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    Homelessness Is A Choice

    February 10th, 2010

    That is quite a bold statement and one that would likely stir up much debate on its own, but I am going to do this with a twist.  I am going to use the homeless as an example of people making a very hard choice for the good.

    Background: I was reading a post on an occupational field that most of us would rather not find ourselves in.  The author was clearly biased and talked at length about how bad of a job it was, how dangerous it was, and how tough it was on a person both physically and mentally.  I didn’t find their arguments all that compelling and commented on the post and told them why.  My basic problem was the author was presenting this occupation as a last resort.  That the workers had to do things that were outside their contractual obligations.  They had to do it without saying anything or they wouldn’t get paid.  These sorts of things – and yes this was a legal occupation in the USA.

    Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have already said that many people would not want to do this job.  But to say that these workers didn’t have a choice…well, I just thought that was dehumanizing in a very substantial way.  They were not forced to work.  They had clear legal recourse if the employer violated the terms of the contract.  They had a choice and the ability to choose what we want to do is a very important part of life.

    Current Topic: Which brings us to why homelessness is a choice.  As I was tossing around the above case in my mind, poking it to see what holes I could make in my own argument, I came to this odd realization.  These workers could have chosen not to work, even if they had a family.  They could have chosen homelessness.  Now, this is where most would stop.  We can debate other contributing factors to homelessness, but I would rather skip debate on that point in favor of more dialogue on my next.  The homeless choose not to do more wrongs simply to escape.

    Think about that for a second.  These are people that may not know where their next meal will come from, when it will come, or if they will even make it to the next meal.  Just think of the terrible weather in Washington D.C. right now.  They may not even have a place to sleep.  It’s tragic.  (Which on a side note is why I’m very happy with the effort my company, Lands’ End, made this past season with the Big Warm Up).  And yet they are still on the street rather than in a job they hate.  They are not committing blatant acts of lawlessness so they can be arrested and have a place to stay and food on their plate.

    So in a very odd way, I am holding them up as a beacon for people that truly hate their jobs.  As I have alluded to in this post, there are many, many other debates that could be had around this topic but I just thought the conclusion that I came to was so peculiar, in a fascinating-thought-experiment sort of way, that I had to share.  I suppose I could have used an argument about the days of yore when honor was king, and death before dishonor, and all that.  This just seemed more interesting.

    What do you think?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Thoughts On The Christmas “Bomber”

    December 29th, 2009

    Internet, I cannot help myself.  All of the talk around this guy that tried to blow up a plane is frustrating me to no end.  Nobody seems to want to apply an ounce of rational thought to the situation.  I have no idea why our ‘leaders’ are ignoring any relevant information.  I guess that’s just what politics are.

    Consider a few of the following topics that have been in the news:

    Republicans have hinted that there should have been a big red flag next to the suspect’s name….how [could] the suspected terrorist could fly in the first place after his own father had warned authorities his son was possibly under the influence of religious extremists.

    Well, let’s see.  I was listening to NPR and they had a guy on that said there are about 500,000 people on the watch list database but only 4,000 – 5,000 on the no fly list.  A single complaint from a father is not evidence to put someone on a no-fly list.  Wow!  That actually makes sense.  Score one for the FBI.  They don’t just randomly prevent people from traveling, they actually need evidence that they are a danger.  At least we are still of sound morals, despite what the supposedly ‘moral’ right would have us believe.  Hell, they may even want me on some watch list because I disagree with them.  Now if they would just ban anybody that is a religious extremist…oh wait, that would prevent some of themselves from flying.  Talk about a lack of research or any knowledge at all.

    Obama said: “Had the suspect succeeded in bringing down that plane, it could have killed nearly 300 passengers and crew — innocent civilians preparing to celebrate the holidays with their families and friends.”

    300 innocent people.  If they would have died that would have been tragic, for sure.  But how many people die every day in vehicles?  Well, so glad you asked.  The National Highway Traffic Saftey Administration has the answer for you.  In October of 2009 they released a report (link to PDF) that showed we were at record low traffic fatalities to start 2009!  We managed to get the rate down to 90+ people dead a day, with 16,600 dead through June!  Way to go USA!  So if we assume that more people travel during the holidays (and the death rate is deaths per 100 million miles traveled) then we may have had more people die over Christmas weekend on the road than if the guy would have blown the plane.  But this gets no mention.  Nothing is ever put in context with other issues.

    Would it have been possible to prevent this guy from getting on a plane?  Yeah, I am sure it would be.  We’d have to burn our already partially scorched Constitution, but we could do it.  People complain about insurance companies reaping mounds and mounds of profits and yet who can rationally blame them.  We are in a culture that is fearful of everything.  People are willing to sacrifice everything to live “safely”.  So we buy insurance of all types, give up our privacy, and submit to what would once be considered clear violations of personal freedoms.

    Meanwhile we ignore the clear dangers of driving (1.19 deaths per 100 million miles) and a multitude of other activities while pretending that terrorism is the biggest threat that we’ve ever faced.  It is far too easy to quote people, and yet I will do it anyway (from TenthAmendmentCenter):

    The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. ~ James Madison

    A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. ~ Thomas Jefferson / Gerald Ford

    I think the TSA is far more of a danger to our Constitution than terrorists will ever be.  I am sure other disagree.  And I respect that people want to be safe.  But what is missing is the element of common sense, and I just can’t get over that.  A fact that I am reminded of every time I travel and see the TSA confiscate something.  I mean really, if they think the liquid is dangerous, shouldn’t they treat it as an explosive instead of just throwing it in the trash.  Or take away “weapons” but give real silverware in First Class.  My only fear is that some idiot at the TSA will read this and instead of applying logic to see how silly they are and how they are not making us safer they will see an opportunity to further tighten the straps while thinking “silly civilians, liberties are for kids”.

    Would you rather have the illusion of safety or less hassle when you fly?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    The Case For The Leagalization Of Cannabis

    October 28th, 2009

    180px-HerbalThis is a very interesting topic that was brought to front of mind due to a recent Fortune magazine article on it.  Actually, it made the front cover.  I think that the article was very well written and, furthermore, I thought I should chime in.

    I think the case for legalization of cannabis is crystal clear for very simple reasons.  And if someone can refute my points below in any reasonable manner, then I may reconsider.

    First I will hit on the two most obvious points for the legalization of cannabis:

    • Cannabis, in any form – smoking to brownies, is not as addictive as cigarettes and cigarettes are legal.
    • Cannabis, in any form – alters your mind  to no greater extent than alcohol does and alcohol is legal.

    So beyond the issue of individual rights (or the ties to racial and ethnic fears that led to the criminalization), which is a whole different topic, cannabis should be legal for no other reason than that we currently allow other drugs that are both more addictive, more mind-altering, and worse for you with the only requirement to getting them being your age.  How does this make sense?

    It seems to me that if one wants cannabis to be illegal they would also have to be against both alcohol and tobacco.  How could they be for either of those drugs and against cannabis and not be a complete hypocrite?  But let us not stop there, and explore a bit more.

    Then there are other arguments, such as the violence surrounding cannabis.  Somehow these people must be forgetting the prohibition era in the early 1900’s where cannabis wasn’t the problem but alcohol.  The very drug that gave LOTS of money to mobsters and gangs and was the cause of countless acts of violence.  So I must ask again, how is the prohibition of cannabis different than the one against alcohol?  Why are we trying the same thing (prohibition) and expecting different results?  I just don’t get it.

    Okay, so that’s not the reason, but there must be one.  How about the fact that it is a ‘gateway drug’ to other drugs.  Interesting idea but it fails for the same reason as the other arguments, a double standard.  Just because alcohol and tobacco are not illegal does not make them any less of a drug.  So then, if cannabis is a gateway drug, what does that make tobacco and alcohol?  Anybody using harder drugs probably is using those two drugs at least as much as cannabis (but probably a lot more) and arguably at an earlier age too.

    And as if we needed any additional icing on the cakes, there is the health aspect.  No, I’m not even talking about the medical uses that our government knows about (and actually dispenses cannabis to people – yes the US gov has a program that dispenses medical cannabis).  Beyond that blatant hypocrisy (as if we needed another example) one can just look at four additional facts:

    1. In 1988 Judge Francis Young stated: “Marijuana…is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man” when ruling on a marijuana case.  It is basically impossible to overdose on cannabis, unlike alcohol that kills binge drinkers and alcoholics every year.
    2. Many studies (according to Fortune) also say that smoking cannabis (which there are many other ways to consume than smoking) is less detrimental to health than smoking tobacco – no hard proof that it causes lung cancer exists yet.
    3. Marinol, a synthetic version of the active psychoactive agent of cannabis, was approved by the FDA in 1986, further verifying that it has legitimate medical uses.
    4. When marijuana was criminalized in 1937 it was done “over the objection of the American Medical Association“.

    As one final point (last one I promise) the money aspect comes up.  From Fortune 9/28 p. 148:

    Assuming a national consumer market for marijuana of about $13 billion annually, Harvard economist Jeffery Miron has estimated that legalization could be expected to bring in state and federal governments about $7 billion annually in additional tax revenue, while saving them $13.5 billion in prohibition related law enforcement costs.

    That’s an estimated $20.5 BILLION in additional money for any number of activities, including law enforcement on the very gangs that that money would have been going to.

    Knowing all of this, does anyone have any ideas why it should be illegal?   I’m just plain baffled.

    This has been a Thought From the Cake Scraps.

    A Little Politics With Peter Schiff

    December 9th, 2008

    As I have said previously, I don’t want to get into politics much on this blog because often times it can be just a downward spiral.  That said, I just think these two videos are too perfect.  Thanks to Church of the Customer Blog for the first one.

    I voted Libertarian in the most recent election and Bob Barr picked Peter Schiff as his economic adviser.  If you have the time – and if you don’t, make it – watch some of the interviews below with Peter.  I have not done proper research to say if I agree on all fronts with Peter Schiff, but I think it says a lot that the Libertarian candidate had this guy as his economic adviser.  You have 4 years to research; perhaps it is time to break the two party system.

    (Link to YouTube here)

    Below is an expanded view of one of the interviews.

    (Link to YouTube here)

    In the second video, at the end, they take what Peter is saying completely wrong.  It is quite clear he is trying to say that when there is a family people would rather spend time with the family then at work, male or female, but specifically females that are in late pregnancy.  If that is wrong then I think we have a bigger problem.

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    McCain’s Missed Opportunity

    October 16th, 2008

    I am no political analyst and this blog isn’t about politics, but since a presidential election only comes around once every 4 years and last night was the last presidential debate I decided to write something short, sweet, and to the point.

    I thought both candidates did a fine job in the debate last night.  Obama was as good as ever at deflecting attacks and McCain came out with fists swinging while not appearing overly aggressive – for the most part.  That said, I think that both of them got stuck on Obama’s associations with people too long and it caused McCain to skip over what appeared to be to be a critical point.

    The issue was negative campaigning.  No question both ran negative campaigns to some extent, but the extent is all debatable which is why I skip over that point.  What I don’t want to skip over is a point that McCain made about Obama that was then never brought up again.

    The following was stated by McCain and is from a transcript that CNN has on their site:

    And, Sen. Obama, when he said — and he signed a piece of paper that said he would take public financing for his campaign if I did — that was back when he was a long-shot candidate — you didn’t keep your word.

    And when you looked into the camera in a debate with Sen. Clinton and said, “I will sit down and negotiate with John McCain about public financing before I make a decision,” you didn’t tell the American people the truth because you didn’t.

    If true, does that strike anybody else as a point worth returning to.  You can talk to anybody about nearly any politician and hear about broken promises.  Here was a great example of somebody doing exactly that.  I really wanted to hear more about this.  Is this true?  Did Obama make these promises?  If the answer is yes to both of those questions – as it seems to be – I would think that would be a bigger issue to the American Public than any of the associations with people that the McCain camp is trying to put front and center.

    What do you think?  Was this a missed opportunity?  Does it not matter?

    Best of luck to all candidates for President and make sure you vote (early if you want or can)!

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.