Thursday, October 17, 2013

Moving to a new location...

I've been told that this format is difficult to navigate and have to agree.  The link above takes you to the new site.  Enjoy

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Time to do this

I started this blog a few years back in order to make my views clear on a few topics. While the original intent was to use this as a cathartic tool for my own benefit, I am now of the mind that our current political condition of the US of A is so abhorrent that the populous just might consider independent candidates as worth their attention at a level they never have before. Since I am not wealthy enough to simply quit my career and spend millions of dollars to get my name recognized I am trying a different approach.

 I will be posting my views on additional topics, expanding on some that I have already posted, and addressing any feedback I receive. If you have a question about something I have posted, disagree with my point of view, or have suggestions for other topics, please let me know. I will answer any questions honestly and as completely as I can and provide as much insight into my thought process as I am able in this forum.  The goal is to see if it is possible for a hard-working American middle-class guy to even get on the ballot for a congressional bid.

Next year the VA 7th district congressional position currently held by the U.S. House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor will be up for election. Hopefully I will get enough exposure and agreement with some of my views to get the requisite signatures for inclusion on the ballot . I am very serious about the desire to make real change in the political process of the US government but am also very aware that this approach has almost no chance of getting me in office. There will be no million-dollar ads, no trash talk about the other candidates, and no side-stepping of questions asked by anyone.

I am not a career politician but I do know this is the last thing a political adviser would tell me to do. Like the blog title says, this is why I’ll never get elected. But wouldn’t it be interesting if it were possible…

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2011 Relay Across America and Beyond (on a Honda SOHC4)

Few people in the world are lucky enough to find someone so understanding of who they are, so willing to embrace their unusual tendencies, and so able to overlook the seemingly illogical decisions they make as I am. Not only does my wife take my border-line insane ideas in stride, she seems to truly embrace them as part of the entirety of who I am. Most recently my lack of connection to reality surfaced as my request to participate in a relay across America. A forum for old Honda motorcycles I have been on for many years decided to put together this relay and one of the only rules is that our mascot (a 6” Godzilla) must ride on one of our 30+ year old bikes. That in itself would not be so bad if it hadn’t been during an unpredictable time of year (weather-wise) and if it wasn’t involving multiple full day rides totaling more than 1,000 miles for me. Combine that with a 9-month old son who is teething, has an ear infection, and has recently discovered that food is most fun when thrown and you start to get a picture of why I am still a little shocked my wife agreed to let me participate.

In my defense, my wife knew when she met me that I am at my core a motorcycle enthusiast. Part of the reason she agreed to our first date was the fact that I loved motorcycles. When she met me I had a chopper I had built from a ’78 Honda CB750 on the front porch and a ’73 CB500 that smelled much like a 30 year old motorcycle might if it were filled with 2-stroke gas mix parked on the curb. The oil stains on the porch and road in front of my house as well as the tattoo reminder of what these machines can do when not handled carefully were proof that I wasn’t as concerned with shiny perfection as I was with enjoying what I had and she fell in love with me anyway. We clocked many miles on the 500, smoke and all, and it did not take long for me to ask her to marry me but to understand how we got to a point where I thought that this relay ride was a somewhat reasonable request I have to give a little more history.


Not long after buying our house, but several months before we got married, I sold the chopper into which I had poured more sweat, blood, and tears than I like to admit and we bought a nice shiny Suzuki M50 Limited. I had dearly loved that chopper but having a dependable bike that we could both enjoy allowed me to begin the frame-up rebuild of the 500 which I had wanted to start for a long time but couldn’t because being without a 2-wheeled transportation for so long just wouldn’t work. There was the added benefit of not taking my life into my hands every time I went out for a ride so the wife was happy. I quickly began tearing down the 500 and making my plans for the finished product.

To be clear, I don’t do restorations; I do practical rebuilds on the cheap. Not that I don’t absolutely love a shiny, chromed, polished, perfectly painted classic. It’s just that I can’t bring myself to spend the money to get a part re-chromed (or buy another) when I can spend $5 and paint the part. Many purists would not think much of my process but I love it. Mechanically, I replace what needs to be replaced, rebuild what I can, and am as meticulous as I can be. I spent over a year getting the 550 power plant rebuilt and went with just a slight overbore to 555 (just to keep it tight). Since I’ve always been a fan of a blacked-out engine mine went dark as did the carbs and many other parts with just a few shiny parts left for accent. I even tried my hand with the spray gun and striping (red with a white stripe).

550 Painted Right Side

The problem is that I am not a mechanic nor a painter. Everything I know about working on engines I have learned from my Granddad Joe (responsible for my first orphaned motorcycle which just happened to be a ’73 350F) or many years later from the SOHC4 forum. Not having any real training on engine work other than what a manual or internet searching could provide, it was a very iterative approach to getting the bike running right.
• Tweak this, break that, start over.
• Repeat until it seems right.
• Find part under work bench that should have been installed 5 steps ago.

Internal mechanics were great if you don’t count a kick-starter that will only engage when she’s dead cold but carburetors are a completely different story. While I was able to get her started on the second or third try (and came running in the house with a shit eating grin smelling of gas fumes and grease) I could never get her to run quite right. Taking a page from one of my favorite books, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig, I stepped away from the work until my frustration levels dropped and I could once again enjoy the work on the bike. This lasted much longer than anticipated and several months later I actually thought about selling the girl. My wife, as is all too common around our house, was the voice of reason and said that I would regret it if I did and she wasn’t going to spend the next 50 years listening to me talk about the bike I wish I never sold. After reminding me that I always say after riding it how I had forgotten how much fun it is to ride I had to concede that she was right (damn it). So the bike sat, ridden only rarely due to my ineptitude with carbs and gumption loss, for the better part of 3 years.

Enter the 2011 Relay Across America and beyond. When this amazing group of guys decided to trek a little Godzilla doll across the continent I had to be part of it but my bike was far from the condition I needed it to be in for a trip of any distance. In fact I had only put about 1,500 miles on her in the 3 years since the rebuild. In asking my wife if I could take part I may have conveniently left out the part about the grand distances it looked like I would need to travel. Slowly I began to work this in over the couple months of planning and she was a trooper. After work and several weekends I would head out to the work shop to try and figure out why she just wouldn’t run the way I knew she could. Along the way I discovered many little items that when added together made me wonder how she had made it the 1,500 miles she had.

Issues corrected (for the most part) I was confident in my bike’s ability to make the trek and the first leg fell on 3/27/11. As the weekend approached I noticed the forecast did not seem to care that I had a motorcycle trip planned. If you’ve never visited the VA mountains in early spring I’ll let you in on a little secret; rain and snow will happen, it’s just a matter of when and how much. The guys on the earlier legs of the trip noticed the quickly declining weather and moved their handoff up a day so the trip for me from Charlottesville to Roanoke and back could be done on the day before the snow was due to arrive. Of course that doesn’t mean it was warm. In fact the thermometer said 36 degrees (no, I was not looking at the Celsius marks) when I left that morning. With a smile on her face my loving wife said “be safe” and waved my son’s hand at me telling him to say bye bye to da da. Now that is real incentive to ride carefully.

Bundled up against the cold in my ridiculously bright yellow suit I took off toward the little lizard, bike sounding pretty darn good if I do say so. After about ½ hour I stopped at a little gas station to try and force my fingers to move again and stretch my frozen legs. Even long underwear, jeans, and a full 1-piece rain suit didn’t keep the cold out. As I get ready to leave I notice a large, fresh oily spot directly under my front sprocket. For those of you that don’t know, this is a notorious spot on these old bike for oil leaks to begin. The size of the spot was worrisome so I immediately checked the oil level. Didn’t look like I had lost any. Strange… As I started to pull off I noticed a trail of drops being left on the pavement and immediately shut her down. Luckily I discovered that it was not an oil leak but another notorious issue with these wonderful old bikes; a carb was pissing gas out the overflow tube. It just happened to have been on an old oil spot the first time and tricked me.

With the fresh adrenaline rush and thawed hands I was back on the road and made it to Roanoke in fairly decent time since I decided to take the main roads in and the more scenic route back home. After meeting up with Blueridgerunner (Gary in real life) and having some great motorcycle talk in the cold parking lot of a Taco Bell, I met a great friend and his lady for lunch then headed home. Since I wanted to get some nice scenic shots of Godzilla along the ride we took the Blue Ridge Parkway out of Roanoke heading north. Once again, for those that have never been to the VA mountains in the early spring, the parkway has a climate all it’s own. I noticed the temp drop immediately but thought it was just the Thai food playing tricks on me. After about an hour I needed to get some gas and thaw for a few. Coming off the mountain to the nearest gas station in Buchanan you could actually feel the temp rise. The local bank thermometer said it was a nice warm 46 degrees so I’m guessing it didn’t get out of the 40s on the parkway.

Being the ever considerate husband I am, I called home to check in with the wife and let her know I hadn’t fallen off the mountain. It was not a good call. Evidently our son had been less than his normal playful self for the entire day and she was getting a bit worn so I decided to hit the highway for the rest of the way home (still 3 hours out). The last hour was ridden on about 3 ½ cylinders and I had no idea why but wasn’t about to stop to try and work on the bike, especially since I didn’t have a clear shield with me for night riding. By the time I limped the 500 into the driveway our son was settled down and just about ready for bed. As I shed layers and unpacked Godzilla it was clear that the following weekend’s trip was going to increase my already large debt with my wife and I was just hoping it wouldn’t turn out to be a complete disaster. Not wanting to add to the agitation I did not mention the bike issues to the wife right away.


Waking up to snow on the ground we were glad the trip had been moved. I was still a bit sore and my brain had been trying to troubleshoot the bike’s power loss all night but I decided to wait until Monday after work to take a look. On our way home from work the next day I mentioned to my wife that I needed to check a few things on the bike just to make sure she’d be ready for the next weekend. She was by this time fully aware that the trip of just over 700 miles round trip would prove risky and had no problem with me spending time trying to mitigate as much of the risk as I could. After a few hours I gave up and came inside. This pattern repeated itself for several days, each one providing clues but somehow I couldn’t put them together until, frustrated and needing to test one more thing, I went back out after putting our son to bed and tried to start her up in the dark.

Have you ever seen one of those Frankenstein electrical arches at the science museum? My bike had one of them from a plug boot to the head. Luckily I had an extra boot and swapped it out. Presto Chango. Suddenly she was back running smoothly (if a little rich). I took her to work on Friday and made a few tweaks when I got home which really livened her up. I’d never been so close to having a real live performance machine. The excitement for the next day’s trip was quickly stamped out with an update of the forecast. Snow in them there mountains. As had been the case with the previous week’s trip, we changed plans and moved the original 2-day trip for me and Tretnine (Brady in real life) to a Sunday round-trip. At best we’d be on the bikes for ~ 12 hours and Brady had just bought a nice shiny Concourse so he was up for it.

On Sunday morning at 7am I left my house, once again to my wife waving my young son’s hand saying “say bye bye to da da.” I would have had tears in my eyes had the ducts not been frozen shut. It was 33 degrees at that point and even with extra layers on it was no match for the wind. On a positive note, the bike was sounding better than she ever had and I was finally starting to think of her as a completed rebuild. Then I hit my first pothole which reminded me that the 38 year old shocks were completely useless as my ass was rammed into my neck.



We spent a few minutes taking pictures at Brady’s house and his lovely wife saw us off. Evidently she is just as understanding as my wife is. Are all motorcyclists lucky like that? On the road I lead and we kept a brisk pace of between 75 and 80 mph (about 6k rpm on the little 550 engine) stopping a little more frequently than would have been necessary in warmer weather.


At the VA / WV border we pulled over on the interstate for pics and I couldn’t feel my fingers on the front brake (same fingers that lost a little skin from the previous week’s trip) but man was it a beautiful ride. WV must have the most beautiful interstate travel of anywhere I’ve been. You are regularly leaning at 15 degrees or more while doing 80 mph around a large sweeping curve only to find another curve in the other direction just ahead.

We broke away from I64 just outside of Beckley and go on Rt 60 north to swing by the New River Gorge bridge for pics. This was the most surreal section of any ride I’ve ever been on. Not only does 60 wind up and down mountain after mountain with beautifully tight bends switchbacking their way through a rather dense forest, it had snowed a few inches on Saturday as the weatherman had predicted. The roads were clear (we thought) but the shoulders and surrounding land were covered in white. As we leaned through turn after turn it felt like all the cold melted away from my body and I was experiencing a true union between myself and the machine I had built. I could feel every twitch of the chassis that meant I had something else to tweak in the coming years but the engine felt as strong as a newer sport bike and pulled me through the turns as if it had been waiting for it’s chance to shine.



Stopping at the bridge for pictures and stretching, we followed Rt 19 back to I64 and hopped off at Rt 94 and on to Rt 3. Both of these were as twisty as Rt 60 was with brief breaks to cruise through small towns. I started to get really comfortable with how the 500 was eating up the curves and could feel the pegs getting close to scrapping once or twice. Then the sand came.

Up until this point the roads appeared to have just cleared themselves and there was no sign of any treatment. Coming up on a very sharp and shady right-hander I noticed too late the sand on the road and braking served to slow me down just a touch before my back end started to swing out from under me. I was lucky enough that no one was coming the other direction or you’d be reading a different story by another author right now. That little 500 regained it’s composure and we swept back into our lane after being about 3 feet from the guard rail on the other side, something I haven’t yet told the wife by the way. Brady, on the beast, was not far behind me and luckily saw me break loose with enough time to slow down a bit but he too got a bit wiggly in the turn somehow managing to keep the svelte 700 lb bike in the right lane.

We managed to calm ourselves and after a brief stop for verification of directions and to check to see if I needed to change my drawers, we made good time the rest of the way to Williamson only arriving 2 ½ hours later than planned. The guys we met were great and we enjoyed shooting the breeze with them, talking shop, and inspecting each other’s rides. There were 6 bikes in total gathered in the 7-11 parking lot, 3 of which were Honda SOHC4s. Chris’s pretty blue 750 with some nice Lester mags certainly looked the cleanest and Ben’s rat-cafĂ©-bobber-what-have-ya was ultra cool. In between sat my little 500 and I was extremely pleased that the machine I had almost abandoned a few years back had held up so well.



As we were saying out goodbyes to the guys I called home to let my wife know we were getting ready to head out and that I’d be home later than planned. She wasn’t surprised and I could hear a little concern in her voice but she just wished me safe travels and said she’d see me when I got home. I was reminded of that good old Alabama song Roll On 18 Wheeler for some reason and have to admit to being a little choked up as we pulled out of the parking lot and headed home.

Since we were leaving hours behind schedule and were sure to get home well after dark, Brady and I decide to take the quickest way we could. Rt 119 takes you from Williamson to Charleston and we hopped on I64 there. Not wanting to stop unless we had to in hopes of getting across the highest of the mountains before sundown we were pressing 80mph for the better part of 2 hours until a traffic jam slowed us up. These old air-cooled bikes don’t like sitting still for too long, especially after taking a beating like I was giving mine so I shut her down and just coasted (all downhill) in the traffic jam which would stop then get up to 5mph for ~ 100 feet at most. This must have been very offensive to the lady in the CRV in front of us because she actually got out of her car to berate me about not having a headlight on. We approached the cause of the backup and I fired the old girl back up. We pulled over to switch to clear shields and Brady took the lead with his immeasurably more effective headlights. Not wanting to drag the trip out any longer we stopped for gas and grabbed some candy bars and beef jerky for dinner before addressing the last 180 miles or so.

We stopped for one last fill up about 1 ½ hours from home. I grabbed the tools that Brady had been carrying in those great big saddle bags and strapped them to my sissy bar. We shook hands cause I wasn’t going to be stopping back by his place and hit the road for the last leg of the journey. It’s fitting that we should arrive at home late and with the temps not too much warmer than when we left that morning. At around 11:45 I walked through the door to my wonderful wife texting my worried mother that I was home safe even though she had to get up for work the next morning (I was going in late). She had set out bed clothes, got me a water and some Advil, and started a hot shower so I could thaw out before getting into bed.

I’ve spent a couple days now recovering from back, butt, legs and forearm cramps as well as nursing a few rather suspect spots on my fingers but it’s all been with a smile. Frozen and weary I came home to a wife that helped me shake off the cold and nurse the soreness even though it was all self-inflicted. My bike is parked in the shed getting some much deserved rest and I’ve been playing with my son after work instead of playing with wrenches. Satisfied that my little 500 can do whatever I ask her to I don’t feel the need to tweak anymore right now and it is a very calming condition.

The wife asked me if I minded if she got her hair cut this weekend then had her nails done. Of course I said, ”Sure. No problem.” She hasn’t said “You owe me” but we both know that would be an understatement.





Friday, March 4, 2011

The Death Penalty

It surprises me how controversial this topic is since it is, in my opinion, the most sensible outcome for a violent criminal in regards to society as a whole. Unfortunately many in opposition to the death penalty attempt to force religious beliefs or emotions into the argument but I do not believe either belongs in a discussion about what is best for society. In fact, through the years decisions based on religious doctrine or emotions have proven to be the most troubling for a society in the long run. Logical prudence is needed for weighty topics and is rarely used. Equally useless is the application of rare exceptions to the norm as an argument against a particular stance. There will always be exceptions and you must consider the magnitude of these exceptions compared to the overall end result, not simply discard the end product due to the few exceptions.

To begin I will say very clearly that I believe the death penalty should be used much more widely than it currently is applied. Examples of crimes that should carry a capital punishment possibility include but are not limited to attempted murder, violent sex offenses, and any sex offense against a child. I do understand that most people reading this will have serious misgivings about application of the death penalty for offenses in which someone else did not die it is not my intent to enforce an eye-for-an-eye approach. I am much more interested in the best outcome for society as a whole and the individuals that perpetrate these offenses are best removed from society permanently.

Life incarceration is costly and burdensome to society and should not be considered a reasonable substitute to the death penalty. Once someone has been deemed unfit to live constructively in society they should no longer burden society in any manner. Unfortunately where many who agree with me so far will begin to disagree is when the topic of violent offenders with mental illnesses comes up. I do not believe there should be any distinction between someone who commits a crime while sane and someone with mental issues who commits the same crime. Neither will contribute to society in any meaningful way and both have proven to be a danger to others.

One of the issues with our current death penalty is that there are too many provisions for delaying of the sentence being carried out. The appeals process, as with many things in our legal system, needs to be revised. I do not think that there should be more than 1 year allowed for appeal before an execution. The goal is to rid society of the burden of supporting someone unfit to live in society and who has proven themselves to be a danger to others. Allowing them to live on the taxpayers funds for many years while arguing for a lessened sentence is contradictory to the goal. I do understand that there is a slight risk of this approach causing a small number of innocent parties to slip through the cracks but the overall reduction of burden to society outweighs this concern.

I would also be interested in allowing the death penalty for anyone currently serving a life sentence who commits any violent crime while in incarceration. This individual does not have the ability to contribute to society and is preventing others in the penal system from serving their sentences in a productive way and returning to society. There are too many protections placed around those who do the most harm to society and the rest of the group pays the price. It is not an emotional nor a religious issue but simply a matter of protecting those that work hard, contribute to society, and mind their own business from those that have only their own interests in mind or that simply do not care about the pain they cause to others.

A society only works as long as there is some semblance of trust that they are all working toward the same goal or are at least not impeding each other from working toward their individual goals. There is no room for those that abuse, assault, kill, or attempt any of these in a functioning society yet these individuals often receive more support from civil liberties groups than the victims. It would be prudent to put legislation in place to permanently remove these individuals from society and allow the limited resources of civil liberties groups to work on more beneficial matters.

It should go without saying that there are many details around this topic that would need to be ironed out and I am not presenting this point of view as a complete and comprehensive stance but as an example of the core around which my ideas on this topic are built. As always I am open to intelligent logical arguments in contrast to my own and have altered my ideas in the past based on others presenting a valid point that required me to rethink my position. Here’s to open debate on controversial topics.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Decomposition of Thought

Found these from a few years back. Some of my random mind-pukes.

Decomposition of Thought

The composition of a sentence makes all the difference
A thought unanalyzed, given words internally
Words arranged for aesthetics, organized for logic's sake
Bounced against the momentum of the moment for impropriety
Given voice a moment too soon
All preparation is wasted.

Victim to the truth

Truth be told, old as I am, the direct nature of my conversation tends to open the evil in others. From where does the contention that my truth, when requested, can be uncalled for? When my further explanation of a situation leads to leaving... leave if that be your decision, but don't hold me as the attacker when my words were unfinished......

Humanity of the humorless

Deadpan stares given to the inappropriate exclamation
Laughs, forced and few
Reflection of bottled lights in their eyes
End of the bar is best to view the rest

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gun control

I recently read an article touting the need for better gun control laws in this country and had to shake my head in disbelief at the lack of understanding (and slight disconnect from reality) evidenced within those 750 words. Just to be clear, I agree with the idea that there should be limits on how a weapon of any kind may be used but feel that we have far too many laws which focus on the possession or type of a weapon instead of what is done with it. In fact you could cover the necessary intent of many laws by enforcing the simplest ones. It is illegal to kill someone except in self defense. Why then must there be a law that says it is illegal to kill someone with a gun except in self defense? Additionally, why would there be laws which prevent a person from being able to defend themselves if it is legal to do so?

First let’s discuss laws related to the commission of a crime. Is it any worse for society to have someone who committed murder with a gun on the streets than someone who committed murder with a rock? The end result is the same, someone else is dead, so why should the punishment be any different? To that end, why should it matter if I threaten to kill someone by pumping my fist at them or by showing them a gun? I have indicated the same intent in both cases with the only difference being I have proposed a specific tool to accomplish the task in the second. Some will argue that the punishment should be more severe because the level of fear raised by the different methods of threatening can be significantly different. While it is easy to agree that a gun is clearly more easily capable of accomplishing the threatened task it is much more difficult to agree that we should litigate differently based on a person’s subjective reaction to a situation. Not everyone will have the same fear response to seeing a gun.

I will address issues with our justice system and the political influences that permeate it at a later time but will say here that if we enforced existing laws and severely limited the loop-holes that some lawyers abuse to prevent criminals from being punished we would find that violence drops much faster than by restricting law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves. More energy is spent each year on preventing your average American from purchasing a firearm than is spent on eliminating the ways in which a criminal might avoid punishment. To me there is something very wrong about this.

Now let’s discuss the ability to defend one’s self or family. A law abiding citizen will obey a law that prohibits the carry of a fire arm but a criminal does not care if there are additional laws on this topic, they have already decided that laws do not apply to them. In fact, additional laws restricting individuals from carrying a weapon only serve to make the criminal more secure in the knowledge that their victims will not have the means to defend themselves from attack. There have been numerous studies showing the direct correlation between restrictive gun laws and violent crime rates; the more laws, the more violent crime (please do some research before responding that this is not true, it is). When the general populace is disarmed criminals become more brazen because there is a very minimal chance that they will come across a victim that can defend themselves.

One of the issues with the laws around firearms that truly perplexes me is that the system allows criminals who have been stopped by a victim (or the criminal’s family) to retaliate against the victim. There have been many stories over the last few years illustrating this. If a person breaks into your house at night, has a weapon, and comes into your bedroom it is a logical assumption that they intend to do you serious harm. Why then should they (or their family) be able to sue you if you seriously injure or kill them. It was not the victim that went into the criminal’s home and threatened them yet some lawyers with no commitment to justice have been able to convince a judge or jury that the criminal should be rewarded for their violation of the law with a monetary settlement. I truly believe that there should be significant reform in this area and that “castle doctrine” type laws should be expanded to cover your entire property as well as your vehicle (car-jackers be ware). Instead of the criminal that is now paralyzed being given thousands of dollars they should be put on trial for the break-in and sent to jail. The preparedness of the victim should not be a reprieve from punishment for the criminal.

On a personal note and without any malicious intent or desire to play the part of the hero, I carry my sidearm with me whenever it is legal and safe to do so. No one has ever known that I am armed except for my wife and I’ve never had cause to change that. Being a law-abiding citizen I have only recently been able to carry my concealed weapon into a restaurant when we go out to eat since VA was, until this past July, one of the states that prevented concealed carry in any establishment that serves alcohol, regardless of whether the permit holder was drinking or not. I no longer have my customary 1 beer or glass of wine with dinner and am fine with that (doesn’t hurt to cut out those calories anyway). Many gun control advocates tried to convince those making the laws that this change would lead to a wild-west atmosphere in every restaurant in town. This did not happen and I am grateful that rationality won out over unsubstantiated fear-mongering on this particular issue.

In closing I’d like to say that I truly do hope that I never am put in a situation that requires me to use deadly force to protect myself, family, or another victim but would do so without guilt if there were no other way to ensure our lives were safe. I detest the idea of killing another human being but would rather live knowing that I was forced to kill a criminal than with the knowledge that I could have prevented the death of an innocent person and did nothing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Many discussions on our country’s current economic situation find the participating individuals taking one extreme or the other with regards to the welfare system. Some will say that it is completely broken and should be abolished while others see no problem with it and/or are in favor of extending qualifications for aid to more of the population. While I do not agree that the system should be abolished completely I do think that it is broken and should be reconstituted in such a way to provide help only to those that are willing to earn it and that does not reward irresponsibility. Here’s what I would propose. Feel free to add suggestions. For the sake of this discussion we’ll only address able-bodied individuals requiring assistance. The qualifications for disability should be similarly revised but would need to have more flexibility and therefore should be considered separately.

Step 1. Welfare increases would no longer be given out for the birth of an additional child. If you are on welfare you will have access to free birth control via an expanded free clinic system and would be expected to use it responsibly. Yes, there are cases where even responsible use of birth control is not effective but those are very rare and should not affect the guidelines.

Step 2. Mandatory drug testing (including alcohol) for all recipients. While I am a believer in personal freedoms and do not have a problem with an individual using substances to alter their state of mind as long as it does not impact others, I do not believe anyone should be allowed to do so when they are dependent on the government for subsistence. If we are to require the general public to give money (that is what taxes do) we should not mandate that they do so for someone who is voluntarily altering their mind in a way which makes them unemployable.

Step 3. In the place of the current check distribution would be grocery centers, direct mailing of rent/utility subsidization to the landlord and utility companies (not to include cable tv but including basic internet access and phone), and clothes programs. A family would be given a set of weekly meal packages with there being variations for size of family and very basic personal preferences (vegetarian, no red meat, etc). Each package would have everything required (including spices) to make healthy, well balanced meals for a week and the system would allow for an additional spice per week (normal cooking spice size to last several months) of the family’s choosing as well as basic cleaning necessities such as laundry power and dish soap. In short, those receiving welfare would have less choice on how the money is spent but would get more out of it and there would be opportunity for the issuing body to realize efficiency through standardization.

The rental subsidization would have a limit placed on it that is equal to no more than the 20th percentile for the area in which the recipient lives. This phase would have limits set for the amount of time a recipient is able to receive assistance over a given period. After the limit is reached there would be a second, reduced level of assistance offered with focus on child care and meals.

Step 4. An education system would be put in place that required anyone receiving welfare to obtain a GED if they do not already have one or a high school diploma. Classes would be available during the day and evening to accommodate job searches and part-time employment. Child care would be provided while classes are being attended. Additional practical application classes would be offered for specific job skills to help qualify individuals for employment.

Step 5. Jobs. There are many tasks for ANY area that do not get accomplished due to lack of funding. As the system progresses these tasks would be completed by recipients in exchange for their assistance. In short, if you want assistance you’ll work for it. The wages for these tasks would be set at minimum wage (as determined by the state in which they live) with some getting an extra premium for type of effort of no more than 10% and would include everything from assisting with trash clean-up to assistance with administrative duties of various government departments as determined by skills tests and recipient’s abilities.

All of the same standards of employment would have to be met as they are for other government jobs (effectiveness, timeliness, proof of ability to work in US, drug testing, etc) and an individual would be given no more than 2 chances (fired twice) to fulfill a job before being excluded from assistance for a period of no less than 5 years. Since this phase does not allow for receipt of assistance without earning it there will be no limits to how long a person may choose to accept the wages in return for the work.

At this point we should see a much lower unemployment rate (jobs program counts as employment) and the tasks being done under the government assistance program would be able to expand to meet local area beautification needs, raising the values of properties, bringing in new businesses, and expanding the job market for a given area. Instead of simply throwing hard-earned tax money at a problem we would be allowing those in need to earn what they need to provide for themselves and/or their family while making the area they live in nicer, learning a new skill, and/or increasing their own marketability for other jobs. I believe that this would ultimately lead to these individuals taking pride in their accomplishments and having a much higher degree of satisfaction with life in general than if the government were to simply hand out checks.

Yes, there are many details to iron out but this would be the basic framework (subject to updates and adjustments) on which I would base my attempt to enact welfare reform should I ever get in office. That should pretty much guarantee I’ll never be elected, huh?