Everyone needs a Joe

Everyone needs a Joe in their life. You know the person. The one who is curious in learning and sincerely knowing what is going on in your life. The one who can talk with your kids as easily as he or she talks with you.

Joe’s are the kind of people who end up being teachers because of that desire to help others grow. The one who is the teacher that cares about the kids more than anything. Joe may dress and act in an eclectic manner, but is as down to earth as it comes. Joe would give you the shirt off his or her back if you needed it.

Joe is the kind of person who gets animated about upbringing, travels, or subject matter interests. A rapt storyteller is Joe which is a key part of the charming person. When Joe gets going, his or her voice can fill a room.

We had a Joe, but his body gave out on him after only 61 years. Too many car accidents left his body in pain and his big heart likely gave out on him after so much medication for too many years. He was my wife’s brother and left a lasting imprint on more than a few. He loved teaching science and married his soulmate after two earlier marriages went awry. His wife was also a teacher having just retired. It is a shame Joe won’t be with her in this physical world. He leaves three children who love hiking and the environment like their Dad.

Bless you Joe. Our Thanksgiving table will have a huge gap, just like our lives as we carry on without you. But, we will remember you forever.

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The Bail Project

This week on PBS Newshour, Robin Steinberg, the Executive Director of The Bail Project discussed their mission. A former public defender, Steinberg established The Bail Project to combat mass incarceration of people who could not afford bail.

In America, she noted that 75% of those incarcerated are there because they could not afford bail. They either pleaded guilty to a crime of which they were accused or are awaiting trial. Bail was created as a form of release, but it is not a choice for far too many. Steinberg said you don’t want innocent people in jail for crimes they did not commit.

She added in our country we believe people are innocent until proven guilty and that should not depend on race or income. So, her organization posts bail for these individuals, so they can be home preparing for their trial. She added the money is returned once they stand trial and could be used again.

This idea has merit and is both sustainable and replicable. We already have over-crowded prisons coupled with many prison guard vacancies. Avoiding prison will help avoid recidivism and not expose innocent people to more hardened criminals.

Looking at their Board of Directors, I noticed three names: actor Danny Glover, singer/ songwriter John Legend and billionaire businessman Richard Branson. Hopefully, their notoriety and support will help others become more aware.

Capitalism and socialism coexists

On more than one occasion, I have seen letters to the editor speak of setting up beachheads in the coming election around capitalism vs. socialism. To me, this is a name-calling gimmick to persuade a voter who does not do much homework. Voters that are prone to listen to name-calling as debate will buy into this logic time and again. The irony in this debate is the United States’ economy is a blend of “fettered” capitalism with socialistic underpinnings. So, both co-exist here.

For readers in the either camp, this observation probably surprises them, especially those who are gung-ho capitalists. But, the word in quotes is also important as we do not have unfettered capitalism. If we did, the US President would have run out of money long ago with his many bankruptcies. I believe in capitalism as well, but we need to understand why we ventured down the path of the socialistic underpinnings.

These underpinnings spoke to a nation that was in a great depression and who seemingly got lost in poverty later on. Social security is a low-income weighted pension, disability and survivor benefit program that is funded equally by employers and individuals. To determine the base level benefit, 90% of average wages are used for the earlier wages then added to 32% of the next tier of wages which are added to 15% of the highest wages up to a limit.

In the 1960s, LBJ’s “War on Poverty” added Medicare and Medicaid to the mix, with Medicare helping retirees and Medicaid focusing on people in poverty. Then, we can mix equal measures of unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation and food stamps which are now called SNAP benefits. Each of these programs are forms of “social insurance” benefits. That is socialism designed to keep people fed, housed and protected.

Taking this a step further, utilities are so needed to our communities, they are either co-ops or fettered capitalistic models where rate increases must get approved by a state governing board. Companies like Duke Energy and Con-Ed must get permission before they change their rates. For the co-op model, the customers own the business.

But, the word “fettered” enters into the mix on other businesses as well. To prevent monopolies, insider trading, interlocking boards, collusion, the misuse of insider knowledge by investors, etc. rules are set up to provide governors on capitalism. Then, there is that bankruptcy thing, where a business or person can claim bankruptcy to pay debtors what they can and restart. I use the President as an example, but his experience is a good one, as he filed for bankruptcy six times on various investments.

I want people to think about our country in this context. We want people to earn their keep and be fully functioning tax paying citizens. Yet, we have programs in place to keep them out of the ditch. As we considering changes to programs, we should consider what they are accomplishing and how changes could make them more effective. And, we must understand that things must be paid for, so how do we get the best return on the investment into those stated goals?

For those that have followed my blog for some time, you know I have been involved for many years in helping homeless working families find a path back to self-sustainability. We help the homeless climb a ladder, but they climb it. Yet, we are also successful in keeping people housed on their own after two years of leaving our program because we measure things and make improvements. The ultimate goal is self-sustainability, so we measure how we can be the best financial stewards toward helping people achieve that purpose.

We need social underpinnings to help people be fed, housed and protected. Some need to be temporary in nature, while others are longer term like Medicare and Social Security. There is a cost-benefit to these equations, but we should understand that we have poverty problem in our country. We must also understand technology advances will continue to change the paradigm on employment as it has throughout the industrial age placing additional pressures to even more wage earners. Not providing ladders out of poverty or ways to avoid it would be a bad path to follow for our country.

 

Questions for Campaigning Republican Legislators

Our diligent and thorough blogging friend, Gronda, wrote a post regarding answers to questions that Republican Party leadership provided GOP candidates. Most of the questions are of many of the messes the President finds himself in of his making, but truly miss the boat on where Republicans and the President have failed to address larger US and global issues.

There is plenty to ask about of these legislators. Here are a few of my questions:

– why are you allowing the easier maltreatment of our environment by industry?

– why are you supporting leaving the Paris Climate Change Accord ignoring the rest of the world?

– why have you failed to address our water concerns in Flint and similar places?

– why have you not only ignored our rapidly rising and expensive debt, but made it worse?

– why have you stood by and let the President trash and cut our diplomacy staff and bully our allies?

– why are we placing tariffs on everyone, without concern for past failures and ignoring better channels to address China involving our allies?

– why have you not listened to Americans and improve the ACA actually harming it instead?

– why have you not done anything to materially address gun governance?

– why have you allowed a President to trash our hard working people in important government departments to create an illusion of conspiracy to save his hind end?

– why have you tolerated a President who believes the civil rights of whites matter more than that of other races?

– why are we doing things to make our poverty problem worse, not better?

– why have we not addressed infrastructure with our significant needs and resulting job creation when interest rates were lower?

That is a start. These folks have a lot to answer to. To be frank, all Americans should be asking these questions, but if I were a young person, I would be even more alarmed. Just with climate change and growing debt, this party is screwing our youth.

But, there is so much more. I am an Independent voter who left the GOP over ten years ago because of their failure to speak to the truth on real problems – Trump has made it worse and his followers have been conned to believe the opposite.

Question for gun owners

Since legislators are more concerned with keeping their jobs than doing their jobs, I felt the need to pose the issue on better gun governance to gun owners. Doing nothing is obviously not the answer, although that seems to be the course too many advocate. My newspaper was kind enough to print the following letter to the editor, with a few edits. Please feel free to adapt and use if you concur.

“After yet another mass shooting in America (this time in my home town), in addition to three shootings over two days in Charlotte, doing nothing to address this issue is not working. I believe we can still honor 2nd Amendment rights and enact better gun governance. I have shared with legislators the suggestions that have majority support in the country. My question is for gun owners – what do you suggest we do to govern the ownership of a device designed to kill? We govern car ownership to keep the driver, passengers and others safe. Surely we can add better governance to gun ownership.”

Since I wrote this, there was another shooting incident in Charlotte this morning at an elementary school. Fortunately no one was hurt. Our law enforcement do a highly credible job, but stopping gun violence is extremely difficult in America.

The death of an ego

“Gabriel, who is that banging at the gate?” asked Peter. After returning, Gabriel said “It’s some guy with a long tie and lots of hair. He wants to see you. He says he belongs here.”

Peter approaches the man and offers his assistance. “Let me in. I belong here not that other place. I was HUGE on earth. No one did as much good as me. Before me, everything was a disaster.”

Peter looks down at his history log and reads for a few minutes, then looks at the man and says, “No, you have been assigned correctly. Our logs are very precise and I don’t glean a very altruistic life here.”

“You must be reading the fake news. They always lied about me,” says the man. Peter responded, “Sir, this is heaven, we don’t have fake news here. We know more about you, than you know yourself.”

“I was the best President ever, a successful businessman, I appointed conservative judges and people loved me at my rallies. So, let me in,” he demanded.

“Sir, you need to calm down. You were almost removed from office and the economy went into a tailspin late in your first term, so you lost your reelection. You also gave the illusion of helping people, which is worse. But, that is besides the point. You lied far more than you did not, you treated people poorly if they disagreed with you, you sexually assaulted women, you were very unfaithful to your wives,  you sued hard-working people causing them financial hardship and you collected money for charity and then used it for your own purposes. No, you definitely have been assigned correctly.”

“But, but, they will be mean to me there,” said the man. “Sir, each person’s hell is designed to treat them how he treated others,” said Peter. “I wish I had better news for you. The truth hurts, sometimes.”

“This is not fair. You people must be Democrats. I want a recount. Where’s Rudy?” asked the man. “Sir, you won’t find Rudy here either.” counseled Peter.

Not a damn thing

What a surprise, yet another shooting in America. This one occurred in my home town at a place where I have visited. That disappoints me, but is irrelevant. It can happen anywhere in a America and the legislators will do what they tend to do – not a damn thing.

As I was learning of the Jacksonville Landing shooting, I saw three more stories about shootings where I live now. To witness the magnitude of the problem, just count the gun death stories in the news for a month. Gun deaths happen everyday and you know what will be done about them – not a damn thing.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome. It could be said about continuing to do not a damn thing and expecting a different outcome. It is apparent doing little to nothing is not working. Shootings occur everywhere, but the numbers bear out the US is a far more dangerous place to be than the other top twenty-two nations in the world.

Gun deaths in America occur for many reasons – suicide leads the pack by far, but the reasons include incivility, immaturity, hate-crime, drug crime, accident, mental health, entertainment violence and alcohol. But, the constant in all of this is access to a gun. Guns do not kill people, people with access to guns kill people.

Until recently, with the kids and teens making an ongoing statement after the Parkland shooting, not much happened. Their efforts to speak out got the Florida legislature to act, but not much happened at the federal level. And, what Florda’s legislature did was a first step, but more is needed.

The kids get it. Too many adults in leadership positions are paid to do not a damn thing. We will hear many reasons over the next few days how a certain action will not prevent a certain shooting. That may be the specific case, but not doing a damn thing is obviously not working. We must act.

The NRA has spoken with its money and marketing efforts. I understand where they are coming from, although I disagree with them on a number of fronts. But, now let legislators go in a room with real data, law enforcement and behaviorial psychologists and come up with well-thought out solutions.

The first thing we must do is admit we have a problem. Easy access to guns is a problem. We govern driving a car, driving a  semi-truck, driving a boat, inspecting these vehicles, fishing, hunting, and marriage. We can at least govern the ownership of guns better than we are doing.

We need our legislators to do more than not a damn thing. If they do not, vote them out of office.