Boiling Frogs


A shout out to the State of Nevada today.

Bloomberg Business Week reporting:

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A state judge on Thursday ordered the Nevada Division of Insurance to release some documents sought by two media groups involving the backgrounds of workers who help people navigate the state health insurance exchange.

Ruling from the bench after a two-hour hearing, District Judge James Wilson also ordered the state to pay costs and attorney fees, saying the division’s delays in complying with the public records law amounted to stonewalling.

The records were sought by conservative magazine National Review, which sued after months of being denied by the agency. The Las Vegas Review-Journal joined the lawsuit. The media groups wanted to determine if anyone with a criminal history had access to people’s personal information.

The Silver State, unlike its Congressional delegation, seems to be more concerned over the people of Nevada, than the Federal government’s and Democratic Party’s political agenda.

Kudos to Judge Wilson. I’m sure he’s made Harry Reid squirm a bit.

Congress passed a Farm Bill

The bill is 949 pages and at a projected $956 billion total cost over the next ten years it delivers welfare and subsidies at a rate of $1,007,376,100.00 a page. Roughly 80% of that $956 billion is going to food stamps and government feeding programs, but we’ll call it a “Farm Bill” because that’s easier to market than calling it a “Gargantuan Entitlement Bill”. There’s about $200 million dollars a year to “help” companies like McDonald’s and Fruit of the Loom with their ad campaigns, a new $20 million crib for a absurdly wasteful and redundant catfish inspection program, and a billion dollars a year in “loans” to three sugar producers to make sure that Americans pay roughly twice what the rest of the world pays for sugar. Calling it the “Runaway Pork-Barrel Bill” would work, but we’re not doing that either. We’ll call it the “Farm Bill”.

The bill enjoys broad bi-partisan support. There’s nothing quite like a huge, drunken spending spree to bring Congress together. It’s like a ten year long Kardashian Christmas shopping outing on steroids, but at least Kris’ kids use their own money.

It is expected that the President will sign the “Farm Bill” into law.

Love is in the air in DC.

Hidden among the many pages of this “Farm Bill” is this:

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the farm bill, argues that it “further expand markets for agricultural products at home and aboard, strengthen conservation efforts, create new opportunities for local and regional food systems and grow the biobased economy.”

The farm bill creates a new 15-cent tax on every live cut Christmas tree sold, to create a board to promote Christmas trees.”

Wait… we need a Federal board to promote Christmas trees?

Why?

Christmas trees seem to be doing fairly well on their own, except for those instances where government disallows their presence that is.

How are Christmas trees going to be promoted by the very same government that seeks to interfere with the very idea of the traditional Christmas celebration at every opportunity?

Will there be Federal PSAs showing loving Hasidim families in Boro Park putting the finishing touches on their brightly-lit Christmas trees just in time for Shabbat?

Commercials showing atheists enthusiastically shopping for the proper decorations for their “Seven Days From January 1st” tree?

Does anyone know all the lyrics to “O Tannenbaum” in Farsi?

What’s with a Federal tax on Christmas trees?

More importantly, doesn’t that tax target a specific subset of the population?

Isn’t this a tax on the practice of Christian beliefs?

What kind of crazy idea is that?

Where are ideas like that rooted?

Certainly not in Progressivism/Liberalism, those guys will undoubtedly see the promotion of Christmas trees by the Federal government as a violation of their beloved separation of Church and anything that happens in this galaxy.

Who would impose a tax on a nation’s Christian population’s ability to celebrate their Christian beliefs?

From Encyclopædia Britannica:

jizya, also spelled jizyah, Arabic jizyah , head or poll tax that early Islamic rulers demanded from their non-Muslim subjects.

Islamic law made a distinction between two categories of non-Muslim subjects—pagans and dhimmis (“protected peoples,” or “peoples of the book”; i.e., those peoples who based their religious beliefs on sacred texts, such as Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians). The Muslim rulers tolerated the dhimmis and allowed them to practice their religion. In return for protection and as a mark of their submission, the dhimmis were required to pay a special poll tax known as the jizya.

Obama has set in place a jizyah on Christians.

Mind you, I know that it was Congress who actually drafted the imbecilic law, but Obama has been pushing the idea for years now.

So, the Federal government, via a tax on a traditional practice of people who celebrate the occasion of the Birth of Our Lord and Savior, will now take it upon itself to “market” a religious symbol?

Unlikely.

More than likely, they will change the idea of a Christmas tree to the more socially acceptable “Holiday tree”, and start the process of regulating the Christmas tree industry by requiring that all semblance of religiosity be removed from all places where varieties of live-cut pine trees are sold in November and December.

Then again, are we surporised?

Didn’t we see something odd in the way that Obama subtly moved away from using the term “freedom of religion” and toward the highly unsettling “freedom to worship”.

Is that significant?

Catholic Online believes so:

The change in language was barely noticeable to the average citizen but political observers are raising red flags at the use of a new term “freedom of worship” by President Obama and Secretary Clinton as a replacement for the term freedom of religion. This shift happened between the President’s speech in Cairo where he showcased America’s freedom of religion and his appearance in November at a memorial for the victims of Fort Hood, where he specifically used the term “freedom of worship.” From that point on, it has become the term of choice for the president and Clinton.

In her article for “First Things” magazine, Ashley Samelson, International Programs Director for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, stated, “To anyone who closely follows prominent discussion of religious freedom in the diplomatic and political arena, this linguistic shift is troubling: “The reason is simple. Any person of faith knows that religious exercise is about a lot more than freedom of worship. It’s about the right to dress according to one’s religious dictates, to preach openly, to evangelize, to engage in the public square. Everyone knows that religious Jews keep kosher, religious Quakers don’t go to war, and religious Muslim women wear headscarves-yet “freedom of worship” would protect none of these acts of faith.”

~~~~

Let’s be clear, however; language matters when it comes to defining freedoms and limits. A shift from freedom of religion to freedom of worship moves the dialog from the world stage into the physical confines of a church, temple, synagogue or mosque. Such limitations can unleash an unbridled initiative that we have only experienced in a mild way through actions determined to remove of roadside crosses, wearing of religious t-shirts and pro-life pins as well as any initiatives of evangelization. It also could exclude our right to raise our children in our faith, the right to religious education, literature or media, the right to raise funds or organize charitable activities and the right to express religious beliefs in the normal discourse of life.

We’ve long lived in a nation where the ACLU is at the forefront of the fight to eliminate Christian prayer from our schools, by using their interpretation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, while simultaneously defending Muslim’s rights to pray in the very same school, by using the Free Exercise Clause. Two ideas separated by a comma, and meant to protect the individual freedom of the exercise of religious beliefs, not to attack them.

We’ve long lived in a nation where crosses are removed from memorial sites because they are deemed offensive to people who do not believe what they stand for. That’s like me finding images of Spongebob Squarepants so offensive that I demand their immediate removal from all public places. I don’t believe that Spongebob exists, so he doesn’t bother me.

Now, we live in a nation where Christians will be forced to pay a tax in order to celebrate one of the longest-standing traditions of the holiest of our Holy days.

But this is not this government’s only jizyah.

An earlier jizyah is being challenged in Court even as we speak, and whether the United States Supreme Court will present groups like The Little Sisters of the Poor the choice to show submission to the government in order to be allowed the “freedom to worship”, or be denied, by force of government, the freedom to live in accordance to their calling and their most deeply-held religious beliefs, will say much about this nation’s future.

For the Little Sisters of the Poor, it will either be Obama’s jizyah or their ministry.

There’s no way that it can be both.

When in the Course of human events…

Update 2/8/14

From National Review’s The Corner, 2/6/2014:

Highlighting the importance of religion and the liberty to freely practice it as central to the United States’ prosperity, President Obama touched on both domestic and international policy areas during his annual National Prayer Breakfast speech. “Around the world, freedom of religion is under threat,” the president Thursday in his annual speech at the National Prayer Breakfast.

This of course, is the same man whose Department of Justice “filed a legal brief opposing a religious exemption to the (contraception) mandate for the University of Notre Dame”, who is seeking to deny the Little Sisters of the Poor the same exemption.

Perhaps Mr. Obama should pay closer attention to the attacks on the freedom of religion of the people of The United States being conducted as a result of his own policies, by the members of his own administration.

International bankers are dropping dead at a somewhat alarming rate.

Bloomberg reports:

“Mike Dueker, the chief economist at Russell Investments, was found dead at the side of a highway that leads to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington state, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. He was 50.

He may have jumped over a 4-foot (1.2-meter) fence before falling down a 40- to 50-foot embankment, Pierce County Detective Ed Troyer said yesterday. He said the death appeared to be a suicide.

Dueker was reported missing on Jan. 29, and a group of friends had been searching for him along with law enforcement. Troyer said the economist was having problems at work, without elaborating.”

Who was Mike Dueker?

“Dr. Dueker writes regularly for Russell’s Market Outlook publications, forecasting the business cycle and the target federal funds rate. He developed and maintains a business cycle indicator that is updated regularly on Russell.com. He also spearheads Russell’s participation as a blue chip forecaster for both blue chip economic indicators and blue chip financial forecasts. Dueker brings state-of-the-art empirical modeling and forecasting techniques to key economic developments, the term structure of interest rates, currency markets and tactical asset allocation. He coordinates efforts to formulate globally consistent Russell views on the near-term macroeconomic outlook, including inflation and currency developments. Prior to joining Russell in 2008, Dr. Dueker was an assistant vice president and research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis from 1991 to 2008. His principal duties included briefing the bank president prior to monetary policy meetings and publishing articles in academic journals, such as the Journal of Econometrics, the Journal of Monetary Economics, and the Review of Economics and Statistics. Dueker served as an associate editor of the Journal of Business and Economic Statistics. He also was editor of Monetary Trends, a monthly publication of the St. Louis Fed.”

Mike Dueker was a high-power economic forecaster.

Dueker’s suicide was preceded by two others in the international banking cycle:

The Washington Times reporting:

“Two high-profile and high-up American bankers in London have killed themselves in separate incidents that took place within a couple days of each other.

Gabriel Magee, 39, a senior manager at JP Morgan, jumped 500 feet to his death Tuesday from the top of the bank’s European headquarters, the Daily Mail reported. Responders found his body on the roof that encircles the outside of the ninth floor.

On Sunday, another American bank executive, William Broeksmit, 58, was discovered dead in his South Kensington home. Police ruled the death a suicide by hanging.

Mr. Broeksmit had retired a year ago from his senior-level position with the Deutsche Bank, the Mail reported.”

That’s three high-ranking bank officers suicides in under a week’s time.

Are these incidents precursors of things to come in the world’s economy?

Or are the precursors there, but underreported?

  • Russia’s “My Bank” stopped all cash withdrawals for a week, possibly in an attempt at proactively cutting off a possible bank run.
  • British-based multinational banking giant HSBC Holdings plc., began restricting customer’s cash withdrawals in excess of £5,000, forcing the customers to provide documentation of what they intend to spend the money on at about the same time last month.

Read more at InfoWars.

All this, and President Obama has issued a Presidential Memorandum instructing the Treasury Secretary to create an government-managed, soon-to-be-compulsory IRA program.

What does The Economic Policy Journal think of Obama’s plan?

It’s a trap. It will make your savings highly visible to the government, very vulnerable to future special taxes and it drives investments in the direction of financing the government with your savings, rather than the productive private sector. That’s what myRA is all about.

It may very well be that in the near future, your mattress will be the safest place for you to keep your cash.

UPDATE – 2/8/2014

The Denver Post reports that a fourth financial executive has died from “self-inflicted wounds”.

The founder and CEO of American Title Services in Centennial was found dead in his home this week, the result of self-inflicted wounds from a nail gun, according to the Arapahoe County coroner.

Richard Talley, 57, and the company he founded in 2001 were under investigation by state insurance regulators at the time of his death late Tuesday, an agency spokesman confirmed Thursday.

It was unclear how long the investigation had been ongoing or its primary focus.

A coroner’s spokeswoman Thursday said Talley was found in his garage by a family member who called authorities. They said Talley died from seven or eight self-inflicted wounds from a nail gun fired into his torso and head.

Also unclear is whether Talley’s suicide was related to the investigation by the Colorado Division of Insurance, which regulates title companies.

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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.

The Obama administration has averted a war.

The New York Times reporting:

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 must also wonder why Florida growers didn’t simply accommodate their Mexican counterparts by 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 at a higher price than their own domestic crop.

Why it is so difficult for American farmers to compete with farmers faced with the additional cost of transporting their goods thousands of miles into their markets?

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.

Nutshell:

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.

We lost.

Mexican_Tomato_by_Esqueleto

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