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104. Underemphasized Political Facts

5 May

I listen to a lot of political commentators and government leaders. It disturbs me that many important factors are rarely mentioned. Here is a list of very important facts that should affect political judgments:

1. The inheritance tax (a.k.a. death tax) is only for very rich folks and starts at $5.45 million. So when GOP people want to end it, it is done to support millionaires and take money away from us.

2. Tax simplification does not help ordinary folks, as their tax is already simple. It helps rich folks cheat, because there are fewer rules governing their very complex returns. Fewer tax categories are always designed by Republicans to make rates lower for high earners, not you and me.

3. When highly respected conservative George Will says a fellow Republican, Donald Trump, cannot “think and speak clearly”, it is significant.

4. Scientists have found that lack of sleep seriously promotes Alzheimer’s disease. Pres. Trump brags about the little time he devotes to sleeping.

5. Those who believe that Bill Clinton’s affairs tarnish his wife Hillary, should recognize that Trump, the actual candidate, has worse transgressions.

6. In Trump’s recent interactions with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he was the losing negotiator. Trump was forced to reverse his accusation of currency manipulation while China only reinforced previous policies.

7. Our House of Reps. just passed a healthcare bill for which there was little time to read and discuss, and was not evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office. This bill is also not consistent with Trump’s many promises, which proves he has no ideals and just supports rich Republicans and himself.

8. There is a tendency for commentators to look for one cause for each result. The recent Dem. loss by Hillary is one such case. Most likely, is that a combination of 7 or 8 factors (mostly “dirty tricks”) lead to the defeat. Please see my Blog Number 95.

9. Trump would have lost most of his followers if he told them in advance of his cabinet choices of several Wall Street billionaires, and his extreme conflicts with personal business interests. He has not done any divesting.

10. In the last 50 years or so, Republicans have always favored very rich folks over ordinary citizens. This is clear if you go to GOP candidate web-sites and examine their U.S. Budget plans. Current plans are to increase U.S. debt by lowering taxes for the rich, and offset this with reductions in services and programs for the rest of us.

11. FBI Director Comey has excuses for making announcements of Hillary investigations, but the bottom line is that he violated Justice Dept. rules. Almost all FBI investigations are secret and not announced until the final result. Investigations of Republicans were secret.

12. Republicans want to decrease regulations because that helps their rich industrial donors and Wall Street.  But most regulations are designed to protect the citizens from air and water pollution, hazards in the workplace and elsewhere, and taxpayer bail outs for bankrupt financial institutions.  Regulations are based on actual abuses and now are being eliminated in a secretive way.  There are supposed to be hearings on such matters.

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.

99. Change Yes, Trump No

4 Mar

I think our country needs some radical changes to preserve it, and make it exemplary again. Forget Trump’s “great  again”, let’s make it admirable, honorable, and respectable. This blog is “BasicCauses” and I want to look at some of the fundamentals of our system.

I am going to make some major criticisms so I want to make it clear in advance, that I am happy to be an American, vote every election, served in the U.S. Army, and enjoy free enterprise, having created two successful businesses. I generally support the fundamental features of our current governmental system, but believe we need some significant basic changes. The arrival of Donald Trump as our country’s leader, emphasizes the need for  re-thinking.   Please consider the following:

1. The Primary Process and Voting does not yield the best leaders. This is hard to fix, and probably the best solution, better education, may not be effective for a long time. Many poorly educated voters do not have the reasoning and research skills to make the best judgments. Long held and obsolete beliefs are barriers to better choices.

2. Congress is organized so as to promote gridlock. Our current system has too many barriers to completing legislation. There are many different changes that could speed up law making. One thought that I have had is to have one large legislative body and require 52% of votes to pass a bill. Filibustering would not be allowed, but short speeches from many would be allowed.  The quality of legislation could be improved by adding to this body,  various specialists such as University representatives. A major reorganization will not occur in my lifetime, but starting to think about it is important and I may discuss it more in future blogs.

3. The “fourth branch of government”, the press, is being oppressed. It appears now that we need to pass laws or find other means of protecting the press and allowing them to criticize without recrimination. Also, the citizens should clearly support freedom of the press.

4. Rich donors should not have powerful control of our government. I suggest a maximum donation of $100 for all citizens and no donations allowed from corporations or other organizations. Let’s abolish the super pacs and have a true democracy.

5. Our middle-class is not benefiting enough from our nation’s success. We need to abolish tax-loopholes and increase rates for the very rich.  Many wealthy corporations and individuals pay no tax at all because of loopholes.  Even the Pope has criticized “trickle-down” approaches, which rarely work, but are advocated by the GOP.  (“Trickle-down” means: give lots of money to wealthy businesses and simply hope that some will trickle-down to the rest of us.)

6. Congress should not police and regulate itself. An independent body should do this. (The same goes for all Healthcare organizations and many other service areas.) Unfortunately, with today’s polarization, it is not easy to find truly independent persons.

7. A potential problem is “privatizing.” This means moving a function run by the government, to a private, for profit company. A consequence is that some rich person (and staff) will make huge amounts of money and emphasize profits over proper services. In most cases, the benefits of competition do not make up for all the money lost to over-paid executives. For example, privatizing prisons was a failure and was abolished. Politicians sometimes threaten Social Security and Medicare with privatization, which would decrease benefits.  I have said more about this in previous blogs.

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.

85. We Need Change ?

17 Jan

Trump is the man who will make “change” and deliver us from big, bad government. He is not a politician, he needs no donors, ignore what he says because there is goodness in his heart, he is smarter than the generals (and just about everyone else), all past negotiations are pathetic, and he will rid us of ISIS in a month. He is never wrong and will make you suffer for any criticism. He almost never addresses the criticism itself, but instead attacks the person who made it (even the Pope).

He paints a picture of a failing nation with incompetent leaders and government workers, rampant crime, poor negotiation, widespread poverty, etc. — “things could not be worse.” Black people have not made any progress — an insult to the millions that are doing well and have even achieved the presidency. His motto is “make American great again” without any explanation of when, how, and the meaning of “great.”

.                 False, rigid beliefs interfere with common sense

The Trump movement shows how many people are prisoners of their false and rigid beliefs, and cannot see the obvious and exercise common sense. Sad to say, there are many who voted for Trump just as a protest or just to do something based on frustration. Those persons may be responsible for a new direction leading to our country’s decline. Impulsive superficial voting may be the end of our world leadership and all of the good things developed to date. Trump will make change, but change for the better is unlikely. Here are some possible changes that have been mentioned at least once (but may have been retracted and/or restored at some time):

1. Changed healthcare legislation will cause millions to lose their insurance and many will die.

2. NATO is obsolete. Our long-standing, beneficial, and powerful pact with many nations is under threat.

3. Instead of sanctioning Russia, we will support their authoritarianism, attacks on the press, and take- over of countries like Ukraine. We will ignore their meddling in our elections and their efforts to undermine many nations.

4. We will pull out of the multi-nation “Iran Nuclear Deal”, allowing Iran to go back to making the bombs and delivery systems — prevented by the Deal. We will also pull out of climate-change treaties, which could prevent massive flooding (Florida, NY, etc) and catastrophic human migrations due to massive droughts.

5. Taxes for the very wealthy will be lowered by decreasing the tax rate and by allowing more loopholes. The rich will celebrate while the rest of us will either pay more tax or have reduced benefits — and/or our national debt will surge.

6. We will change trade policies and tariffs so that trade-wars will arise and prices for goods, everywhere, will increase. The chaos will affect our valuable relationships with long-standing allies.

7. Pres. Obama has at times been criticized for inaction, but Trump may impulsively engage us in wars, costing lives and greater national debt.

8. He may generate more terrorists by his abuse of Muslims, various other insults, and dangerous policies.

9. Our valuable press, which is required to keep our democracy honest, may be thrown out of the White House and attacked so viciously that it is ineffective. If Trump’s ideas are so laudable and clearly beneficial, why all the press criticism?

10. Is anyone suspicious of the fact that Trump’s cabinet is filled with extremely rich people and/or persons with questionable histories.

11. Trump would restore vicious torture and wants to keep Guantanamo prison. He also admires the strength of tyrants around the world. Are we setting a good example (under Trump) for the rest of the world? Traditionally the USA has been known for its might, and also its moral authority. Is Trump leading us in the right direction?

After Trump is in office for a while, the appreciation for the positive change that Pres. Obama caused will grow even more.  And the candidate, Hilary Clinton, that Obama so enthusiastically endorsed and was attacked so unmercifully by the GOP will be much more appreciated.  Ironically, she won the national vote count by almost three million.

Just added: I have been working on this blog for several days and at times almost scrapped it, because it may have been too negative. But after hearing Trump’s unnecessary and incorrect abuse of the civil-rights hero and self-sacrificing activist, Congressman John Lewis … well, here it is.

77. Reflections Post-Elections

10 Nov
I am mostly concerned here with reasons for the Democrat losses.
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There is a tendency to blame the president for everything that happens to the country. Hillary was viewed by many as an extension of Pres. Obama, who was wrongly blamed for a lack of progress, even though it was mostly GOP obstructionism that was at fault.
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It is hard to prove, but the Democrat loss could be the result of FBI Director Comey pronouncements at critical times.  The first problem was his assessment of Hillary as “extremely careless.”  He has no baseline for comparison.  Maybe if other leaders were examined in detail, they would have been worse.  The next problem was his announcement of additional email investigation, 11 days before the election — violating agency rules.  The election was very close, and without Comey’s electioneering Hillary might have won.  Comey and many FBI officials are Republicans.  It is well established that there were FBI-agent leaks and excessive investigative actions.
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I really like Hillary, but I felt from the beginning that she was not the best choice in the primaries.  Hillary is a popular person, has a good organization, and would make a good president, but subjectively, does not fit the picture that most people have of a powerful leader.  The primary process does not always work in the best way, and we need to figure out how to improve it.
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It is not her fault, but an old woman is going to appear weak compared to an old man.  Leaders just have to look strong.  Her husband once said that it is better to be strong than right.  I really think she could have done better, 20 years younger.
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Another factor is that Hillary is a good speaker, but not a great one like her husband and Pres. Obama.  Her answers about emails and other issues were OK but could have been  better.
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Hillary may have spent too much time criticizing Trump and not enough time detailing her plans for America.  She could have presented charts comparing herself with Trump on major points.
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Republicans were very clever in repeating investigations and negative characterizations almost continuously for the entire time of her presidential candidacy.  If a large group of people keep saying that you are bad, even if not true, it can have an effect.
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Many people have rigid beliefs that interfere with good judgment.  They often start with a simple belief that Republicans are good and Democrats are bad.  Then if you want change, you are stuck with Trump as the only Republican that really promotes new ways.
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The press, in their efforts to make money, tend to cover exciting people like Trump, more that reliable people like Hillary.  There also seemed to be a fear factor: reporters often avoided asking Trump the really important questions and instead focused on insults and revenge.  Really challenging Trump could banish you from certain types of coverage, and/or you could suffer other effects of infamous vengeance.
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It is sad to say, most people everywhere, here and abroad, do not have the ability to tell truth from fiction, do not really research candidates, and rely on biased sources of info, such as Fox News.  Only a small percentage of the population has the ability to process election facts and info, and to draw the best conclusions.
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I am not going to add much on problems going forward with Trump’s leadership.  But one thing really stands out in my mind, and that is the re-writing of history.  If Trump or his administration makes a mistake, he will simply deny or change the facts to make it look like someone else’s fault (judging from past strategies).  Or he will intimidate agencies to alter their data and/or analyses.  This could keep him and destructive governmental leaders  in power indefinitely.  Rich donors and leaders (our USA royalty class) are firmly entrenched in our society, now, and probably well into the future.

64. Profit by Creating Fears

31 Jul

Sub-title: Trump and Davidson, similar despicable methods.

For a year or so, many political leaders in both parties have recognized that Trump is fear-mongering voters as a method to get elected — and judging from past behavior, also to make copious profits. Personal profit has always been his goal and why should we believe otherwise now. Often his plan is to distort facts (like our military is a disaster) and then to say that he alone can solve this (made-up) problem. (Hillary, on the other hand, has a long history of helping people.)  Please see my previous blogs for more details on these issues.

I just listened to a video clip by James Dale Davidson about a future financial disaster for the USA. For many boring minutes with lots of repetition he described a stock market crash, massive unemployment, food lines, devalued houses, worthless U.S. dollars, hurricane destruction, etc. The whole world will be against us and will get revenge for our long control of global trade. Along the way, Davidson promised to tell how each of us can be protected by reading his publications free of charge. As the clip progressed it became more and more clear that he would finish by trying to sell profitable literature. In the end, little was free, and his advice would cost hundreds of dollars.

Davidson should have learned his lesson many years ago. In 1993 he co-authored a book The Plague of the Black Debt where he made some dire predictions about President Bill Clinton (will have one term) and the U.S. economy, all of which were dead wrong.  Our future U.S. economy will go through cycles of success and failure, but we don’t need self-fulfilling doomsday prophecies.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg (former NY mayor) called Trump a CON man and I am sure it would be the same for Davidson — fear-mongering for profit. I am writing this blog because I was struck by the similarity in manipulation.

For those who do not know how Trump will profit, here are examples:

1. His written proposed U.S. budget involves a substantial decrease in taxes for very rich people. But even worse, it will massively increase our national debt with very profound consequences for all of us.

2. He has stated that workers are paid too much and he will not increase minimum wage.  So, Trump can pay less in wages.

3. After leaving office, he can profit from books (he pretends to write) and by speaking fees.
Trump if nothing else, is an expert in profiting from the losses of others, so I imagine secret deals while in office will make him (and family) richer.  Of course, profit is probably not his only goal, I assume that power and ego are also of interest.

I have to add a comment on a recent Trump blunder (see my previous blogs for a detailed critique of his candidacy). He insulted the Muslim father of a fallen soldier. The father stated that Trump has never sacrificed for our country. Trump answered that his sacrifice was “working very, very, hard” and making lots of money. Actually, if he had worked very hard (like most of us) and earned little money I could be sympathetic. But what does Trump know about hard work. He started off with $1,000,000 and his employees did all the hard work. After his early business failures, he cleverly figured out how to greatly profit from such failures. He would obtain a large loan based on family wealth, make false promises, let the business fail with lots of lay-offs, and make money by paying himself a good salary, and by not fully paying employees and vendors. Evidence for this is hundreds of law-suits.