Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Outside...looking in....

So first I apologize to my avid readers for not writing this month til now.  I've been extremely busy between a wedding and then being out of the country for work.  I have just been too tired to write.  In all honesty, I really haven't wanted to write about POTUS.  The Europeans and Asians have a very different view of President Trump than the far left, the far right, those that didn't support him and those that did.  For someone like me who had my trepidations from the start, well, honestly, they sound more like I do.  They don't have the hatred that a good third of the nation do.   They don't have the starstruck, kiss his ass, he can do no wrong attitudes of the people who blindly voted for him because they somehow truly believed his one liners even when he often contradicted them.  Most of our country knew he wasn't actually going to "make America great again".  We need true leadership for that and his track record was never that of a leader.  Entrepreneurs are more often than not the most difficult people to work for and with.

Our new President is definitely an entrepreneur type of person.  Stubborn.  Extremely confident in what he knows.  Extremely confident in what he doesn't know sometimes.  And, dare I say, just a bit of a braggart.  I question whether a braggart can keep a secret.   POTUS's ego appears to be way, way, way beyond the pig headed, over confident, full of confidence entrepreneur.  He's got to brag.   It's his thing.  We could see it during the election.   He knew more doesn't really matter who.  He always tells everyone how much he knows more than any experts in any field than they do.   It's always over the top.  He also falls miserably to apologize.  It's pretty hard for some people.   Trump has never apologized ever for anything, and there's no way we could ever expect that he would start now.  Of course, by basic assessment,  Trump is definitely the same as and yet opposite Obama.  Obama apologized so much I wanted to ring his neck.  Trump is so unapologetic that I want to ring his too.  Give him a good shake and yell at him to wake the hell up, grow up, something.  The biggest issue with Trump's version of entrepreneur is most are mature thinkers and I'm not convinced our POTUS is actually mature enough to be President.  A mature man knows when to say something and more importantly when not to.

Funny thing is that I want POTUS to be successful.  Wanting him to fail is like shooting yourself in the foot the night before you're going to run a marathon.  I'll even admit he could look Presidential.  I mean he's quite tubby compared to most former Presidents.  But Taft, the President who got stuck in the White House bathtub, well, he was more than tubby and he looked presidential.  The problem with this POTUS is his mouth.  He just doesn't know when to shut the hell up.  That was all too evident in the election.  He would scream and carry on, talking over his opponents.  He would sling insults too freely for a professional who knew limits.  He didn't have any limits to what he would say during the election, and so there's little surprise that his tone downed "presidential" version of himself is still far less presidential and far more reality TV showboating.  Don't get me wrong.  You can tell he's trying, but overall he's just probably incapable.  So while he's basically bragged without meaning to in interfering with an ongoing FBI investigation, then flatly claiming it was his decision to fire the FBI Director in what blatantly appears to be interference with an investigation and possible retaliation for the Director not complying with his demands which would be completely illegal, to topping that (as if it couldn't get worse) with having the Russians in the Oval Office immediately following.  That alone either means he's completely stupid and oblivious to appearances or potentially, dare I point this out, a traitor.  As is that wasn't enough....and trust me it was way, way, way enough for the rest of the world especially our allies in Europe who have reasons to be extremely concerned over Russia's attempts at expansionism in a Hitler-esque way...this idiot savant just blabbers intelligence secrets received from one of our allies in the Middle East.  Whether that ally is a European based ally or more likely a Middle East based ally, none are happy about the Russian expansionist presence in the Middle East, and they are reeling at the idea that a US President would betray their confidence.  At best this man we elected is either way, way more of a idiot who has used his bragging to make money (which is a distinct possibility) or the man is a traitor.  So far his presidency has been one fiasco after the next....successful for Putin.

The intelligence community couldn't even brief him initially because of that moron racist from Breitbart.  Once POTUS put the reins on him, I really thought with him actually listening to the intelligence community he'd catch on.  But there are numerous reports that he doesn't read the briefs they provide and that he has demanded bullet points because that's how he's run his businesses.  That's fine when details can be relied upon your staff to make it work, but there are intelligence that are received that are eyes only.  These types of things are limited to less than 50 USA citizens have any knowledge at all about--things so classified that less than 10% of Congress even has the clearance, let alone the President's staff.  This POTUS has chosen to surround himself with several people that couldn't pass the security clearances. Most Americans based on military personnel clearances wouldn't be cleared for top secret and that's only the third level of secret by DoD (Department of Defense) classifications.  Things that can ixney just that level include civil arrests, a good (not great) credit score, traveling to certain countries even on vacation.  The clearance needed for eyes only hasn't even been granted to Trump's right hand, his son in law.  It's unclear exactly how many levels above top secret there are, and even more guarded is how complicated each of these levels are.  The problem is that by virtue of being President, we the American public, grant access to someone who those "in the know" might never give access to.  That's actually all on us.  So having someone we duly elected want classified information that might be limited down to as few as a dozen Americans to bullet points just sounds idiotic and more troubling, problematic.  Our obligations when we vote aren't trivial votes for high school prom king or queen.  We are voting for a person to take our security seriously and in this measure we have failed ourselves.  The current POTUS four months into his term still hasn't gotten a grip on this monumental responsibility, let alone surrounding himself with people capable of advising him.

Still this might be working in our favor.  We look stupid.  Weak.  Inept.  Hardly the "great America" that would lead any effort for freedom.  We can barely secure our own. We looked like bickering children for 8 years under Obama.  We still look like bickering children under Trump.  After more than a decade (another couple years) of this childish leadership and behavior of our media, our leadership, and worst of all, ourselves, we won't be anyone's force to be reckoned with.  At least that's how we are starting to look from the outside looking in.  Britain, Germany, even France, have become the prime terrorist targets.  They are now seen as the bigger threats to tyranny and religious zealots.  

That might be all well and good after the bombing in Manchester this week.  God knows we were devastated by the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.  There's no way to ever erase that.  But we became so unified, that the great "sleeping giant" of this country was unified.  Many think of Admiral Yamamoto's reference to the "sleeping giant" as our military might and/or the leadership of this nation, but that's inaccurate.  We, the American people, are the sleeping giant.  We like our complacency, our inaction.  We are fat and lazy and content to be left alone.  This POTUS represents that part of us well.  In his speech in Saudi Arabia this week, it came off quite clear that he's leading us into isolationism.  He iterated over and over that he was only concerned with Americans security first.  Sounds good to us lazy, average Americans.  All of us, whether we want to admit it or not, are tired of war, tired of the conflicts in the Middle East, weary of a poor economy and looking like we are ready to throw in the towel.  Yet while giving this same stupid rhetoric, he was also bragging about how much money the new accord with the Saudis was about.  In an area where estimates range from 20% to as much as 82% of the people live in poverty.  And not the American version of poverty.  No state help or aid available.  The Sally Struthers commercials version of poverty.  Bragging about money in front of them, hundreds of billions of dollars, is like taking an entire cactus and shoving it under your saddle while riding a barely broken in wild mustang.  Stupid as hell.  That's our POTUS.  We won't be hated by the extremists for meddling in their systemic slaughter of the opposition.  No, let's be hated for good old American greed.  

Back during Obama's terms, particularly after reading Bob Woodward's books about his first term, I made no qualms that I thought Obama was bad for this country.  When you are that far down, there's no where to go but up, right?  During the election, I made no qualms that I was mortified that the two major parties had actually been able to find worse, and I made the analogy that if elected Trump would simply be the white GOP version of Obama.  Both were virtually nothing in their parties prior to their bids for the White House.  Neither had any real political experience.  Both liked to brag about themselves, and both seemed to use bully tactics to get what they wanted.  So far, even though I had hoped to be wrong, this POTUS has proved me right, but he does have some major differences.  One of which is the blatantly obvious peacock show of money.  He loves to brag about his money whether he has it or not.  

Well that's all fine and good until you realize that Russia's interest in the Middle East is all about money.  What if the financial collapse that we experienced was orchestrated?  Who has benefited most by our economic demise?  Not our European allies or Asian allies.  We took them down the tubes with us.  Russia has.  Putin has gained significant influence and he has invaded countries, annexing parts of other countries and shooting down commercial aircraft without a whimper out of us.  We want out of Iraq, away from Iran, out of Afghanistan.  Hell I understand the ramifications better than the average bear and even I want us out of there.  But then the bombing in Manchester.  This is because of a weakened Allied alliance.  America is weak after 8 years of Obama with his apologies and ineffective ability as Commander in Chief.  Now, with four years of a POTUS who can't even maintain highest levels of intelligence, we have reached the pinnacle of weak, greedy, self absorbed stereotype of Americans.  Worse yet, we almost seem to be relishing in it.  

Still only four months into the new POTUS's term, we can't be sure whether he will grow into the job or not.  Not many have ever grown into the job.   They either went in able or they didn't.  So it's looking like Trump might just be another Obama.  His failures with the initial health bill are all reminiscent of Obama's failures to get bills passed.  Obama used bullying words like "you will", "you must", " you have to".  Trump just is a bully by nature. It's not hard to picture him trying to verbally in his own manner bully a FBI Director.  It's not a stretch to think he might have been misled by the Russians by the people around him.  He just isn't very detail oriented.  But the idea that a man with his entire "empire" built on selling his name being completely clueless that timing is everything??  I hope it doesn't turn out he's a traitor.  In fact, if he is, I'd rather never know.  The impact to the White House, to the Presidency, to the psyche of our great nation....It's just too much to bear.  And yet, that's where we stand from the outside looking in.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Be very, very scared...

Have you ever wondered how American democracy goes down?  I mean really.  I suspect that if you are the "average" American you are under the delusion that it will go down because of Middle Eastern terrorists.  Or if you are slightly more than average, you might be under the impression that we will do it ourselves.  While that is definitely true, it will not be by "ourselves" in the true sense of the word.  Still, if you are even a little smarter than that, you look around at the state of the world right now with countries like Iran and South Korea with nuclear weapon capability compared to our current leadership and you're pretty sure a nuclear apocalypse is just around the corner.  Of course, that wouldn't just take down American "democracy"; it would take the entire of the planet with it.  So imagine if I tell you it simply will go down with a whimper, because we as Americans have allowed it to?  

Americans love to talk about our "democracy".  We love to think that we are "better" than everyone else in the world.  A friend recently posted on Facebook how mortified he was on his vacation to Mexico that Americans he observed acted like assholes.  I'm very familiar with this.  We do it at home also.  We like to assume that all foreigners are stupid.  It adds to this overall psyche of superiority that we developed after bailing Europe out of 2 world wars--the wars to end all wars.  But they didn't "end" war, and we have become one of the least successful warfare countries in the world.  We didn't win the Korean War.  It's in armistice.  We certainly didn't win Vietnam; ask any 'Nam vet.  Ask most Gulf vets, doesn't matter which campaign, we haven't won.  When we've had the upper hand, we pull out.  Our "arrogance" is founded on wars that ended more than 70 years ago.  The majority of the Americans that won that war are dead and been dead for more than 20 years.  We are not that America anymore.

Sure, we're not that America anymore, and some Americans would love for us to be that America again.  I understand the appeal.  My Grams was everything to me growing up, and I remember seeing America through her opinions and her eyes.  We were the apex of global power.  We were also hypocrites so far from "equal" that just the color of your skin decided what you could or couldn't accomplish in life. We used to have FCC rules that required the news to be delivered with opposing views also, so that we as Americans would have the opportunity to "think" for ourselves.  During the last year of President Reagan, these rules were removed and opened the door for the tabloid news crap we get today.  I'm a huge Reagan fan and we now know he was probably fairly ineffective that last year due to Alzheimer's.  So who did this?  No outrage when we finally discussed it more than 15 years later.  Not a whimper from the politically left.  Not an outrage from the politically right.  Gone.     

Now imagine if I tell you while you are so worried about Facebook selling your personal information, you're one of the typical Americans that is utterly clueless.  That's not even the tip of the iceberg. While barely anyone in the USA is talking about it, the "it" has been being talked about overseas far more.  Ironic, right?  Socialist forms of society of Europe are more concerned than our far more capitalistic, democratic society.  First, let me put your personal information in perspective.  You have a phone.  You download apps.  They have your information for free.  You gave it to them.  You shop.  You give them your credit card number and name.  They know your credit score and how often you apply for credit.  It's not a hard back step for them.  You play those games on Facebook that tell you who your "Hangover friends" will be.  All those companies sell your information.  You didn't actually think they make money off those ridiculous ads on their pages, did you?  Aww, you did?  That's so sweet.  Every time I see one of those stupid posts warning me about my FB settings and how they are going to sell my information I have to laugh and then I'm a tad irritated.  How stupid are some people?  We already gave them permission to sell our information by joining their damn site.  Ironically, FB takes our freedoms and personal information more seriously than we do.

Some years ago Facebook had been working on an algorithm that would help predict our personalities.  The reality is that algorithm is up and running and being improved upon everyday.  Facebook claims to only use it for less than nefarious purposes.  Helping decide which ads you should see and scientific research.  In 2013, the personality aspect of the analysis was a minor blip, because we didn't think it that important.  By we, I mean the American population as a whole. Even those of us, like yours truly, that had some amount of concern, saw the scientific value.  Personality estimates have now shown to be somewhat accurate, but that rarer personalities may be even rarer--particularly in lower populace regions of the country.  For example, I'm an ENTP.  We make up 5% of the population, but in rural areas we are close to zero.  ENTJs are only 3%; the only way people in rural areas are going to meet most of them is when the CEO flies in with his entourage to tour the only plant in town.  Extroverts are more likely to live closer to city amenities than introverts.  Some of this becomes common sense.  But that N--intuitive--versus S--sensory perception ability tends to be more in higher populated areas.  Do we move out of the areas that most are sensory to find more like ourselves?  You can see how this data from Facebook could be very interesting and have scientific value in how we could populate more rural areas with the people that could help grow the economy in those areas.  But what if....       

It's no secret that very few Americans question the news media that they watch.  God forbid you try to talk to someone who watches only Fox News or NBC News.  Now imagine these news organizations, political entities or advertising firms representing political entities having the power to appeal to you based on your personality.  It's no secret this ability would be the "Holy Grail" of political campaigns.  So imagine my shock and dismay while listening to BBC World News on SiriusXM the commentator announces that the UK advertising firm, Cambridge Analytica, have admitted to using personality driven ads, up to 350+ different ads on FB every day, geared to get Trump elected.  I was shocked.  They didn't do polls.  They didn't give a shit.  They used your personality and had different ads geared to put ads in front of you that would make you more likely to vote and vote for Trump.  One thing that they pointed out was that some personalities were easier to manipulate than others.  But guess what?  Heard of the 80-20 rule?  It's a rule that states that 80% of your problems come from 20% of the root causes.  It also has been proven over the years to apply to just about everything--including people.  So, 80% of the people fall into personalities that are more easily manipulated.  Now, add (pun intended) in the idea of using information, true or not, to guide their decisions in elections....

Oh but that's silly.  A computer can't predict me.  Well, even Facebook has acknowledged that the algorithm has reached a point where it can predict your behavior better than your spouse or family or closest friends.  There are a couple of personalities that it is not that great at predicting.  I happen to be one of them.  The "debater" ENTPs can rest comfortably.  While it knew I hated Clinton, it couldn't feed me the right ad for Trump.  It wasn't that hard to know I hated Clinton; I lost several ultra liberal FB friends during the Obama years.  Now, FB wouldn't sell the algorithm to anyone, *rolling my eyes*, during the election.  Well, one of course they wouldn't because theirs is the premier product right now and two Zuckerberg is one of those NTP/NTJ types.  He's not selling this to use for manipulation of that level.  It would interfere with his idealism.  It's okay to make money by giving you what you want in ads, but not okay to the level of using your personality to manipulate a political campaign.  So, the reality is that Cambridge Analytica's claims are not only possible--it is very probable.  

Using analysts to turn the tide of public opinion and "manipulate" the masses via news stories and other staged events is nothing new to the political scene.  This has been a huge, expensive market and the few people willing to sell their souls and that have the ability to do this make billions of dollars, yen, euros, etc. helping politicians around the world manage their public image and manipulate public opinion.  But this is a gift that only a few people have.  It's ironic though.  Zuckerberg is an INTJ and this is the most manipulative of all personality types.  In fact, most political strategists are INTJ, and as previously stated the NTP/NTJ personalities make up the 20% (well, 18% but anyway).  That's right.  Those that are most likely to manipulate and least likely to be manipulated are the 20%.  So what are the 80% then counting on?  Either the innate kindness of these personalities to "do the right thing" or it's time for them to wake up.

Wake up?  Yes, wake up.  Regardless of personality type, we all have things that are very important to us.  Some of us are more easily fed than others, but regardless, we need to realize that given the right information about us personally--what we like, what we don't like, who we hang around, what they like, what they don't.  Every time we like something on FB, we tell them who we are.  It's no longer a guessing game to figure out how to manipulate the masses that only 3% of the population is really good enough at it to make money.  No, now anyone that can afford to buy access to this software can do it via Cambridge Analytica or any other organizations that have been developing this software.  In this day and age, whether we like it or not, it's come to fruition that all of us have to start paying attention and broadening our minds and opinions to more than just what we agree with.  

What do I care?  I'm one of the NTP/NTJs right?  Only about 3 to 5% of us are actually wanting this "new world order" where the very few rule all of us.  INTJs are most likely to be successful manipulators; yet, even Zuckerberg is loathe to allow the most powerful tool of this sort for these means.  The other 15-18% are not interested in this sort of "utopia".  Mindless morons easily doing what they are told based on the ability to use their personalities to control them is not our utopia.  In our utopia, everyone thinks for themselves.  Who would I debate with if there was no one to debate various ideas and concepts and all the grey area in between?  I have grown over the years because of the other personalities and their different views.  If everyone was manipulated into just thinking this or that and nothing in between, the world would be nothing but manipulated mice not even realizing they are in the maze.  Perhaps the severe polarization we saw in the last election is indicative that we are already there.  

The fact is the cat is out of the bag.  The ability to use our personalities to manipulate the majority of the masses is real.  There's no putting it back into the bag.  What used to be so many different factors on who might do this or who might be able to be brought to think this over was as much a guessing game as an art form.  Now, it's as easy as spending several million dollars.  We are for sale and most of us don't even realize it.  A true "utopia" of slaves that don't even know they are slaves being bought and sold in political advertising board rooms.  This is how American democracy dies. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tired of paying a couple hundred bucks a month...

If you're like me, then you've probably stuck with cable or satellite.  You call and renegotiate yourself back into a contract with satellite or you threaten to go to cable...or vice versa.  Telling the cable company that you want to go to satellite might get you a slight price break, but 6-12 months later you're right back where you started plus some.  If you're tied to a satellite company, you can't call for 12 months after that "cool" 12 month price break ends in your 2 year contract.  One of the satellite companies had me at about $160 a month about 3 years ago.  So I switched to cable.  It dropped to like $80 a month.  Then one day I realized I was back up to $150 a month.  It's like the never ending succubus of television hell.  

Admittedly, I hem hawed like you probably are. Unless you're a boob tube addict, you probably only watch a handful of shows.  If you're like me, you're discovering that there are only like 3 or 4 you want to watch regularly.  So what are you going to miss out on?  Well, cable will give you local channels, but satellite companies are wanting too much money from local channel affiliates and periodically you're being fed commercials for you to pressure the local affiliate to capitulate to their demands.  You can still get these channels for free though if you want them--all you need is an old fashioned antenna.  That's right and you can buy one online or wherever you buy your electronics.  Of course, the only reason I watch the local channels really is for the news.  Okay, not really--more like just for the weather when I wake up in the morning.  I don't even need an antenna really.  I can stream their news on my phone.  I can even watch it on my TV if I have the right equipment.  

What television channels do you watch the most?  Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS?  TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, Disney?  Sports channels--ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports?  Make a list of what TV shows you watch regularly.  I watch a lot of TNT shows.  I watch "Designated Survivor" on ABC.  I watch "Empire", "24", "Blackish", "The Man in the High Castle", "Supernatural", "Elementary"...okay so I get home and I want to vegetate or read or type this blog while listening to some drama or sitcom.  I want to watch the race on the weekend or Premier League.  Well, I can watch sports at a bar.  "Supernatural" and other CW shows are all free via the CW website/app.  All those other shows are on Hulu within 24 hours of airing.  EXCEPT CBS.  CBS has it's own app and you can pay direct online to watch CBS or wait until the next season comes out and watch the last season on Hulu.  This was all perfect, sci fi addiction to "Doctor Who".  A true Whovian I must, absolutely have to watch, the current season of the Doctor as it airs.  I can wait for CBS's Sherlock Holmes for next season to come out so I can watch this season on Hulu.  Screw CBS.  But the Doctor?  Sigh.  What's a girl to do?  

A girl needs her BBC America and Sling TV doesn't even offer it.  Sling toots off being the cheapest...and they are.  But if you are into sports, you'll spend $40 a month for it and only 40-ish channels.  But channel for channel, the lowest DirectTV Now package at $35 a month is way more bang for your buck with over 60 channels.  Now DirectTV has eaten some crap, because Sling was first.  I'll admit the complaints that the streaming didn't work gave me pause.  But there was the thing that Sling requires you to have the larger package or you can only use it with one device at a time.  So, I opted for DirectTV in spite of the complaints.  

What about those issues with operating with DirectTV?  (Sorry, can't speak to Sling.)  Well, I'll admit with the first generation Amazon Fire stick, periodically it was coughing.  BUT, with the free Amazon Fire Stick that DirectTV included with me agreeing to sign up on the spot rather than a free trial, well, all those glitches are gone. 

Well, yea, but what about my DVR or OnDemand options.  DirectTV offers replay for about 3 weeks of new episodes of shows that have gone by. You're going to have to watch commercials, but here's the thing, it's like your OnDemand already.  It's a little less than watching live.  This option will not work well with the original Fire stick, but you can also stream DirectTV from a phone or tablet with a Google Chrome. 

Now, here's the major limitation with the streaming services: They only have Fox of the "major" networks.  Hulu offers all but CBS shows the day after airing and the whole season, including Fox.  Of course, if you have an antenna, you won't care anyway, except that you can't watch at your leisure.  With the antenna, you're tied to watching when the shows air. 

BUT you want your sports.  With the exception of NFL Sunday Ticket, if you are a sports addict, all the major sports offer online streaming packages.  I have NHL Center Ice.  I can watch it on my phone and I can cast it from my phone to my TV via Google Chrome.  Problem solved.

Here's the final scary problem for most of us.  Which hardware to use?  You can Google Chrome and cast from your tablet, computer or phone to your TV.  Or you can purchase the Amazon Fire Stick or console.  I own both the Google Chrome and the Amazon Fire Stick.  These both have their positives and negatives.  Amazon offers all kinds of apps for the Fire Stick and sometimes the apps aren't completely debugged.  Google Chrome is only limited by the device you are casting from.  If you are an Amazon Prime member and you order the Fire Stick from Amazon, when it is delivered and you plug it in, they will have already set it up for your account.  You just have to put in your passwords for your wi-fi and Amazon account. Google Chrome needs you to download the app to cast from your phone or tablet and you'll need that to set up the Chrome stick also.  The Fire stick is easier to set up in my opinion even if you didn't get it via your Amazon Prime membership.  The Chrome will cost you $35 at Walmart or Google shop.  The Fire stick will cost you $40.  If you're like me, you can have both for less than half of one month of what you are paying the cable or satellite company.  

The hardest thing is admitting you are wasting money.  And you are.  I took my bill from over $150 month for cable to $43 a month for Hulu and DirectTV Now.  I recommend keeping cable internet.  DSL can be expensive.  Of course, if you have AT&T as your cell service provider, there are a couple of bonuses to consider.  One, you get DirectTV Now's lowest version for $10 a month.  AND you also can get "unlimited" streaming to your phone.  (This would be a time that you would want the Chrome over the Fire stick.)  A friend told me there's some limitations to that streaming to your phone, and of course, these deals could go away and have you tied to AT&T for your cell service.  So I'm not advocating this.  Just if you already are with AT&T, you should take advantage if you are taking my advice about dumping cable or satellite.  

Now, the final question.  What about multiple TVs in the house?  Well, I kept my internet with the cable company.  We stream music, shows to two TVs simultaneously and surf the internet from 2 or more devices...with no issues.  You won't have to watch the Disney channel because the kids or grandkids are.  

The basic recommendations:  Hulu, $7.99.  DirectTV, $35.  Amazon Fire Stick (the newest generation), $40 (one time per tv). 

Add for the sports fanatics: Google Chrome and sign up for the streaming offered by your favorite sports--or go to a sports bar.

AT&T cell customer:  stream from your phone--opt for the Google Chrome.   

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Those who can, do...observations of experience and social class...

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes, although I rarely read as much as I like.  I enjoy pretty much anything but "self help" books.  To no surprise, I've been reading a book called White Trash.  The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America.  As the title implies, it focuses on the underclass more so than the upper classes.  I have read books about the rich in America, how they became rich, and how the upper class formed.  It's usually on the backs of others and rarely sugar coated.  I've read books of how the industrial age helped create the middle class, but honestly I've only read a couple books about the underclass, the lower income, the lower class.  Generally they focus on the problems with, not the creation.  This book is unique in the fact that it is focuses on how the underclass, aka. the lower class, of America formed.  It is unfortunately written with an extremely liberal political lean.  I suspect a conversation with the author would be extremely interesting--not because I've remotely agreed with most of her analysis, but because I'd like to know how she formed these opinions about the lower class that slanted the book so much.  It should be no surprise that it really makes the case if you read her opinions as facts that the underclass is a pitiful state and everyone that isn't part of it is to blame.  But my blog isn't about her book, so much as my assessment of the classes in our society--maybe somewhat compared to hers since she was kind enough to share her opinions in an "historical" analysis.

For example, a fact is that Benjamin Franklin, yes the Founding Father Ben Franklin, wrote that the lower classes were debase, immoral, and basically worthless.  Yet, this is also a man who very regularly employed "ladies of the evening" and was suspected of numerous liaisons with women of "fine breeding" who were married or otherwise disposed.  We could go into the facts of his writings versus his hypocrisy of what his life was.  She certainly does go into the Founding Father's history of an apprentice for his brother in Boston, thus chastising him for his low view of the 1700s underclass since in her mind he was of this underclass for "running away" from his apprenticeship.  We won't go into the debate over whether this made him the underclass of his day, even temporarily.  I simply have a different assessment of the facts of Ben Franklin's past and this is indicative of where her opinions split with mine.

However, that is one of the interesting fact of the times, the 1700s.  Youngsters were "apprenticed" to tradesmen.  This was a carry over from the society of Britain at the time.  There was an emerging middle class in England that focused on trades such as printers, exporters, the law, et cetera.  These apprentices were housed, clothed, educated in the particular trade and paid, often meagerly--the cost of this "education" was a form of servitude where the apprentice would have to work off the "debt" incurred for some number of years.  In most cases, this servitude could go for years and years--even decades--and any apprentice that "ran away" could be arrested and placed in debtors prison.  A modern comparison would be our military--sign a contract, be taught a job/trade and have to serve some amount of years, clothed, housed, 24/7 job with meager pay until the contract is paid in full.  Apprenticeships of this sort actually continued into the early 1900s, although debtors prisons did not.

Debtors prisons were an English rule thing.  They were really a European thing of the age.  England was coat up with them and many of this underclass of England were shipped in droves to the Colonies after serving their time in debtors prison.  The prison time did not alleviate the debt; it was still owed when the person was released.  But much like today, anyone that served prison time had a black mark that made it difficult for them to work.  Coming to the Colonies offered a way for these people to start anew.  For the creditors, it offered a hope of recovering some of the funds that they were out.  Ironically, often the funds they were "out" were rent, just the subsistence to pay for a roof over their heads were hard to come by.  Sometimes this was because they had become accustomed to the landowners being lenient in collecting rent and then a new landowner wanted all the back rent immediately.  More rarely it was a landowner who could no longer pay their own taxes and debts.  This wasn't rare because it didn't happen often.  It was rare because landowners were much less of the population.  Ironically, both often came to the Colonies in search of a new beginning.    

The myth that we evolved just from religious freedoms is at best true-ish.  The Puritans were not some extremely chastised class under the Crown of English rule.  In fact, in the 1600s the Puritans were a major party in the Parliament.  That's right.  They were part of the ruling class of England also.  With the split from the Catholic Church prompted by a King who wanted to divorce and marry his mistress, there emerged multi-factions and ranges of religious piousness.  The Puritans were those that thought any of the orate trimmings were unnecessary.  Many of them began to question the concept of royal rule because they thought of God as all supreme and began to reject the notion that the King was crowned by God's authority.

So, this is what the Colonies were founded on.  A lower class trying to escape debt or find their own pot of gold, a religious class that wanted to reject royal rule whether poor or not, and finally a group that were sent to rule.  We won't bother with that third group.  It was the group that extended the system set up in England to the Colonies and ultimately to the USA.  It is arguably why we ultimately rebelled.  A subject for a different blog perhaps.  The fact is that most of us, even those that can trace their roots all the way back to the 1600s and 1700s are running away or rebels of some sort.  

Now, the reality is that the lower classes of England were the majority of those that came to the Colonies.  Kurt Cobain wrote "all we are is all we know".  We, any one of us, are the sum of two things..  Our personality--the DNA that makes us up.  And, our surroundings, and by surroundings I am referring to family, friends, social class, financial means.  In reality maybe neither are controllable.  We are born with our personality, which molds us based on the first 5 years of our lives most recent psychological research indicates, and the family and social standing of our family.  That for most of us is the 1st five years of our lives and we have no choice in any of it.  In personality, I include intellect and emotional responses--the whole make up of who we are.  In family, social standing of the family--the economics of class are chosen for us.  Here's where I agreed with her assessment.  In order to maintain power and control, those in the upper classes of power encouraged layers of social class.  Those in power put into place layers of class.  Our ancestors were encouraged to ideal themselves into the layer they were in and look down on the layer below them.  The irony in this approach is that the lower layers actually hold each other down because each of them is looking down and holding down someone.  Regardless of color of skin, and often including color of skin, someone below them in their own minds, could be treated as less and have to accept that lower level in the societal ladder.  There was no way out without someone from a higher layer being willing to help them that whole apprenticeship "contract".  More importantly, even when these opportunities presented themselves, whether someone in the lower classes accepted or even had the ability to accept these opportunities, all hinged on the environment they were in--whether their family supported it or not.  In many cases, someone would talk down to the person who was "smart" enough to be offered these opportunities, as if the person thinking about improving their circumstance was getting higher and mightier than they were allowed to.  It was a control based on jealousy and insecurity of the social class one was born into.

The book goes into how this jealousy and insecurity was used to victimize each other within a perceived social class layer.  The keyword here is victimize.  Yes, we do have people who have not the ability or the desire or both to leave their particular layer of class hell who will victimize others that are trying to leave their social layer.  But the victim mentality is not shared by those that leave their social layers and her insight fails to recognize that.  Perhaps 20 or 30 years ago, I would have agreed with her.  But a few years in the deep South when only 51% of the state believed that someone of less than 95% white should be able to marry someone of 95% or more white--literally a State Constitution change voted on in 1998 in SC...well, I learned about these layers really quick.  There's a lot to be said about actually living through something versus just reading about, talking about or even observing it.  Twenty years ago, to my shock and dismay, people would get up in my face and ask me "what are you?"  They were demanding that I identify my race.  It was the mass majority of time this lower class of white that Dr. Isenberg is talking about.  I gave sarcastic answers that had nothing to do with my race.  Female, veteran, mother, ex-wife, American,.. I didn't get it at the time.  Eventually, I looked at a couple, trashy, both appeared to be drug addicts, and up in my face demanding at the Winn Dixie, "what are yeewwww?"  I glared at them--almost 10 years of this shit hadn't changed my resolve to not give the answer they were looking for--and flatly said "mechanical engineer".  They looked at each other, looked at me, looked at each other, and did a 180 and sprinted away like they were trying to win the 50 yard dash in the Olympics.  I stood there dumbfounded.  I had this conversation on an average of once every couple months for the better portion of a decade.  The normal response simply continued to demand I give them the answer they were looking for--what is my racial make up.  "Who knew?" I thought to myself as I walked away.

The experiences that lead up to that moment ran through my mind.  What was different this time?  I had no idea.  I was considerably dumbfounded.  I was then relaying this episode to three colleagues--two black, one white--all Southerners for the entirety of their lives.  They burst out laughing.  What was so funny?  "You really don't know?" was the response from the lady of the group.  No, of course I didn't.  I was raised that everyone was equal.  That, it was explained, was a luxury of someone like me.  Like me?  WTH?  I came from an educated family and basically thought of myself as white.  Yes, point?  None of this was making any sense to me.  "You told them it didn't matter what race you were.  When the cops got there, you are educated and they are white trash.  The cops would side with you."  The one friend and I talked about it more later.  He told me that in the South there's still a strong social structure based on race and education, social class, and many still had nothing that made them better than anyone else other than their race.  Ouch.  What the hell?  I had lived a pretty insulated life apparently.  That was over 11 years ago, and while I see it has changed even over the last 11 years, I still see it in many of the people in the area.  It seems to be stronger in areas where there isn't as much commerce.  The more people, the more diversity of the people, this shallow and narrow insecure view of social structure of society seems to lessen.  

That doesn't actually change that there are still social layers.  At lunch with some peers, one of them was explaining to the group that he didn't think of "rednecks" like most people.  I chuckled, but you know me.  I had to ask.  He said that he thought of rednecks as white trash.  He's a pretty educated, smart guy.  And white.  I found this interesting.  He's from my generation and I can see his point.  I know people that run around with "redneck" as a badge of honor, and as he pointed out, can't pay their bills, looking for a fight, out in the bars even though they can't afford a beer and racist.  I know some "rednecks" that aren't looking for a fight, are paying their bills, and can afford a beer, but his point was well noted.   His mindset equates them with failure--not honor.  Similarly, a very educated friend of mine has a very similar description as his of what she pictures as "nigger".  She's a black Southern woman.  She equates them as black trash with the same description as he described "redneck".  Fascinating.  The shift of class in America from the lower class being morally debase to someone who is not paying their bills and racist--regardless of their own race.

Admittedly, I'm struggling to finish the book.  It's too much of her opinion as fact (or maybe even other scholars' opinions) and not enough real life experience.  From my experience, we have made a lot of excuses for things that only time and education can change.  Education is not my opinion--education is forming your own opinion based on facts.  I may have peppered this blog, like any of my blogs with my opinions, but I'm neither a scholar or teacher.  I'm conveying my knowledge and experience.  I think less of my knowledge than the experiences that I've shared because each person may perceive the experiences differently than I do.  So there is knowledge to be had even by a different interpretation of the experiences.  But based on the knowledge of a dilettante (I've never claimed to be more) and life experiences I have had, I think the world is still changing.  I believe Dr. Isenberg is still a function of her generation, the Boomers.  They were polarized from the jump and still see the world in the us against them fashion.  The plague of that mindset is well represented in what should be a scholarly book that is too slanted in one direction to truly be a scholarly work.  The social classes of this country still exist, but they are far more fluid than they were and the newer generations don't see color or class as inhibiting as the Boomers or even GenX.  The book focuses on a mindset of the social strife from the 1960s and 70s and uses that view to interpret writings and a belief system of the 1700s and beyond.  That mindset is not only not fluid enough, but is to polarized to be used for a useful, tangible analysis of what is going on in America today.  Dr. Isenberg would probably be better served meeting some of the people she's talking about, spending some lengthy time with them and even more importantly those that have been fluid in the social class structure.  The insights of actual experience after 1980 might be far more enlightening than the books and other documents she references.  Like all of us, she is the sum of her experiences and those who can, do.  Those who can't, teach.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Killing of Lions and Tigers and Bears...well, no bears and wolves...

So welcome to the world where you present your facts and your opinion and that is all you need to know.  I suspect that the majority of people have always been this way, but it wasn't as easy to share your opinion and just the facts that support your opinion and ignore the rest of the facts and opinions.  We've become a world of one liners and limits to what we are explaining via Twitter and FB.  If you disagree with someone you not only have to explain your opinion, but why you disagree and provide the facts that they have left out that might make another person think differently than they do.  This is more than most people are willing to read anymore.  In addition, it's become very easy to just delete other people's ideas, views and other facts.  Add in the fake facts, and well, none of us know what to believe anymore.  Being neutral, even when we have an opinion, isn't easy for anyone, but we expected journalists to do so in the past--and with some irony, they actually did.  Propaganda was part of organizations trying to perpetuate their opinions of the facts and news was the facts that we could use to decide for ourselves.  Now even the news is skewed to those opinions of those giving us the "news".  So it is no surprise that a recent bill approved in the House of Representatives is a bill being purported by a video being shared online as allowing bears to be killed in hibernation.  So, when I saw it, I have to admit I was absolutely mortified.  It tugs the heart strings showing mama bear and cubs and says that it is dialing back a law that was passed by the Obama Administration.  But if you know me, I have always questioned my own knee jerk reactions and the first thing that made me question anything is that during the Obama Administration the Democrats never controlled both the House and Senate.  That screams that "Republicans" voted for this also.  So what?  Well, to me that means this needs more than my knee jerk reaction to a video.

First, you can read this blog without knowing the video I'm talking about, but here's the link for those that want to have my same knee jerk reaction:

LINK TO Video Shared on FB that blog references

Okay, if you've watched it, you most likely had the same knee jerk reaction that I did.  WTF?!?!  But like I stated in the opening paragraph, there's always at least one other view of the facts and also that view usually has more facts.  So, why would this case be any different?

So first, the "facts" that we already know from the video.  There is a bill.  The bill is HJ Res 69 (House Joint Resolution 69).  Yes, it did pass the House on 22 March 2017, just this past Wednesday.  It is in opposition to a Department of the Interior rule that was submitted, approved on 5 August 2016 and has been enforced since 6 September 2016.  Next, it identifies that SJ Res 18 (Senate Joint Resolution 18) has already passed since it insinuates that it has passed Congress, but to contact your Senators if you are opposed to the bill.  This is a contradiction since NO it hasn't passed the Senate, and thus why it's asking you to contact your Senator.  Finally, of course, the knee jerk it trying to reverse preventing of what most of us think is a piss poor excuse of hunting?  Is it on wildlife preserves and refuges?  Is it allowing hunting of hibernating animals?  Is it allowing the killing of baby bear cubs?  Yes and no.  

See that's where they get us, right?  The yes is where they stop.  They got the right reaction out of most of us and that's the point, right?  I don't think so.  So as usual, I had to check and see what the hell, especially since my own knee jerk reaction was "oh hell no!!"


1.  It only addresses Federal lands in ALASKA.  That's right.  We're not talking about any other land in the USA.  That might lose some of you right there.  Doesn't affect you although I would argue it does affect you because what we allow to happen in one place allows it to be allowed elsewhere that much easier.

2.  The DOI rule, 81 Fed. Reg. 52247, is to address how a state rule in Alaska on hunting will affect Federal lands.  That's right.  The state of Alaska's Board of Game, part of Alaska's Department of Fish and Game, passed a rule that allows certain hunting tactics that the DOI rule addresses on Federal lands in Alaska.  Since the Federal government owns over 260M acres of land in Alaska that are hunted legally, this rule that Alaska's BOG passed affects the lands in Alaska owned by the Feds.  This is complicated since most of us think of Federal land as autonomous compared to the states that the lands are held.  However, by saying nothing, the Federal government allows the state laws to governed within these states where no Federal mandate states otherwise.  To put it simply, if the Federal government has no rule to govern what the state hunting rules say, the state rules apply.

3.  The Alaska BOG rule is not law.  It's a rule, so it was addressed by a DOI rule.  So only a law can cancel a rule.  That's right.  When so many of you say you don't care about who is nominated and approved to the President's Cabinet, you need to remember these Cabinet members make the rules you and I have to live by.  The DOI rule therefore has to have a law to cancel it unless the DOI decides to cancel it themselves, and apparently the DOI isn't going to do it.  That's why this is a bill in front of Congress in the first place.

Okay, so what?  Well, you need to understand this above crap to understand how it applies to you and others and decide how important it is to you.  But now to the knee jerk stuff, the meat and potatoes:

4.  The Alaska BOG rule allows:
     i.  The killing of mother bears, black and brown, even if they have cubs.
    ii.  Using bait to attract brown bears (non-subsistence hunting).
   iii.  Using snares and traps for hunting (non-subsistence hunting).
   iv.  Killing wolves and coyotes during denning season.
    v.  Killing bears from the air, typically from an aircraft.

It does NOT allow killing of bears in hibernation.  Wolves and coyotes are already legally hunted by air because of how large the populations can become in a short time.  Subsistence hunting, ie. the hunting that the Eskimo population uses of some bears, is still allowed.

5.  The DOI rule only addresses the BOG rule on Federal lands already legal to hunt in Alaska.

Other considerations:

Coyotes have spread nationwide because their populations grow quickly.  Many states have had problems because coyotes have very large litters and the populations can get out of control quickly.  Most states though have more issues with wild dogs--domestic breeds living feral--than with coyotes.  However, many farmers in the USA suffer losses due to wolf packs and coyotes.  These numbers, the deaths resulting from packs are probably underestimated because killing of coyotes and wolves are restricted in most states by hunting times.  It's a flip of the coin whether some farmers will report killing a wolf or coyote to protect their herds.  It's kind of like you or I killing a deer on the road.  You didn't mean to, but you and I won't go to jail because it's not hunting season.  It's the farmer's word against the dead wolf/coyote if it's not hunting season.  Depending upon local law and gaming enforcement, well, it might be the dead animal's word over all else.

If you are outraged by the Alaska BOG rule, there's nothing you can do about it unless you are an Alaskan.  I mean you can protest.  I live in South Carolina.  I'm pissed about non-subsistence hunting in general.  I think if you kill a deer during hunting season you should have it processed and if you aren't going to eat it, then give it to friends that will.  But no one, well almost no one, is eating wolves or coyotes.  We like to think, at least those of us that know hunters, that responsible hunters wouldn't hunt for anything other than subsistence.  People do eat bears.  But note that this rule in Alaska allows non-subsistence hunting of bears.  These people that do this, well, I don't know.  I just can't imagine but I do know people that do hunt just to hunt.  I like to think most trophy hunters are barbarians who have no sense of pride and dignity.  Yet, most that hunt coyote and wolves legally are doing so for trophies--even during hunting seasons.  Whether I want to admit it or not, there's legal hunting of these animals because their populations have the ability to outgrow the human population of an area if not controlled.  Hunting seasons allow this.  These seasons don't usually overlap denning seasons and procreation seasons.  In some cases, they do though if the population is too large and needs to be brought down.  I feel sorry for those state and federal gaming employees that can be taxed with bringing these populations down because the hunting isn't working--and yes, that has happened.  I'm not happy with Alaska's BOG rule, but it is Alaska.  There's a lot of wild tundra there--plenty for a population to get out of control

Also, on that note, Alaska is its own state.  That which is not Federal law can be ruled and governed by the state.  But, Federal land there should be governed by the conscious of our country as a whole.  The USA owned land should follow the consciences of the USA as a whole.  The state lands, well, while I don't like what the BOG there is allowing, I don't live there and I'm loathe to tell them what their wildlife population looks like.  I don't know.  I suppose if I lived there and it was obvious that the population was getting too large, I might have a different view.  But I don't live there and therefore, I'm only considering the land that is part of my tax money--the Federal lands.

My recommendation is call your Senators.  Stop this before we allow Alaska to rule our Federal land.  Somehow this rule got passed there, and maybe even for good reason.  But I don't want Federal lands turned into trophy hunters' playgrounds.  Alaska owns plenty of their own land for that.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The ACA versus the AHCA highlights...the stuff the news media isn't sharing...

This morning I was listening to C-Span's Washington Journal on Sirius XM.  This is something I do fairly regularly in the morning.  I was expecting something on the London attack, but what?  On an American news source?  No, they were all talking about the new healthcare bill.  Fox News was on their usual reign of far right, right is right and might rhetoric.  MSNBC on the opposite kick, the left is absolutely right and spending most of their time talking down the new healthcare bill although with little substance to back their opinions.  Business as usual has become news channels passing off their opinions as fact.  No wonder the American public, at least the far right and far left, are so ingratiated in their own opinions the facts are no longer relevant.  C-Span usually has a fairly neutral version, so I switched.  Washington Journal has commentators and speakers, but it also has people calling in identifying themselves as independent, left or right by the numbers they call in on.  Not everyone follows directions really well, so some idiots, yes I'll go that far, will call in on the left number when they are blatantly right and vice versa.  For some reason, they think they can fake it when their words give them away.  But so they are taking the phone calls and C-Span, if you don't ever listen, actually rotates the call in numbers--indy, left, right, indy, left, right.  It's usually fairly interesting and mostly enlightening.  Today, a right wing caller calls in and starts ranting about how much cheaper the new bill will be for the elderly.  Then a left wing caller calls in and rants the exact opposite.  Neither of these idiots had a clue what they were talking about.  The fact that neither of them had a clue hit me like a ton of bricks.  In fact, none of the callers actually had any facts for the next 45 minutes to an hour.   I haven't blogged in a while and I thought about what a friend told me last fall.  He said that whether he agreed or disagreed with me my blogs made him think and that was important.  Okay, so the new healthcare bill.  Obviously, the general news sources are not providing the real information.  They are focused on the rhetoric and telling us how many are for or not for or just sugar coating it to what they want it to be.  The facts are important, but when I went looking for the facts about the bill, even when I could find them, they were somewhat slanted.  So I'm going to take the slant out (as much as I can) and here ya go.  Make up your own mind.  I've done the research for you.  

First, what is staying the same--well, at least the ones that I know every average working American is going to worry about.  Kids up to 26 years old can still be covered on their parents' plans.  The protection for those with pre-existing conditions is going to remain intact.  Finally, one that most people didn't even know was part of the ACA, aka. Obamacare, lifetime limits of what you or I will come out of pocket will be maintained.  Don't get excited.  Like I stated most of you didn't know or care about this one and the limit is like $1M or something.  It's sky high.  Higher than most of us can possibly ever pay off.  So, yea, that one isn't great for a left or right working class family. 

Next, what most Americans--except the far left--were concerned about goes away.  The penalty for not having insurance goes away.  I don't know many people that agreed with this, regardless of whether left or right.  It simply punished those that couldn't afford it for not being able to afford it.  This rarely came up in arguments about this bill which kind of pisses me off.  Instead of focusing on what we agree on to build common ground--particularly something that we all know wasn't good for the lower income working people--we always focus on what we want to disagree on.  This should never have made it into the ACA in the first place, but that's how it works anymore.  We argue over things that we are divided on and let them force things that almost all of us agree should never happen.  Keep that in mind next time you are "arguing" with someone that you perceive as disagreeing with you.  We are not part of the solution if we can't find common ground and prevent things that most agree should never happen.  This punishment on the poor was ridiculous.  

Don't think that's wonderful though.  The GOP bill, the AHCA, makes a 30% penalty premium on anyone that allows their healthcare insurance to lapse.  That's right.  Instead of the government getting the punishment money for not carrying insurance, the insurance companies will be collecting it.  I'm not sure I feel about this.  Think about it.  One, the poorer working class can't afford the crap in the first place.  If they are healthy and ineligible for Medicaid, they will have to pay an extra premium to an insurance company when they are covered again.  There's nothing as far as any research I could find about special situations either like when we become unemployed and cannot afford COBRA.  There's nothing about going from one job and not having coverage during the probationary periods that most companies have for hourly and usually in some cases for salary.  This almost traps hourly people if they change jobs and have to wait.  If you find a better hourly job but you're going to lose your healthcare coverage, it's unclear how this 30% penalty the insurance companies can wage on you is going to work or not work.  

Of course, everyday Americans worry about what will happen with the premiums with the elderly.  Like I stated in the opening paragraph, one right caller called in saying how much the new bill would save the elderly.  The next caller, left, said the exact opposite.  Neither cited anything factual to back up their opinions because neither had the facts.  So it's kind of a mixed bag for the elderly.  Obamacare did limit premium costs for older Americans.  The new bill will allow insurance companies to charge older Americans as much as 3 times what the younger generation is paying.  It also reduces federal tax credits for people in their 50s and 60s purchasing health insurance through the open market.  This effectively increases their out of pocket costs for the insurance.  So, technically this is a double whammy on the 50+ retired, semi-retired crowd.  However, for lower incomes, the tax credits for buying insurance through the marketplace will be increased, so it's unclear whether this would in application balance out the difference.  Most likely, it wouldn't offset the entire difference, so likely it will actually increase out of pocket and premiums on the 50 and up for all incomes.  

Of course, it lowers the threshold for deducting medical expenses from our taxes.  Obamacare increased the threshold to 10% of our AGI (adjusted gross income, that number after you have taken your standard or itemized deductions).  The new bill will lower the threshold to 5.8%.  This is actually lower than pre-Obamacare which was 7.5%.  If we have a lot of medical or even a single major medical occurrence in a year, this is going to help most.  For the average elderly couple, this would actually really help them, but it would also help the average family that has a week long stay in the hospital.  It's a big plus to the new bill for pretty much any American family.  

Now, here's one that we all debate about.  I don't use the HSA at all.  Healthy Americans have no reason to use a HSA account.  Yes, it's all pre-tax, so it can lower your AGI.  And the accumulated amounts can be used in future years if you opt for that type of HSA--although the law is unclear how this works if you never need to use it.  So it's not really your money anymore until this is cleared up completely.  However, Obamacare eliminated the ability to buy OTC drugs--Nyquil, aspirin, motrin, vitamins, etc--with the HSA.  The new bill will restore this.  For someone like me who pretty much has no reason to have the HSA because the only stuff I buy right now is OTC stuff, well, this makes it more logical for me to use.  If you already have to buy a lot of prescriptions, this just adds to your likelihood to use the HSA more.  I don't see a downside to this.  Maybe you do.  I'm having a hard time finding one with the OTC ability restored except that nasty business of what happens to the account if I never use it.  I don't want it going to the Federal government and right now it's mainly a use it or lose it prospect.  Even though there are some rules allowing certain cases of it being part of our estate when we die, Congress could change this with the drop of a hat.  So I wouldn't recommend putting in more than you need unless you know your family history has some serious health issues that will bother you after you retire.  

Many people know that Obamacare was going to expand Medicaid--which seems ridiculous when you consider what most people think.  Most people think that it was making people buy insurance.  It was, well, is.  But, for those that were the poorest, regardless of their ability to work, it made it so that many would be better off not working.  By simply quitting their jobs, they then became eligible for Medicaid and thus this is why Obamacare was going to expand Medicaid.  Yes, that's right.  That's a fact.  No debate.  In implementation, Medicaid was going to expand, and the average working American was going to pay extra Medicaid taxes to cover it.  The new bill ends that.  It caps the Federal government's payouts to the states also.  The bill sets a per person limit dollar amount to the states.  It also provides that states can opt out of the per person dollar limit payout for a lump sum payment from the Medicaid funding.  I'm not sure which of these would be better.  It would probably depend upon the state.  Lower population states would probably benefit by taking the lump sum because it would likely be more than the per person enrolled in Medicaid.  Higher population states would obviously more likely benefit from the per person payout.  While Obamacare sought to increase Medicaid funding gradually to 2020, the new bill looks to eliminate that increase and reduce Federal payouts.  Sounds good to those of us that look at our paystubs and freak out at how much Medicaid is costing us--particularly if we have never used it and don't know anyone that has needed to.  However, we cannot know what will happen in the future, and most of us realize that.  If you happen to be one of those people that was unemployed long enough to exhaust your unemployment benefits, you know that Medicaid was the only option if you had something happen.  You paid into it for years and you may or may not have had to use it, but in that situation, it probably gave you comfort to know you wouldn't be totally abandoned.  

The Medicaid issue though gets weird.  For example, there's a provision in the bill specifically geared towards NYC and NY state.  Why the hell this is in the bill is ridiculous, but our current POTUS being a New Yorker probably plays into that a lot.  The brokered deal is as far as I can tell to prevent NY state from using Medicaid money from NYC for the rest of the counties in the state and vice versa.  This is stupid as hell since it doesn't apply to other major cities versus their states, and I frankly question the legality since Medicaid is dispersed to the states and the states actually administer the Medicaid programs in their states how they see fit.   

Of course, when Obamacare sought to expand the Medicaid program it was also because it eliminated all Federal aid to hospitals that served those with no insurance.  Oh yes, the great healthcare bill of the left made it so that anyone that was uninsured should be turned away from hospitals that would normally help them.  In fact, this actually increased the people turned away from hospitals that were run as commercial entities in the business of making money.  Of course, again, thus the need to expand Medicaid, because the hospitals that helped the uninsured were then tasked to get these type of patients covered under Medicaid.  If it sounds like a merry go round, it probably should.  Now, the new bill removes this ban on Federal aid to hospitals serving the uninsured.  (Note this ban wasn't noticeable or even referenced most of the time because it was a year to year lowering until completely eliminated in 2020.  Gotta love the sneaky way they slip this stuff in that would make even the average leftish American cringe.)  

 Now, the meat and potatoes.  The stuff we have debated--more argued and argued and argued with each other about depending upon whether we view ourselves as left, right or middle.  The average working American got screwed by the Cadillac tax.  Our companies have to pay an increasing tax on the high tiers of healthcare plans.  Many of us discovered that the Cadillac plans were being offered to lower incomes or non working incomes for free while those of us that worked lost our fancier plans.  There's no argument there.  Those that are working all know our plans started to suck.  The Cadillac tax is not, that's right NOT eliminated.  However, the Obamacare healthcare insurance tiers are.  So again, it's unclear whether the Cadillac tax is eliminated or shifted somehow.  The Cadillac tax was calculated by the tier that a company chose to offer its employees, but the tiers won't exist.  Yet the tax itself is not addressed in the new bill....It's hard to say YAY or call bullshit.  It's become a wait and see how it will work implemented.  I didn't like this wait and see with Obamacare and I'm not really thrilled with wait and see with this.  Maybe I'm the odd duck, but I've had enough of trusting them to work out the details after the bill has passed because damn it that didn't work out well the last time.  

Now, here's where it cuts taxes.  Oh yes, you knew it cut taxes somewhere.  I'm going to give you the most grievous first.  Why wait?  The Medicaid tax that we pay?  If you make over $200K (individual) or $250K (married) is going to be cut.  That's right.  A tax cut just for the rich.  So that Medicaid savings is going to be passed on to the wealthy Americans.  It's an end run around so that they can say they didn't cut taxes on the rich, but this is a rich person tax cut.  Period.  It's unclear if this is AGI or gross income.  The IRS always decides those nuances.  I think that those people, no offense if any of my readers are in these income brackets, but you should be paying for those that can't pay more than I should.  The Medicaid tax should either be equal % for all or lower for those that make less.   The truth is this is a tax cut for 1.1% of Americans and it's typical far right bullshit.  Sorry, but true.  Medicaid funding will lose quite a bit and it will only benefit approximately 3.7M people out of 323M.  We call this bullshit pork bellies because it really doesn't help the average American at all--it really helps those assholes we elected and their buddies though.   

The new bill also eliminates the Obamacare taxes on health insurance companies, medical device companies, and drug companies.  Big whoopie.  It was never really clear how these taxes were going to work anyway.  It eliminates the 10% tax on indoor tanning businesses--mostly small business owners.  Obamacare simply was attempting to put these types of businesses out of business.  I'm not a big fan of indoor tanning, but I've usually gone once a month in the summer since I work a job where I don't get outside much and I don't want to look like I just flew in from Antarctica during the summer.  It eliminates $1B to the CDC for grants they provide states and local municipalities to address diabetes, health care awareness, dental programs for kids that schools provide,  and other similar things.  I'm not sure how I feel about that, but i don't like that they create a new fund for the $1B that has no earmarking at all.  My interpretation is that they are stealing from one pocket to put it into a new pocket and they aren't telling what the new pocket's money is supposed to be used for.  Excuse my concern, but I don't trust those people in Washington for the most part and why would you take money from something that appears to be a benefit unless you are cutting my taxes?  This is just a shuffling act and I think it's crap unless they tell me exactly where the shuffled money is going.   

This doesn't even cover all the stuff I learned about the bill--just the stuff I thought the average American would want to know and make up their own mind.  But I've saved the most outrageous thing for last.  The reason I say it is outrageous is because it's got NOTHING to do with healthcare.  Oh yes, you read that right.  This last item has nothing to do with healthcare but is in the new healthcare, AHCA, bill.  The new bill eliminates the 3.8% tax on investment income.  This doesn't affect most of us.  It does affect that 1.1% but even them it probably only benefits half of them to the tune of millions, probably billions of tax dollars.  Now don't get me wrong.  I don't think we should punish the wealthy for being wealthy.  It gives no one incentive to work hard to become wealthy when we punish them with over taxing.  However, why in the hell are they sneaking it into this bill?  No one is even talking about this!!  WTF.  If they want to give this tax break or eliminate this tax, why not do it in the open in a damn tax bill???  Why hide it in this bill?  We all know the most likely reason.  If they were forced to openly debate this, the average, the majority of the American public would be screaming at them, WHY???  But this way, they make us debate Obamacare versus the new bill and slip this little item right passed the sheep and even those of us that pride ourselves that we pay attention.  

For the most part, the new bill is probably what the average Americans, middle Americans, want.  But like every bill in Washington anymore, it is also a shining example of what is still wrong with our system.  The NY crap and the investment income taxes?  Give me a break.  This is what we hate about DC and the people we elect.  We hate that they keep trying to sneak shit passed us and seem to be business as usual even though they know we are sick of it.  And some of the stuff we think this will eliminate isn't really guaranteed to be eliminated...same as the ACA bill.  This bill is like a halfway fix.  But most of us wanted to only go halfway back, so I guess it's okay.  You can decide now--at least on more facts than the tv news media outlets seem to be sharing.  

Monday, March 6, 2017


I know #DoYourJob is an expectation that every single one of us that actually has a job has to live by.  #DoYourJob is even what those that are entrepreneurs have to live by.  We all have bills to pay.  Of course, some people don't give a shit about their bills.  Some people don't actually have to worry about bills.  Some live on welfare and no matter what they aren't getting kicked out on their asses from Section 8.  Some live on wealth from families or fraud or whatever and they don't have to worry either--unless it's illegal money and well, they probably are worried but for way different reasons than the other two groups.  But you and me?  The average American?  Whether we live as "lower" but ineligible, or "middle"--the massive majority of us, or even lower "upper" income, we all have to work, pay our bills and make sure we are responsible.  Five years ago, I lost a few really good friends, because I was sick of the then President, Obama, screwing me.  I'm "middle" class.  I don't make a lot of money but I don't live "poor".  I lost my *ss thanks to the economy tanking and I was barely getting by.  President Obama had promised he wouldn't even run again if he couldn't fix it.  He didn't.  I don't care what you say.  Four years is all he needed he said, and he failed miserably.  Any idiot could have predicted his failure--particularly after the fiasco "cash for clunkers".  Yet, my ultra liberal friends were furious with me because I saw no reason to vote for him and in fact was fuming over the fact he had the audacity to run for a second term.  Well, truth be told...Over 50% of Americans were as pissed off as me.  But that didn't make a hill of beans difference with our voting process.   Okay.  I lived with it. 

Like more than 50% of Americans, I lived with another 4 years of a jerk that had no idea what he was doing.  I couldn't believe the best we could come up with after that nightmare was Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  I didn't vote for either. Why?  Because I saw both as liars--wealthy, hypocrites and sell outs that could give a crap about me, my average American friends (right or left) and just full of sh*t.  I saw Clinton as more of Obama.  Maybe, and that's a big maybe, more qualified overall than Obama and Trump, but a con-artist, a sham, a weasel that would do anything to be President.  I saw Trump as her mirror reflection, but maybe, maybe just a hair of a well digger's ass better.  So Trump.  Okay.  I am giving, like I gave Obama, the benefit of the doubt.  Oh, yes, I know.  The die hard Trump followers will say no, no, no I'm not.  Guess what?  That's what after 2 years of Obama the die hard Obama followers said of me.  I wasn't being fair.  Obama needed a chance.  He was doing the best he could with an "inherited" bullshit situation.  Poor Obama.  Eight years later?  Poor Obama my ass.  He couldn't do the damn job and we had actually given him a second chance to do it.  I don't really give a shit if it was his wife's best friend, who was his Chief of Staff.  So what if she was a dumbass interfering bitch?  He was POTUS.  He needed to step up and do the damn  job.  Period.  Did he?  Hell no.  Hell no.  Hell no.  We are still floundering economically.  If he had done his job, there would be no Brexbit.  There would be no North Korean nuclear testing that puts our shores at risk.  We never would have left Iraq to destabilize.  He was a liar just like all of them--and I lost a couple of ultra liberal friends prior to and after his second election.  Don't care.  He was a dumbass that didn't belong in the White House.  

So guess what my ultra liberal former friends?  (Yes, because they were all so mad at me for saying what a POS I thought he was.)  You allowed by voting his ass in a second term for us to have the bright orange moron, self absorbed, reality television soap opera queer bait to become President.  Oh yes.  Look in the mirror.  Obama should have had one term.  He didn't deliver.  He, himself, actually said if he didn't deliver he didn't deserve a second term, but you gave it to him anyway.  The reality is that second term opened the door for the two most heinous choices in history to run.  Sigh.  It was a lose-lose campaign for the American public.  The one thing that I hated most about Obama?  That his whiny bitch ass would constantly blame GW Bush.  Anything, everything, no matter what--military, economy, healthcare, student loans, hell the sun setting one minute before the weatherperson said so--all GW's fault.  All I could think every single time--"shut the hell up and do your damn job".  Oh, and maybe followed by "p*ssy" after year 3...and especially into year 5, 6, 7 and 8.  

So....guess what I'm thinking now?  Shut up Trump.  I don't give a shit that Arnold got fired and you were the best "Apprentice" host.  In fact, I think you being a reality TV host should have disqualified you from running for President.  No, I don't give a shit if he thinks this is all Obama's fault.  I heard that it was all GW's fault for 8 years and that was just whiny shit from someone who didn't do his job.  So, Donald, I think you are just a whiner like Obama.  Shut up and do your damn job.  WE PAY the POTUS more than $400K a year.  The "average" American makes around $55K.  Do your job.  I don't give a shit who's fault it is anymore.  I know Obama was full of shit... and I KNOW you are also full of shit.  But we wasted a ton of money on his obnoxious bullshit while he pointed his finger at GW because he didn't have a clue how to do his damn job!  You claimed you know how to do the job.  Yet, all I hear is you pointing fingers and whining.  And even better, I read it on your damn Twitter.  Shut up already and DO YOUR DAMN JOB.  

Truth is we all know the Clintons are in bed with Russians.  We all know that Trump is too.  We also know that as a country we do not condone shooting down commercial airlines, illegally annexing another European country, and threatening our Allies.  Both the Clintons and the Trumps know we will not have that.  WE fought WWII to protect our Allies.  We stood a Cold War to prevent Russian tyranny.  We will not roll over and play dead to Putin--no matter which of those idiots got elected.  Bottom line--Putin can kiss our asses.  We stand with the UK, Germany, France, Belgium--those Allies that have always stood with us.  And, regardless, our POTUS--can either get on board or well, he or she might not be POTUS.  Given the POTUS's speech the other night, I'm pretty sure our Donald already figured that out.  

So DO YOUR DAMN JOB POTUS.  I do not care what Obama did.  I seriously do not give a rat's ass what GW did.  I don't care except you had damn well better deliver, because Obama didn't.  So, I am just done with listening to finger pointing, redirection ad nauseum, and excuses why anyone didn't get done what they said they were going to get done not getting done.  I know.  It might be unfair to President Trump.  I don't give a shit if it is.  Poor Donald is not the victim.  I am--me and the rest of the American public that got screwed over the last 10 years.  Donald Trump promised he could fix it.  So did Obama.  Obama failed and I have zero patience for another asshat promising bullshit and not delivering.  You wanted to be POTUS?  Then act like one.  I was sick of the whining with the last POTUS, so President Trump?  You are starting with odds stacked against you because you have made the exact same promises Obama did.  Oh I know.  Your fan base and his were different--so you think no one noticed you were selling the same BS.  But those of us that didn't like him and don't like you?  No, we caught it.  SO DO YOUR DAMN JOB and DELIVER a better economy, a UNITED country and SUPPORT our ALLIES.  Enough said.