|Wednesday, November 27, 2013|
|My Annual Thanksgiving Message|
With the Thanksgiving Holiday almost upon us, this year may be an occasion when Americans not only celebrate with traditional gatherings with family and friends, but perhaps we should all give special thanks that the American ideal is still celebrated during one of the most troubling and worrisome periods in our history.
With that in mind, following are some Thanksgiving messages that I thought you would find of interest:
First, a bit of humor:
They’re Coming For Thanksgiving
An elderly man in Phoenix calls his son in New York and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing. Forty-five years of misery is enough."
"Pop, what are you talking about?" the son screams.
"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the old man says. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her," and hangs up.
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. "Like heck they're getting divorced!" she shouts, "I'll take care of this!"
She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at the old man, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay," he says, "They're coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way"
Next, a Thanksgiving proclamation by the man who is arguably the greatest President in America’s history:
From The Heritage Foundation: “...enjoy President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation below.
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.
In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
Finally, a November 25, 2004 Wall Street Journal article, “A Very Christian Holiday,” by David Gelerneter:
"Fundamentalists" gave us Thanksgiving, and we should thank them for it.
The First Thanksgiving is one of those heartwarming stories that every child used to know, and some up-to-date teachers take special delight in suppressing. Many teachers approach children nowadays with the absurd presumption that they are triumphalist little bigots who must be taken down a notch and made to grasp that their country has made mistakes. In fact they are little ignoramuses who leave high school believing that their country has made nothing but mistakes, and they never do learn what revisionist history is a revision of.
It is especially sad when children don't learn the history of Thanksgiving, which is that rarest of anomalies--a religious festival celebrated by many faiths. The story of the first Thanksgiving would inspire and soothe this nation if only we would let it--this nation so deeply divided between Christians and non-Christians or nominal Christians, where Christians are a solid majority on a winning streak and many non-Christians are scared to death, of "Christian fundamentalists" especially.
Christian fundamentalists were the first European settlers in this country, and Thanksgiving is their idea. (Puritans were one type of Christian fundamentalist--"fundamentalist" insofar as they focused on biblical basics. The Pilgrims were radical Puritans.) Many Americans are afraid that fundamentalists are inherently intolerant and want to stamp out all religions but their own. Yet that first thanksgiving was celebrated by radical Christian fundamentalists, and American Indians were honored guests--as every child used to know. Obviously fundamentalists are capable of tolerating non-Christians on occasion. In 17th-century America, some Christians used the Bible to explain exactly why American Indians must be treated respectfully. But another fact about that first thanksgiving is also worth pondering: no one tried to convert anyone else. Most of today's fundamentalist groups don't fish for converts either -- but those who do ought to contemplate thanksgiving number one.
The Pilgrims celebrated that first thanksgiving in 1621; Edward Winslow describes it in a letter to a friend. "Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labours." There was a great celebration, "many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king, Massasoit with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted." The Indian contingent "went out and killed five deer which they brought to the plantation."
The first settlers mostly wanted to be friends with the Indians--and not only for obvious practical reasons. Alexander Whitaker was an early Virginia settler. His description of America was published in 1613. He doesn't think highly of American Indian religion, but goes on at length about American Indian talent and intelligence. ("They are a very understanding generation, quick of apprehension"; "exquisite in their inventions, and industrious in their labour.") And after all, he points out, "One God created us, they have reasonable souls and intellectual faculties as well as we; we all have Adam for our common parent: yea, by nature the condition of us both is all one."
In time, attitudes changed. American settlers and American Indians fell to treating one another savagely, and the Indians got the worst of it. But human greed and violence, not Christianity, brought those changes about. Christian preachers did not always condemn them--but, Christian or not, they were mere human beings after all.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony--settled by fundamentalists only slightly less radical than the Pilgrims--declared its first thanksgiving in 1630. By the late 1700s, independence was in the air, and the Continental Congress proclaimed many days of thanksgiving. President George Washington lost no time declaring the first thanksgiving under the new constitution in 1789. Each of these early proclamations was good for a single occasion. But after President Lincoln had proclaimed thanksgiving days in 1863 and '64--specifying the last Thursday in November both times--this characteristically American festival became a yearly custom. Lincoln was not only America's greatest president; he was our greatest religious figure, too. In his last speech--four days before he was murdered, with the Civil War at an end at last--he proposed one more day of thanksgiving. "He, from whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten. A call for national thanksgiving is being prepared."
What to conclude? In a democracy where the majority is Christian, you can no more nitpick public life free of Christianity (as if it were so much lint on a frazzled sweater) than you can hold down the top on a pot of boiling water. Public life in this country has been fundamentally Christian since the first European settlers arrived. It continued Christian when the new nation won its independence and proclaimed its Bill of Rights, and will stay Christian forever, or until a majority decides otherwise--no matter how many antireligious rulings are extracted from how many antidemocratic power-mad judges.
Yet the fear of Christian fundamentalism that haunts a significant minority of Americans ought not to be casually dismissed. Some groups still see it as their duty to make converts of non-Christians. History suggests that they had better approach their mission with exquisite tact, or their designated target populations will soon come to hate their guts. I spend a fair amount of effort trying to convince friends and colleagues that their hostility to Christianity is ignorant and bigoted. But when a deadly earnest young Christian approaches, displays an infuriating though subliminal holier-than-thouness, and tries to convert me--it happens rarely, but occasionally -- I metamorphose for an instant into a raging leftist.
But that long-ago First Thanksgiving still speaks to and for every American, and we ought to listen. It speaks to Christians; they thought it up. It speaks to Jews -- Pilgrim Christianity was a profoundly "Hebraic" Christianity; the Pilgrims saw themselves as a chosen people arrived in a promised land; their organizations were based on "covenants," and they were devoted to the Hebrew Bible.
(Late in life the eminent Pilgrim father William Bradford began studying Hebrew, so he might behold "the ancient oracles of God in their native beauty." More than most American Jews can say.)
Those who are neither Christian nor Jew are also present in spirit, represented by the great king Massasoit. Everyone is "entertained and feasted," and everyone leaves with the same faith that brung 'im.
Thanksgiving speaks for Americans too: it is just like us to set a day aside for a national thank you to the Lord, or (anyway) to someone. Americans continue to be what Lincoln called us, the "almost chosen people," struggling to do right by man and God.
Finally, I would like to wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
© 2013 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 14:45 PM By admin
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|Monday, November 25, 2013|
|Don’t Miss These CNBC and CNN Reports That Shine Light on VA Crisis|
A VA inspector general's report released Oct. 23 said one patient was given a medication despite a documented drug allergy and had a fatal reaction.
Another patient was found unresponsive after receiving multiple sedating medications.A third had critically high blood pressure that was not aggressively monitored and experienced bleeding in the brain about five hours after going to the emergency room, the report said.
While these stories now arrive with almost numbing regularity, they do serve to prove why we can’t afford to be complacent about exposing the VA’s failures. The fact is that veterans’ lives are on the line, and it’s critical that we continue to shine a light on the VA’s failure to take their mission of service seriously.
With that in mind, I’d like to recommend two sterling reports on the VA for you to check out and to share with your friends and family:
•Earlier this month, CNBC broadcast “Death & Dishonor: Crisis at the VA,” a powerful half-hour documentary that details the myriad ways in which the VA is serving veterans poorly. It’s a must-see for anyone who cares about this issue—veterans, family members, military personnel, taxpayers, all Americans.
While the situation at the VA, and the Obama administration’s “head in the sand” approach to fixing it, are infuriating, I take some measure of reassurance when I see major media outlets taking the problem seriously by developing compelling exposés like these. Kudos to CNN and CNBC for shining a light on a pressing national problem with these high-quality journalistic offerings. Let’s be sure to share them far and wide.
Darin Selnick, a U.S. Air Force veteran, is an independent consultant and a member of the Concerned Veterans for America’s organizing committee. He served as special assistant to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from 2001-2009.
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|Monday, November 11, 2013|
|A Billion Here and A Billion There|
During the Watergate hearings in the mid 1970s, Senator Everett Dirksen, said, “A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
His humor made headlines back then, but we seldom heard anyone talk about another aspect of his observation. That is, just how much money is a billion dollars?
Today, we hear the word constantly. Government budgets in the multi-billions are debated and approved all the time, and we seem to think nothing of it. Hardly a flicker from anyone.
As a matter of fact, it’s more often the opposite. What we usually see is “pork” being piled onto appropriations bills as if the economy were a bottomless pit for our politicians,
who ignore the public good for private benefit. California is a prime example of unrestrained political excess gone astray, to the point of bankruptcy.
I can remember a time when the idea of a billion dollars was a source of wonder at the sheer scope of that amount of money. It no longer seems to elicit any response at all, except perhaps boredom.
But, a billion dollars does add up to “real money,” especially when you look closely at what it can buy.
With that in mind, consider the following illustrations of just how much money a billion dollars really is:
In California, where the average annual salary is around $51,900, it would support over 19,000 families for one year. Or, in the nation’s capital, it would pay the salaries of the entire Congress
plus those of the complete Congressional staff and their combined office expense budgets for one year, with money left over. Which is the better buy?
In many third-world countries, where the average annual income is about $1,000, it would provide for a million families for one year.
At $8,400 per student, it would pay the costs of schooling for almost 119,000 children (K-12) for one year; or for the entire college education of over 9,300 students (at, say, $26,700 per year each).
At a median salary, nationwide, of about $52,100 a year, it could pay for more than 19,000 secondary school teachers for one year.
Five million doctor visits at $200 per visit adds up to $1 billion. That’s a lot of patients. Or, at an average Rx expense of $200 a month, one billion dollars would pay the prescription costs for over
416,000 people for one year.
For apartment dwellers, at $2,000 a month rent, a billion dollars would provide shelter for over 41,000 families for one year.
For the investment minded, the earnings on one billion dollars, at 5% per annum, would be $50 million a year. Think you can retire on that? Looking at it from the viewpoint of seniors who receive Social Security, with the average retiree receiving about $1,230 a month, one billion dollars would provide annual retirement payments to about 67,700 people. If a one billion dollar endowment fund were invested at 5%, the $50 million investment income it would earn would help support almost 3,400 seniors with the equivalent of their Social Security payments, without dipping into the principal.
Isn’t that how Social Security should work, instead of as some type of “Ponzi scheme,” which would be illegal if it were not the government doing it?
Are we getting our money’s worth from government? Or, is too much of it being wasted?
Like the man said, “A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
© 2013 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 14:05 PM By admin
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|Friday, November 8, 2013|
It is a federal holiday that is observed on November 11 and coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world and also mark the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.)
Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day. Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. In proclaiming the holiday, he said
"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations."
The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. A Congressional Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday: "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'."
In 1945, WWII veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I. Weeks led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who supported the idea of National Veterans Day. Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and annually until his death in 1985.
President Reagan honored Weeks at The White House with the Presidential Citizenship Medal in 1982 as the driving force for the national holiday. Elizabeth Dole, who prepared the briefing for President Reagan, determined Weeks as the "Father of Veterans Day."
U.S. Representative Ed Rees from Emporia, Kansas, presented a bill establishing the holiday through Congress. President Dwight Eisenhower, also from Kansas, signed the bill into law on May 26, 1954.
Congress amended this act on June 1, 1954, replacing "Armistice" with "Veterans," and it has been known as Veterans Day since.
The National Veterans Award, created in 1954, also started in Birmingham, Alabama. Congressman Rees of Kansas was honored in Alabama as the first recipient of the award for his support offering legislation to make Veterans Day a federal holiday, which marked nine years of effort by Raymond Weeks. Weeks conceived the idea in 1945, petitioned Gen. Eisenhower in 1946, led the first Veterans Day celebration in 1947 (keeping the official name Armistice Day until Veterans Day was legal in 1954).
Although originally scheduled for celebration on November 11 of every year, starting in 1971 in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October. In 1978, it was moved back to its original celebration on November 11.
Veterans Day in Norway was instituted in 2010 by Norway's Cabinet and falls on Victory in Europe Day—May 8. The choice of day has been criticized by leader (Bjørnar Moxnes) of political party Rødt, saying one must differentiate between a defensive fight against an occupation force and offensive military operations outside Norway.
© 2013 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 18:13 PM By admin
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|Wednesday, November 6, 2013|
OK, so I spent 45 minutes on the Covered California web site today and then 30 minutes on their 800 "help" line. The result after spending 75 minutes registering/applying/shopping for good quality affordable health insurance on this so-called health-care "exchange" was access to the Blues: An Anthem Blue-Cross individual policy for $289 per-month (for just myself). Or an Anthem Blue-Cross Health Savings Account (HSA) policy for $291 per-month. These were the only two policies under $300.
Right off the bat there's something seriously wrong with the pricing of these contracts when a PPO with some, albeit very limited, first dollar coverage is less expensive than a health savings account. The HSA should be the least expensive insurance contract in the insurance company's portfolio. Why? because the low monthly premium is supposed to help free up after tax dollars that can be deposited into a tax-deductible health savings account, similar to the way you deduct annual contributions to an Individual Retirement Account. The money then grows tax free inside the HSA and can then be accessed penalty free when you pay for qualifying health care expenses. But I digress.
The better policy of the two I found, has a $5,000 annual deductible, a $6,350 out-of-pocket maximum (this includes my deductible but NOT my monthly $289 premium). So in actuality my annual out of pocket max with this policy would be $9,818. This in and of itself isn't a bad thing. I think any maximum out of pocket between $7,500 and $10,000 is cost effective assuming a functioning market place. But that is not we have anymore thanks to Obamacare. So as you will see it gets worse.
· $60 regular office-visit co-pay AFTER my $5,000 deductible.
· $70 co-pay for specialists AFTER my $5,000 deductible
· $60 co-pay for "other practitioner office visits" AFTER my $5,000 deductible
· $300 co-pay for emergency room services AFTER my $5,000 deductible
· $120 co-pay for urgent care AFTER my $5,000 deductible
· 30% co-insurance for hospital stays AFTER my $5,000 deductible
· 30% co-insurance for lab work, diagnostics & ex-rays AFTER my $5,000 deductible
· $50 pcs co-pay for name-brand drugs / $19 pcs co-pay for generic drugs (probably the most reasonable feature of the plan, however the generic co-pay is a little high).
Usually a generic pcs co-pay is in the $10 to $15 range. And an important question that should be known is what happens if there is NO generic equivalent available? Or, another scenario, which happens on occasion, is what if your doctore insits on the name brand drug. Most good insurance contracts will allow the insured to pay the generic co-pay in that situation.
So frankly the benefits above are pretty awful. Incredibly high co-pays but only after extremely high deductibles. I have never seen this sort of thing before. At least not here in California.
But here's some good news. If I get pregnant and use my prenatal and postnatal benefits, I pay ZERO co-pays and ZERO deductible! Only problem is I'm physically incapable of getting pregnant as I am a male. Moreover, I am incapable of getting a woman pregnant as I had a vasectomy in 2001 after my 4th child was born. So this benefit is absolutely worthless...but very costly to include. In essence I am paying for a benefit I could never use.
As some of you know, I sold health insurance here in California in the individual and small group market between 1998 and 2006. I had over 100 small businesses insured and over 250 individuals insured. And I can honestly say this is the worst insurance policy I have ever come across. Indeed if I had come across a prospective client who had this policy I would’ve had a guarantee sale. In fact, I would've starved to death is this was all I had to offer my clients.
Posted at 20:57 PM By admin
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|Wednesday, September 25, 2013|
|Is Doing Away With $1 Bill A Good Idea?|
Periodically, someone gets the idea that we should replace the dollar bill with a $1 dollar coin. And, every time this comes up, we hear the same tired litany about how much money the government would save.
A December 3, 2012 Associated Press article in the L.A. Times is headlined:
Switching from $1 bills to coins is no small change
“A new plan to eliminate the note would save taxpayers about $4.4 billion over the next 30 years, a U.S. agency says. But Americans haven't embraced the coin.”
“American consumers have not taken to the $1 coin. But there's renewed pressure to eliminate dollar bills in favor of coins.”
“It's a simple matter of dollars and cents — congressional auditors say doing away with dollar bills entirely and replacing them with dollar coins could save taxpayers some $4.4 billion over the next 30 years.”
“This projection from the Government Accountability Office came as lawmakers begin exploring new ways for the government to save money by changing the money itself.”
“At a House subcommittee hearing Thursday, the focus was on two possible new approaches:
“Moving to less expensive combinations of metals like steel, aluminum and zinc.
“Gradually taking dollar bills out the economy and replacing them with coins.
“The GAO's Lorelei St. James told the House Financial Services panel it would take several years for the benefits of switching from paper bills to dollar coins to catch up with the cost of making the change.
Equipment would have to be bought or overhauled, and more coins would have to be produced upfront to replace bills as they are taken out of circulation.”
“But over the years, the savings would begin to accrue, she said, largely because a $1 coin could stay in circulation for 30 years while paper bills have to be replaced every four or five years on average.”
"We continue to believe that replacing the note with a coin is likely to provide a financial benefit to the government," said St. James, who added that such a change would work only if the note was completely eliminated and the public educated about the benefits of the switch.”
“Even the $1 coin's most ardent supporters recognize that they haven't been popular.
Philip Diehl, former director of the U.S. Mint, said there was a huge demand for a new dollar coin when production began in 2001, but as time wore on, people stayed with what they knew best.”
"We've never bitten the bullet to remove the $1 bill as every other Western economy has done," Diehl said. "If you did, it would have the same success the Canadians have had."
“Beverly Lepine, chief operating officer of the Royal Canadian Mint, said her country loves its ‘Loonie,’ the nickname for the $1 coin that includes an image of a loon on the back.
The switch went over so well that the country also went to a $2 coin called the ‘Toonie.’”
“Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) affirmed that Canadians have embraced their dollar coins. ‘I don't know anyone who would go back to the $1 and $2 bills,’ he said.”
“That sentiment was not shared by some of his fellow subcommittee members when it comes to the U.S. version.”
“Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said men don't like carrying a bunch of coins around in their pocket or in their suits. And Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the $1 coins have proved too hard to distinguish from quarters.”
"If the people don't want it and they don't want to use it," she said, "why in the world are we even talking about changing it?"
"It's really a matter of just getting used to it," Diehl said.
The AP also reported: “Congress looks at doing away with the $1 bill”
“American consumers have shown about as much appetite for the $1 coin as kids do their spinach. They may not know what's best for them either.
Congressional auditors say doing away with dollar bills entirely and replacing them with dollar coins could save taxpayers some $4.4 billion over the next 30 years.”
“Vending machine operators have long championed the use of $1 coins because they don't jam the machines, cutting down on repair costs and lost sales. But most people don't seem to like carrying them. In the past five years, the U.S. Mint has produced 2.4 billion Presidential $1 coins. Most are stored by the Federal Reserve, and production was suspended about a year ago. (Posted by Staff)”
As usual, nothing is as simple as it appears to be – or as easy.
© 2013 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 23:53 PM By admin
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|Wednesday, September 25, 2013|
|Thinking About Money|
Most people think about money much of the time. Do they have enough to live on, can they afford to buy a new car or house, or rent a better apartment, how much can they spend on food or clothes, pay for their children’s education,
the seemingly endless list of wants, desires and needs that everyone has?
Even with all of the attention we pay to the uses of money, we rarely, if ever, think about money itself, the actual pieces of paper or coins that we carry around and use to buy things.
]Where do they come from, and just what do they actually represent?
Most of us rarely give it a thought. We tend to take our money for granted, generally thinking it’s the bills in our wallets or the coins in our pockets.
But, it is actually much more than just bills and coins. It’s also bank transfers, sending money almost anywhere in the world electronically.
But electronic money transfers have not always been possible. As a matter of fact, a review of the history of money reveals that money has often been various types of commodities.
Before money came into existence, people traded various possessions for something they wanted or needed.
What would you say, if instead of our printed currency, you were offered some beads or shells for the used appliance you advertised for sale? Or how about the car you’re trying to sell?
Would you consider accepting beads or shells from your employer?
Although we use paper money and coins, I don’t recall ever hearing anyone say anything about it, except that they would like to have or need more. So, what does our paper currency represent and where does it come from?
No one seems to be concerned about it. Before the advent of money, barter was the method of exchanging goods and services. And, although barter in the U.S. is still used – to the tune of about $12 billion a year, it’s a relatively minor,
almost miniscule, part of an economy that totals over $16 trillion.
In early history (9,000 to 6,000 B.C.), livestock was often used as the medium of exchange. Later crops were used. About 1200 B.C., cowry shells were used in China. Tools made of metal were also used, which subsequently led to round coins.
Around 118 B.C., leather money (deerskin edged in vivid colors) was used in China. The first actual paper currency appeared in China, but was discontinued in 1455. Another form of currency was wampum (white) beads,
which were used by North American Indians.
It seems as though almost anything can be used as money. And, it can. The key, of course, is confidence. That is, the confidence to exchange (give up) property or provide services for pieces of paper.
We accept it because we are certain we can use it to acquire other property or obtain the services of others.
No matter what form of money has been used, it worked because people had confidence that it represented the value of the goods and/or services that could be bought and sold with it.
Initially, banks gave receipts to their depositors, which indicated that they could be redeemed for whatever goods of value the banks were holding (usually gold or silver).
These receipts were eventually accepted as money because they were as “good as gold.”
A new form of money has now developed: electronic funds, the transfer of claims for money that is held by financial institutions in our names, thus taking money beyond the physical possession of some sort of property,
even paper or coins, to a digital accounting system that keeps track of ownership with just a bookkeeping entry.
During the Free Banking Era (1837-1862), individual banks were allowed to issue their own currency, much of which was redeemable in gold or silver. Unfortunately, however, some of it was worthless, and by 1860,
some 8,000 banks were issuing notes that had no value.
In 1913, the same year the sixteenth amendment to the Constitution established the federal income tax, the Federal Reserve Act created the Federal Reserve Banking system, which is currently the foundation of the banking
structure in the U.S. today. There are twelve Regional Reserve Banks, which are owned by the member banks in each district, and a federal government agency, the Board of Governors, in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. went off the gold standard in 1971 and turned to the use of fiat money, which is not backed by a physical commodity (i.e.: gold).
Wikipedia notes that “Fiat money has been defined variously as:
§ Any money declared to be legal tender.
§ State-issued money which is neither convertible by law to any other thing, nor fixed in value in terms of any objective standard.
§ Money without intrinsic value.
“The term derives from the Latin fiat (‘let it be done’, ‘it shall be’)”
While gold- or silver-backed representative money entails the legal requirement that the bank of issue redeem it in fixed weights of gold or silver, fiat money's value is unrelated to the value of any physical quantity.
Even a coin containing valuable metal may be considered fiat currency if its face value is higher than its market value as metal.
Instead, the only thing that gives the money value is its relative scarcity and the faith placed in it by the people that use it. In addition, legal tender laws require creditors to accept the government’s money in settlement of debts,
thus, although the currency and coins that are in circulation today are not backed by anything, we are forced to accept them.
© 2013 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 23:41 PM By admin
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|Friday, September 13, 2013|
|This War Is For Real|
America is now facing the most serious threat to its existence since WWII.
The seriousness is compounded by the fact that there are very few Americans who think we can possibly lose the War on Terror and even fewer who realize what losing really means.
First, let's examine a few basics:
1. When did the threat start?
Many will say September 11th, 2001, but as far as the United States is concerned, the answer is 1979, 22 years prior to September 2001, with the following attacks on us:
• Iran Embassy Hostages, 1979
• Beirut, Lebanon Embassy 1983
• Beirut, Lebanon Marine Barracks 1983
• Lockerbie, Scotland Pan-Am flight to New York 1988
• First New York World Trade Center attack 1993
• Dhahran, Saudi Arabia Khobar Towers Military complex 1996
• Nairobi, Kenya US Embassy 1998
• Dares Salaam, Tanzania US Embassy 1998
• Aden, Yemen USS Cole 2000
• New York World Trade Center 2001
• Pentagon 2001.
(Note: During the period from 1981 to 2001 there were 7,581 terrorist attacks worldwide).
2. The attacks happened during the administrations of Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and now Obama.
We cannot fault either the Republicans or Democrats as there were no provocations by any of our presidents or their immediate predecessors.
In each case, the attacks on the US were carried out by Muslims, who are 25% of the world’s population.
3. Hopefully, the Muslim Religion is peaceful, but that is really not material. There is no doubt that the predominately Christian population of Germany was peaceful, but under the dictatorial leadership of Hitler (who was also Christian),
that made no difference. You either went along with his administration or you were eliminated. There were 5 to 6 million Christians killed by the Nazis for political reasons (including 7,000 Polish priests).
Almost as many Christians were killed by the Nazis as the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust, but we seldom heard of anything other than the Jewish atrocities.
Although Hitler kept the world focused on the Jews, he had no hesitancy about killing anyone who got in the way of his exterminating the Jews or of taking over the world, German, Christian or any others.
It is the same with the Muslim terrorists. They focus the world on the U.S., but kill everyone who is in the way - their own people, or the Spanish, French or anyone else.
The point is that, just like the peaceful Germans were unable to protect anyone from the Nazis, no matter how many peaceful Muslims there may be, they are no protection from the terrorist Muslim leaders
and what they are fanatically bent on doing - by their own pronouncements - killing all "infidels."
I don't blame the peaceful Muslims. What would you do if the choice was shut up or die?
4. So who are we at war with?
There is no honest response that it is anyone other than Muslim terrorists.
Trying to be politically correct and not acknowledging this conclusion can be fatal.
There is no way to win if we don't clearly recognize and say who you are fighting.
Given that background, there are two important questions:
1. Can we lose this war?
2. What does losing really mean?
We can definitely lose this war, and the major reason is that far too many Americans simply do not fathom the answer to the second question, “What does losing mean?”
For one thing, it means we would no longer be the premier country in the world. But, regardless, the attacks will continue.
Remember, the terrorists want us dead, not just quiet. If they just wanted us quiet, they would not have increased the number of attacks against us over the years.
I believe their plan has clearly been to attack us until we become completely submissive to them.
As a result, we would no longer receive support from other nations: for fear of reprisals and because they would see that we are impotent and cannot protect them.
In addition, they will pick off the other non-Muslim nations, one at a time, which will become increasingly easy for them.
If we lose the war, our production, income, exports and way of life will all vanish. Who would trade or deal with us, if by doing so they were threatened by the Muslims,
and if we can't stop the Muslims, how can anyone else?
The Muslims have no doubts about what is riding on this war, and therefore are completely committed to winning it.
We had better know it, too, and become committed to winning at any cost as well.
However, until we recognize the costs of losing, we cannot unite and really put 100% of our efforts into winning.
If we do not, we will defeat ourselves by refusing to recognize the enemy and their purpose, but if we are united, there is no way we can lose.
However, if we continue to be divided, there is no way we can win!
Here are a few examples of why many Americans simply don't comprehend the life and death seriousness of this situation.
Although all of the terrorist attacks were committed by Muslim men between 17 and 40 years of age, the Obama administration refuses to allow “profiling.”
Does that sound like we are taking this situation seriously?
I blame those Americans who blithely assume we must always be “Politically Correct,” even during times of conflict.
This does not mean that some of our politicians or media people are disloyal. It simply means that many of them are oblivious to the magnitude of the situation we are in and the direction the
Muslim terrorists have been pushing us, particularly in recent years.
Remember, the Muslim terrorists stated goal is to kill all infidels, not just in the United States, but everywhere.
America is the last bastion of defense.
We have been criticized as being 'arrogant,' a charge that is valid in at least one respect, in that we believe we are so good and powerful and smart that we can win the hearts and minds of those who attack us,
and that we can defeat any opponent, even with both hands tied behind our back.
Unfortunately, if we don't recognize this, our nation as we know it will not survive, and no other free country in the world will survive if we are defeated.
Finally, name any Muslim country throughout the world that allows freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, equal rights for anyone (let alone everyone), equal status for women,
or that have been productive in any single way that contributes to the good of the world.
This has been a long way of saying that we must be united in this war or we will be relegated in the history books, similar to the self-inflicted fall of the Roman Empire.
That is, if Muslim leaders will allow history books to be written or read.
Democracies don't have their freedoms taken away from them by some external military force. Instead, they give them away, politically correct piece by politically correct piece.
Unfortunately, they are giving those freedoms away to those who have shown that they abhor freedom and will not allow them to continue once they are in power.
Yet, we continue to hear about the "peaceful Muslims."
It’s always easy to find fault with our country, but I believe it is painfully obvious that we must UNITE!
© 2013 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 17:46 PM By admin
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|Wednesday, August 28, 2013|
The term “greedy corporations” or its equivalent seems to appear regularly in commentaries about oil and gas prices, pharmaceuticals, energy, minimum wage, housing, the mortgage crisis, tax policy, etc. – just about every economic or social issue.
“Greedy corporations” and, by implication, their “greedy” owners are said to be responsible for many of the ills that befall our society. However, as Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy and they is us.”
To begin with, corporations aren’t greedy or generous or socially conscious or anything else, for that matter. They are merely a legal fiction, entities created by the state for the purpose of facilitating the conduct of business. They can sue and be
sued in the courts, but they do not eat, breathe, love or hate, or vote, or any of the other things that people do. So, how can they exhibit such human characteristics as greed? And, if corporations can’t actually be greedy themselves, then perhaps
it is their owners and managers who are.
And, who might these terrible people be? They are your friends, relatives, neighbors, church and community leaders, directors and executives of non-profit entities, school administrators - just about any leader of any enterprise, perhaps you yourself.
No doubt you may think some of them are greedy, but certainly not all, or even most of them. Who qualifies as greedy and who makes that determination? You? Or are others deciding for you?
Major corporations, such as the Fortune 500 companies, are generally owned by many thousands or millions of shareholders, often through union pension trusts, retirement plans, mutual funds and other investment entities, which assemble the power
of numbers to make large investments on behalf of their individual investors - “Us.” However, for the most part, small corporations are businesses that don’t have enough economic power to influence anyone. They are usually just vehicles for managing
the affairs of a business, providing a way for their owner-operators to make a living. Their profits are often not much more than wages, and not too great a wage at that. Are these the greedy corporations we read or hear about so often?
Out of a total of approximately 5.6 million corporate tax returns filed in 2004 (IRS Statistics: Number of Returns, Receipts, and Net Income by Type of Business), freerepublic.com reported that over three million small businesses were “Subchapter S”
(Sub S) corporations in that year. They pay little or no income tax on their earnings because they are treated like partnerships for tax reporting purposes. These are referred to as “pass through” entities, which means they simply pass their earnings through
directly to the owners, who include them on their personal income tax returns and pay taxes on the corporate profits at individual rates.
Further demonstrating the extent to which “greedy corporations” are “Us,” in their “Outline of the U.S. economy,” www.usinfo.state.gov noted, “Fully 99 percent of all independent enterprises in the country employ fewer than 500 people.
These small enterprises account for 52 percent of all U.S. workers, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)…By contrast, 47.7 million Americans work for firms with 500 or more employees.”
If corporations can’t actually be greedy, and if their owners are, for the most part, “Us,” where does the notion of “greedy corporations” come from, and why? The obvious answer is from the media and other special interest groups, including politicians,
who want to influence the public’s view of various issues.
The public is continually duped into accepting broad brush character assassination that is intended to influence their perceptions for political purposes. Just one example is the current situation with the financial crisis, which politicians are using in an effort to
enhance their own credentials as self-sacrificing crusaders for the public good who are trying to regulate the market for the benefit of their constituents.
No one ever seems to point out the fact that the very people who label someone else as greedy are, in fact, often guilty of the same behavior themselves. Taxpayers are called greedy if they want to keep their own money, but politicians who want to take
it from them and spend it themselves are not. Or, large corporations, as in drug, oil and energy companies, are labeled greedy when prices go up and their profits increase but not when prices go down and they lose money.
There are individual examples of greed that are so extreme that they cry out for justice, however, in general it’s apparently Ok to lose money but it’s greedy to make it, unless, of course, we are the ones making the profit.
In the final analysis, greed is not bad but good. It’s nothing more than self-interest at work, which provides the lubricant that makes the wheels of commerce turn, not just in capitalist America but everywhere in every type of economic system,
including socialism and communism.
© 2013 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
Posted at 23:19 PM By admin
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|Wednesday, August 21, 2013|
|Boredom and murder? Teenagers kill just for "the fun of it"|
By Dr. Wendy J. James
Parents have a responsibility to raise their children to be productive, responsible, law abiding citizens.
Some things we know and some we do not know about this incident.
We do know they have a psychological problem.
What we do not know is why their parents, or the counselors at the school did not notice their problems and get them the psychological counseling they needed.
We do know is when more than one individual gets together there is a chance of a pack behavior leading to encourage each other to deviate behavior. A group exacerbates what one individual may not do. In psychology, we call this a convergence theory.
We do know that a firearm was used in the commission of this murder.
What we do not know is where did they get the gun?
We do not know, if they obtained a gun from one of their homes. If they did, we know the parents were negligent and irresponsible for not securing the firearm in their house.
We know that one of the murders bragged about the killing on Facebook. As a psychologist, there are many theories on the problems of extensive use of social media.
There is a general agreement among mental health professions that extensive use of social media leads to societal isolation.
What we do know, is that they are being tried as adults.
What we do not know is, if they had a history of deviant behavior, violence, drugs or alcohol problems.
As a psychologist, in situations that involve shooting, there is a noted underlining psychological problem that had not been addressed. What is disturbing for me is when we allow mental health issues to be the norm and do not respond to abnormal behavior as parents, school counselors or as a community.
As a result, we are becoming more fearful and aware of individuals with psychological problems, who wander unidentified in our society.
Posted at 22:00 PM By admin
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