Friday, February 25, 2011

Regrowing the Niagara Frontier

From the 28 February 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

Green is the buzzword of the 21st century. Businesses and governments everywhere endeavor to pursue green practices in an effort to preserve Earth’s fragile natural world and her limited resources. A lot of people try to live green as well, but beyond recycling and buying sustainable products and packaging most either know not what to do or don’t care to, figuring they’ve done their part to save the environment.

Maybe that’s because we can’t see the forest through the trees. In all of the aforementioned cases, green is looked at as the other green (money) and it is nothing more than an economic transaction. One’s efforts – or the cumulative efforts of a company or community - are traceable to inputs and outputs, revenues and expenses, savings and costs. Even most carbon footprint calculations are based in economic theory.

Rarely do we look past the dollar and focus on what being green is really all about: Mother Nature. If you truly want to have an effect on the environment, you don’t focus solely on what you can take from it. Instead, focus on giving back to it. It’s kind of like a modified version of the old JFK axiom: Ask not what your environment can do for you -ask what you can do for your environment.

It doesn’t have to be some life-changing event. You don’t have to become a real-life Tarzan, one with the jungle. You don’t have to abandon the comforts of human progress. No, it’s really quite simple and requires you only to get your hands dirty. There is no better and easier way to help the biosphere than by planting trees.

You can start with your own property. The Niagara Frontier is in a state of flux, its once predominantly agrarian landscape changing before our eyes. Many long-time family farms have done one of three things over recent years: They’ve been consumed by larger farms, they’ve been allowed to revert to woodlands, or they’ve been transformed into an extension of Erie County’s northern suburbs. In the last two scenarios, the arborist within you could make a significant impact on the health of the environment by aiding Mother Nature in her attempt to reclaim what was once hers and transform our region to a semblance of the great forest that it was before the white man arrived.

As the fields remain fallow, you could speed up the reclamation process, one that can take decades where the cover develops from weeds to shrubs to small short-lived trees to tall long-lived trees. To do so, you could plant saplings en masse and manage the area as a woodlot, even a small forest, focusing on trees of the deciduous and coniferous sort that thrive in the type of soil found on your spread, trees that will be of benefit to bird and beast.

In regard to growth of suburbia, the barren lawns can be appropriately transformed not through gardening and normal landscaping but via natural landscaping whereby trees and shrubs native to the region are introduced, much to the benefit of the wildlife and even the homeowner (it takes far less effort to grow a plant fit for this climate). A wooded lawn is more attractive – and far more environmentally-beneficial - than any flowered lawn.

The resources are there for you to do this; that is, as long as you act quickly. The Niagara County Soil and Water District’s annual seedling sale is underway now through March 18th. Through this program you can buy bundles of seedlings (18” or less in height) of any one of 40 species of trees and shrubs. They are incredibly affordable, most available for well under 1 dollar each. The County’s website can help you choose the trees that are best for the applications you desire. The seedlings will be available in late-April, allowing you to plant them at the best time of the year. You can download an order form and planting instructions at their website,

If you’d like to really save the environment – and not go through the motions - take the time to do it this spring. Planting trees is a simple, completely natural way to be green. As your yard or forest grows you’ll be able to admire the fruits of your labor for years to come.

Where is the GM bonus for taxpayers?

From the 21 February 2011 The New American at:

By Bob Confer

The propaganda machine was out in full strength last week when General Motors generated a lot of excitement by announcing that each of its 40,000 hourly workers will be getting bonuses averaging $4,000. Water-cooler conversations and media coverage alike were abuzz over this news, everyone beaming with patriotic pride that the all-American company was able to come back from the brink of disaster and reward its workers for all their efforts.

Not surprisingly, rarely was a negative comment was heard about it. Whereas corporate executives from Wall Street were appropriately derided by the public for the bonuses they gave themselves immediately following the government’s bailout of their failed enterprises, no one dared (or even thought to) decry the bonuses that were paid to blue-collar workers whose employer was bailed out as well and is still on the hook for billions to the American taxpayers. Despite GM commentary to the contrary, the company still owes the U.S. government a staggering $26.4 billion.

GM’s bonuses were called “profit sharing” by its executives. If that is truly the case, the $189 million in profits that were deemed excessive should not have been shared with the workers but instead should have gone back to the taxpayers. Only after the government has been paid back should any individual (blue-collar, white collar, or otherwise) receive anything above and beyond the standard wage and benefit package. Sadly, it probably won’t ever happen that way, nor is it guaranteed we’ll ever be paid back in full. As with any means of federal intervention, GM’s rescue was a wealth transfer where only a few people benefited at a cost to the truly productive and effective parts of the economy.

GM — especially in its modern “Government Motors” make-up — is impervious to bad press and has become an indispensable tool to the Left and Big Government in their quest to add legitimacy to wealth transfers and other affronts to proper governance. With the American people still the largest single stakeholder of GM at 36 percent of ownership, it’s obvious that the Obama administration has significant control over the actions of the company. So, it’s apparent that the not-so-subtle bonuses have become a very subtle means of class warfare instituted by the government in its propaganda campaign. By rewarding the “Average Joe” and not the “Evil Rich,” the federal government finally made palatable to the masses its intervention in the marketplace. It can — at least to those not in tune with economics and constitutionality — claim absolute victory from its bailout of the automotive giant. Now, anytime that a crisis rears its ugly head in America — be it of the financial, economic, environmental, or security sort — the government will be able to justify its unconscionable oversight and direct interference with an "it-worked-for-GM" attitude that will be accepted by a majority of the public.

Because of the government's mainstreaming of who and what are rewarded by intervention, the average person looks at the taxpayer-funded salvation of AIG as evil (which it is) while GM’s salvation is perceived as almost angelic (which it is not). It’s unfortunate, for it shows, once again, that many citizens are willing to abandon the Constitution — America’s legal and moral foundation — to make sacrifices of personal and economic liberty if it suits their needs. We’ve seen that before with the exchange of liberty for perceived security in regard to matters of so-called national security.

If we as a people were intent on identifying a shining example of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to real, honest-to-goodness capitalism, GM’s (and the government’s) competitor, Ford, should be it. In most of the mass media reports about GM’s bonuses, it was also added — with minimal fanfare — that Ford will be giving each of its hourly workers a $5,000 bonus. The company produced $6.6 billion in profits for 2010 and it did it the old-fashioned way: with no government help.

When the Great Recession hit with full force, Ford weathered the storm and remained profitable and successful. It did not need to be propped up by the people. Unlike GM, it was and is a well-run company and it was healthy before, during, and after the Recession. Even if the recession had not grown as powerful as it had, it was unknown if GM would have survived — it was that poor a performer. Regardless, GM was given a second life, an infusion of taxpayer money that has allowed it to stay alive. With its track record, it’s unknown how long that will be. It should have been allowed to pass on when the time came, yet the government found it necessary to give it an unfair advantage over the Fords of the world — companies that actually know how to operate, and survive, in a free market economy.

Before it does meet its demise (or comes crawling back for another bailout), it’s imperative that GM give the taxpayers the “bonuses” they rightly deserve. There's $26.4 billion out there due to our government — $26.4 billion that would help in addressing our outlandish (and dangerous) national debt, which by the way, was created by this and similar unconstitutional and wrong-headed ventures by the federal government into the private sector.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chris Lee threw away great potential

From the 21 February 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

I was a big Chris Lee fan.

I met Lee for the first time during his campaign for Congress in 2008. I was impressed with his vision for Washington. He saw a system that was broken and in part responsible for the recession that we were just getting into. He knew that the government-influenced market conditions needed to be made right again to facilitate a return to US-based manufacturing, the cure for what ailed our economy.

Almost 2 years later, he proved that he was more than talk. He visited my factory to address supply issues with the electrical grid and how those constraints were preventing the company from growing. What made that so unusual was that he took it upon himself to do that. I had never contacted him about the matter. He had heard about our plight from his father who heard about it from his Florida neighbor who is one of our customers. It was an impressive gesture by Lee. It showed that he cared and was motivated about issues of importance in his district.

The loved ones of the victims of Flight 3407 felt the same about Lee. Despite roadblocks galore (in the form of indifference from the FAA and members of Congress), he was successful as the leader of local officials in their drive to change airline regulations. He didn’t give up that fight and he improved airline safety, ensuring the prevention of a similar disaster while giving the grieving 3407 families some ray of hope.

Those examples show why Lee was a rising star in Congress. Politico had selected him as one of Washington’s “Rookies of the Year” in 2009, noting that he had his finger on the pulse of the issues, fashioning together teams of experts and interacting with affected constituents directly to fully educate himself so that he could make the best decisions possible.

Regardless, he had the flaws common to so many elected officials. Two of them quickly come to mind.

First, there was the matter of spending. In doing the people’s bidding, he was exceptionally hoggish on pork barrel spending, wholly or partially responsible for $29.7 million of earmarks that were dedicated to Western New York. Such projects included $4.6 million for high-speed rail and millions more spread across multiple defense contractors.

Secondly, there was the matter of his indiscretion, which ultimately became the defining moment of his short political career, even overshadowing his 3407 accomplishments. He joined the ranks of New York officials who, in recent years, have made truly stupid decisions involving the fairer sex (Eliot Spitzer and his prostitute, Sam Hoyt and his mistress, Mike Cole spending the night on the floor of an intern’s apartment) and even their own sex (Eric Massa and his “tickling” and groping of male staffers).

In this day and age of 24/7 news coverage and information shared instantaneously, he couldn’t get away with it like JFK did with Marilyn Monroe (which, ironically and hypocritically, is some sort of badge of honor for the Kennedy legacy). Even those who aren’t in the public eye can’t get away with it like they once did what with all of our modern technology and the trails we leave.

But, who cares about those factors anyways? They shouldn’t be in the position to desecrate marriage and their families to begin with. Famous or not, adultery is a serious character flaw. It’s just that the former pay for it more than the latter once discovered. Lee knew that, just as the others did. Yet, they took the risk and suffered the losses.

It’s not just their families who lose out. The voters do, too, which is odd since it’s debatable if politicians’ adultery really matters to them or not. If we had Eliot Spitzer as Governor the past few years rather than David Paterson, New York wouldn’t be in such a crisis as it is now. I guarantee it. His private life may have been messed up, but professionally, he excelled.

Likewise with Chris Lee. He had the potential to make his own congressional dynasty, something along the lines of a Republican version of John LaFalce in terms of tenure and regional impact. He was well-respected by constituents and his peers in Congress on both sides of the aisle. Harnessing the facilitator and bridge-builder skills he learned in business, he was someone who could get things done.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost that force. His potential will never be realized, thrown away on a whim.

The CLASS Act is no class act

From the 14 February 2011 The New American at:

The CLASS Act is no class act
By Bob Confer

In the coming months, the Department of Health and Human Services will be ironing out the details of the CLASS Act and submitting information to employers in preparation for enrolling their employees into the voluntary program in 2012.

It will probably catch most businesses off guard, for it’s a provision of ObamaCare unknown to most Americans — sadly including the Congressmen who voted for the gargantuan bill. When that happens, you know something is set for failure from the start.

CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports) is the government’s first foray into supplemental care for the aged. It’s similar to private long-term care insurance that helps to cover the costs of professional care when one becomes frail or disabled. It can be applied to home, respite, hospice, or nursing home functions.

Under CLASS, the workers in a participating company will be enrolled unless they opt out. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the enrollees will pay an average monthly premium of $123 for a period of only five years. When they become either ill or too old to be independent, the benefits will kick in at a rate of $50 to $75 per day.

Because of its remote similarity to private long-term care insurance, CLASS is identified as insurance by the federal government. It is, however, anything but.

True insurance requires the building of an investment portfolio that uses the premiums collected from insured parties. Those funds are put into the markets to ensure growth, which, when combined with incoming premiums, will easily allow the insurance company to meet its benefit outlays with plenty of financial wiggle-room and security for all future payments. True insurance also survives –— even flourishes — through underwriting, a method by which insurers analyze the risks associated with certain people and activities and adjust the premiums accordingly.

CLASS doesn’t fit the bill with either of these criteria. For starters, there is no investment portfolio. Eerily similar to another federal takeover of a market function in which it doesn’t belong (retirement), CLASS is a glorified Ponzi scheme just like Social Security — which itself was once wrongly identified as insurance. Under Social Security, current payees fully subsidize the benefits of current recipients. There is not a collective investment fund that has been watching its income grow since the program’s inception in 1935. Instead, what was taken in was put into a trust fund, which in turn was emptied out by government expenditures. All that remains is government bonds — essentially IOUs issued to the government by the government (guess who gets taxed to pay those IOUs).

Structured in the same way, CLASS will posses its own trust fund. And it won’t take long for revenues to be far outstripped by expenses. One could assume that it will be bankrupt in its first decade of life, especially if the aging Baby Boomer population (all 78 million of them) jumps on board. If the Budget Office’s estimates are correct, the average user will put only $7,380 into the trust fund. Consider what that user will take out of it: At $75 of benefits per day, that’s $27,375 in expenses per year, nearly four times what the user put into it. That’s only for one year of use. Now, imagine if the user lingers in long-term care for 10 years ($273,750) or 20 years ($547,500). It doesn’t take a professional accountant to see that it’s a financially dangerous endeavor.

Private insurance has a few hedges against such a scenario. Beyond investing, there’s the aforementioned underwriting. Those who are high risk (having a pre-existing condition or enrolling late in life) pay a higher premium. In the private sector ,the annual premiums vary greatly, from just under $900 for those under 40 years of age to more than $3,000 for those over 70. Further adjustments are made for risky lifestyles and ailments. That’s not so with CLASS, where everyone is treated equally while paying equally.

Private insurers also protect themselves (and their customers) by limiting the years of benefits. Depending on the amount and duration of premium payments, benefits are typically available for five or 10 years, with caps set on lifetime benefits.

Without such protections, the federal government will be forced to do one of three things in order to keep CLASS afloat: raise tax revenues elsewhere, borrow money, or work in conjunction with the Federal Reserve to increase the money supply to the tune of tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars per year.

For a nation that is already taxed too much as it is — to support unconstitutional healthcare programs such as Medicaid (which costs $333.2 billion/year) and Medicare (with unfunded obligations of $37.8 trillion) — another disastrous bureaucracy is not the remedy for what ails us. As with general healthcare, the federal government should stay out of the long-term care business, primarily because it is not authorized by the Constitution to provide any kind of healthcare, but also because it is totally incapable of doing what plenty of private-sector companies can and are doing to handle such business — meeting the needs of the people in a prudent and affordable fashion.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A new power struggle

From the 14 February 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

If you’re a regular reader of this column you know that the high cost of electricity is a recurring theme. As someone whose company is a heavy power user, I can’t help but rail against New York’s exorbitant cost structure and its adverse impact on economic development.

That said, you’d think I’d be delighted about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Recharge New York program. Well, I’m not.

Cuomo mentioned this initiative in his budget proposal. It would replace the outdated and broken Power For Jobs (PFJ) program that provides low-cost electricity to 500 businesses. It would grant some semblance of cost certainty to the affected firms by making the program permanent unlike PFJ, which has been renewed on an annual basis since 2005. They would also receive their allocations for 7 years at a time.

So far so good. But, things start to get tricky with the expansion of the program. Cuomo’s proposal would double the current PFJ “budget” from 455 to 910 megawatts.

Where will that power come from? You.

That newfound 455-megawatt block is currently used to cut upstate residential power bills by an average of $3 per month. To most elected officials that may not sound like a princely sum. But, over a year’s time that could be $36. That’s big money to any couple trying to raise a family or any senior on a fixed income when gas, food, and taxes keep going up with no end in sight.

Sadly, it’s a widely held belief by those same officials and corporate leaders that the block of power would have a greater economic impact in the hands of businesses. That same argument was presented during the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project, which is why not one state-level politician fought for John and Jane Doe’s utility bills during the process.

That’s a really poor belief for a couple of reasons. For starters, every economy needs 2 things, creators and consumers. Both should be equal in the eyes of the markets and neither party should be granted favor over the other or have their purchasing power minimized by the invisible hand of government. Secondly, there is no greater economic incentive than putting money in the hands of the consumer. You’re guaranteed homeowners spend the power savings that they now have available. Collectively, that’s big money being pumped into the economy. In Niagara and Erie Counties alone that’s $21.6 million per year.

The Governor has attempted to lessen Recharge New York’s blow by saying that it will be equalized by the 2014 phase-out of a tax levied on your power, known as the incremental state assessment. He failed to say that tax is relatively new, having just gone into effect on July 1, 2009. Slated to have a 5-year life span, it was one of the state’s ways to “balance the budget”. That tax was just under $3 on my home bill last month.

If we follow Cuomo’s logic, it’s a wash. But is it? Under Recharge New York, cheap power and its $3 savings that we’ve had for quite some time will be taken away from us forever. Within a few years, though, we’ll have back another $3 that was rightly ours until only recently. I don’t know about you, but it seems like we’d be losing $6 per month (or $72/year) until 2014 and after that we’d be losing $3 per month.

When the government takes away such a benefit to the people and gives it to businesses it has the same impact as a tax (your government-influenced cost of living increases), so it may as well be called one. That begs the question, is it morally and economically prudent to charge a tax upon families so they can prop up businesses? The answer should be a resounding “no”.

So, if you’re pennywise and value any savings you can get, especially with other taxes –like school taxes - certain to go through the roof this year, make it a point to write your senator and assemblyperson and ask that they stop Recharge New York and keep it from taking a charge out of your pocketbook.

The next step toward the North American Union

From the 07 February 2011 The New American at:

By Bob Confer

One-worlders are successful in their efforts because of incrementalism. They work toward their ultimate goal of a global government by very slowly piecing together the parts of that evil puzzle — the regional collectives of countries. When the building of socioeconomic partnerships (and, ultimately, political integration) is spread out over years, if not decades, the majority of the citizens of the affected nations remain oblivious to the destruction of their sovereignty.

Take the European Union, for example. Its roots go back to 1945 when European communities were made based on the facilitation of trade in steel and energy. As the years wore on, the communities instituted more powerful trade partnerships, opened their borders, and shared environmental policies — setting the stage for the creation of the EU in 1993. In just the past 17 years, the countries in the European Union have developed shared currencies, governance, laws, and courts — with each participating nation being stripped of sovereignty and any self-rule it once possessed.

Certain individuals and groups within the United States — The John Birch Society being first and foremost — have fought the development of a similar regional government on this side of the Atlantic, the North American Union, which would bring together America, Canada, and Mexico under one rule. Although the NAU is often identified by the mainstream media as some sort of fantastic and unrealistic conspiracy theory, it is nothing of the sort. It began in earnest with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on December 17, 1992 — an ignominious event that has done much to destroy the quality of life in the United States by escalating the exodus of manufacturing jobs from our country. In the years since 1992, North American leaders have held periodic meetings about the furthering of the NAU under the guise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), an endeavor to find common ground not only in economics, but in security as well.

The ideas thrown around in the SPP are now coming to fruition, furthering the realization of the NAU. On February 4, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced their deal to establish a trade and security perimeter encompassing their two nations.

In his speech, Obama outlined three major initiatives to make this a reality. The first is something along the lines of open borders. As he has mentioned in his recent economic harangues, he is driven to double U.S. exports as a means of saving our economy. To do that, he claims we must allow the free flow of people and products between our borders — something the federal government has basically been allowing uncontested on our southern border, facilitating the infiltration of nearly 20 million illegal aliens so far.

But, in order to have truly open borders between the United States and Canada, Obama claims we must strengthen security and endorse modern technology — instituting a means to track travelers through (as well as in) our borders with advanced biometrics. According to Canadian columnist John Ivison, "The intention is that fingerprints and retinal scans will become routine, leading to the evolution of an integrated entry-exit system, where entry into one country serves to verify exit from the other. This would require an unprecedented exchange of personal information.”

It’s safe to say our movements will be monitored domestically as the federal government deploys this science-fiction nightmare that is becoming a reality. It will be an assault on our sovereignty as much as it is on our existing rights as American citizens, despite the two countries' claims that it will promote principles of human rights, privacy, and civil liberties.

President Obama also cited the need for the development of a new council to sweep away regulations that stifle trade and job creation. Such a council should make all people cringe. It mirrors what the federal government has done in the United States, where it abuses the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Through the development and strengthening of entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration — and the subsequent creation of countless regulations — the federal government manages the minutiae of our lives, dictating what we do and how we do it, far outstripping what the Founding Fathers intended for the federal system. Now, imagine such an unaccountable entity — one with no public input whatsoever — overseeing all economic activity that occurs in and between our two countries.

Fortunately, these plans have not been without criticism. Whereas the U.S. press and elected officials have been more than willing to support the NAU, this has not been the case north of the border. The National Post, something comparable to a Canadian version of USA Today, identified the Obama-Harper deal as an “ambitious border declaration — the product of several months of behind-the-scenes preliminary work — foresee[ing] the most significant changes in the Canada-U.S. border relationship since the North American Free Trade Agreement.”

It was interesting that the Canadian press did something that the U.S. press would not: acknowledge what the NAU theorists have been saying all along — that this partnership has long been devised in secret, behind closed doors and away from congressional and parliamentary (and therefore public) oversight.

Such coverage reflects the general sentiment over this matter in Ottawa. Paul Dewar, a member of parliament, was livid over the deal, thundering, "All we're asking for is a little democracy. [Harper] hasn't informed Canadians what he's up to and he hasn't consulted this House." Canada’s Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was just as concerned, accusing the Prime Minster of "talking with President Obama about things he's not prepared to talk to Canadians about." Many more Canadian elected officials are equally frustrated by the usurpation of their rights and all things Canada.

The big question is: Where is such an uproar in America? It seems that most of our citizens have been blinded by the effects of the well-oiled incrementalism machine. A bit here, a bit there — and they’re still unaware of the impact that the NAU will have on our lives. They fail to see that once the economy and security are scratched off the list, all that would remain would be our money and our courts. Before most Americans know it, we will have lost them, too. With them will go our identity, our sovereignty — and above all, our rights.

Though it won’t be told by either our controlled major media or mostly unconcerned Congressmen — this is a defining moment in our history. If we allow ourselves to consolidate with a neighboring nation on such key issues, we will truly have set the America we've known on the path to dissolution. Oh, we will remain the United States of America, but we will be that in name only. Instead, we shall become a people beholden to the North American Union. Through the powers of incrementalism, that will be just a further step on the path to a global collective.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Police state in a small town

From the 07 February 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

If you bring up police state issues in conversation you’ll notice that, in most cases, people’s eyes glaze over. Besides being quick to sacrifice liberty for perceived security, most Americans think that domestic spying is something that occurs only in places that supposedly rank high on terror cells’ lists of locales to exploit, like Manhattan . They believe that overzealous surveillance could never occur in their hometown.

That tired old way of thinking needs to be changed. In post-9/11 America We have an over-reactive federal government that’s just chomping at the bit to dole out grants for counter-terrorism and general policing efforts, and a plethora of municipalities that can’t say “no” to “free” money, no matter the actual, non-monetary cost to society.

Hornell couldn’t say “no”.

A lot of Western New Yorkers have passed through Hornell. Many more have just heard of the place. If you are of the latter group, Hornell is a very small city of 9,000 people (just a third larger than Medina) located in rural Steuben County. Its claim to fame is having produced Hollywood actor Bill Pullman. That’s how non-descript of a city it is; a comfortable, harmless little Southern Tier town.

It’s certainly not a breeding ground for terrorist activity. Nor is it a criminal hotbed. Across the board, its crime statistics are far below the national average. Robberies are just 16% of the national average, while assaults are 70%, burglaries are 50% and auto thefts are 8% of the same.

Yet, for some reason, Hornell’s leaders found it necessary to apply for (and Uncle Sam was more than willing to give) a $197,000 grant that will be dedicated to stopping that muted crime wave. The police department will use that money to purchase a thermal imaging unit and an advanced digital camera with night vision, fancy technology for a modern day Mayberry.

That’s not the worst of it. The city plans to purchase 32 cameras that they will randomly station throughout the city. All are wireless and mobile and some come equipped with point, tilt and zoom capabilities. They will be monitored 24/7 at police headquarters and will focus, for now, on places like parks, schools, and the downtown business district.

So, for the sake of fighting a criminal element that’s already nowhere to be found, the City Fathers will look for crimes, maybe even invent them, by spying on the day-to-day goings on of its residents. With a lack of bad behavior to observe, the government’s eavesdroppers will have nothing to do but kill time watching innocent young lovers sharing a peck at the park or trusted business owners completing a transaction outside their storefront or property owners and their families enjoying their backyard swimming pool.

It’s true reality TV.

Most of us wouldn’t want to be such “TV stars”; we prefer to go about our daily lives free of Big Brother’s watchful eye and the thoughts that some unknown individual on the other end of a lens might be analyzing every move we make. We don’t deserve to be under such scrutiny, either. Community surveillance is in direct defiance of the unreasonable search and seizure clause of the Constitution, a document based on basic human rights. We should be allowed to move about freely without fear of our privacy being torn asunder.

Sadly, under these circumstances the Hornell police department perceives everyone to be guilty until proven innocent. It’s nothing more than a large-scale TSA pat-down: Hornell residents who will be doing things that are completely harmless will be considered non-threatening only after a forceful and unwelcomed exploration of their private lives.

If Hornell is ripe for a police state, anywhere can be. What makes that community any different than say, Lockport or Newfane or your community? Nothing, really. So, if you have that eerie feeling that someone is watching you, you’re probably right.

Myth: Uncle Sam is the stork that delivers jobs

From the 01 February 2011 The New American at:

By Bob Confer

No doubt, some time during this Great Recession, inquisitive children have asked their parents, “Where do jobs come from?” It’s something akin to that most uncomfortable of all questions from the young, “Where do babies come from?” When answering the latter question, most parents make their response age-specific and avoid talk of the birds and bees. Instead, they tell the tall tale of the magical stork delivering infants to the homes of couples who want to be parents. Of course, the parents know where babies come from. Yet, when it comes to jobs, most of them really don’t know.

The tall lanky bird with its magical powers was perfectly embodied in the form of President Barack Obama giving last week’s State of the Union address. His speech seemed to satisfy most people on both sides of the aisle — or in this case, a Congress that for the sake of the speech ignored the aisle. This contrived unity, which according to some news outlets overshadowed the speech itself, was something wisely panned as “a bunch of fluff” by one of the few non-believers in the stork of Washington, Congressman Ron Paul.

With so few as wise as the good doctor, the mixed Congress was enamored with Obama’s speech. He hit points that appealed to his Democrat base (investment in green energy and education) and his Republican foils (investment in innovation and technology) in what he defined as a modern-era "Sputnik moment," hoping to make America more competitive with the other players in the global economy.

He cleverly used the term "investment" instead of "spending," attempting to make the very act of stealing from one class of citizens and sector of business to line the pockets of others seem somewhat attractive — even magnificent, like a stork in flight. It was a well-crafted piece of propaganda: Who could be against “investing” if it means more jobs and a stronger America?

Sadly, Americans who have no basic understanding of the markets will buy into such practices. They fail to see that the actual State of the Union is an economic disaster; nary a job will be created, and of those that remain, their long-term growth (from a wages and benefits standpoint) will be adversely affected.

Obama’s jobs-specific message began with something that’s old hat to him: the ongoing promotion of green energy. He offered a challenge — that by 2035, 80 percent of America’s energy should come from clean energy sources, claiming that so doing would create "countless new jobs."

Because truly clean nuclear energy has never been rightly elevated into the green energy circles — circles that are populated instead by more expensive and grossly inefficient means of energy generation such as wind and solar power — it is guaranteed that those “countless new jobs” will be created, but not here in America. Instead they will be in China, India, and Africa, for our domestic manufacturers will be unable to produce competitively priced products, thanks to higher utility costs. Wind energy is extremely expensive, and once the federal government’s Production Tax Credit (a wealth transfer, as are all tax credits) expires 10 years after the construction of a wind structure, that windmill's electricity will cost at least 25-percent more than electricity currently sold on the open market. Similarly, as reported in the pages of The New American, solar power is a poor use of financial resources as well, costing nearly nine times as much as nuclear energy.

Unquestioning believers in the "jobs stork" will say that Obama is right: Jobs will be created domestically to install the solar panels and erect the windmills. Yes, they will — but all are temporary (that’s the nature of the construction beast), and for every one of those jobs, 2.2 more permanent jobs in production and service will be lost, as Spain has so painfully discovered.

The President continued his State of the Union address by following up green energy with more green: giving dollars to a broken education system. Touting his beloved Race to the Top as the be-all-end-all for education reform, he’s only adding to the federal monstrosity that has destroyed the success of our young minds (and ultimately, our workforce) since the creation of the Department of Education in 1979. Its estimated budget for 2011 is a staggering $71 billion dollars, one that robs Peter to pay Paul, granting money to increasingly smaller, and much less efficient, class sizes. Yes, more teachers are employed, but quite unproductively when that money could have been better spent ("invested") by the taxpayers. If the President were actually interested in improving education, he would get the federal government out of it entirely and return it to local control, as we had when students actually performed well and we dominated the world in adolescent education. And from those charged and well-educated minds came our economic growth and job creation.

The stork’s song was also sweet to the ears of supposedly small-government Republicans as Obama touted “investment” in infrastructure and technology. He made note of the federal government’s plan to give 80 percent of America access to high-speed rail by 2035. He didn’t say that such an endeavor will cost tens of billions of dollars in each and every state (once again, robbing jobs from other sectors to force an “investment”) or that if there were actually money to be made in such projects, the private sector would have built them by now.

The President immediately followed up that plan with another swift idea: high-speed wireless Internet coverage for 98 percent of all Americans. Where will the money come from for that? Probably from an extension of the federal USF surcharge already embedded in our phone bills — something that currently is silently stealing $9 billion from the economy. Once again, Obama should let the private sector decide which technology is best.

Sadly, both Congress (save the aforementioned Dr. Paul and precious few others) and the majority of the American public were unable to see through Obama’s ruse and his promotion of the myth (one shared by all Presidents of recent memory) that it’s the government’s responsibility to create jobs. The only way the government should allow jobs to be created is by getting out of the way and fostering a socioeconomic environment in which the markets and private sector can freely advance our society and our economy. The government should never be in the business of creating jobs, or determining the winners and losers in the markets through subsidization, unfair advantage, and other wealth-transferring tactics. When it does so, it kills jobs elsewhere and saps the worth from productive sectors of the economy.

It’s a simple concept, one that has been well known throughout America’s long history. We became the most advanced society ever — a shining example of the power of personal wealth and self-determination — by allowing the people themselves to create economic prosperity and the resulting jobs.

Naturally, no sentient adult believes that a magical stork delivers babies on doorsteps, so why should we believe that Uncle Sam will place jobs at our feet? Such a childish, simplistic attitude must be overcome if we are ever to bring the nation out of its devastating recession.