Happy Birthday Kea! And bye-bye TV & (anti-)social media.

Today is Kea’s birthday!  I’ve decided to celebrate with her by getting out of this stupid, pointless social media rat race I’ve mired myself in for the past few years.

I am done.  Done with tons of email that is occasionally useful.  Done with the barrage of self-help courses that don’t help but only tell you that other people are more successful than you because you don’t work hard enough on the “right” things. I’m done with social media that isn’t social at all, just a volcano of petty resentments that periodically flares up to smite the innocent and the guilty alike.  I don’t need it.  I don’t want it.  Feel free to spam my inbox until it explodes – I’m not reading it.  It now auto-forwards to trash.

I’m pulling my head out of this social media nightmare where everything you think and say has to be profanely criticized by some sophomoric teen with delusions of importance.

I’m done with 25 minute television commercial marathons.  I’ve turned it off.  Your one hour shows that really last only 35 minutes and actually only have 22 minutes of content – gone.

However, I am not pulling out of my responsibilities as a citizen of this country.  I’m just not listening, watching, or falling for the sleight of hand political maneuvering that is going on now.  You know, where the press is led off into week-long apoplexy over some outrageous statement, while no one is reporting the fallout from the repeal or rewrite of legislation designed to protect us from mistakes we made in the past.  I’m not buying into having knee jerk reactions from reporters who aren’t smart enough to realize they are being jerked around.

I’m going back to long walks on the beach, working out at the gym, and talking to real people.  I’m up for quiet dining in nice restaurants with people I like.  I’m listening to good music on my stereo instead of twenty minutes rants by half educated DJ’s – who only know their half of any story, and haven’t seen the other side of anyone’s point of view since 2004 – if ever.

I’m going back to basic housework.  I’m doing some fun yardwork.  I’m saying hello to my neighbors.  I’m picking up the trash that’s littered my lawn and my street.

I’m cleaning up my life.

And, with all this new spare time I’ve gained from rejecting the hype, I’m going to try new things, be happier, and accomplish more of the things that matter.

Yup, going to be a great day.  Think I’ll start by playing with the dog.  She hasn’t gotten enough attention in a long time.  And she deserves the attention more than the media crap going on around me lately.

ps. To all the “news reporters” who seem to have forgotten their Journalism 101 classes. A quick reminder.  Who, What, Where, When, and Why.  These questions are the essence of journalistic reporting.  State the facts, skip the opinions, and never speculate.  If you aren’t reporting the facts, (and just the facts,) you are practicing propaganda – not journalism.   Duh.

 

David Dougher – author, ballroom dance instructor, computer consultant, game designer, and odd fellow.
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Rant – The Global Warming Game

I haven’t done a rant in a while, and I have several stacked up.  Think I’ll take one out to break the monotony.

Let’s play a game.

You go to the doctor and he tells you that your child has a dangerous heart condition and they need to have a heart transplant. It will cost $100,000.00. And they need it pretty soon or they will die. You are scared by the prospect of them dying, but you say to yourself, “They look pretty good.” In addition, you are really scared by the size of the bill. Now, you have insurance so some of the bill will be paid for by your insurance company, but you will still have to pay a lot.

Being a smart person, you go to another doctor for a second opinion. He looks at all the evidence from the first doctor. He runs some additional tests. And then he says pretty much the same thing. You are a bit depressed, but you think you probably need to do something. So you notify your insurance company.

And your insurance company tells you that they want you to go to their doctor. So you do. And their doctor, after a cursory exam, frowns at the tests the other doctors ran and says, “Oh no, it’s just a pulled muscle – you’ll be fine.”

A bit confused by the radically different diagnosis you decide you really want to check this out. You don’t want to put your child through unnecessary suffering and you don’t want to face that huge bill. So you begin going to doctors and specialists all over the country, then all over the world. Out of the 100 doctors (including specialists) you go to, 97 say your child has a bad heart and needs a transplant.

Only three say your child is fine. Interestingly, all of them are doctors that work for the insurance company that will have to pay lots of money if you get the surgery.

Now, do you get the surgery for your child?

Think you got the right answer? Good!

Now, let’s change the scene. I’ll make this a bit quicker for you. 97 out of every 100 climatologists – world-wide – paleoclimatologists, climate scientists, hydroclimatologists, polar ecologists, environmental analytical chemists, marine environmental scientists, and more, say that global warming is real, that we are causing it, and that it is going to kill us if we don’t stop polluting the atmosphere. The other 3 percent are in the employ of big businesses who are polluting the atmosphere.  They say it’s not real.

Now, should we do something about global warming?

Oh yes, do you also know politicians who say it’s not real? Guess who funds their election campaigns? And let’s face it, asking a politician about whether or not global warming is real is like asking a ice cream vendor if you should get surgery for your child. They don’t know.

Politicians have to depend on scientists to tell them the truth about global warming. And those scientists – from all over the world – say it’s real.  Except, when they get scientists from big business polluters who say it isn’t, and back that statement with million dollar donations to their campaigns.

So, who is more likely conning you? Is it the big businesses who have billions of dollars on the line if they have to pay to clean up their act, or the vast majority of scientists who have no monetary interest in the outcome?

So, for those of you who think there is a big con going on – you are absolutely right.

But, you are just being fooled about who IS conning you.

 

ps. Thanks to Jimmy Kimmel for giving me the names of some of the different branches of science which have been studying this issue for decades.

I’m sorry, America. But, it’s just not that easy.

Like most of you, I have knee jerk reactions to many things I see.  Someone abuses a pet, I want to take them outside for a good old fashioned visit to the barn.  I have even stronger reactions as crimes become more violent or personal.  I don’t like paying money to the government to see them waste it on stupid projects, on people who don’t deserve it, or on entire countries who don’t appreciate it.

But, I also know that this IS a knee jerk reaction.  The adult in me says, “Wait up just a minute.  Don’t jump to conclusions.  Don’t be that jerk who screams for blood only to find out that the situation isn’t at all like it first sounded.”

America it’s time to put our adult hats on and start thinking seriously about what can honestly be done about our problems.  In just a few short months we are going to be asked to choose who will run this country.  Who we are going to put in charge of a country that makes TRILLIONS of dollars every year.  We are going to ask them to direct those funds into our national defense, our social safety net, and our infrastructure.

Both the Republican and the Democratic primaries have revealed just how corrupt our system is becoming.  We have two populist (Sanders, Trump) candidates on each side who are swaying the masses with a call for reform.  We have two candidates (Clinton, Kasich) who represent their respective parties more traditional (labor, big business) interests.  We have one candidate who represents a more Conservative religious right position (Cruz).  We have a virtually stalemated Congress and a crippled Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, our middle class is diminishing in size, our country is exporting needed jobs overseas, major corporations legitimately and illegitimately pay less and less in taxes.  The number of poor is increasing, and the wealthy see their incomes reaching into tens of BILLIONS of dollars.  The disparity is mind-numbing.

Our medical system is a worldwide disgrace.  We pay dozens, if not hundreds of times more for our medications than anyplace else on earth.  Every civilized nation on earth has managed to work out how to fairly handle universal health care, but our complex system of competition between, doctors, dentists, hospitals, pharmacies, the pharmaceutical industry, and insurance companies has driven our healthcare system into a worldwide laughingstock.

Our educational system is foundering.  We have some of the best universities in the world, but our best and brightest come out with a degree and so far in debt that they might as well be sold as indentured servants.

We speak of how high we hold our freedom, and yet almost HALF of the world’s prisoners are in our jails – more than any dictatorship in history.

We speak of treating everybody equally, yet, HALF of black American males will find themselves in jail at least once during their lifetime.

We have a giant statue in New York harbor which advertises us as the land which welcomes.  “Send us your tired,  your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  Then we take miniscule number of refugees from the Syrian crisis and talk about closing our borders to all Muslims because they MIGHT be terrorists.

We talk about respecting the rights of sovereign nations and then we scream approval for talk about blackmailing a foreign government into building a wall that would cost them tens of billions of dollars to construct.  Why?  To stop illegal immigration into our country.  Yet, we know that those same people are being used by OUR businesses to farm, to pick our crops, to prepare our food, to do countless thankless jobs.  Who is really to blame?  The immigrant desperate for money to feed a family, the company who hired him because he (or she) would work for sub-par pay?  Perhaps we are also a bit to blame?  We want our good and labor cheap (unless we are doing the work).  We don’t push to have the companies owners penalized more heavily.  We underfund the INS and the border patrols. We allow enclaves to develop where such people can hide.  We allow places to develop where drugs and silence rule.

We have nation states vying to create nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missle systems to deliver them.  We have a slowly re-arising cold war.  We have the potential for worldwide epidemics that can spread at an alarming rate and are resistant to our best drugs.

And then there are the issues we don’t want to be true,  Global warming, diminishing worldwide fresh water supply, overpopulation, species extinction.

I don’t care who you vote for.  That is your right.  But I do care that you think about just how fragile our world situation is.   Stop looking for simple, easy solutions.  There are none.  This election is important – and not just at a presidential level.  It is not just about one issue.  It’s not about one knee jerk reaction.  It’s not time to pick somebody who recognizes your personal hot button as being a real issue that they can talk about.

It’s time to look carefully at the solutions being offered by the candidates to all the issues.  Are they truly realistic?  Who has credibility on the world stage?  Who has actually checked the math to see if their programs are actually financially doable?

Also, don’t be gulled by people on talk shows with an agenda.  Right and left wing pundits get paid to make things dramatic, to exaggerate, and in many cases to outright lie.  Check the claims of BOTH sides.  Fact check with independent organizations.

Then make up your mind.

Stop imagining that you can pick a candidate based on one issue.  The country, the world, is much more complicated than that.

It’s time to be grown-ups now.

Go vote.

Can I have your vote for a bunch of empty promises?

As a registered independent I’m getting a lot of phone calls right now – as you can imagine.  Even though I am not in anything remotely resembling a battleground state.  The phone rings with both Democrats and Republicans seeking my vote.  Usually I’m pretty quiet about who I vote for and why, but this year I think I would like to say a few things.

I have pointed out my feeling on the Republican theme of “helping the wealth creators” in a different post.  But after carefully looking at the rest of the Republican platform and promises I can say one thing.

Bullshit.

I have worked in the computer industry for a long, long time, and one thing you learn to recognize when dealing with new product offerings is how to spot vaporware. And, plain and simple the Republican platform is vaporware.  It will not work, and it is filled with vague promises that cannot be kept. It shows no fiscal responsibility, nor any understanding of the depth of our economic problems.  It is a advertising campaign focused on saying that things are tough and the guy who is fixing them isn’t doing it fast enough.

The policies that put us in this mess are primarily the result of the previous Republican administration spending money it didn’t have, removing regulations on companies that then gouged our country for billions of dollars, and then going to those same companies and saying, put a trillion dollars into our Super Pack and we will keep the gravy train rolling.

With all the money that has been poured into the Republican Super Pack you could probably fund all the social saftey net programs that the Republicans say they want to cut for the next decade. Bit it doesn’t end there…

Mr. Romney says he wants to strengthen our military, and his Republican colleagues actually tried to appropriate MORE money for the military than they asked for!  And what does he plan on doing with all that extra military spending?  The previous Republican administration went into a foreign country based on bad intelligence and mired us in a war that cost us thousands of lives, and billions of dollars before we got out.  And the guy they were after was in a completely different country!

Mr Romney says he has a plan to create 12 million new jobs for Americans.  He will not reveal the details of his incredible job creation plan. I would like to suggest that his plan is really, really simple.

He is going to reintroduce compulsory military service, for both men and women.  In simple words – he’s going to bring back the draft folks.  He’s going to dump billions into military spending, he’s going to stimulate the economy by making guns, uniforms, tanks, warships, and jet planes.  And when he is finished creating his new bright shiny army,  He’s going to threaten to use it on Syria and Iran.

Now maybe you think it would be great to send your sons and daughters over to Iran, and Syria.  Maybe you think it would be good to sacrifice all our progress in rebuilding the infrastructure of this country to support a 21st century economy and let us become a third world nation.  Maybe you would like to see the poor and the lower income classes drift into true poverty, and watch as the crime rates across the country soar when people go into the streets to loot for food, clothing and basic necessities for their families. Not me.

Yes I am aware that the unemployment rate is high.  I am also aware that major corporations are keeping it high by not hiring to see if they can tip the election in favor of the man who will give them carte blanche to ride roughshod over our democracy.

I would rather see four more years of a dead stalemate in Congress than see what this country will become if the Republicans give it to the major corporations to run (or should I say loot?).

But I don’t think that is what will happen.  All the economic indicators say that the country is improving in spite of corporate efforts to slow progress.  And the Republicans would like to prey on that turnaround and claim it for there own, even as they sabotage it for the future with more fiscal irresponsibility.

So, for this year.  It is no to EVERY Republican.  When they get back to a fiscally responsible moderate platform I will consider giving them back my vote.  But the nonsense they are spewing now is just like watching Big Time Wrestling – it’s an entertaining spectacle… but it isn’t real.

 

 

The Myth of the “Wealth Creators”

I have been listening a lot to the Republican ads going on about how we need to reduce spending and direct more of our tax dollars to the “Wealth Creators” who will then act to stimulate our economy.

The fact is, we tried that under President George Bush at the start of the financial meltdown.  President Bush gave a great deal of our tax money to some of the wealthiest business owners, in an effort to stimulate the economy, to preserve jobs and get our stalled economy going.

His strategy failed – miserably.

Why? Because, in an uncertain economy, those wealthy individuals did exactly what any smart business person should do – they kept the money to invest later.  In an interview with Robert Reich on NPR, he explained that of the billions that President Bush gave to the wealthy to stimulate the economy they kept 80% of it.  Of the 20% they did spend most went to bonuses to top employees – most likely to keep them from jumping ship if they got a better offer, or to fulfill contractual bonuses that were earned before the economy tanked and had to be paid in the following quarter.

Why did they keep the money and not invest it?  Simple. There was no market for their goods.  Giving money to a wealthy business person means he can make more products, but if there is no one to buy those products all he is doing is lowering the value of the ones he has already made and is currently trying to sell.  By creating a surplus in the market he is damaging his already fragile business.  No reasonable business person would do that. Instead they hoard the money, planning to use it when the economy has turned around and there is increased demand for their products.

On the other hand, when President Obama tried to stimulate the economy he targeted Americans with low and middle income for the money.  He tried to put even more money into the bottom of the economy but was blocked by a House of Representatives whose mandate was to prevent him from doing anything, at any cost.

So what happened with the billions that President Obama put into the economy?  Well the stock market is now close to 13,000.  Higher than before the economic collapse.  The unemployment rate started to go up but has slowed as a great deal of what the President wanted to accomplish was blocked by Congress.

President Obama correctly judged that the way to stimulate an economy is to put the money into the lower and middle classes.  Why?  Because they have to spend it.  They do not have the resources to set the money aside.  Again, according to the same NPR report, over 80% of the money given to the lower and middle income families was reinvested in the economy.  As a result there was more demand for goods, and businesses increased production to fill that new demand.

And what happened to George Bush’s solution?  When President Bush tried to stop the downward plunge of the stock market from 11,000 it plummeted to about 9000.

So, what is the lesson we can take from these examples?  While the national economy might seem a huge and massively complex system, it still operates according to some pretty fundamental rules which are easy to follow.

The first thing is that the Republican idea of “Wealth Creators” and “Job Creators” is hogwash.  The only thing that will make businesses increase production and higher more workers is increased demand for their products.  Giving them money and tax breaks will not help the economy, and there is a lot of evidence that it actually hurts it.

So, if you want to stimulate the economy, if you want to make the country more competitive, if you want to get people back to work, you must direct your resources to the lower and middle income areas.  You must put money into the hands of the people who will spend it.  You must put money into basic services, like food stamps, medical assistance, child care.  You must invest in infrastructure that creates jobs but more importantly makes it easier for lower and middle income people to get to and from work.  This frees dollars for the poor and middle classes which they will spend on items to make themselves and their children more upwardly mobile.  You need to increase the size of the middle class in order to fix the economy because the middle class buys the goods which drive innovation and increase demand.

Bottom line: President Bush and the Republican Tea Party Activists got their economics wrong.  President Obama got it right, but has not been allowed to go far enough by a stonewalling House..

Food for thought in the upcoming elections.

A Commentary on the immorality of ‘for profit’ insurance companies

There are many things to be grateful for in the modern day world.  And many things that I would like to see improve.  One of my biggest complaints has to be the way we handle insurance in the United States.  In a country that prides itself (and it is pride) on its high moral values, how can we justify the fact that insurance companies exist as FOR PROFIT institutions?  The basic concept of insurance is to set aside money for today in order to have a hedge against the bad things that could happen tomorrow.  We even go a step further and organize as a group so that a major catastrophe can be handled if enough people are smart enough to set aside enough money to weather the storm.

So why do we allow insurance companies to profit from other people’s pain?  Why do we allow speculators to invest in insurance?

Insurance companies reap BILLIONS of dollars in profit every year for their corporate investors.  A lot of that money comes from denying the claims of people who have a legitimate right to coverage.  There have been several expose’s on the fact that some insurance companies routinely send a denial of coverage as the first response to EVERY claim.  And where does all the money go?  Apparently it takes real leadership to deny people the money to which they are entitiled, because the heads of major insurance companies are among some of the best paid people in the world.

Do you really think that any person deserves a multimillion dollar salary for organizing a company to take money from individuals and then not give it back when they need it ?

Let me be very clear.  I do NOT think insurance is a bad idea.  I think that companies that make a profit from other people’s suffering are a terrible idea.

So, the next time you hear about people who want to know where the money is going to be coming from to pay for all those old people who are going to be hitting the part of their lives where they need more medical care — I suggest we start by taking all the FOR PROFIT insurance companies, and making them into non-profit corporations.  Then we take all the BILLIONS they rake in every quarter and use it to help the people who gave them the majority of that money in the first place.  And while we are at it, we can cut the salaries of the people at the top, reduce the ranks of the people who just sit on telephones denying claims, sell off all the private Lear jets, limos, and bling, and end all “corporate meetings” in the Bahamas.

That’s where we get the money from.

Please note.  I did not say the dirty words “socialism”, or “nationalization”.  Insurance companies can be non-profit and independent.  They can pay their employees from the president to the janitors decent wages.  But nobody needs to be paid millions, and nobody needs to ride stretch limos to work.

More importantly, nobody needs to make huge profits based on other people suffering and dying.