An Open Letter To The Okaloosa County Commission Pt 2

By Karl Denninger

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

The Okaloosa County Commission is by definition dysfunctional, corrupt or both.  Any governmental unit that believes a 47% budget increase over the space of a mere five years is defensible has rocks in their head.  That the Commission managed to paint over this by drawing down reserves when the cause was not a one-year hit from an event like a hurricane (which is what reserves are for) ought to be treated as criminal corruption and result in the incarceration of everyone involved.

The “escalating” expenses in the budget this year alone are primarily (1) reserve restoration (that is, paying back what the commission took through gross mismanagement), (2) adding to said reserves (possibly arguably ok), (3) more law enforcement (big shock) and (4) insane health care cost escalations.

If Okaloosa County wishes to improve its economic attractiveness it must address these issues along with the outrageous actions and inactions by the Commission not only over previous years, but on a forward basis.

Like many if not most counties Okaloosa County’s ad-valorem tax revenue almost exclusively goes to the Sheriff’s Office (and related expenditures, such as the county jail.)  This is not unusual; there are in fact counties where more than 100% of ad-valorem revenue goes to law enforcement.  If you’re wondering why county sheriffs like to write tickets, well, you just figured it out since traffic fines of course offset some of their ad-valorem tax demand.

But in this county, as in other tourist areas, there’s a problem: The majority of services provided by the Sheriff’s Office, most of which are quite-mundane (e.g. traffic accidents, etc) involve and are provided to tourists.  The issue is that tourists pay almost zero ad-valorem tax; while if they rent someone’s condo that person does pay the tax they only occupy the building for a tiny part of the year and thus on a pro-rata basis, that is, on a per-capita/year basis, they pay almost nothing.

Yet on a per-capita/year basis tourists form the majority of the Sheriff Department’s load.

The county could have avoided a very large percentage of the millage increase in this particular case had it developed a taxation system that placed upon the users of these services the burden of paying for them. In fact, if the Commission had done so years ago there would be no need for millage increases at all; instead we’d be running a material surplus from ad-valorem revenue and would also have long ago reached the desired level of reserves!

Instead the county has a “bed tax” that is locked up for tourism “development” (read: advertising and promotion.) That “lockbox” currently has a large surplus and yet not one dollar of it can be used to fund the operating cashflow deficiency in the Sheriff’s department caused by tourism.  Since our condos and hotels are in fact currently at capacity during the season there is also no point to spending money on additional promotion since there’s nowhere to put additional tourists — never mind that if we did the deficiency in the Sheriff’s department would simply grow larger.

In response what the Commission has done is demand of residents that we pay more property tax.

This imbalance is a direct consequence of a poorly-designed taxing system that has shifted the cost of law enforcement brought to the area by tourism onto the backs of those who live here year-round.  Rather than change the taxation regime so as to shift those costs onto those who consume the services the Commission instead decided to screw the residents and continue to subsidize the tourists with resident tax money, an effective act of theft-by-conversion through the operation of law and ordinance!

If the Commission wishes the residents of the county to embrace and approve of tourism in our area they need to stop screwing the residents and landowners whom they need to provide goods and services to said tourists.

The current situation is exactly as if said tourists directly broke into resident homes and stole money from them with the Sheriff’s Department providing “muscle” for the thieves.

The Sheriff, for his part, is well aware of this and in fact he’s actively involved in that cost-shifting through the way he practices law enforcement.  Sheriff Larry Ashley does this intentionally and he knows damn well exactly what he’s doing — and why.

To take just one example on “heavy tourist weekends” (e.g. Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc) the Sheriff’s Office typically sets up a “safety” checkpoint somewhere intended to snare DUIs (and other offenses, of course.)  This may be defensible since DUIs spike on said weekends but the Sheriff’s Office always places that checkpoint at locations where few to zero tourists ever travel, such as on Mountain Drive instead of right in the exit path from popular tourist drinking locations like AJs on 98 and the complex of tourist-focused nightclubs and bars at the fishing pier on Okaloosa Island.  The most-recent example was a checkpoint on Beal Parkway that is not on the path to or from any frequented tourist accommodation from any drinking establishment but is on the path home for many local residents from local-frequented bars and nightspots.  As such while they do catch people driving drunk with these checkpoints a ridiculously-overrepresented percentage are locals since the tourists happily drive drunk down the roads the Sheriff intentionally does not concentrate on and the checkpoint consumes resources that could otherwise be used to patrol such areas WHERE THERE ARE LOTS OF DRUNK TOURISTS.  While DUI is a problem for everyone and I applaud getting any dangerously-intoxicated person off the road to place such “checkpoints” where nearly zero tourists will encounter them but locals will leaves the largest component of risk for DUI accidents and death on those weekends intentionally under-policed.

This practice has been undertaken for my entire 17 years of living here and yet not a single mention of it has ever been made by the County Commission that I am aware of.  The local media has also ignored it, of course.  In my years here I cannot recall one time that I’ve seen a checkpoint at either the Harbor area or near the fishing pier — both routinely full of drunk tourists on a holiday weekend.

As a strong and positive signal to the Sheriff’s Department the Commission could make clear that the department will have all funding increases denied and in fact will have its budget cut by 10% a year until it starts behaving in a fashion in its policing that matches the load imposed on the department by the various groups demanding services.

This is just one of many examples but it’s one of the most-glaring, obvious and easily corrected without spending a single additional nickel.  Further, for each tourist caught DUI as opposed to a local resident the local economic impact is actually positive on balance since (1) they won’t wreck someone else’s property (and maybe someone else’s life) thereby imposing costs on residents, (2) the court system collects a large fine and costs (including quite-possibly enough to cover whatever incarceration term is imposed, if any) which goes back into the county coffers and (3) the consequential unemployment (and thus lower or zero future spending for some period of time) of said person, if it occurs, harms some other economy instead of ours.

The Commission can also work to redesign the portion of the county and local tax structure they control with the express intent (and if necessary votes of the citizens) so as to place the burden that tourism puts on the Sheriff’s Office entirely on said tourists at the same time.  But, I caution residents, half-steps that are not linked in an indivisible way are not acceptable.

If the commission will not place the costs tourists impose on the Sheriff’s Office on them and insist that the Sheriff direct his enforcement activities toward those causing the service volume increases we who live here ought to contemplate being rude as hell to said tourists and try to get them to leave as that will both improve our quality of life and decrease our taxes!

There are plenty of other issues in the Sheriff’s Department, mostly revolving around effectiveness in policing.  The county jail is currently 200 people over nominal capacity yet the question not asked is why do we keep seeing increasing incarceration rates? We’re obviously doing it wrong both in terms of real economic progress (employed, happy people rarely commit jailable offenses.) When it comes to law enforcement tactics instead of demanding that Sheriff and his deputies change their tactics so as to reduce crime that leads to incarceration (and thus decrease both the number of people in jail and the need to hire more deputies) the Commission instead votes to throw money at the problem, hire more cops, buy more law-enforcement hardware and contemplate building a bigger jail while taxing the productive members of society, in some cases probably to the point that they no longer deem their effort worth it and thus turn to crime!

In other words the Commission’s actions, on the margin, actually create criminals who then not only need to be locked up they victimize the productive members of our society as well.

On the revenue side the Commission wishes to pass a sales surtax, and plans to put such before the public later this year or early next year.  Such a surtax, if we are to approve it, must come with permanent and enforceable rollbacks that are of exactly equal budgetary impact in millage that occur before the sales tax is imposed.  The point of such must be to shift burden to the user of services to the extent we can, not simply add revenue.  I remind you that a tax is a tax is a tax; whether I pay it in a property tax levy or at the local store makes zero difference at the end of the month when it comes to the impact on my wallet.  Further, the anticipated sales tax revenue is grossly more than the property tax levy increase — that is, there was no reason to pass the property tax increase EXCEPT to screw the residents given this sales tax proposal.

The second and probably most-important issue both retrospectively and on a forward basis, however, is one that’s much easier than redesigning the county’s taxation structure or even pressuring the Sheriff to do the right thing.

It revolves around the same issue everyone else in the country — not just Okaloosa County — has today.

That, of course, is the insane escalation of health care costs over the previous three decades which has no indication that it will slow down or reverse. Indeed, the Commission’s presentation featured no less than three line items comprising a large part of the increase in the millage that resulted from the insane expansion of health-care cost, including a 15% year-over-year increase in county employee health insurance premiums.  The Commission, ever-mindful of its employees at the expense of everyone else in the county who are also being slammed by the very same costs included a bonus to be paid to county employees for the explicit purpose of assisting with their health expenses.  Another line item was for two incidents at the jail in which the county was obligated to provide care, and which totaled nearly a half million dollars!

Out of six million and change to be raised via the millage that’s no small potatoes.

So why doesn’t Okaloosa County act to fix the health care issue?  Why, for example, did the Commission years ago support and get passed via referendum the “ALS” system in our county — an upgrade to the county ambulance service that is both quite expensive and, on the merits by one study actually produces worse outcomes by delaying transport to hospitals in order to “intervene on-site” instead.

Needless to say the medical “community” doesn’t like studies such as this and relentlessly attacks them whenever and wherever they appear.  The problem is that an actual out-of-hospital cardiac arrest has a crappy survival rate in the first place so any “analysis” of same is probably specious at best.  Facts are facts and it’s simply this: You have about 4 minutes after a cardiac arrest before the odds are that you’re either dead or severely and permanently impaired; if someone does not provide CPR, use an AED (if it works for the disordered rhythm you have) or get you into an actual hospital OR in that amount of time you’re almost-certain to die.  Since simple response times (remember, it’s from the arrest, not from the time of the 911 call!) are typically more than 4 minutes simply to figure out exactly where you are, what’s happened, get the word to the EMS folks and get the truck moving, well…. you do the math.

Here is the ugly reality nobody wants to deal with honestly: If you arrest in the hospital you have an approximate 20% chance of survival long enough to be discharged — that is, to leave the hospital in something other than a hearse.  That’s if you arrest in the hospital folks.  If you arrest outside of a hospital your odds are roughly six percent.  With such dismal base figures it’s easy to scream “20% improvement!” while the actual chance is just over one percent in survival rate, which makes any such claim when used to support multi-million dollar expenditures on salaries and equipment an outrageous and public fraud.

The more-damning evidence in that same study on ALS .vs. BLS services, however, is found in severe trauma situations (e.g. severe car accidents, etc.)  There BLS also outperformed — in other words, all that “intervention” is for crap compared to getting the victim to a hospital now in that it actually harms and even kills people.  But all that “intervention” sure as hell is expensive, it was sold as a “great thing” here that would save Granny and now we’re stuck with it — and with the crazy costs, even though the “upgrade” in service is a net negative when it comes to survival rates.

Who on the Commission has brought this up in the budget hearings?  I note that the ALS EMS system was one of the cited issues this year.  I’ll answer that for you: Nobody.  Why not?  I raised hell at the time the referendum was being debated in the county, pointing out that the simple math on out-of-hospital cardiac events were rarely survived irrespective of assistance and as such the proposal was a massive fraud upon the public and was called all sorts of names, including by the current paramedics who were electioneering 1 foot beyond the minimum legal distance at every ****ing polling place in the county.  Why?

Big salary increases coming their way for full time 24×7 coverage, that’s why.  They didn’t like being called on the fact that they were — and still are — robbing the public.

The Commission should put facts before the public and place a referendum out there to get rid of ALS in the County.  It’s worthless on a comparative basis and expensive.  It was sold to the public via an outrageous and false campaign of misinformation promulgated by the very employees who benefited from it and nobody in the Commission took them on.  The Commission can fix this right now and it damn well should.

But this is not the only place the Commission could act when it comes to Health spending.  The Commission could put a stop to nearly all of the financial shenanigans that make health care so expensive in Okaloosa County.

The Commission can act to do it tomorrow.

Okaloosa County, like most counties, issues business licenses.  You must have one to conduct business of any sort.  I have a business license because I do contract computer work from time to time, among other business interests I have and may wish to engage in.  The law says I must pay a license fee and have a nice certificate from the county displayed where I “primarily” do said business (it’s in my bedroom, right near my computer.)

The county, of course, places conditions on said license.  So long as those conditions are non-discriminatory that’s perfectly legal.  Among others I had to get a sign-off from the planning commission documenting that, for example, I understood that it was illegal to post any sort of signage or have customers come to my house.  That’s reasonable; I live in an area that is zoned for homes, not storefronts.  Some occupations have further requirements including state-operated licensing (e.g. cosmetologists, etc.)

The County could largely solve the health care mess in this county by conditioning business licenses, which every doctor’s office, dentist, hospital, clinic and pharmacy must have just like every other business, on the following three simple points:

1. You must post prices for all goods and services you sell so customers can see them before agreeing to goods or services being delivered.

2. You must charge everyone the same price for like kind and quantity, with allowance made only for reasonable differentials in the actual cost of delivery of same, difference in classification of customer or collection costs associated with payment.  A differential of 10% from the posted cash price shall be conclusively deemed reasonable.

3. Upon presentation of proof that a business has violated (1) or (2) to the County Commission the business license in question is revoked and may not be reapplied for by the same principals and/or at the same location until a period of one year passes.

The 10% differential allows for, as an example, giving a 10% discount to Seniors.  Or to the Military.  Or, for that matter, to charge a 10% fee for open invoicing or third-party (e.g. insurance) billing as opposed to cash on the table.  All of this is reasonable.  But what this requirement would instantly put to a stop is the extremely common practice of charging someone two, three, five or ten times as much money for the exact same good or service simply because they have one particular insurance coverage over another, or worse, no insurance at all.

The very day that this requirement is put in place every single medical center, doctor’s office and hospital has to start competing for business because they must post prices and may not screw one person for 10x the charge they bill out to someone else.

You can see the difference in price that merely posting prices and charging everyone the same price has at the Surgery Center of Oklahoma which posts all of its prices and charges everyone the same price.

The prices posted there are typically roughly one fifth of those charged by hospitals — including the hospitals in Okaloosa County.

If the County Commission adopts such an ordinance then in order to operate a medical clinic, dental office, pharmacy or other business that provides medical care (or anything else for that matter) there must be a posted set of prices and everyone must pay the same price.  To operate a business in this county you must have a business license.

If the county adopts such an ordinance medical costs will drop like a stone — to about 20% of what they are now.

How do I know this will happen?  Because it’s being done right now at the Surgery Center of Oklahoma and that’s the result — prices that are roughly one fifth that charged in conventional hospitals.

The result will be a permanent resolution of health-cost escalation for all persons in the county.  That includes but certainly is not limited to those who work for the county government.

Not only will the budget problem be solved for the county it will also be solved for the residents of the county, including most-especially those who have been allegedly screwed blind by North Okaloosa Medical Center, which, I remind you, is in Commissioner Boyles’ district.  I further note that particular medical center is currently being sued as a class-action for this exact issue — differential pricing that wildly screws some people compared to others.

I wonder if the jail’s medical cost issue arises at least in part from the same medical center?  The jail is awfully close to that hospital; if they provided the care to said inmates has the county joined and sought to expand the suit?  Did the County get hammered with a $400,000 medical bill due to differential pricing that they could have prevented from occurring and which screwed them — that they now expect us as county residents to pay for?  If so why haven’t they already adopted an ordinance to permanently put a stop to that crap and gone after the providers in question?

I have no problem with posting a price for my time as a consultant or bidding out work with a per-hour rate. Every attorney in town does exactly that.  Tapworks posts their beer prices on a chalkboard, easily visible to everyone who comes in.  The car repair center posts their prices; they have a shop rate per-hour, and a flat-rate book for everything they do.  AMC Movies in the Destin Commons posts their prices for a ticket, for popcorn, and for a glass of wine.  Every store in the area posts prices on the shelf or on the item, from Walmart to Whole Foods to Best Buy to Kilwins.  The gas station has a big sign out front telling you exactly how much per-gallon their gasoline costs so you can choose whether to stop there or go across the street.  Your Gulf Power or Chelco bill has a per-kWH price on it as does your Okaloosa Gas bill per therm.  Every local restaurant has a menu with prices on it.  The local hotels and inns all have posted prices, most are on the Internet and all will tell you exactly what a room will cost when you call them or walk through the front door before you are obligated to pay.  Every one of those firms charges everyone exactly the same price for the same thing bought at the same time, other than the few instances in which you get 10% off for being an active-duty military member, a Senior Citizen, or if you get a small discount for cash commensurate with the decreased cost of taking it as opposed to credit cards.

There’s nothing about such an ordinance that prohibits someone from charging a different price at a different time or changing prices as a merchant so chooses.  I booked my hotel for the recent eclipse a year in advance and got a decent price.  Everyone else who booked that same day paid the same price.  If you booked a room a week before the eclipse, if you could find one, I bet it cost more, and probably a lot more.  That’s perfectly fine and legal.  What wouldn’t be legal — and is simply not acceptable — is charging one person $500 for a hotel room because they drove a Porsche up to the front door while someone in a Chevy gets charged $100.

Condition all business licenses on this requirement and the medical problem goes away in an afternoon and so does the county budget problem.  It goes away not just for the County but for every one of our residents. 

At the same time Okaloosa County becomes the place to start and run a business — not just in Florida either, but nationally.

In short this is the “small action” answer that applies the very same solution I’ve advocated for on a national basis — and it will work, because we already know it does via the example found in Oklahoma.

The County Commission has a solution to both its budget issues and a means to radically boost economic growth within the grasp of the commission and the citizens who live here.  There is no need for a millage increase; indeed, millage could be radically cut were this ordinance to be put in place as the additional economic activity would boost tax receipts to an enormous degree.

Pass this ordinance at your next meeting if you have any desire to actually solve the problem — not just for the County budget but for those who you allegedly serve as well.

If you don’t, or won’t do the above then expect trouble with retaining your office in the next election.  I’m tired of government officials that refuse to address problems and simply throw the people’s money around they extract by force especially when they personally profit from market bubbles and churn they foster and promote.

An Open Letter To The Okaloosa County Commission

Would you consider it perfectly ok if Mack Busbee, the Okaloosa Property Appraiser, owned a title company and thus made money on real estate transactions in the county while responsible for setting their valuations?

Think about that while reading the following.

Okaloosa County’s Commission just voted to raise its millage by 11% next year.  For having the temerity to speak against such an increase I was personally attacked by Commissioner Boyles who read into the record the details of my property ownership, implying that I was a “fat cat” who should not complain.

Yes, Mr. Boyles, I can afford it.  I can also attend a 5:01 PM meeting 30 miles from where working people and our military had just gotten off work 1 minute prior — and thus couldn’t protest personally.

A bit of investigation leads me to believe there may be more motivating Commissioner Boyles than being called out by a voter for promoting a tax increase — and a 47% spending increase over the last five years.

Commissioner Boyles owns a title company and personally profits from increased real estate churn.  Ad-valorem tax increases hurt renters more than homeowners as rental property does not enjoy either homeowner’s exemption or valuation escalator caps.

Millage and valuation increases thus fall disproportionately on service industry employees who earn lower average wages and our military who are subject to involuntary reassignment on a rolling 2-year basis, a fact that makes buying real estate risky for them but very profitable for title companies.

That would be bad enough as an indirect conflict of interest.  But it gets worse because Commissioner Boyles is also listed as the County Commission’s liason to the Appraiser’s Office and Valuation Adjustment Board.

The property appraiser sets values of the real estate in the county, while the Valuation Adjustment Board is who you appeal to if you think the appraiser screwed you.

So Commissioner Boyles, who owns a title company in Crestview not only has influence over setting the millage (rate of tax charged) he also has influence over both determining value against which that rate of tax is charged and, arguably worse, adjudicating disputes should you have the termerity to argue you were unfairly appraised!

That’s not a “thumb on the scale” of justice it’s both thumbs and a big toe.

Florida Statutes say the following:

(5) It is hereby declared to be the policy of the state that no officer or employee of a state agency or of a county, city, or other political subdivision of the state, and no member of the Legislature or legislative employee, shall have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect; engage in any business transaction or professional activity; or incur any obligation of any nature which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his or her duties in the public interest.

Please remember that beyond legal requirements in the Florida Statutes there is an overarching issue: The key principle of sound government ethics policy is that government employees and officials must refrain at all times from even the appearance of impropriety.

Irrespective of whether the letter of law was shaved or flagrantly broken in my opinion Mr. Boyles’ participation in the setting of millage and real estate value assessment smells like week-old dead fish.  That Commissioner Boyles is also involved in the dispute resolution process should people believe they got screwed adds crawling maggots all over said week-old dead fish.

Absent Mr. Boyles’ “Yea” vote, since the commission passed the millage increase 3-2, the motion to jack the millage up by 11% on all Okaloosa County residents would have failed. The Commission still has a final vote on said millage coming up and can choose to reject it at that time.

Given all of the above the Commission must void said vote, void all contaminated actions taken since Mr. Boyle’s ascension to office and act decisively to bar future conflicts.

But whether the Commission acts or not effective means of redress remain with the voters of this county aimed not just at Mr. Boyles but at the entire Commission in the next election and, one hopes, via investigation by the State Attorney General’s office.


Karl Denninger
karl@denninger.net
The Market Ticker
[S/MIME encrypted email preferred]

Commissar Boyles

At the County property tax review meeting 5 September County Commissioner Nathan Boyles showed that he’ll use class envy combined with authoritarian access to private information to discredit those opposed to him in public. Pelosi, Waters, and Wasserman-Schultz, not to mention Lenin and Mao, would be proud of his tactics.

A friend of mine, Karl Denninger, went to that very meeting to oppose the 11% property tax increase this year advocated by Nathan Boyles. While Mr. Denninger spoke, Commissioner Boyles looked at his tax records on his handy-dandy Commissioner’s computer and essentially read into the public record the assets of Mr. Denninger. He then said that a person who owns so much should have no problem affording the tax increase. It’s all on tape.

The nerve of it all. For performing a civic service for everyone who opposes taxes, Mr. Denninger gets to have his assets listed in public and then self-righteously told by a public official he should pay more, like a good little proletariat. Is this what Okaloosa has turned into?

This was a blatant attempt to intimidate a common citizen. What does Nathan Boyles fear in a common citizen to allow privacy and respect to go out the window?

Maybe he’s afraid that everyone will learn just how much Nathan Boyles likes being in unquestioned charge of things.

This cannot stand, or before we know it, Okaloosa will look just like Washington D.C.

Pete Blome

Chair, Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

Sympathy for the Devil

The “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville was a stupid tragedy costing the lives of three people and injuring more than 20 more. Many in the media now talk of incipient civil war, while politicians, reporters, and political parties almost universally brand the marchers as the instigators of the violence. Somehow I just don’t see David Duke meets Antifa as a trigger for the whole country to go to war. I also don’t see the march organizers as lone agents in what happened, as bigoted and ignorant as they are. In time the violent will be punished. The danger is what happens next.

Have no doubt, a lot of short-sighted people out there will start talking about how “white supremacist nationalists” need to be outlawed.   That’s when the real trouble begins. The Green Party is already calling for prosecution of far-right groups for terrorism. The Party for Socialism and Liberation openly justifies violence against those they consider far right. We cannot forget free speech covers both the enlightened and the ignorant. Unless their speech leads directly to violence (like yelling fire in a crowded theatre) or they initiate violence themselves, they must be allowed to voice their views. Otherwise, protecting our individual rights, yours and mine, really means nothing in the USA.

As Sir Thomas Moore said, if you cut down all the laws to get at the Devil, where do you shelter when he turns on you?

Pete Blome

Chair, Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

The Nuclear State

It’s been six years since the nuclear accident at Fukushima, Japan. Due to bad design and an earthquake, that plant now dumps 300 tons of hyper-radioactive water into the ocean every day. If you saw this with the naked eye you would die of radiation poisoning. Once again, this event points out the deadly nature of this technology. But it has a more insidious trait; it demands a dominant government.

Like government, the nuclear fire is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Most nuclear plants produce dangerous wastes that have to be specially protected, many for thousands of years. As carefully built as they are, some plants malfunction.   When they do, millions can die and vast tracks of land can become uninhabitable. Their operators are an indispensable caste of experts who need social stability and tons of money to do what they do. Despite their expertise, these people are only human. If Captain Kirk had nothing to do but take care of a nuclear power plant, you can bet he would still screw up somewhere over his lifetime, as the experts at Fukushima, Three Mile Island, St. Lucie, Hanford Repository, lost nuclear submarines, lost nuclear bombs, and Chernobyl demonstrate. It also doesn’t help that these plants are attractive targets for homicidal maniacs, that they provide fuel for nuclear weapons, or that they may be in the path of the Yellowstone Super Volcano. The very nature of these problems are beyond the power of individuals, or even local government, to handle.

The fact is there is now an ever-lasting need for a new type of permanent, top-down, government control in the world. Unlike a steel or chemical plant, you just can’t abandon a nuclear reactor in tough times.   If government were ever slashed to the bone, if welfare were eliminated, if wars were ended, there would still be a compelling need for strict government control of nuclear power. Private firms just can’t do it. They may be able to manage some aspects of it, but only with the external resources and guarantees of coercive government. If things start getting unprofitable or unsafe, a private firm’s incentive is to leave. That simply cannot happen anymore. If a Mad Max world arrived, you can bet your bottom dollar that the local warlord would provide steaks for the technicians, security for the plant perimeter, and force all the potato eating population to give up their wealth to keep the nuclear plant from melting down. Today there are 61 nuclear power plants in the USA producing 20% of our energy needs.   Worldwide, there are 449 such plants plus thousands of support facilities. Government isn’t just married to nuclear power, it’s become part of our civic DNA. The nuclear state is here to stay, forever, simply because of the terrible consequences of leaving things alone.

That bothers me.   Government should be there to assure rights, justice and defense, but to utterly depend upon it to safely manage this technology for millennia ignores the fallibility of all things human. When it fails, it is going to fail big. The Soviets thought they were going to be a continuous, dominant government forever. When the Soviet Union melted down countries around the world provided money, technicians, and security to keep Soviet plants and weapons safe while their citizens fought for food in the streets. Will self-interested, good Samaritans always be there? I wouldn’t bet on it. Will people, in general, be willing to voluntarily make the never-ending sacrifices in wealth and liberty necessary to keep this technology controlled? I wouldn’t bet on that either. What happens then?

Have no doubt, nuclear power brings benefits. Cheap electricity made the lives of countless millions better. Pursuing this technology made breakthroughs in areas such as medicine, management, communications (the internet was invented to keep in touch with nuclear silos), and engineering in general. This is all good, but I would ask, are all the physical risks and costs worth it? Maybe it’s better to let it go.

I would also ask, was it worth the cost in liberty?

Pete Blome is a retired military officer and chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

Happy 4th of July

Independence Day is America’s crowning achievement that has endured the test of time. Today’s political landscape and non-stop coverage has some of us discouraged on the fate of the nation. After a career of serving in our armed forces and daily interaction with our district residents, I am not discouraged at all. Political battles have been a fabric of our nation since our humble beginning, but citizens that value personal liberty and freedom have been the stitch that has held that fabric together. I will never forget a true lesson in freedom provided by an Air Force ROTC leader on campus while I was waiting to attend USAF pilot training. The cadets where gathering in the day room to discuss our reaction to some students that decided to burn the American Flag in front of our dormitory. As you can imagine, short of violence, we were ready to put a stop to this. This commander told us that our country is the greatest in the world because of the brave men and women who fight for a constitution that ensures someone has a voice that we vehemently disagree with.

I have been fortunate to fly the F-15C for our Air Force in multiple countries along with living in multiple foreign countries. I can attest- we are not the only ones who think we are the greatest country on earth. The success we have had as a nation is directly attributed to individual citizens that continue to hold dear the personal liberties and individual freedoms we built this country on. Political institutions do not make us great, you do. I have yet to meet anyone in our county that doesn’t have the same aspirations that I do. The ability to pursue my own concept of happiness, provide for my family, and serve our fellow citizens. It’s in our blood and any student of American history knows that we will always strive to secure individual freedom. That is Patriotism at its core and our district is full of patriots. Thank you from my family to yours.

The Cartwright Family

Proud citizen of Okaloosa County

(The author, Tony Cartwright,  is the Vice Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party)

 

Those Seductive Feds

“Constitutional conservative” Congressman Matt Gaetz proudly voted for a bill (HR 1393) that allows the Federal Government to tell the States how they have to write their State income tax laws for people who work in the State for short periods.   I’m talking State, not Federal, income taxes.

Last time I checked, the 10th Amendment says it is up to a State to decide how it wants to impose taxes, with the exceptions of things like unconstitutional poll taxes and interstate commerce matters.

Don’t get me wrong. If I had my way, States would not impose wealth destroying income taxes at all, but I also know our Republic functions by limits on government. Matt obviously does not like 50 individual States experimenting on their own, nor does he trust that the ones with the best laws will get more business simply by market forces. He would rather tell them all what to do. Federal power is so seductive, and he is feeling comfortable with that.

Matt will make a big deal out of how this law will simplify complicated tax matters. So what. He forgot that centralized political power, like this bill, leads to centralized control, centralized command economies (like those Russkies used to have), bigger Washington taxes, bigger Washington egos, and finally bigger mistakes. He wasn’t sent to Washington to do any of this.

Matt’s new motto: “Take a walk on the wild side.”

Pete Blome

Chair, Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

 

Steve Scalise

The recent shooting of Congressman Scalise and four of his colleagues in Alexandria VA. shocks decent people everywhere. Panhandle Libertarians condemn this violence, and wish them all a speedy recovery.

To my mind, and as terrible as it sounds, this shooting was bound to happen. Democrat and Republican violent rhetoric is scale high. Politically related violence inside the USA seems higher than anything seen since I was a kid in the 1960’s. We are fed a daily media diet of protesters attacking other protesters, of comedians shaking severed heads, of plays in the park assassinating the President, and how the “Deep State” is a government unto itself. It seems those dishing out justice actually lead by political standards. No evidence leads to investigations while big admitted crimes are ignored (Bush, Obama, Clinton, Comey, Clapper, Brennan, for example). It is truly a head shaking, sad situation. At times like this, there is always some nut ready to pick up a gun.

But, more and more, you also hear how people are coming to realize that using force to achieve social or political goals leads only to tragedy and more violence. You using force to defend your life, liberty or property against violent criminals? You bet. Government using force for double standards, creating victimless crimes, taking your property without charges, or regulating your liberty away? That’s not OK, and just makes life worse.

It just happens to be a Libertarian message too.

Pete Blome

Chair, Northwest Florida Libertarian Party

 

Matt’s Torturous Path

On 24 March, Congressman Matt Gaetz told a Shark Tank interviewer “I agree with the President we ought to have every option on the table when it comes to advanced interrogation techniques.”   In plain English, advanced interrogation means torture. He thinks torture should be a legal tool of the United States used by the President. That is a self-destructive mistake for the country.

I’m sure Matt doesn’t see it that way. With the war on terror, torture has gained some undeserved popularity. He knows this topic hits an emotional hot button with a lot of folks. Every radical Islamic terrorist attack somewhere stokes a common desire to fight fire with fire. TV shows have gritty public servants thrashing bad guys to within an inch of their lives to find the kidnapped girl.   The scariest story line of all is the maniac with an atom bomb who won’t tell people where it is, and it has to be beaten out of him. People want simple solutions, and Matt Gaetz gives it to them. Of course, he doesn’t mention the horrendous price we pay for doing so.

Legalized torture is dangerous to that precious thing known as the American way of life.   With the word out that we will use torture, our enemies will be less likely to give themselves up. That will lead to the unnecessary death of our soldiers. It sets the stage for revenge attacks in a never ending cycle of retaliation. It removes any semblance of moral superiority from our legal or military actions. It turns its back on hundreds of years of the progress of civilization starting with the Crucifixion, and violates reams of existing law. It doesn’t recognize individual rights, only the force of the State over a person. It caters to mob rule. The innocent can suffer as readily as the guilty. In addition, it doesn’t work. When Secretary of Defense Mattis stated that “beer and cigarettes” were better than enhanced interrogation techniques, he wasn’t just speaking morally. The Air Force taught me a person under torture will say anything, do anything, to stop it. John McCain himself made all sorts of bogus admissions to crimes on North Vietnamese Radio under torture. These kinds of limitations make the whole idea unreliable in the extreme.

Legalized torture would be like introducing cancer into our Republic. It causes physical and mental lasting harm, with no remedy, to people who could be innocent. It trashes due process. It won’t even work, but it is popular. And to think Matt wants to give such power to the President, a separate and supposedly equal branch of the government. You have to ask yourself, what do we become if we do embrace torture and its threat to liberty? H.L. Mencken wrote to every problem there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong.   Legalized torture is that kind of solution.

Matt Gaetz is an educated man, lawyer, and officer of the court, but he chose political expediency over representation, tough words over a clear vision, and dangerously advocating an ever increasing Federal power to impose its might over the individual. His cynicism in supporting such a policy is both overwhelming and heartbreaking at the same time. The First District is chock full of people who are at the tip of the military spear. It makes me wonder if he ever bothered talking to them at all.

The lawyers I’ve known say it used to be considered better to let a guilty man go free than let an innocent man suffer under the law.

As a Congressman, Matt Gaetz has chosen a new path, and it ain’t pretty.

Pete Blome is Chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party and a retired military officer

 

Gaetz – More of the Same

Matt Gaetz revealed his plan for Obamacare in the Pace Town Hall this past 23 February, but it is the same self-destructive, uni-party Washington drivel as ever. He learns fast.

Despite declaring multiple times that “Obamacare is a threat to the economy!” and “I am a constitutional conservative!” Matt also said that whatever the Republicans come up with, the new healthcare bill will protect those with pre-existing conditions.

Those simple words spell the end of any kind of free market competition in healthcare insurance. It makes no sense for anyone to pay for insurance if they can get sick without paying and can get the same coverage as those who do. It solidifies government subsidy over 20% of the U.S. economy, decreases the quality of care, and raises taxes and insurance prices as well, as we have all seen.

Gaetz continues the anti-liberty legacy of Obama and George W. Bush, namely, socialized medicine. That is now becoming part of the American psyche. What Matt proposes is not constitutional, conservative, fiscally sound, or even compassionate to his fellow citizens. It is just bribing people with their own taxes to get votes, just like the Democrats do. Predictably, it will fail.

The solution is real competition in a genuinely free market. Get rid of the statutory monopolies, legal privileges and barriers to entry Congress voted the medical and insurance industry big players over 50+ years. That would really improve healthcare.

Pete Blome, Chair, Northwest Florida Libertarian Party