August 24, 2013
Peggy Noonan can occasionally connect the hammer head and the nail with great efficacy. Her latest OpEd on the inherent dangers of a nearly omnipotent NSA (“A Nation of Sullen Paranoids”), accomplishes that in spades:
“If the citizens of the United States don’t put up a halting hand, the government can’t be expected to. It is in the nature of security professionals to always want more, and since their mission is worthy they’re less likely to have constitutional qualms, to dwell on such abstractions as abuse of the Fourth Amendment and the impact of that abuse on the First.
If you assume all the information that can and will be gleaned will be confined to NSA and national security purposes, you are not sufficiently imaginative or informed. If you believe the information will never be used wrongly or recklessly, you are touchingly innocent.”
One does not need to be a clairvoyant to know that eventually (if in fact it hasn’t already happened) the data collected will be used to retrofit criminal charges, or release private information that will destroy political or ideological enemies of the state.
It isn’t paranoia to imagine the reality of Cuban-like peligrosidad predelectiva laws (pre-criminal dangerousness) being run as practice, if not laws, by an increasingly untrustworthy State security machine. It isn’t paranoia to question the dangers of giving away our liberties to a State seeking power so that it can properly “protect us” from people who are seeking power in order to destroy our liberties.
In the eyes of this increasingly Fascist government, we may not have the right to not be investigated in order to ascertain that we don’t pose a threat to the government, and if anything we say can be used against us in a Court of law, then certainly anything we have said may be used to bring us to that Court.
In Cuba, peligrosidad predelectiva laws has citizens “warning” government security forces of “anti-revolutionary” activity by other citizens, with the definition of activity being expanded to include the expression of ideas deemed contrary to the governing philosophies of the Castro-led Party. These warnings lead to investigations, detentions, interrogations and incarcerations.
The NSA’s data collection ability can streamline the investigatory aspect of the accusations by an unimaginable factor.
It isn’t paranoia to think this.
It is fear of the government, and when fear of the government is prevalent in a society, there is tyranny.
March 3, 2013
The Obama administration has averted a war.
The United States and Mexico have reached a tentative agreement on cross-border trade in tomatoes, narrowly averting a trade war that threatened to engulf a swath of American businesses.
The agreement, reached late Saturday, raises the minimum sales price for Mexican tomatoes in the United States, aims to strengthen compliance and enforcement, and increases the types of tomatoes governed by the bilateral pact to four from one.
‘The draft agreement raises reference prices substantially, in some cases more than double the current reference price for certain products, and accounts for changes that have occurred in the tomato market since the signing of the original agreement,’ Francisco J. Sánchez, the United States under secretary of commerce for international trade, said in a statement.
What is that “reference price” mentioned in the article?
In this case, it’s price fixing.
Mexican tomato growers can produce a better tomato, transport it into the U.S. market, and sell it to U.S. customers at a substantially cheaper price than American farmers can charge for an inferior tomato.
Not surprisingly,the administration that never lets a good crisis go to waste played politics with the issue.
Again from the New York Times (ibid):
The new agreement covers all fresh and chilled tomatoes, excluding those intended for use in processing like canning and dehydrating, and in juices, sauces and purées.
It raises the basic floor price for winter tomatoes to 31 cents a pound from 21.69 cents — higher than the price the Mexicans were proposing in October — and establishes even higher prices for specialty tomatoes and tomatoes grown in controlled environments. The Mexicans have invested billions in greenhouses to grow tomatoes, while Florida tomatoes are largely picked green and treated with a gas to change their color.
The Mexican and United States governments will both carry out mechanisms to increase enforcement of the new agreement.
The dispute unfolded in the heated politics surrounding the presidential election, with Mexican growers charging that the Commerce Department was courting voters in the important swing state of Florida. Instead, the timing of the negotiations ensured that the government could win those votes and bring the controversy to a conclusion satisfactory to the Mexicans after the election was over.
Price fixing AND vote buying.
Florida growers accused Mexico of dumping product in the U.S. at a price below their production cost, but they failed to prove their allegations. One must wonder about a business plan that includes selling your product at below production costs year after year, since logic tells you that such a practice would drive you to bankruptcy. One musty also wonder why Florida growers didn’t simply accommodate their Mexican counterparts by simply buying all their produce, thus availing themselves of a superior product, at a significantly lower cost than the product they themselves can produce, then selling THAT into the market.
This report may give an insight into the challenges faced by American farmers today:
A case study from a blueberry farming operation in Maine shows that providing health insurance benefits under Obamacare would result in a staggering annual increase of more than $184,000. (Download PDF of full case study here.)
Due to the crushing mandates of Obamacare, this farm would face a whopping 203% increase of in the cost of providing health insurance benefits.
The blueberry farm now pays $90,540 a year to provide health insurance for its full-time employees. Under Obamacare, the farm could pay as much as $274,762 to cover both full-time and seasonal part-time employees—an annual increase of $184,222.
The same case study goes on to illustrate the inherent flaw in Obamacare:
However, if the blueberry farm chose to drop health coverage all together, Obamacare would impose a penalty of $76,250 on the business. That’s a 16 percent drop in what the blueberry farm now pays for health insurance.
Since the penalty would be significantly lower than the cost of providing health insurance under Obamacare, the blueberry farm would most likely choose not to offer health insurance at all.
Also, this case study does not account for the administrative costs the farm would incur to manage Obamacare’s eligibility rules, which in the case of seasonal workers would be significant.
‘This case study of a real business in Maine demonstrates how Obamacare will force higher health insurance costs on employers, which will result in fewer jobs for Maine people,’ said Joel Allumbaugh, author of the case study and director of the Center for Health Reform Initiatives at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. ‘It is shameful that politicians in Washington, D.C. did not investigate the devastating effects Obamacare would have on businesses before enacting it.’
It isn’t difficult to figure out that what ills befall blueberry farmers, fall equally on tomato growers.
To be fair, the tomato war drums have been sounding long before Obamacare was implemented, but that only illustrates that the costs of complying with Federal regulations were already killing American farmers. Obamacare is just the coup de grace to the industry.
Mexican tomato growers can produce, pick, pack, and transport a better quality tomato at prices far below what their American counterparts can produce locally.
American tomato growers, faced with the costs of overwhelming Federal and State regulations and Obamacare, are getting their asses kicked in their own home turf.
The Obama administration parlayed this situation into an unclean quid pro quo between Florida growers and the Obama campaign prior to the election. The possibility of another similarly unclean quid pro quo deal may have been struck with Mexican growers looking to maintain that “reference price” low enough that it wouldn’t completely destroy their profits post election.
Who loses in this situation?
Americans whose access to better tomatoes at a cheaper price has been blocked as a result of the Obama administration’s implementation of what is effectively price fixing.
Is this a hidden tax?
Arguably it is, since the price fixing has been put in place to help growers cope with the cost of Federal regulations.
Blueberries and tomatoes are only two of the many food items impacted negatively
The implementation of Obamacare is just one Federal policy impacting the cost of our food. Everything you put on your table is being impacted. Everything you put on your table has (or will) increase in cost.
Thanks to Obama administration policies, inferior quality, gassed tomatoes are as expensive to U.S. consumers as superior quality vine-ripened ones. Then again, this seems to be par for the course for an administration whose landmark legislative achievement to date, Obamacare, is projected to give us all lower quality health care at a higher price.
The Great Mexican-American Tomato War of 2013 has been averted.
March 1, 2013
I have writer’s block.
It’s not that I can’t find stuff to write about, but rather that everything that I write ends up in the recycle bin when I proof it. It ends up there not because it lacks substance or the delivery is less than what I set up as a standard for myself, but because I read it and realize that it is a meaningless exercise.
My blog, is the space where I go to organize my thoughts, where I put down ideas (some complex, many rather simple) in as an intelligent a fashion as I can.
Idea … supporting argument/facts … conclusion.
That format isn’t working any more.
Sure enough, I can dutifully follow it and an entry appears, but then I proof it, and “delete” just follows naturally.
I delete it at that point in the proof reading process where having stopped trying to identify all my spelling and grammatical errors, I read my work and ask myself “does it matter that you wrote this?”
The response these last few weeks has come back “not in the slightest,” ten times out of ten.
I’ve lost my mojo.
Here’s the next thing that has me out of sorts: I don’t read anything that remotely resembles news or political commentary. I don’t watch TV news any longer, and my satellite radio has been pretty solidly stuck on “The Pulse” with occasional excursions into “Little Steven’s Underground Garage”, “Siriously Sinatra”, “BB King’s Bluesville”, and when the day calls for it, “Lithium”.
I just want to shut everything out.
I am so absolutely disgusted with the current state of affairs in this nation, and in the world at large, that I want to stay as far away from both as I possibly can, and when they simply refuse to stay away, I have SiriusXM, one Hell of an audio system in my car, and “Lithium.”
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello, how low?
Hello, hello, hello!
With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
Here we are now, entertain us
I feel stupid and contagious
Here we are now, entertain us!
That song’s opening line is the best…
Load up on guns and bring your friends
It’s fun to lose and to pretend…
I don’t want to fucking pretend.
THAT is probably the root of my writer’s block…I no longer want to fucking pretend that intelligent debate, logical arguments and opinions grounded on facts and history have any meaning at all.
They don’t, or at least not to people who lack both intelligence and the ability to grasp logic, and who couldn’t give less of a shit about facts and history.
Those people don’t read my blog because reading it probably gives them a headache.
Now, I know that there are a few people out there who do read my blog and Babalú, and I must apologize to you. I appreciate your support and your loyalty, but you need to understand what I’ve come to understand.
We are a small echo chamber of logic and substance trapped inside an insane massive bell tower cacophony of fucking stupid, and the stupid is growing by the day.
Listen, I know what’s supposed to be going on right now: Bloggers and the alternative media are supposed to be leading the fight against stupid, we are supposed to take up the forgotten standard of unbiased journalism, wipe the shit off the canton of intelligent reporting, and lead America back to a place where sanity reigns and “good night and good luck” meant that you had just been enlightened about the world around you, not indoctrinated.
But I don’t think that’s going to happen. It may happen some day in the future, but not right now.
Not the way things stand.
Today we live in a nation divided. A three way split of the entitled, the disinterested and the chattel that pay for it all
We live in a nation where condoms to be used for premarital sex are an entitlement, and should you forget to use them, abortion on demand is a right, but the exercise of our unalienable rights protected by the Second Amendment are subject to the approval of people far too stupid to understand that you cannot possibly be safer by giving up the most effective way to defend yourself from someone who doesn’t give a shit about laws to begin with.
For the record, I would be willing to personally pay for a college to menopause supply of condoms for Sandra Fluke, if that was a guarantee that doing so would mean that she wouldn’t bear children and add to the legions of stupid that we are being overrun by.
We live in a nation where a growing segment of the population wants to label health care and a college education as “rights” to be made available to all for free. Not being able to think sufficiently clear to figure out that the most basic definition of slavery, is one person claiming a right to the fruit of another person’s labor, they demand as a right the fruit of the labor of those who must bear the cost of that which they wish to receive for free.
We are a nation divided, shouting at each other from behind our respective barricades, not hearing a thing the other one is saying, and to be fair, not giving any more of a shit about their opinions than they do about ours.
The time for dialogue is over. It’s time for something else.
I remember the day, many years ago, when I had the first of my many political epiphanies. The day when I ran across something so elemental, so damned politically organic and centered that it moved me off the shifting ideological hill where I stood with uncertain footing, and transported me to this mountain of hard-as-granite, indisputable political logic where I still stand today.
“You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream-the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, ‘The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits’.”
Shuttered windows clouding my vision flew open, preconceived notions lay shattered and scattered across the landscape of my juvenile perception of the role of government in the lives of citizens, and understanding assaulted my eyes with the brightness of a midday sun.
It was my time for choosing, and choose I did.
“They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. Winston Churchill said that ‘the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits-not animals”. And he said, ‘There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.’”
“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.”
That was then, but this is now. We’ve taken more than just the first step into the darkness, and I don’t want to pretend that there is choosing left to be done by anyone
The time for choosing is done.
Look around you, everything is politicized.
I don’t listen to music I used to love to listen to because the musicians I used to follow are mostly leftist assholes.
I don’t watch movies because so are most actors and directors.
I don’t speak to a significant number of people who I used to be “friendly” with, because they are fucking blind leftists who look at me with their fucking their fucking condescension-filled eyes, as if I were some sort of fucking monkey boy just rescued from the deep jungles of Borneo that needs to be taught how to act around civilized people, when we discuss politics.
The time for choosing is done… it’s time for something else now.
I have absolutely nothing in common with the morons who seem to think that they are in charge in this nation at this time, so I choose whatever side it is that they are not on.
H. L. Mencken once said that “every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.“
I don’t know about the throat slitting part of that, but I am all about hoisting the black flag. I am all about spitting on my hands and getting to it with these fucking morons.
The time for intelligent debate is no more, and I don’t give any more of a shit about what they think, than they do about what I think.
We’ve chosen, sides. There are very, very few undecided, and they have labeled themselves insignificant via their indecisiveness.
It’s time to get to it. Time to hoist the black flag, fling the grappling hooks and board their ship.
The time for choosing is done.
The time for “fuck you” has begun.
February 1, 1969 – March 1, 2012
February 13, 2013
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November 18, 2012
Dedicated to Leonard Read
I am a Twinkie. The classic variety of Twinkie familiar to generations of Americans with an affinity for an occasional sweet indulgence.
I’m just that, a snack and not a meal, and I have never pretended otherwise; it is what I am, and I am satisfied with that.
I am writing my genealogy so that generations yet unborn may remember me. While my story lacks historical relevance, it does not lack for history or relevance. I am relevant in spite of the fact that for many years now I have been maligned and even ridiculed simply for fulfilling my purpose: satisfying an individual’s yearning for an occasional sweet indulgence.
At the surface, I appear rather dull and boring. I am not adorned by filigrees of syrups or encrusted in exotic nuts, my shape is rather uninteresting and unimaginative, and my flavor is a synonym for lacking flavor, yet I have been called upon to discharge duties worthy of pastries fit for Kings and Cardinals alike. I have provided comfort in those times when comfort can be derived from consumption; I have kept the secrets of some who wished to consume me without judgment. I have been both faithful friend and quiet co-conspirator.
I may appear simple to the eye lacking insight, and many claim to be able to imitate me, but if there is one thing that I can say with conviction it is that no one person can ever by themselves replicate me.
Perhaps you are surprised and my temerity. I am after all, just merely a Twinkie. But maybe you should not fall so fast victim to your innate sense of superiority; I am far more complex that you can possibly imagine. I don’t know that I can fully list the seemingly endless number of hands that helped shape the rather dull, uninspiring protagonist in this story, but perhaps if I mention enough of them you will see intricacy where now you just see a golden sponge cake with creamy filling.
My story begins many places, as I am born in many places.
Fields in Kansas covered in golden wheat are my birthplace, and I have roots in the ocean of corn covering so much of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota and Nebraska; any place where corn and wheat grow is my birthplace.
I am also born under a tropical sun in the sugar fields of Florida, and in the soybean fields of the Buckeye State. Any place where eggs are hatched are also a birthplace to me.
Imagine the countless thousands of anonymous hands that plant me, care for me, harvest me, produce me, mill me, pack me, trade me, transport me, receive me, and warehouse me, all long before the first mixer comes to life and the first oven begins to warm.
There are stabilizers and artificial flavors that are a part of me, all bearing the touch of thousands of nameless others who take part into my becoming that unassuming pastry you’ve known for the greater part of a century. Many other thousands labor to raise, pick and transport the crops used as the raw goods from whence my packaging originates, and an equal number turn those crops into my cellophane wrapper and my waxed cardboard bedding. Imagine the multitudes of they who take part in my simply producing the raw ingredients from where I arise, all assembled under one roof, along with the thousands of other who provide machinery, services, and support for all those directly involved in the process thus far, all dependent on me to one degree or another for a living wage. The sight of them all assembled together would be breathtaking indeed.
And finally here I am, ready for the mixers and the ovens, ready for the packaging and transportation, ready to become that which I am meant to be, and to fulfill my preordained purpose, those few minutes of pleasure that I came into being to provide. Here again thousands more working to achieve those goals.
This is the partial accounting of the masses that have a hand in my coming into being. Partial in the fact that it leaves out the men and women who mine for the ore that feeds the foundries that form the iron and steel used to build the trucks and the ovens and the mixers. The thousands more who toil the forest where the rubber trees begin the process of becoming the tires on those trucks, or the oil fields in places near and far from where Mother Earth’s black and rich blood flows, to be transported into the refineries that turn blood into power.
It’s all far too complex to be stated here, certainly by someone as insignificant as your humble servant. It is enough that I have tried, enough that I have acknowledged the hands that formed me.
I have been produced with precise efficacy for many decades now, blended in mixers manned by nameless thousands, baked in ovens watched over by thousands more. Few – if any – left who can recall my inception, yet millions are aware of my demise.
I have provided honest labor for truckers and even a bit of sweetness as they rolled over the black ribbon highways that cut across our vast landscape. I have been shelved by stock boys in neighborhood groceries, and sold in school concession stands in towns big and small.
For a time, I was financier to Howdy, Bob and Clarabell and friend to the members of the Peanut Gallery. I was far less than insignificant to all whose livelihood depended on those broadcasts. I was Americana then.
I have been many things to many people. And insignificant as I have been, I have been instrumental in bettering the lives of so many along the way, that if properly accounted, the numbers would appear to be overstated. Yet, as you can see, I have been just that.
And now the last of me have been produced. The ovens are cold and the mixers are still, and I, along with my brethren exit the stage.
Some may say that my absence leaves no void, but I beg to disagree.
For the growers of the wheat, corn, soy and sugarcane there will be less to supply, and less to provide them with a living. There I leave a void.
There will be less for the makers of the stabilizers and the flavorings, less for the truckers to transport, the stockmen to shelve, and the machinists to build and maintain. Their ability to earn a living likewise impacted. I leave a void there as well.
There will be less for the support personnel to manage, less for the stock boy to resupply, and less for the school fundraisers to sell.
There is less to be had by all the others recessing back into the unfocused complexity of the free market system traveled by all my individual parts with such precise efficiency that it made the process seemingly effortless.
It bears mentioning that brinkmanship and belligerence in the part of what amounts to a relatively small percentage of all who took part and derived wages from my coming into being, ended my existence by interfering with that free market flow. They took work and wage from that intricate and far-ranging net of growers, producers, transporters and distributors of my raw ingredients, and the industries which provide them with the equipment and ancillary services, without ever offering them seat or voice at the negotiating table.
The greed of the few superseded the needs of the many, and in the end, that greed turned on its own source when demanding more than what they received by producing nothing until they got it, netted them the unexpected.
Many lost some, the belligerent few lost all, and all lost me.
There is a larger lesson to be learned here about the negative impact of artificial interference with the delicate balance of a free market economic chain, but I am not the one to teach it. I am after all just a Twinkie, and Twinkies are fluff and sweet cream and indulged cravings. I was just that, and I never pretended otherwise, and I was satisfied being just that. I’ll leave the lesson to be taught by those possessed with more substance.
And I, Twinkie, will choose to bid you a fond and forlorn good bye instead.