About Me

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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Balancing the Budget plus a Short Story

Here's a short story from the pen of Harvey Sage.  Harvey tells us that his inspiration for it came from a happy visit to a surgery center. Incidentally, Harvey has recently published an e-book of six short stories called TUNA FOOD which is available on Amazon.com for less than $3.  But here's the story:


Harvey Sage

“Sir, please watch your language. Cursing is unacceptable and inappropriate.”
“Sorry nurse. But look at all the wires and tubes sticking in me. Damn!”
“Sorry nurse. I’ll try to control my fu… oops. My language.”

I had woken from an anesthesia induced coma-like sleep. I was in between recovery and post op exams. The room was busy as Grand Central Station at Christmas. Doctors in purple scrubs were hustling and bustling, laughing at the stupid error one new intern made during a colonoscopy. He’d cut into the intestine causing massive hemorrhaging. “Hope he’s got a lot of insurance” was the main comment seconded by “If the patient dies they can’t sue him for as much as if he lived. Let’s hope for the best.” They laughed.

At a nearby bed a green clad nurse stood by a dazed refugee from the operating room, shaking as if just freed from a concentration camp. She had a clip board full of forms and was asking life important questions that garnered a confused set of responses. Then, satisfied, she held the clipboard in front of the patient and said “initial here, here, and here and sign here and here.”

“But nurse, I can’t see without my glasses.”

“Don’t argue with me. I’m very busy. Just do as I say, OK. It’s just a formality. It’s not like you’re signing your worldly possessions away.”

“Be careful!” screamed my favorite nurse who didn’t curse. Some gurney jockey almost ran her over as he sped his patient to the fray. Grist for the mill, those caught up in Med World were at the mercy of the multi colored professionals. Nurse Katchet acted like a chief air traffic controller pointing here, shouting there, keeping the dance going. She was solidly built, like a linebacker for the Chicago Bears, with a face that matched. She was the stuff nightmares are made of. Yet she didn’t curse. Not our sweet loveable Nurse Katchet, defender of lingual decency. Was she a deacon in a church. Was she on the board. Pity the poor pastor who had to answer to her. What would be her job in heaven or that other place. Katcher, Keeper of the Gate!

Another victim- patient- was brought in. Evidently he had an obstruction of his bowel. One of the wunderkind was trying to get into the flow of things with an enema bag. Nurse Katchet came over to supervise. She began barking orders to the tech. He got flustered and told her to shut her efn mouth.

“Sir, watch your language. There are many people around here who don’t appreciate expletives.”

The wunderkind went back to his attempt at a bowel breakthrough. Then victory as a stream of brown gook shot out like a column of Patton’s tanks going thru German lines. It sloshed all over Katchet’s clothes, her face and her hair, oozing down to her shoes.

From the depths of her being this champion of rectitude, this model of controlled decorum who watched every word she- and others-said screamed out for all the world to hear.”OH SHIT!!!”

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A "Balanced Budget Amendment" ...  Latest Scheme to Avoid Tax Increases

The latest blackmail scheme from the ninnies on the right is a “Balanced Budget Amendment” whereby the United States will not be able to spend more than it takes in each year.   This means that either spending must be reduced or tax revenue increased to make everything come out even at year end.  So long as the Republicans control the House of Representatives, tax increases are considered to be worse than the black plague, so that means spending cuts will be the only tool available to achieve a balanced budget.  Because the Republicans need their screwball Tea Party wing to stay in power, they will give in to this, much to the pleasure of the corporations (awash in profits, but unwilling to hire domestically), the banks (hoarding cash and unwilling to make loans) and the really wealthy (who pay the lowest taxes in history and invest their money in vehicles so tightly managed that nothing “trickles down”).

Speaker John Boehner claimed that 150 economists endorsed the Debt Ceiling Increase bill the Republican-controlled House barely passed (and which the Senate predictably promptly tabled).  This is the same as saying 150 shamans endorsed whatever the witches in Macbeth were brewing in their kettle.  By now you know the contempt in which I hold economists.  But anyway, to squeeze out enough votes to pass this legislation, the Republicans added the gibberish about a Balanced Budget Amendment as the price of Tea Party support.

The Republicans keep saying that the country should manage its budget the same way families and businesses manage theirs, spending only what you have saved and buying only what you can afford and borrowing only rarely for such thing as houses, cars and capital improvements.  They don’t understand that government spending is different from outlays within a family or business budget.  Profit is not an objective nor is saving for a rainy day.  It is okay for Governments to borrow what they need in excess of revenues to pay for what is necessary, pay interest on what they borrow, keep an eye on how much is borrowed and raise taxes to make sure the whole process is manageable.   Right now, with tax increases “verboten,” this leaves the emphasis on spending for only what is truly necessary.   In the eyes of some, a rocking chair on one’s children’s front porch would be a fine substitute for some of the “entitlement” programs we have up to now believed to be necessary.

But getting back to a “Balanced Budget Amendment,” if the G,O.P really and truly believes that the government should never spend more than they take in during a given year, and start the next year owing nothing on the prior year’s spending,  and still insists on likening government budgeting to family budgeting, every member of the Republican delegation to Congress and every one of the ninnies out there who professes to be a follower of the Tea Party should take a solemn pledge to fully pay off all of their credit card debt accrued within the year by December 31 and owe nothing at that time other than things like mortgage and car payments.  (This paragraph consists of but one long, long, sentence.  I thought of changing it, but what the heck, I've made you re-read it, haven't I?)

The bottom line on this is that everything the G.O.P. is doing in connection with increasing the debt ceiling is geared to using the crisis to prevent any increases in taxes.  That is what it is all about.  Nothing more.  This benefits the very wealthy, corporations and banks.  They have financed the extreme right wing, which while not gigantic in numbers, has been large enough to be the swing vote in Congressional elections, elect some of their number to office and finally, be able to change to hitherto more rational policies of the Republican Party.   

Someone once said that a nation deserves the government it has.  We deserve better.  You can help achieve “better” the next time you go into a voting booth and also by making sure others who believe in government “of the people, by the people and for the people” go to the polls.

Jack Lippman

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A New Short Story

Before we get to the short story, a comment about the ongoing debate about raising the nation's debt limit ceiling is warranted.  Over the years, as our government has borrowed to meet its expenses, which include paying interest on its outstanding bonds, it has done so within the framework of a statutory limit on the amount it can borrow,  Congress, regardless of which party is in the majority, has routinely approved such increases throughout history.  George W. Bush increased it seven times.  Only now, has a party sunk to the despicable depths of using its majority in the House of Representatives to blackmail the country over this issue. The Republicans, afraid of losing the support its extreme right wing, are willing to insist on massive spending cuts and no new revenues (taxes or closure of loopholes) before they will vote for an increase in the debt limit.  To them, compromise on this issue is anathema.  The responsibility for this rests with the millions of American voters who listened to the lies the Republicans spewed out during the 2010 election and believed them.  I am certain that they never will be so gullible again and that we are witnessing the end of the Republican Party as we have known it for years.  Right now, it seems that they are more interested in making the President, who is very willing to make compromises, look bad than working for a solution to the problem. 

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Leon the Cop

Jack Lippman

When Leon Portzkov came to the United States, he brought nothing with him from Uzbekistan.   Widowed for five years, his children had come to New York last year and were living with their uncle and aunt in Brooklyn.  Leon’s sister was very adept at getting the paperwork processed to allow the children to be considered her dependents; both attended public school and were doing well.   So when Helena told Leon to quit his job and come to America, he took her up on her offer.  After all, he wasn’t going to get any more promotions.  How far can a Jewish Detective Inspector expect to rise in the Tashkent Police Bureau where the pay wasn’t so great anyway, he missed the kids and Helena said they had plenty of room in the house they had just purchased in Sheepshead Bay.   So he came here.

With his limited English, the best job he could get, and that was made possible only through Helena’s connections in the Russian community was as a security guard with Prairie Security, a firm that placed unarmed guards wearing official looking uniforms in retail stores, at concerts and occasionally in the lobbies of residential complexes.  Leon tasted all of these assignments but preferred the ones in stores the most.  There was always something going on there.  Weaponless, if he couldn’t handle a problem convincingly, all he had to turn to was a cell phone on which he could call his dispatcher who spoke fluent Russian being from Kiev, or if things really were going sour, he could dial 911.  Oddly enough, if he asked, even 911 would give him someone to speak to in Russian.  But his English was getting better every day.

This week’s assignment was in a discount drug store way up on the upper West Side where the shabby elegance of the neighborhood, of which the jewel was the Columbia University campus, met with Harlem, which while undergoing somewhat of a rebirth, still presented occasional hazards.  Leon stood, or leaned against a counter, near the front door, watching for customers who looked like they had merchandise with them for which they had neglected to pay, or people entering the store who looked like they had doing something like that in mind.  He developed a knack for spotting these people and a few strong words from him and his icy stare usually set things right.  

The store owners liked it when Leon was on duty.  He did his job well.  They didn’t  know of course that Detective Inspector Portzkov, while he was on the job in Tashkent, had run twelve teams of detectives involved in tracking down and nabbing criminals, most of whom were drug dealers peddling the stuff that came into the country from the some of the other central Asian republics and Afghanistan to the south.  Most of the policemen who worked for him respected him greatly, would lay down their lives for him, for he would do the same for them, and loved the way his withering stare was often enough to make a dealer break down and provide the kind of information Detective Inspectors were supposed to get.   Leon suspected that the store owners he now worked for had no idea that Tashkent was a city of two million, with subways and skyscrapers, and all of the problems which such metropolises have.  While he had been a cop there, he hadn’t known anyone who owned a goat.

This morning, Leon noticed that the policeman who usually walked the beat in the neighborhood wasn’t there.  Things like that registered in his mind, as did the two nondescript sedans parked at either end of the block, the drivers of which didn’t bother feeding the parking meters, even though they had been parked there for well over two hours.  The drivers remained in both cars but the other occupants got out and went for an occasional stroll.  Just now, however, he noted that all of the occupants other than the drivers had left the cars and had gone into some of the neighborhood stores or into the hallways of some of the walk-up brownstones on either side of the street.  “Stupid,” he said to himself.  He recognized a police stakeout when he saw one.  He had done this hundreds of times in Tashkent, but he would have disciplined his men for being this sloppy.   Just as he had spotted them, he was sure whoever they were trying to catch would recognize what was going on.  The cars should have been around the corner, out of sight, with one man on the street talking to them by radio.  But then, he thought, maybe the operation was not planned for this street at all, and the cops he saw were actually “around the corner” from where the collar would be made.   

But he knew this was not the case when a shiny BMW pulled up and parked, illegally, in front of the drug store, and a well-dressed man with a briefcase, clearly out of place in the neighborhood, got out.  A minute later, a small panel truck drove up.  A second man got out of the BMW and got into the driver’s seat of the truck, which was now double parked next to the BMW.  The truck driver had gotten out and joined with the man with the briefcase, walking into the drugstore where the briefcase changed hands.

Leon strode up to the men.  “Can I help you?” he asked with the same fixed stare that he had used so often back in Tashkent.   The man in the Italian tailored suit turned to him, and pulling out a Glock from a holster on his belt, replied, “Shut up, Mr. Rent-a-cop and you won’t get hurt.  Stay exactly where you are and keep your fucking mouth closed.”  Before Leon could respond though, all hell broke loose on the street.  

Two police officers in street dress, emerging from a doorway, were supposedly attempting to ticket the double parked panel truck, but hadn’t counted on its new driver turning on them with a pistol and another man, in the back of the truck, leaping out of the sliding side door with guns in each hand blazing.  Within a minute, half a dozen plainclothes men converged on the truck, shooting wildly, and pulling their wounded brothers to safety.  Another man, in the back of the truck, poked an automatic rifle of some sort out of a window at the back and laid down a barrage which kept the officers from getting any closer.  Both sides were taking hits.

Meanwhile in the drugstore, the well-dressed man and the truck driver, who also pulled out a pistol, gathered the employees and the few customers in the store and locked them in a back room.  

“I don’t need to watch over a mess of hostages to get out of here,” he snarled.   “One’ll do and that’s you, Mr. Rent-a-cop.”  

“Call me Leon,” the security guard ventured.  With that the man lifted his gun, holding it by the barrel and swung it at Leon’s face.

“I told you to shut the fuck up!”  Leon saw the opening and responded with a quick kick to the man’s groin.  The pistol fell to the floor and Leon scooped it up and delivered a hard kick to the man’s head, knocking him out.  By then, the other man, returning from locking up the back room, saw what was happening and came out shooting.  Leon ducked behind a counter and raised the gun he had picked up.  He aimed at the man, knee-capping him.  As he fell to the ground next to the unconscious man, Leon jumped on him, relieving him of his weapon.  A quick kick to his head rendered him unconscious too.  Within a minute both were bound with some clothesline he found hanging in the laundry products aisle.

Leon crawled to the door and saw that the three men in the panel truck had enough firepower to keep what was left of the original police team at bay behind the dozen or so squad cars which by then had arrived on the scene, along with some heavy police reinforcements.  But he also saw that their attention was directed away from the drug store.  From his vantage point, he could see where all three of them were in the vehicle.  

Stealthily crawling out the door with the Glock in his hand, Leon made it across the sidewalk to the BMW.  On the floor in the front seat were some clips of ammo for the Glock which he put in his pocket.   He saw there were sharpshooters on the roofs along the street, but they had nothing to shoot at since the three gunmen were safely inside of the truck.  He waved at one of them and pointed to the panel truck toward which he was now sneaking up, having exited the BMW on the street side.  He rapped on its side and quickly, the door opened.  Whoever opened it probably thought it was his well-dressed accomplice.  Leon leapt into the front seat, gun in hand and pointing it at the surprised man, screamed “Freeze, Police!”   He watched him raise his weapon, about to fire, but before he could do so, Leon put a bullet between his eyes.  Hearing the commotion, the other two men momentarily stopped shooting at the police barricade to see what was going on.  This gave the SWAT team, which had been waiting in readiness, the opening they needed to enable them to storm the truck just as Leon was starting to take on the two remaining thugs. Within a minute, they had secured both of them and the million dollars worth of cocaine with which the panel truck was loaded.

“Who the hell are you?” the police captain asked Leon after things had calmed down a bit. 

“I work for Prairie Security and I was in the store watching all of this come down.   I see you got the two guys I tied up in the store and let the others out of the back room.  I suppose the briefcase was filled with cash to pay for the drugs, right?”

“That’s about it, but we couldn’t have done it so neatly if it were’t for you.  You weren’t armed, were you?  Where did you learn your stuff.”

“I used to be a cop back in Uzbekistan, but I quit to come to this country.  I did this kind of thing all the time.  In fact you guys were lucky today.  If I was able to spot your stakeout, any decent criminal would have too, but these guys were stupid.”

“Or greedy,” added the police captain.  “Look, I got a couple of wounded men to take care of, but I will get back to you later, Leon,” he said looking at the security guard’s nameplate.

A few weeks later, Leon did indeed receive a call from the captain who asked him to come down to One Police Plaza, where they wanted to give him a commendation.  When he walked into the room, he was very surprised to see Tashkent Police Bureau Chief Ivan Borsinovitch, his old commandant, standing next to the Police Commissioner.  

“Chief Borsinovitch has told us all about you, and we’re happy to have you here in New York, Detective Inspector Portzkov.  Before we present you with the commendation, I’d like to tell you we have a job for you, if you wish.”

And that is how Leon Portzkov became the New York City Police Department’s official liaison officer with all of the police departments in the countries which used to comprise the Soviet Union, how he became the focus of all law enforcement activities involving Russian immigrants and the man to see when the activities of the Russian Mafia attracted the attention of the Police.  And that is probably why his body was found floating in Jamaica Bay last Tuesday morning.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kipling's Literary License and the Aroma of Cypress

Making a Liar out of Rudyard Kipling

My favorite poem is Rudyard Kipling’s “On the Road to Mandalay.”  Many years ago I learned it when I was in the service.  It took two full recitations of the poem (to myself of course) for our platoon to march from our barracks to the school I was attending at Fort Devens at the time.  Since then I have used it when I have trouble falling asleep or am sitting in a dentist’s chair while the dentist or even worse, the hygienist, is working on my teeth. You know the poem.  I won’t bother you with all six verses, but here is the first one.

By the old Moulmein pagoda looking eastward to the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a sittin’ and I know she thinks of me,
For the wind is in the palm trees and the temple bells they say,
Come you back, you British soljer, come you back to Mandalay.
Come you back to Mandalay, where the old flotilla lay,
Can’t you hear her paddles clunkin’, from Rangoon to Mandalay,
On the road to Mandalay where the flyin’ fishes play
And the dawn comes up like thunder out of China ‘cross the bay.

Before we get any deeper into this, here is a map of what used to be called Burma but is now Myanmar.

Note where Moulmein is!  On this map, it is labelled "Mawlamyine" (Just to the left and a bit above of the word Thailand on the map.) That's another Burmese spelling of Moulmein.  Take my word for it.  There is no way that anyone in Moulmein or Mawlamyine can look “eastward to the sea” from a pagoda or any structure in that city.  Maybe westward, but never eastward.  Well, that takes care of the poem’s memorable opening line.   

And now, let’s get to wherever it was that those also famous “flyin’ fish” were playing.  Kipling tells us that this occurred “On the Road to Mandalay.”  Well, if fish were playing there, it couldn’t have been a dirt, or even a paved, road.  Taking the broad definition of “road” as a path or way to a particular place, and making it a path through water (as in Hampton Roads, Virginia, named for the water off of Hampton, Virginia), the “Road to Mandalay” has to be the Irriwaddy River, which flows down through Rangoon from way upstream in the middle of the country where Mandalay is found.  That's where the fish were flyin' and the British flotilla, obviously river boats, was probably anchored off of Mandalay in the middle of the Irriwaddy.  Kipling recalls the sound of their paddles “clunking”” as the boats navigated upstream “from Rangoon to Mandalay.”  

Now try to picture that stream on which Mandalay sits, call it a road if you wish, but contrary to the poem, at dawn, no matter how hard you look, you cannot possibly see "the sun come up like thunder out of China," which is many miles away, and certainly not from "‘cross the bay," because around there in the middle of Burma, there ain’t no bays. 

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The Aroma of Cypress

One of the most beautiful love poems ever written, a biblical dialogue between a man and a woman, is the Song of Songs (or the Song of Solomon).  It includes a line reading, “A cluster of cypress is my beloved to me in the vineyards of En-Gedi.”  I am not a biblical scholar, but a little work on the internet reveals that there have been several interpretations of the plant involved.  Sometimes it is referred to as camphor, sometimes as henna and the fruit of the plant as cypress.  In any event, whatever the case, the plant is very aromatic in a strangely sweet manner.  

I mention this because for those of you who live in South Florida, there is wonderful stand of cypress in the Green Cay Preserve, west of Boynton Beach, which produces a very fragrant aroma as you walk through it.  It is located on the first hammock a walker encounters heading northward, to the left on the one mile boardwalk circuit, as you leave the main building at Green Cay.  This is the aroma of which King Solomon wrote. If you visit there, take a deep breath.

Incidentally, on a trip to Israel, I visited a spa on the shores of the Dead Sea called the En-Gedi Spa which boasted a fertile oasis watered by the nearby mineral springs.  This is the place referred to by Solomon and it is still there.  



                  En-Gedi Oasis (near Dead Sea - Israel)

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Words of Disagreement, a Storm of Hate and "Library."

Let's get it straight!  I do not believe that all readers of this blog agree with me.  I do not want to be in the position of "preaching to the choir."  Hence, we start off with a response to my recent postings from a friend whose position is almost diametrically opposed to mine on many issues.  We often go out for sushi together.  He took up my invitation to include his thoughts on the blog.  I wish more of you would.  Just Email them to me at riart1@aol.com.  (Incidentally, today's posting consists entirely of contributions from others, which is very encouraging.)  During the prior seven days, 68 people took a look at this blog.  Of them, 62 were from the United States, two were from Israel, and one each from China, Germany, India and Singapore.  Wow!
Jack Lippman

A Response from the Right

I just read your "jackspotpourri" and I really think you should write for the Huffington Post. It's all the Republican's fault..right? Obama's spending for 'entitlements' and all of his favorite programs Acorn, etc. etc. were all good for the economy. Isn't that what you insinuated? As far as social security you know that there are monies set aside in a separate fund for social security and monies coming in weekly by what is left of our working forces thru FICA. In addition there are monies coming in monthly to pay for, medicare, armed forces salaries, interest on our debt, etc.etc.with about 3 Billion left over. So why do you use the same scare tactics as our president?

I am really surprised at you. You are so far to the left it is disgusting. You and the ultra left wing (name deleted) should socialize and maybe take (name deleted) with you.

Mike Cohen

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Sid Bolotin           

As a preadolescent I hiked a mile
Or rode the street car
To the building filled with magic
The model of an Egyptian temple in the lobby
Mesmerized, I would roam the stacks
Filled with books of every stripe
The Bobbsey Twins, Peter Rabbit, the Prince and the Pauper
Saki and O’Henry
Science Fiction, Natural History, and the like
Astonished by the wealth of knowledge
Bubbling on the shelves
Hugged by the attention of caring librarians
Eager to fan the flames of my interest
Nowadays there are kindles and shmindels
And smart phones and apps galore
But I still favor the library
Imprinted by my memory with sights, sounds and smells
Wrapped once more in the energy of like-minded people

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Harvey Sage
We are suffering from a huge and powerful tsunami, more destructive even than the high wall of driven water that ripped into Japan last year. It started three years ago and is building up to a massive size that will strike us suddenly and forcefully. A huge storm of hate, it threatens to rip our country asunder.

The vehement diatribes blasted at our president started before the election in 2008. There is irrational hatred for this man which runs deep. Whatever he does or says is attacked by pundits, talk show hosts, politicians and opinion formers. The battle rages as media personalities on the other side join the fray, assaulting and hurling insults from frothing mouths. All spurred on by the earthquake of hate.

Don’t we remember what happened in Germany in the 1920’s? The left and right squabbled bitterly with each other, causing the leaderless country to be snagged in a vacuum. This allowed Hitler and his Nazis to fill the gap with their unified political blitzkrieg of destruction. Can’t it happen here?

Obviously our president is not perfect. He has made mistakes. But there are civil and effective ways to address them as we try to make our country better. As for hating him? It is an evil from hell which will surely smash us! 

e has made moistakes
ABATE THE TSUNAMI OF HATE:  The ability to love or hate is indigenous to our souls. History reveals that the fruits of hate are killings, destruction of property, break down of the government, economic collapse, spread of disease and misery. Witness Rwanda.

When people choose love there is joy, prosperity, a controlled political system, a calm social ambiance, and planned interactions. Why choose anger, hate, and war when the infilling of love reaps so many desirable benefits. Don’t many religions teach us to love one another? Why does the Creator of life give us that command?

If you want to spread the gift of love here’s some suggestions. Avoid listening to rancorous media diatribes. When pundits start screaming at each other, change the channel or radio station. 

Try to be nice to others, whether they are family, friends or just the general public. Count yourself as a beacon of love, a lighthouse to guide others through the tsunami of hate. Think locally. Shine your light right were you’re at. And watch your world grow and glow. Love nurtures a powerful abundance, right where it’s planted. Love never fails.  Keep smiling.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Raising the Debt Ceiling to Avoid Default: the Harvest of Gullibility

First of all, let me repeat the quote which I asked you to identify the source of in my last posting.  Here it is:

"The full consequences of a default -- or even the serious prospect of default -- by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar."

This is a statement made by Ronald Reagan in 1983, one of the many occasions on which our Presidents have commented on this question.  This illustrates how far to the right of Reagan the Republican Party has strayed.  The next time they invoke “Reaganomics” or try to associate themselves with “The Great Communicator,” they should try to remember his views on the subject.

Bottom Line:  In order to raise the debt ceiling, some changes will have to be made to create the semblance of funding an increase in the ceiling.  It just can’t be done, as the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has suggested by just letting the President do it unilaterally, without any mandated funding whatsoever to back up the increase in the ceiling. 

The Democrats, dragged along by the scruff of their necks by President Obama, are willing to compromise to the extent of going along with spending cuts which touch upon entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.  But this alone will not do the job without wreaking havoc in this nation and therefore, the Democrats and the President will not go that far.  They insist that there must be a measure of revenue increases as well, and that is the rub. 

The Democrats are willing to fund the raising of the debt ceiling by accompanying every three dollars of spending cuts with one dollar of revenue increases. The Republicans in the House are insistent on allowing no tax increases whatsoever, even if they just are accomplished by closing loopholes, and even if they occur only in the highest income brackets.  Tax rates are lower now than they have been since the 1950s and yet the Republicans tenaciously refuse to compromise on this issue.

One of the great mysteries of this era is how an entire major political party, the G.O.P., and about half of the American population have been hijacked into believing that keeping taxes as low as possible for the wealthy will benefit the entire economy by encouraging investment.  This never happens.  All that occurs is that the rich get richer. Little “trickles down.” Jobs are not created, at least in this country anyway.  Justifying this anti-tax mania is the conviction that our government is no more than a necessary evil, to be diminished as much as possible and a failure to recognize the necessity of its providing those services which are not profitable enough for the private sector to provide, to regulate commerce and to look after the welfare of the People.  We are reaping the harvest of this gullibility. 

We are also watching the demise of the Republican Party as it self-destructs into (1) a Grover Norquist inspired neo-anarchist extreme right wing and (2) a traditionally responsible conservative wing which would be something more than the “tool of the rich” into which the present G.O.P. is morphing ... with its “eyes (to borrow from the title of the 1999 Kubrick movie) wide shut.”

What will happen?  My guess is that the Republicans in the House will stand fast and refuse to raise taxes, the President will agree to some mostly cosmetic spending cuts of about two trillion dollars which will not affect present entitlements but which will satisfy the Republicans, and the debt ceiling will be raised, increasing the severity of the problem.  This will happen again a year from now, postponing a real solution until after the 2012 elections.  At that time, I foresee new Democratic super-majorities in both the House and Senate which will allow the repeal of the Bush tax cuts and the end of the free ride, tax-wise, that the wealthy have been getting.  There will be a Keynesian solution (wide tax-supported government stimulus at all levels) to our economic crisis, but with safeguards to prevent this from leading to any diminishing of our liberties.  


If, however, the Republicans manage to lie their way to victory in 2012, as they did in 2010, the United States will not only go down the tube, but the G.O.P. will repeatedly keep pressing down on the flush lever.    

Jack Lippman

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Monday, July 11, 2011

What a Conservative Thinks of the G.O.P., A Debt Ceiling Quiz, On Being an "Innie," plus some other stuff.

Wow!  After reviewing my last posting in which I compared Social Security to a Ponzi scheme, I did a bit of “googling” and found that I am in the company of some of the most despicable people in American politics.  The difference, of course, between me and Rush Limbaugh and Texas Governor Rick Perry, for example, is that I made some concrete suggestions as to how to save Social Security.  The right-wing critics in whose smelly company I found myself are primarily interested in destroying any government program involving spending and which lessens the ability of the rich to become richer.  The tragedy is that some of them don’t realize that they have been hoodwinked into becoming part of a “neo-anarchist” movement.  (See my recent postings on Grover Norquist, who is so anti-tax that he wants to “shrink government to a size where it can be drowned in a bathtub,” and to boot, is a closet Islamist.)

So long as I am temporarily infected with some conservative leanings, however, let me take this opportunity to share a piece by David Brooks, a conservative columnist whose words appear in the New York Times and other papers.  Brooks is a conservative Republican.  I think this column, originally published on July 4, might be subtitled “The Death Knell of the Republican Party.”  I really think that many Republicans, like Brooks, will either end up staying away from the polls in 2012 or even voting Democratic.  Here’s his column:

The Mother of All No-Brainers
 David Brooks
By DAVID BROOKS Published: July 4, 2011

The Republicans have changed American politics since they took control of the House of Representatives. They have put spending restraint and debt reduction at the top of the national agenda. They have sparked a discussion on entitlement reform. They have turned a bill to raise the debt limit into an opportunity to put the U.S. on a stable fiscal course.                                                       
Republican leaders have also proved to be effective negotiators. They have been tough and inflexible and forced the Democrats to come to them. The Democrats have agreed to tie budget cuts to the debt ceiling bill. They have agreed not to raise tax rates. They have agreed to a roughly 3-to-1 rate of spending cuts to revenue increases, an astonishing concession.
Moreover, many important Democrats are open to a truly large budget deal. President Obama has a strong incentive to reach a deal so he can campaign in 2012 as a moderate. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has talked about supporting a debt reduction measure of $3 trillion or even $4 trillion if the Republicans meet him part way. There are Democrats in the White House and elsewhere who would be willing to accept Medicare cuts if the Republicans would be willing to increase revenues.
If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases.
A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.
The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.
This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.
But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.
The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.
The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.
The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name. Economists have identified many factors that contribute to economic growth, ranging from the productivity of the work force to the share of private savings that is available for private investment. Tax levels matter, but they are far from the only or even the most important factor.
But to members of this movement, tax levels are everything. Members of this tendency have taken a small piece of economic policy and turned it into a sacred fixation. They are willing to cut education and research to preserve tax expenditures. Manufacturing employment is cratering even as output rises, but members of this movement somehow believe such problems can be addressed so long as they continue to worship their idol.
Over the past week, Democrats have stopped making concessions. They are coming to the conclusion that if the Republicans are fanatics then they better be fanatics, too.
The struggles of the next few weeks are about what sort of party the G.O.P. is — a normal conservative party or an odd protest movement that has separated itself from normal governance, the normal rules of evidence and the ancient habits of our nation.
If the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.
And they will be right.

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And while on the subject of the debt ceiling, let’s take a little quiz, folks.  See if you can identify who said this.  Let me know.  The answer, which I expect most of you will easily come up with, will be in my next posting.  Use the “comment” option to respond.

"The full consequences of a default -- or even the serious prospect of default -- by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar."

Who said it?

a.    George W. Bush
b.    Ronald Reagan
c.    Bill Clinton
d.    Ben Bernanke
e.    Timothy Geithner
Jack Lippman

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Bringing Back the Jobs

Listen to the pundits clamoring over the terrible unemployment figures released the other day.  Pundits and economists are good at making simple things complicated.  Here it is in just  21 words, all but three of which are of one syllable, so that both Tea Party people and those with degrees in economics can understand it.:

How can we expect to have jobs in this country when most of the stuff we buy is made somewhere else? 

I provided you with one answer to this question back on February 11 on this blog.  The piece is called "The Outsource Tax."  Please re-read it, even though there will not be an exam.

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Showtime – Musical Theatre

After three years, I finally saw “Jersey Boys” on a recent trip to New York.  As a born and bred “Jersey Boy,” I had a particular interest in the show, which combines the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons with a “Soprano's” background.  Although I am still humming  "You're just too good to be true, Can't take my eyes off you,"  I gave the show a B+ and if I had been on the panel back in 2008, I would not have voted to award it a Tony.  

Good show, but not as great as the currently running “Rain” (which is both on Broadway and touring nationally) in which a “tribute” group reprises most of the music of the Beatles.  I guess I just prefer the Beatles to the Four Seasons. Meanwhile, I found it impossible to get tickets for “The Book of Mormon” for less than $280 so I suppose I will have to wait for the Republicans to nominate either Romney or Huntsman, either of whom certainly will make sure that millions of Americans have the opportunity to see the show before November, 2012.

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On being an “innie”
Sid Bolotin
What a relief! I am an innie. And so are about a third of the general population.

As a child I knew I was different from other kids. I identified with the little bird in the fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling”.  Although his character appeared similar to the other fowl, swam like them, and waddled like them, the little bird felt like a misfit. Then one day he discovers that he is a swan, a beautiful, sedate creature with an introspective, quiet spirit far different than the ducks and geese he grew up amongst. From childhood through teens, into marriage, fatherhood, and beyond into my seventies, the itching, scratchy hair-shirt of “different-than” has survived all endeavors by myself and others to smooth the disquieting factions within.
Then recently I discovered Marti Olsen Laney and her book about innies. After reading about her own “innieness”, her outie husband, and her similar life experiences, I realized that she, me, and others with whom I share a deep “connection”, are “swans”. Because we’re out-numbered three-to-one by the “outies”, the ducks, geese, and other quacking, rushing-about fowl, we’ve been striving to adjust our brains to fit better, to conform to their world. Thankfully Marti proclaims that our brains are simply wired differently, and that, attempts to change the wiring, is a futile exercise. It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing…it only frustrates the teacher and pisses off the pig.

So, for all the innies and outies “out there” I present the following ten myths about introverts (Source: carlkingcreative.com):-
Myth #1 – Introverts don't like to talk.
This is not true. Introverts just don't talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won't shut up for days. 
Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.
Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don't interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don't worry about being polite.
Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.
Introverts often don't see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.
Myth #4 – Introverts don't like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you're in.
Myth #5 – Introverts don't like to go out in public.
Nonsense. Introverts just don't like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don't need to be there for long to "get it." They're ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.
Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.
Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don't have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.
Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.
Introverts are often individualists. They don't follow the crowd. They'd prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don't make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.
Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It's not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it's just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.
Myth #9 – Introverts don't know how to relax and have fun.
Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.
Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
Introverts cannot "fix themselves" and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.

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