RJ's Corner

Being The Adult….

McConnell said that this year, Democrats objected to spending bills drafted under existing tight budget caps — known as sequestration — because they want more spending for domestic programs. Republicans are seeking more defense spending than the current caps allow….

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday  “I would expect that in the weeks ahead we’ll have more of a discussion about how Democrats and Republicans in Congress can work together to make sure that we adequately fund both our national security and economic priorities, while of course taking the necessary steps to prevent a government shutdown in an unnecessary injection of volatility into the national economy.”

Source: Congress gears up for major budget talks with White House

I’m going to put on my fiscal conservative hat here.  I don’t like to wear the “C” cap very often but  it is necessary. Fiscal conservatism used to be the job of the GOP but since they are now in the “anti-” mode someone has to be the adult and talk about our spending.   It seems that both parties want to pile on more spending year over year. One for the safety net for our citizens and one for  expanding an already over bloated war machine so that we can get even more involved in all the conflicts around the world.

Instead of constantly increasing our spending someone needs to look at what we spend our current budgets on and eliminate those items that are no longer useful.  Some one needs to be the adult here.  Let’s start with the military.  We spend more on our war machine than the rest of the world combined and we are only 5% of the world’s population.  I say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. You hear almost every day about the next “$1000 toilet seat”. I’m sure there is at least 25% of that budget that no longer serves any purpose. Why can’t we root that out and get rid of it instead of just piling on more money? One of the answers is that if someone tries to cut military cost someone else will scream “you are making our soldiers less safe!!” But someone has to be the adult and do it anyway as the vast majority that wasteful spending it has nothing to do with the safety of our soldiers.

One the domestic side I personally have seen several people who are on disability payments who when no one is watching work just as hard as the rest of us. It is just too easy to get a government payment. I know I sound like a card carrying member of the GOP here. But, I am not saying that most, or even many, are in that mode but there are sufficient numbers who do game the system that if we took a closer look could substantially reduce our safety net costs.  I”m sure there are  many other examples of where we could reign in spending if we just put our mind to it.

I have been on a fixed budget for over 15 years now. Yes, some things change for instance the ever increasing cost of healthcare. Medicare pays for 80% of my medical costs for about $100 a month and that hasn’t changed dramatically but to cover the other 20% has increased from about $100 to over $250 and for my wife over $350.  In order to pay those bills we have had to cut back other places. Why can’t the government do the same?

Just Too Sensible….

It’s too bad America doesn’t have a queen. If we did, maybe she could summon the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties in the House to her palace and order them — in the national interest — to form a coalition to lead the House of Representatives and end the dysfunction that’s taken over Washington. How would a Republican-Democratic coalition work? By enlisting Democrats to help the more-mainstream Republicans in the House elect the new leadership. In exchange for Democratic votes, the new leaders would promise that any legislation that had the support of a majority of the House (including Republicans and Democrats) could be considered on the floor…

The tea partiers have put ideological purity above the interests of the nation. They reject compromise not only with Obama and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi but with the relatively moderate members of their own party, whom they dismiss as Republicans in name only, or RINOs.

Source: It’s time for a Republican-Democratic coalition in the House – MarketWatch

The above words just make too much sense to be implemented by those disoriented yahoos in the House. They would much rather fight among themselves than do anything that had an air of common good.  I am kind of pessimistic about the above suggestion happening as I don’t see anyone on the GOP side who is enough of a leader to make it happen. With twenty different people running for the GOP presidential nomination that think they are the leader then it seems obvious that no one is the leader.  There is a total lack of anyone being in charge on that side of the aisle.

I think maybe what we need is a third, or even fourth party in our political system. That, like in the UK, necessitates a coalition government and right now that seems the only way out of this totally self-inflicted partisan situation we are in. Push the Tea Party off into their own party. That’s where they belong. Split the lefties from the Democratic party and let all four of them vie for as many votes as they can.  But this idea is too logical a solution and that is something that is a rare commodity inside the beltway.

The simplest way out of this quicksand is for both parties to simply shed their extreme members and look for a coalition among moderates no matter the party. The vast majority of us citizens just want them to get along and get things done.  Surely some of them can put country before party?  But that takes courage and it doesn’t appear anyone in the House has an ounce of it right now.  If they can’t, or more appropriately won’t, form a coalition congress then it is our duty as voters to remove them from office.

Here is one simple piece of advice for both parties, for the good of the country quit catering to your wingnuts,  and work together. It is as simple as that…

Will the GOP have the courage to attack this problem head on or will they just continue to kick the partisan can down the road….



Coalition Government….

2015-10-10_09-26-20”In order to pass any bill around this place, everybody knows we need to assemble a bipartisan coalition,” Dent told reporters after McCarthy bailed out. “I suspect at some point, if we can’t get 218 Republicans to vote for a speaker candidate, we’ll have to assemble a bipartisan coalition to elect a speaker.” Conservatives in the GOP caucus would adamantly oppose such an arrangement, and it would spark a serious rift in the Republican Party. But it may open the way for Congress to start getting more work done.

And Dent isn’t the only Republican to be fed up with colleagues who have proven willing to shut down the government if they can’t win their battles to defund Obamacare or yank federal funding from Planned Parenthood. “We have to do whatever it takes to elect a speaker,” said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.). It’s not that lawmakers on King’s side of the aisle would prefer forming what amounts to an American version of a coalition government. But even those who think it’s a bad idea admit it could happen.

Source: Republicans Fear They May Need Dems To Solve Their Speaker Crisis

I don’t understand why those radical right wingnuts in the GOP are so against forming coalitions, some call it bipartisanship,  for the common good.  I guess to them it is “my way or the highway”. They want it all and to hell with anyone who might even see is slightly differently.  And what they seem to want is a total shutdown of the federal government except for our war machine.

The best thing the moderates who hopefully make up the majority of the GOP could do is to quarantine these guys off on their own.  Put them in a room with rubber walls.  Maybe if they are ignored long enough they will eventually get the message that not everyone is the enemy or another scenario is maybe those who voted for them will send them packing in thirteen months but I’m not sure we can wait that long.

I know I do and I think most others except maybe those low-info voters just want congress to go about doing the people’s business regardless of which party they claim affiliation to. It should be country first and party second. Our current way we do business is more like a boxing match, whoever can bloody their opponent the most wins.  That is no way to do business. I just pray that the sane one in the GOP, if they exist and have a backbone, listen to the will of the people and not to fear that radical fringe element that makes so much noise.

I guess we will learn in the next few days who rules in the nuthouse we call the House of Representatives.


Perhaps They Never Will..


I have to put out a quick post here following Pope Francis’ speech before our congress. To me it was very inspiring but obviously there were those there that simply refused to listen to anything he said. Instead they sat stoically on their hands while those around them frequently stood and applauded.

This reminded me of the last words in the final verse of one of my favorite songs which is entitled “Vincent” by Don McClean. It goes like this…

They would not listen,

They are not listening still

Perhaps they never will

I just cannot believe that the current GOP leadership really represent all those who claim allegiance to that party.  Are all those millions who make up the GOP base so close minded that they will not even consider listening to anything that might threaten their current views?  I certain hope not.  The Bible calls that “hardened hearts”.  Perhaps its time to look elsewhere for your leaders?

Maternity Tourism…

“I was focusing on a specific targeted kind of case where people are organizing to bring pregnant women into the country, where they’re having children so their children can become citizens,” Bush said. “That’s fraud.”

Federal agents earlier this year described “maternity tourism” schemes in which wealthy foreign women, particularly from China, travel to the United States to give birth so their children will have U.S. citizenship.

SOURCE: Jeb Bush again defends use of ‘anchor babies’ term, says referred to Asians – Yahoo News.

QE BannerBirthright citizenship seems to be dimming in the political sphere. Everything is now focused on Donald Trump and is meteoric rise in the GOP.  It was not until this topic came front and center that I found that “maternity tourism” to be a thriving industry.  No matter how high there is not a wall big enough to prevent this from happening.  The only way to do that is to, like the rest of the world, eliminate birthright citizenship.

While I am generally for all kinds of immigration I just don’t see the usefulness of this seemingly archaic law. Except for the original inhabitants we are a nation of immigrants. Very few of our ancestors were around before the formation of the U.S.  I love the words on the Statue of Liberty.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 Our history in advocating these words have been on-again, off-again at best. It seems that when one ethnic group gets settled in the country they then go about trying to prevent others from accomplishing the same thing.

Given that we seem to be entrenched into a mode of fear and anti-everything now is probably not the time to look at changing our foundation documents but when will that time conveniently come?  One of the primary reasons that our country has survived as long as it has is that we treat our constitution as a living document and not set in stone.  It’s time to make some fundamental changes to allow us to thrive in the 21st century and beyond. The second amendment was never intended to make guns readily available to people with severe mental problems. Gun control is a necessary step in American progress.  The 14th amendment was truly necessary for the post civil war period but has long since outlived its usefulness.

Thomas Jefferson was a firm believer that constitutional conventions were going to be necessary on a regular basis to keep our nation moving forward.

Question everything….

Why Does China Back North Korea???

2015-09-11_09-46-38Even on its best days, the regime teeters on the brink of collapse, simply because most of its people are starving and unhappy. It would take only a tiny push for the straightjacket of terror that keeps the regime together to fall apart, for enough people to become more hungry than scared, and for enough regime thugs and mid-level officers to say, “No, not this time, we won’t pull the trigger.”

The regime’s attempt to black out all outside information has been showing cracks. Cell phones and DVDs (and probably Bibles) are streaming in from the Chinese border, where guards are easily bribed. This contraband is showing an increasing number of North Koreans that another way of life is possible. Various market-driven “reforms,” while improving the lot of a few ordinary North Koreans, also highlight the regime’s dons for what they are: corrupt kleptocrats, businessmen with guns.

Source: Why North Korea’s collapse is inevitable.

How North Korea has held on to power for so long is a mystery to me. Compared to the other Korea they are living in abject poverty barely surviving from day-to-day. The majority of their resources are directed toward their military and to support the lifestyle of their insane child leader.  I would hope that someday the above scenario finally comes to pass and the country is once again allowed to re-unify as Germany was a few decades ago.

One thing that seems to put off this inevitability is China’s support of the regime.  I really don’t understand why that support is even there?  I guess it is because they are one of the few countries in the world that like China still have a communist form of government.  But China has moved so far away from basic communist principles. Maybe it is because one dictator seems to always support another.

Here is what Wiki defines as a dictatorship:

Dictatorship is a form of government where political authority is monopolized by a person or political entity, and exercised through various mechanisms to ensure the entity’s power remains strong.

A dictatorship is a type of authoritarianism, in which politicians regulate nearly every aspect of the public and private behavior of normal people. Dictatorships and totalitarianism generally employ political propaganda to decrease the influence of proponents of alternative governing systems, as is the nature of nationalism of any governing system.

Dictatorships by their very nature are eventually doomed. The dictatorship falls for one of two reasons. Either the regime eventually morphs into something else through evolution or they are overthrown by revolution.  China’s dictatorship is an example of the first condition. Korea will probably go the way of the second.

Now that China controls a big hunk of the world’s manufacturing processes we can only pray that their change continues to be evolutionary instead of revolutionary.

Putting a Face On It….


It is heartwarming to see that the tragic picture above has spurred so many of the European nations into further action. Many, especially Germany, have opened their borders to thousands fleeing war and famine in Syria and neighboring places. One image seems to have ignited a fire of response. Thank the Lord.

As I have learned “Putting a face on a problem” is the first step in spurring action to solve it. I have long been an advocate for the homeless and financially challenged but until I spent 11 years volunteering in a local soup kitchen/ homeless shelter it was not brought home to me the seriousness and tragedy of those who are homeless or financially challenged. Putting a face on it by serving all those who came for daily meals made it very real to me.  I am glad to see the picture above ignited support for those like this dead infant just trying to find some safe place to live.

It seems that our news media have loosened their standards significantly in the last couple of decades. It used to be that they “reported” the news instead of making it as they do today.  Until Fox News came along they very conscientiously tried to remain neutral in how they reported events. But one principle that still remains is that they don’t show graphic pictures of tragic events especially those involving children.

I wonder if we saw the aftermath of the Newton tragedy in graphic pictures if that would have spurred us into actions to keep guns out of the hands of unstable people. Unfortunately there are way too many troubled people even, or maybe especially, among the gun advocates themselves.  I think we are tragically the only nation on earth that has more guns than citizens. Would seeing all those bloody bullet ridden bodies of the kids at Newton Elementary have changed our attitudes towards guns?  I realize that there will always be a certain percentage of our citizens who will fight for their guns no matter the consequences .  It doesn’t matter to them; they must have total and easy access to any weapons they choose.  But how about the rest of us, the vast majority who are ready to attack this problem, when will we finally be spurred into action?  We need to see more pictures like the one above to make that happen.  Until you put a face on a problem it just doesn’t seem real to many of us.  Lets show some of the graphic consequences of this love affair with weapons of destruction.

Question Everything…

A Doctor/Lawyer Coalition??

We physicians have relatively little understanding of the legal process. And we will say — we say things like, ‘You ought to be out of that house. You ought to be in someplace clean.’ And then I sort of wash my hands of it and don’t realize the downstream implications. Somebody’s got to help them get the resources….

DR. KERRY RODABAUGH, Nebraska Medicine: I ran a medical-legal partnership, and came to find that I could not practice medicine without that. We are learning that we really are impacting health. So, if we can get somebody reinstated with their insurance plan, then they’re going to be able to afford to take their anti-hypertension medication and their blood pressure’s going to be improved. And who would’ve thought of that — that an attorney’s going to fix somebody’s blood pressure?

Omaha is part of a growing movement modeled on a partnership founded in 1993. Doctors at Boston Medical Center linked cases of childhood asthma to mold in homes and brought in lawyers to take on negligent landlords. The idea took years to catch on. But national leaders say there are medical-legal partnerships now in almost 300 hospitals and health centers, and that dozens more are being planned.

Source: Why doctors are prescribing legal aid for patients in need

Doctors and lawyers seem like oil and water in that they just don’t mix together, but in reality they form a very needed coalition. In retrospect it does make a lot of sense. I don’t know how many of you remember the time where it was unacceptable for a lawyer to advertise. The ABA said it would diminish the status of the legal profession and of course for most part it did just that.  I get very tired of all the “ambulance chasing” lawyers on TV.

And then there are the police/lawyer shows who portray lawyers as guys who, for the money, will do everything to get their guilty clients off of serious charges.  The OJ Simpson case confirmed that for many of us. Then there is the fact that the vast majority of our representatives in Washington DC are lawyers.  Let’s face it, lawyers just don’t get much respect from many of us.

Changing gears here, I don’t know about your part of the country, but where I live there is a very rapid integration of the healthcare field. Almost all of the local doctors and hospitals in my area now belong to one business entity. Doing so allows them to self-fund malpractice coverage among other things.   It also allows them to have more of a personal life in that someone else in the firm can cover for them when they need time off.

I’m sure most of these new integrated doctor/hospital firms have their own legal teams to handle things that they know little about but greatly affect the healthcare of their patients.  All of this is a good thing as long as we also develop regulatory agencies to monitor possible malfeasance.

Doctor/Lawyer teams??? Go figure….

As Obamacare Takes Hold, Unpaid Hospital Bills Vanish – Forbes

2015-08-31_18-42-33As hospital operators begin to report second period earnings — the sixth consecutive quarter of new revenue from once uninsured patients — the number and size of unpaid medical bills continues to fall thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

SOURCE: As Obamacare Takes Hold, Unpaid Hospital Bills Vanish – Forbes.

If all those idiots in congress who are so adamant in taking away healthcare to those who couldn’t afford it without ACA were to concentrate on making the law better instead of trying to abolish it significant improvements could be made.   There has probably been billions of dollars spent on dissing the law and little to improve it.  How sad is that?

It was clear that what was passed five years ago did little to ameliorate the every increasing costs of U.S. healthcare. That part of the problem was left to another day. But that day has never come due to the complete stubbornness of those who hate it.  All they can do is shout “SOCIALIZED MEDICINE” as if that were some deadly curse that will insure the downfall of mankind.  But the facts are that almost half of Americans have had for some time socialized medicine and most of the rest of the world has had it for much longer.  That is why we are about the only country still struggling to get hold of ever increasing healthcare costs.

When will we be able to start improving the law? Probably not until those who have put a permanent stake in the ground against it on our national congress are driven from office.  The rest of the world learned their lessons on controlling costs a long time ago and are wondering why we haven’t?   Makes no sense to them or to me…

Question everything….

Should citizenship be a birthright?

The wording of the 14th Amendment is key. “All persons,” it reads, “born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

That includes children whose parents are here illegally. Trump and others argue that goes too far and encourages people to give birth here as a way of allowing entire families to stay. In some circles, those children have come to be called Anchor babies….

2015-08-21_10-31-50And this first sentence ( of the constitutional amendment), the primary purpose of that sentence was to reverse the 1857 case of Dred Scott, which had held that blacks could not be citizens. So this made everybody who was born here, black or white, a citizen of the United States.
And it was assumed, actually from much earlier than that, from the first founding in the 1780s, it was assumed that citizenship went with birth. That was what common law was at the time. And nobody even challenged it until 1850, when a New York State court found that someone who was born here was a citizen….

 “Professor Sherry, is this a uniquely American, that, if you’re born here, you’re a citizen here?”

“It’s almost uniquely American. The only other developed country that has birthright citizenship is Canada.”

SOURCE:  Should citizenship be a birthright? Why some GOP candidates say no.

QE Banner

I’m going to put on my conservative hat and agree with Donald Trump. Well, sort of…

With the limited understanding I have of the issue it appears that “anchor babies” are a big business in immigration issues. The logic goes that if I can just get into the USA and have a baby  I can also become a citizen as there are those won’t allow “the breakup of a family” by telling me I can’t stay here when my child is a citizen.  There is a thriving business teaching how to game the system it this regard.

But aside from all that to me it is a matter of allowing the constitution to change according to the times.  I certainly understand given the Dred Scott Decision the reason for the amendment. Without it the southern States would likely have tried everything possible to prevent their previous slaves from citizen status. But the amendment has become something it was not intended. It is time for it to change.

Now it is time to switch hats and say the same thing applies to the second amendment. We need to understand that the first part of that amendment is the justification for the last part.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. 

Since we no longer depend on a militia to secure our freedom this amendment is well beyond it usefulness and is doing much more harm to our general welfare than the birthright amendment.

I will support the conservative change to the 14th amendment if the 2nd one is changed at the same time.

Question everything…

Fear # 4 – Social Security Will Disappear

2015-08-15_07-53-36Only 20 percent of Americans believe there will be enough money left when it’s time for them to retire. To fix the problem, some people believe Social Security should allow means testing, where benefits are based on a person’s income. Others think the tax should be raised, the retirement age should be raised or the benefits should be cut down.

Though there’s disagreement over how, Social Security is a program that almost everyone agrees needs to be fixed before the well starts to run dry. So as Social Security turns 80, when it comes to the future of the biggest and oldest benefits program in the United States, at least after watching this video you can say, “Now I get it.”

Source: Social Security explained.

QE BannerI frequently accuse the Republican party of being the party of “fear”. They seem to depend on it for their existence.

  • be afraid they will take away your guns
  • be afraid of those people coming across our borders
  • be afraid of those trying to take our morals away from us
  • be afraid of this, be afraid of that

But in reality the Democrats do their share of fear mongering. Maybe the biggest fear, at least for those seeing their elder years on the horizon is that Social Security will not be there for them!

The Republican answer to this problem is similar to many other problems.  “Lets get rid of it… you can save for yourself…” Yeah, right!!  That tactic seemed to work pretty well for defined pension plans. They are no longer around today. We are supposed to take care of ourselves instead of having the government do it for us.  The problem is most of us don’t really know how to do that and have done a terrible job of it in the past. Many are predicting a near catastrophic condition in about ten years where those who “managed their own accounts” find out what a miserable job they have done.

Social Security is, and will continue to be the safety net of retirement income. It is the baseline to keep our seniors out of poverty. Even if nothing is done, and I’m sure something will be done, they say it can continue to pay out 75% or more into the distant future. Don’t let the fear mongers lead you to believe otherwise. Until we deem it acceptable to allow people to die in the gutters, and I certainly hope that day never comes, there will be a safety net keeping all of us out of dire poverty.  We claim to be a Christian nation and I hope we continue in at least a minimal way to act like one…


The New GOP…


QE BannerFor those of you who haven’t visited here much I will state up front that while I am very much a social progressive but I am also a fiscal conservative. I too think as indicated in this editorial cartoon by Jack Ohman “where did the Republican party go?” They once were the party of small government and keeping expenses under control.  During those days I voted Republican about as often as I voted Democrat. But those days now seem to be a distant memory.

  • The new GOP seems to be made up of screamers who want infinite military budgets so that can go after the “bad guys” wherever they can find them.
  • They ignore thousands of needless deaths in order to justify their unlimited quest for the next gun.
  • They say they are pro-life but don’t want to provide easy access to contraceptives to prevent unwanted births.
  • Instead of providing mental health facilities and other social services they also seem to want to imprison everyone who might frighten them.
  • They have mountainous fear and very little empathy or trust.

It saddens me to see the party taken over by what was once its radical fringe. I pray that those who are on the drum beat to another war give peace chance with the Iran situation.

Question everything….

What do mass shootings and police killings have in common? America’s sick gun culture.

2015-08-03_07-24-58If we want to see police killings drop, no matter the victim, if we want to see an end to mass shootings (and Australia has proven that it’s possible to actually end them), we have no choice but to dismantle not only the laws but also the norms that make the protection of gun ownership a greater priority than the protection of human lives. A society that continues to flatly refuse to do so will continue to mourn tens of thousands of preventable deaths, every year. We will continue to carry the weight of tens of thousands of shattered families. We will continue to perpetuate an atmosphere in which police are trained to fear the people they’re meant to serve, and civilians know that fear is the best defense they have against the people they pay for protection.

SOURCE: What do mass shootings and police killings have in common? America’s sick gun culture..

QE BannerI just never seem to be able to wrap my mind around my country’s love of guns. Yes, I was a hunter in my early years but it was more of a necessity than a desire to use a weapon to kill.  It totally astounds me that there are more guns in this country than people. How did we get into this state?  How did we let the NRA wield so much power over our representatives in government both Republican and Democrat?


About Our Defense Budgets… An Historic Perspective..

2015-03-25_14-59-11Total U.S. defense spending (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has increased so much over the past decade that it has reached levels not seen since World War II, when the United States had 12 million people under arms and waged wars on three continents. Moreover, the U.S. share of global military expenditures has jumped from about one-third to about one-half in this same period. Some of this growth can be attributed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the baseline or regular defense budget has also increased significantly. It has grown in real terms for an unprecedented 13 straight years, and it is now $100 billion above what the nation spent on average during the Cold War. The fiscal year 2012 budget request of $553 billion is approximately the same level as Ronald Reagan’s FY 1986 budget. As a result of this “gusher” of defense spending—to quote former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—Pentagon leaders have not been forced to make the hard choices between competing programs as they traditionally have. And the ballooning defense budget played a significant role in turning the budget surplus projected a decade ago into a massive deficit that forces the U.S. government to borrow 43 cents of every dollar it spends. As the nation attempts to bring this massive deficit—which chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen calls the greatest threat to our security—under control, leaders from both parties recognize that these unprecedented levels of defense expenditures cannot be maintained. The question currently facing Congress and President Barack Obama—how much to spend on defense in times of large deficits or in the final years of a war—is not new. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had to identify reasonable levels of defense expenditures as the United States transitioned from war spending to peacetime budgets, while President Ronald Reagan needed to control defense spending in the face of rising deficits. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush confronted both scenarios at once, like President Obama today.

SOURCE: A Historical Perspective on Defense Budgets | Center for American Progress.

In looking at the chart above it is obvious that two American presidents are primarily responsible for most of our outrageous military spending. I don’t think I have to tell you which ones those are. Sadly, for the most part those increases in spending were matters of choice. Yes, the Iron Curtain was up for one president but it had been up long before he came into office.  Yes, a rag-tag bunch of fanatics managed to kill three thousand of our citizens with some box cutters but in the world scheme of things  more people than that have died daily in the world from lack of food and drinking water. If we had just gone after the rogues instead of invading nations that had nothing to do with the tragedy our military expenses would never have risen to such mammoth levels.

Can we continue to spend such levels in these times of rising deficits? Aren’t the deficits causing us more harm than the enemies we are supposedly facing. Fear just seem to be the primary driver of our nation today. We have long forgotten one of our most meaningful American quotes “All we have to fear is fear itself”. We need to just get over this paranoid fear that has come to grip us so  forcefully…

I Am Ashamed Of My Native State…

2015-04-03_08-24-43I am ashamed of the State of my birth and where I have lived most of my life. But, this isn’t the first time. Indiana for most of my life has been a very conservative red State who embarrasses me on a regular basis.  The Republicans now have total power and they are wielding it. The latest “religious freedom” law is just one example. It sounds like we are now going to have placards placed on business doors saying which potential customers are not allowed to enter their business.  It reminds me kind of like my youth when I saw signs saying “No Negroes” when we traveled in the south. That embarrassed me even at that young age but at least I could say that didn’t happen in “my” State.

I don’t know how big Salesforce company it but once again Indiana is pushing people out by their actions.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said Wednesday that he is helping employees who are uncomfortable with Indiana’s controversial religious freedom law to transfer out of the state….

“I just got an email on the way to studio from another employee who said, ‘look I don’t feel comfortable living in this state anymore, you have to move me out,’ and I gave him a $50,000 relocation package and said, ‘great, you’re clear to go.’ “

SOURCE:Salesforce CEO: We’re helping employees move out of Indiana – Yahoo Finance.

Eli Lilly which practically owns Indianapolis is also stating concerns. I don’t know if Governor Pense and his GOP congress will get the message or not. They just might change the law but that doesn’t mean they will change their attitudes towards those who are different from them.

Maybe I need to consider if I am going to spend my final years in the State of my birth. I know my leaving would not make much of a difference but it might symbolically mean something to me….

America doesn’t trust its experts anymore


It’s healthy to question expertise, but we need actual experts. The brilliance of the Fox News motto, “We report, you decide,” is that it encourages our vanity that we can know as much as anyone else, we can be experts, given a stream of carefully curated facts and opinion. MSNBC, which has a similar business/editorial model, is stuck with the less-empowering “Lean Forward.” There are a number of ways forward for expertise in America. We can become increasingly mistrustful of scientists, doctors, professors, bureaucrats, bankers, and other experts in their fields; or we can find a better way to filter out the would-be experts spreading misinformation; or we can continue disregarding all experts who don’t confirm what we already believe. Perhaps we’ll all suffer because we didn’t heed our experts, or perhaps our experts will win back our trust. SOURCE:  America doesn’t trust its experts anymore – The Week.

Experts are someone who has spent sometimes years studying a particular part of life. They have looked at it from many different angles and views. They have studied the background information that made this topic what it is.  There are also experts who bring us the goods and services that we so need in a modern society and some that we don’t need but insist on having. I spent thirty years becoming an expert in my field and would like to think that I contributed to society by my contributions.

But there are some who absolutely refuse to recognize expertise, especially in the areas that they think they know better. My wife, bless her soul, is one of those people who refuses to accept any validity to statistics. She thinks none of it is valid. Unfortunately there are those, who are usually Fox News viewers, who think their opinions are worth as much or more than those who have spent much time studying the subject.  There are just too many of us who think we know it all but in reality have much of it simply wrong.  We seem to cling to our prejudices instead of knowledge in too many areas of life. We need trust experts to help us understand things they we don’t have the time to spend to study them ourselves.  But then again there are some areas that where we need to rigorously question even the experts.

I find it unfathomable how many people think our military is the most trusted institution in America.  I kind of think this poll represented one portion of our population more than others. Trust in our institutions has been constantly decreasing for several decades in America and one of those institutions that is falling out of favor is organized religion. Forty years ago more than two-thirds of us had a total trust in it. Now that number has decreased by more than a third. Less than half of us have much trust in organized religion and that is tragic. A big part of that lack of trust is likely due to the political allegiances of so many in those institutions cling to.



We just don’t seem to be able to know who to trust anymore??

Going After the Money…. We Can’t..

Made in China - inscription on Red Rubber Stamp.In this age of electronic banking the way to shut down any organization is to go after their access to money. It looks like that is just what is currently happening with North Korea at least to an extent.

“We need to step up and target those financial institutions in Asia and beyond that are supporting the brutal and dangerous North Korean regime.” When challenged by Royce about “a number of small banks” still doing business with North Korea and the need to choke off the country’s access to hard currency, Glaser replied: “That’s exactly what we are trying to do.” Royce said he hoped a bipartisan bill he sponsored that would label North Korea “a primary money laundering concern” would be passed by the Senate this year…. The country’s main economic ties are with China and, according U.S. government reports, its tiny economy has supported itself with money-making scams ranging from counterfeiting $100 bills to illicit arms and drug sales. SOURCE:  U.S. takes aim at North Korea’s remaining financial links – Yahoo News.

Being a simple guy I just can’t understand how we can give China so much power over our day-to-day lives when they support those who would love to see us annihilated from this earth. I don’t know about you but it seems everything I buy almost anywhere today comes with a “Made in China” tag. It is about time we started putting conditions on transferring our wealth to that country. Millions of good paying jobs have disappeared to be resurrected in mainland China at pennies on the dollar and the primary purpose is to provide more profits for their most often times very rich stockholders..

I know doing something about this problem will be a hard-sell for the Republicans in congress. They simply believe that what our corporations do to make their profits is their own business and the government should stay out of it. And again if Obama comes out for it they will naturally be adamantly against it whatever it is. I think this same thing would be happening no matter who the Democrat was that occupies the Oval Office. Its pure politics and it is getting uglier by the minute. But I am getting off topic here.

How can we allow China to help North Korea with their illegal schemes and not suffer any consequences?  Of course part of that reason, maybe the biggest part, is that we are already so deeply dependent on China that we simply can’t afford to confront them. If they for whatever reason decided to stop sending us the products they now make our economy would likely collapse. How did we get into this type of arrangement is of course because of greed. When a bigger profit can be made using Chinese labor at pennies per hour as opposed to dollars per hour for home-grown labor greed will go off-shore every time. But I kind of think that even those who made these decisions to move their production to China are surprised at the speed at which the total transformation occurred. They all seemed to rush there without really considering the consequences.  But then again greed has never been much of a forward-looking thing…

Government made $100B in improper payments…

2014-07-10_07-56-04By its own estimate, the government made about $100 billion in payments last year to people who may not have been entitled to receive them — tax credits to families that didn’t qualify, unemployment benefits to people who had jobs and medical payments for treatments that might not have been necessary. Congressional investigators say the figure could be even higher. The Obama administration has reduced the amount of improper payments since they peaked in 2010. Still, estimates from federal agencies show that some are wasting big money at a time when Congress is squeezing agency budgets and looking to save more.

SOURCE: Government made $100B in improper payments – Yahoo News.

Government waste is one area where I pretty much agree with my Republican friends. I worked hard to pay my fair share of taxes to keep our nation in business and it makes me mad when I see so much of it is wasted. The chart above show that $36 billion was paid out to perhaps fraudulent Medicare billers in 2013.

I know that the total Medicare spending for that year was almost $600 billion and that makes the fraud about 6% of the total spending. Those folks in Washington probably deem that an acceptable level and in reality that might be right in that we would probably spend more than that to catch the criminals bilking the system. But to me it is more a matter of principle. It would almost be worth it to spend more than we save to catch the offenders.

The number two thing on the list is the Earned Income Tax Credit. I’m not sure how this credit is abused to the tune of $15 billion? It goes to families with annual income up to $51,000. The amount of the credit is dependent on the number of children in a family. Are families claiming children they don’t have? I don’t know.

The current gridlock and the Republican’s constant demands to cut all budgets, except the military of course,  it is more likely that these abuses will increase rather than decrease in the coming years especially now that the GOP has control of congress. There seems to not be a government budget that they don’t want to cut. But again if the Democrats were in charge they would probably spend it on other things. How do we get ourselves out of this mess???? I think maybe the only answer it to keep voting the “ins” out of office until they get the message…

About Those Greeks…

I see where the Greeks elected a new government this week to help them reduce austerity that was forced upon them by the European Union bailout.  This reminded me of a book I read a few years ago entitled “Boomerang” by Michael Lewis. One chapter in the book was about Greece. The book is very enlightening and well written. Here are some selected snippets about Greece.

The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. The national railroad has annual revenues of 100 million euros against an annual wage bill of 400 million, plus 300 million euros in other expenses. The average state railroad employee earns 65,000 euros a year…. The Greek public-school system is the site of breathtaking inefficiency: one of the lowest-ranked systems in Europe, it nonetheless employs four times as many teachers per pupil as the highest-ranked, Finland’s. Greeks who send their children to public schools simply assume that they will need to hire private tutors to make sure they actually learn something.  The retirement age for Greek jobs classified as “arduous” is as early as fifty-five for men and fifty for women . As this is also the moment when the state begins to shovel out generous pensions, more than six hundred Greek professions somehow managed to get themselves classified as arduous: hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on…. The Greek people never learned to pay their taxes. And they never did because no one is punished. No one has ever been punished. It’s a cavalier offense— like a gentleman not opening a door for a lady.” The scale of Greek tax cheating was at least as incredible as its scope: an estimated two-thirds of Greek doctors reported incomes under 12,000 euros a year— which meant, because incomes below that amount weren’t taxable, that even plastic surgeons making millions a year paid no tax at all…. The problem wasn’t the law there was a law on the books that made it a jailable offense to cheat the government out of more than 150,000 euros but its enforcement. “If the law was enforced,” the tax collector said, “every doctor in Greece would be in jail.” I laughed, and he gave me a stare. “I am completely serious.” One reason no one is ever prosecuted— apart from the fact that prosecution would seem arbitrary, as everyone is doing it and that the Greek courts take up to fifteen years to resolve tax cases.  Lewis, Michael (2011-09-28). Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World – Norton. Kindle Edition.

The quotes above give you an idea as to why Greece might be in the troubles it is. As the book implies actions have consequences and Greece apparently needs to learn that lesson.

Greece is the birthplace of democracy so let’s end this post with a quote from the ancient Greek philosopher Isocrates:

“Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress.”

Sounds kind of familiar doesn’t it?

America’s broken promise

2014-11-16_08-44-26All that lovely wealth isn’t trickling down. The country’s median income hit a high of $56,080 in 1999, went into slow decline, dropped to $53,644 after the 2008 economic meltdown — and five years later, was lower still, at $52,100. Raises remain tiny. Many newly created jobs pay a pittance. For tens of millions of people, the economic recovery is an illusion. The voters are right: Wage stagnation — and the resulting erosion of the middle class — is this country’s biggest problem. When hard work no longer produces upward mobility for workers who lack elite skills, America’s implicit promise is broken. At National Review, conservative Maggie Gallagher complains that “for more than a decade Americans have been losing ground financially, and the GOP has yet to address the issue.” In The Washington Post, liberal Harold Meyerson grouses that “the Democrats have had precious little to say about how to re-create…widely shared prosperity.” Perhaps that’s because the standard liberal and conservative nostrums (Tax the rich! Eliminate regulations!) won’t address the fundamental problem: Globalization and technology have devalued both labor and workers, and made companies more ruthlessly competitive. Here’s a scary thought: Neither party is offering a remedy because there isn’t one. SOURCE:  America’s broken promise – The Week.

The two hundred words above from my friends over at the Week seem to cut to the bone as the primary reason so many people are upset about how this country is proceeding.  The guy/gal who gets up every morning and puts in an eight to ten hour day working for someone else is falling further and further behind. So many people have seen their paychecks and any benefits they might have had go down for the last fifteen years while all those “rich cats” continue to rake in vulgar profits on their unearned income.  There seems to be a fundamental breakdown in our society.

As the article states this is a problem that can’t seem to be addressed by the old methods even if the GOP allowed them to happen. Democrats can’t throw enough money at this problem to make it go away and the Republican’s trickle down obviously after fifteen years is not got to happen. I will admit that globalization has a lot to do with this dilemma. So much of the rest of the world is in much worse shape economically than we are. It will be years, probably generations, before that is balanced. The old solutions just don’t work anymore.

New approaches to strengthening the large middle segment of wage earners is drastically needed. The problem is neither party in Washington seems capable of any degree of new thought. They are too busy blaming each other to find new pathways to overall prosperity. Somethings got to give sooner or later.

For all the problems that the middle have those on the margins of our society have it worse. The unemployment rate for them is astronomical. The safety net continues to erode so little or no help is seen on the horizon. Somethings got to give and I am afraid that when it does it will have some serious consequences for all of us.


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