generally inform me that I should be thankful I live in the SDA and then they tell me to stop complaining about how much I pay in taxes.  I am usually instructed on how the SDA is the greatest country in the history of the universe and I should be thankful to live here.  I am told that the rate of taxation I pay is a small price to pay for my "freedom", whatever that is.  Somehow I do not find that a satisfying response to the question about a moral limit to taxation.  So I go to the Bible to see what God's opinion is on the matter.
I Samuel 8 is the passage in the Bible that describes the process by which a biblical state government is established.  It records the rejection of the Israelites of God as their civil leader and the end of the theocratic state that Israel had operated under up until that time.  The rebellious Israelites specifically requested that God give them a King like the other Kings they saw in the nations around them.  God granted their wish and proscribed the terms of the newly constituted civil government.  Most important to our question here is the fact that God granted the King the authority to extract 10% of the income of the citizenry to fund his activities.  The 10% figure should not surprise a student of the Bible.  10% is also the amount God demands His people give up to the Church, known to Christians as the tithe, to fund the operations of His Church.  It is not surprising that God would mandate the same amount for the state.
Since the state is to be limited to a total tax equal to 10% of each citizens income, certain things follow from that truth.  First, any civil government that extracts more than 10% of the income of its citizens is guilty of theft and will be held morally accountable by God for that thievery.  This applies to all the congressmen who write the laws, all the IRS agents who collect the taxes and all the various law enforcement officials who enforce the myriad of tax collection laws.  This applies to everyone involved in the process, from the highest ranking member of the House Ways and Means committee down to the lowest secretary answering the phone at the most remote IRS office in the land.  All of these people are involved in the immoral act of theft against any citizen who has a total tax bill in excess of 10% of his annual income.
Second, all state governments combined must extract no more than 10% of each citizens income.  I would suggest, following the principle established by the economist/theologian Gary North, that the local government take its 10% first.  Then, higher governments (state and federal) can fight among themselves for their respective shares of the pot created by the original 10% assessment.  In that fashion each citizen would have contact with just one taxing authority and that authority would be local.
Third, since I had about 30% of my income taken from me via taxes in 2012 I believe it is the case that 20% of my total income for last year was stolen from me by the various branches of government.  The great majority of that theft was at the hands of the federal government.  Hence, I am driven to the conclusion that the federal government is in the business of stealing my money.  My only advice to everyone involved in the process of legalized robbery is to repent immediately.  Get out of that business and stop stealing from your fellow citizens. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Colorado Supreme Court Steals My Money

Times are tough in Colorado.  I know, I know....times are tough all over.  But here in Colorado we have had to do some serious belt-tightening in light of decreased government revenues.  The budget for this year is expected to come up $173 million short.  As a result, government "services" are being cut and fees are being increased.  Tuition for in-state students is up almost 10%.  All motor vehicle owners have had an additional fee for "roads and bridges" added to their regular vehicle registration fees.  Some State Parks have been closed permanently.  Others have dramatically reduced hours.  Mountain campgrounds have been closed because the state can't afford to pay anyone to clean the pit toilets found there.  The citizens of the state are being told to be prepared to suffer hardship as we all go through this period of lower revenues together.  Well, almost all of us are going through this time together.  There is at least one group that is not.  Let me tell you about them.
In 2008, right as the Great Recession was starting, Colorado state lawmakers passed a bill authorizing the spending of $258 million for a new state courthouse.  At the time the lawmakers naively believed that an increase in court fees would be sufficient to pay for the project.  The cost for filing a District Court case went from $68 to $224.  The politicians in Denver were about to discover that their expectations were way off the mark.
The Great Recession hit and all Colorado citizens were asked to do their share in cutting back expenses until happy times returned again.  Well, almost everyone was asked to participate in the cut-backs.  One group was exempt.  Can you guess who it was?  You guessed it! Colorado Supreme Court Justices and their associated legal entourage were deemed too holy to have to suffer from budget cutbacks.  The construction project for their new building went on unabated.  In fact, they ramped things up.
A report in today's Denver Post describes the conditions found within the newly opened building that houses our moral superiors known as judges and lawyers who work for the state.  State Court Administrator Jerry Marroney, who was responsible for the building project, had this to say about the new building, "I don't believe the state was trying to impress anybody.  I think what they were trying to do is show a dignified area, not spending too much money, but show a dignified area and dignified surroundings for the court."  Not everyone shares his opinion.  Stephen Sewalk, professor of real estate and construction at the University of Denver said this, "It's very, very elegant.  You would find this in an investment bank, as I said, in an elite law firm, a place that has a lot of money to spend."  So, who is right?  Is it a "dignified area" as the state says, or it is indicative of a group of people who "have a lot of money to spend"?
The budget for furnishing the building was $9 million.  Here is a partial list of what that $9 million in taxpayer dollars purchased:
  • A "grand glass atrium" in the entryway.
  • Gold leaf in the lettering for the words "Supreme Court".  These two items are the only things the taxpayers, who paid for all of the following, will ever get to see.  The rest of the items are found in the secure area where our moral superiors "work" and where peons like us are forbidden to tread. 
  • $1,300 wood serving carts with silver trays sitting in Court Justice Michael Bender's reception room.
  • Credenzas with antique brass hardware that cost $2,375 each sitting in the judicial chambers.  Included in the judicial chambers is one octagonal tray table that cost $7,200.  I wonder if the judges get together around their octagonal table for an occasional poker game.  That would be illegal for us, of course, but they are above the law.
  • Each desk found in the judicial chambers cost $5,000.  Leather sofas for the chambers cost $4,800 each.  End tables cost $800 each. I bought a fancy leather sofa for my house a couple of years ago.  It cost me about a grand. 
  • To appeal to the "greenies" among us, the furnishings inside the building were required to comply with the "environmentally friendly LEED Gold certification", whatever that is.  We can be sure that did little to reduce the cost of the furnishings.
  • There are four rolling coat racks that cost $950 each.  I could have purchased these items at Wal-Mart for a hundred bucks, tops. 
  • There are four chairs with scrolled knuckles and fluted legs that cost $2,200 each.  Scrolls and fluting?  Does this remind anyone besides me of royalty?
  • There is a cocktail table with an ash burl top that cost taxpayers $5,900. 
  • There are six chairs with lion's heads on the arms that cost taxpayers $1,800 each.  I find these chairs to be especially appropriate.  What better symbol of the moral superiority of our judges can we have than a chair with a lion's head on the arm?  It reminds us all of their regal bearing.  It reminds us all that they can lunge towards us and kill us at any time.  
 So while I will be unable to go to my favorite fishing hole this summer, since it will be closed due to state budget cuts, the lawyers who work for the state will be sitting in chairs that cost me thousands of dollars and sipping cocktails served from a table that cost me almost six thousand dollars.  That seems fair.  After all, they are royalty.  We do live in the Socialist Democracy of America where our political leaders are known by all to be aristocratic. What other possible moral justification can there be for this type of spending other than the belief that the judges and lawyers who work for the state are our superiors?  They deserve this elegance because they are better than us.  They have a right to take $9 million of our money and use it on extravagant furnishings the rest of us will never see.  Why do they have this right?  Because they are royalty.  Praised be their names forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Denver Mayor Steals My Money

About a month ago the Denver Metro Mayors Caucus announced the formation of a wealth transfer program it named the Metro Mortgage Assistance Plus program.  According to the Denver Post, "the program offers a competitive, fixed rate, 30 year mortgage, along with a 4 percent grant for down payment and closing cost assistance--money the borrower does not repay."  To qualify as a recipient of the stolen money each person must "complete free home buyer counseling and meet standard loan guidelines, including a credit score of at least 640 and income limits--not more than $91,100 for households of two or fewer people, and not more than $103,000 for three or more."  According to the rules, "the program can currently be used to purchase any property in Denver or Littleton.  Additional Metro Mayors Caucus jurisdictions are expected to join the program."  This immoral and illegal program raises a slew of questions.
Given the fact that the most recent Great Recession was largely created by federal government subsidies for housing, why would the Denver Metro Mayors Caucus decide that it is a good idea to have a local subsidy for home buyers?  Didn't they learn anything from the past debacle?  All of the Denver metropolitan area mayors have professed their belief in the importance of economic growth. Then, in a wildly contradictory maneuver, they join up in a program to subsidize housing that will hinder economic growth.  I guess it is my fault for expecting economic and logical consistency from a politician.
Why would the Denver Metro Mayors Caucus create a wealth transfer program for people who are clearly not poor?  To receive the 4% grant a family of two can make all the way up to $91k.  That hardly classifies as poor.  A family of three or four can make $103k and still quality for the stolen money.  What possible justification can there be for giving a 4% grant to a family making in excess of $100k per year to aid it in a home purchase?  Anybody making over $100k per year should be able to save up the money required to make a down payment on a home without any assistance from the state.  Assuming the home would be valued somewhere around the median price in the metro area of $250k, a prospective buyer only needs $10k in cash to close the deal.  Why should the Denver metro area taxpayers be required to cough up $10k in cash to give to a family that is making over $100k per year to allow that family to make a down payment on a home?  What possible moral justification exists for this program?
I bought a home a couple of years ago in the Denver metro area.  I saved up my down payment for that home over a period of several years.  During those years I did not take any extravagant vacations.  I did not buy a new car.  I did not buy a big screen TV.  I saved my money.  When I had sufficient money saved up I entered the real estate market and found a home in the price range I was willing to pay.  Despite the fact that I made less than $100k,  nobody helped me with my down payment.  In fact, I never even considered going to the government for money for my down payment.  It never even occurred to me that it would be a good idea to use the coercive power of my local government to steal money from my neighbors to use for the down payment on my home.  Even if that thought had occurred to me I would have rejected it as an immoral option.  I do not have the right to steal from my neighbor, even if the theft is approved of by government and conducted by majority vote.  Theft is theft and I have no desire to be a thief.
Notice that under the terms of this wealth transfer program a person has to have a decent credit score to get a subsidy.  A minimum credit score of 640 is required.  It is obvious that the politicians who created this scam are very aware of the possibility that those who get the free money have no skin in the game and would be more likely to default on their subsidized mortgages.  That, of course, is what happened in the Great Recession.  But, if they are requiring that the recipients of this wealth transfer be credit worthy, why should those credit worthy borrowers not simply obtain their mortgages in the free market?  The fact that they are credit worth borrowers means they would have no trouble getting a mortgage in the free market.  Giving away free subsidies to people who can afford to purchase their own mortgage is clearly nothing more than a vote buying scheme.  There is no socioeconomic justification for giving free money to the rich other than as an attempt to buy their votes.  Nothing about this program makes any common sense.  Imagine the absurd reality that exists in this program when some taxpayer earning less than $50k in a year will have his tax dollars taken from him and transferred to his neighbor, who made over $100k that year, to allow him to have money for his down payment.  Everything about this program is stupid.
I find it interesting that those louses who receive the stolen goods must first go through some sort of counseling program.  Once again we can see the wheels turning in the transparent skulls of the politicians who cooked up this ponzi-scheme.  Fearful that the entire thing will collapse upon itself when the recipients of the largess end up eventually defaulting on their loans, they call in some high priests of the state to indoctrinate the recipients in their moral duty to not default on the state program.  I can just hear some of the speeches being made at the counseling sessions.  The candidates would be told that they need to behave responsibly.  They will be told that they will not be able to take their families to Disneyland this year because they will have to pay their mortgage instead.  The fact that they are receiving the 4% subsidy because they blew their down payment on a trip to Disneyland last year will not be brought up.  If the counselors are honest they will then go on to tell them that there is a real problem with being a receiver of stolen goods.  They should work with these poor folks to help them develop denial skills that will allow them to convince themselves that they are really not participating in an immoral program of wealth transfer.  They should strive to see themselves as victims of some great injustice and the state administrators as their personal saviors.  Then all will be right with the world.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Carnitas Are Too Expensive

In honor of Cinco de Mayo I am posting an article to the blog today about carnitas.  Carnitas, in case you do not know, are delicious little pieces of pork.  Carnitas can be found in most Mexican restaurants.  They can also be found attached to most spending bills passed by Congress. Here are some carnitas you might not have been aware of.  The spending bill passed at the end of 2012 contained the following carnitas:
  1. $12 billion for producers of windmill electricity.
  2. $222 million in tax rebates for liquor producers.
  3. $78 million in new tax write offs for NASCAR race track owners.
  4. $62 million to keep a StarKist plant in American Samoa open.
  5. $410 million in tax credits to Hollywood movie studios.
  6. Amgen received an exemption from government price controls on its products that is estimated to be worth $500 million over the next ten years.
The Troubled Asset Relief Program, ostensibly passed in late 2008 to keep the Socialist Democracy of America from falling into another Great Depression, contained the following carnitas:
  1. An exemption from excise taxes for wooden arrows manufactured in the SDA for use by children.
  2. A special seven year cost-recovery period created for a racetrack operator.
  3. Suspensions of duty collections on a variety of wool products.
  4. Special depreciation rules designed to favor ethanol producers.
  5. Tax incentives for movies produced within the SDA.
The bit of legislation known as Dodd-Frank was passed in 2010 and is designed to punish profit seeking financial institutions.  The federal government had to find a scapegoat for the damage it had created in the Great Recession and banks ended up taking the fall.  Although Dodd-Frank was passed several years ago, the specific regulations that will eventually be forced upon financial institutions are being written as we speak.  Dodd-Frank contained the following carnitas:
  1.  A cap was placed on the debit card fees banks charge their customers for the privilege of using their debit cards.  Banks simply shifted the fees to other operations.  The net result is that all bank customers are now being forced to subsidize the activities of debit card users.
  2. Rules were written in regards to mining operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  SDA firms that mine various metals in that country must issue a report to the Securities and Exchange Commission that details the steps they have taken to maintain production and supply security of their mining products.
The Hurricane Sandy relief bill passed in late 2012 contained the following non-hurricane related carnitas:
  1. $150 million for "fishery disaster areas" found in Mississippi and Alaska.
  2. $20,000 to buy the Inspector General of the Justice Department a new car.
  3. $4 million for repairs to the buildings at the Kennedy Space Center.
  4. $3.3 million for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, whatever that is.
  5. The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee designated the following carnitas:  $25 million to "rural Nevada" (Harry Reid is Subcommittee "Ranking Member"),  $1.5 million for Truckee Meadows, $2.5 million for the Greenbriar River Basin in West Virginia (Robert Byrd is on the committee) and $5 million for Central New Mexico (Pete Domenici was Committee Chairman).
The Department of Defense Appropriations Act for 2012 contained 68 separate carnitas which cost SDA taxpayers a total of $2 billion.  Some of my favorite pieces were:
  1. $239 million for peer-reviewed cancer research.  What cancer research has to do with national defense is a mystery to me.
  2. $120 million for alternative energy research.  Why the armed forces are involved in alternative energy research is a mystery to me. 
  3. $8 million for global HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.  We have to do our part to keep our heroic servicemen disease free.
  4. $5.1 million for peer-reviewed research on autism.  I can see how this could be crucial for national defense.  We do not want our Generals compulsively counting the number of panes in a window at the Pentagon, do we?
The list can go on forever but I am getting full.  I really like carnitas but after several plates full of them I begin to feel sick. Even worse, these carnitas are way too expensive for my taste.