An imperfect woman for an important job

Former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady Hillary Clinton will never be accused of being a perfect person. She has taken more grief than most politicians, some of which was thrown at her husband or when she defended her husband. Some of the criticism of her is fair, but the lion’s share is unfair. The trouble is it is hard to tell the difference between what is fair and what is Republican smear tactics dating back to the 1990s. But, make no mistake, she is eminently more qualified to be President than her main competition.

Clinton will bring to the table global experience, credibility and relationships. In fact, many allied leaders have gone out of their way to advocate for her Presidency. The only leaders who have supported Donald Trump have been Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, neither of whom would be accused of being highly democratic. It should be noted that it is unheard of for other leaders actively promoting a candidate for US President.

I have mentioned before that being the first woman US President should not be sneezed at. One of my concerns for a our planet which prevents better solutions from occurring is the maltreatment of women. The book “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn highlight the global maltreatment, which is so brutally unfair, but stands in the way of economic progress. A region that treats women like a possession that can be sold, mutilated, demeaned and killed is not only brutal but competing in a world with only half of its intellectual capital. Much of the progress in poorer regions occurs when women become active small business owners and can pursue education.

Through action and notoriety, Clinton has made a visible statement to the world that women and girls matter. She has led numerous meetings both during, before and after her role as Secretary of State. Change does not occur over night, but her Presidency would immediately elevate women’s issues by the nature of the position. By itself, this is a major factor to why she should be President.

Clinton also brings a much better temperament to the position which requires a tough-minded person who is not going to act impulsively. Her main opponent could not be accused of having either of these positive traits as indicated by his history and his ill-timed and inane comments made throughout the campaign. The President of the United States is one of the most important jobs in the world and temperament and stability matter. I would sleep much more comfortably with her in the White House than a thin-skinned, demonizing and bombastic narcissist. I would add she is much tougher than Trump, who does not like anyone who disagrees with him or asks him questions.

And, at the end of the day, policy positions matter. My greatest fear is we end up with a President who does not understand climate change for the problem it is. Our planet cannot afford to stop progress or retrench on this issue, as we lost eight years under the last Republican President. Clinton understands this issue. She also sees the need to specifically address the increasing number of people in poverty and decline of the middle class. Her position is far more than a changing bumper sticker platform used by Trump which should not be mistaken for policy.

I recognize fully she has issues. I recognize fully many of those issues blown out of proportion. Yet, she deserves more credit than she gets for what she has achieved. It might help for more people to look beneath the rhetoric and see what she has to offer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be impressive.

Tuesday afternoon

As I think of the fabulous Moody Blues’ song, let me share a few random musings on this cloudy Tuesday. Technically, it is morning here, but since Greenwich time is five hours ahead, the title has merit.

If we look at the US presidential election, what are the signals telling us? The Democrat candidate is being supported by major party leadership, some of whom are on the campaign trail. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who scares Republicans because of her history of fighting for those who have been screwed over, has joined with Hillary Clinton to advocate the message of helping the middle class and those in need with actual programs. There is no better advocate for the disenfranchised than Warren.

On the flip side, the Republican candidate has leaders bailing on him and hiding when he says his latest inane thing. Conservative columnist Michael Gerson has been against Donald Trump and what he represents from the outset and George Will just left the party because of Trump’s presumptive nomination. And, no living president supports his candidacy with the only foreign leaders who have advocated for him are Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.

In Scotland, Trump noted what a good thing Brexit is, yet the financial markets, debt downgrading, and the lowest pound in over 30 years are giving many pause. Plus, he said this in Scotland who voted to remain and have started plans for another referendum to leave the UK and stay in the EU. This is supposed to be the candidate with the best business acumen, but yet again he shows little grasp of the issues, even financial ones. What the Remain camp failed to explain is the number of jobs created in the UK by being in the EU, with companies who have placed their European headquarters and plants there to have duty-free access to Europe.

The US Supreme Court handed down several important verdicts this week. The first one was a tie, but left standing a lower court ruling that President Obama went a bridge too far on his immigration executive orders after Congress failed to act for so long. Next, Affirmative Action was upheld in a Texas lawsuit that argued college admissions could no longer use race to determine acceptances of applicants. The Supreme Court said the colleges could continue to use race as a factor. A lesser publicized ruling noted that people who had been convicted of domestic violence crimes could be denied access to gun purchases in a state that said it was illegal. The court upheld Maine’s right to deny gun access.

But, the biggest ruling was against Texas 5 to 3 that overturned a lower court ruling on abortion clinic access. The Supreme Court ruled that what Texas did, which was use arguments for women’s health as a ruse to close down too many clinics. The data and examples of other less safe procedures that were allowed to go on in clinics revealed a purposeful attempt to severely limit women access. This was a huge win for women’s rights on allowing what to do with her body. Experts have noted this is the most important ruling on women’s right to abortion since 1992.

That is all for now. Have a great Tuesday.

 

 

We are pulling for you, but you have an uphill climb

When a good friend does something that you suggested he or she not do as it is fraught with peril, you are concerned, but still care for them and pull for them. This is especially true when, as an outsider, you can see more clearly the troubles with a decision to do something. It gives you a sick feeling, but you will do your best to help them soldier on.

That is how many feel about our friends in the UK with Brexit, a vote to leave the European Union. I recognize the EU is imperfect like any government entity and needs improvements, but the global construct is more beneficial than it is not, due to more trade and freedom of movement. Working collaboratively, also helps lessen the risk of national turmoil which can cause unhealthy behaviors.

The global financial markets have shown an immediate displeasure with the change with significant declines and the pound priced at a 35 year low. Watching BBC World News America and PBS Newshour, where many global financial and political experts spoke, the sense is this is not just a short term aberration and that the Brexit will cause more long term financial anguish. Plus, with Scotland poised to initiate another referendum to leave the UK, this time to rejoin the EU, coupled with Northern Ireland considering the same, this does not look promising. June 23, 2016 may be remembered as the beginning of the end of the current UK construct.

All of this is unfortunate. Clearly, the UK citizens have a right to decide on their own country. Yet, in addition to Scottish and Northern Irish voters wanting to remain, the people under the age of 35 clearly wanted to remain, as they see the continued job opportunities with a solid EU. So, this is not a universally appreciated decision. What these folks see is non-UK companies setting up headquarters in the UK for their Europe business. With this change, my guess is some will consider relocating those to the Republic of Ireland or on the main continent. London’s loss may be Dublin, Paris or Frankfurt’s gain.

The UK will soldier on and the US will continue to support it. We will pull for you, but the climb is now more uphill. We should be reducing barriers to trade, not erecting them. No one is relishing redoing trade agreements with all of these entities. The uncertainty created just by this process alone will cause issues. Plus, it adds the uncertainty of other EU countries following suit. The more disruption, the harder trade becomes and creates opportunities for unhealthy nationalism.

The EU does need to do a better job of governance. The EU does need to do a better job of allowing the pipe on immigrants to be tightened and loosened dependent on the labor demands of an individual  country. These are fixable problems, but they need to be worked at collectively and with due consideration of one’s country’s labor market. Leaving the EU makes everything a little bit harder to accomplish.

I know the “Leave” voters are happy, but the rest of the world is saddened (with some exceptions), that the vote to remain was defeated. And, that is unfortunate. It would be my sincere hope is that the next few months will allow the UK to reconsider its decision and proceed with a new vote. This may be precipitated by a need to ward off Scottish and Northern Irish votes to leave the UK.

 

Don’t cede your power

Several blogs have been focusing on the impact narcissists have had on their lives. These narcissists have controlled their lives through an overbearing presence which is built on a foundation of deceit and greed to elicit devotion and attendance to their needs. When the victim does not kowtow enough, the narcissist makes the victim feel he or she is to blame and lessens his or her standing.

An old friend who counseled teenage students at school would often say “Don’t cede your power.” You choose to react to situations, not others, so don’t give your control or power away. True, it is harder to do this with a narcissist, as the abuser is very adroit at making others feel they are at fault. Donald Trump accuses others of lying and cheating when he has lied and cheated at a record clip in his life and during the campaign and is on trial for such, as we speak, in three separate court cases.

I worked for the longest time with a narcissist who leaned into people all the time. His overbearing manner and position would get folks to do his beck and call. Over time, the smallest slight would cause these people to snap and his response would invariably be “What did I do?” The straw that broke the camel’s back was small, but after a year of tolerating his narcissism, the victim blew a gasket, to mix metaphors.

Rather than let it fester to the point of disproportionate reaction, do your best to remain in control of how you react. “I am sorry you feel that way,” is one response placing the feelings back where they belong. “That was not my intention, so I am sorry you misconstrued that” is another. Voting with your feet is another. What I mean is reduce or eliminate exposure if you can. This may prove difficult, but it is well worth it.

One thing I have learned in my fifty-seven years is you cannot please a narcissist. You can only placate them. When I learned this about the individual I knew, I managed accordingly. I stopped going to lunch with him, I would offer pushback as needed and encourage him to see the other’s point of view. I also did not trust him at all, as I knew he would talk behind my back just as he did every one else. I did not need evidence as I just knew, but every once in a while a piece of evidence would float my way.

Narcissists are abusers. It is about their control. So, do your best to not cede yours, and if you cannot, then seek other avenues limiting or eliminating exposure to his or her negativity. You will be very glad you did.

 

Our declining middle class – an International Monetary Fund perspective

On PBS Newshour last night, a news report on the findings by the International Monetary Fund of the declining middle class in America was discussed. Judy Woodruff interviewed the Managing Director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde. Below is a link to the interview. The IMF findings support the concerns raised by several, which indicate the US middle class has declined from 60% in the 1970s to 50% today, a precipitous drop.

She notes that a vibrant, spending middle class has been a key to the economic success of America, as the wealthy do not spend as much and the people in the lower class have less money to spend. She notes this spread creates polarization which leads to mediocre economic growth. One of the things she notes is the aging demographics and the role they play on our economy.

The U.S. population is aging, like in other economies of the world, and, as a result, the participation of active workers in the economy is declining. Now, we cannot stop the course of time, but what policies can do is encourage people who are not joining the workplace, the job market, to actually do so.

And I would point to a couple of policies. One is support given to women. And, by that, I mean maternity leave policy that would help them face the decision of, do I stay or do I go? Second, child care support, and not just child actually, but the kind of support that would help families look after a child or look after an elderly, because, with aging, we will have to support more parents or grandparents.”

She also mentioned two other policies that would aid in our economy. One is the earned income tax credit. She said there seems to be bipartisan support to do something that would help low-income wage earners. The other is an increase in the minimum wage. This would help those in service jobs at least garner more income which would go directly into spending. I like the fact she reiterated a Ted talk theme by a venture capitalist, that when people consume more, manufacturers have to make more and, as a result, have to hire more. In short, consumers create jobs.

She was also asked about today’s Brexit vote and was hopeful the British citizens would vote to remain in the European Union. Since she has been in her position, I have found her to be a voice of reason about our world’s economy and someone who we should listen to. Her comments above are no exception.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/gloomy-imf-report-on-u-s-economy-cites-dwindling-middle-class-growing-income-equality/

 

Serious need for a US Peace Train

One of my favorite Cat Stevens’ songs is called “Peace Train.” It is also one of his more memorable hits. Here are few lyrics:

I’ve been crying lately
Thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating?
Why can’t we live in bliss?

For out on the edge of darkness
There rides the peace train
Peace train take this country
Come take me home again

We should heed its words around the globe, but especially here in the US. It did not come as a shock to me in the annual Global Peace Index, the US ranks fairly low coming in 103rd out of 163 countries. Per the  attached article:

“The index, put together by the Institute for Economics and Peace, an international think tank, defines peace as ‘the absence of violence or the fear of violence.’ It covers three ‘domains’: the level of ongoing domestic and international conflict; the level of ‘societal safety and security’ (things such as murders, terrorism, and riots); and the level of militarization, both domestic and international.”

The US scores poorly on the amount of money we spend on incarceration and militarization, both domestically and abroad. Plus, we have more gun deaths than in the other 23 wealthiest nations combined. The highest scoring and most peaceful countries are Iceland, Denmark and Austria. The least peaceful were Libya, Sudan and Ukraine.

The article notes the world is a less safer place than in the previous year. So, we all have our work cut out for us. But, we could start at home by being more civil to one another, shining spotlights on bigotry, reducing incarcerations for petty crimes and having better governance over gun access. At least that is my opinion.

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3060968/in-case-it-wasnt-obvious-the-us-ranks-very-low-on-the-global-peace-index

Debt collections declining in states who expanded Medicaid

Since not every state fully implemented the Affordable Care Act, data now exists that can contrast those who did with those who did not. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid, with nineteen states still remaining.

For those who do not follow this closely, the ACA uses Medicaid expansion as the vehicle to deliver health care coverage for people beneath 138% of the poverty level. The federal government would front 100% of the cost for three years, eventually declining to 90% thereafter. Yet, the Supreme Court said states could opt out of this feature, which 19 still have done so.

Per the attached article, The Federal Reserve Bank of New York in a study finds a benefit to people in states where Medicaid expansion occurred is debt collections have declined. I have written before that the principal reason for personal bankruptcy is medical debt. The study’s authors note:

“U.S. counties that had a particularly high uninsured rate prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act have seen the per capita collection balance fall if their state embraced the Medicaid expansion. If not, the collection balance continued to climb.”

Yet, in states where Medicaid was not expanded, debt collection is noticeably more in comparison. Per The Commonwealth Foundation, Kaiser Family Foundation, RAND Corporation, Economic Policy Institute and a George Washington University study, expanding Medicaid helps those in need, helps a state’s economy and helps hospitals, especially rural ones who have high indigent and uninsured costs. The hospitals in Medicaid expanded states are seeing fewer uninsured patients and seeing better operating margins. Now, evidence shows it keeps more folks out of bankruptcy.

Former Ohio Governor John Kasich, who was the most reasonable GOP presidential candidate in the view of many, said expanding Medicaid was a no brainer. He said it would bring $13 Billion to his state over the next several years when announced. It also helped his constituents. During the campaign he remained a supporter of Medicaid expansion, which swam against the GOP tide. It is hard to be a lone advocate in a sea of political animosity.

It is past time for leaders in the remaining states to stop thinking like party representatives and start thinking like financial stewards. Several states gave serious consideration, such as Oklahoma, Alabama, Idaho and Wyoming, to expanding during the spring, but in spite of strong data showing its benefits to the state, its hospitals and people, Republican animosity toward the ACA defeated the proposals. Medicaid expansion would help many, including those Republican constituents in poverty living In rural areas. It should be noted that these are the same folks who feel their party is not doing more for them.

Make a move legislators and help all your people, but especially your constituents.

http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/06/13/states-that-embraced-health-care-reform-seeing-les?eNL=575f314b140ba09f23187fc4&utm_source=BPro_Daily&utm_medium=EMC-Email_editorial&utm_campaign=06142016

Forty years later after high school

Last weekend, I attended my 40th high school reunion. We have been holding them religiously every five years, with a 55th birthday celebration thrown in. I have attended five of the reunions over the years. Let me give credit to Karen and Tanya as our stellar reunion coordinators, who have made it all happen.

At the Saturday dinner and dance, the alumni wore tags with our senior picture and names. The married females who changed their names had maiden names highlighted for our memory banks. The guy in my picture had far more and darker hair and a thinner face. The unseen torso was thinner as well.

Frank and Glenn, two of my three best friends, were there and made it more special. John is not a reunion afficionado. Yet, seeing other good friends, acquaintances and classmates was fun. We learned of children, grandchildren, illnesses and recoveries, and some who are struggling. There are several of us who can trace our histories back to the same elementary school, which adds more seasoning to our collective stew.

The music was vintage 1970s with a little 1980s thrown in. We graduated in the disco age, which may not be the greatest lyrical music, but does lend itself to dancing. Even us oldies can move if the inspiration is supplied. That inspiration  would include The Commodores, The Spinners, KC and the Sunshine Band, Earth Wind and Fire, Donna Summer and The Bee Gees to name a few.

The stories were plentiful. Here are a few remembrances from years past:

  • Cheryl  could never keep a rear view mirror on her car, as it kept breaking off as she and her friend kept shifting it to put on lipstick and make-up.
  • Jimmy could shoot a basketball from such long-range, he once made one from downtown, but the referee waived it off because he stepped out of bounds.
  • Randy would be seen running when we went to the beach and we would see him still running when we came back.
  • Our biology teacher called everyone Professor, so we would refer to each other in the halls and in class in that manner.
  • Returning from a baseball games still in uniform, we came up to a toll bridge. We realized our money was in the trunk, so a quick run was needed to get the quarter (yes, a quarter).
  • We used to wear these ugly leisure suits with wide collared floral patterns. The first time I wore mine, my girlfriend burned a hole in it with her cigarette while dancing.
  • Our German teacher looked like Mr. Clean. When we perplexed him, he would pull at his bushy eyebrows. Alternatively, he would rub his eyes with the palms of his hands.
  • My best basketball game was when I had to borrow Frank’s shoes. Frank, of course, attributes my new scoring touch with his shoes.
  • The older bully who tormented our class is now a high school principal. Our class life of the party is now a minister. You just never know where your journey will take you.
  • Becky, one of our talented gymnastics and dancers, just retired from teaching arts and dance.
  • Frank became the sports reporter he planned to be and now has a sports talk show. Sherri, Glenn’s wife, laughs and teases Frank about being paid to talk the way he always talks.
  • Speaking of Glenn and Sherri, they met at our high school and remain married to this day. Jimmy and Rhonda are as well. That is unusual in this day and age.

I could go on, but suffice it to say, it is nice to have this foundation of people and memories. I hope we will continue.

The AR-15: the weapon of choice for mass murderers

According to a report on PBS Newshour this week, the weapon used by the Orlando shooter is the AR-15. Apparently, it is the weapon of choice of mass murderers and was even used in the Sandy Hook school shooting. See the link below to the news report.

This weapon is designed to kill efficiently and brutally. It fires 30 rounds of ammo at a time, in bursts of three. Its bullets are powered by hardware that flops around in its target to increase the size of the wound. The doctors in Orlando said they normally don’t see this many or this large of wounds in their victims.

The 49 victims on early Sunday morning were killed with multiple wounds from this military style weapon. The only difference is the military weapon can fire all 30 bullets in one stream, instead of bursts of three. But, the killer need not worry about this limitation, as he can easily reload a cartridge.

Now, let’s go back in time to the Sandy Hook shooting. Picture the mostly young kids who were killed that day. This military style weapon was used to do lethal damage to their little fragile bodies. I do not mean to insult the memories of the deceased with these comments, but want parents and non-parents to visualize the brutality of this weapon and those like it.

With this in mind, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why should any American need to have a weapon that kills so many with so much efficiency and brutality?
  • Why have we placed people of interest on a no-fly list, yet think it is alright for them to purchase this weapon? Why have legislators in power not allowed a vote on this bill?
  • Why have we not extended background checks on all weapon purchases? This is not a fishing license. It is a weapon to kill.
  • Why have we not elongated waiting periods since 2/3 of gun deaths are suicide?
  • Why would we not want all guns to have fingerprint triggers to prevent a child from murdering his sibling, parent, grandparent, etc. by accidentally discovering a weapon?

Since the assault rifle ban expired in 2005, more than half of mass shootings in America have occurred. With over 1,000 hate groups in America plus other lone wolf radicals, unless we make some of the above changes, mass shootings will continue to occur in our country irrespective of tough talk by politicians on Islamic Radicals. It should be noted the Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Charleston killers were not Muslims, nor was the Indiana man arrested who was on his way to a Gay Pride event in California this past week, with several assault weapons in his vehicle and intent to wreak havoc.

We all must be diligent to watch out for folks, but we could make it easier with some of these changes. We should not hand the killer his weapon without doing some checking.

Please join me in reaching out for change with our elected officials. There is a movement by several Senators to bring some of these issues to a vote.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/its-the-weapon-of-choice-for-u-s-mass-murderers-the-ar-15/

Bigotry in our Leaders is not the answer

My heart goes out to the victims and their families in Orlando. Let’s keep them in our thoughts and prayers. And, as Frank Langella said at The Tony Awards last night, let us not let this tragedy define or diminish us. Let it strengthen us, as the reaction to Charleston’s terrible church shooting did last year.

Even before the horrific tragedy which claimed the lives of at least 50 Americans, we have allowed bigotry, racism and xenophobia to have too pervasive a place in our dialogue from so-called leaders. Whether they are political, business, governmental or religious so-called leaders or wanna-be leaders, we cannot allow bigotry to go without shining a spotlight on it. Political incorrectness does not mean we can be bigoted.

Conservative columnist Michael Gerson wrote last week about the toxic racism of one of our presidential candidates, saying loudly we cannot have our leaders being and saying racist things. Gerson has been a consistent voice for reason. He notes, historically over the last forty years, that being a racist is a non-starter for a national candidate. We need our leaders to be exemplars of treating folks fairly, not condemning folks for being different.

Yet, it goes well beyond that. One of my pet peeves is when I see bigotry from the pulpit regardless of the religion. Religious leaders should not be using their persuasive powers to divide. To me that is a significant dereliction of duty and is certainly not WWJD, at least in the bible I was taught from. There are no caveats to treating others like you want to be treated. People are listening to these comments and, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, bigotry has to be carefully taught.

Further, we have too much attention paid to discriminating and even demonizing folks who are diverse. In our country, all freedoms are important, whether they be LGBT, Black, Hispanic, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, etc. citizens. No one’s freedoms should be more important or infringe on the rights of another’s. Our LGBT friends now have rights like other citizens in America, but there are efforts to restrict those rights, even taking away rights that are older than same-sex marriage. That is unconstitutional.

Our best defense against violence is to celebrate and promote our freedoms. The new Muslim mayor of London noted he is the best kind of argument against Islamic terrorists groups. He shows a Muslim visibly succeeding in the western world. This success counters the divisive narrative of groups like ISIS.

The same holds true in our country, with our elected officials and military members from diverse groups. Muslims are part of our fabric and that community has every right to be an American as any other. LGBT folks have every right as well. We defeat hate by being inclusive and standing up for each other. We defeat hate by all of our citizens being watchdogs for those who may want to perpetuate hate. We also defeat hate by not ostracizing groups of people such as those in the LGBT community.

There are over 1,000 hate groups in the United States that have nothing to do with Islam. These hate groups include folks who are disenfranchised. Yet, we also have Muslim folks who are disenfranchised and are being recruited on line. The Muslim and non-Muslim communities must be vigilant to watch for folks who may be so inclined. The enemy is those who would do violence, not broad groups of people who are trying to live their lives like all Americans.

What I don’t care for his posturing by folks, who say they are going to be tough, but who have made comments to demonize folks and make the world a less safe place before they take office – these are the concerns of our allied leaders and retired US military generals, not just mine. I don’t support the argument of those who do not see the freedom of gun acquisition as not playing a role in mass shooting deaths. With our gun access in the US, there is very little that can be done to stop a evil minded SOB from killing people.  I am tired of tough talk from folks who do not realize their words and resistance to change are part of the problem.

We must involve all Americans in the due diligence looking out for violent extremists, whether they are Muslim, Christian, or merely a hate group unrelated to religion. We must have serious conversations about better governance around guns. And, we must stand tall with our LGBT community and say demonizing this group is not right. And, in my bible, it is not the answer to WWJD. It certainly is not electing bigoted leaders.