The Thing About Socialism..

2017-12-10_09-14-12.pngSocialized medicine seems to be dirty words for many of my RedAmerica friends. To them, it and communism are one and the same thing. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Since there seems to be nothing in this world that isn’t a simple black or white to them, I’m not sure they will ever accept any other definition but that doesn’t stop me from trying to show you how the rest of us should see socialized medicine.

The purpose of this post is to tell you a little about other country’s versions of medical care so that you can decide whether they are evil or maybe that is a prejudice that some need to overcome.

To begin with, it’s worth pointing out that the single-payer system is hardly a step towards “socialism,” as Mr. Graham claims. The United Kingdom, Canada and Germany — all countries with different forms of universal health care — are safe bastions of capitalism.

2017-12-10_09-15-32.pngSecondly, the U.S. has the most inefficient medical system in the world, based on health care spending and outcomes. America spends much more on healthcare per capita than any other nation in the world and gets less health for it.

The differences are not trivial at all. The median per capita spending on health care in wealthy countries is $4,700 per year, according to research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (That means that half of the countries spent more than that and half spent less). For instance, Canada‘s spending was just at the level of the median. In contrast, the U.S. spent more than twice as much, at $9,900 for every man, woman and child.If we had Canada’s system we could save no less than $13,600 per average household. That adds up to a walloping $1.7 trillion dollars for the U.S., about as much as last year‘s after-tax profits of all U.S. corporations combined.

Source: PBS Newshour 9/23

It is a well-known truth that our medical system is the most expensive in the world and only mediocre when it comes to results. So, why don’t we look at what the rest of the world does to make their’s less expensive and more effective? There is a myriad of examples of how it can be done better. But to my RedAmerica friends, they are all socialism in sheep’s clothing and to be avoided at all costs.  But, what my RedAmerica friends don’t seem to understand is that almost half of us are already in socialized medicine plans.

Medicare, Medicaid, and veteran’s benefits are all systems that are run by our government and in most cases more efficiently than the private sector alternatives. And if our RedAmerica congress would just allow it, they could see even lower costs more by using their size to bargain down the cost of our prescription drugs.  It really wouldn’t take that much to move the rest of the country to this system and finally get a hold of our ever spiraling medical expenses.

I truly believe that someday we will go this route, but right now I just don’t know what it will take for RedAmerica to swallow this very effective pill??

 

Circle Of Life…

We went to Disney World in the Spring of 2016 for our 30th wedding anniversary. At least for me, it was a very memorable experience.  My wife took the idea that Disney World was for kids and was therefore determined to not have a good time.  Unfortunately, for the most part, she accomplished that. But that is another story I guess.
We spent five days at a Disney resort and visited all the parks, or at least I did. One of the most memorable events I went to was “Lion King”. The production was way beyond anything I had imagined.  Being deaf the songs didn’t come through but the atmosphere was almost overwhelming even without the music and words.
It was not until almost a year later that I came across the premiere song “Circle of Life”. Here is a portion of the lyrics:
From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the Sun
There’s more to be seen than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
Some say eat or be eaten
Some say live and let live
But all are agreed as they join the stampede
You should never take more than you give
The song was written by Elton John and has become very famous. The Broadway play is now entering its twentieth year and has generated more revenue than all the Star Wars movies combined.  I particularly like the words “You should never take more than you give”.  That should be a guiding principle in all our lives.
My brain no longer recognizes the sound of musical instruments and most songs I remember are mainly just words and cadence but that is enough to have an impact on my life. I still cling to the folk songs of my youth, or at least the words and memories.
To close out this post I want to give you a gallery of some of the pictures I took of the Disney World version of Lion King.
As usual click on any image to see a larger slideshow view. 

Something About Maine…

2017-12-06_10-16-55.pngThere is just something about Maine that makes them different.  Maybe it is the fact that there are basically no roads on the northwestern part of the State.  Maybe it is the fact that they are really more Canadian than American? I don’t understand how we stole that land from Canada in the first place?

I have been in Maine a couple of time in the past decade or so. The last time was returning home from Nova Scotia and PEI. By the way, I love Prince Edward Island especially the mussels! If it weren’t so cold up there I would consider moving there on a pretty permanent basis. But, I am getting off topic here.

There is something different about Maine that maybe the rest of the country needs to follow and that is that neither Republicans nor Democrats have a majority in their State government or federal representation.  They now have a centrist group of independents that control what legislation will pass.  Here is a little about that from the Centrist Project.

Casas, who has been active in organizing the centrist coalition in the state says that one of the largest benefits of serving as independent is the ability to work exclusively for the people he represents, instead of working for partisan interests and his constituency.

A small group of independents can have a lot influence by denying both sides a majority.  This forces both sides to make compromises to get legislation passed, and prevents either side from imposing their most radical ideas along partisan line votes.

Sources:  Independents Shake up Maine State Legislature – Centrist Project

Wouldn’t that be something, to have representatives in government who are only beholden to the people who put them in office! That is a radical concept that needs to become contagious if we are ever again to flourish as a country.  No, you can’t make America great again by telling lie after lie after lie.  It seems that every piece of legislation that comes up now has 99% of the people of each party voting the same. How can that even be considered representing your constituents?

I know I talk about RedAmerica and BlueAmerica as if the people in those States are much different.  But in reality, most States have about a 60% – 40% (or 40 – 60) split between conservatives and progressives, so in some ways each State had both RedAmerica and BlueAmerica within their borders. The exception to that might be the Deep South who has still never forgiven the Democrats for civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Closing out this rambling post, I think Maine has it right when it comes to their politics. I have to spend more time in the State to get to know them better.

 

Why Are We Here? We Are Here Because…

Some say that all religions are the result of mankind asking “Why are we here?” Everyone eventually comes to that question and various answers have resulted in what we now call “religion”.

I have let it be freely known here that I am a follower of Jesus Christ but don’t call myself a Christian anymore, and particularly not an Evangelical! That word has been totally destroyed by the political nature of the ones who kidnapped it.

When Jesus was asked to sum up why we are here he gave us two commands: To love each other and to love God.  To that end, the quote below perfectly sums up why we are here:

2017-12-09_09-46-39.pngWe are here because Jesus taught us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” We are here because we take the parable of the Good Samaritan to heart. We are here because we refuse to allow Christianity to be co-opted by the likes of people who support abuse of women, the closing of our nation to the immigrant in need and the normalizing of lie after lie after lie.

Finally, we are here because we believe our nation yearns to hear from us this day… 

Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey —  Associate Dean at Boston University School of Theology

There is not a sentence in the quote above that I don’t wholeheartedly agree with.  I am a man of principles and this is one of the primary ones. “Love each other”. That means my brothers don’t have to worry if they have enough money to go to a doctor when they are sick.  It means that no child in the world, let alone this country, should go to bed hungry each night.  It means we are good samaritans, we help each other out.

I know my Evangelical friends, if I have any now, say that these things are the church’s job, not the government’s. It is documented that yes the church meets about 3% of the total need. But what about the other 97%? Do they have to wait for churches to eventually get to them?  I am a believer that government exists to the people’s business and since the church won’t take care of those in need, and in reality can’t meet the demand then we have to do collectively through our government.

As the quote above insinuates, perhaps the most damaging part of the “Evangelical” movement is normalizing of lie after lie, after lie.  The current Oval Office occupant continues daily to push them daily further down into the ditch. When, if ever will they finally say enough is enough and come back to the words of Jesus? Their current mantra is that “a pedophile is better than a Democrat!”  How much further down the rabbit’s hole will they allow themselves to go?

 

Paperweights

For this artsy Saturday, I have chosen to highlight one of the paperweights from the Bergstrom Museum in Neenah Wisconsin. I have grown quite enamored with glass paperweights in the last few years.  I now have six in my collection. But none as fancy as the one in this picture.  I have no idea how they go about creating such a beautiful thing.

Paperweight.jpg

 

Tribalism & Democracy..

The article below got me to thinking a little more deeply about our time in the USA and if we can survive them as a democracy. Tribalism is how we as humans survived to become the thinking creatures we are.  It is at the core of our human experience.

2017-12-04_09-18-39.pngTribalism, it’s always worth remembering, is not one aspect of human experience. It’s the default human experience. It comes more naturally to us than any other way of life. For the overwhelming majority of our time on this planet, the tribe was the only form of human society. We lived for tens of thousands of years in compact, largely egalitarian groups of around 50 people or more, connected to each other by genetics and language, usually unwritten. Most tribes occupied their own familiar territory, with widespread sharing of food and no private property. A tribe had its own leaders and a myth of its own history. It sorted out what we did every day, what we thought every hour.

Source:  Can Our Democracy Survive Tribalism?

Tribalism takes us back to our beginnings but what about democracy? In many ways, democracy and tribalism are exact opposites. Tribalism focuses totally on your small group and democracy is about everyone, despite what group they may be in as being equal in status and character.  That is one of the things that makes the U.S. unique in all the world. Of course, when our constitution was written almost 250 years ago we were struggling with tribalistic tendencies and to some extent we still are today.

Tribalism even today is very dominant in many places in the world.  The Middle East is the biggest example. Every country seems to have one tribe battling another for control of the country. The Sunnis and the Shiites have been battling each other for many centuries. Yugoslavia was once a single country but has since been broken up into  Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro. After the fall of the USSR, Russia claimed that they were now a democracy.  Well, that worked out to some degree for a decade or so until Putin consolidated power back to a dictatorship.  

Brexit is also a return to tribalism in one degree. Many Brits just don’t like the idea of being part of a bigger group in the EU. They want more control over their lives, and isn’t that what tribalism is all about? How that is going to work out is undetermined.

Maintaining a democracy is hard work and that is why so many countries seem to fail at it.  I liked the thought in the quote above that the founding fathers assumed that we could overcome tribalism as a country.  We have at least to some degree managed that for a couple hundred years now, but will we continue that trend? As far as I am concerned the jury is still out on that answer.  Will we eventually, maybe sooner rather than later, reverse back to tribalism.  It seems that RedAmerica/BlueAmerica is a step in that direction. When we start thinking almost totally about ourselves tribalism is soon to follow.  I guess time will eventually tell…

 

On The Road – Ft William, Thunderbay Canada

2017-12-06_10-44-27.pngWith this post, I am going to try to add more on-the-road trip reports here to RJsCorner. I thought this would be a good project for the 2017-18 winter months. The subject of this post is Ft. William in Thunderbay Ontario Canada which is on the north side of Lake Superior. It is in my top five historic sites I have ever visited.

Here is a little background on Ft. William from Wikipedia:

Fort William Historical Park is known as a living history site. Numerous historic buildings have been reconstructed to show the range of the post, and costumed historical interpreters recreate Fort William of the year 1816. Fort William was then not primarily a settlement, but a central transport depot within the now-defunct North West Company’s network of fur trade outposts. Due to its central role, Fort William was much larger, with more facilities than the average fur trade post. Reflecting this, Fort William Historical Park contains 42 reconstructed buildings, a reconstructed Ojibwa village, and a small farm.

Historical interpreters represent the many roles and cultures involved in the fur trade, including Scottish fur traders (people of capital), who often took Native American wives and had their families living with them; French Canadian voyageurs and workers, who also had wives from among the Natives; and native hunters and trappers. The native people in the Fort William area are predominantly Ojibwa and are represented accordingly among the interpreters.

As I have mentioned before I favor fur trading forts as opposed to the military ones. They just seem to more accurately reflect the culture of the times that they represent. The military forts emphasize the battles that took place there.

Fort William is well worth the trip for anyone who wants to understand the cultural heritage of North America and this re-creation is top notch. Here is a rather extensive menagerie of pictures of the fort.

As usual click on any pic to bring up a larger slideshow view.

 

Turn, Turn, Turn

I’m pretty sure most of my viewers are older folks who might remember the song written by one of my folk song heroes Pete Seegar in the late 1950s.  Much of the lyrics came directly from Ecclesiastes and goes something like this:

7f77e34624fc4d8041962c660d8f20cb.pngTo everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

All of this is interesting but it is not really at the core of this post. 🙂 Instead, this post is about cycles in just about everything in life from politics to business ventures to love and life.  Everything cycles.

Economic cycles go something like this.  When people cut down on the amount of red meat they eat, suddenly there are too many cows for the demand and profits fall. This makes many get out of that business. When too many leave the marketplace demand outstrips supply.  Turn Turn Turn.

Let’s go to entertainment for another example. When a particular TV show becomes popular there are often imitators soon to follow. It is much easier to copy a successful show than to invent something different. In the 50s and 60s, it was westerns, in the 70s and 80s it was T&A. Thank heavens the “reality TV” cycle is almost over now.  Turn Turn Turn.

How about government. In the 1950s and before the southern States were almost totally Democrat but when civil rights boomed upon the scene the south quickly turned Republican. The GOP used to be the party of fiscal constraint and deficit hawks but then they got total power and have abandoned that principle in favor of more wealth for themselves and their donors with the debt going to future generations.  Democrats used to be the “people’s party” but then somehow they changed into something else.  Turn Turn Turn.

2017-12-03_14-37-31.pngSometime in the  1980s, the Republicans decided “trickle down” was the solution to all our economic problems.  Just give enough money to corporations and the top 1% of the population and it would eventually trickle down to a little more pay for the rest of us.  In light of the fact that it never happened with Reagan’s tax cuts, trickle-down lost favor but here it is again with the same fury that it had 40 years ago.  Will the middle class get some scraps off the table this time? It’s hard to say but my guess is it will result in the same thing as the last time. The rich will simply get richer. Turn Turn Turn.

Our world goes in cycles, sometimes it is progressive and sometimes it is populist.  Sometimes we have prosperity for all and sometimes the rich selfishly rake in all the gains. Turn Turn Turn.

 

Life Lesson # 102.. Don’t Work for Assholes

One of the goals of RJsCorner it to maybe teach the younger generations some lessons so they don’t have to make the same mistakes I did. If maybe one of my over 3,000 posts has helped one person in that regard then all my efforts here were worth it.

0121d58cef6505864893e9e1769037ab.pngWith that in mind, I am going to start a series here on some of the life lessons I have learned in my seven decades on this earth. It would have been nice to have been forewarned about some of them but I really had no one to teach me these lessons.  I hope that by putting them here I, in a small way counter that.

The big problem with many of us is that we just don’t know any better when it comes to life’s decisions. Unfortunately, the primary way we learn is by our mistakes and that is a rough way to go through life.  Enough of the lead-up, let’s get to the topic at hand.

 

Life Lesson # 102  Don’t Work for Assholes

First a personal story. I know the title is a little crude but isn’t so much lately. I was pretty fortunate that for the most part, I worked for some pretty good people.  But, there were some who simply made my life more difficult than it needed to be. One, in particular, promised me that I would be part of a team to write the code for a new telephone answering system but it ended up a team of one doing the work of three.  I went into his office almost weekly to find out when the rest of the team would come on board.  Long story short, it never happened and I ended up working 80 hour weeks over a five-month period to try to do it myself.  When I failed to meet the project deadline I was given a low rating and no pay increase for the year.  I simply don’t know why I let this guy off the hook so many times. I should have spoken up, but I didn’t.

But there was a shining end to this particular episode in my life.  After my low job performance review, I quickly asked for a transfer to another organization.  I ended up moving from engineering to an information technology area and discovered that was my perfect job. A year after my “no raise” I got a perfect rating score and the biggest raise I got during my thirty years of service.  So, in reality, I am thankful that my previous boss was an asshole. Now onto less personal examples.

I am now a car guy. That is I enjoy watching shows about building are repairing cars. The Velocity channel on satellite is the primary source for this venue. Several of those shows, particularly American Hot Rod and Graveyard Carz who were run by assholes. These guys constantly berate their employees and blame them for mistakes that they themselves made.  Life is just too short to have to spend each day with someone who doesn’t respect your contributions.

Abusive bosses are becoming quite a topic lately, especially the sexually abusive ones. It seems that every day lately another abuser is outed.  Life is just too short to work for one of these guys or gals.  If you run across one in your life just keep on moving. It is a simple as that.  The way to make that possible it to keep yourself up on the talents needed to do the work you have chosen.  That way there is always another place to join.

 

Rendezvous…

I have certainly had some fun visiting the rendezvous in the last few years.  They are becoming my favorite venue for my micro-RV trips. With temperatures in the 60s today and much of November, it doesn’t feel like winter (thank goodness) but I am still in the mode of looking back with my picture portfolio. So, I have gathers some pics to celebrate rendezvous.  Someday, if I live long enough I just may try to join some of these folks.

As usual, click on any pic to see a larger slideshow view:

 

As you can see, my favorite flavor of rendezvous are those celebrating our heritage and settlement history.  I am just not a believer in celebrating war, it should be mourned not celebrated, so I don’t usually attend the civil war versions and such.

Over 300 Christian Theologians Challenge The Corruption Of U.S. Christianity

I find myself often complaining when Christian organizations don’t come right out and say that currently labeled “Evangelicals” have kidnapped the true meaning of their religion and have replaced it with their own political version.  I search out where someone is speaking out on this topic and here is one of them.   You might want to read the whole article if this is of interest to you:

“Is Roy Moore a hill on which Evangelicals are prepared to die? As for me and my house, ‘Hell no, we won’t go,’” said Evangelical theologian Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, Associate Professor of Theology at New York Theological Seminary, asking the crisis question and answering it…

One of the key organizers of The Boston Declaration, Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey, Associate Dean at Boston University School of Theology, contrasted the Gospel teachings with what is being peddled as Christianity today in some conservative circles, both religious and political. She said:

We are here because Jesus taught us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” We are here because we take the parable of the Good Samaritan to heart. We are here because we refuse to allow Christianity to be co-opted by the likes of people who support abuse of women, the closing of our nation to the immigrant in need and the normalizing of lie after lie after lie.

Finally, we are here because we believe our nation yearns to hear from us this day and to watch for how our commitment as Christian theologians continues into the election season of next year.

Rev. Dr. David Wilhite, professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University, said with great intensity that “Evangelical is a category I can’t use any more. Evangelicals have come to misrepresent Christianity. The heart of Evangelicalism is keeping the Gospel call at the heart of all we do.”

Source: Repent And Believe In The Gospel! Over 300 Christian Theologians Challenge The Corruption Of U.S. Christianity | HuffPost

I absolutely detested the fact that some from Alabama are comparing Roy Moore’s persecution to that of Jesus. Some say it was all right for Moore to “date” 14-year-olds when he was in his 30s since Joseph was much older than Mary when she was married! I widely recognize that by picking and choosing, the Bible can be used to say just about anything, but come on!!

It will be interesting to see just how the Alabama voters, many of which are Southern Baptist vote on this issue on Tuesday. Will they continue to disappoint me as they have on so many other issues, or will they step up and follow the core messages of Jesus.

Jelly Fish

For this artsy Saturday, I want to talk about jellyfish. Thank heavens I have never run across any them in the wild as I hear their sting is pretty nasty. The only place I have seen them is in city aquariums. The ones shown here were in the aquarium on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The is just something almost magical about them.

SF Jelly Fish.jpg

 

A Special Tax Cut For Beer Makers??

I’ve been pretty busy lately redoing my study. It needs a refresh after 17 years I think. I may miss a few posts here and there and some may seem kinda rushed. So, pardon me if you will, .. or won’t…

At this point, we can only hope and pray that enough Republicans vote on their principles rather than taking small measures offered to them in this monstrous 515-page tax bill.

canstockphoto2634021.jpgA BREAK FOR BOOZE: The Senate bill contains a special tax cut for makers of beer, wine and spirits, for no particular reason. (Perhaps it’s because these companies are doing their patriotic duty of keeping Americans in good cheer.) It would reduce levies on beer, wine and liquor produced in or imported into the country, and, while described as a boon for “craft beverage,” it would benefit the entire industry, saving it about $4.2 billion over 10 years. This is particularly galling because taxes on alcohol have not increased since 1991 and are calculated without an inflation adjustment, which means they have already shrunk substantially over time.

These policy changes, smuggled into the bill to please big Republican donors, would never survive a more transparent process. History will remember them for what they are: smaller scams aimed at winning support for a much bigger one.

Source: The Senate Is Rushing to Pass Its Tax Bill Because It Stinks – The New York Times

I’m just an ordinary guy but it seems to me that it would be a pretty easy thing to reform our taxes below the 515 pages in the Senate version. Those guys are back at it, putting in these loopholes to get a vote or two. If you want to simplify the income taxes then just do it.  If you have income, you pay taxes, it doesn’t matter where that income is from. The rich folks get their income from dividends and such but how is that really any different from the guy who has a 9-5 job to get his? Forget all these deductions. I know it would be hard to swallow for some of us, but let’s just go cold turkey.

I think I could write a tax reform bill that would fit on a couple of pages. It’s easy to simply the hell out of it and then add back what is absolutely needed than the other way around.

I am a fiscal conservative and a deficit hawk and since the GOP seems to have abandoned that idea and the Dems never had it, where is a guy like me supposed to go?

I hate to be a broken record but my solution is the Centrists.

 

Capitalism Is Proving Unpopular Among Those With No Capital..

I ran across the title of this post in an article by Fraser Nelson of The Daily Telegraph which is a popular British newspaper. It basically talks about how the Brits are now leaning to the left despite the relative win of the rad-cons in the recent election. This leftward trend is evidently being pushed by the young voters in the country.

I kinda think the Brits are smarter than us when it comes to government and I  hope our young people are doing the same. The basic definition of capitalism is that it is an economic system based on private ownership of capital.  Dropping back to look at a broader view of this system, when all the capital ends up in the hands of a relative few then it morphs into an oligarchy and that is something that the Brits also know about.

An oligarchy is pretty much the opposite of a democracy in that the people without capital have little or no control over government decisions and actions. That happens because money controls information as it does pretty much everything else in a capitalist society.

2017-11-23_10-31-06.jpgThe general feeling today, at least among RedAmerica, is that anything that is not driven by capital (read money) is somehow an enemy of the state. To them, it seems logical that a capitalist state should be run by a billionaire as they are the only truly successful ones among us. I’m sure that logic was part of what got us into the trouble we are now facing.

Going back to the original thoughts on this post, I hope our young people have a similar attitude as those in Britain.  I know I started out in the opposite mode and as I grew in wisdom I turned left to a more people-oriented view. My votes during my first three presidential elections were for the GOP candidates. It was not until Reagan and his brand of conservatism that I basically made the switch.  Of course, seeing where we are today I would love to go back to Reaganism, even with his trickle-down politics.

I do still believe in capitalism but we need to have reignes on that horse or it will morph into an oligarchy.  There just seems to be something about wealth accumulation that once you have a certain amount it turns into an urgent rush to get even more.  In my mind, that is where the dangers occur.  It is hard to remember that the 90% estate tax along with excise taxes were once the primary source of revenue to run our governments.  Taxing the workers didn’t occur until one hundred years ago.

In today’s world where 1% of the population control the majority of the wealth, its time for some “real” tax reform. The current proposal being ramrodded through Congress is in no way a real reform.  We will never get that until our political parties can come together with compromise solutions.  I think our young people today can see this much more clearly than I did when I was their age.

If you are one of those who don’t have capital, it’s hard to gung-ho about it…

 

Russian Ties…

Snippet Banner  I have pretty much vowed off talking about the current occupant of the Oval Office but have to put this one out there as a snippet. I found this on my desk from the Nov 10 issue of “The Week” magazine

Team Trump doesn’t seem very worried that proof of collusion will emerge said Timothy O’Brien of Bloomburg.com. But in the past, the president has sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of properties to Russians and gone into business with Felix Sater of the Bayrock Group, a Soviet emigre with organized crime connections in Russia. Trump may well owe money to Russians, meaning he was indebted to them when he ran for president.  What most infuriates and terrify Trump the most is the prospect that Mueller will investigate his financial and business dealings, as well as the dealings with his son-in-law…

I remember Trump bragging that he doesn’t finance his deals with American banks but instead used rich Russians money.  I wonder how long it will take for Mueller to pull all this stuff to the light of day. I suspect this is one of the primary reasons he won’t let anyone see his tax returns and find out he is knee-deep in Russia’s world.