Friday, December 22, 2017

Announcing my new PRAGMATIC AMERICAN PARTY

Announcing my new
 PRAGMATIC AMERICAN PARTY

Polls show that somewhere between 130% and 150% of all Americans are fed up with our current Democratic and Republican Parties.  They are corrupt, hopelessly broken, and not worth the bullet(s) it would take to put them both down.  Therefore I am today unveiling my new political party, the PRAGMATIC AMERICAN PARTY.  

Our party symbol will be Winston Churchill holding his bulldog.  Never mind that he wasn't American.  I like him. He was a tough, no BS kinda guy.  Get over it.  Here are some of our parties inviolable principles:

Term limits:  President, two four-year terms; Senators, one six-year term; Representatives, three two-year terms.  You must have worked the previous 10 years in the private sector in order to be eligible to run.  If you are caught telling a bald-faced lie, you will be penalized half the distance to the goal.

There will be no campaign contributions allowed.  Campaigns will be publicly financed, candidates given equal funding based on the cost of advertising in their particular region.  This will cost money up front, but will drain a particularly nasty toxic waste dump.

Civil servants will no longer be paid 130% of the private sector wage/benefit scale.  They will be paid par for comparable work.  The public and private sectors will enjoy the same retirement benefits.  No more sweetheart plans.

Everyone will pay taxes.  The poor will pay $100 a year; the wealthy will pay a helluva lot more.

Citizens will be offered a free four-year college education.  To qualify they must complete a four-year stint in the military.  It will work just like the current GI Bill.  In fact it WILL be the current GI Bill, which will be expanded to include those who guard our borders and ports, clean and rebuild blighted areas, and maybe more.

Our veterans will receive their promised health care benefits from private sector providers.  It will cost more initially, but will be cheaper in the long term.  Get over it.

We will undertake a massive infrastructure build/improve project.  It will cost money up front, but will save money in the long term.  Get over it.

There will be no publicly subsidized corporate tax breaks.  If corporations want to buy a professional sports stadium suite, let 'em.  No write off.  If they want a plane or a yacht, let 'em buy one. No write off.  If they want to close a US facility and move it overseas, let 'em.  No write off for closing/moving expenses.  If they haven't fulfilled their part of any tax-abatement deals when they closed and moved, they must pay back all benefits received in full.

We're for a powerful military.  However we will not build $100 million dollar airplanes just to bomb $10 tents or $15,000 Toyota mini-pickup trucks.  Cheap drones can do that just fine.

Captured terrorists (or their remains if they are deceased) will be loaded into giant industrial-sized blenders and pureed with pig butts and feet.  This will not be religion-sensitive.

Undocumented immigrants who have been working here and have caused us no problems will be offered permanent probationary resident status.  They must come out of the shadows and pay American taxes, but they will be paid American wages.  Any employer found to employ now legal immigrants and paying less than American wages will have all their worldly possessions seized and be sentenced to 10-years working in the pig butt blender plant.

The rules defining "IRS tax exempt organizations" will be dramatically tightened.  If they don't deliver 85% minimum of their audited gross income directly to the cause they purport to help, they will be decertified and sentenced to 10-years working in the pig butt blender plant.

Any civil servants found accepting anything of value in exchange for a special consideration will lose their job and be sentenced to 10-years working in the pig butt blender plant.

Those convicted of animal cruelty will have "I AM A WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT" permanently tattooed on their foreheads.

Convicted child abusers will be sentenced to serve time in prisons holding criminals who were themselves abused as children.  Lights will be extinguished nightly at 10 PM.

Ivory tower bankers will be condemned to wear a Scarlett "B" at all times.

The Second Amendment will be preserved.  However everyone who wants to own a gun will undergo a background check, and have it re-verified periodically.  Those who want to carry concealed will undergo yearly proficiency training and maintain liability insurance.

Everyone will have good health care, the method TBD.  It will cost money up front, but will be cheaper in the long term.  Get over it.

The mentally ill will receive proper treatment.  It will cost money up front, but will be cheaper in the long term.  Get over it.

Those who do volunteer work that benefits the community will be rewarded with a pizza and beer party every Friday. (Ice cream will be substituted for beer for the underage.)

Our party slogan will be "Get over it!"  If you don't like it, get over it.

We'll have many more principles to post later, once I think of them.

Would you like to be a charter party member?  It costs nothing to join, and we won't call you to beg for money.  The initiation is to just find a current Democrat or Republican and kick them to the curb.  Good times!  :)

S


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

And how did killing that goose that laid the golden egg work out for them? *


Please don't run off.  I'll keep this simple, and it's important that you understand:

Recently I read an article about the 2017 "Gini Coefficient" study by the German bank Allianz which ranked developed nations based on their level of income inequality.

Some brief background:  It was a little over a century ago that an Italian statistician, Corrado Gini, devised the method for measuring income inequality which we now call the Gini Coefficient.  It is a scale from 0 to 1, with 0 meaning everyone has the same wealth, and 1 means one person has everything and everyone else has nothing.  Obviously in the real world the Gini score will be somewhere in between.

In the current Allianz Bank Gini Coefficient study of 53 developed countries, the United States was the most unequal with a Gini of .81.  (Example:  Just 3 Americans, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos, have more wealth than the poorest 50% of all other Americans combined.)  Others with high Gini scores are Germany with .73 and Russia with .69.  Among the most equal are South Korea with a Gini of .54, China with .53, and Slovenia with .48.

Going back thousands of years, archaeologists have determined the relative concentration of wealth in various societies by looking at the size of their homes, the amount of valuables they had (such as pottery), and the size of their stables (the more affluent had the most large, domesticated animals, making them the most productive farmers).  Until modern times the most unequal they could identify was the Kahun society in ancient Egypt with a Gini of .68.

Here is their warning for us:  Throughout history, when things became as unequal as what we're seeing today, violence eventually erupted and societies collapsed.

When I've written on this topic before my conservative friends have just rolled their eyes and said, "Oh, here we go....rob from the rich, and give it to the poor."  "Income redistribution" they moaned.  "Socialism at it's worst."  

My point was that unless things somehow evened out, the ultra-wealthy will some day find themselves owning everything, but be under siege and fighting for their lives.  

IMO the wealthy would be smart to back new tax laws that allowed the middle class to keep more of what they earned, and be content with having for themselves a slightly smaller slice of a very big pie.  But instead what are they doing?  They, through their lobbyists, are about to get their wish of yet another tax windfall.  

A day of reckoning is coming.  How soon, I have no idea, but it's coming.  Wise up, America.

S

*According to the fable, a cottager and his wife had a goose that laid a golden egg every day. They supposed the goose must contain a great lump of gold in its inside, and in order to get the gold they killed her.  Having done so, they found to their surprise that the goose differed in no respect from their other geese. The foolish pair, thus hoping to become rich all at once, deprived themselves of the gain which they were assured day after day.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

How will you die?


I recently read an interesting article that asked "How will you die"?  It sounds like a rather morbid topic, but if you think about it, it's a legitimate question.  Hopefully none of us have received a medical diagnosis giving us X months to live, therefore we likely just don't know.  


I suppose if you're a base jumper or a wing-suit flyer a "wardrobe malfunction" or a slight miscalculation could result in your untimely demise.  If you're a gang member, especially in a place like Chicago or St Louis, you might die in a violent shooting.  And it isn't hard to imagine a top member of the Trump administration being bludgeoned to death in prison.  But I doubt many of us fall into any of those categories.  So, what do you think will get you?  Stepping on a rusty nail?  Choking on a chicken bone?

For myself....hmmmm.  There was once a time in my life a chance I might have fallen off a cliff, or walked into an airplane propeller or been sucked into a jet engine, but those days are now mostly behind me.  I do drive daily in Dallas' insane traffic, so I suppose it's possible that might do me in some day.  I'm very careful with my firearms, so I doubt I'll pop a cap in m'self.

I have heart arrhythmia, but my pacemaker is ticking away like one of John Cameron Swayze's old Timex watches....no problem.  Otherwise my heart and all associated plumbing are in good shape.  I don't smoke, and I'm told my lungs are better than great.  I rarely drink, so I'm guessing my liver is safe, and my kidneys seem to be working as advertised, too.

No, I think some freak viral pandemic will eventually get me.  I had (past tense) a super strong, aggressive immune system, which oddly enough caused problems of its own, so I'm now taking meds to slow it down.  Now I'll probably be attacked by a flock of wayward mosquitoes carrying some deadly virus, or stung by that herd of killer ants making their way up from Mexico.  (All together now...."BUILD...THAT...WALL!  BUILD...THAT...WALL!")  *snort*

Maybe those crazy birds from Asia will find me here in Dallas and dump a load of their infected poop on me.  I really have no idea, but with my luck, it will likely be something weird that turns me into fertilizer.

How about you?  Venture a guess?

S

Friday, December 8, 2017

You know what I want?...

What I want is really simple healthcare.  I pretty much have that with my Medicare and supplemental insurance, but most everyone below Medicare age has a royal mess on their hands.

Need an appendectomy?  This hospital will charge $8K, but that one across town will charge $32K.  What's that all about?  Can you shop around?  Not really, because doctors are not in-network on all insurance plans, and are not on-staff at all hospitals.  And each health insurance company covers certain things, but not all things.  Some things are covered this year, but not necessarily next year.  

Some things are covered by United Health Care, but not Aetna, or Anthem.  WTH?  Insurers determine AFTER the event if it was necessary, and may or may not pay.  But SURPRISE, you're still responsible for the bill.  And if they decide your doctor charged more than the "usual and customary" fee, you're responsible for that, too.  How the hell is a layman supposed to know these things?

Doctors go to school for decades it seems, and owe $$$$$$ after med school, yet walk on eggshells every day, afraid they'll be sued.  Most are if they practice long enough.  To defend themselves they put patients through test after test, bleeding us almost dry, to make sure they have every eventuality documented.  On and on and on.....

If I get sick, I want to go the the doctor and I want him/her to evaluate me and fix me.  Don't send me a bill, or a statement, and I don't want to hear from my insurance company, ever.  The Doc fixes, the insurer pays.  Period.  No arguing about if this falls into the covered or non-covered category.  I don't care about Tier 1 or Tier 2 medications, or "formularies".  I don't care how they build the car.  I just want to turn the key and have it start.

If they want to do it through the government, Medicare style, I don't care.  If they want to do it via private health insurance, I don't care.  I'll pay for it with higher taxes or higher premiums if necessary, but once I pay, I want no excuses.

Bundle it all, I'll cut one check, then that's it.  Life is too short to put up with all this bullshit. Is this asking too much?

S


Monday, December 4, 2017

Choose your poison



President Donald Trump, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Speaker Paul Ryan are in an all-out sprint.  They're scared shitless their Republican Party will lose control of one or both houses of Congress within a year.  Their wealthy benefactors....the deep pockets that fund their political careers....are going to be pissed beyond belief if they don't get what they paid for were promised. 

While polls say Democrats are not at all well liked, Republicans are even deeper in the hole.  A flip of just 2 Senate seats and a handful in the House of Representatives to the Democrats and the GOP leaders will be asking for more knuckle-dragging body guards.  They won't want to have to face Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Banks, Big Insurance, Big Ag, and all the others and swim with the sharks. 

By next summer the mid-term election campaigning will be in full swing, so if they're to deliver on their promises, they'll have to do it before then.  The GOP will be doing their damnedest to ram something through pronto, forget thoroughness or public hearings.  Committee members will get 5 minutes each to ask questions, then it's vote time. *Wham...Bam...SOLD...SOLD...SOLD*  And of course President Trump will sign whatever Congress puts in front of him because THEY are the ones who will vote on whether to impeach/convict him and ruin his Mother-Of-All ego trips.

What should we expect between now and then? A push to finalize a tax cut in the House that will please the GOP donors, another run at getting the government out of the health insurance equation, squashing Medicaid as much as possible (we have too many poor people, don'tcha know), and maybe even squeezing Medicare and Social Security dry, too. 

I'm guessing they have 8 months to make it all happen.  By August our politicians will all be back home, looking us in the eye and telling us how much they love us.  I think the Democrats will have a pretty good chance of winning one house of Congress, spoiling the Republican's party.  Further down the road in 2020, at the rate the GOP is digging its own grave, the Democrats just might gain control of all 3 branches of government.  Then it will be their turn to rape and pillage us and glad hand their special interests.

Another day in Washington.

S

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Does the will of the voters matter anymore?


We like to tell ourselves that our elected representatives we send to Washington or to our state legislatures work in our best interest.  They have their finger on the pulse of their constituents, and if they want to get re-elected, they'll do what the majority of us want.  And if they don't, WE have the ability to send them packing at the next election.

Awww....how quaint.

All that may be textbook true, but it bears little resemblance to the real world that exists today.  Most of us are too busy struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent, or at the other extreme, out playing with all our expensive toys, to pay attention to what our representatives are doing for / to us.  I have many very educated friends who freely admit they don't watch the news because it's depressing.  When they vote, IF they vote, they just fall in line with the same old parties they voted for 10 or 20 or more years ago, no questions asked.

Do you question this?  Numerous polls said less than 20% of the American people were in favor of repealing ObamaCare without having something BETTER ready to replace it.  So what did the House of Representatives do?  They passed a bill that largely gutted the Affordable Care Act and replaced it with something that left millions more uninsured.  Then the Senate failed to pass their version by only ONE vote.  If they were truly concerned by "the will of the voters", all that drama would have been declared Dead On Arrival at the committee hearing level.

Today, by a two-to-one margin, numerous polls say we don't want the kind of tax reform Congress is on the verge of passing.  Every single analysis that has been done so far, by both liberal and conservative "think tanks", says the proposed plan is, long term, detrimental to the middle class.  Yet the odds are the tax cut plan now proposed will squeak through.

If our Congressmen and Senators truly gave a s__t about what their constituents wanted, they would listen to us more than the special interests.  But they simply lie and say they're doing all this for us.  They present numbers that affirm what they're selling, and ignore everything else, and we just nod and say, "Yep, sounds good to me 'ol buddy."  *Yuk yuk*

Of course, do read, do study the issues, be skeptical, and DO VOTE.  But honestly, don't look for much to change.  Enough of us are too busy having fun, or too busy just trying to survive, to pay attention, and that's what they're counting on.

All great empires throughout history have eventually fallen.  We'll be no exception, and now we know how it will happen. 

Carry on.

S


Monday, November 27, 2017

Is it just me or are we being suckered?


Can somebody PLEASE explain to me how giving a tax cut to (primarily) businesses and the wealthy will create new jobs? 

The argument the GOP seems to be putting forward is that businesses would LOVE to expand and hire more, but they just can't afford to.  But if they had a few hundred billion dollars more thanks to a tax cut, they'd hang out their "now hiring" shingle.

Consider this:  Southwest Airlines, headquartered right here in my back yard (Dallas), has bought back FOUR BILLION DOLLARS worth of their own stock in just the past two years, even after doubling their dividends.  They're swimming in cash, but can't find anywhere better to invest it than in their own company. Lucky them!

They could have taken that four billion dollars and bought another 30 Boeing 737's, and hired a corresponding number of pilots and flight attendants and mechanics, etc, AND PAID CASH FOR IT ALL, but they didn't.  Why?  Because they knew there wasn't enough demand to fill all those new seats without cutting prices to the point where there was no profit in it.  

I doubt many people making more than $500K a year, the ones who would benefit the most from a tax cut, are holding back taking a trip to Florida because they can't afford it.  But among those making $50K a year, a tax cut might indeed tempt them to jump on a Southwest jet and travel. 

The tax cut now being presented to us would only benefit the middle class for a couple of years, then they'd see their taxes go UP.  It seems to me that would dampen demand.  The "middle class" reference is just a tease, hoping it will pacify us until their bill is passed and signed, then they'll drop us like a hot potato.

Just increasing capacity will not create long term jobs. Once businesses realize they can't sell all they can produce, they'll start laying off all those new workers they just hired.  If the gubment truly wants to create jobs, why don't they take a few hundred billion dollars and start building new and repairing our older interstate highways, bridges, airports, etc?  That would create sustainable DEMAND for new heavy equipment, concrete, steel and more for years to come.  All those middle class people doing the work would then be able to buy more, thus creating a snowball effect.

Am I missing something?  I swear I was paying attention during my college Economics classes.  If someone can explain to me where I'm wrong, I'll certainly consider their argument.

S

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

My Thanksgiving memories

Do people actually eat like this on Thanksgiving?  Is this just some Rockwellian myth?

My mom was the sweetest, most wonderful person you'd ever hope to meet.  Kind, compassionate, friendly....I was fortunate to be able to call this wonderful lady my "Mom".  She had many talents, but cooking was NOT one of them.  I think her culinary goal was to just feed us something that would keep us alive until her next cooking attempt.  As bro and I made it to adulthood, I guess she was a success.  In her defense, she was never taught by her mom to cook because her mom never learned how to cook, either.  It seems my great grandparents were well off and had a live-in cook / housekeeper / nanny who handled all those plebeian chores.


I was grown and married before I ever knew Thanskgiving meals didn't come from Wyatt's cafeteria in a box.

The family story was that mom tried to cook our traditional Thanksgiving meal a couple of times before the rest of the family took a vote and asked her to just stop.  Instead they showed her a flyer that came in the mail advertising a complete Thanksgiving feast pre-cooked.  "Just call BR-549 and reserve yours now!"  

For a little more than 3-times what it would cost for her to buy the ingredients and cook it herself, mom could just drive to Wyatt's cafeteria and pay the nice lady a tidy sum and in exchange take home a "Bird In A Box", complete with all the trimmings.  Whoa!  Sometimes, just to mess with us, she'd bring home a "Honey Ham In A Box".  We never complained because, either way, it was better than her well-intentioned kitchen efforts.

Now here we are many Birds In A Box later, and tomorrow we're going to Kelly's sister's house for Thanksgiving.  She's a wonderful, if nontraditional, cook.  No Big Bird, dressing and all that. Nope, we're having a Mexican Thanksgiving meal.  We're taking avocados, tortillas, "crusty" bread, and a Tres Leche cake.  I'm sure it will be fantastic, but I'll confess, it just won't feel right sitting down to a fancy holiday meal that didn't come in a box.

Ah...the good 'ol days!  

Hope you have a great one.  :)

S


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Now you see it, now you don't. Now you see it....

So, whatdaya' think of our new middle class tax cut?  Slick, huh?

I'll make this short and simple because I know few of you are into this boring minutiae.  Unless your name is Rockefeller or D Trump or even WJ Clinton, after the initial bone they'll toss you, you're not going to benefit from the "middle class tax cut" the US Senate is now trying to ram through before their holiday recess.

If passed, everyone would receive a tax cut in 2019.  But after that the various provisions that benefit those generally making less than $75,000 begin to expire....they're NOT permanent....and by 2027 they'll see a tax INCREASE.  Only the provisions that are likely to benefit the upper income class, and businesses, will remain in place. 

Our politicians tell us that our businesses are not competitive with much of the rest of the world because our business tax rate is DRAMATICALLY higher than anywhere else.  That's a very deceptive truth.  Our tax RATE is indeed very high, but no business pays that rate.  After they take all the deductions the tax code allows them, the EFFECTIVE tax they pay....their taxable income....is not much out of line at all.  A modest cut to close that remaining gap is indeed justified, but nothing like what they're trying to sell us.

President Trump's Chief Economic Adviser, Gary Cohn, formerly of Goldman Sachs, was caught off-guard at a recent CEO's conference when they admitted that only a few would take their tax savings, if Congress passes new tax cut legislation, and use it to increase their "capital investment".  In other words, grow their business and create new jobs.  Truth is, they're already enjoying record high profits.  They're cash-rich already!  This is why the stock market is at an all-time high.

So what exactly are businesses doing with their record profits?  Primarily increasing their dividends and buying back their own stock.  Example:  Last year Apple, GE, Pfizer, McDonalds, Gilead Science, Microsoft, Boeing, AIG, Express Scripts, Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Oracle, Alphabet (Google), CVS Health, Disney, Wells Fargo, Visa, JP Morgan, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs collectively bought back $189 BILLION of their own stock.  Just 20 companies, in just one year. (Source: Standard & Poors)  

If these companies, or many thousands of others, had wanted to expand their businesses and create more jobs, they had more than enough cash available to do it.  We have no shortage of investment capital!

So what will it take to spur businesses to expand and hire?  DEMAND for their products / services. (Hello..."supply and demand".  Ever heard the term?)  If the middle class received the bulk of any tax cut, they would likely use it to buy a new TV, or a new laptop, or maybe even put it toward a new car or a new house.  When businesses see their products flying off the shelves, they'll expand and hire.  Until then, what's the point?  Unless they can SELL more of what they make, why make it?

Is this so hard to understand?  Bottom line, the promised "middle class tax cut" does virtually nothing for the middle class long term.  Provide REAL tax cuts for the working class and they'll buy more, giving business the incentive to grow in order to keep up with the new demand.

Please, send a short email to your Senators and tell them you're on to their slick shell game.

S


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Did I know her? You mean the cute 14-year-old girl with the long legs, blonde hair, green eyes, and the overdeveloped bossom? No officer, I never saw her.



Alabama Senate candidate Judge* Roy Moore....a special kind of odd.


*Is it proper to still call someone who has been a judge twice, and been removed from his bench twice, "Judge"?

If you keep up with the news at all you'll know that "Judge" Roy Moore is the Republican candidate running to fill the unexpired seat of former Alabama Senator and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  It's said he would be by far the most conservative member of the Senate if elected, which would make him someone the Republicans could count on to vote with their bare majority on things like tax reform, health care reform, etc.  He was their darling....until it was alleged he molested a girl back in 1979, when he was 32 and she was only 14.

That girl, now all grown up, is Leigh Corfman.  She has given details of the incident, and has friends from that time who say she told them of her "relationship" with Moore, but as of now it's legally nothing more than he-said-she-said.  There is no stained "blue dress" such as the one that tripped up Bill Clinton.

Judge Moore says he didn't do it and that it's all politically motivated, asking why all this has come out now, just weeks before the special election?  Fair point.

Background:  Mr. Moore is a graduate of West Point, and went on after his military academy graduation to serve as a MP, including a tour in Vietnam.  There he was so unpopular with his men (he was a Captain by then) that he admitted sleeping on his cot surrounded by sandbags, worried they would "frag" (kill) him with a grenade while he slept.

He later went to the University of Alabama where he received his Juris Doctor degree.  He eventually worked his way into the judiciary where he was twice elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, and twice removed, for not enforcing laws he personally objected to.

In 2002 he founded the non-profit Foundation For Moral Law, and between 2007 and 2012 personally received over $1M from his foundation, which somehow exceeded the amount of revenue listed on its public tax filings.

Here we are today, with candidate Moore being accused of sexual misconduct appearing on the Sean Hannity show, defending himself.  He did a pitiful job of it.  When asked if he dated teenage girls when he was in his 30's he said it "would have been out of my customary behavior".  He went on to say, "If I did, I’m not going to dispute these things, but I don’t remember anything like that".  

Ahh, not exactly a convincing denial there, Roy, but as mentioned, there hasn't so far been any evidence presented that a court could use to convict.  That's what his supporters are basing their undying support for him on.  "Prove it" they say.  Should you vote against someone just because they've been accused of something?  

Think of it this way:  If your job required you and your family to relocate to another city, and you needed to find a new OB/Gyn for your daughter, would you send her to a doctor who had been accused of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl?

With the Alabama Senate seat likely to be the one to cast the deciding vote on many crucial social issues the Republican's will put forward next year, the country needs a thoughtful civil servant.  Judge Roy doesn't seem to fit that description IMO.

Still, he could win election.  Then the issue will be whether the Republican-controlled Senate will vote to seat him (Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution says each house of Congress is the final arbiter of who it seats) or accept him and his all-important vote while gritting their teeth and keeping him at a distance from the rest of civil society....even the suggestion of sexual abuse of an underage minor is something hard to ignore.  This could get very interesting.  

The conundrum is, it's impossible to prove a negative...you can't prove you didn't do something that never happened.  But, regardless of his ideology, if you were an Alabamian, would you vote for Judge Roy Moore for the US Senate, or let Dr Roy Moore be your daughter's OB/Gyn?

S


Thursday, November 9, 2017

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem....


Millions of Americans across the country are demanding gun control in response to the new reality of seemingly monthly mass shootings, and just gun violence in general.  I'd like to ask those of you who agree with this sentiment to participate in a little exercise.  I'm not baiting anyone, but looking for some real (possible) answers to a real problem.

My exercise goes like this:  If you were a member of Congress and you wanted to introduce a bill relating to gun control, what would you include in your proposal?  For example, "Prohibit the future manufacture, importation, and sale of automatic / semi-automatic rifles", or "No handguns larger than ___ caliber", or "No magazines containing more than ___ rounds".  Would you address the 250-300 million guns that are already in public hands?

Question 2:  If enacted, how would you enforce it?  Would you leave it up to local / state law enforcement, or the ATF, or the FBI, or all the above?  Regardless, it would seem like they would have to take time away from other duties to enforce your new gun control law.  Do you think that's wise?  Or would you establish a new law enforcement body to police just this one thing?  Who would pay for this?  Would this be an "unfunded mandate" (requiring someone to do something, without providing them the funding to do it)?

Question 3:  What would you do with those brought in for violating your new gun control law?  Our Constitution allows everyone their day in court.  By all accounts our court system, at every level, already has a considerable backlog of cases waiting to be heard.  Would you provide for a new, single issue "Gun Violation Court"?  If so, this would require physical courtrooms and offices, clerks, bailiffs, judges, etc.  How would all those be paid for?

Question 4:  Assuming you could resolve Question 3, what would you do with those convicted?  I'm going to assume that in your new gun violation roundup you would also automatically include those you find who are already prohibited from possessing a firearm, such as previously convicted felons.  I would also assume you would go after black market sellers, too.  Do we have enough state and / or federal prisons & jailers to handle them all?  I've heard it costs tens-of-thousands of dollars to incarcerate one prisoner for just one year.  How would these costs be funded?

One final rule:  You can't just say, "I don't know how they'd do it, but they'd just have to find a way", or "I dunno, they're smart guys up there in Washington.  Let them figure it out."  Put on the table some concrete ideas that real lawmakers could build on.  Even if you can only contribute a little, you'll be light years ahead of those who are just perpetual whiners.

Now, independent of this exercise, tell me....what do you think the odds are a real bill similar to what you've suggested would have of garnering the votes of 50% +1 in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and be signed by the President?  (Forget for a second the NRA exists.)  

Thanks for participating.

S


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Misconceptions about guns


Once again guns are in the news in a big, and sad, way.  The news media is full of new gun control proposals, and are also reporting a lot of things that are simply untrue.  I'm not going to say they are necessarily being deceptive, but are simply misinformed.  Let me give you some facts:

First of all, gun makers...Glock, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, etc...do not sell guns to the public.  They don't have any factory outlets.  They sell only to Federal Firearms License holders.  Broadly speaking these are your gun stores.  To get a FFL these retailers must go through an extensive background check themselves and pay a substantial yearly fee. They are also regularly and thoroughly audited.  Every gun they get in, and every gun that goes out, must be properly documented.  If the FFL holders aren't responsible, blame the government who improperly vetted them, not the gun makers.

Anyone buying a gun from a FFL dealer must have either a current state "License To Carry" a gun (which itself requires substantial vetting) or get approval from the Federal database that says they are not convicted felons, "wanted" for any reason, have never been committed to a mental institution for treatment, have no restraining orders against them, have never denounced their citizenship, have never been dishonorably discharged from the military, and a few other things, too.  Failure to properly submit gun buyers for a background check can result in a major fine to the FFL dealer, or even the revocation of their FFL.

You can NOT just buy a gun on the internet, give them your credit card number, and have it mailed to you. You can buy one from an out of area FFL dealer and they will ship it to a FFL dealer in your area who will then process your background paperwork, and if you pass, deliver it to you.  The local dealer will generally charge about $50 for his paperwork service. 

Roughly 60% of all gun sales are handled through FFL dealers and are documented.  The problem with this gun purchase database, known as the Federal Instant Criminal Background System, or NICS is that it won't work if all the courts around the country, both civilian and military, don't report all their convictions, restraining orders, etc.  If those aren't reported, the NICS will have no reason to deny a gun purchaser.  This is what happened with the Texas church murderer. 

The problem is with the other 40% of gun sales.  Federal gun law allows individuals to sell their personal guns to anyone they wish.  This was meant to allow sales to friends, neighbors, relatives, etc, but it is sometimes abused by people who buy guns from any source they can, legal or illegal, claim them as their personal gun collection, and then resell them without background checks.  All sales are off the books, there are no receipts given, and I doubt any taxes are paid by these sellers on their lucrative underground business.

Why would someone buy a gun this way?  First of all used guns, like used cars, are generally less expensive.  But there are also a surprising number of people who simply don't want the government to know they have guns.  THEY DON'T TRUST THEIR GOVERNMENT.  They fear that some day there will be a knock at their door, where federal agents will come in and rummage through their residence and confiscate their weapons.  This fear is what sustains many "militias" dedicated to the preservation of the Second Amendment.  Rational or not, it's a real fear.

Finally, and this is the REAL bugaboo in the firearms controversy, there is a thriving black market in stolen, untraceable guns.  There is a forcible home burglary approx every 14 seconds somewhere in America, netting crooks 1,000,000 guns a year.  When a burglar has a choice between stealing your TV, your laptop, your jewelry, or your guns, he'll choose your guns every time.  That's because there is a vast underground criminal network that caters to those who can't pass a NICS background check.  Think gang-bangers, convicted felons, criminals who consider a gun a "tool of their trade", etc.  All these lowlifes know each other, and know any gun they can imagine is available for the right amount of green cash money, no questions asked.  It's surprisingly easy to buy this way.  (I'm told.  I buy my guns the legal way.)

This last subset is responsible more than all others by a wide margin for our reported gun violence.  The other loopholes can be addressed to some degree, but if that happens it will just drive more people to this criminal underground to buy their guns. 

"But other countries have strict gun laws and their incidence of gun violence is minuscule compared to ours."  True, but they don't already have 300,000,000+/- guns floating around their country.  They don't have a 250 year history of private firearms ownership or a Second Amendment.  Old habits die hard.  Genies don't go back in bottles.

So what CAN we do?  Concentrate on this last subset.  When a convicted felon is stopped by the police for anything, search them, and their car.  If they're found in possession of a gun, off to jail they go.  Our cost to incarcerate will go up dramatically, but it will cut down on gun violence.  How bad do we want it?  The same goes for those who have been dishonorably discharged from the military.  They should be treated the same as felons when it comes to  gun possession.  

The mentally ill need to be identified AND HELPED.  Take away the stigma of mental illness, enabling those who need help to step forward and ask for it.  Our societal cost to treat mental illness and provide mental health facilities and hospital beds will go up dramatically, but it will cut down on gun violence.  How bad do we want it?

There ARE things we can do to address gun violence, but they will cost money, and no politician is going to advocate raising taxes to pay for them.  The taxpayers want to have their cake and eat it too.   Life doesn't work like that.

S

Monday, November 6, 2017

Are we really this inept? (correct answer: yes we are)

Instead of showing the face of the murderer who killed 26 people using an AR-15 in a small town church in Texas yesterday, I'd rather show the photo of this good, brave citizen, Stephen Williford, who retrieved his AR-15 and returned fire, by all accounts saving many other lives.

The evil shooter was an Air Force veteran who was given a "Bad Conduct" discharge after receiving a Court Martial and spending a year in the brig (prison) for abusing his wife and child.  Also, in 2014 the evil shooter was arrested for misdemeanor animal cruelty in Colorado and given a differed probationary sentence.  

Now we learn the Air Force failed to notify the FBI of his court martial for spousal abuse.  Why?  Did Colorado notify the FBI of his recent misdemeanor conviction?  Apparently not.  Are we really this inept?  Either would have prevented him passing a background check and buying a gun through normal, legal channels.

Meanwhile the Texas Department of Public Safety (our State Police), during their standard vetting process, learned something and refused to issue him a license to legally carry a weapon.  What did the Texas DPS learn, and how did they learn it?  (Kudos DPS.  This is why our Texas firearm license holders have such an exemplary record of responsible gun ownership.)

The Federal Instant Criminal Background Check System won't work if felonies and recent misdemeanor convictions (and a few other disqualifiers) aren't reported.

But even if he had been legally disqualified from buying a gun, with an estimated 1,000,000 guns stolen every year, there is a thriving black market in cash-and-carry firearms transactions, and this is where most bad guys get their guns.  The system is full of holes that let bad people obtain guns.  "Black markets" pay no attention to laws....never have, never will. 

There are no more blatant examples of people who should NOT have guns than this Texas church shooter.  Those convicted of family violence, and anyone who would cruelly harm an animal, IMO don't deserve a second chance to prove they can handle something as deadly as a gun.   

Meanwhile we need to see to it that good people like Mr. Williford get the recognition they deserve for stepping up and confronting active shooters and saving lives.  This is a classic example of guns in the hands of good people doing good things. 

S


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Welcome to America! *conditions apply

Immigrants waiting to be processed at Ellis Island, circa "long time ago".

Once again immigration is front and center in the news.  This time it arrived there after an immigrant from Uzbekistan, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, rented a truck and mowed down numerous cyclists in NYC, killing 8.  The extended controversy is that he was admitted to America on some sort of a lottery based on "diversity", meant to allow people from places who seldom immigrate here have a chance for a better life.

President Trump is dead-set against such diversity immigrants, citing numerous grievances, most of them bogus.  (The flood doors were not just opened allowing anyone access.  There was still vetting to make sure the newcomers weren't dangerous felons, etc.)  Instead he wants to limit new immigrants to those who can bring skills and talents America needs.  He calls it "merit based" admission.

This contrasts markedly with our history of welcoming the world's "tired, poor, and huddled masses, yearning to breath free."  In the 19th and early 20th Century boats docked weekly with immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Poland, Hungry, Lithuania, and elsewhere who brought with them few advanced skills.  They were, however, used to hard work, and that's how they made a place for themselves in America.  Agricultural labor, assembly line workers, and general unskilled labor were always needed.

Times have changed.  Today we have all the agricultural laborers we need available from Mexico, if only our guvment would get their shit together and establish some reasonable rules for their legal employment.  Manufacturing is moving as fast as they can to more mechanization, where one technician at a console can oversee a dozen robots doing the work that many humans used to.  And we have far too many high school dropouts as it is whose lot in life will likely be as unskilled labor forever.  In short, I doubt we need any more unskilled, general labor, which is too often what new immigrants are when they arrive here.

While I am anything but a fan of Prez Trump and the Tea Party, I find it hard to fault the idea that new immigrants need to bring with them skills and talents that will benefit both them and America.  I don't mean to suggest they all need to be doctors or IT professionals.  They can be mechanics, plumbers, electricians, construction equipment operators....we need people with those blue-collar job skills.  And to be compassionate, we could encourage businesses via tax incentives for example, or any other social non-profits/churches, to sponsor and agree to train unskilled immigrants who are willing to work hard and learn.  That would be the best possible win-win.

My head says this is reasonable, yet my heart says it's wrong to just ignore the millions of people who are stuck in lives of utter despair overseas.  We're better people than that.  What I'd like to do and what I realistically can do are not the same.  This is a serious conundrum.

What I do know is that we can't just keep kicking the can down the road.  We need a real immigration policy that is good for America, and helps as many people as possible move here and improve their lives, too.  Meanwhile Congress is being pulled in various directions by special interests who benefit from us not having a coherent immigration policy.  These Beltway puppets are the ones we need to export ASAP, if we could only find countries dumb enough to take them.

S


Friday, October 27, 2017

The media should put me on retainer....I'm quite the soothsayer!



It seems the news media has somehow discovered there is something fishy smelling at best, and maybe illegal at worst, about the sale of a uranium mining company to Russia after the Clinton Foundation, a philanthropy run by her husband, William Jefferson Clinton (aka POTUS 42), received "contributions" from Russians close to the uranium deal. 

BIG SHOCK!

Well put me in for a Pulitzer Prize!

I wrote about this very sort of sleaze in this blog back on June 9, 2016.  The Clinton's IMO set up a pretty sweet scheme whereby "contributions" were made to the pure-as-the-driven-snow Clinton Foundation, then Senator and later Sec of State Hillary Clinton blessed a transaction favored by the same contributors. I doubt they'll find any paper trail on the subject as a casual comment and an understanding nod over dinner between husband and wife sealed the deal.

This is what our politicians do...."one for me, and one for the country".  They go in with a modest net worth, and leave public service filthy rich.  Coincidence?  Methinks not.


To save you from scouring my blog archive (in the column on the right), below is what I wrote 16 months ago.  As Yogi Berra would have said, "It's deja vu all over again."

S

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So why won't I vote for her [Hillary Clinton]?  It's all about trust, or lack there of.  For starts, it's hard for me to separate the activities of the Clinton Foundation run by her husband and her duties as a Senator or Secretary of State.  There is no clear demarcation. 

Under federal law, foreign governments seeking State Department clearance to buy American-made arms are barred from making campaign contributions, a prohibition aimed at preventing foreign interests from using cash to influence national security policy.  But nothing prevents them from contributing to a "philanthropic foundation" controlled by policymakers.  (A tidy little loophole, wouldn't you say?)

Admittedly the philanthropic Clinton Foundation has done a lot of good for a lot of worthy causes.  But mixed in with its good deeds are lots of highly suspicious "coincidences".  While it was perfectly legal for anyone to give to the non-profit Clinton Foundation while Hillary was a sitting US Senator and a cabinet official during the Obama administration, the potential for abuse was off the chart.  As an aspiring public servant, she should never have let herself be put in such a compromising position.  It was simply a bad decision of the highest order.

Consider this:  In 2011 while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, the State Department approved a $29 billion dollar sale of American-built fighter planes to Saudi Arabia, despite the pleas of many that a deal that large would upset the delicate balance of power in the region.  The deal was even considered a "top priority" for Ms. Clinton personally.  Is it just a coincidence that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed $10 million dollars to the Clinton Foundation, and Boeing contributed $900,000 just months before the sale was given official approval?  

In fact, in just three years (2011-2013) under Hillary Clinton's leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion dollars worth of arms sales to 20 nations who had given contributions to the Clinton Foundation.  This number is over twice as much as was approved by the State Department in the same time frame during the last term of George W. Bush. 

*sniff*....What's that smell?

And does this seem odd?....Hillary Clinton switched from opposing an American free trade agreement with Colombia to supporting it after a Canadian energy and mining magnate with interests in that South American country contributed to the Clinton Foundation.  

In fact, 13 companies lobbying the State Department paid Bill Clinton $2.5 million in speaking fees while Hillary Clinton headed the agency.  Even if it was a coincidence, just the appearance of impropriety is staggering!

And then we get to her (likely) coziness with Wall Street.  In that regard she seems more like an old-school Republican.  Doesn't it seem suspicious that she was paid $1.8 million dollars to make just eight speeches in less than two years to big banks?  And just this election cycle, based on their campaign contributions to date, she is far and away their favorite candidate.

Do you think they sought her out as a speaker because of her good looks and personality, or could it have something to do with the fact that maybe, just maybe, they felt their relationship might soon pay big dividends if she were to become President of the United States?  Whether true or not, the opportunity to personally gain from her official position and her relationship with Bill's Clinton Foundation is just too tempting.  She sleeps with the guy, for crying out loud!

Spend just a few minutes on Google and see all this and much more documented for yourself.   

Yes, I know...."They all do it."  But they aren't ALL running for President.  We've been giving such shenanigans a blind eye for too many years now, and IMHO it has resulted in the mess we're in today.  We can't afford to put someone in the White House who could with the stoke of a pen put a fast buck ahead of our national interests.