Saturday, November 10, 2018

Veterans Day

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 - World War One, the war to end all wars, officially ended.  Every November 11th thereafter we celebrated Armistice Day, to honor those that fought and hope for promised peace. Unfortunately that promise of peace did not happen; and two decades after WW1 ended, WW2 was beginning. We have been in a perpetual state of war ever since.
In 1954 Armistice day was changed to Veterans Day, to honor all veterans of the US armed forces. Currently there are over 20 million living veterans in the US. Most volunteered, many were drafted, but all answered the call to service. Each offering to risk their life and sacrifice all in the name of our country. All have repaid their debt to those few thousands that risked it all to create this great nation. All of us owe them our thanks.
So on this day, 100 years after the end of WW1, to all the vets that have ever served - I thank you for your service and willingness to sacrifice. On behalf of myself, my family, and what should be a grateful nation; I salute you. Even those of you, and perhaps especially those of you, that worked for a living.
Unfortunately, our government has not been so appreciative. Promised benefits are frequently not delivered.  Healthcare for vets is often substandard if even available. More and more vets are coming home wounded fighting other countries' civil wars, or used as pawns in flawed foreign policy moves; to a Congress that increasingly gives no thanks beyond empty lip service.
Let us make this centennial celebration different. Let's not just give thanks, but let our elected representatives (few of which have ever served) know that they need to treat vets right. Make good on the promises we made. And perhaps quit misusing and sacrificing them across the globe serving other nations' interests.

Friday, October 26, 2018


The political process is terribly broken. Decades of two party polarization has led to a level of incivility not seen here in my lifetime. Republican and Democrat politicians and their families are harassed in public. A Republican congressman has been physically assaulted in his own yard. Another, and those with him, were shot at a softball game. Toxic chemicals have been mailed to politicians on both sides of the aisle. Now pipe bombs have been mailed to multiple prominent Democrats. Agitators from both sides going all the way to President and presidential candidates have advocated aggression be used against those that don't agree with them. Each side blaming the other. Reasonable discourse seems completely unattainable. Our chickens have come home to roost.
Election cycle after election cycle (and there's no longer a break at all between them) politicians from both sides have gone from slinging mud to preaching outright hatred and fear. It energizes the bases, and it builds every year. Both the "left" and the "right" are hell bent on ensuring that their party is the one that wields power and control over us. It is a winner take all high stakes game that tolerates no dissent and silences any voice of reason. And we are all the poorer for it.
It was never supposed to be this way. Our republic was established with Constitutional limitations that were designed to prevent our government from ever gaining this much power, much less adding more to it. The people are supposed to rule. Political parties are not in the Constitution. George Washington warned of he dangers they would pose. We should have heeded the warning. We might have avoided the Civil War and found peaceful solutions to the problems that needed to be solved. We might not be where we are today.
We need to start doing something differently. We need to start voting differently. Half of all registered voters have become so fed up with the process they don't even vote. Just as many don't even register. We can change the process. We can fix this. Start voting for who a candidate is, instead of voting against an opponent. Stop judging folks by a party label that may or may not reflect a candidates beliefs. Pay attention to what candidates do instead of what they say. It will take some effort on your part, but worth the effort. Stop voting out of fear, and vote instead out of pride. If your chosen team or party doesn't field a candidate you can be proud of on their own merits, vote for another candidate. Find another party. The more parties the better. Multiple candidates from multiple parties mean it is much harder for any one party to gain the power and control that corrupts them. Multiple candidates from multiple parties means you can't have the polarization 2 sides bring. Three or more sides prevent polarization. Three or more sides takes power away from the parties and gives it back to the people, where it belongs. In short order, all parties would be forced to change. Forced to start nominating candidates people would be willing vote for instead of against. Forced to stop preaching fear and hate. Forced to be civil and reasonable so we can have good government, and peaceful elections. Give peace a chance here. Vote for real change in November.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Term Limits

Term limits shouldn't be necessary. We have regular elections where we can impose term limits on any elected officials at the ballot box. Unfortunately, we as voters haven't been doing a very good job of this. Elected officials, especially in Congress, have made lifelong careers of their positions. This was never the intent. It leads to excessive power, and abuse of it. We as voters can't take all the blame. Democrats and Republicans have done all they can to protect their power. Voting districts are gerrymandered to favor one party or the other. Ballot access laws make it difficult for independents or third parties to get a seat at the table and offer real choices to the electorate. Primaries are designed to provide taxpayer funding for the two major parties. Debates and even the media tend to leave out or completely ignore anyone not a member of one of the two ruling parties. The end result is election after election where voters are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. No surprise most voters are so disgusted they stay home. All too often it appears there is no one worth voting for, as both major parties are equally corrupt.  This is why Congress has an approval rating that perpetually hovers around a pitiful 10%.
Term limits shouldn't be necessary, but they are popular. They will remain popular as long as the system is corrupt, because at this point it is the only limit on power the people have over their government. The vote has lost this power as two parties have taken away the choice of who to vote for. Until we break the grip of corruption and power the Republican and Democrat parties exercise over our elections, I will support term limits. It will not be an easy struggle. The two parties will not willingly accept such limits to their power, and will work quite hard to defeat any measure we attempt to impose on them. If elected to office, I will self-impose a two term limit on myself for any public office, and push for legislation or an amendment to make term limits law. In the meantime, we need to do everything to keep the pressure on. Pursue ballot initiatives to impose term limits until they are successful. Or even better, run and vote for independent and 3rd party candidates to break the parties' grip on power and make term limits unnecessary.

Monday, June 18, 2018

More Problems at the VA

This morning it was announced that a Fayetteville VA Medical Center pathologist had misdiagnosed multiple patients resulting in at least one death. This is just one more instance in a growing list of substandard and negligent care in the VA health care system nationwide. In this instance the doctor had previously been briefly suspended for being "impaired" but was allowed to return to work. This follows a pattern at the VA where those found to be giving substandard care have been allowed to remain at work. Congress has known about these problems for years but has so far refused to do anything to fix it. Instead they have thrown more and more money at the problem, accomplishing little other than often rewarding those that are causing or covering up the problems. It is past time to hold our Congressmen accountable and pressure them to make meaningful changes that improves the quality of care for our veterans.
As a veteran that has received healthcare from the VA in Fayetteville, all I can do is hope I am not on the list of those misdiagnosed. To those that have already received notification that you were affected, I offer my hopes and prayers for the best possible outcome. To those grieving families that have suffered the worst fate, I offer my sincerest condolences.
Congressman Womack has been in office for more than 7 years now. He and his colleagues have known about these problems at the VA and have done little to fix them. Perhaps if they were to decline their "Cadillac" insurance plans provided at our expense and instead use the same VA care that they have inflicted on other vets, they might be more motivated to propose some meaningful changes. In November the voters will have a chance to replace Womack with someone that will, and is motivated to make things right. This November elect Libertarian Michael J Kalagias to represent and serve you in Congress.

PS      For those of you that think this doesn't effect or apply to you, I give you this warning: This is what single payer health care looks like. Be careful what you wish for.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Memorial Day

Two and a half centuries ago five thousand men died fighting against the world’s most powerful military so that the United States of America could be born. It became a beacon of liberty to nations everywhere and created the modern western civilization billions have enjoyed. We all owe a debt to those that sacrificed so much to make that happen. Especially those five thousand that gave all. In the years since, millions have served this country in the military to pay back the debt to those original few. Some of our wars have been just; some not so much. Many of those liberties won at such a high cost have been eroded away, but the call to duty has never gone unanswered. One million American servicemen have died serving during our various wars. They should be remembered. They gave all so others wouldn’t have to. As the Memorial Day weekend ushers in the beginning of summer celebrations and revelry, let us not forget the meaning of the holiday. Let us pause to remember and give thanks to the million souls that gave their lives for us. Let us take just a moment to remember and value the sacrifices they made, so that we can fully understand the tremendous price that was and is still being paid.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Social Security

Social security was designed to provide some income for the elderly during the dreary years of the great depression. In the decades since it has become much more. It is now a relied upon retirement system, something it wasn't designed to support. In the 1960's LBJ also turned it into an income system for the disabled. Not just way more than the program was designed to do, but far more than it could possibly support. The result has become a ponzi-scheme funded program that will become insolvent in the next 20 years. It depends on increasing numbers of people paying in to take care of those receiving the benefits. There won't be enough to pay in the near future. This isn't news. The public and the politicians have known this for decades. And they have done nothing. Republicans and Democrats have been content to do nothing and let it collapse. It gives them something to blame each other for and drive out the base voters in election years. So every year we just watch the countdown to disaster continue.
Many feel like they have a social security account; they are entitled to their benefits they paid for. The program was sold to the public as this type of program. It is not. There is no account. The government seizes the revenue from you through payroll taxes and immediately spends it. And spends even more. The "surplus" in collected funds doesn't go to support the program, it is used to make the budget deficit appear smaller. I am 50 years old and have no thoughts of ever collecting anything from social security. It isn't going to be there. It won't be there for anyone younger either. It won't even last for those that are older than I am. The money you paid into the program isn't there. It's already spent. You won't get it back. This is wrong.
Libertarians are philosophically opposed to Socialist Security. We don't need the nanny state to tell us how to take care of ourselves. This isn't a legitimate function of government. People should be entitled to the wages of their labor, and responsible for their own lives. Philosophically libertarians are right. Practice, however, is different. The program already exists. It doesn't matter if it would have been better if it had never existed. That ship sailed long ago, we can't go back in time to fix it. People have been promised benefits. They have paid for benefits. They ARE entitled to those benefits.  The Libertarian Party isn't just a philosophy club. It is the party of solutions. I have a solution.
First you have to make it solvent. SSDI disability is the most abused and fraud filled program in the federal government. End it. No new recipients starting now. There are plenty of disability insurance options available on the market. Use one, or not, at your own leisure and/or peril. Those already dependent on SSDI disability would be grandfathered in. It wouldn't be right to change the rules after the fact at a point where no other options exist. This will drive down costs, and increase the available funds for the original purpose of retirement income.  Next, stop spending the surplus. Create the dedicated trust fund account most believe Social Security to be. These two changes alone will extend the solvency by decades.
There's more we can do. Eliminate the cap on SS taxes, while simultaneously lowering the tax rate on employers and employees to 5%. This would make things easier on employers that would have lower expenses. It would increase the take home pay of workers, leading to increased economic growth and spending without the immediate inflationary pressure of increased wages. Most importantly, it would make Social Security solvent for everyone. Once we have that, then we can discuss "privitizing" part or even all of the program. Until we fix it and make it solvent, there's nothing else we can do but watch it collapse. Democrats and Republicans are content to do just that, and do not care at all about all those that will be impacted by the collapse. I say we give this Libertarian a chance do right by the folks that are paying for it and fix it instead.

School Security

     In February the country was rocked by a school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead. This was unfortunately not the first time this has happened. Nor will it likely be the last. Mass shootings are regrettably becoming annual news events. First and foremost I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the parents that have lost loved ones. Losing a child is a devastating grief no parent should ever have to endure. There are no words I can express that could ever ease the pain.
     The question for the rest of us is "How do we prevent this from ever happening again?" Gun control advocates immediately take advantage of such events to push their agenda. Some even naively believe that gun control would make a difference. Australia enacted strict gun control and confiscation measures after a mass shooting in 1996. In the decades since, the murder rate in Australia has been cut in half. A dramatic result? In that same time in the USA, over a million AR-15 style rifles have been sold here in the United States. The murder rate in the USA has also been cut in half. Two opposite actions, the exact same result. Guns are not the problem.
     When I was in high school, students often kept deer rifles and shotguns on display in gun racks in their pickup trucks. They never shot anyone. I once brought a shotgun to school so the band could use it to simulate the canon shots in a performance of the 1812 overture. There were a couple of interested glances in the hallway, but again no one got hurt. They were non-events. Guns were not the problem.
      The guns haven't changed; schools have. Public schools in particular have shifted to a compulsory attendance model. Families that do not send their children to school can be fined, jailed, or lose custody of their children. Districts receive funding based mostly on attendance and graduation rates, not on quality of education. The result is students that do not want to be at school but are forced to attend; students that regularly disrupt classes and get in trouble. The result is a toxic adversarial relationship between the school and those children that results in anger, animosity, and the occasional violent outburst. By the time a student displays enough bad behavior to be considered a threat and is expelled from school, the damage is done. That student already sees the school as an oppressor to be dealt with.
     At the same time, schools are now overwhelmingly designated as "gun free zones" in order to receive even more federal funding. Advertising to all that the children inside are at best poorly protected. A free-fire zone with little fear of immediate consequences for those that enter to do harm. Combined this is a recipe for disaster.
         So what can be done? Some districts are dropping the gun free zone, and are permitting some staff members to carry weapons to protect their students. Others are hiring armed security or school resource officers. This will help some, but is far from a comprehensive solution. Schools need to change. Our philosophy needs to change. Not all children belong in school. Many are better served through apprenticeships learning trades. More school choices need to be available to suit a wide variety of students, and homeschooling needs to be a recognized viable option. Efforts need to be made to remove disruptive students before they view schools as their oppressor and take violent action.
       We also need to rethink how and what we are teaching our kids. In an attempt to artificially inflate self-esteem, we are raising generations that are unable to appropriately deal with adversity. By teaching them that all their feelings are valid, important, and to be respected; they respond quite poorly when they discover that not all of their feelings and desires are acceptable.We need to stop creating the mental illness that leads to these events.
     I spent a year as an ISS supervisor, dealing with students that had frequent discipline issues. I spent 8 years teaching regular classes in public schools as a certified public school teacher. I also spent 7 years as a security officer in a public high school. I am not expressing an abstract opinion, these are first hand observations made over decades. We are failing our kids. The problem is not guns, the problem is us.