Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More Statist Theft of Liberty

On January 24, 2012, Herr Ruler Commissar-in-Campaign-Mode gave his State of the Union Address. Here is a lovely transcript of his speech. Of course, we know he is unable to think on his feet and had a speech writer put it on his teleprompter for him. It was entirely scripted out in advance rather than just a list of bullets on note cards. That link is to Jamie DuPree's blog. Jamie had the transcript before the speech was even delivered.

The speech covered many topics and contained the buzz-word of "fair" countless times. "Fair" to statist, Marxist socialists is a, to quote US Rep. Jackson Lee, a "codeword". It means an equality of outcome regardless of effort rather than an equality of opportunity. It translates into an increase of government intervention into how you live your life. It is about stripping Americans of the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the PURSUIT of Happiness.

The executive branch has been largely stymied by the US House of Representatives since January 2011. By and large, bills introduced in the House that would limit government intervention or scale it back towards the intentions of our founders do not get much further. They fall to any of several ends. They don't get passed by the Senate Democrats (who have the majority). Sen. Harry Reid or VP Biden suppress the bills even having discussion or vote. If they do get their day in the Senate, they get amended to include things such as the amendments to the NDAA so many people dislike. If it passes the Senate and still restricts intervention, our current president vetoes the bill, such as the case of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Since the House of Representatives usually won't pass items on the president's socialist agenda, our executive branch, under the president's direction, initiates executive orders, policies, and regulations that will fulfill that agenda. That agenda is to take away public choice, public prosperity, and private property rights.

I wrote this blog discussing some of the ways these agencies are doing so.

Then I wrote this blog identifying the way the government buys votes and attempts to own your life and property through government subsidies. I followed that up discussing how Marxist based unions led to the second bankruptcy filing by Hostess. In that blog, I postured that the best thing for the capitalist basis of our economy is to let Hostess fall without a government subsidy.

Now I bring you further intrusions the anti-liberty, anti-freedom, anti-prosperity leftist, statist executive branch is proposing to further intrude upon your individual rights.

One aspect is the preposterous proposal that pregnancy should now be labeled as a "disability". The Wall Street Journal has this article on the subject. On the surface, it appears like a good idea. Pregnant women should get some level of protection in the workplace. That, however, is up to the workplace. Already they can be held liable for any negligent actions that cause injury to mother or child. No further laws or regulations are necessary. However, a few states have already included pregnancy under local disabilities acts.

The proposal is to add pregnancy to the American Disabilities Act. If included, that means that not only do pregnant women get certain protections, under law, in the workplace or while attending other private businesses; but will now be "entitled" to disability stipends/subsidies. That opens up a whole new can of worms.

I debated this from the stance of an entitlement junkie with a couple of people. Here was the exchange:

Me: So, I'm a guy. I can't get pregnant. Am I disabled?

No, you can't get pregnant!!

Exactly. I'm disabled. I am deprived of that ability.
Another guy: It's sexist discrimination.It's not my fault I have a penis.
Woman: If pregnancy is a disability, you cant get that disability of you're not pregnant...

If you can get it for being pregnant, you should get it if you don't have option to get pregnant, also. It's only FAIR!!!

Oh, so your bitching because you can not get the disability for being pregnant...?

Exactly. I don't have the option. It's not fair. I want my "fair share". I don't have an equality of outcome here. So, I need to be paid for my disability. Either that, or you need to tax parents 30% of each child over 2 per family, 1 per parent, and give every guy who is not a parent a kid.

Woman (and yes, she is a conservative who finds the whole "pregnancy is a disability" thing idiotic):
That's stupid.

Me:  Not according to Obama, DH&HS, the ADA, Warren Buffet, George Soros, Harry Reid, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emmanuel, Rep. Waxman, and #Occupy. Now being pregnant is being proposed as a disability. In that case, should being male (unable to be pregnant) or being infertile also be disabilities, since those people have been deprived of the ability to carry a child and give birth to it?

If you trace my argument, I demonstrate how invasive that policy really is. If you grant disability based upon fertility, pregnancy, and the like, it places most people on some level of disability. You will be seen as "disabled" if you are pregnant. Out of "fairness", next people incapable of having a child due to being male, infertile, etc. would also have to be a disability. Here come the government subsidies based upon your fertility and childbearing status. That lady in the exchange had it 100% correct:  "That's Stupid!".

 So what's next? How about more executive orders and executive branch regulatory policies telling you how to raise your children? Well they're coming.

In the State of the Union, the POTUS talked about more government intervention into schooling. He talks about changing national standards to make them more equal across the board. He talks about national standards for educators. What that translates to is, "if you are an educator at ANY level, K-Grad school, you will have to teach what we tell you to. You have no choice but to be one of our comprachicos."

The term "Comprachico" refers to carnival families that would raise kids with appliances placed on their bodies in order to form them into freaks as they grew, disproportionately, into the molds the carnivals and circuses needed. The modern term applies to an essay by Voltaire regarding the suppression of free thinking in children to make them willfully enslaved to the establishment. Ayn Rand used this same concept to describe socialist indoctrinators invading our educational institutions and poisoning kids ideas, making them grow up leaning left. Rand suggested it was starting to happen in the 60s and had grown in the 70s. Today, there are more comprachicos in public schools than there are real educators. The comprachicos have already taken over the administration branches of education.

Now the USDA is getting involved in how you raise your kids. The USDA now can regulate your kids' caloric intake. They have regulated what and how much your children are allowed to eat in school. It may seem like a good thing that school cafeterias will dish out more healthy meals. That's nice. The reality is that they are telling you what they will let your kid eat. 

Your child's individual health concerns don't matter. If you child needs whole milk due to some medical condition (like a broken bone), he can't have it anymore. Johnny is on antibiotics for that ear infection? Sorry, no extra yogurt. If your child is diabetic, you're screwed. If your child is hypoglycemic and needs more calories, tough. If your child is an athlete, has a higher metabolism, and needs that extra nutrition, the USDA says "No". What if your child is lactose intolerant and cannot consume dairy products? Or has an egg allergy?

And just think, if you have a job and make over $20k a year, you have to pay the school to give your child that USDA regulated and mandated diet. Wow.

I understand that child obesity is a concern. maybe if they brought back recess it wouldn't be as much of an issue? Maybe if parents took more interest in their kids' nutrition and activity ("Shut Off That Damned X-Box and Get Your But Outside!") it wouldn't be an issue. When I was a kid, the Atari wasn't even an interest unless it was night time or it was raining (and we were told to get inside).

So, now the USDA and your local school are going to tell you what is best for your child and FORCE you to comply.

My response to this is that you should have your kids start bringing a lunch and snack from home. It is cheaper than the school lunch program. If you do it right, it is still healthier. One step further, you can meet YOUR child's individual needs and tell the government to take a hike. This is an area they should NOT control:  your kids.

However, this USDA mandate has now spread to many state regulations. Now, in some states, school officials can (and do) inspect your children's lunches brought from home. If the SCHOOL decides the lunch does not comply, they give the child what THEY think is healthy for them, regardless of your child's individual eating habits, food allergies, and health concerns. The School officials then send the parents a bill for that mandated replacement lunch. Below is a quote from this article in the Carolina Journal dated February 14, 2012.

The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs — including in-home day care centers — to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.

When home-packed lunches do not include all of the required items, child care providers must supplement them with the missing ones.

The girl’s mother — who said she wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter from retaliation — said she received a note from the school stating that students who did not bring a “healthy lunch” would be offered the missing portions, which could result in a fee from the cafeteria, in her case $1.25.

Keep your eyes open. Next they will mandate you walk a certain distance every day, and will ration gasoline to enforce it. (Gasoline is already taxed ridiculously in order to restrict how far you drive). Watch for it:  food will soon be rationed to make sure you are eating the government approved diet.

Next they will tell me how often to tune my guitar and force me to keep an inspection record (or worse, force me to have it tuned by a government-licensed professional), and force me to register my guitars with some federal agency.

Then they will pass regulations on how big your house can be, and fine you for building that addition for an Four Seasons room (AKA Arizona Room, AKA Florida Room, etc.). They will regulate how many hats, ties, pairs of shoes you can own and of what type. If you are born with an IQ above 100, you'll be fined for being above average.

If you think I'm being outlandish, let me remind you that this is where is starts. This is what our founders feared. These executive orders and regulatory policies are steps towards the socialists vision of Utopia. Read Orwell's Animal Farm for another work of fiction that displays a closer version of how that turns out.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Let's Discuss The TSA

Unlike many people, I am not opposed to the TSA or their mission, as stated on their website. I see their value and necessity in the world we live in. I know several other countries that have similar programs and have for years. The reason the TSA and its foreign cousins are necessary is because crime, specifically terrorism, needs to be deterred.

US Citizens as well as our legal foreign tourists deserve to feel safe traveling within or from the US. If TSA follows their charter effectively, our skies become safer. People will feel more secure. I, for one, understand their primary mission and support it. It is more than just a good idea on paper. If you research similar programs in Germany, the UK, Israel, and other civilized countries, the deterrent is effective.

You can look at TSA's site and see some of the potential attacks they have stopped. They deserve your applause in doing so. Just to throw one such instance out to you, I will remind everybody of Jose Padilla. Google him. Don't worry, I'll address the story later. But TSA stopped Jose from committing a terrorist attack on a flight out of ORD (Chicago O'Hare).

Then, just today (23 JAN 12), TSA assisted the FBI in arresting another potential terrorist who was allegedly planning an attack. Jamshid Muhtorov was attempting to board a plane, at ORD, with the allegation of providing support to the Islamic Jihad Union, part of the Al Q'aeda umbrella.

TSA has an important role.

Conversely, there are thousands of stories on TSA corruption. There are several examples of the organization over-stepping its authority. They claim they do so in the name of "security". Many of their policies do not make much sense.

The US Army certified me in Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection (AT/FP). Every Soldier has to attend regular classes and briefings. However, I was certified to conduct that training, give those briefings, and advise commanders on how to best implement their plans to protect our Soldiers and their families. I was working in an intelligence position at the time and had access to information that further enabled my capabilities. So, I know a thing or two about the TSA's job.

First of all, TSA is a union job in most places. You can tell how influential unions are in a given area by the attitude and work ethic of TSA at the airport. For example, TSA in Atlanta is a lot less professional and civil than in Tucson or San Antonio. Texas and Arizona are both Right to Work states.

Let me give you an example of TSA in Atlanta. While traveling from Atlanta to Arizona returning from a post-deployment leave, TSA in Atlanta gave me a bit of an attitude. They looked at my ID card with a level of disdain. My carry-on went through additional checks. Being a Soldier, I was used to this illogical treatment already. In the process, my Kindle DX was thrown by a TSA thug, and broken. I had taken it out of my carry-on and placed it in its own bin, per the policy in that airport.

I will state here that policies on things like e-book readers vary from airport to airport. In Tucson and Peoria, the TSA people look at me strange when I pull my Kindle out, telling me "it's not necessary with e-book readers, sir". I'd rather not take the chance. It requires a few second to take it out and to put it away after the screening. This varying policy makes little sense to me. It should be uniform and published.

As my carry-on was brought to be screened, the TSA thug said "this is his Kindle" and threw it ten feet to the bin where my shoes and belt rested. The screen was cracked. I filed a damage claim. It took almost a year before I got a check to reimburse me. Even that was a bureaucratic mess of red tape.

If that security checkpoint were in Iraq and my Soldiers were running it, the Soldier responsible would have gotten in some trouble. The person whose items were damaged would have received a check for more than the value of the item within a month. I know about the hundreds of dollars handed out to repair doors we had to kick down in the process of our missions in Iraq.

A recent story came out regarding a husband and wife team in Miami. The couple work for TSA. They were stealing items such as laptop computers, tablet PCs (such as the iPad), iPods, digital cameras, and other high value items. Now, TSA as well as the airlines will suggest you have such items in your carry-on to reduce the propensity for damages incurred from baggage handlers. Yet you have this couple stealing from carry-on bags at the security checkpoints. This couple had been doing this for over a year. I am willing to bet they aren't the only ones.

I am not sure the airport. I am not sure if either of the couple was the thief. However, radio personality and author of The Fair Tax, Neal Boortz, relates his story quite often. Neal was returning home from a vacation. If I remember correctly, he took a trip, with his wife, to the Bahamas. Neal had knee replacement surgery some time ago. So his knee set off the metal detector. They took him off to a glass booth for a strip search. While he was being searched, he watched a TSA thug steal his laptop and digital camera, right before his eyes. He attempted to complain and was dismissed. The TSA refused to listen to him. They even claimed that he thug he described wasn't even working that day.

The reason I contrast the TSA with the military is that their job is similar. Military personnel are trained to do the same types of security screenings and searches. Military recruits go through a similar screening process before being hired. TSA requires a background check. It is a cursory check of national and local crime databases. It is not all that in-depth. It is not enough to qualify for a Secret clearance.

I bring up the background check for a reason. The unionized TSA workers are less likely to be fired, fined, or face administrative or Non-Judicial Punishment than a Soldier is. The union, as part of its benefits, provides legal counsel. In places where unions have influence, the bureaucracy doesn't want to face the union lawyers. If  the union were dissolved and TSA agents faced similar legal recourse to the military, such corruption and transgressions would become more rare.

In addition, that background check also enables TSA agents to receive unclassified threat briefings. They evidently get some such briefings. But they do not tailor their policies and measures by them on a regular basis. It seems that they aren't privy to regular updates and briefings. Given their charter and mission, they should receive one DAILY. Just like platoon leaders in the military, their shift leaders should receive a Secret-level briefing at least once a week. I am willing to bet that they don't.

In my research, I found no positions within the TSA for intelligence analysts. It appears they rely on ICE, FBI, and other LEOs intelligence personnel to inform them. The problem is that those agencies will only do so when they need TSA's assistance. Otherwise, they are stuck with the rather vague briefs that come out of the Department of Homeland Security. They need their own intelligence branch that will coordinate with local, state, and federal Law Enforcement Organizations (LEOs) as well as other intelligence activities in order to keep the agents properly informed. They do not need their own collectors. They just need analysts who understand the data and the briefings already done by the FBI, DIA, and other agencies. The analysts also need to be able to conduct their own OSINT.

Instead, the TSA just enacts what are called RAMPs, which are random measures used during more increased threat levels employed at seemingly random times in order to increase deterrence. They make sense if used properly and effectively. However, when they enact these RAMPs, they target those who are least likely to actually be a threat. It is like when they selected military and federal workers for their "random screenings". The CATO institute has their own study on this process. If you consider this, you can guess it is out of laziness and only serves to demonstrate a false sense of security instead of working as a true deterrent.

On anther trip I took, while still in uniform, I had a discussion with such a shift leader while I was getting dressed. Just after clearing the checkpoint, I received word my flight was delayed by at least an hour. That shift leader was taking his union-mandated break at about that time. I spent 20 minutes in his secure break room with him giving him an unclassified brief and opening his eyes to reality. He was surprised how little he and his agents were informed, and how much they were misinformed.

The subject of Jose Padilla came up. I was discussing profiling. If you notice, I said nothing about racial profiling. Jose had changed his name when he converted to Islam. So, his race had little to do with his affiliation to an Islamic terrorist organization. It had nothing to do with race. The profiling also has little to do with religion. Despite what some people will lead you to believe, most Muslims are not too fond of those terrorists who claim to act in the name of  their religion.

Let me interrupt you with a little known fact about "Jihad". While Jihad is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, it is not what most think. First of all, the pillar refers to the internal struggle to be good and resist temptation. It is not about waging war on "non-believers". The second part of the fact about "Jihad" is that "Great Jihad" (the external war against evildoers) is not all black and white. By the Q'uran, only G-d knows if such a war is just, sanctified, and a true Jihad. So, those who act in the name of Jihad risk their eternal soul in doing so. They won't know if they acted properly until they are judged by G-d.

Keeping that in mind, you can still see that there are those of a demographic that support terrorism. Those people can be of any race. However, there is a distinct and noticeable profile such people fit. TSA does not use that profile under the misconception that it violates the 14th Amendment and is racist.

To keep from giving off the perception of being "racist", for years, Soldiers traveling on leave or official orders were automatically "randomly selected" for "additional screening". The whole idea was to use fellow federal workers to project a deterrent, that didn't deter anything, and false sense of security. Meanwhile, you have those who fit the profile walking onto planes with just the routine checks.

Then you have TSA giving young ladies trouble for the decorations embroidered on their purses. Your average, law-abiding female NRA member American does NOT fit the profile.

To top it off, you have TSA acting as though the US Constitution does not apply to them. Well, their boss, our country's chief executive, believes the same. So does the Secretary of  Homeland Security. Article 1 Section 6 of the US Constitution prohibits TSA from delaying or detaining a member of congress from traveling to perform his/her duties, unless indicted for treason. Yet, today, at 10am local time, Senator Rand Paul was detained and delayed by TSA. "The Right Scoop" has this article that includes Sen Rand Paul's statement on the ordeal. The detention by TSA caused Rand from making a speech at the March For Life Rally in Washington, DC.

Senator Paul released this OP-ED in the Washington Times on January 24th. Then later, he appeared on Sean Hannity's TV show to tell more of the story. It appears Senator Paul shares my proposal that TSA agents attend regular security briefs and base their policies and actions upon facts, actual threat streams, and a little common sense. This demonstrates that TSA needs its own intelligence analysts, at least one at each airport, who can do the work and keep the agents properly informed.

So, the TSA clearly, under somebody's poor direction, oversteps its charter, mandate, and the US Constitution. Perhaps the union needs to go away. The TSA agents I have dealt with in Tucson, Peoria, and San Antonio have been highly professional, courteous, friendly, and a tribute, in my personal experience. Perhaps TSA needs to have a form of the UCMJ governing their conduct. Perhaps they need to fall under the DoD. I don't have the all the answers. I do know that they DO serve an important role. I do know I am happy we have such an organization. I also know that they need better leadership, direction, and education.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Free Market Charity

Several people have heard me say some fairly harsh things regarding food and housing subsidies and other government "welfare" programs. Of course, the more Marxist leaning "progressives" will label me as "cold-hearten", "lacking compassion", "racist" or other complete untruths.

Those people who have read my writings, heard some of my social or political commentaries, of know me in general would say that I'm a rather conservative guy. Now, there are a few issues that, if I discussed them, would make some conservatives skin crawl. I may even get some death threats from the Westboro Baptist Church and other groups for those views. (To be honest, death threats from WBC would just get filed into my "Death Threats From Left-Wing Extremists" file and be reported to the FBI. WBC has been called, by the left, an extreme right-wing group. If they did their  research, they'd find the Phelps family is mostly registered and active Democrats. They are hardly conservatives.) However, on most issues I lean rather right of center.

So this article just may raise a few eyebrows.

Am I against government subsidies to a large sector of the "poor"? Yes I am. In fact. I am rather against government run subsidies in general. I have several reasons for my views.

My first reason is one of simple human nature. People deprived of incentive to perform, produce, succeed, or excel will not put forth an attempt to do so. Why work if I don't have to? Now, incentives come in all sorts of flavors. Some people are motivated by higher needs such as religious views, ethics, and morals. However, most people are motivated by basic needs. I, for one, have a habit of not cooking dinner unless I am actually hungry. Yes, there are days I forget to eat, or just couldn't be bothered to stop what I was doing to get food.

That same principle applies to most people. It may not be along the lines of not wanting to get off the couch to cook. It could be not bothering to do laundry because you still have clothes hanging in the closet. Yes, I got somebody's number with that one.

When it comes to working and earning, why would somebody want to if all of their basic needs are met if they don't? A single parent of four, unemployed, and on EBT and FHA has more disposable income than a family of five (two parents, three kids) with a household income of $60k before taxes. That is just the wrong answer. Being idle and lazy is rewarded more than working.

Basic needs are a great incentive to do. If you had to hunt or farm in order to feed your family, you would. If you had to build your own house to have a place to live, you would. If the only incentive was survival, you'd do what it takes to survive. It is basic human instinct.

Now that I have angered even more people who are preparing to send me comments and hate mail saying "You evil, heartless bastard!", allow me to enlighten my dear readers further.

I do a lot of charity work. I am currently in two volunteer elected offices for one NPO. My Fiancee sits as a volunteer member on the board of another. I support private charities and NPOs. I find their work to be far more effective in assisting people in need than any government program. In doing so, I also have choice in where my efforts and money are used.

Most conservatives agree with this concept. Conservatives proportionately give more in charitable donations and do more charity/relief work than Liberals. Let me try to explain why, at least from my personal perspective.

First of all, charity is a moral concept. Most religions teach of its virtue. It is one of the five pillars of Islam. Most Christian churches run charity drives. They are supported by Christ's teachings. Jewish teachings preach about charity and giving to those in need. A Druid church (religious organization) I know also teaches about the virtues of charity and helping our fellow humans. By and large, conservatives are people with religious or spiritual convictions. It is generally accepted that it is right to do good things for those less fortunate.

However, for a virtue to be a virtue, it must be freely chosen. If you do a charitable act from your own choice, you did a good thing. If you refuse to, you may get some flack, but nobody will begrudge that it was your choice.

When the government takes your taxes and disperses them, it does so against your will. It takes that money with the force of law. If you break the law, they can take it at gunpoint (and toss you in jail). That is not choice. That lacks virtue. That is not charity. It is, theft, on a moral level. Because you worked for that money, you gave up a portion of your time on Earth, your life, to earn it. We have a term for working to the benefit of others under the force of law or at gunpoint:  indentured servitude. That can be simplified to a single word:  slavery. Conservatives abhor slavery.

Let's say we have $100 we have decided to designate for feeding poor American family we know.

If we give that money to the government to put into EBT or some other government run program, here is what happens. It goes into a fund. Out of that $100 comes the salaries of the 20+ bureaucrats that have to designate the use for those funds and screen multiple families to decide which one they will give aid. Then some pet government project that has little to do with feeding a family takes it's bit, because, you know, some politician earmarked funds for his pet project. By the time that $100 has gone though the government filters, you are lucky to have $30 left. To top it off, they may not give that $30 to that family we know. Some family of non-citizens may get it instead.

On the extreme other side, we can do what somebody I know did. There was a young married couple. The husband's paycheck came up short for a couple of months in a row. The remaining pay went to other necessities like rent and utilities. Not much was left for food. So, this person took the couple shopping. the couple also did not want to take advantage and buy things like prime rib and crab legs. They picked out healthy, cost-effective food. Most of it was staples with a couple of inexpensive comfort items.

One could argue that there may have been another family in more need than the one we designated, but were unaware of. That's where the NPOs step in.

For years, I gave to NPOs through a system called CFC. CFC, or Combined Federal Campaign, is a program through which federal employees (I was active duty Army) give to NPOs directly from their paychecks. I did stop going through CFC over the last 7 years of my career. CFC did, however, grant me the data and education I needed in regards to the NPOs I chose to support.

All NPOs have an overhead. However, their overhead varies depending on several factors including advertising budget, paid administration, paid workers, volunteer ratio, and other things. However, they must, by law, publish their dispersal figures annually. So, if you want to feed poor families, you find one with a lower overhead and administration ratio. I purposely stayed away from those with an overhead and administrative percentage over 20%. In the end, I think the highest one I was donating to had an 8% rate.

What does that mean? Let's suppose a local food bank has a (high) overhead percentage of 20%. It means we give them $100. They take $20 to use towards paying people to do social work, paying rent, and screening aid recipients. The other $80 goes to some family in need. It could be our chosen family. It could be another local family who is more in need. An added beauty of a food bank is that we also have the option of buying food and donating ALL of it to the bank. So that $100 worth of food goes to those in need.

Most NPOs don't give their aid for free, at least not under most circumstances. If the NPO is religious in nature, the beneficiaries may have to endure a bit of preaching. Other NPOs offer counseling, budget classes, employment seminars, and the like. Some of these other things the beneficiaries must endure are from conditions the NPO contractually made with some "evil capitalist" business that funds the charity. I don't see how having to sit through a class on how to write a better resume or fill out a job application are bad for the beneficiaries, anyway. And, while the beneficiaries may have different religious views, I don't see how a little preaching on the benefits of living a more moral life can be harmful either. You have a brain. You have a choice to take the advice or not. It doesn't hurt to listen.

I have yet to see prime rib and crab legs at a food bank. Then again, I live in Arizona, not Maine. In Maine, I could see lobster being dropped off. I have seen items like turkeys, hams, and briskets dropped off around holiday times. I did not see the cash donations used to buy Monster and Red Bull. I have seen EBT cards used to purchase those items.

The people I have seen go to local food banks for food are happy for what they receive. They do not act as though they are owed this food. They do not act as though they are entitled to it. In fact, that couple I discussed earlier also went to a food bank. After the husband's pay problems were corrected, they went and purchased food to replace what they "borrowed". They didn't have to. But they did. How many families on EBT do you hear talking about getting a job so they can pay the government back for the money the American Tax Payers lent them? In fact, I am willing to bet you'd be met with malicious comments if you even suggested it.

We live in the best country in the world. The majority of our poor would be considered rather well off in most 3rd World countries. Can we do better? Yes. People deserve a hand up. They deserve that incentive to NOT GIVE UP. They need the encouragement to prosper and achieve on their own merits. Government "entitlements" don't do that. They foster a mentality of complacency, apathy, and laziness.

The most greatest faculty human being have is called Reason. Reason allows us to take in data and make choices. Those choices are our greatest power. Being able to choose what charities you give to, what morals you support, what programs you think work best, is the very power that makes NPOs a better choice than government subsidies. It is an INDIVIDUAL right. Conservatives love to exercise their individual rights.

Taxes and federal revenues dispersed into government subsidies reduce and deny that individual right to choose. They deny the inalienable rights to life (do productive things with your time), liberty (freedom to choose your own life's course), and the pursuit of happiness (keep, lose, or give away the property you earned by your own merits and effort).

My choice? I'd rather see $80 of my $100 go to those who need it and will appreciate it than $30 of that $100 go to those who believe I owe it to them. It is, after all, MY MONEY.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hey! Give Me My Cream Filling!

Read The November 2012 Update On This Article! 

I tend to eat fairly healthy these days. I do, on occasion, break my diet and go for baked goods, sweets, and red meat. For me, though, red meat is a necessity as it provides Vitamin D3. My diet is mostly vegetables, unprocessed grains, and fish, though.

So those who know me may find it a bit ironic that I am writing about junk food that I tend to avoid. In fact, I am writing about something that I considered, in my adult life, to be a rare treat and not regular regimen. However, Hostess held a rather iconic place in modern society.

Even though I usually don't partake, I have always found comfort in staring at the temptation of Snowballs, Cupcakes, Ding Dongs, and Ho Hos in the grocery store. My mouth would water a little bit. Then I would grab some rather high cocoa content chocolate, usually a bar that would last me a month.

Hostess emerged from Bankruptcy protections granted in 2004, in 2009. In 2009, real estate costs, increased fuel costs, and higher supply costs (sugar and flour mostly) brought the company to seek protections and repay creditors. When those protections expired, Hostess found itself still over $700 Million in debt. That is after their $2.2 Billion in annual sales. The Wall Street Journal provides a good story from last month in the provided link.

This time around, Hostess is seeking Chapter 11 protections and may or may not be seeking restructuring.

But what led to this?

The 2004 Bankruptcy case obviously was not enough. Since 2009, when the protections expired, several things have taken place that threw up trade and production obstacles in Hostess's way. First, taxes and regulatory fees on sugar increased. When you produce lots of baked goods stuffed with a sugary cream, that is a hard cost to suddenly accrue. You could say that the experts should have planned ahead and budgeted for the increase in supply costs. However, who would have expected that a bill such as Obamacare would seek to regulate the supply costs of baked goods?

Transportation costs, including both the delivery of supplies and the communication of products to wholesalers and retailers nearly doubled. That is sure to have not helped.

However, labor costs brought about by making concessions to unions are what killed Hostess. That is right, labor unions stole our creamed filling. How?

Let's look at transportation costs. Dock workers, truck drivers, and mechanics employed by Hostess and their suppliers are mostly Teamsters members. Unions raise their membership dues, negotiate contracts to increase wages and benefits, then include the higher prices of their union dues as part of the necessity of raising those labor costs. If Hostess were allowed to hire outside of unions in non-Right-To-Work states, those transportation laborers could actually have gotten the same benefits plus a higher wage to keep for themselves. How? By not having to pay the union dues. If the difference was split, Hostess would have saved that difference. The other half would have been in workers' pockets. It would have been better for both. But the union would have screamed for the administrators not getting their "fair share". Oh, Hostess also paid directly to the union, not to just the laborers.

Not to target the Teamsters, other labor unions are involved. They just happened to be the first example I had at the tips of my fingers. Teamsters, despite their history with mob connections, are probably one of the least corrupt unions out there. But common sense is common sense. Math is math. The numbers are numbers. A is A.

SEIU had its part to play as well. SEIU drives up medical costs, education costs, and other "employee services" costs.

The list goes on. 80% of Hostess workers belong to one union or another.

The largest is the Bakery & Confectionary Union with its Industry International Pension Fund to which Hostess owes over $940 Million in pension funds Hostess is contractually obligated to provide to the union. The link provided provides more information on Hostess's filing, announced January 11, 2012 in the Wall Street Journal.

This is despite being based in Irving, Texas. Texas is a Right to Work state. Maintaining mandatory contractual agreements with labor unions though not mandatory by state law is most likely the final nail in Hostess's cream-filled coffin.  

Unions did grant some concessions to their contracts in order to keep some jobs. However, despite those concessions, Hostess tried to be the "good guy" and still pay their laborers above market value. 80% of their employees remain union workers. The conceded salaries/wages from the unions did nothing to alleviate union-contracted pensions and health care costs. As Obamacare phases in heading towards its full implementation in 2014, that portion of "labor costs" will increase, not only for hostess, but their suppliers and their clients (retailers). The company cannot afford the current requirements. Even if they make it through this bankruptcy case, labor contracts and health care costs forced upon them by Obamacare will just topple them again.

Though I will miss seeing those Snowballs, Cupcakes, and loaves of Wonder bread on the shelves, I am die-hard against any form of bailout or subsidy. They wouldn't qualify, anyway, because Hostess isn't some overpriced and inefficient "green energy" company. They are famous for producing items that the First Lady opposes:  junk food. She thinks we should not be allowed the option to choose what we eat. However, DC elitists wanted a posh IHOP and voted to grant a $756k+ subsidy to build a franchise. On that note, a government bailout for Hostess could happen, but I wouldn't count on it.

That "equal protections and entitlements" myth will continue, regardless. Even if deemed "too big to fail", Hostess won't get a bailout unless our inept Congress decides to bend to the President's mandate to raise the debt ceiling yet again. Free Market Capitalism dictates that they fall due to their failures to run efficiently. Allowing this to happen will send a hard lesson to the nation, serving as a warning to the dangers of too much government regulation and socialist labor union intervention.

The good news is that you now have one less choice on the shelves granting an incentive to ween your kids off of Wonder bread and towards a whole-grain alternative, if they'll eat it.

Atlas is shrugging. This time because he wanted his cream filling.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Layman's View on Government Subsidies

Our economy cannot afford to absorb this theft and fraud. If we stay just within the "public" sector, that portion our taxes attribute, the federal spending deficit is at the point of extreme irresponsibility. The government wants more money to spend, by increasing revenue (acquired from taxation). If you gave your kid a $10 a week allowance and you watched him spend it on $15 worth of lottery tickets each week, would you give him a raise in allowance? I wouldn't. I'd cut his allowance and tell him to learn to live within his means.

Our government, both the executive and legislative branches, spend, without a budget mind you, whatever revenue it accrues plus whatever it can borrow (with no repayment plans). How do you cure that? You cut them off. You tell them to spend on necessities (Defense, Diplomacy, Veterans' Benefits, Debt, and Operating Expenses). Then you tell them to cut out the crappy spending:  subsidies of unproductive individuals and businesses.

Recently, 20 year old Christine Roussell published an OP-ED article in "The College Conservative" that documented cases of subsidy abuse she witnessed while working at Walmart. Now, people will try to argue that "welfare" isn't a "subsidy". I refer them to their closest dictionary of acceptable English words in order to clarify the definition. If you look at the "c" option under the primary definition of "a gift or grant of money", you will notice that includes grants of money to private citizens. That means subsidies for sustenance, commonly called "welfare".

Miss Rousselle's "My Time At Walmart" drew a lot of media attention, and thousands of comments both in support of her article and chastising her. After her unexpected 15 minutes of flash fame, she published a follow-up in response to contentious editorials, blogs, and comments that attempted more to attack the author than rationally discuss the issue and her observations.

Among the comments on the articles, I have noticed several people attacking those who support "welfare" reform with arguments that the government needs to start with reforming subsidies of "big-business" and "leave the poor, hungry people alone".

The above leads to my following thoughts.

Our country is founded upon the ideal of equal opportunity to succeed and prosper. It is not founded upon an ideal of equality of results. That means that every person, every business, every organization has an equal opportunity to succeed or fail on its own merits or faults. The "Inalienable Rights" enumerated in the Declaration of Independence and reaffirmed in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address are "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness". Anybody who has done their responsibility to self-educate has taken the time to read the Federalist Papers. It should be more than obvious that the government has no right or authority to decide who succeeds. That is to be left to individual efforts, successes, and failures.

The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution further backs this ideal in stating that all law-abiding adult citizens of the United States have equal protections under the law. No laws can be passed that do not apply equally across the states and the individuals.

So, my current view comes down to one simple question:  How do subsidies to companies deemed "too big to fail" and subsides to those "unwilling to prosper" apply equally among the states and individuals?

They don't.

Giving bailout money to General Motors and subsidizing production of the failed vehicle, the Chevy Volt, does not apply equally among the states or the people. Most people won't purchase one. They are not produced in all 50 states. In fact, the production is moving to China. If you combine all other cars either manufactured in the US or produced by US-based companies, these subsidies were for a vast minority. This was not for the common good of the country. It was for one company and the labor union they employ.

On the concept of food subsidies to the poor, it follows the same concept. It does not lend to the overall prosperity of the country. Among those receiving the subsidies, "welfare", you have those who won't work. They don't think they have to. Their necessities are all taken care of by the "nanny state". It serves as an incentive to not work, produce, succeed, or prosper. It inhibits the "Pursuit of Happiness" by killing the very spirit of excellence our country was founded upon.

Here is one student-journalist's account of how she qualified for EBT. 

Those subsidies do not go to all citizens equally. You have to qualify for them. If everybody received the same stipend, I would be more accepting of the program. However, if everybody received this money, it would defeat the whole system in the first place as it would be more prudent to just let people keep what they earned. It is a proven fact that free market capitalism and the laws of supply and demand work, while socialism is an experiment that has proven to fail time and again. Look at the 70 year history of the USSR. Take a look at Greece and the rest of the EU today. Socialism fails.

Now, I agree with giving aid (food subsidies) to two demographics: The "deserving poor" and the "working poor". Those in between should be left in the cold until they get off their butts and do something for themselves.

Who are the "deserving poor"? Well, among them are the elderly who are no longer capable of working, for one reason or another. Some of these had their life savings stolen from them. Others out-lived their expectations and had their money run out. Other "deserving poor" include people who were disabled to a point of no longer being capable of working. being disabled is not a qualifier in and of itself. if you think the disabled are incapable of producing, succeeding, and prospering on their own merits, tell it to this guy. I'm sure Nick has a few words for you if you think disabilities equal an inability to exceed.

The "working poor" are those who have fallen on hard times. If somebody is giving it their all, busting their butt, producing, and trying to make it, I think they deserve a shot in the arm to bolster that chance. However, it should be temporary. If they are working while taking vocational classes to better themselves in the long-run, I am even more for that temporary assistance.

However, the other demographic of those not working, not producing, not trying but want their government check, they need an incentive. That incentive should be self-preservation. Survival is the greatest incentive for any living creature. "I'm a starving artist". Really? What paintings have you produced? Let me see your art. If it sucks, you may want to find another career. You are failing.

Advocates of the "nanny state" are now hating me for bashing the "undeserving poor" that are living off of my hard earned money. Don't worry, kids, I'm about to discuss the other side.

Let's discuss another subsidy:  Solyndra. That was a whole bunch of OUR money wasted. It led to over 1,000 people added to the unemployment statistics. How many of them ended up on welfare to top it off? Why was this company chosen by the government to succeed? (It failed, mind you). Where in the US Constitution does it state that the federal government is authorized to engage in venture capitalism with OUR money? I'll give you a huge hint, it isn't in there. For a great commentary on the current status of the Solyndra debacle and its effect on taxpayers, watch this video from PJTV.

Now, I will give a small argument towards Solyndra. They were bucking for a government/defense contract. But the horse was put before the cart. They should have developed and produced the products before getting that subsidy. Yes, it still would have been a "subsidy" because it would have gone to the greater benefit of defending our country. However, they will never fulfill that contract.

Another such misuse of tax money fraudulently claimed to be for "defense" was the DoD being forced to purchase biofuels from Solazyne. If the government followed the free market laws of supply and demand, that contract would have gone to something a lot more cost-effective. DoD assets such as tanks and jets could have purchased fuels that cost $4-$7 a gallon instead of $16-$26 a gallon. How many of you go to the gas station, buy 5 gallons of gasoline, hand the cashier a $100 bill, and tell them to keep the change? Well, the government just decided to do that for you. It is all a subsidy to one company chosen by our government under the guise of a "green defense initiative". The next question to ask is how many legislators and executive branch workers own stock in this company? I don't have those figures. However, I am willing to bet that there are multiple elected and appointed government officials who do.

Then you have $765+k in a federal subsidy to build an IHOP franchise for the DC elite. For a wonderful list of government subsidies and other ridiculous programs funded with our tax dollars, Read This!

That is not a law equally applied across the states or individuals either. The ethical questions are glaring. However, the adherence to the 14th Amendment is nonexistent. We are not all benefiting from this subsidy. In fact, it is easily argued that most people are suffering under the tyranny of it.

I will also posit that these subsidies of both corporations and lazy people are socialist attempts to destroy upward mobility and create a class system in our country. Without them, there is no class system. You can work towards success and prosperity or not. You can increase your wealth or you can lose it, squander it. You have the freedom to succeed or fail, on your own merits and efforts. Then these subsidies interfere, destroying the Pursuit of Happiness.

They are incentives for the poor to stay poor. Why work if somebody is paying you not to work and taking care of your necessities? Where is the incentive to prosper? They are incentives to crowd out free market competition. Why attempt a business endeavor based upon your great idea if the government is already choosing to back your less efficient competition? The incentives to succeed and prosper on your own merits (or fail on your own faults) are reduced or destroyed.

And it all comes down to government officials picking and choosing who they will subsidize and not applying the laws equally among the states or the individual citizens. In either case, "corporate welfare" and "poverty welfare" are BOTH wrong.The government does not supply subsides to all companies, large and small, corporate or sole-proprietor, equally. I see that as a violation of the 14th Amendment.

As far as "poverty welfare" is concerned, leave it to the states as their responsibility, and leave it to private charities and NPOs/NPCs. Remember, it is only charity if it is freely given. If it is taken by force (be it a gun or a "law"), it is theft.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How To Make Up Your Own Mind (Decision 2012)

Now that I am no longer in the active military, I can openly say that I am a libertarian-leaning conservative. I think those who have seen my article and comments over the past six months or so have pretty much figured that out.

Those who have read my previous articles can probably also surmise that I am opposed to Obama's reelection to a second term. I could take the time here to explain how Obama has corrupted our country and greatly overstepped his Constitutional authority. I could also spend my time trying to convince you that he has done so not out of incompetence and inexperience but out of direst design and desire. However, I won't. I will leave those seeds planted for your own research and consideration, for the time being.

In one of my previous articles, I also explained how Ron Paul and his supporters dissuaded me against voting for Dr. Paul. As days go by, those reasons are confirmed more an more. I am now at the point that my analysis and reason predict that Ron Paul would be just as if not more dangerous in the Oval Office than our current president. My mind will not be changed on the subject. Attempting to do so, you will undoubtedly just serve to prove my assessments correct. Do not bother.

I am still largely undecided on whom I will vote for. I will say that one of the candidates has stepped ahead of the field, in my view. However, the race is far from over and I still have more than a month to make up my mind before my state's primary.

Bachman has pulled herself from the race, narrowing the field. Huntsman's abysmal showing in Iowa has probably signaled the end of his campaign. However, there are still 49 primaries to go. However slim, he does still stand a chance. It is laughable that Herman Cain did almost as well, though no longer in the race.

That leaves the other candidates. I could go over what I perceive as the merits and faults of each. I may as the Arizona Primary comes closer. I state all of the above, however, to press some key points. The first point is that these are my decisions, my observations, and my evaluations. I have made informed and conscious choices.


Our country is built upon certain key concepts including the founding principles of "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness". Liberty is contingent upon Choice. Choice equates to Free Will. Free Will is a power. It is a divine authority. It is also a responsibility. In political decisions, casting a vote just to toe a party line or go with what is "popular" is to give up that choice to another person. To tell somebody how they must vote, like trade unions so often do, is to steal that choice. That is just as great a sin as murder in my view. So, don't let somebody else do that to you. Do not do it to yourself.

Now is the time to start making up your mind. Even if Obama is your guy, you owe it to yourself to look at your other options. It is irresponsible to not do so.

I am going to take a page right out of Obama's "How to Convince Your Family" playbook on this. Obama took it from Ailinsky. Ailinsky took it from a Libertarian thinker named Robert A Heinlein. Heinlein too it from Voltaire and other political philosophers. Here it is:

Who Do You Plan To Vote For, and Do They Have Your Best Interests At Heart?

Don't worry about your neighbor. He has to do the same thing. He will most likely do so out of self-interests.

I do not care to hear your answers. I will not try to convince you in this article or in its comments section. I want you to ask yourself that question, and write down your own answer. I want you to read it to yourself. Then I want you to think about it.

If you are not sure who that person is, don't worry. The rest of this still applies and may help you to make up your mind.

Next, I want you to write out what you want out of somebody in that office. Prioritize that list. Just try it. Don't write "so and so will do this". Nope, that will come later. Just write down the issues or attributes, the subjects most important to YOU.

Next, across the top, write out EVERY candidate's name. Yes, that means even if they are NOT in your party. Go ahead, indulge me and increase your own power of choice in the process.

Now you have to get to work. That means it is research time.

You need to research each candidate's record on each issue. What HAVE they done.
Next, you need to research what each promises to do on each issue. Use their words, not some pundit's. There are debates and ads out there that contain that information.

If one of them brings up some other issue, adjudicate it with yours. It may be the same thing with different terminology. It may be something you haven't thought of. You may find this important to you. You may not care. Check out what the issue is to be sure.

Now, the next step is the really painful one. Pull out your copy of the US Constitution. Yes, that old thing. That old document is OUR contract with those we CHOOSE to put in office. It says what they are allowed to do and not allowed to do, by office.

Now you get to go scratch off every issue you listed that is NOT in the authority of that office. After doing that, you need to THINK CRITICALLY and ask "how is this person going to accomplish this when they don't have the authority to do it?" (People failed to do this with Obama. The answer has overwhelmingly become "he doesn't care about the US Constitution").

You'll not that this system, called an ACH (Analysis of Comparative Hypothesis) works for any elected office, be it legislator, sheriff, President, or Governor.

It is highly unlikely that any single candidate will cover everything the way you like. However, one should emerge as the best choice. That is the one you should make.

In your data, you can use opinions of experts, coworkers, neighbors, and the news media. Make sure you do your own fact checking. The Main Stream Media is biased. You can argue CNN versus Fox versus MSDNC. However, they are ALL biased. They have already picked for you and will try to convince you they are correct. Look at some of the atypical news sources such as the blogosphere. Some articles out there are rather unbiased. Some are biased, but not in the direction of the MSM. You have to sift through the opinion and extract the facts. Another source of facts are congressional voting records and public records of executive policies. Even those few with no previous "public record" have data on their previous decisions and policies in company and corporate sites.

I will state the Rasmussen, Heritage, Goldwater, Hillsdale, and a few other watch-dog, analysis groups have done an amount of that work for you. I still double check the data because I am not the most trusting soul in the world. They are mostly accurate and not overly biased (based upon records of personal fact checking).

Now I will put out one large bit of caution to you. If you are "Pro-Life" or "Anti-Abortion", you need to rethink how important that issue is to you. Here's the common sense, factual, drop-dead reason why:

Abortion will most likely not be outlawed in my lifetime, and probably not in yours either. Thanks to Roe v Wade, it will take a Constitutional Amendment to do so. As easy as that sounds, research the process. You will need over 2/3 of both houses of congress to be on your side. You will have to hope some other issue they feel more important won't lead them to compromise and cross that political line to the other side. Then you have to wonder about if the majority of the governors of the states will back the amendment. the issue is so volatile that most elected officials won't touch such an amendment. If they do, they risk alienating key voters and constituents, whether they are for or against. Abstainment is the option of choice. And the office of the President can't do anything about it. It is not a Presidential issue. It is a legislative one. Any views I have one way or the other don't change those facts. As soon as you check out the process for amending the Constitution,and look at that dose of reality, you'll see how futile it is. And yes, you can thank the SCOTUS that decided/ruled on Roe v Wade for this reality.

The same could be said of several other issues.

If you fail to critically think about all your options, all the candidates, you shoot yourself in the foot. If vote, blindly, for somebody "just because...", you shoot the whole country in the foot. If you fail to vote, you have no right to complain. You chose not to care enough. Suck it up, princess. You let somebody else chose your bed. You are stuck with it until the next election comes around.

The only thing worse than not voting, is voting blindly. I know several who voted for Obama in 2008 "just because...". Now they regret not having done their diligence. Guess what? The facts were out there. those of us who DID the diligence, well, we told you so. Now is the time to gather your data, think for yourself, and make up your OWN mind.

The race is on. Time is ticking. Get cracking. It isn't as though your future and the futures of your kids are at stake. Oh wait, They are.