Saturday, June 26, 2010

What's Wrong With Jeffersonville Indiana Government Officials?

HARBESON: Why the silence on Wilder?

By DEBBIE HARBESON Local Columnist

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — What’s wrong with Jeffersonville government officials? Oh, wait, I guess that’s a mind-boggling question with loads of answers, so let me pare it down a bit.

Why is no one in Jeffersonville government calling for Clerk-Treasurer Peggy Wilder’s immediate resignation? Are they afraid of taking a clear stand for some reason? Are they all just waiting for someone else to go first? Are they just protecting their own?

Of course it’s positively shameful that Ms. Wilder, who has finally been charged in relation to allegedly using city credit cards for personal transactions, has not already resigned. But from all we’ve seen from her since this first came out, that’s no real surprise.

Which means someone else in Jeffersonville’s government needs to step up. Why isn’t that happening?

Maybe it’s because she’s charged with conversion, which is exerting unauthorized use or control of someone else’s property. That definition does sound darn close to describing what they all do as government employees, so it could be kind of embarrassing to call for her resignation, I suppose.

Or maybe it has something to do with all the strange connections inside local government. For example, when the details of this case were sent to Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart, some wondered how he would proceed since Ms. Wilder is the ex-wife of Larry Wilder, who works as a litigator for the city and gave $1,000 to Stewart’s 2005 campaign while they were married.

Stewart took about six months to think this over — while the statute of limitations kept ticking — and finally figured out he should hand the case to someone more neutral, less connected. You know, like a prosecutor in a neighboring county who worked for Stewart a few years ago.

Mayor Tom Galligan and the city council say they have no authority to do anything about her position since she’s an elected official. What a convenient excuse to avoid taking a stand.

They pretend that they’re helpless because they can’t take any “authorized” action and voters will just have to wait until her term ends at the end of 2011. But this is one instance where they could actually use their positions to help their constituents without using the government gun. I guess that’s hard for them to comprehend, though, since they never work that way otherwise. Could that be why we are not seeing them speak out?

They have no problem speaking out and taking a stand about how tall your grass is, or how many used car businesses can be on 10th street, or whether you can allow smoking in your privately owned businesses, or store a gun in your car while at work, or whether other city employees get drug tested, etc. But when the city’s financial department head is shown to be inept and unethical in handling finances, well that’s just personal and they’re staying out of it.

We all know they could put on the heat and get her out of there if they really wanted to do so.

Now, to be fair, city residents could also be speaking out. They could write to the newspaper, mail flyers and stage protests near her office to call for her resignation. That takes time they don’t have, though, because they are working to pay for fancy canal projects and shiny new sidewalk benches.

Besides, shouldn’t citizens expect that those who claim they only want to “serve the people” actually do some serving and speak up when it really matters?

I guess someone has to get this going so let me say very clearly: Peggy Wilder should resign. Now, come on mayor and council, stop spending money for a minute and speak out on this.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is trying to stop asking mind-boggling questions about government officials but they just seem to keep coming.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mitch Daniels Brags about Converting Private Property to Government Property

HARBESON: It’s time to go public with this


SELLERSBURG — Public relations campaigns play a very important role in maintaining the legitimacy and illusion of “good” government. Let’s look at a recent PR campaign by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and his people to see how it works. The campaign we’re going to study involves the two planned DNR projects to purchase land for conservation purposes.

Now, you would think a small-government politician would never brag about converting private property to government property. But such principles disappear quicker than a frightened copper belly water snake when a politician sees that he can use something to his advantage.

See, Daniels and his team are out promoting these bigger government projects (here and here) because they can use them to carefully mold a message. All you have to do is just look at the timing of this PR blast.

It’s the beginning of summer and you’re enjoying the outdoors. So when you see headlines about conserving forests and wetlands, they know you are likely to get a good feeling about your government and the politicians currently in charge.

The federal government is also involved in this and since it works for this particular PR purpose, Daniels is fine with it. That’s why one day you see him angry because the federal government is sticking its nose in his state’s health care business and the next day he’s happy because the feds want to help his state take over private property to ensure the health of a bunch of sweet gum trees. This is just more evidence that principles become an endangered species when a good political PR opportunity arises.

It’s not just about Daniels though. Other politicians see the opportunity in these types of PR campaigns. Democratic State Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Austin, also stepped into the promotional spotlight and said, “I have goose bumps today just thinking about what we’re doing.” Heck, he probably said goose bumps on purpose because it mentions waterfowl.

The implication in all of this is that land will not be conserved unless government is involved. And unfortunately existing private organizations can get sucked in and end up reinforcing such PR implications because they get so excited when their agendas are promoted and government money is spent in the ways they want it spent.

We see this in the comments by Mary McConnell, state director for The Nature Conservancy of Indiana. She said, “It’s exactly the kind of project we should be working on as a state.” So she says. But I doubt it’s true for a parent who’s concerned about her child’s school closing because of budget cuts.

Now, they know that some of us will see through the PR and have important questions about government acquiring private property so they made sure to mention that eminent domain would not be used.

However, I had more questions when Nick Heinzelman, director of land acquisition for the state Department of Natural Resources expanded on this in the Indianapolis Star, saying, “This will all come from voluntary sellers. Some will want to sell now; others may wait,” Heinzelman said. “Any land that comes up for sale, we’ll be there to buy it right away.”

What does that mean? What if a private citizen would also like to purchase the property? Will he have a chance or is there already some government provision that says the government is the only one allowed to purchase any land that comes up for sale that falls inside the border of this project? And what about future costs on upkeep, liability and usage control?

Even though this government PR campaign is intended to create the idea that government growth under the auspices of conservation is a cool way to start the summer, all it feels like to me is just more hot air.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson knows everything there is to know about hot air.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The War on Terrorism Produces Terrorists

This is an excellent column from Sheldon Richman

Terrorism: Made in the U.S.A.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Scandal Is When You Can't Opt Out

HARBESON: Rise up against the force


CLARK COUNTY — An uneasy feeling of anticipation filled the air this past weekend as the Crusade for Children finished up its annual fundraising marathon. A Kentucky fire department chief is accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for the Crusade, so organizers were unsure how this news would affect this year’s donations.

Everyone wondered if this scandal would burn a hole of mistrust inside this organization so large that donations would be severely affected. Crusade officials knew they needed to demonstrate their effectiveness in helping special needs children in the community. They understood they needed to calm any fears that the money would not get to the children who needed the help.

The fire department that was involved in the scandal did collect less money this year, but in total, the Crusade’s collection was the largest since 2005. Of course, it’s entirely possible they had to spend more than usual on promotional efforts in order to overcome the scandal, which means the actual take could indeed be less, but even so it was a success.

The Crusade already had a lot going for it to avert disaster because it is a voluntary organization. This enabled members to build the knowledge, strength and initiative they needed to accomplish goals.

With or without a scandal, they’ve always had to work hard to persuade others that what they do is worthy of support. That’s what happens when you interact with others on a voluntary basis.

In addition, prospective donors had many choices in how to react to the situation. They could refuse to donate at all or they could give less than before. They could decide, after looking at the specifics of the scandal, that they don’t want a fire department to play middleman and just give the money straight to the Crusade. Forget the boots and sirens.

Isn’t it refreshing to see what people can accomplish voluntarily when they believe in something? Obviously people care. Obviously people will support causes without being forced.

It’s difficult to stop good people from doing good work when it’s based on voluntary interactions. Just imagine if all of our interactions were done in such a voluntary manner.

Just imagine if any government system, a school for example, had to actually work to get funds based on voluntary interactions rather than using force. What do you think they would do differently? What would you do differently when scandals occur?

It’s not the same with government entities though. Scandals inside government institutions are so much different. They are merely tiny scandals wrapped inside a much bigger scandal.

We think we’re making progress or have some real power when we vote in someone new after a government scandal breaks out, but meanwhile the money to fund their misguided actions keeps on pouring in from our pockets, whether we want it to or not. That’s scandalous.

With governments, the initial setup itself is the scandal. The system we condone is as immoral as that fire chief, taking other people’s money and spending it without their explicit consent.

It’s time to start rethinking what we’re doing. That’s why I’m on a crusade of my own, a crusade that calls for increased voluntary interactions and less force. I want to persuade you to see that government-approved force is the problem.

We need the freedom to think for ourselves and make our own individual noncoerced decisions on what deserves our support. We need the ability to opt out of promoting and funding scandalous behavior and nothing is more scandalous than pointing guns at people to get money. No matter what the cause.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson experienced an uneasy feeling of anticipation once when she found out she ate some laxative-laced brownies.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Recycling the Topic of Recycling

HARBESON: Some trash talk about forced recycling

By DEBBIE HARBESON Local Columnist

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I believe I’ve proven beyond a shadow cast by a tall stack of orange plastic bins that I’m really into recycling. I say this with confidence because I’ve written about Clark County’s recycling fiascoes at least six times.

Why, I’ve recycled the topic of recycling so many times, trying to get people to see the effects of government force, that I have a permanent mark 2 inches above my eyebrows. You know, the kind you get from banging your head against brick walls.

I have learned to pad my forehead now though. It’s a great way to recycle an old phone book, even if it is kind of heavy and means the Clark County Solid Waste District can’t use it to collect more revenue.

But that’s not important anyway since this government entity can collect revenue whether we actually use the “service” or not.

Anyway, today I considered offering more proof of my commitment to recycling by simply recycling excerpts from those past letters and columns. But then the district made local news again so I decided to create a brand-new column. Don’t worry, it’s recyclable.

Over the years, I’ve watched the county’s recycled officials discuss various recycling decisions, which led to revised decisions and then revisions to the revised decisions. All in an effort to tweak a bad idea so it works “right.”

Lately, the district’s board has been recycling the idea of completely taking over recycling operations. Currently, they have granted monopoly privileges to Inland Services Corp.

Some board members don’t like “sharing the revenue” with Inland and want to control all the funds. Apparently, they don’t like handing over money to the people actually doing the work.

These officials also believe the government can be much more efficient, which they think would mean more money to spend. They need more money because the current building is in need of repair.

Some think that fixing or replacing that building may not be the best decision. So, a proposal was made to spend three times the cost and move to a much larger space in the Clark Maritime Centre. If there’s one thing people in government know how to do, it’s proposing grand ideas for growth.

However, the board wasted time and energy discussing this potential move because members didn’t do their homework first. They discovered that their government operation would not be an authorized use of the property.

The new director said they were “unaware of the number of restrictions” at the port authority. But all they had to do was go to their website. The entire Declaration of Restrictions and loads of other information is easily accessible online.

I have to admit I found it to be pretty funny watching a government entity being prevented from growth because of government-imposed zoning rules.

Whether or not they move — if they do take full control over the forcibly funded program — what can we expect? Well, they have already said they will have to buy equipment and hire more employees.

Does it seem smart to you to add people to a government payroll these days? As they create ways to grow, how long do you think the mandatory fee for this “service” will remain at the current level?

It’s such a shame that we may never know what could have been done without government stepping in and forcing a singular solution.

My continued hope is that all of this helps more people realize we need to trash the proverbial box we trap ourselves in when we believe government is the answer. And I’ll be so glad because I can finally take this phone book off my head.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson has no idea if she’ll ever write about recycling again. But she’s keeping a phone book around just in case.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Succinct Explanation of the Financial Debt Crisis

Sometimes humor is the best way to explain an issue, especially when others who do the explaining have a vested interest in keeping you confused:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rand Paul, Rights and Racism

COLUMN NOTES: I made some local readers quite irritated by bringing up Rosa Parks. One even went so far as to say it was offensive to say she was asserting her personal property rights:

I am sorry I read it. Her take on Rosa Parks is offensive in my opinion. I think Rosa Parks must have been taking a stand against racism...not asserting a 'property right'. Maybe I am wrong but that sounds crazy.

My friend Tom Knapp had this response to this column:

...Current law means that the bigot down the street will hire as many "minorities" as he absolutely has to to get by. He'll promote from within that minority employee pool just enough to not attract government attention. He won't use the n-word, but he'll make black (for example) employees feel like they're in a hostile environment. He'll accept a return from a white customer with no problem, but give a black customer trouble in the same situation.

I'd just as soon he was allowed to put a "NO BLACKS ALLOWED" sign on his front door, because he's just stupid enough to do that. And then I'd know, and he wouldn't get one thin dime of my money, and I'd damn well tell him why. Instead, I'm patronizing the SOB's business without ever knowing that he's a bigot. He's watching a big-screen TV and eating prime rib instead of listening to a transistor radio over a TV dinner because I don't have the information I needed to avoid subsidizing his prejudices.

Finally, although there have been loads of articles, columns, blogs and comments about Rand Paul's comments, I found this question, attributed to Karen De Coster a good one to ponder if you are struggling with the idea of freedom of association:

Does a black businessman have the right to refuse service to a Klan member?

HARBESON: Stay out of my personal space

By DEBBIE HARBESON Local Columnist

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Newly nominated Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul made comments recently that released a foaming fury of phony concerns. Paul attempted to answer a question about whether or not he supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and in his response he made the point that private businesses should be free to make their own decisions on who they want to serve.

Almost all of the discussion in response only skimmed the surface, using fear tactics and manipulations to make people take sides. If we are going to evolve past this constant polarization, we must do what Henry Thoreau said and “strike at the root.”

The editorial section of the paper across the river opened up the opportunity to do just that. In two separate editorial pieces, the claim was made that Paul was putting “property rights” ahead of “human rights.”

“Human rights” cannot be separated from “property rights.” This is a complete distortion of a very important and basic principle underlying all of our interactions with each other. The people responsible for spreading this viewpoint are trying their best to complicate what is really a very simple principle that defines individual freedom.

At the root, it’s extremely simple: You own yourself. Your human body is your property. You cannot have any freedom if you don’t first acknowledge this property right above all else.

All rights labeled in any other way must have the concept of property rights as its core. Any other property rights are just an extension of this basic premise as each of us labor to justly acquire other property, which includes private businesses.

That’s what Rosa Parks was saying. She protested on a government-subsidized bus that was following a city-government enforced policy that denied her this most basic property right.

She wanted those bigots to know that she owns herself and they had no authority to grant other humans any property rights over their body that superseded hers. Sadly, the government system itself ignored the root principle of human freedom.

Of course, what makes people uncomfortable in this regard is that bigots also own themselves. But if humans have the right to own our own bodies, then we are morally obligated to respect the same property rights for everyone.

Besides, it’s a good thing to let bigots be bigots openly because it’s much easier to find them if they are free to discriminate. That freedom in turn gives others much more power to show we disapprove by taking action, using the freedom of association and refusing to support them. This can only happen if we know who they are and can call them out.

This means you don’t need government in order to take action against bigotry and discrimination. You don’t need government to force business owners to serve wants and needs by providing services and products to anyone who wants to voluntarily trade for them. The smart and savvy business owners will do that without any government involvement, provided the government stays out of the way.

But there are people who simply don’t want you to realize that.

Don’t fall for it when others try to complicate a basic principle. The only reason anyone tries to do this is to polarize, confuse and scare you. Polarized, confused and scared people are easier to control and manipulate.

You still have property rights over your own brain, so far at least. So exercise that right and think for yourself. Take the time to analyze any assertion about rights and private property. Start out by figuring out how it meshes with the primary principle of property rights: self-ownership.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson believes that she owns her body. However, she does sometimes wish she had less property around her midsection.