Public Policy Issues, Answers, Ideas and Opinion http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy <![CDATA[ Restoring our nation to the Constitutional Republic that the framers intended.]]>
There is a long and arduous road ahead of us. But at least now we have a plan. Tea party conservatives and constitutionalists all across the fruited plain have been casting about desperately searching for a viable way to counteract the destructive progressive agenda that is now being implemented in our nation. One wonders when, if ever, the American people are going to wake up. Mark Levin is a highly-respected lawyer author, and conservative commentator and he thinks he knows how to fix what ails us. He presents his plan in a thoughtful and engaging new book "The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic". If you are anything like me you are going to learn an awful lot while discovering just how little you really know about our founding documents.

Throughout the pages of "The Liberty Amendments" Levin offers up a series of concrete proposals designed to return America to fiscal sanity while at the same time drastically reducing the government leviathan. The statists are definitely not going to like this! In all, Levin offers up a total of 11 extremely well-thought out amendment ideas ranging from limiting federal spending and taxation to a much-needed amendment to protect private property. Those of us who recall the 2005 Kelo vs. City of New London case recognize just how important this proposal is. I was also intrigued by the thought that we could actually limit the terms of Supreme Court justices. Clearly this is an idea whose time has come. With each one of these ideas Mark Levin offers some valuable insights into the issues involved gleaned from a wide variety of sources. Frankly, I found this book to be downright fascinating from start to finish.

At just a bit over 200 pages "The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Repbulic" can be easily read in just a few sittings. I commend Mr. Levin for taking the time to show us a possible way out of the malaise we are currently experiencing in America. This is a thoughtful and very well-written book. There is an abundance of common sense in this volume. Very highly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-The_Liberty_Amendments_Restoring_the_American_Republic-124-1878479-239511-Restoring_our_nation_to_the_Constitutional.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-The_Liberty_Amendments_Restoring_the_American_Republic-124-1878479-239511-Restoring_our_nation_to_the_Constitutional.html Thu, 15 Aug 2013 22:09:24 +0000
<![CDATA[ John W. Whitehead implores the American people to get their heads out of the sand.]]> What I am describing within these pages has not come about as an overnight change.  Rather, the emerging American police state can be seen in subtle trends introduced by those in leadership--government, media, education--towards greater control and manipulation of the individual.  With the advent of electronic media and the increasing computerization of American society, the mechanisms for manipulation have arrived"
-p. 5

For those who are paying attention, the red flags are everywhere around us.  Slowly but surely, like Chinese water torture, the American people are losing their freedoms.  The Founding Fathers would be appalled.  The United States of America is slowly but surely exhibiting all of the characteristics of a police state.  According to author John W. Whitehead the slow but deliberate march towards authoritarianism began about two decades ago and has only accelerated since the unfortunate events of 9/11.  We are witnessing first-hand the dismantling of our institutions, due process, the rule of law and the American Constitution, all in the name of security.  Mesmerized by fear and the bread and circuses offered by the government and corporate America the majority of the American people have no idea what is happening to them and really don't seem to care.  John W. Whitehead is an author and attorney who is an expert in the area of constitutional law.  Whitehead believes that time is running out for the American people to rise up and clamp down on the military-industrial complex that is running roughshod over them. He has assembled a cornucopia of eye-opening facts and observations about all of this in his compelling new book "A Government of Wolves:  The Emerging American Police State".  Trust me, the more you read the more concerned you are going to be.

Did you know that federal agencies now employ more than 100,000 full-time personnel authorized to make arrests and carry firearms?  Consider that the Department of Homeland Security, State Department, Department of Energy, Department of Education, Department of Energy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service all have their own law enforcement divisions.  Talk about overkill!  Were you aware that the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) mandates that anyone "suspected" of terrorism against the United States can now be held in military custody indefinitely and without trial?  Are you concerned that in just a few short years there will be an estimated 30,000 drones patrolling the skies in big cities and small towns all across America?  And if all of this were not enough, John W. Whitehead reveals the disturbing facts about the Utah Data Center, a $2 billion facility in the tiny desert town of Bluffdale.  According to the author: "At five times the size of the U.S. Capitol, the UDC is a clearinghouse and a depository for every imaginable kind of information to be tracked, collected, catalogued, and analyzed by the UDC's supercomputers and teams of government agents.  Had enough?  Unfortunately, time does not permit to me mention all of the outrageous ways that our government is abridging or trampling on the constitutional rights of the average American.  You really do need to read the book to get up to speed.

"A Government of Wolves:  The Emerging American Police State" is John W. Whitehead's clarion call for the American people to at long last take a stand and say "no more".  The battle lines have been drawn and essentially this is becoming a battle of overbearing government and corporate elites versus the rest of us.  Whether you are an anti-war activist, a Tea Party member, an Occupy Wall street participant, a Ron Paul supporter or a Second Amendment advocate the federal government does not want to hear from you and has myriad technologies (surveillance cameras, GPS tracking devices, tasers and facial recognition software to name but a few) at its disposal to discourage you from speaking out.  Furthermore, the militarization of local police forces is extremely troubling and potentially very dangerous. John Whitehead offers his comprehensive case in a logical and forthright manner.  Clearly, we are becoming a nation of suspects.  I for one do not want to live in a "nanny state" where bake sales and pot luck suppers are banned and 10 year old kids cannot set up a lemonade stand in front of their home without a $400 permit.  You will discover that there is an awful lot of food for thought in this book.  Very highly recommended!

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-A_Government_of_Wolves_The_Emerging_American_Police_State-124-1875964-238856-John_W_Whitehead_implores_the_American_people_to.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-A_Government_of_Wolves_The_Emerging_American_Police_State-124-1875964-238856-John_W_Whitehead_implores_the_American_people_to.html Sat, 20 Jul 2013 19:42:25 +0000
<![CDATA[ WARNING: Reading this book just might cause your blood to boil!]]>
As I began reading Jerome R. Corsi's extraordinary new book "Bad Samaritans: The ACLU's Relentless Campaign to Erase Faith from the Public Square" I experienced a noticeable rise in my blood pressure. I have always considered the ACLU to be an onerous and anti-American organization but my opinion was based more on gut instinct than actual facts. Although I had read about many of the insidious lawsuits filed by the ACLU in newspapers and magazines over the years I was blissfully unaware of much of the long and sordid history of this organization. In "Bad Samaritans" Jerome Corsi has given us a comprehensive overview of this unseemly organization. You will be introduced to Roger Nash Baldwin, the man who founded the organization and discover the prominent "progressive" radicals who fund the ACLU today. In addition Corsi documents the radical left-wing agenda that the ACLU has been relentlessly pursuing for the past 90 years. There is just no two ways about it...."Bad Samaritans" proves to be a real eye-opener.

In "Bad Samaritans" you will be introduced to the role played by the ACLU in a number of the most significant legal cases of the 20th century including the Scopes Monkey Trial and the landmark 1947 Supreme Court case Everson vs. Board of Education. You will also discover that this organization came down squarely on the side of eugenicists like Margaret Sanger back in the 1920's and 1930's. In case you did not know Sanger launched something called "The Negro Project" back in 1939 which was essentially a network of birth control clinics in black areas across the country. The ultimate goal of her project was to reduce African-American birthrates in both the rural South and in the major urban areas of the North. And, as Corsi points out Sanger was also opposed to the idea of charities helping the poor because such charitable aid would "increase the longevity of their offspring". The radical agenda of Margaret Sanger and the goal of the eugenics movement was the promotion of higher reproduction among more desired people and traits and reduced reproduction of less desired people and traits. One has to wonder why so many African-Americans continue to embrace the "progressive" agenda today.

But at the end of the day what is bound to command your attention in "Bad Samaritans" is the agenda that the ACLU is pursuing here and now in 2013. Decent, hard-working Americans should be appalled. It seems to me that the ACLU is almost always on the wrong side of issues. For example, they support the agenda of NAMBRA (North American Man-Boy Association) while actively litigating against the Boy Scouts of America. The ACLU is also vehemently opposed to allowing the idea of Intelligent Design to be presented alongside the theory of Evolution in our nation's classrooms. And not surprisingly, the ACLU remains the leading advocate of abortion in any and all circumstances including the gruesome procedure known as "partial birth abortion". The ACLU also believes that everyone, children included, has the right to view pornography while fully supporting and promoting the radical LGBT agenda as well as the Occupy Wall Street movement. Like I said, reading "Bad Samaritans" just might make your blood boil! Meanwhile, it goes without saying that the ACLU continues pursue cases that will ensure that all symbols of the Judeo-Christian ethic are removed from the public square while siding with Muslims who want to build a mosque new Ground Zero. Outrageous and unacceptable! Jerome Corsi also spends a bit of time profiling a group called the Alliance Defense Fund, a group formed back in 1994 specifically to oppose the ACLU's godless and radical agenda. I want to learn more about this organization!

If you are concerned about the influence being wielded by the ACLU then I would urge you to pick up a copy of "Bad Samaritans: The ACLU's Relentless Campaign to Erase Faith from the Public Square". I can assure you that this is a well-written and meticulously documented book. I must tell you that this just might be the most important book I have read thus far in 2013. Very highly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Bad_Samaritans_The_ACLU_s_Relentless_Campaign_To_Remove_Faith_From_the_Public_Square-124-1865284-236603-WARNING_Reading_this_book_just_might_cause_your.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Bad_Samaritans_The_ACLU_s_Relentless_Campaign_To_Remove_Faith_From_the_Public_Square-124-1865284-236603-WARNING_Reading_this_book_just_might_cause_your.html Tue, 28 May 2013 08:28:58 +0000
<![CDATA[ Chipping away at our freedom...one grocery item at a time.]]>
Just in case you haven't noticed "progressives" are on roll. Barack Obama's grand plan to "fundamentally transform America" is well underway to the point where I no longer recognize the country that I grew up in. On a whole host of monumentally important issues such as immigration, education, health care, gun control, land use and same-sex marriage "progressives" have been successfully and incrementally implementing their radical agenda. Now people like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other left-wing ideologues want to dictate to the great unwashed exactly what we should grow, cook and eat. Jayson Lusk believes that these elitists are dead wrong and dangerous. He has methodically laid out his rebuttal in the compelling new book "The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate". Lusk points out in no uncertain terms that the dubious polices being peddled by certain pointy-headed professors, left-wing politicians, government bureaucrats and their willing accomplices in the mainstream media threaten our continued ability to produce high quality food at a price that most people can afford. After reading "The Food Police" you will understand why the author believes these people must be stopped dead in their tracks and sooner rather than later.

The fact of the matter is that Americans are eating better today than at any other time in our history. Consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased dramatically since the 1970's and there are a lot more choices available to us. We are certainly living longer and in recent years we have achieved this abundance using fewer and safer pesticides. According to Jayson Lusk much of this progress can be attributed to genetically-modified crops which hold much promise for alleviating starvation in impoverished regions of Africa. Yet "progressive" organizations such as Greenpeace, Food First, and the Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements have fought tooth and nail to keep biotechnology out of Africa. Go figure. Once again, ideology trumps common sense. Lutz also presents reams of compelling evidence to show that organically grown produce is simply not all it is cracked up to be. Organically grown produce is considerably more expensive and the evidence clearly indicates that it is not any healthier than the commercially grown variety. There is definitely a market for these products but research has shown that most folks are very reluctant to pay the higher costs involved on a regular basis. The fact of the matter is that less than 1% of all U.S. cropland is organic. Likewise, you will also discover the inherent flaws of the "buy local" campaign that is constantly being touted by our friends on the Left.

The tug-of-war over the future of our food supply is far from over. Little by little the "progressives" are getting their way. According to Mayor Bloomberg "Governments at all levels must make healthy solutions the default social option. That is ultimately government's highest duty." This is what we are up against folks. It is imperative that the American people educate themselves about these issues and begin to stand up for themselves. I don't know about you but I do not wish to live in a land where you are forced to eat cottage cheese and lettuce for lunch. It is pretty laughable that all of those "pro-choice" elitists want to severely limit what you and I are allowed to eat and drink. After all, it is for our own good. Meanwhile, you can bet your bottom dollar that these folks will exempt themselves from any of the rules and regulations that they decide to impose on the rest of us. In my view, reading "The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate" would be a great way to get up to speed on these very important issues. Jayson Lusk has come up with a very timely, thoughtful and well written book. Buy it, read it and pass it on.   Highly recommended.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-The_Food_Police_A_Well_Fed_Manifesto_About_the_Politics_of_Your_Plate-124-1865226-236174-Chipping_away_at_our_freedom_one_grocery_item_at.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-The_Food_Police_A_Well_Fed_Manifesto_About_the_Politics_of_Your_Plate-124-1865226-236174-Chipping_away_at_our_freedom_one_grocery_item_at.html Tue, 7 May 2013 22:10:46 +0000
<![CDATA[ America's first dictator and the case for legal secession.]]>  
Consider if you will a fictional President of the near future. Suppose said fictional president, elected by a regional base not representative of the country as a whole with a minority of popular and electoral votes, immediately set upon raging a war of aggression against his fellow countrymen for following proper and widely accepted constitutional law which, such as the right to vote, is not explicitly mentioned yet we commonly viewed as a right of the people. Consider what your reaction might be if this nightmare President, in order to squelch opposition to his undeclared and therefor unconstitutional war, suspended the right of habeas corpus, also without the consent of Congress, and preceded to jail, censor, bankrupt, intimidate, and deport political opponents whose only crime was outspoken criticism of a war against one’s own countrymen. What would you think if this man supported openly deportation of every member of a disenfranchised minority group, such as Mexican Americans, in order to make American lands “secure for the white man”? Might you be made to resist this man if he were to arrest your legislature, threaten to bombard your capitol, and militarily occupy your state?
 
What honor do you think such a man deserves? What title should future generations bestow upon such a tyrant? Of course you already know the answer, for as the title of this post and even a basic understanding of history would tell you one of our supposed ‘greatest’ Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, whose record is more reminiscent of a tyrant than that of a protector of individual liberty, is guilty of such crimes. And yet his face appears on our currency, in monuments to his name, and the side of a mountain, while his legacy has reached that of almost universal admiration, where even the act of criticizing him is shouted down in a sea of emotional falsehood; proof that history is written not by who is right, but by whoever has the most guns. The commonly accepted misconceptions, outright lies, and rationalizing excuses for Lincolns actions aren’t hard to understand, after all America spent four years fighting the bloodiest and most costly war on the American continent, of course its victors are going to spread the lie that they were morally and legally right from the beginning, and not merely strong enough to force their will upon the militarily and industrially weaker south. This is why our history is so blatantly slanted towards Lincolns, and the Republican parties, point of view, not because they were right, in the same sense that the colonies almost a hundred years earlier were right, but because they were willing and able to reduce the southern states to a smoldering ruin in order to get their point across. Six hundred and twenty five thousand military deaths alone. Factored as a percentage of the population, today that would cost the lives roughly two million lives, 100X the number of deaths suffered in Vietnam. The Civil War was the most costly war in American history, and it was completely avoidable.
 
The myth that Lincoln ‘freed the slaves’ is at once the biggest misconception about the war and the easiest to disprove. One need only read the Emancipation Proclamation to see for themselves. Pay extra attention to paragraph three and four.
 
“Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:
 
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.”
                                                                   
Lincoln not only exempted loyal slave holding states such as Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, Kentucky, and West Virginia (a state whose constitutionality I will not get into here) but also puts a great emphasis on not freeing any slaves in captured confederate territory at that time. Lincoln, in reality, freed the slaves only where he had no power to do so, where at the time of the proclamation in September 1862 (it didn’t go into effect until January 1863) he had no reason to believe he’d ever have the authority to end slavery having days before narrowly turned back an invasion of Maryland in the bloodiest single day in American history. What was the point of such an act? What principled abolitionist would be so cynical as to free the slaves only where he could not? What enemy of slavery would expressly exempt occupied confederate territory as well as northern slave states when given the chance to end slavery in America once and for all? Isn’t that what so many seem to believe the Civil War was about? To end slavery?
 
Lincolns own words shed light on the myth that he was an abolitionist. “[Abolitionists] would shiver into fragments the union of these states, tear to tatters its now venerated constitution and even burn the last copy of the Bible, rather than slavery should continue for even an hour.”1  Harsh words from America’s so called ‘Great Emancipator.’ In fact notable abolitionist Lysander Spooner, who wrote ‘The Unconstitutionality of Slavery’ in 1845 and ‘A Defense for Fugitive Slaves’ in 1850 had this to say at the conclusion of the war, “All these cries of having “abolished slavery,” of having “saved the country,” of having “preserved the union,” of establishing a “government of consent” and of “maintaining the national honor” are all gross, shameless, transparent cheats- so transparent that they ought to deceive no one.”
            “The President has purposely made the proclamation,” wrote the New York World, “inoperative in all places where we have gained a military footing which makes the slaves accessible. He has proclaimed emancipation only where he has notoriously no power to execute it. The exemption of the accessible parts of Louisiana, Tennessee, and Virginia renders the proclamation not merely futile, but ridiculous.”2
            Lincolns own Secretary of State William Seward stated, “We show our sympathy with slavery by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.”
           
It would seem to me that the overall principle of the Emancipation Proclamation is not that one man may not own another, but that one man can own another only when loyal to the United States. Lincolns so called proclamation was nothing more than a sham, a ruse used in order to prevent England, which abolished slavery peacefully several years earlier, from joining the war on the side of the Confederacy. By presenting an end to slavery as one of the main purposes for the war, despite the fact that the war was already more than a year old and going badly for the north, he could claim a moral high ground while, for all practical purposes, doing absolutely nothing. The slaves in the union states would remain slaves for the duration of the war, and remain slaves until December 1865 when the 13th amendment was passed, long after Lincoln’s death. Military defeats in the Seven Days Battle, Manassas I and II, and Fredericksburg (which took place before the emancipation took effect), along with bloody stalemates at Shiloh and Antietam, forced Lincolns hand. Had any European power intervened at that point the war would be over. The slavery issue was little more than a tool used to achieve his goal of winning the war.
 
“I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I ... am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position.”
 
Lincoln was no abolitionist; indeed the evidence that he was, like most men of the time, a very strong racist is pretty clear. His support of the fugitive slave act by saying “When they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them, not grudgingly, but fully and fairly; and I would give them any legislation for the reclaiming of their fugitives, which should not, in its stringency, be more likely to carry a free man into slavery, than our ordinary criminal laws are to hang an innocent one” in his first inaugural address, and his support of deportation and colonization of American blacks, slaves and free men alike, proves it. Though his rhetoric on this issue is more often than not presented as a means to uplift Africa by sending freed slaves there who could take with them the “rich fruits of religion, civilization, law, and liberty” (though how this could possibly be accomplished when near all blacks in America were deprived their most basic rights, even in the north is not explained) other statements point to a less than noble (if naive) reasons.
            “The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these [new] territories. We [the Republican Party] want them for the homes of free white people.”3
 
Regardless, no matter how noble Lincoln’s reasons for wanting to deport thousands of black Americans may seem judging by some of his statements, the very idea is absolutely disgusting. Imagine if a modern President tried such a thing? What would you think of a President who preached of the nobility and benefit of deporting Mexican American’s back to Mexico so that their native land might benefit from them bringing back “religion, civilization, law and liberty”? Blacks, even free blacks in northern states, enjoyed precious few rights in America, but even that must be better than being deported to a far off continent unknown to them, having been slaves and oppressed their whole lives, without the benefit of education, law, or liberty. What possible advantage could this be for either the country they would colonize (Liberia and Haiti mostly) or the deported blacks themselves? What’s more, how can a man who championed the deportation of an entire race (though, to be fair, he did see the impracticality of such an act) be celebrated as a man who liberated said race? Such a notion that Lincoln was a principled abolitionist and a champion for racial equality (despite statements to the contrary) while supporting colonization is an absurdity. Lincoln was, in fact, a racist who opposed abolition and saw it as a greater threat to liberty than slavery itself, and wished to have blacks deported. And this is the man whose face we carved into a mountain? I understand that he was a man of his time, and most people back then held similarly racist viewpoints, but his legacy of being a liberator and champion of minority rights is overblown at best, and an outright lie at worst. He does not deserve such distinction.
 
The main question of the Civil War then was not slavery, as many would suggest, for Lincoln had no inclination of freeing them nor did he take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself. Rather the main question of the war was federalism, or more accurately the question of state sovereignty. Were ‘These United States’ one whole, indivisible country split into regional provinces with no independent identity or sovereignty like Mexico, Canada (with the exception of perhaps Quebec) and Australia? Or was it rather a collection of independent states with more in common with the European Union, who agreed to follow certain rules and agreements as a condition of a union of states? Also, did this union of states agree to anything in the constitution, or anywhere, as a condition to their joining, that would strip them of their right to leave said union peacefully at a later date?
 
The question of state sovereignty was hardly even a matter of debate when the colonies declared their independence from the British Empire and cast off imperial tyranny. The Declaration of Independence states that the United Colonies “are, and ought to be, free and independent states.” The union that came to be known as the United States was a voluntary union of independent sovereign states into a contract with one another for mutual beneficial gain. Thirteen states, thirteen sovereign entities (much like the EU but with a centralized constitution), not ‘one nation indivisible’ by any stretch. The federal government had (has) no power except what the states allow it to. The 10th amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Constitutional amendments can only be passed by 2/3rds vote of state legislatures, Presidents are not elected through a popular vote of “the people as a whole” but by the votes of state electors selected by state legislatures. Senators (before the 17th amendment) were to be representatives of the states in the federal government, and each state regardless of population, wealth, or size is guaranteed equal representation. Such provisions are strong indications within the wording of the constitution that the states were not merely regional chapters of the federal government, who derived their rights from said government, but independent sovereign entities from which the federal government derived its powers. The states created the federal government and it is the states who grant it its powers, not the other way around. Sovereign entities do not derive their powers from some outside source, as the federal government does. The federal government is limited to the powers given them by the states via the 10th amendment, powers that can only be given or taken away by state legislatures via the amendment process, therefor the federal government, as it relies exclusively on the states for its power to govern, is not sovereign. One could also make the argument that because the states derive their powers from the consent of the governed that it is not the state that is fully sovereign, but the individual, as the declaration also states. This argument is also correct, but the states only derive their powers through the consent of the individuals within their respective states, not from those in the country as a whole.
 
This is why individuals in New York have no say (or should have no say) in the internal affairs of those in Florida, Montana, Maryland, or any other states. The constitutions and laws of each state are not subjected to the will of those in other states. It is through the elected representatives of each state that individuals grant the federal government its powers, not directly, therefor since all the powers of the federal government are granted through the states and them from the people, if the people so wish it they may at any time sever their ties with said government.
 
As the Declaration of Independence (which was in essence a declaration of secession from the British Empire) states, “That to secure these rights (life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness) governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such a form as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.” From the very day our nation declared its independence on July 4th 1776 the right of the people to cast off their government and implement a new one was seen as ‘self-evident’ alongside the rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. This is seen as self-evident because it was precisely what our founding fathers did; they succeeded from the British Empire and instituted a new form of government that was “most likely to affect their safety and happiness.” It was no revolution as the French, English, and Russian communist revolutions were. There was no attempt, and no desire, to abolish the British government, only to sever its political ties and establish the sovereignly of ‘these free and independent states.’ If such an outcome were possible to obtain though peaceful means, than our founders would have taken it. This is exactly what the southern states did when they succeeded from the union, only succession wasn’t preceded by bloodshed as the formal colonial Declaration of Independence was. It was not until after the Lincoln administration refused to recognize the sovereignty of the legally succeeded states that the worst bloodshed in American history commenced.
 
Historical precedence up to that time also supported the legal, constitutional right to leave the union. In Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address he defended succession as a state right, saying “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” Years later after New England threatened secession; he once again came to its defense “if any state in the union will declare that it prefers separation… to continuance in union… I have no hesitation in saying ’let us separate.’”
 
Evan Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson’s staunch rival and philosophical opposite who was the predecessor of centralized government advocates like Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln spoke out against forcing an unwilling state to stay in the union, “It is inherent in the nature of sovereignty not to be amendable to the suit of any individual without its consent. This is the general sense and the general practice of mankind; and the exemption, as one of the attributes of sovereignty, is now enjoyed by the government of every state in the union… the contracts between a nation and individuals are only binding on the conscience of the sovereign, and have no pretensions to a compulsive force. They confer no right of action, independent of the sovereign will. To… authorize suits against states for the debts they owe… could not be done without waging war against the contracting state…, a power which would involve such a consequence, would be altogether forced and unwarranted.”
“To coerce the states is one of the maddest projects that was ever devised… what picture does this idea present to our view? A complying state at war with a non-complying state: Congress marching the troops of one state into the bosom of another? Here is a nation at war with itself. Can any reasonable man be well disposed toward a government which makes war and carnage the only means of supporting itself- a government that can exist only by the sword?”
 
Hell, Abraham Lincoln during the Mexican War had this to say, “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable—a most sacred right—a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize and make their own so much of the territory as they inhabit.”
 
 
Daniel Webster had this to say, “if the northern states state’s refuse, willfully and deliberately, to carry into effect that part of the constitution which respects the restoration of fugitive slaves, and Congress provide no remedy, the south would no longer be bound to observe the compact. A bargain cannot be broken on one side, and still bind the other.”
 
President John Quincy Adams: “The indissoluble link of union between the people of the several states of this confederated nation is, after all, not in the right but in the heart. If the day should ever come (may heaven avert it) when the affections of the people of these states shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give way to cold indifference, or collision of interests shall fester into hatred, the bands of political associations will not long hold together parties no longer attracted by the magnetism of conciliated interests and kindly sympathies; to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the constitution, to form again a more perfect union by dissolving that which could no longer bind, and to leave the separated parts to be reunited by the law of political gravitation to the center.”
 
President Andrew Jackson: “Our government is not to be maintained or our union preserved by invasions of the rights and powers of the several states… its true strength consists in leaving individuals and states as much as possible to themselves… not in binding the states more closely to the center.”
 
James Madison, the father of the constitution, also expressed support for state sovereignty when he stated the meaning of the constitution is to be sought “not in the opinions or intentions of the body which planned and proposed it, but in those of the state conventions where it received all the authority which it possesses.”
 
So it’s not as if the southern states invented the idea of state sovereignty to justify secession, the principle was very strongly supported at the time. Too bad Jefferson and Madison weren’t there to set Lincoln straight.
 
But wait, you might be asking, didn’t the states give up their right to secede when they joined the union? Doesn’t the constitution forbid it? The simple answer is no. Though the Articles of Confederation referred to the union as ‘perpetual’ that word does not exist anywhere in the constitution, nor does anything exist in it that would forbid secession. The Articles of Confederation are no longer legal documents, they do not work in conjunction with the Constitution, they were replaced by the Constitution. There is nothing in the US constitution that even hints at restricting the states right, as voluntary sovereign members, to succeed. As argued before states do not derive their rights and powers from the federal government, rather it is the other way around, therefor a state’s rights and privileges cannot be arbitrarily  restricted without the contract of the states (the constitution) being altered. The federal government may not take away or alter the states’ rights without first being granted permission from the states via the amendment process. The 10th amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The 9th amendment states, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
 
The very omission of secession is a very strong indicator that it is indeed a right maintained by the states and by the people, as it is never mentioned as a right of the federal government to force a state to remain in the union, nor does it give other states the right to decide the matter. The constitution was a contract made between the sovereign states, as such the states needed to give up certain powers. These powers were very specific, the right to declare war for instance, regulate commerce and sign treaties with foreign nations, coin money, etc. Nowhere will you find secession as a right prohibited of the states, as found in Article 1 Section 8 or section 10. No rules or regulations are placed upon the states for secession, no mention at all is even made, which makes it by default a 9th and 10th amendment issue. The states, as sovereign entities, never gave up their right to secession; therefor to this day the states retain this right.
 
In fact, rather than give up this right, three states explicitly stated during their constitutional conventions that by signing the constitution they were not giving up their right to leave at some future date. Rhode Island, New York, and Virginia all, as a condition of joining the union, made it abundantly clear they were to keep this right for themselves. “The powers granted the constitution being derived from the people of the US may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their oppression.”
            -Virginia Constitutional Convention.4
It may also be noted that in all three of these states the vote to adopt the constitution was very close, and without all three the constitution would not have been ratified. The constitution, had it contained, as the Articles of Confederation had, a clause stating that no state may leave the union without the consent of the other states, probably would never have been ratified based on that alone. It is extremely unlikely these states would have agreed to a constitution that was understood by the states would prevent secession. Since the states were sovereign to begin with and at no time did they give up the right to secede, Lincolns war against the state’s legal, constitutional, and peaceful right to leave was no less wrong and misguided than King Gorge’s war against the colonies; in fact where King Gorge had a legal (if not moral) claim to the colonies, Lincoln had none. In order to charter British colonies they had to pledge an oath of loyalty to the crown, no such pledge was required of the governors or state legislatures, nor was such a pledge required of the citizens of the states. As the Declaration of Independence stated, when a government becomes destructive to the means of protecting liberty than the people have a right to abolish it. This was a self-evident right to the founders, and it should be seen as a self-evident right today. This is not to say that the nation as a whole gets to decide the criteria for such an exit, only the individuals in the states through their elected state representatives can decide what is in their own best interest, so only the individual states can set such criteria.
 
Which brings us to the topic of Ft. Sumter. It is utterly amazing to me how people will blindly point to the attack on that fort as proof the confederacy had no intention of a peaceful withdrawal from the union. This could not be further form the truth. Lincoln, from the very beginning, had no intention of allowing the southern states to secede. To do so would severely damage his economic agenda for the nation as the remaining stats would lose a great deal of income from taxes collected off tariffs; also the confederate constitution outlawed tariffs that lasted more than a set period of time, making trade with the south much cheaper and profitable than trade with the north. Along with the political implications for Lincoln and the Republican Party, allowing secession just wasn’t an option from Lincolns point of view if he ever wished to implement Henry Clays economic agenda. Seeing how the south was determined to be independent, for Lincoln the only option was a violent suppression of state sovereignty. After the first wave of secession the union army pulled out of all but two forts, Fort Pickens in Pensacola Florida, and Ft. Sumter in Charleston South Carolina. Charleston was the richest port city in the south, the heart of the secessionist movement. Sitting on a little island in the middle of the harbor was a fort belonging to a hostile government who refused to vacate the fort or recognize southern independence. Lincoln made it abundantly clear in his first inaugural address he had no intention of allowing the south to peacefully secede, when he said “It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.
  I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States.”
-Lincolns first inaugural address.
 
Let it also be noted the hypocrisy in which Lincoln invokes the cause of ‘taking care of the constitution’ when he routinely violated the very document he swore to protect as he suspended the right of habeas corpus, deported a US Congressman, censored telegraphs in the US, and shut down northern newspapers. The reasoning is Orwellian at its best; in order to save the constitution, Lincoln had to first destroy every protection and every freedom that it protected. Freedom is slavery. Not to mention the fighting of a bloody war to keep together a union of separate and equal partners. War is peace.
 
 Therefor all Ft. Sumter represented to the confederate states was a foothold from which an attack could be made on the city. The fact that Lincoln refused to vacate the fort, instead deciding to send warships to re-supply it, could have enforced this in their minds. Although I am against pre-emptive wars on principle I find it hard to find fault with the reasoning leading to the attack. An enemy base in the middle of the South’s richest port city? A rejection of peace delegates from both the south and, of all places, Napoleon III5 sent to allow a peaceful withdrawal from the union? Lincolns inaugural address? All pointed towards Lincoln and the northern states intention to enforce their will upon the south, through military force if need be. It must also be noted that Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina did not declare secession until after April 15 1861, the day Lincoln called for 70,000 volunteers to “retake federal forts.” If slavery were the sole motivating factor behind these successions, why is it these states did not succeed with the other Deep South? A more likely explanation would be that the second wave of secession was caused by President Lincoln’s intention to use force to prevent the southern states from executing a constitutional right. War was inevitable regardless of whether or not the south fired upon Ft. Sumter, not because the confederacy wanted it, but because Lincoln was bound and determined to suppress what he saw as an insurrection. Did the south have its share of the blame? Yes, attacking the fort played right into Lincoln’s hands and provided the excuse needed to rally public support for an invasion of the south.
 
Throughout the war northern armies routinely made war not just on southern armies which they were tasked to destroy, but also upon the civilian population, woman, children, the old and crippled, as well. General Sherman was notorious for his famed ‘march to the sea’ after burning Atlanta to the ground. The cruelty inflicted upon the southern people by Sherman’s army is well documented, from the burning of whole cities such as Atlanta, to the scorched earth campaign through Georgia and South Carolina far beyond what military necessity called for. The horrors of ‘total war’ were forced upon a population made up of those too weak to defend themselves.
 
“War is cruelty,”Sherman once said, “and the cruller it is the sooner it will be over.” But can it really be argued that cruelty on such an epic scale as Sherman inflicted upon the defenseless woman and children of the south was necessary given the South’s militarily desperate situation at the time? This was not the same situation the allies of WWII were in when they firebombed Tokyo or Dresden before dropping two atomic bombs. The allied armies did not leave scorched earth behind them in France, Italy, and Germany as they advanced; they left destruction and ruin yes but as a consequence of the war, not as a deliberate policy of unnecessary desolation and plunder against the civilians of these countries. Such acts would undoubtedly be condemned today as cruel, vindictive, and evil. Yet Lincoln apologists like to gloss over the atrocities of Atlanta and the state of Georgia, Charleston, and the Shenandoah Valley. This kind of total war, waged against defenseless civilians rather than against armies, violated all sense of moral law, and instead allowed soldiers of the union army to rape the south of its resources and leave those left behind homeless and starving. In America, not some far off land, but here at home. If any American war called for restraint and decency it was the Civil War where fellow Americans were the ones to suffer the consequences of total war, and yet such restraint was never shown.
 
Sherman stated to his wife the purpose in the war was, “extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”6
 
His wife responded, “that all southerners would be driven like swine into the sea. May we carry fire and sword into their states till not one habitation is left standing.”
 
To say Lincoln knew nothing of the atrocities of union armies is absurd. Lincoln is very famous for his micro managing of the war. To say that he was then unaware, as President, of the actions of his generals is not to say he is guiltless, but that was incompetent. Certainly he knew, you don’t scorch the earth of an entire state and not know anything about it.
 
I haven’t even mentioned Lincoln’s unconstitutional dictator like actions in the north during the war. The best example I can think of is also one of the least known, the case of Clement Vallandigham, an Ohio Democrat who opposed Lincoln and the Civil War. As a Congressman he opposed Lincoln’s war from the very beginning. Here is an interesting article I found about him. In a nutshell, after leading a rally against General Burnsides general order 38 in Ohio which was a clear violation of the right to free speech, he was jailed, convicted by a military tribunal, and later deported.7
 
I will not go into detail the powers of dictatorship Lincoln took during his four year Presidency, as my post is already overlong. These unconstitutional powers are already well documented, such as his violation of the right to freedom of speech and of the press by censoring newspapers and banning ‘dissenting’ speech (The habit of declaring sympathy for the enemy will not be allowed in this department. Persons committing such offenses will be at once arrested with a view of being tried. . .or sent beyond our lines into the lines of their friends. It must be understood that treason, expressed or implied, will not be tolerated in this department,” General order 38, issued by General Burnside in Ohio), his suspension of Habeas Corpus without the consent of Congress, (Article 1 Section 9 of the constitution states, “The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it,”  though this is a power maintained by Congress not the President, as Article 1 relates to the powers and limitations of Congress, and Congress didn’t approve this action until 1963), jailing secessionist sympathizing legislatures in the Maryland state legislature, and other political opponents without trial except by military tribunal, and fighting an undeclared war (a violation of the constitution as only Congress, not the President, can start a war).
 
By fighting the Civil War to save the union he did the opposite. The union was a collection of independent sovereign states, after the war the states were little more than regional chapters of the federal government. The nation was only saved in the geographical sense. He no more “saved” the union than an abusive husband who beats his wife senseless after she tries to run out on him, and drags her, unwillingly, back into their house, has saved his marriage. Sure, if by marriage one means the couple is still together, than yes he has saved it. But if by marriage you mean a voluntary union of two individuals than the marriage he has saved is nowhere near the same marriage they agreed to upon their wedding day. In the same way Lincoln only saved the union in the sense that he prevented the loss of power to an ever more dominant federal government, but in reality the voluntary association of states created by the founding fathers was forever destroyed by that great American dictator.  
 
Abraham Lincoln was no great President, or man.
 
Sources.
1.      http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/clay.htm
2.       http://www.civilwarhome.com/lincolnandproclamation.htm
3.       http://www1.assumption.edu/ahc/kansas/LincolnKansas-Nebraska.html
4.      http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/ratva.asp
5.       http://www.san.beck.org/LincolnCivilWar.html
6.       http://www.astheworldsleeps.org/node/2433
7.       http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=389
 
What follows is a list of links which support the central arguments made in my paper.
1.       http://www.amazon.com/Real-Lincoln-Abraham-A...nnecessary/dp/076153641
2.       http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/no...es-to-new-colonies.html
3.       http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=389
4.       http://www.civilwarhome.com/vallandighambio.htm
5.       http://teachingamericanhistorymd.net/000001/...00/000017/html/t17.html
6.       http://markii.wordpress.com/2007/02/19/racis...py-black-history-month/
7.        http://www.civilwarhome.com/marylandcmh.htm
8.       http://www.slate.com/id/2059132/
9.       http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/813646/posts
10.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France_in_the_American_Civil_War
11.   http://www.lewrockwell.com/dilorenzo/dilorenzo44.html
12.   http://www.slavenorth.com/exclusion.htm
13.   http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/greeley.htm]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Abraham_Lincoln-124-1334098-235070-America_s_first_dictator_and_the_case_for_legal.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Abraham_Lincoln-124-1334098-235070-America_s_first_dictator_and_the_case_for_legal.html Tue, 2 Apr 2013 14:35:45 +0000
<![CDATA[ Helps keep your money in your town-where it belongs]]>
First of all, forget about the usual method, that of buying shares in a local store. The vast majority of investors are "unaccredited," and for a local store to legally offer shares to the public requires an accountant, a lawyer, and several thousand dollars in expenses. A way around that is for the business owner to, for instance, offer a $100 gift card for sale to the public. The buyer then gets $125 in goods or services on that card. The business owner gets extra money coming in, and the customer gets something extra for their "investment."

The average Mega-Bank is getting less and less interested in approving a loan for someone who wants to start a business. They would much rather put their money in a higher-risk investment that offers a higher rate of return (credit default swaps, anyone?). Depositors should consider moving their money to a community bank or credit union, which is where loan-seekers should go for a loan. These are institutions where the head office is in your town, or a neighboring town, instead of a neighboring stsate. They will be much more interested in helping local businesses, and treating depositors and loan seekers as more than just a number.

Consider resurrecting regional stock exchanges, which would trade only companies from that state or region. Consider changing the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) rules, to make it easier for smaller companies to sell shares to the public, and make it easier for the average person to buy those shares. If you do nothing else, invest in yourself. Pay off your credit cards, pay down your mortgage as fast as possible, consider going (or going back) to school, to increase your available skills as much as possible, and consider a DIY retirement fund.

This will certainly change perceptions about finance. It is easy to read, and gives a number of ways to keep your money in your town (where it belongs).]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/book/UserReview-Local_Dollars_Local_Sense_How_To_Shift_Your_Money_from_Wall_Street_to_Main_Street_and_Achieve_Real_Prosperity-124-1830715-234375-Helps_keep_your_money_in_your_town_where_it.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/book/UserReview-Local_Dollars_Local_Sense_How_To_Shift_Your_Money_from_Wall_Street_to_Main_Street_and_Achieve_Real_Prosperity-124-1830715-234375-Helps_keep_your_money_in_your_town_where_it.html Thu, 14 Mar 2013 22:19:18 +0000
<![CDATA[ Down and dirty account of the decline and fall of the Motor City.]]>
It was not quite the homecoming that Charlie LeDuff had hoped for. LeDuff had won a Pulitzer Prize during an 11year stint as a staff reporter for the New York Times. In 2007 he abruptly quit his gig as a member of the Times Los Angeles bureau after he decided that he was tired of L.A. and that his wife and three year old daughter really needed to be around family. Charlie LeDuff's clan resided in and around the city of Detroit. Much to his surprise when he contacted the lowly, virtually bankrupt Detroit News about a position he found that one was available. The die was now cast. His bosses at The News had already figured out the best way to utilize their talented new reporter. They told him to "chronicle the decline of the Great Industrial American City." This was going to be right up his alley. Charlie LeDuff liked to get his fingernails dirty. He knew things were pretty bad in his hometown but until he actually arrived there he had no idea just how ugly it had gotten. "Detroit: An American Autopsy" is the rough and tumble story of a city in total free fall. Perhaps what is most frightening about what you will read in this book is that what has happened in Detroit could well be repeated in a number of other major urban areas around this nation.

So just who is to blame for the demise of this once great American city? Depending on your politics just about everyone has a theory. Liberals point their finger at the greedy executives of the auto industry and Wall Street who shifted hundreds of thousands of jobs away from the Motor City to places like Mexico. Conservatives on the other hand would tend to blame ill-advised trade legislation like NAFTA and the corrupt Democratic political machine that has run this city for decades for many of the problems. But when Charlie LeDuff started to crunch some numbers what he found was simply astounding. To fully understand just how far Detroit has fallen you need to know that in its heyday in the 1960's the city boasted a total population of 1.9 million. By the early 1990's that number had fallen to 1.2 million. Now in 2013 the population of Detroit has dwindled to fewer than 700,000 people! Meanwhile, there are in the neighborhood of 62,000 vacant houses in Detroit. It seems all that left is a destitute underclass and an extremely corrupt bureaucracy. City services such as police and fire and public works are a joke. The equipment these public servants are forced to use is antiquated and extremely unreliable. Staffing has been cut to the bone. Another barometer of just how bad things have gotten in Detroit is the number of dead bodies piling up at the morgue. LeDuff reports that on any given day there are around 250 unclaimed bodies. One has sat there for more than two years!

Throughout the pages of "Detroit: An American Autopsy" Charlie LeDuff shines the spotlight on all of ills of this once proud metropolis including unemployment, illiteracy, foreclosure, arson, murder and widespread bureaucratic corruption. It is all too much for those who remain. This is a dangerous place to be. Along the way LeDuff investigates the corrupt city administration, looks into the death of a beloved veteran firefighter killed during an arson and chronicles the most bizarre real life murder story you will likely ever hear. And yet, despite it all the author points out that there are still many good people here who are doing their best to stop the bleeding. You will meet a number of them in this book who despite the odds consistently go above and beyond the call of duty in a largely vain attempt to save the city they love.

"Detroit: An American Autopsy" is a riveting expose of the decline and fall of a once great American city. Recently, Forbes magazine pointed to Detroit as "the most miserable city in America". After reading this book it is easy to see why! I had heard stories but had no idea that things were this bad. Some would argue that it is probably too late to save Detroit but Charlie LeDuff would beg to differ. In spite of all the problems he encountered during the two years of reporting it took to cobble together this book he still sees a glimmer of hope out there. This really is a story that needed to be told. Other American cities would do well to learn from the myriad mistakes made here lest they suffer the same fate. "Detroit: An American Autopsy" would be a great choice for anyone interested in the future of major American cities and for general readers as well. The language gets a bit colorful from time to time but as I pointed out earlier Charlie LeDuff likes to get his fingernails dirty.     Highly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/book/UserReview-Detroit_An_American_Autopsy-124-1852086-233270-Down_and_dirty_account_of_the_decline_and_fall_of.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/book/UserReview-Detroit_An_American_Autopsy-124-1852086-233270-Down_and_dirty_account_of_the_decline_and_fall_of.html Mon, 4 Feb 2013 22:42:20 +0000
<![CDATA[ A nation copes with a draconian and unenforceable law.]]>
So what were some of those consequences that I referred to? For those engaged in the business of winemaking at the outset of Prohibition in 1920 precious few options were available. With the stroke of a pen their world had been turned upside down. Federal law allowed for the manufacture of "sacramental" wines but this market was clearly very limited. Some growers would be forced to sell their grapes for juice while others chose to plant other crops like apricots just to survive. The fact of the matter is that no one in wine country believed that prohibition was going to last as long as it did. As time wore on more and more families became desperate. Denied the ability to earn an honest living many vineyard owners turned to the only option the felt they had left--bootlegging--and sold off what wine they had on hand to hotels and speakeasies. The same would be true for distillers. Under the cover of night these previously law-abiding citizens shipped illicit vino and spirits to major cities such as San Francisco, New York and Chicago. With all of this of course came great risk. If they were nabbed by the federal authorities they were subject to stiff fines and possible arrest. In many cases federal Prohibition officers would descend on their property and empty their tanks into the local river or creek. Years of hard work literally went down the drain in just a few minutes. Some of the footage Burns offers is just heartbreaking to watch. Meanwhile, many local law enforcement officers, clearly sympathetic to the plight of their friends and neighbors, would attempt to thwart the feds. It was an unsettling and messy situation that made thieves and liars and criminals out of a whole host of people. In his film Ken Burns introduces us to small-time whiskey jobbers, well-heeled bootleggers and a whole host of gangsters who would would step in to fill the void and make millions doing it. And of course a major part of the story was the gang violence that would emerge across the nation, most especially in Chicago. Burns spends considerable time covering this aspect of the story and the footage is incredible. While the so-called "Drys" certainly ruled the day in the 1920's it was becoming abundantly clear by the dawn of the 1930's that their considerable influence was waning and that it was only a matter of time before Prohibition would come to an end. Ken Burns does a workmanlike job of covering this aspect of the story as well.

As is almost always the case in a Ken Burns production, the still photos, vintage footage and music presented in this film are quite extraordinary. No one does it quite like Ken Burns. I enjoyed it so much that I was even motivated to watch the bonus features. One of them captured jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and his band recording much of the music that you hear in "Prohibition". As I recall Marsalis composed quite a bit of this music especially for this film. Great stuff! Another bonus feature showed Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti and Patricia Clarkson recording some of the narration for the film. These features make you appreciate just how complex and time-consuming a task it is to put these films together. I found "Prohibition" to be a comprehensive, informative and highly entertaining film. There seems to be no aspect of this subject that Ken Burns failed to cover. There is an awful lot to learn and to enjoy here. In my view, "Prohibition" is history at it's best. Very hightly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/product/UserReview-Prohibition-124-1844851-230337-A_nation_copes_with_a_draconian_and_unenforceable.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/product/UserReview-Prohibition-124-1844851-230337-A_nation_copes_with_a_draconian_and_unenforceable.html Wed, 5 Dec 2012 09:38:59 +0000
<![CDATA[ Learn the facts and then re-evaluate your wasteful ways!]]> "Trash is nothing less than the lens of our lives, our priorities, our failings, our secrets and our hubris."

This observation from author Edward Humes in the opening pages of "Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash" certainly struck a chord with me when I first read it. But after carefully reading and considering "Garbology" in its entirety I must confess that I have become more convinced than ever of just how dire the situation surrounding our trash really is and how vital it is to our future that we finally get serious about addressing this issue. Solving the myriad problems Humes discusses in his book will not be easy. The numbers will simply astound you! We must somehow summon the courage and political will necessary to reverse the inefficient and destructive path we have chosen in the past and opt instead for policies and approaches that will reduce the amount of trash that each one of us generates while at the same time making much better use of what we do throw away.

In the opening chapters of "Garbology" Edward Humes describes in painstaking detail what is in all of the trash that we roll to the curbside on a weekly basis. You will discover the shocking truth about how much edible food we toss away on a daily basis and learn about the perfectly good clothing and household goods we cast aside merely because we have grown tired of them. In the meantime we continue to fill our landfills at an alarming rate and in most areas of the country the problem continues to get worse. I was particularly struck by the tremendous impact that the introduction of certain consumer items has had on this problem over the years. Among the products mentioned in the book are styrofoam (1944), the plastic lined paper cup (1950), the first TV dinners (1953), the Bic disposable pen (1958), disposable plastic trash bags (1960), the one-way disposable soda bottle (1964) and last but certainly not least the plastic grocery bag (1977). Certainly all of these items filled a need but no one could have predicted the negative impact that these relatively inexpensive products (most expecially plastic grocery bags) would one day have on our environment. Clearly we have morphed into a "throwaway" society and Humes argues that the time has come to finally reverse course and come to grips with the severe problems we have created over the past 60 years. Again, given the sharp philosophical divisions in this country one has to wonder if we can ever muster the political will to do what is needed.

But as Edward Humes points out all is not lost. There are solutions on the horizon that promise to transform the way we deal with our trash in this country. He cites cities like Portland, OR and Copenhagen in Denmark who are light years ahead of the rest of us in the way they deal with their trash. New recycling technologies and waste-to-energy programs offer considerable hope for solving some of our most pressing problems. But at the end of the day the solution to our waste disposal problems really does begin with each and every one of us. To paraphrase one of my favorite hymns "Let's amend our wasteful ways and let it begin with me." Edward Humes points out some very practical ways we can all be less wasteful starting with cutting back on all of that bottled water we consume. I totally agree. It is one of the most wasteful things we do and liberals are as guilty as conservatives. I am confident that those who take the time to read "Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash" will feel compelled to amend their wicked ways. Mr. Humes makes a powerful case for this position in this extremely thoughtful and well written book. Highly recommended!

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Garbology_Our_Dirty_Love_Affair_With_Trash-124-1842424-230039-Learn_the_facts_and_then_re_evaluate_your_wasteful.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Garbology_Our_Dirty_Love_Affair_With_Trash-124-1842424-230039-Learn_the_facts_and_then_re_evaluate_your_wasteful.html Thu, 22 Nov 2012 01:33:28 +0000
<![CDATA[Pink Floyd Quick Tip by RabidChihuahua]]>
Some of their material is magnificent (like songs off the "Animals" album), but some others have been played to death on the radio (like "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Another Brick in the Wall").  A lot of the songs that get the most radio play are okay, but aren't that brilliant to get repeated over and over (with a possible exception being "Learning to Fly").

Overall, I suggest you immerse yourself in Pink Floyd's "deep tracks" instead of the hits.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/band/UserReview-Pink_Floyd-450-1334433-229763.html http://www.lunch.com/MusicMatters/reviews/band/UserReview-Pink_Floyd-450-1334433-229763.html Fri, 9 Nov 2012 21:19:48 +0000
<![CDATA[ A progressive approach with tons of upside.]]>
In the introduction to Michael Shuman's terrific new book "Local Dollars, Local Sense: How To Shift Your Money From Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity" I was introduced to some facts about the U.S. economy that made my hair stand on end. Did you know that securities laws enacted by the Congress in the 1930's and early 1940's effectively created two classes of investors? "Accredited investors" are those individuals who earn more than $200,000 per year or have more than $1,000,000 in assets. By law these folks can invest in just about any business they wish. Meanwhile, the remaining 98% of us are considered to be "unaccredited investors" and are hamstrung by a series of laws, regulations and restrictions that severely limit our investment choices. Furthermore, those among us who would be prefer to invest in "socially responsible" enterprises or "local" businesses looking for badly needed capital will be extremely frustrated to discover that the opportunities to engage in these types of investments are by statute greatly restricted by the federal government. According to author Michael Shuman the time has come to reconsider these antiquated laws and to encourage people to invest locally once again. And as he points out time and again in the book this is an approach that both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats should be able to agree on.

You might be surprised to learn that of the $30 trillion we Americans have invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds and life insurance funds less than 1% reaches local small businesses. The other 99% continues to flow to big business, the multi-nationals and global enterprises. This is simply outrageous and ultimately very counterproductive. Michael Shuman makes a rather compelling case that we desperately need to shift a portion of these funds back to our local communities. After all, local businesses hire local people, support local charities and have a stake in the well-being of the community. Shuman believes that if our legislators and regulators remove some of the myriad obstacles to investing locally the dollars will naturally flow in and help to reinvigorate local economies all across America. Over time this could result in a sea change in the way we Americans think about investing our hard earned dollars. Now for the uninitiated among us Shuman introduces a number of new terms like "slow money" (a movement to organize investors and donors to steer new sources of capital to small food enterprises, organic farms and local food systems.) and "crowdfunding" (collective cooperation, attention and trust by people who network and pool their money together, usually via the internet to support efforts by other people or organizations i.e. disaster relief, political campaigns, funding a startup company. Meanwhile, readers also meet a number of the key players in the "go local" movement who are working tirelessly to make some of these reforms happen.

Reading "Local Dollars, Local Sense: How To Shift Your Money From Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity" was truly a revelation for me. I discovered that there are limitless possibilities out there if we can only summon the political will to make the changes that are necessary to allow this to happen. Among the innovations Shuman envisions is the creation of local stock exchanges. Meanwhile, there are a number of other cutting-edge ideas for meaningful change that Shuman offers up in his book. For the first time in generations it appears that these badly needed reforms could actually become a reality. I found "Local Dollars, Local Sense" to be a well-written and extremely thought-provoking book. Although I am a social conservative who abhors most of the big-government initiatives championed by the Obama administration this is the kind of "hope" and "change" that I can buy into. There is no doubt in my mind that this is an extremely important book! Very highly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/book/UserReview-Local_Dollars_Local_Sense_How_To_Shift_Your_Money_from_Wall_Street_to_Main_Street_and_Achieve_Real_Prosperity-124-1830715-225523-A_progressive_approach_with_tons_of_upside_.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/book/UserReview-Local_Dollars_Local_Sense_How_To_Shift_Your_Money_from_Wall_Street_to_Main_Street_and_Achieve_Real_Prosperity-124-1830715-225523-A_progressive_approach_with_tons_of_upside_.html Tue, 10 Jul 2012 21:51:32 +0000
<![CDATA[ The intense ideological battle for the heart and soul of America is really nothing new...]]>
I think that it is fair to say that most Americans have only a passing knowledge of the writings of philosophers such as Plato, Thomas More, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Charles de Montesquieu and Alexis de Toqueville. Some would attribute this to the "dumbing down of America" that has been inexorably taking place in our schools over the past half-century or so. But the truth is that all of these individuals as well as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels have exerted a great deal of influence over American political thought in the 235 years of our nation's existence. Plato, More, Hobbes and of course Karl Max all come down on the side of "collectivist" or "utopian" states whereby individuals must necessarily become subservient to the interests of the state. In such an environment individuals "must be managed and suppressed by masterminds for the greater good." There is no tolerance for individual self-interest or even self-preservation. A person's labor and property belong to the state or are controlled by the state. Citing lengthy excerpts from the extensive writings of each of these individuals, Levin points out the obvious flaws in this line of thinking. Mr. Levin succeeds in arming his readers with the ammunition they will need to refute the arguments offered by the leftists and statists in this country on a wide variety of issues like universal health care, the progressive income tax and an ever-expanding and intrusive federal government. To paraphrase an old boxing expression "in this corner" we have the Barack Obama's, Nancy Pelosi's, Lincoln Chafee's and Chuck Schumer's of the world.

Part Two of "Ameritopia" hones in on the writings of John Locke, Charles de Montesquieu, and Alexis de Toqueville who all champion a much smaller, less intrusive government. John Locke in particular had an enormous influence on our Founding Fathers as they went about the rough and tumble business of fashioning the Constitution. It is an indisputable fact that for most of the history of the world mankind has been ruled by despots and repressive governments. The Founding Fathers wanted something much different. John Locke wrote that "laws made by men and governments without the consent of the government are illegitimate and no man is bound to them." Regarding personal property rights Locke explained that there is always going to be an unequal distribution of property resulting from the manner in which a man applies his labor. This is just plain common sense. "As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates and can use the product of, so much is his property. He by his labor does, as it were, enclose it from the common. He gave it to the use of the industrious and rational; not to the fancy or covetousness of the quarrelsome and contentious." Amen! Meanwhile, another major influence on the thinking of the Founding Fathers was the French philosopher Charles de Montesquieu. Montesquieu warned of "the dangers of a republican government attempting to transform a civil society--including superceding the effects of religion, family, commerce, traditions, customs, mores etc. through legal coercion." Sounds like a page from the Saul Alinsky handbook does it not? Finally, Montesquieu goes on to observe that "There are two sorts of tyranny: a real one, which consists of the violence of the government, and one of opinion, which is felt when those who govern establish things that run counter to a nation's way of thinking." Many of us would argue that this is precisely what has been going on for the past three years.

In the final section of "Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America" Mark Levin explains how the statists have advanced their agenda over the past eight decades and why the 2012 elections stand as a watershed in American history. The choices we face have never been more clear. If you are one of those people still sitting on the fence I urge you to read "Ameritopia". Meanwhile, if you are someone who is largely in agreement with the principles espoused by our Founding Fathers I would wholeheartedly encourage you to pick up a copy of "Ameritopia" as well. Mark Levin's compelling book will help to crystallize the arguments in your mind as your attempt to educate your friends, relatives and neighbors in the coming months leading up to the election. Kudos to Mark Levin for an extremely well thought-out and well-executed project. Very highly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Ameritopia_The_Unmaking_of_America-124-1788678-222510-The_intense_ideological_battle_for_the_heart_and.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Ameritopia_The_Unmaking_of_America-124-1788678-222510-The_intense_ideological_battle_for_the_heart_and.html Mon, 9 Apr 2012 08:28:35 +0000
<![CDATA[ An American's point of view]]>  
Don’t tell me Obama didn’t have a hand in this. He’s shown again how he’s leading this great country of ours down so that we can’t fight four full-blown wars for freedon and oil at the same time. Under his so-called leadership the U.S. can’t even keep up with North Korea when it comes to regimented, boring stadium productions. And the gap will only grow.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Super_Bowl_XLVI_Half_Time-124-1798136-220572-An_American_s_point_of_view.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Super_Bowl_XLVI_Half_Time-124-1798136-220572-An_American_s_point_of_view.html Mon, 6 Feb 2012 04:38:10 +0000
<![CDATA[Barack Obama Quick Tip by BaronSamedi3]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/politician/UserReview-Barack_Obama-77-1010013-219365.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/politician/UserReview-Barack_Obama-77-1010013-219365.html Fri, 13 Jan 2012 01:56:39 +0000 <![CDATA[Energy Conservation Quick Tip by drifter51]]> http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Energy_Conservation-20-1389682-214867.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Energy_Conservation-20-1389682-214867.html Tue, 1 Nov 2011 08:47:20 +0000 <![CDATA[Chris Christie Quick Tip by drifter51]]> http://www.lunch.com/Politics_Your_Way/reviews/person/UserReview-Chris_Christie-538-1701346-213642.html http://www.lunch.com/Politics_Your_Way/reviews/person/UserReview-Chris_Christie-538-1701346-213642.html Fri, 23 Sep 2011 22:01:50 +0000 <![CDATA[U.S. Economy Quick Tip by drifter51]]> http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-U_S_Economy-124-1766401-213534.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-U_S_Economy-124-1766401-213534.html Tue, 20 Sep 2011 23:54:20 +0000 <![CDATA[ The American people aren't dumb.]]>
No one should be foolish enough to believe a poll or two is anything but a snapshot in time. Yet when different polls begin to reflect the same thing, a wise man might begin to think something interesting is starting to happen.
 
As reported in TPM (a liberal blog) “It seems that the Tea Party's governing style, most clearly on display during the debt ceiling fight in Congress, has taken a toll on Americans' view of the movement. Polls have been showing a drop in its approval, and a new AP/GfK poll shows that its unfavorable rating has seen a sharp rise. 46 percent of those surveyed said they have a negative view of the Tea Party movement, versus 28 who say they view it favorably.

The log went on to say, “The last time the AP conducted a national poll on Americans' favorability of Tea Partiers was in their pre-governing period: throughout 2010 the conservative movement was viewed slightly unfavorably but the splits were close. In June of 2010 it even earned a positive rating, with 33 percent of over 1,000 adults surveyed finding the movement favorable against 30 percent. In the last AP rating, taken Nov. 3-8, 2010, directly after the 2010 election, the split stood at a slim negative rating of 32 percent favorable against 36 unfavorable.

“The jump of ten points in the negative number is all in the "very unfavorable" category. In November of 2010 there were 22 percent who viewed the Tea Party that way, which has risen to 32 percent. The "somewhat unfavorable" number remains unchanged in the last nine months, steady at 14 percent.”

The unfortunate thing is that the over-reaching, the certitude and the demeaning sarcasm used by so many Tea Party leaders, including those in Congress, have undermined some of the good points they make. Perhaps it’s time these folks remembered that we are all Americans…that Americans aren’t victims…and that we share far more common values than we differ on. ]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-The_new_AP_poll_and_the_Tea_Party-124-1760270-212238-The_American_people_aren_t_dumb_.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-The_new_AP_poll_and_the_Tea_Party-124-1760270-212238-The_American_people_aren_t_dumb_.html Tue, 30 Aug 2011 03:54:45 +0000
<![CDATA[ Learn why The Tea Party movement is a growing force in American politics.]]> "A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have." ---Thomas Jefferson

Truer words were never spoken. Tea Party members and their supporters know this instinctively.  We are seeing it happen right now before our very eyes.  Members of the Tea Party are not wild-eyed radicals as they as being portrayed in the mainstream media.  Rather, they are the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker who own and operate small businesses all across America.  They are also the hard-working individuals who go to work each and every day, pay taxes and obey the law.  These people are frightened by the direction President Obama and our leaders in Congress have been taking this country. They have found their voice in the Tea PartySenator Rand Paul of the great state of Kentucky is a newcomer to politics. When he announced his candidacy he was given little chance of being elected.  Senator Paul subscribes to much of what the Tea Party stands for. He firmly believes in a balanced budget and that across-the-board spending cuts are in order.  For Rand Paul there are absolutely no sacred cows. Senator Paul makes an impassioned case for a return to fiscal sanity in his new book "The Tea Party Goes To Washington". You will find an abundance of common sense in this volume.

In the pages of "The Tea Party Goes To Washington" Senator Paul reiterates time and again that he does not consider himself to be a leader of the Tea Party movement.  While he espouses many of the positions championed by Tea Party members Paul points out that the Tea Party is largely a grass roots movement that has sprung up spontaneously in cities and towns all over the country.  There is an old expression that says that "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."  Depending on where you are Tea Parties have been formed in reaction to issues like bank bailouts, auto bailouts, mortgage bailouts, stimulus, cap and trade, new business regulations and Obamacare.  Some Tea Party groups choose to focus more on state and local issues.  Paul points out that there is precious little communication between most of these groups and that by design the movement lacks strong and identifiable leaders.  He believes that this is the way that it should be and is confident that the Tea Party will never be co-opted by the existing political establishment.

Throughout his primary and general election campaigns in 2010 Rand Paul was portrayed by his opponents, the political establishment and the mainstream media as some sort of kook who was totally out of touch with average Americans.  The voters in his state did not buy it and were ready to move in a new and different direction.  In "The Tea Party Goes To Washington" Paul offers up his thinking on how to resolve the current budget mess we are confronting in this country.  He is willing to take an ax not only to the social programs that are the darlings of those on the left but also to the bloated military budget that is the sacred cow of those on the right.  Currently, military spending by the United States accounts for 45% of the defense spending in the entire world. This is clearly unsustainable!  Rand Paul is also opposed to the whole notion of nation-building which he believes has caused the tremendous spike in defense spending over the past decade.  Being a practicing physician Rand Paul sees the sheer folly of Obamacare and has a lot to say about it in the book. Clearly he would like to see this ill-advised debacle repealed by the Congress.

Time and again in "The Tea Party Goes To Washington" Rand Paul harkens back to the Founding Fathers for wisdom and guidance.  He seems to be particularly fond of Thomas Jefferson.  Senator Paul believes that we can extricate ourselves from this mess but that the average citizen has to become more informed and involved in the process.  Despite all of the obstacles that they face he believes that the Tea Party will ultimately be successful in their quest to take back this country. These are not just conservative Republicans.  The Tea Party includes lots of disaffected Democrats and independents as well who love their country and want to put an end to the abuses that have been heaped upon them from above.  They are tired of being labeled as racists, homophobes and mean-spirited.   It is becoming increasing clear that the Tea Party movement is gathering steam as we head towards the 2012 elections and that the political establishment in both of the major political parties are scared to death of them.  In my view reading "The Tea Party Goes To Washington" would be a great way to get up to speed on all of these substantive issues.  If you have high school or college student in your family give them a copy.  Likewise if you own a copy pass it on to a neighbor or relative. Spread the word!  Unlike a number of other books I have read by politicians "The Tea Party Goes To Washington" is a thoughtful and extremely well written book.   Very highly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/book/UserReview-The_Tea_Party_Goes_To_Washington-124-1756462-211420-Learn_why_The_Tea_Party_movement_is_a_growing.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/book/UserReview-The_Tea_Party_Goes_To_Washington-124-1756462-211420-Learn_why_The_Tea_Party_movement_is_a_growing.html Fri, 12 Aug 2011 22:35:23 +0000
<![CDATA[ One of the most chronically underreported forms of addiction in the United States.]]> problem and pathological gambling in this country has been on the rise for quite some time now.  The emerging problem was chronicled quite well a decade and a half ago in Robert Goodman's 1996 book "The Luck Business: The Devastating Consequences and Broken Promises of America's Gambling Explosion". In that book Goodman makes an extremely convincing case that the social costs associated with gambling far outweigh the potential benefits touted by both the gaming industry and government officials.  Goodman posited that state lotteries and casino gambling siphon off money from the local economy while at the same time significantly increasing the number of problem and pathological gamblers in our midst.  The evidence seems indisputable.  But the landscape has changed dramatically over the past 15 years and according to author Sam Skolnik the problems associated with gambling in America have actually gotten much worse.  His new book "High Stakes: The Rising Cost of America's Gambling Addiction" bring us all up to speed on this important and fascinating subject.  It is a real eye-opener!

In "High Stakes" Sam Skolnik focuses on the astonishing growth of gambling opportunities in recent years.  I was shocked to learn that there are now approximately 850,000 slot machines in operation around the U.S.  I had no idea!  In some states slots can only be found in casinos.  But in places like South Dakota slot machines have been installed in restaurants, bars and even in supermarkets.  And if this were not enough 43 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands now run lotteries.  Government officials are increasingly turning to gambling to raise badly needed revenue without much regard for the inevitable social costs of gambling that include increased crime, lost work time, personal bankruptcies, higher divorce rates, the need to open addiction treatment centers and the list goes on and on.  In addition, gambling revenue comes from money that would otherwise have been spent at local businesses and services, and thus acts as a drain on the local economy.  Instead of citizens spending money on food, clothing or entertainment, it's spent on gambling.  But at the end of the day most state legislators grossly underestimate these costs when opting to expand gambling rather than cut costs or increase taxes.  They are not exactly profiles in courage.  Furthermore, since Goodman wrote his book we have seen an explosion in internet gambling across the nation and around the world.  Skolnik points out that college students are particularly vulnerable to this form of gambling.  Sam Skolnik also devotes an entire chapter of the book to the serious problem of addictive gambling in the Asian-American community.  Not being much of a gambler myself I was totally unaware that this problem even existed.  Likewise, Skonik profiles "The Rise of the Poker Junkie" in another chapter of the book.  The idea that grown men and women would sit and watch a poker game on TV was inconcievable a generation ago.  And finally, "High Stakes" also spotlights some of the questionable research being done on the problem of addictive gambling. It turns out that the vast majority of these studies are being funded by the gaming industry itself with highly questionable conclusions.

Because I read Robert Goodman's book all those years ago I was drawn to "High Stakes: The Rising Cost of America's Gambling Addiction" to learn more about the current status of this issue.  What I found was very alarming. For far too many Americans that tantalizing dream of instant wealth is always one pull of the slot machine away or one more hand of poker from happening. The highly sophisticated marketing and advertising campaigns conducted by the gaming industry make it more and more difficult for individuals to resist the temptation. I found "High Stakes" to be very well-researched and quite nicely written. I learned an awful lot and Skonik's book only reinforces my opinion that the states should not be so reliant on more gambling to raise revenue. See if you agree.   Highly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/book/UserReview-High_Stakes_The_Rising_Cost_of_America_s_Gambling_Addiction-124-1749063-210077-One_of_the_most_chronically_underreported_forms_of.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/book/UserReview-High_Stakes_The_Rising_Cost_of_America_s_Gambling_Addiction-124-1749063-210077-One_of_the_most_chronically_underreported_forms_of.html Fri, 8 Jul 2011 22:28:06 +0000
<![CDATA[ Oh, the Books You can Read!]]>
That may sound like a common statement, but in my case it's quite a generous compliment. I'm one of those heartless, evil libertarians rightists keep saying are unpatriotic and leftists keep saying are racist. (And no, I'm not especially unpatriotic or racist. I can see the angle on the first one because I think nationalistic traditions are given far more relevance than they need and I hate the idea of needing papers to travel or live in the country. But I consider the latter a form of libel and WILL sue anyone who seriously applies it to me.) That means I want my taxes as low as possible and have a deeply rooted streak of government distrust, so I take even the policies I agree on with a grain of salt.

Public libraries are of of the very few aspects of government I accept without question. I credit my parents with encouraging me to read and teaching me to do it well, but it's public libraries which are the unlimited source for me to actually read just about anything I want. I write a small independent blog about baseball literature called Lit Bases (www.litbases.wordpress.com), and I cull nearly all of my material for it from libraries. I wish the libraries would get the new material faster, but I otherwise have access to a lot of titles and hard to find books on baseball.

Yes, reading a ton of baseball books definitely leaves a little bit of burnout on the subject, which is why it's also important that I can grab books on virtually any other subject. I read a lot of classics - Hemingway, Dickens, Twain, Updike, Vonnegut - all authors whose work I schooled myself in through expansive use of libraries. In the main branch of the Chicago library system, there are various quotes by certain people espousing the virtues of reading. One of them by a person whose name escapes me says the Chicago Public Library is his alma mater. That is a well-spoken statement, and one with which I completely agree, except mine would also include the Buffalo library system.

Having used two different library systems, it amazes me that this simple concept can differ in so many little ways. In Buffalo, I can accrue fines up to ten dollars before they shut down my account. In Chicago, your account will be shut down if you're just a single day late with a few cents of a fine to pay. In Chicago, they let you borrow music CDs for three weeks. In Buffalo, you get them for just one.

CD's. That's another thing. You can borrow CD's from libraries, and movies too. You do have to be careful about them, though, because they often carry much heavier fines than the books. Also, they tend to be scratched up a lot sometimes, which always amazes me because I don't think a journey from a case to a player is a particularly difficult one which would result in injuries.

There are more books on this planet than there are libraries, so it's not merely possible but in fact quite likely that a library may not own any copies of a certain book. In this case, you can order the book you're looking for from a different library and have it sent to the branch you usually visit. I like this idea because it ensures a constant flow of reading material that interests me.

Yes, libraries have their problems, but it's foolish to consider anything perfect. Public libraries perform a valuable service. Without the wealth of reading material I've borrowed from public libraries, I probably wouldn't be a libertarian. How's that for irony?]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/government/UserReview-Public_Libraries-124-1419338-209223-Oh_the_Books_You_can_Read_.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/government/UserReview-Public_Libraries-124-1419338-209223-Oh_the_Books_You_can_Read_.html Thu, 23 Jun 2011 11:54:16 +0000
<![CDATA[Memorial Day Quick Tip by woopak_the_thrill]]>
Please remember those people who have given up their lives so that we can enjoy this time with family and friends. Remember those who made a difference in the face of tyranny and evil; who gave up their own times with their family to do good in this messed up world.  Remember those who did what we didn't have to do. If you see a veteran down the street, please take the time to salute. They have given so much, so we can enjoy freedom. Me, I thank my friends who are serving today and saddened by those who cannot be with their families.

God Bless The Soldiers!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Memorial_Day-77-1390034-207922.html http://www.lunch.com/reviews/d/UserReview-Memorial_Day-77-1390034-207922.html Fri, 27 May 2011 17:49:30 +0000
<![CDATA[Inflation Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/businessmatters/reviews/business/UserReview-Inflation-132-1453266-206504.html http://www.lunch.com/businessmatters/reviews/business/UserReview-Inflation-132-1453266-206504.html Wed, 27 Apr 2011 07:41:05 +0000 <![CDATA[ August Status]]> By Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

April 2010 BP Gulf Oil Spill- Mid-August Status

The Skytruth Oil Spill Tracker showed the following improvements from a visual inspection of a map depicting the major areas of the spill with both small and large red dots. During May 2010, there were 3 large red dots on the map in the New Orleans area, 1 large red dot in Sarasota, Florida and a smaller dot just North of Havana.

By August, the initial 3 large dots in the New Orleans area were reduced to much smaller red Padre Island National Seashore - Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle (Wikipedia)dots. The large red dot in Sarasota, Florida was reduced to a smaller one and the small dot just above Havana disappeared. There are still some scattered smaller dots throughout the Gulf region.

John Amos of Skytruth indicated that 1 subsurface of oil washed ashore on Alabama beaches 8-12-2010 nearly 1 month after the well was capped. Currently, BP continues work to finish the relief wells in order to seal the gusher for good.

Scientists from NOAA’s Damage Assessment Remediation and Restoration Program (DARRP) mobilized resources quickly in the Gulf.  The NOAA team collected data from pre-oiled and oiled natural resources. This information is critical to the natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) process.

Data collected in the Gulf will help determine whether or not natural resources have been injured and what human uses have been impaired. Once the injuries and losses have been quantified, NOAA and its partners will work to compensate the public by restoring, rehabilitating, or replacing the natural resources damaged by the oil spill.

Work by federal and state partners under the Oil Pollution Act is currently in the preassessment phase to determine whether or not injury to public natural resources has occurred and the extent of the same.

Species with essential fish habitat near the oil spill include: scalloped hammerhead, shortfin mako,  silky, whale, bigeye thresher, longfin mako, and oceanic whitetip sharks; swordfish, white marlin, blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, longbill spearfish, and sailfish.  Other important fish in the Gulf include red snapper, grouper, gray triggerfish, red drum, vermilion snapper, greater amberjack, black drum, cobia and dolphin (mahi-mahi), coastal migratory pelagic (open water) species, such as king and Spanish mackerel, and pelagic sharks. Shellfish in the Gulf include oysters and several species of shrimp and crabs.  Of the 28 species of marine mammals known to live in the Gulf of Mexico, all are protected and six (sperm, sei, fin, blue, humpback and North Atlantic right whales) are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

At least four species of threatened/endangered sea turtles (Kemp’s Ridley, green, leatherback, and loggerhead) are residents of the northern Gulf of Mexico and are represented by all life stages. A fifth species, the hawksbill turtle, can be found in the southern Gulf. The only nesting beaches in the world for Kemp’s Ridley turtles are in the western Gulf of Mexico.

Marshes in the Gulf of Mexico provide extremely important habitat for feeding and nesting of several species that can be found in offshore waters, such as royal terns and gulls.  Species of concern include near shore and marsh birds: brown pelican, diving ducks, wading birds, piping plover (a threatened species) and pelagic (open water) birds such as shearwaters, northern gannets, and frigate birds.  Marine mammals, fish, and birds depend on clean, healthy habitats to provide food, shelter, and breeding grounds. These habitats include salt and fresh water marshes, mangroves, mudflats, beaches, coral and shellfish reefs, water column and bottom sediments.  (ADAPTED FROM DARRP, NOAA)

Currently, BP claims that they are doing everything possible. "We continue to seal the Macondo well permanently, clean up the environment, and make sure that people are compensated for legitimate claims." BP Completed a Well Pressure Test with results under review right now.  More than 23k people, 3k vessels & 800 skimmers are at work responding to the oil spill.  Following comprehensive FDA testing, the Louisiana Dept of Wildlife & Fisheries reopened some state waters to fishing.

Offshore Drilling, Disaster Planning Response

After The Cleanup: Future Clean Energy Sources

2011 And Beyond: Contingency Oil Rig Disaster Operations

Oil Spill 2010: Disaster Recovery Plan Needed

Oil Spill 2010: Planning For Hurricanes, Tsunamis, Cleanup

Oil Spill 2010: Clean Up And Recovery Patented Ideas

Joseph S. Maresca Ph.D., CPA, CISA, MBA: His significant writings include over 10 copyrights in the name of the author (Joseph S. Maresca) and a patent in the earthquake sciences. He holds membership in the prestigious Delta Mu Delta National Honor Society and Sigma Beta Delta International Honor Society. 


All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.

Notify me of follow-up comments via email.


  ]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/event/UserReview-BP_Gulf_Oil_Spill-124-1445077-205678-August_Status.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/event/UserReview-BP_Gulf_Oil_Spill-124-1445077-205678-August_Status.html Mon, 11 Apr 2011 14:36:21 +0000
<![CDATA[ Defunding NPR is a no-brainer.]]> Republican, a Christian, an evangelical, a member of the Tea Party, a gun owner, a Jew or you didn't graduate from one of America's elite institutions of higher education then former NPR Foundation president and vice president for development of NPR Ron Schiller has nothing but disdain for you and your ilk. These attitudes emerge loud and clear in a recent undercover video made by the conservative activist James O'Keefe. This is the same James O'Keefe whose 2009 investigation of ACORN revealed systemic corruption in multiple offices nationwide documenting the facilitation of child prostitution, human trafficking and tax evasion. While I am not particularly thrilled with Mr. O'Keefe's methods this new video only serves to confirm what many of us have suspected for years. Like its sister network PBS, NPR is populated by elitists with an extreme left-wing agenda.  And oddly enough in the cost-cutting climate that exists in Washington these days Mr Schiller's remarks just might be the final straw for those in Congress who have been on the fence regarding the continued government funding of NPR. 

Here is what Mr. Schiller has to say about those who belong to the  Republican Party:  "they are not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic.  I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle America gun-toting. I mean it's scary. They're are seriously racist, racist people."   And what of the Tea Party?  In the gospel according to Schiller "the Tea Party is fanatically involved in people's personal lives and very fundamental Christian--I wouldn't even call it Christian. It's this weird evangelical kind of move."  Now I am not a card-carrying member of the Tea Party but I have been to a couple of their events and I must tell you that Mr. Schiller's description of the movement could not be farther from the truth.  Tea Party members are for the most party extremely apolitical.  These are the folks who really do make this country work.  They are the small business owners and people who toil in the private sector.  These individuals go to work everyday, pay taxes and play by the rules.  Yes, some of us are religious and some own guns.  But that is not the common denominator.  We love our country and the principles this nation was founded on.  And yes, we worry about a country where 47% of the population pays no income taxes at all!  But more than anything we are tired of being labelled racists, homophobes and Islamophobes because we disagree with the policies espoused by the political left in this country that we consider to be highly irresponsible.   

Perhaps the most damning remark made by Ron Schiller on this video is the suggestion that NPR would be better off without federal funding.  He says:  "Frankly, it is very clear that in the long run we'd be better off in the long run without federal funding.  And the challenge right now is if we lost it altogether a lot of stations would go dark."  So be it Mr. Schiller.  I would say that after your remarks NPR's annual $90 million subsidy from U.S. taxpayers is pretty much gone with the wind.  Let those who support your point of view make up the difference.  That is the way it should be in America. This most recent controversy as well as the firing of Juan Williams back in October are just two of the myriad reasons why I never have and probably never will give one thin dime to NPR.  But that does not mean that I hope NPR disappears.  On the contrary, I believe that NPR certainly does have a place in the marketplace of ideas.  I just don't want to subsidize it.  So if the issues you care about most are a woman's right to choose, gay marriage, climate change, so-called immigration reform and political correctness then I can confidently predict that NPR will continue to be your ticket.  But expect to hear a lot more of those fundraising pitches in the coming year.  Those of you on the left are going to have to cough up a lot more of your own money if NPR is to continue to offer the kinds of programming you have become accustomed to.   ]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-National_Public_Radio_NPR_-124-1379909-203391-Defunding_NPR_is_a_no_brainer_.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-National_Public_Radio_NPR_-124-1379909-203391-Defunding_NPR_is_a_no_brainer_.html Thu, 10 Mar 2011 13:40:53 +0000
<![CDATA[ The time has come to privatize the USPS]]> I take no great joy in this but in my view the time has come to completely privatize the United States Postal Service.  Despite numerous rate increases over the past several years the USPS continues to drown in a sea of red ink.  In fact, the USPS projects a deficit of nearly $7 billion for the current fiscal year!  It is a luxury that this country can no longer afford.

Despite improvements in productivity and some major reorganization the long range outlook for the United States Postal Service is dismal to say the least.  It is a business model that in my view is simply no longer viable.  Volume continues its downward slide as cost conscious individuals and businesses opt for far more efficient and less costly ways of communicating like e-mail and on-line bill payment.  Furthermore, it can now be more expensive to mail a card or letter than to make a long distance phone call which is precisely the opposite of the situation that existed just 10 or 15 years ago.  Times change and the USPS has been unable or unwilling to adjust to the new realities of their industry.  At the same time the USPS has also been unable to cash-in on the numerous competitive advantages it has been granted by being an independent agency of the United States government.  Most observers agree that at the very least the USPS needs to close hundreds of those tiny, inefficient post offices in small town America. You know what I am talking about. This would be a culture shock but is absolutely necessary if the USPS is ever going to turn a profit.  Furthermore the USPS, would have to lay off tens of thousands of workers who sadly are simply no longer needed.  Did you know that the USPS has never had layoffs??  Welcome to the real world folks. 

Now there was a time in the not too distant past when the United States Postal Service had a virtual monopoly on the services it provided.  This is simply no longer the case.  The reality is that the Postal Service's chief competitors United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (Fedex) are both highly efficient and extremely profitable world-class organizations. They do much more with a whole lot less. The USPS is simply too far behind to ever catch up with them.  And this is precisely why I believe the time has come to take the bull by the horns and privatize the USPS.  Such a move would require a bold and courageous act of Congress but I believe that this is one solution to our budgetary woes that most Americans could agree on.  Hopefully, a deal can be reached whereby most if not all of the current USPS workforce could be absorbed into the new private entity.  And of course an agreement regarding pensions and other benefits will have to be struck as well.  All sides will have to be willing to negotiate a viable and fair agreement.  But the time has come and I hope our leaders in Washington can make it happen. This one move alone could save the federal government tens of billions of dollars in the coming decade. In the long run I believe it will be in the best interests of everyone involved.  The United States Postal Service as currenlty constituted is simply not sustainable.

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/government/UserReview-United_States_Postal_Service_USPS_-124-1394850-202308-The_time_has_come_to_privatize_the_USPS.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/government/UserReview-United_States_Postal_Service_USPS_-124-1394850-202308-The_time_has_come_to_privatize_the_USPS.html Sat, 26 Feb 2011 19:36:28 +0000
<![CDATA[ Desperate times call for drastic measures.]]> Thomas E. Woods Jr. is a best-selling author and a senior fellow at the Ludwig Von Mises InstituteMr. Woods is in his thirties and is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt  that members of his generation face an especially grim economic future unless radical changes are forthcoming in the way we conduct business here in America.  Furthermore, he believes that the longer we procrastinate the more pain there is going to be for everyone.  In his new 2011 book "Rollback:  Repealing Big Government Before The Coming Fiscal Collapse"  Woods takes on the federal government monolith and robustly challenges the rationale behind each and every one of the federal government's major functions.  You will quickly discover that in the gospel according to Thomas Woods Jr. there are no sacred cows in this government and virtually all agencies and  programs should undergo an immediate review by Congress and be subject to substantial cutbacks. Woods debunks the myth of so-called "good government" and seeks to find ways to liberate the American people once and for all from its poisonous tentacles. 

Now in the current political environment in which we find ourselves energy seems to be building for just the kind of drastic overhaul of the federal government that Thomas Woods Jr. is calling for in "Rollback".  In reaction to the first two years of the Obama administration that brought us Obamacare, TARP, the takeover of two American car companies and the so-called "stimulus package" many Americans have become truly frightened and fear for their future. They saw firsthand the damage an unchecked federal government can wreak on them and now seem ready and willing to take their country back.  Throughout the pages of "Rollback: Repealing Big Government Before The Coming Financial Collapse" the author challeges the basic assumptions and conventional wisdom regarding a whole host of massive federal programs. You will discover how the student loan program artificially inflates the cost of a college education and why the 40 year war on drugs has been such a dismal failure.  Now many politicians would have you believe that our financial markets are largely unregulated.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Since "deregulation" began in 1980 you might be surprised to learn that spending on the regulatory agencies in charge has actually tripled!  This is precisely how out-of-control government works. Methinks that more than a few of our esteemed regulators were asleep at the switch in the years leading up to the 2008 financial meltdown.  And then of course there is the Federal Reserve system. Thomas Woods Jr. devotes an entire chapter of this book to the Fed and how it manipulates the economy to the advantage of the priviliged few.  Are you a staunch conservative who believes in increasing the size and scope of the military?  Think again.  Woods make an impassioned and extremely convincing case for slashing the military budget.  Among the other topics covered in "Rollback" are business regulationunemployment insurance, education and protectionism to name but a few.  If nothing else, "Rollback" will challenge each and every reader, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative to carefully reassess what he/she believes.

In the final chapter of "Rollback" Thomas Woods Jr. offers up a number of dramatic proposals that he believes could play a role in solving the overwhelming fiscal problems we are facing in this country. Some of the ideas I have seen before but several were brand new to me. They are certainly worth considering.  Because we have allowed our financial problems to fester for so long there are now substantially fewer options available to us than there were just five short years ago. Thus the budget battles we are now seeing in places like Wisconsin, New Jersey and Ohio.  The unrest is likely to spread to other states like California and New York in the not too distant future. There appears to be no easy out and Woods cannot emphasize enough that time is of the essence here. Each and every one of us is going to have to share in the pain and make substantial sacrifices if our country is ever going to become prosperous once again.  Furthermore, we are going to have to give serious consideration to cutting back and restructuring the federaI government in ways that would have seemed radical and positively unthinkable just a few years ago.  We simply can no longer afford it. If you are the least bit interested I believe that reading "Rollback:  Repealing Big Government Before The Coming Financial Collapse" would be an excellent way to get up to speed on these monumentally important issues.  HIghly recommended.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/book/UserReview-Rollback_Repealing_Big_Government_Before_The_Coming_Financial_Collapse-124-1701243-201997-Desperate_times_call_for_drastic_measures_.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/book/UserReview-Rollback_Repealing_Big_Government_Before_The_Coming_Financial_Collapse-124-1701243-201997-Desperate_times_call_for_drastic_measures_.html Mon, 21 Feb 2011 19:03:37 +0000
<![CDATA[ The status quo is no longer acceptable.]]> Wisconsin in the 2010 mid-term elections.  A state reputed to be one of the bastions of liberalism and one that had been dominated by Democrats for decades elected a Republican governor.  Scott Walker was elected with 52.3% of the vote in this normally blue state while Republicans also gained control of the state legislature.  Throughout the fall campaign Republicans made no secret of the fact that public employee unions with their excessive benefit packages and bloated pensions would be among the primary targets as they pledged to return fiscal sanity to their state.  Faced with a $137 million budget deficit Governor Walker has proposed that union members contribute 5.8% of their income towards their pensions and 12.6% towards health insurance. Furthermore, the governor's proposal would eliminate collective-bargaining rights for all public employees except local police and firefighters and members of the state police. Desperate times call for drastic measures and Governor Walker has wasted little time in bringing his proposals to the floor of the legislature for consideration. According to the governor the alternative would be to lay off up to 6000 state workers.  Meanwhile, the union bosses fail to acknowledge there is a problem and charactorize the governor's efforts as nothing less than "union-busting'.  And faced with imminent defeat the 14 Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Senate have simply fled the state in an attempt to prevent a vote from taking place. This is very bad form and a strategy that I believe will come back to haunt them in the weeks and months ahead.

To be sure Wisconsin is not the only state facing a day of reckoning for past budgetary indiscretions and miscalculations.  Several states including California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and my own home state of Rhode Island are teetering on the brink of insolvency.  The situation cries out for political leaders with the courage to admit that we must drastically change our ways while accepting the political consequences of taking a stand.  Like his Republican counterpart Chris Christie in New Jersey Governor Scott Walker has emerged as one of those leaders.  This governor understands that the average Wisconsonian who toils in the private sector has had to deal with relentless downsizing, stagnant wages, and rising health insurance premiums.  Most of them have no pensions and are required to fund their own retirements through 401(k)'s and similar plans.  These folks are sick and tired of seeing their relatives, friends and neighbors who are members of public sector unions earning higher wages and receiving much more generous benefit packages than they do.  Furthermore, these people understand that the public sector is a haven of security and stability, where connected people have jobs for life and performance measurements are rare.  And for many the straw that breaks the camel's back is the fact that many state workers can retire in their mid-50s on close to full pay and, therefore, can receive pensions for more years than they have worked, even though they are young enough to take another job.  I must tell you that in the circles I travel in about the only people buying new vehicles, making extensive home improvements and taking lavish vacations are teachers and other government employees.

The lines have now been drawn and the battle begun.  President Obama has offered his support of the protesters while the Democratic National Committees "Organizing For America" arm is playing an active role in organizing protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's attempt to strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights.  Meanwhile, The Tea Party is mobilizing and urging members to head to Madison to support the Governor and the State Senate.  I think that in this instance history and events are on the side of the Republicans.  Led by the emergence of the Tea Party movement and fueled by the overreaching of Barack Obama and the Democrats in Washington I firmly believe that a majority of average Americans have come to the conclusion that substantial change is required and that it must happen NOW.  Actuaries from all levels of government have been warning us for years now that the we simply do not have the money to pay all of the benefits that have been promised to government employees.  As far as I am concerned responsible union leaders in Wisconsin and in states around the nation must recognize this simple reality and try to cut the best deal they can get for their members.  Now if the rumors are true, Congress has been quietly exploring legislation that would allow the states to declare bankruptcy.  Were that to happen some of these unions could lose EVERYTHING.  I will continue to watch as these fascinating events unfold in the coming days and weeks.  This is a national debate that we have needed to engage in for quite some time. Hopefully, we can begin to solve some of out financial problems and get our country back on the road to prosperity.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-2011_Wisconsin_Budget_Battle-124-1705950-201753-The_status_quo_is_no_longer_acceptable_.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-2011_Wisconsin_Budget_Battle-124-1705950-201753-The_status_quo_is_no_longer_acceptable_.html Sat, 19 Feb 2011 18:54:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ "One person can make a difference. I will make a difference."]]> Chris Christie in his inaugural address on January 13, 2010 Chris Christie is a Republican attempting to affect meaningful change in the bluest of blue states.  At the time of his inauguration New Jersey residents were saddled with the highest property taxes in the nation and a $10.9 billion budget deficit. Governor Christie urged legislative leaders to "either work together to move our state forward, or to get out of the way of those who will."  Thus far Chris Christie has largely lived up to his advance billing.  During his first year in office he has tirelessly and courageously fought to get his state's fiscal house in order. This is a daunting task given the enormous opposition he faces from the state and municipal employee unions, the teacher unions and the entrenched Democratic establishment in New Jersey.  But come hell or high water, Christie seems bound and determined to proceed with the reforms he believes are vital to the future of his state.

Governor Christie makes no bones about the draconian measures that he believes are required to straighten out the fiscal mess that he has inherited. The centerpiece of the governor's proposal is the so-called Cap 2.5, a constitutional amendment designed to cap property tax increases at 2.5% per year. Why is this necessary?  Over the past ten years property taxes in New Jersey have risen by an astounding 70%!  The fact of the matter is that the average taxpayer's ability to deal with such exorbitant tax hikes has simply been exhausted!  Enough is enough!  Furthermore, many middle and upper class families have decided that the time has come to vote with their feet and are leaving the state.  In the meantime Christie is being fought tooth and nail by the teachers and other government employee unions who have had their way in this state for decades.  The unions refuse to concede the severity of the crisis at hand and appear to be unwilling to participate in any meaningful way in solving the problem. But this time the unions may have met their match.  Christie refuses to back down and is pressing on with his agenda to right the ship. The Governor would like to end teacher tenure, expand the number of charter schools in the state and require union members to contribute a nominal amount of their salaries (1.5%) to help pay for the generous medical benefits that they receive.  Christie would also like to initiate substantial Civil Service reforms that would make it easier for department heads to get rid of incompetent or unneeded employees.  It sure is nice to see a public official fighting for the taxpayers for a change!

What makes Democrats and the public employee unions exceedingly nervous is the thought that Chris Christie might actually succeed in reforming state and local government in the State of New Jersey.  It would appear that he is the right man at the right time and average citizens all across America are rooting for him to show us all how it should be done.  It will certainly not be easy but Chris Christie appears to have the courage, the know-how and the temperament to make it happen.  In recent weeks the name Chris Christie has begun to be floated as a possible contender for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2012.  Given the rather lackluster GOP field I can see why some would like him to consider the idea.  But the Governor insists that he will not be a candidate and prefers instead to focus on the gargantuan task ahead of him.  Chris Christie is living proof that it is possible to elect a politician who not only understands the fiscal crisis we are in, but is willing to take the heat required to do something about it.  I wish him nothing but the best.   Highly recommended!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/person/UserReview-Chris_Christie-124-1701346-201662-_One_person_can_make_a_difference_I_will_make_a.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/person/UserReview-Chris_Christie-124-1701346-201662-_One_person_can_make_a_difference_I_will_make_a.html Thu, 17 Feb 2011 22:50:39 +0000
<![CDATA[ Show your support for "public radio"]]> What it means to be American.
 
ShareThis

I listen to NPR regularly. It’s one of my most treasured American indulgences. In China, news is dictated by the State and there is no such thing as “public radio” in the form of free and unassociated journalism. I heard today that Congress has plans to pull NPR funding. I was shocked.

NPR had aired its political demise at the end of President Obama’s speech. I can’t exactly remember what the President had been addressing at the time. I was deeply in thought drawing process maps for a citizen journalism model I hope to help strengthen the public’s access to information. I do remember thinking at the time in parallel: NPR had previously introduced Obama as “The Leader of The Free World.”



“What a title.” I thought to myself. “What a concept.”
(sorry for the ADD, but my point will be clear in a few second.)

To me, freedom has been hard to come by. I grew up in China during the 1980s. This was the China before cars invaded roads and McDonald’s invaded the street sides. Bicycles were everywhere and farmers grew their own and took the rest to the city for sale. There were no industries, no regulations (I don’t think China ever had a government that regulated food).

Even though my mom and I had access to a healthier locally sustainable culture, we did not have the freedom of accessing information. Everything said was “according to the State Council” and everything was unspoken. People had just emerged from the Cultural Revolution, and no one had any sense of identity because we were all part of the State, “under the leadership of the Communist Party.”

I remember each morning I would hear the loudspeakers overhead, quietly screaming the Leaders’ directives. “Religion is bad,” the voice would echo, “following the teachings of Chair Man Mao, under the leadership of Chairman Deng, get rich is glorious . . . .”

I think my realization of freedom came when my Army buddy Mark said to me: “after this tour in this shithole, don’t let anyone tell you ‘you can’t.’” It had daunted on me that my past is now in the past, my future is this idea we fought for: democracy – liberation of a people.

But the problem I had was the fact that I was a philosophy major and just returned from Iraq. My job options were limited. I remember going to one interview for a marketing position and thinking "this is not me, I can't do this."

I also did not have the credentials to be a journalist. 

But fortune is often disguised in great peril. I stumbled upon a job listing for The American Legion. I had no idea what the Legion is. I did a quick search and read up on their history from their site. I applied and began work for a 501(c)(19) organization with 3 million members and 14,000 Posts across the world. They had been established in 1919 by the WWI veterans and built to its peak by the Greatest Generation of this country. I felt proud. I worked on important projects for very important offices. I had a great time working for them. I met so many volunteers that had done amazing things for this nation as soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen and women. Gradually I became frustrated with the speed of things. I quit my job, started law school, and started this project: a market driven process that will perpetuate a positive thing. What better things to focus on than journalism – Citizen Journalism.

This Citizen Journalism should be about the fundamental things in our lives that does not belong to the federal government to regulate. Nor should we expect them to support its operations. It is our news and we should be responsible for it. This Citizen Journalism is everything that is:

"not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States,"


Our Speech is protected by the First Amendment, but the Tenth gives us the ability to act.
 
How do you act on information? A great friend, Susan Bird, had once inspired me with her blog about conversation and society. I took that to heart. In case you have not noticed, this blog has recently added a few more people to the conversation. It’s no longer just me talking to the world, my world around me is responding. It seems to me there is no more perfect way of communicating the news to each other by engaging in positive conversations. Building on passion and peer influence, we can take news and transform it into action. Citizen Journalism is not just about the news, but about the news and others, about the freedom to act, about the very community that nurtures us. 

What does this have to do with NPR and its public funding? Let me explain: China and the US today are faced with a insurmountable environmental problem, childhood obesity and childhood hunger. Luckily for the rest of us, a centralized Communist regime is just the thing to fight the environmental effects quickly. Their "news services" have been advocating GREEN aggressively for a number of years now. But The bigger problem is a social deterioration caused by Americans. Not only do we pollute so much more per person, we also waste more. We are setting an example to a people that worship our very existence. To a people without political freedom, the Chinese strive in every other ways to be like us. 

I remember when I was a kid, I had great admiration for the US just as many of my peers. I think the Chinese people still admire us, (as a proud citizen, I said "us"), and my Chinese people will do as you would do. If you eat McDonald's and trash the planet, so will my Chinese brothers and sisters. The scary thing is there are about 1.3 BILLION of them doing it. Today, Chinese kids are going online and looking at us. They are learning everything we are doing. If we are true Americans, we would be leaders. We would show my Chinese brothers and sisters the true meaning of FREEDOM!

Today we face the same eerie silence of information. It seems we, as Americans, are not speaking. I don't mean just any sort of speaking. There are those who are loud enough, thank you Jared Lee Loughner. I mean speaking intelligently and sensibly. I see hope. I see people rallying around each other engaging in conversations online. But the Great American Marketing Machine is turning like a well oiled machine, misguiding us to our very own destruction. Their trickery is perfected as a science and openly so. The great American Free Press is dying and being replaced with irresponsible commercialism disguised as opinion news. Just in case we cannot depend on public funding legislatively, we have to take at least this fundamental right back into our hands. If not Citizen Journalism, then what else? If we do not act, who will? If we are not responsible for our own messages, then who could? So go and support NPR, but also start your own conversation.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-NPR-124-1446338-201132-Show_your_support_for_public_radio_.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-NPR-124-1446338-201132-Show_your_support_for_public_radio_.html Sat, 12 Feb 2011 21:33:43 +0000
<![CDATA[ She is demonstrably ignorant and quit halfway through her term]]>  Her political star will fall quickly as the Republican Party prepares to select a presidential candidate for the 2012 election.  The established political machinery that knows the party must appeal to independents will gently and then more forcefully marginalize her and hit her down when she makes yet another absurd statement.  The Republicans learned their lesson in the 2010 midterms with the ignorant female senate candidates in Delware and Nevada. Those were two seats that the Republicans would have won if they had picked more established and intelligent candidates and they know it.  
 Commentators on the left and right have all said that her only hope to be a political star again was to take time off, study the issues and history so that she can engage in an intelligent conversation. She has not done that, her negatives remain high and a strong majority believes that she is not qualified to be president. My only regret about the 2008 election was that Hillary Clinton was not named the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic side. She would have de-whatevered Palin had there been a debate between them.
 Finally, Sarah Palin is an insult to all of the professional women that have worked their way upward by studying and thinking hard. That demographic will never accept her.  ]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/politician/UserReview-Sarah_Palin-124-1130911-201031-She_is_demonstrably_ignorant_and_quit_halfway.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/politician/UserReview-Sarah_Palin-124-1130911-201031-She_is_demonstrably_ignorant_and_quit_halfway.html Wed, 9 Feb 2011 21:20:28 +0000
<![CDATA[ Nice try, but....]]>
First, we live in a society where most people (unless part of an insular group like the Amish) really need some form of telecommunication services to participate in our democratic system and capitalist economy.  This is all the more necessary since mail quarantines were instituted for mail sent to congressmen following the 2001 anthrax attacks.  Indeed telephone (and basic internet) service are becoming as important to getting a job as a physical address was in the distant past.  More importantly, these services are critical in obtaining emergency services (such as the fire or police department) in an emergency.

The decline in payphones makes this even more important.

Unfortunately, starting under Clinton (and continuing, even accelerating under Bush and now Obama), the government shifted away from an strongly pro-free-market position and towards a pro-big-business position.  As a result of changes in policy where common carriers are no longer required to lease lines to competitors at reasonable costs, and the like, most people in this country have very few real options for telephone and internet service (usually something along the lines of Comcast or some baby bell or another).  So we have the dilemma that we either cut such individuals out of the job market and political process or we come up with some sort of program to give them a very basic level of service.  Given that the cell service market is quite a bit more competitive than the land line market, I suppose today this makes some sense.

At the same time, this strikes me as putting a bandaid over an infected abscess.    The big problem (that government has moved from a pro-free-market approach from Ford through Reagan/Bush to a pro-big-business approach (Clinton, Bush, Obama) is left unresolved and covered up.  The problems are then out of sight and out of mind.  Nearly every approach since Clinton has been to regulate the businesses that offer services by establishing what they must not do, rather than trying to separate the natural monopolies (which would be heavily regulated) from a competitive marketplace for services.  A good example of the previous strategy was that favoring the emergence of Worldcom in competition to AT&T under Reagan, and which ended with AT&T deciding to break themselves up in order to avoid anti-monopoly policies and past judgements.

We will only get these problems solved if everyone is willing to feel a little less entitled to stuff.  The poor need to have the minimum which will allow them to participate in our economic and political system, but we should try to ensure that this is an uncomfortable minimum so that there is more incentive to better one's own condition.  But the large companies should not feel entitled to a monopoly (or even part of a duopoly) on providing service to an area.  The government must have the courage to stand up to the local loop providers the way the Reagan administration stood up to AT&T in the 1980's.

Instead, I think we'd be better off with a requirement that phone companies offer competitors an ability to lease their lines at a rate of no more than 10% above cost, and that government money would be available to subsidize low income local telephone access over a local loop (of copper).  I'd also suggest government subsidization for an internet connection of up to 64kbps (basically a little faster than a standard modem), and the provider would generally have freedom as to how to provide such a connection (64kbps is a DS0 line). Pushing for this sort of thing would provide competitors with access to a market, and keep unemployed individuals in the job market, while driving costs down for the rest of us.

But there is another problem too that must be addressed and for this I do not have an answer.  Already, companies like Walmart use programs like Medicaid as essentially a form of corporate welfare.  They hire low-wage workers, make them pay a significant cost for health insurance, and when they don't (and instead enroll in Medicaid), they pocket their portion of the cost.  If you put people on foodstamps and medicaid and some companies exploit these for profit, then the same will happen to this program.  Drawing a line between someone who may be getting a little bit of money as an occasional day laborer while working for a real job and someone who managed to get one at Walmart is not easy.  Hence these programs may indeed reduce what a "liveable wage" is, boosting corporate profits and leaving the rest of us with the tab.   Ultimately this last question, however, is one that needs more discussion.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Assurance_Wireless-124-1451536-199758-Nice_try_but_.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Assurance_Wireless-124-1451536-199758-Nice_try_but_.html Mon, 24 Jan 2011 22:12:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ She gives conservatives a bad name]]>
The bad news is that while she is involved in American politics, she will exert a very ugly influence over it. When she speaks half the time she gets basic facts wrong ("We've gotta stand with our North Korean allies") or her rhetoric is horribly mismatched (blood libel?) to the point where one thinks that her only appeal is her incompetence.

Now, some may point to her and say "well, it worked for George W Bush" but Bush's slip-ups were closely choreographed in order to insert double meanings into his speeches. After all, who wouldn't be opposed to "moolahs" in Iran trying to obtain "new killer" weapons? Bush's speechwriters were brilliant, scoring propaganda points while appearing to portray the President as something other than intellectually elite. Palin lacks these skills or the awareness to seek them out and utilize them. Yet Bush will likely be no more remembered for his ideas than Lyndon Johnson is for his.

Let's hope that Palin finds her calling soon, and that this moves her away from national politics.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/politician/UserReview-Sarah_Palin-124-1130911-199552-She_gives_conservatives_a_bad_name.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/politician/UserReview-Sarah_Palin-124-1130911-199552-She_gives_conservatives_a_bad_name.html Wed, 19 Jan 2011 16:34:09 +0000
<![CDATA[ So many national problems epitomized in one character]]> Urban Dictionary to describe her. Maybe to go "Palin" as a verb would be better:

Boss: "I went Palin on my staff and now none of them trust each other."
Supervisor: "Divide and conquer - those years of Latin must be paid off."
Boss: "Someone just set fire to the copier machine."

The Problem With Palin© is that I'm not convinced she's as stupid as people are led to believe, and is actually smart enough to fully exploit:
  • The sigh-inducing lack of education and A.D.D that boils everything down to good and evil, friends and enemies, and winners and losers.
  • The shocking effectiveness of confrontational sound-bites.
The devastating one-two punch of this approach enables Palin to inject herself in any major story in the most cynical manner ("blood libel" - are you kidding me?), while cementing an increasingly polarized base of supporters and detractors. Meanwhile, while many are claiming that a village in Alaska is missing an idiot, she's quite happily coining it in and taking advantage of the entire situation.

I would honestly like to see an end to this kind of politician but I fear it's only going to get worse. As a nation, we deserve much more given our uniquely open style of government which is fundamentally insulted by the moronic level of dialog increasingly filling the media. Problems with our debt, the corruptive alliance between Wall Street and DC, the massive and unending unemployment situation, and failing health and education infrastructure aren't going to be addressed with ridiculous sound-bites about momma grisly bears.

It's actually scary how close Palin came to becoming Number Two, and no doubt she'll give it her best shot again in 2012. I just hope Republicans start to coalesce around strong leaders and principles, and leave people like Palin behind to report nonsense on breakfast news shows. While they're at it, ditching their corporate masters might actually do a service to this country too.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/politician/UserReview-Sarah_Palin-124-1130911-199259-So_many_national_problems_epitomized_in_one.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/politician/UserReview-Sarah_Palin-124-1130911-199259-So_many_national_problems_epitomized_in_one.html Thu, 13 Jan 2011 23:06:41 +0000
<![CDATA[BP Gulf Oil Spill Quick Tip by devora]]> http://www.lunch.com/Grist_Org/reviews/event/UserReview-BP_Gulf_Oil_Spill-714-1445077-198853.html http://www.lunch.com/Grist_Org/reviews/event/UserReview-BP_Gulf_Oil_Spill-714-1445077-198853.html Fri, 7 Jan 2011 08:39:51 +0000 <![CDATA[ Sundays just aren't that special anymore.]]> Sunday in many parts of this country. Sundays were pretty much reserved for activities like going to church, enjoying dinner with the family, curling up with a newspaper, playing with the kids, visiting relatives and friends or perhaps kicking back and enjoying a sporting event on TV. Indeed, Sundays were different and very special.  It was a day to slow down, reflect and enjoy…..you know the proverbial day of rest.  But sadly all of this began to change in the early 1980's and in my opinion the passage of statutes permitting retailers to be open on Sunday has been a major factor in the destruction of family life in this country. Have you checked the divorce rate lately? I argued passionately that this would be the result when these ideas were first being tossed around in the late 1970's and nothing I have observed since that time has changed my opinion one iota.

Now observing the Sabbath has been a very important part of both the Jewish and Christian traditions since Biblical times. The term "Sabbath" derives from the Hebrew "Shabbat" which means "to cease". When I was a kid everyone looked forward to Sunday. It was a day that you weren't required to do a lot of things. Most of the stores were closed and traffic was extremely light in marked contrast to the hustle and bustle we had to endure the rest of the week. But in the name of "progress" the pressure to repeal the old "blue" laws that restricted Sunday sales in many states began to rear its ugly head.  I remember all of the arguments. For one thing we were told that no one would be required to work on Sundays. It would all be purely voluntary. Yeah, right. We were also fed the line that retailers would only be open for a few hours on Sundays. Initially, most retailers opened from 12:00 to 5:00 but over the years the hours have gradually expanded to the point where Sunday is just another regular business day. And yes, people are now required by most employers to work on Sunday. I have turned down a couple of pretty good jobs myself over the years because of this requirement. Sunday sales laws have also given rise to expanded business hours during the rest of the week. Allowing Sunday sales has also had a negative impact on many family-owned small businesses who are placed at a competitive disadvantage when big-box retailers are allowed to open on Sundays. I will contend until the day that I die that allowing retailers to open on Sunday and the subsequent emergence of the "24/7" economy have had an extremely negative impact on family life in this nation. I see the evidence of this everywhere I turn. Is this really the way most of us want to live??? Would you change it if you could? Think about it!

In March 2010 author Judith Shulevitz's "The Sabbath World: Glimpses of A Different Order Of Time" was released. I have not read the book yet but according to the product description the author makes an impassioned case for the idea of restoring the Sabbath in some way, shape or form to our society. According to Shulevitz "the Sabbath is not just the holy day of rest. It's also a utopian idea about a less pressured, more sociable, purer world."  I completely concur. You need not be religious to see the wisdom of observing a Sabbath. She goes on to say "If everyone has to stop working, then they have to, sort of, pay attention to their family, to themselves, to their community".  I could not have said it better. In my view society has paid a very hefty price for allowing shopping on Sundays all in the name of convenience. In addtion to the negative impact on families a 2008 study by economists Jonathan Gruber of MIT and Daniel Hungerman of the University of Notre found that "repealing America's blue laws not only decreased church attendance, donations and spending, but it also led to a rise in alcohol and drug use among people who had been religious."  Having said all that repeal of Sunday sales laws or the establishment of a weekly day of rest is not likely to happen during my lifetime. There are very powerful interests at both ends of the political spectrum (Chamber of Commerce, ACLU) that would vehemently oppose such a notion. Furthermore, since Sunday is considered to be a working day in most Muslim countries as well as in Israel it would be very tricky to settle on one particular day of the week in a multi-cultural society like our own. But I believe that it is an idea that is at least worth considering. Let me conclude with the observations of author Stephen Miller who has written another book on the subject called "The Peculiar Life of Sundays". According to Miller "It's fast becoming like other days, because of the commercialization of Sunday. We're losing a day of rest. We're sort of ‘on' all the time now. As a result I think we are losing something."   Perhaps the Puritans were onto something here. In any event, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. This could make for a very lively discussion.

SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING ON THIS TOPIC
"The Peculiar Life of Sundays" by Stephen Miller (Harvard University Press, 2008)
"The Sabbath World: Glimpses of A Different Order of Time" by Judith Shulevitz (Random House, 2010)
]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Sunday_Sales-124-1685147-198559-Sundays_just_aren_t_that_special_anymore_.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Sunday_Sales-124-1685147-198559-Sundays_just_aren_t_that_special_anymore_.html Tue, 4 Jan 2011 23:03:54 +0000
<![CDATA[ The jig is up......look at what is happening in Wisconsin and Ohio!]]> "Well, it's sundown on the union
And what's made in the USA
Sure was a good idea
'Til greed got in the way." ----from "Union Sundown"  a song by Bob Dylan from "Infidels" (1985)


Even an ultra liberal artist like Bob Dylan came to the conclusion quite some time ago that for all intents and purposes most unions have outlived their usefulness.  As far as I am concerned this is especially true with the public sector unions.  We live in an era of bloated bureaucracies at all levels of government where public employees now earn substantially higher salaries and astronomically higher benefits than the rest of us who toil in the real world of private industry.  According to the latest available statistics (2008) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics the typical federal worker is paid 20% more than a private-sector worker in the same occupation.  Furthermore, these salary figures do not include the value of health, pension and other benefits, which averaged $40,785 per federal employee in 2008 vs. $9,882 per private worker, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  Add in other goodies like generous vacation time and sick days that you can accumulate ad infinitum and provisions that allow these people to retire in their 40's and 50's and you can well understand why this country is going to hell in a handbasket.  In addition, many government plans offer retirees fully paid health insurance for themselves and their families for the rest of their lives!  And guess what?  These folks are too young to retire so they are often competing with the rest of us for what few good jobs there are out there.  They can tell the potential employer that they do not need health insurance.  Wonder who will get the job?  And the problem has been exacerbated considerably by the inane policies of President Obama and the irresponsible Democratic Congress over the past couple of years.  This is a train wreck waiting to happen with unfunded pension liabilites that cities, states and the federal government will simply be unable to meet.  Is there any way out of this mess?

I believe that the country took a big step forward in 2010 with the emergence of the grassroots Tea Party movement and by electing a whole lot more conservatives to the Congress and to state legislatures all over this nation.  The electorate seems to be way ahead of the curve on these issues and are desperately looking for leadership.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has become an emerging conservative hero, mostly by standing up for fiscal sanity in the Garden State.  Almost immediately upon taking office he passed significant benefits and pension reform.  Now public workers must contribute to their own health care.  Welcome to the real world folks!  We need more leaders like Chris Christie to stand up to the unions and demand concessions because at the end of of the day most of these union members are not going to get what they have been promised.  The money is simply not there so the government unions should be realistic and try to strike the best deal they can.

Did you know that as we approach 2011 only about 16% of private industry workers have a pension?  Most of us now must rely on our 401(k) plan where absolutely nothing is guaranteed.  The rest of us in this country are tired of paying for pensions for government employees when we don't have one ourselves.  It's too bad that this has turned into an "us vs. them" situation but the American people have made it perfectly clear that we can no longer afford these outlandish benefits that government employees now recieve.  And if our leaders fail to respond in the next couple of years then rest assured that there will be another wave of Tea Party conservatives elected in 2012.  We can no longer afford to wait.  The time for action is NOW!

For an interesting illustrated history of government employee unions please see the wiki.
]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Government_Employee_Unions-124-1683278-198135-The_jig_is_up_look_at_what_is_happening_in.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-Government_Employee_Unions-124-1683278-198135-The_jig_is_up_look_at_what_is_happening_in.html Wed, 29 Dec 2010 16:06:50 +0000
<![CDATA[ Corporate welfare and regulatory capture at its worst, but a few minor good points]]>
The major issues the health care reform laws were intended to tackle were the rising cost of care and rising health insurance rates.  I can tell you my family has been without health insurance for over a year because the rates were suddenly raised on us 50% from one year to the next.  There are real problems here, and real reforms are needed, but this law on the whole makes things quite a bit worse.  There are also some truly horrific parts of the bill including what I call the "Jim Crow provisions."

There are six basic parts to the bill, and four of them are bad.  The fifth is good, but undermined significantly by the other four, and the sixth doesn't go far enough.  Going through these in nearly reverse order:

On the positive side, the bill makes it significantly easier for states to create interstate compacts regarding health insurance.  This is a good thing because it allows states to negotiate with other states in creating interstate risk pools for insurance purposes, and to harmonize their laws regarding health insurance offerings generally.    Larger risk pools mean more predictable actuarial risk, so insurance margins can come down.  In theory, states reserve at least some regulatory power over insurance sold to their residents, but in practice, this has been badly damaged.

The second positive element is the emphasis on insurance exchanges, but this doesn't go far enough.  In addition insurance exchanges, i.e. gateways for insurance brokering, administrative costs could be reduced by creating consistent, state-run billing gateways, but this is not being pushed, and funds are not being made available for this.    The billing gateway is probably a bigger benefit than the exchanges, and was not a part of this set of laws, and too bad.  Personally, I'm a fan of the general idea of government-run infrastructure with private services run on top of it.

The third part of this package involves onerous new regulations on insurance companies.  Insurance companies   These involve pricing controls, mandatory rebates for periods where payouts are not high enough, etc.  The problem here is that the wrong incentives are created.  Insurance companies are under pressure to increase payouts in order to avoid costly rebates.  This is not a way to contain costs.  Also the way for insurance companies to get ahead here is to delay claims until near the end of the year and pay out the right dollar amount to avoid these rebates.  I also suspect this will decrease predictability over what is covered even further than it is today.  Allegedly the law also prevents insurance companies from cancelling coverage just because you get sick or for any other non-fraud reason, but in actuality the law hasn't changed in this area at all.

The fourth part is that of banning certain actuarial considerations such as pre-existing conditions.  Now, this seems like a good idea on the surface, but it generally means that the risk is unknown since insurance companies haven't been covering this area.  Consequently, prices will go up to compensate for unknown risk potential in addition to the risk itself.  It also necessitates the individual mandate which is poorly conceived and prone to bad incentives too.

The fifth part is the individual mandate which is designed to prevent healthy people from deferring getting insurance until they are sick or in the hospital.  The penalty is collected as if it were a tax (but probably isn't a tax as authorized by the Constitution, meaning it will be assessed under Commerce Clause and related powers), and is set to a floor (minimum of $695 per adult or half that per child, to a maximum of  3x the adult rate, or 2.5% of AGI whichever is greater) and a ceiling (the average national cost for minimal health insurance).  This means that many people will not save money by buying health insurance.   Moreover nothing prevents  one from buying inexpensive coverage and then increasing it dramatically when one gets sick.  Again, this creates the wrong incentives and the expenses will be borne by everyone.

The final and worst part of the legislation involves regulations regarding long-term care facilities.  These include onerous new restrictions ostensibly designed to prevent abuse of patients by employees.  However, the worst part of this is that the penalties that are incurred can be adjusted downward if the federal government decides that full penalties would harm minorities and rural communities.  This means in essence that the penalty for abusing patients in a nursing home that houses primarily black patients is lower that one in a city that houses whites.  Even at the height of Jim Crow, few states had criminal or civil codes that explicitly changed penalties based on race of the defendant.  This makes explicit the notion that minorities and rural folk are second-class citizens in our nation, and this is entirely unacceptable to me.   And while we may hope that the courts may strike down these provisions, it's not clear to me how such a challenge could take place.  After all, who is going to appeal a fine reduction?

On the whole this represents the grant of a large captive market to the insurance industry, and provides them with the wrong incentives.  Moreover the racial disparities written into the law are so severe that the few positive elements cannot matter much.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-2010_Health_Care_Reform_Bill-124-1441787-196970-Corporate_welfare_and_regulatory_capture_at_its.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/d/UserReview-2010_Health_Care_Reform_Bill-124-1441787-196970-Corporate_welfare_and_regulatory_capture_at_its.html Mon, 13 Dec 2010 18:21:01 +0000
<![CDATA[ How Do Tax Cuts (or hikes) Affect The Economy?]]>
"Our true choice...is between two kinds of deficits--a chronic deficit of inertia, as the unwanted result of inadequate revenues and a restricted economy--or a temporary deficit of transition, resulting from a tax cut designed to boost the economy, produce revenues, and achieve a future budget surplus.  The first type of deficit is a sign of waste and weakness--the second reflects an investment in the future."

What else did this supply-side politician have to say?

"It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today, and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the tax rates...economy restrained by high tax rates will never produce enough revenue to balance the budget, just as it will never create enough jobs or profits."

Who was this obviously conservative fiscal policy-maker?  None other than President John F. Kennedy.  He went on to cut tax rates and stimulate the economy.  Imagine that...Reagan took a play out of the Kennedy play-book that created a twenty-five year boom to our economy.  But is all goes back to a bold move on Kennedy's part to cut tax rates.  Will Obama be smart (prudent) enough to recognize the wisdom in Kennedy's words?  We shall see.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/cause/UserReview-Bush_Tax_Cuts-124-1670828-194235-How_Do_Tax_Cuts_or_hikes_Affect_The_Economy_.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/cause/UserReview-Bush_Tax_Cuts-124-1670828-194235-How_Do_Tax_Cuts_or_hikes_Affect_The_Economy_.html Tue, 23 Nov 2010 20:47:52 +0000
<![CDATA[ If You Are Not Outraged, You Are Not Paying Attention!]]>
So are we targeting people that look, act and believe the way the terrorists that attacked us looked, acted and believed?  No...we are strip searching kids, like this one:



Are you kidding me?

Ben Franklin said  "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."  Submitting to pat-down searches (a violation of the Fourth Amendment) without probable cause, or at least reasonable suspicion is inexcusable.  Some people might suggest that flying is not a natural right, that it is a privilege.  I would not argue that point, and would agree that metal detectors and property scanners are not that invasive.  Strip searches, vigorous pat-downs and x-ray body scanners, however, are a complete violation of what American liberty stands for.  We have given up our essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety.

And we do this why?  Well, TSA and President Obama suggest that it is all the underwear bomber's fault.  Okay, let's dissect that, if this is the reason we are being given.  Most security experts agree that the body scanners being used would not have detected the underwear bomber's bomb.  Whether you agree with that assessment or not, it is an opinion held by many experts in the field.  But why rely on an intrusive device that violates the Fourth Amendment Rights of US citizens?  The other thing we know about the underwear bomber is that he had visited Yemen, his father had alerted US intelligence agencies to his propensities, and he purchased a one-way ticket to the United States with cash.  All of this on a questionable passport.  I don't know how we missed that...but a few things are clear.  The flight originated outside the United States, meaning our invasive measures mean nothing for this type of attack.  Also, the suspect was in Yemen, paid cash and purchased a one-way ticket.  That is what many people might call "a clue."

So why are we invading the privacy of so many Americans and turning our airports into a police state?  Because President Bush presided over an alarming expansion of police powers at the airports with the introduction of TSA.  TSA has grown to an obese bureaucracy that is incapable of introspection.  It is an over-sized beast that can only pursue knee-jerk reactions (over-reactions?) to any set of circumstances.  We need to streamline our efforts and start calling a spade a spade.  If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...it is probably a duck.  So why are grandma and junior getting strip searched, having their colostomy bags spilled all over them, or being forced to pull out prosthetic breasts for examination, when the threat is mostly external?  

The answer is simple.  We are asleep at the wheel.  We need to take back our Fourth Amendment Rights and force change.  We need to hold our elected officials accountable for this incredible violation of the United States Constitution and demand that the process change.  We need to shrink or privatize TSA and start pursuing the terrorists on their home turf.  We need to profile travelers and conduct investigations before they ever get on a plane.  We already know what to look for.  How about start looking for the indicators and stop with the window dressing.  Because that is all TSA is.  A giant smoke screen to make it appear we are safer.  We are not.  The fact that the underwear bomber made it on a plane with his background in an already tight security environment should be evidence enough.

Let's stop the madness.  ]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/organization/UserReview-Transportation_Security_Administration-124-1670250-194083-If_You_Are_Not_Outraged_You_Are_Not_Paying.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/organization/UserReview-Transportation_Security_Administration-124-1670250-194083-If_You_Are_Not_Outraged_You_Are_Not_Paying.html Sun, 21 Nov 2010 15:30:49 +0000
<![CDATA[ You've been robbed (big time)!]]>
There have been many talks about this topic in the business world, be it from the academics, business leaders, employers, employees, real estate agents, or even children. Everyone knows inflation is an evil in one's life. It exists whether you like it or not. The point is you can't eradicate it, you can only hope to cope with it. The question then is, are you coping well under high inflationary environment?




The U.S. is attempting to export inflation to the entire world. Not only are Americans having to deal with inflation, the rest of the world has to deal with it even on a larger scale. Printing money as U.S. did the last two years have blown the problem of inflation out of proportion in the world. You do not have to know any economics to know this. Clearly, for all of us out there in the world, money is getting more and more worthless. How can it not be when Gold has reached a high of almost US$1400 an ounce now? When you go out shopping for groceries, they cost more and more and the same amount of money now brought home less food!

Many countries in Africa are dealing with inflationary rates which we hope we will never ever hear about. That appears to be just their problems, not ours. Or is that true? Is country which is not having low growth not dealing with it? Clearly NOT! Take for example, in Singapore and Hong Kong (and also China), the official inflation rate may appear normal, yet we all know rentals and real estates have skyrocketed to all time high and although business appear to be good, more and more people are feeling poor. A few rich are controlling what's happening in the country, as with the U.S. 



I'm not for a socialist country, but when your country is drifting apart because the gap between the rich and poor is so big that almost 80-90% of people feel poor, then something clearly is very wrong, regardless of what the data says. When businesses that have been operating at a profit for last 10-20 years are closing down because they are no longer worth the effort of operating, then it is easy to foresee that this is the beginning of fallout between reality and sustainability. Governments need to find ways to deal with not only those who have and those who have nots, they also need to maintain a balance between the employed and the unemployed (be it due to circumstances or voluntarily). No, it is definitely not an easy issue to deal with, but the sooner the leaders deal with them and make difficult decisions, the better it is for the world. If not, it is not difficult to conclude that in near future, we will see strikes, disruptions and even social upheavals in many regions in the world. Having 90%+ of the population feel poor and unable to cope is a dangerous situation. Having 70% of the world feel hopeless, that's the real disaster of the century!

Considering the trend we are seeing now, with regard to assets and hot moneys floating in and out of different countries, exporting inflation by the Obama Administration is a very dangerous strategy. It will not work to the advantage of the American people, it will further harm the balance in the rest of the world. It is therefore not difficult to foresee that we will have troubles in very near future. Inflation is not a necessary evil; it is an evil which if not controlled will prove to be the downfall of men! The world is now in a precarious situation, should U.S. $ devalues around the world, be ready for bloodshed!


(This review is being nominated for Lunch Award! A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who nominated & voted!!!)]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/business/UserReview-Inflation-124-1453266-193254-You_ve_been_robbed_big_time_.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/business/UserReview-Inflation-124-1453266-193254-You_ve_been_robbed_big_time_.html Sat, 6 Nov 2010 09:25:02 +0000
<![CDATA[Ronald Reagan Quick Tip by TheJohn]]> http://www.lunch.com/thatsbeat/reviews/actor/UserReview-Ronald_Reagan-138-1066007-165855.html http://www.lunch.com/thatsbeat/reviews/actor/UserReview-Ronald_Reagan-138-1066007-165855.html Sat, 25 Sep 2010 03:08:16 +0000 <![CDATA[Richard Nixon Quick Tip by TheJohn]]> http://www.lunch.com/thatsbeat/reviews/politician/UserReview-Richard_Nixon-138-1010833-165853.html http://www.lunch.com/thatsbeat/reviews/politician/UserReview-Richard_Nixon-138-1010833-165853.html Sat, 25 Sep 2010 03:06:15 +0000 <![CDATA[George W. Bush Quick Tip by TheJohn]]> http://www.lunch.com/thatsbeat/reviews/politician/UserReview-George_W_Bush-138-1010458-165852.html http://www.lunch.com/thatsbeat/reviews/politician/UserReview-George_W_Bush-138-1010458-165852.html Sat, 25 Sep 2010 03:05:12 +0000 <![CDATA[ Is O'Donnell the "whacko" that the liberal media is working so hard to make her out to be?]]> First, it is important to note that; a political “seismic” event took place on September 14, 2010, as Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell beat Rep. Mike Castle for the Republican senate nomination in Delaware. Whether or not she is elected to the office, she stands as the prime example of how 8 Tea Party candidates have won seats in races where the Republican Party establishment was backing another candidate. This is huge! There are only 38 days until the election and O’Donnell has the ability to keep her momentum going, so it is not inconceivable that she could win in a very “blue” state, remember Scott Brown’s victory of Ted Kennedy’s seat!!! 
 
I am amazed at how hard the liberal media is going after O’Donnell, this is with more intensity than they used to go after Sarah Palin!  It will be interesting to see if these “strong arm” tactics will wind up backfiring and actually helping to elect her.  In the polls thus far she is 15% points behind.  Regardless of her personal political future, I observe the following political conditions taking place in merica.
 
There are very passionate voters in America that are not willing to accept the status quo and are actively seeking to change politics in Washington. The GOP leadership better understand that if they try to “politically control” or pressure these candidates they could very quickly loose the support of this very impassioned group of voters! 
 
Although I am a fiscal conservative, I have not attended any Tea Party events. However, as an astute observer of politics I am very interested in how this burgeoning Tea Party has the potential to change the current political landscape in Washington. Now that the primary elections are over, I think it is important for Americans to understand the power that the Tea Party candidates will have when some of them win senate seats in November.
 
I find that these Tea Party candidates are getting people out to vote for the first time!!! It is this fact that made it so hard for pollsters to predict some of these primary elections. These new voters are coming out because they finally have someone to vote for that represents their political views. This will make it increasingly difficult in November for pollsters to predict the elections and points to the possibility of an even larger change in seats for both houses. By the way, President Obama brought out a different group of new voters that swept him into office; it is remarkable how politics is changing in just two years. The Democrats will loose many of those “coattail” seats because Obama’s name is not on the ballot this November to bring out his new supporters to the polls.
 
Finally, whether Christine O’Donnell wins in November, the power of the Tea Party candidates that do win seats especially in the senate will be huge. Here is the important point, even if the GOP does not take a majority in the senate, an election of 5 or 6 Tea Party senators will mean that there will be a 54-46.  More importantly, the Tea Party Senators will erase the ability of the 2 moderate GOP senators like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins from throwing support to a democratic bill for passage.
 
This is the real power of the Tea Party; the entire Senate will be shifted to the right!!!  Hopefully, this means that our politicians will finally rein in government spending and work to decrease the deficit.
 
I look forward to that Wednesday morning in November when President Obama must stare into the TV cameras and talk about how he intends to work with Republicans to fix the economy, maybe then he will be forced to keep his campaign promise of being the “post partisan” president!
 
Tell me what you think of my analysis.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/politician/UserReview-Christine_O_Donnell-124-1615855-163479-Is_O_Donnell_the_whacko_that_the_liberal_media.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/politician/UserReview-Christine_O_Donnell-124-1615855-163479-Is_O_Donnell_the_whacko_that_the_liberal_media.html Thu, 23 Sep 2010 00:17:26 +0000
<![CDATA[Tea Party Quick Tip by MichaelN]]> http://www.lunch.com/Politics_Your_Way/reviews/d/UserReview-Tea_Party-538-1444223-162004.html http://www.lunch.com/Politics_Your_Way/reviews/d/UserReview-Tea_Party-538-1444223-162004.html Wed, 22 Sep 2010 12:30:23 +0000 <![CDATA[ Oh dear God, stop her before she opens her mouth again!]]> For those of you who have been hiding under a rock for the past couple of weeks, I'd like to introduce you to Ms. Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party candidate (under the Republican banner) for the U.S. Senate in Delaware. I hope that these photos will be enough to help you to avoid her should she ever be coming in your direction because you will surely want to do do. This woman is almost is almost indescribably stupid. Let me put it this way; she is not the sharpest knife in the drawer nor  the brightest bulb on the tree. Not only does her elevator not go all the way to the top, but although the elevator's power source appears to be on  the hamster is dead. This chick is not playing with a full deck. We'll skip the bits about  how she had "dabbled in  witchcraft" etc., and go straight to the verbal vomit that convinced me that Ms. O'Donnell is just plain dumb. While defaming President Obama in front of some group or other she agreed with another person and quoted part of the Constitution that said that the President did not have the power to bestow "TITLES OF NOBILITY" upon anyone. To whom was she referring as being a "noble"? The Energy CZAR!!!! The expletive deleted ENERGY CZAR!!!! I give up. God save us all.

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/politician/UserReview-Christine_O_Donnell-124-1615855-162001-Oh_dear_God_stop_her_before_she_opens_her_mouth.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/politician/UserReview-Christine_O_Donnell-124-1615855-162001-Oh_dear_God_stop_her_before_she_opens_her_mouth.html Wed, 22 Sep 2010 09:18:15 +0000
<![CDATA[Christine O'Donnell Quick Tip by MichaelN]]> http://www.lunch.com/Politics_Your_Way/reviews/politician/UserReview-Christine_O_Donnell-538-1615855-161686.html http://www.lunch.com/Politics_Your_Way/reviews/politician/UserReview-Christine_O_Donnell-538-1615855-161686.html Tue, 21 Sep 2010 19:49:26 +0000 <![CDATA[Immigration Reform Quick Tip by DaTechGuy]]> http://www.lunch.com/Politics_Your_Way/reviews/d/UserReview-Immigration_Reform-538-1489730-158755.html http://www.lunch.com/Politics_Your_Way/reviews/d/UserReview-Immigration_Reform-538-1489730-158755.html Fri, 17 Sep 2010 17:14:50 +0000 <![CDATA[ A political "seismic" event has taken place, lets see what the future holds]]> First, it is important to note that; a political “seismic” event took place on September 14, 2010, as Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell beat Rep. Mike Castle for the Republican senate nomination in Delaware. Whether or not she is elected to the office, she stands as the prime example of how 8 Tea Party candidates have won seats in races where the Republican Party establishment was backing another candidate. This is huge! There are only 42 days until the election and O’Donnell has the ability to keep her momentum going, so it is not inconceivable that she could win in a very “blue” state, remember Scott Brown’s victory of Ted Kennedy’s seat!!!
 
What I observe is that there are very passionate voters in America that are not willing to accept the status quo and are actively seeking to change politics in Washington. The GOP leadership better understand that if they try to “politically control” or pressure these candidates they could very quickly loose the support of this very impassioned group of voters! 
 
Although I am a fiscal conservative, I have not attended any Tea Party events. However, as an astute observer of politics I am very interested in how this burgeoning Tea Party has the potential to change the current political landscape in Washington. Now that the primary elections are over, I think it is important for Americans to understand the power that the Tea Party candidates will have when some of them win senate seats in November.
 
I find that these Tea Party candidates are getting people out to vote for the first time!!! It is this fact that made it so hard for pollsters to predict some of these primary elections. These new voters are coming out because they finally have someone to vote for that represents their political views. This will make it increasingly difficult in November for pollsters to predict the elections and points to the possibility of an even larger change in seats for both houses. By the way, President Obama brought out a different group of new voters that swept him into office; it is remarkable how politics is changing in just two years. The Democrats will loose many of those “coattail” seats because Obama’s name is not on the ballot this November to bring out his new supporters to the polls.
 
Finally, whether Christine O’Donnell wins in November, the power of the Tea Party candidates that do win seats especially in the senate will be huge. Here is the important point, even if the GOP does not take a majority in the senate, an election of 5 or 6 Tea Party senators will mean that there will be a 54-46.  More importantly, the Tea Party Senators will erase the ability of the 2 moderate GOP senators like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins from throwing support to a democratic bill for passage.
 
This is the real power of the Tea Party; the entire Senate will be shifted to the right!!!  Hopefully, this means that our politicians will finally rein in government spending and work to decrease the deficit.
 
I look forward to that Wednesday morning in November when President Obama must stare into the TV cameras and talk about how he intends to work with Republicans to fix the economy, maybe then he will be forced to keep his campaign promise of being the “post partisan” president!
 
Tell me what you think of my analysis.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/politician/UserReview-Christine_O_Donnell-124-1615855-157953-A_political_seismic_event_has_taken_place_lets.html http://www.lunch.com/publicpolicy/reviews/politician/UserReview-Christine_O_Donnell-124-1615855-157953-A_political_seismic_event_has_taken_place_lets.html Thu, 16 Sep 2010 13:53:47 +0000