Innocent Men Are Defenseless (Essay)

Right now, my wife’s son is going through the worst imaginable abuse by the surrogate mother of his 2-year-old son. She has tried to get the baby away (permanently) since he was born. She told the hospital that the father was unknown when she gave birth. It took the state Attorney General to force her to set the record straight. Since then, she has filed one false report after another with police, causing him to lose his job, be arrested, and be denied time with his son.

She is vengeful and hateful in every way possible. Even though her accusations have all been shown to be false, the police do not care, and will not investigate or prosecute her for her deceptions. They say the DA will not prosecute women for false accusations because it might discourage other women from coming forth with true accusations. This woman has found out that she can bludgeon an innocent man to legal, and financial death, with impunity.

I am not saying I know the facts of Kavanaugh’s past. I am saying that men are completely at the mercy of accusers, without hope of recourse or restoration of their honor or their livelihoods. Justice, and innocence until proven guilty have been thrown in the trash. Men have become collateral damage in a social war where there are true victims. We need a way to protect the innocent.

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Freedom of Belief for the Red Hen (sorry, I just couldn’t resist addressing silliness, or using 5 double consonants)

The growing conflict between partisans in the US has intensified to more than disagreement.

The Red Hen owner’s labeling of a member of the White House staff as rejectionable, is tantamount to political racism. Refusing to serve a peaceful citizen on political grounds is the kind of segregation our southern states applied to black people; Germany used similar tactics to separate, vilify, and exterminate people who were “other.” How can the courts permit such discrimination?

This restaurant has taken a particular moral/political stand akin to Chick-fil-A. To allow it to continue to operate, with judicial support, the court must require consistency; they can start with clear and strong demonstrations of their political beliefs to all patrons.

First, the judge would order them to change their name from “Red” to “Blue,” thus making a clear declaration that any Republicans or their supporters will not be allowed. Next, the judge needs to order the additional change from “Hen” to the more inclusive, gender-neutral “Poultry,” to reflect the Democratic Party’s platform. The adjustment to “Blue Poultry” should be supported by a federal government subsidy of $10 million, paid in installments over 5 years.

The judge should order that any changes in menu items, prices, or descriptions must be pre-approved by the court after screening for existing, objectionable, partisan, or cultural slurs or innuendos, to give patrons a clearly semi-secular dining experience. All employees must declare their political allegiance to remain employed, so as to avoid ”leaks” & possible soup sabotage.

The restaurant valet service needs to be upgraded to a TSA level security service. They should, screen for Independents who might be infiltrating the clientele. They can skip taking off shoes, and the more draconian measures of the airport. Cars with license plates from any state that Trump won must be turned away, except rental cars from regional airports.

Bank cards must be identified by the state of origin and the proclivities of their board members and executives. Those who clear these hurdles should then be vetted to identify evangelicals and truck drivers, and any other deplorables for which they can screen.

The judge must take care with treatment of civil servants who have served through any Republican administration. Anyone above G-8 should be vetted. They can bypass the more rigorous examinations by swearing an oath to support the Democrats in every aspect of their confusing belief system, whatever it happens to be that week. Bernie Sanders and his socialists should likewise be refused for being too extreme compared to Hillary. Any night the Clintons are there will automatically be “Ladies Night.”

Opinion Is NOT Analysis

Five years ago, Marissa Nelson, Senior Director of Digital at CBC News, wrote a series of articles on,” Journalism in the Digital Age.” The Canadian Broadcast Corporation prides itself on its standards; she was fair and specific on several topics. One drew my interest: the differences between analysis and opinion.

Quotes from the CBC “Journalistic Standards and Practices.”

• Analysis

When appropriate, news and current affairs staff offer reports we refer to as “analysis”. Here, reporters may make observations and draw conclusions based on facts as well as their own experience and expertise.

Their intent is to give the audience insight into the true nature of events, not to be a forum for the personal opinions or preferences of the author.

• Expression of Opinion

Our programs and platforms allow for the expression of a particular perspective or point of view. This content adds public understanding and debate on the issues of the day.

When presenting content (programs, program segments, or digital content) where a single opinion or point of view is featured, we ensure that a diversity of perspective is provided across a network or platform and in an appropriate time frame.
When we choose to present a single point of view:

o it is clearly labeled, and
o it does not misrepresent other points of view.

Our value of impartiality precludes our news and current affairs staff from expressing their personal opinions on matters of controversy on all our platforms.

• Designated Opinion Columnist

On an exceptional basis, the Editor in Chief may also choose to appoint certain journalists as columnists, who have licence to express their opinions. In order to protect the integrity of CBC’s journalism, we will restrict the role of such columnists to opinion and commentary, which will be clearly identified.

• Commentators and Guests

CBC, in its programming, over time, provides a wide range of comment and opinion on significant issues.

We achieve balance by featuring multiple perspectives and points of view to reflect a diversity of opinion.

It is important to mention any association, affiliation or special interest a guest or commentator may have so that the public can fully understand that person’s perspective.

The Washington Post recently re-published an article by Ishaan Tharoor, The Global Divide Between Those Who Dream and Those Who Fear. It was labeled, “WorldView” Analysis. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/09/07/the-global-divide-between-those-who-dream-and-those-who-fear/?nid&utm_term=.20997e3b5af0

I do not know where others draw the line, but this article falls clearly in the opinion category. I fault the Washington Post for mislabeling such an obviously slanted article.

Ishaan Tharoor is a widely publicized writer and the son of Shashi Tharoor.  He is a writer for The Washington Post, and a former Senior Editor of Time Magazine.

The article is mostly about United States immigration policy (58% of word count). It mentions Britain (37%), and Germany (5%).

The article opens with an unsupported statement about 800,000 DACA participants; the statement characterizes the whole group as “…people who know no real home other than the United States, who are productive members of the American workforce, sometimes serve in the U.S. military and abide by the nation’s laws.” I would wager that this description does not apply to every member of this group.

John Lott published a study that found that, in Arizona, illegal immigrants who met the age requirements for DACA were overrepresented in the prison population.

Harvard researcher Roberto G. Gonzalez surveyed more than 2,000 DACA recipients about their education levels. His studies show 22% of DACA members have a bachelor’s degree; 21% have dropped out of high school; (note: high school diploma is a requirement for DACA)

The New American Economy, a nonpartisan immigration reform group, analyzed 2013 – 2015 American Community Survey (ACS) data and found that 17 percent of 1.3 million DACA-eligible immigrants have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Language: Mr. Tharoor uses terms sympathetic for DACA and critical of American government: “Their fates — in many instances, those of their families — hang in the balance as the White House dangles red meat to its right-wing base.” And: “This is all aside from the moral argument against shattering the lives of close to a million people who see themselves as Americans, an act that former president Barack Obama called both “cruel” and “self-defeating.” He calls opposition to untethered immigration “republic of fear.” Liberal immigration he dubs, “republic of dreams.”

Americans live in an environment of razor-thin distinctions on many topics. I feel Mr. Tharoor misused his privilege as a journalist by presenting his political and social opinions as analysis. The Washington Post could take some or all the responsibility.

made it

Don’t cry for tomorrow
you made it to today

here as the minutes advance
taste them as the chef serves them
don’t compare right now to anything

don’t let your pattern-seeking brain
lead you down a road that isn’t there yet

yesterday was a mentor, a coach
but not one you want to lead you

as you digest the new seconds
put them in your box of recipes

remember you may never make those meals again

remember your greatest times were surprises

remember how you invented all those laughs

hold on to the menus of love and happiness
they will serve you as you serve them

Saints in Public Office

The standards of moral purity in politicians and their staff have risen far above previous levels.  The rancor and the blizzards of rabble cries on regular and social media have made this topic a matter of political civil war.  Such standards were never part of our nation’s acceptance of our leaders and those that supported them.  Although, some paid dearly for their peccadillos, other sailed blithely through the storm unconcerned.

Does it matter if politicians misbehave?

Here is information from https://www.factcheck.org/2008/11/felons-in-office/

<Q: Can a convicted felon serve in elected office?

A: The Constitution allows a convicted felon to be a member of Congress, even if in prison. It’s up to the Senate or House to decide who may serve. As for state offices, different laws apply in different places.

Federal Office Holders

The Constitution requires that members of the House and Senate fulfill three requirements:

  • All members of the House must be at least 25 years old, and members of the Senate must be at least 30 years old.
  • Members of the House must have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and members of the Senate must have been a U.S. citizen for at least nine years.
  • They have to be an “inhabitant” of the state “when elected.”

As a result, according to the Congressional Research Service, committing a crime cannot constitutionally disqualify someone from serving in Congress. And the state has no say in determining whether or not someone is qualified to serve in the House or Senate:

CRS: [S]ince a State does not have the authority to add qualifications for federal offices, the fact of conviction, even for a felony offense, could not be used to keep a candidate off of the ballot under State law either as a direct disqualification of convicted felons from holding or being a candidate for office, or as a disqualification of one who is no longer a “qualified elector” in the State. Once a person meets the three constitutional qualifications of age, citizenship and inhabitancy in the State when elected, that person, if duly elected, is constitutionally “qualified” to serve in Congress, even if a convicted felon.

Prison is not a bar to running for federal office, either. In 1798, Rep. Matthew Lyon ran for Congress from prison and won. He assumed his seat in Congress after serving four months in prison for “libeling” President John Adams. An effort was made to expel Lyon from the House, but it failed.

Ultimately, it is up to the House or Senate chamber to determine whether or not an elected official is qualified to serve if a challenge is raised.

State-Level Office

The qualifications for state-level office are determined by state law. In Texas, for example, barring a pardon or other, formal “judicial release” from felon status, an individual convicted of a felony cannot run for public office, even though he or she may be able to vote. In Connecticut, according to staff attorney Ted Bromley with the state’s secretary of state office, a former felon can have the right to vote, run for office and serve in elected office restored if the person has paid all penalties or served all sentences in full and is not on parole. To determine whether you are eligible to run for or hold public office (there has been at least one case in which a person has been allowed to run, but not hold elected office), check with your state’s secretary of state’s office.>

If a felon still in prison can hold federal office, then why so we respond to moral outcries for resignation for crimes that have not been tried, or crimes that are past the statute of limitations.>

 

Here are some politicians who tattered sexual mores and lived to tell about it.  The text is from the article without imbellishment.  I took off the ranking number they assigned.

https://www.gq.com/gallery/the-twenty-five-greatest-philanderers-in-american-political-history

John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy
American Icons, Cheating Hall of Famers

Jack’s dalliances with the famous (Marilyn Monroe) and infamous (mobster moll Judith Exner) are only the lightest shades of Camelot’s darker side. JFK supposedly took girls to the White House pool for sex, and a recent book asserts RFK romanced a mourning Jackie aboard the presidential yacht. As for Teddy, magazine law dictates that we wait five years, or two tell-all books, before including him on this list.

Ben Franklin
Founding Father and Sexual Badass

Bespectacled, paunchy, inventor of shit like the wood-burning stove, and total mack daddy. Franklin had several lady friends in France and a child out of wedlock; his confidence in his game prompted the short essay “Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress,” which encourages aspiring Romeos to catch cougars for a whole host of reasons, including “they are so grateful.”

Bill Clinton
Intern Mentor

It’s a testament to Clinton’s all-too substantial charm that Washington’s most famous philandering pol retains, well, all the power and influence any ex-president can expect. Actually, he probably gets as much of everything as any ex-president can expect, if stories linking him to a Canadian billionairess…and the daughter of a top Democratic donor in Michigan…and half of the state of Arkansas can be believed.

John Edwards
Vice Presidential Candidate, National Disgrace

If you don’t know why he’s on here, please close this browser window and back slowly away into a bed full of teddy bears.

William Breckinridge
Reconstruction-Era Rake

The original Slick Willie had been in Congress nine years before his longtime lover, Madeline Pollard, sued for “breach of promise.” She claimed to have been made pregnant by him three times and that he’d asked her to marry him—but when Breckinridge’s wife died, the congressman asked his cousin for her hand instead. Pollard sued, and witnesses told stories so racy the judge actually barred women from the courtroom. As for poor Mr. Breckinridge? He never held elected office again.

Wilbur Mills
Arkansas Congressman, Burlesque Devotee

In October 1974, Washington, D.C., United States Park Police stopped Mills for cruising near the Jefferson Memorial, only to have stripper Fanne Fo, a.k.a. the Argentine Firecracker, pop out of the passenger seat and attempt to escape by jumping into the Tidal Basin. Mills ultimately confessed to being an alcoholic and never ran for office again, instead forging a career as an addiction counselor and teller of this cautionary tale: “I had President Ford convinced on national health [care], but I couldn’t get the committee to go with me. It was because of my drinking they didn’t.”

Alexander Hamilton
Duelist, Philanderer, Founding Father

His affair and its aftermath reveal the starkest differences between the Washingtons of the eighteenth century and now. After being accused of embezzlement and involvement with an unsavory character named James Reynolds, Hamilton protested his innocence by explaining that his connection with Reynolds wasn’t that they were cheating the government together—he was just banging Reynolds’s wife. There is some question whether the public confession—considered bizarre at the time—was used to cover up an actual crime, a sort of Whitewater scandal in perfect reverse.

Warren Harding
Epically Terrible and Extremely Horny President

His charms are obscure to modernday women but appear to have been very effective. Harding carried on a fifteenyear tryst with Carry Fulton Phillips that paused briefly when Harding voted to support World War I and ended after Harding became a presidential nominee, when the inconvenient Phillips and her family were sent to Japan “to investigate the silk trade.” Harding also romanced Nan Britton, a stalker-y girl whose crush on him started when she was 14. As a young woman, she pasted pictures of Harding on her bedroom walls. Harding apparently did not find this weird at all and, so Britton claimed, started sleeping with her seven years later.

Thomas Jefferson
Randy American Icon

The man treated his slaves very well. Let’s just leave it at that kind of disgusting irony.

Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt
Platonic Power Couple

The swingingest duo to ever occupy the White House, FDR and Eleanor each seemed to have had at least one affair with a woman. The first lady discovered love letters between Franklin and Lucy Mercer, Eleanor’s former social secretary, in 1918, and from then on the Roosevelts had a largely platonic relationship. (Lucy was given her own Secret Service code name and was with FDR when he died in 1945.) Eleanor’s love life remains more mysterious, though her relationship with reporter Lorena Hickok was unusually close. Eleanor wrote about wanting to “kiss hold” Hickok.

Gary Hart
Laughably Self-Destructive Candidate

The person Washingtonians picture when they think of hubris. Basically dared reporters to prove he was having an affair in 1984, and then, hey, they did! And from then on, no one in Washington asked for proof of anything—except if Hart had actually been a passenger on a yacht called Monkey Business when a photographer snapped the incriminating picture that ruined his career. Because, man, twenty-plus years later and that’s still hard to believe.

Strom Thurmond
Senator, Civil Rights Pioneer

Back when the continents were forming, Thurmond participated in a common pastime of the white folk in the South: getting a black maid pregnant. Thurmond did not follow through on the second part of that tradition: ignoring the child. He paid for his daughter’s education and gave her money regularly. He just never told anyone why.

Estes Kefauver
Infamous Lover of the Ladies

Best known for the 1950s Senate hearings that brought the Mob to popular attention, Kefauver was a notorious womanizer and drinker, supposedly yelling, “I gotta fuck!” on the way out of a bus after a campaign trip. One FBI source said that the Democrat “made love in plain view” with his date at a Mayflower Hotel party, only to trade women with JFK afterward. He also led a campaign against the corrupting effect of sexualized, violent comic books. Indeed.

 
Wayne Hays
Democratic Congressman and Lousy Boss

Divorced his wife of thirty-eight years to marry his secretary, much to the surprise of his lover, Elizabeth Ray, who was on his congressional staff. Ray then revealed to The Washington Post in 1976 that her sole duty was to be Hays’s lover: “I can’t type, I can’t file, I can’t even answer the phone.” Lawyers’ investigation as to whether Hays did anything illegal in employing Ray came to naught when Ray turned out to be as solid a witness as she was a typist.

Don Sherwood
Failed Masseur

In September 2004, Cynthia Ore called 911 from inside the locked bathroom of Sherwood’s Washington apartment. Ore accused the Republican congressman of choking her; Sherwood insisted he was only giving her a back rub. No charges were filed, but Sherwood’s 2006 reelection campaign forced him to deal with the issue, and eventually he recorded an ad in which he expressed sorrow for “disappointing you” but contended that he still wanted to “reduce tas.” He lost.

Newt Gingrich
“Republican Revolution” Leader, Hobbit

He may resemble a particularly unattractive hobbit, but Gingrich is on wife number three, so he’s doing something right. No, wait. Hang on a second. He’s doing everything wrong. He left Wife One while she was fighting cancer, telling her he was leaving her for Wife Two while she was in the hospital. He left Wife Two after cheating on her with Wife Three while he was leading the charge to impeach President Clinton. Asked if that behavior made him a hypocrite, Gingrich admitted it did. Just kidding! He insisted that calling for impeachment did not mean he was “rendering judgment.”

Bob Livingston
Larry Flynt Victim

Livingston left the Speaker of the House designate position about two seconds after he arrived in 1998, thanks to Larry Flynt, who claimed to have found evidence of four extramarital affairs. Livingston called for Bill Clinton to follow his example, though when you think about it, he probably should have followed Clinton’s. His seat was filled by David Vitter and, like, wow—is there something in the water down there?

Roscoe Conkling
Senator and Surprisingly Fast Runner

After years of carrying on a widely discussed affair with Kate Chase Sprague, Conkling must have been as surprised as William Sprague when they ran into each other at Sprague’s Rhode Island home in 1879. But what Kate’s spouse lacked in suspicion he more than made up for with firepower. As The New York Times reported at the time of Sprague’s death, upon spotting Conkling, Sprague “grabbed up a shotgun and pursued.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower
President, Redhead Enthusiast

Ike met Kay Summersby, a former model and actress, when she was assigned to be his driver in 1942. The lively redhead (who had a “reputation” in England) became his full-time chauffeur shortly after, moving with him to Algiers and escorting him during his visits to the front lines. “Fearless” in her work, Kay also rode horses with Ike, served as his on-base hostess, and shared his meals. Their closeness escaped no one’s attention, though Ike wrote Mamie—in notably specific terms—that he had “no emotional involvements” with Kay. Riight.

David Vitter
Devout Christian, Call-Girl Authority

In 2007, when the Louisiana senator’s phone number was found in the call logs of a company owned and operated by Deborah Jane Palfrey—the “D.C. Madam”—he gave a press conference in which he insisted the matter was between him, God, and his family, though presumably at least one other person was involved. The logs showed the escort agency called Vitter five times, twice when congressional records show a vote to be in progress. Talk about voting “Yea!”>

In today’s moral gauntlet, how would these men fare? Those who lived in glass White Houses should be careful throwing stones.

Weird, Hidden Danger Shocks Americans – Fake Headlines Hide the Truth

See what I mean.  It takes a headline that strange, extreme, and inaccurate to get attention.  Americans are that hard to shock today.  Yet, we cannot resist gawking at car wrecks. We are drawn to tragedies, warnings, and tirades.  So how do “they” get to us?  Escalate hate, anger, and fear.

I grew up just outside the Washington D.C. “Loop” in Fairfax, Virginia.  Both parents were federal government employees, The Washington Post was our local newspaper.  The hyperbole, scandals, and intrigues of people on the “Mall,” on the “Hill,” and at “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” strike weaker chords with me than most; I do not believe in cataclysms.

The un-slakeable, ravenous, yawning, media maws chew, digest, and regurgitate fragments of information into “stunning,” “breaking,” “smoking gun,” headline entertainment; all the “news” they need, to feed the needs of myriad, mewling, business advertisers.  The electronic media cloned and mutated The Inquirer to fill the chasm.

The Internet and 24/7 television formats are still only decades old and evolving.  Advertisers are still feeling out what pays and does not pay; now they use the “shotgun,” or “grenade” approach to exposure on various media.  Eventually, they will refine their choices.

Some people still read newspapers, the original portable news.  Paper print space holds the attention of a slowly dwindling population, as electronic media grow towards universal dominance.

It seems the gladiators of news and power are tireless, relentless warriors, bent on victory and domination.  The ratio of opinion, analysis, and fortune-telling to factual reports seems to be 50 to 1.  The volume of “spin” constantly expands.

The news exposes Americans to more federal government every day this battle goes on; the president does this, the congress does that, the courts intervene.

The political maelstrom over a four-page memo from a congressional committee is the latest example of excess.  The media fed us scraps of amplified innuendo, interpretation, and speculation for weeks, raising the virtual tension of the Trump-war drama.  Now, dire warnings, threats, and predictions of calamity, revenge, and retribution.

Nothing sells better than the nemesis of anger and hate.

 

Other Slaves? – Before, During, & After Slavery

In 21st Century America, we have extinguished open slavery of the centuries past.

It seems that ISIS still has slavery as part of their culture.  For a discussion of modern and historical slavery, go to  https://goo.gl/e5bNUz  .

New covert forms of slavery have arisen, including sex trafficking, and domestic servant trafficking.  We have not found a way to conquer cruelty and greed.

But what about those past centuries?  What about the entire world history of slavery?  Slavery, in various forms, was common and accepted in the most primitive of pre-historic cultures.  Most slaves were captured from defeated communities.  One of the intentions of war, was to capture people for religious sacrifice, unpaid labor, and involuntary sex.

 Read more about the history of slavery for perspective.  https://goo.gl/emJoUk

African slave traders sold captives from all sources, including those they kidnapped themselves.  Africa made itself the source of slaves for the known world for centuries.

Sometimes our news implies that America was the only home of the not-free.  Sometimes the descendants of slaves point to the progeny of slave owners and to people who came later and had no connection to slavery whatsoever, and accuse them of the crimes of the past.  Racism groups people by categories and treats everyone in that category as if they were homogenous, related, cohorts of prescribed mind and body.  I reject racism, as I reject slavery.  But, some see racism as a perpetuation of slavery.  I will not debate these ideas, but I will shed the light of history on slavery; especially the African slaves sent to the Western Hemisphere, in “slavers,” under the cruelest conditions.

slaversSlave ships were inhumanly cruel.  It was common for more than 15% to die en route.
sourcese of african slavesAfricans captured slaves from the darkened areas, and marched them to the ports to be sold.

With the discovery of the New World, the invading countries needed vast amounts of labor, well beyond the available indigenous people.  The slave traders shifted to the west, as this map shows.

african slaves

Look at the numbers and proportions of slave buying nations.  North America received 4.4% of the 12 million African slaves, while the Spanish, British, French, Dutch and Brazilians of South America and the West Indies received 95%. I wonder what happened to them?

 

The “Other” Domestic Violence – False Accusations “Kill” the Accused

As bad as domestic violence can be, false accusations are ruinous, and non-recourse punishment by our injustice system.

The law did not address domestic violence seriously, until recent decades.  Then state legislatures passed current domestic abuse laws in fits of passion without thinking of potential abuse by false accusation.  Now, vengeful women use these laws as weapons in child custody, and divorce cases, as well as for just plain spite.  There is no defense.

The police are required to come and arrest the accused and take him to jail, even if the accuser recants on the spot.  Then, the D.A. charges the accused, even if the accuser continues to recant, (the mean women pile on other wild accusations and get restraining orders.).

Meanwhile, the meter is running on legal bills, and in custody situations, the father cannot see his kids.

If he is found not guilty, he is still out thousands of dollars, may have lost his job, and his reputation.  On top of that, he has zero chance of filing charges against the accuser; they will not prosecute for fear that such charges”might discourage real victims from coming forth.”

My son-in-law is going through this right now.  The accuser claimed he bent her finger, hurt her ribs, and hit her.  She had no signs of damage, did not go to a doctor, and waited 10 days, until he was in back surgery, to call the police.  He was arrested, charged, and subject to a 90-day restraining order, which kept him from seeing his 18-month-old son.  His employer suspended him pending the trial (next February).  Legal fees are over $5,000 so far.

Then, she added more far-fetched accusations:  he tore her clothes off, chased her around the apartment, pulled out and administered a rape kit to test if she had cheated on him, then produced a polygraph machine and tested her for lying.  (She never mentioned the baby at all.)  Since then, she has thought up even more charges; and the D.A. just keeps on adding one ridiculous item after another.  Oh, did I mention she is crazy?

He is not alone, by a long shot.  Look online for stories of false accusation.  Sure, most of the time the charges have substance.  But in this case, I am sure this woman used these accusations to punish him and keep him from his son.

The only way to change this travesty, is to encourage/threaten your elected officials.  If there is clearly no obvious harm to the woman, AND she recants, and admits she did it out of spite/anger, the allegation should be investigated, not ruining the man’s life.

The accused should be treated as innocent until proven otherwise.  Until balance and due process are restored, men can always be guilty until proven innocent, and even then they lose.

Transconfusion – “Identity“ Detached from Reality

trans

I wonder if anyone is clear about what these various “my body is this form, but I feel like another form” discussions yield?  In our society, a body with a penis is male, and a body with a vagina is female.  That is a physical, sexual distinction.  This distinction is important to procreation, on a purely biological basis.  Females have the capacity to bring a fertilized egg, to embryo, through gestation, to live birth of a new person.  Males do not.  This is bisexual reproduction, without dispute.  Early humans could not alter this law of nature.  The fact that our world now has 7 billion people, is testament to  this:  vive la différence(I know that physiology can be unclear in up to 1.7 percent of the world’s population, according to the UN, but let’s let the outliers lie out there.)

Then we have society.  Sex is physical, gender is cultural, based on the expected roles and behaviors of men and women.  Most of these expectations have evolved from physical traits and expanded family traditions.  To act like a man was to think, speak, and act in ways that the alpha male did. Little boys worked at being like their father or big brother.   Likewise, to act like a woman was to conform to the ways of other women, take cues from their mother and other female models.

Yet, humans have gone through amazing, changing models for men and women.  Three centuries ago men wore fancy silk and satin clothes, high heels, wigs, and makeup.  They moved and spoke in ways modern Americans would associate with women.  We have also seen the division of labor of the past shift mightily.  The roles and responsibilities of men and women are more alike than ever.

We inherited our intricate social structure and laws from humans who managed to survive and procreate.  In any culture, to deviate from those complex behaviors was to jar the stability of, and threaten the survival of a family/community.  Failure to conform to the spoken and unspoken rules of society was an invitation to punishment.

Homosexuality did not bear the fruit of children, which was a threat to the future of the community.  Religions proclaim that it is a duty to God for people be fruitful, and forbid non-fruitful behaviors.  Some religions even promoted polygamy to increase the number of children added to their flock.  Being “non-fruitful” by having sex without the possibility of children was a sin.  Such sins were often punishable by shaming, shunning, physical punishment, death, or exile.  No one questioned the wisdom of the “scriptures.”

When societies expanded and advanced to the point that extinction was not as great a fear, people felt safer to allow themselves to be “non-fruitful.”  Homosexuality was tolerated along with other “sins,” and “debauchery.”

Only recently, has America made homosexuality legal and sanctioned homosexual marriages.

But here is where I get confused:  what exactly is “transgender?”  At first, I thought it meant a homosexual who took action to physically gain the attributes of the opposite sex.  Sounds painful and expensive to me; and not all men make pretty women.

But now I hear that transgender can mean that a person “identifies” as another sex without the physical transformation.  I was surprised that Bruce/Kaitlin Jenner “identifies” as a woman, has gained breasts, grown long hair, bought a wardrobe of women’s clothing, but retains male genitalia. You think, maybe, he “identifies” as both male and female?

I am also hearing about people who call themselves transgender who do nothing physical, just “identify.”  Boys who “identify” as girls, but are still physically boys, want to go to the girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms.  Homosexuals have always used the bathrooms of their physical sex.  What is different with transgenders who are physically boys or girls?  For me, as long as the difference in preference or identity is not represented by your body, I say, your body determines which school or public facilities to use.

 

 

 

The News, Sans Trump? – What Is Left?

Based on the news I have seen these last 2 years, the only thing keeping U.S. news sources going is Trump.

Really, subtract all the coverage of Donald Trump and his coterie and we have what?  The major cable news channels would be reduced to human interest pieces, sports, and weather, oh, and North Korea.  Sure, the occasional terrorist attack, another Catholic priest scandal, and futile battles in the Middle East crop up every so often, but the rest would have to be just plain entertainment.

This goes double for the tiny news sites like salon, BuzzFeed, and their ilk.  Without political warfare, their nets, and their advertising coffers would be empty.

ESPN invented 24/7 sports programming.  The franchise makes a fortune from 1% actual sports activity + 99% talking, analyzing, postulating about sports figures, drafts, management changes, wagering, keeping score, and all the endless, pointless falderol of mostly man-talk (often by beautiful women).

Cable news, ala CNN, Fox, MSNBC, have taken that model to new heights of expanded air time by making everything editorial opinion, building media stars and forums to pander to one political cohort or the other.  The real feeding frenzy around everything Trump never seems to end.  Shows how hatred sells and fear captivates.

Anyway, I hope the news media enjoys the ride, because some day, they won’t have DJT to flick around anymore.

Details Missing in CBO Projected Healthcare Coverage “Losses”

Numbers can deceive when important details are left out.  The recent Congressional Budget Office assessment of the Senate Republican healthcare bill estimated the reduction in the number of people covered by health insurance.

Most of the coverage dropped would be because of state laws, not federal.  The states set Medicaid coverage standards.

Another big chunk of the “losses” would be those who did not want coverage anyway.  Those forced to buy by the mandate penalties.

According to Politico:

<The House Republican health care overhaul would repeal the individual mandate penalty, and according to the CBO, this would be the single biggest driver of raising the uninsured rate by 14 million next year.

“Most of that increase would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate,” the CBO report reads. “Some of those people would choose not to have insurance because they chose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties, and some people would forgo insurance in response to higher premiums” (emphasis ours).>

Read the entire article at:  http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/mar/22/chris-murphy/house-gop-health-care-bill-would-cause-14-million-/

 

The projected 30% reduction in premiums should help some, but the out-of-pocket costs might still leave some people out.

Who says the people insured are “covered?”  Some people wait more than a month, and then drive 50 miles to see the only doctor who accepts Medicaid, or a high-deductible “bronze” plan from the only remaining insurer.

Bernie Sanders’ assertion that “thousands” of “excess deaths” would result is based on numbers from studies of people with untreated, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.  This same population could get no or inadequate treatment under Medicaid and low-end health insurance coverage.

And, what if the newly uninsured population is skewed towards young, healthy people who just dropped out?  Would the results be as dire?

Without a detailed demographic breakdown of the CBO numbers, we are left to speculate and infer what we choose.

 

Do Americans Really Want Economic Equality? – Not Beyond Our Borders

So much anger and angst about “Inequality” fills the American press without suggesting solutions.  Do they propose taking from the wealthy and handing it to the poor?  Just what do they want?

Do Americans really want economic equality, considering the vast economic differences in the world’s economies?  How about economic equality with the 10 poorest countries in the world?

  • Malawi: (pop 16 million, GDP per capita of $226.50)
  • Burundi: (pop 12 million, GDP per capita of $267.10)
  • Central African Republic: (pop 5 million, GDP per capita of $333.20)
  • Niger: (pop 21 million, GDP per capita of $415.40)
  • Liberia: (pop 5 million, GDP per capita of $454.30)
  • Madagascar: (pop 20 million, GDP per capita of $463.00)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: (pop 77 million, GDP per capita of $484.20)
  • The Gambia: (pop 2 million, GDP per capita of $488.60)
  • Ethiopia: (pop 104 million, GDP per capita of $505.00)
  • Guinea: (pop 12 million, GDP per capita of $523.10)
 http://gazettereview.com/2016/06/top-10-poorest-countries-world/

United States (pop 300 million, GDP per capita of $51,638.10)

How much of your lifestyle would it take to “level the playing field with these 274 million African people who average $460 per year?Are you ready to make your contribution?

I do not think so.  It seems that the perceptions of difference limited to Americans are much more important to the critics than broader global realities.  This way of thinking of the world in discreet nations is automatic for most people.  We blithely ignore the fact that America is near the top of the economic “food chain” when we cry “inequality.”  Even the TV weather seems to stop at our borders.  But money does not.

The internet and international trade have dissolved the economic borders of nations.  People can buy and sell goods and services among the countries of the world with fewer restrictions and barriers.  Countries with lower cost labor compete with businesses in countries where wages and costs are much higher.  Globalization has revealed the world’s true economic inequalities.

American workers were paid well to operate factories and do skilled and unskilled jobs; now many are displaced by globalization, and other technological and cultural factors.  New jobs in America require different skills, and higher levels of education, knowledge, and experience.  Those who do not or cannot adapt and learn are left to compete for lower-paying jobs.

Creating financial success is not an equal opportunity phenomenon.  It tends to favor those who are born with successful parents, intellect, talent, and drive.  Globalization and technology have created business opportunities that can make people wealthy overnight, widening the wealth gap between the haves and have nots.

Where did the concept of economic equality come from?  Has any country survived and thrived under mandated economic equality?  When, in history, were people equal in anything?

In its early form, America was unique in the world to propose that citizens govern themselves with the precepts of equal civil and legal rights under our constitution and laws.  Under our system, we have equality of liberty and freedom for citizens who obey the law.  We are not promised economic equality.

The Declaration of Independence asserts that “all men are created equal.” Conceptually, we asserted this in the context of renouncing the right of a king to rule his subjects.  We were announcing that no one has a birthright to a lower or superior class or nobility in America.  Further, it reads “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” among them “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  We were not announcing anything beyond natural rights to life, liberty (from overreaching, arbitrary laws and rules of monarchs), and the pursuit of happiness.  We were not announcing redistribution of wealth, or handicapping the blessed.

Humans are born different and unequal in almost every aspect of being, including intellect, strength, size, eyesight, and other things that allow them to operate successfully in the world.  The fact is, people are never equal; that is what makes them unique.

 

Political “Racists” Accuse Tom Brady of Racism

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling

Tom Brady had just led his New England Patriots football team to an historic, overtime, victory in the Super Bowl, after overcoming a 3rd quarter, 25-point deficit –  a Super Bowl record.  But, he is a friend of the president.  How stupid and arrogant can political “racists” be to cast racist aspersions on Tom Brady for quoting inspirational, non-racist words from Rudyard Kipling’s poem to his son John, “If–”?

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, ‘
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Rudyard Kipling was born in 1865 in Bombay, India.  He grew up in the age of Imperialism, as the British Empire was reaching its peak.  Critics point to his 1899 poem, “The White Man’s Burden,” as racist, and it was, as was the rest of the Eurocentric Imperialist world.

Nonetheless, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907, “in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author.”  That did not make the Nobel Committee racist.

If we discarded all works of culture, art, music, & history because they came from times, authors, artists, and views we now condemn, the libraries’ shelves would be empty, the walls and pedestals of museums would be barren, the world would be silent, and we would be ignorant savages, banging stones against stones; but wait, some people insist on just that.

When have human beings not been “racists?”  How long have civilizations existed and progressed despite built-in bigotry, bias, and fear?

Ignorance, when clung to righteously, becomes stupidity.  Criticism from a platform of vapid views of hatred is wicked silliness.  I would not give any credence to the blather spewing from such a source, nor would I value anything else it produced.

 

The March? -Fog of Vague Purposes

Remember “Occupy Wall Street?” More currently, “Black Lives Matter?”  And the latest example, “Women’s March?”  They have this much in common:

  • Loose Organization
  • Diverse Membership
  • Aggregate Complaints
  • Unfocused Intentions
  • Non-Specific Proposals
  • Outdoor Meetings
  • Catchy Names

“Occupy Wall Street” was pretty much just news items about their encampment.  “Black Lives Matter” fails to note that Federal statistics show that 80-90% of murdered “black lives that matter” are victims of black killers.  Half of all murder victims, nationally, are black; blacks are less than 15% of the population.  Where is that protest and call to action?

In the context of this protest, do they mean “Black, Mexican, Muslim, LGBTQ, Women’s Lives Matter?”  Or do they mean “Black, Young, Men’s Lives Matter,” but this just happens to be a women’s march?  Just what do they mean?

It seems that the “Women’s March” was all about disappointment, fear, and frustration transformed into pink anger.  Disappointment that Hillary did not win, fear that women’s rights will be undermined, and frustration that women do not receive equal pay.

Trump became the effigy to blame for everything.

Misogyny:  How many participants, do you think, could cite specific instances when President Trump recently disrespected women who were not attacking him?  Where is the acknowledgement of the nonchalant treatment of wives and women by iconic presidents such as JFK, and Bill Clinton?

If the marchers are promoting equality for women, his business organizations reflect great respect for women by hiring them, promoting them into management and paying them well; sounds like equality to me.  Why not ask women who work for the Trump organization how they feel about their misogynist boss?

Immigration:  First, Trump got trapped in the “Newspeak” of the way we use “immigrant.”  Many foreign nationals, from many countries, apply for visas, “green cards,” and citizenship every year.  Those who gain permanent residence or citizenship can rightly be called immigrants.  A great number of Americans are immigrants or children of immigrants.

The proponents of unlimited immigration and aligned journalists fought to not use the legal term “alien.”  They insisted on substituting “______-immigrant” until it became commonplace.  The problem is that non-hyphenated, legal immigrants heard these “_______-immigrants” being criticized and threatened, and felt included in that group; they took personally the anger, fear, and distain.

By verbally lumping the “_______-immigrants” together with immigrant citizens, they built support for their open-borders philosophy.  If we had stuck with “aliens,” and “foreign nationals,” the citizens would not have felt combined with them.

Exactly, what did he say about Mexicans?  Not just the clips, the whole statements. He said that among the illegal migrants were, drug smugglers, human traffickers, fugitive criminals, including murders, and rapists.  Is that true?  Yes.  Trump’s opponents extracted this description and implied that he meant ALL Mexicans fit these profiles.

Muslims:  Trump wants to limit and vet prospective refugees entering the US from Islamist countries tied to terrorism.  He wants Muslim communities to help identify and thwart jihadist terrorists.

Women who live in Muslim countries might not be sympathetic with the complaints of the marchers; certainly, they would or could not march on their capitals protesting.  Why not ask Muslim-American women what they would face if they went home to Arabia and Africa?  What would you face going there as a Christian?  Count your blessings that you live here in America.

There are no government proposals or actions right now that threaten women; he just took office Friday.  All the rhetoric is about what could happen; what rights they fear might be lost; what affronts they fear they may face.  Fear is a factor, but not fact

The one thing that stands out to me is concern about reversing Roe v. Wade.  I understand opposition to abortion challenges.  I support safe, informed, reasoned choice for every woman.  So, focus on defending that right or you risk people writing you off as generally disappointed with the election results, and righteously irritated at the challenges of being a woman.

The last point is this:  What do you propose, aside from replacing Donald Trump?  Many commentators have shrugged their shoulders about the purposes of the march because the marchers are not clear about what they are championing.  It was a shame that all the time, money, effort, and commitment it took to get people on the streets ended in a fog of vague purposes.

Donald Trump–The Matryoshka Candidate?

Matryoshka

I am amazed at the number, scope, and continuous flow of speculations about Donald Trump, as president-elect.  Now we have an American, billionaire, capitalist, accused of being a Russian sympathizer, and even a collaborator with Russia’s Putin to win the election.  Does that sound like the Russian version of “The Manchurian Candidate” to you?  (FYI:  a Matryoshka (ma-trosh-ka) is a hollow, Russian, nested, wooden doll with smaller and smaller dolls inside.)  I guess there are no limits on imagination, enmity, paranoia, malice, and disappointment.

Those who oppose Donald Trump, and those who are left bitter, dazed, angry, and confused by his election as President do not need to be rational in their relentless attacks on anything Trump.  Those accusing him of being soft on Russia, a Putin sycophant, and naïve about our enemies might take a minute to reflect on how silly that sounds.

Is it soft to sell some rich Russians overpriced condos and land in the US?  Is it sycophantic to use Putin to criticize political opponents as being weak?  Is it naïve to get the Russians to pay premium prices to have the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow?  Do I hear a no?

Until now, Mr. Trump’s interest in Russia has been limited to money, i.e. making money, not losing it, and not giving it away.  All his dealings with Russians have been real estate in the US, or visiting Moscow for a US-based beauty pageant.  Trump has never met Putin face-to-face, or made any deals with him.  Putin even cancelled a scheduled meeting with Trump during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.  Does that sound like love to you?  I believe Trump could continue to make money from Russians without being President, and without being friends with Putin; therefore, I do not think there is a sinister link. What else would he have to gain?

Some cite the friendly, respectful tone of comments and letters between the men.  A friendly demeanor is not the same as friendship; sometimes negotiations can benefit from pleasant diplomacy.

Others suggest that Putin sees Trump as weaker than Clinton.  Do we have some evidence that Trump is as passive as Obama has been in foreign matters, such as Crimea and Syria?  Or maybe evidence that Putin is afraid of Hillary after meeting her as Secretary of State?

Let us see what happens after January 20th.

This Blog Is Fake News

Not really, but language is our primary way to communicate.  “This statement is false,” is a classic example of recursive writing.  Sometimes I enjoy annoying, contradictory statements; these conundrums are good exercise for our understanding of language, our value judgements and our unchallenged intellectual sides.  Fake news is fiction dressed up in the trappings of fact.  Those who are fooled operate on faulty assumptions.  Snopes may not be enough to save us.

How important is what we believe?  We make choices every day based on information from others. For long stretches of our history, Americans expected, and demanded professional journalism; we challenged the news with research of our own; we relied on professional information gatherers and presenters; we cherished objectivity.  Walter Cronkite is the example that comes to mind.  He and his news team did not editorialize; they presented the facts they could verify plainly; even when the news was painful, such as the Kennedy assassination, he held his emotions in check, almost.

As the era of journalism fades in our collective awareness, we stumble into an epoch of opinion; the 24-hour news age Ted Turner invented is voracious; anything to fill the hours.  The demand grew for titillating, shocking, insidious, intentional, or just stupid, public lying; I guess there was not enough honest scandal, hyperbole, deception, libel, and defamation.

Now we find completely fabricated articles, meant to harm specific people or raise undue alarm among us. Free speech, or libel?  First Amendment rights, or vicious cowardice?  It seems we are reaping what we have sown.   We have become victims of our society’s lax attitude towards rigor and honor.  We have grown lazy and unwilling to check the things presented to us.

Frankly, I am glad.  Not for the bad things that follow such propaganda, but for the possible reawakening of doubt, curiosity, and inquiry.  Of all the innovations of the 20th century, the internet connection of millions of individuals is the most important, because it reveals and magnifies our human nature and limits. Our naivete allowed us to be fooled by sources we trusted. At last, we know we must check the sources and validity of our vast ocean of daily information.

Humans are suspicious by nature; evolution has left this trait engraved in our genes.  But we can be lulled into gullibility, and we have been.  The opinions of writers and editors may vary all along the spectrum of belief; perspectives may open many windows of human experience; but some grounded facts must be present to sort and distort.  Fake news is just written lies and gossip without honest attribution.

21st Century Virtual Lynching – Bloodlust Prevails

In 2016, the concept of innocent until proven guilty is moot.  Today, anyone who angers the black community is “dead,” due to the unbridled media, and the overreaching, extremely savage federal laws about “civil rights.” No defendant can survive the excoriation, and crucifixion by the media.  Even if they could, they face the financial impossibility of paying for extended, legal counsel against racist hatred financed by the federal government and black “causes.”

It does not matter if the accused is guilty, the defendant is doomed.  If acquitted by one court, another jurisdiction, another theory of law is employed until the person is strangled and expunged from life.

This is lynching.  What a sad day it is when a person is hounded to moral and social death because protection from double, or even triple jeopardy no longer applies in the USA. “How do I hate thee, let me count the ways.”  The American legal system has become a hydra, growing so many heads of prosecution, persecution, and execution, that no one can survive a racial accusation; so now we sanction rope-less, virtual lynching.

A content-hungry professional media, an uncontrolled social media, an unlimited pool of unscrupulous attorneys and advocates, along with a bottomless well of faceless, racial vitriol produces a cauldron which boils any white police officer action against a black suspect into a festering, puss-filled wound with no remedy but rope-and-tree, execution of the “guilty.”

In most courts, the attorney for anyone accused of murder would be ecstatic with a hung jury mistrial; but not anymore.  Not only will the prosecutor retry the accused, (something that almost never happens in real, non-racial life) but also the accusers will resort to federal suits for violation of civil rights.

What chance does an acquitted police officer have to live again?

 

“From 1882-1968, 4,743 lynchings occurred in the United States.  Of these people that were lynched 3,446 were black.  The blacks lynched accounted for 72.7% of the people lynched.  These numbers seem large, but it is known that not all of the lynchings were ever recorded.  Out of the 4,743 people lynched only 1,297 white people were lynched.  That is only 27.3%.  Many of the whites lynched were lynched for helping the black or being anti lynching and even for domestic crimes. “

http://www.chesnuttarchive.org/classroom/lynchingstat.html

The presumption of innocence, sometimes referred to by the Latin expression Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies), is the principle that one is considered innocent unless proven guilty.

In many states, presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is also regarded as an international human right under the UN‘s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 11. The burden of proof is thus on the prosecution, which has to collect and present enough compelling evidence to convince the trier of fact, who is restrained and ordered by law to consider only actual evidence and testimony that is legally admissible, and in most cases lawfully obtained, that the accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. If reasonable doubt remains, the accused is to be acquitted. Under the Justinian Codes and English common law, the accused is presumed innocent in criminal proceedings, and in civil proceedings (like breach of contract) both sides must issue proof. Under Anglo-American common law, the accused is always presumed innocent in all types of proceedings; proof is always the burden of the accuser. The same principle is recognized by Islamic law.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presumption_of_innocence

Obamacare 6.7 Million Employees Lose Health Insurance

Yes, as I wrote in my August 31, 2016 article “Middle-Class Families Robbed by Obamacare – Before and After Taxes,” Obamacare has seen employers drop health insurance benefits for employees (6.6 million in 2014).

The administration boasts an increase of 9.5 million using the new exchanges in 2014.  Heritage.org provided this diagram of changes in health insurance coverage for 2014.  It shows that of 9 of the 9.25 million people newly covered were enrolled in expanded Medicaid.

It also shows the decrease in 6.7 million employer provided health insurance and 4.8 million increase in individual insurance.  Apparently 2.1 million self-insured (private pay, no insurance).

Employers stopped health insurance for 6.7 million employees after Obamacare came into effect.  The premiums paid by the employer for those insurance benefits were not taxed to the employees.

Often, those employers did not increase the paychecks of employees, they just pocketed the money.   The employees got a pay cut equal to the premiums.  The employees bought new coverage through the exchanges with after-tax dollars, probably for higher premiums than the employer paid.  But, even if the employee could buy equivalent coverage for the same premium, the employees lose.

Example:

Mary Smith earns $4,000 per month (taxable) and health benefits of $1,000 per month (not taxable).

Employer health insurance $1,000.  Equivalent individual coverage $1,400.

In the first example, Mary has $1,400 less per month, $16,800 per year.  The employer gains $1,000 per month, $12,000 per you.

In the second example, Mary has $615 less per month, $7,380 per year.  The employer loses $65 per month, $780 per year.

Employer Drops Health Insurance and Does Not Increase Salary to Offset

Obamacare

Employee Compensation

Before After Change
Salary 4,000 4,000 0
Income tax withholding 15%    600    600 0
Social Security & Medicare 6.75% 260 260 0
Paycheck                                              3,140 3,140 0
     
Health Insurance -1,400 -1,400
Total After-tax, after insurance       3,140 1,740 -1,400
Employer Costs
Salary 4,000 4,000 0
Social Security & Medicare 6.75% 260 260 0
Health Insurance 1,000 0 +1,000
Total Costs                                          5,260 4,260 +1,000

 

 

Employer Drops Health Insurance and Does Increase Salary to Offset

 

Obamacare
Employee Compensation Before After Change
Salary 4,000 5,000 +1,000
Income tax withholding 15%    600 750 -150
Social Security & Medicare 6.75% 260 325 -65
Paycheck                                              3,140 3,925 +785
     
Health Insurance -1,400 -1,400
Total After-tax, after insurance       3,140 2,525 -615
Employer Costs
Salary 4,000 5,000 +1,000
Social Security & Medicare 6.75% 260 325 -65
Health Insurance 1,000 0 -1,000
Total Costs                                          5,260 5,325 -65

 

 

 

 

Whining the Election – Trumpled Aspirations

Over the 52 years and 13 presidential elections I have been eligible to vote, I have never seen such sore losers, and humble winners.

I am disappointed with the disparate responses to the results of the 2016 presidential election.  Smug expectations from pollsters and pundits seem to have set a trap for Hillary’s disciples, and set a stage for impetuous, righteous indignation.  Rejection, disputation, refutation, spoilsport language, protests, and denial among disgruntled Clinton supporters is “over-the-top,” and “unpresidented.”  “He is not my president,” spake Gloria Steinem, Wednesday morning.  (Ironically, in the past, she also said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”) 

Why have Mrs. Clinton’s avid proponents gone off the rails into the deep waters of denial and despair?

I believe the presumption that Hillary Clinton had a commanding lead over Donald Trump was their downfall.  Belief in optimistic statistics led to haughty attitudes and supercilious sneers on the faces of Hillary’s fans.  The extreme vanity of the oracles’ predictions led to nasty, braggadocios, arrogance.  When pride met gravity, the indignity of the pratfall magnified the embarrassment of hubris. The expectations of overwhelming victory were shredded, by the unexpected appearance at the polls of hordes of angry, underserved workers.  The ambush of the uncounted, disenfranchised citizens prevailed.

The carefully crafted deception of optimistic unemployment statistics did not fool the people who took discounted wages and lesser jobs over the last eight years.  These voters had no voice among Democrats who applauded the “champion of hope” for his rescue of the economy, and restoration of the American Dream.  They were not deceived by or grateful for their thinly disguised demotions and the smiling, dismissive, carefully worded denigrations spun by an accommodating media on behalf of the Obama administration.

The scales did not fall from their eyes, because no scales formed as they lost their jobs, houses, cars, and pride.  The Affordable Care Act did not replace the healthcare insurance they lost when their employer dropped their health coverage; when they lost their jobs, their hopes were dashed by the failure of the “marketplace” to make personal health insurance and their out-of-pocket costs affordable.  Instead, they found themselves ravaged by astronomical premiums, deductibles, copays, and incredible prescription prices.  Hospitals and pharmacies raised their nominal, private pay prices to offset the discounts demanded by insurance providers.  The uninsured were left with impossible choices.

Promise after promise lay fallow by the roadside.  Example after example of the USA borrowing trillions of dollars to pay for the rest of the world’s problems and defense festered, while Americans suffered from the Great Recession.  Pact after pact, treaty after treaty left us at disadvantage.  Military efforts left us looking weak, as we shrank from conflicts under cover of spin.  Former allies spat disparaging invectives on our leaders.

Did Hillary’s followers believe she could pull us out of the ditch of weakness and doubt created these past eight years?  Did her apostles think her baggage and prevarications would evaporate by inauguration?  No wonder they were blindsided when Trump won.

Ignorance is Blitz – Hillary Slams Donald

Let’s see now, a former US senator who knows how Congress passes tax laws, shouts unnecessarily (microphones notwithstanding), counting on the ignorance of her audience.

“Duplicitous” is the apt description of this fiery rhetoric she delivers, as if Trump has done something wrong, sinister, diabolic, & deplorable with his taxes, when she knows better.  But she knows it just works; why not stir up angry emotions?

The billion-dollar loss on Trump’s 1995 tax return is a real loss of money, & perfectly legal.  Using past business losses to offset future profits is a given & it makes perfect sense.  This law has been in effect, with periodic modifications, since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

Every tax law must come from Congress & be signed by the president.  Every one of Donald Trump’s tax returns has been scrupulously audited & accepted by the IRS.  Anything they may have found that does not comply with the law, they adjusted to conform.  Nothing was allowed that was not legal; no law was broken.

Few people know the complexity of the tax laws congress passed.  But, most people know that they can deduct mortgage interest, medical expenses, and certain  other personal expenses.  No one I know forgoes those deductions, or refuses to accept tax credits.  I believe it is pernicious, irresponsible & wildly ignorant to brand approved behavior as evil & elitist

Business Losses

Businesses are not always profitable, (i.e. Sales – Costs = Profit/Loss).  Even if some years are bad, others must be good; otherwise the business fails.  The government allows business to look at their profits & losses over several years.  For example:

Joe & Mary Remodeling Co experiences a loss in 2008 during the financial & real estate crash.

2008Income was $ 150,000 and employees, suppliers, equipment, outgo was $250,000, a loss of $100,000. This included the business share of payroll taxes, (employers match the Social Security & Medicare taxes withheld from paychecks). Joe & Mary had to borrow $100,000 to keep their doors open.  They also had to borrow money for living expenses that year.

  • The $100,000 loss is “carried forward.”
  • Joe & Mary owe $100,000 +.

Things get worse in 2009; they cut expenses to $100,000, but income was only $75,000, a loss of $25,000, which they borrow.  They also borrow enough for personal living expense.

  • The $25,000 loss is added to the previous year’s $100,000 and $125,000 is “carried forward.”
  • Joe & Mary owe $125,000++

Things brighten in 2010; income is $125,000 with expenses of $75,000, a profit of $50,000.

The tax law allows them to use $50,000 of the “carried forward” losses from 2008 ($100,000) and 2009 ($25,000) to offset the 2010 profit.

  • $50,000 is subtracted for the $125,000 loss “carried forward.”
  • The remaining $75,000 of their losses is “carried forward.”

You can read the IRS instructions & explanations here:  https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p536.pdf

Bankruptcy & Unpaid Debts

Joe & Mary still owe the money they borrowed ($125,000 plus living expenses)

If Joe & Mary could not repay the debts, &  claimed bankruptcy, the amount of debt not paid is deducted from the amount of loss they could “carry forward.”  https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc431.html

Donald Trump’ s Billion-Dollar Loss in 1995

The amount of loss in the real estate business can include deductions for both cash expenses & “depreciation” of the buildings.  The tax law has strict rules on how much a person can “depreciate” all kinds of business assets.  If depreciation is part of the loss, & the building is later sold or repossessed, the depreciation is “recaptured,” which means added back into income & subtracted from the loss “carried forward.”

All in all, without more information, no one can tell what happened to that billion-dollar loss.  If Trump’s properties went into bankruptcy, those losses could have been cancelled by the rules for “recapture,” and debt reduction.

You can bet that the IRS audits every tax return Donald Trump files.  Someone should audit Hillary Clinton’s knowledge of tax law, & ethical portrayal.

 

Hillary’s “Health Issues” Might Have Been Better Managed

At the time of Hillary Clinton’s departure from the 9/11 ceremony, the temperature in Manhattan was 79 degrees with 54% humidity, & wind 6-8mph.  The Government Heat Index for those conditions is 80 degrees.  90 minutes would not cause dehydration, though it might aggravate existing dehydration.

Mrs. Clinton’s complaints of overheating, and the subsequent difficulties with walking could be from a combination of medicines and dehydration.

Mr. Clinton takes medicine such as Synthroid for hypothyroidism, takes Coumadin as a blood thinner, is under great emotional stress, and has pneumonia.  She may also be dehydrated.

According to Barbara S Lougheed, author of Tired Thyroid book and website, “When someone is VERY hypothyroid, noradrenaline will kick in to compensate for the lack of thyroid hormone, which makes the person feel hot and sweaty with an elevated heart rate.“ Medicine to treat hypothyroidism such as Synthroid may have similar symptoms.

Sources of feeling overheated are discussed at http://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/hot-flash-causes#Overview1

They include:

  • Side effects of Coumadin, which Hillary takes to combat deep vein thrombosis
  • Side effects of Synthroid or similar drugs, which Hillary takes for hypothyroidism
  • Alcohol, which can also aggravate dehydration
  • Emotional Stress
  • Infections, such as flu or pneumonia

Dehydration symptoms include:

So the question is, why is Hillary suffering from these symptoms and side effects while under constant care of her physician?  The testing and regulation of Hillary’s drugs and dosages, as well as the monitoring of her hydration is her doctor’s responsibility.  The treatment of infections, including pneumonia is also her responsibility.  Vaccinations are available for the most common causes of pneumonia, including the flu; has Mrs. Clinton had those vaccinations?  There are news reports of several campaign staffers going to the emergency room for illnesses like pneumonia or flu last week.  http://www.people.com/article/hillary-clinton-staff-sick-pneumonia

I guess what I am getting at is, could these problems have been avoided by proper medical attention?  The management of the disclosures is a separate matter.

Who Examines Presidents? – Whoever They Choose

 

Americans deserve and need to know the health of our President, and our Vice-President; but we do not.

That is right:  There is no impartial national medical team for our country’s top executives, or those who seek those positions.  Each president and vice-president picks their own doctors, and decides what medical information they disclose.  In fact, several presidents have withheld and even falsified their health conditions to the public.  Kind of scary to not know the health of the most powerful politician in the world.  And, a heartbeat away, it also makes knowing the health of the Vice-President more than a casual concern.

The 25th amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides emergency options, should the president be incapacitated.  It lays out protocols for the vice president to take over, temporarily, when the president is stricken.  Why rely on such extraordinary measures when we can anticipate, and avoid problems by knowing the health of our president?  We have the technology.

In a 1993 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association, former President Jimmy Carter advocated “the creation of a ‘nonpartisan group’ of physicians to help decide when a president’s illness affects his judgment.”   Apparently, doctors of previous presidents said presidential disability was a terrible problem.

Examples of hidden conditions:

Ronald Reagan

Reagan fought hard to dispel any rumors about his ill health, even after surviving an assassination attempt and colon cancer.  Some historians speculate the 40th president suffered from dementia  while he was in office.  He was publicly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease before his death in 2004.

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy presented the image of youthful vigor, but was in chronic pain due to back troubles from a World War II injury and constantly fatigued from Addison’s Disease (a chronic insufficiency of the adrenal glands).

Franklin D. Roosevelt

FDR hid the severity of his polio until after his death in 1945. Roosevelt was barely able to stand as he governed through World War II.

Woodrow Wilson

Wilson concealed the fact that he had three minor strokes leading up to his run for the presidency.  During his second term, Wilson suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed and blinded on the left side of his body.  He couldn’t have a cabinet meeting for nine months.

His vice president, Thomas Marshall, refused to take over; Wilson could only manage his presidential duties with the help of his wife, Edith, who decided which issues deserved the president’s attention.

In this case voters were denied knowledge of conditions that seriously limited Wilson’s ability to govern.

William Henry Harrison

The 9th president of the United States died in his first month in office of “bilious pleurisy” which appeared as “inflamed lungs,” an “engorged liver,” and a “delirious mental state.”

We want to know that our top leaders are healthy enough to perform their vital roles.  As we approach the 2016 election, Americans are concerned that we have no reliable way to learn about the physical and mental health of the presidential candidates, and their running mates.  Right now, with no other mechanism in place, only the candidates can relieve our concerns.

Warnings in the News

Warnings in the News

The Great Recession has lasted so long that people do not remember inflation.  But, three recent statements, one from the meeting of the world’s central bankers, and two from the G20 Summit in China, ring the alarm bells warning us that inflation is on the way:

August 28, 2016 – JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. (Reuters) – Central bankers in charge of the vast bulk of the world’s economy delved deep into the weeds of money markets and interest rates over a three-day conference here, and emerged with a common plea to their colleagues in the rest of government: please help.

 In a lunch address by Princeton University economist Christopher Sims, policymakers were told that it may take a massive program, large enough even to shock taxpayers into a different, inflationary view of the future.

“Fiscal expansion can replace ineffective monetary policy at the zero lower bound,” Sims said. “It requires deficits aimed at, and conditioned on, generating inflation. The deficits must be seen as financed by future inflation, not future taxes or spending cuts.”

Translation:  We are going to spend our way to prosperity with inflation.

 September 4, 2016: U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that both countries would “refrain from competitive devaluations and not target exchange rates for competitive purposes. at the G20 Summit held at the Hangzhou International Expo Center.

Translation:  We are going to lower the value of our currencies through inflation.

September 6, 2016: Leaders of the Group of 20 economies meeting at the Hangzhou International Expo Center pledged to use spending to improve infrastructure and the global economy.

Translation:  We are going to spend our way to prosperity with inflation.

In plain language, global economies are weak and weakening.  Governments can no longer stimulate their economies with lower interest rates, because they at or near zero.  They cannot afford to raise interest rates for fear of pushing us back into recession.  What can they do?

Inflation.  They are going to make money out of thin air and spend it to mollify their people.  At the same time, we will wiggle out of our mounting debts & Social Security obligations because inflation will let us pay in cheaper and cheaper dollars.

How will they do that?  Borrow money from themselves and spend it under the guise of “rebuilding infrastructure,” “investing in our future,” and “making America great again.”  So what if prices go up a year from now, and the year after that, etc.

Tax Reform will be like Robin Hood; tax the rich, give to the poor; “equality” and redistribution.  But it will not tax enough, or cut spending enough to balance the budget, or reduce the national debt.

Globally, it will be about which countries can inflate their currency faster to gain trade advantages, and reduce any debts they have from other nations.

Domestic inflation example:  You earn $100,000 per year and a house costs $250,000.  You borrow $200,000 to buy the house, and pay 25% of your income ($25,000) per year for your mortgage.

Suppose inflation doubles prices and wages.  Your salary might have to increase to $200,000 just to buy the same amount of food, gasoline, clothes etc. because prices have doubled.  You would be no better off in lifestyle, but your $250,000 house would be valued at $500,000.

However, your mortgage would still be $200,000.  You used to pay 25% of your $100,000 salary to cover the mortgage ($25,000 per year).  Now, $25,000 is only 12.5% of your $200,000 salary.  Inflation has cut your debt in half, as a percentage of your income.  And just look at the $300,000 of equity you have in your house!

Inflation would also lighten the government’s $1 trillion annual deficit s and $19 trillion national debt load and allow government to continue to borrow even more.

Think it cannot happen?  When I came to Texas in 1977, house prices were going up so fast that people were “flipping” homes like pancakes.  Of course, mortgage interest rates were double digit, and CD’s rates were too.  And federal debt jumped 17% that year.

Just look at the inflation we have experienced in the past.

The chart below shows 100 years of history.  The Consumer Price index (CPI-U) for January 1913 was 9.8.  The CPI-U for September 2013 was 234.149.  This means that something that cost $9.80 in January of 1913 would cost $234.15 today!

http://inflationdata.com/Inflation/Inflation/Cumulative_Inflation_by_Decade.asp

The average annual inflation rate in the 1940’s was 4.86% in the 1970’s it was 6.5% and the 1980’s was 13.5%. Each of those decades were especially hard economically for people trying to make ends meet while prices increased and wages didn’t keep up.

Perspective on Inflation

Inflation Unemployment Average Income Average House Multiple of Income 4yr College Multiple of Income
1960 1.4% 5.50% 5,200 16,500 3.17 8,000 1.5
1970 6.5% 3.50% 7,700 23,400 3.04 16,000 2.08
1980 13.5% 6.00% 16,700 64,600 3.87 30,000 1.80
1990 5.4% 5.60% 28,700 122,900 4.28 38,000 1.32
2000 3.4% 4.00% 41,500 169,000 4.07 47,000 1.13
2010 1.6% 9.60% 48,700 221,800 4.55 69,000 1.42
2015 0.5% 5.30% 53,700 296,200 5.52 78,000 1.45

 

This time, it looks like inflation could really hurt most people because wage increases and inflation adjustments for fixed income Social Security retirees probably will not keep up with rising prices.  That will make buying a home even more difficult, in that prices are already a bigger multiple of income than they have ever been.

New York Times Silly Defense of Hillary

I woke up this morning to a silly, unchallenged report of Hillary Clinton’s email issues published by the New York Times.  I would have used the terms “inane” or “preposterous” in place of “silly,” but that would have required a higher Lexile level.  Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. Neither she nor her staff learned anything about top-level classified information or communications, based on her testimony and interviews.

Come on now; “a top aide to Mrs. Clinton told the company that housed her server to delete an archive of emails from her account.”  The implication of the New York Times article was that the servers were “housed” i.e. located with Platte River Network.

But wait:  Wikipedia reported that, “The domains were pointed to a private email server that Clinton (who never had a state.gov email account) used to send and receive email, and which was purchased and installed in the Clintons’ home for her 2008 presidential campaign.”

Oh, I guess that was just a slip of the keyboard.

“According to the F.B.I., in December 2014 a top aide to Mrs. Clinton told the company that housed her server to delete an archive of emails from her account. The company, Platte River Networks, apparently never followed those instructions.”

“On March 2, 2015, The New York Times reported that Mrs. Clinton had (sic) exclusively used a personal email account when she was secretary of state.  Two days later, the congressional committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and Mrs. Clinton’s response to them, told the technology firms associated with the email account that they had to retain “all relevant documents” related to its investigation.”

But then, so, so conveniently:

“Three weeks later, a Platte River employee had what the F.B.I. documents described as an “oh shit” moment and realized he had not deleted the emails as instructed. The employee said that he then used a special program called BleachBit to delete the files. The F.B.I. said Mrs. Clinton (said she) was unaware of the deletions.”

That is so flimsy, so lame, no wonder Hillary has such low credibility.

Next, the Secretary of State, like all members of the Cabinet, is responsible for classifying information, not standing by expecting department employees to tell them what should be classified.  Who is in charge here?  But we are fed this report:

“In Mrs. Clinton’s interview with the F.B.I., she said she did not recall receiving any emails “she thought should not be on an unclassified system.” She said she had relied on State Department officials to use their judgment when emailing her sensitive information, adding that she “could not recall anyone raising concerns with her regarding the sensitivity of the information she received at her email address.”

But what secure, official email address were they to use?  Apparently she had none.

And then, she gets a reply from Colin Powell warning her about including private email for government communications, “Be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data.”  In other words, he used secure, government email for business.

According to a summary of her interview, Mrs. Clinton said that she did not know exactly what Mr. Powell was saying in that email and that his message “did not factor into her decision to use a personal email account.”

Mrs. Clinton showed high IQ in every part of her life but this one.  What happened?

Then the article questions the intelligence of either Mrs. Clinton or her staff and closest aides.

“Mrs. Clinton said in her interview that it was “common knowledge” that she had a private email address because it was “displayed to anyone with whom she exchanged emails.” But the F.B.I. said in a summary of its findings that “some State Department employees interviewed by the F.B.I. explained that emails by Clinton only contained the letter ‘H’ in the sender field and did not display her email address.” The F.B.I. said that some of Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides were aware that she used a private email address but did not know that she had set up a private server. The aides told the F.B.I. they were “unaware of the existence of the private server until after Clinton’s tenure at State or when it became public knowledge.”

The rest of the article makes me weary:

“Mrs. Clinton kept her BlackBerry in a State Department secure area, where it was prohibited

According to the summary of the investigation, Mrs. Clinton brought her BlackBerry into a secure area on the seventh floor of the State Department, where such electronics are prohibited. The F.B.I. interviewed three former State Department diplomatic security agents who said that Mrs. Clinton kept her BlackBerry in her desk drawer in the secure area, a so-called Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF. But Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton, told the F.B.I. that Mrs. Clinton left the secure area to check her BlackBerry, often going to the State Department’s eighth-floor balcony to do so.

Mrs. Clinton had a lot of electronic devices

The F.B.I. said that it had identified 13 mobile devices that Mrs. Clinton potentially used to send emails. Mrs. Clinton’s aides were in charge of buying replacement BlackBerry devices when she was in office, often obtaining them from AT&T stores in the Washington area. Ms. Abedin told the F.B.I. that “it was not uncommon for Clinton to use a new BlackBerry for a few days and then immediately switch it out for an older version with which she was more familiar.” Ms. Abedin and another aide told the F.B.I. that “the whereabouts of Clinton’s devices would frequently become unknown once she transitioned to a new device.” An aide to Bill Clinton, Justin Cooper, who helped set up the server, told the F.B.I. that he recalled “two instances where he destroyed Clinton’s old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.”

This September 2 repeat of the email reports showed nothing new, and seemed to soften the edges on criticisms of what Hillary did.  Tsk, tsk, NYT

Middle-Class Families Robbed by Obamacare – Before and After Taxes

The New York Times just published an article claiming that middle-class families are better off financially.  They blithely overlooked the greatest tax increase in recent memory and the greatest increase in medical cost Americans have ever seen.  We have been robbed blind.

Many employers dropped or reduced their health insurance benefits and left their employees to shop Obamacare market places.  Not only are the premiums higher and the benefits lower, but now they must pay with after-tax dollars.  Insurance premiums paid by employers is exempt from payroll and income taxes.  Any of the premiums employee pays must come from earnings that have been taxed at about 8% for Social Security, Medicare taxes; the employer pays the same amount in matching payroll taxes.

But that’s not all; the employee also pays income taxes on the earnings – at least 15%.  So 8% + 15% is 23% fewer dollars in the employees’ pockets just to get the money to pay for healthcare insurance.  Since Obamacare started, health insurance for middle-class families has roughly doubled.  They get no government subsidies; they have fewer choices of doctors and hospitals; the deductibles and copays empty the bank accounts.  People who have worked hard, have been nicked by the recession.  They may be working for a fraction of their former incomes.  Families are now strapped for cash, and struggle to find medical providers that will accept their healthcare insurance.

Ask yourself, is the New York Times right?  Have we increased our incomes enough to rise above the tax grab and the insurance double-cross?  Our economic anemia verges on leukemia; Obamacare is the pathogen, not the cure.

Doctors & Hospitals Reject Pre-existing Fedicare

Health care providers are rejecting people with Obamacare policies, Medicare, and Medicaid because of reimbursement rates, and the financial inabilities of Obamacare patients to pay their share.

Context

Insurance spreads large financial risks over a pool of people who face that risk.  Only some of the people will actually experience the losses.  Members of the pool pay “premiums” to pay the losses, administer the process, and provide a profit to the owners of the insurance company.

Insurance companies use “underwriters” to:

  • Measure the potential financial risks of issuing policies
  • Set the conditions included and excluded
  • Set the premiums and duration of coverage

The idea is to:

  • Keep premiums low for normal risk people
  • Set higher premiums for people with higher risks
  • Limit coverage for conditions that already exist
  • Decline people who are high risk

Obamacare Reality

Obamacare health insurance plans cannot decline people with pre-existing conditions, by law.  The medical costs are not a risk for these people, they are an enormous, financial certainty.  These high costs must be covered by premiums paid by other insured policy holders, or absorbed by the insurance company.

Obamacare prohibits “marketplace” insurers from rejecting high-risk applicants, and people with preexisting conditions.  However, not all policies are created equal.  The variables are:

  • Premiums
  • Government premium subsidies
  • Patient co-payments
  • Patient and family deductibles
  • Reimbursement rates (the amounts insurers pay the doctors, laboratories, imaging clinics, and hospitals)

Service providers need to get paid an acceptable amount, in an acceptable amount of time.  Insurers offer reimbursement levels, but providers do not have to accept them.  Providers can set the minimum for their services, but the insurers do not have to include them in their “network.”

The medical community now does what insurance companies used to do – when in doubt, decline Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid patients.

The top quality insurance companies are withdrawing from the marketplaces to avoid the losses they experience from the pre-existing condition patients.  The insurers are limiting the types of plans to Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO’s) which only use selected providers.  They are eliminating Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO’s) which give the insured choices of providers within a selected “Network,” and “Out of Network” for higher copays.

People are dropping their health insurance because the combined costs of premiums, co-pays, deductibles; the lack of providers who accept their insurance contributes to this attrition.

Joint FBI-US Attorney Probe of Clinton Foundation – Could It Be a Political Maneuver?

I guess I am becoming cynical and suspicious of the FBI and the DOJ after the email investigation.  Now, the FBI will send their notes to Congress.

Per NBC:  “The notes are not verbatim transcripts of the interview, which Comey said lasted three and a half hours. Under the FBI’s long-standing policy, agents do not make audio or video recordings of their interviews. Instead, summaries of the interviews are written on FBI Form 302, and have come to be known as “302’s.”

An FBI policy paper explains that “the presence of recording equipment may interfere with and undermine the successful rapport-building interviewing technique which the FBI practices.”

Two years ago, however, the Justice Department said FBI agents should begin recording interviews, but only involving “individuals in federal custody, after they have been arrested but before their initial appearance” in court.

That rule did not apply to the Clinton interview, which was voluntary. She was not in custody, nor had she been arrested.”

Here is a Forbes article that reveals the strange FBI policy in detail:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/harveysilverglate/2011/07/27/constructing-truth-the-fbis-nonrecording-policy/#5d30f16e17f0

After you read the rationale for weakly justified policies, it becomes clear that the FBI wants complete control to manipulate the information it gathers.

Who knew about this policy while the so-called investigation was going on?  If we had known, we could have insisted that someone other than the FBI conduct and record the interview under oath, like a deposition.

What kind of rapport building did the FBI need with someone as sophistated as Hillary? Why did she not speak under oath?  What is the FBI policy that prohibits that?

How could they later know if she lied to the FBI?  This is ridiculous, and obvious.  The FBI could very easily have recorded what she said and made their interviews with Hillary Clinton accessible to us; but consciously, they chose not to. Hillary says this clears her, so stop talking about the emails.

Now we hear that the FBI and the US Attorney are investigating the Clintons’ Foundations for signs of impropriety, such as influence peddling, and accepting inappropriate foreign donations.

I would not get my hopes up that the investigation will yield anything negative before November.  The idea is to do away with lingering questions like they have with the emails.   The probe will allow the Clintons to block any inquiries that might be harmful by claiming it is part of an “ongoing investigation.”

Actually, I would not be shocked if we get an “all clear” in October to boost Hillary’s trustworthiness polls. It seems that neither the FBI nor the DOJ can be trusted; we cannot rely on anything to be honest or sacred in the halls of the federal government.

 

What if Trump Wants to Lose? – Reality TV at its Finest

Interesting; both candidates for President are set for life, no matter who wins.  Aside from political ambitions, what other consequences can we think of?  Speaking engagements, books, endorsements; contributions to “selected” organizations, trust, foundations?

I think that is why Trump keeps upping the ante.  He is probably just as surprised as the pundits that he is the Republican candidate for president.  He is geared to parlay events that favor him into big wins.  But what if he does not want to win?  Could he be testing the limits of our national appetite for trash talk?

And, what about his campaign team?  In mid-August, Donald shrugs off the RNC “sheeps clothing” and resumes his “Wolf of Pennsylvania Avenue” regime.  An experienced manager tries to get him to smooth public dismay, and assume RNC campaign strategies; Trump demotes him and resumes fraying the tightrope to the White House.

Back to the show without protagonists; it must be amusing and frightening to watch our silliness.  All our military power, all our amazing creativity, dimmed by this imbroglio.

Timid, cowering politicians, showing everyone we have no cohesion, no clear direction, no acceptable answers to quell the “masses” who intuit the vacuum of power in our country.  Since 9/11 we have been “dazed and confused;” what should we do, whom should we trust; whom should we fear?

Flaying with “Shock and Awe;” useless, ignorant “boots on the ground” in places rich in resources, but impoverished in modernity.  We have shown our naiveté by superimposing our values and culture on 7th century tribal people.  Iraq was not even a country before Churchill drew a line around three feuding ethnic groups and assigned a titular government.  Afghanistan is the graveyard of many invading armies.

Donald Rumsfeld’s endorsement of Donald Trump is emblematic; the man who almost single-handedly emasculated Americas military, feebly blesses a novice in military affairs.  Sad, sad, sad.

I always thought of America in superlatives; strong, honest, forthright, steadfast, resourceful, courageous, and blessed come to mind.  Our moral infrastructure is in such disrepair, that we cannot stand for anything as a nation.  We have such weak bonds with each other, that we waste our energy and resources on things of little consequence in the world.  We blame each other for problems no one could create or solve.  We are frustrated with the impotence of government to do what it cannot.

  • Are we still recovering from the shock of a homeland attack?
  • Have our imaginations and fortitude been diverted to virtual reality?
  • Are we happy that we chose two weak candidates for President?
  • Are we that detached from reality?
  • Do we think this is just another show on TV?
  • Is our decline that obvious to the rest of the world?
  • Are Russia and China taking advantage of our frazzled reticence?
  • Where are the serious leaders we need?

We need citizens to accept individual responsibility and to participate in the things that matter – the true threats and vital problems; not bathrooms and weddings.

As in the TV series House of Cards, the voters are not in charge of anything. If we remain the audience for a reality TV Show, it should be called Decline.  You are never fired; in fact, you are stuck in a job you cannot afford to lose.  We could wake up like Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s Metamorphosis; no control over, and less understanding of what is happening to us.

Saul Alinsky was an important personal mentor to Hillary; his books are modern, grass roots, activist versions of Machiavelli’s The Prince, and Karl Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party.  Listen to the rhetoric of semi-incumbent,Hillary Clinton, and parse out the words that are not in Rules for Radicals.  She does not have any answers that were not available to another Alinsky apostle, Barack Obama; how can anyone believe she can do what he could not?  Not that Trump has any silver bullets either; but voting does not have to be rational; and so it is not.

Kizr Khan waved the Constitution on TV, but he must not have read the powers of the Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. Had he read and understood Articles I, II, and III, he would know that all these sweeping promises candidates make are not within the powers vested in the Presidency.  If they could have, they would have.  Obama has stretched every possible executive power; what can any president do without Congress and the rest of the nation?  Read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

But I digress.  Just think; what if what Donald Trump never intended to become President. It has cost Donald Trump virtually nothing to become a famous world figure and a national icon.  He definitely, upset the powers-that-be in the RNC.  He awakened an army of citizens who have suffered too long from economic and government impoverishment.  Even if the presidency goes to the second most unpopular, and widely distrusted candidate, both she and Trump are set for life.

 

 

 

$20 million to Destroy $11 million of ISIS Trucks and Oil?

This weekend, U.S.-led coalition aircraft destroyed an estimated $11 million worth of oil and trucks over the weekend in the largest single airstrike this year against the Islamic State’s black market oil trade in Syria.

“You’re going to have multiple effects from this one strike,” Air Force Lt. Gen, Jeffrey Harrigian, commander in the Middle East, said Tuesday. “We’ll have to see what this does to their ability to generate fighters.”

Waves of aircraft destroyed 83 oil tankers sitting in the open in Sunday’s attack.

The attacks were ordered after a pilot spotted some vehicles gathering in Deir ez-Zor province, a key oil-producing region in Syria controlled by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The coalition command sent a surveillance aircraft over the area. The command then quickly directed A-10 attack planes, F-16s and two coalition aircraft, which together launched more than 80 weapons, including bombing and strafing runs, at the vehicles.”

Air-to-ground missiles, A-10’s, F-16’s, drones, satellites, technicians, pilots, all cost money – a lot of money.  One first generation Hellfire missile costs about $100,000; an F-16 costs $165 million each, plus $30,000 per hour to fly; drones cost $100,000+ to build and take a large infrastructure to operate.

I am not saying that we should not use our resources to take out the enemy, just quit warning them ahead of time and hold off on the bragging.  If all we are doing is destroying trucks, it may cost us as much as it costs them.  And are these people our enemies? Do we always fire a few warning shots so the experienced operators and soldiers can escape? Is this some weird video game war? Yes, I am serious:

“In the initial Tidal Wave II strikes last year, the coalition dropped leaflets on oil tankers before launching attacks, encouraging the drivers to flee their vehicles.

New military rules don’t require leaflets to be dropped, but pilots fire warning shots, typically consisting of bombs or rockets that are not aimed directly at the convoy.

“We’ll do that … to give them a chance to run,” Harrigian said.”  Jim Michaels – USA Today

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/08/09/islamic-state-oil-trucks-destroyed-massive-strike/88459864/

Sure, we can outspend ISIS; their $2 billion annual budget is peanuts compared the money we are prepared to spend to put them out of business.  But are we really serious about defeating the enemy?

American Royalty – Power Without Heart

 

The 2016 presidential campaign harkens back to the earliest years of our nation.  Democracy, Republic, Three Branches of Government, Bicameral Legislature, By The People, Checks and Balances were new ideas.  Did everyone agree?  Not in the slightest.  And they had not invented political correctness in the middle of the 18th century.

No; instead, anonymous, pamphlets of slanderous accusations and invectives, swirled like blizzards across the newly formed United States of America.  The reins of power were not certain or predictable. Contenders for office came from all walks of life with no “party” to promote them.

The evolution of America’s two major political parties took some time, but those in power were hardly poor or neutral; power is the ultimate opioid.  Despite conflicts, Democrats and Republicans play the same games; they expect to win and lose from time to time, but both sides know the rules of placating the masses by making them think they have a voice in what goes on.

Until recently, the pretense of two radically separate political bodies survived, and thrived.  Now, two is not enough, talk is not enough, rhetoric is not enough.  Americans are tired of the same old crap: “They” are bad, “We” are good.  We will fix (what they broke, again).  They found out that there is just one old machine with two faces; they do not want it anymore.

The 9/11 attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mortgage fiascos, the collapse of investment banks, the explosion of college costs and debts, the Great Recession, the expansion of global terrorism, have shaken our confidence in America, in ourselves, and in our institutions.

We have lost the super in superpower.  Our military is so weak, we have to send the same soldiers back into combat again and again until they break; we spend millions of dollars on a drone strike to kill a dozen enemy soldiers so we can avoid American casualties.  The all-professional military means that average citizens are not involved; we do not feel like we are really at war.  What would make us think that?

The same old promises will not work on brand new problems any better than they did on the old problems.  Conspiracies seem to explain current events better than the lame “official” excuses and falsehoods WikiLeaks keeps uncovering.  And just maybe the truth is not that far off.

We have lost the attention span to take politicians seriously.  Incumbents no longer offer us advantages. Hence the wave of populism, barely dodged by the Democrats secret machine, and now staring the Republicans in the face.  The political czars are going to any length, including crossing over to the other side to avoid losing control of the constituencies they have cultivated.

The trouble is, the new constituencies are awakened, vocal, mobilized, and revolting against Big Brother.  They want purpose, they want independence, they want liberty, and at least a passing chance in their pursuit of happiness.

It looks like the machine, with all its money, influence, propaganda, connections, and experience may win again this time.  I am unhappy that my country, with all its advantages, cannot cultivate enough honorable leaders to field worthy candidates for president, and remain loyal when the voters speak.

The DNC Chose Krizr Khan Very Carefully – A Sad Abuse of a Gold Star

As a Vietnam veteran, I honor Captain Khan’s valiant service.  I too was a Captain serving in a foreign war.  My brother spent two tours in Vietnam.  My wife’s 19-year-old brother died in Tet 1968.  I guess we were a Gold Star family too.

I am not in favor of the family or the opposing political candidates using his death as a political platform.  This is a dark use of an honorable man’s tragedy.  Using a Gold Star as a shield for partisan purposes is sad, and verges on disgrace.

I have visited the resting place of my fallen comrades in Arlington Cemetery, I have read and touched the names of people from my life engraved on the vast, black, Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall; I have read and support the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights; I support the First Amendment which defends free speech, even when used for such ignoble purposes.

Background:

Both Krizr and Ghazala Khan were born and brought up in Pakistan, he received his bachelor of law degree from Punjab University Law College in Lahore, Pakistan in 1974.  Ghazala taught Persian at a Pakistani college.

Soon after getting his law degree, they moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates; their two elder sons, Shaharyar and Humayun, were born there.

There is an unexplained gap in Mr. Khan’s work history; there was no indication on his law firm website of what Mr. Khan did, or where he worked the six years from 1974 to 1980.  Then the family moved to Boston, straight into Harvard Law School.

In 1982, Mr. Khan received his masters of law degree from Harvard.  The family then moved to Maryland; it is not clear where he worked the sixteen years from 1982 to 1998.

1998 to 2007, Krizr managed the Litigation Technology Services group at the international law firm of Hogan & Hartson, Washington, DC, including European and Asian offices.

From 2007 to 2010 he was Director of Law Technology & Electronic Discovery at a major global law firm based in New York.

(Note:  This history seems to conflict with the statement from his speech, “Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed.”  Q:  Why would he put that glib cliche in his speech, when it seems so unlikely to be true?)

The oldest son, Shaharyar, was a top student at the University of Virginia, where he got his PhD in Neuroscience.  He co-founded a biotechnology company, Gencia Corporation, in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he serves as Chief Science Officer.  His youngest brother, Omer, currently works at Gencia as a research specialist.  Mr. Khan now works as a legal consultant in Charlottesville, Va.

The second son, Humayun Khan, took ROTC while attending the University of Virginia, and received his commission in the US Army upon graduation in 2000.  In 2004, Humayun died from a suicide car bomb explosion at the gates to the base in Baqubah, Iraq.

Q:  Who killed him?

A:  His enemiesour enemies; the enemies we do not want here in the US.

Perspectives:

  • 3.3 million Muslim immigrants equal .9% of the US population. (365 million)
  • About 6,000 Muslims have served in our military since 9/11, (.27% of the 2.2 million US Military)
  • A total of 14 Muslim US soldiers have been killed in Iraq, (.31% of the 4,424 total deaths)

The Speech:

With this background, here is Mr. Krizr Khan’s DNC speech:

“Tonight we are honoured to stand here as parents of Captain Humayun Khan and as patriotic American Muslims – with undivided loyalty to our country.

Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed. We believed in American democracy; that with hard work and goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings.

We are blessed to raise our three sons in a nation where they were free to be themselves and follow their dreams.

Our son, Humayun, had dreams too, of being a military lawyer, but he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son ‘the best of America’.

If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities; women; judges; even his own party leadership. 

He vows to build walls, and ban us from this country. Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future.

Let me ask you: have you even read the United States constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. [he pulls it out] In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law’.

Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America.

You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.

We cannot solve our problems by building walls, sowing division. We are stronger together. And we will keep getting stronger when Hillary Clinton becomes our President.

In conclusion, I ask every patriot American, all Muslim immigrants, and all immigrants to not take this election lightly.

This is a historic election, and I request to honour the sacrifice of my son – and on election day, take the time to get out and vote.

And vote for the healer. vote for the strongest, most qualified candidate, Hillary Clinton, not the divider. God bless you, thank you.”

Summary:

Statistics certainly do not diminish or relieve the terrible pain of losing a son, or a brother, or any loved one.  Clearly, Humayun was a hero.  But he was a rare example of Muslim participation in our military

The DNC was brilliant in choosing one of the 14 Muslim Gold Star families to represent loyal, patriotic Muslims.  Unfortunately, the presentation implies a larger number of such families, and a larger Muslim participation in our nation’s defense.

It is clear, though, that Mr. Khan, and Mr. Trump have never met; both are assailing each other from the parapets of fixed partisan positions, based in rhetoric and hearsay.

It is sad that a Gold Star is being abused for political leverage.

Public Broadcasting Unable to Balance Reporting on Campaign 2016

I am sad and embarrassed that I have defended PBS ala KERA for years against politically conservative and independent friends’ accusations of blatant bias to the left.  I tried to support the balance of individual programs, like Diane Rehm, and the “broadening” value of clearly unbalanced programs like Texas Standard, The Takeaway, and Latino USA.  But I have been undermined by the clear favoritism displayed for Hillary Clinton.

If I had not watched start-to-finish PBS coverage of both national conventions, and listened to subsequent commentary on TV and radio, I might have continued this defense.  Alas, after this experience, I surrender to the right-wing and independent critics.

Did anyone else notice the obviously terrible sound engineering during the Republican National Convention?  Constant drowning out of the commentators by the convention floor noise was, if not intentional, amateurish.  Again and again, the words of the cast were obliterated by background sounds.

Not so during the refined, carefully orchestrated coverage of the Democratic National Convention.  In fact, a transparent barrier appeared behind the broadcasting commentating crew, which, seemed to dampen the convention floor noise and allowed viewers to clearly hear every favorable word spoken.

This morning, I heard Cokie Roberts suggest the best strategy Hillary Clinton should use to counter Donald Trump, i.e. (as closely as I can remember,) “she should not waste her money on TV ads, that seem not to have any effect, but on get-out-the-vote efforts.”

It is no secret that Cokie Roberts is not acting as a neutral journalist, but as an undisguised supporter of Hillary Clinton.  I did not hear that clarification before, during, or after the segment described as the news.

I feel betrayed.  I have my own political ideas, and try mightily to encourage balance and civility in the discourse between partisans’ increasingly divisive rants.  I discourage both ends of the political spectrum from ad hominem attacks and political “racism” (e.g. “conservatives are all idiots.”)  Yet, here I am, overwhelmed by the evidence of bias.

I can no longer underline the “public” in Public Broadcasting System.

 

 

Trump Could Win the “Immigration” Wars – Banish ”Newspeak”

Donald Trump speaks the language of the people, as he knows it.  When he talks about immigration policy, he has fallen into the “Newspeak” trap set by the media.  He could escape this trap and turn it on his enemies.

By now, no one doubts that both Trump and Clinton have real, and growingly serious “enemies.”  Some have even asked, “What happens if a party’s candidate dies before the election?”

One set of people upset with Trump are immigrants.  The problem with the word “immigrant” is, we need to use more precise language.  We need to say whether we mean “citizens with strong identification with immigrant forebears and culture,” or”non-citizens?”

See how easy could that be?

Americans are almost all descendants of immigrants, even though we are not immigrants ourselves.  A person who has become a naturalized citizen may describe themselves as an “immigrant” to refer to their country of origin, but they are citizens.

Even though they live here, foreign nationals (legal language: “aliens”) who have not gone through the naturalization process are not citizens.  They may still stay here as permanent residents once they apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and are approved. *

Political correctness has eroded the use of the word used by most governments around the world: alien.  “Some people” objected to the proper word “alien” and began to use euphemisms to disguise the true status of non-citizens, and aggravate citizens who immigrated legally, or who have a strong immigrant identification, such as “Latino, Latina.”   http://www.illegalaliens.us/euphemisms.htm)

If Trump wants to shock the sensibilities of the PC crowd, why not use the right words:

Illegal Alien
Also known as an “Undocumented Alien,” is an alien who has entered the United States illegally and is deportable if apprehended, or an alien who entered the United States legally but who has fallen “out of status” and is deportable.

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/immigration-terms-and-definitions-involving-aliens

He can make himself clear and unassailable by using the proper language when discussing immigration policy.

Oh, by the way, why not publish our current immigration policy so we can ask, “what part of the law don’t you understand?  What parts of the law do you intend to change?”

http://www.immigralaw.com/english/immigrationquotas.html

 

Populists Remodel, Instead of Making New Parties

“Americans are not only strongly dissatisfied with the state of the economy and the direction in which the country is headed, but with government efforts to improve them. As the Pew Research Center’s analysis of exit poll data (2010) concluded, “the outcome of this year’s election represented a repudiation of the political status quo…. Fully 74% said they were either angry or dissatisfied with the federal government, and 73% disapproved of the job Congress is doing.”

http://www.pewresearch.org/2010/12/14/how-a-different-america-responded-to-the-great-depression/

Like the two poles of a magnet, anger and dissatisfaction manifested in favor of a clearly popular Bernie Sanders movement on the left, and more clearly in the ascendancy of Donald Trump on the right.

The Democrats

Bernie Sanders attracted a large plurality of younger citizens to socialist ideas for solving perceived failures of government.  The Obama administration did nothing to ameliorate the impact of staggering loan burdens on college students; the Affordable Care Act not only failed to manage healthcare needs, it aggravated the problems of access and affordability.

Super delegates, and the strident support of the DNC establishment saved Hillary Clinton’s primary candidacy from an embarrassing drubbing by the populists.  Nonetheless, the Democrats had to shift their platform to the left to avoid losing the new voters Bernie Sanders attracted.  The party apparatchiks felt their grip on power slipping, and quickly adjusted to retain control.  Witness the remodeled Democratic Party

The Republicans

The Republican powers-that-be were not so lucky; by denying, resisting and eschewing, they lost control of the party to a populist candidate beyond their influence.  Donald Trump, by design or blind luck, tapped into the anger and frustration of a tsunami of new and dormant voters on the right. Instead of building a new third party, ala Ross Perot, Trump remodeled the Republican Party.  This massive wave of constituents was so strong that sixteen traditional candidates succumbed to mild taunting and criticism in televised debates, and strong turnouts in the primaries.

The barrage of criticism from both parties, the withdrawal of political support by RNC powerhouses, and the withholding of financial support by big-time contributors could not stop a political neophyte from becoming the Republican candidate on a tiny fraction of the money spent against him.  The Republican Party has been transformed into a conservative, populist majority; sour grapes, snubs, and disownment remain ineffective on the new dynamics of the party.

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore,” is our new national creed.

Love Is Blind – Exaggeration Is Rampant

Those who love Hillary Clinton can hardly contain their hyperbole.  Let us put it this way:  Hillary Clinton is not, “the best qualified candidate for president America has ever seen.”  While she has done many admirable, and noteworthy things, it takes a fairly partisan filter to make them presidential.  In fact, we would have to give a “participation trophy” for many of the things she has done.

Achievement is not attendance, support, involvement, engagement, pursuit, publishing, membership, advocacy, writing, researching, promoting, and most of the descriptors in the articles, blogs, and websites promoting her qualifications. 

Is she really better qualified than Abraham Lincoln? Yes, he was a man with few credentials, but he managed the most excruciating period in all of our nation’s history.

Is she even close to George Washington? George Washington was chosen by acclamation; rightly so in that he led the colonies to victory over the greatest military force in the world. He was a highly principled man, who pandered to no one. He was a successful wealthy businessman.  He managed the most challenging period in our early history.

What about Franklin D. Roosevelt, who defied his social class to lead the nation through the worst combined experience in the last century?

How about Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson (the top 10 according to a 2014 Washington Post survey.), or Barak Obama (Ranked 18)?

Does being First Lady, being a senator, or being a cabinet appointee give her astounding qualifications to be president?

As far as I can see, the only elected executive position she has held was “president of the college’s student government associations” at Wellesley College.

(Update: “Hillary Clinton Removes Hamas-Israel Ceasefire Accomplishment from Biography as Gaza Tensions Rise”

https://www.ijreview.com/2016/02/528923-hillary-clinton-removes-hamas-israel-accomplishments-from-biography/

Ah well, history in the remaking.)

 

Where can we find descriptions of her achievements and qualifications in very supportive, favorable publications?  Here are extracts from two articles that called for examples of her qualifications.  It seems that both articles point to her efforts and activities instead.  You be the judge.

First, extracted from https://www.quora.com/What-has-Hillary-Clinton-achieved

phrases used to describe Hillary’s achievements:

  • became engaged in politics
  • took part in political campaigns
  • graduated from Wellesley College
  • was involved in student government
  • elected president of the college’s student government associations.
  • worked with the college’s African-American students
  • became the first student in Wellesley’s history to offer its commencement address
  • received a 7- minute standing ovation
  • criticized Senator Edward Brooke
  • was on the editorial board of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action
  • worked with the Yale Child Study Center
  • wrote “Children Under the Law”
  • researched issues affecting migrant workers
  • served as staff attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund
  • moved to Arkansas with Bill Clinton
  • began teaching criminal law
  • joined the Rose Law Firm
  • pursued patent infringement and intellectual property law
  • became a partner in 1979
  • co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
  • publish scholarly articles in the field of children’s law
  • served on the board of directors of the Legal Services Corporation
  • served as First Lady of Arkansas
  • served as chair of the Arkansas Education Standards Committee
  • implemented standards for curriculum and mandatory teacher testing
  • served on the board of nonprofits
  • was on the corporate board of TCBY and Walmart
  • pushed for environmental reforms and for more women in its corporate management
  • regarded as the most politically influential first lady in the history of the United States
  • played an important part in vetting presidential appointments
  • headed the unsuccessful effort to achieve national healthcare reform
  • worked with the U.S. Senate to pass the State Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • was influential (in) the passage of Foster Care Independence Act
  • traveled extensively and advocated for women’s rights around the world
  • was elected United States Senator from New York twice
  • served on Senatorial committees
  • worked in a bipartisan manner
  • was instrumental in securing funding for recovery efforts and increased security for New York state.
  • voted for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
  • began calling for gradual withdrawal from Iraq
  • opposed the increase of troop deployment of 2007
  • voted in 2007 for a spending bill that would require a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
  • voted against Bush’s tax cuts
  • supported immigration reform as a senator
  • led a bipartisan effort to bring broadband access to rural communities
  • was the first former First Lady to occupy a cabinet position
  • conducted many diplomatic missions
  • visited over 100 countries
  • did a great deal to repair international relations
  • lead the U.S. response to the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen
  • was the key advocate for U.S. participation in the military intervention in Libya
  • argued successfully that the United States not release photographs of the Al Queda leader
  • was vital in conducting relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan
  • worked to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians
  • establish(ed)ing direct talks in 2010
  • travel(led)ing to Jerusalem in 2012 in an effort to stop the 2012 Gaza conflict.
  • promoted women’s right and human rights
  • advocated for gay rights at the UN Human Rights Council
  • oversaw damage control in response to the Wikileaks revelations of State Department cables
  • testified to Congress regarding the killing of U.S. Diplomatic staff in Libya
  • co-chaired the U.S-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in 2009
  • mediated in the electoral crisis in Honduras in 2009
  • unveiled the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative for Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative.
  • visited Haiti in 2009 and Chile in 2010 in response to catastrophic earthquakes.
  • played an important role in lobbying the U.S. Senate to ratify the new START treaty in 2010.
  • was outspoken in support of legitimate democracy in Russia
  • was the first Secretary of State to visit Burma since 1955
  • played a vital role in the passage of the Turkish-Armenian Accord
  • initiated reforms in the State Department

Am I missing something?  Which of these supports qualification to be president?

Second, an article from politico:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/09/carly-fiorina-debate-hillary-clintons-greatest-accomplishment-213157

THE FRIDAY COVER

What Is Hillary’s Greatest Accomplishment?

Carly Fiorina dared Democrats to name it. 20 top Dems accepted the challenge.

By POLITICO MAGAZINE

Getty

“If you want to stump a Democrat, ask them to name an accomplishment of Hillary Clinton,” Carly Fiorina quipped at Wednesday’s Republican debate. The line got hearty applause—but it also cut to the core of one of the defining lines of attacks against the former first lady and Democratic presidential frontrunner. After nearly forty years in public life, what exactly has she accomplished?

It’s a question that even, at times, has tripped up Clinton herself: During her 2014 book tour, when ABC’s Diane Sawyer asked her about her “marquee achievement,” Clinton changed the subject and she fumbled over a similar question during a women’s forum in Manhattan last year. “I see my role as secretary—in fact leadership in general in a democracy—as a relay race. You run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton. Some of what hasn’t been finished may go on to be finished,” she told Thomas Friedman. “I’m very proud of the [economic] stabilization and the really solid leadership that the administration provided that I think now leads us to be able to deal with problems like Ukraine because we’re not so worried about a massive collapse in Europe.”

The question Fiorina posed has also tripped up members of the Obama administration. When State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked last year to “identify one tangible achievement” accomplished through one of Hillary Clinton’s key projects as Secretary of State—the first-ever audit of the department—Psaki punted, “I am certain that those who were here at the time, who worked hard on that effort, could point out one.”

Hillary’s supporters have been stumped too. When Bloomberg Politics’ Mark Halperin asked a focus group of Iowans this summer about Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments, one Democratic supporter said, “I honestly can’t say I followed along [with] everything that was going on.”

So is Fiorina right? Are Democrats really unable to defend Clinton’s record on the merits? To find out, Politico Magazine on Thursday asked the nation’s top Democratic leaders and thinkers to name Hillary Clinton’s biggest accomplishment.

What is the most impressive item on Clinton’s record? Which legislative or policy triumph from her many years in office will be most important on the campaign trail? Not surprisingly, those surveyed all came up with an answer to defend their party’s likely presidential nominee. Whether these count as “marquee,” “significant,” or “tangible”? You be the judge.

‘It’s kind of hard to pick one accomplishment’

By Bill Burton, former senior strategist for Priorities USA Action, a super PAC in support of President Barack Obama.

It’s kind of hard to pick one accomplishment for Hillary Clinton. Personally, I’m sure she’d say her daughter and grandchild are her greatest accomplishments. Professionally, how about these three?

  1. Her China speech on women
  2. Her role in killing Osama bin Laden
  3. Management of the State Department during which time we saw a 50 percent increase in exports to China
  4. Aggressive work on climate (particularly at Copenhagen)
  5. The effort to create and implement the toughest sanctions ever on Iran—helping to lead us to the agreement currently on the table.

‘The sanction on Iran that brought them to the table’

Howard Dean is the former governor of Vermont and the former chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Hillary Clinton was the principal author of the sanction on Iran that brought them to the table.

‘Nearly every foreign policy victory of President Obama’s second term has Secretary Clinton’s fingerprints on it’

By Harry Reid, Senate Democratic leader.

American foreign policy was stronger when Hillary Clinton left the State Department than when she arrived. She took the reins from a Bush administration that had left America’s reputation deeply damaged and planted the seeds for the foreign policy successes we see today. From the

  1. agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon
  2. landmark normalization of relations with Cuba, nearly every foreign policy victory of President Obama’s second term has Secretary Clinton’s fingerprints on it.

Her accomplishments extend to health care, as well.

As First Lady, she helped create and guide through Congress Children’s Health Insurance Program, a key program that brought health care coverage to millions of children.

As a Senator, she worked across the aisle to provide full military health benefits to reservists and National Guard members.

Secretary Clinton was also an outspoken champion for women around the world. She set records for travel while leading the State Department and used every trip to empower the women of the 112 countries she visited. She made gender equality a priority of U.S. foreign policy. And she created the ambassador at large for global women’s issues, a post charged with integrating gender throughout the State Department.

 ‘The SCHIP program … which expanded health coverage to millions of lower-income children’

By Anita Dunn, Democratic political strategist.

After universal health care failed in 1994, the Clinton Administration was reluctant to go anywhere near healthcare again—Democrats lost the Senate and the House in 1994, and losing the house was for the first time in 40 years.

Then-First Lady Hilary Clinton ended up being the White House ally and inside player who worked with Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch to create the SCHIP program in Clinton’s second term, which expanded health coverage to millions of lower-income children.

She has other accomplishments but this one made a huge difference, and came at a time when politically the Administration was cutting deals with Newt Gingrich on the budget and not necessarily all that enthusiastic about revisiting health care.

This obviously isn’t her only accomplishment but it is meaningful because she took a political battering after the failure in 1994 but came back to fight again, and was able to work on a bipartisan basis during a very polarized time to get this done. Seems relevant!

‘Clinton is one of the most accomplished people ever to run’

By Chuck Schumer, U.S. Senator for New York, Democratic party.

Hillary Clinton is one of the most accomplished people ever to run for the Presidency. I’m lucky enough to have seen those accomplishments up close from her time as Senator from New York and as Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton

  1. was instrumental in helping secure $21 billion in federal aid to help New York rebuild after 9/11. She fought tooth and nail to protect the first responders who rushed into danger when the towers collapsed and was pivotal in the passage of legislation that helped those first responders who got sick get the care and treatment they deserved.
  2. worked night and day to protect and create jobs in New York, whether that was at the Niagara Falls Air Force base or the Center for Bioinformatics at the University of Buffalo. She also led the charge on the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Equity Act, which is now the law of the land.

‘Rebuilding America’s leadership and prestige overseas after the Bush years’

Bill Richardson is a former secretary of energy and governor of New Mexico.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was key in rebuilding America’s leadership and prestige overseas after the Bush years.

She restored our alliances with the EU and key Asian allies as well as key relationships in Africa and Latin America.

 ‘The Pediatric Research Equity Act’

By Chris Dodd, former U.S. Senator for Connecticut, Democratic party.

Having worked with her in the Senate and on the HELP Committee, the first thing that came to mind was her

  1. authorship of the Pediatric Research Equity Act. This law requires drug companies to study their products in children. The Act is responsible for changing the drug labeling of hundreds of drugs with important information about safety and dosing of drugs for children. It has improved the health of millions of children who take medications to treat diseases ranging from HIV to epilepsy to asthma. Millions of kids are in better shape and alive because of the law Senator Clinton authored.

‘Crippling sanctions against Iran’

By Paul Begala, political analyst for CNN and counselor to President Bill Clinton.

Easy: Iran sanctions. Sec. Clinton accomplished the nearly impossible mission of getting China, Russia, the European Union and the civilized world on board with crippling sanctions against Iran. This is what brought Iran to the negotiating table.

‘Clinton struck major and consequential diplomatic achievements’

By Bill Scher, senior writer at the Campaign for America’s Future.

Hillary Clinton has four major accomplishments from her tenure as Secretary of State: winning the

  1. UN resolution supporting military intervention in Libya
  2. New START arms control treaty with Russia
  3. renewing diplomatic ties with Myanmar
  4. setting in the motion talks that culminated in the Iran nuclear deal.

We don’t see the Clinton campaign or other Democrats leap to cite most of these accomplishments because they come with degrees of future uncertainty and, in the case of Libya, associations with the tangentially related Benghazi attack. But they are significant accomplishments nonetheless.

Clinton is often mocked for failing to “reset” relations with Russia. But the New START treaty is being followed and helping contain tensions. She won Russia’s support for UN sanctions on Iran that helping bring the rogue state to the negotiating table. And she cajoled Russia to abstain on the Libyan resolution, which was critical to securing its passage in the UN Security Council. (In fact, she may have “reset” too well. Vladimir Putin, who was not President at the time, opposed the resolution and that may have contributed to his decision to reclaim his post.)

The aftermath of that Libyan intervention has been messy, with rival governments fracturing the country, although unity talks are currently taking place. Myanmar has not been perfect either. The promise of released political prisoners has only been partially filled. And the military is being accused of manipulating the upcoming general election. Still the participation of the previously banned National League for Democracy party is a step forward.

These are reminders that, in the real world, progress is often halting. But the fact remains that Clinton struck major and consequential diplomatic achievements, even if the final historical judgment on their lasting impact is years away.

 ‘I’ve seen, first-hand, her exceptional work at every level

By Patrick Leahy, U.S. Senator for Vermont, Democratic party.

I’ve seen, first-hand, her exceptional work at every level—when she was in the White House as First Lady; later, when we were partners and neighbors as senators; and after that, when she was Secretary of State.

  1. Just one example, which is one of her enduring legacies as First Lady, was her partnership with Congress in developing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which has improved access to essential health care for millions of kids.
  2. In the Senate we worked together on efforts to clean up Lake Champlain and to help Vermont’s and New York’s family farmers.
  3. (As a senator from New York,) She was at the center of securing help for New York’s 9/11 first responders.
  4. We worked together in enacting the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was the first bill signed into law by President Obama.

I was chairman of the State Department’s budget committee when she was Secretary of State, and I worked closely with her—week to week, and sometimes day to day—on a wide, wide range of issues and challenges, from human rights to global health.

  1. We traveled together to Haiti as we worked to help that country recover from the devastation of the earthquake.
  2. She had a leading role in securing tougher sanctions on Iran.
  3. We worked together to successfully overcome obstruction by House Republicans of the funding she requested to improve embassy security around the world.

Some of her most important achievements were her steady, methodical efforts, with the President, to help reintroduce America to the world.

 ‘She was the point person … compelling the Chinese to commit to cutting carbon emissions.’

By David Axelrod, former Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama.

When I was there, she played a very active role in

  1. rallying the world behind the global sanctions against Iran that brought them to the table over their nuclear program.
  2. She was the point person in Copenhagen in compelling the Chinese to commit to cutting carbon emissions.
  3. She personally negotiated a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Those are a few that come to mind.

‘The Adoption and Safe Families Act’

By Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress.

As First Lady, Hillary was the

  1. point person in the Clinton Administration on the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, a bill that refocused adoption policies on the needs of the children, made it easier to remove children from abusive situations, provided support and services to adoptive families, and encouraged adoption of children with special needs. The bill increased foster adoptions by 64 percent by 2002.

Hillary helped develop the idea behind this bill, first writing about it in a 1995 article. She went on to work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress, including moderate Rhode Island Republican John Chafee, to see the bill through to final passage, helping broker compromises to ensure the bill’s passage.

This was not a big bill that dominated headlines. But for every child who was placed in a loving home because of this legislation, Hillary’s work was more than an accomplishment on a resume; it was an important part of the reason their lives were better.

 ‘Clinton has at every turn fought for progress and opportunity’

By Tracy Sefl, former senior advisor to Ready for Hillary.

The reality is that Hillary Clinton has at every turn, fought for progress and opportunity. As her campaign continues, she’ll continue to share exactly what those fights have entailed, and for who—

domestically, on behalf of children, veterans, active military, first responders, victims of gender-based violence, family caregivers, pregnant women.

As Secretary of State, she helped restore America’s standing during challenging times, meaning that her tireless diplomatic efforts brought forth progress with

  1. tougher sanctions
  2. missile reduction treaties
  3. ceasefires
  4. strengthened international coalitions.

And critically, her core belief—that the improved lives of women and girls worldwide will leads to stronger and safer economies—is proving to be transformational in the 21st Century.

‘The new START Treaty’

By Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist.

Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, led the negotiations that led to the new

  1. START Treaty, a landmark revision of our nuclear arms agreement with Russia. It received bipartisan support in Congress and represents a critical leg in our national security and a safer world.

‘A relentless advocate for women and children’

By Douglas Schoen, pollster for President Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has:

  1. has championed women’s reproductive rights as well as establishing the importance of early education.
  2. played a critical role in the creation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act.
  3. introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act as well as the
  4. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

‘Galvanizing the Senate after the tragedy of 9/11’

By Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator for California, Democratic party.

What Hillary Clinton has accomplished in any given year–from leading efforts to impose the toughest

  1. Iran sanctions
  2. making women’s rights central to our foreign policy to
  3. galvanizing the Senate after the tragedy of 9/11 to rebuild the city and take care of our brave first responders.

‘A ‘smart power’ diplomacy’

By Harold Koh, former Legal Adviser of the Department of State.

As Secretary, Hillary Clinton defined and tried consistently to implement a “smart power” diplomacy that combines diplomacy, development, aid, rule of law and private initiatives with limited applications of hard power to project U.S. global leadership abroad.

In an age where our hard power resources are limited and near exhaustion, her approach is a much more promising than the Republicans’ to addressing our hardest global problems in the years ahead.

  1. The Iran nuclear deal
  2. multilateral trade talks
  3. climate change negotiations are only three current concrete examples of that approach in action.

‘She helped hold together the Presidency and the country’

By Dennis Kucinich, former U.S. Representative from Ohio.

When the Clinton Administration was under attack and facing impeachment, Hillary Clinton

  1. s(h)owed great courage, fortitude and perseverance.
  2. She helped hold together the Presidency and the country by virtue of her steadfastness and determination.
  3. Her conduct revealed an extraordinary resilience and grace under pressure, which are the hallmarks of a strong leader.
  4. Even more than her considerable work on health and education, her effort to be a unifying force at that time was important for America.

‘The world is safer and people are more free thanks to Hillary Clinton’

By Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist and contributor to CNN and ABC News.

  1. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was instrumental in building an international coalition around the toughest regime of sanctions against Iran in history.
  2. She went to Beijing 20 years ago and declared that women’s rights are human rights.
  3. More recently, she stood before representatives of nations like Russia and Uganda and stated boldly that gay rights are human rights, too.

Today, the world is safer and people are more free thanks to Hillary Clinton.

Here at home, from her very first job out of law school—at the Children’s Defense Fund—Hillary Clinton has delivered results for Americans most at risk of discrimination and restricted opportunity.

As First Lady, she

  1. championed healthcare reform at the comprehensive level and through SCHIP for children living in poverty.
  2. In the Senate she fought to raise the minimum wage,
  3. she stood up for 9/11 first responders and she was a tireless
  4. advocate for legislation to protect and expand the right to vote.

 

Summary

Compiling the 47 answers and eliminating duplication, here is what they said were her lifelong greatest accomplishments:

Pre-First Lady:

  1. First job out of law school—at the Children’s Defense Fund
  2. She went to Beijing 20 years ago and declared that women’s rights are human rights

As First Lady:

  1. Point person in the Clinton Administration on the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, a bill that refocused adoption policies on the needs of the children, made it easier to remove children from abusive situations, provided support and services to adoptive families, and encouraged adoption of children with special needs
  2. Championed healthcare reform at the comprehensive level and through SCHIP for children living in poverty.
  3. Advocate for legislation to protect and expand the right to vote.
  4. She stood before representatives of nations like Russia and Uganda and stated boldly that gay rights are human rights, too.

As Senator from New York:

  1. Stood up for 9/11 first responders and she was a tireless
  2. Fought to raise the minimum wage,
  3. Introduced the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
  4. Author(ed)ship of the Pediatric Research Equity Act. This law requires drug companies to study their products in children. The Act is responsible for changing the drug labeling of hundreds of drugs with important information about safety and dosing of drugs for children.
  5. Worked together on efforts to clean up Lake Champlain and to help Vermont’s and New York’s family farmers.
  6. Worked night and day to protect and create jobs in New York, whether that was at the Niagara Falls Air Force base or the Center for Bioinformatics at the University of Buffalo
  7. Traveled to Haiti worked to help that country recover from the devastation of the earthquake.
  8. Worked together to successfully overcome obstruction by House Republicans of the funding she requested to improve embassy security around the world.

As Secretary of State:

  1. Point person in Copenhagen in compelling the Chinese to commit to cutting carbon emissions.
  2. Multilateral trade talks
  3. Instrumental in building an international coalition around the toughest regime of sanctions against Iran in history.
  4. Her role in killing Osama bin Laden
  5. Management of the State Department during which time we saw a 50 percent increase in exports to China
  6. Landmark normalization of relations with Cuba, nearly every foreign policy victory of President Obama’s second term has Secretary Clinton’s fingerprints on it.
  7. UN resolution supporting military intervention in Libya
  8. Renewing diplomatic ties with Myanmar
  9. START Treaty, a landmark revision of our nuclear arms agreement with Russia. It received bipartisan support in Congress and represents a critical leg in our national security and a safer world.
  10. The Iran nuclear deal

I invite you to review and weigh the importance of her individual accomplishments on the scale of presidential qualifications.

 

Tools from Carl Sagan’s BS Detection Kit

We are in an age of hyper-information/persuasion/spin about all aspects of our lives, from what we eat, to what we buy, to what we attend, to whom we choose as leaders.  Now, as always, we can benefit from screening the inputs to our lives, and weighing our beliefs on a scale of clarity, and verity.  Carl Sagan gave us some sage tools to evaluate and detect fallacies of arguments, and false claims.  After the quote, I will try to translate, without bias, his precise language, and references, into reasonably understandable terms.

A. Evaluate Ideas to Approach the Truth:

  1. Wherever possible,there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science, there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument,every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the dataequally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.
  1. Avoid Common Pitfalls of Common Sense

Just as important as learning these helpful tools, however, is unlearning and avoiding the most common pitfalls of common sense. Reminding us of where society is most vulnerable to those, Sagan writes:

In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions.

He admonishes against the twenty most common and perilous ones — many rooted in our chronic discomfort with ambiguity — with examples of each in action:

  1. ad hominem— Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously)
  2. argument from authority(e.g., President Richard Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan to end the war in Southeast Asia — but because it was secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him because he was President: a mistake, as it turned out)
  3. argument from adverse consequences(e.g., A God meting out punishment and reward must exist, because if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and dangerous — perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement for other men to murder their wives)
  4. appeal to ignorance— the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore, UFOs exist — and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
  5. special pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble(e.g.,How can a merciful God condemn future generations to torment because, against orders, one woman induced one man to eat an apple? Special plead: you don’t understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will. Or: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the same Person? Special plead: You don’t understand the Divine Mystery of the Trinity. Or: How could God permit the followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — each in their own way enjoined to heroic measures of loving kindness and compassion — to have perpetrated so much cruelty for so long? Special plead: You don’t understand Free Will again. And anyway, God moves in mysterious ways.)
  6. begging the question, also called assuming the answer (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or: The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors — but is there any independent evidence for the causal role of “adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned anything at all from this purported explanation?)
  7. observational selection, also calledthe enumeration of favorable circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent on its serial killers)
  8. statistics of small numbers— a close relative of observational selection(e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly.” Or: “I’ve thrown three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”)
  9. misunderstanding of the nature of statistics(e.g., President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence);
  10. inconsistency(e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of which a potential military adversary is capable, but thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union to the failures of communism many years ago, but never attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for the Universe to continue to exist forever into the future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has infinite duration into the past);
  11. non sequitur— Latin for “It doesn’t follow” (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often those falling into the non sequitur fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities;
  12. post hoc, ergo propter hoc— Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” (e.g., Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of … a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.” Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons)
  13. meaningless question(e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)
  14. excluded middle, or false dichotomy — considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”)
  15. short-term vs. long-term— a subset of the excluded middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed malnourished children and educate pre-school kids. We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets.  Or: Why explore space or pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?);
  16. slippery slope, related to excluded middle (e.g.,If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant. Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our bodies around the time of conception);
  17. confusion of correlation and causation(e.g., A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore, education makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore — despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer, more massive planet Jupiter — the latter causes the former)
  18. straw man— caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance — a formulation that willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or — this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy — environmentalists care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do for people)
  19. suppressed evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown on television; but — an important detail — was it recorded before or after the event? Or:  These government abuses demand revolution, even if you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far more people are killed than under the previous regime? What does the experience of other revolutions suggest? Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable and in the interests of the people?)
  20. weasel words(e.g., The separation of powers of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress. On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected. Presidents of either political party may therefore be tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and calling the wars something else — “police actions,” “armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,” “pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class of reinventions of language for political purposes. Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”)

Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world — not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others.”

 

“Equality” – An Evil Definition

What qualities are we trying to “E?”  Who decides “equal?”  How does anyone improve the qualities of another person?

When a political party adds a word to their platform, shouldn’t they define it?  Does anyone believe our human race was advanced and improved by denying the qualities that surpassed “normal” or “average?”

I cannot seem to find anyone anywhere who can or will say exactly what they mean by “equal,” or how “equality” will be achieved.

If fostering equality means reducing those who excel by taxation or regulation, what will that accomplish for the “unequals?”

What politicians are ready to point at individual citizens and say, “You are unequal, you are above equal, you are exactly equal.”?

Am I supposed to be so ignorant that I do not interpret this criminalization of success as a naked call for federal government stripping resources from those with money to finance distributions of resources to those who are “below equal.”?  Do I want to live in a communist society where everything is artificial, and nothing works?  No.

Millions of people have risked life and limb to get to the place where they are unencumbered by lack of opportunity – the USA.  They are here to improve their chances for a better life for themselves and their children.  They see that here they have a chance that their efforts will pay off.  Do they require a perfect environment?  Do they insist that the government remove the obstacles to their accomplishments?  No.

Oh, and by the way, where is the campaign for GLOBAL equality?  (Silence)  Hmmm, so giving up what we have that exceeds what other people have in other parts of the world is different.  Hypocritical at best.

Kurt Vonnegut was prescient in a short story he wrote in 1961, (just as George Orwell was in 1944 when he published “Animal Farm.”)

Read what he wrote.

 <HARRISON BERGERON by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr  1961

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal.  They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way.  Nobody was smarter than anybody else.  Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.  All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though.  April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime.  And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts.  And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear.  He was required by law to wear it at all times.  It was tuned to a government transmitter.  Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television.  There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head.  His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh” said George.

“That dance-it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel a little envious.

“All the things they think up.”  “Um,” said George.

“Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers.

“If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday-just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”

“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.

“Well-maybe make ’em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”

“Good as anybody else,” said George.

“Who knows better than I do what normal is?” said Hazel.

“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.

“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”

It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.

“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in a canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck.

“Go on and rest the bag for a little while,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”

George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.”

“You been so tired lately-kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”

“If you could just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean-you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just set around.”

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, ” then other people’d get away with it-and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.

“There you are,” said George. The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?”  If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.

“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.

“What would?” said George blankly.

“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?

“Who knows?” said George.

The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and Gentlemen.”

He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.

“That’s all right-” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men.

And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody.

“Excuse me-” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.

“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.”

A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen-upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.

The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.

Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.  And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.

“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not – I repeat, do not – try to reason with him.”

There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake. George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have – for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune.

“My God-” said George, “that must be Harrison!”  The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head. When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood – in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.

“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.

“Even as I stand here” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.

Harrison’s scrap-iron handicaps crashed to the floor.

Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.

He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.

“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people.

“Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”

A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.

Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all he removed her mask.  She was blindingly beautiful.

“Now-” said Harrison, taking her hand, “shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.

The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too.

“Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”

The music began. It was normal at first-cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.

The music began again and was much improved.

Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while-listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.

They shifted their weights to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands on the girl’s tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.

And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well. They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.

It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling. They kissed it.

And then, neutraling gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.

It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.

Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George. But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.

George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again.

“You been crying” he said to Hazel.

“Yup,” she said.  “What about?” he said.

“I forget,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”

“What was it?” he said.

“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.

“Forget sad things,” said George.

“I always do,” said Hazel.

“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a riveting gun in his head.

“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.

“You can say that again,” said George.

“Gee-” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”>

 

“Harrison Bergeron” is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.

The Revolution Is Here – Take It To Heart

In every revolution, the “intelligentsia,”are swept aside.  They represent an entrenched notion of superiority and upper class that would keep change within their purview for ever. They call anyone who is not aligned with them “ignorant.”

But Americans have developed a different model of “knowing” called “trending.”

Ignorance is what?  What does a person have to “know” to rise above ignorance? Over the past six decades, we Americans have gradually diluted and “re-purposed”public education to reveal a new role for our schools:  Day Care and fail-proof graduation.

BTW:  What we don’t know, we can, like, Google, right?  Like, the internet is a great source, right?  And, like, almost better than rumors.  And Twitter, hey.  Right?  It is not only right; it is right now!  Who needs to be smart when they have smart PHONES;)

Each generation allowed to drift away from personal responsibility and thoughtful challenge dims our future, and insults our past.  Then the child become the parent, their children become parents, ad nauseum.  There is a saying, “Wisdom comes with age.”  But apparently, sometimes, age comes alone.

What has come of the devaluation of deep education, and elimination of critical thinking/learning skills?  Is it fair to castigate an electorate that has been hoodwinked into accepting whatever their equally educated associates and self-proclaimed leaders tell them?

What do we expect from uber-indulged offspring, un-chaffed by the requirements of self-reliance?  Why should we be surprised when 4th generation union laborers cry out in pain when their family traditions leave them without a clue or a paycheck?

We find ourselves in 2016, after wrenching damage to our smug image of ourselves as Americans with unlimited potential, who need only show up to garner success.  The wounds inflicted by 9/11 are still with us after 15 years of missteps in response.  We have tried to deny the damage; we have launched counterattacks on the phantoms of suicide using oceans of borrowed money to fund distant wars with professional warriors; we have salved our pain with money borrowed to buy homes and the trappings of wealth against a mirage of future prosperity; we drowned in the aftermath of deluded excess; we barely made our way back to the shores of reason and a semblance of recovery.

Now, we use deceitful yardsticks to measure our return to Camelot.  Empty words like “employment” when a person finally finds a job at 60% of their former pay.

We make false implications like “college education” when a barely literate and numerate high school “graduate” borrows the price of a new home to learn to read, write, and use a computer; then, the search for work that will pay the student loans, while the “college graduate,” either stays in the family basement, or shares desperate apartment space with like-indentured contemporaries.

When I say “we,” I mean our shackled culture.  We have been fooled into believing what we are told, minding our “political correctness,” and allowing mobs to control our justice system when, the results do not satisfy them.  We have allowed loud minorities of no more than 3-5% of our population to direct our legislatures and judiciaries to give them control and sanctions over the rest of our society.  We have succumbed to the notion that Americans have to allow others to flaunt our laws, treaties, and alliances because we should never stand firm, confront evil, or fight dirty.

The idealized America of the past was pretty hard-nosed, and seldom a patsy for, “that’s not NICE.”  Our heroes were tough guys who would not stand for threats or false promises.  Somehow we believe we are still tough when we are just the opposite.

The social organizers, the media and professional politicians have informally colluded to keep Americans in their recliners, consumers of what they conjure, passive observers of life in America.

But we all have our limits, and when those limits are breached, we get up and fight the bullies who have tried to keep us under control with their well-honed rules.  Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are appealing to the Americans who have suffered and who see not relief, but more suffering.  They are mad as hell, and they are not going to take it anymore.

Even if these gladiators are martyred by “the System,” they have awakened those who have let things go too long.  These revolutionaries will not accept sophisticated “ideas” or convoluted promises; they want palpable relief.  They want to push the buttons, and pull the levers, and see results that make a difference.

Obamacare – Expensive Eternity on Hold

Wouldn’t it be great to have unlimited hours and days to manage your family’s medical insurance?  Apparently, that is what is required under the new medical insurance regime.

Straight story:  My wife is a home health care nurse.  Her employer is a giant in the home health care business.  In addition to her paycheck, she had good health care insurance paid mostly by the company.

With the advent of the A.C.A aka Obamacare, employers were let off the hook for 2014 regarding penalties for not providing medical insurance.  At the same time, individuals were required to have it.  The home health giant dropped health insurance benefits, not for office staff or management, but ONLY for the nurses who delivered the care.

That led to the pursuit of an individual policy for my wife paid with after-tax dollars of $605 per month.  To the uninformed, this means having to earn $800 per month, paying $195 dollars in Social Security, Medicare, and income taxes, to net $605 to pay the premiums. (Question:  who got the $195 that she did not have to pay beforehand?)

Then we discover that her doctors are not included on the “in network” list or are not accepting her new coverage.  Several times we drove to the offices of doctors who were listed as providers on the company’s website, and discovered that they either dropped out of the “network,” or closed their doors.

In December she got notice that her premiums were increasing to $710 for 2016 for the math challenged, this is a 17.4% increase.)  Another $140 per month of earnings less $35 in taxes.  So we were facing paying $940 of her pre-tax earnings each month ($11,280 per year) for insurance with $2,000 deductible and $7,000 annual out of pocket.

Fortunately, her new employer offered her better health insurance benefits as of 01/01/2016 at $360 per month for her share.  She now only has to earn 470 dollars per month, and pay $110 in taxes to cover this benefit.

But wait, there is more.  We both tried for nearly two weeks to cancel the old policy.  Nowhere on the health insurer’s website are information or links to cancel a policy.  We called the 800 number for customer service numerous times, only to be subjected to hour plus waits ending in mysterious hang ups.  When I finally reached the customer service number after 1 hour and 40 minutes of waiting, I was informed that I had to call the Marketplace to cancel the policy.

After another wait, I was told I had to give them 14 day’s advance notice to stop the January premium payment.  This would have meant $710 paid for January for double coverage.  When I asked who I could talk to, I was given an 800 number that was answered by the health insurance company.

This is not apocrypha; this is first-hand experience.  Replicate this experience millions of times and you have the cost we are paying for the changes caused by Obamacare, not counting the coming tax filings by employers and employees, the IRS processing and enforcement.

 

Problems Equal Power – Solutions Subtract

Have you noticed how much time and blather are lavished on inventing and enlarging problems, blaming, and shaming the “other” for causing, maintaining, expanding and taking advantage of problems?  Have you paid attention to how little or no time is invested in compassionate, cooperative, thoughtful, creative ideas?  Have you noticed how little time is spent pursuing sometimes simple obvious solutions, and strategies to reduce divisiveness, or resolve negative issues?

That is because “Problems = Power” in politics – especially perpetual & perpetuated problems.

What is a problem?  Think about it – a problem is a perception, a belief, a concept, an idea, a puzzle, a construct that proposes that an obstacle, a burden, a threat, or a harmful condition exists for a person or group of people.

The word “problem” also implies that a “solution” or “answer” or “proof” is available.

If you want political power:

  • Define a “problem” and declare a solution is available.
  • Proclaim yourself the champion of a particular social, financial, cultural pain for which you have the answer.
  • Stand up as the leader who will right a present, past, or future wrong.
  • Convince others that you are a spearhead who will break the hold of nefarious conspiracies on the throats of the weak, disadvantaged, and marginalized.

The basic strategy appears to be:

  • Maintain and emphasize the “problem” to your intended constituency.
  • Complain publicly, and produce anecdotal, sometimes rare examples of the “problem,” victims, or damage.
  • Blame someone else for creating, expanding; and perpetuating the “problem.”
  • Berate anyone who could or could have, should or should have solved the “problem.”
  • Propose a law so someone else has to stop it, fix it, or pay for it.
  • Promise that, if elected, you will fight it, expose it, or make it “fair.”
  • Make emotional accusations that others intentionally cause the “problem” for their benefit.
  • Stir up anger and hatred for groups, classes, or nations accused of causing, imposing, or withholding solutions for the “problem.”

But do not, under any circumstances, actually do anything to solve the problem systemically because, when you solve the problem, you lose the power created by the problem.  (that is, if there really is/was /were a problem.)

Some statements sound like problems, but they are really just statements.  For example, I remember hearing:

  • “The poor will always be with us.”
  • “How much better is it to acquire wisdom than gold! and to acquire understanding is worthmore than silver!”
  • “Thethings you own end up owning you.”

Other “problems” are invented and protected, such as the “problem” of requiring a photo ID.

First, has anyone, besides me, ever been in another country?  Everyone, citizens, residents, & visitors must have “papers” such as passports, or else you go to jail or get deported, period.  Often, proof of birth is not on record, but the governments know this and have methods of dealing with it.  Guess what? – people get and keep IDs.

Second, we live in a culture of ubiquitous identity verification requirements.  How does anyone live in the USA without government issued ID?  We need ID’s to receive, record, do, buy, or operate anything worth receiving, recording, doing, buying, or operating.  Here are some examples:

  • Paychecks (job application & check cashing)
  • Social security checks (benefit application & check cashing)
  • Credit purchases
  • Food Stamps (benefit application & purchasing)
  • Unemployment (benefit application & check cashing)
  • Welfare (benefit application & check cashing)
  • Home & auto titles
  • Insurance
  • Marriage
  • Birth
  • Divorce
  • Buying alcohol
  • Driving
  • Attending school
  • Getting medical care
  • Internet purchases
  • Electricity
  • Sports events
  • Buying stupid stuff advertised on TV for $19.95, (but wait – order now &..)
  • And much, much more

Oh, I forgot, with everyone taking “selfies” these days, that means they have a smartphone, and the related bills.  They are also creating photo IDs on the internet.  So who is left?  The Disabled, the Aged, the Homeless, the Poor?

Why haven’t their family, or friends, or social workers, or political party members taken them to the Department of Motor Vehicles, or the Post Office, or wherever they need to go to get an ID?  The fact that the photo will be atrocious should not daunt you.  The ultimate ID is a US passport, good anywhere in the world.  Next is a driver’s license or a non-driver’s ID from the state.

Obviously, the first step is a census, a list of people who do not have an ID.  The opponents of having an ID seem to know who they are; so prove it; produce the list.  Then solve the problem instead of complaining.

Third, where photos are required, couldn’t we just have cameras, or smartphones to take pictures of people who have none (duh)?  For example, have digital cameras to take photos of any who wants to vote, but has no ID.  Email the picture, name, address, and phone number to a secure central server.  If there ever is a problem or doubt, you have the data to answer any questions. I’ll bet the pictures would come out better than the Department of Public Safety, or Department of Motor Vehicles, or, heaven forbid, Department of Corrections.  This data could also be used to create a photo ID, once verified.

Fourth, isn’t getting a photo ID something that lasts once you get one, or only requires renewal every few years?  If you average out the yearly cost of having a photo ID, it should be affordable (maybe $5-10 per year, at most).

I mean, if you knew Aunt Betty did not have a photo ID, couldn’t you help her get one as a 50th birthday present?  Also, if a political party wanted supporters to vote, couldn’t they spend some small fraction of the millions of dollars they raise to get them ID’s?  Naahh!  Just let the problem ride, and keep the power so you can accuse, complain, and litigate again next year.  Oh, and take the “problem” to the Supreme Court to make it permanent.

But, this is just one example.  Let’s think about how politicians develop strategies around problems.  What is missing, or mislaid?

  1. Avoid Problem Analysis – Strategy: generalize, exaggerate, fabricate, and avoid any details and real research.

Ask yourself, would the protestations of ANY of the current candidates for President solve ANY of the serious pains Americans are suffering?  All I have heard are mission statements, results promises, and slogans.  Oh, I forgot, blame, & snide ad hominem bombs hurled like fireworks into the air, never to land; entertaining, reinforcing, & useless.

  1. Avoid Solution Analysis – Strategy: poor math, blur the subject, blame obstacles, avoid saying who would really pay.

Has anyone heard of a workable tax/spend plan that would actually produce the stated result, in practice?  It must be out of fashion to think things through; for example, “Tax the Rich” probably won’t work, when we wiggle the definition of “rich,” and forget that people do not stand still for painful government actions.  They either stop the taxable behavior, or substitute non-taxable behavior, or cheat.  “Do Not Tax the Poor” is a problem when the definition of “poor” is feeble, and government spending exceeds the resources of everyone.

  1. Avoid Distinctions – Strategy: collapse specific meanings into general terms, confuse demographic groups by using the same words to describe different groups.

The most prominent example of this is the intentional, improper use of the word “immigrant.”  “Immigrant” means a person who is a citizen of another country living in the USA legally by registration (aka – Green Card), or through naturalization to become a citizen of the USA.

That is all.   The term is specific and narrow in its legal definition; it absolutely excludes “unregistered aliens,” “foreign nationals,” “migrants” and so called, “illegal immigrants,” and “undocumented workers.”  All of those terms refer to unregistered non-citizens living here in violation or our immigration laws.  But, clever politicians, journalists, and advocates substitute the word “immigrant” for people who are not citizens.

The effect of this is to rile up immigrants, who are Americans, and make it sound like Americans hate immigrants.  Use the right words and it is clear that Americans love immigrants; we ARE immigrants, or descendants of immigrants.  We oppose people violating our immigration laws.

It is deceitful, and “newspeak” to use euphemisms or the word “immigrant” with obfuscating adjectives to imply that illegal aliens are really just citizens who kind of sort of haven’t taken care of a few annoying, paperwork details, so it is okay for them to come here and stay as long as they want because they really are Americans; aren’t they?

All in all, we can be tricked into supporting causes and politicians by perceiving “problems” as reality.  Sure, there are real problems, like homelessness, nuclear threats, infrastructure neglect, terrorism, inadequate public education, business and government corruption, to name a few.

But “inequality,” and “poverty” will always exist because people are different and “unequal” in many ways.

Should we regard exceptional students, athletes, scientists, artists, inventors, leaders, entrepreneurs, other geniuses as affronts to those who are not exceptional?  Should we slow down the hard workers and ambitious business owners to make things more “equal?”

Should we fault those who adapt to the world the way it is, instead of insisting that the past return for those who are stuck there?  Should we respond to the politicians who accuse government for making terrible agreements with other countries, or for not meeting all of our personal needs?  Is there something not great about America the way it is?

Make no mistake, America is the best place in the world for people who treasure liberty, personal freedom to live and work wherever we want, love who we want, go where we want, strive for our dreams, and as citizens vote how we want.

Go the Middle East, or Asia, or Africa, or Central America to see how the “other half” lives, and you will kiss the ground when you get back home to the United States of America.

 

 

Mental Health Parity – Who Will Make It So?

Sure, Obamacare was supposed to raise the level of care for mental health to the level of physical health.  Sure, President Obama declared a $500 million increase in federal spending for mental health issues.  And……..?   That equals $1.56 per capita.  The states are decreasing their spending on mental health faster than that every year.

Those who venerate Ronald Reagan’s presidency may not have noticed that, once he converted federal health care into block grants to the states, the spending and resources for mental health collapsed to a feeble level.  As the mental health facilities closed, the new prisons opened, and the homeless population mushroomed.  Some experts estimate that 29% of the homeless have severe mental illness.  Department of Justice studies show that 45-65% of local, state, and federal prisoners have severe mental illness; about 1/3 receive treatment.  In other words, the justice system is in charge of mental health care in America.  A police officer is the most likely person to interact with the seriously disturbed citizen on our streets.  Then the most likely outcome would be to be incarcerated in a de facto asylum, or relegated to the streets.

I do not have the answers, but denial will not make things better.  Maybe it would better to convert our prisons into hospitals, and our prison guards into psychiatric nurses.  The last figure I heard was about $39,000 per inmate per year (about $107/day) for incarceration.  Then most of those released have not been treated for mental illnesses.  What do you think the chances are that they will have other episodes that might put them back in prison?

No one can guarantee that treatment would reduce recidivism; no statistics exist to test that theory.  All I know is that people I know do very well, when they take their meds.

So, here is the question every candidate for federal office: “It seems that all the candidates agree that mental illness has played a prominent role in the mass shootings around the US.  How well do you think the federal and state governments are managing mental healthcare in prisons, among the homeless, and the public?  What do you think they should do to really meet the needs?”

 

Hypocrisy, Weakness, and Cowardice After the Shootings in Paris

Armed gunmen murdered 12 people in the Paris office building of Charlie Hegdo in broad daylight. They killed the editor, four cartoonists, two policeman, (one was Muslim) and other employees who just happened to be there.

Thank the French Special Forces for finding, cornering, and killing them.

Charlie Hebdo

According to Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Hebdo Charlie Hebdo, ”is a French satirical weekly newspaper, featuring cartoons, reports, polemics, and jokes. Irreverent and stridently non-conformist in tone, the publication is strongly anti-racist[3] and left-wing, publishing articles on the extreme right, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, politics, culture, etc. According to its former editor, Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), the magazine’s editorial viewpoint reflects “all components of left wing pluralism, and even abstainers”.”

Controversial Muhammad Cartoons

Featured image

The paper’s controversial 3 November 2011 issue, renamed “Charia Hebdo” (a reference to Sharia law) and “guest-edited” by Muhammad, depicted Muhammad saying: “100 lashes of the whip if you don’t die laughing.”

There have been two attacks presumed to be in retaliation: one in 2011 and one in 2015.

 November 2011 attack

In the early hours of 2 November 2011, the newspaper’s office in the 20th arrondissement[16][17] was fire-bombed and its website hacked. The attacks were presumed linked to its decision to rename a special edition “Charia Hebdo”, with the Islamic Prophet Mohammed listed as the “editor-in-chief”.[18] The cover, featuring a cartoon of Mohammed by Luz (Renald Luzier), had circulated on social media for a couple of days.

Charb was quoted by AP stating that the attack might have been carried out by “stupid people who don’t know what Islam is” and that they are “idiots who betray their own religion”. Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, said his organisation deplores “the very mocking tone of the paper toward Islam and its prophet but reaffirms with force its total opposition to all acts and all forms of violence.”[19] François Fillon, the prime minister, and Claude Guéant, the interior minister, voiced support for Charlie Hebdo,[17] as did feminist writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who criticised calls for self-censorship.[20]

2012 publication

In September 2012, the newspaper published a series of satirical cartoons of Muhammad, some of which feature nude caricatures of him.[21][22] Given that this came days after a series of attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East, purportedly in response to the anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims, the French government decided to increase security at certain French embassies, as well as to close the French embassies, consulates, cultural centers, and international schools in about 20 Muslim countries.[23] In addition, riot police surrounded the offices of the magazine to protect against possible attacks.[22][24][25]

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius criticised the magazine’s decision, saying, “In France, there is a principle of freedom of expression, which should not be undermined. In the present context, given this absurd video that has been aired, strong emotions have been awakened in many Muslim countries. Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?”[26] The U.S. White House stated “a French magazine published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the Prophet Muhammad, and obviously, we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this.” [27] However, the newspaper’s editor defended publication of the cartoons, saying, “We do caricatures of everyone, and above all every week, and when we do it with the Prophet, it’s called provocation.”[28][29]

January 2015 attack

This section documents a current event. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses, and initial news reports may be unreliable. (January 2015)
Wikinews has related news: Twelve dead in shooting at offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo

Journalists, policemen, and emergency services in the street of the shooting, a few hours after the January 2015 attack

Main article: Charlie Hebdo shooting

On 7 January 2015, three Islamist gunmen[30] opened fire at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, killing twelve, including staff cartoonists Charb, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous and Wolinski,[31] economist Bernard Maris and two police officers standing guard at the magazine, and wounding eleven, four of them seriously.[32][33][34][35][36][37]

During the attack the gunmen were heard to shout Allahu akbar, “the Prophet is avenged”, and “I’m not killing you because you are a woman and we don’t kill women but you have to convert to Islam, read the Qu’ran and wear a veil.”[30][38][39][40] President François Hollande described it as a “terrorist attack of the most extreme barbarity”.[41] The three attackers were identified as Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, both French, and Hamyd Mourad, 18, whose nationality is unknown.”

The Media Coverage

Following the attack, several major news organizations hesitated or refused to show their audiences the materials and cartoons the attackers said were responsible for their murderous assaults. How can we reconcile the press showing endless pictures and videos of terrorists killing innocent people and not show the pictures of Mohammed that were the motives? Is it that the press does not care about offending the public with depictions and gory details of unheralded fanatic murders, but does fear offending Muslims with the freedom of expression most non-Muslims expect and demand as an essential right?

This is nothing but cowardice and hypocrisy by the “Free Press.”

The killers are “of unknown nationality” which is a smarmy way of avoiding the fact that they are French-Algerian citizens. The silence of the French Muslim communities is despicable. Where are the Imams rabidly condemning the attackers? And where are the individual French Muslims who could help the police?

It seems that every time Muslim fanatic terrorists attack, we only hear declarations of “oh no, that’s not our Islam.” and “that’s not the way Islam is supposed to be.”

Where is the public Muslim outrage? Under-reported? Omitted by the western press?

The verbal condemnations by Muslim countries are just facile words meant to deflect the real consequences of remaining silent. Here is a sample:

http://www.judaism-islam.com/muslim-reaction-to-the-charlie-hebdo-massacre/

Where are the French Muslim manhunts for the perpetrators? Where are the volunteers from the French Muslim communities scouring the countryside for the culprits? Has anyone heard or seen anything like this silent approval before? Of course you have. This is consistent behavior which belies all the official proclamations.

Demonstrations, Protests, and Vigils

Responses to this attack on free speech have been global. Look at the people involved in active outrage.

A wide range of non-Muslims are involved in real protests:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Je_suis_Charlie

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everybody_Draw_Mohammed_Day

Bill Maher accuses large populations of Muslims of supporting the attack. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/08/bill-maher-hundreds-of-millions-of-muslims-support-attack-on-charlie-hebdo.html

As an example of the vendetta against free speech, just 2 years ago, a Pakistani official set a bounty for killing an anti-Islamic-movie maker:

http://www.malaysia-today.net/pakistan-minister-places-bounty-on-anti-islam-filmmaker/

Condemnation of Our Societal Weakness

I agree with Bill Maher, “Politically correct liberals have turned America into “Pussy Nation.”

When will we drop this weak idea that we should never offend? When will we remember that the truth is the truth and candy-coating by cowardly politicians will not and cannot change that?

Am I proposing random executions of Muslims who offend Christians? Am I supporting profiling Muslims?

Of course not, but Bill Maher put his finger on the fact that there is a sea of Muslims who would gladly usurp our freedoms. I do not plan to help them by being a Pollyanna American.

President Obama OK’s Health Insurance Discrimination

Did your company drop your health insurance?  Wait until you find out the rest of the story.

Investigators in the Department of Labor were shocked to find that President Obama gave employers a year to pick and choose who gets health insurance.

That’s right; the seemingly innocuous exemption of employers from the Affordable Care Act has given businesses with thousands of employees “Carte Blanc” to ignore decades of legislative efforts to protect employees from benefit discrimination.

For the year 2014 employers may provide health insurance to top management and deny health insurance to the rank and file.

Yes, last week officials at the Department of Labor confirmed that President Obama gave the green light to big businesses; they can drop health insurance for any employees they choose not to cover.

The Department of Labor reported that a business, employing thousands of workers, is within the law to keep health insurance benefits for management and cancel coverage for the rest of the employees.

The one-year exemption from the “Affordable Care Act” lets businesses cut anyone they want from their group health insurance benefits.

Department of Labor enforcement agents were embarrassed to admit that they were powerless to stop businesses, with thousands of employees, from dropping health insurance for most of their employees while keeping coverage for selected management and administrative staff.

After pursuing several complaints, a DOL investigator declared, “The whole department was shocked and dismayed to find that this exemption allows employers to undo decades of anti-discrimination efforts.”

If you are one of the myriad employees who are left with no health insurance, look again at the government and laws you counted on to protect your rights.  Nothing you were promised is true.

A.C.A. “Obamacare” Revisited – Employers & Government Set to Ream the Middle Class Worker

(For a detailed explanation of the ACA and its features go to: http://www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs/consumer/cb005.html

The Affordable Care Act has had its share of glitches and detours.  The technical problems can be addressed.

We tried to “keep our eyes on the ball” but they fooled us.  They showed us the wrong ball and we fell for it.  We should have noticed the tax implications of employers cancelling their health care insurance plans, because those are the most sinister parts of the scheme to pull billions of dollars out of the pockets of the middle class and businesses.

The enormous, savings to employers from dropping health insurance and the secret, unspoken, tax windfall to the federal government verge on devious and obscene.

The ACA’s Unfolding Structure Belies Promises & Benefits.

The demographics of the initial users of the new health insurance exchanges are what most thinking people would expect – the least healthy, most costly, poorest individuals have signed up because they are the ones who benefit the most from the taxpayer-subsidized design of the ACA.  This 1/21/14 article from Money Morning reveals the mix so far:

First-Ever Obamacare Demographics Are In – And They’re Ugly

Until last Monday, not a single Obamacare demographics statistic had been released since open enrollment began in October 2013.

Now we have our first-ever look at who is signing up for Obamacare – and the number is alarming. (see whole article).
http://moneymorning.com/2014/01/24/first-ever-obamacare-demographics-theyre-ugly/

But the ACA is just a subterfuge to pick the pockets of the middle class.  If the trend in businesses dropping health insurance continues, most average workers will not be able to afford any insurance because of the cut in compensation and the gross income needed to pay premiums from take-home pay.

The Largest Ever Tax Increase on the Average Worker

A poll cited by the Huffington Post 5/16/13 concluded:

Obamacare Won’t Cause Employers to Drop Health Benefits: Survey

Employers are concerned about increased health benefit costs arising from President Barack Obama’s health care reform law but almost none intends to drop coverage for full-time workers next year, according to survey results released Thursday.

The health care law’s requirement that companies with at least 50 employees provide affordable health benefits is the chief reason most firms expect their spending on health insurance to rise in 2014, according to a poll conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, an organization of human resources professionals. Nevertheless, more than two-thirds of companies definitely plan to offer health benefits to full-time workers, and just 0.5 percent said they definitely will discontinue coverage. More than 90 percent of companies surveyed currently offer health benefits to full-time workers.”  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/16/obamacare-employers_n_3286508.html

The actions and reactions of business do not quite match the rosy picture described in the article.  It seems that employers see plainly that $2,000 per employee is going to be cheaper than paying 50% of the premiums for insurance.  Many have rushed to drop employee health care insurance without an offsetting increase in employee pay for the premiums the company pays.

Of course, the one-year moratorium on those penalties seems to have accelerated the waves of health insurance cancellations by businesses.

This has left many employees stranded while more than a few employers dodge their responsibilities under COBRA by not informing workers of their legal option to temporarily continue their health insurance while they look for individual coverage.

We are witnessing a growing suspicion that the ACA marks the demise of health insurance as an employee benefit primarily as a way to dramatically increase federal tax revenue.

Last November, an article in Forbes magazine analyzed what is actually happening and what it bodes for the near future.  Here is an excerpt:

“Obamacare and the End of Employer-Based Health Insurance

According to the American Action Forum, 43 million American workers will lose access to employer-based health insurance coverage because of Obamacare. Critics of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have warned that the creation of health insurance exchanges, and federal subsidies for people earning less than 400% of the federal poverty limit, practically invites employers to stop offering coverage to their employees, so the federal government picks up the tab. Some supporters of the ACA even celebrate this possible exodus from the employer-based insurance market, figuring it is prelude to a government takeover of the healthcare industry.”  http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterubel/2013/11/14/obamacare-and-the-end-of-employer-based-health-insurance/

Companies large and small have already dropped health plans as of 12/31/2013, for example, this excerpt from a 1/21/14 Bloomberg article:

Target to Drop Health Insurance for Part-Time Workers

Target Corp. (TGT) will end health insurance for part-time employees in April, joining Trader Joe’s Co., Home Depot Inc. and other U.S. retailers that have scaled back benefits in response to changes from Obamacare.

About 10 percent of part-time employees, defined as those working fewer than 30 hours a week, use Target’s health plans now, according to a posting yesterday on the Minneapolis-based company’s website. Target is the second-largest U.S. discount retailer by sales and had about 361,000 total employees last fiscal year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-21/target-to-drop-health-insurance-for-part-time-workers.html

Another example from a 10/4/13 New Hampshire Business Review article:

“Is ACA the First Step in Ending Employer-Based Healthcare?

The Affordable Care Act might eventually result in the end of the nation’s employer-based health system, and that might not be so bad, said Stan Hopfield, an author, former hospital CEO and the keynote speaker at NHBR’s Health Care Forum, held Tuesday at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord.  Businesses have striven to maintain employee coverage for years despite higher costs, trying to straddle the realities of higher premiums, lower benefits, restricted provider access and higher deductibles. “This is an expensive benefit that you are providing an employee and all you get is grief,” Hupfeld told the audience of about 300. “It’s a huge human resource headache and the first chance to get out of this, you are going to take it.”  The Affordable Care Act might be a way out, he said, since starting Tuesday individual coverage will be offered to those who can’t get coverage through their employers.”

http://www.nhbr.com/October-4-2013/Is-ACA-the-first-step-in-ending-employer-based-health-care/

The Washington Post published an article 1/11/14 which says, in part:

“Second Wave of Health Insurance Disruption Affects Small Businesses

In New Jersey, the state’s association of health plans says 650,000 people with small-group coverage have had their plans disrupted. In Colorado, regulators said small-group plans covering 143,000 people are being discontinued in 2014.

In New Hampshire, the state’s largest insurer, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, is moving all of those in its small-group plan — 60,000 to 70, 000 people — to plans that are similar to those sold on the marketplace created by the health-care law. These plans have drawn fire from consumers because they include only 16 of the state’s 26 acute-care hospitals.

In Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is discontinuing all its small-group plans for those who did not renew early, and offering new policies with different coverage and premiums. The company says 99.5 percent of the 5.3 million people it covers through its individual and small-group plans will be affected, but it declined to break out the number under small-group plans for competitive reasons.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/second-wave-of-health-insurance-disruption-affects-small-businesses/2014/01/11/dc2f7404-6ffe-11e3-a523-fe73f0ff6b8d_story.html

It is even more evident that employers are taking advantage of the one year delay, paying nothing at all.  Drop the insurance and hold onto all the money subtracted from the employees’ compensation.

Big Tax Bonus for the Government, Big Compensation Rip-Off for Businesses

The Obama administration is about to make the biggest tax increase ever on average wage earners, by exposing compensation that was tax free (health insurance paid by the employer) to at least 30.3% taxation between the employer and the employee.

The A.C.A. does what Congress has contemplated, but been reluctant to do overtly: eliminate the tax benefits of employer-provided health insurance to employees.  This is where all the rhetoric about helping the middle class is belied.  It means a giant tax bonus for the government at the expense of the workers. The promised subsidies for health insurance will come from the paychecks of the middle class.

This sleight of hand means that many workers will lose their pretax health insurance and be forced to replace it with insurance they pay from after-tax dollars.  The premiums an employer pays are not taxable to the employees.  Figure it out,

As long as your employer was paying the premium for your health insurance, it was not income taxable to you, or subject to social security and Medicare payroll taxes.

Paycheck income is subject to both employer and employee federal FICA payroll taxes.  The employer and the employee each pay 7.65%.  What this should say to employers is that unless health insurance premiums are more than 8% of current gross payroll, they are increasing their costs when they drop health insurance.

Add the employee’s income tax rate of at least 15% (which is what we used in the examples) and we have subjected every dollar of added income to 30.3% in federal taxes, plus state taxes, where applicable.  The employer also pays unemployment taxes and workers compensation insurance premiums, which vary by state and type of work.

The Biggest Rip-Off Ever – Businesses Drop Insurance & Do Not Offset With Wages

The taxation is not the worst thing that is happening to middle class workers. The biggest threats to workers income are the companies who drop their health insurance plan and do not pay their employees an offsetting  raise.  This is a greedy grab for keeping part of the workers total pay & benefits and cutting the pay of every employee with impunity.

Notice in the examples below, what happens when the employer drops health care insurance with no offsetting raises.

What happens under the various employers’ options?

In the first example, A, the employer drops the health insurance and replaces the $10,000 the company paid for health insurance with an equal increase in pay.  Both the employer and the employee will pay $600-700 more a year including payroll taxes, workers’ compensation and unemployment taxes.

If the employer fails to offer health insurance or pay 50% of the premiums, their company will pay the $2,000 per employee penalty tax to the federal government.

Meanwhile the employee pays taxes on the $10,000 and has to make up the difference from aftertax paycheck income.

The government makes out like a bandit.

Effect on Cash

A.    Employer Pays $0 Ins, Pays Offset $10,000, You Pay $10,000

Change for

Income

Payroll Tax

Income Tax/ Tax Penalty

Insurance Premiums

Total

Employer:

($700)

($2,000)

($2,700)

You

+$10,000

($680)

($1,500)

($10,000)

($2,180)*

Government:

+$1,380

$1,500

+$2,000

+$4,880

*Congratulations you just got a $2,800 pay cut, courtesy ACA.

Effect on Cash
B.    Employer Pays $5,000 (50% of $10,000), Pay Offset $5,000, You Pay $5,000

Change for

Income

Payroll Tax

Income Tax/ Tax Penalty

Insurance Premiums

Total

Employer:

($5,000)

($400)

+$5,000

($400)

You

+5,000

($400)

($750)

($5,000)

($1,150)*

Government:

+$800

+$750

+1,550

*Congratulations you just got a $1,550 gross pay cut, courtesy Employer and ACA.

Effect on Cash

C.    Employer Pays $0, Pay Offset $0, You Pay $10,000

Change for

Income

Payroll Tax

Income Tax/ Tax Penalty

Insurance Premiums

Total

Employer:

(2,000)

(2,000)

You

($10,000)

($10,000)*

Government:

+$2,000

+$2,000

*Congratulations you just got a $12,800 gross pay cut, courtesy Employer and ACA.

Effect on Cash

D.   Employer Pays $5,000, Pay Offset $0, You Pay $5,000

Change for

Income

Payroll Tax

Income Tax/ Tax Penalty

Insurance Premiums

Total

Employer:

$5,000

$5,000

You

($5,000)

($5,000)*

Government:

$0

*Congratulations you just got a $6,400 gross pay cut, courtesy Employer and ACA.

Summary

Preference

Most Favorite

Least Favorite

Employer

C

A

Employee

B

C

Government

A

D

The most attractive option for the employer is “C.” – Drop coverage, No Offset, Pay Penalty

The second most attractive option for the government is also “C.”

In every scenario, the employee loses money, “C.” being the worst.

The pain of this change will crush the middle class worker.  Is this what you thought would happen?

What can we do to head off this travesty?

False Hope Is Far Worse Than No Hope

What is wrong with hope?  We know that in an impossible situation where the outcome is unknowable, hope can keep us in that situation long enough to triumph or despair.  The problem comes when hope is not accompanied by action.  When things look hopeless, we either give up or fight on with everything we have.  When we are given false hope, assurances that all will be well, despite the looming crisis, we either relax in the happy notion that it will work out, or we fight on, but not with everything we have, rather with the idea that fate or miracles will save us.

It seems that the past few years in America, we have operated on the false hope that the federal government has the ability to control economic and world events.  Our hopes were elevated after 9/11 by the war on terrorism, including military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The results have been weak to poor.  We have burdened the future taxpayers with four to six TRILLION dollars of future obligations, and for what?

We have exhausted our volunteer military with short turnarounds and multiple tours.  We have aggravated and elevated the importance of the leaders and citizens of the region with our misunderstandings, ignorance, and arrogance.  No one has ever been able to extract the minds of the people from the secular feuds, endemic poverty, and warlord mentality since before the birth of Christ.

Everyone else on the planet sees our hubris and disrespect for other cultures, yet we continue our Crusades.

What if we had recognized the damage and pain inflicted on our national psyche by the 9/11 attacks?  What if we had reconsidered our smug attitudes toward the rest of the world?  What if we had just revised our approach of insisting that democracy is the best form of governance for everyone regardless of their history, culture, economy, and philosophy?

Instead, we embarked on a path of attack and appeasement.  We attacked anyone who remotely seemed to be a threat with no idea what to do and whom to do it with or to.  We were ready to believe that the vast expenditures and capabilities of our military could subdue the culprits and liberate the subjects of our perceptions of tyranny.  We took no heed of the clear indications that the religious and cultural context these people were born and raised, they see as absolute truth.

What made us think that pouring billions of dollars into the hands of a culture that values corruption and cheating as an art to respect would buy us anything but hate and deceit?  Where else have we bought victory or power with our Niagara of free money?

We fooled ourselves that the impact of the attacks on world confidence and finances was easily healed.  We proceeded to go on a spending spree of unheard of proportions, borrowing as much as our credit could bear, and more, when politics made buying a home hysterically important and easy for virtually anyone.

Our false hopes led us down a path of self-destructive thinking and acting.  In the midst of an unmitigated world financial crisis, governments took on the bad debts of citizens using the creditworthiness of nations.  Now that that burden has become untenable, we see financial strategies that verge on desperation and still try to maintain the illusion that the solution is at hand.

I wonder what paths we might have taken without the false notions and optimism on which we proceeded to get where we are today.

Raising the U. S. Minimum Wage in a Lower-Wage World

What are we Americans and our elected politicians thinking?  The real minimum wage is zero for many Americans who cannot find a job at all.

At this tenuous stage of our economic recovery, raising the federal minimum wage would only make businesses more prone to raise prices, to put greater work responsibilities on fewer employees, to adopt technology alternatives, and to outsource work to the lower-labor-cost, domestic and overseas vendors and suppliers of services.  The last choice is to go out of business or adopt a new business model.

Think a minute about how the minimum wage is used and to whom it applies.  Minimum wage is paid for entry level jobs, part time jobs, jobs for under-educated or untrained workers, etc.  Those who do a good job, and prove reliable, usually get raises.  In other words, entry-level, unskilled, or transient workers start at minimum wage. (See notes and links below)

So let us suppose the federal government raises the minimum wage to $10 or even $15 per hour, as some fast food workers propose.  Sure, those who get the higher wages will be happy, but who will choose the employees to keep?

Imagine you are the owner or manager of a business that has a very thin profit margin now.  If you calculated the added costs of a higher minimum wage would erase or greatly erode that margin, you would have six choices:

  1. Raise prices on the goods and services the business provides.  This option is greatly limited by the likes of Walmart.  If your customers can get the same or equal/services for less, where would they go?
  2. Increase the workload of a smaller staff.  This option is limited to the most work you could expect from each employee.  If the work gets to be too much, employees look for other work.  Walmart, and other discount retailers, squeeze suppliers and staff to limit costs.
  3. Adopt technology that replaces unskilled labor.  This is limited by the functions technology can fulfill.  We are all familiar with voice menus, websites, self-service, and vending machines.  Imagine what else technology can be designed to do.
  4. Outsource to US contractors.  The US military has greatly reduced the number of soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen by contracting civilian companies to do non-combat and combat support services, such as food services, equipment and vehicle maintenance, etc.
  5. Outsource to foreign contractors.  Wages in other parts of the world are much lower, even for skilled work.
  6. Quit the current business and take on a different business model.  Many retailers have shifted from stores to online catalogs, for example.  Some businesses have shifted away from low-margin operations to higher market levels.

So, we would have growing unemployment among those who could get jobs at the old minimum wage, but not the new minimum wage.  Who bears those costs?

Add this to the list of ideas that sound good, but have unintended and undesirable consequences.

Notes:

  1. If you are not up to date on recent labor statistics, review the U.S. Department of Labor publication below, or go to http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2012.htm and read or download the report and the appendices.
  2. Some states have slightly higher minimum wages than currently mandated by the federal government, but none more than Oregon’s $9.10. (http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-minimum-wage-chart.aspx)
  3. Although not included in the statistics, many self-employed people end up with less than minimum wage for the time they spend, depending on business conditions.

A Business Owner’s Response To Obamacare

What a great time to load more burdens on business.  Just as the US economy has leveled off from its scary decline, the federal government has chosen to add regulations and taxes relating to health care insurance to the choice of whether to hire or keep an employee.

I suggest that now is the perfect time to deal with this extra cost head-on with a new concept of employment compensation:  Total Compensation Agreements.  That’s right, fire all your employees and rehire them under TCA’s.  A Total Compensation Agreement would put a number on the total amount the employer will pay for the services of an employee.  If the number is $75,000, then that amount would be allocated among the employer’s costs related to the employee; what was left would be their paycheck.

We are fortunate to live in the age of computers that can calculate how this would work out.  For example, if the employee’s health insurance is $25,000 for a family of 4, the program would subtract that amount from the $75,000 leaving $50,000; if the employer’s cost of  FICA, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, etc., was $5,000, that would be subtracted from the $50,000 leaving $45,000; if the employee’s withholding and FICA was $7,500, that would leave take home pay of $37,500.  That is it.

If the business cannot afford to pay more than $75,000 for this employee’s services, or the employee cannot afford to live on $37,500, then no job.

The TCA structure would eliminate all minimum wage employees, and almost all less skilled workers from consideration.  Only those people whose productivity and lifestyle matched the profile would be employed.  Already, many business have found that redesigning their business model to use technology and fewer people makes sense.

What else can a business owner do?  It is either this approach or failure as a business.  Do the numbers.

So far, the only thing a business owner does not have to do is stay in business.

Word Warriors Win the Immigration Battle – How Advocates of Unlimited Immigration Use “Newspeak” to trick America

What is in a word? Some would say, “The power of thought.”  Others might say, “Limits on the power of thought.”  The wholesale adoption of one “politically correct” term by the news media, politicians and advocates of unlimited immigration to the United States has tricked many citizens’ and paved the way for major changes in our country’s future.

Illegal Aliens – Replaced by Undocumented Immigrants. The phrase ‘Illegal Aliens’ implies that these people are a bunch of law-breaking creatures from outer space, while ‘Undocumented Immigrants’ suggests that they are good old-fashioned immigrants that simply have not gone through the hassle of being ‘documented’ yet.”  www.newspeakdictionary.com.

The genius behind this language switch is that the word “immigrant” means a US Citizen who came from another country, obeyed the law, and completed the legal process of adopting America.  From the time they arrived here until the time they received citizenship, they were “registered aliens.”  By using the word “illegal” combined with “immigrant,” unregistered aliens are associated and equated with law-abiding citizens.  No wonder immigrants are angry; they are being lumped together with unregistered aliens, living here illegally.

But how and when did rigorous, ethical, journalists and other “guardians” of our language abandon their posts and join forces with the promoters of wholesale disregard for our legal system?

ABC gives some background on the media’s usage: http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/linguists-york-times-illegal-neutral-accurate/story?id=17366512

According to the article, Jonathan Rosa, an assistant professor of linguistic anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, disagrees with the immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas, who launched a campaign to monitor the use of the term by major news outlets.

“There is nowhere in the legal field that the phrasing ‘illegal immigrant’ has been the norm. However, that same phrasing has been part of certain political strategies,” Jonathan said.

The article continues: “A group of 24 scholars, led by Rosa, put out a statement last week arguing that “illegal immigrant” should not be the preferred phrasing because it’s imprecise and frames the debate in narrow terms. “It is baffling to think that [The New York Times] would suggest ‘illegal immigrant’ is accurate and neutral,” Rosa said in an interview with ABC/Univision. “The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act defines immigrants as people who have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence, so “legal immigrant” is a redundant concept and ‘illegal immigrant’ is oxymoronic,” he noted.”

Americans should take note that they are being subjected to this style of “newspeak” tactic on many fronts every day.

Texas psychiatrist John Tennison, M.D wrote an article in 2004 following 9/11 and passage of the Patriot Act, “Newspeak:  Manipulation of Language, Thought, and Behavior by Those in Power.”  http://texaspsychiatry.com/Newspeak.htm

Dr. Tennison cites examples of language manipulation and “repurposing” in George Orwell’s 1984, Fahrenheit 451; he warns Americans about the intentional subversion of the words we use to manage our perceptions.

“As a result of 9/11, the site (www.newspeakdictionary.com) takes a look as such expressions as “Cowardly Act,” “Attack on Freedom,” “Terrorist Attack,” “Shock and Awe,” “Enemy Combatant,” and “Iraqi Terrorists.”

“Thus, regardless of the field of inquiry – world politics, psychiatry, etc. – careful and precise use of language, and vigilance for its abuse, will help us all live more closely to the truth and be less easily manipulable by powers that might be well-intentioned, but misguided, or that might not have our best interests in mind.”

Where do “political correctness,” “euphemistic avoidance,” and “semantic manipulation,” touch your thinking and your life?

Use Shocking Events to Revive Your Hidden Agendas – Wrangle Specious Segues from Non Sequitur Tragedies

I try to give the American public the benefit of the doubt.  Every time we are presented with obvious, patent, ploys by politicians, I keep thinking, “Maybe this time they will see through this chicanery and circus.  Maybe this time they will say, “Hey!  What has this to do with that?  How did we get into all these other unrelated areas when were riled up by THIS?”

But it does not seem to matter how monumental or blatant the “bait & switch” is, we fall for it every time.

Before we get to the details, I have to mention some “rhetorical devices” used to great effect to connect unrelated events to topics at least a light year away from the events at hand.

  • Emote great sympathy and outrage at the recent event
  • Then generalize the elements of the event by collapsing the distinctions and distorting the statistics so you can maintain the emotional charge and still reassemble and morph the discussion into the topic you secretly want to address.
  • Decry and vilify any opposition as unsympathetic monsters who secretly wanted the tragedy to happen, and danced with joy as they watched all the people suffer. (Be sure to use a condescending tone when referring to “them.”)
  • Praise your unrelated, impotent, expensive, but popular proposals.
  • Present your ideas as an “inspired expansion” of “common sense” solutions to the problems underlying the tragedy.
  • Add criminals, and suicides, and the kitchen sink murders to the discussion, despite the fact that they had nothing to do with the tragedies.
  • Avoid explaining the logical connections between the events and the proposals.
  • Avoid any promises of measurable results.

Let us review the recent actions by our President and Vice-President following the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

A deranged young man kills his mother, proceeds to an elementary school nearby, and uses a semi-automatic rifle with a high capacity magazine to shoot 70 people, killing 20 children and 6 faculty members before shooting himself.

Tragic?  Heinous?  Insane?  Horrifying? Of course! Especially when other mass-shootings are revived and appended as grim reminders of “Man’s Inhumanity to Man,” and the persistent, pervasive quality of the evil pandemic spawned (not by insane delusional psychotics, but) by GUNS.

Now let us examine what we just got from the President and Vice President of the United States of America in response as a fix.

Have you read the transcript of the President’s presentation?  (See “Obama Plan” below.)  It boils down to a whole bunch of, “Hey, you.  Yeah, you the ones that work here, DO YOUR JOB!”  Plus a bunch of useless bureaucratic deck chair rearrangements.

First, regulate the sales of already regulated types of guns, (banning these, limiting those) (ignore the existing 300 million weapons already owned by US citizens; then dust off of the obsolete, antiquated, and laughable “background check” apparatus; plead for cooperation and coordination of state and federal agencies to talk to each other and share information to make the database more respectable.

Add some union appeal (more police) (train the teachers), add a bunch of meaningless research grants for the “causes of gun violence;” throw in a token of more mental health professionals, and ask for a pittance to deal with the abandoned mentally ill.

Cite the yet unimplemented provisions of recent legislation to put mental illness on par with all other medical conditions covered by insurance.

The deadly events of Sandy Hook, Aurora, Columbine, etc. were rarified anomalies.  Every expert in such events tells us that these are extremely rare, undetectable, and unpredictable; as such, they are immune to any law or organized defense.

Has anyone explained how these attacks would have been detected and thwarted by ANY of the provisions proposed?  Hmmm, seems we forgot to remember.  But in moments of helplessness, we grasp any Teddy Bear for comfort.

Conclusion

I still hope we can peer through this glittering $500 million package of hope and secret agendas.  I hope we can see what we, the people need to do to address our real concerns, and not rely on the promises of politicians.  These problems are ours; we are at the root of these problems in our society.  We are not blameless; we create and sustain the culture that brings forth such deadly madness, and inhumanity.  I hope to see individual citizens take personal responsibility for the social infrastructure under all the real problems we face.

How can we be surprised at angry, violent, aberrant, psychotic behavior when we condone, endorse, finance, and teach our children:

  • Modern day virtual isolation via technology
  • Family and community disassociation
  • Incessant, avid desensitization to violence
  • Avoiding, ignoring, denying and shunning mental illness

Take action in your own home, your own church, your own community to become aware of how these disintegrating habits tear at our sanity.

Reconnect with the people in your life.  Pay attention to what is going on with them.  Care enough to break through the addictions to get your family back.  Please, do not settle for remote control of our families, our country and our lives.

Obama Plan

Know the Language Before You Talk About Guns – Do Not Shoot Off Your Mouth If Your Brain Is Not Loaded.

Recently, guns have become a widely broadcast topic, aside from waging wars for the last decade or so.  Regardless of your feelings or attitudes towards firearms, you will be better served to have your terminology straight before you enter a discussion on the topic.  You could lose considerable credibility if you display ignorance of the basic terms.

Just to put my credentials in order, my father gave me my first 22 rifle when I was 12, after rigorous teaching, training, and practice of the gun safety and hunting rules.  Later I learned about and used pistols, shotguns, and high-powered rifles.  I spent six years in the US Army, including a 1969 tour in Vietnam.  I have disassembled, cleaned, reassembled, and fired all the military small arms (proficiency with pistols, assault rifles, machine guns, and grenade launchers), shy of a 50-cal machine gun.

The language used in our news media, video games, and reports of gun-related incidents does not accurately match the vocabulary of those with a background in weapons.  Here are several key distinctions to make in your thinking and speaking, if you concern yourself about guns:

1)  Single-shot, vs. single action, vs. double-action.

a)   Single shot – means the weapon must be manually reloaded and cocked   before   each shot.  Examples: a barrel-loaded musket, a flint-lock pistol, a single-shot shotgun.

b)  Single action – means the weapon must be manually cocked to reload before each shot.  Examples:

i)  The Colt Single Action Army revolver— also known as the Model P, Peacemaker, M1873, Single Action Army, SAA, and Colt 45; when the hammer is cocked it rotates the cylinder to the next shell chamber.  The user must pull the trigger to fire the round, and then manually cock the weapon again to bring another round into position

ii)  The Colt 1911 magazine-fed pistol (the firer must manually cock the trigger to fire the first round; the recoil pushes back the slide which ejects the spent round on its way back, then loads the next round from the magazine, on the way forward, and cocks the weapon, ready for semi-automatic firing )

iii)   The Winchester, lever-action 30-30 rifle, (ratcheting the lever expels a spent shell and loads a live round into firing position and cocks the trigger – allowing the user to fire the round)

iv)  All bolt-action rifles (ratcheting the bolt back and forward expels the spent round and loads a new round into firing position – pulling the trigger fires the round.)

v)   Pump-action shotguns – store shells in the stock of the weapon. The pump action ejects the spent shell and feeds a new shell in to the chamber.

c)  Double-action – means that pulling the trigger reloads, cocks, and fires the weapon.  Example:

i)  A six-round Smith & Wesson Police Special 38 cal. revolver pistol (the first part of pulling the trigger pulls back the hammer, and rotates the cylinder aligning a new round to firing chamber; then the last part of the trigger pull releases the cocked hammer to fire the round).

2)  Semi-automatic, Automatic, Hybrid

a) Revolvers – Technically, a double-action revolver is also semi-automatic, but is not magazine-fed, and does not eject the casings.  Most revolvers hold 6 rounds in their cylinder.  Rapid re-loaders are sets of revolver shells in a holder that allows the firer to first, open and empty the revolver’s cylinder and eject the shells, then use the re-loader to replace all the shells at once.  Those skilled with revolvers can fire at almost the same rate and continue to fire as many rounds as the users of semi-automatic magazine-fed weapons.

 b)  Semi-automatic tube-fed shotguns – a semi-automatic shotgun can hold 5 or more shells in a spring-loaded tube under the barrel.  The recoil of each shot ejects the spent shell and loads a shell from the tube.

 c)  Magazine-fed – hunters have used magazine fed shotguns and rifles for decades.  The military needed faster reloading, more rounds per reload, and the ability to pre-load ammunition in advance to meet the demands of combat.  A military magazine is designed to hold several rounds (usually 20) and has a strong spring in the bottom to push the rounds up to the chamber.  The number of rounds a magazine can hold is effectively limited by the strength of the spring to push them up

d)  Semi-automatic – in magazine-fed weapons, means that pulling the trigger fires a round, ejects the spent casing, loads another round, and cocks the trigger in one action.  Each pull of the trigger fires another round from the magazine.

e)  Automatic – pulling the trigger fires a round, ejects the spent casing, loads another round from the magazine, cocks the trigger and releases to fire another round as long as the trigger is depressed.  A machine-gun is by definition an automatic weapon.

f)  Hybrid – a manual selector switch sets the weapon to either semi-automatic or automatic.  When either setting is selected the weapon fires accordingly: semi-automatic requires the firer to pull the trigger for each round fired; Automatic means continuous fire when the trigger is pulled and held.  Military and police rifles have this option.

I post these distinctions mostly for people not familiar with the terminology for firearms.

The media uses the term “semi-automatic” quite regularly when describing shooting incidents; without these distinctions, people who have only seen weapons on television or in movies might confuse “semi-automatic” with “Automatic” machine-guns.

Federal Gun Laws spell out requirements and restrictions that apply nationwide.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Firearms_Act

States have additional gun laws concerning registration, ownership, and use of various types of weapons

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_the_United_States_by_state

Many people know much more than I do about guns.  If anyone notices a factual error, please comment so I can correct the mistake.

A Long Close Look In an Honest Mirror – Self-Deception, Fear, Blame, Righteousness, and What Is So

I could examine how I think, believe, choose, and behave every day; but I do not.  I have many opportunities, occasions and reminders that I control my life choices, responsibilities, and results; New Year’s Day is one of those annual openings to reflect; this is a great time to examine the mirrors I use to see the world, others, and myself.

Have I been using my “Snow White Wicked Queen’s Mirror?” – I can hear the echoes of my version of “Who Is the Fairest of Them All?”

What do I see in my “Fun House Mirror?” – I find exaggerations, along the lines of “Does This Make Me Look Fat?”

Do I find myself driving with trepidation, eyes glued to my “Rear View Mirror?” – Do I doubt myself with a self-recriminating, “And, How Has That Worked Out For You?”

How often do I view, blame, and judge others through my “Two-Way Mirror?” – I find safety and superiority in many versions of, “Guilty, Undeserving Suspects in the Line-up?”

Could it be the right time to dust off my “Honest Mirror?” – Am I ready to ask myself:

  •  Do I feel driven to be attractive enough, good enough, careful enough, superior enough?
  • Do I??
  • Do I need these things to take and find joy in my life?
  • Am I in a beauty contest?
  • What is the prize?
  • Am I in a life or death talent show?
  • Can I ever win?
  • Am I what I fear from my past?
  • Who am I?
  • Are There Really Monsters Under My Bed?
  • Am I afraid to wake up, get up, and turn on the lights?

In my Honest Mirror I expect to find some answers, some chagrin, and once again another year of smiles.