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.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Government Involvement in Health Care, Solving the Underwater Mortgage Crisis, A Story from Sid and Half-Price Theatre Tickets.

What's going on in Tehran?  Over the past seven days, this blog was accessed eight times from Iran!  Could it be that the Mullahs are interested in the Ashcan school of modern art?  I am watching my back.


Government in Health Care - Court Upholds Affordable Health Care Act's Mandate's Penalty Provision as a "Tax" and not "Commerce between States."

The United States trails most of the western industrialized world in providing health care to all of its citizens, just as its public schools are bringing up the rear in science and mathematics education.  Government intervention and investment, and the taxation necessary to bring them about, are needed to correct both of these ills.  Why?  Unfortunately, if an area of endeavor is not capable of producing a profit, and both health care and education are in this category when more than just limited profitable cherry-picked areas are included, the private sector is not interested in providing a solution.  Government, however, which is not out there to make a profit, is better suited to come up with solutions for such  problems.  

Affordable Care Act Will Eliminate Insureds and Taxpayers Paying for Health Care Freeloaders                                                  

Many Americans, however, feel that increased government involvement in anything is the first step on the “Road to Serfdom,” as conservative economist Frederich Hayek postulated in the 1940s, and therefore, they oppose such government involvement.  FORTUNATELY, THE SUPREME COURT DID NOT SUPPORT THIS CONSERVATIVE POSITION IN DECLARING THE PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT CONSTITUTIONAL TODAY.

The Democratic Congress passed this legislation in 2009 and the President signed it.  Despite claims from the right to the contrary, It did not provide for socialized medicine.  It regulates how private health insurance works and mandated that everyone have it, so that its provisions might be properly funded through the participation of both healthy and unhealthy people.  It is a private enterprise, free-market, capitalistic approach to solving the problem which the Supreme Court has declared to be constitutional because it considered the penalizing of those who refuse to purchase insurance to be a tax, and not an extension of the Constitution's commerce clause, an argument which the Court rejected.          

                                                    Supreme Court Building                           

The Court's decision is a big step toward our avoiding a government-run, single payer of benefits plan as much of the western industrialized world utilizes. Conservatives should therefore support it.  But they won't.   Unfortunately, they will continue to oppose it, but probably will do so because it amounts to a new tax (on those who choose not to be insured) and to those on the right, any new tax and anything the President supports, is anathema.   If the Affordable Care Act does not succeed in the long run, despite its being declared to be constitutional, the nation may yet have to consider a single-payer system, as is in effect in Canada and most of Europe.
Jack Lippman


My Solution to the Underwater Real Estate Crisis

Enough of the drivel economists are blathering about in regard to the nation’s economic crisis!  Here is my latest two cent’s worth.

I do not see how the nation’s problems with unemployment and debt can be resolved without first coming up with a solution to the mess left by the collapse of the real estate bubble which permeated most of the first decade of this century.  Solving that problem is the key to solving the other problems besetting our economy.   First, give a person a place to confidently call “home” and then, that will free up their mind and muscles to address these other challenges.  


People borrowed more than rational bankers should have lent them, with government complicity, and when they found they couldn’t make their contractually ballooning mortgage payments, or refinance on any terms whatsoever, their homes fell into foreclosure, bankruptcies ensued or they simply walked away from their property and obligations.  Some of these folks were without jobs and living off of reduced incomes, but some were quite comfortable but preposterously overextended.  And that is where we stand today.  

Other than for this paragraph, I won’t touch upon the sordid story of how these very risky mortgages were bundled by unscrupulous Wall Streeters and bankers into fine looking derivative securities and peddled as good solid investments, some of which were even insured against failure by supposedly reputable but overextended insurers like AIG.  Well, Lehman Brothers went down the tube and the Government had to rescue AIG and some of the bankers (none of whom are in jail where some should surely be) and the economy is on the mend, sort of, but that is not the problem being addressed here.  Suffice it to say that stricter government regulation of the banking and financial marketplaces is the only way future tragedies like this can be prevented.

But let us get back to all that mortgage debt, which isn’t being paid, and which is stalling the recovery of the real estate and construction industries, not to speak of making the lives miserable of the poor folks who were suckered into purchasing homes with money from mortgages that defied all logic.

One of the arguments against a government rescue of these homeowners who are tied into mortgages for more than their homes are worth (referred to as being "underwater"), and unable to make payments, is that it would be unfair to those who are, despite hardship, managing to make their payments in similar situations, and hand a gift package to those who chose not to make their payments, some of whom are otherwise solvent and comfortable, or perhaps merely greedy real estate speculators who got hung out to dry. Many Americans would object to the government bailing out all of these homeowners on an equal basis. I recognize this, and asking the age old question, “When was life ever fair?” I offer my attempt at a solution.

Everyone who has a mortgage balance for more than the appraised value of their property, regardless of whether they are making payments or not, should be bailed out in the following manner.  It should not be a matter of choice.  All in this situation should be treated the same.  Perhaps there can be some sort of prioritization to put those who are making payments at the head of the line and the speculators and non-payers at the tail of the line, but it must be mandatory for it to work.

First, the mortgage holder, the bank or whomever the bank passed the mortgage on to, should be responsible for one half of the amount owed over and above the value of the property.  They will have to “eat this amount,” writing if off and treating it as a tax-deductible loss on their books.   The other half of the amount owed over and above the value of the property should be paid to the bank by the Federal Government.  The mortgage would then be rolled over into a conventional thirty year mortgage for the value of the property. If at any time, the property were sold for a greater value than its value at the time of the new mortgage’s inception, that excess money would be split between the bank and the Federal Government.  The amount of mortgage balance forgiveness to the property owner would not be considered income to them for tax purposes.  If a mortgagor is not able to afford the payments under the new mortgage, the bank would foreclose on the property and sell it to the Federal Government, and the mortgagor would then have the option of remaining in the home as a rent-paying tenant.   Ultimately, the Government would sell off such rental properties to independent private landlords.

Assume a home is appraised at $150,000 but there is an outstanding mortgage of $250,000 on it.  The bank would absorb $50,000, the Federal Government would pay the bank the other $50,000 and the mortgagor would have the choice of getting a new 30 year conventional mortgage for $150,000 or remaining in the home as a rent paying tenant.

This procedure would transfer the pain of our real estate crisis on to the Federal Government and to the banks from the backs of the homeowners.  The banks, which caused the problem in the first place, would get a generous tax deduction from profits made in other areas and suffer for a while.  But they would be getting some money from the Federal Government which they might otherwise never receive.  As for the Federal Government, it would have to find revenues to provide funds to pay its half of the unpaid loans.  Initially, bonds might be sold to provide such revenue, but eventually, with the resolution of the mortgage crisis, economic recovery and expansion might provide these funds without there having to be new taxes.  This mandatory solution of the real estate problem, as suggested above, might very well “kick start” the entire economy.


                                                  Would it work?

Okay, I am not an economist, accountant, real estate person, banker nor professor, but I haven’t heard any better solutions from such folks.  Have you? We have to do something.  And soon.
Jack Lippman


John’s Story

Sid Bolotin

As I was feeding the old man his breakfast in the hospice care center where I volunteered, John clutched my hand and asked if he could tell me a story. This was not an unusual request…many times I had been asked to sit with patients, to just be with them, to simply bear witness to their exiting the final stage of their life, or to just listen if they needed to chat. In this case, knowing that John was a successful, published writer of short stories, I eagerly removed his breakfast tray, pulled up a chair, and clasped his hand as he began:  


“’I’ll kill you and then kill myself,’ screamed the distraught woman.”

“Spittle from her mouth rained down on her cowering six year old son as he once again gaped at his loving mother turning into a raving madwoman, stamping her feet and pulling her hair as the stress and sorrow of her life brought her to her mental knees.

“These words of death were actually less terrifying than her usual, ‘I’m calling the orphanage for them to come for you.’ as she dialed the telephone. On some of those occasions she actually had his small suitcase at her feet as she dialed.

“In the late 30’s, in the depths of The Great Depression, this struggling, twenty-five-year-old widow had determined to raise her infant alone when her twenty-seven-year-old husband suddenly died.

“She rented one room of the four-room, tenement apartment to a border who became her son’s sort-of male role model for the next eighteen, or so, years. And she went to beautician’s school to learn hairdressing and manicuring while earning a meager living in Boston’s garment industries.

“After graduating she operated her illegal, off the radar, “beauty shop” out of the kitchen and bath room of her tiny apartment. Her fear of getting caught permeated the boy’s psyche as did her never ending stories of how wonderful life was like before the great tragedy…all the while telling him that she was determined to raise him normally even though he was different from the other children because he didn’t have a father. Sort of like pointing out the 800-pound gorilla in the room while saying, ‘Don’t notice that 800-pound gorilla.’

“It hardly helped the boy’s mental confusion when she regaled him with recounts of his breech birth causing her fifty-six hours of excruciating birth pain followed by ten years of wearing a back brace. Add to all this her woeful tales of her going hungry because, being so poor, she gave him her food. Fertilizing the child’s blossoming sense of guilt were her descriptions of her shuttling from her husband in one hospital to her son in another…wondering who was going to die. Somehow all this sparked a lingering whisper of doubt in the boy as to whether the angel of death had gone to the wrong hospital. His ongoing education in guilt was deepened by his mother’s continual self-blame for his father’s catching pneumonia because she had refused to move closer to his job so that he wouldn’t have to wait as long in the cold for public transportation. She had insisted to continue living close to her sister and father who resided within walking distance.

“His mother’s yearly, ceremonial visits to the cemetery during the Jewish High Holy Days…without him until he was thirteen…then forcing his participation in his early teens kept the tragedy eternally alive in both their minds. Although she had men friends through the years, she never remarried, and when her son asked, ‘Why?’ she told him that she was afraid that they would not be good to him…additional proof to him that he was the guilty cause of her sorrow and aloneness. All of this planted a permanent acorn of wariness in the boy that could instantly erupt into a full grown oak tree to cast a pall of hesitation to fully enjoy events in his life that triggered memories of ‘the times before’.

“However, balancing all this was the devotion and love with which she blanketed him…sort of a Yin-Yang emotional see-saw. As an intelligent, lover-of-learning creature, who was studying to be a lawyer before she emigrated from Russia, she counterpoised her unknowing damages by instilling in her son the self-same desire for wisdom. He was an honor student throughout his school years…even being on the National Honor Society in high school. He also took on her persevering determination to provide for family…no matter the physical, mental hardship.

“When her son was in his early twenties, and he bought his first house north of Boston, his mother took driving lessons, bought a car, and drove out each weekend loaded with goodies from her local delicatessen. When grandchildren began to arrive, she was in seventh heaven…even though the blanket of despair over her loss never ceased to cast a shadow over the sunshine in her life. She finally found peace in her early seventies after an undignified, six-year siege of dementia…the last two in a high chair, in diapers, drooling from Bell’s palsy.

“Not being adequately counseled in high school regarding scholarships for college, he tried various jobs in an effort to support his mother and later his own family. After putting himself through ten years of night college while working days and raising his family, he savored the American dream of home ownership and suburban life that began to flourish in the 1950’s.

“And now 60-plus years later, living in one of those gated retirement communities in Florida, he’s bearing witness to familiar journeys being embarked upon by his children and grandchildren…but maybe, hopefully, with softer emotional scarring.”

With that John closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, a smile on his face. When I returned to volunteer at the center the following week, I learned that he had passed during the interim. I never got to ask if it was just a story or his story.




           Tip for South Florida Theatre Goers: 

Half-Price same day tickets for many live shows in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties are available at www.culturalconnection.org.  Even though there is a $5.00 service fee per ticket ($2 to WLRN, $1 to the Theatre League of South Florida and $2.00 for processing costs), this is still a bargain!   Orders must be placed on the day of the show prior to 4:00 p.m. and tickets picked up at the box office.


Addendum to June 20 Posting on Myelodysplastic Syndrome:

In the June 20 posting, where Myelodysplastic Syndrome was discussed, it was pointed out that it often is "pre-lukemic" and sometimes is the result of chemotherapy damaging the bone marrow.  With sadness, we add to the the names of those whom this disease struck the name of author, dramatist and screenwriter Nora Ephron, whose MDS  had developed into a fatal leukemia which took her life this week.  The MDS Foundation and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation (which sponsors "Light the Night" Walks locally) are charitable organizations doing good work in seeking a cure for this disease and other serious blood disorders.


Most readers of this blog are alerted by Email every time a new posting appears.  If you wish to be added to that Email list, just let me know by contacting me at Riart1@aol.com.  

Also, be aware that www.Jackspotpourri.com is now available on your mobile devices in a modified, easy-to-read, format.

Our family of web sites includes:   www.computerdrek.com  - www.politicaldrek.com  -  www.sportsdrek.com  -  www.healthdrek.com.   

Check all of them out, find out what “drek” really means and feel free to submit your thoughts and articles for publication on these sites, which, while still “under construction,” already contain some interesting content.
Additional new material will continue to be posted on www.politicaldrek.com until the Presidential election.  New material will resume being added to the other three “drek” sites after November of 2012.

Jack Lippman                                                 

                                                 * * *   * * *   * * *
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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Painter Ernest Lawson, Religious Discrimination, a "Vargas" Girl and Something from Sid

Over the years, one of the most viewed postings on this blog has been the "Understanding Miro" article posted on January 12, 2011.  You might want to check it out.   Anyway, it has been checked out by art students all over the world after they learn of it via a Google search or a search on some other search engine,   With that in mind, today's posting also reaches into the art world, and just as the Miro article did, it uses a painting hanging in the Norton Museum as a starting point.
Jack Lippman

                                      Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL

The Paintings of Ernest Lawson (1873-1939)

There’s a painting in the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach that has repeatedly caught my eye.  It is by Ernest Lawson and it’s called “Hoboken Heights.”  It shows  some goats grazing on a wintry hill overlooking the buildings of early twentieth century Hoboken.  It is well worth checking out.  Unfortunately, I could not find a copy of it to reproduce on the blog but here are three of his other works.  

An impressionist, clearly influenced by the French, Lawson is included with those painters known as the "Ashcan" school.  He lived in Washington Heights and loved to paint New York scenes.  Of local interest is the fact that Lawson was found dead in 1939 on a beach in Miami. Here are a few of his paintings for your enjoyment, but if you are in the West Palm Beach area, be sure to check out “Hoboken Heights” at the Norton.

Over the River.  A view of New York Harbor from Hoboken Heights.

Brooklyn Bridge  (Terra Collection of Art - Evanston, Illinois)

Shadows, Spuyten Duyvil Hill (Spuyten Duyvil is the channel between Inwood in Manhattan and the Bronx).  Do you find this reminiscent of Van Gogh?  Lawson frequently painted scenes in the Inwood area at the northern end of Manhattan.  This is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Incidentally, Hoboken Heights is a pleasant area to visit today.  Home of the campus of Stevens Institute of Technology, it boasts a few nice restaurants and lovely views of Manhattan.  Hoboken is midway between the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River and easily reached by the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson) subway line.  Inwood is also easy to reach by subway;  take the A train (the same one that Duke Ellington took to "Harlem - Sugar Hill").  But unless you are going to a Columbia University home football game there, Inwood is not quite so pleasant as Hoboken is.  To view more of Lawson's paintings, check out http://myinwood.net/artist-ernest-lawson/


The Longest Word in the English Language

“Antidisestablishmentarianism” is frequently referred to as the longest word in the English language.  It refers to those who oppose doing away with the Church of England as the established official state religion in that country.  You may note that the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh syllables of this very lengthy word constitute the shorter word, “establishment” which also appears in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

In Great Britain, the Church of England is the “established” church.  There are those who want to “disestablish” it, and there are those who want to leave things the way they are and are against efforts to “disestablish” the Church.  That’s where the prefix “anti” comes in.  Our founding fathers, recognizing that many of those who settled in the thirteen colonies did so to flee from the strictures of an “establshed” church, made sure this problem would never come up in this country by including the words which conclude the above paragraph in red in the First Amendment to the Constitution.  We owe them our thanks that that long, long word has never, therefore, been a factor in American politics.  Let’s make sure things stay that way.    

Because a law may include things which do not entirely agree with the dogma of a particular religion, such as the Affordable Care Act which calls for employers to offer to their employees health insurance which includes contraceptive coverage, does not mean that there is any intention in the law to officially “establish” a religion, or prevent the practice of an existing religion.  When claims that such laws infringe upon religious freedom are made, they should be carefully examined to see whether any intentional discrimination is actually involved or whether any perceived or alleged “discrimination” is merely incidental to the law and not part of a conscious attempt to ”establish” a religion or actually “establish” the "lack of religion" as a faith in itself. I do not believe that is the case, despite the claims currently being made  by the American Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church.



Maybe it's something in the water, but we can't seem to stop the pen of Sid Bolotin from pouring out poetry inspired by his family.  Not that we would want to. Great stuff!  Does it move any of you to similarly wax poetic? I would hope so.

Ode to my Daughters-in-Law 

Sid Bolotin

So far my wife and I have been blessed with three fine women
Who married our three sons long ago

They came into the clan as young girls
And now have ripened into maturity

Each is of a unique personality
Yet amalgamate as a cohesive unity

For celebration of family events
Holidays, joyous occasions such as birthdays and graduations, as well as the sad stuff of life

Even more wondrous they join for
Girls-only gatherings for shopping or shows in Boston

As for me personally, they exhibit great caring and consideration
Especially now that I’m displaying cranky, old-man, dinosaur-like tendencies

For example on our recent seventeen-day visit to New England
For the graduations of four of our nine grandchildren

These lovely ladies collaborated to schlep me on a multi-legged safari
That criss-crossed Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont

From and to airports and graduation sites
And repetitive days-long lodgings at their homes

Accommodating my combined idiosyncrasies of
Food, medicines, and physical limitations

But continuing to ignore my protests of
Please, no gifts required

Evidenced by today’s UPS delivery of
Tommy Bahama polo shirts for Father’s Day

Thankfully they at least honored
My plea of nothing electronic

Their caring and nurturing
Blanket me in love


It has been quite a while since we featured the paintings of Alberto Vargas, who idealized glamorous girls in his work in Esquire Magazine.  Many of these pin-ups graced Army and Navy barracks around the world throughout the Second World War.  I wonder what kind of bird she is balancing on her foot.  Do you care?


Most readers of this blog are alerted by Email every time a new posting appears.  If you wish to be added to that Email list, just let me know by contacting me at Riart1@aol.com.  

Also, be aware that www.Jackspotpourri.com is now available on your mobile devices in a modified, easy-to-read, format.

Our family of web sites includes:   www.computerdrek.com - www.politicaldrek.com  -  www.sportsdrek.com  -  www.healthdrek.com
Check all of them out, find out what “drek” really means and feel free to submit your thoughts and articles for publication on these sites, which, while still “under construction,” already contain some interesting content.

Additional new material will continue to be posted on www.politicaldrek.com until the Presidential election.  Hopefully, new material will resume being added to the other three “drek” sites after November of 2012.

Jack Lippman
                                                    * * *   * * *   * * *
To send this posting to a friend, or enemy for that matter, whom you think might be interested in it, just click on the envelope with the arrow on the "Comments" line directly below.