30 April 2010

"Greedy Geezers" Lead Nationwide Protest!

Angry Seniors Lead Nationwide Protest;
as Fiscal Commission Meets in DC

On Tuesday in Washington, DC, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform met for the first time.  Erskine Bowles, former Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, and retired Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), co-chair the Commission.  Click on THIS LINK for a list of the 18 members who make up the panel. 

The Commission could determine the future of Social Security; however, after Tuesday's opening session, it plans to hold most of its meetings outside of the public eye, behind closed doors.  Older American activists have been contacting their elected officials, saying that the Commission's deliberations - and the future of Social Security - are too important to be kept secret.  

Alliance for Retired Americans members sent more than 3,600 letters to their elected officials driving their point home this week.  "We must bring this new Commission's meetings out into the sunshine, so everyone can see firsthand just how important Social Security is to Americans of all ages," said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. 

Alliance chapters across the country acted to draw attention to the closed meetings as well as the threat of cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. 

In California, letters were delivered in person to Congressional offices all over the state.  New Hampshire Alliance members protested in front of the office of Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH).  Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, and South Carolina Alliance members hand-delivered letters to the offices of several elected officials, including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), and John Spratt (D-SC).  The Iowa Alliance published letters to Illinois editors, and the New Mexico Alliance was invited to voice their opinions on television.  Other states also contributed energetically to the effort.  "Thank you all for your creativity and work," said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Former Sen. Simpson aggravated seniors last weekend on Fox News Sunday, when he complained about older Americans who are concerned with the possibility of cuts to their Social Security benefits.  "Where do I get my mail?" he asked.  "From these old cats 70 and 80 years old who are not affected in one whiff.  People who live in gated communities and drive their Lexus to the Perkins restaurant to get the AARP discount. This is madness."

29 April 2010

AgCom Candidate Gilbert takes Republican Berman to School on Immigration!

Imagine a scene from one of those glorious old WWII black-and-white espionage movies where the hero's car is halted at a check point and an overbearing and sneering gestapo agent in a black leather top coat and black Homburg approaches the car and hisses..."your papers, please!

We fought a world war so that freedom would prevail and such human rights abuses and excesses against liberty would not find their way to America.  But now they have.  In Arizona.  And some pinheads in Texas want to copy.

Now fast forward to modern day, technicolor Arizona with a draconian new immigration law that mandates law enforcement officers verify the citizenship of anyone they "suspect" of being in the country illegally. White Stetson replaces black Homburg, western cut shirt and gold badge replaces black leather top coat, and nasal western twang replaces the Germanic sneer, but the effect is the same. We do not have to give it a name or label. Back then, it was called Fascism or Nazism and we fought and died to prevent its ugliness from coming to our country.  But it has.  In Arizona.  And some pinheads in Texas want to copy.

We also engaged in a nearly five decades long cold war against the Soviet Union's "Stalinism" where citizens were required to carry their identity papers and be able to "prove" their citizenship at all times. Again, America stood firm against the assault on human rights and individual freedom and led the world in opposing fascism.  Now it has made its way to America, in Arizona, and some pinheads in Texas want to follow suit.

OK, you say, that's Arizona, and the heat makes them do nutty things from time-to-time, but this is Texas where people don't squat on their spurs or kick cow patties. Well, says I, our very own arch-conservative nincompoop, and renowned xenophobe, state representative, Leo Berman (R-Dist. 6 - Smith County) is mindlessly posturing himself in favor of Texas adopting a law like Arizona's.

Now, before we continue, I have to acknowledge that I hold popinjay, Berman, in a singularly high state of personal and professional disregard and scorn. He has twice attempted to engage me in a battle of wits, and on each occasion, I found him only half-armed!

On Wednesday of this week, Democratic candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Hank Gilbert, took Berman to school on the dire impact such a law would have on Texas Agribusiness and how those wholly negative effects would resonate throughout the entire state economy.  "...talk about driving up food costs, slashing tax revenues, and damaging out economy, then Leo Berman's bill is exactly what you want.  I can't imagine someone proposing something so irresponsible or damaging to Texas agriculture," Gilbert said.

According to Gilbert, the unadorned truth is that undocumented immigrants comprise a considerable portion of the agricultural labor force and if they can't move about freely without constant threat of police action, they will go elsewhere for work  "These men and women help Texas grow food not just for our state, but for the rest of the nation".

"Texas doesn't need this.  Human beings from south of our border who are coming and working in Texas-who contribute more in tax revenue than they cost the state in services-deserve some dignity.  It is not the responsibility of the state to enforce federal immigration laws." Gilbert said.

Gilbert noted that according to a report issued by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, December 2006, "undocumented immigrants residing in Texas have a positive economic impact on the state in excess of $17 billion per year, and a positive financial impact on the state budget.  "Undocumented immigrants bring more to the Texas economy and the state than they cost the state in government services", Gilbert said.

"In addition", Gilbert says, "...forcing local government entities such as police departments, sheriff's departments, and county jails to check immigration status and detain undocumented individuals would be cost significant sums of money annually that would have to be raised by increasing taxes."

You would think that a retired colonel of the Army Artillery Corps, as Berman so proudly boasts, would not be half-cocked when trying to release a broadside.  Now, you would, wouldn't you?

28 April 2010

Financial Reform: A Good Thing For Seniors, Boomers, & Working Families

Financial Reform Bill Will Protect Seniors,
Retiree Leader Says

Retirement Security Devastated in Recent Years

Below are the prepared remarks of Alliance for Retired Americans President Barbara J. Easterling, who today joined Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Senators in support of a financial reform bill.
On behalf of the 4 million members of the Alliance for Retired Americans, I am proud to support S 3217.  It is time for certain Senators to act in the best interests of people, not profits.

Seniors are struggling to get by in today’s economy.  They are the victims of years of unchecked greed and abuse on Wall Street.  The stock market plunge and the collapse of housing values have combined to devastate their retirement security.

Many retirees dedicated their whole lives to companies who were pressured by Wall Street into gambling away their pensions and savings.  While this was happening our government just stood idly by, like the lookout man at a bank robbery.

Seniors are increasingly the victims of financial scams and marketing abuses.  They are looking to the federal government for help.  They want to finally feel like the government is on their side.

This legislation would do just that.  It would require that the terms and conditions of loans and credit cards be written in plain English.  It would put in place strict new rules to protect seniors from gimmicks and predatory lending.  And it would create a powerful new federal watchdog to stand on the side of consumers.  It would provide badly-needed financial education to people of all ages, including seniors.

But older Americans care about more than just themselves.  We worry about our children and grandchildren in these difficult times.  We want them to be able to find a good job and be able to save money to buy a home, start a family, and have a safe and secure retirement when their working days are done.

Mr. Majority Leader, our current financial system is failing our nation’s seniors.  The Alliance for Retired Americans strongly supports this bill.  It is time for the Senate to act.
The Alliance for Retired Americans is a national organization that advocates for the rights and well being of over 4 million retirees and their families.

27 April 2010

Greedy Geezers to Simpson: " We Want Open Government!"

This morning a new Federal commission is meeting for the first time, and it could determine the future of Social Security.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is a bi-partisan group charged with recommending ways to lower the federal debt.  No retiree likes debt, but we should be worried because some are urging the panel to cut Social Security to reduce the budget deficit.

Unfortunately this new Commission is making it hard for us to follow its work.  It plans to hold most of its meetings outside of the public eye, behind closed doors in the U.S. Capitol.

In addition to the secrecy, there are other troubling things related to this commission: One co-chairman, Alan Simpson, has characterized seniors concerned about the future of Social Security for their children and grandchildren as "Greedy Geezers"; another member, Jeb Hensarling of Texas was a protege' of Phil Gramm, the architect of the Reagan/Bush deregulation which contributed to the current "Great Recession"; all of this amid erroneous presuppositions that Social Security is "Broke" and that Medicare is "Broken".

Click HERE to tell your elected officials that this Commission's deliberations - and the future of Social Security - are too important to be kept secret.  The meetings should be open to the public, and there should be hearings across the country to listen to the American people.

Social Security is one of our nation's greatest success stories, and there is no reason to hide it away.  Act today to send these meetings out into the sunshine, so everyone can see firsthand just how important Social Security is to Americans of all ages.

26 April 2010

After The Health Care Rout - GOP Becomes the Moles in "Whack-a-Mole"

As an older, generously avuncular sort of guy, I am blessed, every so often, to be invited to a child's birthday celebration at one of those pizza joints loaded with kid games.

I am blessed, because, on these occasions, I get to turn loose that wild-eyed little rat, my inner child, and play my favorite game: Whack-A-Mole!

If you've never played this game, you truly are deprived. You stand in front of a table like structure with holes in it, holding a club much like a boxing glove on a stick. Little mole heads pop up and taunt you and you score a point if you pummel it before it retreats back into its hole. Whack-A-Mole.

The radical right and bleating-mouth conservatives, now that they were so sorely thumped and spanked on health care, are like the typically sociopathic 10-year old, and in a tantrum and snit with their nasty little mole-heads popping up in the damnedest places as they target Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for their screaming fits.

Consider this press release form the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans:

Retirees Concerned About Gingrich Fund-Raiser for Tim Burns
Point to Former Speaker’s Anti-Social Security and Anti-Medicare Stances

The following statement was issued today by Jean Friday, a Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania resident, who is the President of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans:

“Pennsylvania retirees need to keep a close eye on 12th District candidate Tim Burns when he campaigns tomorrow in Latrobe with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

“Burns will be on the receiving end of thousands of dollars raised by Gingrich at a $4,800 per person reception, so it is only reasonable for Pennsylvania seniors to ask Burns if he agrees with Gingrich’s views on Social Security and Medicare.

“Gingrich once said he wanted to cut Medicare to the point where it ‘withers on the vine,’ and he has long championed a privatized Social Security tied to the whims of the stock market. One look at the chaos and scandals on Wall Street in recent years shows just how devastating it would have been for Pennsylvania retirees if Gingrich had his way.

“Social Security and Medicare are two of America’s greatest success stories. They have helped generations of older Americans afford to see a doctor, fill a prescription, and retire with a sense of dignity and stability. The ideas Gingrich has been advocating for years are badly out of touch with the basic needs of seniors here in our state.

“People in my generation judge someone by the company that they keep. If Mr. Burns is going to stand with Newt Gingrich – and raise thousands of dollars for his campaign from Gingrich supporters – Mr. Burns owes it to retirees in southwestern Pennsylvania to tell us where he stands on these issues.”

Keep your eyes open and your reflexes sharply attuned.  These "moles" are popping up everywhere!

23 April 2010

Alliance For Retired Americans Fights Closed Door Meetings On Entitlements

Alliance for Retired Americans Fights for Open Government:
Fiscal Commission Holds Its First Meeting
  Two important summit meetings will be held in Washington next week to discuss ways of reducing the federal deficit. The first will be President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which holds its first meeting on Tuesday, April 27.  In advance of the meeting, the Alliance for Retired Americans sent a letter on Thursday to Bruce Reed, Executive Director of the Commission. 

  The joint letter (from Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance, Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance, and Edward F. Coyle, the Alliance's Executive Director)stated that while retirees fully support President Obama on the critical need to reduce our nation's budget deficit, many have been troubled by statements by commission members suggesting that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will be a primary focus to meet deficit reduction goals. 

  The three Alliance leaders continued that they are "extremely disturbed by reports that the Commission chairs have decided to have committee meetings in three areas - tax reform, discretionary spending, and mandatory spending - held behind closed doors without public access, since this arrangement directly contradicts President Obama's commitment to an open, transparent government."  They offered the following recommendations on ways to ensure the American public's participation and engagement in this important national dialogue:
  • The Commission should conduct field hearings across the country to listen to the American
    public and specifically hear from individuals and representatives of those affected by potential
  • The Commission's planning meetings, working meetings, drafting sessions, public meetings, and all other sessions where Commission work is performed or planned should be open to the public and available to the public via C-SPAN coverage or internet streaming; and
  • The contact information for the Commission, its members and support staff should be made
    available for the public.

 "It is critically important that the process governing the work of the commission is highly inclusive and fully transparent to the American people," the three concluded.

Peterson Foundation to Meet on Wednesday
Seeks Social Security, Medicare Cuts

  Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson will convene a fiscal summit through his Peter G. Peterson Foundation the next day.  According to The Huffington Post, Peterson, previously the CEO of the now belly-up Lehman Brothers and formerly the chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, underwrites the foundation with his own funds - "and his agenda is no secret."  He views the coming retirement of baby boomers as a threat to the economy and the federal budget.

  He seeks to use his billions to achieve aggressive cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits, as well as the creation of a commission that would have legal authority to create a plan to reduce the deficit and then simply present it to Congress for an up or down vote, with no debates and no amendments.

22 April 2010

Unemployed In Texas: Guess What, You're Screwed!

Most states, along with the federal government, have stepped up efforts to ease the financial burden on working families wrought by the Bush Recession (Massive tax-cuts for the very rich, two wars fought on a credit card, and wholesale deregulation of Wall Street which triggered greedy and catastrophic financial adventurism, malfeasance, and risk taking = Bush Recession).

In Washington, both the House and Senate have passed separate bills that include an unemployment insurance extension.  We need to encourage our individual representative and  both Senators to quickly get a final version to President Obama for signing.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, in Texas, Heartless Texas Republicans led by our dunce cap wearing governor, last year, refused to accept more than a half-billion dollars from the feds as part of the Recovery Act's stimulus package that were earmarked for extended unemployment insurance benefits. And, their wrong-headed recalcitrance did not end there.  Texas joins with only three other states (Florida, Alabama, & Virginia) in failing to establish meaningful reforms in face of the devastating impact on working families of the Bush Recession. 

With Washington's support, other states across the nation are finding unprecedented ways to bring ease to the unemployed by modernizing their unemployment insurance systems using Recovery Act funds (which Texas rejected) to plug the holes and seal the cracks through which low-wage workers, women and part-time workers usually fall though.

Last year, 28 states (Not Texas) initiated reforms to qualify for incentive funds, with 14 new states adopting the so-called alternative base period and sevens states choosing to provide benefits to workers in training programs.  In Texas, entering into training or retraining could prevent your being "available" to work, so many who would benefit from training programs, choose not to, thus insuring that they and their families continue receiving their unemployment benefits.  It is an ignorantly-punitive, self-perpetuating system which prevents the unemployed from getting new, or refreshing old, skills to aid them in finding meaningful work in the rapidly changing jobs market.

Additionally; Maryland, Alaska, South Dakota Utah and Nebraska qualified for incentive funds through the enactment of various state level Unemployment Insurance modernization legislation already this year. 

Remember those four states named earlier who have not initiated or implemented any reforms?  Well, consider this.  Of those four, two; Alabama, Florida have now reconsidered and have pending Unemployment Insurance modernization bills.

But not "Old Virginny" which finds venerating its Confederate past more rewarding than tending to the present day needs of its working families and, of course not Texas, which is governed by Heartless Republicans and a dunce cap wearing governor, Rick Perry.

21 April 2010

Ben Roethlisberger - He's Not Alone

Today it is be announced that the National Football League will impose a four to six game suspension on the starting quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Roethlisbeger (called Big Ben by adoring fans) for violation of the NFL Personal Conduct Code.

This action arises from an alleged episode in a Georgia nightclub in which a young woman (20) claimed she was escorted into into a restroom area by the football player's body guard and subsequently raped.  "Big Ben claims the episode was consensual and that "penetration" never took place.  According to the local (Midgeville, GA) District Attorney, Fred Bright, the incident seemingly did not rise to a prosecutable level as Big Ben is not to be prosecuted.  As always in such cases alcohol was involved and, as almost always happens, the young women has told conflicting stories and has chosen not to prosecute or proceed against Big Ben out of concern for public reaction.

Big Ben was not so lucky to dodge a full hearing for an alleged incident at a Lake Tahoe gambling casino in 2008.  He faces a lawsuit based on allegations of rape from that earlier episode.

In scanning the web for reader's comments on the latest Big Ben shenanigans this writer was struck (appalled)  by a female poster who wrote, "what's wrong with Big Ben's brain cells, he could have had me seven ways from Sunday without even asking". It is my strong opinion that it is not only Big Ben whose brain cells are scrambled---but also, seemingly, those of the young woman.  It is not known if alcohol was involved when she wrote that absurdity.

But, on close examination, therein lies a clue to the problem of all too many male athletes who become involved in stories of rape, gang-rape and physical abuse of women.  Way, way too many fans, and coaches, and owners, and fellow athletes, and college presidents, and women themselves respond to these stories with a wink and a nod.  Boys will be boys!  Aren't they cute!

Much has been written about the aura of privilege around athletes from Junior High to the pros, from assistance on tests or actual avoidance of certain challenging classes to huge salaries and free memberships, gifts of automobiles, and other things of value.  Athletes quickly learn that they have a different standard by which they are measured: make the score, block the shot, get the rebound, and do each in a sensational or entertaining way and you will be highly rewarded.  Make a jackass of yourself or harm others and you will get a wave-through, particularly if it involves sexual aggression against women.  Just keep on scoring! 

A subculture based on aggression, violence and female adoration contributes to the siren song which takes too many male athletes into a psycho-sexual netherworld in which women, particularly young women, are objectified and targeted for forced sex.  Think here of other athletes who are violators of females; O. J. Simpson, and Mike Tyson, in addition to Ben Roethlisberger, and now give consideration to their nicknames; Big Ben, Iron Mike and The Juice.  Each is provocatively male and sexual in connotation.

But ultimately, these things happen because we allow public figures, including athletes to have  unwarranted social influence and rewards for providing us with diversion or entertainment.  And, in a perverse way, aren't we once again saying don't blame them, they only act that way because we allow it.  After all they are the privileged few!

Click HERE for an in-depth article concerning this issue!

20 April 2010

Percy's Story - Nominal Christians & Kitty Cats

We've lived in our home in a blue-collar neighborhood just at two years now.  When we first moved in, I quickly put in a vegetable garden, which immediately caught the fascination of the five-year old boy who lived next door.

It wasn't long before we became nodding, waving and chatting acquaintances with his young parents--mostly his mom.  She, I'm told, is a very bright young woman who jetted through high school and finished college in a couple of years.  She was attractive, bright, and a self-avowed, quite vocal "Christian".

The husband, on the other hand, was darker than a Goth and gloomier than a rainy day in February and spent hours alone on his front porch smoking cigarettes and staring into space.  Once, I saw him in his driveway trying to change a flat without the proper tools and since I had a good jack, a top of the line lug wrench, and a portable compressor, I offered them to him.  He declined!  Seems he wasn't nearly as bright as his wife was said to be.  It must have taken him four-hours to do a fifteen minute job!

They also had a cat. A round-faced, moon-eyed little gray-and-white morsel named Percy after the poet.  Never mind that she is a she, Percy is who she is.

During the course of time we were told that Percy was "puny" and would shortly die, that the reason she stayed outside was that she didn't like to come in, and she preferred to hide under the porch when it stormed rather than seek refuge inside the house.

My wife was helping a different neighbor's child, whose parents were unemployed, feed and care for her kitty who was a bosom buddy of Percy...so Percy benefited from the food we were putting out for the other kitty.  She, Percy, began to expect that we would feed her regularly and would come and "talk" to me while I toiled in the garden.

At some point there was the (probably inevitable) split up and we assisted our neighbor with the purchase of extra cat food.  And, (almost as inevitable) a reconciliation requiring the young woman's relocation to West Virginia to live with her husband and his parents (Sound like candidates for Judge Judy or Jerry Springer?).

The woman informed my wife that she was not taking Percy and that unless we took her on she would take her to the pound and have her "put to sleep".  But, we were not to worry, Percy was puny and not going to live much longer any way.  We declined the offer, but as the movers came and left, a bereft and confused little gray and white kitty was left behind on the porch.

So we took her in.  Just too worthy a little kitty to be left out for feral cats and dogs to attack or feed on.  She was "puny".  She had a horrible case of flea bite dermatitis, was malnourished, and constantly parched for water.  We cleaned her up, applied flea control medicine, fed and watered her regularly and today she is a bright, happy and healthy little kitty that pesters me first thing each morning mewing for me to fill the indoor water dish with fresh water....and who rarely ventures outdoors, preferring instead to snooze in a large bowl near  her food and water.

As to the "Christians" who abandoned her?  We can only hope that their malnourished and parched empathy and compassion will someday be brought to full health as easily as was Percy.  I'm taking bets, that these "nominal" Christians face a rocky future and never will fully understand that "as you sow so shall you reap!"

19 April 2010

Like Health Care Reform - Thank A Nun!

Slightly under two weeks ago the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) issued a perspective report titled: The Real Pro-Life Stance --- Health Care Reform and Abortion Funding.

The author of the perspective, George J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H. sums up the recent abortion funding display in the health care reform circus in this way, "There is no politics like abortion politics, and there are political winners and losers in the abortion sideshow.  President Obama is the big winner: he got a bill passed when passage seemed unlikely, and he remained constant in his pledge that under his plan, "no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions".  Stupak's Political future will be decided in the fall election (this was written prior to Stupak's stunning decision not to seek reelection), but in the eyes of many, including me, he has gained political stature by agreeing to support health care reform without his amendment.  Political losers include Congressman, Joe Pitts (R-PA) and the fundamentalist Christian political leadership group known as the Family or the Fellowship, as well as the Catholic Bishops, all of whom insisted the that health reform should not be passed without inclusion of the Stupak-Pitts amendment."

But, let us recall that while the Bishops were pontificating against health care reform Catholic woman's orders (nuns) were in favor of the reform measures without the Stupak-Pitts amendment.  It requires no leap of faith to understand why...the majority work in the deliverance of health care (more than 1200 institutions and organizations nationwide) and understood the real issues and problems with a practical knowledge well beyond that of their superiors.

The religious orders were supported by the Catholic Health Association of the United States which came forth in support of reform without the Stupak-Pitts amendment during the most heated period of the run up to the final vote.  Quoting Annas, "the nuns noted that the bill will not provide taxpayer money for elective abortions.  It will uphold longstanding conscience protections, and it will make new investments...in support of pregnant women".
The stated intent of the Stupak-Pitts amendment was to prohibit the use of federal funds "to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion" except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother".

Critics of the amendment charged that its inclusion, would result in "women losing health benefits they have today. Simply put, the Stupak-Pitts amendment would restrict women’s access to abortion coverage in the private health insurance market, undermining the ability of women to purchase private health plans that cover abortion, even if they pay for most of the premiums with their own money. This amendment reaches much further than the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited public funding of abortion in most instances since 1977."

On final passage, as we now know,  the amendment was ditched, which as the nuns put it, "This is the REAL pro-life stance, and we as Catholics are all for it" 

16 April 2010

Friday Alert: Part D, Tax Day, 2010 Campaigns heat Up

New Health Reform Law Extends Election Period to Change Part D Plan 

The new health reform law changes and extends the annual enrollment period for Medicare Part D plans.  Anyone interested in switching plans should keep in mind the new enrollment period is now October 15 – December 7.

Note that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provides for a Special Enrollment Period for contract violation if a prescription drug plan (PDP) violated a provision of its contract under Part D in relation to the individual.  Violations include: failure to provide on a timely basis benefits available under the plan; failure to provide benefits in accordance with quality standards; or the PDP sponsor (or its agent) materially misrepresenting the PDP when marketing the PDP.  The enrollment period begins when CMS determines that a violation has occurred.

For other details on the new health reform bill, what it does, especially for seniors, and when provisions go into place, check out fact sheet here: http://bit.ly/ccGLay.

2010 Campaigns Heating Up: Retirees Must Know the Facts Political developments in three states this week were a reminder of how retirees – expected to be the largest voting bloc this fall – must be well versed on the issues and where the candidates stand. Alliance for Retired Americans President, Barbara J. Easterling, traveled to Arkansas to endorse Lt. Gov. Bill Halter for the U.S. Senate and rebut television ads that falsely claim he supports Social Security privatization.  Noting that Halter ran the Social Security Administration under President Clinton and has consistently worked to help retirees, Easterling said, “Bill Halter is a great friend of Social Security and Medicare.  He is a great friend to seniors.”  Write-up here: http://bit.ly/bA0D7P.

In the first U.S. House election since health reform was signed into law, voters in a heavily-senior Florida congressional district elected Democrat Ted Deutch by a 2-1 margin over his Republican opponent to fill a vacant seat.  In Missouri, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, criticized a provision in the new health law that prohibits adults from being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.  Video here: http://bit.ly/ce5t5S.   In May, both Pennsylvania and Hawaii will be holding closely contested special elections to fill vacant U.S. House seats.  “More than ever, we must be a nation of politically savvy seniors,” Easterling commented.

CEO Pay at the Big Health Insurance Companies: Enough to Make You SickAccording to new data from the AFL-CIO’s Executive Pay Watch, none of the big health insurance CEOs need to clip coupons to make ends meet.  A few examples of annual Chief Executive pay: Aetna - $24.3 million; Travelers - $20.6 million; Cigna - $18.8 million; and Prudential - $18.4 million.  “For too long our health care system took better care of CEOs than it did patients.  The new health law will start to change this,” said Ruben Burks, the Alliance’s Secretary-Treasurer Ruben Burks.  For more information on CEO pay in different sectors, visit the AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch site: http://bit.ly/bWnuVb.

Tax Day and Tea PartiesLast year’s economic stimulus package cut federal taxes by $232 billion.  Most Americans are paying lower taxes this year than last but you wouldn’t know it by the flurry of Tax Day Tea Party protests made up of activists protesting paying taxes.  New Mexico Alliance members held counter-tea party protests on Thursday.  They argued that, “Real patriots pay their fair share of taxes,” and members said they are happy to pay into Social Security, Medicare, public schools and public works.  New Mexico’s Terry Schleder said, “Our seniors turned out because they have historical perspective on the importance of government programs.” 

This week the New York Times and the Gallup organization jointly released a poll of self-identified Tea Party supporters.  While 92 percent of respondents believe the country is drifting toward socialism, nearly half also said either they or someone in their household benefits from either Social Security or Medicare.

Regarding government programs and retirement, political commentator Glenn Beck said this week that privatized Social Security accounts would be, “a better bet than the federal government.”  He also called for a sharp increase in the retirement age.  Alliance Executive Director Edward F. Coyle said that these sentiments are troubling in advance of the first meeting, on April 27, of the new federal commission on deficit reduction.  “Too many people are urging this panel to cut Social Security and Medicare.  Seniors need to make their voices heard to preserve these great American success stories for future generations,” Coyle said.

15 April 2010

Rules to Live By

At age 70 I find there are some rules which I live by, that I think would serve everyone very well:

If it ain't yours, keep your damned hands off of it!

There are friends and then there are acquaintances.  Never confuse the two.  One will give it up for you, and the other will be on the sidelines cheering---maybe.

You can choose your friends, but you're pretty much stuck with your family.

Never pick a fight you can't win.  It is a waste of energy and health.  Besides, if you're clever and devious enough you'll never have to fight, there's always some bozo eager to do it for you.  Or else, figure out a way to win even it requires your investment in a two-by-four and ambush.  If it is important enough to fight over, then you should be damned certain you do what is necessary to win.

Never leave the house until the bed is made, the dishes washed and put away, and the floors vacuumed, mopped or swept. Burglars appreciate tidiness as much as anyone.

Your parents are not always right.  Not by a long shot.  But, they are always your parents and generally know more about stuff than you do.

This one I learned early on in a pool hall.  You must always keep one foot on the floor...it's a damned good rule.  If you have both feet up, it's probable that you'll come down on your butt.

Never hesitate to stand up to bullies.  That is the one thing bullies implode over.  Questions?  See my rules about "fighting".

Religion IS the opiate of the people.  Beware those who peremptorily announce their love of Jesus and be certain you check your silverware after they leave.

Just because the telephone rings, you do not have to answer it.  If it's urgent, they'll call back or leave a message. Your time belongs to you and you determine how it is to be used

The world is divided into two sorts of people, those who manage their time and those who allow time to manage them.  One group lead richer lives than does the other.

If you're a male, learn to cook, sew, do dishes, the wash and maintain the housecleaning.  If you're female, learn how to add, subtract &  multiply, how to tune up a car and change the oil, and how to mow, and to how keep a checkbook.  The corollary is that all children should learn all of these things early on.

It is doubtful that that which we call God reads bumper stickers or online messages.  Many people pray or "witness", but few meditate--praying & "witnessing" is talking and meditating is listening for the response!

You can't miss what you've never had, so it is better not to take that first puff, sip or hit.

We're not born with an expiration date.  We do not have a "Use By" date stamped on the soles of our feet.  We're not in a race to the finish line.  Remember, "In a twinkling"?  Live each moment to its fullest.

Life is transient.  Accept that.  But, remember that energy cannot be destroyed and if Einstein was correct, and I have no reason to doubt it--nor do you, and since all matter is composed of energy, our deaths are merely a process of molecular change.  Accept it and enjoy the moment and wonder about the marvelous possibilities of the "new" you..

If you've never been lost in the woods or lost sight of the shore it means you have never ventured far enough.

We almost always wind up regretting the things we did not do, and not the things we did.  There is no such thing as success or failure...there is only the process and there is always more to be done.  Life is a journey, not a destination.

Those who announce that they will "try", or "give it their best shot" , or will "hopefully" succeed rarely do.  I'm "Gonna" never does anything.  Team up with those who say "I will" and you will!

We're much too soon old and way too late smart.

If it ain't yours, keep you damned hands off of it!  Yeah, I know.  I'm repeating myself.  You might want to think why!


14 April 2010

Older Women, Poverty, & the Elder Economic Security Initiative

Despite The Safety Net - Many Elders Struggle to Survive

Recently the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts and the organization, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), developed an Elder Economic Security Standard Index (Elder Index) in order to provide a framework to help in shaping programs and policies affecting the economic security of elders and their families.

It is helpful, first, to examine the context of, and need for,  the index:

1.  Over 39-million Americans live in poverty, with 9.7 percent of those over 65 living in poverty.
2.  Women (11.8%) are much more likely to live in or near poverty than men (7.2%)
3.  These percentages worsen for those elders living alone: Women = 23%, and Men = 16%.
4.  Older women of color are hit disproportionately by poverty; 21.4% of Hispanics, 23.9% of African-Americans, and 12.7% of Asians compared to 10.1% of non-Hispanic white women.

As dreary as is this picture, it is misleading and based on out-dated projections and underestimations of the high-cost of even a bare-boned life of mere subsistence.  The federal poverty level for an elder living alone in 2008 was $10,400.  Consider the realities of life facing older persons as medical care, medicine, long-term care, spousal care-giving, housing, food and transportation costs increase, almost of a daily basis.

The Elder Index provides a much sharper focus on just how dire it is for all too many of our elderly persons.

For example, a single elderly person who rents would face monthly costs of $700 for housing, $222 for food, $297 for transportation in a private auto, $237 for health care and miscellaneous costs of $226.  Annualized, that is $20,248 and twice the Federal Poverty Level.  Similar disparities exist for those who own their lodging and couples rather than singles.

Social Security provides 90% of retirement income to three out of ten retirees and two out of five older women rely on Social Security alone.  Those populations (women and people of color) who had lower earning power during their work years earn less in Social Security benefits and thus must struggle even harder than their better off counter parts to even survive. As inadequate as is Social Security to fully meet the needs of today's elders, without it they face utter destitution.

The problem becomes clear when one considers the Federal Poverty Level versus reality.  It simply is an unrealistic and outdated benchmark obfuscating  the real need for increased federal and state supports and assistance for our elderly poor.

The Elder Economic Security Initiative expects that by 2012 WOW will have built the partnerships in up to 20 states to develop and implement the initiative at the state level.  As you read this, the initiative is already ongoing in twelve states; Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Jersey, Michigan, New York, West Virginia and New Mexico.

13 April 2010



I ran across this fellow on the overpass from Bally's to Caesar's Palace last week and, intrigued with his forthright originality, gave him a good "Twelfth Step".  I thought I was getting through to him until he said to me, "Wow, dude!  You really are the Gypsy King aren't you!"  My gold ear ring must have thrown him off!

12 April 2010

Our Endangered Libraries

National Library Week - April 11, April 17

We are all now familiar (overly) with the trite and banal phrase, "There's good news, and there's bad news".

When I read that the recession( yes dear ones...since December 2007, it's official!) is causing many to rediscover the library as an affordable (free) alternative, I also cringed inwardly with the knowledge that libraries are tax dependent and in a recession tax revenues decline sharply.  Even with volunteers, gifts and donations, public libraries must have a steady flow of tax dollars in order to survive.

But, there are even greater threats to the continued existence of libraries:

1) We're into the third generation of age-cohorts of non-readers, parents whose parents raised them without a book in the house are raising their children without a book in the house or Saturday morning trips to the library.

2)  E-books essentially render moot a library as a repository of information or resource for literature.  In a way, they eliminate the middle-man and make unnecessary print-on-paper media such as books, magazines and newspapers.  Without those core "products" libraries could become irrelevant.

 3)  Libraries are one of the primary targets of the anti-tax crowd who abhor and tag any sort of intellectual pursuit as elitism and the "free" loaning of books, DVDs and the like as part of a socialistic anti free-market agenda.

Already beleaguered with these harsh realities, public libraries will not survive the added blow of severely reduced funding from taxes.  They will not.  Ask any librarian.

I find the situation tragic, and do not think that is merely the angst of an old-timer damning the modern age and yearning for the past.  I just do not think libraries are irrelevant.  Indeed, I think they are increasingly relevant in an age of disconnect, ignorance, hatred and violence.  Libraries hold the antidotes to such fear-based thinking and emotions.

Today's libraries are brilliantly positioned to serve a wider purpose than merely the lending of ink-on-paper media.  They provide DVDs, videos, computers with web access, meeting rooms, discussion groups, and, in the more enlightened areas of this country, they have coffee bars where one can sit, sip a latte' and kvetch with strangers about world events--and break down barriers and enrich one's understandings!

As a weird combination of gym rat and library geek, I, found safe harbor in libraries during my storm-buffeted adolescent years.  It was in libraries that I enriched my mind, my soul, my very being and future manhood, with all the classic stories for youth.  I read books that helped shape my values and world outlook.  Writers like Albert Payson Terhune taught me about the wisdom, and strength, and love of animals.  Edgar Rice Burroughs gave me insight into selfless bravery and indefatigable courage. 

I would come sweaty and tired from hours of YMCA basketball or sandlot baseball to the cool sanctum of the library to be transported to worlds of adventure and higher purpose far away from the realities of the refineries and mills of my small Midwestern town.

It was a librarian who gave me one of life's richest lessons.  I went to her to turn in a book within a day of checking it out and she asked me if I had read it so soon.  I told her that I had tried it, but that I just did not like it.

She smiled and said, "No, I'll not take it back until you have read at least the first 51 pages".

Annoyed and greatly put upon, I did as she asked and discovered Sinclair Lewis who in turn led me to Lincoln Steffins.  She had opened another door for me and taught me that it was better to get all the facts and not be too hasty about making decisions.

Many of the good things about me, and none of the bad, came from libraries.

09 April 2010

08 April 2010

The Real Death Panel: Pulling the Plug on Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid

Las Vegas, NV:  Reporting From the Annual Convention of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

If you think the health care reform battle was/is bruising, stand by!  We have an even more vicious fight ahead of us--for the very heart and soul of America.  And in part, our bitter sweet health care win sets up the war zone for the coming battles over Medicare and Social  Security.

While no one but the president knows the complete details, in order preserve his presidency and to try to insure a second term, he gave the Republicans a committee to study entitlements as a way to reduce deficits in return for passage of a very watered-down health reform package.  Never mind that entitlements did not cause the deficit---two wars, tax cuts for the very wealthy and the recession did---the creation of the committee by the president, even after the Senate rejected the ill-advised notion, is the signal that we are in for a doozy of a political blood bath!  Never mind that a very simple and easily doable solution to the Social Security "issue" is to scrap the cap on contributions from people earning more than $106,800 per year.

By all indicators it will be more visceral, vocal and viciously fought than even the health care reform battle.

The fact that Alan (those greedy old geezers) Simpson and Jeb (Clown Alley Congressman) Hensarling are part of the committee is sobering enough, but it would do us well to pull back the curtain and peek at several of the darker personalities working to destroy Social Security and Medicare.

Billionaire (Investment Banking) and former Nixon Commerce Secretary, Peter Peterson has been using his considerable fortune to bank-roll the fight for almost a quarter of a century and now senses a return on his investments.  He will be buying millions upon millions of dollars worth of TV ads to prepare the battlefield.

Add to the mix, Former Clinton Chief of Staff, Erskine Bowles, who is quoted by Bloomberg News as saying that entitlement programs such as Social Security "will turn the nation into a second rate power if they are not reduced".  Speaking to a clutch of North Carolin bankers recently, Bowles said, "We're going to mess with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security".

"Mess with"?

Remember the ugly canard about "Death Panels" during the health care battles?  Well, I would suggest to you that this committee is indeed just that, a death panel itching to pull the plug on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

So mount up, put out your cigarette, pull on your packs and sling your weapons.  We're moving to the front--and, the Alliance for Retired Americans will spearhead the fight!

07 April 2010

Take Action Today - Tell The Texas State Board of Education To Get A Grip!

Reporting from the annual convention of the Alliance for Retired Americans:

It is beyond distressing for me to report that delegates from around the fifty states are asking me about Texas.  No, it's not about how the 'Stroes will do under their new manager. Nor is it about whether the Cowboys will get to the Superbowl this year.  No.  None of that.  If our dunce cap wearing governor, Rick Perry, and Clown Alley Congressmen Louis Gohmert and Jeb Hensaling were not embarrassment enough, I'm having to explain to delegates from Maine to Hawaii why our textbook selection board has it in for Thomas Jefferson and "Democracy".  And, equally difficult, to Native Americans from Minnesota to New Mexico why "Texicans", who fought at the Alamo, will not be listed alongside adventurers and all around hell-raisers Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.

But, it is not just here amongst older Americans that questions are being asked and  hoots of derision are being heard.  Consider this recent e-mail I got from People For the American Way:

"Thomas Jefferson banned in Texas schools? Maybe... if the Right has its way. The fight is still on to keep absurd changes out of the Texas social studies textbook standards, with the final standards set to be adopted by the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) on May 21.

Right-wing members of the SBOE are using the textbook standards in Texas to rewrite history in a way that could undermine the educations of students in Texas and across the U.S., tossing out facts in favor of propaganda like:
  • America is a Christian country, founded on "Biblical principles."
  • Conservative icons from Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, the Moral Majority and even Sen. Joseph McCarthy are history's "good guys," but progressives and progressive values are at odds with what it means to be "American."
  • Words like "democracy" (sounds like "Democrat!") have nothing to do with America -- we're a Republic -- In fact, "capitalism" has sort of a negative connotation to some, so they want that word to be universally replaced with "free market."
  • Some of the major contributions of Thomas Jefferson -- arguably America's greatest thinker -- are on the chopping block, as are the contributions of other important figures not favored by the zealots on the Texas State Board of Education, like Cesar Chavez and Thurgood Marshall. (Who's next? Martin Luther King? FDR?)
There is still time to take action before the final standards are adopted. Email the SBOE and tell members that students should be taught the facts, not propaganda.

Email the Board at sboeteks@tea.state.tx.us.

06 April 2010

Social Security - The Conventional Wisdom is All Wrong!

Reporting from the Annual Convention of the Alliance for Retired Americans in Las Vegas, NV

Linking Social Security to deficit reduction is wrong.  We have a deficit, following Clinton's budget surplus, due to unregulated Wall Street greed and avarice which spawned an unprecedented recession, two wars fought on a credit card, and Bush's tax give-away to his wealthy cronies.  Social Security is not the problem!

Yet, somehow there has evolved some sort of collective conventional wisdom fed by lies from the radical and irrational right-wing which would have you to believe otherwise.

They say:  Social Security will soon go bankrupt.  No.  Even if Congress does nothing at all, Social Security is projected to deliver full guaranteed benefits until at least 2037.  And even after 2037, if no changes are made, the fund will continue to pay out at 75% of guarantee.

They say:  America can't afford Social Security.  No., What America can't afford is a return to a time when old age or disability guaranteed poverty!

They say:  The Social Security Trust Fund is filled with worthless IOUs. No.  Social Security's surplus is invested in American government bonds and have the full faith and credit of the United States.

They say: America needs to cut Social Security.  No.  Right now the average pay-out is only $1200 per month.  That's around $14,000 per year and in two-thirds of the cases the only thing standing between a recipient and poverty.

They say:  Social Security is a burden on our grandchildren.  No.  Right now, as a proportion of the Gross National Product, Social Security costs are only 5% and after some ups and downs of 1% or less, by 2050 will only be at 5.8%. 

They say:  The baby-boomers will have too few workers supporting too many recipients.  No, we figured how to handle other boomer "bulge" challenges.  We built their schools, and we built housing to meet their needs.  We will, as we have always, find a way to accommodate this challenge.

Social Security is in very good shape.  The questions one should be asking is why the lies, and who are the liars?  And, why aren't we improving and increasing benefits during these harsh economic time?

05 April 2010

The Counter-Revolution of the Misled, Misinformed, and Misbehaving

Third & Final Part:

To understand where we are in the Reagan Revolution we might find it helpful to look to the French Revolution for our  model of Hegel's dialectic at work within the context of history.  That revolution came about as the result of the convergence of many causes, not the least of which were the hunger, deprivation, and oppression of the proletariat while the bourgeoisie lived lives of indulgence and excess. 

But what followed, the Antithesis, was bloody awful and not without certain parallels to present day America.

That which followed the revolution in France is known as la Terreur (The Age of Terror) as conflict between rival political factions and real and imagined internal and external conspiracies helped empower Robespierre, history's poster boy of Gresham's law of political morality: The bad drives out the good as everyone becomes corrupted while political life becomes like the Hobbseian war of all against all...

During this darkly sanguine period of French history the guillotine became known as the "national razor".

Now, let me quickly guide you through what I see as our "antithesis" to the Reagan Revolution.  Bad driving out good?  Well, I suggest that Enron, AIG, Lehman Brothers, the home finance debacle, General Motors could all be representative of the first leg of Gresham's law; everyone becomes corrupted.

Here, though, is what really concerns me and what goes beyond the almost predictable venality which underlies the monetarist philosophies of the Reagan Revolution---the antithesis, the bloody period of mob-rule,

Consider action/adventure TV-star, Chuck Norris, calling on the military to disobey the President's orders while avowing that there are thousands of  "cells" across America ready to rise up to resist Obama and to fight for a "return to the constitution" and that he will serve as President of Texas after the constitution is restored.

Consider the various components of an ultra-secret vigilante group of active and former members of the military calling its self "The Oath Keepers" who assert they took an oath to defend the Constitution and it is therefore their responsibility to resist "unconstitutional" orders from President Obama, who "ain't really president because he ain't got no real birth certificate and cain't be a real Amuhrican".

These people are armed to the teeth, know how to use those weapons, and because they are as crazy acting as a run over snake, should be consider extremely dangerous.

Consider Glenn Beck, Bill Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and that stringy, bleached-blond, meat-market sleep-around, bat from hell, Ann Coulter.  Consider Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, Jim Bunning, Mitch McConnell, Louis Gohmert, Jeb Hensarling, and John Boehner.  Don't know these names?  Learn them and you'll find proof of the second leg of Gresham's law: war of all against all.

If we are, as I believe we are, in the early stages of a Hegelian period of antithesis following a revolution, I fear we are in for dismally dark and dangerous times.

01 April 2010

Holiday Notice

Sorry, no post today!  We will return on Monday, April 5....Today, I was busy taping a program that will stream on KNON.org on Monday at 7:00 am CDT, or live on KNON Dallas, TX - 89.3 FM - The Voice of the People.

Have a safe and pleasant Easter holiday.