Do Socialist Counties Have Balanced Budgets?

First, there are many variations when attempting to describe a particular system of governing, especially Socialism.  Below are some reference points from Wikipedia1 but, for the purposes of this piece, a socialist country essentially reflects the western European variation characterized by a slow growth, high tax economic system with a national government primary mission of social justice.

And the statement often made that Socialist systems do not work is just patently false.  As with any system you must accept the good with the bad. Among the larger and long-standing Socialist countries, some individual freedoms are sacrificed in favor of very strong government control of virtually everything and comprehensive government programs of care.  Conversely, in Democratic Capitalism, individual freedoms, as well as self-reliance and hard work, are more highly valued and protected at the cost of the lack of an entirely comprehensive, cradle to grave, government “care” system.

In a democratic capitalism economic system, a high growth economy offers the opportunity for career advancement and an improved standard of living based on hard work and achievement.  It’s the “American Dream” as it has often been described.  Far less dependence on a union boss or government labor apparatus to negotiate pay increases based solely on “membership”.  Those with self-motivation, intelligence and a willingness to sacrifice are rewarded.  Collaborating with other similarly motivated individuals enables all to succeed and improve their standard of living.  This has been, and possibly was, the American way that produced the greatest standard of living for the greatest number of individuals the world has ever witnessed.

One potential assumption that could be made is Socialist countries, with much higher tax rates, must be able to balance their federal government budgets,  In fact, virtually none of them are able to balance budgets and must resort to borrowing from Peter to take care of Paul.

Seven out of ten countries with the highest tax rates also have higher national debt totals (as a percentage of GDP) than the US.2  In addition, they carry a higher amount of debt burden per citizen than the US.  So, they are taxing at higher rates than the US, and, also incurring more government debt than the US as a percent of GDP.  Some at rates of between 150% and nearly 300% of GDP.  It is comparable to having an individual with a $50,000 per year salary that also has credit card debt of $75,000 to $150,000.  No financial organization within its right mind would allow someone to knowingly reach that level of unsecured indebtedness.  And with tax rates at their possible maximum, how do you attack your debt problem when increasing taxes would likely plunge the economy into collapse? 

Once the point is reached when requests for additional unsecured debt are refused, and tax rates are at their maximum, then spending must be cut to avoid default.  And of course, military and infrastructure spending will be cut first; until those chickens come home to roost.  A prime example is France’s lamentation, after recent high-profile terrorism attacks, that they just do not have enough national security resources to track all the potentially dangerous terrorism persons-of-interest in France. 

NATO members in Europe for many years have not fulfilled their military spending commitment to the alliance.  In times of financial distress, with military and infrastructure programs already cut to the bone, the ability to borrow exhausted, and total government spending remaining above revenue receipts, at some point social programs must be cut.  French political leaders have for several years attempted to change pension benefits rules or increase hours in a work week.  Those proposals have been met with massive civil unrest.

Now, the point is reached where all governmental promises are being broken.  Military defense is woefully inadequate.  Roads, bridges, buildings, airports, as just a few examples, are no longer even adequate or safe.  And now pension payments aren’t enough to support a very modest existence.  For those working, work rule changes are infuriating and perceived as unfair.  Whether it’s increasing hours worked per week or increasing the retirement age or some other means of reducing social program cost, something must be done.  (Maybe they would fare better in a democratic, free-market capitalistic system?)

So, the result is transportation strikes paralyzing the country, or rioting in the streets with burning barricades and entire shopping districts shut down with significant damage to shops and infrastructure.    More deadly terrorism attacks and looming infrastructure disasters.  In other words, massive government failure to achieve any of their stated goals causing massive disruption, rioting and loss of innocent lives in attacks by terrorists or other calamitous events.

Americans with similar social justice goals as their socialism counterparts around the world,  who are supporting Bernie Sanders with feverish emotional enthusiasm and hope in their eyes, will be the same ones erecting barricades and lighting truck tires afire when, in ten years, the social justice/Socialism dream becomes a nightmare.

Or, perhaps, once a single party has complete control of all government functions, they opt for a similar approach to socialism as that adopted by the Chinese.  How much of your individual freedoms are you willing to sacrifice for comprehensive social justice?  And even if you are not getting it, are you brave enough to demand more?  Do you think the French “yellow vest” street riots would be tolerated for a New York minute in China?  No, the government knows what is best for everyone; you will like it, or you are remanded, without due process, to a “re-education camp”.  The one-party political system is in complete control of EVERYTHING.  Do not expect an election to provide an opportunity for change.  The government knows everything about you.  Should you be observed by an AI-based facial recognition system as someone with an attitude, and the other data about you suggests you are or could be a political dissident, say hello to your confinement in a “re-education camp” as a political prisoner with no due process.

Is this, all of THIS, what this country aspires to? 

1The socialist market economy (SME) is the economic system and model of economic development employed in the People’s Republic of China. The system is based on the predominance of public ownership and state-owned enterprises within a market economy.[1] The term “socialist market economy” was introduced by Jiang Zemin during the 14th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 1992 to describe the goal of China’s economic reforms.[2] Originating in the Chinese economic reforms initiated in 1978 that integrated China into the global market economy, the socialist market economy represents a preliminary or “primary stage” of developing socialism.[3] Despite this, many Western commentators have described the system as a form of state capitalism.[4][5][6]

As a sovereign state is a different entity from the political party that rules that state at any given time, a country may be ruled by a socialist party without the country itself claiming to be socialist, occurring in both one-party and multi-party political systems. In particular, there are numerous cases of social democratic and democratic socialist parties winning elections in liberal democratic states and ruling for a number of terms until a different party wins the elections. While socialist parties won many elections around the world and most elections in the Nordic countries, they did not adopt socialism as the state ideology.3

2http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/highest-taxed-countries/

2http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/debt-to-gdp-ratio-by-country/

3https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_market_economy

3https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_socialist_states

The New Dominion – The Letter to the Richmond Times Dispatch Editor they Refused to Publish

Letters to the editor by RTD readers have urged Virginia Republicans to “don’t worry – be happy” regarding the Old Dominion becoming a “Blue State”.  The Democrat party, that will soon assume complete control of virtually all state government functions, bears no reflection to conservative southern democrats that dominated state government for decades in the 20th century.

The outcome of the recent election is largely the result of demographics trends sweeping the country.  An example of these demographic changes is a statistic reported recently by media outlets that most Millennials prefer socialism.  Regardless of the social revolution of the sixties, Baby Boomers eventually settled down and adopted much of the values of our parents in the Greatest Generation. Yet, Boomer’s political influence has already begun to significantly wane.

This prospect is very disconcerting to many who love this state.  Many Virginians regard the conservative fiscal management, pro-business posture, commitment to quality education and respect for all pillars of the Bill of Rights by government officials as sound reasons to make Virginia home.  This coming “blue wave” should be regarded as more of a blue tsunami that will wipe the country clean of what we have known, draw it all out to sea, and deliver a clean landscape for the pro-socialism Democrat party to remake as they choose.

As the American electorate becomes increasingly blue, the greater the likelihood pro-socialism leaders, federal, state and local, will be elected.   Even though free market democratic capitalism has created the greatest living standard the world has ever witnessed, the “blue” tsunami will cast it aside in exchange for iron-fisted government control and unprecedented wealth transfer.  Those among us who believe in self-reliance and hard work must prepare for historic change.

If it is the will of the majority, then it is inevitable.

The Unimaginable Revisited

All of this focus on Donald Trump is a tempest in a teapot while the truly important matters facing this nation, and the world, are either ignored or shelved in favor of the politics of the day.  Megalomaniacal personalities like Trump, Pelosi, Schumer, Biden and Clinton expend tremendous energies angling for who will rule the roost.   When in fact, the roost is already undergoing seismic changes below our feet.

First, the American political landscape is about to take an initial gentle left turn.  Demographic trends, toward a more liberal American electorate, already show a growing majority of voters supporting social justice causes and candidates.  This trend will accelerate over the next decade culminating in the Democrat party dominating every facet of government; executive, legislative, and judicial.

Conservative elected officials, and their electorate, will be completely and totally marginalized possessing no meaningful power to shape policy nor law.  The United States will become a single party nation no different than The People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation.  In time, as “Democratic” Socialists solidify their total control, constitutional changes will follow ensuring enduring domination and removing the means of peaceful power change exemplified by term limits.  The Bill of Rights will be “adjusted” eliminating potentially troublesome means of dissent like peaceful assembly and gun ownership.

These changes will be accompanied by unprecedented use of technology to control the population.  Every street and building will be under video surveillance.  Video images will be analyzed by AI-based systems designed to detect crime (the public premise for its existence) as well gauging the populations mood while identifying individuals (with facial recognition technology) who may represent a threat as a seditionist.  These possible seditionists will be monitored on a 24/7 basis to determine whether more direct and forceful action by “authorities” will be required.  Those deemed a threat to single party domination will be whisked off to “reeducation camps” likely to never be seen again.

By the time many of the independents and liberally minded citizens (more democratic than socialist), who initially lent their support to the social justice cause, realize it has gone too far, the opportunity to pull back will have passed.  The People’s Republic of America (PRA) will be firmly and permanently in place.  Military strategy will be “adjusted” to ensure no possible domestic threats to authoritarian control will have the opportunity to materialize into a credible threat.  Especially once guns have been removed from the citizenry the ability to rise up against tyranny will be gone forever.

All sound familiar?  How about when the socialists took complete control in Germany in the 1930s?  Then it was Jews, gypsies and “enemies of the state” carted off to “labor” camps.  And who would stop them?  Who would be there to stop the PRA from sending those with “impure thoughts” (democracy, capitalism, individual rights to peaceful assembly, and so on) to euphemistically named “re-education” (prison) camps with no due process? 

Cannot happen here some will say.  I am certain many in Germany in the 30’s said the same or were not fully aware.  There are reportedly a million people in Chinese “re-education” camps placed there with no due process quite possibly because AI-based systems and facial recognition technology deemed them a political threat, or their theology was deemed threatening.  Precisely the same thing here, and worse, is possible with a single party totalitarian regime controlling the U.S.

And who would challenge the PRA?  In Europe in the 1940’s it was the U.S. who came to the world’s rescue.  If we had not intervened the Russian totalitarian forces would have defeated Germany and taken most of Europe for themselves.  But who would come to our rescue?  Not China, not Russia, who then with any hope of success?  The answer is no one would take the risk.

And with guns now only in the hands of the government (and criminals) the possibility of a democratic advocate uprising would not be impossible.  Some gun control zealots would argue that a few handguns and rifles would be no match for a modern American military.  Isn’t that what the British thought of the American colonists?  That they couldn’t possibly win against the British imperial army and navy, the greatest military force in the world at the time.

Do you believe democracy will be allowed to spring up in Hong Kong?  The demonstrators have certainly made a lot of noise.  But quietly, carefully, this uprising too will be crushed. And nothing will be done about it.

So, for those who say it cannot happen again, it would not take much thought to remember how history has repeated itself over and over.  And never say never.  When the two-party system fails in this country and absolute power is held by the socialists (in Germany, NAZI’s were the National Socialist German Workers Party), the unimaginable will certainly be possible.

The Beginning of the End

Is this the beginning of the end for the American “Empire”?  Not an empire in the historically traditional sense i.e., Roman Empire, British Empire, but one where the presence of supremacy over other sovereign nations was the direct result of the global extension of economic and military power, not colonization. This extension of power was accompanied by a projection of the notion that a democratic republic offered societal supremacy.  The notion that a people representative government, a democracy, combined with free market capitalism, could create the most powerful nation on earth.  The notion has become fact. 

The next question is, will the American “Empire” meet a similar end as its predecessors in history?  Or, will the American “Empire” endure and overcome the failings of previous imperial regimes because its global influence is not one characterized by oppression and colonization?  Is it the right time in history, as well as the right combination of political and economic systems, that will allow the United States of America to escape the failings that led to previous imperial declines? Further, has the American democratic, capitalistic system empowered it to build military technology that enables the ability to exert power and control without colonization?  The answer is clearly yes.  Has the American system become an engine of economic power and wealth creation that will allow it to continue to dominate the world stage?  Again, yes.  Have we evolved enough to allow American global dominance to continue, or will our demise be of our own making?  This is the central question.

Reflecting briefly on previous imperial failures, first from Rome…

The Roman Empire lost the strengths that had allowed it to exercise effective control over its Western provinces; modern historians mention factors including the effectiveness and numbers of the army, the health and numbers of the Roman population, the strength of the economy, the competence of the Emperors, the internal struggles for power, the religious changes of the period, and the efficiency of the civil administration. Increasing pressure from invading barbarians outside Roman culture also contributed greatly to the collapse (editor’s note: does all of this sound eerily familiar to you?). The reasons for the collapse are major subjects of the historiography of the ancient world and they inform much modern discourse on state failure.[1][2] 1

…then London….

Where most accounts of British imperial collapse concentrate on the 20th century…. [the] story [begins] on the battlefield of Yorktown, in 1781. It was there that Britain suffered its first major anti-colonial defeat, when Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington, effectively conceding American independence. Rather than portraying Yorktown and subsequent setbacks as anomalies in an arc of imperial ascent, Brendon uses this novel point of entry to reinterpret the British empire as an enterprise whose validity was persistently challenged, from within and without.2

….and finally, in the micro sense, with the NETFLIX TV series continuing these themes, placed in Birmingham England, the “Peaky Blinders” context.

The series revolves around the notion of social classes and empires, and how they rise and fall with a startling sort of predictability. As the show suggests, over time, empires become too big, too corrupt, and too complicated to sustain themselves and eventually, they collapse. …[T]he series expresses its fears of expansion by teaching Tommy a powerful lesson about the other sharks skulking around in criminal waters – especially when those criminals are the ones involved in governmental plots with massive geopolitical implications. Essentially, Peaky Blinders embarked on a fish out of water story by moving outside its own comfort zone and taking the risk of expanding too much and too quickly. There are times when that risk appears to have paid off[.] [10]3

Wars have been won and lost but the global expansion of various forms of market-driven, capitalistic economies continue to emerge and thrive. The former Soviet republics, Viet Nam, and China are prime examples.  In some cases, national governments provide macro market control, but private enterprise is the heart of the system.

Aside from the recent parody of expansionism experienced with Denmark’s “refusal” to sell Greenland to the U.S., this country’s consistent attempts to exert influence politically, by deploying military resources to “hot zones”, has largely been deployed physically from one of the fifty states or a few bases on friendly foreign soil.  Those on friendly foreign soil are typically under mutually beneficial defense agreements with fully sovereign nations and these have become fewer over the years since WWII. 

Given the desired U.S. global persona is one of respect and decency, with no stated or unstated intentions of imperial colonization, U.S. military personnel or assets visit many foreign nations each year for largely benign reasons.  Yet, these all send a message that should hostilities be deemed necessary between the U.S. and a foreign entity (sovereign nation or amorphous political or religious group) the U.S. is the nation with the greatest ability to project its military might to anywhere in the world with significant speed and firepower.

Should early signs of difficulty between the US, or our allies, and a foreign power become known, the U.S. diplomatic corps, with stations in virtually every nation, will lead efforts to find a peaceful solution.  The U.S. Department of State holds a position of tremendous strength and importance, with virtually limitless resources (financial resources, military power, intelligence assets among others), to address any concern or threat.

Unlike in the Roman or British case, where communication and central control became a primary causes of failure, today communication and central control is virtually instantaneous from Washington.  Our resources can be deployed from seconds to hours not weeks and months during which the situation could morph several times.

Yet what about the internal causes for failure?  In the past, opposing political forces eventually found compromise in order to achieve the best outcome for the country and the world.  Today the divides are so deep and visceral.  Compromise doesn’t appear to be on anyone’s mind. The strategy appears to be to wait for absolute domination to strike and achieve one-sided goals.

The demographic trends point to increasing voter strength for liberal causes with clear intent to enact socialist policy.  Some would point to nations like France and Great Britain whose world influence has considerably waned as more and more of their financial resources are diverted to pay for internal social welfare programs limiting the funds for military strength or to support foreign policy initiatives; even straining funds for internal security forces to battle terrorism at home.  France has openly declared it does not have enough resources to track all internal terrorism threats.  Despite more and more socialistic spending, the French people have protested almost daily the inadequacy of the social programs to help them meet basic daily needs for life.

One could easily see that occurring in the United States.  The current president is often derided for his isolationist policy pulling back on military intervention across the planet.  Once socialism is in power here, and decisions must be made for either “guns or butter”, funding for the military and foreign influence will most certainly face major reductions.  Our ability to address foreign threats on foreign soil will be vastly diminished. As the French have discovered, the foreign battlefield has been exchanged for one at home though open borders, massive social spending and inadequate homeland security resources. Since 9/11, no other western nation has experienced more significant and bloody terrorist-led attacks.

The path American Socialists will take us down will be no different. Under the weight of increasingly heavy government social program spending, taxes will rise dramatically.  And not just on the “rich”; President Obama declared that any family making $150,000 per year in income must be considered “wealthy”.  The Green New Deal will triple utility rates and fuel prices for decades waiting for the promise of carbonless renewable energy to meet the demand. “Free” healthcare for all, “free” college for all would bring tax increases of 25%, or likely more, for virtually all taxpayers (including the middle class with the promise of “free” government services as justification).  The strain will bring the economy to a crawl, funding for innovation and entrepreneurism will dry up.  Over regulation and high taxes will drag us into recession.  When recession inescapably occurs, tax revenues will trend much lower, so tax rates must rise again just to remain status quo. This cycle will repeat itself until the weight of taxes and regulation collapse the economy.  Taxes will cause an innovation drought.  Job creators, left with no investment incentive, will withdraw to protect what wealth they have left.  Markets will collapse as joblessness, homelessness and hunger grow on an exponential scale.  Federal program funding runs dry and the U.S.’s ability to borrow reaches an end.  The American dream and American global leadership will become a fond memory.

1https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_of_the_Western_Roman_Empire

2https://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/oct/20/featuresreviews.guardianreview2

3https://zoomstreamtv.com/blog/what-to-watch-now-that-game-of-thrones-is-over/

President Trump is the Democrats Fault

The people who support liberal political organizations, and especially their leadership, are very, very angry.  They are infuriated because President Trump won the election.  With that result the Trump administration has maintained a conservative, constructionist leaning Supreme Court, signed tax relief legislation, dismantled the intricate web of burdensome government regulation instituted over eight years by the Obama Administration (that which combined with reducing the tax burden on small business has boosted the economy to great new heights), disengaged from Obama era signature foreign policy “achievements” like the Iran Nuclear Arms deal, the list could go on.

However, should the truth be known, they are very secretly, deep in their hearts, furious with themselves. The DNC (led by DNC Chair Donna Brazile) with the admittedly rigged nomination of Hilary Clinton, as well as Hilary herself for handing part of the typical democrat constituency over to Trump with her ignoring of rust belt states, lack of empathy for blue collar workers (thanks in part to President Obama’s submission “that those jobs are gone forever”), and Clinton’s “deplorables” blunder, essentially gifted the election to Trump. 

Think about it, when your own blunders, or blunders by your team, cause catastrophic political failure, who typically gets the blame?  The other guy of course!  He cheated, he lied, he broke the law (he outsmarted us….oh wait, no not that one – scratch it!), he engaged in treason with the Russians.  So far none of these have stuck.

And very clearly President Trump is among his own worst enemies.  Do you know anyone….anyone who thinks his overall pattern of behavior is either statesman-like or presidential?  Regardless, he is the President, duly and fairly elected by the system designed by our founding fathers that has endured successfully for centuries producing many peaceful transitions of power.

It takes an enlightened and fully self-aware person to accept blame for failures by you or your team.  It takes strength and character to focus on the real problems.  The democrat leadership, having none of that, are focusing both barrels on Trump in an attempt to erase their mistakes by delegitimizing his presidency.  First unsuccessfully through the Mueller investigation, and now the impeachment process.  We’ll see where that takes us.  Clearly, if impeachment fails as well, the process will be stretched and carried on until just about this time next year.

There is nothing anyone can do about it.  We are going to have endure this spectacle of egos and sound bites for quite a bit longer.  Many just wish the democrats had just owned up to their blunders, vowed to fix them and set about in congress to actually do good things for the country.  That should have been complimented by a concerted effort to build a party platform that will attract the most voters with its originality, balanced fiscal approach, and a promise to pursue the ideals that would serve to unite most commonsense, liberally minded voters.  With the demographic trends what they are, this would almost certainly deliver democrat success in 2020.

The Things that Make Us Angry

Anti-immunization Movement

What makes the anti-immunization forces believe they have the right to re-introduce pestilence into this country? A country that suffered for decades, possibly centuries, and spent billions of dollars to eradicate these medical nightmares.  What self-serving arrogance!  If they are opposed to the advanced use of medical science to reduce suffering let them move to another country where these diseases and endless suffering are still readily available to them.

Do people really want to bring back the good old days of deadly diseases?  Do these people think they know more about medicine and public health than the overwhelming majority of doctors, scientists, immunologists, and every major health organization across the entire planet? They are a particularly toxic sort of narcissist who places their own beliefs over the welfare of their own children and that of the general population.  Obviously these people lack the critical thinking skills necessary to separate real science from pseudoscience.

Bad Packaging Design

For all of our fellow capitalists who completely comprehend the notion of cost savings being vital to corporate longevity; the American public, your customers, are asking you to combine cost savings with consumer-friendly packaging.  So many have complained of having wounds, sometimes severe, inflicted by sharp edges of packaging created while attempting to find some means to crack it open.  When we say consumer friendly we include environmentally neutral, as well as, easy and safe to open.

Distracted Driving

For those of you who believe you are safely driving while speaking on the phone with one hand completely occupied holding the phone to your ear, shame, shame on you!  There are many things vitally wrong with that picture but the primary transgression being you are utterly distracted. Almost as egregious is you’ve given up one hand to manage your vehicle’s behavior when your distractedness inevitably causes you to create a dangerous situation for you and those around you.  Get Bluetooth and stop being an idiot.  Or, wait for it, pull over, complete your call and then drive on.  This mobile phone behavior will eventually become illegal everywhere so you might as well wise up now and join the twenty first century.

The Mueller Report

Some are angry that Mueller’s Report did not recommend charging President Trump with obstruction of justice; or even better, treason.  How could we have 200 plus investigators and spend over $20 million and not find something to impeach him? 

For others, its anger for different reasons.  Why have we wasted $20 million dollars and spent over two years to find nothing on Trump but, more egregious, where is the investigation into the sinister basis for the fruitless witch hunt? 

So….everyone is angry about this one.

Hand Dryers

Have you ever wondered why healthcare facilities do not install electric fan hand dryers?  It is because studies have found they contribute to hospital-acquired infection.  In fact, the scrubbing action of towel use is critically important to the removal of pathogens from your hands.

In 2014, a team of researchers from the University of Leeds dropped a disturbing truth bomb on the public by announcing that the no-touch jet-air dryers in public restrooms are anything but sanitary. They found that these increasingly popular devices blast bacteria from people’s poorly washed hands (most people don’t wash their hands correctly) into the air and onto nearby surfaces in disturbing quantities, increasing the likelihood that you’ll walk out of the bathroom covered in other people’s germs.

In lab-based experiments recreating a public washroom, jet-air dryers introduced 27 times more bacteria into the air than good-old-fashioned paper towels, and these microbes circulated for 15 minutes afterward.

Now, the authors are back with even more evidence against hand dryers, this time from real-world experiments.

As reported in the Journal of Hospital Infection, Professor Mark Wilcox and his colleagues set out to examine how hand drying methods affect bacterial spread in hospital bathrooms – an important issue because many serious and antibiotic-resistant infections are known to circulate in clinical settings.

The investigation was conducted in hospitals in three cities – Leeds, Paris, and Udine, Italy – over a 12-week period. For each location, two restrooms used by patients, staff, and visitors were selected, and each was set up to offer only a jet dryer or paper towels. Samples of the air and swabs of restroom surfaces were taken every day for four weeks, then, after a two-week pause in collections, each restroom switched to offer the alternate drying method. This process was then repeated a third time.

Cultures from these samples revealed that the total amount of bacteria in the air and on surfaces was consistently much higher in all restrooms when jet dryers were being used. The most dramatic differences were seen between the surface of the jet dryer itself and the surface of the paper towel dispenser: In Udine, the dryer was covered in 100 times more bacteria, in Paris it was 33-fold higher, and in Leeds it was 22-fold.

In the UK restrooms, the notorious methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacterium was found three times more frequently during jet dryer usage periods than paper towel periods. Bacterial species resistant to both penicillin and cephalosporins (known as ESBL-producing organisms) and species of pathogenic enterococci – a difficult-to-treat group – were found in significantly higher frequency and counts during these periods as well.

In the Parisian and Italian hospitals, few pathogenic or drug-resistant bacteria were encountered during either hand drying set-up.

“Consequently, we believe that electric hand dryers are not suited to clinical settings, and, as such, existing (e.g. NHS) infection control building guidance needs to be amended and strengthened,” Wilcox’s team wrote, adding that there is little justification for their use in any public setting given the risks they present.1

Environmental effects may tip a tiny bit to the dryer.  There appears to be a case that energy necessary to completely dry your hands is many times that needed to produce a paper towel. Think about the environmental impact to burn the coal or the natural gas necessary to run the dryer for a couple minutes versus the energy needed to produce a single paper towel in a highly efficient factory producing millions a day.

For anyone whose had a hospital stay lately, the war on hospital-acquired infections is evident everywhere. These infections are killers.  If hospitals fear hand dryers that much, why would you want to use one anywhere?

1https://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/hand-dryers-spread-bacteria-so-dramatically-that-scientists-think-theyre-a-public-health-threat/

Mean People

There are so many excuses available for people to be mean.  The excuses include a myriad of types of trauma; depression or mental illness; merely living in the greater D.C. Area (nowhere else in the world are there that many outright mean and nasty individuals) or other environmental causes.   

So why must they spew their hatefulness upon everyone including those of us whose primary style is kindness and generosity?  Apparently their sad existence causes them to wish to extinguish any joy and happiness around them.

Their meanness is a highly contagious and dangerous societal pathogen.  Fortunately some people, not exposed to the pathogen with any frequency, are able to shrug it off and return to their better nature. But if one is exposed to it often enough, their defenses are sufficiently weakened as to succumb to the gravitational pull of the black hole of mean.

Left Lane Cruisers

Does it appear to you as though there are more left lane cruisers now than ever?  Is it the aging population or is it just self-serving arrogance?  Some observe that this menace to safe navigation of our highways come in many varieties; the young and old, male and female, the dingleberries and the dimwits.  

Regardless, they are creating danger for everyone around them, especially those cruisers who travel at a speed less than the prevailing general speed of the surrounding traffic.  These slower cruisers, combined with the witless wonders who will do anything, no matter how crowded the roadways are, to go around them while frightening everyone with their recklessness, make highway driving miserable. This self-serving behavior makes highway travel far more dangerous than it should be.

In Virginia left lane cruising is illegal as it is in several other states.  Yet you see it endlessly on our highways.  Why?  Primarily because there are insufficient police patrols to cite them and deter the behavior.  Secondarily they are either witless in their knowledge of the law (not an acceptable excuse), or they are arrogantly disregarding the law thus creating a severe hazard for others. 

Why don’t they just move to the right lane for their cruising?  Well, in the right lane they may be “inconvenienced” by entering and departing traffic.  Or, by other drivers driving slower than they are.  By cruising in the far-left lane they experience none of these “problems”.

So, just something else to both aggravate you and frighten you with no solution in sight.

Impatient People

Impatience is one of seven basic character flaws or “dark” personality traits. We all have the potential for impatient tendencies, but in people with a strong fear of missing out, impatience can become a dominant pattern.

To be impatient is to feel and show hostility towards (or at least about) things which obstruct, frustrate or delay [achieving] one’s goals. Impatient people resent being held up, whether intentionally by another person or just accidentally in the normal course of events.

Impatience has some similarity to the emotion of anger. Animals and people alike become enraged in response to deliberate outside threats to their well-being, or the well-being of their loved ones. The anger is partly an expression of the fear that comes from being threatened, invaded or mistreated, and partly a sort of warning shot, a firm “No!” to deter the outside threat from going any further.

Impatience is also somewhat different from anger, however, in that the impatient person is predisposed to perceive virtually all situations as threatening—not to their survival per se but to [achieving] their goals. More exactly, it is as if their survival depends upon the accomplishment of as many goals as possible as quickly as possible.1

When observing impatience, it can sometimes appear almost viral in its occurrence and frequency.  Obstacles (mainly us, the non-impatient people), regardless of the circumstance i.e. difficult traffic situations, or, long lines of people waiting for some service to be performed, become the objects of their outrage. The lengthier the delay or the more frustrating the “obstacle” becomes, the angrier, more frustrated and aggressive the impatient ones become.  Sometimes they attack each other but mostly their rage is focused on the innocent obstacles.

So, it takes a great deal of patience and maturity to attempt to ignore the impatient ones and their foolishness.  Short of a life-threatening situation, how important can the goal be relative to treating everyone around you (the “obstacles”) as sub-human.

1http://personalityspirituality.net/articles/the-michael-teachings/chief-features/impatience/

The Imperfection of Our Leaders

So, how many American citizens expect our leaders to be perfect?  There are many with palpable zeal.  A visceral desire for their chosen one to be pure and flawless in every way.  The proverbial blind eye squeezes out the few perceived flaws as unimportant to the mission.

Rule#1:  My chosen leader is perfect.

Rule#2: If imperfections are found, refer to rule#1.

Thus, any material flaws are cast aside as lies and innuendo.

The fact is they are ALL flawed.  Their humanity virtually guarantees it.  Equally obvious, some have had greater flaws then others. Crystal clear flaws like the willingness to engage in illegal conduct.  President Nixon comes to mind but there have been others.

Then there are the gray matters.  Conduct unbecoming an elected official that doesn’t quite cross the line, or, when it does cross the line, the cover up is successful.  Nothing fires-up social media and the mainstream media more.  All of this wide-open protestation of love, of hate and of angst plastered everywhere you look, its all a fairly recent phenomenon.  This is basically all since the John F. Kennedy administration. For JFK, and those earlier presidencies as well as those in positions of power almost anywhere, the press had taken the high road especially when the offense was more personal in nature, like infidelity.

Going back a hundred plus years before Nixon to the times of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and Stephen Douglas, they all had their flaws or weaknesses.  Lincoln was probably the closest to freedom from major flaws.  His wit, intellect, deft political skill and grasp on the meaning of humanity crafted him into a leader any nation would rise up to exult.  Certainly among the greatest if not the greatest political leader in modern history.  Sherman, one the fiercest and most brutal warrior leaders of his time, was actually a bit of a pacifist. Yet he spent his entire career in the military.  Grant, the brilliant military architect of Civil War victory for the Unionists, should have taken the Sherman route on politics exemplified by Sherman’s famous quote “if nominated I will not run and if elected I will not serve”.  Grant’s time as president was not a happy one for him nor the nation.  Douglas chose to become a politician in the northern free state of Illinois, even though he owned a plantation with many slaves in Mississippi.   Regardless, he chose to run for the Illinois United States Senate seat against Lincoln in 1858 and won.  Well, Illinois Senators are chosen by the General Assembly and Mr. Douglas’ party won the majority in the General Assembly in 1858.  In 1860 Lincoln won the presidential election against a four-man field that included Stephen Douglas.  1n 1864 Lincoln defeated former General George B. McClellan, by a wide margin of 221-21 electoral votes.  Although there was worry at the White House that Lincoln’s actions, of continuing to fully prosecute the war and refusing to accept compromise, would lead to his defeat, he won a landslide victory.  Many historians would agree that William Tecumseh Sherman’s victory in the siege of Atlanta in the Fall of 1864 sealed successful re-election for Lincoln.     

With the possible exception of Douglas, none of these leaders seemed to have much difficulty delineating between right and wrong.  They chose a righteous path; even if some of those around them did not.  Not so different from our current lot of politicians.  During those intervening one hundred years only two presidents deserve greatness ascribed to them, FDR and Ronald Reagan.  Both war time presidents not surprisingly (FDR for our greatest war time victory in WWII and Reagan for the Cold War victory he won without a shot fired).

So, is our expectation that our leaders will strive with every cell in their being to be perfect expecting too much?  Are these expectations unrealistic for our church leaders, the school principal or the chief of police?  Sadly, we are more likely to experience painful disappointment when church, school or police officials fail our expectations then when we learn of presidential failings (or those of presidential candidates).  Are there degrees of failure or disappointment?  Is the line they must cross, to go from support to abandonment, the same for all?  By design these are all decisions we alone must make in declaring our support for specific leaders.  Our founding fathers knew quite well these decisions would be difficult and burdened with abundant complexity.  The absolute brilliance of the design is that each American citizen has the opportunity, the right, to make that choice regardless of perceived flaws.

There is of course then, “my flawed leaders is less flawed then yours”.  Or, your leader’s flaws are ghastlier and more repugnant then those you accuse my leader of possessing.  The old “throw out all the bums…except my bum”.

So, what if we suddenly became as tolerant of the failings of our leaders as we are of our brother or brother-in-law?  Or even our spouse or our children? What if we focused our entire attention to strictly policy differences?  Would that even work?  There are many who believe we should try.  The question then becomes can we collectively look beyond characteristics like religious affiliation, marital fidelity, or even ethic origin?  Others believe that society is so fragmented that this sort of altruism is virtually impossible save but by a few.  The altruistic among us represent so few in number as to be statistically meaningless. 

How sad are we?  That we first look for the worst in others.  How sad are we that our friends, family and colleagues, who, in every day circumstances lead with kindness, become ferocious beasts when anything negative is said about a politician they support.  Their ears close and their fangs lengthen hungry for blood.

Unfortunately, this disease-like state has spread to those with whom we held final hope for a bit of altruism and compromise. That four years is not too long to do nothing waiting for that next opportunity when all the political stars align once again and the need for compromise has passed.  That the political hopes and desires of half the populous can be crushed with domination.  How sad are we.

A Ray of Hope from Above

Finally, finally, a sliver of a ray of light from above for the Catholic Church.  The Church is considering, considering, allowing married men to receive “priestly ordination” in the remotest regions of the Amazon river.  Some would call this astonishingly progressive.  Some would call it a crack in the proverbial wall of “the gift of celibacy”.  So which is it?  Is it the Church taking priestly ordination of married men “for a test drive”?  Or is it the course of last resort for the Church having exhausted all other possible sources of priests who could function at a minimally acceptable level in this one of the remotest regions in the world?  It appears quite likely that it could be both. 

Aside from the challenges the Church faced in the early centuries of its existence, the current crisis centers around unthinkable acts by priests.  This, combined with a severe shortage of priests, is shaking this religious juggernaut from its parishioner core to its leadership in the Vatican.  The crisis reverberations, mostly surrounding the priest as a sexual predator, are causing geological fault lines between the Church and many of the Catholic faithful.  Evidence suggests that even some of the most fervent supporters, given the apparently lack of effective and widespread action by Church leadership, are allowing these seismic schisms to fully separate them from any church related activity.  With their faith completely shaken, they are also closing their pocketbooks effectively creating a third crisis. The army of God is having its supply lines so effectively reduced as to create new struggles for the Church in its fight against evil.

Not to suggest that Catholics, or even Christianity, represent the entirety of the legions of God.  It is striking to anyone who takes a moment to ponder it, that virtually all “religions” worship a supreme being.  It’s truly remarkable that these God-centered religious factions have occurred spontaneously around the world in some cases independent of one another. 

Some have stated that these religions are artifacts of a time when science could not explain certain phenomena.  These phenomena were then attributed to the work of a God.  A notion the people could comprehend.  A notion that gave rise to God worship in the hope that these actions would bring God’s favor to them.  The fearing and worshiping of a God removed the fear of a chaotic world where actions beyond one’s control were perceived as completely arbitrary.

For many Catholics, who choose to think more logically about why the Church is good for the people and what the Church must do to remain relevant in a modern world, tough choices must be made quickly.  Especially in a world where everything finds its way to the web instantly. 

Married men are not free of sin, nor are celibate priests, so the time has come to set aside “the gift of celibacy”. The Church should ordain married men, shed the Church of the predators, and you solve two enormous obstacles to the long-term success. Then, and only then, can the process of healing the deep, hideous wounds begin in earnest. 

Obviously much easier said than done.  Yet time is of the essence.  The Catholic Church is on course to lose almost an entire generation, possibly two or more, of parishioners.  Often change within the Church doctrine or dogma has taken decades.  The Church must move much more quickly.  Otherwise the number of engaged parishioners will shrink, the treasury will shrink, and the Church’s relevance will diminish. 

This would not be a good thing for the world.  If you believe evil exists, and we see evidence of it every day in a world of global instant communication, then religions that promote Judeo-Christian like principals of peace, love, charity, family must be preserved to combat theses forces.  The Catholic Church has done so much good in this world over two millennia.  Its charitable acts around the world, with ministries like free or low cost healthcare, are remarkable.  The Catholic Church has erred egregiously for centuries perpetuating this notion of “the gift of celibacy”.  It may yet be the source of its downfall.

The Greatness and the Coolest Generations

Survivors of Peral Harbor

Survivors of the Battle of the Bulge

Many who know more about the generation that gave birth to the “Baby Boomers” will call them “The Greatest Generation”.  The generation that survived the Great Depression, that won World War II and enabled this country to emerge on the global stage as the greatest nation on earth.  These are, in fact, undeniable accomplishments of that “Greatest Generation”. 

No amount of words can fairly represent the many unspeakable sacrifices willingly endured by this generation of Americans during World War II. The debt owed to them by all Americans, and the world, for our freedom from oppression is incalculable.  And because it deserves to be said one more time, the accomplishments of this generation of heroes evokes only one description, The Greatest!

We, in the Baby Boomers, are so incredibly proud of our fathers and mothers and uncles and their friends and relatives, many who are the descendants of immigrants who came here to be a part of this miracle of American democracy and capitalism.  They built and manufactured and governed with the single-minded goal of being a part of the American dream.  And they were incredibly successful.

The enormity of the pressure that success put on the Boomers was expressed in more than the usual ways.  The sixties and its counterculture revolution were a huge expression of pressure avoidance. Although many, many Boomers chose the traditional path, and quite successfully took the proverbial baton, the war in Viet Nam and how it was portrayed in the media, led many to an alternate path.

For many of us this war, the war in Viet Nam, was a very different and multi-faceted experience compared to WWII.  No one should diminish the sacrifices made in the name of freedom during the war in Viet Nam.  And although many, God bless them, chose to volunteer for military duty, many more, because of how the war was portrayed, took our chances with the selective service draft.  And there were a significant number, because of the attitudes about the war, that attempted to evade the draft and military service by moving to Canada or elsewhere.  Those of us that “lucked out” with the draft system, we were able to carry on with our own chosen path be it college, a trade, full time work of some kind, or, to just “drop out” and drift with the winds of the counterculture movement.

When we look back at the sixties and seventies, we Boomers are old enough to have enjoyed those times and look back with a big smile.  Those were absolutely the coolest times ever.  Saying societal norms experienced a significant loosening would be an understatement. 

The music of the sixties was by far the greatest musical decade. The list of world-class, genre-creating artists is enormous!  Here are just some of them.

Aretha Franklin The Beatles The Dave Clark Five
The Buckinghams The Chi-lites The Rolling Stones
Dusty Springfield The Four Seasons The Four Tops
Gary Puckett & the Union Gap The Guess Who The Ojays
Jay & the Americans Little Anthony & the Imperials Martha Reeves & the Vandellas
Marvin Gaye Tommy James & the Shondells The Zombies
The Young Rascals The Beach Boys The Ronettes
Barbara Lewis The Supremes The Righteous Brothers
The Del-Vikings The Grass Roots Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
The Vogues Jimi Hendricks Dionne Warwick
The Temptations Fats Domino Strawberry Alarm Clock
The Doors Creedance Clearwater Revival The Hollies
The Drifters Joan Baez Blood Seat & Tears
The Isley Brothers The Mamas & the Papas Ike & Tina Turner
Buffalo Springfield The Animals Stevie Wonder
Neil Diamond The Yardbirds Grateful Dead
Jefferson Airplane Pink Floyd The Moody Blues
Van Morrison The Band Crosby, Stills & Nash
B.B. King Janis Joplin The Miracles
Roy Orbison Simon & Garfunkel The Kinks
The Byrds Cream Led Zeppelin
Sam Cooke Elvis Presley James Brown
The Who Ray Charles Bob Dylan
Sly & the Family Stone The Velvet Underground Jefferson Airplane
Chuck Berry Wilson Pickett The Monkees
Herman’s Hermits The Lovin’ Spoonful Jackie Wilson
Traffic Dion Donovan
Joni Mitchell David Bowie Otis Redding
Johnny Rivers Petula Clark Peter & Gordon
Jan & Dean Gladys Knight & the Pips The Drifters

There are many more wonderful artists of the sixties, and, frankly, the early seventies, not mentioned here.  This list is an assemblage of the greatest icons in modern musical history.  Although this was not intended to be an all-inclusive list, it is a demonstration of the marvelous strength of the creativity and virtuosity of so many artists in a single decade.  Unquestionably unsurpassed!

The impact these artists had on a generation, a culture, a nation was the most profound in the history of any nation.  Never have musical artists had such an impact on the style, language, the fashion, and lifestyle of an entire generation as the artists of the sixties have had on the Boomers.  From the early 60s rock and R&B through to the culmination of its affect in the 1969 event heard around the world, Woodstock. 

And not just in the United States.  So Many artists from the United Kingdom, that honed their craft across Europe, often used the music created by American Blues artists as a creative platform for their inspiration.  With great triumph in Europe, they brought their brand of Rock’n Roll to the U.S. to smashing success with this new generation ready for this new messaging and new freedoms of expression.  As much of this new music emanated from nightclubs across Europe, much of the influence on style and fashion in the sixties and early seventies also emanated from Europe in places like London’s Carnaby Street.

Here in the U.S., one geographic location represented the cultural and generational attitudes more than any other; the Haight-Ashbury district in the City of San Francisco.    This bohemian community, populated early in the sixties by the so-called Beat Movement, became the cultural high ground of the counterculture movement dubbed “Hippies” for their clear turn away from tradition in attitude, lifestyle, fashion and even language. 

The War in Viet Nam was a potent ingredient in this sixty’s cultural cauldron as the anti-war activists were a glove fit to the themes adopted by the counterculture movement.  Peace, free love, the brotherhood of man populated the banners and placards carried by anti-war protestors.  The country was in crisis.

Despite this turmoil and political strife, the peace and free love generation had a hell of a lot of fun in the sixties and seventies before, for the most part, settling down and pursuing a more traditional American lifestyle.   For the coolest generation, the sixties and the seventies represented extended “recess” in a giant American playground.  Some had jobs, some began careers, some just chose to turn on, tune out, and stayed out for decades.  A luxury afforded to them by the changes in American society and success of the American economy. 

But for most of the Boomers, a more traditional way of life eventually called.  Those of us who decided they wanted a family of our own, to own a home, raise children well and send them to college, knew this required a regular, substantial income.  Time to put away childish things and don the harness.  There were many Boomers who never strayed from the traditional path, but, for us late bloomer Boomers, the opportunity was there to have that life.  Hard work; LOTS of hard work lay ahead, and it was all worth it. 

But man, the sixties and seventies were fun!

What Will it Take to Make RVA Great?

The Richmond Virginia community has so much to celebrate.  The Richmond Times Dispatch (RTD) exclaimed, in a January 16, 2019 editorial titled “We’re No. 100”, the many virtues of our city.  “In 2017 Richmond was ranked as one of the nation’s top five hipster paradises.  Ultra-artsy VCU, the Fan district, plentiful (widely celebrated) restaurants, and great breweries all helped to make Richmond one of America’s hippest cities, according to rankings by MovieHub.  The plentiful thrifts shops, tattoo parlors and vegan options throughout the area also helped win us that ranking on the ‘US Hipster Index’. “

“In 2018, Forbes magazine named RVA one of the country’s top 10 coolest cities.  Once again, some of the reasons for that ranking included the vibrant craft beer scene and the multitude of great places to eat.” 

“Also in 2018, a travel-guide book publisher, rated River City as one of the top 10 ‘underrated, rejuvenated and out-of-this-world’ places to visit.  The company said it traveled around the globe to find the world’s best cities.  Again, Richmond made this list in part because of its ‘microbreweries, cideries, and buzzworthy restaurant’.”

In another exclamation of the City’s virtues, RTD’s May 14, 2019 story about a start-up credit card company (Petal) choosing RVA (in this case selecting a location in Chesterfield county) over Austin Texas and Salt Lake City Utah.  Petal, choosing RVA to locate its first offices outside NYC and committing to hire 80 people over the next three years, said this. “We chose Richmond after looking at a number of other locations around the country.”  “We looked at the depth and richness of the labor pool, affordability of living and the proximity of colleges.”  Also stating “Richmond was an easy choice….and it is a very livable city”. 

These accolades only scratch the surface of what makes our community great with wonderful architecture, history, museums and natural resources galore. This list of the area’s riches can go on and on.  So what is holding this obviously very attractive community back from greatness? 

City government is at the core of the remaining detractors facing this community.  The city’s inability to effectively and efficiently govern are the hands pulling back the reins on a galloping city appearing destined for greatness. 

The city’s schools are a continuing embarrassment with a majority of schools failing to be accredited and a majority of third graders unable to read at grade level.  Crumbling roads and bridges cast a pall on the city’s appearance and resident safety.  City leaders appear unable to restrain cost while consistently seeking additional sources of revenue.  Yet, reaching many important goals remain elusive year after year.

Its elected governing body, the City Council, is under constant pressure to address rising cost while attempting to protect its citizens from the burden of new requests for additional tax revenue.  All while the city’s schools and infrastructure crumble beneath them.

To achieve the greatness this city has strived for, city leadership must find the strength and wisdom necessary to dig deeply into the core issues of effectiveness and efficiency.  They must face the final obstacles to greatness and transform agencies of city government into the paragons of cost management and service delivery so often found in surrounding local government, as well as the private sector, right here in our community.   

In fact, if our Commonwealth’s own Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee’s (JLARC) charter could be altered to include exercising its powers on behalf of City Council, for say a single biennium, then possibly much good could be accomplished.  JLARC is credited with assisting the Commonwealth in its recognition for being among the most well-run states in the union.  Having personally observed JLARC in action, the city would be well served to have this level of independent review by such a prestigious body.

For many years Richmond has been regarded as a poorly managed city.  All of Richmond’s citizens, and those of the affected surrounding communities, deserve better.