Monday, August 31, 2015

Election 2016 Is Not About Donald Trump

Contrary to what you might believe and what the media (left and right) might be telling you the upcoming 2016 election is not about Donald Trump.  It's not about Hilary's email server.  Heck it’s not even about Republican verse's Democrat.  This election is about the preservation of our Liberty.  It is under attack from every angle and every direction.  It is driven by the narratives that we are told are important and many Americans are buying it hook, line, and sinker. I am conservative in my views when it comes to government and spending. I am more libertarian when it comes to my views on personal freedoms, and I am Christian when it comes to my core beliefs.  I believe that Liberty is at the epicenter of all of those things.  Whether we call it “freewill” when speaking of God’s gift of choice, or the Bill of Right’s when referring to government, liberty is what drives us to be more then what we are today.

Before I go further in my explanation of why our liberty is at stake in 2016, let’s take a minute to truly understand the concept and definition of Liberty.  Liberty is defined by Merriam-Webster as the state or condition of people who are able to act and speak freely, the power to do or choose what you want to, a political right.  Reread that one more time and mull it over for a second.  Liberty is not a thing it’s a state of being.  It is a right of existence without persecution or constraints.  Yet in that part alone we see the waters get muddied.  People see liberty as a right of equality or a get out of jail free card to pursue whatever it is you want WITHOUT consequence.  This is what inspires statements of “it’s not fair”, or “it’s my right” to seep out of the lips of those that don’t respect the foundation of what our liberties were built on.
President Abraham Lincoln said “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” This might be one of the simplest but most powerful quotes made by a President.  It specifically defines the greatness of our country.  To put it into today’s term it is our countries Mission statement.  The idea that we all have equal rights to Liberty through our creation, in other words we are born with it.  This statement is timeless and rings true today.  However we have perverted it through big government and entitlements. Let me explain.
First let’s talk about Big Government.  This is the idea that more regulations, restrictions, agencies, and more oversight will level the playing field for everyone.  We see it in small and large examples and this administration has exacerbated this more than any before it.  We have seen the reach of government extend into our small businesses, our right to believe as we want, and even into our kid’s lunch pails. We have seen large government programs and legislation that affects the many to help the few.  Democracy is corrupted today by political correctness, lobbyist group, and super packs.  It’s the ability to sway to right decision for most American to cater to the money and influence of a few.  We see government try to legislate equal results for everyone not equal opportunity.  Results are strictly and whole-heartily dependent on the person.  We have seen stories of people coming from poverty to become wealthy, or from the projects to live in mansions.  They take the opportunities given to them and run with them, or if need be create their own opportunities. 
Here is a case in point of government over reach that negatively impacted the majority while positively and unjustly rewarding the minority.  In 2009 under the Obama administration we saw government over reach into the credit card industry and impose strong and costly regulation under the disguise of standing up for the consumer against the big bad banks.  This was the Credit CARD Act of 2009.  In a nutshell this act prevented the banks from charging or limiting fees and penalties to consumers.  Man that sounds good so how is that bad?  Well the people most positively impacted from this Act were those that are delinquent, over their credit limit, or have had their cards revoked.  I worked in the credit card industry during the time this was passed.  The supplier I worked for was a low prime to subprime issuer of cards.  This means we expected to have a higher rate of people going pass due then some of our competitors and definitely then the market average.  However even at our worse times (between Nov and Feb) we saw our delinquency rates no higher than 11%.  That means that 89% of our risky portfolio was current and paying as agreed.  However when the regulations said you can no longer penalize the non-payers (by using the term and conditions outlined in their contracts small print or not) it threw off every issuer’s business strategy.
Here were the results.  This did not help those that were delinquent as we saw absolutely no uptick in their payment patterns.  What we saw was issuer’s raise interest rates across the board.  Yes those 89% had to start paying more to compensate for those 11% that continued with their same, now non-penalized, behavior.  Those folks that had a credit card for emergency purposes only and used it very little and paid the balance off as fast as possible saw their credit limit decreased to offset the potential loss numbers the issuers had to account for.  Great card offers to people with great credit started to be less appealing, and 0% interest cards became a thing of the past.  Programs that were once readily available to help people going through tough times became very strict on acceptance.  In other words government stepped in to help those that weren’t helping themselves at the price of those that were.  Wait am I talking about Obamacare now.  Hmmmm
This seems like a perfect transition to talk about the second issue we see attacking our Liberty and that is entitlements. James Madison stated “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”  I think we have blurred the lines of assistance and entitlements so much that they have become more like charity.  Which means it is something given to someone with no expectation of returns or change.  Think of it this way.  When you are walking down the street of almost any major city in the US there are people with signs asking for help.  If you decide to give that person money then you are doing so out of charity and you don’t believe that the dollar or so you hand them will change their life or cause them to better themselves.  In fact many times that money will be used on exactly what got them to the point of holding that sign in the first place.  Use that philosophy alone and think of government programs we have out there now.  If you allow yourself to honest and not influenced by political correctness you cannot help but see that we have moved many programs to fall into the definition of charity.
We have seen unemployment benefits being extended, EBT cards that can be used to buy candy and other junk food.  I have recently seen signs in convenience store windows saying that Monster Energy drinks can now be purchased via EBT cards.  This has turned a program that would once be used as a social safety net into more of a social hammock.  When money is given to someone with no expectation of betterment or return then it is charity.  This is glaringly evident when you  see the Labor Force Participation Rate at an all-time low as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  See chart in which the left indicates the percentage of people working over the age of 16. 

What this means is of the people of the age and ability to work less are doing it.  This is the real number we should be looking at when talking about unemployment.  Another great indicator is that Welfare Spending for our government was 2% of the GDP (gross domestic product) during the Great Depression.  From 2009 – 2010 it was at 3.36% and is currently at 2.1%.  So we are being told our economy is so much better but we still have higher welfare number then the Great Depression?

This is after the constant passing of legislation for “fairness”, the extension of unemployment benefits, and a horde of executive actions.  You cannot legalize prosperity, however you can most definitely legislate dependency.  Here is a truly scary fact that should have us all seriously taking a look at our elected officials and asking the question of HOW CAN THIS LAST AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO STOP IT!!  For every 1.65 persons working in the private sector 1 person is on welfare assistance, and when you add in government employees into the mix the goes to 1.25 taxpayers for every 1 person being paid in part or full by taxes.  Read more here.

So what does all this mean?  It means WAKE UP FOLKS!  Stop being force fed the narrative from media outlets.  This election is about gaining back our Liberty and freeing ourselves from the hold that government has inserted (un-Constitutionally in many cases) on our lives.  This isn’t about a Billionaire, or an email server, or same sex marriage.  This is about our abilities to make our own choices, good or bad.  Whether we have great successes and stupendous blunders it is our right to have the opportunity to do so.  Stand up together and remember the words of Liberty that found our country, the men who died to protect it, and realize the there is an all-out attack on it as we speak.  It isn’t an attack from a foreign power but from those we have elected that are either involved directly in the fight or sitting idly by watching it happen.  So when you go to cast your vote in 2016 think of one thing and one thing only.  Who stands for my Liberty, and check the box by that name. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cigar Review: Egg by Drew Estates

Here is what our friends at Famous Smoke say:

You'll need 2 full hours to get through this baby. The 'Egg' is a true one-of-a-kind cigar made from a 4-nation blend that jam-packed into this rotund, savory bomb.  Beginning creamy and smooth, Egg explodes at its center with deep, rich tasting complexity.  A must-try for the adventurous smoker.

Famous Smoke has not yet rated this cigar.

A New Year, and a New Smoke

     As Smoking Seth and I were exchanging Christmas gifts, he handed me a wrapped, rectangular package.  I knew it had to be good, just by the giant grin on his face.  As I unwrapped it, the name on the box beneath the wrapper jumped out at me:  "1 EGG, DREW ESTATE, Esteli, Nicaragua."  Seth's silly grin moved to my face as I remembered having seen the Drew Estate Egg cigar online.  I quickly opened the box and stared at a peculiarly shaped behemoth.  It looked like a small snake had swallowed a big mouse and it was stuck right in the middle.  I took it out and gave it a sniff and passed it around the room for everyone to admire.

     Out of the box, the cigar had a light wrapper, was not particularly oily, was relatively smooth and had a little give on the squeeze.  From what I remembered, this is not a cigar from any of their infused lines, so I did not expect a fragrance other than the pungent aroma of quality tobaccos.  As I was contemplating when I could light this bad boy up, Seth reminded me that this cigar is meant to be a 2-hour smoke.  I would have to wait until we got to Branson, Missouri, and smoke it while celebrating the New Year.

     Seth, I, and our wives were spending the New Year in Branson and decided to make smoke-friendly Waxy O'Shea's Irish Pub our haunt for the evening.  Waxy's was hopping with an 80's-era live band, and a room full of eager patrons.  With the song from the Lion King in my head, I lifted my EGG from its box and high into the air for all to see.  The generous people who had shared their table with us gasped and looked upon it with love and awe and everyone in the room held their breath in anticipation as I clipped the end, toasted the foot, and took the first draw.

     Now, it may not have been quite that dramatic, but there WAS a GREAT deal of cigar envy in the room that night.  The EGG was pointed at, stared at, asked about, and met with admiration (and a little condemnation) as I lit it up and began my EGGsperience.  Throughout the evening, and through MANY Long Island Teas, shots, and whatever else may have been set in front of me, the EGG was my companion, providing a quiet respite from dancing with my beautiful wife on the noisy dance floor.  What a great evening!

     Now, about the EGG.  The draw was easy and light and produced a mountain of smoke.  I got a great ash from the first half of the cigar, having to make an effort to knock it off so I wouldn't perchance to drop it on my wife, myself, my drinks, or any passing patrons.  The taste was mild and smooth, not complex, but pleasant.  The cigar remain lit as I moved to the "Mountain in the Middle," and stayed lit until about the midpoint.  Towards the middle of the cigar I began having some trouble.  Mind you, this is about an hour or more into the cigar...and into my drinks - we were both well-lit at this point - but my Connecticut wrapper began to fall apart.  It started as cracks, then began to tear, and then started to stick to my lips.  Shortly thereafter, the wrapper began to crumble along the full remaining length and I was forced to kill it off.  This was very unfortunate as I still had a full third or more of the cigar to go, and it wasn't even midnight yet.
Overall, the evening was better than the EGG, but the awesomeness of the EGG paired very well with a blow-out of a New Years Celebration, the likes of which I hadn't had in many years.

The numbers:

Burn:  85
Consistency:  80
Draw:  85
Appearance:  99
Taste:  80
Construction:  40

Overall:  75

The Suggestion:  This is a lot of cigar for a lot of fun.  Don't go into this thinking it is just a novelty to smoke with the guys during the game, but bring it out when the night is going to be a production and you need the props to be THE PIMP in the room.  You will get a lot of attention while you enjoy a mild cigar that looks like it would choke a horse..

Monday, December 30, 2013

Cigar Review: Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas

Small But Powerful 


Here's what the Pro's at Famous Smoke say:

Liga Privada Unico Serie cigars are a unique addition to the Drew Estates highly-acclaimed Liga Privada series.  All of the cigars in this series are not only different in size and recipe, but they are extremely limited and exceptionally delicious,  The smoke is medium to full in body and marvelously complex.

Burn:     91
Consistency:     90
Draw:     90
Appearance:      86
Taste:     86
Construction:     88

Overall rating:     88

As I mature (nice way of saying I'm getting older) so does my taste in cigars.  I started my journey in the world of wrapped wonder seeking those mild smokes.  Heck, throw in a flavor here and there and I was set.  I still like a smooth, gentle smoke, even some sweetness now and again, but my taste buds have grown to, first, appreciate and now, crave the robust flavor of a medium to full bodied cigar.  

Recently my wife bought me my very own box of Liga Privada #9.  Yes you heard me right - a whole box just for me.  If you have ever had one you know that these aren't your everyday cigar.  This is due to the rich and fullness of the cigar as well as the hefty price tag.  I found myself wanting to smoke one, pulling it out of the humidor, holding it, smelling it, but ultimately putting it up thinking that there had to be an occasion to partake of such a distinguished stick.  I felt guilty for thinking about puffing away at one by myself with no reason for celebration.  

In comes Papas Fritas.  Not the 1992 indie rock group, or the salty starchy treat we have all grown to love from McD's.  Nope, the Liga Privada Único Serie Papas Fritas -  a small but powerful smoke.  In a nutshell, these little sticks are the offspring of the more elaborate and heavily sought after Liga Privada line which actually translates as "private blend."  The Liga line features the #9 and T52.  How this smoke came to be was that Drew Estates is always seeking to create a new and elite smoke for their Liga line and in doing so they created endless samples.  Some are great, but not cost effective to produce as a line of there own.  What we see with the Paps Fritas is one of those such creations.  It is the same tobacco used in the elite lines, but with a few differences.  One, and probably the most telling reason, is its use of short filler tobacco as opposed to long filler tobacco.  What this means is a slightly faster burn than it's older brother of the Liga line. 

Don't get me wrong.  This is by no means a "seconds" or "flawed" cigar.  You can easily tell  from the construction and feel of the cigar that this is the real deal and you know you are in for a treat.  It is constructed from premium Liga Privada Nicaraguan fillers, a Connecticut River Valley stalk, cut and cured maduro wrapper, and a Brazilian Mata Fina binder.  There is a nice sheen due to the oily exterior.  It is a 44 gauge and 4 1/2 length, so this can be enjoyed in 30 minutes or so.  

After toasting the foot and letting it breathe for a few seconds, I lit it up.  From my first taste I knew that I had found a good smoke.  The flavor was definitely complex.  It started off with an earthy, almost smoked flavor.  As you settled in, the sweet profile raises it head and the hint of a nutty coco mixture starts to develop.  The draw was a fantastic rich smoke with almost effortless pulls.  

No single flavor outweighs the other as you get to enjoy the collaboration throughout the smoke.  I did notice a little more heat toward the final third of the cigar, but nothing that took away from the enjoyment.  As I neared the end I kept looking at the now nub of a cigar I had in my hand wondering if I should extinguish it or try to steal another drag or two.  The only draw back, and I feel it may be due to the short fillers used along with the gauge, was the firmness of the cigar did seem to give way in the final third.

Here is how I see this tiny giant. 

My ratings:

Burn:     90
Consistency:     88
Draw:     95
Appearance:      90
Taste:     90
Construction:     86

Overall rating:     89

The Suggestion:  

Although this is a small cigar, it will burn longer than most cigars of comparable size due to the tight roll as well as the high quality of tobacco used.  It's price point makes it an absolute must if you are looking for high-end flavor without the high-end price.  They come in tins of 4 and are now a staple for me.  If medium to full body is your thing and you want a smoke at a price you can share (although you won't want to) this is a cigar for you.