Why I did not attend a TEA Party

>> Friday, April 17, 2009

Hello all!

As I have mentioned in several different venues, including my last blog post, I chose not to attend any of the many TEA Parties held on April 15th despite the fact that I was sympathetic to their cause, at least the basic premise. In this post I would like to lay out my reasons for not participating.

My primary motivation for this post, beyond explaining my reasons, is to offer some thoughts on grassroots activity, protestation, and related issues for future efforts. I believe strong grassroots organization and activity can and should powerfully impact our future, so it is of vital importance that all - non-professional grassroots activists, professional activists, political strategists, and politicians alike - give the matter much careful consideration.

My reasons for not participating are as follow.

First: Taxes are an effect, not a cause.

Some form of taxation is necessary to uphold and stabilize good government. Taxes, even high taxes, are not wrong in-and-of-themselves if they are being used for the right things and are obtained lawfully by the consent of the people. The problem today is not necessarily the rate at which we are taxed, it is the cause(s) that necessitate high taxes; things like an unnecessarily large and inefficient bureaucratic government, wasteful spending, political corruption, damaging social engineering programs of a highly questionable constitutional nature and massive unconstitutional bailouts of non-government enterprises all contribute to the tax problem.

Second: in connection with the previous point, grassroots energy is a precious commodity.

TEA Party protests tend (emphasis on “tend”) to not focus on root causes or education, I believe, nor does their mobilization of grassroots energy lend itself to productivity or sustainability. Our focus should be on the root causes, first identifying them, educating ourselves' on the issues, educating others and mobilizing a focused, productive and sustainable opposition.

Grassroots energy is often difficult to find and sustain, and easily tends to be unproductive. Because the vast majority of grassroots activists have a limited amount of time, energy, and resources available, they should be deployed as effectively and strategically as possible and controlled to a great degree (i.e. focused and directed, not micro-managed) with a long term focus. Fundamental or root causes should always be their focus, not effects or mere lightening rod issues.

Third: It is easy to skew perception of protests such as the TEA Parties.

Perception is important because it largely influences people’s willingness or ability to fairly evaluate our message. If our perception is good people will be receptive to our message and respond positively. If our perception is bad people will respond negatively to our message. CNN, a liberal network hostile to the TEA Party message, understood this. They knew that if they could negatively portray the TEA Party movement, even if that portrayal was false, they could destroy or minimize its positive reception. So, unsurprisingly, they portrayed the TEA Parties as negatively as they could. Unfortunately, it wasn’t particularly difficult to do so - there were more than enough seemingly angry and/or upset people who came across as merely being hot heads to provide fodder for negative coverage - and by presenting these seeming hot heads them as accurately representing the overall spirit of the TEA Parties as a whole it was easy for CNN (and others) to negatively influence perception of the movement.

Perception is something that is often beyond our control - no matter how good a job we do of presenting ourselves and our cause in the best possible light - so we can’t allow anticipated perception to dictate everything we do. Still, we should factor it in, and when an activity lends itself to an unnecessarily high degree of negative exposure and negative public perception we should be very wary of attaching ourselves to that cause or activity, particularly if our time, energy, and resources are limited and can be better used elsewhere. Ultimately, our personal involvement should always be very calculated, long term in focus, and controlled on the emotional level.

Fourth (and last): I am uncomfortable with the symbolic aspect of the TEA Parties.

Taxes have always been a lightening rod issue, prone to arouse the less admirable instincts of man.

The stereotype of angry protesters waving incendiary anti-tax and/or anti-government signs is not a stereotype without reason. Historically, taxes have proven to be a lightening rod for expression of dissatisfaction (usually justifiably) with government. Taxes are so universally disliked that it is very natural for them to be the object of expresses ones frustration, particularly when one faces a daunting array of complicated issues that need to be addressed. So I am leery of tax oriented protestations. They are strewn with pitfalls stemming from the fallen nature of man. The historical symbolism at play in the TEA Party protests only serves to exacerbate an already precarious balance and heighten my wariness.

Anger should never be a primary (perhaps even significant) catalyst in our political and social activism. Anger should never be uncontrolled or semi-uncontrolled. It distorts our reasoning and rightfully mars the nobleness of our cause, casting reasonable doubt on our causes rightness and worth. It is a self inflicted impugning of our character.

It is unwise and potentially debilitating to automatically refuse participation in any activity that could include people involved for the wrong reasons. We can’t dictate or control the motives of those we work with in all of our political and social activity. Sometimes we just have to accept the fact that perfection will not be achieved (understatement) and make the best of things. Still, I believe it is wise as a general rule to avoid participating in the events and campaigns most likely to be fueled by wrong motives.

I by no means believe that all people involved with the TEA Party movement were involved for the wrong reasons. Remember, I am speaking not only of TEA Parties but also of activism generally. I believe the majority of those involved with the TEA Parties were involved for the right reasons and conducted themselves in a manner befitting the rightness of their cause. But, I also believe enough people were involved for the wrong reasons to dramatically damage the integrity of the TEA Parties in the eyes of the general public, especially with an incredibly biased MSM leaping on every available opportunity to negatively portray them.

At the end of the day, I think the net effect of the TEA Parties could be negligibly good, but more likely to be damaging to the TEA Party cause in the long term. Positively, they mobilized and energized a very significant number of people, some of whom may continue to stay involved in the future or increase their current participation. They demonstrated that there is a strong grassroots opposition to the policies our new government is seeking to implement and (in some cases) has already implemented, and they presented an opportunity to spread a constructive conservative message. Negatively, they diverted precious grassroots energy away from more fundamental issues, promoted among the grassroots a focus on effect instead of cause, were easily mischaracterized by the MSM, and fed a spirit of anger and frustration that is ultimately more damaging than it is helpful. Only time will tell what good the TEA Parties have done or will do.

If I had to take the over/under (over being positive, under being negative) on the effect of the TEA Parties I would take the under, which is why I didn’t participate. Still, I understand and recognize that there were good reasons to participate and respect the decision of those who did participate.

I know that was a long post, but I believe it accurately, though perhaps clumsily, presents my reasons for not participating in the TEA Parties. Keep in mind that many of the above thoughts and points were not aimed specifically at the TEA Party movement but were more broadly oriented thoughts on grassroots activism and political protestation in general.

As usual, I welcome any added thoughts, agreements, disagreements, corrections, etc. I am acutely aware of my own shortcomings in knowledge and philosophic development and coherency, so I am sure that virtually anyone reading this post has something beneficial to add.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


The FairTax: an introduction

>> Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hello all!

April 15th is here! Yippee! I love tax time, the New Years or Christmas of taxes. Even though I don't pay many taxes at the moment I would, in a fashion somewhat resembling traditional Christmas euphoria, like to wish you all a happy new tax year!

Okay, so I am being silly and sarcastic. I don't really love taxes and I don't really love April 15th. However, I am not ideologically opposed to taxes. I believe they (taxes) are necessary in many situations to uphold and support good government. That is one reason I chose not to participate in todays Tea Party's being held across the nation. I feel the thinking behind them was reasonable in it's complaint (it is true that we have been taxed beyond what is reasonable) but I think they missed the mark in addressing the real underlying root causes. I may try and post a summary of my reasoning behind those remarks in the future; but in the meantime, because I believe taxes are not inherently wrong, and because I believe an excessive tax burden is only a symptom of a larger underlying problem or problems, I would like to offer up an alternative to our current tax system that both lowers our current tax rate and installs a much sounder, sustainable, and equitable means of taxation.

As the title suggests, the system I would like to advocate is known as the “FairTax.”

The thinking and rational behind the FairTax is by no means new. It has been around for a long time, but the FairTax is unique in that it has been recently developed to fit our current situation while remaining true to the old principles upon which it is built.

I thought of writing my own summaries of the FairTax, but I think it would be much better for those reading if they read the explanation of those who have studied it and much more and have a better understanding of economics and the tax system as a whole. So, in presenting the FairTax, I'll just copy and paste some things, and link to others.

With all that out of the way, allow me to begin.

The best source for information about the FairTax from an advocates perspective is www.fairtax.org, a research organization. I will use it as my primary reference (all my outside references in this post are taken from www.fairtax.org), though there is information on the FairTax elsewhere, neutral, critical, and positive.

In a nut shell, the FairTax is:

"The FairTax plan is a comprehensive proposal that replaces all federal income and payroll based taxes with an integrated approach including a progressive national retail sales tax, a prebate to ensure no American pays federal taxes on spending up to the poverty level, dollar-for-dollar federal revenue neutrality, and, through companion legislation, the repeal of the 16th Amendment.

The FairTax Act (HR 25, S 296) is nonpartisan legislation. It abolishes all federal personal and corporate income taxes, gift, estate, capital gains, alternative minimum, Social Security, Medicare, and self-employment taxes and replaces them with one simple, visible, federal retail sales tax  administered primarily by existing state sales tax authorities.

The FairTax taxes us only on what we choose to spend on new goods or services, not on what we earn. The FairTax is a fair, efficient, transparent, and intelligent solution to the frustration and inequity of our current tax system."

What does the FairTax accomplish in practical terms?  Lots of things!   But, some of the more significant are:

  • Enables workers to keep their entire paychecks

  • Enables retirees to keep their entire pensions

  • Refunds in advance the tax on purchases of basic necessities

  • Allows American products to compete fairly

  • Brings transparency and accountability to tax policy

  • Ensures Social Security and Medicare funding

  • Closes all loopholes and brings fairness to taxation

  • Abolishes the IRS

In future posts I will use collected information to make the case that the following  details are true of the FairTax:

1. The FairTax is revenue neutral at $0.23 out of every retails dollar spent

2. The FairTax lowers the lifetime tax burden for most Americans

3. The FairTax benefits retirees who depend mostly on Social Security

4. The FairTax preserves the overall progressivity of the federal tax burden

5. The FairTax dramatically improves the U. S. economy

6. The FairTax improves the international competitiveness of American producers

7. The FairTax promotes home ownership better than the current system

8. The FairTax simplifies tax compliance, thereby reducing tax evasion

In closing, allow me clarify something. I don't believe the FairTax is a perfect system, only that it is the best currently on the table (I seriously doubt anybody can come up with a “perfect” system of taxation). One of the reasons I am posting about the FairTax is that I welcome the feedback of others whether it be in agreement, disagreement, or something in between. I am happy to debate the merits of the system, but because I don't believe the system is perfect I would be more than willing to concede a point if factually proven incorrect or undesirable. :-)

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


Caffeine Reduces Pain During Excercise

>> Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hey all!

I thought y'all might find this interesting bit of news from Newsmax.

Stopping to smell the coffee, and to enjoy a cup of it, before your morning workout might do more than just get your juices flowing. It might keep you going for reasons you haven’t even considered.

As a former competitive cyclist, University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Robert Motl routinely met his teammates at a coffee shop to fuel up on caffeine before long-distance training rides.

“The notion was that caffeine was helping us train harder . . . to push ourselves a little harder," he said.

The cyclists didn’t know why it helped, they just knew it was effective.

“I think intuitively a lot of people are taking caffeine before a workout and they don’t realize the actual benefit they’re experiencing. That is, they’re experiencing less pain during the workout,” Motl said.

It is becoming increasingly common for athletes to consume a variety of substances that include caffeine before competing, motivated by “the notion that it will help you metabolize fat more readily.”

“That research isn’t actually very compelling,” Motl said. “What’s going on in my mind is . . . people are doing it for that reason, but they actually take that substance that has caffeine and they can push themselves harder. It doesn’t hurt as much.”

The professor has been investigating the relationship between caffeine and physical activity since taking a slight detour during his doctoral-student days, when his work focused on exploring possible links between caffeine intake, spinal reflexes, and physical activity.

Seven years later, with several studies considering the relationship between physical activity and caffeine behind him, Motl has a much better understanding of why that cuppa joe he used to consume before distance training and competing enhanced his cycling ability.

Early in his research, he became aware that “caffeine works on the adenosine neuromodulatory system in the brain and spinal cord, and this system is heavily involved in nociception and pain processing.” Since Motl knew caffeine blocks adenosine from working, he speculated that it could reduce pain.

A number of his studies support that conclusion, including investigations considering such variables as exercise intensity, dose of caffeine, anxiety sensitivity and gender.

Motl’s latest published study on the effects of caffeine on pain during exercise appears in the April edition of the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

“This study looks at the effects of caffeine on muscle pain during high-intensity exercise as a function of habitual caffeine use,” he said. “No one has examined that before. What we saw is something we didn’t expect: caffeine-na├»ve individuals and habitual users have the same amount of reduction in pain during exercise after caffeine (consumption).”

The research could prove encouraging for a range of people, including the average person who wants to become more physically active to realize the health benefits.


I thought y'all might find that interesting. :-)

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


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