Loyalty Is a Treasure – Disloyalty Is a Travesty

I grew up with four younger siblings.  You can imagine the constant turmoil and conflicts.  Really, what we experienced was trivial, but at the time, it seemed extreme.  Despite the changing levels of love, we were a family.  We could have our problems, but they stayed our private business.  Any threats or harm from neighborhood kids were an attack on all of us.  We took care of each other, and never disparaged a family member in public.  That is loyalty.

Loyalty can be a problematic virtue; it is a persistent, sometimes painful promise, and devoted commitment.  We possess our loyalties; we call them my friends, my family, my profession, my church, my team, our party, our country. We are ashamed or proud of them. We take risks or bear burdens for them.

Families expect it; organizations demand it; countries foster it. We expect loyalty in return.

People may forfeit our loyalty by asking us to set aside good judgment, “justifying” unethical conduct, or persistently violating our trust or shared values.

“When an organization wants you to do right, it asks for your integrity; when it wants you to do wrong, it demands your loyalty.”

Public disloyalty is a terrible betrayal; it says the worst about the betrayer.  Private quarrels, confidential problems are not disloyalty, they are getting along with people who share your values.

President Trump’s public criticism of Attorney General Sessions is embarrassing to our country and to his administration.  The crass nature of his publicized complaints violates and weakens the loyalty of his followers when loyalty is at a premium.  This was not a slip, no stealth recording; it was a New York Times interview, tweets, and press statements.  I am aghast at the whole spectacle.

Jeff Sessions was one of the most vocal supporters for Donald Trump during the campaign.  Why would Trump stab this powerful ally in the back over an act of integrity in recusing himself in the Russia/Clinton controversies?  Why this sad, rude, self-sabotage when so many important promises are waiting to be fulfilled?  I cringe when I think of how this will stain his presidency, and cripple the trust of his supporters.

The Art of the “New-More-Better” Deal – Putting Lipstick on a Platform?

When the same company of actors performs one play badly, will a new play make them perform better?  The political establishment’s senior leaders of the Democratic Party must believe it can happen.

We watched the “critics” close the old DNC play in November of 2016, after an eight-year run.  Trouble was, the cast were only part of the problem; the writers, producers and directors were the rest.   Now we have the preview of the new DNC play, which plans to run from now until 2018.  Trouble is, the same people plan to produce the show.

Nancy Pelosi, from California, is House Democratic leader.  She published an op-ed article in the Washington Post 7/23/17.

In her editorial, she outlined the proposed new party agenda: (To paraphrase,) “Make America Better Again,” or maybe, “Have I Got a Better Deal for You!”  It seems to be a leftish echo of Donald Trump’s winning, campaign platform, which put control of the White House, and the Congress in the hands of the Republican party.  How can adopting similar positions help Democrats win?

She berates the GOP for not …” creating good-paying jobs, or rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure, or advancing tax reform, Republicans have spent six months trying to raise Americans’ health costs to fund tax breaks for billionaires.”  That sad, tired rhetoric has not worked at all so far.

I do not know what Ms. Pelosi expected in six months.  How much of those goals happened in the four years the Democrats had control of the White House, Senate, and the House of Representatives, or the following four years they controlled both the White House and Senate?  But, politics is a short-term memory profession.

The Democrats took the first year and two months of Obama’s presidency to create the Affordable Care Act, starting one month after President Obama’s first inauguration, and ending thirteen months later.  I guess we will have to give President Trump at least four years to measure progress on healthcare, tax reform, infrastructure, immigration, and job creation.

Meanwhile, the Democrats promise to offer Americans “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.”  The San Francisco Democrat complained, “Working people from the heartland to the cities are struggling in a rigged economy and a system stacked against them.”   Why do we have these problems after fifteen years of her political leadership?

She also wrote of a renewed, “…commitment to the hard-working men and women across the United States who have been left out and left behind for too long.” I wonder how much time Ms. Pelosi spends in the “heartland,” schmoozing with the “hard-working men and women?”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.  wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times, and gave interviews to describe the new ideas of the “better deal.”  Here is the gist.  (Note:  the first clue to the truth is denial of it.  Look for what they say is “not.”)

“Our better deal is not about expanding the government, (n)or moving our party in one direction or another along the political spectrum. Nor is it about tearing down government agencies that work, that effectively protect consumers and promote the health and well-being of the country,”

“It’s about reorienting government to work on behalf of people and families.”  (Whatever that means.  “We are from the government, and we are here to help you.?”)

“Week after week, month after month, we’re going to roll out specific pieces here that are quite different than the Democratic Party you heard in the past,” Schumer said. “We were too cautious. We were too namby-pamby.”

The Democrats say their agenda targets “old-fashioned capitalism.”

Summary:

The leaders of the Democrats in Congress offer a “new-more-better” deal to Americans. Specific promises:

  1. Ten million, new, fulltime, good-paying jobs in the next five years. Tax credits for employers who hire and train workers at a good wage, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training.
  2. Break the grips of big business special interests, monopolies, on rising living prices.
  3. Lower the cost of prescription drugs, regulate pharma price increases, allow Medicare/Medicaid to negotiate drug prices.

Other ideas in the mix:

  1. Single-payer healthcare system
  2. $15 minimum wage
  3. One-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan

Okay?  That is the new DNC agenda?  How would this approach, delivered by these people, align the disparate viewpoints of the left?  Who would feel energized by adopting these goals?  What jobs are not filled that need apprentices and trainees?  How much is “good-paying?”  Inflation is below 2%; which costs are rising, besides healthcare insurance?  What is missing from our current anti-trust laws?  Where have price controls worked without reducing supply or creating black markets?  Why limit negotiation of prices to drugs?  Why not other costs?  What if Trump does these things before the Democrats do?

I can see the faint ghost of Bernie Sanders’ populism in the language, but very faint.  It seems to be an establishment effort to ignite and unify the Democrats under the present leadership.  The dissonance and vagueness of the agenda strikes me as an unfocused attempt at cat herding.   It reminds me of that definition: “repeating the same actions and expecting different results is insanity.”

 

 

Trump, Jr. Duped by British Music Publicist for Russian Pop-Star – How Evil Russians Fooled Him

Okay.  Let me get this straight:   Aras Iskenderovich Agalarov, an influential, Azerbaijani-Russian oligarch, and real estate developer, paid private-American citizen, Donald J. Trump, Sr., handsomely to bring his 2013 Miss Universe Pageant contestants to Moscow, where they were required to swoon in a music video, which included Mr. Trump, intended to launch Aras’s son, Emin (not to be confused with US rapper Eminem) Agalarov, a Russian, pop-star’s singing career.

Is that clear?  No?  How about, “A rich and famous Russian bought TV time to promote his son.”  It worked!  Emin (who speaks excellent English) is now one of Russia’s top pop-stars.  Fellow real estate developers, Aras (who does not speak English) and Donald used the opportunity to discuss  a possible Trump Tower – Moscow.  The economic downturn quashed that development, but not the friendships.

The Agalarovs  are very well connected in Russia and its southern neighbor, Azerbaijan.  Ten days prior to the pageant, President Vladimir Putin awarded Aras the Order of Honour by the Russian Federation, which is reserved for eminent citizens, such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Vladimir Putin, cosmonauts, Olympic champions, ambassadors, and major musicians. Emin’s ex-wife is the daughter of the president of Azerbaijan.

The Agalarovs expressed support for Mr. Trump’s presidential aspirations.  Enter Rob Goodlove, a British journalist turned PR publicist for the Agalarovs.  Rob emails Trump, Jr., on Emin’s behalf, that Aras Agalarov, 61, met with the “Crown prosecutor (sic) of Russia,” who offered to provide damaging information about Clinton. (Britain has a “crown prosecutor “— Russia has a “prosecutor general.”)

Trump, Jr. replies, “perhaps I just speak to Emin first.” “Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?”

Instead of a call, Rob relays a message, “Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday.”

Rob replies, “I will send you the names of the two people meeting with you for security when I have them later today.”

Trump, Jr. accepts, “Great. It will likely be Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law and me. 725 Fifth Ave 25th floor.”

End of emails.

Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met with two people.  include the name of the Russian attorney (who does not speak English), Natalia Veselnitskaya, whose primary purpose in the U.S. is to support repeal of the Magnitsky Act, and, a lobbyist against the Magnitsky Act, Rinat Akhmetshin, a dual-citizen Russian-American.

Some unverified accounts of the meeting say that Rob Goldstone was there along with two more people: a translator and a representative of the Agalarovs.  Rinat Akhmetshin could certainly translate Russian and English for the parties.  Goldstone is an official representative of the Agalarovs.  To me, the report of eight people in the meeting sounds like double-counting on the surface.

Veselnitskaya offered a document which alluded to DNC finances.  Trump, Jr. asked if she had any documentation to back up that accusation.  She said no and pivoted from the dirt on Hillary Clinton to their real agenda:  lobbying the Trump campaign on Russia-related adoption policy .(the Magnitsky Act).

Jared, Kushner left the scheduled 20-minute meeting after 10 minutes.  Some reports say Trump, Jr. left early too.  No follow-up calls, meetings or emails.

What does this sound like?  Trump, Jr. got duped into a meeting with two advocates of repeal of the Magnitsky Act, by a music publicist for a Russian pop-star Trump, Sr. met at the Miss Universe Pageant four years ago.

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.

 

America’s Legacy – Can We Remember on Memorial Day?

Yes, it is Memorial Day weekend, and for many Americans it is another holiday, albeit with precursors to the 4th of July, American flags, and hot dogs.  It seems that we have developed short attention spans, given the acceleration of information, the associated decline in verity, the expansion of scope, the collapse of objectivity, the explosion of assertions, and the evaporation of examination.

This is my 71st Memorial Day; I was born two weeks after Japan surrendered, ending World War II.  Sixty to eighty million died in that horror, about three percent of the over two billion people who inhabited the earth in 1940.

Twenty to twenty-five million military deaths included about five million prisoners of war. Some estimates show thirty-five million civilians died as a direct result of the war, and another twenty million died from disease and starvation.  No one has tallied the deaths and disabilities of the aftermath.  The mental scars darkened the lives of the survivors for generations.

More than four hundred thousand Americans died in that war, with another six hundred seventy thousand wounded.  In other words, one million Americans dead or damaged.

Then, only five years later, America engaged in the Korean “Conflict.”  Thirty-six thousand killed, one hundred three thousand wounded.

Eleven years passed before our official entrance into the Vietnam war.  Fifty-eight thousand killed, one hundred fifty-three thousand wounded.  My brother and I are fortunate, surviving, Vietnam veterans.  We both have friends on the lists of dead and wounded.  My wife’s little brother is one of the fifty-eight thousand.

Our casualties in the Middle East are not final, but six or seven thousand have died, nearly fifty thousand have been wounded.

This is the evidence of our courage and strength, despite the critics of those wars.  Please take a few minutes to remember the grim violence, the constant terror, the pain, agony, suffering, and sacrifice of those men and women, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

I still cry.

Watch Out Memorial Day Weekend Drivers! Texas Police Abuse a Little-Known Traffic Law to Trap Motorists

It is Memorial Day weekend.  You are going to the lake or to visit family or friends. You are not a novice driver.  You have been around for quite a while and you know the traffic laws. You try to avoid traffic tickets by staying close to the limits of speed and safety.

You also know that some towns along multi-lane highways are known as “speed traps.”  The usual speed limit is 60 – 70 MPH; the speed limit drops by 10 – 15 MPH at the city limits.  The local police sit there and write ticket after ticket when motorists miss the sign.  Most drivers know this; radar guns only snare the unwary.

But what about this sneaky trick:  Ticket drivers going at or below the posted limit, who do not know the specifics of one Texas law.

  • You are driving on a tollway with a posted speed limit of 80 miles per hour;
  • Up ahead, you see a police car pulled completely off the side of the highway;
  • You notice there is no accident or car pulled over;
  • You wonder why they have all their lights flashing;
  • You slow down to the speed limit or below as you pass the police car;
  • Suddenly the police car pulls out behind you and makes you pull over.
  • You get a $100+ ticket for a traffic law you never knew about.

I never knew the specifics of this law, but I intuitively moved over to the next lane when passing a police traffic stop, accident, or other mishap, and slowed to the speed limit when I was going faster.

The trap is when you STAY IN THE RIGHT LANE.  That’s right, the rules for passing an authorized emergency vehicle with lights flashing require you to move to the next lane to the left, or slow to 20 MPH below the posted speed.

I have no problem with this law where and accident or traffic stop is in progress.  My problem is when there is no reason for the vehicle to be stopped there except to fine motorists.

Why would a police car be parked, flashing lights on, beside the road, with a radar gun pointed out the window?  If this were incidental, don’t you think the officer would issue a warning to an unsuspecting driver going the speed limit or slightly below?  The real reason appears to be money.

To me this is a scurrilous abuse of power.  Until or unless this is remedied, do not fall into the trap.

FYI:  Texas Transportation Code § 545.157.

(a) This section applies only to the following vehicles:

(1) a stationary authorized emergency vehicle using visual signals that meet the requirements of Sections 547.305 and 547.702;(

2) a stationary tow truck using equipment authorized by Section 547.305(d); and

(3) a Texas Department of Transportation vehicle not separated from the roadway by a traffic control channelizing device and using visual signals that comply with the standards and specifications adopted under Section 547.105.

(b) On approaching a vehicle described by Subsection (a), an operator, unless otherwise directed by a police officer, shall:

(1) vacate the lane closest to the vehicle when driving on a highway with two or more lanes traveling in the direction of the vehicle; or

(2) slow to a speed not to exceed:

(A) 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit when the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour or more; or

(B) five miles per hour when the posted speed limit is less than 25 miles per hour.

(c) A violation of this section is:

(1) a misdemeanor punishable under Section 542.401;

(2) a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500 if the violation results in property damage; or

(3) a Class B misdemeanor if the violation results in bodily injury.

(d) If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under another section of this code or the Penal Code, the actor may be prosecuted under either section or under both sections.

(e) In this section:

(1) “Tow truck” means a vehicle that:

(A) has been issued a permit under Subchapter C, Chapter 2308, Occupations Code; and

(B) is operated by a person licensed under Subchapter D, Chapter 2308, Occupations Code.

(2) “Traffic control channelizing device” means equipment used to warn and alert drivers of conditions created by work activities in or near the traveled way, to protect workers in a temporary traffic control zone, and to guide drivers and pedestrians safely.  The term includes a traffic cone, tubular marker, vertical panel, drum, barricade, temporary raised island, concrete or cable barrier, guardrail, or channelizer.