Wednesday, June 28, 2017

His name was Pierino




None of us can explain why our brains work the way they do, so you’ll understand when I tell you that I have no idea why I woke up this morning thinking about a person who was very famous when I was growing up.

After breakfast, I did some research, and learned a number of interesting facts about him. He was the 7th of 10 children born to a poor immigrant family in the early years of the 20th Century, but the first of the family who was born in America. Since his family spoke their native tongue at home, he did not start speaking English until he started school.

Although his father was a poor mill hand, he believed in the value of music for his children, and all of his children took music lessons, even though he could barely afford them. Because his family did not have a lot of money, young Pierino started working when he was 10 at a local barber shop for the princely sum of 50 cents a week.

When he was 14, his father became unable to work due to a heart condition. By this time, Pierino had acquired enough skills as a barber that he was able to open his own barber shop, In a very short period of time, he was doing well enough that he had to hire 2 additional barbers.

When he was 17, he met his future wife at a picnic, and fell immediately in love. By the time of his death, at the age of 84, he and his wife had been married for 65 years. Due the delight of my Catholic relatives, he was “a good Catholic boy”, and he managed to get through his entire life without a hint of scandal. For their silver anniversary, Pierino and his wife traveled to Rome to visit Pope Pius XII. While there, he was named a Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, and his wife was named Lady Commander.

At the age of 20, his musical training as a child paid off, and he was offered a singing position in a band. However, since the $28 he would make in a week was less than $125 he made as a barber, his wife could not afford to travel with him, However, his father encouraged him to pursue a singing career, which turned out to be very good advice, since his career spanned for close to 60 years. In addition to live performances, he also performed on the radio, on television, and in movies. He finally retired at the age of 82, after acquiring numerous awards, including three stars on the Holllywood Walk of Fame.

I won’t tell you his name, but if you click on the link shown below, you’ll be able to listen to his best known song. I guarantee you that it will stay in your head for the rest of the day - but I can’t explain why.








Thursday, June 22, 2017

is it time to raise the minimum wage?





There WAS a time in our recent history when both political parties worked to improve living conditions for the average American. The best proof of that is the 1956 Republican Party platform, which you can read in its entirety by clicking on the link below:






 As you read through this document, you will note a number of items that really jump out at you:  (emphasis mine) 

*****************************************************************

"The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.

While jealously guarding the free institutions and preserving the principles upon which our Republic was founded and has flourished, the purpose of the Republican Party is to establish and maintain a peaceful world and build at home a dynamic prosperity in which every citizen fairly shares.

We shall ever build anew, that our children and their children, without distinction because of race, creed or color, may know the blessings of our free land. 

We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs—expansion of social security—broadened coverage in unemployment insurance —improved housing—and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people.

 We shall continue vigorously to support the United Nations. 

We hold that the major world issue today is whether Government shall be the servant or the master of men. We hold that the Bill of Rights is the sacred foundation of personal liberty. That men are created equal needs no affirmation, but they must have equality of opportunity and protection of their civil rights under the law.

The individual is of supreme importance. 

The spirit of our people is the strength of our nation. 

America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper. 

Government must have a heart as well as a head. 

Courage in principle, cooperation in practice make freedom positive. 

Under the Republican Administration, as our country has prospered, so have its people. This is as it should be, for as President Eisenhower said: "Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country—they are America."

The record of performance of the Republican Administration on behalf of our working men and women goes still further. The Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers. Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers. There have been increased workmen's compensation benefits for longshoremen and harbor workers, increased retirement benefits for railroad employees, and wage increases and improved welfare and pension plans for federal employees.

In addition, the Eisenhower Administration has enforced more vigorously and effectively than ever before, the laws which protect the working standards of our people.

Workers have benefited by the progress which has been made in carrying out the programs and principles set forth in the 1952 Republican platform. All workers have gained and unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 million.

Furthermore, the process of free collective bargaining has been strengthened by the insistence of this Administration that labor and management settle their differences at the bargaining table without the intervention of the Government. This policy has brought to our country an unprecedented period of labor-management peace and understanding. 

We applaud the effective, unhindered, collective bargaining which brought an early end to the 1956 steel strike, in contrast to the six months' upheaval, Presidential seizure of the steel industry and ultimate Supreme Court intervention under the last Democrat Administration.

The Eisenhower Administration will continue to fight for dynamic and progressive programs which, among other things, will: 

Stimulate improved job safety of our workers, through assistance to the States, employees and employers; 

Continue and further perfect its programs of assistance to the millions of workers with special employment problems, such as older workers, handicapped workers, members of minority groups, and migratory workers; 

Strengthen and improve the Federal-State Employment Service and improve the effectiveness of the unemployment insurance system;

Protect by law, the assets of employee welfare and benefit plans so that workers who are the beneficiaries can be assured of their rightful benefits; 

Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex;

Clarify and strengthen the eight-hour laws for the benefit of workers who are subject to federal wage standards on Federal and Federally-assisted construction, and maintain and continue the vigorous administration of the Federal prevailing minimum wage law for public supply contracts;

 Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable;

Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex; 

Provide assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment;

Revise and improve the Taft-Hartley Act so as to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public. The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration. In 1954, 1955 and again in 1956, President Eisenhower recommended constructive amendments to this Act. The Democrats in Congress have consistently blocked these needed changes by parliamentary maneuvers. The Republican Party pledges itself to overhaul and improve the Taft-Hartley Act along the lines of these recommendations. 

We have asked the largest increase in research funds ever sought in one year to intensify attacks on cancer, mental illness, heart disease and other dread diseases.

 We recommend to Congress the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women.


Civil Rights


The Republican Party points to an impressive record of accomplishment in the field of civil rights and commits itself anew to advancing the rights of all our people regardless of race, creed, color or national origin.

In the area of exclusive Federal jurisdiction, more progress has been made in this field under the present Republican Administration than in any similar period in the last 80 years.

The many Negroes who have been appointed to high public positions have played a significant part in the progress of this Administration. 

Segregation has been ended in the District of Columbia Government and in the District public facilities including public schools, restaurants, theaters and playgrounds. The Eisenhower Administration has eliminated discrimination in all federal employment.

Immigration

The Republican Party supports an immigration policy which is in keeping with the traditions of America in providing a haven for oppressed peoples, and which is based on equality of treatment, freedom from implications of discrimination between racial, nationality and religious groups, and flexible enough to conform to changing needs and conditions


We believe that such a policy serves our self-interest, reflects our responsibility for world leadership and develops maximum cooperation with other nations in resolving problems in this area.
 

We support the President's program submitted to the 84th Congress to carry out needed modifications in existing law and to take such further steps as may be necessary to carry out our traditional policy. 

In that concept, this Republican Administration sponsored the Refugee Relief Act to provide asylum for thousands of refugees, expellees and displaced persons, and undertook in the face of Democrat opposition to correct the inequities in existing law and to bring our immigration policies in line with the dynamic needs of the country and principles of equity and justice. 

We believe also that the Congress should consider the extension of the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 in resolving this difficult refugee problem which resulted from world conflict. To all this we give our wholehearted support.

Guarding and Improving Our Resources

One of the brightest areas of achievement and progress under the Eisenhower Administration has been in resource conservation and development and in sound, long-range public works programming. 

Policies of sound conservation and wise development—originally advanced half a century ago under that preeminent Republican conservation team of President Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot and amplified by succeeding Republican Administrations—have been pursued by the Eisenhower Administration. While meeting the essential development needs of the people, this Administration has conserved and safeguarded our natural resources for the greatest good of all, now and in the future. 

Our national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges are now more adequately financed, better protected and more extensive than ever before. Long-range improvement programs, such as Mission 66 for the National Parks system, are now under way, and studies are nearing completion for a comparable program for the National Forests. These forward-looking programs will be aggressively continued.

Our Republican Administration has modernized and vitalized our mining laws by the first major revision in more than 30 years. 

Recreation, parks and wildlife.


ACHIEVEMENTS: Reversed the 15-year trend of neglect of our National Parks by launching the 10-year, $785 million Mission 66 parks improvement program. Has nearly completed field surveys for a comparable forest improvement program. Obtained passage of the so-called "Week-end Miner Bill." Added more than 400,000 acres to our National Park system, and 90,000 acres to wildlife refuges. Has undertaken well-conceived measures to protect reserved areas of all types and to provide increased staffs and operating funds for public recreation agencies. 

We favor full recognition of recreation as an important public use of our national forests and public domain lands. 

We favor a comprehensive study of the effect upon wildlife of the drainage of our wetlands.


We favor recognition, by the States, of wild-life and recreation management and conservation as a beneficial use of water. 

We subscribe to the general objectives of groups seeking to guard the beauty of our land and to promote clean, attractive surroundings throughout America.


We recognize the need for maintaining isolated wilderness areas to provide opportunity for future generations to experience some of the wilderness living through which the traditional American spirit of hardihood was developed.


*************************************************************************


Most of us would agree that the ideas proposed by the Eisenhower administration are good ideas. By 2012, however, the Grand Old Party had acquired a much different attitude. 


The 2016 Republican Party platform strays even further than the ideas espoused in the 1956 platform: 


www.gop.com
Today delegates to the Republican National Convention adopted the official 2016 Platform of the party. The Platform declares the Party's principles and policies.

Since last November’s election, it’s fairly clear that the Republican Party has simply lost its collective mind. Eisenhower would not only not recognize his party, he would no longer have a chance of getting elected to any position in the party.


  
There actually was a time when both parties fought for a livable minimum wage. As of today, it has been 10 years since the Federal minimum wage was increased to $7.25. Nineteen states started out the year with minimum wages higher than that, and a handful of states have passed laws that will gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. 


money.cnn.com
Congress hasn't raised the federal minimum wage in 10 years. Democrats on Capitol Hill decided to mark the occasion by introducing a bill that probably won't pass.

 Members of Congress received an increase in salary every year from 2000 to 2007, but have only had 2 small increased since that time.

www.legistorm.com
Congress is required by Article I, Section 6, of the Constitution to determine its own pay. Pay adjustments can be enacted through stand-alone legislation or through ...

 Since the approval rating of Congress is below 20%, and has been as low as 9%, Congress is unlikely to attempt a raise in its own pay. If the abominable American Health Care Plan passes the Senate, Congressional approval rating will plummet even further.

 You may have seen the story in circulation that compares military pay to a fast food worker making $15 an hour. Here is one example: 


www.blakeporterneuro.com
This “rant” about minimum wage, fast food, and military compensation has been circulating around Facebook for the past few years, one version can be seen here:

 A comparison between the two, of course, is absurd, since the REAL compensation of the individual in the military is significantly higher than the money he/she receives in the form of salary. The fast food worker, meanwhile, has to pay for housing, food, insurance (car, health, and renters), clothing, and transportation. Even if the minimum wage were increased overnight to $15 an hour, most full time workers would not be able to afford a two bedroom apartment in most of the states in this country if they tried to limit their housing costs to the 30% of income recommended by housing experts:


 The Affordable Care Act, fortunately, has made affordable (and life-saving) health insurance available (for the first time) to millions of people in the country. For now, many of the fast food workers are safe, but they could change in the very near future is members of Congress don’t come to their senses. 

None of us would argue that folks who serve in our military should get paid less. However, there is an awful lot of bad information about the status of fast food workers. Contrary to popular opinion, fast food workers are not simply high school kids trying to make a few extra bucks for spending money. 40 % of the workers in the fast food industry are over the age of 25, 26 % are parents with children, and 31% of the workers have at least attempted college.


 Diane Sawyer’s recent series, “My reality: a hidden America”, provides a great deal of detail about the struggles of families trying to get by on low wage incomes.



The most common argument against raising the minimum wage is that it will hurt job growth. Nor surprisingly, that simply is not true. The link below will take you to a site that lists the states that have the highest minimum wage. 


The link below will allow you to see economic growth in all of the 50 states


5 of the 10 states that had the highest minimum wage also showed economic growth when comparing current quarter figures to the total for the last 4 quarters. With one exception, the 5 states that showed a decline all suffered minor declines. The exception was Arizona, which has some of the worst education funding in the country. Arizona also has a governor who believes that tax cuts are the answer to prosperity. He happens to be good friends with the Koch brothers.

Sam Brownback, the governor of Kansas, is also a friend of the Koch brothers. His relentless tax cuts in Kansas have been a disaster for the state. Economic growth for the last 4 quarters in Kansas was an anemic .3%, and the most recent quarter has declined even further. In recent weeks, the Kansas legislature overturned a Brownback veto, and finally agreed to a tax INCREASE. 

The lowest unemployment in our country since the end of WWII was 2.9% in 1952 (during the Eisenhower administration.) In that same year, the marginal tax rate was 92%,


 The boom that occurred during the Eisenhower years was due to the passage of the G.I. bill in June of 1944. As a result, millions of returning vets received free college tuition and subsidized housing because the government believed in INVESTING for the future. 

In contrast, the HIGHEST unemployment rate that we have had in our country since 1945 (9.7%) occurred during Ronald Reagan's first term:

https://www.infoplease.com/business-finance/labor-and-employment/united-states-unemployment-rate

By no small coincidence, the top marginal tax rate in 1980 was 70%. In 1981, it dropped to 69.13%, and he following year (1982) it dropped to 50%, until it was lowered (again) in 1987 and 1988. George H.W. Bush was smart enough to get the rate raised in 1991, but it prevented him from earning a 2nd term in office.

Bill Clinton managed to get the rate increased to 39.6% in 1993. If the top marginal tax rate had stayed at that level, our national debt would have been ELIMINATED by the year 2000.

The most significant INCREASE in our national debt occurred during the Reagan years, when the national debt nearly TRIPLED (from $908 billion to $2.602 billion):

https://www.thebalance.com/national-debt-by-year-compared-to-gdp-and-major-events-3306287

The George W. Bush administration lowered the top rate in 2001, 2002, and 2003, and pushed the economy into the worst mess it has been in since the end of WWII. It took 8 years of Democratic leadership to reverse the damage.


 A few years ago, Minnesota passed the largest tax increase in the state’s history. Economic growth has been strong over the last 4 quarters, and has improved even further in the current quarter. Minnesota also is one of the most generous states in funding for education, and the median income in my home state (land of the sky blue waters) is $10,000 a year higher than it is in Arizona. 


The Walton family is one of the wealthiest families in America, and Walmart is the largest private employer in the entire world. However, Walmart Corporation costs U.S. taxpayers $6.2 billion a year in public assistance for food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing.

The average Walmart supercenter costs taxpayers between $904,542 and 1.75 million per year. As Bernie Sanders recently pointed out, the absolutely horrible Trumpcare health plan would give the Walton family a tax break of $52 billion. That’s an inflated figure, but he DOES have a point. 

In 1925, Henry Ford raised the minimum wage for his workers to $5 a day, more than double what they had been making before. Not only did the higher wage reduce turnover, it also enabled his workers to buy the vehicles that they had produced. 

In 2008 dollars, Henry Ford was worth $188.1 billion at the time of his death. 

Donald Trump has actually advocated for a higher minimum wage, although he would prefer that various states should take the lead.

Will the minimum wage be increased by Congress? 

Only time will tell, but I have my doubts. 

In the meantime, if you are a fast food worker …. 

You deserve a break today













Saturday, June 17, 2017

when Georgia met Arizona









When I lived in the Twin Cities, I was fortunate to see the Harlem Globetrotters play a game at one of the arenas in Minneapolis. The best player on the team was a guy named Meadowlark Lemon, In fact, according to basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, Meadowlark was the best player of all time. During his 22 years with the Globetrotters, he played in more than 16,000 games, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.


born-again Christian, Lemon became an ordained minister in 1986 and received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Vision International University in Ramona, California, in 1988. He was also featured as a gospel singer within several Gaither Homecoming videos. In his last years, he took up residence in Scottsdale, Arizona, where his Meadowlark Lemon Ministries, Inc. is located.

The Harlem Globetrotters are still active today. Originally founded on the South Side of Chicago in 1926 (remember Leroy Brown?), they moved to Harlem the following year, and have been there ever since.


Early on, they adopted a little tune called “Sweet Georgia Brown”, which you can listed to at the link below:


Incredibly, both the Stanley Cup playoffs and the NBA playoffs just ended. The Stanley Cup concluded on June 11, and the Pittsburg Penguins were victorious again. The NBA playoffs ended a day later, and the Golden State Warriors got the trophy. Unfortunately, our society has become too wrapped up in politics, and the Warriors unanimously decided to not travel to the White House to meet with Donald Trump.

The Harlem Globetrotters, and Meadlowlark Lemon, made us all laugh, and we need a lot more fun in our lives today. As Billy Joel sang a lot of years ago, it’s time to forget about life for a while, and to sing that tune one more time.








Thursday, June 15, 2017

why being tough on crime does not always make sense




 
Since we live in “the great melting pot”, none of us will ever agree with everyone else on every single topic, and one of those topics is how to deal with the criminals in our society.
 

Before I give you my opinion, I would recommend that you read the articles that I have previously published about crime:
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
There is no question that there ARE members of our society who are dangerous people, and they need to be locked up in order to protect the rest of society. However, the problem that we have in our society is that we have far too many people in prison, and a disproportionate number of them are minorities. In fact, although blacks constitute 30% of our population, they make up 60% of our prison population.
 


 
We have one of the highest incarcerations rates in the world, and we are spending LOTS of money to keep people locked up far longer than they should be, especially those convicted for non-violent offenses. By now, most of us have come to the realization that “the war on drugs” has been a complete failure, and it is largely responsible for the dramatic increase in the number of people who are being held in prison. The “war on drugs” caused our prison population to quadruple since 2008. Depending on the state, it costs anywhere from $18,000 to $31,000 a year to house a criminal, which means that we are spending somewhere between $43 billion and $74 billion per year for our prison population, and that does not include the money that states are required to care for the criminal’s families (see Monopoly and Lincoln logs shown above)

As of 2016, 4 states have fully legalized recreational marijuana use, 23 states have legalized medical marijuana, and 19 states have decriminalized marijuana possession.  However, in 4 states, a person caught with ANY marijuana can be charged with a felony, and the state that has the WORST laws about marijuana possession also happens to be the state that also has the worst (loosest) gun laws. It’s known as the Grand Canyon State, and it happens to be the state that I pay taxes to. Unfortunately, very few of those taxes go to education, since Arizona has long been of the worst states in terms of education funding. 


Because a felony conviction is given for very serious crimes, it stays on your record FOREVER. As a result, an individual who has received a felony conviction for possessing minor amounts of marijuana will have difficulty finding employment for the rest of his life. In many states, he/she will be unable to vote even after they have served their sentence 


As you know, our criminal system is not perfect, and there are LOTS of people who were charged incorrectly with a felony - and one of those people is our son. His story can be found in the story shown above as “go directly to jail”. Even though the felony charge for a youthful indiscretion was dismissed more than 20 years ago, it came back to haunt him when he applied for a job in Chicago in 2012. He was able to clear up the misunderstanding by driving to the courthouse in the western suburbs of Chicago, and he got the job. 

However, that past wrongful charge came back to haunt him again just recently, and here is how: 

I’ve been a substitute teacher in Arizona for 5 years, and like it so well that I recommended that Brian look into it as well. Part of the process in becoming a substitute teacher is to obtain a fingerprint card, which Brian requested on March 27. As of today, he had not received his card, so he called the office to find out the reason for the delay (it took me about 2 weeks to get my card). Not surprisingly, the felony charge from 22 years ago had raised a red flag. After carefully explaining the situation to the person at the issuing office, he FINALLY was able to convince them to issue him a fingerprint card. With a little luck, he should be receiving it sometime in the next week. 

As a society, it’s important to find a balance between too loose on crime (remember Willie Horton?) and being too strict (Sheriff Joe Arpaio). The voters in Maricopa County finally got smart and tossed Sheriff Joe out of office last fall. Since 2007, he has cost Maricopa county taxpayers $56 million in judgements. In spite of the pink underwear and the infamous tent city, the majority of the cities in Arizona that have the highest crime rate happen to be in Maricopa country. In fact, between 2002 and 2009, crime went down in every Arizona county EXCEPT Maricopa, where the crime rate INCREASED BY 58%. 


If you think that sheriff Joe has “left and gone away”, never forget the fact that Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke is still with us, and he has cost Milwaukee taxpayers over $400 000 – so far. However, that amount does not include the $6.7 million that  was recently awarded to a Milwaukee woman who was repeatedly raped by guards in a Milwaukee jail, and was shackled during labor.


In May, the sheriff announced that he had accepted a federal appointment as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. So far, the Department of Homeland Security has not confirmed the appointment, but since he worked on the Trump campaign last fall, it’s anyone’s guess whether he actually has the job. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

One final thought on getting tough on crime: 


If you are ever in doubt about to handle a criminal case, remember the Ox-Boro incident. If he were still living, Henry Fonda would help you to understand, and so would 12 angry men. .