CURRENT EVENTS – JUNE, 2019

Mueller on Second Thought

The more I’ve thought about the Mueller Report, which came out in April, the less independent and less conclusive I think it was. It clearly states that after 22 months and $35 million, they found no evidence of collusion on the part of the Trump campaign or administration with the Russians in the 2016 election.

The conclusions on obstruction of justice were a somewhat muddled and disingenuous cop out. It appears they wanted to throw a bone to the Democrats in the House of Reps to keep the case open.

There was no underlying crime and there should have been no reason they couldn’t reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice.

A job left undone with a little partisanship.

We’re Not the Happiest or Healthiest

There’s a lot of great things about our healthcare system. [But] we’re spending trillions of dollars [and] life expectancy is 23rd in the world. Life expectancy has dropped three years in a row in the United States.

One word that comes up in the series is stress.

Other countries that have lifestyles that maybe aren’t that different than the United States continue to go down in mortality and up in life expectancy. Why? They have structures and systems in place to allow people to have reprieve from stress. They assign real value to it. In the rugged individualist society in the United States, we take great pride in not getting a break from that stress.

Joe Biden Joins the Democratic Crush

The former V.P. says he wants to be president. Not sure how hard he’ll work to prove it. He’s running an old-fashioned campaign so far, out of touch with all the other 22 hopefuls, as well as the new millennials…and all the social media gurus, flip flopping along the way, it’s almost as if there are two primaries—the one Joe Biden is in and the one all the progressives are in.

Housing in America

Much has changed in America over the last 60 years. When it comes to housing, we have witnessed a dramatic, downward shift in accessibility and affordability.

Houses are more expensive—the average cost in 1960 was $98,000; today it’s $225,900.

Housing costs are rising faster than incomes—homeowners earn 50% more than in 1960; home prices have gone up 112%. Nearly half of renters struggle to afford their housing. Renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

No Religion Rising

According to the General Social Survey, the number of Americans who identify as having no religion has risen over 26% since 1991 and is now tied evenly with the number of Catholics and Evangelicals. According to the survey, people with no religion account for 23% of the U.S. population in 2018, about the same as Catholics and Evangelicals.

No More Passports

The tech genies tell us the day is coming when we’ll no longer need passports. Our computers will know us by our style and usage.

I can’t wait!

Enough Already

We’ve had touching, hugging, harassment, assault. It’s all getting tiresome, redundant and some questionable.

If it wasn’t important enough to go public five years ago, why is it so important now?

Will going public heal anything? Time to move on.

The Epidemic of Racehorse Deaths

Since December, something like 29 horses have died or had to be euthanized at the famed Santa Anita Racetrack, and nobody knows why.’

It’s alarming, sad and mysterious.

At least until you hear the report from Real Sports on HBO. They claim that all over the U.S. some 2,000 horses die or have to be euthanized every year. What a gigantic blot on the sport of kings.
The HBO report goes on to compare racing in France, where there are essentially no deaths. The difference, they point out, is in France horses are not allowed to have any drugs the day they race.

In the interest of trying to get more winners, thoroughbreds here are drugged heavily and often to keep them running at the expense of the horse’s health and safety.

One other factor, horses here are given lots of growth stimulants to make them bigger, which make them more vulnerable to leg injuries. Not so in France, where horses are smaller and sturdier.

How deplorable!

Nobody Likes Tariffs

Except Trump, who has used the threat of tariffs effectively as a negotiating tool as with Mexico and maybe China, if that comes to pass.

Private Equity’s Part in Hollywood’s Civil War

As writers feud with their agents over compensation, some claim that investment giants played a role in turning talent agencies into businesses that squeeze their client’s earnings, Noam Scheiber of the NYT writes.

Firms like TPG Capital and Silver Lake took big stakes in talent agencies. TPG bought a majority stake in Creative Artists Agency, while Silver Lake invested in Endeavor, the parent company of WME.

And they helped transform the agencies’ business models, with a move from representing talent toward producing content. They also encouraged “packaging” deals, where agencies bundle multiple clients into a single production.

Those practices are problematic, writers argue. Agencies or their parent companies are now “in the position of simultaneously negotiating on behalf of writers and hiring them, a dynamic that could hurt their pay,” Mr. Scheiber writes.

Some agencies concede that thy have been “too aggressive” in seeking packaging fees. But thy deny that private-equity investments fueled the practices.

BY THE WAY, the House Judiciary Firebrand Chairman Nadler is not going to get an unredacted copy of the Mueller report, nor will his subpoenas of AG Barr or former White House Counsel McGahn go anywhere and all this constant talk about impeachment isn’t going anywhere either. You can’t be impeached for being obnoxious.

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Does Government Cause Poverty

DOES GOVERNMENT CAUSE POVERTY?
Some interesting facts and opinions from Michael Tanner, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, from his new book, The Inclusive Economy.
“Despite what you may hear about how stingy we are as a country, we spend an enormous amount of money fighting poverty. The federal government alone has more than 100 different anti-poverty programs—about 70 which provide benefits directly to individuals and the remainder which provide benefits to poor communities. The federal government spent roughly $700 billion last year on these programs. State and local governments kick in another $300 billion, meaning we spent about a trillion dollars fighting poverty last year.
“Since 1965 when Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, we’ve spent about $26 trillion in constant 2018 dollars fighting poverty. And the question is: what have we gotten for this money?
“Even the federal government can’t spend a trillion dollars a year and not accomplish something. You could fly over the country in an airplane, shovel a trillion dollars out of the back, and actually reduce poverty.
“But is that really enough? Is that all we should do? If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, down at the base there’s food, shelter, and other basic needs. We do a pretty good job of providing that, but moving up that pyramid we find accomplishment and self-actualization—human flourishing the idea that people should be able to achieve everything that they can with their talents and abilities. They should be self-sufficient. They should have control over their own lives and destinies.
“And I defy you to go to some place such as Sandtown in Baltimore, or East Fresno, California, or Owsley, Kentucky—the poorest communities in America. And look at folks in those communities and say, are they thriving? Are they achieving everything they can? Are they masters of their fate? And the answer would clearly be no.
“So, I wanted to look at something different and ask: is there a better way that we can fight poverty in this country than what we’ve been doing, which is simply throwing money at the problem? I started at the beginning in The Inclusive Economy asking, ‘why are people poor?’ I found that there are basically two competing theories on the left and the right about poverty.”On the right people basically said, “it’s the poor’s fault.’ They say the poor make bad choices, there’s this culture of poverty, and they point to something called the success sequence. This view says that if you finish high school, you get a job, and you don’t have children until you get married, your chances of being poor are very slim. All of those are true individually, and if you do all three of those things the likelihood of being in poverty is very, very slim. ‘OK, clearly the poor are making bad choices. They’re not doing these things, and that’s why people are poor.’
“If the right blames bad choices, the left says, ‘No. We blame society.’ They look at things like racism, gender discrimination, and economic dislocation, and say ‘these larger societal issues are what ultimately leads to poverty.’ That if you look at the abysmal history we have in this country of how we’ve treated people of color and women, those things contribute to where people are today.
“So I asked, ‘Which of these is correct?’ and ultimately I concluded that both are to some degree, and that neither are to a large degree. Clearly the right has a point that you can’t strip poor people of agency and pretend that their decisions don’t matter, that there are no consequences to their actions, that nothing they do ever matters. That’s an incredibly demeaning way to treat the poor.
“But we must take into account the context in which choices and decisions are made, what economists refer to as the constraints on our decisions. And the simple fact is, if you’re a poor black child growing up in inner-city Baltimore you face a very different set of circumstances than if you were a white kid growing up in the suburbs in Chevy Chase, Maryland. If you live in an area where there are no jobs, the schools are terrible, and the police hassle you ever time you step foot outside your door, then you’re going to make very different choices.
“So both theories have something to them, but both are also missing a much bigger point and a much bigger villain in the debate. As I looked more and more into this, I found that the real problem isn’t the poor themselves, and it isn’t society. It’s the government. If we really wanted to fight poverty in this country, what we should do is tell the government to stop making people poor.
“So what I laid out in the book are five areas where I thought that we could implement libertarian solutions to government policies that are pushing people into poverty.
‘Number one is criminal justice reform. Our criminal justice system is prejudiced against low-income people and people of color at every step from the top to the bottom. This has a significant impact on poverty. You can commit an offense—
something that shouldn’t even be an offense—when you’re young and end up with
a criminal record that 20 or 30 years later is following you around and preventing
you from getting a job. You can simply look at the number of young, black men
who are in the criminal justice system, who are basically taken out of the job
market, and therefore also taken out of the marriage pool, so to speak.
“William Julius Wilson suggests that there are a million and a half young black
men who are either in jail, on probation, or have a criminal record that renders
them unemployable or unmarriageable. You know, conservatives have for a long
time pointed out that poor women shouldn’t have children if they’re not married.
And they say, we need to encourage marriage. Who the heck are these women
supposed to marry?
“We take the men in these communities and lock them up for something like
having marijuana or—my God, remember Eric Garner in New York, who was
killed because he sold an untaxed cigarette. If we lock people up for things that
shouldn’t be crimes and tag them with a criminal record for the rest of their lives,
we shouldn’t be surprised that we create large pools of poverty. Scholars at
Vanderbilt University estimate that if we had criminal justice reform in this country
we could reduce the poverty rate through that step alone by 20 percent.
“Second: we need to reform the government-run school system that is leaving so
many people behind. It’s not a matter of spending money. We spend tons of
money on education. In fact, we keep spending more and more money without
getting any better results. You can look at some of the worst school systems in the
country and find that they spend more per student than anywhere else. What we
really need if we want to reform our school systems is choice and competition.
And we can argue about what the best way to do that: charter schools, vouchers,
tuition tax credits. But we need to make sure that the school system operates for
the children and that the parents are in control.
“Third: we need to reduce the cost of housing in this country. The poor spend a
disproportionate amount of their money on housing about 40 percent of then-
income on average. This causes a lot of problems. If you’re spending a lot of
money on housing you don’t have a lot of money for other things, obviously. It
also locks the poor into bad neighborhoods because they can’t afford to move to an
area that might have a better school, less crime, or more jobs. And the cost of
housing is often driven by government politics, in particular zoning, which can add50 percent to the cost of housing. Across the country it’s about 10 percent, on average.
“If we really want to make housing affordable in this country, it’s not a matter of having more subsidies to chase ever-higher costs. It’s a matter of getting rid of those regulations to reduce the cost of housing, so the poor can have mobility and move into the areas where the jobs are.
“Fourth: we need to increase savings among the poor. Now this is kind of axiomatic but we often forget that the opposite of poverty is wealth. We want to encourage poor people to save money and accumulate wealth, but our policies are often perversely designed to encourage consumption and discourage savings. That includes banking laws. We’re so terrified of terrorism and drug-money laundering that we require all sorts of special rules and identification in order to open a bank account. You know, people worry in this country about whether you need an ID for voting. About 20 percent of poor people in this country don’t have sufficient identification to open a bank account! Just imagine what it means if you can’t open a bank account. It means you can’t borrow, it means you can’t save, it means that you have to go to these check-cashing places that charge you high fees. It means you’re walking around all the time with wads of money in your pocket so you get robbed, or the police pick you up and think you’re a drug courier because you have $500 in your pocket.
“And finally, perhaps most importantly, we need to have inclusive economic growth. Nothing has lifted more people out of poverty than economic growth. Throughout most of history man was desperately poor. There was a small aristocracy that was slightly less starving than the people below them, but basically we were all in abject, miserable poverty throughout most of mankind’s history.
“And then about 300 years ago something happened. Human wealth began to increase, and people began to rise out of poverty. That something was modern free-market capitalism. But economic growth will only lift people out of poverty if it’s inclusive, if everybody can participate in a growing economy.
“What we really need to do is look at what is preventing poor people from becoming rich.
“By implementing powerful libertarian solutions that involve more liberty, more freedom, and less government, we can create prosperity that benefits everyone including the poorest people in our society.”

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TOO MUCH, TOO SOON

via TOO MUCH, TOO SOON

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June 6, 2019 · 1:00 am

STEM THE TIDE OF ANTI-SEMITISM – RESOLVE THE MIDEAST CONFLICT

These are interconnected issues. The Anti-Semitism feeds and grows on the fundamental conflict between Israel and all its neighbors who refuse to accept this small country as a sovereign nation and constantly call for its destruction.

• Terrorist group Hamas’ leader, Ismail Haniyeh, has called for launching an intifada—an all-out war—on Israel.

• Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist organization, is calling on Arabs to take up armed resistance against Israel.

• Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said, God willing, there will be nothing left of the Zionist regime in 25 years.”

• And there are thousands of rockets in Iran—aimed at Israel.

Dennis Prager points to key moments in the Israel-Palestine conflict that demonstrate that Israel is willing to allow Palestine to exist peacefully as their own state, while the Palestinians, and many of the surrounding Arab states, do not share that same view towards Israel.

“This has been true since 1947, when the United Nations voted to divide the land called Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state,” Prager says. “The Jews accepted the United Nations partition but no Arab or any other Muslim country ever accepted it.”

The day after the United Nations recognized Israel as a sovereign nation, the Arab states of Egypt, Lebanon, Transjordan, Iraq and Syria all descended on the Jewish state with every intention of destroying it, but Israel thwarted their efforts.

In 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan all prepared to attack Israel again, but Israel launched preemptive strikes to defend themselves, acquiring the Sinai Peninsula and West Bank in the process.

A decade later, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt with the promise of peace. Israel has been willing to do the same with Palestine in regard to the West Bank, but such deals have been continually rejected by the Palestinians because they all involved recognizing Israel’s right to exist. Instead, the Palestinians continue to churn out anti-Semitic, anti-Israel propaganda and launch terror attacks against the Jewish state.

“Think about these two questions: If, tomorrow, Israel laid down its arms and announced, ‘We will fight no more,’ what would happen? And if the Arab countries around Israel laid down their arms and announced, ‘We will fight no more,’ what would happen?” Prager asks. “In the first case there would be an immediate destruction of the state of Israel and the mass murder of its Jewish population. In the second case, there would be peace the next day.”

Prager then points out that the land where Israel resides has historically been the area of a Jewish state, never an Arab or Palestinian state, which boils the issue down to one question: “Why can’t the one Jewish state the size of El Salvador be allowed to exist?”

In the summer of 2000, there was a summit at Camp David Presidential Retreat between U.S. President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

There has been historic agreement that PM Barak made a generous offer to Arafat, an offer he would have difficulty getting approved by his legislature.

No problem! At the last minute, Arafat rejected it. The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Former Israeli PM Golda Meir summed up the problem when she said, “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

In recent years, the Arab offensive has been mounted on two fronts with quite a lot of success in increasing Anti-Semitism.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement

Since Israel’s founding in 1948, its enemies have repeatedly attempted to destroy or weaken the Jewish state through wars, terrorism, and delegitimization at international organizations. More recently, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has emerged as an effort to further stigmatize, delegitimize and isolate the State of Israel.

Key Points

• Delegitimization of Israel: At its heart, BDS does not aim to affect positive political change or improve the situation for Palestinians. The BDS movement’s objective is to delegitimize Israel and undermine its right to exist.

• Dangerous and Disingenuous Equivalence: BDS dishonestly equates former apartheid South Africa with present-day Israel in order to enlist people of conscience in a global campaign of economic and social pressure.

• Anti-Peace: BDS does not seek a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, the movement and many of its proponents simply seek to destroy Israel.

• Isolation Campaign: BDS proponents seek to drive a wedge between Israel and the rest of the world—separating Israel’s government, businesses, universities and people from their partners abroad.

On a second front, the PLO, along with their allies, have very successfully mounted a very effective public relations program at the United Nations to describe the plight of the Palestinian people for which Israel should be condemned. And the UN has done exactly that many times, which has also produced a growing wave of Anti-Semitism at the UN and throughout the world.

This is a fictitious narrative which, truth be told, could all be resolved with recognition of Israel and a working economic and political peace.

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HOW ADULTHOOD HAPPENS

This year’s commencement address is from David Brooks, writer for the N.Y. Times, and provides a roadmap for graduates.

“Every society has its rites of passage, marking the transition from youth to adulthood. Most of these rites of passage are ritualized and structured, with adult supervision and celebration. But the major rite of passage in our society is unritualized, unstructured and unnamed. Most of the people in the middle of it don’t even know it is going on. It happens between ages 22 and 30.

“The people who endure this rite of passage have often attended colleges where they were not taught how to work hard. As Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa write in their book Aspiring Adults Adrift, the average student at a four-year college studies alone just over one hour per day. That is roughly half as much students were compelled to study just a generation ago.

“Meanwhile, colleges have become socially rich, stocked with student centers, student organizations, expensive gyms, concerts and activities. As Arum’s and Roksa’s research demonstrates, academic life is of secondary or tertiary importance to most students. Social life comes first. Students experience college as a place to meet other people and learn to build relationships.

“When they leave campus, though, most of those social connections and structures are ripped away. Suddenly fresh alumni are cast out into a world almost without support organizations and compelled to hustle for themselves.

“These twenty-somethings live in a world of radical freedom, flux and insecurity. Surveys show they are very pessimistic about the state of the country, but amazingly optimistic about their own eventual destiny. According to the Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults, 86 percent agree with the statement, ‘I am confident that eventually I will get what I want out of life.’

“In the meantime, many spend the first few years out of college aspiring but adrift. They are largely unattached to religious institutions. Two-thirds report that they are not politically engaged. Half the students in Arum’s and Roksa’s recent study reported that they lacked clear goals or a sense of direction two years after graduation.

“Yet they are not sure they want to rush into adulthood. As Jeffrey Jensen Arnett and Elizabeth Fishel write in Getting to 30, ‘The value of youth has risen, and the desirability of adulthood has dropped accordingly. Today’s young people expect to reach adulthood eventually and they expect to enjoy their adult lives, but most are in no hurry to get there.’

“One way they cope is by moving back home. A third of the graduates in the Arum and Roksa sample were living at home, levels roughly double the share of grads living at home in the 1960s. Three-quarters of 18- to 25-year-olds who were not living at home received financial assistance from their parents. American parents provide an average of $38,000 in assistance to their young adult children.

“The first big ordeal is finding a job. Many young adults have not been give basic information about how to go about this. As my Times colleague April Lawson notes, they are often given the advice, ‘Follow your dream! The possibilities are limitless!’which is completely discordant with the grubby realities they face. They want meaningful work with social impact. They want to bring their whole selves to work, and ignore the distinctions between professional and intimate life that were in the heads of earlier generations. But meaningful work is scarce. Fifty-three percent of college graduates in the Arum and Roksa sample who were in the labor force were unemployed, underemployed or making less than $30,000 a year.

“As emerging adults move from job to job, relationship to relationship and city to city, they have to figure out which of their meanderings are productive exploration and which parts are just wastes of time. This question is very confusing from the inside, and it is certainly confusing for their parents.

“Yet here is the good news. By age 30, the vast majority are through it. The sheer hardness of the ‘Odyssey Years’ teaches people to hustle. The trials and errors of the decade carve contours onto their hearts, so they learn what they love and what they don’t. They develop their own internal criteria to make their own decisions. They fear what other people think less because they learn that other people are not thinking about them; they are busy thinking about themselves.

“Finally, they learn to say no. After a youth dazzled by possibilities and the fear of missing out, they discover that committing to the few thigs you love is a sort of liberation. They piece together their mosaic.

“One thing we can tell young grads and their parents is that this is normal. This phase is a thing. It’s not a sentence to a life of video games, loneliness and hangovers. It’s a rite of passage that makes people strong.”

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THE BEST U.S. NATIONAL PARKS

Theodore Roosevelt, the president who essentially created the National Park System in the early 1900s said, “The ages have been at work on the national landscape and man can only marvel at it. What you can do is keep it for your children and your children’s children.”

The national park system comprises nearly 400 areas of special importance in the United States—a system that includes exceptional natural, historical, scientific, and recreational sites, including lakeshores, battlefields, monuments, canyons, and seashores. Here are the best of the system.

1. YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, California

The work of giant glaciers during the ice age, Yosemite National Park is a famous natural wonderland in the Sierra Nevada showcasing waterfalls, meadows, and forests of giant sequoia. Half Dome and El Capitan, rock formations towering above Yosemite Valley, are virtually American icons. Try to visit Yosemite Falls, the tallest in North America; hike to Mirror Lake; kayak along the Merced River; visit the giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove; and then relax at the Ahwahnee, the park’s grand old Arts and Crafts-style lodge.

2. HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, Hawaii

Eager to get close to an active volcano? Then this is the place for you. Located on the Big Island Kilauea and Mauna Loa are two of the most active volcanoes in the world. The first is more than 3,999 feet high and still growing. It abuts the second, a monster mountain that towers some 13,678 feet above the sea. The park stretches from sea level to Mauna Loa’s snowy summit.

3. GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Arizona

Stand on the edge of this immense gorge—more than one mile deep and up to 18 miles wide—and you will experience nature’s grandeur. The Colorado River carved the chasm over millennia. Hiking, rafting, and viewing opportunities are outstanding. To rest your feet while you take in the grandeur, let a mule do all the work on a day trip or an overnight ride to Phantom Ranch.

4. GETTYSBURG NATIONAL MILITARY PARK, Pennsylvania

Only cannon, stone walls, and countless monuments recall the horrors that unfolded on these bucolic fields on July 1, 1863. Here Union and Confederate soldiers fought the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Three days later, 51,000 men were dead, wounded, or missing. Take the 19-mile self-guided battlefield driving tour; you’ll pass McPherson Ridge, where the fighting began, and Little Round Top, strategic high ground. Don’t miss seeing Evergreen Cemetery, where President Abraham Lincoln gave his stirring Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. To further enrich your drive, use an audio tour, hire a Licensed Battlefield Guide to ride along with you, or take a bus ride that includes a guided tour. Start your visit at the Gettysburg Museum of the Civil War, with multimedia presentations, interactive exhibits, and the restored Cyclorama depicting Pickett’s Charge.

5. SEQUOIA & KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, California

While both of these parks have groves of giant sequoias, Sequoia—the southernmost of the two—is more accessible for casual visitors. To appreciate the rugged splendor, you should hike a trail; we recommend Congress, Big Baldy, Zumwalt Meadow, and the Moro Rock Trails. If you have time only to drive, then follow the Generals Highway for 17 miles from the Ash Mountain Entrance to the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest sequoia. Named for a Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, the tree is a towering 276-feet tall.

6. ALAGNAK WILD RIVER, Alaska

This pristine river begins within the Katmai National Park & Preserve at the head of the Aleutian Peninsula. From there, it rushes along for 67 miles past boreal forests and wet sedge tundra before joining the Pacific Ocean. Otters, moose, brown bears, and ospreys are just a few of the creatures that call this wilderness home.

7. SANTA FE NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, and Oklahoma

Between 1821 and 1880, the Santa Fe Trail was the main link between St. Louis, the gateway to the West, and Santa Fe, one of the West’s most prosperous cities. Families in covered wagons, soldiers, and prospectors bound for glorious gold (they hoped) all took the trail. When the railroad came to Santa Fe in 1880, the trail became obsolete. About 15 percent of the original trail remains. Parts are on privately-owned land, but you can still carve a trip out of it and drive past the forts and sights those early pioneers passed. Fort Osage in Missouri is a must-see, as is the quaint Lake Chance Store in Council Grove, Kansas. Cyclists, hikers, and equestrians can follow the course of the trail for 19 miles in the Cimarron National Grassland in Kansas.

8. STATUE OF LIBERTY NATIONAL PARK, New York

The 151-foot-tall green woman who stands as a graceful sentinel of Upper New York Bay has become an international symbol of freedom. Given to the United States in 1886 as a gift from the people of France, Lady Liberty has been one of the first—and certainly the most welcoming—sights in the United States for millions of immigrants. Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi sculpted her, perhaps in the image of his mother, and Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) devised an iron frame for the enormous copper sheets.

Visitors take ferries from Battery Park to Liberty Island. From there, the best way to truly get a feel for this marvelous piece of art is to take the elevator to the top of the pedestal and then climb the 354 steps to the top of her crown.

If you had any family who came to the U.S. and entered through Ellis Island, this is a must-see educational and emotional experience.

9. BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY, North Carolina, Virginia

Showcasing the age-old beauty of the southern Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited unit within the National Park System. The 469-mile, two-lane road connects Shenandoah National Park in the north to Great Smokey Mountains National Park in the south. You’ll ride along the crest of the Blue Ridge, as well as other mountains, dipping into deep hollows then rising up above the valleys as high as 6,001 feet. Plenty of remnants left by the mountain people who once lived here exist along the way.

10. NEW ORLEANS JAZZ HISTORICAL PARK, Louisiana

When Congress passed legislation that created this park in 1994, the intention was “to preserve the origins, early history, development, and progression of jazz.” And what better place to do this than New Orleans, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, where the uniquely American art form was born.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, this young park is evolving more slowly than planned. According to the original plans, the park eventually will consist of four buildings in Louis Armstrong Memorial Park. Until all of those buildings are restored, the park’s headquarters is located in the famous French Quarter. In June 2011, Perseverance Hall in Louis Armstrong Park, which is home to concerts and exhibits, was reopened. The park also offers two self-guided jazz audio tours, the Jazz Walk of Fame in Algiers Point, and an 11-stop tour of jazz history sites around the city.

And there’s more—Utah is Special

Zion National Park, Southwestern Utah
A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park of scenic wonders is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to 2,640 feet deep. The hiking and sightseeing are spectacular. Follow the paths where ancient native people and pioneers walked. Gaze up at the massive sandstone cliffs of cream pink and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Southwestern Utah (not far from Zion)

Unbelievable, like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s really not a canyon, but a collection of natural amphitheaters. The red, orange and white colors provide spectacular views. It covers 56,000 square miles.

Descending into the valley on horseback is a bit scary, but a glorious ride into another world.

Arches National Park, East Central Utah

Four miles north of Moab, discover a red-rocked landscape of contrasting colors land forms and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks.

It will amaze you!

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CAPITALISM IS ALIVE, BUT NOT ENTIRELY WELL

Let me be clear—I firmly believe free market capitalism offers more opportunity than any other economic system ever tried. It is responsible for raising the standard of living for more people than every other system.

Having said that, there are more and more signs of holes in the fabric of capitalism that bode ill for our future.

In an interview on 60 Minutes, Roy Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, the biggest hedge fund involving 110 clients and $240 billion in assets, said, “The disparity in income and wealth is approaching a national emergency.”

You can’t be more capitalistic than Dalio. “The American dream is lost,” he said. “It’s very different than when I was growing up.”

Income Gap

Dalio expressed similar sentiments in an essay posted on LinkedIn. He pointed to statistics including that the bottom 60 percent of income-earners in the U.S. keep falling further behind the top 40 percent—and that the percentage of children who grew up to earn more than their parents has fallen to 50 percent today from 90 percent in 1970.

The income gap is about as high as ever, and the wealth gap is the highest since the late 1930s because the wealth of the top one percent of the population is more than that of the bottom 90 percent combined, Dalio said.

The Republican idea that cutting taxes on the rich promotes productivity “doesn’t make any sense to me at all.” The wealthy “must pay more,” Dalio said, “The important thing is to take those tax dollars and make them productive,” he added.

“Disparity in wealth, especially when accompanied by disparity in values, leads to increasing conflict and, in the government, that manifests itself in the form of populism of the eft and populism of the right and often leads to revolutions of one sort or another,” Dalio wrote.

Nobody can be a better beneficiary of capitalism, although I find it difficult to agree with 100% of what Dalio postures, but he has many valid points and much to consider.

The stats from a few years back are enlightening and things have gotten worse.

• Over 300 million people in America
• 140 million taxpayer returns
• 250,000 plus (about 17%) earn more than $1,000,000 a year
• The richest 1% earn more than 19% of the country’s total household income

Wages are generally stagnant. John Kennedy’s adage, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” simply is not quite as true anymore.

Disney CEO Bob Iger, in his most recent comp package, got paid over 1,400 times as much as the company’s median employee. He’s done a great job at the Kingdom. The stock has risen from $24 to $132 under his watch.

He’s obviously a very capable employee—but he has no skin in the game.

Not sure how Disney employees feel about that disparity. There are dozens of examples of this disparity and the consequences they raise.

There are a growing number of people like Dalio who feel there is a tax revolt coming and a serious problem of unrest.

Dalio is certainly not alone. At the Milliken Institute’s Global Conference, his comments were echoed by Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase and Alan Schwartz of Guggenheim Partners (dodgers).

What are the consequences of this widening disparity?

For individual workers—more depression, more obesity, more stress-related issues.

For society as a whole—more polarization and more shifts to populist leaders and causes. The Democrats are moving more left to borrow socialist program and the Republicans are trying to live with Trump whose agenda is not always the same as the party.

Quite possible—unrest in the streets, a tax revolution and general discomfort with the status quo.

What can be done?

A. For the wealthy—higher personal and estate taxes. The doubling of the estate tax exemption to over $11 million in last year’s tax cut was the wrong direction.
B. Steps need to be taken to energize the wealthy to spend more money on important projects like Langone in NYU med school tuition or Dalio on education in Connecticut before they pass on.
C. Redefine the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) for everyone over $500,000/year and all corporations.
D. 60 Fortune 500 companies paid no federal income taxes on $79 billion in corporate income last year. Amazon said it’s effective tax rate was below zero. It got a $10.5 billion rebate.
E. Shareholders approve management comp plans when disparity ranges widen over 500 to 750 times median workers pay.
F. Investment (Wall St.) banks should be operated as partnerships (not corporations) as they were before 1993.
G. Commercial and investment banks should be separated and capital requirements should be at least 15-to-1.

For the economically disadvantaged

1. Provide better education—more school choice—mandatory school uniforms—counter the influence of teachers’ unions
2. Do more to discourage out-of-wedlock births
3. The advocacy of open borders will put more pressure on the poor. Establish quotas for migrant workers
4. Make English the official language of the U.S. and all government documents in English.

Five years ago when I first considered and wrote about the disparity gap in wealth and income, I tended to believe that market forces would help improve the disparity problem as the overall economy expanded.

Well it hasn’t happened

Five years ago our national debt was $17 trillion. Today it’s $22 trillion. This only exacerbates the problem because we have to pay interest on the debt, which leaves less available money to govern.

The consequences of following the lead suggested by the disparity advocates of continually increasing the safety net, more spending by the government of money we have to borrow, expanding unionization and raising the debt ceiling offers no easy or acceptable path that will produce any positive results.

Contrary to the disparity advocates, this country has now and will continue to offer unlimited opportunities for those who prepare through at least a high school education, want to seek out opportunity, and are willing to work hard enough to make it happen.

Average CEO compensation reported for the 500 biggest US companies in 2012 was $10.5 million (Forbes Executive Compensation Report), which works out to almost $6,000 per hour. Private industry worker salary and benefits averaged $31.16 per hour in September 2013 while workers in state and local governments averaged $42.51 per hour (the Bureau of Labor Statistics). The question de jour by many, noted liberal economists, is whether this is FAIR or good for America?…the insinuation being that CEO’s are unfairly paid too much.

The disparity advocates warn that there are serious consequences to this gap that include an invitation to social unrest, as well as a deepening rut into which the poor will be entrenched. It will foment resentment, failing morale, disincentive, unrest and maybe revolution.

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