Monthly Archives: November 2012

Pro-Health Care Action: Take A Stand!

The power of the boycott remains one of, if not, the most effective tools in the market place.  Particularly when combined with a vocal campaign to let the target know that is what is going on. In fact, it is almost pointless if the target is unaware of the action, as they may get the wrong message, and make the wrong changes.  If one simply avoids shopping somewhere and a store believes that their business is suffering because they’re offering the wrong products rather than because of the policies they have put into place, then they will make the wrong changes.

It is this economic vote which is both the strongest weapon in the consumer’s arsenal and the most difficult to wield.  It requires both perseverance and a willingness to sacrifice.  Perhaps it is only a small sacrifice of a selfish desire, but in this modern world of immediate gratification, that is a difficult thing for many to do.  It is also a group effort which is generally self-enforced.  Who really knows that you haven’t shopped at that store you’re supposed to be boycotting, except for you?  And, yet…

There is a long history of boycotts, and their effectiveness is undeniable.  Business groups hate them, and over the last few years those on the right would have you believe that they are somehow immoral, wrong, or anti-American.  This is really quite ironic.  After all, what at its core is a boycott?  At its core, a boycott is a decision to choose not to shop at a particular business, period. It is a choice made based on ethical reasons, or perhaps on reasons of solidarity.  Regardless of the reason, from the standpoint of the free marketer, is it not precisely what the market is supposed to do?  The consumer is to make a choice based on whatever factors they see fit including price, location, quality, etc and purchase the products they prefer from the supplier that they choose.  Well, that is precisely what the consumer is doing.  They are including in that, what we might call the moral quality of the supplier.  In the case of a company that is being boycotted, the consumer has found that supplier to be wanting in quality.

So, I choose to boycott Chick-fil-A, as I wrote back in April, because they openly discriminate against homosexuals.  When the rest of the world caught wind of this in July, I wrote again about how franchisees benefit from corporate names, and thus have to take the penalties that come with corporate blunders and foul policies.  It was reported that Chick-fil-A had bowed to public pressure and stopped their contributions to anti-gay advocacy groups.  Dan Cathy, the CEO, however announced this was a false report.  Thus, the boycott must continue.

Now a whole other band of greedy big business-men and women have forced those of us with consciences into action.  Again, we have to expand our list of restaurants to avoid.  Honestly, many of these places for me are not too difficult.  However, a small handful,…. well, I’ll almost miss them.

“Naturally, the Left is outraged. How dare a company try to stay profitable!”

No, Twitchy.  What we are outraged by is that this is unnecessary for the company to stay profitable.  The amount that prices would have to be raised is ridiculously small, and most of us would be willing to pay it.  Most of us are not the greedy, self-centered, selfish persons that the right wants us to be.

Papa John’s Pizza founder and CEO, John Schnatter, has announced that he would begin reducing employees’ hours in order to avoid having to either provide health care benefits or pay the penalty associated with the Affordable Care Act becoming the law of the land.  The additional cost, which he would pass on to customers, amounts to approximately $0.15 to $0.20 per order.  In other words, for less than a quarter per order, the third largest pizza delivery and take out chain in America could provide health insurance to its employees.  However, rather than do so, the CEO would rather make an example of his employees, and punish them in order to make his political point.  I cannot imagine that there are very many people who would be ordering from Papa John’s restaurants who would even notice a $0.25 increase on their order, much less actually care about that increase.

As a result, Papa John’s can be sure that I will no longer be ordering from them.  This is only slightly a shame.  Their pizza isn’t that good, but it was a convenience every once in a while.

You know the beautiful irony of this?  Even Schnatter himself has already admitted that this is just greed on his part.


The Hostess With The Leastest


Yeah, so suddenly everyone cares, right?  Very few of y’all cared about Hostess, Wonder Bread, Dolly Madison, Blue Ribbon, Butternut Breads, or any of the 27 brands that were part of the Hostess Brands, Inc.  The company was in bankruptcy twice in the last 8 years.  The first time in 2004 and the second time right now, but starting January 10, 2012.  It came out of the first bankruptcy in 2009.  That means, they managed to stay out of bankruptcy for less than three years before going right back in.  Is that a successful company?  No.  And, who does the right blame for this?  The unions, of course.

It’s never management’s fault.  It’s simply astounding how this works from their perspective.  There is always someone to blame, right?  It wasn’t management’s fault that they couldn’t stay current on their $700 million loan.  It wasn’t the fact that their board members gave themselves up to 80% raises.  It wasn’t that the previous management had failed to properly plan to live up to their commitments, and the contracts they had signed, thus leaving themselves with roughly $2 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.  It wasn’t the changing conditions of the Multi-Employer Pension Plans, and overall failure of supply side economics.  It wasn’t competition.  It wasn’t a changing market.  It wasn’t that their sales were down.  (11% from 2008 to 2011, and 28% since 2004)

Nope, it’s all because 92% of a 6600 member union said, “No” to the last offer which included more pay cuts (8% immediately), fewer benefits (27-32% wage and benefit reduction overall), and the hope of maybe something more in the future.

“They’ve already took away our pension and not brought that back; and they’re not negotiating with us on anything we’d like to see negotiated,” Rocha said.

Oh, and that 6600 member union, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union?  Yeah, on its most recent bankruptcy filing, Hostess listed that union’s pension fund, the Bakery & Confectionery Union & Industry International Pension Fund, as its largest unsecured creditor at $944.2 million.

Please read that again.  Out of more than a billion dollars in liabilities, almost $1 billion of that is owed to the union that the right would have you believe is being unreasonable by refusing to accept further cuts and promises of future compensation.  In other words, the group to which Hostess already owes nearly $1,000,000,000 said, “No, we will not extend you any more credit.”

Let me pause for a moment.  I would like you to consider this situation in full.  Consider all of these facts.  Take a moment or three to read through the links provided and any more that you may stumble upon or go looking for.  After you have done that, ask yourself these questions.

Why? Why would the union members have any faith in the management’s ability to lead the company out of a second bankruptcy and into a better position?  Why should they be willing to trust that giving up the now for a promise of the future would be a smart move, when the company isn’t even making good on the previous commitments they’ve made?

Do you continue to trust someone who has betrayed you over and over again?  Is that not why you enter into a contract?  Would you continue to trust someone who has lied and stolen from you?  Better question, would you enter into another contract with someone who has repeatedly broken contracts with you and is massively in debt to you already?

Strictly from a business perspective, what is going to happen here?  Hostess has asked the judge presiding over their bankruptcy for permission to liquidate their assets.  As a result, assuming the judge grants the request which is highly likely, the brand names will be sold off, and most of them will reappear on store shelves.  Likely they will be purchased, lock, stock and barrel, by Grupo Bimbo (the world’s largest bakery group, owner of Entenmann’s) or Yucaipa Companies (an investment firm out of LA), both of which have previously tried to buy Hostess in 2007.  They may wind up splitting the spoils, much like Bain Capital or any other vulture capitalists.

So, then what?  Well, then, all those employees who have been out of work will likely go back to work.  At least the vast majority of them.  And, thanks to the union, they will have had some help getting through the lean times.  Thanks to a strong union, because that is one thing that a union is able to do.

Yay!! It’s over! Oh, wait…

Ah, isn’t that cute?  Kittens!  Yay!  It’s over!

Unpack your kittehs!

Except, it’s never really over!

One of the great sources of frustration to non-Christians is the compartmentalization of the respectable, honorable and decent teachings of that religion from the daily lives of so many.  We see that they go to church on Sunday and maybe Wednesday, and then the rest of the week, they lie, cheat, steal, molest children, commit rapes, murder, and all sorts of mayhem that are completely divorced from their supposed beliefs.  While some of this is certainly attributable to “being human”, there is a pattern of behavior that is not.  It is not my purpose or the purpose of this space to attack any religion or to draw out the laundry list of supporting evidence for this.  The point is that we, as a country, tend to do the same thing with our politics.

We allow it to go unwatched for long periods of time, and as we do, we get more and more distressing government in place.  When the cat’s away, the mice will play, no?  We pay attention only at times of crises or around elections.  Do we remember last January when the SOPA/PIPA fight came up and there was an internet blackout?  As I wrote the following week, it is an ongoing battle, not a one day action.  The same is true of all politics.

Okay, so the Presidential preference poll took place on November 6th.  Fantastic!  You went out and voted?  Bravo!  Brava!  I am proud of you!  I thank you for being a responsible and contributing member of our society.  You are part of less than 50% of the eligible voting population with any claim to being patriotic, in my eyes. My eldest son participated in his first.  We also had Senators, Congressmen, state legislators, judges, county officials, city officials, state constitutional amendments, county referenda, etc.  The Presidential election wasn’t the only one on the ballot.  It was only the most highly publicized.

Did your guy win?  Congratulations.  He was marginally better than the likely alternative.  Mine didn’t, but I knew he wouldn’t.  He was completely ignored by the press.  That is a crucial factor in the election process.  In fact, all of the alternate candidates were effectively shut out of the process by the media.  When the most well known of the bunch, Jill Stein, attempted to attend one of the main presidential debates, she was arrested, you really have significant issues in this country.

Politics is not something that we can engage in at election time and then disengage from the rest of the time.  My son said to me the same thing that many people have said, “I don’t feel like I should really vote because I’m not educated enough on all of the issues.”  During the lead up to the election he took one of the “Who is your candidate?” online tests.  It told him that Jill Stein was his candidate.  As we were discussing it, he told me that there were many questions that he didn’t answer because he either didn’t care or didn’t know about the issues.  I wonder how many people did the same.

I also discussed this same test with another friend.  In that case though, he had taken the test after researching candidates for himself.  He was given a different result than the conclusion he had reached for himself.  He was questioning himself.  I suggested that rather than questioning his own research and conclusions, perhaps he should question the website, its conclusions and possible bias.

In both cases, they were making efforts to educate themselves, which is more than a lot of people can say!!  Too many people simply vote based on party lines, without any thought.

We cannot just cram for the election as though it were a high school test.  This is something we have to stay at least a bit more than peripherally on top off all the time.  Constantly there are issues going on that will impact our daily lives to smaller or larger degrees.  What those things are will vary from moment to moment, but they are constant.  The biggest in the news right now is the so-called “Fiscal Cliff”.  That is the impending sequestration that was agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011 on August 2, 2011.  How will it be resolved?  Will a deal be reached?  Will the Republicans continue to hold the middle class hostage in order to continue to give tax breaks to the wealthiest among us?  Do you care?  Are you paying attention?


To Vote or Not To Vote?

I made freedom count
On Friday, I cast my early vote.  As promised, I cast my vote for Rocky Anderson.  Not as a write in though, because he did get on the ballot in Florida which means he will get more votes than he otherwise would.  This is a good thing, but does not significantly change the outcome of the election.

The effects of early voting are important, and certainly make it easier for voters to find time to get to the polls.  However, it does not appear to actually increase voter participation.  This is a shame, but is sadly predictable.  America, for all our claims of being a staunch democracy loving people, are not and never have been strongly devoted to participating in that democracy.  By and large, we are really a nation of whiners.  (Ack!  Did I just question another great American myth?!  Aye, I did.)  We love to complain, but when it comes to actually solving the problems, well, lets let someone else see about that, shall we?  Oh, wait!  What about those damn inconvenient facts again?

Between 1960 and 1995, there were 38 other democracies (of various forms) around the world that had higher voter participation rates than America’s 48% average.  You know, such renowned democracies as Poland (51%), Czech Republic (85%), Argentina (83%) and Malta (94%).

We are constantly pushing to increase our voter turnout, and yet, honestly, we have always had very low voter participation.  By combining data from the US Census Bureau’s 1980 report Nonvoting Americans and The American Presidency Project, we can construct a picture that, while accurate, is really not flattering.  American voter participation in presidential elections, even when limited to a very small group of extremely privileged individuals, was, well, to be blunt, piss poor.  It’s even worse in non-presidential elections.  We have no data for elections prior to 1828, but for those elections between 1828 and 1864 the average voter participation rate was 27.01% of the eligible population.  That is not of all Americans.  That is of those eligible to vote.  When we look at the winner and percentage that he won of the vote, the average president during this period was preferred by only 13.44% of the eligible population that chose to express themselves at the ballot.  That’s really pathetic.

The period following the Civil War from 1868 to 1916 was not much better, with an average participation rate of 33.4%, giving the victor a mandate from only 18.8% of eligible voters.

We are essentially in the heyday of our voting right now.  This is a sad, sad statement, and yet, since 1920, our voter participation has been 42.5% and above which is higher than at any time before 1920.  The average is 54.5%, and the victor averages 29.15% approval from eligible  voters on Election Day.

While those are still pathetic numbers, they do represent a trend higher than when we started this country.

So, why don’t people vote?  Lack of interest, turned off by the negativity, too much effort, for some they can’t get to the polling stations at given times, etc.  For some, they just don’t care, and nothing is going to change that.

It has been suggested that Election Day should be a national holiday.  I would absolutely support that!  This really gets back to one of the core issues that we have.  It may be a more wide spread issue in Western culture.  I believe it is, but I’ll confine myself to speaking to only Americans on this.  We are all too quick to scream for our rights, and far too slow to recognize our responsibilities.  We see this in so many aspects of our daily lives, but specifically in relation to our civic lives, we demand our constitutional rights to free speech, freedom to bear arms, freedom of religion, right to a trial by jury, etc, and yet we shirk our responsibilities so quickly and as much as possible.

Very few of us are eager to serve jury duty.  When we get the summons, it is a burden.  Instead of recognizing and accepting that it is the responsibility that comes with the right to a trial by jury.  It is the necessary duty that some members of our society must be constantly filling in order that those rights be fully granted.  Instead of reveling in our right to vote and seeing it as a duty, a privilege or an honor, almost half of us see it as a burden to be avoided.


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