Baby Blues

Front Page, Human Interest, Opinion/Editorial, Science

 

     Prior to World War II if you mentioned “baby blues”, it would have been understood that you were referring to eye color. Now, a reference to “baby blues” might refer to the feelings of depression experienced by some mothers following childbirth.  This is especially true following the birth of the second set of twins or triplets.  However, I am referring to the blue eye color and the variants green and hazel.  Most babies of European decent are born with blue eyes giving rise to the expression “baby blues.”

     As it turns out, a baby’s blue eyes might change color during the first year and the eye color could change to green, hazel or even brown.  It is worth noting that no human eye has blue pigment.  The only pigment in human eyes  is brown (melanin).  Blue eye color is caused by a lesser amount of the brown pigment required to produce brown eyes.  Eye color is actually determined by the way light waves are reflected back out of the eye in much the same way as the sky is colored blue. Brown eyes result from high concentrations of brown pigment in the iris which causes light of both shorter and longer wavelengths to be absorbed.  In blue-eyed people, the shorter wavelength light is reflected back resulting in the blue color.

 

     Blue eyes occur in all parts of the globe, but brown eyes make up 75-90% of the world’s eye color, and it is believed that all humans had brown eyes up until ten thousand years ago.  It is also believed that blue eyes are the result of the mutation of a single individual in Europe which led to the development of blue eyes according to the theory of Hans Eiberg, associate professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.  It should be noted that  professor Eiberg’s theory fails to explain how a single individual was able to spread his eye color throughout the world population.   Blue eyes are common in northern and eastern Europe around the Baltic Sea, and DNA studies on ancient human remains confirm light eyes were present tens of thousands of years ago in Neanderthals, who lived in Eurasia for 500,000 years.  Currently the earliest blue-eyed remains of Homo Sapiens were found in Sweden and  were 7,700 years old.

     According to Brandon Gaille’s market based research, the percentage of the population with blue eyes of the United States is on the decline and now stands at 17% while worldwide blue eyes are 8% of the population.  However, in Finland and Estonia, 89% of their population has blue eyes.  In Ireland,  57% of the population has blue eyes, and 29% of the population has green eyes.  In Iceland 89% of women and 87% of men have either blue or green eye color, but  a study of Icelandic and Dutch adults found green eyes are much more prevalent among women.  Worldwide green is the rarest of eye colors and occurs in 1-2 % of the population.

     As a disclaimer, I should say that the numbers used  in eye color worldwide varies greatly depending on the source.  Apparently eye color distribution has not been well studied, but the study of eye color over all has led to some interesting findings.  Brown eye color has been associated with lower pain tolerance, increased sensitivity  to alcohol, lower sensitivity to bright light, lower night vision, and quicker reaction time.  Exploratory research conducted by the University of Pittsburgh  with 58 healthy pregnant women determined that women with blue or green eyes had a higher threshold for pain compared to their brown-eyed counterparts before and after labor.  The research team of the department of psychology at Georgia State University found that blue-eyed subjects were less sensitive to alcohol and therefore consumed significantly more alcohol  than brown-eyed subjects. They concluded that the greater sensitivity to alcohol in brown-eyed people resulted in reduced alcohol  addiction.  The study concluded that blue-eyed people are more likely to abuse alcohol than brown-eyed people.  This lends credibility to the old Western movie notion that you should not give “fire water”  to “red men.”

     Melanin is thought to protect the eye by absorbing light. Therefore brown-eyed people have more melanin and are less sensitive to bright light than blue-eyed people.  On the other hand, blue-eyed people are more sensitive to light and more prone to macular degeneration.  So, as ZZ Top would say, “Get yourself a pair of cheap sunglasses.”  People with blue eyes have a better night vision than those with dark-colored eyes.  From an evolutionary standpoint it  seems to make sense. Since  blue-eyed people evolved in the northern  part of the  world,  where there are long dark winter nights.  It is believed that blue eyes help man navigate their dark domain.  Apparently evolution did not work the same for the Inuit or Sami Laplanders herding reindeer. A study by the University of Louisville found that brown-eyed subjects had better reaction time and motor skills when performing tasks such as hitting a ball or boxing.  It should come as no surprise that the baseball legend Babe Ruth used a Louisville Slugger and was brown-eyed.  The study found blue-eyed subjects were better at tasks such as bowling and golf.  This could explain why golf was developed in Scotland.

     While the study of eye color has produced some unusual findings, it is interesting to consider that all blue-eyed people could trace their ancestry  to a single individual with a mutated gene meaning that all blue-eyed people are related.  Since this is not yet settled science it could well be that blue eyes are the result of visit by a blue-eyed extra terrestrial in our ancient past.  Either way eyes are fascinating and blue eyes, well they are captivating, but it is the vision that matters, and “Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye,” according to H. Jackson Brown. Jr.

 

Until next time…

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Esperanza, Grackles and Angels

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Outdoors

     

     You do not need a calendar to realize that spring has arrived. Step outdoors, open your eyes and ears and the evidence is overwhelming.  Trees are now sporting their best green attire, bluebonnets are in full bloom, clover has clawed its way to the surface along with the dandelions.  The air is a flurry of activity while birds fly to and from their nesting sites erecting nest of various description.  Doves are singing their mournful song, and grackles are heard everywhere.  Bees are buzzing as they gather nectar while crawling down the golden throat of the Esperanza.

     The Esperanza is often mistaken for a tropical plant, but it is a North American native.  It thrives in moderate southern climates and tolerates drought very well.  In recent years, it has grown in popularity due in part to its drought tolerance, but its gaudy yellow bloom is the reason it is turning up in gardens and landscapes throughout the south.  The two inch trumpet shaped blooms signal spring, but to everyone’s delight they continue to bloom uncontrollably through the fall.

     If you somehow miss the silent signaling of the Esperanza that spring has arrived, then surely you have heard the sounds of the Great-tailed Grackle.  The grackle makes an impressive array of sounds, but unfortunately not all are musical and not all are sweet tinkling notes.  Some sounds are mechanical and irritating like a squeaking door hinge, and others are so loud they are best heard at a great distance.  Male grackles make an irritating clacking sound when humans are near, and female grackles are known to follow humans around making an annoying chattering sound when they have young grackles in their nest.  There is a legend that grackles came into the world mute and stole their seven sounds from a wise and knowing sea turtle, and what we actually hear as grackle vocalization are the seven passions of life (Love, Hate, Fear, Courage, Joy, Sadness and Anger).  While some may not agree on the truth of the legend, all will surely agree that grackles are loud.

     If the sound of grackles has not alerted you to spring, then surely the thundering sound of the Blue Angels blasting holes in the sky got your attention.  Flying low over the Flour Bluff peninsula, rolling, looping then soaring out of sight they signaled the arrival of spring in a way that cannot be duplicated in nature.  Flying at speeds up to 700 miles per hour their jet aircraft often fly as close as eighteen inches apart.  The Blue Angels are best known for their iconic diamond formation and the missing man formation, but regardless of the formation, the Blue Angels arrival marks the changing of seasons in a way not to be outdone.

     It is often said of spring that it is a time for new beginnings, rebirth, revitalization, regeneration, or as I like to think of it.  It is a time for nature’s do-over, but perhaps Sitting Bull said it best.  “Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love.”

Until next time…

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The American Healthcare Act (AHA pronounced Ahh-Ha)

Front Page, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial

     

Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House

     At last, the Republicans have released their 123-page missive called the American Healthcare Act (AHA pronounced Ahh-Ha).  They claim AHA repeals the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” otherwise known as Obamacare.  Unfortunately for us, it references Obamacare throughout the legislative document, so in order, to fully understand their intention, you need to read the nearly 2,000 pages of the Obamacare legislation.  This is not what I had in mind when I voted for representatives to repeal Obamacare. I kind of prefer simple language. You know like, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is repealed effective May 31, 2017.”  Please remember the Constitution of the United States of America is a mere 22 pages.

     In typical Republican fashion, they attempt to appeal to some imaginary supporters like Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer. They always seem to forget who elected them, and obviously forget these famous words from Nancy Pelosi:  “Bipartisanship is nice, but it cannot be a substitute for action.”

     To provide full disclosure, I must admit that I only scanned AHAs 123 pages, but several things are clear. First, the Republicans like the provision that allows parents to insure their adult children because they retain the provision for keeping children on their parents’ policy until the age of 26. I think this is great, but if you are still so immature that you are a dependent at age 26, you should not be allowed to vote until age 27. Further, your parents should pay the full cost of your coverage. It should not be subsidized by your parents employer or the government (taxpayers).

     Republicans also like the welfare provisions in Obamacare that provide for Medicaid expansion. The AHA allows the continued expansion of Medicaid at the state level until 2020. After 2020, anyone receiving Medicaid would still get it, but the state allocations change to a per capita basis. Funding Medicaid should be changed to a per capita basis immediately so that any expansion by the states forces the states to fund the expansion not the federal taxpayer (you and me).

     The Internal Revenue Service continues to play a big role in AHA. You may recall that the IRS hired several thousand new agents to enforce Obamacare back in 2010. The Republicans apparently want them to continue monitoring your healthcare because the IRS is referenced 16 times in AHA. They have a role in enforcing health savings accounts as well as various exemptions, deductions or tax credits. If reducing healthcare cost was a goal, the IRS could better spend their time reducing Medicare and Medicaid fraud, not monitoring citizens’ healthcare expenditures.

     President Trump has made it very clear that our healthcare system should be a free market system, but unfortunately the Republicans do not have the same faith in the free market system. The AHA turns the market over to exchanges and state insurance regulators. The term free market cannot be found in AHA; although, the word repeal is found 15 times. And while there is no provision to purchase insurance across state lines, the welfare provisions in Obamacare remain, but the Republicans have juggled the way the welfare provisions are administered. People who pay no taxes still get a tax credit which is refundable (more welfare spending).

     The Republicans claim this is just the first step of a three step process, but they offer no details of the other two steps. This puts citizens in the same position we were in when the original act referred to as Obamacare was passed. The act will have to be passed in order to find out what is in it.

     There is much in this legislation, most of which is not good if you wanted Obamacare repealed. The AHA merely nibbles around the edges. However, I should not close without saying that abortion gets mentioned 11 times. Apparently, the Republicans found the courage to de-fund Planned Parenthood abortions for one year maybe. I am not sure who this will appeal to, but since I am on the subject of abortion, this AHA legislation looks a bit like a Kermit Gosnell botched partial-birth abortion. Please consider that I did not bring up abortion for the sake of controversy. The Supreme Court long ago decided that we all have a choice with regards to abortion. The choice is Pro-life or Pro-death;  you decide.

     While Chuck Schumer was not referring to the IRS directly, he said, “Decisions ought to be made by doctors, not accountants.”

Until next time…

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A Time of Hope and Promise

Front Page, Opinion/Editorial, Outdoors

     

     Winter appears to be in rapid retreat, and a few days of spring-like weather are headed our way before the long humid days of summer.  Mesquite trees have begun to leaf out, and a few migratory birds have appeared in the canopy of live oaks.  Gardens have been planted, and a  few berry-sized tomatoes cling to the vine, while citrus trees are beginning to bloom.  In short, it is the time of renewal.  It is the time of hope and of promise.

    Ground Hog Day has passed, and Arbor Day is on the horizon.  For many, the significance of Arbor Day has been lost along with the legend of Johnny Appleseed.  Society is just too advanced for such quaint notions, but should it be?  Is there significance in planting a tree?  Is there hope and promise?

     For me, the answer is yes, and it has always been so.  I can still recall visiting Bird Island Basin in the 1970s and observing the fresh-water ponds.  The ponds were mere depressions that gathered and held rain water.  There were no trees along the shoreline, but I thought there could be, so I recruited my brother, and we planted willow trees along the shoreline.  I am happy to report the trees are still standing, still producing oxygen and providing a habitat for local wildlife.  In the course of human events, it was not a particularly significant event, but for me it was one filled with hope and promise.

     It was with that spirit of hope that Arbor Day was first celebrated in Spain in the year of 1594.  In the United States, the first Arbor Day was celebrated in Nebraska on April 10, 1872.  An estimated one million trees were planted.  By 1883, Arbor Day had spread to Australia, Canada, Europe and Japan.  On April 15, 1907, Theodore Roosevelt issued an “Arbor Day” proclamation to the school children of the United States.  The proclamation emphasized the importance of trees and forestry.  Now National Geographic claims that half of the world’s oxygen is produced by trees and other vegetation, and therein lies the hope and promise of our future.

     It is claimed that excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is contributing to global warming, and that taxing carbon emissions is the solution.  An absurd proposition, but a proposition held dear by so-called environmentalist.  It would seem as though environmentalist prefer a social solution to a scientific solution.  It is not clear how taxation can convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, but through photosynthesis a tree certainly can, and trees – not taxation – may provide hope and promise to our friends, the confused environmentalist.

     Trees (all plant life) take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen through the process known as photosynthesis.  If a tree grows at the rate of 100 pounds per year, then the tree stores approximately 100 pounds of carbon and releases approximately 100 pounds of oxygen into the atmosphere.  When a tree reaches maturity and stops growing, the tree stops producing excess oxygen, and can be said to be in a state of equilibrium.  When a tree dies and begins to decay, the carbon trapped in its cells is given off as carbon dioxide.  When a mature tree is harvested for lumber, the carbon remains trapped in its cell structure, and the carbon dioxide is not released into the atmosphere.  If a tree is burned for fuel, the carbon in its cell structure is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.  The same thing can be said of burning fossil fuels.

   Fossil fuels such as  coal, petroleum and natural gas are stored carbon that was created  through a process known as anaerobic decomposition millions of  years ago.  Dead plant life was buried and subjected to heat and pressure and over time created vast deposits of fossil fuel.  When fossil fuel  is burned, the stored carbon is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, in much the same way as burning  a log in a fireplace.

     Interestingly carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is essential for plant growth, and it is considered to be a nutrient for plants.  Since carbon dioxide is a nutrient for plants, as the carbon dioxide level  in the atmosphere increases, plant growth accelerates and reduces the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Conversely when carbon dioxide is depleted in the atmosphere plants quit growing and begin to die.  It kind of reminds me of the law of conservation of matter that was taught in sixth grade science class which states, “Matter cannot be created or destroyed only transformed.”  So if you want to reduce the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, consider the scientific solution, and plant a tree.

“If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if you think in terms of ten years, plant trees;  if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.” – Confucius

Until next time…

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A Valentine Trilogy

Front Page, Human Interest

     

St. Valentine

     Valentine’s Day is well established in the mind of the western world, owing of course to the Valentine’s Day tradition. How it came about is not so clear.  One popular legend is that in the third century AD, a priest named Valentine defied the orders of Emperor Claudius and secretly married couples so that the husband would not have to go to war.  In yet another legend, Valentine refused to sacrifice to pagan gods and was imprisoned for this. While in prison, Valentine’s prayers healed the jailer’s daughter who was suffering from blindness.  On the day of his execution, he left her a note that was signed, “Your Valentine.”

     While there are many legends, it is not clear where the notion of giving Valentine’s Day cards came from. It is abundantly clear that on Valentine’s Day thoughts turn to romance and love.  What follows are some of my thoughts.

Ramblings of the Heart

Sometimes it’s music ringing in the ear

Sometimes the music turns to laughter

Sometimes it’s visions when no one is here

Sometimes the visions do not matter

I’ts like a symphony no one has heard before

It’s like a gallery without paintings

It’s like a dream leaving footprints on the floor

It’s like a heart that’s near to fainting

Sometimes it stings and makes a body numb

Sometimes the numbness is forgiving

Sometimes in silence it leaves you deaf and dumb

Sometimes it makes you glad you’re living

It’s like a circle that keeps going ‘round

It’s like a dream without an ending

It’s like it’s lost then somehow it’s found

It’s like a heart in need of mending

Sometimes it’s crazy ramblings of the heart

Sometimes it stirs the inner feelings

Sometimes it whispers, “We’ll never part”

Sometimes it’s love that leaves you reeling

Too Many Darts

When dreams fail to conjure the words

I sit in silence, but my thoughts are of you

My pen doesn’t write – my paper lays empty

I struggle with words too terse and too few

Images are formed but are lost in an instant

Scattered like dust in turbulent wind

Try as I might I cannot recapture

The moment that’s lost and won’t come again

Fragments and phrases like dirges dance

Scrawled on paper are too many starts

Conclusions are skipped like the fluttering heartbeat

Cupid I think shoots too many darts

Wrestling with words and uncertain meanings

Eventually the rhythm begins to flow

Too long it took – too near the ending

All that’s left is “I love you” you know

Related image

Bindings

Words alone seem useless

Like the child that only stutters

They can’t describe the feeling

Of the heart that flits and flutters

In the presence of your favor

Or the passing of a kiss

Moments strung like pearls

Leading to a certain bliss

It’s the happy circumstance

That spreads the rainbow on the heart

In one majestic moment

Without end and without start

It’s the twinkle of a star

On the surface of the eye

Fragments forged I fancy

That binds you and I

Salvatore Postiglione, Dante e Beatrice, 1906

 

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Eight Track Players and Obamacare

Front Page, Government and Politics

 

     Ever since the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) became the law of the land, Republicans have been promising to repeal it. In fact, most have included the repeal of Obamacare as part of their political campaign to get elected in the first place.  Now that they have a president willing to sign their repeal legislation, they are dragging their feet and are not providing the legislation to repeal Obamacare.  In typical Republican fashion they are waffling.  They now inform us that they need to keep the good part, but they fail to tell us what the good part is.

     Is the good part ever-increasing premiums? Is the good part not keeping your plan or your doctor?  Perhaps they think keeping basement-living adult children on their parent’s plan until they are 26 years old is the good part.  Frankly, I do not believe there is a good part unless you are one of the many welfare recipients who receive benefits through the plan’s Medicaid provision.  It is often claimed that Obamacare has added 30 million new insurance recipients since the plan was approved in 2010.  However, they seldom mention that 20 million are receiving their insurance through Medicaid, and hard working Americans are paying for it.

     It is time to remind your elected representatives that now is the time to repeal Obamacare. It is time for government to get out of the insurance business.  Congress should provide the legislation needed to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a free market system.  If there is a good part of Obamacare, the free market will provide it.  It is uncanny how the free market provides what consumers want and does not provide what the consumers do not want.  For example, the last time I looked for an eight-track player at Wal-Mart I was surprised to find they did not have one, but they had plenty of mp3 players, Bluetooth speakers, and sound bars.  That is how the free market works.  Apparently people do not want eight-track players in much the same way as they do not want Obamacare.  The same people who do not want eight-track players also don’t want to pay for mental health insurance, dental care for welfare recipients, breast pumps, and other Obamacare mandates.

     Apparently some members of Congress do not understand the concept of insurance because they cling to the pre-existing coverage requirement in Obamacare. They apparently falsely believe you should be able to buy fire insurance after your house burns to the ground. I understand that politicians are risk averse (although not when lining their pockets), but it is as John Paul Jones said, “It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win.”

Until next time…

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It’s All Fake

Front Page, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial

     

WikiHow to Stop Being Scared After Watching Scary Movies

     At an early age, I recall seeing something scary on television and being frightened. My dad was not one to provide comfort in a usual sense, but provided an explanation of entertainment that I still recall.  He told me there was nothing to fear, that the events were not real, that it was a fantasy, a fake, and a fraud.   He demonstrated his mastery of the monster by turning off the television.  He went on to explain that it was merely entertainment, and that the people were not real but mere actors, and that the monsters too were actors dressed in costumes.  He cautioned me not to believe what I saw on television because it was all fake.

     I accepted his explanation, but in time, I felt a bit of resentment because I could not suspend my disbelief. I knew it was all fake, and for that reason, I found it less entertaining.  It was as though I found out about the Santa Claus truth too soon.  So, instead of spending a lot of idle time in front of the television, I spent my time doing real things outdoors; riding bikes, climbing trees, building forts, blazing trails, playing games, swimming, and more.  I was much too busy to be concerned about television being fake, and I understood that actors were just ordinary people with a talent for timing and delivery.

    I now find it interesting that entertainers do not understand their own limitations. Over the last year, entertainers enthusiastically demonstrated their support for Hillary Clinton.  Many promised to leave the country and move to Canada if Hillary lost.  Unfortunately, none has left.  Entertainers are so caught up in their fantasy world that they do not realize that it is not real.  Like the characters they play, their political philosophy too is false.  Yet they speak with conviction hoping their followers will believe them.  I suppose some do, but actors are best known for their timing and delivery, not their wisdom.   They are so caught up in their fantasy world that they cannot separate fact from fiction.

     It is interesting to note that many have vowed not to perform at President Trump’s inauguration, yet many of the same actors and actresses have performed for dictators and repressive regimes around the globe.   Can they not see their own hypocrisy?   Do they not realize how foolish they look?  Perhaps not!  They are best known for their timing and delivery not their wisdom.

      Perhaps actors could still learn a bit from Katherine Hepburn who said, “Acting is the most minor of gifts. After all, Shirley Temple could do it when she was four.”

Shirley Temple, Commons

 

Until next time…

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Fakes, Lies and Propaganda

Front Page, National Scene, Opinion/Editorial

     

Image result for russia controls presidential election

     The election is more than a month behind us, and the Democrats still cannot accept the fact that they ran a lousy candidate and lost.  They have had a long list of excuses and have blamed nearly everything except climate change, but I am sure they will get around to climate change once they make the connection.  For now, they have settled on Russian hackers and fake news as the culprits.  It seems to them that the Russians hacked the emails of John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee, and then circulated the emails via WikiLeaks creating “fake news.”  Everyone now knows this is the gospel truth because the Washington Post reported it, and they claimed that they got the story first hand from an unnamed CIA operative.  The rest of the mainstream media has picked up the story, and even Brian (the liar) Jennings is reporting it on MSNBC.  It has almost reached the level of “settled science.”

     Like climate change, there are still a few skeptics who do not believe it is settled science.  Some have been so bold as to suggest that if the CIA had the evidence suggested by the Washington Post story, wouldn’t someone be arrested, extradited or subjected to banking restrictions and sanctions?  My old friend Sam, a former NSA snoop, has suggested that this is merely a double fake, sort of like a double reverse in football.  He explains that the fake Russian hacking story was created to give credibility to the fake news narrative.  I told him that I thought that it would be very bold to create a big lie to cover a colossal lie, and he suggested that I think about it.

     I did not know what my friend Sam meant at first, but after some thought, I recalled the propaganda technique known as the “big lie.”  Adolph Hitler coined the expression in his book Mein Kampf.  His idea was that honest people tell small lies in small matters, but they would be too ashamed to tell a big lie.  So they would never believe that anyone would be bold enough to fabricate a big lie.  Therefore, they would believe the big lie.  When you think of it, this whole “Russian Hack/Fake News” episode smacks of a colossal lie, so maybe Sam is on to something.

     I did have another thought about lies.  I recall very well that my mother tried very hard to teach me not to lie.  She said if you tell one lie then you are bound to tell another lie when the first lie is found out.  I did not quite understand at the time, but I later found out, and so did she.  Since then, I tell mostly small lies in small matters.

     So as the Democrats cast about for an excuse for their failure, it is interesting to note that George Washington said, “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.”

 

Until next time…

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The Wisdom of Joe Biden

Front Page, National Scene, Opinion/Editorial

     With the 2016 election behind us, we have seen our last political commercial for a while, and I know some are saddened by the thought; however, few would deny that this has been an election for the record book, and for those paying attention, many would admit that we have a serious problem with political corruption.  At the time of this writing, it may be accurately said that Hillary Clinton is the poster child for corruption, but the truth is far worse.  In this election cycle, corruption has been uncovered at all levels.  There is corruption in the White House, State Department, IRS, VA, FBI, EPA, and the Department of Justice to name some of the more deserving.  So where do we go from here?  What can citizens do to remedy this?

     Good questions all, but where do we start? Most corruption can be traced to money and political influence, and this is not a new problem.  By 100 B.C. the corrupt Roman Senate was being bribed by foreign governments.  In fact, our founding fathers knew this. Our founding fathers had also experienced British corruption first hand.  That is why the Constitution prohibits accepting money from foreign governments in Article I, Section 9, and Congress extended the prohibition to spouses with the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act.  Oddly, no one remembered this law when Hillary was in the Senate – or when Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation were taking money from foreign governments.

 

     It is not just foreign governments that purchase influence.  Often domestic businesses, lobbyist and other special interest purchase influence, and most elected representatives just accept it.  It is the way of life in Washington, D.C.  To guard against corruption, our elected officials are required to file financial statements, and the financial statements are reviewed by watch-dog organizations, but this has not impacted corruption greatly.  Just ask the Clintons.

      Politicians often make a big deal of providing their tax returns or their opponent not providing their tax return (Donald Trump).  While tax returns may be helpful, they are merely a snapshot of one year, and yes, I agree that it is interesting to see that Bill Clinton donated his used underwear to charity and took a deduction for it.  I do not agree that it is sufficient to detect corruption.  (Okay, maybe in Bill’s case.) After all, that is not the purpose for which a tax return is intended.

     The underwear deduction is laughable, but the Clinton’s corruption is not.  Consider this.  When the Clintons left the White House, Hillary claimed that they were dead broke.  Now after eight years in the Senate and serving as Secretary of state, the Clintons are worth 115 to 120 million dollars.  You can almost smell the corruption.  I am certain Hillary did not earn that kind of money as a senator.  However, her situation is not unique.  Politicians find ways to enrich themselves, and they improve their enrichment schemes with experience.

     Some will remember that Spiro Agnew resigned from the Vice Presidency in 1973 after he was charged with tax fraud and bribery.  He had accepted more than $100,000 while serving as Baltimore County Executive in Maryland.

     Carroll Hubbard a career politician and representative from Kentucky was indicted for misusing government property in 1992. In 1994 he pleaded guilty to three felony charges of violating federal campaign spending rules, conversion of federal property, theft and obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, and fined $153,794.  Being one not to let his experience go to waste, in 2005, Hubbard ran for office in the Kentucky Senate, losing by only 58 votes. He lost again in 2008.

     Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a congressman from San Diego, California, sat on the House subcommittee that designates spending to certain defense programs, and after 14 years of experience, he resigned from Congress in November 2005 after pleading guilty to bribery. He admitted taking bribes of at least $2.4 million – the highest known amount a congressman has ever admitted to taking.  Cunningham was sentenced to eight years in federal prison and ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution.

     James Traficant, a congressman from Ohio with 17 years of experience was convicted of ten felonies including bribery, tax evasion and racketeering.  He was kicked out of Congress in 2002.

      It is not my purpose to suggest that corruption is rampant, but rather it is a serious problem that deserves a serious solution.  Perhaps the simplest answer to corruption is term limits.  This would at least minimize the risk because the longer a politician remains in Washington, D.C. the more power the politician attains.  With more power concentrated in the politician’s hand, the greater the temptation there is to use that power for financial gain.  That is why Lord Acton said that, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  I am well aware that it is argued, that once a politician gains a little experience in Washington, D.C., you should return the politician to Washington, D.C. to take advantage of that experience.  That is exactly what all politicians claim.  I can only say that approach has gotten us where we are.

     Experience is not a guarantee of improved performance.  Experience simply means that you have done a task repeatedly.  It does not mean you have gained a particular knowledge or insight.  It can be said that a person flipping burgers for twenty years has twenty years of experience, but it might be more accurate to say the person had one year of experience flipping burgers twenty times.  The point is that experience is not an indication of intellectual gain.  In Washington, D.C., experience can be a negative.

     Washington, D.C. has a corrupting effect, and that corrupting effect over time often offsets the benefits gained by experience.  What is needed in Washington, D.C. is honest people of integrity who represent their constituents and nothing more.  Politics should not be a career path.  Representatives should serve their constituents for a limited term, and then return home to their careers.

     It is worthy to note that in absolute terms, “Corruption is just another form of tyranny,” so said Joe Biden.

 

Until next time…

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“Live from New York, It’s Saturday Night!”

Front Page, Government and Politics, National Scene, Opinion/Editorial

   

Obama

     There was a time when people thought parody was funny, but now I am not so sure.  For example, in the recent sketch of President Obama meeting with President-elect Trump for the first time, it appeared to me as if President Obama could not quite remember his lines, could not force a smile, and finally just resorted to a grimace.  It did not make me laugh.  The material was just not funny.  I kept thinking to myself President Obama should say, “My legacy, my legacy, please save my legacy.”  Now, that would have been funny, but all we got were big ears and a grimace.

     I have come to understand since that President Obama just doesn’t understand parody.  In fact, it is one of the words he will not say, kind of like his not being able to say “Muslim terrorist.”  In Germany recently, President Obama referred to parody as fake news, and at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he took the opportunity to blast “fake news.”  He said, “If we are not serious about the facts and what’s true and what’s not, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”  I think this was another lame attempt at parody because he has never been one to concern himself with facts or serious arguments.  Some claim that “fake news” will be his only lasting legacy.

     Many will recall the “fake news” story he created in 2012 to confuse the facts surrounding the Benghazi massacre.  You know the one, where President Obama and his minions claimed the attack on the American Embassy was caused by a YouTube video.  Ironically the video he referred to was parody, but I do not think he got the humor.  Of course, we heard the story for weeks on end, and we have not yet had an honest report on the matter.

     Who could forget the memorable line so eloquently spoken by President Obama, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”  That was fake news at its finest.  Every time I hear that often repeated line, I visualized the minister of propaganda in Nazi Germany.  In fact, the whole “fake news” campaign is Nazi-esque.  It appears to be reverse propaganda designed to regulate the unregulated social media.

     Everyone will remember the fake story of how paying $400 million to the Iranians to free American military hostages was not ransom.  The fact that an unmarked plane was used to deliver the unmarked bills is irrelevant we are told.  While the unmarked plane and unmarked cash may be irrelevant, it does not make for good parody.  If the unmarked plane had delivered monopoly money, that would have been funny.  The president just does not get it.

     Oddly President Obama’s interest in fake news comes at a time when social media platforms are being criticized for carrying fake news stories.  Claims have been made that fake stories helped to elect Donald Trump.  Mark Zuckerberg the co-founder of Facebook initially called that idea “crazy”, but he has since reversed his stance.  Zuckerberg has now outlined measures to help prevent fake news from being shared on Facebook (pronounced fakebook).  Sources tell me that Zuckerberg would never have claimed it was “crazy” if he had not been late opening his emailed instructions form George Soros.

     It is probably just me, but I think freedom of the press means “freedom of the press.”  While social media platforms have a right to control what is on their site, the government and President Obama have no roll in interfering with freedom of the press.  Given that President Obama’s administration is riddled with fake news, I find it ironic that he now wants to put a stop to it.  Perhaps it is just another lame attempt at parody, and President Obama is pretending to be the Ayatollah of Iran.

     All I can say for sure is that it has been a long eight years, and every time I have had the misfortune of watching the news, I kept wishing that someone would step forward and say, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”

Until next time…

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