Li: ritual, propriety, etiquette. Hsiao: love within the family (parents for children and children for parents. Yi: righteousness--the noblest way to act in a situation. Xin: honesty and trustworthiness. Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards others. Chung: loyalty to the state and authority. --Confucius (Kong Fuzi)

All articles appear in reverse chronological order [newest first].

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I believe the past is relevant, sometimes more than others of course. In most cases we are seeing history being repeated, so it is most relevant.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Health Care Costs Are a Top Priority for Most Voters

"As the 2020 election approaches, a new poll found that health care costs are the top issue for the majority of voters. In particular, Americans want health care and prescription drug costs cut, regardless of political affiliation."

"About 80 percent responded that lowering the cost of health care is extremely or very important, including 89 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Republicans. Prescription drug prices saw similar responses, with 75 percent saying lowering costs is important and majorities in both parties ranking it as extremely or very important."

“Health care and drug costs are issues that affect every American,” said Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance. “Elected officials should take note and take real action to lower skyrocketing prescription drug prices and out of pocket costs. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must respond to the public’s demands and pass H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, not block it.”

source: "The Alliance for Retired Americans"

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Democratic Socialist are not Communist.

The Disparity and Deception of Labels and Party.

We often fail to see the many varied meanings and definitions of words. Especially words used in a religious or political context. This is why we sometimes promote bills, people and policies that we would never support if we looked beyond their titles and slogans to the minutia of their real intent.
We make the same mistake with people in politics by misinterpreting various labels attached to them:
liberal, conservative, progressive, socialist, social democrat, democratic socialist, communist… 
Can any of us give an informative and distinct definition of all these labels? I doubt it. In researching the difference between communism, socialism and social democrat I encountered 11 forms of socialism with an additional 23 sub-forms of those 11. Further complicating the labeling process is that most people who identify with the above labels and the additional labels of Democrat or Republican would be hard-pressed to define these labels to the satisfaction of everyone else who identifies with them.

It is the misuse of these labels that leads to applying the word socialism to any ideals that we find offensive. That, in turn, leads to the application of the word (as it suits us) to ideas that are not so offensive.
Case in point, the idea that welfare is socialism is an attack on welfare and any ideas that could be semantically traced back to socialism such as social security, tithing, charity, caring for the poor, public schools, etc. Consequently, this leads to defenders of welfare applying the same logic and semantics to point out the absurdity of linking everything to socialism. In truth, these ideals are all concepts that originated before the word socialism was ever spoken. But that is where we are. Labels like socialist, liberal, conservative are used to discredit a person or position in place of a convincing argument on the merits of a person or position.
With political labels comes a collection of people who are not monolithic in thought, in spite of their mutual acceptance of core principles differences will surface as they encounter specific solutions to the primary principle. While core principles may be agreed upon there are always layers of more nuanced thought. In other words with every specific issue there are varied position as to degree, commitment, solutions, etc.*

For decades, in every presidential election, Republicans have used the words 'leftist', liberal, socialist to describe every Democratic nominee. These words were 'dog whistles' for fears of communism and socialism. But socialism is not the same as communism and as mentioned above how do we accurately apply the label 'socialist'. We shouldn't because in the realm of politics even self-described labels are inaccurate and almost always used as a broad brush to misrepresent or denigrate.
What we should do is look at the party platform which is modified and restated every 4 years. We should also be familiar with their history. For individual candidates, we should look at their voting-record as well as their stated positions.

Labels and parties are meant to mislead us by accepting the whole without looking at the parts. Consider what they say about each other as less important than what they say on your issues, bolstered by their record. Decide based on what issues are important to you not by your impression of a party.

*All conservative republicans may think they agree on school prayer. That could almost be stated as a foregone conclusion except for one thing… Many religious people are actually in favor of the separation of church and state. If and when you get past 'we want school prayer' declaration there comes a more nuanced question, whose school prayer? Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Hebrew, etc. Once you go with the majority and decide on Christianity then you have to deal with which denomination,  Catholic or Protestant, and even after choosing between those two both include hundreds of denominations and sects to decide upon. In the end, the eventual solution will probably return us to where we started, which is not where there is no prayer allowed in school because prayer is allowed in school right now. The supreme court never outlawed school prayer. What they did do was the most reasonable and acceptable standard for school prayer possible: School prayer is allowable along as it is personal, not led by a school official, optional, and does not disrupt the objectives of the school, learning.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Nevada Debate: The power of speaking up

By Emily Peck HUFFPOST
"At last night's Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) went after Michael Bloomberg (Billionaire-NYC) over his use of nondisclosure agreements.

Bloomberg's company used NDAs to force women to stay silent about their experiences with sexual harassment and discrimination at the media and data company. Bloomberg tried to argue, weakly, that NDAs are good for everyone.

Typically, NDAs are the price you pay if you want to settle a lawsuit against a powerful person or company. The agreements essentially buy your silence. If you don't sign, you don't get the settlement money. Women faced with the huge costs of litigation may feel they have little choice. By keeping these stories quiet, however, bad actors get to keep doing bad acts.

"NDAs also helped cover up the sexual misconduct allegations involving former NBC 'Today' anchor Matt Lauer and other officials at NBC, as well as those involving Fox News founder Roger Ailes and former host Bill O’Reilly," writes my colleague Marina Fang.

I was reminded of this as I was reading Susan Fowler's new book about her time working at Uber. While there, Fowler was sexually harassed and retaliated against. The details are truly shocking and I encourage you to read the book. But we wouldn't know any of this had Fowler been bound by an NDA. Indeed, if she'd been silent, Uber might still be doing this stuff to its workers. Thanks to her, it's not."

Finally, The Real Elizabeth Warren Steps Up
“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women ’fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians,’” Warren said in her opening comments. “And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”    read more

Bloomberg Says Women ‘Get Paid Exactly The Same As Men’ At His Company. They Don’t.
"Women occupy only 1 in 5 of the top quarter of the highest-paying jobs; the representation of women is largest in the bottom quarter of jobs."

"And although an equal share of men and women earn bonuses, the median women’s bonus is one-third lower than the median men’s bonus."     read more

Susan Fowler Perfectly Illustrates Why You Shouldn’t Silence Women
"The daughter of an evangelical preacher, she grew up dirt poor in rural Arizona, Fowler writes in a new memoir, “Whistleblower.” She and her six siblings were homeschooled until their mother was forced to go back to work."      read more

Annual Retiree Voting Record

The Alliance for Retired Americans’ annual voting record scores every U.S. Representative and Senator on issues affecting current and future retirees.

For 2019, we reviewed 10 key Senate and House votes for legislation that affected the health and well-being of retirees, including skyrocketing prescription drug prices.

A description of the Senate and House votes are available here.

Find your current federal representatives here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Trumps Middle-east Policy: All just a matter of real estate buy-offs...

 ...what comes in the next 4 years? flipping countries like flipping houses:

  • 'America is not the whole world'
    One impeached, the other indicted, they posed as honest brokers with a common vision of a mythical Middle East peace.
  • Israel's Netanyahu indicted in corruption cases. 
    "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was formally indicted on corruption charges Tuesday, just hours before he was set to meet President Donald Trump for the unveiling of the US administration's long-anticipated Middle East plan."
  • Trump unveils Middle East plan that caters to Israel and was swiftly rejected by Palestinians
    "But the economic proposal was met with a thud in the Palestinian territories, where mistrust in the Trump administration reigns following a steady stream of policy moves that have bolstered Israel and undermined the Palestinian position: from US recognition of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory to cutting off all US support for aid projects aimed at helping Palestinians."
  • Brookings experts on the Middle East react to the White House’s peace plan.
    n January 28 at the White House, President Trump unveiled his plan for Middle East peace alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjanim Netanyahu. Below, Brookings experts on the peace process and the region more broadly offer their initial takes on the announcement."
  • Have Trump and Kim Jong Un fallen out of 'love'?
    North Korea is celebrating a "very important test" at a launch site that US President Donald Trump declared would be dismantled earlier this year -- the real-life culmination of a recent exchange of verbal projectiles across the Pacific.
  • Oslo Accords Fast Facts:
    (CNN)Here's a look at what you need to know about the Oslo Accords, a series of agreements between Israel and the Palestinians signed in the 1990s.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Global Warming vs. Pollution: Can any sane person deny the reality of both?

by GlennDL
Denying global warming has gotten to be a cottage industry as prolific and profit-generating as any that preceded it.* 
As a result of the growth of this industry, it is difficult to find a 'denier' who isn't well equipped with an abundance of talking points masquerading as science. Whatever is their motivation these talking points embolden them to offer endless and often meaningless rebuttals of facts making civil debate tenuous if not impossible.
A collision of 'cherry-picked' facts and talking points will not produce a conversion of deniers, either uninformed or well-informed.
In terms of climate change, only the results of time will shock some people. One tactic is to instill doubt by avoiding the climate change argument and focusing on the antipollution argument. Argue the damage being done now by current pollution levels and past:
  • With 11,000 miles of coastline, The Great Lakes are the world's largest body of fresh water on earth (one-fifth of the planet's fresh surface water supply). It has been heavily polluted since the 1960s. In 1970 Lake Erie was declared a dead lake. Progress in reversing the decline of the Great Lakes over the last 60 years has been slow, precarious, and continually threatened.
  • The "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" is a floating collection of garbage in the Pacific that is estimated to be the size of the state of Texas.
    Another patch of garbage, discovered in 1972, has been found
    in the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic patch is smaller than the Pacific but still of significant size. It has been estimated with new technologies it would take 5 to 10 years to clean up the Pacific patch. Neither of these garbage patches was discovered until they reached a massive size. 
    The major source of this pollution is freshwater runoff such as the draining of the Great Lakes into the ocean, as well as run-off from other waterways and coastal cities. This runoff continues today… 50 years after the discovery of the Atlantic patch.
    Worse yet is the fact that there are bound to be more patches, smaller but growing and we are only seeing the garbage and debris that floats… what about the sub-service runoff?

There are other examples of serious pollution that rise to the level of potentially being a worldwide crisis: Killer smog in cities dating back over a hundred years, landfill shortages, fracking contamination, worldwide strip mining, deforestation, all threaten our current environment and sustainability. All have existed for decades while facing little resistance to exploitation. The solutions to these pressing problems are just as important to our current pollution problem as they are to our long term climate problem.
The idea that the world is just too big to pollute is critical to the climate deniers but the scope of unrelenting pollution on these levels dispute that claim.

Converting the deniers.
Diverting the debate from climate change to fighting pollution may be a more effective way of neutralizing the climate change-oriented talking points. By diverting the discussion from the talking points you may find a more effective way of getting your point across by addressing undeniable pollution facts that raise a sense of urgency. This approach can be effective in circumventing talking points. Not to say it works in converting every denier, or that it results in any more than stymieing the denier, but directly attacking the denier on his ground seldom works… no matter how right you are. They believe what they want to believe.
The objective in a debate is not to change the mind of someone but to persuade them to 'consider' a different possibility. That consideration can open the door to doubt.  If you fail to instill doubt in them whatever you accomplished at the moment will be reversed once they return to the environment that produced their position.
It's like trying to help someone in an abusive relationship. They know it's wrong and that they need to get out of it. But they cannot get out of the relationship until they get out of the environment and as long as they believe that things could change they will return to that relationship. They want to believe that things could change for the better but not until a seed of doubt is planted by a traumatic and eye-opening event will they truly leave that abusive relationship.
The problem with climate deniers is that there is little chance that a traumatic or eye-opening event will occur soon. Most of the effects of climate change occur slowly and over decades or centuries. Temperature changes, rising sea levels, the extinction of species, the decline in nutrients and protein in our food sources, the slow decline in some sources of drinkable water will all fail to register until we are past the point of reversal.

You can browbeat people into submission, you can out 'talking points' them, you can guilt or shame them into silence, and you can even get them to confess they're wrong, but these seldom result in changing their minds for any longer than it takes for them to get away from you, shun you, or decide to dislike you. You can even 'strawman' their sources to the point they realize the fallibility of those sources, but that will not guarantee their conversion. If you don't produce a seed of doubt they will simply continue to hold their belief below the surface.

  1. Did President Trump Reverse an Insecticide Ban After Receiving $1 Million from Dow Chemicals?
  2. World’s Largest Producer of Toxic Pesticide Chlorpyrifos Ends Its Production

*anti-vaccine myths, birthers, moon landing deniers, ancient flat earth beliefs

Rolled Back Under Trump

Sunday, February 2, 2020

They're coming for your Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid... again... this time remember who it is(Republican'ts)... the same people it always is... until it is election time when they start preaching promises they will not keep.

ikeSocial Security, Medicare, and Medicaid have never been funded for eternity. There is always a date at which it is anticipated they will run out of funds and this date is used misleadingly to paint the programs as unsustainable. It is a common argument for privatization and an excuse to cut benefits. In reality, the process is that they will be continually funded by routine adjustments and additional revenues. Trump, Romney and the republican party knows this when they promise you at election time that they won't touch these benefits, and they know this later when they try to sneak in legislation to gut these programs (like now), but most of all they know that most of us pay attention at election time but tend to stop paying attention between elections.                                                                  GlennDL

Mitt Romney’s Plan to Gut Social Security and Medicare
Through the TRUST Act Advances

The Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on the TRUST Act, proposed by Sen. Mitt Romney (UT), this week. The bill is an attempt to gut earned benefits by creating a closed-door and fast-tracked process. The stated goal of this bipartisan legislation is to address the solvency problems of multiple trusts funds set to be depleted by 2035 through the creation of “rescue committees,” but the plan is dangerous for seniors, people with disabilities and others who rely on Social Security and Medicare.
The trusts impacted are Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, Medicare Hospital Insurance, and the Highway Trust Fund. Through these “rescue committees,” any fixes for these trusts that legislators agree upon is fast-tracked to a vote in the Senate. The secret process lacks transparency, which would allow for cuts to be made easily to these programs.  
“Sen. Romney’s track record on Social Security indicates his motive,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “In calling to raise the retirement age during the 2012 presidential campaign, he showed his true colors. He wants to cut Americans’ hard-earned benefits. He is no friend of retirees.” ce for Retired ance
The Alliance for Retired Americans
Trump Pushes Medicaid Block Grants,
Allows States to Roll Back the Affordable Care Act
The administration is intensifying its assault on Medicaid by converting some Medicaid funding into block grants. Under the proposed plan, states could request to receive fixed payments from the federal government for poor adults now covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid expansion. It would also allow states to limit benefits and drugs available for some beneficiaries. 
“This drastically changes the way Medicaid is funded and will result in harsh benefit cuts that will hurt vulnerable Americans,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “It is the latest cruel scheme and it shirks responsibility for ensuring that every American has access to health care.”
Currently, the federal government matches state Medicaid spending. This allows anyone who has qualified for Medicaid benefits to receive them without delay. Funding automatically increases in times of need, such as economic downturns or when health care costs increase. However, fixed cost block grants will not increase, leaving states to cut benefits or the number of people who qualify for the program. 
Despite renaming the program “Healthy Adult Opportunities,” the program erodes the federal government’s commitment to protecting low-income Americans. 
“The Administration’s plan also gives states the flexibility to cut what it spends on Medicaid or use the funding for non-health related things, including paying for other programs or financing tax cuts,” added Peters. A video of an Emergency Room doctor confronting Vice President Mike Pence over Trump's Medicaid cuts has been viewed more than a million times.
The Alliance for Retired Americans
Iowa Alliance Calls out Broken Promises on Drug Prices
On Thursday, the Iowa Lower Drug Prices Now coalition, which includes the Alliance, launched their campaign to demand comprehensive reform to lower drug prices for everyone. The coalition’s mission includes ending Big Pharma’s power to pad their profits by setting and keeping prices high.
The campaign held a news conference at the State Capitol in Des Moines on the same day that President Trump visited the state, serving as a reminder to voters of his many broken promises to curb skyrocketing drug costs and price gouging. Iowa Alliance members, state legislators, health care professionals, impacted Iowans and labor representatives participated in the event
“30% of Iowans reported that they had stopped taking medication as prescribed due to cost in 2017. The situation has only gotten worse since then,” said Iowa Alliance president Mike McCarthy. “Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world and we seniors bear the biggest burden.”
“While the president and Senator Joni Ernst (IA) say they care about this issue, neither has taken real action,” added Jan Corderman, Recording Secretary of the Iowa Alliance. “Trump used to say that Medicare should negotiate prices, but he threatened to veto H.R. 3, a strong drug price negotiation bill passed by the House of Representatives, within hours of its passage in December.”
The Alliance for Retired Americans
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