Category Archives: Blog

THE HOMELESS CRISIS – TIMES TWO

The first part of the crisis is the shear numbers and how they have grown to numerous, uncomfortable and embarrassing levels. The second crisis is no one seems to know what to do about it.

Every politician has a somewhat different and changing position about how to deal with the problem, and so do I. It’s hard to know where to start or find much agreement on how to resolve the situation.

A researcher at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sums up the problem in a broader context.

By examining the problem of homelessness on a state level, we can better address the magnitude of the situation. California has the largest population of people experiencing homelessness with nearly 130,000, 90,000 of whom are unsheltered according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city of San Francisco alone had a 30% increase in homelessness since 2015. New York has approximately 91,000 and Florida has over 31,000. California is in a state of crisis mainly to the lack of affordable housing and the significant housing shortage. The average house price in the Bay Area is $1.25 million. L.A. is the least affordable housing district in America.

Given these challenges, efforts to tackle homelessness through increased state involvement in the housing sector have not been able to yield the intended results. This strategy amounts to simply throwing money at the problem. Oregon has recently passed the first statewide mandatory rent-controlled bill for all citizens in March of this year as an emergency measure. Rent hikes are capped at 7 percent including inflation during any 12-month period. California is attempting to enact a legal “right to shelter” mandate modeled after that of New York in effect since 1981. Last year, New York spent $3.2 billion on services to house its homeless population and $1.5 billion on shelters. It has created a safe haven. The California “right to shelter” plan does not offer any specifics, yet California is spending tons of money with little signs of progress. California legislators have allocated $650 million, with $124 million for building more homeless shelters despite the majors’ request for $2 billion. The costs to build are much too high.

For another view, I turned to the N.Y. Times California Newsletter and spoke with Dr. Margot Kushel, a leading homelessness researcher.

Margot Kushel is having the moment she never wanted to have.

Dr. Kushel is an internist at the University of California, San Francisco. She started specializing in low-income populations shortly after graduating from the Yale School of Medicine, and has spent two decades researching the underlying causes and consequences of homelessness in relative anonymity.

Lately, however, she’s seen her profile rise, as the problem she has spent her career trying to solve has escalated.

Last year, Dr. Kushel was named director of an Institute For Homeless Research, which was endowed with $30 million from Marc Benioff, the billionaire founder of Salesforce. The initiative is focused on translating proven homeless solutions into widespread adoption and continuing to research what isn’t known.

Here’s the conversation, edited and condensed for length:

Tell me about your career and how you ended up specializing in homelessness.

When I started residency, I realized that approximately half of the inpatients we cared for were homeless. We would admit patients to the hospital, give them all this very high quality, expert medical care, and then, eventually, we would have to discharge patients back to their homelessness, meaning to outside. Patients would ask me to please not discharge them, but eventually we wouldn’t have a choice. Inevitably, a few days later, the patient would be back, often in worse shape than they had been in before. I remember thinking that there had to be a different way and decided to change my career plans.

Most people who become homeless “self-resolve,” meaning they find housing. We don’t know how long that takes, and whether we could shorten it substantially by intervening. We know that for most people, long-term subsidies are the answer, but there may be people who need shorter term help. We are going to try to figure out who needs what, while working to solve the main problem, which is the shortage of extremely low-income housing.

What would it take to end homelessness?

We’ve always known that most homelessness is a result, pure and simple, of poverty: the lack of a living wage, the lack of affordable housing and the insidious impact of racism. If we don’t fix the fundamentals, we are just patching a leaking ship. And that is what has happened.

It would take an investment in creating and sustaining extremely low-income housing and efforts to increase the minimum wage and to close the existing housing gap. Right now in California there are 22 units available and affordable for every 100 households with extremely low incomes.

What was the state of understanding our homelessness when you first got started versus what we know now?

When we first started, people believed that to provide housing, people needed to go through steps. First, a shelter. Then, if they “behaved well” (didn’t use drugs, took medicines, etc.), they could get to transitional housing. If they did everything “right” then they could be offered permanent housing. As a result, only a tiny proportion of people with behavioral disabilities became housed.

Housing First turned that upside down, recognizing that when people were homeless, they couldn’t attend to their mental health or substance use needs (or anything else). This has been enormously successful, housing about 85 percent of the most complex folks. There is overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence that this works—people are housed successfully, and then the other things follow.

What are some of the myths around homelessness?

You hear people saying things like, “You can’t just house people who have addiction problems.” You can, and you must. Another is that homelessness is caused by mental health and substance abuse problems. We know that most homelessness is driven by economic forces. The vast majority of people who become homeless could be easily housed if there were housing that they could afford on their income. Yes, having mental health and substance use problems are risk factors. But, most people with these disabilities are housed.

What don’t we know about homelessness?

There is a lot more work to be done in homelessness prevention. We know that for some people, a small infusion of resources (cash, services) can prevent homelessness. But, for every 100 or so people at high risk, only one will become homeless. So, we need to do a better job of figuring out who the potential homeless people are.

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QUICK LESSONS IN MANAGEMENT

Lesson 1:

A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings.

The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs.

When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbor.

Before she says a word, Bob says, “I’ll give you $800 to dro0p that towel.”

After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob. After a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves.

The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs.

When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, “Who was that?”

“It was Bob, our next-door neighbor,” she replies.

“Great,” the husband says. “Did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?”

Lesson 2:

A priest offered a nun a lift.

She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg.

The priest nearly had an accident.

After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg.

The nun said, “Father, remember Psalm 129?”

The priest apologized, “Sorry, sister, but the flesh is weak.”

Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way.

On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129. It said, “Go forth and seek; further up, you will find glory.”

Lesson 3:

A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking for lunch when they find an antique oil lamp.

They rub it and a Genie comes out.

The Genie says, “I’ll give each of you just one wish.”

“Me first, me first,” says the admin clerk. “I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.”

Puff! She’s gone.

“Me next, me next,” says the sales rep. “I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.”

Puff! She’s gone.

“Okay, you’re up,” the Genie says to the manager.

The manager says, “I want those two back in the office after lunch.”

Lesson 4:

An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing.

A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, “Can I also sit like you and do nothing?”

The eagle answered, “Sure, why not.”

So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Lesson 5:

A turkey was chatting with a bull.

“I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree,” sighed the turkey, “but I haven’t got the energy.” “Well, why don’t you nibble on my droppings?” replied the bull. “They’re packed with nutrients.”

The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree.

The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch.

Finally, after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree.

He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.

Lesson 6:

A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold, the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field.

While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him.

As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realize how warm he was.

The dung was actually thawing him out!

He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy.

A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate.

Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

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SOME MEDICAL FACTS NOT EVERYONE KNOWS

Here’s another fountain of useful information from Mitzi Thaler about medical facts you may not know.

Good things to know, from the Mayo Clinic

How many folks do you know who say they don’t want to drink anything before going to bed because they’ll have to get up during the night?

Heart attack and water – Drink one glass of water before going to bed to avoid a stroke or heart attack. I never knew this.

Why do people urinate so much at night? Answer from a cardiac doctor:

“Gravity holds water in the lower part of your body when you are upright (legs swell). When you lie down and the lower body (legs, etc.) seeks level with the kidneys, it is then that the kidneys remove the water because it is easier.”

You need to drink water to flush the toxins out of your body, but here’s some news about the correct time to drink water:

• Two glasses of water after waking up—helps activate internal organs
• One glass of water 30 minutes before a meal—helps digestion
• One glass of water before taking a bath—helps lower blood pressure
• One glass of water before going to bed—avoids stroke or heart attack

Water at bedtime will also help prevent nighttime leg cramps. Your leg muscles are seeking hydration when they cramp and wake you up with a Charlie Horse.

Mayo Clinic on Aspirin

Dr. Virend Somers is a cardiologist from the Mayo Clinic who is the lead author of a report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Most heart attacks occur in the day, general between 6am and noon. Having one during the night, when the heart should be most at rest, means that something unusual happened. Somers and his colleagues have been working for a decade to show that sleep apnea is to blame.

1. If you take an aspirin or a baby aspirin once a day, take it at night. The reason: aspirin has a 24-hour “half-life,” therefore, if most heart attacks happen in the wee hours of the morning, the aspirin would be strongest in your system.
2. Aspirin lasts a really long time in your medicine chest; for years (when it gets old, it smells like vinegar).

Something we can do to help ourselves—nice to know

Bayer is making crystal aspirin to dissolve instantly on the tongue. They work much faster than the tablets.

Why keep aspirin by your bedside? It’s about heart attacks.

There are other symptoms of a heart attack, besides the pain on the left arm. One must also be aware of an intense pain on the chin, as well as nausea and lots of sweating; however, these symptoms may also occur less frequently.

Note: There may be NO pain in the chest during a heart attack. The majority of people (about 60%) who had a heart attack during their sleep did not wake up. However, if it occurs, the chest pain may wake you up from your deep sleep. If that happens, immediately dissolve two aspirins in your mouth and swallow them with a bit of water.

Afterwards, call 000, phone a neighbor or a family member who lives very close by. Say “heart attack” and say that you have taken two aspirins. Take a seat on a chair or sofa near the front door and wait for their arrival and DO NOT LIE DOWN.

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MOTIVATION AND INSPIRATION

How are they different? Or are they the same? Can they ever be conjoined in their resulting effects?

These two terms are most commonly associated with athletes and sport teams but are at play in all facets of everyday life.

Inspiration is definitely motivating, but I’m not sure motivation can inspire.

Noted motivational speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Motivation is when you get hold of an idea and carry it through to its conclusion. Inspiration is when an idea gets hold of you and carries you where you are intended to go.”

Life Coach Ron Prasad commented that “some people seem to mistake motivation for inspiration. They think both words have the same meaning and often use one word for the other.

“So, if you are set to go and exercise,” he continued, “you have to motivate yourself by reminding yourself of the motive for doing exercise. It could be weight loss, fitness, getting fresh air, etc. Whether you use the word ‘motive’ or use the word ‘reason,’ motivation needs to come from that source. Without having a reason or a motive, motivation will be hard to come by.

“Inspiration, on the other hand, is more of a process. You may hear a speaker who inspires you, you may read a book that inspires you, you may hear a song that inspires you, you may meet a person who inspires you, or you may see something that inspires you. Whatever it is that inspires you, it touches you on the inside and connects you to a state of being more excited, productive, purposeful or anything that comes as a result of being inspired.

“The word ‘inspiration’ comes from the late Latin word ‘inspirare,’ which means ‘inspirit’ or ‘divine guidance.’

“So, inspiration is something that you feel on the inside, while motivation is something from the outside that compels you to take action.

“Inspiration is a driving force, while motivation is a pulling force.

“So let’s look at some examples.

“Motivation—I have to raise $500 for my favourite charity. They are in desperate need of funding because they need to get a new computer. To be able to afford the new computer, they need to raise $500 by the end of this month.

“The ‘motive’ here is to make provisions for the new computer. That is the pulling force that is making me raise money for my favorite charity.

“Inspiration—I feel like helping my favourite charity to raise funds. When I am making a contribution towards others, I feel that I am in full alignment with my core values. That creates the essence of being congruent to who I really am.

“The driving force here is to make a contribution towards others because it feels congruent to who I really am on the inside.”

MOTIVATION

You write the book, the blog, the brochure to raise your profile so you can sell more stuff, serve more people. You compose and package your thoughts. A 1000-words-a-day until you’ve crossed the finish line.

All fine reasons.

INSPIRATION

I have something to say that needs to be heard. When I write I feel bigger, freer, like God is using me well.

We seem to need motivation to get stuff done. Typically, there’s a lot of ‘measuring’ that happens in the realm of motivation. Check lists and goal posts and markers and such. There is often a fear of loss involved. We are on duty. All perfectly natural.

But beyond finish lines and well done is a different call: Inspiration.

It is magnetic and progressive; its reasoning cannot always be reasoned—I just gotta do it. It busts you outta shouldsville into the unfenced field of freedom and possibility.

Inspiration is a completely different force of creativity.

Can Inspiration Lead to Motivation

I joined the Valley of the Sun Electric League in January of 1961 as the Promotions Director. One of my first assignments was to provide staff assistance for the newly-formed Manufacturer’s Rep Division.

At our first meeting, the members all agreed they wanted to put on a trade show and they wanted to do it the next February.

I convinced them we should wait and use the two years to do all the planning necessary to do it right. The two years would also give me time to learn more about what I needed to do to plan and execute the project properly.

My previous experience at an ad agency in NYC was planning the promotion for a consumer show called “Building Your Home 1954.” I had no role in putting the show together, but I was fascinated by it and hung around a lot.

The show featured a modular home, called the Tech-Built House, with surrounding exhibits in an old Army facility. The show looked good and had a lot to offer. Our subway ads won art awards but were all we could do on a meager ad budget and the result was very small attendance.

The lesson I learned was that it could all look pretty but the bottom line was getting people in the door.

It became my inspiration to learn more and do more in the trade show arena.

The 1963 Electrical Products Roundup was a great success and my motivation became stronger and helped launch a major part of my future career.

Some Inspiring Thoughts

Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. –Napolean Hill

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value. –Albert Einstein

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. –Michael Jordan

We become what we think about. –Earl Nightingale

Every strike brings me closer to the next home run. –Babe Ruth

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THE PREDICTORS OF SUCCESS/FAILURE

Whether it’s business or life, here are some suggestions on what to strive for.

8 Traits Shared By Those Who Succeed

• An eye for opportunity

Many successful entrepreneurs begin by sensing a need, then moving quickly to fill it. This is either an entirely new product or service, or something as simple as opening the only children’s clothing store in a large mall.

• An appetite for hard work

Most entrepreneurs work long, hard hours. They focus on their real priorities, especially when times are tough. (Those who avoid the tough problems by burying themselves in their original area of expertise often fail.)

• Discipline

It’s not just how hard you work, but the way you work that counts. Successful owners/managers resist the temptation to do what comes easiest. Instead, they do what is most essential.

• Independence

Typical entrepreneurs have a strong drive toward independence, plus the ability to be a good team player when the need for cooperation arises.

• Self-confidence

Entrepreneurs must be extremely self-confident to accept the risks involved in starting a business. This helps them overcome enormous obstacles to achieve their goals. In addition, they can temper their self-confidence with objectivity and change course and cut losses when necessary.

• Adaptability

Successful entrepreneurs adjust to the changing demands of a growing business and develop the skills to deal with them. They become managers of other people’s work so their business can grow quickly and achieve spectacular success.

• A focus on profits

Running a business brings many rewards—independence, community prestige, personal satisfaction—but entrepreneurs never lose sight of the need to make a profit. They know that return on investment is the ultimate measure of success.

• Self-awareness

Almost ALL entrepreneurs start with some weaknesses. Those who succeed recognize their limitations and are always ready to seek and use outside help when the situation demands it.

7 Mistakes That Can Kill Your Business

• Running out of cash

In the euphoria of starting a business, it’s easy to overlook the gap between making the first sales and banking the money. Often the wait is too long and many new companies run out of cash. A cash-flow budget helps you predict highs and lows in time to take corrective action fast.

• Not knowing your customers

Changes in your customers’ preferences and your competitors’ products can leave you in the dust—unless you get to know who your audience really is, what they want now, and will likely want next.

• Doing it all on your own

You might be the key to everything but you cannot DO everything and grow at the same time. Even modest initial success can overwhelm you unless you hire staff and delegate responsibility. But how do you hire the right person in the right place at the right time—and at the right price?

• Ignoring employees

Motivating and managing your employees is one of your greatest challenges. More employees mean more “people problems.” Left unresolved, they can destroy morale, productivity and profits.

• No business plan

If you rely purely on instinct to guide your business instead of a written plan, you’re headed for trouble. A plan helps you focus on where your company is going and why…and how you’re doing along the way. Creating a plan is simple, if you follow the guidelines

• Computer chaos – you have to be literate

Computers offer many benefits, but unless you know how to harness their power, you risk a nightmare of confusion and waste, in time and money. Learn the key decisions you should make before buying or changing.

• Ignore the numbers

It’s not how much money you have in the bank. As an owner/manager, your primary goal is to make a profit. You need to know where you stand on a regular basis, with a timely system of recording and analyzing key financial data.

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THE RISING WAVE OF REDISTRIBUTION POLITICS

Prices for things like homes, education, and childcare have advanced well beyond what’s affordable on a median income, leaving them behind previous generations in achieving several common American milestones.

Why are they struggling to match the success of their parents? Why are they saddled with financial burdens that appear to be outsized compared to their incomes? What happened, and what can be done?

At the moment, millennials are getting their answers from the Democratic presidential hopefuls. And they’re telling young voters that the economy is currently skewed toward those who already have assets. Recent tax reforms benefits corporations and older generations. The only way to fix the inequities in the current system is to forcibly take more assets from those who possess them through taxation and redistribute them through social programs. It’s simply a matter of identifying those who will pay more while directing the benefits to those who are best served.

This is the messaging you’re hearing from nearly all of them: Warren, Harris, Booker, Bernie, Buttigieg, Beto…even de Blasio. It’s a message that probably doesn’t resonate with many people over 50, but that’s the point. We’re the generations that were able to cobble together small but growing incomes to gather the markers of successful lives. We had car loans, home loans, and some of us even had student loans, but they were within reason given our income. As more women went to work, we put our young children in daycare and paid for after-school care, but again, the cost was well worth the benefit of the extra income from the second earner. While the message may not resonate with us, there’s no question that we will be the ones required to pay.

It’s too early to tell if Trump will be re-elected in 2020, or if the Republicans will retain their majority in the Senate. It’s likely that at least one of those two things will happen, which will slow the progress of the redistribution machine. But 2022 and 2024 aren’t that far away. As time goes on, younger voters will continue to gain more clout on the electoral maps. And by then, we’re likely to have suffered the next recession, which will only make things worse.

We need to pay attention to what the younger generation is demanding—and expecting—from the government, because it will directly affect our bank accounts and investments. From healthcare to childcare, there are several areas of life where we are likely to provide significant support, transferring assets from older to younger generations. The programs will be big, transformative, and expensive. Looking at some of the proposals from current Democratic candidates, we can get a sense of what will happen down the road.

The recurring theme in all of this is simple: Hang on to your wallet!

Young Americans Lagging Behind

The Census Bureau shows that the rate of homeownership in younger groups remains well below the long run average, even though the homeownership rate among older groups has recovered to pre-financial crisis levels. Just under 60% of Americans 35 to 44 years old own a home, whereas the national average rate of homeownership is about 65%. Thirty-six percent of those under 35 own homes, compared to the long run average of 40% for this age group. These numbers started falling during the financial crisis, bottomed in 2015, recovered a bit for two years, then went sideways in 2018.

The reason for falling homeownership is obvious: money…or rather, a lack of it.

Immediately after the financial crisis, lenders were strict in requiring large down payments. Even though housing programs have relaxed and now will offer loans with near zero down for first-time buyers, prices have run up so fast as to put the prospect of homeownership out of reach.

As for children, the U.S. birthrate just touched an historic low. The United States needs 2.1 children per woman of child-bearing age to keep the population steady, replacing each parent plus a bit for mortality and those who don’t have kids. In 2018, the birthrate fell to 1.72.

The numbers weren’t consistent across all ages. Teenage births dropped dramatically over the past decade, which is good. But births to women in their twenties were down overall, while births to moms in their early thirties were flat, and those to moms over 35 ticked higher.

The reasons for not having children, or even starting later in life than previous generations, are easy to find. The New York Times surveyed 1,858 young adults, ages 18 to 45, last year, asking why they aren’t having their ideal number of children. The respondents could list multiple reasons. The top five responses were:

• Cost of childcare: 64%
• Not enough time: 54%
• Economic concerns: 49%
• Can’t afford more children: 44%
• Financial instability: 43%

Again, the issue is about money…but Millennials are also finding themselves preoccupied during peak child-producing years by continuing efforts in education. That’ll become even more so the case for the members of Generation Z, who are attaining levels of education well beyond what the Boomers and Generation X achieved. The rate of high school graduation—not GED, but actual graduation—has increased from less than 80% in the 2000s to 85% today. College graduation rates have remained steady at about 68% of those who enroll, but a larger percentage of the younger generations are giving college…the old college try. Almost 40% of Millennials and Gen Zers earn a college degree, which is slowly dragging the overall rate of college grads in the population higher.

Of course, all this schooling comes with a financial cost. Tuition has long outpaced income, and now student loan debt is far more common. Americans carry more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, and the burden is generational. Forty percent of people under 30 carry such debt, while only 20% of those over 30 days they have any.

Among those graduating college, 70% will enter the workforce already owing money, and many others who tried college but didn’t graduate will also run into debt. The scary number being thrown around is that the average student loan det is about $38,000, but that number skews toward those who get post-graduate degrees, most of whom go on to careers that give them an income sufficient to pay their loans and still meet their goals.

The real issue lies with the typical undergrad, or even those who never graduate.

According to the Pew Research Center, students who earn a bachelor’s degree and take on student loans leave college with a median balance of $25,000. It’s not the eye-popping average of $38,000, but it’s not chump change, either. It’s a car you can’t drive, or a down payment on a home you can’t afford. Think about how long it took you to save your first $25,000.

For those who try college but don’t graduate, the median loan balance is $10,000. A lot less than the average, but remember, this is for people who don’t get the benefit of the degree.
And it’s not just that costs are shooting higher; they’re also increasing at a much faster pace than income, either putting milestones out of reach or saddling newly minted adults with prohibitive costs.

With a chasm opening between the younger generations and their financial goals, it’s no surprise to see them migrating toward a political camp that promises to address social inequities, and to do it with other people’s money.

The Growing Slant on the Young Voter

Over the past dozen years, male and female voters from each generation have zigged and zagged politically, with some getting more conservative and others becoming more liberal. The differences range from minuscule to moderate, except for those of one group: Millennial women.

As Pew Research charts show, this influential group has moved dramatically to one side of the voting booth.

From 2002 through 2017, conservatives gained ground among three groups: both men and women in the Silent Generation, and Millennial men. But the gain of any group that stands out is for Democrats among Millennial women, jumping from 54% to 70%. Because of their numbers, that transition more than offsets the growing conservative tendencies of the Silent Generation in past elections, and it’s set to seriously tilt the scales in elections to come.

In the 2018 mid-term elections, more voters under 50 turned out at the polls than voters over 50, the first time that’s happened since at least the 1970s.

By 2020, 23% of the electorate will be over 65 years old, but the boomers and older generations will be just 40% of voters, down from 70% in 2000.

As more young, educated, financially strained voters go to the polls, they will be looking for answers to their economic ills, and they will find them in the plans promoted by candidates like Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

They will vote for the social programs, but older, outnumbered voters will pay for them.

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LEFTOVERS FROM 2019

The Best Movies of 2019
Every year, my first blog in the New Year has been the movies I enjoyed the most in the previous year.

This year I’ve only had four so I couldn’t devote a whole blog to the subject; usually we have eight or 10 movies. Movies for adults are getting scarce; oh well, less support I’ll give to Hollywood.

Official Secrets is the story of Katherine Gun (Keira Knightly), a Brit intelligence specialist who handles routine classified info and comes across a memo from the NSA (US) asking the Brits to join the US in collecting compromising info on UN Secretary Council members in order to blackmail them in favor of an invasion of Iraq.

Feeling this was an unjust war, she leaks this memo to activist anti-war journalist. She confesses to the authorities. The article creates quite a stir and is defended by Ralph Fiennes in an outstanding performance.

It’s a good flic!

Fast & Furious is a fast-paced, remarkable, true story of the visionary car designer Carol Shelby (Matt Damon) and the fearless Brit car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) who together bottled corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for the Ford Motor Company and take on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1966.

Dark Waters, inspired by a true story, a tenacious attorney, Mark Ruffalo, uncovers a dark secret that connects a growing number of unexplained deaths caused by one of the world’s largest corporations. In the process, he risks everything—his future, his family and his own life to explore the truth.

Well done!

The Farewell. The film follows a Chinese family who, when they discover their beloved grandmother has only a short while left to live, decide to keep her in the dark and schedule an impromptu wedding to gather before she passes. Billi, feeling like a fish out of water in her home county, struggles with the family’s decision to hide the truth from her grandmother.

Terrific on all accounts!

Hope 2020 will be better for adult movies

*****

Iran Drone Strike Signals Significant Escalation in Mideast Tensions

President Trump says he ordered the drone strike that killed Iran’s top military leader, General Qassem Soleimani, top planner of Iran’s misdeeds in the Middle East, to avoid a war.
Trump’s action, apparently supported by his military advisors, will raise the level of intercourse between the US and Iran. No one is sure how that will evolve.

Soleimani’s influence has already begun to fade but Iran will try to make the most of it.

*****

Americans waited two years for the Mueller report, then they couldn’t agree on what it said.

*****
Trips I Didn’t Get To Take

If you’ve been following our blogs, you know we’ve traveled quite a bit. Gabriele and I have been in over 80 small countries and in seven continents.
Because of some health and physical issues, my traveling days are over.

Here’s the list of places I still wanted to travel to:

• Suez Canal
• Israel (Return)
• Jordan (Petra)
• Turkey (expanded)
• Nepal
• Britain
• Tibet
• Northern Lights
• Northwest Passage
• New Guinea
• Montevideo, Uruguay
• Madagascar
• N.E. Canada

*****

The political left has gone to great lengths to force corporations to defund conservative and libertarian organizations and we’ve responded in kind.

Six corporations—Ford, ConocoPhillips, John Deere, GM, BP and Caterpillar—withdrew from the U.S. Climate Partnership, a corporate-green alliance pushing climate change regulations, after we convinced them that we’d make their continued membership controversial and costly for them.

John Deere & Company withdrew its membership for USCAP immediately after we launched a month-long advertising campaign on local television over its membership.

Stories about the ads appeared in its local press, including the Des Moines Register, Quad-City Times, and Dubuque Telegraph Herald, and also in the national media.

This negative press coverage was sufficient to force Deere to cry uncle.

Caterpillar dropped its membership after we recruited major Caterpillar customers to vow to stop purchasing the company’s products unless it stopped supporting cap-and-trade and funding USCAP.

The six withdrawals from USCAP were very significant. They meant that the group lost $600,000 in fees EVERY YEAR. The blow was so severe that soon after USCAP closed.

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So how did all this press corruption happen?

In 1983, 50 companies controlled 90 percent of the American media. Today, six conglomerates control the same 90 percent. They are National Amusements (CBS, MTV, BET, on and on), Disney (ABC, ESPN, Marvel, on and one), TimeWarner (CNN, HBO, TBS, on and on), Comcast (NBC, Dreamworks, Universal, on and on), 21 Century Newscorp (Fox, NatGeo, FX, on and on) and Sony.

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Don’t think outside the box…think like there is no box.

Death leaves a heart ache no one can heal.
Love leaves a memory no one can steal.

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