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.

 

 

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The Throat of a Priest – Another Victim

Fear and distrust of “Muslims” feeds on horrific events like a cutthroat murder of a poor 85-year-old priest giving mass today in Saint-Etienne-Du-Rouvray, France.  What can Muslims do about ISIS besides decry, denounce, and deny involvement?  I do not have the answers either.

To complicate matters, Islamic sects attack other Muslims they believe are not “true believers.”  In addition, turmoil, fragmentation, propaganda, and disenchantment, can divert young minds from seeing other people as human beings if they represent “The Enemy,” “The Satan,” or any name they regard as worthy of killing.

Some of the greatest scientific, mathematical, and poetic minds in the history of humanity came from the Middle East.  I do not believe that the Muslim community lacks the abilities or resources to thwart such despicable members of their faith.  I believe that we lack trust and cooperation with each other.

Would it be “profiling” for predominately Muslim communities to join together and purposely organize to identify these murderers in their midst?  No one knows the signs and subtle indicators of violence on any streets better than the people who live there.

We already have analogous problems in predominately black neighborhoods – no one talks because they are afraid of reprisals.  I am not sure that is the problem in the Muslim community, but something is in the way of finding and stopping these monsters.

Please, do not leave this problem on the doorsteps of condolences and denial; it does not matter what you believe, or how you practice your beliefs, join us to stop this madness.

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.

Are We That Powerless? – Shall We Let Inaction Pave the Fast Lane “Into That Good Night?”

I never thought Americans would let our country degrade into economic ruin. I never envisioned citizens of the United States sitting, griping, gripping their remote controls, and passively wringing their hands, like Mudville fans in the stands, watching the home team in Casey at the Bat.

I still do not believe how we have allowed the politicians to dole, and dribble the medicine we need to save our collective economic lives, too little, too late, through our slack lips. What else can I say? For two solid, excruciating years, the economic elixirs have languished on the pharmacist’s shelf. The doctors have worried, and debated about malpractice, while the patient lapses moaning, into a coma.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Dylan Thomas

No matter whether you favor President Obama, or the Tea Party, SCREAM at the top of your voices:

1. “No Half Measures!!” Not 2%, 6% payroll tax suspension for both employees AND small businesses.
2. “No fear of tomorrow!” Fuel the bold initiatives of infrastructures, inspire the hoarded piles of money to flow out into our future, NOW!!
3. “Show Us Your Hearts!!” Rescue us from pettiness and power grubbing!
4. “Join together!!” Save our ship, our destiny, from capsizing.

Do not let our shining example of democracy go gentle into that good night.

Are We the American “Whos?” – Are There Any “Hortons” In Washington?

Lately, I get the nagging feeling that Americans actually believe that politicians care about THEM as people.  I do not buy it for one minute.

Have you ever had personal communications with representatives in local, state, or federal government?

Have you tried to write, email, or phone your U.S. House Representative or Senator?

Have you seen what you get when you do?

Except in rare cases, you get “boilerplate” position letters, sent by staff, who must glance briefly at incoming correspondence to see which stock reply to send.

I think we get far less than taxation without representation.  I think we get no respect at all.  I think we are the “Whos” in the Dr Seuss book “Horton Hears a Who.”

Want examples?

In January 2009, I sent emails to my Congressman, both U.S. Senators from the state of Texas, and President Obama.

“An Alternative to Foreclosure,” (see my blog in the April archives) which proposes using “Mortgage Conversion Contracts,” instead of foreclosure for viable homeowners.  The owner exchanges equity and mortgage for a market rate lease, with an option to buy.

I had several real estate and mortgage experts review the idea for legality and viability.  They thought it was a great idea.  They also suggested that it needed to be endorsed and encouraged by the Federal Government.

This approach avoids foreclosure costs, credit devastation, evictions, empty houses, damaged neighborhoods; it leaves the homeowner in the house, with undamaged credit, and an option to repurchase, if they recover.

No response.

Two and a half years later, with millions of families devastated, housing markets in shambles, a gigantic overhang of foreclosures, the headlines read, “Banks need to rent those foreclosed homes they own.”  Duhh!

Likewise, I sent emails to propose the instant stimulus of suspending FICA withholding for both employees and employers, as did John McCain in his campaign:

  • Employees take home 6% more
  • Employers reduce payroll costs by 6%
  • Employees have more to spend each month
  • Employers benefit to the extent they employ
  • Employers have less incentive to lay off staff
  • Less administrative expense for employers and government
  • Resume FICA gradually as necessary

No response.

Instead, this year, the government implemented a 2% partial suspension of FICA withholding for the employee only.  Today they make a big deal out of extending it.  What do you think the impact would have been if the government had suspended FICA two years ago, for employees, and business owners who still cannot get a loan at the bank?

What possible motive could the politicians have for ignoring real solutions to the problems we are facing today?  Could it be that politicians do not care about us at all, except at election time? Could it be that power is all they want? Do problems help politicians keep and gain power?

Apparently the denizens of Washington, DC know that all they need to do is give the illusion that they hear us, pretend they represent us, promote class warfare, use rhetoric, and vague platitudes, and we will still believe them.

Each of us needs to make sure our government knows we are here.  They need to treat us with respect and give us their attention, no matter how small we may be to them.

If you feel like a “Who,” join me in yelling as loud as you can,  “Hey Washington, WE ARE HERE!  WE ARE HERE!  WE ARE HERE!”