Archive for the ‘Republicans’ Category

Move on? Resist? What’s the Plan? 2017

February 24, 2017
Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

Me (Robyn) at Vic Falls

When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, in 1992,  the country was  undergoing a big shift. There had been a president, who had named himself  life president, and had served, at that time, 26 years:  Hastings ‘Kamuzu’ Banda.  He was s dictator:   he terrorized the country.  He was supported by the Europeans & the USA because he was NOT a communist, and  he  supported apartheid in South Africa. About the only good thing he did for the Malawians was build a  decent road infrastructure.  The school and health care systems were virtually nonexistent.  It was a country run by elites. who went for medical care out of the country.  Malawi was socially stratified:  if you had a decent job and were literate, most likely you employed an illiterate servant to clean your house & probably cook for you. There was no way to improve your lot unless you were (or are) particularly ingenious.

Of course, I worked with elites.  They  two I worked with were honest, and had integrity.  Things were the way they were.  Pick your battles. but I explained to them that  democracy did not bring good government, but representational government.

And here we are, over 30 years later, and our  representational electorate has elected  a guy who lied, who had no plan, who  disrespects women, minorities, the handicapped…. people who are not white Europeans.  It will be interesting to see how  his Orthodox Jewish son-in-law works with the white supremacist  Bannon, who is a close advisor.  Really interesting….but I think they are sell-outs. I have some friends who I really lost respect for.  It’s one thing to think your friends are  uninformed—but to see they voted for the white guy because they believed ‘fake news’ (what we used to call lies….as ‘toxic assets’ were liabilities) and just didn’t like  or trust Hillary.   Was it because she was a woman?  Doesn’t matter—she actually got the popular vote. She won!  But due to the political mumbo jumbo of the electoral college, these former friends who voted for Trump think—really, that HE won!  It’s like saying 5-3=10!  So this is the new reality.

I fear for the environment.  Even the Clean Air & Clean Water acts were signed by Nixon—a Republican.  It is proven that when you offer free birth control and family planning information—the unplanned birth rate goers down, and the community prospers….but our rulers  really have a mindset that women should be punished for having sex—the punishment being raising  children, and this will lead to a surplus in labor.  Our economy can no longer absorb uneducated people—as it can’t absorb the educated ones! What other explanation can you  come up with for  defunding  Planned Parenthood or making abortion illegal?  It’s not like the people who make these laws are fostering or adopting orphans or kids in the child care system.

I also think  the Democratic Congress made the banking industry more accountable. Trump thinks it is too much regulation.  Education would  fix this, as kids would understand more, but with DeVos, they have demonstrated that  making sure kids learn math & science is not a priority.  it’s up to us…in the states…to work this out.

So, as a result of all this, I am much more in touch with my elected officials.  I let them know how I feel about everything.

But  are there  citizen movements emerging to develop strategies to  change it all back….or…?

While   I have big issues with the Affordable Care Act, the problem is with insurance companies, and it is time for Single Payer.  If Trump wasn’t flitting off to Florida every week, there’d be plenty  of money  for  people of all ages to buy into Medicare. You wouldn’t have to—you could still pay for private insurance if you really believe you’d get a better deal….but, having had to  deal with  health insurance a lot recently (Bursitis, and I was bitten by a dog), I can tell you, the government couldn’t make a bigger mess out of what things should cost & how hospitals get paid than the insurance companies have!

If we are going to ‘resist’ and make things better, we must educate ourselves, so we have talking points.  I want everyone who wants to make a difference get  4 books and read them.

  1.  The First is, “Lies My Teacher Told me, ” by James Loewen  You really have to understand American History, first, or you will be ‘condemned to repeat it.  It’s outrageous, what we learned in school and  what we think is real;

2. “Charlie Wilson’s War,”  by  George Crile.  Aaron Sorkin made a pretty funny movie by manipulating facts.  All of what Charlie did, and why,  is sort of ‘funny’ in an ironic way.  It’s important to understands what he did and who influenced him, as he changed history.  You will learn  that he actually armed what became the Taliban, ISIS, and all the others who hate  freedom;

3.  You ought to read a book on economic history.  “The Big Short,” by Michael Lewis, again, was a funny movie.  Not so funny  is that is our history, and he documents it and writes about it in a way you can understand.  Bottom line:  because we are  an innumerate nation, and so few of our schools teach  people real math and budgeting, our neighbors trusted the banks—even thought the numbers were right in front of them. We all lost, big time.

If this seems too convoluted, get a copy of Robert Reich’s book, “Aftershock.”  We could have saved ourselves, but Hillary didn’t make it engaging enough (that, and the Russians and FBI director Comey put the final nails in her coffin);

4.  Finally, how do we actually  get the hearts & minds?  You have to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point.”  We’re not going anywhere in a hurry unless we know the dynamics of social change.  In simple language,  this book tells us how it’s done.

Advertisements

It’s Not Obamacare…it’s the Entire Health Care Industry.

November 11, 2016

This may seem amusing to those who have health insurance that somebody else pays for…but it’s not so funny.

This started in April 2016.

I was having  pain in my hip that I thought might be arthritis (it turned out to be sciatica), and also …a rash—like heat rash, that I could not get rid of.  I also had ‘trigger finger.’

I made an appointment with a doctor in my health plan…but not only did it turn out that she was no longer at the clinic, they called me two days before to cancel the appointment because my insurance would not cover it.  Never mind that I planned to pay for it out of my Health Savings Account.

So, I called the insurance company, and thy told me I was entitled to a Women’s Wellness Exam. This would cover  a PAP smear, a full body skin cancer check, and a scheduling  for a mammogram. The insurance would pay. So, I made another appointment with a  clinic picked  gynecologist.

She was an hour late, so she didn’t do the skin cancer check (so would not look at the rash), and could not address the pain in my hip, but she did take a PAP smear & scheduled me for the mammogram. I specifically asked her if I needed any paperwork.  She told me, “No, just go to Mount Sinai Hospital. You are in the system.”

This turned out to not  be true. I was in the system, but they still wanted paperwork, Thankfully, I had the clinic card in my wallet , and called them to FAX the paperwork.

Now, although I was in the system scheduled for the mammogram, I then had to go to Mount Sinai intake and have my contact info entered  again. Even though the  clerk had all my info in front of her, she managed to spell both my first & last names WRONG:  Robin Micheals—but I did not  see this until I was actually in the x-ray room.

It took over a month to get the mammogram, so I had to schedule a different visit at a different clinic with a general practitioner to look at my rash &  address the pain in my hip….and my finger.  I don’t doubt the doctor is a decent doctor, but the pills he prescribed  for the sciatica did not help at all, and the ointment he prescribed (yes—at $26 a tube) me  did not work, either.  He did tell me that if the problems did not go away in 2 weeks, to call him.  He referred me to another doctor  for the ‘trigger finger’, who gave me a shot, and told me it would only last 3—6 months.

Well, due to his being on vacation and  my taking a different job, a month went by.  I decided to see a chiropractor who was highly recommended by  neighbors who had had sciatica treated.  She really is good….but her treatments didn’t hold.

I did called the general practitioner about the rash, but could not talk to him directly. The clinic insisted I make an appointment to see him to get a referral to a dermatologist.  I haven’t been billed yet, but I went in, and he told me to wait and left the room.  About 1/2 hour later, he came back & told me that the clinic had to find a doctor who would accept my insurance plan.  I laughed.  I said, “This is ridiculous.  I have a $6000 deductible, I’ll pay for it out of  my Health Savings Account.”  He rolled his eyes and wrote down the name of a dermatologist.  A few days later, I got a letter with the name of a dermatologist in my plan.  I called, and could not get an appointment for 8 weeks!  Not until after….Thanksgiving!

I mentioned this to a friend, and she said, “I had that—just get some Desitin.” Which I did. It took about two weeks to work.  I will cancel the dermatology appointment.

Meanwhile…I got a letter from Mount Sinai.  My mammogram was inconclusive. They tell me to call my doctor and have her reschedule another mammogram.  You see, I can’t do this myself, for some reason. So, I call that clinic…& they want me to schedule an appointment (and pay for it—or charge health insurance) just for her to make another appointment!

But wait—there’s more!  So the chiropractor suggests I  get an MRI to find out why the adjustments she’s making are not holding.  She tells me  that the cash rate will be $350—400.  That is no problem…but when I call  and ask if I can submit it  to insurance—they may pay (and—how can you reach your deductible if you don’t submit)…ah, no.  Because…they may charge the insurance company $1500, and if THEY DON’T PAY, I have to. That is the difference.

Now, why would an insurance company be charged  double or triple?  Well, that’s how it works.  When you add a step, you add ‘overhead’—and people on a payroll pushing papers, and filing, and a guy at the top who makes $28,000,000 a year.  This is how we create jobs.  They all have a vested interest, which is why they continue to pay our politicians to not have single payer, and allow this  waste.

As I write this, Trump has won the presidency.  He may replace the Affordable Care Act, but the health insurance industry has too much invested in Congress to  allow any changes. We are not going to get anything like single payer  for at least  four years.

I was telling a colleague about this, and she said, “It doesn’t seem like this should be legal.”  Well, anything that is not specifically illegal is legal.  It’s what makes America great.

Book Review: Charlie Wilson’s War, by George Crile.

June 3, 2016

The movie (created by people I would call the ‘dream team’:   director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts), came out in 2007… about 9 years ago.  This is the Wikipedia link to the review:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Wilson%27s_War

I came across the book (which I didn’t know existed) while traveling.  Crile was an amazing writer.  This is an absurd, almost unbelievable story. It’s actually a story about how ‘democracy’ works.

Do you remember where you were in the late 1980s?  I was in undergraduate school, working part-time grooming dogs,  and modeling for artists.  I had had a roommate who had volunteered with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.  Related to that, I had an FBI file.  That’s another story, which I blogged about previously: https://disparateinterests.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/how-i-got-my-fbi-file/ .

The reason  my roommate volunteered to work for the Sandinistas was because of our ‘covert’ was in Nicaragua.  President Reagan wanted to  help the ‘contras’—a really ragtag group of’ anti-communists’ with no real strategy to govern the country, fight communism.  Unfortunately for them, in spite of  Reagan and the CIA pouring money into training and paying soldiers, they  really weren’t getting support of the Nicaraguans.   They did not exist at all, but were a contrivance.  Apparently, not only were there  several other political parties besides the  Sandinistas, the Nicaraguans did not fear communism or socialism the way we Americans had been led to.

This only matters because the war was not ‘covert’:  the news media knew of it, as did many Americans, who  pressured Congress to cut off funding.  We all knew Reagan was not a deep thinker, and he allowed key players  in the Republican Party to set policy.  What this has to do with the story of Charlie Wilson, and the war in Afghanistan (also covert—and a secret to us), is that, at one point,  Oliver North/the Reagan Administration asked the CIA and the Appropriations committee to hide money for the Contras in funds earmarked for the mujahedeen in Afghanistan.  :”Wait!” you  shout.  “The mujahedeen?  Aren’t they the people  waging  jihad against us now?  Haven’t they been since…?”  Yep, You got it.

The movie  was written  as a comedy.  Charlie Wilson was a playboy congressman from Texas, whose constituents didn’t ask much from him.  Having served in the navy, and grown up during the cold war, he was  strongly anti-communist.  On the advice of a vivacious socialite, Joanne Herring, who had met the  president of Pakistan ( Zia ul-Haq…who had his predecessor assassinate…), Charlie, who sat on the Appropriations Committee in  the House of Representatives,  got money  appropriated for arms for people in  Afghanistan fighting Russians/Soviets.  The Russians were in Afghanistan to prop up a  socialist government.  As we believed at the time—and it could have possibly been true—according to the domino theory:  if the USSR got a foothold in  south Asia, they could dominate the world.  The reality was—and is—that Afghanistan —as a country—is a contrivance.  It is a geographic parcel of land within a border.  It will probably never be a country with a viable economy.  It is a failed state without ever really being a state.

Who writes our history?  Is it what we get in primary school history books?  Is it journalists who write news  reports and turn them into books?  No matter. At the time the CIA was  buying and providing arms for the Afghan rebels, I was a student working part time.  What I DO remember is that very suddenly, the Soviet Union fell into chaos, and the Berlin wall came down.  I don’t think many Americans understood why this happened.  All we really knew of the Soviet Union was that it was a dictatorship with no press freedom, and only of consequence to us insofar as their influence on other countries.  Crile  gives us a better understanding  of what really happened.

We have to  understand what we  did in the rest of the world.  While the do-gooders took to the Afghanis, who were not united in any way, and have proven to not be unitable, what the do-gooders did—with out tax money, was ignore their human rights record, ignore how they treated  each other—let alone women, and gave them the power to  terrorize us after they finished with the Russians.  As I write this, in early 2016, we have Syrian refugees fleeing the middle East, and a bunch of right-wing politicians calling them all terrorists…meanwhile ignoring the fact that  they supported the cause of all this.

Worse, the front-runner, Hillary Clinton,  the former Secretary of State, continued to allow the Pakistanis to hold us hostage, along with President Obama, so we could kill off Osama bin Ladin and temporarily slow down jihad leaders.  We are not going to stop how foreign aid is doled out unless we  organize for a radical shift in leadership (which is another reason I support Bernie Sanders). The   countries receiving it hire lobbyists, and the  companies manufacturing weapons also have a huge stake in  continuing the status quo.

Bernie Sanders has to get into Specifics Fast

May 6, 2016

I have always admired and respected Bernie Sanders—an American who is not afraid to say he is a socialist.  Face it, Capitalism doesn’t work  unless the Keynesians tinker with it constantly, and we are now at the tipping point, where  not enough Americans are educated enough to not have more children than they can realistically support, nor get the jobs to support them.  Our educational system is concerned with statistics, not  actually teaching kids to think, and we keep teaching an American history that is a big lie….but whatever.  Land rents (property taxes) and energy costs are way too high, and we keep sending our tax  dollars to  poorly thought out, designed, and monitored development projects, as well as military foreign aid. Since WWII, we’ve stuck our noses  where  they don’t belong, ‘fighting communism’, and have made every situation worse…and we are no safer, no better off economically, However, a very few rich people have benefited. The media  is a strong booster for this system, and we are not skeptical enough.

I live in a relatively well-educated, open-minded community, and most of my friends and neighbors really believe that  nobody likes Clinton or Trump.  Well, I know a bunch of people  think of an old Jewish guy as a joke. And—because  he is rich (and got that way ripping people off), they believe  Trump would be a good president because he is not a professional politician, and he says what  scared, poor white people want to hear.

Well, there are a lot of them. The only way around this is for Bernie Sanders to  start talking specifics. What budgets would he ask the House Appropriations Committee to cut, and which  would he give to?   Who does he think will support him? We have to know this, or the rest of the election year will just be a bunch of empty words.

We have over spent on the military—with not much to show for it.  Military foreign aid—which is now being used against us, foreign embassies (which do  little to  help actual American citizens), law enforcement and the department of justice, the war on drugs, perks for congressmen, Homeland Security…we all see waste all around us.  We see  congressmen earmark money for special interests.

Politics is the art of compromise. I am somewhat disappointed that Obama didn’t get it all done.  However, considering  we’ve had a Republican Congress, we got more than we would have  had either McCain or Romney won.  I am really not a fan of Hillary Clinton.  I would have had more respect for her had she left Bill.  Thing is, if Bernie doesn’t  get the nomination, we will lose ground if we don’t vote for her.  We have a chance to keep making  progress here. Neither Trump nor any  of the Republicans car about any of us.  They just care about money.  Capitalism can’t survive any regression and like it or not, we have to play in this system.

Innocents; Refugees are desperate.

November 20, 2015

I was going to write about something totally different, but due to the tragedies in Beirut & Paris, and the hysteria about accepting  Syrian refugees into the  USA, I have to  address this.

My fathers parents  were from Russia and Germany.  They were immigrants.  They weren’t refugees because they weren’t force to leave their countries. It was an economic decision.  My mother’s parents were  from England and Ukraine.  Similar circumstances.  I know part of the reason, aside from economics that they chose to come to the US was antisemitism.  I also have friends whose parents were refugees from Germany during WWII.  There’s a fine line between being an immigrant and being  a refugee, but nobody left their homeland and struggled to learn English and make a life for themselves because things were going so well in the old country.

Due to the bombings, and ISIS and militant Islamists in the news, out pointy-headed politicians have decided to not let any Syrians in until they can be screened better—to make sure they are not terrorists.

Here’s the problem—-it’s not logical, and here’s why:

  1.  It’s a known fact that many of the terrorists carry dual nationalities—with a home country (maybe Pakistan, maybe Iran…) and a European country.  If you pay enough, you can do this.  Even Americans can do this;
  2. Many have been traveling on tourists visas—or even  work visas.  They don’t have to be refugees.  They have plenty of money.  Many are highly educated, or have wealthy benefactors;
  3.   They are not bringing wives and children, and don’t have to bother with the slow refugee resettlement process;
  4. They are charming, they are smart, and they see our celebrities , like Miley Cyrus, or Rhianna, prancing around in their underwear, and they don’t  want that to happen to their countries;
  5.   Finally, as Santayana said, “…those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.”  This all goes back to Sykes-Pickot at the end of WWI, which  the British and Allies would not have won were it not for T.E. Lawrence organizing the Arabs, with the promise that if they helped to defeat the Ottoman Empire, the British would help them set up  modern governments.  Instead, the British  did Sykes-Pickot and gave Syria to the French—who wanted the  land, but did not fight for it.  Britain than proceeded to construct Iran, Iraq, and foment more problems in India before partition.  Our own CIA ousted  ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Mosaddegh) from Iran, a democratically elected leader  not on Standard Oil’s payroll, in favor of Shah Reza Pahlavi, a dictator, who, although he  was said to  have ‘modernized’ Iran (Persia), credit should have been given to Mosaddegh.  and the Shah was corrupt and benefited from the oil deal…the country did not;
  6.  We proceeded via  mass media—owned and controlled by old white men who had stock in  war benefiting companies–to convince ourselves we were fighting  communism in Viet Nam (we  actually allied ourselves with  Catholic elites who were opposed to land reform requested by the Buddhist majority), we had Salvador Allende killed in Chile for the benefit of another  dictator and business interests, and in the 1980s, the CIA got inner city youth addicted to crack cocaine to benefit businessmen in Central America.

We never learn. We’re always on the wrong side of history.  There is the cry that  we have to take  care of our own people first. Well, we are doing a piss poor job of it.  Refugee resettlement is a huge industry, particularly in Chicago.  They do a great job of lobbying.  Unfortunately, our homeless veterans don’t do such a great job of lobbying, nor do kids who age out of foster care. Also, because we allow the religious right  to oppose teaching  family planning in schools, we still have a lot of uneducated young mothers  who believe the rumor that they can get  public aid forever—or at least until they get their lives together. Heck—we don’t even teach them enough math or economics before they get pregnant to realize they can’t afford to rent a studio apartment on minimum wage—let alone have kids.

So, we can make the refugees a scapegoat, or we can be rational and start asking  our politicians, who are all over paid and have too many sycophants on their payrolls—what’s up with this?

3 movies: Rosenwald, Our Brand is Crisis, & Trumbo

November 13, 2015

I am reviewing these  three movies together because they are all based on true history  that we might not be exposed to otherwise.

I saw Rosenwald a couple of months ago.  It’s a documentary about Julius Rosenwald, who was an entrepreneur and  owner of Sears, Roebuck.  He was Jewish, and strongly believed in giving back to the community.While most  philanthropists at the time gave to noncontroversial causes, Rosenwald believed in supporting education.  He funded the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (I come from a generation who remembers people calling it the Rosenwald Museum), but he also funded Rosenwald schools, mostly in the southern US, for ‘underserved’  (black) communities.  If a community could find space and the people to build the school, Rosenwald provided the plans and materials.  Many  now  well-known civil rights leaders attended Rosenwald schools.  If you are interested in American history, civil rights, or philanthropy, this is a film worth renting, It is very well  written, edited, and produced.


The 2nd film is Our Brand is Crisis.  It’s a political movie,  produced by George Clooney, and stars Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thorton, and it is based on a documentary (about an election  in Bolivia) of the same name. That combination had me right there.  However, I did not enjoy the movie.  If you want to know how the sausage is made, you  might enjoy it, but all the political consultants are creeps.   It’s a satire, but hardly funny.  They help (with our State Department paying the bill) a discredited  leader make a political comeback.  It looks like a lost cause…and the wrong guy wins.  Sandra Bullock’s character gets a conscious in the end.  It is well written, directed, acted, and produced, but  pretty aggravating.  Mostly because it is true.

The 3rd movie is Trumbo.   It is based on the life of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (who wrote Johnny Got His Gun,  and the screenplays for Roman Holiday and Spartacus).  Very relevant considering Bernie Sanders,  the only democratic socialist in Congress, is running for president.  For those who don’t know (because  hardly anything about that era  is taught in U.S. schools), after World War II—after we were allies with the Soviets against the Nazis, suddenly the mindset  of political leaders shifted to find a Communist threat.    In fact, during  the 1930s  Depression and through the war, many Americans were  Communists.  There was no  civil rights movement at that time, but it was brewing, and a significant number of  Black Americans were  Communist party members.  Significantly, so were many people in Hollywood, where  a congressional committee chose to focus.   Was this because so many in Hollywood were also Jews?  Or  able to  tell stories that would influence  people through entertainment?  In any case, Trumbo was  sent to prison for being in contempt of Congress, and  could no longer get work.  This  film is about how he and many other coped.  It could happen again, but  you  learn from how the story is told about how to get around it.  This is a very well done film.  I encourage  people interested in American history and Hollywood to see it.

Uproar Over immigration

July 25, 2014

Three of my  four grandparents were immigrants.  When they immigrated, there  weren’t so many regulations or controls, If you could get transport into the USA…you were IN.  That’s how it went.  In fact, my father’s grandfather came over before  WWI, looking for work…leaving behind (in Germany) a wife with 6 kids, He said he’d send for her.  I’m not sure how long the interval was, but she ended up coming to the USA with 6 kids, to find her husband, and  later had twins.

Over 20 years ago, I dated an African man who was in the  USA to  get his Ph. D.  His government was paying for it.  He was ABD (all but dissertation).  he told me he was working on it (he was defending single party systems, saying that they had factions, and that was like having a multi-party system in government..), but  some time just before i met him, his country devalued  their currency, and his  scholarship was cut.  He was floundering.  he  wouldn’t prepare to defend his dissertation because  nobody would hear it.  his tuition wasn’t paid, and he didn’t have the money to pay it. He was  really opposed to  taking  short term employment until his African friends made it clear to him he had no choice.

I knew there was a program to repatriate Africans who wished to return to their home countries.  I tried calling the Immigration and Naturalization office in Chicago, and  the line was busy constantly—like the phone was off the hook. After weeks of this, I gave up.

I don’t know how many Americans are aware of this, but around WWII, when many Jewish refugees from Europe were attempting to get into the USA, Congress started tinkering with the rules. There are arbitrary  quotas  for virtually every country:  if you are a political refugee, you get special consideration. Same for economic refugees, people fleeing violence…but also, if you want to come and invest money in the economy here, you can JUMP THE QUEUE.  That’s how many  Europeans manage to  do this. Same with Indians.  This is true  for most countries:  they have rules that state you are investing (so you are not a drain on their economies), and you can get permanent residency status.

Some countries pay lobbyists to lobby our congressmen  on behalf of well  connected individuals.  This is how the bin Ladin  family had so many people living in the USA at the time of 911—and why they were protected by the Bush administration.  This is not hearsay.

 

So this year, 2014,  due to a rumor (when you are illiterate, or don’t have access to news media—or your GOVERNMENT CONTROLS THE NEWS), we’re having an influx of CHILDREN coming from Central America.  Not Mexico—but Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, fleeing violence.

The way this is being reported, it seems as though their parents are sending them…to find relatives and have a better  shot at life.   Unfortunately, this is only  about 10% true.  How do I know?  I have friends who have supported   development in  central American countries for over  40 years.  How many governments  have we meddled in or over thrown?     http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/18/refugee-crisis-border_n_5596125.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000010     How many dictators have we supported so  United Fruit could sell us cheap bananas?  I know…’we’ didn’t know.  We didn’t have a clue.  We don’t read newspapers, and  if we looked at a world map, we could not even find these countries.

You might notice no kids are coming from Nicaragua or Costa Rica.  Their governments are more stable.  That is not to say we  didn’t meddle. It is to say that we meddled more in the other governments and  the result  is that there is no confidence in the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador to  invest in infrastructure or to protect citizens from violence.   Heck, we have the same problems here in many inner city neighborhoods:  the plan  is really to contain violence to  neighborhoods we ‘disinvest’. so the developers can get cheap land and start over.

I am  sort of  shocked by the  many pro-lifers (people who believe in the philosophy of when life begins) who are protesting  the kids.  In most cases, a parent did NOT send them here.  A mother might have kicked the kid out or not been feeding the kid—but the daddy is long gone, In fact, many countries do not let a mother bring a child over a border unless she has permission  from the father—a guy she hasn’t seen since the kid  was conceived.  Remember—many of the mommies are barely literate.  These are also ‘Catholic’ countries.  Even if you could afford  birth control—there is none to be bought.  They all have informal sector economies.  For most of the kids—some as young as  four years old…who followed older kids— they just kept walking.

Interesting…nobody in Mexico  notices.  They were just ignored. Not their problem.  They were heading for us.  We are  protesting that we can’t afford them.  Somebody tell me what we got for the trillions of dollars we spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?  That money could have gone for schools and media infrastructure  in the USA and other places.  But Dick Cheney and Haliburton  knew who  to  impress.

I am not sure what the answer is  since we gambled  our future revenues away on Republican idiocy…with the tacit  approval of the Democrats…but we caused the problem.

So—here’s the REAL problem:  we are running out of clean water. Due to fracking, and pulling water out of aquifers without replacing it, we are in a crisis.  We know the solution is not just to be more conservative, but to quit breeding ourselves!  Yet, how many people in the USA have taken a high school biology or ecology class?  How many of us know  what population crash is?  Yet the media seems to glorify and honor  parents who choose to bear  over a dozen children!   18 kids and counting! What a miracle!  & they home school!  How many of those  future citizens are learning  actual  science?  Biology?  Ecology?   Physics?  That’s where our problem is—- not a bunch of desperate little kids!

Primary Elections: & We’re Going to Tell Others What’s Transparent?

March 28, 2014

Yep.  It is  March 2014, and we’ve had a primary election in Illinois.    That means folks voted on who their parties are floating as candidates for the general election  in November.  We had a  less than 15% voter turnout in my  precinct. That’s right:  of 690 registered voters (that has to be just about every adult in the precinct, which is about a  6 block area), 107 turned out.  I think about  20 voted absentee.  Not really sure. We did get the ‘early voter’ list (hello!  we all had 2 weeks to early vote, every day, 9—7…you could vote anywhere in the city at a time & day convenient  for you), but obviously, lots of people did not vote.

Here’s why:  those  with  the cash and political backing, who got enough signatures to file petitions to be on the ballot didn’t really connect with a lot of voters.  A Republican  running for governor,  Bruce Rauner, is known to be rich.  He talks a good game,and,  has spend thousands of $$$ on TV ads.  Pat Quinn, the  current governor & Democrat, has been a disappointment:  he is not very pro-active, and refuses to address a bloated budget. Our state is in the hole for  around a trillion $$$.  As I’ve stated before,  we  do not have enough Department of Agriculture inspectors, we have a huge make-work project in the  Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity/International  Trade Division (with at least 10 overseas offices duplicating what our federal government does), and  highly paid people  in charge of  overseeing amateur sports.  It’s ridiculous—especially  when we still have the pension fund crisis voted FOR three legislatures ago (meaning money was diverted from the pension funds for public employees—to  poorly thought out programs—& lets ask why  teachers were  never paying  into Social Security—really stupid—especially if your whole career is not spent in 1 school district).

Yep—that’s the mess we have in Illinois—or at least part of it.  Uh, so why do people not vote in primaries?  Aside from having to declare yourself (you have to declare a political party—tho you can declare unaffiliated & vote just in the referendums), lots of people don’t understand that taking a ballot is votingYou don’t have to vote for anyone you don’t know or don’t want.   That sends a message (however—shocking that the  media editors don’t publicize how many people took ballots and  don’t vote the candidates).  I was reprimanded by Democratic poll watchers in the last general election for reminding ballot takers of this fact. They don’t want people  to know that you don’t have to  vote all the races—or any of the races.  In fact, the way the ballot machines are set up, they will tell you you UNDERVOTED and spit out the  ballot—& you have to request an override & acceptance of an ‘undervoted’ ballot.

So much for democracy.

Let me start with  early voting  in nursing homes, however.  Sure, people  confined to nursing homes (& hospitals, actually) should be able to participate and cast their ballots.    But this is not exactly transparent.  What used to happen (as recently as 20 years ago) is that  someone from 1 of the parties would come in as a voter registrar and sign up EVERYBODY to vote  and nursing home administrators would vote all the ballotsWhy?  Often nursing homes have code and care violations (we’re talking Chicago—but I am sure this happens  most places) Our ‘dominant’ party in Chicago is the Democratic party.  Here’s how it works: you vote your residents the  party ticket, and we ignore your violations.

Things have changed a bit.  I am a Project LEAP (Legal Elections in All Precints) trained  judge.  LEAP no longer exists, but at one time they got money to train election judges the stuff  to watch out for that  the Chicago Board of Elections  (CBOE)  did not.  & there are still  problems that come up that  the CBOE  hasn’t trained judges to address.

What went wrong?  You are supposed to get to the nursing home by 8:45 a.m. to start the election at 9—but the board doesn’t send out their employees with supplies until after 8…so they are stuck in rush hour traffic and might not get to the home until 10.  You —nursing home judge—are paid a flat feet for the day…but considering this  has been the problem year after year, you’d think they’d send out the supplies the afternoon before—or starting at 5:00 a.m.?  That’s what they do for the general election. What are we missing?

We have over 100 people in the nursing home I was assigned to who requested absentee ballots. That means some  registrar went in their & got signatures.  Statistically, there is no way he could have gotten  legal signatures for all who applied—as  a huge  per centage are  demented/addled/confused—and were unable to sign their application for ballot.  They  are not blind.  They all ask for assistance. The only reason you can LEGALLY give assistance (and then, it has to either be someone the voter has requested— or a judge from each party) is that they can’t read/write/or speak English, or have a PHYSICAL DISABILITY.  Since when is confusion a physical disability? But those are the choices you are given on the affidavit.  That adds so much paperwork.  I am shocked that the news media  constantly ignores this issue.  So much vote fraud  is in nursing homes. But does the CBOE want to hear from ME, an experienced judge? No.

We experienced judges ask the NURSING HOME ACTIVITIES DIRECTOR (she is in charge of getting voters down to the  voting)  how many people are NON-AMBULATORY (meaning bed ridden). She told me there were 3—and the investigator from the state’s attorney’s office heard her tell me that.  Meanwhile, at this nursing home, we were assigned 10 judges!.  Only 4 had been to training, the rest had no idea what they were doing & just got in the way.

Now,  the Activities Director knows her residence. she knew how many would need assistance, and she  just didn’t arrange to have aids available.  When we have to assist (& remember–most  residents are ‘confused’), we have to read the entire ballot, slowly, to every resident—including all the judges running for office.  This takes  about 10 minutes or so per voter.  You might be able to remind them that taking a ballot is voting, and ask if they want to vote for judges, but  most do want to vote for judges.  Now, most regular, lucid  voters have no idea who the judges are.  As I do court watch, I at least have an inking of who  the judges are. This is how we get bad judges &  other bad  politicians.    Anyways….at about 11:45 a.m., when we should have been ready  to do all paperwork and turn in a report, the  Activities Director tells us that  about 2o envelopes remaining were from NON AMBULATORY RESIDENTS. Remember, I had asked first thing—& she had said 3. When I  confronted her & told her, “You told me there were just 3!”   She just smiled and turned around. These people were on  4 floors.  We had to send 2 teams of judges—and  personnel from the CBOE  and the State’s Attorney up with us.  We  judges each took 2 floors. Thankfully, nobody asked for assistance (keep in mind,  even though we judges explained to each resident how to do this—in front of the CBOE employees and the State’s Attorney investigator), the fact is, most  people  spoiled their ballots by not being able to follow instructions—which the  board will ultimately find out and toss). The CBOE  employee and state’s attorney lawyer agreed with me—that the Activities director screwed things up and added 90 minutes to our day.

Wait—there’s more!  It seems, remarkably, that our  local politicians forget an election is coming up.  I knew in January  that this primary was coming up, and started posting on Facebook and my listservs that judges were needed.  If you were interested in being a judge, contact the Chicago Board of Elections, as you would have to go for training. We had early voting for 2 weeks, but the weekend before the election, March 15 & 15, our alderman & committeeman for the Democratic party started posting on  our neighborhood listserv that there was a need for REPUBLICAN JUDGES. WTF? Why would Democrats be recruiting REPUBLICAN judges—and 2 days before the election?
The response? 
They were needed!  They were needed to be recruited in January and all through February!  If the Republican committee woman needed help, she should have asked.  Insane!  & I asked  about training, and the alderman said  the CBOE was doing training, Interesting—as I took the last training day I was offered.

Now, as I said, I work a precinct with  generally experienced judges. We have to be at the polling place to set up at 5:15 a.m.  They tell you this when you go for training, and it’s in the judges manual–the polls open at 6:a.m.  Yet we had an inexperienced judge who didn’t show up until 7.  She didn’t pay attention in class, nor did she read he manual.

We also had new equipment:  an electronic pollbook. .  Supposedly, every voter in the city had their data entered in—except, I guess, for 3 who came out, who were in our precinct, had voter registration cards, who were on the printed poll sheets, and  were in the printed application for ballot book (which the CBOE told us not to use).  The printer for the  electronic  book malfunctioned several times when we had voters waiting, as  did the  cards to activate voting on computer.   We of course, had to  plug stuff in to extension cords, but  the  main one doesn’t have an indicator light  to show whether it is off or on—and that caused problems.  Now, we were experienced, and the board assigns a student familiar with the equipment, and we got things  working ok without too much  confusion…but I know (from the poll watchers traveling around) that most precincts did not.

Then—at the end of the day, we are  supposed to CONSOLIDATE the  ballots—the printed ones from the  ballot counter with the  data from those who voted on the computer (the computer is  not just supposed to  diminish paperwork—which it does—but  the data is much easier to see and change—-so if you make a mistake when you are voting, you just go back, you don’t have to ask for a new ballot).  I have never been able to consolidate the ballots on the first try,  and sometimes  we can’t transmit, sometimes it is because of being in a basement, sometimes, it’s because we are too close to Lake Michigan (about 500 feet away—there are no transmitting towers), but this time,  while another judge was in the process of transmitting, another judge accidentally  turned off the power strip,and then we got a computer error when we attempted to restart it.

No matter…been there done that…I said we just take what we have to election central and they can  figure it out. We can’t. that meant the ‘form 80’—the  election results for our precinct which could not go to every political party—was  not totally filled out, Oh, well.

Because we had to schlep so much back to  ‘election central’ (we volunteers have to deliver  supplies and results) it turned out we were not the only ones who ‘forgot’ to bring the electronic book/peripherals, etc., and had to go back for it. I asked, “How about putting a day glo stick on this that says THIS GOES BACK?”  Of course, the judges laughed and agreed with me, but the poll watchers & the CBOE  employees laughed and  responded, “BUT IT’S IN THE MANUAL!”

So we don’t really know who  our precinct voted for.  With all the early voters and  people voting by absentee ballot—  including the nursing home voters,  and such a low voter turn out do you think  the snafus were statistically significant? I  hope you remember when George Bush beat Al Gore.

Is Social Security a Ponzi Scheme?

January 24, 2014

Well,  I  guess, if you consider the way the system works is that we take resources from  one group of people to  enrich another group of people, it is. Since most employees pay in, and not all who pay in live long enough to collect, it could be.    Should this be an issue?  It’s not like it’s a secret that it works on actuarial tables.

We are an urban society.  People no longer live on farms where they grow their own food, or with extended families.  We age and get to a point where we can not work.  In an ideal world, we would have all learned to budget and save money for a  future when we could not work.    We all would have made enough money  working at jobs top do so. We would not have had more children than we could support. We would have made enough to save for retirement.    We could have relied on our living expenses not rising—especuially land rents. Most of us have  learned that we should have  at least  six months of living expenses saved up  for an emergency.  Currently, many of our federally elected officials, not necessarily numerate themselves, who also get  pensions (http://www.factcheck.org/2007/12/congressional-pensions/)  have decided that it is more important to give military foreign aid  to foreign dictators, as well has support a bloated military budget (I do not begrudge soldiers, but  their paraphernalia  and ‘research’), than it is  to fund social security and medicare. Also, while they are complaining about the costs of all this–particularly medicare and medicaid, they do nothing to stop waste and fraud.

When  the Social Security system was initiated during the depression of the 1930’s,  urbanization  had started, and  many old people were losing their farms and  familial support networks.  Most people would NOT  save for retirement if not forced, nor could they make informed investment decisions.  We still are reluctant to even inform ourselves about budgeting, planning, and investing, and more reluctant to delay gratification.  I  continue to be shocked by people under  40 smoking cigarettes, and  people who carry a balance on their credit cards and can’t tell you what they bought.

Now, we hear from the media that the system is unsustainable.   A media controlled by old white men!  The issues are  that our population is not growing—we are not a population pyramid in this country, with many young people.  We are a population column.  At least that’s what they try to have us believe!  It’s too expensive to raise  more than  two kids for most couples.  In fact, most of the urban  world, better educated than  rural people, are choosing to  have smaller families.   The idea that the population is not growing to freed into Social Security is not  the problem, however—just an interesting and  goofy way of framing it.

The problem is that not all wages are subject to Social Security taxes.  The system is  never updated with the cost of living and inflation rxcept for pay-outs.   Were all income taxed, including capital gains, we’d be in fantastic shape.  In fact, if we didn’t allow the politicians to spend out tax dollars on military foreign aid, subsidies to  corporations, including farms, and wars—then claim we have a deficit—we’d be in phenomenal shape.  Also, since we are funding the system with inflated dollars, and salaries are more inflated than they were  when the system started,  were the system equitable,  there would be a huge surplus.  The irony is that the blowhards in Congress—who  do not pay into the system  once they are elected—but  get DEFINED PENSIONS, are telling us what to believe.  Chutzpah!

There is  one more issue: the many  dimwits with no skills, no entrepreneurial mindset, who’ve reached  almost old age, or  have spawned dimwit kids, who go on SSI.  Nobody counted on so many people gaming the system.  The fact of the matter is that if we didn’t pay these people to watch TV, drink,  smoke, and live on junk food, they’d be criminals—robbing us, or we wouldn’t be able to walk dow  a city sidewalk for the beggars.  It’s almost that way in my neighborhood now.    That’s why we have a welfare system–to prevent more of them from being  drains and endangering our lives. Some are good at gaming the system, and get physicians to cooperate. The rest become thugs.

Don’t let them get away with calling Social Security an entitlement.  If Congress can manage to  tax the interest your ‘earnings’ on a  savings account that is now  paying interest of .01%, they can manage to  make all wages/income subject to Social Security.

Fixing the Deficit …& Sequesture

May 2, 2013

In the  Sunday Chicago Tribune    on page 28 of the first section, there  was a ‘story’ with the headline, “Feds Shell out $890,.000 in Fees for Empty Accounts at Banks.”  Seems that when the  government issues grants to researchers, they don’t just issue a  a check:  they set up an account, so the government agency giving the grant can monitor how the money is withdrawn and spent…and then they apparently forget about the accounts after the grant period is over…and the banks charge exorbitant fees  to keep the account active.  You would think this would be illegal—but it isn’t.  Our tax dollars at work.

I know, it has to do with computers.  I had a Charles Shwab account that I closed at about the time they issues a  $.07 interest payment.  They have spent more money  sending me statements, but they  have too many people involved  in doing this, so they can’t just delete the account.  At least I recycle the paper.

Now, if you are like me, you probably wonder  what the government is doing issuing grants to citizens. That’s right. Sure,  virtually all are working for nonprofit institutions that have endowments.  The short answer is they are very good lobbyists, and nobody is paying attention to line items in the budgets.  This is why we can’t close the deficit.

The Head Start program was acknowledged to be very effective in getting low income kids ready for school. That got cut, but a bunch of  congressmen  had to wait a few hours for flights, and they managed to put money back into the budget for air traffic controllers—which should have never gotten cut in the first place.  Meanwhile, how effective are all those screeners  at the airports?  The military said it could do without some hardware, but specific congressmen  whined about  jobs being cut in their districts, so they got money back.   for stuff nobody needs! Obama cut  White House  tours for  tourists …and here’s the money— close to $1,000,000…keeping empty accounts open!

In fairness…this has been going on for decades, and you’d think, with all the  people they have on their payrolls,  Just 1 congress man would have a staffer fine combing the budget & saying, “Get rid of this. ”  (my favorite 2 would be the CIA and USAID). The CIA did a great job stopping the Boston bombers after Russia told them to keep an eye on them.

Our congressmen are  not celebrities, they ar elected officials. We pay their salaries. They get excellent benefits (as do their  staffers), including health insurance you can only dream about.

You might want to  copy this blog and email  it to your congressman & senators.  You can easily find out who they are.  Just google “state senators (your state) and  for your  local representative, you can call your local library  or village hall.  Then bookmark their websites.  Granted… at this point, yu can only vote against them…but i am looking forward to the day when we can post  yelp! reviews of their voting records!