Thursday, June 23, 2016

UK to Leave the EU; Outrage Defeats Facts

The United Kingdom makes an expensive vote of nationalism and isolationism that will reverberate for the remainder of the summer and probably impact the general election here in the States.

Already, the pound is dropping off a cliff, commodity markets are being hit hard, and likely going to be a tough end of June for stock markets. Scotland will hold another referendum to leave.

The amount of misinformation that was dispersed to engender anger, outrage, and pessimism shouldn't surprise anyone. That seems to be routine these days.

It's now commonplace for people:
  • To make outrageous claims based on feelings instead of facts.
  • To post 'news' stories they've not even read based on the headline or the picture.
  • To get upset about a policy proposal they've heard without even having any basic understanding of the process or any facts about it whatsoever.
The new dark ages.

(Photo: +Wonderful Wildlife)

The Moderate Approach to Tackling Guns

There has been much hyperbole on all sides regarding the gun control bills brought to the floor of the U.S. Senate. A handful of House Democrats even went so far as to stage a failed sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives in an attempt to force a vote. 

The way the Feinstein amendment in the Senate was worded was a flat-out denial or delay of purchase to all those on the terror watch list. Senator John Cornyn of Texas offered a 3 day waiting period for the government to make a case for denial of purchase to those on that list. And, outgoing Senator Susan Collins offered a ban on those who are on just the no-fly list, which is much smaller than the terror watch list. 

There are concerns and problems of these measures that are both reasonable and significant from all sides.

The FBI is concerned that they won't be able to show probable cause for many cases in just 3 days. 
+Amazing World

Gun rights advocates are concerned that they won't be able to get their weapons if they happen to be mistakenly on the no fly list. For example, they have a similar name of a suspected terrorist. This can happen.

Still, if an American citizen is on the no fly or the terror watch list and the FBI doesn't have the evidence to back up those claims to provide to the court in three days, then the system needs to be streamlined to make the system work more effectively to make the country safer.

Of course, safeguards have to be in place to not disrupt ongoing investigations and surveillance activities. However, the reality that the lines of communication between federal authorities with local authorities has still not been effectively streamlined should be raising red flags on both sides of the aisle. 

There also must be adequate and appropriate judicial oversight and due process for citizens. The government makes mistakes, and there has to be relevant and effective methods to challenge these decisions regarding access to firearms.
+Amazing World

An additional option exists which makes much more sense. 

Since there are specific types of weapons that have a high capacity for extreme collateral damage of the human variety, we should require a highly specialized license for these weapons. This license would require a much more thorough criminal and personal background check, with a psychological profile, in order to have access to those types of firearms. 

Also, there would be extreme penalties to the individual who purchased these specialized weapons if these were ever lost or if these weapons were ever used in a crime.
+Amazing World

This allows people to keep their weapons and have access to those weapons, but with the 'well regulated' nature applied to it from the Second Amendment’s very specific language. 

These weapons are designed to kill at a high rate and without discrimination. They are marketed in a way that makes them and their owners feel sexy and strong.

The penalties for unlawful use of these weapons must be extreme. The penalties for these weapons ever being lost must also be extreme. 

This is how you approach this issue and not infringe on Second Amendment rights of law abiding American citizens.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

All Religions Must Confront Their Own Haters

+Wonderful Wildlife
Christians, just like Muslims, have to confront the hatred that's within their religion and within their religion's followers. It's not a sin to be gay. The Bible is not the Word of God. And, it's utter rubbish to support a religion that supports hatred and bigotry as being acceptable.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Sensible Response to Orlando

+Amazing World
Some people's response to sensible gun control measures is that criminals will get those guns anyways, so we can't do it. Well, then I'm sure those same people would think it's acceptable to legalize bombs since people still make bombs, right? 

Give us all a break with these ridiculous defenses of the most sane gun control measures that the vast majority of people agree should be the law of the land. 

No law can stop people from breaking the law. That doesn't mean you do nothing and just let someone go buy a assault weapon or a semi-assault weapon and shoot up people because of who they are. That doesn't mean you cast all the people that are like the shooter as the enemy either. That just plays right into the terrorists' propaganda by fueling the narratives that we hate Muslims, which most Americans do not. 

We're a welcoming country that believes in freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the right to bear arms . . . not all arms, not all speech, and not religion at the expense of other people's rights and lives.

The Broken Reimbursement System in America: Laureate International

I’m a firm supporter of Hillary Clinton. I believe most of the attacks against her are disingenuous, fabricated, misleading, or just outright lies. There will likely be critics of the Clintons bringing up President Clinton’s involvement in Laureate International as a counterpoint to the alleged fraud of Trump University. There are some facts that are of concern here, but there is no comparison to the alleged fraud Trump perpetrated on victims of his Trump U scam.

The fact is that for a period of years, President Clinton held an honorary and paid position with Laureate. Not only was President Clinton paid, he was paid very well for this honorary position to the tune of over $16 million. 

This culture of outrageous reimbursement for nebulous work leaves the public to wonder. This is the culture that we must break free from in the days and elections to come. I call it the millionaires shell game. Some of them don’t even realize they’re playing this game. 
+Wonderful World

Predictably, Clinton critics are now connecting his honorary position and payment at Laureate International to State Department contracts Laureate received. That is where context is crucial.

Laureate claims they are helping or have helped over a million students around the globe. This global company involves a massive array of smaller institutions in 28 countries, hiring in excess of 64,000 employees. It’s likely Americans have heard of LI but in its non-profit vessel Sylvan Learning it purchased in 2003, when it refocused to post-secondary education. 

Considering the current debt burden of LI, it seems concerning they would be paying any honorary person millions a year. However, they do offer educations services around the world, which is why the company has a consistent relationship with the State Department. That is why the potential for the perception of a conflict of interest should have created pause for President Clinton to not take any paid position, honorary or otherwise. 
+Wonderful World

There is a seeming tone deafness to these types of cavalier decisions that later come back to bite the Clintons. However, there is no wrongdoing, there is no scam, and there is no fraud here. The fact is that there’s no comparison between the alleged, systematic fraud perpetrated by Trump University and the paid but only honorary position President Clinton had with Laureate International. 

President Clinton appears to have done little to nothing at Laureate International except provide it more opportunities for press and additional coverage associated with his name. If I were the Clintons, I would donate the money earned from that honorary position to a non-profit education charity. 
+Wonderful World

It is important to note that the Clintons have donated $15 million to charities over the last decade, and yes, half of that was donated to the Clinton Foundation, a foundation that has an A rating with charity watchdog groups. 

That being said, discussing the facts over hype is difficult in the current media and social media climate. We have to hold each other responsible for being factually correct and not becoming suckers for click bait internet news meant to further anger and outrage us.

There is a broken system of reimbursement in this country. We have to address and reform that broken system if we are ever to honestly tackle the economic woes that continue to strangle the middle class and keep so many of us from reaching our full potential.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Why Hillary Succeeded and Bernie Failed

Bernie Sanders didn't change his message his entire campaign. Last night he delivered the same tired lines he's delivered throughout his entire failed campaign. That's why he's failed, not because of the media or the process or any other manufactured excuse or conspiracy.

His message is flawed and he's flawed.

Hillary Clinton has been committed to change her entire career. She's been committed to connecting to voters since she was a teenager knocking on strangers doors on the south side of Chicago. Just because a very loud segment of Sanders support is willing to ignore her history doesn't mean all the millions of real people that have voted in this primary and caucus season have as well.

Yes, some believe that some speeches Hillary made years ago are a big deal. She's made three decades and reams of her financials and tax returns public. That's much more than Sanders has bothered to level with you or anyone else with during this campaign.

And, yes, that same very loud segment of Sanders supporters want to give Sanders a pass on a political career based on talk with few results.

+Wonderful World
Hillary hasn't relied on talk. She actually bothered to do something, which meant getting her hands dirty in the process. That's why hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to tar and feather her. Why? Because she dared to challenge the status quo, big business, Wall Street, big pharma, the insurance industry, and the establishments in both parties.

Sanders ran a lousy campaign based on big rallies and big promises instead of a campaign about substance, policy, and connecting to voters across the entire political spectrum. He focused on talking to people who already agreed with his narrow political views.

That failed. Today, it's over. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Problem with "Indict Her and Be Done"

The problem with 'indict her and be done' is that it requires an actual crime to have been committed and not just your feelings to have been hurt by a woman being better than you at everything.

+Wonderful Wildlife

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Unions Aren't the Problem, Executive Mismanagement/Overpay Is

Besides repeating the simplistic Republican mantra that, ’Unions are the problem,’ we should be asking and possibly demanding these people answer a simple question. ‘What, specifically, is the problem the Unions are creating?’ 

When Unions died, so did wage growth. And, yes, Unions did some damage, but they also did a great deal of good. Using overly simplistic messages to destroy them and to mischaracterize issues doesn't help anyone move the economy or the country forward.

The problem isn't the Unions. The problem is executive mismanagement coupled with a lack of accountability throughout companies, a lack of balance in wage distribution, and not listening to their own shareholders nor to their workers. Of course, tax reform and overburdensome regulation are important concerns for businesses . . . usually not for big businesses, however. Simplifying the tax code and bringing balance to business tax revenues (decrease small business tax burden) are an entirely different topic and are real drags on the economy.
+Wonderful World

The lack of wage growth is the largest drag on the economy throughout much of the country and in nearly every sector. It's also what has been starving small businesses of customers, especially in rural areas. People increasingly have empty pockets but long hours to pay their ever-increasing bills. 

Simply put, wages should rise when the administrative and executive wages rise. If this would have been taking place over the course of the last four decades, the country’s electorate wouldn’t be as rightly angry and outraged as it is now and the economy would be more robust nearly everywhere.

The top brass of most of these companies, the administrative and other executives all take home too much of the profits compared to the lowest wage workers that generate those revenues and profits. Of course, those who have the largest salaries want to keep all their money and move their company to where they can make their products under substandard working conditions while they continue to rake in their big compensation packages.
+Wonderful World

It seems that Caterpillar had growth for years on the backs of six year wage freezes for employees, all of that with the UAW’s consent. So, I'm at a loss at where the blame should actually go in that equation, especially with the executive pay being what it is. Even Caterpillar shareholders are upset with the executive pay and compensation strategies of the company. CEO Oberhelman received a $4 million bonus last year, ramping up his compensation package to nearly $18 million. That should be ridiculous to anyone.

The shareholders realize they shouldn't be paying him that money nor moving jobs out of the country, but, that's why Caterpillar is in a repurchasing stock mood so as to not have to bother with answering to shareholders in the future.

To the public, companies like Caterpillar and Ford use tired clichés that stoke anger and resentment left behind from the 1980 Union wars. People that buy into those clichés are giving those CEOs a $18 million dollar annual pass.
+Wonderful World

No one person is worth $18 million over the actual workers that actually build the product that generates those revenues, are they?

A company can buy the cheap talking points that the CEO is throwing out to excuse the company decision to abandon the country, the community, the state, and the workers that made their revenues possible. I won’t buy. I'm not that gullible.

I won’t be part of the wage stagnation problem in this country. Some people want to have a substantive discussion about the issues that face us. Other people just want to blame someone else for what's going wrong. Unions. Obama. Now Hillary. It’s always anyone but the guy pulling the $18 million salary. Anything or anyone but the people actually responsible for making those decisions to outsource. If that high-priced guy can't strike a deal, is he really worth all those dollars?

And, manufacturing jobs, have been holding steady in places like Illinois without a robust economy. The job losses occurred prior to President Obama.

+Wonderful World
As is the case with Caterpillar, some people blame workers when they should be focusing some attention elsewhere within the company. These decisions are made by extremely well compensated CEOs and other executives who disregard even their own shareholders. Why would they care about their employees, the communities where their workers work, let alone the country that allowed their companies to flourish?

Especially after six years without any of Caterpillar’s workers having a pay raise. 

Don't just give me a break . . . give them a raise.

Instead of renegotiating a contract with workers, the company is leaving despite shareholders’ votes of dissatisfaction with the executive pay equation. If the public doesn't see the problem with that equation and with Caterpillar's failed leadership and lack of accountability, which delivers that failed leadership model tens of millions of dol
+Wonderful World
lars every year, then the public is simply unwilling to see the complete picture.

Unions may have made some unfortunate decisions decades ago. They may even make some bad ones today. That doesn’t make Unions detrimental to American workers or to the American economy. As Union membership has plummeted, so has manufacturing jobs, so has wage growth, and so has reasonable discussion about how to address these problems. 

States like Texas and countries like Mexico are safe havens for these companies, where they can disregard standards for workers, disregard standards for pay equity and continue their polices of wage stagnation while boosting their annual salaries and bonus packages. 

If the public doesn’t hold these companies and elected officials accountable to reforming the system to incentivize better behavior and/or punish these cheapskates, who will? 

If the public buys into these old clichés about Unions being the problem and we allow them to win that narrative, we’re also part of the problem.