Archives For Government

SCOTUS Said So…

July 21, 2014 — 2 Comments

2014-07-07_08-52-54My religious belief strongly oppose war. I think our military budgets are totally outrageous! We, 5% of the world’s population, spend more on our war machine than the rest of the world combined.  With the latest ruling SCOTUS (Supreme Court Of The United States) tells us that religious groups can pick and choose which laws they choose to obey. Thanks to you my tax bill just got smaller. Thanks Mr Scalia and your co-conspirators for making it happen.

You guys never fail to amaze me as to how far you are willing to go to reshape this country to your views. You say you are against “activist judges” but you end up being the epitome of that category by your very rulings. First you upend our voting practices and now you are giving religions power they were never intended to have.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wondered aloud in her dissent, “Would the exemption … extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions Jehovah’s Witnesses; antidepressants Scientologists; medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus?”

SOURCE:  8 Other Laws That Could Be Ignored Now That Christians Get To Pick And Choose.

I certainly align with Justice Ginsburg’s comments. If a corporation says we are aligned with a religion that believes that God will take care of all our medical needs does that give them the right to ignore ACA? The whole argument just reeks of possibilities.

For any IRS  or NSA folks who might read this blog I am only kidding about not paying taxes so don’t come after me. ;)

2014-05-30_09-29-20Shinseki reiterated other steps he’s taken, including putting the leadership at the Phoenix facility on leave and ordering a “nationwide audit of all other major VA health care facilities to ensure understanding of, and compliance with, our appointment policy.”

Some question whether removing Shinseki would address the core problems at the VA or simply serve as a distraction for now.”Is him resigning going to get us to the bottom of the problem? Is it going to help us find out what’s really going on?,” asked House Speaker John Boehner, the chamber’s top Republican, adding that his answer so far was “no.”

SOURCE: Shinseki initiating removal of senior leaders at Phoenix VA – CNN.com.

I don’t know about you but it seems I have been hearing the above type problems with the VA almost all of my life. It was pleasantly surprising to see that the top House Republican saying firing another head of that agency won’t fix the problem. If fact it would probably just delay the fixes more.

I’m just a simple guy but it seems that the solution to this problem is pretty logical. Why not just put veterans into the Medicare system? I have been on Medicare for about three years now and have never had to wait more than one month to see any specialist. The article above talks about 115 day waits in the Phoenix VA hospital!  Another fundamental question seems to be why does the VA need their own hospitals? Why can’t they go to the same hospitals as the rest of us.  If PTSD or other specialists are needed I’m sure they could be hired from the existing VA or trained by the private sector.

I’m pretty sure my conservative friends would jump on this solution as WRONG. Maybe we are reversing roles here. I say let the private sector take care of our veterans the same way as they take care of us seniors.  One thing that would be nice to carry over from the VA is for Medicare to be able to negotiate drug prices. VA can presently do that while Medicare can’t. That alone would save us billions in healthcare costs.

Eventually, probably not in my life time, all our health care will be folded into a single payer system as much of the rest of the world has already done. But until that time it just seems to make sense to once and for all get rid of these perpetual problems with VA hospitals. Our young men and women who have been traumatized by their war experiences deserve it. But then again this solution just seems to be common sense and logical so I doubt that those folks in Washington will even consider it…..

Freeloading…

May 29, 2014

2014-05-21_08-34-27“You are right there’s been a lot of freeloading, but the freeloading has been by the biggest financial institutions who got bailed out by the American taxpayers, who broke the law and were never held responsible,” Warren said.

“Here’s the key part — nobody went to jail for any part of this,” Warren continued. “The only people in America today who go to jail are regular folks. Big financial institutions get out there, they launder drug money, they violate the law, and still no one is held accountable. I think that’s fundamentally wrong.”

SOURCE: Elizabeth Warren Reveals What’s ‘Fundamentally Wrong’ About The People Who Go To Jail.

Oh Elizabeth certainly has a way with words. I wish she were as popular as Hillary.  She is an intellectual as Obama is but I won’t hold that against her, at least right now. Her actions in the Senate, if you can call anything in the Senate action, shows that she practices what she preaches.

Why are all the criminal indictments taken against poor and middle income folks? Why are all the “upper class” (I use those words very loosely) seem to be immune from any jail time? I see recently where Credit Suisse was recently fined $2.5 billion for helping the 1%ers hide their income from the IRS.  Attorney General Eric Holder said no bank is too big to jail but actually no one went to jail. $2.5 billions is a lot of money but evidently not to the banking companies as they announced that the money for the fine will cause a slight decrease in the quarterly profits!

My Republican friends seem to be so obsessed with poor people gaming the system and freeloading but then they totally ignore the freeloading by the biggest financial institutions. As Elizabeth said not one person went to jail for any of those things that almost caused the collapse of our country. One of the reasons I heard was that it is just too expensive to indict these millionaires as they would draw out the proceedings for years to come. What an excuse!!  I, and I hope most of you, also think that it is fundamentally wrong to allow someone to be above the law simply by their financial wealth or power status.

I would love to see Elizabeth as president. I know it won’t happen because Hillary has an almost lock on the Democratic ticket. I kind of think Elizabeth would look very much like that pesky Republican of a little more than one hundred years ago. Teddy Roosevelt took on the elite of his time and for the most part beat them. They were called robber barons then but the things they did were pretty much the same as these guys are doing now.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to see if Elizabeth could manage what he accomplished?

Something needs to change in the country soon. Our middle class is evaporating before our eyes. When it is gone and the financial elite are back in almost total control it will be hard to wrench power from them.

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We all are constantly exposed to all those red State folks who rail against the big bad federal government. But who actually benefits from this bigness? As usual it is not surprising to learn that the biggest ranters are also the biggest takers when it comes to this category. Almost twice as much money per capita goes to red states than blue. South Carolina is number one; they get back $7.87 for every dollar they send to the federal government.

Any of you bean counters who what to dig into the statistics click on the graphic above to see the numbers.

 

 

Me Too…

May 2, 2014

Warren Elizabeth“I’m worried a lot about power in the financial services industry and I’m worried about the fact that basically, starting in the ’80s, you know, the cops were taken off the beat in financial services. These guys were allowed to just paint a bull’s-eye on the backside of American families,” Warren said. “They loaded up on risk. They crushed the economy. They got bailed out. What bothers me now, they still strut around Washington, they block regulations that they don’t want, they roll over agencies whenever they can.”

SOURCE: Elizabeth Warren Sidesteps Clinton Question, Says Wall Fat Cats ‘Strut Around Washington’.

I am not a U.S. Senator but I too worry about all the power in the financial services industry and how they seem to be in almost total control of our nation’s wealth. With the help of their many Republican friends they seem so easily to knock back any attempt at regulating their behavior.

It was widely acknowledged in 2008 that outright greed was driving that sector and it almost took the country down with them. But as Mrs. Warren’s quote above says it bothers me even more that only five years later they are back to strutting around Washington and are back to their totally absurd year-end bonuses. They say the average 2013 Wall Street bonus was about $1.2 million!

These guys mock those of us who worked hard for thirty or more years to get what they make in one. Capitalism by its very nature is one of gaming the system. If you are very good at it you will make tons of money. Capitalism is all about money and our incessant drive for it whereas Democracy is about one person, one vote that is supposed to level all playing fields. Democracy is where the true power in our society should  and must eventually reside. If only we could convince that 50% plus who don’t even bother to vote that they can change things if only they take the time to put their opinions in the ballot box.

In a true democracy the Wall Street broker is no more powerful than the kid working at McDonald. It is much easier to change things in this country than most believe. If you don’t like having to work for a wage that can’t even provide the basic necessities for your family, you can change that with your vote.  The primary elections in my State are next Tuesday and I can fairly safely predict that less than one in four potential voters will even show up at the polls.  How sad is that?? If only people realized the power that they hold.

Thanks Elizabeth for helping me to remember that…..

2014-03-23_11-53-26Looking at all the religious oligarchies around the world I am thankful that the U.S. is not a Christian nation. Without exception those countries that adhere to a strict religious dogma are plagued with strife, war, and are constantly battling with their neighbors.

I am totally convinced that the reason that the U.S. is what it is today because of our diversity. We are a nation of immigrants from hundreds of countries and religious beliefs.  I can easily see that the diversity level in the blue States is glaringly higher than in most red States. Maybe this accounts for some of the more fundamentalist attitudes among those in those parts of the country.

I grew up in a rural area in the very red State of Indiana and was therefore never exposed to our diversity until I went to college.  Part of my rural Indiana heritage in the 1950s and 60s was also being exposed to the local chapter of Klu Klux Klan. My dad kept very much away from those folks and demand that I do the same but we did see the cross burning on occasion out west of our small town. To me the KKK is somewhat representative of what our country might at least to some degree be like if we were a Christian nation.

Several of the original thirteen colonies were established on various religious groups. There was very little tolerance for anyone in those colonies for people of different religious beliefs. Some even imposed a death penalty for trying to convert its citizens to your brand of religion. Thank heavens they had to shed any of those remaining beliefs before they were allowed to join the union. We are the nation we are because we have celebrated our differences instead of always fighting each other because of them.  I hope we never forget that basic fact.

2014-03-08_08-01-44

Half of American adults ages 18 to 33 are self-described political independents, according to a survey out Friday, but at the same time half of these so-called millennials are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, the highest share for any age group over the last decade.

In addition, young adults tend to be single and churchless — turning away from their predecessors’ proclivity for religion and marriage, according the Pew Research Center survey. Almost two-thirds don’t classify themselves as “a religious person.” And when it comes to tying the knot: Only about 1 in 4 millennials is married. Almost half of baby boomers were married at that age….

Only 36 percent of the millennials said the phrase “a religious person” described them very well, compared with 52 percent of the Gen Xers, 55 percent of the baby boomers and 61 percent of the Silent Generation. And they’re significantly less religious than their immediately predecessors, the Gen Xers. When they were the same age, almost half of the Gen Xers — 47 percent — identified themselves as religious.

SOURCE: Many millennials are skipping church, marriage and political affiliations, study finds | The Rundown | PBS NewsHour | PBS.

Let’s face it, America is changing. As the title of the graphic above says people are becoming unmoored from entrenched institutions.  In many cases I think that is a good thing. Those between 18 -33 years old are more independent thinkers than any generation in the past. They are for the most part pragmatists. I kind of think much of that is due to the proliferation of information available because of the Internet.

I can remember in my youth having to spend hours in the library card stack trying to find information for a school essay. I took my writing as seriously then as I do today so research was the name of the game. Now just about any question you can ask has answers almost immediately via an Internet search. If it is a political question you don’t just get a party line Republican/Democrat answer anymore but also a myriad of other possible explanations including even this blog. The information age will radically change our nation in the coming years.

This dramatic season of change requires that many our current social institutions must change or go the way of the dinosaur.  The “truths” of yesterday are no longer the truths of today. This change creates opportunities for some and death for others. It should not be a surprise that conservative politics of anti-this and anti-that is quickly losing favor.  The political party that presents answers instead of grid-lock will find favor. It is heartening to see that the demise of the radical right-wing of politics is on the horizon.

By the same token religious institutions that focus on God’s love rather than his Old Testament wrath will flourish. Those that successfully meld science and spirituality will be those who continue to exist in the coming years. In my mind the movement known as the emergent church is just such an institution. It focuses on core beliefs and  action rather than ancient beliefs and outdated customs.

When the younger generations eventually drag the power away from those entrenched in the “old ways”, there will be some exciting times in our country. For those who are getting ready to jump on the comments wagon, no this is not a black/white thing. Many of the truths that we call morality will not be overthrown. But those based on fear, intimidation, and outdated traditions will get their due demise and that is as it should be.

Most of us, and especially my very conservative friends at least during Democrat administrations, have in our minds how government simply can’t do anything right. Whatever it does is most likely screwed up and can be done much better in the private sector….

In direct contrast is one thing most conspiracy theories contain is the idea of a hyper-competent government doing things way beyond any concept of normal activities.

It totally amazed me that there are so many popular conspiracy theories around today. If you want to see a list go to Wikipedia by clicking on the name.

Lets look at the area of extraterrestrials to get a sample of this hyper-government beliefs. Here is what is in the above link about that:

AliensA sector of conspiracy theory with a particularly detailed mythology is the extraterrestrial phenomenon, which has become the basis for numerous pieces of popular entertainment, the Area 51/Grey Aliens conspiracy, and allegations surrounding the Dulce Base. It is alleged that the United States government conspires with extraterrestrials involved in the abduction and manipulation of citizens. A variant tells that particular technologies, notably the transistor—were given to American industry in exchange for alien dominance. The enforcers of the clandestine association of human leaders and aliens are the Men in Black, who silence those who speak out on UFO sightings. This conspiracy theory has been the basis of numerous books, as well as the popular television show The X-Files and the Men in Black film series. The X-Files based the plots of many of its episodes around urban legends and conspiracy theories, and had a framing plot which postulated a set of interlocking conspiracies controlling all recent human history.

In order to even begin to accomplish anything in the order of conspiring with alien abduction and manipulation of U.S. citizens would take much more than a handful of people.  I worked for the company that invented the transistor many year ago and if it was given to us by aliens instead of being an idea of William Shockley and a few others it is one of the best kept secrets in that company. Not a single person has come through with any proof of alien cooperation in over fifty years!

It is totally unfathomable for me and I think the vast majority of us to believe that so many government employees needed to pull something like this off can keep this massive secret for all these years.  But it would be kind of nice if some of my friends who are haters of government, any government, would latch onto a small dose of the hyper-competent government idea.  Everyone who draws a public salary are not complete blithering incompetent idiots as so many seem to think.

2014-02-20_13-12-08

When will the USA become the DSA? Will it be in my lifetime or further out? I don’t really think I have an answer to this dilemma but if things don’t change soon I think that, like the Russian professor who generated the map shown here, the DSA is a very distinct possibility. I am proud that our forefathers had the wisdom to create a constitution that has allowed us to flourish for more than two-hundred years. But that does not insure that the USA is a perpetual entity.

Division seems to be the way of the world right now. If you look at a globe made fifty-years ago you will find many new country names now.  And then there is the sectarian violence in so many other parts of the world right now. No one seems to be able to get along with their neighbors anymore. Everyone wants regime change but the biggest problem with that is there is almost never a new regime even close to being able to take over for the ousted one so therefore only turmoil results.  Because of that the world is actually getting messier because of all the unrest.

We in the United States are fractured along political and wealth lines. But, unlike so many other countries our fracture has yet to result in violence or death in the street. Will we be able to buck the current trend of change by violence? I pray we will but kind of expect we eventually won’t .

The Russian professor who made up the map above predicts that the U.S. will be controlled by foreign sources. I can’t imagine that happening. It is more likely that like Europe  before its union, we might divide into separate countries with individual governments. I only use the map above to get you to thinking about this possibility.  If we do split it will probably be more like a north/south/west thing or a red/blue one.

Sometimes the idea of a Divided States of America is not that fearful to me. There just seems to be two very distinctively different worldviews in our country right now.  Will those very different views come to a compromise as has been our history or will we fracture as so many others have done? The issue of slavery divided us for much of the first half of our existence. For the last one-hundred years our basic differences between humanity and money have torn us into two distinctive camps.  Will our fate be the DSA??

But with pensions for non-government workers on a path toward extinction, federal employees get little sympathy from most experts.

“Their private sector counterparts would be jealous of the benefits they’re maintaining,” said John Ehrhardt, a principal at the actuarial and consulting firm Milliman.

While 38 percent of private industry workers received pensions in 1979, just 14 percent did so in 2011, the most recent figures from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, which advocates for benefit programs.

Besides retaining their pensions, most federal workers also can contribute to a 401(k)-like savings program, the Thrift Savings Plan.

That combination is far better than what’s available to most private industry workers. In 2011, only 11 percent of employees in the private sector had both savings plans and monthly pension payments, according to the research institute.

For federal workers, the government matches up to the first 5 percent of employees’ contributions to their retirement savings.

SOURCE:  Federal workers’ pensions targeted in budget deal – Yahoo News.

Up front I want to admit that this is likely a very contentious post where many might not agree with me. But when has that kept me from saying what I think. :)

I have very mixed feelings about this topic.  Should our government employees be able to benefit from plans no longer available to private sector employees? Or should they also go the way of current non-government trends? As the above article mentions in 1979 close to half of all employees received a defined benefit pension. I am one of those employees. I was lucky enough to get in my thirty years while that plan still existed.

My pension along with Social Security allow me to live a pretty comfortable life as long as it is lived with simplicity in mind. No I can’t dash off to the latest hot spot in the world for a quick get-away but I don’t have to worry about whether the bills are paid and especially where my next meal will come from.

Government exist to do the people’s business. Congressmen are there to represent us in political matters. Soldiers are to protect us from foreign enemies. EPA workers to help keep our environment clean. Government workers are solely there to do our corporate will.  Should they be treated and paid more than those they represent? I think the answer to that is no. Their circumstances should reflect those they are serving. So, yes when the private sector losses a particular benefit government employees should have to follow suit.

If only a 401(k) is good enough for the private sector then it should be good enough for the everyone. But of course we know that those in certain positions of power in both sectors are treated differently than the rest of us. When you leave the Oval Office you will lead a rather lavish lifestyle for the rest of your life at the expense of the taxpayers. When you are in the military you can retire before age forty with a pretty lucrative pension only dreamed of in the private sector.

Living in a perfect world everyone should be treated the same. But, of course, our world is anything but perfect….