Category: Opinions

Who's In Charge? Not the 8th Commandment.

I feel confident we have the tools and epidemiological expertise to address and abate the concerns with the Zika virus. I am not so bolstered nor assured there are any strategies in place to deal with the intractable epidemic of character disorders that have permeated every facet of our culture. Industry, Commerce, Government and Religion are being subsumed by tabloid culture. Behavior aberrancy has found a way to step to the front of the line and assume the mantle.

Feeding this viral character flawed population of alleged leaders is the 24 hour cable news cycle that has devolved to a visual form of Peoples Magazine and a highly profitable cottage industry that promulgates the historical journalistic adage, “if it bleeds it leads.” The purity of the Fourth Estate is being invalidated by corporate news narcissism that supersedes the individual citizen and concedes its news selections to ratings based on the new advocacy journalism. Attribution of material and lasting truth are the casualties. This trend alone will erode our democracy and poison the pure intent of free speech.

So who is in charge of this dystopia of advance payment disinformation that can seldom be discerned to be accurate? No one! It is like smoking cigarettes; a bad habit that consumed a nation, with no one in charge. The bad karma part of this trend is that  much of the media; print and broadcast, and the politico ghost writers, are violating the 8th commandment. To quote Ted Koppel, ” the Ten Commandments were not called the Ten Suggestions.”  The upshot being, there are consequences, most of which have their genesis in Citizens United. Remember the Supreme Court decision about “Stolen Valor?” It simply stated that it is not illegal to lie. To many of these earlier mentioned character flawed leaders, this is a green light to confabulate stories, character assassinations and  revisionist history. The current treatment of returning frozen assets to  Iran is a  prime example of scant attention to historical truth. How many of the common citizens know that these monies were for military equipment that we sold to them but never delivered as a result of the Regime, that we propped up, collapsing in 1979. We sold them F-16 and trained their pilots in Tucson, Arizona. Will you ever see any of this back story in news outlets? Washed away with the wave of currency over all aspects of history. Just one example of the frozen Fourth Estate. Cable news is on a feeding frenzy of controversy and have no interest in digging deeper to its origins. Ongoing controversy gains higher ratings than  thoughtful researched  narrative. There are exceptions, the Wall Street Journal.  Time Magazine, Atlantic, Harpers, New Yorker, Hillsdale ,New Max, The New American,(John Birch Society), Mother Jones. But how many read these?

The phrase, Fourth Estate is credited to Edmund Burke (1729-1797) a British politician who once asserted,” there are three Estates in Parliament, but in the Reporters Gallery yonder there sat a Fourth Estate more important then they all.”

Our First Amendment to the Constitution grants freedom for the press and allows it to be the watchdog and source of vigilance for the commoner. Yet the bastions of investigative journalism that informs and elevates the collective consciousness is an empty desk in the daily news.

I return to my assertion, we have become a nation of polarized peoples who rely on news that violates the 8th Commandment every single day. Is it possible that this is antecedent to most other national maladies?

The 8th Commandment is thus, You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Admittedly, I was educated in Catholic schools, where we were instructed to engage in frequent “examination of conscience.”  That meant giving attention to the nuances of the 10 Commandments.   Some of those related to the 8th Commandment would be, deliberate lies,  perjury, harming  another’s reputation (slander or gossip), telling the  faults  of others (detraction), betraying trust, uncharitable criticism, rash  judgements and false suspicions, deliberately  misleading or deceiving and most important to this writer, is refusing to forgive.

In a nation that professes to be founded on Christian principles with a rising population of  Evangelicals,  should we not be reminded that these Commandments are not the 10 Suggestions.

Off to the Olympic Opening Ceremonies now. The perfect antidote to our news cycle.

 

The VA Fan Club

A VA Fan Club? For real? Well not really, yet there is a very large “de facto” fan base comprised of the battalions of veterans nationwide who are at ease and pleased with the healthcare that the Veterans Administration provides with great equality of delivery. There is a reason that the surveys come back with an approval rating that far exceeds the private sector.We do not hear much from them for obvious reasons. Who wants to be comparing their quality care with a veteran who is struggling with the VA? Most veterans have so much respect for each other, that they avoid the chiming in to the blame game and would prefer to just jump in to help or find someway to advocate for the veteran and family that are at odds with their delivery and aftercare. Does that make one a fan? As I said, not really, but the preference is to stay true to your school. What is the option? The private sector is so maxed out with Doctor/Patient  ratios and stockholder quarterly profit reports, that they cannot hold a candle to the VA over the long stretch.

As a combat veteran of the Marine Corps and a client of the VA Medical system for for 31 years, I would not for a moment trust the privatization of this system. Knowing full well that the effort to discredit the VA is funded with tons of dark money being shoveled into a messaging mania that often harms the current clients and plants doubt in the minds of the newly enrolled veterans. How does this help promote holistic health and prevent mental health worries? Rumors are not good for heart or the head.

I am not suggesting that the VA does not have administrative travails, evidenced by the myriad of investigations underway. But are not those investigations a good thing? Is not feedback the breakfast of champions? Name me a Fortune 500 company or a professional sports team that does not have identical internal quagmires, and more frequent turnover of personnel. In my zip-code, the United Health Care Providers just lost doctors who left to go to work for the VA! Go figure.

Does anyone in the Main Stream Media bother to report when the problems are solved? Nope. But they will sure as hell report about the new coach at USC or UofA.  Did you know that the mass of those veterans that were on a proverbial waiting list, were deceased for years and not sitting in the wings awaiting appointments? It was a data entry issue. The American Legion covered this update, but not one those politicos that need sensitive talking points to further their self aggrandized campaigns of mis-information. This, at its core is more of a moral travesty than a delayed wait for an appointment. Placing your political ambitions in the rucksack of a veteran is very, very low, particularly when not a one of the current crop has served in the Armed Forces.  The age of the Chicken Hawk has returned.

There is a flap in Arizona about doctors leaving the after 6 months of employment. Many interns only serve 6 months and elect to move on to other specialties or to the private sector. Is this not the free market at its best? Choice remains a good thing not a mud-puddle. Doctors at the VA all serve for a bilaterally agreed upon experimental time frame. Did the reporters take the time to discern who left in distaste and who left as part of a normal cycle of service?

Both readers and the veteran population deserve better reporting about the VA problems nationwide. One topic would be to speak of the burden placed upon the VA Health Care system by winter visitors who wait to get their care while in the westerns states, where they camp in their RV’s for 6 months and clog up the appointment schedule of the locals. They do deserve the best of care, and I for one enjoy the company of visitors, but is this the fault of the VA that they are tremendously egalitarian in their care?

A story about the vetting process and the means testing the VA uses would be timely and compelling. The 8 Priority System is not perfect but it is aligned with what all fiscal conservatives want of our Government.  No, a stateside veteran of the Air Force who has no service connected disabilities does not get the same level of benefits as the Army Ranger who served in Baghdad and Kabul. Free care and free medications for all was never promised, yet we do hear the complaints to the contrary. Were this true, Socialism would be underway. Means testing is a good thing for all.

Lets here more about how the VA gets advance funding and how they project their needs. Can you imagine an internal bean counter with the VA in, say, 2003, projecting the need to take care of a 400% increase of Traumatic Brain Injury,TBI, and Post Traumatic Stress and military rape in the ranks of 4-7 tour troops over a 15 year time span? The Tea Party did not exist then, but I can hear the siren squawking….50 billion more for 15 more years! The point being, who planned or would plan for 15 continuous years of war? And how do you fit the delivery and budgeting into an approval process that slogs along one year at time? Should we be priming ourselves now for another 20 years of war? And who will pay for it? Mexico?

There is a strong case to be made that no nation can develop a long term fiscal policy for war. That is a good thing.

Be reminded that Afghanistan sent the Russians packing three decades ago, by their tenacity and a strategy of “breaking the bank.” That tactical war strategy remains in place.

The ‘weapons of mass destruction’ may well be TBI veterans sent home one at a time, with a need for lifetime care. How big is the bank?

This prolonged warfare, that is the first of its kind in the history of the Republic is not the fault of the Veterans Administration. They are dancing as fast as they can. God forbid they would ever privatize, as that would only feed an incestuous war machine and unfathomable profiteering. As the late Marine General Smedley Butler, and Medal of Honor recipient, aptly stated, “War is a racket”.

Lets be true to our school and like good Alumni help our VA win the game. Any thing less is falling prey to subliminal programming that is not of our making and lacking in moral probity.

California Commentary from Howard Jarvis Taxpayer's Association

Be Careful What You Sign

By John Coupal President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Armed with a clipboard and a smile, they stand on the sidewalk in front of popular stores and public buildings. “Want to support schools?” or “Do you want to end poverty?” they call out to passersby. Those who respond positively are asked to sign a petition to place a measure to accomplish the stated goal on the ballot.

These are signature gathers, usually paid by the interests advancing the initiative they tout. They are not obligated to fully explain who would actually benefit from the passage of measure which, more times than not, is the sponsor of the initiative. And they do not have to volunteer if the initiative would raise taxes. In fact, for tax increase measures, saying that the proposal would hike taxes is likely the last thing they would admit.

However, even if signature gatherers are, at times, misleading, this does not justify further weakening the People’s right to initiative, referendum and recall, as some suggest. As with all matters relating to government, it remains the voter’s responsibility be informed and to ask questions — and questions should be asked before signing a petition in support of a measure that could result in a major change in state law.

The tools of direct democracy are worth preserving. They vest the citizenry with the power to be the legislature of last resort when sitting lawmakers prove to be indolent, incompetent or corrupt and unable to properly carry out the most important business of the public. One has only to look back to 1978. When the Legislature and then Governor Brown refused to act, voters placed on the ballot and approved Proposition 13, an answer to escalating property taxes that were literally forcing many from their homes.

Support for the legislative referendum in our country goes back to Thomas Jefferson, who advocated for its inclusion in the Virginia state constitution. Its implementation in California is credited to Governor Hiram Johnson.

Johnson was elected in 1910 on an anti-Southern Pacific Railroad platform at a time when most members of the Legislature where bought and paid for by the railroad. (An ironic historical footnote: Shortly after taking office Johnson paroled notorious Southern Pacific train robber, Chris Evans.)

In a 1911 special election, California voters approved the initiative process which allowed regular folks to be involved in making laws and broke the stranglehold of the railroad had on the Legislature. The politicians, none of whom like to share power, have been disgruntled ever since. Of course, the fact that politicians don’t like the people’s initiative, referendum and recall rights, that are embedded in the state constitution, may be one of the best arguments that these rights must be retained.

However, the key to a vibrant and effective initiative process is an informed public. So if asked to sign a petition, be wary. Read the initiative summary that is required to be printed at the top of the petition form. There are initiatives in circulation right now that would increase income taxes and undermine Proposition 13 protections for taxpayers. If there is a tax increase included, you may still decide to sign, but at least you will know the impact of your decision in a state where we already have the highest income rate, the highest state sales tax and were we rank in the top four in total tax burden. In other words, caveat emptor.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis  Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

 

Open Season on Taxpayers

 

By John Coupal President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Even if one lives in a cave, it’s hard to avoid the publicity surrounding the high profile presidential debates that are a reminder that this is an election year. And California taxpayers know, from hard experience, it also means that it is open season on taxpayers as local politicians rush to put tax increases on the ballot.

Emboldened by success in little-publicized 2015 off-year elections in which 29 out of 40 local tax increase measures passed, scores of communities and special districts are seeing this year as an ideal opportunity to raise your taxes.

Presidential election years tend to bring out more voters, including many who do not pay close attention to what’s on the ballot until the last minute. These “low information voters” are a prime target of tax raisers because they are more easily convinced by simplistic arguments. These duplicitous arguments often tout the benefits of a measure to a community, without ever mentioning that it is a new tax. Or they minimalize the actual cost by expressing it in pennies per day, “It will only cost about 50 cents a day!”

Of course those promoting new or higher taxes do not want taxpayers to notice that they are often being attacked on several fronts simultaneously, as cities, counties and special districts reach for their wallets.

One of the most popular taxes from the standpoint of public officials is the parcel tax, usually a uniform property tax on all “parcels” of property within a community or district. The politicians like these taxes because, unlike bonds which must be used for brick and mortar projects, the revenue from parcel taxes can be used for any purpose including raises in pay and pensions for public employees.

These taxes are insidious because they exceed Proposition 13 limits and there is no relationship between what is being charged and the property owner’s ability to pay. A young couple in a starter home, an elderly couple in a bungalow and a multimillionaire in a mansion, all pay the same amount. Additionally, parcel taxes bear no direct connection to any service actually provided to the property owner.

Already there is a parcel tax slated for nine Bay Area counties, while cities and school districts throughout the state are preparing their own new taxes for the ballot.

So, if you are a property owner, especially one on a limited budget, it is important to familiarize yourself with what is on your local ballot. There is a good chance that you will find a parcel property tax. Fortunately, because of Proposition 13, these require a two-thirds vote, so if a tax is not justified, there is a realistic opportunity for voters to reject it.

To paraphrase a series of commercials promoting a satellite television service currently urging viewers “don’t be a settler” – “don’t be a low information voter.” When your sample ballot arrives in a few short months, study it carefully. Keep in mind that the official title and summary for tax measures are often manipulated by the political class to encourage a Yes vote. If you have any doubts about the information provided, do further research.
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Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

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