Archive for June, 2012

A few thoughts on Obamacare – more questions than answers.

June 29, 2012 | By | 16 Replies More
A few thoughts on Obamacare – more questions than answers.

I often wonder why the Republicans chose the name “Obamacare” in their attempts to ridicule Barack Obama’s “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” After all, the first half, “Obama,” merely gives credit to the person who orchestrated the passage of the legislation and “care” is a benign word, even a pleasant word. Maybe they liked it better than the “Make the Rich Pay for Poor Children’s Medical Treatment Act.” Or maybe they thought that people hate “Obama” so much that just by saying his name it will make them angry. The bottom line is that it seems to be a lot like the phrase “Yankee Doodle,” originally meant as an insult, but adopted and even embraced by the target of the taunt.

Now that the new law has mostly survived, what does it mean for real-life Americans? There are many articles, like this one, that point out some things and make a few predictions, but no one seems to know the answers to two basic questions that are on my mind. What kind of insurance will ordinary Americans be able to purchase with regard to A) Quality of Care and B) Cost of Care? I’m not convinced that the new act has meaningful price controls on premiums or that the quality of care will be well-regulated. In fact, I will predict that the insurance companies will essentially take the following position: “Sure, you can have all of those new bells and whistles demanded by the Act, but you’re going to need to pay for it.” Here are some of those bells and whistles. And then the American public will likely not be witness to the intense behind-the-scenes lobbying that will result in 20% premium increases every year. I hope not, but I’m not optimistic.

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A criminal act by Congress: cutting the budget for Legal Services

June 29, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More
A criminal act by Congress: cutting the budget for Legal Services

Last week I attended the annual seminar my law firm (the Simon Law Firm) puts on for the benefit of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. We’ve done this for almost ten years, and I’m proud to be part of a firm that has raised a total of more than $100,000 for the St. Louis office of Legal Services.

What does Legal Services do for the folks it serves? The lawyers of Legal Services provide “high-quality legal assistance and equal access to justice to low-income people.” Consider this:

Our lawyers provide counsel, advice and representation to clients in a variety of domestic cases including orders of protection, dissolution of marriage, modifications, paternity establishments and child custody cases. Other legal needs are addressed as well, sometimes by bringing the expertise of lawyers in other specialty practice areas like public benefits, housing or consumer.

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Does college make people smarter?

June 29, 2012 | By | Reply More
Does college make people smarter?

College can be thoroughly educational experience. Many people who graduate college are much smarter compared to when they entered college, but this is not true for all of those graduate.

An indictment of higher education came this year with a book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, by Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia. As reported by the Washington Post, the authors of this book offer these stunning conclusions:

●Gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills are either “exceedingly small or nonexistent for a larger proportion of students.”

●Thirty-six percent of students experience no significant improvement in learning (as measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment) over four years of higher education.

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Bernie Sanders channels the anger of the American People

June 28, 2012 | By | Reply More
Bernie Sanders channels the anger of the American People

Bernie Sanders continues his fight for ordinary Americans, and this is a dramatic speech in which he makes many important points. At 4:17 for example, he talks of the backdoor bailout, in which the Federal Reserve made $16 trillion in almost no-interest loans, in secret, to big financial enterprises worldwide. If they can do this, why can’t the banks make loans to legitimate small businesses who are in desperate need of loans? In the meantime, the middle class is collapsing and those who are wealthy are doing better than ever. “What is going on in America?” he asks. What it seems to be is that we are “moving toward an oligarchic form of government where a handful of billionaires control the economic and political life of this nation.” The economic disparity is so incredibly pronounced that the 400 wealthiest individuals in America own more wealth than the bottom half of America–150,000,000 people. The top 1% of Americans own 40% of the wealth of America, whereas the bottom 60% of Americans own less than 2% of the wealth of America (min 7:33). Between 2009 and 2010, 93% of all new income created went to the top 1%.

Sanders reminds us that the people at the top no longer need to settle for owning private businesses. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, those people can now own the entire United States government. (min 11:00). The six largest banks own the equivalent of 2/3 of the GDP of America, and they write half of the mortgages and underwrite 2/3 of the credit cards.

The working families of America want Congress to start working for them, and not merely for those who make campaign contributions. Sanders characterizes this as a “radical idea.” (min 13).

What can we do? Rebuild the crumbling infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools, railroads and many other aspects of the infrastructure. We spend $300M per year importing oil, but we need to move to energy independence, away from fossil fuels and toward wind, solar and other sustainable technologies. We shouldn’t be laying off teachers, but should be hiring them.

The debt is a big problem, but it was caused by unpaid wars and unwarranted tax cuts to the wealthiest people in the country. Then, the greed and recklessness of Wall Street exacerbated the problem. Now, a “solution” is suggested to be “social security reform,” with is a code-word for “hold onto your wallet.” At min 20, Sanders also discusses the “solution” being considered to cut Medicare.

At Min 22, Sanders mentions some of America’s billionaires who are threatening to leave the U.S. so that they won’t pay taxes. He also mentions the 18,000 American corporations located in the Cayman Islands.

Sanders urges that Americans are now saying “Enough is enough.”

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Why rich kids hate their parents

June 28, 2012 | By | Reply More
Why rich kids hate their parents

I’m not convinced that most rich kids hate their parents, but there are presumably some who do. I also know many non-rich kids who don’t get along with their parents. Franco Lombardo says many rich kids hate their parents in his new book, “The Great White Elephant: Why Rich Kids Hate Their Parents.” Lombardo bases his claim on the failure of 70% of rich families to pass their wealth-making ability onto the next generation intact. This reminds me of a proverb:

The first generation in a family makes money (goes from rags to riches); the second generation holds or keeps the money; and the third generation squanders or loses the money (and so goes back to rags).

In this report by CNBC, he gives three reasons:

First, wealthy parents don’t say “no” enough. “A child grows up with a sense that they get whatever they want,” Lombardo says. “When they go out into the world and the world tells them ‘no,” they’re angry. And they resent their parents.” The second cause is time. Wealthy parents are often absent parents, and the kids feel abandoned. . . . The third reason is society , , , makes fun of rich kids. So parents tell their kids at an early age to hide their wealth. When the kids grow up, they feel that a big part of their identity has to remain hidden – and they blame their parents.

These reasons make some sense to me, but I like to see some numbers quantifying this supposed hate. I’d like to know who we “know” that rich kids hate the parents any more than non-rich kids hate their parents.

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Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana speaks out.

June 27, 2012 | By | Reply More
Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana speaks out.

As reported at Esquire, Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana trashed the United States Supreme Court in light of its recent decision of American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock:

“And then they say, you know, ‘Free speech. Money is speech,’ ” he continued. “No, money is power. Don’t screw around here. Let’s just tell it the way it is: They’re buying power. You’ll see guys that have a business, and they employ a thousand people and they think they’re pretty big stuff, and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, this ought to be okay, a corporation is a person. We want to function as a full person.’ So they say, ‘Yeah, Citizens United, that’s a good thing.’

” ‘You are a dumbass, sir, and I’ll tell you why you are. Because the pharmaceutical companies and the military-industrial complex, and the insurance companies, they’ll step on you like a big. The $500,000 that you can afford to put into the kitty to induce someone to vote your way? You are a piker.’ That’s the equivalent of buying someone one drink and thinking you’re gonna sleep with them. It doesn’t work that way.”

“We went 100 years thinking that was a pretty good system and now the U.S. Supreme Court says, ‘No, you’ve been breaking the law, breaking the Constitution.’ Silly us. We thought having a democracy was more important than having the most corrupt political system in the world. Now, the United States Supreme Court says, ‘No, we prefer corruption over democracy.’

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Why quit the Catholic Church?

June 27, 2012 | By | 7 Replies More
Why quit the Catholic Church?

At Daylight Atheism, Adam Lee offers numerous reasons and links that all lead to the same end point. It’s time for the thinking Catholics to stop being Catholics. Here is Adam’s opening paragraph:

Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly clear that there’s no longer any place in Roman Catholicism for any but the most conservative and doctrinaire members. The signs of a top-down ideological cleansing are too obvious to ignore, including the Vatican hierarchy’s using the Eucharist as a bludgeon against politicians who show too much independence and cracking down on nuns for being suspiciously feminist. People, especially young people, are leaving in droves, and the FFRF has been helping them along with billboards and ads urging progressive Catholics to quit the church (I can’t tell you how much I love “Put Women’s Rights Over Bishops’ Wrongs”). Even the executive editor of the New York Times, hardly a voice of radicalism, is in agreement that liberals can do more good outside the church than in. And liberal Catholics who aren’t leaving feel compelled to articulate why not, a clear sign that they’re feeling the pressure as well.

I have some Catholic friends, most of whom are extremely frustrated with their church. Some of them have almost no respect for Rome, but they still call themselves Roman Catholic because they treasure the community offered by the local church they attend, and they enjoy the ritual, including the music. I’ve often wondered why they don’t quit the church and start their own church. I realize doing this would be a lot of work, but I can’t fathom being a member of a church that, even for those who believe the religious claims, antagonizes, betrays, embarrasses and patronizes its members. In my hometown of St. Louis, a Polish Catholic Church called St. Stanislaus Church broke off from the Roman Catholic Church (leading to contentious litigation). It will be interesting to see whether any other Catholics follow suit.

For individuals who are wanting to leave on their own, the Freedom From Religion Foundation offers De-Baptismal Certificates.

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Borrowing pre-made characters

June 26, 2012 | By | Reply More
Borrowing pre-made characters

Where do you go if you want to write a story using characters from existing books and TV shows, or even borrowing real people? My 13-year old daughter told me about two popular places: Fan Fiction and Archive of Our Own.

A quick tour of either of these sites will amaze you. You will find hundreds of thousands of stories written by regular folks based on pre-existing characters. Sometimes the store is 100 words long, and other times its 100,000 words. Varying quality, of course, and invitations for feedback.

I had no idea that there were such places.

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Landing the Curiosity Rover on Mars

June 26, 2012 | By | Reply More
Landing the Curiosity Rover on Mars

Here’s the plan for landing the Curiosity Rover in Mars this August. If they can pull this off, it will be one of the most amazing technological displays ever. The scientists believe they can get the job done, and I’m rooting for them.

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