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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.

Monday, December 26, 2022

12-26-2022 - The Jan. 6 Report, The Budget, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket, David Remnick's Comments, Change Continues, and Shady TV Ads


Christmas Presents for America: The January 6th Committee Report and the Passing of a Budget.

Well, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection attempt finally published and forwarded to the Department of Justice its final report, recommending that they further investigate the defeated former president whom the report documented as being ‘the one man’ at the heart of that tragic day’s events.  They also made recommendations for legislation to Congress, the true ‘raison d’etre’ for any congressional committee.


What part of it the DOJ will act on, and how they will do it, is still up for grabs.  Its existing investigation of the stolen documents found at Mar-a-Lago, and the defeated former president’s Georgia and New York litigation, are still in progress. These are all loosely connected.


As for the Committee’s report, Democrats applauded it while most Republicans criticized it.  They pointed out its failure to investigate inadequacies in security which enabled the rioting to happen, rather than criticize the rioters themselves.   Their approach is like criticizing an alarm system rather than the burglars who broke into your house and is even worse if the critics happen to be the burglars. 


The defeated former president, as reported by the Associated Press, did try to discredit the report, slamming members of the committee as “thugs and scoundrels” and of course, continued to falsely dispute his 2020 loss.  In response to the panel’s criminal referrals, the ex-president said: “These folks don’t get it that when they come after me, people who love freedom rally around me. It strengthens me.”


With the Republicans in charge of the House in the incoming Congress, look for attacks on the House Select Committee, including investigating it and its findings. They will downplay the report, which is almost unchallengedly damning, just as they perverted the Mueller Report, which did not exonerate the defeated former president from collusion with the Russians, although he claimed that it did, at least after a cosmetic face-lift by Bill Barr, who now realizes his faith in the ex-president was misplaced.  Barr has called the ex-president’s claims regarding his ‘winning’ the 2020 election ‘bullshit.’  So was Barr’s cleansing of the Mueller Report, and he knows it.


And of course, they will attack government spending and debt increases, ignoring those that took place under the ex-president and other Republican presidents. G.O.P. leader Kevin McCarthy, hungry for the right-wing votes needed to win the speakership, said the bill was the worst thing that ever happened in the halls of Congress, forgetting about the January 6 rioting that he temporarily had denounced but no longer criticizes.  The right-wing will now redefine MAGA with a slightly different meaning, ‘Make America Gullible Again.’ They are good at that. That’s the only way they win votes.


Meanwhile, a budget was finally passed by Congress at the last possible minute, enabling the country to stay in business.  (68 to 29 in the Senate, 225 to 201 in the House.)  Democrats got most, but not all of what they wanted, for example not being able to postpone the expiry of Medicaid availability as part of programs dealing with Covid. But what they got outweighed what they gave up.  The rules for counting electoral votes were tightened to prevent future misinterpretations of the Constitution as the defeated former president (with some help from his friends) tried to pull off on January 6, and continued defensive military equipment for Ukraine was approved, despite a bit of opposition from the far right, notably applauded by Vladimir Putin. 


The biggest trade-off was giving in to the Republicans on increasing our military and veterans benefit spending while not increasing outlays for certain social programs.  Protesting this, and the increase in military spending, was the House’s sole Democratic vote against the revised budget by Alexandria Octavia Cortez.  She must learn the value of compromising, if her long-range plans to run for the Senate are to progress.  But nine Republicans, seven of whom will not be back in the House next year (retiring or beaten in a primary), did finally vote to support  the budget’s 1.7 trillion dollars’ worth of discretionary spending, a big, big, deal, enabling much of President Biden’s programs to proceed. 


There is much more partisanship in the House where the budget vote was party line than in the Senate where the budget’s compromises were developed and understood.  Compromise is much more difficult in the House.


But will the Republican majority in the House survive?  Already, it is taking the form of a circular firing squad, with far-right Mesdames Boebert and Greene taking shots at one another.  And furthermore, a letter to the editor in a recent (12/24) Palm Beach Post points up the fragility of the Republican majority in the House.  I doubt that what it mentions will happen but It is something to think about.  Here is its text:


‘There are six sitting Republican members of Congress who asked the White House for presidential pardons because of their actions that led to the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021. If they are charged and convicted of one or more federal crimes, they will be barred from holding federal office, according to the U.S. Constitution.

The Republican Party is set to control the U.S. House of Representatives in January, 2023, because they hold a majority of five representatives. If the aforementioned six Republican House members (and possibly more) cannot serve, then the majority will revert to Democratic Party control. This is not a conspiracy theory, it is a fact.’


And with that, let’s turn to the ongoing saga of George Santos, Congressman-elect.


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The Republican Pinocchio Problem

Unless New York’s Congressman-elect George Santos can disprove the allegations being made about his totally fabricated resume, the Republican Party has a problem.  Let’s call it their ‘Pinocchio Problem.’

Once sworn in, Santos will comprise 20% of the margin needed to give them majority control of the House of Representative. With him, they have 222 seats, just four more than the 218 which would constitute that majority.

If they close their eyes to his misrepresentations to maintain that entire slim majority, this will provide Democrats with unlimited leeway in accusing the Republicans of having no ethics, an argument against which they will have no defense, if indeed, the allegations are true and thus far, Santos and his supporters have not been able to deny them.

His vote, to select a House Speaker or to vote on legislation, is like a bank robber being able to spend part of his loot while awaiting a trial.  Beginning one’s term in Congress by facing a hearing by the House Ethics Committee is not a good starting point.

I believe that if the Republicans had a larger majority in the House, they would not seat Representative Santos, just to show they do know right from wrong, and either let the seat remain vacant or see if a special election might be held to fill it.  This might enhance their reputation, already sullied by support by many of them for the lies told by that granddaddy of all ‘Pinocchios,’ the defeated former president.  But as I said, without Santos’ vote, their House majority is only four votes wide.

I suspect that there are no G.O.P. Jiminy Crickets (they wouldn’t listen to Liz Chaney) to tell the Republican Pinocchios to ‘let their conscience be their guide’ and they will seat Santos.  His presence in Congress will be a billboard advertising the Republican Party’s lack of ethics for all to see … and for  American voters to vote against, in his district, and everywhere else in the nation, in all future elections. 

But what are YOU going to do about it right now?  Any suggestions?


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More Thoughts on January 6th - Are We Headed for a ‘Post-Truth, Post-Democratic America?

In a forward to the New Yorker magazine’s forthcoming book about the January 6th Report, its editor and Pulitzer Prize winner David Remnick wrote the following.  It is well worth repeating.   Its final sentence is ominous :

“January 6th was a phenomenon rooted both in the degraded era of Trump and in the radicalization of a major political party during the past generation. The very power of these developments explains why many people may approach this congressional report with a sense of fatigue, even denial. Part of Trump’s dark achievement has been to bludgeon the political attention of the country into submission.

“When a nation has been subjected to that degree of cynicism—what is politely called ‘divisiveness’—it can lose its ability to experience outrage. As a result, the prospect of engaging with this congressional inquiry into Trump’s attempt to delegitimatize the machinery of electoral democracy is sometimes a challenge to the spirit. That is both understandable and a public danger. And yet a citizenry that can no longer bring itself to pay attention to such an investigation or to absorb its astonishing findings risks moving even farther toward a disturbing ‘new normal’: a post-truth, post-democratic America.”


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Change is Still the Norm

I found this old posting on this blog dated 9/13/2011.  It is still true today, over a decade later.  While still hitting the nail on the head, it does make clear that my writing skills, since then, have deteriorated a bit.

 Change is the Norm

New York City has changed.  Or has it?  This summer I was astounded on the number of people recognizable as Asians or Middle Easterners whom I saw in the Big Apple.  I’m not talking about tourists, but about New Yorkers, the people who work in the stores, restaurants, hotels and offices throughout the city.  When you get to talk to them, you realize that many of them were born and educated here and have no foreign accents whatsoever, unless you consider a Brooklyn or Bronx accent as foreign.

But is this a change?  New York City has always been a mecca for immigrants.  After the original Dutch, Scotch and English settlers, there came many waves of immigrants, each with its own language and appearance.  In the middle of the nineteenth century, the Germans came, to be followed by Irish, Poles, Jews, Italians, and others.  And of course, many Afro-Americans from the South moved to New York early in the last century as did many Hispanics, primarily from Puerto Rico.  The city has absorbed and accommodated all of these groups, not always immediately and not always smoothly, but it has done it.  And the magnet attracting all of these groups has been the opportunity to lead a better and more prosperous life than was possible wherever they came from.

This is no different today.  Ask the Afghan who will sell you a Sabrett frankfurter from his wagon on a Manhattan street corner or the Indian who will sell you a Hershey bar in his convenience store or from his newsstand.   Or ask the Manager of your local Manhattan bank branch or the saleslady in Bergdorf, who might hail from Tokyo, Mumbai, or Manila.

The latest immigrant groups are finding their place in the city.  It has always been that way.  It may take a generation or two but it always happens.  They become Americans. The kind of changes they bring about have been going on ever since immigrants started coming to New York.  In New York, I suppose change is the norm.  Sometimes it appears that nowadays there are more Asian restaurants in Manhattan than pizzerias. Perhaps, but a hundred years ago, consider that there weren’t any pizzerias at all in the city!.  And few people knew what a bagel was then, either, let alone a bialy.  

And since New York City is the media capital of the nation, this change spreads throughout the nation.  Just look at the racial and ethnic mixture of the actors used in commercials on TV.  It wasn’t that way a few years back!  They are evidence that change is not only the norm in New York City, but in America as a whole.  Don’t fight it.  You will not win.  Come to think of it, unless you are a descendant of the original Native Americans (not the interloping immigrants who crossed over to Alaska from Siberia thousands of years ago), you are part of the process of change yourself.


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The Most Dishonest Commercial on TV – the $9.95 Insurance Policy - Can You Come Up with One More Dishonest?

In my opinion, the most dishonest commercial on TV is the life insurance pitch aimed at gullible seniors from the Colonial Penn Life Insurance Company.  Oddly enough, it doesn’t lie.  Everything it says can be construed as true, but so much is omitted from this sales pitch, or just briefly displayed in smaller type and not spoken from the TV pitchman’s mouth, that it makes the entire commercial dishonest. 

(Having spent most of my business career in the life insurance industry, I write this from years of accumulated knowledge.)

The ‘satisfied’ customers shown in the commercial are busy praising precisely those features of their $9.95 a month life insurance policy about which much of the truth about them is downplayed in the commercial. I am sure that, once the customer is ‘hooked,’ these negative features are more clearly explained in the purchasing process and of course are part of the policy’s contractual language, but they are not featured in the TV commercial.  That’s what makes it dishonest.  Let’s look at those features.

1.   While the policy, available from ages 50 to 85, can be purchased for as low as $9.95 a month, its permanent death benefit differs depending on the age of the insured. For example, that amount buys a much larger permanent death benefit at age 60 than it does at age 80. The commercial never specifically mentions an amount of insurance being sold at all, but briefly states in small type that ‘amount of insurance varies by age and gender.’  To purchase a respectable amount of life insurance, far more than that $9.95 a month will be needed for most customers. This is a classic ‘bait and switch’ pitch. 

2.   They claim the policy cannot be canceled and that its premium will never change.  This is not such a big deal.  It is true of any ‘whole life insurance’ contract if premiums continue to be paid.  It is a valid point only to those unsophisticated enough to confuse ‘whole life insurance’ with ‘term life insurance,’ which can expire, or with homeowners or automobile insurance which can be canceled and are subject to rate increases.  Claiming that this ‘whole life insurance’ policy cannot be canceled, or that its premiums ever raised by the company is like saying ‘water is wet.’

3.   Because no ‘health questions’ are asked of applicants, obviously the ‘$9.95 policy’ should appeal greatly to those on death’s doorstep. That’s why the death benefit of policies like this (other companies sell them too), whatever it is, becomes fully effective only after about two years.  Up until that point, the death benefit is limited to merely a refund of premiums paid plus a bit of interest on them and thusly, it is not really life insurance until then.  The company, to its credit, does state briefly in the commercial, again in small type, ’limited benefit first two years,’ but just as with the amount of insurance being purchased, this two-year limitation is not put into the mouth of the pitchman, the one the viewer is listening to and watching.  That is why it is a such a dishonest commercial.  

4.   More about that ‘no health questions’ bait: Life insurance companies use mortality tables to calculate premiums. In these policies, since the starting point in the commercials is that $9.95 premium, that works backwards, and it is the death benefit that is calculated as explained above (see 1.) based on the insurance company’s mortality tables.  

Please don’t let those two words (mortality tables) stop you from reading on. It’s really very simple.  In the insurance industry, they are just charts showing the number who at a given age are expected to die that year, based on industry-wide data provided by the nation’s State insurance commissioners. 

In a group that is not asked about their health, that number of deaths differs from a group who are asked to answer such ‘health questions’ or even be examined.  Asking them enables an insurance company to ‘select’ those who apply for insurance, turning some down.  These mortality tables show that the number of expected deaths each year for those who are not asked about their health, as with ‘$9.95’ policies, will be about double the number of deaths compared to those who are asked such questions! That bears repeating: ‘the number of expected deaths each year for those who are not asked about their health, as with ‘$9.95’ policies, will be about double the number of deaths compared to those who are asked such questions!’  


And that higher number of deaths is what goes into determining the amount of ‘whole life insurance’ that $9.95, or whatever premium is to be paid each month, will purchase.  


5.   Policies like this are excellent buys for those with severe heart, kidney, or vascular problems, or with cancer within the past five years (see 3.) because usually that is all that is available for them in the individual insurance marketplace, and they very well might survive the two years needed for their beneficiaries to be able to collect the death benefit.  But any senior citizen without such serious medical histories who purchases such a policy is a fool, and they are the ones at which this Colonial Penn commercial aims, gullible healthy senior citizens who are foolish enough to purchase policies priced for those who have good reason for not wanting to answer health questions.

Regardless of where you live, it is better to seek advice from a local licensed life insurance agent, preferably one who represents a national life insurance company that also sells policies in New York or Massachusetts, two States that are known to have insurance departments which work to protect consumers.


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Three Items of Interest:

·        Email AlertsIf you are NOT receiving emails from me alerting you each time there is a new posting on Jackspotpourri, just send me your email address and we’ll see that you do.  And if you are forwarding a posting to someone, you might suggest that they do the same, so they will be similarly alerted. 

         You can pass those email addresses to me by email at            jacklippman18@gmail.com .

·        PaintingsRecently added to the blog is a feature showing one of my paintings.  (Besides writing, I also paint with acrylics for recreation.)  Right now, it features one of my recent paintings, but it will be periodically revised to show earlier ones as well.  You can find it off to the right on your desktop or tablet. 

·        Forwarding Postings: And of course, please forward this posting to anyone you think might benefit from reading it.  The place to send them is:  https://jackspotpourri.blogspot.com

Google Blogspot, the platform on which Jackspotpourri is    prepared, has revised its forwarding abilities.  If you click on the envelope with the arrow at the conclusion of every posting, (it looks like this:   ), you will have the opportunity to list as many email addresses as you wish, along with a comment from you, each of which will receive a link to the full blog that you now are reading, with all of its bells and whistles.  This is a great advance from the very basic format Google Blogspot originally provided when they forwarded something for you.  It might take a few minutes longer for your message to be transmitted but this method of forwarding offers the advantage of being able to forward jackspotpourri to many addresses simultaneously. Try it. 

Either way will work, sending them the link above or clicking on the envelope at the bottom of this posting.  


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