Monday, March 30, 2015

Milking the System?

There's an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times today that focuses on our local dairy industry: Dairy farmers, in dire need of workers, feel helpless as immigration reform sours.
"It's just crazy," said McMahon, who has several hundred cows at his farm more than 200 miles north of New York City.

"I'm a lifelong Republican," he said, shaking his head. "But I'm telling you, there are days when I think about switching."

McMahon and other dairy farmers in central and upstate New York are in a quandary. On one hand, farms have thrived because of several factors, including the popularity of yogurt in recent years and drought in other milk-producing countries. At the same time, they are battling to find the reliable, year-round labor that 24/7 milking operations require.

Locals won't do the dirty, manual jobs, farmers say, and immigration laws limit farmers to importing only seasonal agricultural employees. That does not help dairy farmers, who need year-round workers. . . .

"It happened overnight," said Dale, who watched the state's dairy industry shrink through the 1980s and '90s. "All of a sudden, New York had all these great yogurt things going on."

He and McMahon said they tried to stick to local labor but succumbed to hiring migrant workers as their workloads increased.

Both men, and Norton, blame the problem more on attitudes than on economics. McMahon, for example, said his farmworkers all started at $2,000 a month and get a three-bedroom house plus utilities and other benefits. Even so, McMahon said attempts to hire locals have failed.

"Nobody wants to go out there and deal with cows and get manure up their sleeves," said McMahon, who once advertised three straight weeks to find workers. Three locals applied, and only one worked out, he said. He now depends on Latino workers, most of them members of an extended family from Mexico. . . .

"I pray to God Jeb Bush is our next president," McMahon said, "because he's married to a Mexican woman. He gets it."

As could be expected for the LA Times, the article only focuses on the "immigration reform" aspect of the problem -- an issue dear to both Democrats and Progressive Republicans alike.  Nowhere is even a thought given to who or what might be competing with the farmers' labor demands.

It should be amazing that farmers cannot find reliable labor when the number of individuals on public assistance is at an all time high.  But actually it is not, per this NY Post article, when welfare  pays better than work.
In the Empire State, a family receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, food stamps, WIC, public housing, utility assistance and free commodities (like milk and cheese) would have a package of benefits worth $38,004, the seventh-highest in the nation.
Do the math! Why should "locals" do dirty, manual jobs when they can do just as well or better by signing up for public assistance?  Illegal immigrants provide the labor for local farmers because illegal immigrants are unlikely to apply for welfare benefits. Our government's policies have created this situation.

Perhaps the answer for the local dairy industry is not immigration reform, but, rather, welfare reform.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Clinton's Emails: More than Meets the Eye. . .

I watched Mrs. Clinton's "press conference" yesterday, wherein she explained that she chose to use her personal server for email instead of a government server because she did not want to lug around two different devices.  That may satisfy some people, but to me it was as believable as the story that a YouTube video started the Bengazi attack.

Mrs. Clinton's release of 55,000 emails in PRINTED form is a disingenuous gesture that strikes a familiar theme to anyone who has tried to use the FOI Laws against an uncooperative government agency. What better way to avoid scrutiny than to take electronic documents and change them into an overwhelming number of printed documents. This does three things: (1) prevents them from being electronically searched for key words, (2) deletes the "header" information contained in each e-mail that documents the servers that the e-mail passed through, and (3) discourages the discovery process by making it time consuming and expensive.

There is clearly more going on here than Mrs. Clinton ignoring protocol.

Just before Mrs. Clinton took the podium, she was shown sitting in a seat at the UN . . . and sitting behind her was her top aide, Huma Abedin.  If you remember, former Rep. Michelle Bachmann long ago raised a question how Ms.Abedin was able to obtain a security clearance given her familial relations to Muslim Brotherhood (a terrorist organization) operatives. . . but Bachmann was quickly labelled an "extremist" by certain Republicans, including our local congressman, and Bachman's logical, rational questions about Ms. Abedin's status were never answered.

Now, with discovery of Mrs. Clinton's e-mail irregularities, Judicial Watch has filed a FOIA request seeking
 1. Any and all records of communication between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Nagla Mahmoud, wife of ousted Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi, from January 21, 2009 to January 31, 2013; and  
2. Any and all records of communication between former State Department Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin and Nagla Mahmoud from January 21, 2009 to January 31, 2013. 
Why the interest in Mahmoud?  Per Judicial Watch quoting its sources:
. . .Morsi’s wife “is threatening to expose the special relationship between her husband and Hillary Clinton, after the latter attacked the ousted [president], calling him a simpleton who was unfit for the presidency. Sources close to Nagla confirmed that she has threatened to publish the letters exchanged between Morsi and Hillary.” 
The report continues by saying that Nagla accuses Hillary of denouncing her former close ally, the Brotherhood’s Morsi, in an effort to foster better relations with his successor, Egypt’s current president, Sisi—even though, as Nagla laments, “he [Morsi] was faithful to the American administration.”
Mrs. Clinton was careful yesterday to state that "most" of her communications were with US government employees which would have been captured by government computers on the receiving end.  But if she wrote to Morsi, or to Nagla Mahmoud, those communications would NOT have been captured.

Mrs. Clinton stated that she "deleted"  e-mails that were "personal"  in nature.  Would that include communications with Morsi?  Would that include communications with Morsi's wife?  Is what might be considered blackmail by Morsi's wife the subject of a "personal"  communication?  If a high government official has a "personal" relationship with a member of a terrorist organization, should the "personal" relationship shield communications from public review?

The Judicial Watch release, which has not been discussed in the media, gives a new urgency to getting to the bottom of Mrs. Clinton's actions.

Monday, March 02, 2015

OC's Shiny New Toy . . .

Oneida County's Griffiss "International" Airport unveils a new terminal building . . . And it is gorgeous!
The design of the new complex mixes wood siding, stone and plenty of windows on the outside and exposed wooden beams and support posts and piping on the inside. “They [sic] way we look at it, it is the gateway to the Adirondacks,” said [OC Aviation Commissioner] Stark. “It is upstate New York.”
The terminal consists of two buildings that are connected.

The smaller building is a one-floor structure to be used by US Customs for incoming "international" flights -- of which there are none regularly scheduled, although planes occasionally come in from abroad for maintenance by MidAir USA or Premier Aviation. (You remember MidAir, the company that just got evicted from one of its hangers for being over $700,000 behind in its rent - the company that is expanding in Florida, but not here in Rome.)  Now MidAir, Premier, and private pilots will no longer have to divert flights to Syracuse or wait for customs agents to arrive from Syracuse.

How convenient!  

The larger building is a two-floor structure with the top floor housing airport administrative offices and car rental.

The bottom floor is really cushy! It is entirely occupied by Million Air, the County's fixed base operator (FBO), that caters to "general aviation" needs - i.e., private pilots, private aircraft and their private passengers. Per the Sentinel . . .
In the center on the ground floor is the Million Air service desk. There’s a conference room, as well as a cafe. There are three seating areas, with wall-mounted flat-screen televisions. Adding to the warmth of the seating areas are two double-sided gas-burning fireplaces. Additionally, pilots will have access to a space with computers linked to the internet for flight planning. There’s a theater room to help them fill in wait times before takeoff. If a nap is desired, there are two rooms where pilots can catch a few winks.

The terminal cost $7.1 million dollars to build.  After a $500,000 grant (from taxpayers), Oneida County Taxpayers are on the hook for $6.6 million . . .  plus the annual cost of a customs agent of $160,000 per year. Of course, revenues will be coming in from terminal tenants.  OC Taxpayers will rake in a total of $138,400 annually from rents.  I.e., the rents coming in will not even cover the cost of the customs agent.  (Don't even think about the debt service on the structures).

But won't it be worth the convenience of being able to fly out of Rome instead of schlepping to Syracuse or Albany to catch a flight to Disney World, or Vegas, or to visit Aunt Martha in San Diego?

Think again.

There are No facilities for scheduled commercial flights . . . No ticket counters . . . No luggage carousels . . . No waiting rooms for You.   You, the OC taxpayer, will continue to schlep to Syracuse or Albany.  You, the OC Taxpayer, will continue to pay among the highest sales and property tax rates in the country to finance sumptuous and convenient facilities for the corporate welfare takers and regional elite.  

Per the Sentinel . . .
Majority Leader Joseph [sic] E. Joseph, R-10, Westmoreland, said the county has been a “good steward” of the millions of federal, state and county dollars invested at Griffiss since the Air Force moved out and the county airport moved over from Whitestown.
It is not being a "good steward" to secure millions from other levels of government only to saddle County Taxpayers with additional costs to support an infrastructure that is far too large to be justified by our regional population -- which is dropping.  

Airports are not viable "economic development" vehicles.   Read "Airfields of Dreams: If you build it, they won't come" by Steve Malanga in the Autumn 2012 City Journal.

No matter what we build to "attract" others here, we have totally failed to fix the fundamental problems that drove our own people and businesses to other parts of the country. Those forces of repulsion are still there. One of the forces of repulsion is our high rate of taxation -- now just made worse by our building new infrastructure that only serves private interests.

It's time for OC to put Joe and Jean Taxpayer first.  Only then will we see real economic growth.