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Monday, November 19, 2012

R.I.P. Hostess

I have a decent collection of old comic books, many from the 1970s that were passed down by my dad. Some of the most common advertisements in these comics, aside from the ads for X-ray specs and BB guns, were ads featuring superheroes pacifying villains by giving them Hostess snacks. It's classic Americana.

What's sad is that, in the era when these ads were current, childhood obesity was not a large-scale issue. Michelle Obama would have nothing to complain about. Teaching middle school, at least a third of my students are overweight. (I can't talk on that issue, but let's not go there.) In the 1970s and 1980s, kids were, on average, much leaner. I was the chubby kid in middle school, but I'd be about average in a modern classroom. Of course, we spent a lot of time outside in those days, playing football in the street, climbing trees, and shooting walnuts at each other in the backyard with home-made slingshots. These are, of course, things many parents are far too cautious to allow modern children to do.

Still, Hostess wasn't shut down for health reasons. It closed because of a poor economy and the refusal of the bakers' union to make any concessions. Instead of taking a pay cut of a few percent, they decided to force everyone, even members of other unions, to lose 100 percent. That was smart, wasn't it?

Now, I'm not anti-union by any means. I belong to a union, albeit a rather ineffective one, and staunchly support the right of workers to bargain cooperatively. However, the bakers' union failed to address one critical component in its decision-making: reality. Hostess was already going through bankruptcy proceedings. Add in Obamacare expenditures (most companies are having to pay a lot more for health care under the new legislation), and you're going to have to cut costs somewhere. There is greater competition in the current market. Store brands, Little Debbie, all have cut into Hostess' revenue stream. Add to that the effects of increased fuel costs (you have to deliver the goods) and a lousy economy, and Hostess was simply forced to either cut pay  or close its doors. When the bakers' union decided to call what it assumed was a bluff, Hostess folded.

I wonder how many other beloved American companies will fold in the next few years? Will they be able to meet the demands of increased regulation, unfunded mandates, and higher taxes that President Obama has promised are in store? How many more American jobs will be lost in the foolish pursuit of socialism? With Hostess alone, we lost 18,000.

Thank you, President Obama. We now have one less company to pay your increasing tax burden. I'm guessing this will be the start of a trend. Now, I have to get to the grocery store and grab a box of Hostess Cup Cakes. I'll have my own little memorial service for them later.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Leaping Off the Cliff

President Obama is attempting to use the coming "fiscal cliff," or the enactment of a set of laws designed to drastically reduce deficit spending, as a threat to induce Congress to, you guessed it, spend more money and tax those institutions that drive the economy.

Oddly enough, what Obama's stick in this scenario is the same, from the Republican perspective, as what he's trying to get Republicans to agree to. The two parts of this fiscal cliff are:

1. Increase taxation of higher-end earners in an attempt to increase revenue.

2. Sharply reduce spending with across-the-board spending cuts.

What Obama is asking for is that Republicans agree to enact the first part of the cliff and avoid the second half. Now, I may be just a naive sap, but the second half of the cliff doesn't seem so bad from a conservative perspective. Republicans wouldn't see that as a threat. As a Republican, I'd be telling Obama to go rot in Hell. At least spending will finally be cut.

President Obama, along with most Democrats, doesn't understand much about economics. Raising taxes often reduces revenue, and lowering them raises it. It worked for G.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and John F. Kennedy. Anyone who has played Sim City knows how this works. Overtaxing causes businesses to either shut down or relocate. You can't get revenue from businesses that aren't there anymore. Case closed.

Here's a graphic of projected deficit spending, with or without the fiscal cliff legislation being enacted. The flat line in the middle represents spending exactly what we take in.

The gray area represents how far from balancing the budget we will be if we stay on the course we are currently following--massive debt. The blue area represents where we'd be if the fiscal cliff was enacted.

I'd rather see lower deficits, thank you. Of course, we'd get there even faster with a combination of spending, tax and regulation cuts. However, President Obama is unlikely to allow that route due to his rigid ideology.

Ah, screw it. Let's jump off the cliff and see what happens. How could it be worse?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Don't be a teacher!

If there is one bit of advice I can give to those thinking of going into the field of K-12 education, it is to find another profession. Don't waste another minute, another red cent pursuing this goal.

I know why you want to teach. You have a kind heart and want to benefit future generations by helping them to become intelligent and knowledgeable. You believe that you can make a difference in the lives of your students, perhaps even the neediest of students. You are a noble individual and believe society will value your nobility, that you will be allowed to use your talents and good intentions to help America's youth.

You couldn't be more wrong.

Teachers are no longer valued by society. The very government agencies you work for see you as cogs in a machine, inefficient ones at that. The classroom in which you work will never be yours; while teachers were ones the rulers of their kingdoms, they are now little better than serfs assigned to a plot of land. Your feudal lords inspect your plot daily, not to offer a helping hand but to find excuses to beat you down. If the land is dry or there is a blight killing your crops, the problem is assumed to be yours alone.

Whoever you are, you deserve a better life than that.

The worst part is that, after teaching for a few years, you become pigeon-holed into the career. I've been teaching for over a decade. My resume is a lead weight around my neck. Whenever I apply for a job, my potential employers cannot help but notice that my professional career is one-dimensional. Sure, I've worked as a freelance business analyst. Sure, I have a Master's degree in public policy. What employers see is a dozen years as a classroom educator. That makes it very difficult to get an interview.

If I had it all to do over, I'd have chosen a different path. Engineering would have been a good fit, or perhaps public administration. I would have been capable of either. Now, I'd have to tackle the challenge of entering a field as a novice near the age of forty. It isn't easy to be considered for an entry-level position in a profession at my age. Believe me; I spent all of last summer trying.

I am still seeking something new. What's sad is that I love teaching, when I'm allowed to do it. My methods have proven successful, whether or not they fit the latest research-based fad. I just got out of a meeting where we were advised to stop following a model we had been trained in and to follow a newer model. Both teaching styles are backed by a plethora of research. I guess one has picked up more momentum among those who think they can teach better than actual teachers.

After twenty years of increased micromanagement of what goes on in classrooms, our country elected a president who promises to accrue massive debt, seize the profits of those companies still making any money, and somehow improve the national economy by doing so. Apparently all of this "school improvement" hasn't made the American voter any smarter.

I got into education because of Thomas Jefferson's assertion that a republic requires an informed citizenry. Well, I'm not allowed to inform the citizenry anymore. If I spend more than ten minutes informing them, my lesson is judged as too "teacher driven." Unless they spend at least half of their time doing worksheets, I'm not doing my job.

I want to choke something.

I'm still looking for a job that will pay enough to support my family and allow me to use my talents and expertise without making them moot by scripting my every move. Any suggestions?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

How conservatives should respond to this election

Analyzing election data, a couple of salient points appear. They do not bode well for our democracy, in case you were wondering. I am beginning to believe that this race was won via massive, systemic fraud. I know, I know, it sounds like something a Gore loser would say, but hear me out. By the end of this article, I think you'll agree with me.

The Electoral Map

Take a look at the following maps, first of how the electoral college results turned out:

Now look at this map of states requiring photo I.D. to be shown at the polling place:

Green states are those in which a photo I.D. requirement is mandatory, as opposed to allowing for some other form of identification, such as recent bills, etc. Of course, without a photo I.D. there is no way to ensure that the person doing the voting is the actual person registered.

Do you notice anything? All states with a voter I.D. requirement were taken by Romney, and handily so. What does this suggest? In states where there was no way for, let's say, deceased voters to vote (or at least for someone to vote in their name), or for non-existent voters to be registered and then be used as decoys so people could vote in more than one precinct, Obama didn't stand a chance.

Notice that the Republicans are consistently in favor of both photo identification for voters and mandating that proof of citizenship be presented at the time and place of registration. Republicans are also the ones who call for regular "scrubbing" of the voter registration rolls, eliminating those who have deceased between elections and those who are not verified to be American citizens.

Democrats, on the other hand, are consistently opposed to the idea of verifying voter eligibility. Any attempt to ensure the legality of votes is considered to be an effort to suppress the minority vote, and in a certain sense this is true. After all, deceased and non-citizen voters are, hopefully, a minority. However, the claim that increasing the effort required for registration will disproportionately affect minorities is downright racist.

Think about it. To assume that requiring voters to present proof of citizenship at registration and a photo I.D. at the polls will disproportionately affect minorities, one must also assume that minorities are either less able or less willing to go through the trouble of obtaining these documents. In other words, there is an inherent assumption of laziness, disorganization, or stupidity. Such an assumption is racist on its face.

Republicans must push for laws that mandate the presentation of citizenship documents at registration and a photo identification at the polling place. This must be a consistent effort over decades, if necessary, until such laws exist in every state. The best bet is to push such legislation forward quietly during midterm elections, in the case of ballot propositions, so as to benefit from the turnout differential Republicans typically have in less-media-saturated election years.

Republicans must also push for laws that require the voter rolls to be inspected and "scrubbed" between each election cycle. This is essential. Opportunities to commit voter fraud (and yes, it is fraud when non-citizens vote) must be eliminated.

The Power of a Few Cities

The electoral college map above tells only a limited story. A much more interesting story is told when the election results are broken down by county:

As in the state-by-state map, red counties voted for Romney and blue ones voted for Obama. Geographically, it is evident that the vast majority of America wanted Romney for president. Even in most states Obama won, the geographical majority voted for Romney.

Having lived both in the San Francisco Bay Area and in a more rural area north of Sacramento, I am acutely aware that California is politically two states. The coast votes Democrat, while the interior is solidly Republican. Subtracting the votes from Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, California is a far-Right conservative state.

The same is true of Illinois, even more dramatically, as well as Florida and Pennsylvania. Were New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Oakland, Chicago, Detroit and Miami eliminated from the equation, no Democrat would ever be elected to the presidency again. Before any insane Leftist jumps to the wrong conclusion, I am not advocating violence or even the mass deportation of American citizens. Nevertheless, the disproportionate power of these urban zones is troubling, both from the Republican perspective and for the preservation of our democracy.

What has occurred in California, Michigan, and Illinois is that the lazy have acquired sufficient numbers to force the rest of the state to pay for their wants and needs. Hence, people in Gridley, California pay taxes to enable the sloth and drug addiction of people in Los Angeles. Aside from simply abandoning these states altogether, there is only one solution to this problem. Republicans must push for ballot initiatives to divide electoral votes proportionately between the candidates, especially in key states such as California and Illinois. In fact, had Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Florida, Illinois and New York been split proportionately, the final tally would have been Obama with 259 electoral votes and Romney with 276. (You can do the math yourself using figures from here.)

Thus, Republicans need to make every effort, for decades if need be, to enact proportionate electoral vote laws in these states. Every time a Democrat sweeps California, forty percent of Californians are disenfranchised. This needs to stop.

The Census

A final nail in the coffin of Democratic shenanigans would be to pass a law to the effect that only citizens are to be counted during the census, or at least that only the number of citizens will affect reapportionment. This would dramatically reduce the electoral power of high-immigration states like New York and California. Why should non-citizens, many of whom are not even here legally, enable some citizens to be over-represented? If only full-fledged citizens were factored into legislative district apportionment, the balance of power would revert to something much more accurate.

In Short...

There is still hope for America, but much work remains to be done. We cannot allow our democracy to be stolen from us. It is more important to ensure that the democratic process is still legitimate than to worry about the image we would present by making it so. Symbolism may make us feel good, but we're screwed if our republic has lost its substance.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

¿Qué diablos? (What the hell?)

Barack Obama won a second term. Tocqueville was right. Once the indolent realize they can vote themselves wealth from those who produce, the republic is over.

It was a good run, America, while it lasted.

For those of us who can see down the road, it's time to start buying food storage supplies. That includes guns, ammunition, and camping equipment. Learn to fish. Learn to hunt. Learn to forage. Skin and cook your own meat, just to make sure you know how.

We can't keep running huge debt and maintain a viable economy. There are not enough people producing to provide for those who refuse to pull their own weight. They are now a majority. We'll have to feed our own kids and the children of those who refuse to get off the couch.

It's Atlas Shrugged time. I never thought I'd live to see this day. I hoped I never would. Two states legalized recreational marijuana use. Both states have generous welfare programs. Putting two and two together, our taxes will be paying for people to smoke dope and amount to nothing. Munchies? Food stamps will buy you a bag of Hot Cheetos.

One possible reaction? All of us who are tired of feeding the leeches could simply quit and do as they do. With nobody to pay taxes, the freebies would necessarily end. Then we could pick up the pieces and start over. As despondent as I am now, it's the only solution I can see.

I have some election data to analyze. We may not have lost the majority, but simply the legitimacy of our democracy. I'll get back to you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wait... There's a Mexican in this race? Why Mitt Romney would be our first Mexican-American president

It's election day, the day our nation celebrates its greatest sacrament, the renewal of our democracy.(Okay, we're a republic, but we elect our representatives democratically.) Much ado has been made of having our first African-American president, and perhaps we were right to celebrate that aspect of things. Granted, I'd have hoped for a better individual to make that milestone, but at least we can say we've done it. Fait accompli, as it were.

Still, I wish we had elected someone of the caliber of a Colin Powell, Condi Rice, or even Alan Keyes. Okay, I threw Keyes in there because I voted for him in two Republican primaries, but any rational thinker must admit that he would have been a much better FBP (First Black President) than Barack Obama. He certainly would have done more to defeat stereotypes about the way African-Americans see their place in society.

Now we have the opportunity for another couple of historic accomplishments. We could, by electing Mitt Romney, elect both our first Mormon president and our first Mexican-American president.

Yes, I said Mexican-American.

Sure, Romney's a guero (Spanish for white guy), but his dad was born in Mexico, making him as Mexican-American as any other child of Mexican immigrants. You see, Mexico isn't a race; it's a country. There are Black, White, Native American, and Oriental Mexicans, just as there are U.S. citizens of all of those races. Granted, most Mexicans are mestizos, mixed-heritage people with Spanish and Aztec or Mayan roots. Sure, the Romneys moved to Mexico as the result of fleeing religious persecution, but there are still plenty of Romneys living in Mexico today.

Okay, you say, hold on a minute. His dad may be from Mexico, but that doesn't mean he was a real Mexican. Let's try that logic out to see how well it works. If an Asian immigrant to the United States has a child here, is that child not a real American? Well of course he is, we all chime in. So how is Romney's case different?

I think it would gall racists on both sides of the aisle to consider Mitt Romney our first Mexican-American president. Liberal racists define Mexicans as brown people with thick accents who are underprivileged and in need of social services. Right wing racists define Mexicans as drug-running border jumpers. Neither of those definitions fit Mitt Romney, making his "Mexicanity" a difficult thing for racists to wrap their tiny minds around.

Here's hoping I awaken tomorrow to news that we've elected out first Mexican-American president.

¡Viva Mitt Romney!