Monday, April 14, 2014

U.S. Administration—Exponential Ineptness

In my memory, there's never been a time when this nation suffered from inept leadership to the extent that exists now. This is humongously true regarding the executive and Congress and almost as obvious regarding the Supreme Court. The complete upheaval of healthcare operations in this country is a good example for all three branches.

The Obamacare package was passed through Congress with the explicit explanation by the democrat-controlled Congress that no one had read the bill. Certainly, the republicans hadn't, either, but not one of them voted for it in either the Senate or the House, thus absolving themselves of any responsibility for it. It would not have become law but for an unbelievable opinion by Chief Justice Roberts – swinging the Court – that a penalty is actually a tax and since government can collect taxes, Obamacare is, ipso facto, legal.

Translated, this means that a traffic fine is not a penalty but a tax; however, traffic fines are not reported on tax forms or collected by the State IRS, meaning that they don't apply. Under Obamacare, the IRS is responsible for enforcing the “tax,” which actually is not a tax at all but a government fine for not “signing-up.” The enforcement of any federal fine lies within the purview of the Justice Department, not the IRS.

Again without a single republican vote, the House democrats (feeling their oats after just retaking the House) passed the cap-and-trade bill in June 2009 without reading it. Indeed, 300 pages of it were added after midnight on the day it was passed. It was defeated in a democrat-dominated Senate...the smell was too great to overcome. It was designed to bankrupt electricity providers, as the president had promised in his 2008 campaign, with consumer-costs “skyrocketing” – his term.

On 14 April, Treasury Secretary Lew signed a loan guarantee (actually a giveaway) of $1 billion to Ukraine, the money to be borrowed, of course, from China since the U.S. is bankrupt and running deficits too huge to comprehend. The Chinese economy is also in trouble so this clueless administration is heading the nation for the proverbial cliff.

Ukraine was not having trouble and Crimea was not taken over by Russia until Ukrainian protesters took to the streets for their own “Slavic Spring” and threw out their government in February. Instead of wisely staying out of this mess, hopefully having learned hard lessons in the Middle East, Obama and State Secretary Kerry have attempted to become the world's “bully” and dictate what will happen to both Ukraine and Russia (tried to influence Crimea but looked foolish), without the actual resources to do anything. The Europeans – actually with something on the line – would just as soon be in Philadelphia.

Ukraine is not a NATO member so there is no NATO responsibility to do anything, especially – also with regard to eastern Ukraine – since a huge percentage (probably the majority) of Ukrainans there want to be part of Russia anyway, as was the case in Crimea. Virginia didn't want to be part of the U.S. in 1865, but Lincoln, without outside help, turned the state around. It's up to the Ukrainians to put their house in order, as Lincoln and the legitimate U.S. did.

NATO has 28 member nations that geographically encircle the west end of Russia, including the U.S., Canada and Iceland. Even tiny Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, that border on Russia, are NATO members. Any pressure by Putin on any of these nations would automatically – by treaty – invoke action by NATO, including virtually all of Europe, the Scandinavian countries, the U.S. and Canada.

This means that the United Nations would have no say concerning that possibility, contrary to its stupid resolution in 2011 that “permitted” the U.S. to attack Libya, a deed so foul as to still invade political nostrils. Current UN Ambassador Power (then just a White House hack) was an instigator of that genocide – along with Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice – and should keep her mouth shut about any American action anywhere. Rice is now head of NSA and Clinton is actually considered for the presidency—nauseous even to contemplate. Power is harmless since nobody takes her seriously.

Vice President Biden is off to Ukraine right away to spread the word of support, which for him is “God love ya!” Republican Senator McCain, as the case with Libya, Syria and most everywhere else, is yammering for the president to send weapons to the Ukraine government, such as it is, which would use them against Ukrainians. A bit smaller than Texas, Ukraine has 129,950 troops, according to the World Almanac, though many of them may now feel more allegiance to Russia than Ukraine.

In any case, Ukraine is not a U.S. problem.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Greatest Accident in History

The greatest accident in history,
He claimed upon his soapbox in the park,
Concerns the president now in D.C. –
He treats his job as being on a lark,
He claims the Constitution out-of-date
Because it mandates his prerogatives...
Because it simply does not liberate
The folks who form the nation's negatives.

He ridicules the laws to not enforce
Despite the oath to uphold them,
The nation's top lawman holds to the course
The president has set to ignore them;
And so he rules by fiat, more or less,
Because he says the Congress is inert
Perhaps he thinks himself sort of noblesse—
Executive to order...laws subvert.

His violations scream impeachable
But vapid House collectively lacks spine,
The president is just unreachable –
Yes...just because the Congress is supine;
Perhaps inaction is just ethnic-based...
If so, that makes the problem so much worse,
When laws by just that fact can be erased,
The nation suffers a despotic curse.

To think a president was once impeached
For perjury that had to do with sex
Compared to orders that have overreached
Regarding life-and-death—falsehood reflex—
Is simply to condemn to nth degree
A president who strives to be a king
– The greatest accident in history –
To once great nation...degradation bring.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Monday, April 07, 2014

Never Promised a Rose Garden

A delicious irony was played out in the Rose Garden adjacent to the White House the other day when the president and a bevy of democrats performed a political end-zone celebration complete with everything but the crotch-hops and chest-bangers and other obscene gestures that athletes sometimes produce after making a score. There was even a bit of trash-talk as the president gleefully excoriated the press corps for its savaging of the unbelievably flawed “healthcare roll-out” back on October 1.

The irony involves the degree of lying that has taken place in the Rose Garden in recent memory. So...one has to wonder at the president's exultation over his claim of 7.1 million enrollees in the plan. There's a great difference between an enrollee and an enrollee who has actually made a premium-payment and is therefore covered by an insurance policy. No statistic was given for that number and probably for good reason—either that it wasn't known or that it was and wouldn't have added to the celebration.

One remembers 12 September 2011, when in the Rose Garden the president said that the Benghazi Massacre was perpetrated by a senseless movie of 13 minutes duration that made it to You-Tube and stirred up a ruckus in Cairo, nearly 700 miles away. He was lying through his teeth, as was his state-secretary, Hillary Clinton. They both new better but the president was still insisting on that humongous lie in a speech at the United Nations two weeks later.

Or...how many times may one suppose that the president lied in the Rose Garden about the fact that under Obamacare no one would lose a desired policy or doctor? And then there's the matter of the “red lines” in Syria that Assad dare not cross—how many times did the president draw those lines in the lawn of the Rose garden but paid them no attention in the sand of Syria?

One remembers that, depending on the source, there were 30-40 million without healthcare (insurance) when Obamacare became law to reverse that situation. Under the law, 6 or 7 million lost their insurance, so added to the (split the difference) 35 million already uninsured the figure became 42 million without insurance. Now, the president crows about a 7.1-million sign-up without even indicating how many of those are among the 6 million who became uninsured under the law—the president's big LIE. So, about 34 million are still uninsured. Nothing's changed except that the entire medical enterprise has been upended in a nation owning the best healthcare and hospitals in the world.

The celebration in the Rose Garden was the product of juvenile minds conjuring up something to fool the public. The adolescent mindset is what triggers the antics in the NFL when someone scores or just when someone makes a tackle and then crotch-hops ten yards toward the opposite goal line beating his chest like a chimpanzee in the local zoo. The president had his cheerleaders on hand—like House Minority Leader Pelosi, who famously said no one would know what was in Obamacare until it was passed. Like all the other congresspersons who voted for the thing, she had never read the act and likely still has no idea what's in it.

In any case, there are problems; otherwise, the president would not have by executive order changed the new law about 29 times in order to influence the elections in November. Two of my family members have suffered, one because of increases in both premiums and deductibles and the other because his company is canceling its policy altogether and has explained the reason to be Obamacare. The extant policy didn't suit, probably because it didn't cover condoms. Shouldn't everyone have free condoms actually paid for by the people who have sense enough not to need them?

The system has been designed from the beginning to fail—to implode as the insurance rates went out of sight and people couldn't pay the premiums and especially the deductibles required before the insurance benefits kick-in. Already, hordes of doctors and a plethora of hospitals are out of the system, understanding that it just isn't worth it. Their decisions would have been made in Washington, not in their institutions or private offices. When the presidential-delayed company-mandate kicks-in, there will be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, but the president figures that won't happen (by his fiat) until AFTER November. This is an example of exponential cynicism.

The Rose Garden is most famous now as a place of the BIG LIE and adolescent shenanigans. And one plaintively cries, “How long, how long?” Almost three years—so sad for the nation to be in the hands of children!

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Friday, April 04, 2014

TORNADO

Tornado season is here, reminding me of a harrowing experience 40 years ago in another life, April 3, 1974. At the throttle of Southern Railway engine 3003 on that beautiful, unseasonably warm day, I had had one of those great runs the dispatchers rarely handed out, on Train 172 at about a mile-and-a-quarter long. I’d left Oakdale, Tenn., about 2:30 p.m. and was slowing on the steep grade approaching Moreland, Ky., some 125 miles and three hours later and only minutes from my home terminal, Danville, Ky., when things came unglued.

Positioned on the cab’s east side, I didn’t see the funnel cloud brakeman Allen Knight saw when he looked back through the west-side window. We knew it was windy and the weather was threatening, but on the185-ton locomotive hadn’t felt anything unusual…until the utility pole at the main Moreland crossing snapped and came crashing down in front of the engine, high-voltage wires and all, and fire flew out from under the wheels. Fearing electrocution, I jumped up, wanting to get all of me, including my feet, on the seat cushion but couldn’t because the brakes would go into emergency if I took my foot off the “dead man’s pedal” (made of metal). Little blue, lead-thin lines crackled around the 600-volt cabinets only a few feet from our seats, and Allen yelled at me not to touch anything. Unknown to us, the 23-ton caboose was shaking violently and conductor George “Billy” Boswell and flagman Mike Richardson were simply “hoping for the best,” with nowhere to go. The tornado passed through the center of the train.

It was vital to get the train over the crossing since blocking it would make practically impossible the movement of emergency vehicles from Danville/Junction City to the south-end of the county on Hwy #127. The brakes went into emergency soon after the engines cleared the crossing, however, and we came to a grinding halt, the engine vibrating as if some gigantic hand were shaking it.

Nine of the ten mobile homes on a ridge on the west side disappeared. Another one a few yards away on the east side imploded, and I radioed the dispatcher in Somerset, Ky., that it looked as if Moreland was blowing away. The black-angus cattle in the field on the west side were rolling end over end down the fence-row or twirling around in the middle of the pasture, a funny, puzzled look on their faces. The steeple blew off the church over by Highway 127, which paralleled the tracks. Trees were going down and utility poles snapping everywhere.

When the wind died down a bit, Allen and I hit the ground to see if anyone was in the flattened trailer nearby and survey the situation. The man from the trailer said his family was safe in the adjacent house but bewailed the fact that his 23 guns had disappeared. Sitting on the ground leaning against the lead-engine’s fuel tank on the west side was a man who was obviously shaken, dazed and hurting. He said he was standing in his yard a few hundred feet down the track, but in an instant simply landed by or against the train. We helped him home, where his wife was plenty scared, and found out later that he had a severe injury.

Walking south down the tracks, we found pieces of the blown-away trailers and downed trees sandwiched between the cars in the train. Our worst fears were confirmed when we discovered the crossing completely blocked by two overturned boxcars. An automobile was on its side in the yard adjacent to the crossing.

We continued down the tracks, climbing over trees, and met Billy and Mike, who looked as if they had seen ghosts. They told us that cars weighing more than 50 tons empty had been lifted off their wheels intermittently throughout the train and set down beside the tracks or stacked on each other. They had had to claw their way over, under and around trees and other debris. The track was hardly damaged, unbelievable since derailments usually cause severe damage as wheels snap rails and chew up ballast and cross-ties.

After passing through the train, the twister continued northeast and caused one death locally, as well as considerable damage. As things calmed down, it became deathly still, as if nothing had ever happened, and then the rains came. We were told to stay there until well after dark, but finally instructed to proceed the twelve miles to Danville. The storm accompanying the tornado had knocked out all power, and there didn’t seem to be a light in the whole town. There were no rail-yard employees on duty in the freight-yard, and the usually bustling installation was like a ghost-town. I was relieved to find my family safe.

If the tornado had passed through either end of the train, one can only guess what might have happened. I’ve seen worse storms at sea with parts of ships simply blown away, but could not have imagined anything on land like that tornado if I hadn’t experienced it, up close and personal. The next day, I visited a farm where an owner-unrecognized horse had just shown up...just blew in the day before.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Novel Nowadays

I've always been a reader, especially of novels and short stories, starting way back when I discovered the Howard Pease books about the sailing ships of long ago. I've been an avid reader of magazines, too, but in the early seventies realized that I had become so interested in news/commentary magazines like the incomparable National Review that I had ignored the novel for a long time.

I checked the best-seller list and discovered that Portnoy's Complaint was all the rage and bought a copy. I made it through four pages in which appeared such a pile of sex-ridden garbage and unbelievable weirdness that I put away the book and decided that if the novel had degenerated to that despicable level I needed to stick with just the news, which helped anyway since I was writing a couple of newspaper columns a week for the local newspaper.

According to the literati (especially book-reviewers of the avant-garde publications and coastal newspapers as well as university English faculties), Portnoy was then and still is among the best of English writing in the last 100 or so years. The book continued in the vein of the first four pages, I've read, so I would have needed 100 symbolic showers using abrasive soap if I had finished it just to eradicate the written dirt.

It wasn't that long before I returned to reading books but I'm like most guys – at least so I've heard – who read not for discovering a “slice of life,” which the enlightened professors like to have as a useful cliché, but just for entertainment, with the demand that there be an actual plot and that unbelievable coincidences and feats of physical legerdemain not predominate. I'm not enamored of Faulkner or Salinger.

So...I like the “commercial” books, those down upon which the literati look in their condescension. I've discovered a change in them as well, except for the best writers like Le Carre, Clancy, Michener and Grisham, who handle the “delicacies” adroitly and not with the hormone-driven high-school-sophomore boy in mind. The major change has to do with women, who appear now as hard-nosed career superior-beings able to out-think, out-swear and out-muscle any man who gets in their way. They appear especially in books having to do with crime subjects and written by men.

These women use the f-word like it came before Adam and fling off their panties for the slightest reason, especially entrapment of an inferior male (all males are inferior), sorta like the spider in her web. I checked out from the library the other day an “action” book, one of the usual best-seller types, and I'm just over half through. I can skip the garbage parts and have no idea why the stuff is used – maybe just filler.

Already, action has drifted from this country to the Middle East and a tortuous session in Bangkok – an assassin, burning buildings, heroic jumps from roofs – and another in Zurich, where a beautiful lady outsmarts the hero, slamming and locking him in a tanning bed to bake him alive. He escapes, of course, just in time. Meanwhile, back in Washington, two lesbians, who outsmart their bosses by day but have been invited to dinner by them, have just retired to a stall in the ladies room for a quick orgy between the salad and main course to do whatever they do. I'll skip this part but on second thought may just skip the rest of the book.

I write novels, too, though I'm unheard of (books are, too). I got so sick of this best-seller stuff that I decided to write a novel (my fifth) in which no main character is a woman and sex is of no consequence. Its title is The Biggest Con and it has to do with the world of spies, intrigue, religion, and even some fun. Its heroes belong to the CIA and its meanies are jihad-types out to promulgate al Qaeda-ism throughout the world. It's the opposite of Portnoy and the book I may or may not finish reading now.

Actually, art reflects culture, especially with respect to the written word. The little needless lesbian episode mentioned above took 2.5 pages that I didn't read. It was followed closely by a whore attempting seduction of the hero in Zurich. So far, this has been the century of the homosexual (now a protected species like the famous snail-darter), up to and including marriage, as well as the glorification of kinky sex and the “liberated woman,” who nevertheless screams rape when she's mad at a guy and wants to ruin him. This shows up in the American novel, and the enlightened literati worship it, which proves that morons can be book-reviewers and college professors.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pope & Prexy

Much has been made of the fact that Pope Francis has become a virtual icon throughout the world since ascending to his lofty denominational position last year, which Catholics sometimes designate “vicar of Christ,” as if a mere man could aspire to such a thing. Vicar is defined as “one serving as a substitute or agent.” The term represents blasphemy to most Christians, who believe Christ defined himself and his mission quite well, as recorded in scripture, and certainly would not countenance a substitute.

Pope Francis presents himself as an humble servant of both God and people, and there's no argument with that. He doesn't live in the plush papal palace among all the riches displayed there but in a more modest dwelling though he lacks for nothing 24/7, with all sorts of folks to carry the water. He presents himself as an advocate for the poor and has made it plain that a capitalistic society, such as in the U.S., does not signify, apparently since the wealth is not redistributed in putting everyone on the same economic level in the nation, with the surplus funds redistributed worldwide.

An economic guru he is not since he doesn't seem to understand that help/service for the poor has to be bought just like everything else and that people must work to provide the capital for helping and that capital is created by people making/doing things, for which activity they are paid so they can eat and work some more. He should understand that people have hugely varying levels of intellect and skills, meaning they will have hugely varying remunerations for what they do – justifiably.

Some believe the Pope is popular for his humility and his chastisement of countries like the U.S. This is doubtful since thousands of famous people are lionized for their charitable works – justifiably. However, the Pope's popularity in the so-called developed nations is for another reason. On a flight back to Rome last year, Pope Francis made this startling remark with regard to the subject of homosexuality: “Who am I to judge?” Homosexuals are a protected species in the U.S., virtually idolized by the intellectual elite. They are practically worshiped in Europe, as well. With that statement, the Pope, besides spitting in his denomination's face, ingratiated himself to nations already on the skids morally. Thus, these words:

The prexy went to see the Pope,
Just happened that he was in Rome,
A photo-op might stir some hope
Since things were going south at home;
Il Papa was a gracious host
But felt no kiss upon his ring
Meant prexy dumb as wooden post
Or feared an Arab-inspired spring
Since he by fiat made new laws,
Would not enforce the ones in force,
Complained of Constitution's flaws
And made czar-rules his tour de force;
This made his disapproval-rate
Increase quite exponentially
But Papal blessings might create
Improvement providentially.

The visit lasted near an hour
So prexy could confess all sin
With still some time to talk of power
The Pope might use against Putin;
Concerning such, the Pope demurred,
Explained his guards used only spears
And that from all that he had heard
A stare by Putin could cause tears.

They also talked of other things
Like homosexuality
And men exchanging wedding rings
And bridal gowns for two...or three;
The Pope said, “Who am I to judge,
Inclusiveness – new liturgy,”
The prexy laughed, gave Pope a nudge
And then a wink or two...or three.

The Pope-and-prexy press machine
Put out the word that they agreed
That inequality was mean
And that the world should just take heed;
Redistribution of the wealth
Of working stiffs should now be done,
They shook on that, drank to their health,
Proclaimed salvation had begun.

And so they posed for photo-op,
Then prexy took his leave apace
And wondered to his secret-cop
If they might find a par-three place
Where he could try his new chip-shot
And maybe then not have to cheat
When next on some fund-raising plot—
Though truth he found hard to repeat.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The University & Inequality—Laughable

In a column of 24 March, Lexington Herald-Leader's Tom Eblen pointed to the upcoming UK conference titled “Economic and Political Inequality in the United States,” with keynote speaker columnist Ellen Goodman, whose subject will be “Inequality: Working Moms, Designated Daughters, and the Risks of Care-giving.” Among her awards is the Media Award for Outstanding Newspaper Columnist from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Warning caveat: I'm a retired railroader living on a blue-collar pension. Economic inequality is not definable because it accrues to so many variables such as degrees of education, risk-taking, innate abilities, health, inheritances and even luck – especially as when a UK freshman signs an NBA contract for a couple million or so. There's no such thing as economic inequality in a capitalist society such as in the U.S., just as there's no such thing as economic equality. The income of a life-saving surgeon is not to be compared to that of a railroader or columnist.

Eblen wrote: “Consider ... a recent study that found incomes in Kentucky rose 19.9 percent from 1979-2007, but that 48.8 percent of that money went to the top 1 percent of earners. According to the Economic Policy Institute, that 1 percent saw their incomes rise an average of 105.1 percent, while the average income of the other 99 percent of Kentuckians grew only 11.2 percent.” He didn't break down the various percentiles according to income.

This is from the Congressional Budget Office (November 2011): “For the 1 percent of the population with the highest income, average real after-tax household income grew by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007. For others in the 20 percent of the population with the highest income (those in the 81st through 99th percentiles), average real after-tax household income grew by 65 percent over that period, much faster than it did for the remaining 80 percent of the population, but not nearly as fast as for the top 1 percent. For the 60 percent of the population in the middle of the income scale (the 21st through 80th percentiles), the growth in average real after-tax household income was just under 40 percent. For the 20 percent of the population with the lowest income, average real after-tax household income was about 18 percent higher in 2007 than it had been in1979.”

So, Kentucky, a poor state by any reckoning, didn't hold a candle to the rest of the nation 1979-2007 with respect to what the conveners of the upcoming conference call economic inequality. That 275% figure is breathtaking as are the numbers of some other percentiles. It needs remembering, however, that these figures essentially have virtually nothing to do with government but with private enterprise and private individuals heavily taxed by government.

Inequality is a pet project of the president, a multi-millionaire who rails constantly against that 1% to which he belongs and finally got the top federal tax rate raised to nearly 40% – a chump-change increase for him and at least half of the members of Congress, who are also millionaires. He is officially in favor of junking the U.S. Constitution and revising it to mandate “redistribution of wealth.” One can only cringe when thinking of the government setting all wages and profits in addition to taxes. That would be socialism or communism at its economic worst but it's the president's position.

Eblen used China's economic success under an oligarchic dictatorship to warn that the moneyed class could take over government in this country, as if the moneyed class hasn't always had much to say (or buy) with respect to government. Obama's solution to this problem would be to tax the 1% to near bankruptcy as if that would solve the problem.

This is from the Heritage Foundation (based on 2010): “The top 10 percent of income earners paid 71 percent of all federal income taxes in 2010, though they earned only 45 percent of all income. The bottom 50 percent paid 2 percent of income taxes, but earned 12 percent of income.” This is from American Enterprise (December 2012): “... the top 1 percent (1.35 million) of American taxpayers paid almost as much federal income tax in 2010 ($354.8 billion) as the entire bottom 95% of American tax filers ($388.4 billion).” The article also noted that “about half of the bottom 95% of American “taxpayers” paid nothing or got a tax refund.” All citizens receive the same amount of services from government but some pay far more for them than others.

The top tax rate each year 1950-63 was either 91% or 92%, as the costs of World War II were paid off. The average bottom rate for those years was 20%. As late as 1980, the top rate was still at 70% and the bottom at 14%. During 1988-90, the rates were down to 28% and 15%, respectively, as the nation took off economically and the beneficiary was Bill Clinton. The rich have always paid the freight but punishing them is Obama's chief objective while the economy tanks and the nation borrows from China.

I begrudge the highly inflated government salaries (including university- and public school-administrators) but feel no jealousy whatever for those in the private sector who manage to legally work the system for all they can get. As long as UK can pay wages greater than the U.S. vice president's to assistant football coaches, it would do well to forget inequality and let Goodman do her whining elsewhere.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark