Serenity

Dec 102016
 

© Galina Barskaya | Dreamstime Stock Photos

 

Will Johnson’s Proposal save Social Security?

Honorable Sam Johnson proposes to “permanently fix” Social Security primarily by reducing benefits and cost of living adjustments.  I like a few things about the proposal.  First, it links benefits for spouses and children to the average wage instead of the actual wage of the worker.  This seems fair.   It will help the poorest while not cutting benefits below average for others.  That works.  Second, I like requiring full-time school enrollment for dependents ages 15-18 as a condition of eligibility.  But I feel this should be modified to consider that some minors may complete their schooling and be well qualified to enter the labor market in the trades at a slightly earlier age.  Third, the Social Security Administration projects that the plan would keep the program solvent.

What’s not to like about Johnson’s Proposal?

What I hate, hate, hate, is that it is all cuts and  NO tax increase.  In fact, the proposal eliminates income taxes on benefits by eliminating a tax on benefits for those who earn more than $32,000 (in addition to receiving benefits.) In contrast, I prefer a solution that adjusts benefits and retirement age while also increasing the maximum income on which social security taxes are assessed.   I believe the current tax rate is high enough.  Simply increasing the maximum income on which the tax is collected will make a huge difference.

Furthermore, the change in the COLA is unacceptable.   Honorable Sam Johnson posits moving to the chained CPI, which assumes an ability to move to cheaper alternatives as prices increase.   For some income levels, that DOES make sense.  Say if you have to go from eating sirloin to ground beef, to chicken, to afford your food.  It’s not ideal, but if it keeps the system solvent that would be a good thing.  However, when it means going from chicken to canned tuna, to dog food, that is beyond human decency.

Call to Action

We need to stop the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in this country.   It’s time for us to speak up about our priorities.   I don’t believe that should include leaving seniors who have paid into the system all their lives stranded with insufficient funds in retirement.

TWEET  our President Elect TRUMP NOW.  Even if you don’t agree with me, let him know where you stand and DEMAND that he take a position on the Johnson proposal.  One of Trump’s campaign promises was “not to touch” Social Security …. of course, as Scottie Nell Hughes so eloquently put it “There’s no such thing, anymore, as facts.”   Which will come in handy when Trump expands those liable laws, since it will eliminate the use of the “but those are the true facts” defense….

 Welcome to post-Trump America in an Orewellian universe.

MSN opinion piece  http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/personalfinance/the-gop-unveils-a-permanent-save-for-social-security-with-massive-benefit-cuts/ar-AAlness?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartannt

 

 

SSA actuarial estimates:  https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/solvency/SJohnson_20161208.pdf

 

 

We still have the freedom of speech in this country.   Feel free to use yours in the comments below, but please keep all language family friendly.  Thanks!

Jan 042016
 
DECEMBER 15, 2015-MOUNT VERNON, IOWA Bernie Sanders speaks at rally at Cornell College

DECEMBER 15, 2015-MOUNT VERNON, IOWA Bernie Sanders speaks at rally at Cornell College

I enjoyed listening to Bernie Sanders in Mount Vernon; he has a vision and the passion to go with it. I enjoy people that show passion.  What’s Bernie’s passion?  Picture the United States of America with an educated work force that is free of college debt,  and a living wage for all full-time workers. It sounds awesome and I would love to get behind it, especially if he could make the student loan I expect to be paying off in the (hopefully early!) part of retirement go away. I respect the man for his honesty too. When he is asked how he is going to pay for all this “free stuff,” he doesn’t beat around the bush. He is going to tax the rich people more and he says so. I’m not sure that’s the greatest way to proceed.  But it’s honest. And it’s a much better answer than we usually hear. I am sick of “trickle down this” and “bigger pie for everyone so everyone gets a bigger piece of pie” that. Hog wash and mumbo jumbo!  The policy decisions we make have costs. There always seem to be winners and losers. At least Bernie acknowledges that his policies have a cost and somebody has to pay it. Good for him! That’s refreshing.

Bernie Sanders calls for making public colleges tuiton-free. Is it any wonder many college age people support him? I like the idea of public colleges and universities being affordable for all with the option to use need-based financial aid and work-study to avoid debt. I especially like the work-study part! To me, eliminating tuition is going overboard. If a person sees value in an education, they should be willing to pay part of the cost of that education. If we make college tuition-free for all comers, we can expect the college student population to increase but some of these new students will not be willing and able to complete a college-level education. I fear further dumbing down of our educational system would result as people came to view education as an entitlement.   One solution to this would be to provide more aid to students who have shown the ability to succeed academically and the willingness to make success happen.  It is not the degree that moves a person forward.  The degree can open doors, but it is the ability to create value (0r at least to create the perception that one creates value) that helps a person build the income necessary to become financially successful.  And, there is more to education than college.   We will always need plumbers, electricians and other trades people.  I could care less if my electrician has a BA in anything-but I sure hope he or she has the education needed to wire my house safely!  What are we doing to support education in the trades that we all rely on to keep our homes in order?

The is where I do not agree with Bernie Sanders and his stand on increasing the minimum wage. I agree, people that work 40 hours a week should not have to live in poverty. However, maybe they need to work smarter, not harder. And this is where government can help. By improving the quality of our educational system, we can build a work force that can do much more than work at McDonald’s or Walmart. Much of the work currently done by low wage workers may disappear if the minimum wage is increased to $15 per hour. We are already seeing automated check outs at Walmart. What comes next?  Job creation.

Bernie Sanders is on more solid ground discussing job creation. Essential parts of our infrastructure are failing or close to failing. Investing in roads, bridges, communication, clean air, and clean water makes sense and will involve construction workers, engineers, architects-people that are better paid than McDonald’s workers for a reason. Let’s get on with rebuilding America, and let’s link some of the education benefits Bernie proposes to training for the type of work the American economy needs done. Leave the minimum wage jobs to the students and prepare our young adults to do work that is well-paid because it adds value, not because the pay is government mandated.

Dec 132015
 
Boots on the Ground

Boots on the Ground

Boots on the ground-I hate this phrase.  Unless, of course, you mean you literally want to put empty boots on the ground in a war zone.  Rain boots, fashion boots, work boots, even combat boots.  That’s fine.  I don’t care.  Air lift all the boots you want anywhere in the world you want and drop them on the ground.  Seems a bit pointless, but my real issue is when you expect American soldiers to be wearing those boots.

Boots on the ground did not win our freedom and they cannot defend it.  Boots on the ground do not die, get dismembered, or suffer PTSD.  Soldiers do.  Soldiers are more than boots.  They are human beings with mothers and fathers, daughters and sons.   Sometimes we need courageous human beings to go into battle to fight and possibly die for the values and liberties we prize.   When we dehumanize them and refer to them as boots on the ground, it is too easy to forget the reality of war.  The reality of hard battles in harsh environments.  The daily choice these soldiers face to kill or be killed.  The reality of coming home to an America that seems not to value or acknowledge their sacrifices.

We can send American boots anywhere.  When we think of sending American soldiers to war, it behooves us to remember they are more than boots on the ground.  They are human beings.

Dec 132015
 
Ben Carson

Ben Carson 

I had the privilege of sharing my day with Dr. Carson and Donald Trump (sequentially) yesterday.  There was such a marked difference in the way that I was treated by the two campaigns that I felt it was appropriate to do a compare and contrast post.  A bit of a spoiler, Donald Trump came out on the losing end by a long shot.  The words I wanted to use have been spinning around all day in my head.  Finally, I have a chance to sit down and write it all out and the first headline that pops up on my computer is “ACLU Colorado board member [Loring Wirbel] resigns after encouraging shooting Trump supporters.”   Almost unbelievable, I think to myself, and immediately check to see what site I am on.   Oh, breitbart.com.  Better double check that one!  Hmmm, looks like he actually said that.  I’m 99% certain it was a misguided joke (as Mr. Wirbel claims), but a person holding a prominent position needs to be careful what they say.  Be informed, take a position and stand by it.  Talk to your neighbors and advocate your point of view as strongly as you see fit.   But don’t go around shooting them because they disagree with you! And be aware that if you hold a prominent position and make a joke like this it is quite possible that some loony tune somewhere will act on it.

According to the Daily Caller, The post read, “The thing is, we have to really reach out to those who might consider voting for Trump and say, ‘This is Goebbels. This is the final solution. If you are voting for him I will have to shoot you before election day.’ They’re not going to listen to reason, so when justice is gone, there’s always force, as Laurie would say.”  Read more: Daily Caller

OK, with that out of the way, let’s look at how my day went (warning-snark ahead.) It started off at Honey Creek Resort, on Lake Rathburn near Moravia, Iowa.  I arrived at the Carson event without credentials, but with tear sheets and an ID to establish I was legit.  No problem, as long as my cameras and gear passed the Secret Service screen I was good to go.  I was politely directed to the press area and took a seat.  Ben Carson’s media person came up, introduced herself, and asked who I was with.  I explained that I was a small indie and sold primarily through stock agencies.   She lit up with a smile and said “Oh, I love entrepreneurs.”  She continued to treat the press graciously throughout the event.

On to the next rally…I arrived at the Donald Trump press credentialing table and they did not have me on the credentialed list.  I was asked to wait until the Grand Poohbah of Trumpeteer Media Relations (GPTMR) arrived.   I waited, along with several other independents and reps of small papers who also didn’t make the cut. When the GPTMR arrived, I was asked who I was with and explained I am an approved independent contributor to several stock agencies and started listing them.   One of those agencies is iStock/Getty. As soon as I named them, she challenged me with “Getty is here.”  I clarified for the (apparently listening challenged) GPTMR that I never said I was on assignment with Getty nor that I was employed by them.  I am an approved stock contributer.  (Trust me, if I were ever selected to represent Getty, I would crow about it to the whole world!) Let me paraphrase the rest of the conversation:

GPTMR:  You’re not media.

ME:  It would have been nice if you decided that before *redacted name of campaign rep* sent me an email indicating I would have credentials and I spent an hour one way to drive here (plus gas.)

GPTMR:  You couldn’t have gotten that email.  I always get a copy.

At this point, it was obvious to me that I was in a no-win situation and at risk of drawing unwanted attention from law enforcement and possibly the Secret Service.  Now, there are some SS men I wouldn’t mind getting attention from –but not the kind that ends up with me in front of a judge explaining myself!

I decided to skedaddle my non-media butt out of the Donald Trump credentialing queue before I got in trouble. It usually takes a lot to get under my skin, but my two hot buttons are my integrity and my professionalism.  The GPTMR had just pushed them both in less than two minutes.   As I was on my way out, another person who had failed to convince the GPTMR that he was legitimate press asked if the public were allowed to have cameras in the rally.  Well, yes, said the GPTMR, but (pointing at MY gear) not cameras like that.  I reminded myself that it would be a really bad idea to lose my temper with the GPTMR with all that Secret Service protection around, took a deep breath, and kept walking to the public entrance. I got into the event just fine without showing ID or being challenged on my “camera like that.”  Got the shots (images-not literal shots-do NOT shoot the Trumpeteers!) I wanted, went home. 

Why does any of this matter?  Being commander in chief of this nation involves a lot of delegation.  It is appropriate to look at how well candidates delegate responsibility to their campaign staff as we evaluate their potential as leaders.  If they choose to be represented by staff that are disrespectful, why would we trust them to respect the US citizenry after they are elected?  Had the Trump rep simply said something along the lines of:  We cannot allow media in unless they are on the list due to security concerns; I would have no issue with that decision.  Instead they took the position that I was not media and implied that I was lying about receiving email from the campaign, in front of several of my colleagues.  The GPTMR was condescending and insulting.  The Carson rep was gracious and welcoming.  IMHO, that says something about the leaders of the campaigns.  

Donald Trump

Donald Trump in Des Moines, Iowa

 

Dec 082015
 
Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum

What brought Rick Santorum, former US Senator from Pennsylvania, up to the top of my list of people I must blog about was this remark:

“The political side of Islam is not protected under the Constitution. The political side of Islam, where women are not treated equally … that’s not protected under the United States Constitution. And behavior that is traitorous or undermining the government of our country is not protected under the Constitution, even if it’s taught in a mosque.”  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2015/12/04/santorum-islam-not-constitutionally-protected-iowa-caucus-san-bernardino-terrorism-shooting/76802568/

Rick Santorum is absolutely right, but this statement is misleading. First, the constitution, in particular the Bill of Rights, does not protect any religion.   It protects the people from the potential overreach of government.  The preamble to the constitution reads: “We the People of the United States,  in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”    Union, justice, tranquility, defense, general welfare, liberty.   These are lofty and worthy goals.

The Constitution of the United States goes on to set forth the structure of the government, the system of checks and balances, the right to levy taxes and other administrative details.  And then we come to the Bill or Rights.  The first amendment to our constitution says:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  It does not protect any given religion, rather it protects and respects the rights of the citizens of the United States to make their own decisions regarding religion and be free of government interference in the matter.

This is where I take issue with Rick Santorum.  Religions are not protected by our constitution, people are.  Rick Santorum is absolutely correct when he says that the political side of Islam is not protected, but then neither is the political side of Christianity.  You know the side were “women are not to be treated equally” (1 Corinthians  14:34 among other verses) and behavior that is traitorous or undermining the government of our country.”  Christians are also not able to practice the system of justice taught in the Old Testament-all that eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth stuff.

I believe that radical Islamist terrorists exist.   I also believe that radical Christian terrorists exist.  We live in a world filled with extreme violence.  I applaud Rick Santorum for being willing to recognize this and speak up.   However, I have to speak out against the implication that our constitution favors one religion over another.  As the people protected by our constitution, we must each defend the rights of all or risk losing the liberty we now enjoy.

A quick check of ontheissues.org shows that Rick Santorum has a very strong anti-abortion record.  He has said that he would allow an exception for cases of rape and incest in order to find common ground restricting other abortions.  He voted no on an amendment to the Senate’s 2006 budget that would have allowed $100 million to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies through education and the use of contraceptives. While I respect and admire the consistency with which Rick Santorum has stood by his beliefs on this issue, I cannot support or agree with his positions.  I absolutely think that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to educate young people about the risks of sexual activity and make appropriate protection available for those that decide to be sexually active.

While I disagree with Rick Santorum on many (almost all) issues; I respect him because he has a consistent record of acting according to his stated beliefs.  With this candidate it seems that what you see is what you get.

Rick Santorum says he is the only candidate that ISIS has acknowledged as an enemy.   I would love for somebody with knowledge in the national security area to give us their thoughts on that.   Anybody out there?

Dec 062015
 
Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina © Cynthia Hanevy/CJH Photography LLC

When I set myself the goal of photographing every viable presidential candidate, I was anxious to learn more about Carly Fiorina.  I liked the success story she often tells of starting out as a secretary and rising to become CEO of Hewitt Packard.  I soon found out that she has appeared on more than one “worst CEO list,”  but  she did oversee the lay offs of many, many employees-not a great way to win friends and influence people.  And adjectives like “best” and “worst” will surely sell more articles than adjectives like “OK” or “acceptable,”  so I am prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt on this.  Even opponent Chris Christie acknowledged when speaking of Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina (impatient with their bickering) at the Republican Debate on September 16: “You’re both successful people. Congratulations.”  I can relate to her struggles with cancer, and I feel deeply for her loss of a child to drug addiction.  As for Donald thinking Carly Fiorina doesn’t look presidential, all I can say is check that hair, Donald!

Carly Fiorina is a pro-life candidate, favoring a ban on abortion 20 weeks after fertilization with exceptions for incest, rape, and danger to the mother’s health.  She favors equal opportunity for women, but then again who is going to come out and say we should discriminate against women? She believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but is OK with civil unions.  I have always thought that the government should get out of the marriage business and leave that to the churches.   Civil unions can handle the property type issues related to long-term partnerships.   In our society, marriage carries the connotation of God’s approval of the union.   Let’s leave that to the churches and separate it from the state.  Carly supports moving more control of education to local sources.   I am not sure I can support this idea.   It seems to me that we need federal oversight to ensure that all students in the US have access to adequate, quality education.

Carly impresses me as a tough, strong woman.   She is fond of saying in public appearances that, support her or not, we would all love to see her debate Hillary Clinton.   As far as I am concerned that is absolutely true!   I believe she would hold Hillary’s feet to the fire and I know Hillary could fire right back.   My main concern with Carly Fiorina is that she seems to have a problem passing fact checks.   It makes me wonder…is she ignorant of the facts or is she just hoping we are?

Sources:  Carly Fiorina speeches and debate performance, Mercury news, ontheissues.org

Dec 052015
 

OK, I really planned to stay away from gossip column type snark in this blog, but this shirt makes it hard…can you say prison orange jumpsuit?  I’m just not sure what Rand Paul was thinking going out on the campaign trail like this in April…

Rand Paul in prison orange colored shirt

Rand Paul in prison orange

By the time the Halloween Growth and Opportunity Party (haha) in Des Moines rolled around, he looked a little less felonious.

Rand Paul in Des Moines

But we shouldn’t judge a man by his clothing.   What’s Rand Paul got to say about the issues?  Rand Paul is a fairly typical conservative Republican.  He describes himself as 100% pro-life and introduced S.583-the Life at Conception Act in March of 2013.   Of particular interest is the statement that “{ Rand Paul } would strongly support legislation restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe vs. Wade.  Such legislation would only require a majority vote, making it more likely to pass than a pro-life constitutional amendment.”  http://www.paul.senate.gov/about-rand/issues/advocating-for-sanctity-of-life

I suppose that’s true enough-but that doesn’t make it right.  It’s an encroachment on the legitimate power of the judicial branch to check the power of the legislature.  With the Roe vs. Wade decision, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) disallowed many state and federal restrictions against abortion, holding that the due process clause of the constitution protected a woman’s right to privacy, including a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, while acknowledging the interest of the state in protecting human life.  http://www.lawnix.com/cases/roe-wade.html

What does Rand Paul mean by “cases like Roe vs. Wade?”   The essence of the case goes beyond the issue of abortion.  The core of the issue is the extent to which citizens are constitutionally protected from the encroachment of government on their private lives.  Should SCOTUS then be barred from hearing any case that might result in a ruling limiting the power of the legislative branch?  I find that idea frightening.  Regardless of where you stand on Roe vs. Wade, it is important that the power of the legislature be subject to the checks and balances provided by both the executive and the judicial branches.   I find it ironic that Rand Paul and the Republican party, in the name of religious freedom and small government see fit to eliminate the protection provided by our systems of checks and balances and expand the power of the legislature to control the private lives of its citizens.   That, ladies and gentlemen, is not small government.

In the interests of full disclosure so you can understand what colors my interpretation of the world around me:

  1.  I consider myself a fundamentalist Christian.  No, I don’t mean I will come knock on your door and hit you on the head with a Bible if you don’t see the world like I do.  I mean I try to understand the fundamentals of what I believe and to act in accordance with my understanding.  I see the Bible as a parable, a literary expression of a spiritual truth that mere humans can’t understand.  The only way I can see to be “a good Christian” is to do my best to understand and live what Christ taught.  I believe he taught that we should love, help and accept each other.  Am I perfect at any of that?  Heck no.  But I try and I plan to keep trying.
  2. I am pro-life and pro-choice.  I believe that every abortion is a sad event.   However, I don’t feel that I have the right, let alone the wisdom, to make decisions for others or to judge them for the decisions they make.  Let’s try this.  Let’s truly respect all life.   Let’s provide support for mothers that may have a tough time bringing a baby into this world.  We can start by helping them, not judging them.  Provide emotional and financial support as needed.  Help them look into all their options and allow them to make the choice that is right for them.  Teach young people about birth control and encourage them to use it.  Fewer unwanted pregnancies, a loving attitude instead of judgment toward women that “should not have gotten pregnant,” and making both adoption and keeping a child easier options will help to drive the number of abortions down.  Let’s respect all life-even the lives of people that are already born.

 

Nov 182015
 

Bobby Jindal

Ladies and Gentlemen, Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal has left the building, saying “this is not my time.”  Considering that he was polling at less than 1% in recent polls, I think he is probably right.  Will it ever be his time?  It’s hard to tell.

My impressions of Bobby Jindal were somewhat neutral.   He seems to be able to connect with an audience, but anybody campaigning at this level should certainly have that ability.  However, Jindal’s low and dropping approval ratings in his home state have made easy pickings for other candidates in this crowded field and his campaign seems to have been struggling since the beginning.  He has worked hard to build a following here in Iowa.  It seems like he is here almost every week.  But it just isn’t translating to the kind of support he needs to do well in the caucus.

I had planned to give a quick run down on each candidate’s position on the hot button issues, but it a moot point in this case since Bobby has dropped out.  Who’s next to step away from the hot oven?  Will we see Bobby again in 4 years, or are his future presidential prospects as dead as Elvis?  What do you think?

Nov 182015
 
#DemDebate sign

#DemDebate sign

I recently found myself completely out of things to say about cancer (finally!) and didn’t know where to go next with this blog.   Meanwhile, my camera and I have taken up stalking presidential candidates to build my portfolio at Dreamstime, so I thought a little political commentary on this season of presidential politics might be in order, at least until a more intriguing topic comes along.  I’ll be sharing my impressions of the candidates and the process leading up to the caucus in Iowa and perhaps beyond.

I have seen and photographed most of the active presidential candidates.  I’m calling out John Kasich and George Pataki.  Gentlemen, they say ya gotta be in it to win it.  Come visit central Iowa sometime when a working stiff can get out and hear what you have to say.   You are missing the opportunity to have your picture taken by a future photography legend, and if you don’t come to Iowa more, you are not likely to be riding the winning train out of Iowa.

This obsession with the presidential campaign has been a learning experience for me.   I am a better photographer.  I know how to get a press pass.  Heck, I even learned a little about politics 🙂

Oct 072015
 

Young beautiful woman jumping with a scarf (reflection made in PS)Blessings-life is full of them.  In fact, it a blessing just to be alive.

As some of you know, it was a rough year for me from July 2014 to July 2015.   I am grateful to be feeling so much better and determined to gain my health back.  I can remember shortly after I was diagnosed watching active people go by my window and thinking what a blessing it is just to be able to move.  I had my good days and my bad days fighting cancer, but through it all I had the support of my friends and family, and I am grateful to you.

I admit it was tough to keep plugging away at my goals, but with your support I was somehow able to keep going.  The funny thing is, all the things that seemed so unattainable, all my impossible dreams, seem to now be on the edge of manifesting themselves in my life.  I know that is a good thing, really I do.  But, it has got me feeling a bit nonplussed.   I’m not sure what to do with so many blessings pushing their way into my life!

I posted a photograph of a team of dachshunds trying to pull a musher’s sled through the snow on my Facebook page awhile ago.   The caption was:  They think they can.   For so long, that’s how I felt….I think I can.   Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Follow your dreams.  Boldness has magic in it.   Keep going.  It was like I was tugging and tugging at that sled, but it just wouldn’t move.   Then, all at once, it started to roll!   Now the law of inertia is on my side.   What do I do when things actually start working?  I’m not sure, but I will keep trying to figure it out.

A positive attitude one of the truest and strongest blessings you can give or receive.  I encourage you to take a moment and count your blessings.  If you are already blessed with a positive, can-do attitude, I encourage you to share that blessing with those around you.  The dangers around us can be scary but as 1 Peter 3:13 says:  Who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

Be encouraged, be zealous, be blessed.