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101. Worldwide Chaos?

26 Apr

Is there “worldwide chaos” or is it normal to have a certain amount of danger, struggle and warfare. I feel that recently, chaos has taken a step upward,
and there is more to be concerned with now — particularly in the USA — than in the last several years.

Here is a list of factors that currently are particularly disturbing:
1. Endless war in Syria and the resulting massive migrations.
2. Our current leader, Trump, is unprepared for high office, and lacks “ideals.”
3. Brexit: Britain leaving the European Union.
4. Russian attack of Ukraine.
5. Israel and Palestinian endless conflict.
6. Worldwide terrorism, including the dangers of ISIS, Taliban, others.
7. Failure of many leaders to recognize climate-change danger.
8. In some countries there is assassination of reporters and dissidents.
9. Greedy leaders scam the citizens, promoting personal wealth for a few.
10. Significant interference in USA elections by a foreign power (Russia).
11. Christianity and Islam sometimes are compatible, but often clash.

The search for chaos “causes” can take many forms, and for most important events, there are many factors that can be causal. There are many places to start the search. I believe a good point is the industrial revolution, usually dated from about 1760 to 1830.

As governments and technology developed, there was a parallel evolution of greed and corruption. The basic principle is that in any society or nation, a few aggressive and intelligent citizens will become leaders. As they improve their political skills, they learn how to communicate with citizens to achieve power, and to make use of rich donors. Congressmen are “bribed to help the wealthy with tax breaks and loopholes, and subsidies, creating a financial cycle: rich donors support desirable legislation and in turn, get even richer.

Once in office for a few years, they also can become adept at increasing their personal wealth. It is a matter of “learning” and of the eventual irresistible temptation to become richer. Those in office gradually separate from the people and form what could be called a “royalty” class. In many cases, a leader that starts out with good intentions will eventually fall into corruption.

The end result of this process of corruption is often violent or non-violent revolution. Excessive greed at the top will produce more poverty and more poor people. This has taken place for centuries, but recent improvement in communication, like the Internet, focused on this oppression, and helped with the organization of protest. One result was the “Arab Spring”, which began in Tunisia around 2010. Revolutions in Egypt and several other countries followed. Syria was the worst case, resulting in a disastrous deadlock between rebels and its President.

So a basic cause for much of the current world crisis is the rise of a greedy “Royalty Class” in many countries (even in the USA). The Syrian disaster became a basic cause to many other international problems. War in Syria resulted in a massive migration to other countries. This refugee problem I see as the major cause of BREXIT, the rise of Pres. Trump, and perhaps the rise of ISIS and other terrorist activity. In the US, the fear of refugees was recognized by Donald Trump, and promoted by him.

Here is a summary of some major (not all) causal links:

The rise of technology was accompanied by gradual governmental corruption.
Greedy and corrupt leaders exploit the citizens and increase poverty.
Citizens, helped mostly by the Internet, discover the corruption.
They are able to organize and revolt in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, etc.
The revolution in Syria caused massive migration and associated fears.
Migration fears caused Brexit, the rise of Trump, terrorism, ISIS?, etc.

Final thought. I have condensed what could be a whole book, into a brief blog.
My purpose here, is to promote thought and analysis. As ordinary citizens better understand the world, it can become a better place.

100. Basic Causes of Greatest Concern

10 Mar

In my 100 blogs to date, I have tried to cover important governmental, social, medical, and related issues, that profoundly affect our way of life. In this, my 100th blog, I will list some of our most significant current issues, and maybe some possible solutions. I know that my blogs are sometimes imperfect and not very original, but my purpose is to increase the number of voices urging important changes and understanding. So here is a list of ideas to emphasize:

Our American founding fathers when creating the Constitution and other rules, were afraid of the kind of populism that we see today. So they tried to move important decisions away from the ordinary citizens and towards more responsible and intelligent leaders. Here are two examples supporting this lack of trust:
1. The establishment of an electoral college, to prevent direct citizen voting.
2. Until 1913, senators were elected by state legislatures, and not the people.
The founding fathers were afraid that ordinary people could be scammed by unscrupulous politicians. They anticipated someone like our current President.

Societies that over emphasize capitalism and the importance of financial success, foster corruption so that clever manipulators accumulate vast wealth, much of which belongs to the people. It is apparent that anyone (or party) in office for a long time will drift away from the people’s needs and develop methods for increasing their wealth. These methods include donating to Congressmen who will legislate tax loopholes and unfair subsidies.

An age requirement for U.S. President is not enough. Tax returns must be required and other financial and business details provided. It is too easy for very rich people, once in office, to make decisions best for their businesses and not for the country. A notable example is the transport minister for Azerbaijan, formerly a part of the Soviet Union. His covert construction contracting, participation in money laundering schemes, and wide-ranging contacts made him extremely rich at the expense of the citizens.

Corruption and unjustified accumulation of wealth, is not limited to politicians. Almost every vital service needed by the people, such as healthcare, education, and insurance, has cheated the citizens and made administrators (and others) hugely wealthy. Many of these rich people donate to Congress and through resulting legislation, make themselves even richer. Donations to congressmen has shifted vast amounts of money away from ordinary citizens, to undeserving administrators (making many millions of dollars). For example, median total compensation for ceos of major teaching non-profit hospitals is 1.35 million. Many make much more. Is it right that many millions of dollars are given to hospital administrators while poor people are being rejected (even die) for lack of insurance? Important services should be provided by the government at little or no cost. I feel that administrators and certain others should be allowed to become somewhat rich, but not extremely so.

Clarification: All “Western” or developed countries are a combination of capitalism with some socialistic features. Pure capitalism allows the unlimited accumulation of wealth with no financial protections for the citizens. Pure socialism is an economy totally controlled and owned by the state. In the USA (and many other major countries) capitalism is primary, and there are “social programs” in areas such as healthcare, education, and supporting the poor. Shifting some funds from the very rich to the very poor through taxation changes and programs like Medicaid is not “socialism,” it is simply the addition of a “social program.”

Last but not least, is the unethical and self-serving practices of many doctors, dentists, and other healthcare practitioners. Diagnoses and treatments are often are more determined by cash-flow than by what is most beneficial for the patient. Here are some examples. In the area of severe back-pain, diagnosis is usually a defect in the spine, and the possibility of simple excessive muscle strain and tension is ignored. Procedures for spinal defects are very expensive whereas procedures for muscle tension simply involve (at no cost) frequent muscle stretching. Here is an example from dentistry. Several years ago, my teeth would develop a dark blue hue, which could be removed by a professional teeth cleaning. Two dentists I went to urged me to double my teeth cleaning sessions, and spent little effort in trying to determine the cause. Fortunately, I was able to figure this out myself, and saved a lot of expense. The blue colored mouthwash I was using, dyed the teeth, and there was even a warning on the label. I could provide a lot of other personal examples, and many are described in previous blogs. An excellent book on this subject is “Confessions of a Medical Heretic”, 1979, by Robert Mendelsohn, MD. This is an old book, but still very applicable to many current physicians (but definitely not all).

Is there a quick fix for all of the forementioned issues? No, but major efforts to improve education could be transformative. Knowledge is important, but developing an ability to reason and research is even more relevant. Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that our current administration would fear a well-informed electorate.

89. Some Tweet-like World Observations

2 Feb

1. Privatizing means creating a system that has a private owner as opposed to a government-run institution. Examples are schools and prisons. The latter has been tried but is now diminishing. In privately run systems a concern for profit can cause neglect in providing required services. Often, civic-minded people working as a public governmental body can be more effective, and with less expenditure. There is a fixed budget so that workers can focus on quality work.  Some would argue that privatizing creates beneficial competition, but in fact there is little competition in areas where privatizing is being promoted.

2. Do we need insurance companies that develop extreme wealth for their executives, paid for by you and me, while benefits are diminished. Why should our world be configured so that a few can become very rich at the expense of the rest of us? Our more advanced civilization has been around for 150 years or so. In that time, the “royalty class” has become entrenched in our system — robbing many ordinary people of their means of survival. I am not against the concept that hard-work and intelligence should be financially rewarded, it is the extremes and abuses that concern me.extreme we Being rich is OK, wealth is not. I also want to make clear that I owned two businesses and believe in our form of regulated capitalism.

3. The arrival of Trump marks the creation of a new entity resulting from social/business evolution. The new creation is what I shall call the extended governing family unit. The Trump version consists of himself, his offspring and their spouses; each having a specialized function. But to clarify, effective and powerful family units are not really “new”, but a unit this large, with necessary distributed functionality, has never before been our “president.” My next blog (no. 90) will explain this further.

4. Diagnosis of all types should be separate from treatment. The fees for various treatments can be very different, and the Dx could be biased towards better income. For example, the exact diagnosis for a cancer could lead to expensive and profitable surgery or a much less expensive radiation or drug treatment.  Dentists have tough decisions in deciding what is actually a cavity that require a filling.  Any healthcare, other service, or repair company can be jaded by this factor. How to fix this is a real dilemma.

5. Our U.S. government may be doomed to failure, because of powerful relationships between very rich folks (donors) and governmental leaders. The best cure would be a great improvement in education so that we can break the donor influence. Remember that our current leaders arose to power under this system and, as you would expect, want to preserve it. Many of those at the top have little interest in teaching logic, reasoning, and correct history to our students and potential voters. We are caught in a powerful loop and will need to be coordinated and industrious to have a chance of breaking it. The current massive demonstrations in many cities is on the right track and encouraging.

6. Ironically, a thousand years from now, the invention of email may be identified by witty history professors, as the cause of the downfall of our Earth civilization. Take away email, and there would have been much less abuse of Hillary Clinton, and she could have been elected. If that had happened, a strong NATO, great international relations, better climate change efforts, fair treatment of the middle-class, control of nuclear weapons, careful communications, and other factors could have saved the world from numerous disasters.  Trump has already alienated some of our closest allies.

7. Governmental officials generally set their own salaries and rules of operation. They are only people, after all, so how can we expect them to be fair. It seems that most people in power long enough will eventually become corrupted (at least somewhat). We need a better system, but change is difficult. The press should help us, but are often limited by some very real vulnerabilities. A tough leader with violent supporters can be an awesome force that discourages needed criticism and modification.

8. I suspect that most of Trump’s early supporters voted for him for various reasons, including: his power, likability (for many), promises of jobs, identification of scapegoats, prejudices, anti-terrorism statements, etc.  What probably was overlooked, was a good estimation of what he would actually DO and SAY after taking office.  Many of us had hoped that he would change after a couple of weeks as POTUS, but he has not.

88. Ask Trump: Which Regulations?

31 Jan

Donald Trump has said it is urgent to abolish as many federal government regulations as possible (subject to certain limitations). This may sound OK to ordinary citizens, but if you study the details, you will quickly see why Trump is not more specific. The one specific law that he would terminate is the “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act”. He never uses the full name, because this act provides Wall Street reform and consumer (you and me) protection. Abolishing the act takes away our protections and allows banks and investment houses leeway to make more profits at our expense. When major banks and other corporations failed in 2008, you and me (the taxpayers) spent our money in saving them. And, to add insult to injury, many of the offending executives got bonuses that year. So it is the old story, rich Mr. Trump is recklessly increasing profits for his wealthy friends, and you and I will, in some way, pay for it; just like we will have to pay for his “Mexican Wall”.

The reason why all this is possible, is that corporations protect individuals from losses due to reckless actions. A corporation can go bankrupt and take the blame, while the executives escape unharmed. And, rich donors lobby congressmen to provide laws that help them financially. Note that Hillary Clinton supported this protective act.

We can only speculate as to what other regulations Trump wants to remove. He has created a rule that is absurd and harmful: that for every new regulation, two must be abolished. Good government is not a game where you ignore the consequences of what you do — it is serious business that affects people’s lives. Historically, thousands (even millions) have died for improper regulation of pesticides (like DDT), improper testing of drugs (like Thalidomide that harmed babies) and various kinds of pollution and toxins (like lead in the water).

Regulations also protect us from financial trickery designed to increase profits for corporate executives. Currently, when you get a mortgage, other type of loan, credit card, annuity, etc., you can be reasonably certain that you are safe. If the regulation of financial transactions is abolished you might have to hire a lawyer to deal with these, or risk major losses. Our world has become more and more complicated and the citizens will need more protections, not less.

Trump and most Republicans would argue that abolishing regulations, lowering taxes for corporations and wealthy people, etc., will improve our economy and the positive results will “trickle down” and help us ordinary citizens.  Why is it that every such plan starts with making rich people richer, and the middle class can only hope for some trickle down. Don’t be fooled. For many years the royalty class has prospered, but the promised middle-class benefits have not been received.

82. Result of Abysmal Trend: Trump

28 Dec

Does the election of Donald Trump represent a continuing trend towards a crude, simplistic, and tyrannical U.S. government? After observing Trump post-election, I see a dismal continuation of all his bad habits, talk, and actions. How did a person like Donald Trump achieve his success? Not a total success, of course, because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million.

If you study global and USA political trends, there is a common dangerous pattern for many nations. Very rich people become skilled at manipulation of government and corrupt the system to make themselves more powerful and even richer. There is a flagrant disregard for ordinary citizens except for callous brainwashing and meaningless promises of: compassion, America greater, trickle-down benefits, etc. This trend also has a crude factor which emphasizes simple and often violent solutions to complex problems that should be solved by careful planning and negotiation. Examples of this crude approach is: “bomb the hell out of  ISIS”,  “ban all Muslims from the U.S.”, and torture presumed terrorists.”                                                                                                                               .
Although some Democratic leaders are imperfect, it is the Republicans that have led the growth of the billionaire conspiracy. In my previous blog, “Dirty Tricks win Election (blog 80)”, I have discussed some recent examples of this conspiracy, which includes election interference by a Republican FBI director, Russian hacking of DNC email , and suppression of voting by minorities.

I have thought a lot about how and when this trend started. I could note that after the election of Ronald Reagan (1980), there was a significant rise in income for the top one-percent, while after 1970, income for the bottom 90% remained essentially constant. So 1980 could be considered the beginning of our abysmal trend. But if you study history, you can see similar trends going way back to ancient days. I should also note, that some countries, such as those in Scandinavia, have done better in this respect, and they should be used as an example.

Here are some key events that have contributed to this erosion, distortion and inequality of the USA democratic system:

Large corporations, like railroad companies formed unfair mergers that led to anti-trust laws in 1890 and 1914. Rich businessmen often team up covertly to raise prices, increasing their wealth and taking money from the middle class.

Reduction of bank regulations like the Glass-Steagall Act (1933) led to major financial failures.  We also need more laws like the Dodd-Frank Act (2010) and better enforcement.

After the election of Pres. Obama in 2008, major Republican leaders, in a meeting, pledged to destroy his presidency, by ignoring everything he proposed or supported, including legislation and judicial appointments. Never in U.S. history has the obstruction of legislation been so blatant. In spite of this, he did a remarkably great job.

                GOP unpatriotically pledged to destroy Obama presidency

Formation of the Tea-Party branch of Republican Party in 2009 was a major negative influence. This was an angry group that supported rich leaders and worked against the middle class. In efforts to reduce federal spending, they caused serious problems, such as holding up important budgetary legislation, which resulted in a disastrous lowering of the USA credit rating and higher USA-debt interest rates that affects us all.

In 2010 there were two court cases brought by Republicans that allowed almost unlimited contributions to political candidates. These rules let the very rich dominate our election system and were implemented with “super PACs”. Previously, there were severe limitations, like a $2500 maximum donation for individuals and no corporate donations. The best known case was brought by “Citizens United”, and another by Speechnow.org.

The end effect of all these events was the election of Trump. He won with various “dirty-tricks” (see above) and a campaign based on lies, re-writing history, impossible proposals, and a policy of lowering taxes for very rich people. He ran on the principle that he could not be influenced by rich donors, but, ironically, much of his current cabinet is composed of extremely wealthy businessmen. Some will be directors for agencies that they had vowed to eliminate when running for office.

The success of Trump was based on a faulty fundamental “belief”, that only Republicans should be considered for office, and that a non-politician must be selected for president. Only Trump matched these considerations. People were correct in feeling that Congress was grid-locked, but failed to realize that it was the GOP that blocked progress. Search the record and you will see that Republican leaders blocked many court nominations (including Supreme Court) and blocked almost every bill proposed by Pres. Obama, even if it was based on GOP ideas.

The corrosive trend that I have discussed will be difficult to defeat. We can try to promote more general and political education. States can develop beneficial laws, such as raising minimum wage, that the Federal government will not consider. In general, we must all work harder to explain our ideas, to educate, and to support better approaches. And in the future, we must try to get the most charismatic, scandal-free, and articulate people to be candidates.

53. Global Dysfunction

3 Apr

To understand the major world problems, we must first separate two important levels of analysis:
Level-1: Morality and ethics (in a practical sense, MOST important).
Level-2: Understanding the way things work, apart from value judgments (also necessary).

In our everyday world and when we vote, we must observe Level-1, Morality. When we try to understand “basic causes”, we need to use bodies of objective knowledge like history, anthropology, and science. And the method must be unbiased reasoning.

The major “basic cause” for global dysfunction (wars, corruption, poverty, etc.) is a natural process of evolution. There are other causes, but I consider the following to be most important. Evolution is a Level-2 consideration and is independent of values and morals. It would be nice if nature included morality in evolution, but it does not. Governments, political parties, corporations and various social groups have a tendency to become more powerful and rich, as a natural process — OR — they simply fade away (like unsuccessful extinct species). Success often involves subtle or hidden corruption, because evolution is morally neutral.

Let’s start with an important example. I believe that the wars in the Middle East are a result of corrupt government evolution. Government leaders, if left alone, will tend to become more powerful and rich. As governments become richer, obviously, the people will lose out and poverty will grow. Any country with a large population of poor people is unstable and is subject to violent correction: revolution. Why is this happening now? Because technology has promoted communication and people are better able to see the corruption and unfairness of their governments. They also see other countries where the people are living better than they are. Rising corruption and improved communication reach a bursting point and violence ensues.

UNREGULATED INSTITUTIONS TEND TOWARDS CORRUPTION

Here are some other examples of natural, but corrupt evolution, more close to home. Banks tend to become larger and richer through mergers and questionable competition. As they develop greater size, they can better influence government bank-regulations to promote their profits.

Insurance companies evolve so that if unregulated, premiums rise and benefits diminish. Some politicians assert that we should not let government come between our doctors and us — but are perfectly happy to let profit-hungry insurance companies do just that. The assertion that competition among insurance companies will correct their corruption is not supported by history.

Educational institutions like universities, also evolve to create impossible high costs for education. The solution for this problem is complex and perhaps we need a total revision of the system. One of my thoughts on this matter is have three or four year public (tuition free) colleges where the learning functions are the total focus, and research, sport, and social functions are mostly eliminated. This will be detailed in my next blog.

Manufacturing corporations become gigantic and control Congress through campaign contributions. Enron Corp. a great example of the corruption of corporations that are not properly regulated. Many people in corporations are good and responsible, but it’s often the case that the most clever and greedy people rise to the top and cause horrible problems.

WHAT IS THE SOLUTION ?
Generally, more education is helpful. More people speaking out about injustice, lies, and corruption is helpful. Changes to campaign financing are essential because political contributions have a choke hold on our officials. But this is difficult because our current congressmen are a product of this system. It will take a major (non-violent) revolution to break this harmful cycle so that the greatness of America can be restored (yes, a poke at a common political sound-bite). The press could play a bigger role in identifying lies and corruption, but reporters and publishers seem somewhat controlled by fear.

The founding fathers, President Dwight Eisenhower and other great leaders have recognized these problems, but the leaders that profit from corruption are already so rich and influential that change is difficult. Some presidential candidates are obsessed with following the original constitution but disregard the fact that checks-and-balances were included to fight this very evolutionary pitfall, which is a problem as old as the rise of civilization. Final thought: It’s really more complicated than I have presented above, but I think these ideas emphasize an analysis commonly overlooked, and contribute to the ultimate solutions.

43. GOP Tax Nonsense

14 Feb

Republican candidates of 2016 have promoted three main ideas for income tax rule improvement:

1. A lowered tax rate for all, but continuing the current general system.
2. Simplification of income tax code.
3. A single “flat” income tax for all.

Where details on plans have been supplied there are some variations within each plan.  All three ideas are seriously flawed and all three provide great benefits for the wealthy, which is why Republicans propose them. And they provide great benefits to their rich campaign contributors.

1. Any lowered tax rate for very rich people will result in either higher taxes for the non-rich or reduced services for them. Its always a see-saw: reducing one causes increase for the other. People at the lower end of the pay-scale pay little or no taxes at all, and so do not benefit. But lowering general tax rates always makes the rich richer.

2. Republicans always love a really simple tax code because they would avoid all of the rules that prevent them from abusing the system. Ordinary workers with salaries already have a simple code and can finish their returns in a couple of hours; or can pay someone a few bucks to do it for them. On the other hand, rich people usually have complex incomes, expenses, deductions, stock trades, salaries they pay, business entertainment, IRA’s, bonuses, subsidies, etc. Rich people like fewer rules because rules limit what they can get away with. It is similar to their dislike of regulations. The more flexibility they have in preparing their taxes, the easier it is to game (cheat) the system. It takes a lot of code to cover all the possibilities. For example, there are many ways to describe what constitutes a valid “business meal expense”. Buy one of those cheap, tax code summaries and you will see all of the situations that need to be covered. I personally ran two small businesses so I understand why the tax code complexity is needed.

3. Most Republican candidates have advocated a single “flat” income tax with a rate of 10 to 15 percent for all. With that plan, rich people greatly benefit: a reduction of the 35% rate to say, 15 percent. Poor people who can barely survive on what the earn, would pay more than their current zero payment. One Republican candidate said: that’s OK because everyone should have some skin in the game — and this candidate is an avowed Christian.

Finally, why is it wrong to make the wealthy wealthier, and the poor poorer? The main reason is that over the last few decades, as the rich profited, they were more and more able to “bribe” congressmen with contributions, so that they would create tax and subsidy laws to make the wealthy even richer. Another reason is that when extremely rich banks and insurance companies failed, the ordinary tax payers had to bail them out. It is also true that most very rich people use a lot of resources such as extra policing, government services, military protection, etc. And they have accountants and lawyers to help them make even more money. Its Ok to be rich, but when some people are homeless and/or starving, the extremely rich need to give some back.