Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Let Freedom Ring

"Freedom is an individual battle,
fought on many fronts."
  Last week former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi met his end when he was flushed out of his last hiding place and killed. No one knows whether he was killed in battle or whether he was executed, but in the end it really doesn’t matter. President Obama and the NATO forces that bombed Gadhafi’s military have affected the regime change they sought and removed a long-time thorn in America’s side. It remains to be seen whether there will be freedom and democracy in Libya or whether mass graves filled with Gadhafi’s opponents will be replaced by mass graves filled with his former supporters and the Libyan version of government by Islamic law will mean the imprisonment and flogging of actresses who appear in movies without wearing traditional garb. Time will reveal all the answers and for now the world is celebrating the newfound freedom of the Libyan people.

  Luis Lebron and other welfare recipients of Florida have won freedom from taking drug tests to get their welfare payments. The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lebron, a 35 year old Navy vet and college student at the University of Central Florida and the law requiring the drug test was halted by Federal Judge Mary Scriven. Another Florida Law that would have made new state employees take drug test was also suspended after the ACLU filed a different lawsuit. Lebron said he was “happy that the judge stood up for me and my rights and said the state can’t act without a reason or suspicion.” I’ve had to take drug tests in order to get a job and I didn’t feel like my rights were being violated, but I did insist on watching the keeper of the little yellow bottle put the label with my name on it so there wouldn’t be a mix up. I think drug testing for state employees should be a matter for collective bargaining, but I have no problem with minimizing the chances that people receiving public assistance won’t be selling their EBT cards for drugs or cashing their welfare check at the check cashing place closest to their preferred dealer, especially if there are children depending on the recipient to buy food for them with those funds. But the court has ruled that the recipients of entitlement programs are entitled to not have to be subjected to a drug test in order to be entitled. I wonder if President Obama’s new initiative to hire more veterans will come with a mandate that they won’t be subjected to a drug test if they are hired for a job. If not, Mr. Lebron may exercise his newfound freedom by declining all job offers and staying in school, at least until his public assistance runs out.

  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not upset by people on welfare going to court over having to take a drug test or our government borrowing billions of dollars from China in order to effect a regime change in a country half a world away. This is the system we live in and I can’t really hold it against anyone for trying to use the system in their favor. I like to think in our own small ways, we are trying to advance the cause of freedom as we see it as best we can.

A different kind of freedom...
from Jalapeno Cheetos!
  I was a freedom fighter in my own way when in August, I vowed to boycott buying Cheetos from the vending machine at work until the vending machine powers that be stopped their predatory practice of slipping Jalapeno Cheetos into every other slot, making me either buy the Jalapeno Cheetos in order to get regular Crunchy Cheetos to the front of the machine or wait until a coworker bought the Jalapeno Cheetos, leaving the desired regular Cheese Cheetos to the next person.

  I kept to my boycott even though it looked like the machine would never change its ways. I did occasionally buy a bag of pretzels or Lay’s potato chips, but when I wanted Cheetos, I either walked to the Marketplace 6 floors down and 2 blocks away or did without. There were plenty of times it would have been easy to quit, like the entire week that a bag of Crunchy Cheetos was front and center calling to me to put my 85 cents in so we could be together, but I could see the green tint of the Jalepeno Cheetos back just waiting behind it to have the last laugh and it gave me the strength to deny myself the Crunchy Cheetos.

Freedom always has enemies!
Lurking just behind the Baked
Cheetos are Baked Doritos,
just waiting to deprive snack
lovers their right to choose!
  2 weeks ago I noticed that the Cheetos had been moved from the second row to the top row of the vending machine and that there was only plain Lays potato chips and not the sour cream Chips. Then a day or two later I saw that the plain Lays chips had been replaced by the sour cream chips and that in addition to the crunchy Cheetos, a slot on the top row has been filled by Baked Cheetos. I kept to my boycott and last week I noticed that the crunchy Cheetos slot didn’t contain Jalapeno Cheetos in any of the slots. Now I could get a bag if crunchy Cheetos whenever I wanted. Proclaiming victory, I fished a dollar out of my pocket and bought a bag of Cheetos. Sure enough, a new bag of crunchy Cheetos had made its way to the front of the line. As a bonus, I even got 20 cents in change back instead of the expected 15 cents. If I had a rifle handy, I would have fired shots through the ceiling (I work on the top floor) to note my triumph, but instead my victory celebration consisted of eating Crunchy Cheetos and victoriously washing all that orange Cheetos powder from my hands.

  I don’t know if this was some sort of marketing experiment or the vending machine company finally ran out of Jalapeno Cheetos or they were willing to make concessions to regain my business, or some unrelated reason, but I’m chalking it up as a victory for freedom for snack food choice. I’m also aware that this may be a trick from the vending machine company to lure me back into the Cheetos habit and then the Jalapeno Cheetos will make their reappearance. I know I’ll have to remain vigilant to protect my boycott’s gains. Today I found out that the vending machine will be taken out of our office for ‘refurbishing’ before we move to the new office in a couple of weeks. I also noticed that the Baked Cheetos are alternating between Baked Cheetos and Baked Doritos. It’s a grim reminder that even though I’ve won the freedom to have crunchy Cheese Cheetos on demand from the vending machine, there is still work to be done.