Friday, September 16, 2011

Is Osama bin Laden Dead? Investigating the Grand Conspiracy

Al-Qaeda Agents?

As you may know, there are some who doubt Osama bin Laden was actually killed. They doubt that there were any pictures of the body which was dumped in the sea, an act far too convenient for them.

There is a similar controversy growing over the killer whale which killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau. Her family wants to keep the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration from releasing photos or videos of the death to the public.

How do we know there are pictures if they aren't released? How can the autopsy report be trusted? For all we know, Dawn Brancheau was killed by Osama bin Laden, and this crime is being covered up and blamed on the innocent killer whale.

Read more here.

In any case, I don't believe the Republicans would fail to use the lack of evidence of a dead Osama bin Laden against a Democrat president if there was any chance it was true. That we buried his body at sea in accordance with his religion (which he was bad at following) and didn't bring it back home to use for bragging rights just goes to show the moral superiority of the USA. We treat our enemies better than they would treat us because we're America. We'll disregard that my first impulse would have been to make hacky sacks out of his nuts, and perhaps, post pictures of his incredibly small penis on a Flickr account so that the world could get a good laugh. That would be wrong, and I'm glad America chose to not keep around a decaying dead bastard that more bastards would have probably come to reclaim.

The fact that opposing members of our representative government can verify that the Navy SEAL raid did in fact occur and take out America's Most Wanted is good enough for me. It's at least as good as seeing a photo or video (either of which could be doctored) or having been there myself. Of course, eyewitness testimony is unreliable so why should I believe myself about stuff I've seen?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ben Franklin's On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, 1776

In his time, government controls forbade the export and set prices on the crop of corn farmers. Franklin's outrage was surely righteous on this issue. Being given a limited market and prevented from selling the product at the desired price, the farmers were forced sell the fruits of their labor at prices below what they should have earned in the market. Supposedly, this was so that poor consumers could afford the product; however, Franklin claims similar measures were not made in other markets. I doubt there is anyone who would not be upset at this.

He then proceeds to lambaste the poor of America for being lazy, drunk, and ungrateful. Reasonably, this makes Franklin appear to be a grouchy old-man with a, "Hey you kids, get off my lawn," mentality. After all, how dare the poor not come up to him each day and give their thanks to him. Such a rant would seem unbecoming of someone of his intellect, yet things were different then. How does his rant hold up today?

"There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many alms-houses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor."

It certainly seems that in his day, the poor and unfortunate were better cared for than today. Nowadays, none but the ultra-rich can afford serious health care without health insurance. Yes, there are clinics available; however, treatment for serious ailments is still beyond the means of the uninsured to afford. Most care will be limited to dealing with the deadly repercussions of not being able to afford the care that would have prevented catastrophe in the first place.

It also seems unlikely that the rich of today would urge Congress to pass a law that would tax them for the benefit of the poor. According to the modern Tea Party, that is the sort of thinking that would be the most wrong.

"I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it."

This does seem pretty common sense to me. I imagine that this does to everyone. However, given that he wanted to "do good" to the poor, it is illogical to conclude that he felt letting them starve and die in an environment with no jobs would have been Franklin's desire. If only temporary until such a time as conditions for employment change, such care for the unfortunate could not be objected to be Franklin.

One thing is certain, simply letting the poor be without assistance or guidance as most conservatives today should be done would not match Franklin's desire to actively lead or drive the poor out of poverty. Inaction is never leading.

It's likely many will say that if social security had existed during Franklin's time, this would be his argument against it:
"The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness."

With the slow death of the American economy that is ongoing today and with the majority of jobs paying wages so low that meaningful saving is impossible, Franklin's idea that a program such as Social Security should not exist is certainly outdated.

Instead of applying Franklin's desire as to how social protections should work while in an economic model that is vastly different from what existed while he lived, it would be better, and the only logical goal, to instead make today's economy into something in which Franklin's desired type of social protection could work. That economic model requires that jobs be available and that those jobs actually pay a wage that allows saving to be made for the future. That certainly doesn't exist today.

I have no doubt that, if Franklin were to meet today anyone trying to apply his comments on the economy then to the economy now, he would tie that person to a kite and send them up to meet a storm.

Here is a link to Ben Franklin's On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, 1776.

Note: The above link is provided by the Claremont Inst. which excluded Thomas Paine (among others) and his works. By means of excluding disagreeing Founding Fathers and/or excluding certain writings, it uses false assertions to claim that the Founders unanimously endorsed certain ideas.

Fight Socialism by Recognizing It

According to the Tea Party definition of socialism, our police, fire departments, schools, social security, medicare, medicaid, any proposed universal health care, and our military are all socialist. Everyone pays a different level of taxes for them, yet everyone gets equal benefit of them. By Tea Party logic, they all need to be privatized because they're all evil socialism!

What is socialism actually? It's where the workers control the means of production, almost as if the workers own stocks in their employer and are encouraged to work harder because they receive economic benefits of their hard work! The horror! Or, state socialism which is where the state has ownership of all businesses (basically, communism)? Why, that sounds exactly the same as me working in a capitalist economy and then paying taxes so that the government can exist and provide a service to me, such as police, firefighting, or health care! Wait, that sounds completely different from socialism! That's capitalism and having a government instead of anarchy!

So, the Tea Party, pretty much all Republicans, and heck - most liberals don't know what they're talking about when they talk about socialism. They just use it as a label to slap on anything their (puppet)masters say.

Recognizing actual socialism is the best weapon for fighting for it.

What are the warning signs of socialism?
  1. Forbidding private ownership of the means of production, giving the workers equal ownership of the means of production, and then requiring equal pay for each worker regardless of their contribution.
  2. Having the state control all industry and forbidding private ownership of the means of production.
  3. A violent overthrow of government where the ruling rich capitalists and/or aristocrats are slaughtered, and the poor take over in order to create a socialist society (Marxism). In this case, the administrators of the socialist society may become the new ruling class. In essence, becoming the enemy they hated.
What isn't socialism?
  1. When a government gives loans to private businesses so that they can stay in business and help protect the economy from increased unemployment.
  2. Providing citizens of a capitalist society with desired services (that apply equally to each citizen) paid for by taxes, services such as police, firefighters, a military, education, health care, retirement savings, unemployment insurance, and roads. However in the case where someone may say some (but not all) of these services are socialist because they provide each citizen with equal availability of such services, it must be recognized that each such service would be equally socialist. In such a case, a person would be saying, "I only like the socialism that benefits me, not others."
Do we really want a military that only protects the sovereignty of the citizens that can afford its services? For some, that would be a more economical small government. However, that is not the United States that our Founding Fathers envisioned.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Welfare Fraud

Welfare fraud is a problem. A number of individuals spend their government assistance money on inappropriate activities and then complain that they don't have money for their kids, school, housing, and food. I've had the misfortune to hear a few of these people complain about it in person. This fraud is both stealing as well as depriving those in real need of the aid they need.

The solution is to audit recipients, either at scheduled times or randomly several times a year. The recipient will need to present receipts (or other proof) detailing their expenditures. Any income unaccounted for will be considered inappropriate. Failure to show appropriate handling of assistance money will result in a probationary period of reduced aid with improvement required to remain on assistance.

Not only may this encourage responsibility and frugality, the auditing system will root fraud and inappropriate use of aid in ways that drug testing welfare recipients won't. For one, drug testing doesn't show who spent the money on the drugs. Two, 98% of welfare recipients passed their drug screenings when it was implemented in Florida, meaning that the tests wasted the time of 98% of those involved. Three, although there will be a cost to the auditing, just like there is for drug screening, this will employ auditors willing to work for the fees that welfare recipients can afford. Also, I'm suggesting a quick and expedient audit of monthly income and spending, not an in-depth tax year audit that you may get from the IRS.

While I will admit that random drug testing of welfare recipients may be beneficial in fighting fraud, I'm opposed to the up front drug testing of those who apply, just as I am to drug testing job applicants. It all comes down to accusing people of being addicts and criminals without cause. However, Florida's implementation of drug testing welfare applicants has resulted in 98% of the people passing and will cost the state $178 million over the year in the form reimbursing those who passed. That's a lot more than the $1.5 million Fox News report said welfare recipients in Florida spent on trips to Disney.

All in all, auditing those on welfare to make sure they actually need the help and aren't spending money meant for their kids on booze seems like common sense. In addition, knowing audits will happen can encourage people who may not be good at handling money to become better at keeping track of their spending. It seems like common sense, but we'll need someone (or some people) who can implement it fairly and effectively. It does little good (or more harm than good) if the cost of fighting fraud is more than the actual cost of fraud.