Open Borders Anyone ???

The 1,954 mile border with Mexico has turned into a defacto “Open Border.”  Be it land or the Rio Grande river, illegal immigrants are crossing our borders in record numbers and the consequences of this action will take years and many dollars to fix, if it is ever fixed.

The history our country is one of immigrants, who made our country what it is today.  They came from all over the world to build this great country, and what were they offered?  A chance at unlimited success by their own sweat and hard work, to succeed in a country of equal opportunity.  The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France, is a symbol of the opportunities afforded to legal immigrants as they arrive.

When America was founded, it was indeed a country of open borders.  We had lots of land and few people to settle it.  However, by the end of the Civil War (1865), a patch work of immigration laws started to appear.  Basically, our country still had open borders, but that would soon disappear.

As our country developed, so did our  social programs.  Social Security (1935), food stamps (1961), and Medicare (1965), were all introduced for our country’s citizens.

America still welcomes legal immigrants.  For example, our country has the H-1B visa for professionals, such as engineers, computer scientists, and other technical persons, and requires the holder to have at least a bachelors degree.  The limit for this visa is 65,000 people per year, and allows an additional 20,000 people with masters degrees.  These people are in high demand and easily fit into our society, yet often wait years for visa approval.

Unfortunately, many people who desire to come here do not qualify for the H-1B visa, are not willing to wait in line, and are willing to take the risks involved in illegal border crossing.

Mexico has had a very strong policy against allowing illegal immigrants to cross their southern border. Now, however, Mexico has signed an agreement with Guatamala and Belize, the two countries that connect with Mexico’s southern border. This allows illegals a free unencumbered 72 hour pass to travel through Mexico. In other words, Mexico is enabling illegal immigrants to pass through their country along the way to America.

Its important to remember that Mexican citizens are treated differently than other border crossers.  Mexicans can be sent back to Mexico without a hearing.  However, other than Mexicans are allowed to have a hearing in front of an immigration judge, with the government paying for a lawyer to represent the individual.  In the meantime, they are allowed to stay here in this country, to await their hearing.  This is turning into a major problem.

Estimates for the cost of housing and taking care of these people range anywhere from $250 to about $1,000 per person per day.  Many of the people crossing the border are juveniles and without adult supervision.  When they cross the border they are immediately turning themselves into the Border Patrol because they know they will not be immediately deported.  Instead, they will be given meals, housed, and their medical problems taken care of while they await that elusive immigration hearing, which may be months or even years away.  Many will never show up for their immigration hearing.

Over the years, America has turned from an agrarian society to a technical society.  Unfortunately, many of the illegal immigrants that are crossing our southern border do not have a technical background, instead they have an agrarian background, creating a real problem.  With their education and command of the English language limited, they usually wind up as day laborers or domestic workers.

Our immigration laws give more credence to family reunification than to people who can help our country grow, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) graduates.  This perpetuates a steady stream of low skilled immigrants who increasingly have difficulty in fitting into our society, and then wind up partaking of our generous social programs, rather than contributing to them.  Many of these recent border crossers have no documentation on who they really are.

The reasons for the immigration are varied and there is no consistent agreement.  Some believe the immigrants are driven north by the drug gangs which populate Mexico and countries further south, which supply the growing U.S. drug habit.  Others believe it is our generous social and welfare programs.  Still others believe it is the relaxed border policy of the current administration in open defiance of existing law, by allowing illegal immigrants to stay without fear of deportation.

Whatever the reason, our country cannot long survive if we do not protect our borders.  The cost of feeding and housing the thousands who are crossing our southern border is not sustainable, and daily adds to our already burdening national debt.  Our unemployment is still high and there are many Americans who are out of work.

Whatever the source of the problem, the strong social safety net is definitely part of the equation.  Even the very liberal Nobel prize winning economist, Paul Krugman, recognized a problem with our generous social programs when he said, “…open immigration can’t exist with a strong social safety net; if you’re going to assure healthcare and a decent income to everyone, you can’t make that offer global….”

Open borders anyone ???

- Bob Hancock

 

Are The Lies Winning ???

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes” thus spoke Mark Twain. Now that we have had time to digest the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision on Hobby Lobby, we also need to take time and look at what is really being said. Deception and outright lies are being used as tools to deceive people and change their way of thinking. When the facts don’t meet the talking points, it is always easier to tell a lie than tell the truth.

The crux of the problem lies with the use of and understanding of two simple words: abortion, and contraception.

The following definitions were taken from the online Merriam-Websters dictionary:

abortion – the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus

contraception – deliberate prevention of conception or impregnation

According to The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) legislation, no federal funds are allowed to be used for abortion coverage or abortion care.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has written thousands of pages of supplemental rules further amplifying what is contained in the PPACA legislation. These rules expand on the text of the original legislation, and supply additional direction for the implementation of the legislation.

According to the HHS final rule, released in the Federal Register on July 2, 2013:

“…Research shows that access to contraception improves the social and economic status of women. Research also shows that cost sharing can be a significant barrier to access to contraception….Thus, eliminating cost sharing is particularly critical to addressing the gender disparity of concern here…The Departments aim to advance these compelling public health and gender equity interests by providing more women broad access to recommended preventive services, including contraceptive services, without cost sharing….”

In other words, the free contraception mandate for all women was a product of unelected bureaucrats from within the HHS instead of legislation passed by both Houses of Congress and signed into law by the President of the United States. However, neither the PPACA legislation nor the HHS rules define the methods of birth control that are approved.

To find the approved methods, we look to The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) which has approved 20 methods of what are broadly classified as birth control. Upon closer examination, we find that 13 methods are used to prevent conception, and, when their use is stopped, conception could once again take place, 3 involve complete sterilization of either the man or woman, and are basically considered non-reversable although it has been reversed some times. Finally, there are 4 approved methods used to prevent a fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterus, which meets the broad definition of abortion. It is important to note that in the Hobby Lobby case, the company was perfectly comfortable in providing 16 of the approved methods and only disapproved of 4 methods, all of which resulted in abortion.

When well known people use the benign word contraception instead of the much more volatile word abortion, they are making a political point. Justice Ginsburg who dissented on the decision said, “…The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage….” When people hear words like these, spoken by a Supreme Court Justice, they tend to take notice, and many may believe it is true when the facts totally refute those statements. False and misleading statements, regardless of who makes them result in a disservice to everyone. However, when those statements are purposefully wrong, then the most likely purpose is to rally their political base to stand with them. History has shown that the truth most often takes second place to a political point.

While many people oppose abortion, there are many others across the country who are in favor of abortion, and some even take the most extreme view and advocate for post birth abortion. This begs the question: What would have happened if all those who are in favor of abortion and post birth abortion had been aborted? Their silence on this point is deafening.

The world famous author of such books as “1984″ and “Animal Farm”, George Orwell, said it best when he said, “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Maybe we need more revolutionary acts of truth.

- Bob Hancock


 

The Unforgiving Nature Of Radical Islam !!!

Islam is classified as an Abrahamic religion, in that it has its root with the Prophet Abraham.  Judaism and Christianity are also classified as Abrahamic religions.

The founder of the Islamic religion, Muhammad, was born in 570 AD, and died June 8, 632 AD.  Upon his death, the religion split into two groups known as the Sunni and the Shia. The Sunni followed Abu Bakr, the father of Muhammad’s wife Aisha.  The other group, called the Shia, believed in a blood line of succession through Muhammed’s daughter Alia.  These groups have been fighting each other since Muhammad’s death.

However, in the world of Islam, there is one sub-sect of the Sunni world that is growing and deserves further comment.  The Wahhabi sect has its origins in the 18th century from a Saudi Sheik, Abdul Wahhabi (1703-1792).  The Wahhabis are variously described as ultra conservative, fundamentalist, or orthodox.

Some of the tenants of the Wahhabi sect of Islam are:

  • A literal belief in the Quran.
  • A belief in the establishment of a Muslim state based only on Sharia, Muslim law.
  • A fervent rejection of all innovations not directly advancing Islam. In the 20th century, Wahhabi religious leaders accepted radio as a means of spreading Islam, but at least initially rejected television as a corrupting medium.
  • The rejection of leadership roles for women.

According to The Islamic Supreme Council Of America:

“…Traditional Islam views religion as a pact between man and God and therefore the domain of spirituality. In this belief, there can be no compulsion or force used in religion. From the time of the Prophet Muhammad (s), peace and tolerance were practiced between different religious groups, with respect to distinctions in belief. Contrary to this, the “Wahhabi” ideology is built on the concept of political enforcement of religious beliefs, thus permitting no differences in faith whatsoever. In “Wahhabi” belief, faith is not necessarily an option; it is sometimes mandated by force….”

The Wahhabis use a morality police to enforce their tenants.  In Saudi Arabia, they are known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV).  The Wahhabi view of morality was visible to the world when, on March 11, 2002, there was a school fire in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  The CPVPV prevented several of the young girls leaving because they were not modestly dressed, and they perished in the fire.

The beliefs of Sheik Wahhabi have found their way into other sects of Islam.  Both Al-Qaeda (The Base) and the Taliban (Student) are variations of Sunni Islam which adhere to many of the tenants of Wahhabism.  The Salafi sect has been referred to as a hybrid sect of Wahhabism.

On October 9, 2012, a 15 year old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, survived an attempted assassination by a gun shot to the head administered by the Taliban.  Her crime, she spoke out for education for women. The Taliban does not allow girls or women to attend school.

Radical Islam was involved in both the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center twin towers in New York City, New York.  The second attack was successful and the towers fell.  The principals involved had ties with Al Qaeda.  Then there is the Fort Hood Texas shooter who killed 13, and had been communicating with Anwar al-Awlaki, an Amerian living in Yemen, who had been intermittently trained by a Salafi cleric.

Today, we have the army of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), advancing upon Bagdad, Iraq.  At present, it appears that they have control of Mosul, Tiktrit, Ramadi, and Fallujah in Iraq, and a large portion of Syria.  However, this is an extremely fluid condition, subject to hourly changes.  Witnesses have reported the beheading of people, and the imposition of strict Sharia law in areas under control of ISIS.

Another Radical Islamic group Boko Haram (Western Education Is Sin) has ties with various factions of Al Qaeda.  The group practices a version of Sunni Islam known as the Salafi.  The group obtained notoriety when it recently kidnapped hundreds of girls from school threatening to sell them as sex slaves or whatever their new masters wanted.

The most common thread with all these Radical Islamic groups is that once an area is under their control, all competing thought is crushed and banned.  If it is found, it usually results in the death of the person holding that view.  Most people, if they have the ability flee, run for their lives, take whatever they can carry, and if it is too heavy or bulky, it is left behind.

Radical Islam occurs in localized areas, but it is not a localized problem.  It is a problem the world faces and will take the collective actions of the world to correct it.  It is expanding world wide, but most rapidly in areas where the United States withdrew either its military, or its influence.

The Whitehouse keeps saying that core Al Qaeda is dead, but what they are not looking at is how fluid Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and all these various Radical Islamic groups are.  It is their fluidity that allows them to change and survive and President Obama and his administration have ignored that problem.

If the United States continues to ignore Radical Islam, it does so at its own risk.  Either we take control of our future and reign in Radical Islam, or, we will eventually see the flag of Radical Islam flying in our country.

Mr. President, the choice is yours to make for the future of the United States, please choose wisely, because if you don’t……………

- Bob Hancock

 

 

Medical Rationing, Its Not Just At The Veterans Administration !!!

  • rationing (n)  the controlled distribution of scarce resources, goods, or services.

Medical rationing has always been present.  When you have mass casualties, the victims are subject to “triage.”  The word triage refers to the classification of patients based upon the severity of their injuries, i.e.,

  • Patients who will likely die regardless of the treatment given are deferred treatment.
  • Patients who are likely to live regardless of the treatment given are also deferred.
  • Patients who are time critical for treatment and will most likely benefit from early treatment are treated first.

The motto of the Veterans Administration (VA) is, “…to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan….”  However, the VA is currently in the eye of the storm about deferred medical care (rationing) to some veterans.

We currently have veterans receiving service at the VA hospitals who have served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  In addition, many veterans also served in many other un-named and forgotten brush skirmishes throughout the world.

The VA uses rationing in two different ways.  The first is that not every veteran is qualified to receive medical treatment at a VA facility.  The VA uses a priority classification system numbered from 1 through 8.  For example,  if you served, but not in a combat zone and do not have a service related disability, you are given a financial means test, and, if the income and personal worth of both you and your spouse is above a specified amount, you will not qualify for medical treatment.  The system is designed to give priority service to those with service related disabilities.

The second method of rationing that the VA uses is delaying medical service to veterans.  The investigation of this is ongoing, and there are no clear answers as to why so many veterans had their medical care deferred.  Even though the VA has been inundated with more patients, we know that money is not the problem.  In the last 4 years, the VA has returned to the government treasury over $3.8 Billion, and is projected to return $450 M this fiscal year.  However, one finding is that VA medical personnel are not seeing as many people per day as equivalent medial personnel see outside of the VA.  Deferring a veterans need for medical care could easily be the same as a death sentence for that person.

Unfortunately, medical rationing is not restricted to the VA, it is also rampant in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.  This legislation mandated that all insurance policies were required to cover a wide range of services.  The increased coverage also cost more.  To hold costs down, the insurers reduced the size of their medical networks restricting access (rationing) to doctors and hospitals.

The ACA legislation also created the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), sometimes called a “Death Panel.”  The board becomes effective on October 1, 2014 (start of FY 2015).  The purpose of the board is to control the cost increases of Medicare through binding cost reductions.  The easiest way for the IPAB to control costs is to restrict (ration) higher cost medical procedures.  If Congress refuses the cost control measures recommended by the IPAB, it will have to come up with equivilant cuts from somewhere else.  If Congress does nothing, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) is required to implement the recommendations of the IPAB.

Our regular medical insurance companies also engage in rationing.  This is done very similar to that done through the ACA.  Insurance policies have restrictions requiring the use of doctors and hospitals they have previously approved.  When you go outside of the system, you pay a much higher rate.

In addition, all medical plans, VA, ACA, and regular insurance companies, use what they call approved drug formularies.  These lists are usually separated into various tiers or groups.  Some drugs are given to the patient with no co-pay while others, depending upon the tier they are in, require various co-pays, and if the drug is not listed at all, you are stuck with the full cost of the drug.  By restricting what drugs are covered, costs are controlled by rationing.

Besides the drug formularies, all medical plans require pre-approval of medical procedures other than routine office visits.  This is another way of controlling costs through rationing.

Where to next?  Many on the left want to shift our medical insurance industry to a single payer system.  The VA medical system is a single payer system, and gives us a window into the problems of that system.

The future is still unknown, but we are definitely moving in the direction of higher medical costs, more medical rationing, and, if the political left has their way, a single payer system.  In this changing world of increased medical costs and medical rationing, keeping yourself healthy is the best advise anyone can give you, that is, unless you are rich enough to pay for your medical care out of pocket.  The aged, sick, and financially less well off will eventually find themselves in a world of increased costs and rationing where there are limited options, and possible denial of medical service due to cost restrictions (rationing).

Unfortunately as repugnant as the word rationing is, our options are very limited.  Atul Gawande, a leading American physician and author, said it best when he said:

“…Every country in the world is battling the rising cost of health care. No community anywhere has demonstrably lowered its health-care costs (not just slowed their rate of increase) by improving medical services. They’ve lowered costs only by cutting or rationing them….”

- Bob Hancock

IRS Surveillance…….WHY ???

Campaign donations of money are the life blood of political campaigns.  It is all about promoting one political philosophy and degrading the opposing view.  There are two basic classifications for the money raised, hard and soft.  Hard money is political donations that are strictly regulated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), while soft money is not regulated by the FEC.  Soft money is the life blood of promoting your view point over your opponent’s view point.  The target of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) surveillance of tea party groups was soft money and this is a classic example of this philosophy at work.

The last such attempt to regulate soft money occurred with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), also known as McCain-Feingold, so named for the two senators who were the primary sponsors of the bill, John S. McCain (R-AZ), and Russ Feingold (D-WI).  The bill was signed into law on March 27, 2002, by then President George W. Bush, and became effective on November 6, 2002.

Despite the word “bipartisan” in the name of the bill, the votes that passed it were anything but bipartisan.  In the House of Representatives, the Yeas were 41 Republicans and 198 Democrats, while the Nays were 175 Republicans and 12 Democrats.  In the Senate, the Yeas were 11 Republicans and 48 Democrats, while the Nays were 38 Republicans and 2 Democrats.  The bill was clearly favored by Democrats.

The primary purpose of the bill was to cut off “Electioneering.”  This was defined as broadcast ads that aired within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election, that referred to a federal candidate by name and were aimed at an audience of 50,000 or more people.  It applied to both unions and corporations.  It was also unfavorably referred to as the Incumbent Protection Act.

Unfortunately, the passers of the bill failed to remember that the United States had already adopted the First Amendment in 1791, which stated in part:  “Congress shall make no law…prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….”

Prior to the 2008 presidential election, a group called Citizens United made a film highly critical of Hilary Clinton and wanted to air it.  However, the FEC would not allow it due to the BCRA (McCain-Feingold).  Citizens United sought relief through the court system and the case was eventually heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court released its decision with a 5-4 majority voting in favor of Citizens United.  The Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to ban speech by corporations and unions.  This gutted the major provision of McCain-Feingold, the BCRA.

A few days later, on January 27, 2010, as President Obama delivered his State of the Union address to a joint house of Congress, he stated in part, “…With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections.  I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people….”

The left was clearly worried that the right would be able to receive much more in donations from corporations.  This would translate into more spending against Democratic pet projects, and candidates.  They clearly had to slow down the financial juggernaut, and they had two tools:  writing legislation that would neuter the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  The IRS is the most feared government agency in the country because it has the ability to tax and even dip into your bank account and clean it out.  It also can divert your pay check to pay off your taxes leaving you penniless.

In addition, politicians on the left wrote the IRS, requesting that they investigate tea party/conservative political groups.  Through President Obama’s State of the Union address, and letters from politicians, the IRS began a systematic restriction of free speech for tea party groups.  This was accomplished through extended delays in approval of tax exempt status.  The delays were executed by requesting additional data, such as program descriptions, who had spoken at their meetings, what did they say, who attended the meetings, and most importantly, their donor lists.  The IRS reported that they had destroyed the donor lists they had requested from tea party groups.  However, those groups experienced a 10 percent IRS audit rate as compared to a one percent rate for the rest of the country.

President Obama is on record as stating in an interview on February 2, 2014 that there was, “…Not even mass corruption, not even a smidgeon of corruption….”  However, the evidence refutes his statement.

Despite all the evidence released to date, not one government official has submitted any explanation as to why tea party groups were targeted.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has not interviewed any of the affected groups.  Furthermore, the Department of Justice (DOJ) appointed as lead investigator a person who had maxed out their donations to President Obama.

As a result of the Citizens United decision, we are now seeing advocacy ads appearing against red state Democrats who voted for the very unpopular Obamacare (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).  Faced with these ads, and the possible loss of control of the U.S. Senate, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), wants to rewrite the First Amendment, resulting in more government control on what can be said politically.  While Senator Schumer rails against spending by tea party/conservative groups, he does not like, he has conveniently forgotten the spending by leftist groups and individuals, such as  unions, George Soros, and Tom Steyer who said he would spend $100 million on Democrats who support climate change and are against the Keystone Pipe Line.

On March 15, 1783, before our current Constitution or Bill of Rights were written, General George Washington in a speech to the Officers of the Continental Army at Newburgh, NY, stated in part, “…if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter….”

- Bob Hancock

Home Ownership – But At What Price ???

Home ownership has been the elusive holy grail of politicians for many years.  Increase home ownership, and everyone will be happy and vote for you, or so they believe.  However, we are just now recovering from the 2005 collapse of our housing market.  A little history is necessary to understand this.

During the Carter adminstration, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was passed and became effective on October 12, 1977.  At the time it was enacted, the home ownership rate for the country was 64.8 percent.  In part, the CRA was to increase home ownership by removing discrimination in housing loans and prohibiting the practice of redlining.  In addition, federal oversight for the lending institutions was increased.  All very admirable goals.

By 1980, home ownership had increased about 1 percent to 65.8 percent.  However, in the early 1980s, the U.S. economy experienced two short duration recessions.  Home ownership rates declined to 63.5 percent by 1985, a little over one percent lower than when the CRA was initiated.  By 1995, the home ownership rate had finally increased to 63.8 percent, essentially flat for 10 years.

Although the CRA had been modified legislatively before, it was the modifications made by the Clinton administration which became effective in 1995 that caused a significant increase in home ownership rates.  Lending institutions were subjected to more scrutiny than in the past and were “encouraged” to increase their loan approval rate in particular for low credit people.  This was followed by a 10 year boom in home ownership and accompanying increases in home values.  Many of the new owners were people with questionable financial capability at best.  By 2005 the home ownership had peaked at 69.2 percent.

The traditional 30 year mortgage with 30 percent down was supplemented by alternate lending practices.  These included the NINJA loan (no income, no job, no assets), the interest only loan, mortgages that covered 100 percent of the loan, and many variations of sub-prime loans.  People stretched their finances to the maximum and many started to buy homes they really could not afford, but no one seemed to care.  If the owner defaulted, the house would still be worth more than the mortgage, so the lending institutions were still ahead as the homes were always increasing in value.

Although the loans were initiated by lending institutions, the federal government backed the loans against default. This was done through the government sponsored enterprises (GSE) institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The mortgages were then bundled and sold as investment securities to individuals and various institutional investment funds.

Housing prices started to decline in 2005.  The real effect of the housing bubble collapse fell on three basic groups:  individual investors, institutions and the federal government.  All were left with losses.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed in conservatorship by the federal government, with their losses totaling about $187.5 Billion.  It is estimated that financial institutions suffered looses in excess of $2 Trillion.

The individual owners were hit the hardest.  Many people just walked away from their loans and defaulted.  And for those who put their life savings into a new higher priced home, as the value of the home fell, they suddenly owed more than the value of the home, and were underwater.  Any equity that they had accumulated was erased, along with their life savings.

The chart below is courtesy of Professor Mark Perry, University of Michigan, and shows the rapid rise and fall of the home ownership rate between 1995 and 2014.image002

The home ownership rate for the last quarter of 2013, the latest available, was 65.2 percent, just 0.4 above the rate when the CRA was initiated in October 1977.  In other words, the gains over the last 37 years have been wiped out, all due to misguided political beliefs of people who thought they could increase home ownership by artificial means.

The question that must be asked now is, have we learned anything?  George Santayana (1863-1952), a philosopher, is credited with the saying: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

President Obama, who believes that government is the solution to problems, has a long established track record of picking appointees that are ideological clones of his own beliefs.  On January 6, 2014, President Obama’s pick for Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Congressman Mel Watt (D-NC12), was sworn in.

All the pieces are in place for another housing bubble to start.  Both the President and his new FHFA head believe we need to increase home ownership.  The question is, how will it be done?

Stand by, the fun is about to begin……….again !!!

- Bob Hancock

 


 

 

 

Feed The Beast !!! The Sad Tale Of The Media And Malaysia Air Flight MH 370

I had hoped to avoid blogging about Malaysian Air Flight MH 370.  However, as a former pilot and retired Senior Air Safety Investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), I know a little bit about airplanes and aviation accident investigation.  With this background, I am absolutely disgusted with about 99.9 % of what I have seen and heard on the TV.

Aviation accident investigation is a VERY SLOW, VERY METHODICAL process where data is gathered and analyzed.  Without an airplane or wreckage to examine, you have a very limited ability to actually state what happened.  At the NTSB we only released factual data that we knew would not change.  If we did not have the answer, we would NOT speculate.  We would state our findings and move on.

At present, all we have is normal radio communications that cease, good radar data until the transponder stopped working, a course change, and the failure of the aircraft to send more engine data, all of this for unknown reason(s).  All we know is that these events took place.  In addition, we know absolutely nothing about what was going on in the cockpit or cabin.

However, this has not stopped others from speculating.  Since the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370, we have been bombarded with 24 hour news coverage of the event.  Speculation is running rampant on the TV.  Interesting shows are being interrupted for the slightest bit of speculation.  Talking heads, whose only association with aviation was to buy an airline ticket, are brought on the air to speculate about a probable cause for the disappearance.  In addition, the articles written cover the range of all possible speculation, but none of them have the evidence to support their theories.

I find that I have to change channels or turn the TV off…… and if I don’t, I will most likely throw a brick though the TV, hoping it will travel through the airways and reach the absolutely ignorant talking head in their face.

The problem is THE BEAST (aka the 24 hour news cycle).  Talking heads need to fill their time slots with something that will attract an audience as measured by the various television rating companies.  These viewer ratings in turn translate into what the networks charge for advertising time, and that is how they make money.  If your viewer ratings are low, your advertising revenues are low.  However, if your viewer ratings are high, then you can charge more for your advertising time and thus make more money.  Re-runs of previous programs can only go so far in filling time.  The name of the game is to attract viewers by whatever means you can and sensationalistic speculation always beats out dull facts of no new confirmable information.  Networks will interrupt any show regardless of how important it is, just to throw out some speculative tidbit on the continuing search for MH 370.

The Malaysian government has also contributed to the problem by their slow and contradictory release of information and then retracting and changing data after it was released.  Many of the countries that tracked various aspects of the MH 370 flight do not have an established track record of cooperation.

Will MH 370 be found?  Most likely, but not necessarily on the time schedule that the family members and the investigators would like.  It may take years, and then again, the secrets of the flight may be found next week.  There is no schedule in accident investigation.  You gather all the evidence available and then move on.  You fill in as much information as you can and, where you have an information void, you DO NOT speculate.  Speculation is fine for intelligence gathering, but it has no business in aviation safety investigations.

Malaysia Flight MH 370 disappeared on March 8, 2014, and still the search continues.  Other news items are slowly replacing the MH 370 story.  The story is getting less air time, but the investigators are still hard at work.  However, some networks still interrupt good programs with speculation and drivel, but eventually this too will cease.  The networks created a monster with the 24 hour news cycle and it MUST BE FED 24/7 or they will suffer the consequences of loosing their life blood, their viewer ratings and advertising revenue.

In his book, “The Sign of Four” written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes is quoted as saying: “..when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…”

Some day, the investigators will unlock the secrets of what happened to MH 370.  They will review all the data gathered and analyze it.  The investigators will not speculate to fill in information voids and they will issue a probable cause based on factual information available.  The detail of the probable cause will be limited by the information available.

In the mean time, I personally wish the media would stop speculating, but I also understand…..they have created a very hungry beast that MUST BE FED 24/7.  If they fail in this, the beast will eat them alive and thus the game continues.  Feed the beast with whatever is available, be it truth or speculation, it does not matter, only that the minutes and hours are filled and the BEAST IS FED !!!

- Bob Hancock

The Dangers of the Expanding National Debt, and the Ever Expanding Government !!!

Our nation’s debt stands at $17.55 Trillion and is increasing daily.  It now becomes necessary to take another look at just what is happening and the implications that this holds for our future and that of our country.  Our President has staked his personal reputation on an ever expanding government that reaches into every facet of our daily lives.  The increasing debt is necessary to support this all consuming behemoth called government.

However, in earlier times, on July 16, 2006, when Barack Obama was a junior senator from Illinois, he demagogued a vote on the debt ceiling increase stating:

“…The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government can not pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. …Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better….”

And then again on July 3, 2008, while on the presidential campaign trail, then Senator Obama stated:

“…The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents — #43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back — $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That’s irresponsible. It’s unpatriotic….”

What we are seeing is that President Obama will say one thing to get elected, and do another thing when in power.  For example, he dropped the mantle of a fiscal hawk, and instead proceeded to increase taxes and our national debt astronomically.  We have also seen that the truth is secondary to achieving the goal of passing preferred legislation, such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).  President Obama and his minions repeatedly said you could keep your doctor and health care plan if you liked them, and this has been proven patently false.

Is President Obama just a snake oil salesman who says what is necessary to get elected and see legislation that he wants passed, or has he surrounded himself with such incompetent yes men that they will say whatever is necessary to keep the boss happy?   And don’t forget that since President Obama took office, we have experienced multiple tax increases.  Now, with the implementation of Obamacare, we see additional taxes being implemented in all areas, all to increase revenue.  However, regardless of how much money we take in, we continue to spend more, and our national debt continues to increase.

Regardless of what the truth is, we can now see with 20/20 hindsight that the Obama administration record on spending is significantly different from its rhetoric.  The National Debt has increased to $17.55 Trillion.  Although many people railed at the debt increase of George W. Bush, $4.9 Trillion, in 8 years, President Obama has increased our debt $6.92 Trillion in 5 years, 2 months.

The problem with a debt of this size is how do we slow it or reduce it?  Interest rates are artificially low at this time.  However, some time in the foreseeable future they will increase and when they do, the interest payment on our debt will increase.  When this happens, there will be less money for social programs, the heart of the Obama administration.  With defense already cut, the only options left are to cut spending on social programs,  which President Obama has shown no inclination to do.  Or increase taxes even further to pay for the ever expanding social welfare state.

Another problem is that we are borrowing from other countries.  For every dollar borrowed, the power that country has over us increases.  According to the United States Treasury, as of January 2014, 33 percent of our national debt is held overseas.  This makes us vulnerable for fiscal attacks.  A fiscal attack can be as devastating as a nuclear bomb in the hands of the right government.

The U.S. dollar is presently the world reserve currency, and oil is traded in U.S. dollars.  When fiscal policies weaken the dollar against other currencies, the price of oil rises.  Even though the amount of oil available remains the same, a devalued dollar cannot buy the same amount of oil as before and this translates into higher prices at the pump.  Although President Obama says he supports a strong U.S. Dollar, the effects of his fiscal policies have produced rising prices at the pump, clearly a sign of a weaker dollar.

Another challenge we face, China is urging the replacement of the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency with its own currency, the Yuan.  The effect of this would be an immediate increase in prices in the United States for almost everything, and particularly all petroleum products.

President Ronald Reagan said, “…Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem….”  Since that comment, we have seen government continue to grow, and now we are at a point where the tentacles of government reach into every aspect of our daily lives, and still, its continuing to expand.  President Thomas Jefferson foresaw the ever expanding reach of government when he said, “…If your government is big enough to give you everything you want, it is big enough to take away everything you have….”

How much further can government expand before the people say enough is enough?  Or, with an ever expanding government, and increasing government dependency, will the people follow the path of the lemmings over the fiscal cliff to ruin?

President Obama believes government IS the solution and has staked his personal reputation in the ever expanding reach of government every way, every day.  Regrettably, we still have three more years for this to play out as the rights of the people to be free further conflict with the oppressive, ever expanding, all consuming government.

- Bob Hancock

 

 

“1984″ – It’s Closer Than You Think !!!

The book “1984″ was written by George Orwell, and published in 1949. The book is set in the future, in a country called Oceania, which is a dictatorship.  The principle character, Winston Smith, works in the Ministry of Truth, which controls the news, entertainment, and propaganda.  His job is to rewrite history to conform to the current understanding of events.  When a conflict appears between current statements or thoughts and what was said in the past, it is Winston’s job to correct the situation by deleting past references or modifying them so they conform with current thought.

In this topsy turvy world of “1984″, we also saw The Ministry of Peace, which dealt with war,  The Ministry of Plenty which dealt with economics and rationing, and The Ministry of Love, which dealt with law and order.

In “1984″, the population was subjected to extreme surveillance.  Today, we have a National Security Agency (NSA) that does not respect the rule of law and is implementing vast oversight and monitoring of our phone calls.  We now have a no-fly list where once placed upon the list, the person cannot challenge why they wound up on the list.  The right of Habeas Corpus, specifically mentioned in the Constitution, has been suspended for people suspected of terrorist acts, and has resulted in their unlimited detention.  More and more restrictions on personal liberty are being sold as necessary for the safety of our country.  As we drift away from the Constitution, for whatever reason, we also drift away from the rule of law to the rule of men.

In “1984″, the news was highly controlled and censored.  Only news that was favorable to the government was allowed.  Today, we have a proposal from the Federal Communications Commission to place government monitors in the newsrooms of television and radio stations.  Their purpose would be to query the news people and editors as to why they place emphasis on certain stories and chose to run them over other stories.

In the “1984″ society, you have a supreme leader issuing laws and edict by fiat.  Oceania was not a democracy or a republic.  It was a dictatorship.  In contrast, we have a Constitution that is the law of the land, and defines a legislative process whereby the Legislature writes the laws and the President faithfully executes them.  The greatest attribute of our country has been its faithful execution of the rule of laws, not of men.

However, President Obama has moved beyond signing statements, minor modifications to signed legislation that is as old as our country.  Never, in the history of our country have we had a President who just rewrites or adds text to modify existing legislation to suit his personal whims.  President Obama has made major changes to such laws as coal, immigration, the Affordable Care Act, and the minimum wage laws.  None of these laws allow for changes by Presidential fiat.

In “1984″, everyone from school kids to adults were constantly being indoctrinated in a specified way of thinking.  This exists today in our inner city schools, where we have thousands of school kids trapped in grossly underperforming schools, and politicians who will not allow for school choice.  The various teacher unions are dead set against school choice and want to keep these kids in poor performing schools, day after day, where they are indoctrinated to accept the current liberal mantra.

In “1984″, we were introduced to the Newspeak language.  Signs were everywhere with slogans such as WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.  Again, the purpose of this language was to control society into thinking that war was good, freedom was bad, and lack of knowledge was good.

The fictional language “Newspeak” was used to get the people to think along the lines of the dictatorship.  Now Newspeak is drifting into our current language as various people proclaim the loss of work hours and/or jobs due to the Affordable Care Act is really a positive event in their lives.  No longer will they be “job bound” having to hold a job they don’t want, just so they can have health insurance coverage.

The New York Times Editorial Board stated “…That is mostly a good thing, a liberating result of the law….”  The Minority leader of House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated, “They are following their aspirations to be a writer; to be self-employed; to start a business. This is the entrepreneurial piece. So it’s not going to cost jobs. It’s going to shift how people make a living and reach their aspirations….this was one of the goals. To give people life, a healthy life, liberty to pursue their happiness. And that liberty is to not be job-locked, but to follow their passion.”

Having your hours reduced or, even worse, finding yourself out of work, yes, you may find your healthcare costs covered, most likely you will be living on food stamps, living in subsidized housing, and getting your clothes through charity, but will you really have the desire to pursue that dream career?  When you struggle to put food on the table, buying clothes for you and your family, your thoughts are most likely about how to survive.

Have we reached 1984 yet?…..No, but we are definitely headed in the direction of an ever expanding government with more government control over the population.  President Obama has sued Standard & Poors for a credit downgrade, and earlier tried to silence the insurance companies that criticized the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare.  Our freedoms are disappearing, all in the guise of safety for the  state.  Lastly, a country founded upon the individual is being replaced by values that place the state above the individual.

George Orwell once said, “He who controls the past, controls the future.  He who controls the present, controls the past.”

Question – How many more freedoms do we have to loose before the people say, enough is enough, and take corrective action?…….or Is there another Winston Smith out there ready to come to work tomorrow at a new government Ministry of Truth?

- Bob Hancock

Voter Ignorance and Apathy !!!

The most important right that our founding fathers gave us is the right to vote.  This right has been paid for with the blood of Americans.  Now, all American citizens who have reached their 18th birthday are eligible to vote in both local and federal elections.

However, there are two problems that significantly affect elections in our country.  One is the voter turnout.  The following numbers from the 2012 census give a stark picture of American voting habits:

Total number of Americans eligible to vote                                       206,072,000

Total number of Americans registered to vote                                  146,311,000

Total Americans who voted in the 2008 Presidential election           131,144,000

 As can be seen, over 1/3 of the American public have chosen not to vote.  The most common reason given was that they were too busy or had a conflicting schedule.  Local elections for such items as school boards and school bonds, particularly in an off season election, are lucky to get 15-20 percent of the registered voters.

The importance of the non-voter is more significant when you factor in the second problem, the low information voter.  Our Constitutional Republic was established with the idea that voters would be aware of the issues and vote accordingly.  Unfortunately, that has not always worked out.  With the low information voter, we now have a voter who is not aware of the issues and votes for some other factor.  He/she believes that they are doing right by voting, but when you sit down and talk to a low information voter, you realize that they are clueless about the real issues that must be considered in voting.

Low information voters are a perennial problem and are always present, and their knowledge, or lack of, is not confined to political issues.  A 1999 Gallup poll of general knowledge of Americans found that 18 percent thought the sun revolved around the earth.

In the 2008 Presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain, a talk show personality, Howard Stearns, went into the Harlem area of New York City to conduct interviews with voters.  He took the political positions of John McCain and attributed them to Barack Obama.  He also took the political positions of Barack Obama and attributed them to John McCain.  He then presented these positions to the potential voters and they all said that Barack Obama’s (actually John McCain’s) positions were the correct positions, and John McCain’s (actually Barack Obama’s) positions were the wrong positions.

In a November 21, 2008 article on voters in USA Today stated:

“…And while 56% can name Paula Abdul as a judge on American Idol, only 21% know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Just 54% can correctly identify a basic description of the free enterprise system….”

In a more recent Republican primary race for a congressional district in Arizona, the Democratic party evaluated the Republican candidates and determined which one would be easiest to beat.  They then flooded both registered Republicans and non-partisan voters with political brochures stating that only one of these candidates was the “true” conservative and Republicans should vote for him.  This particular candidate won the primary election as planned.

However, the general election was a three way race with Libertarian, Democratic, and Republican candidates.  Again, the Democratic party flooded the Republican and non-partisan voters with political brochures, this time stating that the Libertarian candidate was the “true” conservative.  This split the conservative vote among the Republican and the Libertarian candidates as planned and the Democratic candidate won, as planned.  Federal law requires that all political brochures clearly state who is paying for the ad.  This program succeeded because the Republican and non-partisan voters did not fully understand the various candidate positions, and also failed to look at who was actually paying for the political brochures.

Politicians today still hope for low information voters.  For example: Ann Kirkpatrick (D) AZ-01 who voted for Obamacare is already running re-election commercials for the November 2014 election which states in part:  “…Ann Kirkpatrick listens and learns. It’s why she blew the whistle on the disastrous health care website [Obamacare], calling it ‘stunning ineptitude’ and worked to fix it…”  However, on January 16, 2014, she voted against a bill that would have required transparency in how the health exchanges are run.  The ad appeals to low information voters who listen to TV commercials, but do not actually follow how our elected politicians vote in the House of Representatives and Senate.

The internet is full of examples from both parties who act as low information voters.  The question that must be asked is just how long our Constitutional Republic can survive with both low voter turn out, and low information voters casting votes when they have no understanding of the issues.

According to William Damon, Professor of Education at Stanford, and Fellow at the Hoover Institute:

“…The most serious danger Americans now face — greater than terrorism — is that our country’s future may not end up in the hands of a citizenry capable of sustaining the liberty that has been America’s most precious legacy.  If trends continue, many young Americans will grow up without an understanding of the benefits, privileges, and duties of citizens in a free society, and without acquiring the habits of character needed to live responsibly in one….”

Right now, we have a political elite that believe they know what is best, and are willing to do whatever is necessary to push their agenda upon us.  President Obama is increasingly using executive action to achieve what he cannot achieve legislatively.

The future of our country depends upon voters being knowledgeable and willing to take a stand on issues by voting.  VOTE – your freedom and the freedom of this great Republic depends upon YOU being knowledgeable and voting in every local and national election.

- Bob Hancock