Thursday, October 06, 2011

Obama's USDA running amok

USDA threatens $60,000 fine, federal raid against woman in legal possession of indoor lemon tree. Do Americans have ANY legal rights left?

The US government's assault against innocent American citizens continues to get more aggressive and just plain strange, with new reports of harassment against honest owners of ordinary lemon trees. Health Freedom Alliance (HFA) reports that officials from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are now spying on people whom they suspect are in possession of ordinary lemon trees, and threatening them with excessive fines and even federal raids if they refuse to surrender the plants on demand.

Several years ago, Bridget Donovan, who has now been dubbed "The Lemon Tree Lady," purchased a Meyer lemon tree from A resident of Wisconsin, Donovan purchased the tree legally and in full accordance with all federal and state laws regulating citrus transport, and had lovingly cultivated and cared for her indoor citrus plant for nearly three years.

Then, out of nowhere, Donovan received an unexpected letter from the USDA informing her that government officials were going to come and seize her tree and destroy it -- and that she was not going to be compensated for her loss. The letter also threatened that if Donovan was found to be in possession of "regulated citrus" again, she could be fined up to $60,000.

Donovan was shocked, to say the least, as her tree was not a "regulated citrus." The store from which she purchased it is fully legitimate, and she had done absolutely nothing wrong. But it turns out Donovan and many others who had also purchased similar citrus plants had faced, or were currently facing, the very same threats made against them by the USDA.

Most of those targeted simply surrendered their trees without trying to fight back, Donovan discovered. And while she, herself put up a hefty fight in trying to get honest answers in order to keep her tree, Donovan was eventually forced to surrender it as well. And worst of all, many of those who were told that a replacement tree would be in "compliance" later had those trees confiscated, too.

Why has the USDA been targeting lemon tree owners? The answer is unclear, other than that they are a supposed threat to the citrus industry. And a USDA official admitted to Donovan that the agency has been spying on those suspected of owning lemon trees, and targeting all found to be in possession with threats of fines and raids if they failed to give them up -- and the agency has been doing this without a valid warrant.

"I felt utterly violated, angry, and upset," Donovan is quoted as saying by HFA. "I pay my taxes, I obey the law, and this is how I was treated? I did nothing wrong. I would expect these action (sic) toward someone running a drug house, not someone who owned a lemon tree."



The 'hunger' hoax

By Thomas Sowell

Twenty years ago, hysteria swept through the media over "hunger in America." Dan Rather opened a CBS Evening News broadcast in 1991 declaring, "one in eight American children is going hungry tonight." Newsweek, the Associated Press and the Boston Globe repeated this statistic, and many others joined the media chorus, with or without that unsubstantiated statistic.

When the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Agriculture examined people from a variety of income levels, however, they found no evidence of malnutrition among those in the lowest income brackets. Nor was there any significant difference in the intake of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from one income level to another.

That should have been the end of that hysteria. But the same "hunger in America" theme reappeared years later, when Senator John Edwards was running for Vice President. And others have resurrected that same claim, right up to the present day.

Ironically, the one demonstrable nutritional difference between the poor and others is that low-income women tend to be overweight more often than others. That may not seem like much to make a political issue, but politicians and the media have created hysteria over less.

The political left has turned obesity among low-income individuals into an argument that low-income people cannot afford nutritious food, and so have to resort to burgers and fries, pizzas and the like, which are more fattening and less healthful. But this attempt to salvage something from the "hunger in America" hoax collapses like a house of cards when you stop and think about it.

Burgers, pizzas and the like cost more than food that you can buy at a store and cook yourself. If you can afford junk food, you can certainly afford healthier food. An article in the New York Times of Sept. 25 by Mark Bittman showed that you can cook a meal for four at half the cost of a meal from a burger restaurant. So far, so good. But then Mr. Bittman says that the problem is "to get people to see cooking as a joy." For this, he says, "we need action both cultural and political." In other words, the nanny state to the rescue!

Since when are adult human beings supposed to do only those things that are a joy? I don't find any particular joy in putting on my shoes. But I do it rather than go barefoot. I don't always find it a joy to drive a car, especially in bad weather, but I have to get from here to there.

An arrogant elite's condescension toward the people -- treating them as children who have to be jollied along -- is one of the poisonous problems of our time. It is at the heart of the nanny state and the promotion of a debilitating dependency that wins votes for politicians while weakening a society.

Those who see social problems as requiring high-minded people like themselves to come down from their Olympian heights to impose their superior wisdom on the rest of us, down in the valley, are behind such things as the hunger hoax, which is part of the larger poverty hoax.

We have now reached the point where the great majority of the people living below the official poverty level have such things as air-conditioning, microwave ovens, either videocassette recorders or DVD players, and own either a car or a truck.

Why are such people called "poor"? Because they meet the arbitrary criteria established by Washington bureaucrats. Depending on what criteria are used, you can have as much official poverty as you want, regardless of whether it bears any relationship to reality.

Those who believe in an expansive, nanny state government need a large number of people in "poverty" to justify their programs. They also need a large number of people dependent on government to provide the votes needed to keep the big nanny state going.

Politicians, welfare state bureaucrats and others have incentives to create or perpetuate hoaxes, whether about poverty in general or hunger in particular. The high cost to taxpayers is exceeded by the even higher cost of lost opportunities for fulfillment in their lives by those who succumb to the lure of a stagnant life of dependency.



Why Your Bank Is Charging More Fees

Obama favors retail millionaires and billionaires in the debit-card fight.

There are many observations that can be made about President Obama’s remark Monday to ABC News that businesses “don’t have some inherent right just to get a certain amount of profit if your customers are being mistreated.” In and of itself, this comment reveals much about his beliefs and knowledge (or lack thereof) on economics, consumer choice, and the private sector in general.

But in the context in which it was made — Bank of America, Citi, and other banks’ recently announced debit-card and checking-account fees for consumers, which they are charging to recoup losses from the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law’s price controls on debit-card fees charged to retailers — what must first be said is that he was lecturing the wrong set of Fortune 500 corporations. The price controls were added to the law by an amendment from Senate majority whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.).

If he really wanted to point the finger at the big companies that have mistreated consumers and are reaping illicit profits, he should have addressed not Bank of America, but Walmart, Walgreens, and Home Depot. These big retailers are making a killing from the price cap — regulatory corporate welfare that they lobbied vigorously on behalf of — yet so far have not passed on any of their estimated $19 billion in savings to consumers. And even many Democrats can see what’s going on.

For example, consider this quote: “Consumers suffer when the government regulates interchange fees. . . . Merchants are able to offload their fees onto consumers[, and] retailers have no intention of passing along any savings to consumers. . . . We should not allow the federal government to dictate the terms of a private transaction — particularly in a case such as this, where government intervention would drastically harm [consumers].”

What firebreathing free-market zealot made these proclamations? None other than Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), the president’s own handpicked chairman of the Democratic National Committee, in a letter co-written with Rep. Kenny Marchant (R., Texas). Similar sentiments were reflected in a letter signed by 71 Democrats and 60 Republicans in June 2010 urging House-Senate conferees to strip the price controls from the final Dodd-Frank bill. Likewise, Dodd-Frank co-author Barney Frank (D., Mass.) has said repeatedly that this is the only part of Dodd-Frank he doesn’t like, and he’s offered to work with both parties to repeal it.

To be sure, there were defectors in the other direction, too: 17 Republican senators voted for the Durbin Amendment, though all but three of them would vote against Dodd-Frank at the end. And the GOP’s “Durbin Dozen” in June of this year voted against a measure by Jon Tester (D., Mont.) to delay the price controls, depriving it of the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate.

From the very beginning, Durbin tipped his hand that his efforts were on behalf of the retail fat cats. When he introduced his amendment to Dodd-Frank in May 2010, Durbin said on the Senate floor that his measure came about after Walgreens’s CEO called him to complain that the transaction fees the company pays to process debit and credit cards were “the fourth largest item of cost for their business.”

Yet in this era of the “Buffett Rule” and bashing “millionaires and billionaires,” Durbin and other liberal proponents of these price controls never quite explained why Congress should be concerned with the routine costs of doing business for a retail chain such as Walgreens, which makes $2 billion in annual profits. Or for that matter, other retail behemoths such as Walmart or Home Depot — or Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, with retail units from Dairy Queen to Nebraska Furniture Mart — that will benefit from this regulation-driven corporate welfare.

Going back to the president’s remarks discussing whether there is an “inherent right to get a certain amount of profit,” it’s important to note that the Durbin Amendment does not give banks and credit unions the right to reap any amount of profit from the retail side of a debit card transaction, or even to cover their costs. Unlike price controls under utility-rate regulation that mandate a “reasonable rate of return,” Durbin’s provision in Dodd-Frank demands that interchange fees be “proportional to cost,” and that the Federal Reserve only consider “incremental costs” in setting the price caps.

Thus the Fed, concerned with stability of the banking sector, almost invited banks and credit unions to engage in cost shifting to consumers, “helpfully” pointing out that “the interchange fee standard would not limit the ability of an issuer to earn revenue from other sources, such as charging fees to cardholders.”




WV: Democrat wins special election for governor: "Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin overcame weeks of Republican attack ads to win the West Virginia governor's race Tuesday, successfully distancing himself from the Obama administration and the president's health care plan. Tomblin, who has been acting governor for the past year, will finish the final year of a term left vacant by Joe Manchin, a well-liked governor who stepped down after he won a U.S. Senate seat."

Land of the poor, home of the sick: "Thanks to a series of destructive government policies and incentives, a health care crisis has been steadily building in America for a generation or two. But the release yesterday of the Kaiser Family Foundation's annual survey reveals that the problem of unaffordable healthcare is becoming epidemic."

Government makes us poor: "Here's my fantasy: Libertarians are elected to the presidency and to majorities in Congress. What would happen next? Well, if libertarians were 'in charge,' you'd have more freedom and prosperity. Freedom frightens some people. ... If libertarians were 'in charge,' there would be laws to protect us from foreign enemies and those who would steal from us or injure us. Today, by contrast, under the rule of Democans and Republicrats, we're drowning in rules -- 160,000 pages' worth. Micromanagement kills opportunity and freedom"

Did hubris or ideological blindness inspire Obama on his Solyndra visit?: "In the face of these warnings, why did Obama and his handlers proceed unflinchingly to visit the company last year? I can think of two likely explanations. One is hubris: The president thought that these admonitions were insignificant compared to his capacity as a politician and central planner .... The other explanation is simply sheer ideological blindness ..."

The fascist threat: "Everyone knows that the term fascist is a pejorative, often used to describe any political position a speaker doesn’t like. There isn’t anyone around who is willing to stand up and say: 'I’m a fascist; I think fascism is a great social and economic system.' But I submit that if they were honest, the vast majority of politicians, intellectuals, and political activists would have to say just that."

Class warriors for big government: "Acting as unofficial scorekeeper, Sojourners Founder and CEO Jim Wallis recently declared, 'There really is a class war going on, and the upper class is winning.' However, many of the class warfare protesters who are taking to the streets to 'occupy' Wall Street and American cities are the disgruntled children of well-to-do parents. ... Such protestors are driven less by genuine economic hardship than by misguided animus toward the market system that has enabled the wealth from which they have benefited."

Occupy Wall Street — the real culprits: "True Capitalism is not the problem. The reason successful firms are successful is because they offer things we want. We can choose whether to give them our money -- Ronald McDonald has never coerced you into buying a Big Mac. If the government were a firm on the open market, it would go broke within milliseconds. But we haven't got true capitalism"


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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