Wow factor

Here is the original article which precipitated my letter:

“Maybe the two cranes towering over First Street SE will get the public to notice the $160 million federal courthouse under construction there.

The eight-story edifice will be faced with stone and then glass that will stretch as wide as a football field from the Cedar River to Second Street SE between Seventh and Eighth avenues SE and look toward downtown.

Brad Thomason, leader of the Ryan Cos. US Inc. building team, and David Sorg, a principal with project architect OPN Architects Inc. of Cedar Rapids, scratch their heads at the lack of interest.

Sorg says people have yet to grasp the magnitude, beauty and importance of the courthouse. When complete and ready to open in fall 2012, the 330,000-square-foot building will stand a little taller than the nearby Great America Building. . . .” (More from

My Response:

Regarding “wow factor.” I can understand the architect’s enthusiasm for what sounds like an immense, complicated project. We should all take pride in our work. Perhaps I can shed some light on the public’s indifference [to which the article alludes].

I know I’m not alone in considering the new $160-million federal courthouse building in Cedar Rapids just another expression of our excessive, obscene, financially bankrupt government, which I’m required to pay for, just like I pay for bank bailouts, stimuli, domestic spying programs and foreign, undeclared wars.

Few people know that one-sixth of America’s labor force is employed directly by government (source) [and this doesn’t even include contractors].

It is the five-sixths of the labor force, the voluntary sector of our economy, that grows food, sells coffee, trims lawns and produces all the goods and services society voluntarily consumes.

Taxes on them pay for the projects, salaries and health care benefits of the government one sixth, including the new federal building’s eventual occupants, all of whom will have better health care than me.

The architect is right. My jaw will drop when I see the finished, arching, stone, glass-covered whatever, but not for the reasons he thinks. I will see only $160 million worth of goods and services that never came into existence because money was taken from the voluntary economy to build yet another gratuitous monument to our rulers in Washington D.C.


I had to cut many corners to make the 250-word limit. My first draft was about 600 words.

Not Left vs Right, Power vs Liberty

“These are perilous times to believe in liberty. Because I oppose Obama’s expansion of government (socialized health care), people assume I was for Bush’s expansion of government (wars, domestic spying, suspending habeas corpus for detainees, monitoring domestic travel, etc.).

Such is the world through the lens of left-versus-right glasses. I’ve been lumped together with neo-cons, called a Republican agent, and faced such comments as, ‘Think of [alternative-energy subsidies] this way: It’s a new weapon to use against the Middle East. It’s weapons research. That should satisfy your tiny repubtard mind.’

I’ll note that I voted for neither McCain nor Obama — neither for the old white guy who believes in bank bailouts and expanding foreign, undeclared wars, nor for the young black guy who believes in bank bailouts and expanding foreign, undeclared wars.

In both cases, dissenters were/are portrayed as fringe, radical, unreasonable, and irrelevant. In both cases, the conflict is crammed into a paradigm of left versus right, and, in both cases, it’s an uphill battle for those of us who oppose an expansion of government.” (from

Politcal Posturing over AIG – a letter from my senator

I recently received an e-mail from Sen. Tom Harkin expressing outrage over the AIG bonuses and vowing to ‘pass legislation that completely taxes those bonuses away,’ and ‘send a message to AIG and other companies who received bailout money.’

While I think the anger is well-founded, I fear it misses the point.

Government should never have entered the business of giving our money to failing companies. The line between government and private enterprise is now perverted. Because of the bailouts, politicians are now posturing by interfering in businesses they know little about, and businessmen (bankers in this case) now have more reason than ever to lobby and influence politics.

The whole process is outrageous. Bad companies should simply go bankrupt. There are plenty of banks here in the Midwest that have been responsible. If we lived in a free society, they would find themselves in a position to buy assets from the hugely irresponsible and incompetent New York banks. Instead, money is taken from the competent and given to the incompetent.

At the same time, politicians are pretending to have stuck it to the man. Scolding AIG over several hundred million in bonuses after handing them several hundred billion is ridiculous.

If Congress wants to scrutinize something, they should scrutinize the Federal Reserve. Instead of worrying about AIG’s millions, they should provide transparency to the Fed’s trillions. (from

Healthcare and our Ever-Expanding Government

Our government, which already directly employs a seventh a America’s labor force (22 million people), is doing what government does best. It is growing – in size, cost and invasiveness.

Its growth into the healthcare industry is particularly interesting to me because of the enthusiasm with which so many of my liberal friends welcome it. . . .

Once government is paying for our healthcare . . . they’ll eventually claim dominion over our diets and health-related habits.

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Iran is NOT coming to get me

This brief (300-word) letter to the editor appeared in the Daily Iowa, October 16th 2007.

     In last week’s Republican presidential debate, all the candidates except for Ron Paul went on ad nauseam about the Islamo-fascist regime bent on destroying all of Western civilization.
     This would be quite an accomplishment for a nation whose national GDP is comparable to the state of Alabama’s.
     The sentiments are echoed by many prominent figures in the press who have propagated an inexcusable misquotation with frightening efficiency. Ahmadinejad never threatened to “wipe Israel off the map.”
     The war cheerleading smacks of the same duplicity that led to the invasion of Iraq. Even the supposedly liberal New York Times subsequently apologized for deliberately suppressing stories that questioned the invasion of Iraq.
     The Iranian threat is not nearly as dire as depicted. We have faced a nuclear Soviet Union and a nuclear North Korea. I agree with former CENTCOM commander General Abizaid: we can live with a nuclear Iran. Their regime is not suicidal.
     Military action against Iran, no matter how precise and limited, would certainly escalate, erase our modest gains in Iraq and Afghanistan, instantly jeopardize our soldiers overseas, destabilize Pakistan (who already has nukes), and cause terrorism against us to skyrocket.
     I doubt the sincerity of those making a hysterical case for war. James Madison warned us “the means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”
     If we are supposed to be so scared of terrorists that we start a third war in six years, that we accept concessions already made to our constitutional liberties, it seems like a no-brainer to do something about our completely porous borders.
     The fear-mongering is completely hypocritical so long as our borders are ignored. It’s analogous to a child on a playground, sticking out his chin. “Hit me, so I can have my war.”
     Enough is enough.

See it in the Daily Iowan. (I didn’t choose their title.)
250-word version published in Fayetteville Observer, Nov 5th, 2007.

The American Budget

My curiosity about the federal government, taxes, foreign policy, military spending, etc. led me to I bought the poster, and have since spent hours studying the administration’s discretionary budget proposal. It inspired the following guest opinion, published in the Daily Iowan on Feb 19th, 2007.

Demand better results from defense spending

We Americans, I think, do not generally consider ourselves militant. Our forces are all-volunteer. There is no sustained presence of uniformed soldiers in the streets, as exists in other nations. The ideals of peace, justice, and liberty feature prominently in both our history and folklore. We did not even keep a substantial standing army during peacetime for the first century and a half of our existence – the practice began in 1945.

For many, myself included, recent history runs contrary to what we thought we knew about ourselves. Read More