About Me

My photo
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, March 31, 2022

3-31-2022 - Florida Homeowners' Insurance, Virginia Thomas and James Madison




 *   *   *


The Florida Homeowners' Insurance Disaster

Homeowners insurance is an unmitigated disaster in Florida.  And that is proper usage of the word ‘unmitigated.’  Nothing is being done to deal with it.  The imbecilic legislature in Tallahassee, aware of the problem, did nothing about it during their last session and spent their time bashing gays and catering to book burners.  

Homeowners who have been used to paying about $3,000 annually for a policy are now being renewed at double that price if they are not being dropped entirely by their insurer. (Replacing coverage with another company is near impossible if a home’s roof is more than fifteen years old.  More about that follows.  It is the crux of the problem.)  An interesting article about this problem may be found by checking out a story originating with a Naples TV stationhttps://www.winknews.com/2022/02/17/floridians-running-out-of-options-for-home-insurance/   Also, You can click here to read it.

But here is my personal take on the situation.  Homeowners insurance is intended to protect homeowners against losses which involve very few of them, such as fires, burglaries and bursting pipes. At a low cost, the homeowner purchases peace of mind against events highly unlikely to, but nevertheless possibly, happening to them. 

In Floriduh, however, such events are not so rare.  Damage caused by windstorms, a polite way of referring to hurricanes and such climatological events is not uncommon.  A system to cover them at a reasonable price has been developed.  For such claims, homeowners’ insurance has higher deductibles and it limits coverage.  Most homeowners accept the fact that for such events, which have a greater possibility of occurring than a fire, for example, they must prepare to share in the cost of replacing whatever is damaged. 

Most likely though, most homeowners will not have claims for the events I’ve mentioned above. They’re akin to the likelihood of your automobile being ‘totalled’ in an accident. Possible, but unlikely during your ownership of a vehicle.

These events, for which insurance protection is purchased, are uncertain ones.  They may never occur.  Contrast this with life insurance, which is priced to cover an event certain to occur, death.  If an anticipated loss is certain to occur, homeowners’ insurance as we know it now, is incapable of covering it without enormous price increases . Roof replacement is such an event.  Like death, it is a certainty.  All roofs, sooner or later, must be replaced.

 Homeowners insurance won’t pay for routine maintenance of roofs, but cooperative inspectors, roofing contractors, and always available attorneys, stand ready to turn roof replacement into an event coverable by homeowners’ insurance.  Without getting into the ethics of this, it is what is demolishing the homeowners’ insurance marketplace in Floriduh.  Many claims are valid and should be paid.  Others are not and exceed the number of claims anticipated by the homeowners’ insurance company’s actuaries who determine the rates.  Actuaries depend on studies that have placed the lifetime of a tile roof in Florida at anywhere from 25 to 50 years, and factor in the expected frequency of windstorms as well.  Claims have exceeded their anticipated numbers, despite built-in cushions. 

The State makes the Citizens Property Insurance Co. available to homeowners who cannot get or afford coverage elsewhere, or are turned down if they try to move their policy to another company.  Citizens' prices are very high.  The renewal rates of private companies are now equal to or exceeding those of Citizens!  No company wants new policyholders with roofs over fifteen years old. Citizens cannot turn them down though!

It occurs to me that a simple solution might be to clearly exclude any roof damage whatsoever from homeowners’ insurance.  Availability of such an option might take legislation by the State.   A few broken tiles or a limited leak should be, and presently is, the responsibility of the homeowner. That is considered maintenance and not a “loss.”  When a roof reaches the point where it must be replaced, as they all do eventually, even if the cause can be related to a “a windstorm,” replacement would be entirely up to the homeowner. 

All roofs are certain to reach that point sooner or later. We all hope “later.”  To pay for their replacement, and a typical cost right now would be in the $35,000 range, a home equity loan, to be repaid over many years, would seem to be a logical solution.  That would probably be less costly on an annual basis than the increases to the level to which homeowners’ insurance premiums are now rising.  Problem solved? I don’t know.


 *   *   *


Justice Thomas' Wife

Some people throw around more weight than others.  I can send emails and make phone calls to the Chief of Staff of the President of the United States repeatedly and I am certain that, at best, they will be seen by a lower-level clerk in his office and go no further.  But it is my right and the right of any American to communicate in that manner.  

For various reason, however, what some people communicate gets to where it is directed, bypassing someone who just counts it and files it away and that is the end of it.  The scanners recognize such communications. Usually, they are directed to a confidential address not available to the general public.  

That is why what Virginia Thomas emailed to the White House Chief of Staff carries more weight than my words or yours would carry. After all, she is the wife of the longest serving Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.  She is also a leading advocate of right-wing extremist causes with access, due to her martial status, to the defeated former president.

Her messages might be considered treasonous but from someone else, would be ignored.  In view of her husband’s position, however, they must not be.  And of course, he must recuse himself from any cases involving the matters about which his wife wrote to Mark Meadows, Chief of Staff of the defeated former president, who remains crazy enough to believe he didn’t lose the election of 2020.


 *   *   *


Don't Let the Right Wing Steal Madison - Possibly Heavy reading 

Some ‘traditionalists’ or ‘originalists’ turn to James Madison in defending their idea of what our government should be.  Their position is that the individual states, federated together, were the crux of the Constitution and that’s where power correctly should rest.  Today’s Federalist Society advocates that position and Madison identified that position as ‘federal.’ 

By picking and choosing and selectively quoting, those intent of reducing democracy in the United States often turn to some of James Madison’s words in the Federalist Papers, a series of articles by Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, aimed at getting New York to support the proposed Constitution.  In Number 39, Madison concluded, after digging deeply into the differences between the nature of the proposed Constitution’s federal features and its national features, that

“the proposed Constitution … is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both. In its foundation, it is federal, not national; in the sources from which the ordinary powers of the government are drawn, it is partly federal and partly national;  in the operation of these powers, it is national, not federal; in the extent of them, again, it is federal, not national; and, finally, in the authoritative mode of introducing amendments, it is neither wholly federal nor wholly national.”

Earlier in Number 39, Madison’s true feelings are hinted at in his discussion of the operation of government, which he wrote was national in nature. (In today’s terms, ‘national’ may be taken to mean based in a central government in Washington.)   In explaining this, Madison wrote that:

“So far the national countenance of the government on this side seems to be disfigured by a few federal features.  But this blemish is perhaps unavoidable in any plan; and the operation of the government on the people, in their individual capacities, in its ordinary and most essential proceeding, it in this relation, a national government.” 

Madison bent over backwards to expound the ‘states rights’ arguments of those who believed the Constitution was ‘federal’ in nature.  Remember that the ‘Federalist Papers’ were intended to gain New York’s support for the proposed Constitution and Madison recognized that such support had to come from those who were on the ‘federal’ side as well as on the ‘national’ side.  His was a masterful job of fence-sitting.

But while he did not ignore the ‘federal’ belief in the power of the individual states, Madison made clear that the operation of the government was national in nature.  Note his use of the words ‘disfigured’ and ‘blemish’ in the quote cited above.  This suggests where he stood, at least regarding a federal or a national approach to the operation of government.  As for the source and extent of the power of the national government, he granted that these were more, though not entirely, federal in nature.  The original composition of the Senate, the Electoral College, and the Amendment process were and continue to be evidence of this. 

But to Madison, and as history has proven, the operation of the government is what counted most, regardless of the extent and source of its powers originating in, and limitable by, the individual states.  Today’s Federalists still believe the states have that power.  That’s why we call them ‘traditionalists.’  But this does not hold true about the operation of government, which Madison declared to be national.  Things get done in Washington which would never get done if they were left to the 50 States individually.


 *   *   *

Sunday, March 27, 2022

03-27-2022 - Basketball, Ukraine, Punches and a Short Story




 *   *   *


Aroma Around College Basketball

The vast number of college basketball players transferring from one school to another as permitted by the NCAA’s liberalized ‘transfer portal’ rules make a mockery of college sports. (The same thing to a somewhat lesser extent applies to college football, which is not governed by the NCAA.) There is a stench to it.

Consider the five such transfer students who are on the University of Kentucky’s basketball roster.  Without their presence, Kentucky probably would not have been in the NCAA tournament.  And this is just an example.  These student-athletes never applied to college to get a free education in exchange for their skills on the court, the way things used to be.  They applied so they could play basketball there. Period. And when another opportunity, one more likely to better display their skills at another college, presented itself, they took it.  While they bring a lot of revenue to the many schools involved, they take up space which might be filled by real students. 

It only takes a couple of athletes transferring from major basketball ‘powers’ to make a small college’s team successful. Some of the schools in the NCAA tournament which you never heard of before fall into that category.   Their “stars” came from Power Five schools, where they were first recruited.  (Admittedly, some small college players also end up transferring to bigger schools that recruit them after spotting them play a year or two at another school.) Some even came from the national basketball teams of other countries and, outside of playing basketball, had no other motivation for seeking higher education in the United States.

Hassan Drame played for the
Mali national team before coming to the U.S.A.
This aroma even extends to high school athletes who switch where they are getting their secondary school education, based not on where they live, but on the basketball program at the school to which they are transferring, usually a non-public school. Florida is the hotbed of such activity. 

The fault for this lies with college presidents and the boards of trustees who hire them. Believe it or not, there are many colleges in this country where athletics are not emphasized.  The University of Chicago is a famous one, and there are many, many, more.  Their names, however, do not appear on the sports pages. 

When you see many teaching assistants and professors EDUCATED OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES at the blackboard, teaching classes and running laboratories, you can bet the undergraduate schools where they studied didn’t play in any bowl games or basketball tournaments. Look at the names of the scholars getting Ph.D.’s these days and writing papers on scientific and historical matters.  


 *   *   *

Short Story Time

Here's an original short story which I dedicate to the Governor of Florida. 


Jack Lippman

Jim had an idea why he had been called into the principal’s office.  He knew when he accepted the assignment to teach the advanced placement course in history at the high school that he would be dealing with subjects which some considered to be controversial, but he felt that he could successfully handle them.

Mr. Carlucci smiled.  “Jim, I want you to know that you are probably the most highly respected social studies teacher not only in South High School but in the entire district.  That’s why you were selected to teach this advanced placement course.”

“Mr. Carlucci, please get to the point.  I know you didn’t ask for this meeting just to compliment me.”

“Please, Jim. We’ve known each other for a long time. Please call me Paul.”

“Okay, Paul, but what’s the deal? Why are we talking?”

“There’ve been complaints, Jim.  Parents.”

Jim relaxed a bit and interrupted.  “As I anticipated. Particularly when we got to the end of World War Two in the Pacific.  There are some issues there, I know, and I believe I touched all the bases, leaving no opinions out.  But what’s the complaint?”

“Hiroshima, Jim, it’s what happened there.”

Jim stiffened a bit, replying to the principal.  “Sure, President Truman authorized the use of the atomic bomb to end the war, killing over a hundred thousand innocent civilians in Hiroshima. And a load more a few days later in Nagasaki to show that we weren’t kidding.  We all know that but consider the alternative he faced.   I explained to the kids that our not using the bomb would have meant invading Japan itself to end the war. That would have meant a lengthy struggle taking many years perhaps, presenting tremendous logistical problems, and costing many lives.  Knowing the ferocity of the Japanese soldiers, losing 200,000 American lives in such an invasion was a conservative estimate.  We wrote papers on both sides of the argument, held debates, and spent two weeks on the unit.  I think the kids learned a lot.”

“I know, I know.  You did a great job, Jim.”

“So what’s the complaint?” Jim answered.  “Could it have been on our discussions of nuclear disarmament, never using such weapons again?  Making them illegal?  Or talking about the morality of using the wholesale killing of an innocent civilian population as a weapon?  Or maybe how nuclear weapons served to deter a future war where everyone would be a loser so long as both sides had the ability to vaporize the other’s major cities?  Both having the power to initiate mutual annihilation would serve to prevent that awful thing from happening.   That’s the way it seems to have worked out, Paul, over the years since Hiroshima. Like I asked you, what’s wrong with teaching the kids about the way things are?  What’s the complaint?”

“Jim, there’s not a word you’ve said that I don’t agree with,” answered the principal.

“So what, specifically, is it that these parents are complaining about? Jim asked. “Why are we talking?” 

“The bombing of Hiroshima, Jim.”

“What about it?  We covered it thoroughly.”

“Two of your students’ parents objected to your identifying the plane which dropped the bomb.”

“Sure, it was a B-29 Super Fortress, right?”

“Yes, yes, but the crew had painted a nickname on the plane’s nose. You mentioned that.”

“Of course, of course.  It became famous!”

Jim hesitated, holding his hand to his mouth.  “Oh my God!” he exploded, “Oh my God!”

“Yes, Jim. That’s it.  From now on, when you teach this course, and I want you to continue teaching it, you cannot mention that B-29’s nickname.  This is Florida, you know.  You risk losing your job, and the school district stands to lose some State funding, if we permit you to mention that plane’s name in your classroom.”

Jim got up and ran out of the principal’s office into the hallway, screaming at the top of his lungs, “ Oh my God, Enola Gay! Enola Gay! Enola Gay!”


 *   *   *

Ukraine Must Be Saved

Vladimir Putin's fear of Ukraine is not a military one. It is an ideological one. He feels threatened by the more liberal democracy which prevails there and which might be sufficiently contagious to spread to Russia. That would herald his downfall. That is the basis for his invasion, after which he had hoped to install a government friendly to him. When President Biden said "this man cannot remain in power," it was a message to the Russians to find a way to get rid of him. Like our own, Ukraine's democracy is not perfect, but this is not the time to criticize it. It first must be saved.


 *   *   *

Pulling Punches 

Just as we expend less than our maximum efforts in aiding Ukraine in its struggle against Russian expansionism out of fear of elevating it to World War Three, we also dilute justice in our country by soft-pedalling certain investigations and prosecutions out of fear of their bringing about a continuation of the Civil War which apparently did not fully end in 1865. I ask how long will we continue to ‘pull our punches?’  

An example of this is the new Manhattan District Attorney not continuing to pursue an indictment of the defeated former president for obvious financial skullduggery.  Rather than attribute this to unadmitted support for the ruler of Mar-a-Lago on his part, I suspect he just feels it would involve too great an amount of the DA’s office’s resources and last forever.  I am reminded of the quasi-sport of greased pig wrestling, occasionally encountered at county fairs, messy and taking a long time since the pigs seem to enjoy it.


                                             *   *   * 

Monday, March 21, 2022

03-21-2022 - Tucker Carlson, Sweat on Your Brow, SCOTUS, Businesses that put $$$ Ahead of Ukrainian Blood




                                *   *   *   *

Competing with Tucker Carlson

Accurate news reporting is hard to come by these days. Too many are fooled by the misleading and opinionated reporting found on such TV sources as Fox News. Too few watch more honest TV news or read newspapers which report the truth.

With that in mind, I recommend that you visit “Letters from an American,” a daily newsletter posted by Professor Heather Cox Richardson of Boston College if you are not already doing so.

It's free, although you can pay a monthly fee to be able to add comments to it and to see the comments made by others, as many do each day. She also publishes a podcast.

Besides providing an intelligent summary of the day’s news (with links to sites where her source material may be read), Professor Richardson often shares her historical expertise with you.

Check out the site by visiting https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/  CLICKING HERE WILL GET YOU THERE TOO.

If you like it, please pass this message on to four or five of your friends and relatives. That’s one way of competing with Tucker Carlson.



                                *   *   *   *


“Falsehood flies and truth comes limping after it.” … Jonathan Swift


                                *   *   *   *


Outdoor Sweat on Your Brow

There’s something noble about having sweat on your brow.  To some it’s more wholesome than doing something for a living that doesn’t necessitate physical labor.  And doing it out in the open countryside is better than doing it in a city or in an enclosed structure, if you have the choice.  Beyond being romantic, some consider that to be the essence of being patriotic, American and politically, I sense it to be Republican. 

Clever marketers have capitalized on this by naming a hardware store chain that caters to such non-urban people as the “Tractor Supply Company.”  I doubt that many of its customers own tractors. Similarly, the image of hardworking, muscular stevedores on the docks or loading railroad cars is the theme of hardware stores that call themselves “Harbor Freight Company.”

Very subtly, the image suggested by the very names of these chain stores excludes many Americans from their supposed customer base, even though anyone’s money or credit card is acceptable there.  It is hard to pin down, but there is something vaguely uncomfortable about the idea of individuals being able to do things for themselves and not along with others.  I sense that no one who shops in either place belongs to a union.

There is something about the marketing approach of Tractor Supply and Harbor Freight stores, making individualism appear more important than cooperation, which is not unlike that of undemocratic forces on the far right of our political spectrum. It’s that self-sufficient “cowboy” mentality that elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 showing up again in our culture, the idea that all dressing up requires is a cleaner pair of blue jeans than the ones you wore when you cleaned out your cesspool.

For me, Home Depot, Lowes and Ace Hardware stores seem more democratic, the last mentioned being about the closest one can get to a ‘mom and pop’ operation today. (It's interesting that neither Tractor Supply nor Harbor Freight sells paint, but almost all Ace Hardware locations do, probably the key to their survival.)

Amazon, I won’t even mention.


                                *   *   *   *


 Law - the Last Bulwark

Once in a while I check out “Common Sense,” a daily blog posted by former New York Times editorial staffer, Bari Weiss.  Sometimes she writes the content and often she passes on the thoughts of others.  Ms. Weiss frequently addresses the phenomenon of “institutional capture,”  where she believes some of America’s most important institutions (examples: Medicine, Hollywood, Education, Newspapers) have betrayed their own missions, having been transformed by an illiberal ideology. In fact, Ms. Weiss resigned from the New York Times and started her blog because of that.  The other day, Ms. Weiss addressed the practice of law as follows:

“Ok, so we’ve lost a lot. A whole lot. But at least we haven’t lost the law. That’s how we comforted ourselves. The law would be the bulwark against this nonsense. The rest we could work on building anew.  But what if the country’s legal system was changing just like everything else?

Today, Aaron Sibarium, a reporter who has consistently been ahead of the pack on this beat, offers a groundbreaking piece on how the legal system in America, as one prominent liberal scholar put it, is at risk of becoming “a totalitarian nightmare.”

To read it, visit bariweiss.substack.com where it appears under the title of “The Takeover of America’s Legal System.”  or CLICK HERE .  An example of this “takeover” can be witnessed in the ongoing hearings for the appointment of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

Judge Jackson is actually being criticized by some Republicans for having served as a public defender in the past and having had Guantanamo prisoners as clients.  They think this will affect how she will rule on cases before the SCOTUS.  They don’t understand what lawyers do and what the law is all about. To them, everything is politicized and this is what Sibarium warns of and fears.


                                *   *   *   *


More About the Composition of the SCOTUS

With six "originalists" on the SCOTUS, the almost certain appointment of Justice Jackson will change little. Waiting for their retirement or death and hoping it occurs during a presidency and Senate that values democracy over traditionalism is not a viable solution because by then, democracy in America will be dead and buried, with the philosophy of Antonin Scalia, or even worse, Robert Bork, in the ascendency. Expansion of the SCOTUS must be on the agenda of any Democratic administration that has a majority in the Senate.


                                *   *   *   *


To supplement the list of companies still doing business with Russia despite their invasion of Ukraine, contained in the following article, check out https://som.yale.edu/story/2022/over-400-companies-have-withdrawn-russia-some-remain   or just CLICK HERE TO GET THERE.

But first, read Dana Milbank’s recent Washington Post column


Zelenskyy Says Peace over Profit – Look Who Disagrees

Dana Milbank

Washington Post Columnist


In his gut-wrenching address to Congress, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked the United States for more — and more he will get.


U.S. leaders across the spectrum saluted Zelenskyy after he spoke to them Wednesday from Kyiv in his olive-drab T-shirt — part Winston Churchill and part Che Guevara. Neither lawmakers nor the administration support a U.S.-led no-fly zone or troop commitment.

But Zelenskyy made another ask and it’s something all Americans can help with. We can stop buying the products of businesses that continue to fund Vladimir Putin’s war machine, even after its full horrors are obvious to the world.


'All American companies must leave Russia. . . . Leave their market immediately, because it is flooded with our blood,' the young leader said, asking lawmakers 'to make sure that the Russians do not receive a single penny that they use to destroy our people in Ukraine. . . . Peace is more important than income.'


Most American companies get that. Some 400 U.S. and other multinational firms have pulled out of Russia, according to Yale’s Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who has kept the authoritative list. Oil companies (BP, Shell, ExxonMobil) and tech companies (Dell, IBM, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter) led the way, and many others (McDonald’s, Starbucks, Coca-Cola) eventually followed.


But at the other extreme, 33 companies (as of Wednesday) form a 'hall of shame,' defying demands that they exit Russia or reduce activities there.

'They are funding the Russian war machine, and they are undermining the whole idea of the sanctions,' Sonnenfeld told me. 'The whole idea is to freeze up civil society, to get people out on the streets and outraged. They’re undermining an effective resolution.'


Those who want to stop Russia’s murderous attack against Ukraine should stop investing in or buying the products of these companies.


Koch Industries, whose owners gave to right-wing causes for years, is now financing Putin’s war. The people who make Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Quilted Northern toilet paper, Vanity Fair napkins and Georgia-Pacific lumber are abetting the spilling of Ukrainians’ blood.

Like Reebok shoes? They’re being used to stomp on Ukraine. Authentic Brands Group, which also owns Aeropostale, Eddie Bauer, Brooks Brothers and Nine West, among others, is in the hall of shame.


Before you bite into a Cinnabon (or Carvel ice cream, Schlotzsky’s sandwich or Auntie Anne’s pretzel) consider that parent company Focus Brands is taking a bite out of democracy in Ukraine. So is Subway, selling you the All-American Club while refusing to cut loose 446 Russian franchises.


Several other household brands — Truvia and Diamond Crystal salt (Cargill), Avon cosmetics (Natura), LG appliances, ASUS laptops, Mission tortillas (Gruma) and Pirelli tires — are produced by companies on the shameful list.


Let’s name and shame all the others among the 33: advertising firms BBDO, DDB and Omnicom; accountant Baker Tilly; industrial companies Air Liquide, Air Products, Greif, IPG Photonics, Linde, Mettler Toledo, Nalco and Rockwool; French hotelier Accor and retailers Auchan, Decathlon and Leroy Merlin; German wholesaler Metro; cloud service Cloudflare; International Paper; and Sweden’s Oriflame Cosmetics.

An additional 72 multinationals have made only partial pullbacks from Russia, such as reducing current operations or holding off on new investments — actions Sonnenfeld calls 'smokescreens.' Included here: Dunkin’ Donuts, General Mills, Mondelez (Oreos and other Nabisco products), candymaker Mars, Procter & Gamble, Yum Brands (Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott.


All these businesses could be doing more to stop Putin’s savagery and war crimes. Because they won’t, we all should do more to stop them and reward the vast majority of companies that share Zelenskyy’s belief that peace is more important than profit.




                                *   *   *   *