Got Conned?

It is so hard to feel sympathy for people who were duped because they wanted to be duped.

When someone says, "Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too – I promise," at what point do you scratch your head and wonder, how? At what point do you ask a few questions to see what gives?

When someone promises the impossible, at what point should a person suspend their willingness to believe and become doubtful?

When someone says "First we have to pass the law, to find out what's in it," shouldn't you wonder why they don't want you to know what's in it, first? If they start calling you names because you ask questions, should you let that silence you?

These are serious questions, given the degree to which so many people believed the sales pitch they got on Obamacare. The advocates were not the least bit cleaver in their deviousness, plenty of truths were available for anyone interested in knowing. But, what if you didn't want to know? What if you just wanted to believe the impossible was possible?

As one listens to all the crying and lamenting, the crony capitalists who were double-crossed and silenced, and all those left holding the bag, one is reminded of the adage that a con artist can't con a honest man. Within that is the real problem – a population willing to suspend the very essence of their own integrity and intellect, in order to gain the unearned. That's not something which will be easily corrected or changed any time soon.

There are a lot of people who have every right to say, "I told you so" – you know who they are – all those unintelligent, unenlightened and uncouth individuals, deemed ignorant when compared to the beautiful people of mass media and the politically blind, who predicted the impossible was possible. They have left Sarah Palin and the Tea Party looking quite brilliant. Are they?

Hardly. They just saw what anyone could see if you weren't intent on wanting to believe the impossible. If you are honest enough to understand that there is no such thing as a free lunch, then you have to look behind the words of promises to the contrary. The Tea Party and others oppose Obamacare because they do not believe it will work – but somehow they have been successfully portrayed as stubbornly opposing it, all the while knowing it WILL work. Who does that? How does anyone swallow such spin? Right or wrong, the Tea Partiers believe what they say. Don't you wonder why?

The only brilliance of the Tea Party, of Sarah Palin, of Ted Cruz, etc., is in understanding that there is no escaping the necessity of being responsible for one's self. You don't need to know the nuances of the plan, to know that. Fundamentally, they understand that there is no societal benefit in institutionalizing theft, or enslaving others for your benefit. Apparently, true genius is simply to know that truth.

How the catastrophe that is Obamacare will precisely fail cannot be specifically foretold, in part because so much of it is being perpetrated in secret – but that it will fail — even more so than it has so far – there is no doubt. That's not to say we may not wind up oppressed by a program called Obamacare; the reach of unrestrained government is, after all, quite powerful. But we can know that we will not have improved health care at less cost.

If it advances, we can know that it will do so only under extreme coercion which forces everyone against their will – everyone from the providers of care to the insurers to the patients. We can know it will diminish liberty to an extreme degree. It's already been suggested, in the face of so many medical professionals dropping out, that the government should force doctors to continue to practice. This is Atlas Shrugged! Whoever believed we could reach this point of insanity?

Economics and human nature dictate that when something is "free" demand and costs will increase. And, we know that when the money runs out service will be cut [unless of course government is willing at that point to relinquish power and unleash the private sector ].

How will the high standards being imposed on insurance companies today, hold up when government is solely responsible for providing benefits? When the money runs out, will the government's insurance policy standards still be invoked when it comes to disbursing benefits to those over 60 or 70 years old? I suspect those "junk" policies being cancelled today will probably look pretty good, then.

The underlying attitude that will direct government at that point is already evident in their explanations about cancelled policies: "Only a small minority" of people are having their policies cancelled, we are being told in attempts to mollify us. Not stated is the philosophical premise that the pain and anguish of this group is acceptable, for the sake of the greater number.

"Unenlightened" people hear in this, the future, when demand exceeds government's capability of delivering. They know that it is just a matter of time and those words will be: "Gee whiz, it's only a minority of people who are being left to die for the sake of the greater good."

Seeing this inescapable eventuality is what makes Sarah Palin appear brilliant in predicting "death panels."

As to the private sector coming to the rescue? Forget it. Private providers of health care will, in some way or another, be rendered illegal. That too is predictable, because common sense says that people will run to the private sector when government becomes too oppressive. But, if freedom of choice was the goal we would never have implemented Obamacare. Protecting the power of government will require removing all competing alternatives – not unlike the postal service when it comes to delivering first class mail.

Such practical application of reality is what makes the "unenlightened" so brilliant. Such studious avoidance of reality is what will deliver us into a catastrophe in which many people will certainly suffer.

To believe that there is any turning back, at any time, is to believe that once acquired, government will relinquish power. Talk about wanting to believe the impossible is possible! That too is a profound understanding of the "unenlightened."

Environmentalists by Any Other Name

It's time to quit calling those opposing fracking, the Keystone XL Pipeline, mega loads and prudent development of natural resources, "environmentalists." Their agenda poses so much more environmental degradation and risks to the environment that they are undeserving of the label.

So severe are the environmental risks of their political agendas that one has to conclude that whatever their motivations, it has nothing to do with concerns about the environment— or for the safety of human beings. That their goals, also, undermine inexpensive energy and energy independence, means they are lowering our standard of living, and are willing to place us in international peril. One must question their motivation. Whatever it is they are not advancing domestic well-being, world peace or liberty.

To change their label might stimulate greater public thought about who they really are. To be called "environmentalists" creates a false assumption in their favor. Observers are prompted to conclude that while their methods might be questionable, "environmentalists," at least, have good intentions. That happens because most people are true "environmentalists." Most people care about their environment. They enjoy the out-of-doors and wildlife, and understand the benefits of a clean environment. So, without exploring the details, many people are inclined to give "faux enviros," the benefit of the doubt (or of ignorance), and are silent about any contradictions they see.

The phenomenal success of this slight-of-hand, has allowed the "faux enviros" to smoothly advance a political agenda that, while having little environmental benefit, greatly, and surreptitiously, creates a powerful state, and undermines civil liberties and capitalism. Whether this is their true intent or not, doesn't matter – it poses a far greater threat to our well-being than any environmental degradation.

Evidence of their folly was made clear in a news picture, this past week, of rail cars – many of them tanker cars, albeit empty at the time – scattered down the bank of the railroad tracks outside Plains, Montana —some of them floating in the Clark Fork River. How alarming! What if they were not empty? The incident clearly demonstrated that moving oil by rail is much more risky than by pipeline. But this is the preference of "faux enviros," as a default to the far more safe pipelines, which they oppose.

There was surprising quiet on their part about the potential environmental hazards of the incident. These are the same people who go apoplectic at the slightest spill reported from a pipeline. Maybe they do not want to bring attention to the consequences of their opposition to pipelines. But, if they see that clearly enough to avoid talking about it, then they must surely see the error of their political position. How could they understand the risk, and still oppose pipelines, if the environment is really their concern?

And there are so many other contradictions about their position. It costs more to move oil by rail than pipeline. Any time something costs more it is reflecting the greater amount of energy that is being used. So, just the cost, tells you that moving oil by rail or truck generates a larger "carbon footprint." It might very well be that moving even the hated Canadian heavy crude by pipeline, has a lesser carbon footprint than moving lighter crude by rail. The market, if allowed to work, could tell you that in a flash.

Bear in mind, there is untruth perpetrated about how horrible the Canadian crude really is. The very process of mining the Canadian crude is actually a cleaning up of nature-caused contaminated soil. The crude is also processed to make it cleaner before it is sent to market. But perhaps even more important is the way our energy policy is being determined by a minority of people by the manipulation of a regulation that was put in place only to monitor how industry does things. If the US is to reject Canadian crude as a matter of its energy policy, that should be determined by a public debate in Congress; not by lobbyists putting pressure on a faceless regulatory agency and the dictates of a single man.

The same arguments about potential "carbon footprints" are applicable to every other kind of energy. If one costs more than another, then that says, right up front, without any fancy calculations, that it generates the greater "carbon footprint." How can people who claim to be concerned about the environment be supporting alternatives that actually use more carbon, if they are indeed as concerned as they claim about the impact of carbon dioxide emissions on the climate?

They are certainly fully aware of the higher costs associated with solar, wind and ethanol. That's why they have pushed Congress to give money – subsidies – to those producing the alternatives. Anytime a product needs a subsidy to sustain it, one can be assured it is utilizing more energy to produce than other market alternatives. That's true whether we are talking energy or shoelaces (unless of course it is a flat-out bit of graft).

Ethanol has been thoroughly proven to be a boondoggle from beginning to end. Not only does the production of one gallon of ethanol require more than one gallon of petroleum to produce, despite its market integration, it still remains uncompetitive and continues to be produced only because of subsidies. It doesn't matter that re-directing corn production to the production of ethanol has increased food prices, causing the greatest pain to the low-income. It doesn't matter that using ethanol damages vehicles, which also, by the way, generates even more carbon use in order to mitigate. It doesn't matter the burden the subsidy places on beleaguered taxpayers.

So how can the "faux enviros," on just this one energy issue, be in the slightest way considered people of good intention? The only thing that has been achieved, here, is to increase the power of government to control the market and to restrict the choices of citizens. That is the only achievement, beyond the temporary enrichment of a handful of political cronies at taxpayers' expense. Was this their intent?

Much the same parallel can be made in regard to wind energy. One can go through the step by step comparisons of cost, but in the end, the simple fact that the cost of producing wind energy is greater than the cost of generating energy with coal or natural gas, says that wind energy has a greater "carbon footprint" than do carbon fuels.

And, where is the "bleeding heart" concern about poor people who are faced with higher energy bills because "faux enviro" lobbying has given the power to government to force the inclusion of more expensive wind energy into the portfolios of utility companies?

In quiet voices they will say that the human suffering is acceptable if it "saves the planet" by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. But, when you understand that producing more costly energy reflects a bigger "carbon footprint," even that cruel position falls apart.

And, oh yes. Where are the "faux enviros" when it comes to the bird-deaths associated with the spinning of turbine blades? They cried around the world, as though the death of five or six ducks in the Canadian oil sands was a holocaust, and they attempted to prosecute oil producers in North Dakota when a handful of ducks died on a settling pond, but birds getting whacked by spinning turbine blades die by the tens of thousands, and there is but silence. Where is the intellectual honesty about it from the "faux enviros?"

And, once again, what is achieved with propping up the wind energy industry, beyond the greater empowerment of government at the expense of individual liberty?

So no matter what the opponents of the environment are called, let's quit calling them "environmentalists," they are totally undeserving of the name.

Bankruptcies Solve Mystery

Where wealth comes from, seems to be a mystery for many people.

But for those who believe it comes from President Obama's "stash," take a look at North Dakota. As an experiment in what works and what doesn't, it should end all debate. But, it won't.

While Detroit, after years and years of "sharing the wealth," has declared bankruptcy, in North Dakota — where they develop natural resources, leave entrepreneurs unfettered, and expect people to work for a living— the state government is sitting on $1.5 billion in surplus – and that surplus is expected by many to actually come in at $3 or $4 billion. And, that's after the state increased their spending by 62 percent.

Read more: Bankruptcies Solve Mystery

Feds Leverage Funds to Usurp Local Control

The hand-writing has long been on the wall about the real role of the Policy Coordinating Committee or the PCC, and it's really not about traffic signals as the current controversy would seem to indicate, nor is it about bike trails, as a previous conflict seemed to imply – it's all about local control versus federal control. Who is in charge of how local communities grow?

Yellowstone County Commissioners are coming to understand that maybe it's not local elected officials – not if they want to receive their share of the disbursement of federal transportation dollars.

Going back to 2006, when people in the community were upset about how a map of proposed bike trails were misleading bikers onto private property— the outcome revealed much. The map is a product of the Heritage Bike Trail Program, which is mandated by the Federal Highway Agency, which dictates not only a requirement for a map, but the very existence of the PCC and how it must function. The fact that the local public officials could not make the incredibly benign decision not to publish a map, should say all that needs to be said about who's in charge.

While local officials were able to manipulate the map so that it shows very little, they didn't have the authority to decide not to publish one. The Heritage Bike Trail map still exists, just as the program still exists, even though the name has been changed in an effort to try to fool the public into thinking that it's something different.

The discovery that local officials, also, can't make such a simple decision as instituting a left turn at a traffic light, has again clearly illuminated the situation, which prompted one county commissioner to declare "we are wasting our time."

If the PCC lacks the authority to make even such simple decisions, then one has to question: What is the real purpose of the PCC?

Having for years watched, researched and studied the function of the PCC and the transportation bureaucracy, one has to conclude that the primary purpose of the PCC is to corral legitimate local power. It is a bureaucratic coup that manipulates all aspects of local elected authority, by forcing local government to function within the confines of federal dictates, leveraged by the return of tax dollars to local communities.

The PCC, the county commissioners, the city council, and even the federally mandated Planning Board members, can all run around voicing opinions, holding meetings, voting on issues and making proclamations, to their hearts content, so long as they do not step beyond the policies and goals which the federal government has placed around them. Those policies and goals have not so much to do with transportation as with a vision of how we all should live, which is pretty much a plan that places human beings at a subservient level to the planet, wildlife and "sustaining" nature.

The artificially contrived new form of government is one which keeps locals in their place, running around like mice in a box. It also assures that all communities will grow and develop in the same way, marching to the same drummer.

Since, if people fully understood those goals, many might not agree, the much wiser social engineers and centralized planners have found it necessary to coerce us into the proper chutes. Understanding that, American citizens still hold the rather archaic idea that they should have some input about how they live their lives, the bureaucracies, and progressive organizations at the fore, have devised this system that lets the locals THINK they have a voice.

Don't misunderstand. Local public "input" is solicited and even mandated by the regulators, but what the local yokels want only has influence to the point that it conflicts with a federal edict – exactly as PCC members are discovering.

Whether it's a bike trail map, the necessity of bike trails or "alternative" modes of transportation, or whether it's roundabouts or instituting the whole concept of "Smart Streets," or whether it's a Growth Policy or the endorsement of "sustainable" living, be assured there is only one acceptable outcome, no matter what local input might be.

This is not to say that a left turn signal is desirable, or that bike trails are bad. It is not to say that people won't enjoy "walkable communities," or that roundabouts don't work. It is to say that people should have a choice. It is to say that whatever the benefits of these things are, citizens are not being given a choice, and local communities are not self-directing. It is to say that no matter the risks of environmental degradation, the risks of dictatorial government are far greater. It is to say that local citizens in the end will make better decisions than centralized government planning.

The policies and political manipulations behind the PCC have broader implications. The strategy was recently expanded upon by President Obama in coordinating the goals of the Department of Transportation with those of two other federal agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Housing and Urban Development. Millions of dollars have been put into place to attempt to corral all local elected government under a new plan of regional government.

Federal regulators are taking a lesson from the success of leveraging transportation dollars. In the future the officials of local communities, in order to get grants and other tax funds, from any of these agencies, will be required to endorse "sustainable" development and to function through this new system of government, propped up with the appearance of local control, with "partnerships" and pseudo grassroots organizations.

The goals are being expanded to include things like diversity in neighborhoods, compliance with land use restraints, and adoption of regulatory mandates regarding natural resource development, economic growth, etc.

This "new age" vision was most clearly described in the July 30, 2013 issue of National Review, ""It is part of a broader suite of initiatives designed to block suburban development, press Americans into hyper-dense cities, and force us out of our cars. Government-mandated ethnic and racial diversification plays a role in this scheme, yet the broader goal is forced 'economic integration.'"

The ultimate vision is to make all neighborhoods more or less alike, turning traditional cities into "ultra-dense Manhattans, while making suburbs look more like cities do now. In this centrally-planned utopia, steadily increasing numbers will live cheek-by-jowl in 'stack and pack' high-rises close to public transportation, while automobiles fall into relative disuse," reads the article.

Again, if this is what Americans want, great! But most don't even know the vision, nor do they know that their power to influence it and their individual choices are being co-opted, while their local elected representatives are being strong-armed for the redistribution of tax dollars into their communities.

And as the PCC is learning, it is a struggle between local control versus federal control.

Local officials who stand up to defend local power and local autonomy should be commended, because ultimately they are defending our rights as citizens to choose. Local officials who acquiesce to the top-down controls for the sake of "free money," should be replaced as soon as possible. Our system of local control and Constitutional government should have no price tag.

No Right to Privacy

There's a great misconception percolating about, that we all have a right to privacy.

Look in the Constitution. There is no such right.

There are, however, a lot of restraints against Government violating the property and privacy of its citizen. And, there are "rights" that empower citizens to protect their own privacy.

We citizens have no right to privacy EXCEPT when it comes to government. Only government is restrained from finding out stuff about us, because only Government has the power that exceed the power citizens are supposed to have to protect ourselves. (Think about the media, or the "paparazzi," and how much some politicians or celebrities might wish there was a means of legally preventing people from finding out stuff about them.)

There are also strong laws aimed at making government as transparent as possible – laws that say that what government does has to be available for close scrutiny by the public.

So, when Montana's Attorney General denied the press information regarding who has been issued conceal-carry permits, he was wrong. As something that government did, the information is, by law, open to public scrutiny.

If one is assuming we have a universal right to privacy, then it may, indeed, seem that there is an internal contradiction in our laws which has created a conundrum for an office of State Government, but that is not really so.

The Attorney General only has such information because it was obtained by infringing upon another civil liberty of the citizens – the second amendment – the right to keep and bear arms. That conflicts with other laws should emerge, after the State has violated a basic tenant of law, shouldn't be the least bit surprising.

The fact is, the Attorney General should be forthcoming about which citizens have had their rights violated by his office – both in obtaining the information, and in requiring a permit to do what is guaranteed as a freedom in our Constitution.

If the State had not compiled the information through coercive acts against citizens, the revealing of public information would pose no risk to private citizens. The Attorney General would then be in full compliance with all of Montana's most fundamental laws – those that protect our liberty.

Look Who Decides

When government wants to accept as sound-science and set public policy regarding the application of scientific facts, based upon majority rule, be afraid, be very afraid.

We have all seen those TV spots where somebody with a camera and microphone run around the streets asking people questions like "Who is the Vice President of the US?" just to demonstrate how uninformed is the general public. The fact that the answers are so wrong is the entertainment factor.

Read more: Look Who Decides

It's Not About Compromise

As one listens to the clamor coming from Washington DC (and the media) for compromise, and hears the unquestioned conclusion, of one and all, that compromise is a good thing, one has to wonder how do people come to laud such a ridiculous idea?

It is, after all, upon a road, well-paved by compromises, that we come to this precipice. It's been a decades-long series of compromises that has delivered us to having little room left to stand for principle. We've done "compromise", and now know its results.

Perhaps compromise is a necessity in some situations in life, and perhaps it is even a common sense approach in dealing with some things, but seldom when dealing with anything of grave importance. Compromises work fine when sorting through subjective choices, but never when dealing with objective reality. Reality will assert itself, regardless of your compromise.

To think that a compromise is good, is to conclude there is no right or wrong. Or else – (and this is the more probable reason) it is in anticipation of being the undeserving beneficiary of the compromise. For example, a thief would have a different view about the benefits of a compromise, than would his victim. For the thief, it's a win-win. And so compromises often are, for the perpetrators of injustice. Hence, the popularity of compromise and the reason for the resounding joy when its victims acquiesce.

When dealing with principles, a compromise sacrifices the right to the wrong, the good to the bad. A compromise to have Neapolitan ice cream is an expedient remedy when disagreeing about whether to have chocolate or strawberry, but not at all if one is deathly allergic to strawberries.

A compromise might be a more beneficial solution when it cuts short losses that are sure to come from an unresolved issue. Litigants in civil disputes very commonly accept the alternative of a compromise, not because they wouldn't benefit from a just decision, but because they expect the process in coming to that conclusion to be more costly than their losses in the compromise. In such a case the litigant in the wrong wins.

Only in politics are compromisers viewed with virtue. In the real world, a compromiser is taken note of as untrustworthy and troublesome, by those who must deal with him on serious issues.

Politicians embrace comprise, not because they aren't dealing with serious issues, but the issues just aren't serious to them. They are players in a process in which just coming to some - any - decision is considered victory. Therefore, someone who compromises easily in Washington DC is to be admired and appreciated as someone who eases the process, their prevailing value.

They seldom have to live with the outcome of their decisions, (evidenced in exempting themselves from Obamacare), so right and wrong are irrelevant considerations. The consequences of their decisions befall others, whose plight is quite often never identified as being associated with their compromise, at least not enough so as to effect the only reality that matters for them, re-election. For politicians there is no wrong decision, because they have the power to shift the consequences to others.

This is hard for most people to understand, because we live in a world where consequences are not easily shifted to others. Reality holds us accountable for the decisions we make. Many people make the mistake of believing that that is understood in Washington DC.

Imagine running a women's apparel shop with a partner and having to make the decision of what lines to carry in order to have a successful business. You and your partner may disagree about what the right choices are, and you may resolve the conflict by buying half of one line and half of another. No matter who was right or who was wrong, at best you will make only half the profits as you would have made with the right choice - and given the nature of business - the nature of reality - half the profits won't be enough to stay in business. The compromise will deliver you to the same position as if you made a wholly wrong choice.

That is the world most of us live in. Not only do we understand that compromise is not a winning hand, but that within the realm of reality there is no multiple choice when it comes to getting the right answer. Usually, there is only one right answer and success in life depends upon one's ability to identify it.

That is the understanding of reality that gives rise to the Tea Party. It is this understanding about compromises that causes them and other grassroots Americans to dig in their heels. They see the road ahead, and they know how we came to be in this position in the first place. They have long listened to the theory of compromise and have seen its failure in terms of the principles they hold dear – they lose.

As the Democrats and Republicans wrangle over decisions in dealing with crisis after crisis, it seems no one really cares about the conclusion so long as they reach a glorious compromise. They seem not to care that unless they come up with the RIGHT solution, reality will impose its solution, regardless of their compromising antics. In the end who wins, the Democrats or the Republican, is irrelevant to the citizens bearing the consequences.

It's not grand compromise that America needs, but right answers.

Bad News is Good News

While it may be politically incorrect to state, the best news of the economic outlook update was that there is less federal pork coming to the state. Economies less dependent upon the largess of government are healthier and stronger economies.

Without the subsidized existence of the public dole, citizens are incentivized to find other means of sustaining themselves, which always results in producing products and services that generate new wealth rather than syphoning off the production of others. Creating wealth is the most sound and secure means of sustaining economies. With less dependence upon the federal government, Montanans will build a stronger economic base within the private sector.

One needs but look at the struggles of Cascade County which is so greatly dependent upon the appropriation of defense spending to sustain its economy. There is a reason why Cascade is the only county in the state to actually have negative growth. The contraction that happens when government revenues cease is very painful and impacts all secondary businesses.

Counties less dependent upon the whims of politics do far better, including Yellowstone County, because the business decisions they face are dictated by real market conditions that are buffered from the irrationality of political games.

All industries, any more, encounter impacts from government, but private enterprises are always adjusting to minimize those impacts, and the less directly those industries are tied to government the better are the options. The fact is, as erratic as markets can be, they are far more predictable than Washington DC.

While there are certainly legitimate expenditures that the federal government should take care of, for any community to look upon those expenditures as a means of sustaining itself is fool hardy, which Billings has certainly shown itself capable of being. One of the worst things that could have happened for Billings was to have actually won its bid in the 80s to be the site of a federally funded super collider. Talk about boom and bust cycles!

Actually being too dependent upon any one industry segment is not a healthy situation for any community. Economic diversification means that when one industry slips another is usually rising, which tends to cultivate a more stable economic base. Certainly, Yellowstone County benefits greatly from being very diversified.

But, there is much more involved. Any kind of business endeavor usually generates "spin off" businesses. That happens both in public sector projects and in private sector enterprises. A publicly funded project may indeed lead to other public funded projects, but all stand to fall at once, when politicians have a change of mood.

Spin-off private sector enterprises grow the economic base, long term, because successful business owners are always cultivating options that allow alternatives for continued operation should any customer base be lost.

Alternatives are seldom possible when engaged in government enterprises – they must rise and fall based upon who is in public office. And again, the hard reality is, cultivating political favor is far more costly and uncertain than that of creating and producing goods and services. (We won't go into the unholy alliances such negotiations often foster.)

So while a contracting federal government may create pain in some areas of Montana's economy, it should be looked upon as an opportunity to escape the vagaries of dependency.

Montana Wallows in Backwaters

During the Energy Forum I heard comments about how quickly MDU in North Dakota was able to get the building of their new refinery permitted. It took just a few months.

I could not help but sadly reflect upon the almost certain knowledge that were they to build that same plant just a few miles across the border in Montana, it would still be unpermitted. They would be looking at years, not months, to get the government's blessing, as well as having to spend millions of dollars on red tape and legal challenges.

Read more: Montana Wallows in Backwaters

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