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Off With His Head — A Nation Profoundly Better Off Under Obama Rejected His Leadership At The Election Polls

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In America last night, the election outcomes were not much of a surprise. Republicans did not so much as win, and Democrats did not so much as lose — though certainly it feels that way. No, instead, the election was a referendum on failed presidential leadership.

Though in almost every measurable way the American people are profoundly better off today than they were before President Obama took office, the American people soundly repudiated him yesterday in the election. Why?

Failure To Lead

The President never actually led the nation to feel hope during economic recovery, never made the people feel secure in a threatening world, never guided them confidently through the most major change in health care coverage, and finally never offered reassurance from a menacing and deadly virus seeping its way into the country. In other words, the voters lashed out against failed executive leadership.

As was so correctly said by a member of the Republican National Committee in an op-ed to businesspersons, “At the national level, disgusted and angry voters vented in a very direct way on President Barack Obama, taking their concerns to the ballot box… Contrary to a Republican self-proclaimed resurgence at the national level, the 2014 midterm elections were not as much validations of a Republican national agenda as repudiation” of President Obama’s leadership, or lack thereof.

On a night when Republicans were expected to do well, they did. Or, to be more accurate, on a night when Democrats were expected to do poorly, they did – losing in places they never expected to lose (like Iowa and Colorado) and slipping further and further behind in state capitols and legislatures around the country (including governorships in traditionally dark blue states like Maryland and Massachusetts).

Yet, across the nation progressive ballot initiatives passed easily, such as minimum wage increases, transportation tax initiatives, prison reform and decriminalization, marijuana legalization, and conservation programs, to name only a few.

Make no mistake, this election was transformed into a referendum on President Obama, and was not a movement against progressive causes or policies.

Notwithstanding the results, the Republican brand at the national level remains tarnished, and sustaining a governing majority for longer than a single election cycle will be a challenge unless changes continue to happen within the Republican Party itself, a moderation and appeal to reasonableness.

Significant Progress Obscured By Failed Leadership

Failed leadership does not mean “failed administration.” The sad aspect of the election reality and the disillusionment of the electorate is that so much has been accomplished by the Obama Administration and, yet, went unappreciated.

People have many perceptions of how the US economy or the country as a whole is doing in recent years. Depending on your political views, you may think the country is doing exceptionally well or on the verge of collapse. Even those knowing the nation has done very well in the last six years remained untethered and insecure due to the cold void created by a lack of reassuring communication and guiding leadership from the President.

Listed below are 14 objective facts, without interjecting any opinion, about the state of America under the leadership of President Obama. Each statement is followed up with a link to a source where you can verify these facts for yourself.

1. We’ve now had 63 straight months of economic expansion.
That’s right, for 63 consecutive months the US economy has gotten progressively better. That includes 54 consecutive months of private sector job growth. Forbes magazine, no fan of President Obama, crunched the numbers and demonstrated how the economic recovery under President Obama has been better in just about every measurable way than the recovery under President Reagan.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamhartung/2014/09/05/obama-outperforms-reagan-on-jobs-growth-and-investing/

2. We are currently enjoying the longest period of private sector job creation in American history.
Again, this statistic comes from the Forbes Magazine article listed above. In fact, we have now had 54 straight months of private sector job creation. That is the longest period of job creation since the Department of Labor has been keeping statistics. See the link below.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2014/09/15/obamas-claim-that-businesses-are-in-the-longest-uninterrupted-stretch-of-job-creation/

3. Unemployment has dropped from 10.1% in October of 2009 to 5.9% and projected to reach 5.4% by summer of 2015.
Not only has the unemployment rate dropped significantly, but since the recession ended, our economy as added over ten million new jobs. You can refer to the Forbes article above or check this article on PoliticsUSA.

http://www.politicususa.com/2014/09/05/jobs-report.html

4. The stock market continues to set new records since President Obama has been in office.
Since early 2009 there has been a steady trend in stock market growth. The Dow Jones Industrial averages reached an all-time high of 17,098 in August, 2014. Since most Americans have 401K retirement investments in the stock market, this stock market growth benefits millions of middle class Americans.

http://www.macrotrends.net/1358/dow-jones-industrial-average-last-10-years

5. The Federal budget deficit is shrinking. It’s been reduced by two-thirds since 2009.
The $1.4 trillion federal budget deficit that Obama inherited in 2009 was in a large part due to the high rate of unemployment. When millions of people were put out of work in 2008 and 2009, it resulted in far less income taxes and less economic activity to generate federal revenue. As ten million people have been put back to work, there have been billions more tax dollars generated. As a result, the deficit has been shrinking each year. The 2014 deficit is projected to be around $500 billion, the smallest deficit since 2007 and roughly 1/3 of what it was in 2009.
http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/federal_deficit_chart.html

6. Under President Obama, spending has increased only 1.4% annually, the lowest rate since Eisenhower was president.
You may have heard critics say that President Obama is spending money wildly and running up our debt. According to this article from Forbes, Obama has increased spending by 1.4% annually, far less than President Reagan (8.7%) or George W. Bush (8.1%). In fact, Obama has increased spending less than any president since Eisenhower.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/05/24/who-is-the-smallest-government-spender-since-eisenhower-would-you-believe-its-barack-obama/

7. For 95% of American taxpayers, income taxes are lower now than just about any time in the previous 50 years.
After President Obama took office, thousands of Tea Party members all over the country held rallies protesting Obama’s tax increases. At that time, President Obama had actually passed several tax cuts to stimulate the economy. Most of the Tea Partiers who were protesting had only seen their taxes decrease under Obama. Yet polls indicated that most Tea Party members wrongly believed their taxes had gone up.

In fact, the only people whose income taxes have gone up during Obama’s presidency are those making $400,000 per year or more. That’s less than 2% of the population. Today, for the vast majority of people, tax rates are exactly where they were when Obama first took office or lower. The article below from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains this in greater detail.

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3151

8. Our dependence on foreign oil has shrunk due to record domestic oil production and improved fuel efficiency standards.
While some people claim that oil production has declined under President Obama, the truth is just the opposite. Oil production has reached record highs. The United States now produces so much oil that we export more oil and gasoline than we import.

http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=us&v=88

9. Up to 10 million more Americans now have health insurance than before.
Depending on whose numbers you use, between 7 and 10 million Americans acquired health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act. Now that those 7 to 10 million Americans have insurance, the rest of us are no longer on the hook to pay for their health care when they get sick. This saves the American people billions of dollars in the long run.

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-care/obamacare-helped-10-million-get-insurance-gallup-finds-n78446

10. The Affordable Care Act has added years to the life of Medicare.
The Medicare trust fund had been on course to run out of money by the end of 2016. But due to cost savings from the Affordable Care Act and lower healthcare expenses, Medicare’s trust fund is now stable until the year 2030 without cutting benefits.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/medicare-social-security-headed-in-different-directions-1406564712

11. Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, we are seeing the slowest rate of increase in healthcare costs since 1960.
Contrary to the predictions from Republicans, health care costs have increased at a much slower pace since the passage of the ACA.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/healthcostreport_final_noembargo_v2.pdf

12. We currently have fewer soldiers, sailors and airmen in war zones than any time in over 10 years.
With the end of the Iraq war and the steady withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, we have fewer people in war zones now than any time since 2002.

13. There have been zero successful attacks by al Qaeda on US soil since Obama became president.
Despite Dick Cheney’s claim that if voters elect a Democrat as president, we’ll be “hit again and hit hard” by al Qaeda, we have actually been far safer from terrorist attacks on US soil in recent years than we were under the previous president. There have been several unsuccessful attacks against the US under both presidents, but under Obama, al Qaeda has been largely unsuccessful in striking the US on our home soil.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_al-Qaeda_attacks

14. We now successfully catch and deport more illegal immigrants than ever before.
Despite the publicity from busloads of children who illegally entered the country, the numbers prove that President Obama has deported more illegal immigrants than any other president.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/aug/10/american-principles-action/has-barack-obama-deported-more-people-any-other-pr/

Reality Doesn’t Matter When The People Feel No Reassuring Hand Of Leadership

All of the facts stated above can be confirmed through multiple sources, yet most Americans are not consciously aware of all of this positive news; they don’t feel it, either. That’s what happens when the reassuring hand and voice of leadership are absent. Cold and stark reality offer no warmth and comfort to a concerned and disquieted nation.

The numerous achievements of the administration, cited above, resulting from the last six year’s work were an outstanding achievement. But, the people were never helped to feel secure and hopeful along the way. What they know is that they read or hear about this great economic and stock market performance, yet they don’t have much more, if any more, income than they used to have and don’t feel secure or hopeful about future improvement.

There’s an underlying truth or reason for that feeling… because the top 10% has received 98% of the income growth over the recovery (and 95% of 2009-2012 Income Gains Went to Wealthiest 1% — check the Wall Street Journal). That reality didn’t start with Obama. Even when times were good before the crash, “the people” were falling further behind the elites: according to the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan policy analysis arm of Congress, “The poorest tax filers (the bottom fifth) saw average after-tax income fall by 6 percent between 1996 and 2006,” the report said. While “the richest 1 percent of tax filers experienced a 74 percent increase in after-tax income.”

All the people know and feel is that they are not as better off compared to the great achievement numbers talked about. And they blamed the man in charge who never got close to them, never led them.

The GOP basically destroyed the country under W. Bush, continue(d) to foster a system that skews wealth and income away from the middle-class (favoring capital gains and interest income over earned income), and then blamed it on the President who sat by almost silently.

The truth is, most other presidents would envy President Obama’s performance record despite the fact that he inherited the worst economic crash since the Great Depression. If only Obama had the reassuring and warm-yet-strong leadership skills of Reagan or Clinton, last night’s election results would have been dramatically different.

But, no other modern President received as cold an introduction to his office as Obama, either. He had to develop thick skin immediately. Perhaps that isolated him from the feelings and concerns of the people as much as it did protect him from the vitriol of those who opposed him, in either case not serving him well in the end.

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Profoundly Better Off Under Obama — An Ungrateful Nation?

Consider, as well, these additional facts forgotten or overlooked by the electorate… An Ungrateful Nation?

  1. Since Obama became president, our economy has gone from losing 800,000 jobs per month to adding 200,000 jobs per month. That’s a net improvement under Obama of about 1 million jobs per month!
  2. Before Obama became president, our financial system was in ruins and millions of people were at risk of losing their life savings. Now, the financial loopholes have been fixed and we are no longer at risk of another financial collapse.
  3. In 5 years under Obama the economy has created twice as many jobs as were created in 8 years under George W. Bush.
  4. President Obama passed credit card reforms that protects consumers from excessive fees, rate hikes, deceptive marketing and unreasonable due dates.
  5. Thanks to “Obamacare”, senior citizens have saved billions of dollars on prescription drugs.
  6. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of your premiums on health care. As a result millions of Americans have received refunds from their health insurance companies.
  7. Despite the unprecedented obstructionism and record number of filibusters used by Republicans to kill even the most routine legislation, the fact remains, in almost every measurable way, the American people are profoundly better off today than they were before President Obama took office.

Still, said the Nation… Off with his head!

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Misplaced Priorities: Votes Or Assault Weapons

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Freedom Is Not Free — Risk In The Age After 9/11 & The Snowden Revelations

NSA Snooping: The War on Terror Is America’s Mania

I’ve voted for him as President twice. He prevented a world-wide depression. He signed the Recovery Act of 2009 launching a transition to a clean energy economy, doubling our renewable power, and financing unprecedented investments in energy efficiency and technology research. He instituted what I have worked to see in the U.S. for decades, nearly universal health insurance with no denials. He shut down our immoral war on Iraq. He removed “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” so gays may militarily serve their country with honor. He led us to the point where the Supreme Court allowed federal recognition of same-sex marriages, allowing many of us, including myself, to feel as citizens with actual rights for the first time. He has been a transformative president.

President Obama is also one of my greatest political disappointments.

shutterstock_116570707-e1360254685668He has not shut down the failed war in Afghanistan. He failed in his attempts to shut down the illegal, unethical, and immoral Guantanamo Bay where we imprisoned a total of 779 “detainees” for “indefinite detention,” and where we still imprison 166 persons. He continues escalated use of drone attacks that have killed many innocent victims and likely helped create more terrorists. And, now there is PRISM — a clandestine mass electronic surveillance data mining program operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) since 2007…

PRISM IS AS PRISM DOES

prism_logoPRISM began as an adjunct to The Enabling Act… uh, I mean Patriot Act… in 2007 with passage of the Protect America Act under the Bush Administration, and we know now that it has been dramatically and dangerously expanded under Obama. The program is operated under the supervision of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court, or FISC) pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Its existence was leaked several months ago by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who warned that the extent of mass data collection was far greater than the public knew and included what he characterized as “dangerous” and “criminal” activities.

Published internal documents identified several technology companies as participants in the PRISM program, including Microsoft joining in 2007, Yahoo! joining in 2008, Google joining in 2009, Facebook joining in 2009, Paltalk joining in 2009, YouTube joining in 2010, AOL joining in 2011, Skype joining in 2011, and Apple joining in 2012.

Subsequent disclosures included that the NSA could unilaterally perform “extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information” including email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP chats (such as Skype), file transfers, and social networking details; further, the NSA engaged in “hacking” civilian infrastructure networks in other countries such as “universities, hospitals, and private businesses.” Further releases showed the U.S. had data-mined even the United Nations and offices of our European allies.

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FREEDOM IS NOT FREE

I’ve truly grown weary of this trite, generic resort to mimicked patriotism: “Freedom is not free.” I don’t believe most Americans understand the truth behind this phrase and, in fact, get it largely wrong when they make the attempt.

Let me just say that, indeed, “freedom is not free.” Freedom has a cost. It should cost us when we say we will go to war to “fight for our freedom” — or, more to the point contemporarily, protect our oil interests and execute the vendetta of a sitting present whose father was the target of an assassination plan. It should cost us all in blood and in treasure…if the battle is worth engaging. It is the cost against which we would balance any “benefit” of war and violence.

This cost — this payment for freedom — should have meant that many American families — rich and poor… lower, middle, and upper class… urban, suburban and rural — were sending sons and daughters into harms way to protect our perceived “freedoms,” while it should have cost the rest of us the money to fight this war “for freedom.” But that didn’t happen. Mostly poorer, less-educated families tossed their kids into battle, and no taxes were specifically raised or public-financed bond issues bought by citizens.

So, it’s just a trite phrase because most Americans paid nothing for our recent war ventures (our continuing “War Against Terror”) in terms of blood and in terms of treasure…nope, we just put it on the credit card with no sacrifice and let “kids with no future” fight the battles. This freedom most Americans wanted and got for free. The poorer, less educated kids fighting who lost limbs, mental stability, careers… they paid and continue to pay, as will our children who will have to pay off our war credit cards.

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Truth is that, in a more meaningful concept, freedom is not free…it has another cost: risk.

True freedom means you live in an open society with free movements and communications and protections through the Constitution. True freedom means risk. It means you are exposed and that this is a good thing. It means that free persons are always at risk from others who may take advantage of our freedoms and hurt us. It is a balance the brave used to proudly accept as the exception in the world.

ike-on-freedomTo be completely relieved from risk would be like living in a self-imposed prison.

This other and perhaps most important area where we see the “freedom is not free” cliché ignored or misunderstood is with the freedom we forfeited for a smidgen more of actual safety and “sense of safety” from the bad international guys as we permitted the Patriot Act and other freedom-robbing laws to be enacted and which effectively nullified some of our guaranteed constitutional freedoms.

A free society means that we may walk down a street without a police battalion present and talk on our cell phones without being monitored and, thus, at risk for someone coming up and hitting us with a kidney punch. That’s the opposite of the non-free, fully monitored and protected society where no one could hostilely run up to you in a public crowd because there is such police presence around, where you chat on the cell phone while your calls are monitored for transmission to whom and where and for how long… where, no one can “hurt” you. In this opposite world, you are no longer in a truly free society, but you do feel safe… whether actually you are or not.

Truth is freedom means risk. It means being exposed to the glory of sunlight and free movement, association, and communication. It means you are vulnerable and know that this is an acceptable price because “Freedom Is Not Free!”

Modern America has grown risk averse and willingly forfeited freedoms of privacy, movement, communications and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.

071811_tsa-lgFly anywhere lately and have to remove shoes, get scanned, confine travel products to certain sizes, stand in security for an hour? Take a bus or train anywhere and be monitored and checked for danger? Drive your car on interstate highways with pole-mounted cameras or police car-mounted cameras that are snapping millions of license plates daily and recording the information and movements? Talk on your cell phone recently, now knowing that all your calls are being recorded for contacts and length of duration? Send an email or post to Facebook while now knowing that it’s stored in central federal data banks?

Americans couldn’t handle the price — the risk — of freedom and gave it up for perceived safety. But, as Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

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It seems we Americans have grown unworthy of our central precepts of freedoms and unworthy of the freedoms themselves…because we are unwilling to pay the cost of freedom: blood, treasure, and risk.

As I said to a friend who is very casual about loss of their freedoms from NSA surveillance (because, ostensibly, “they’ve got nothing to hide”):

“You may not want or deserve your freedoms, but I do want and deserve my freedoms… They are guaranteed to me as a Right, and I want them back.”

An insightful article about our American truth comes from outside, from a nation that also once forfeited its freedoms for security: Germany…

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NSA Snooping: The War on Terror Is America’s Mania

A Commentary By Klaus Brinkbäumer

SPIEGEL INTERNATIONAL (German News Magazine)

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/spiegel-commentary-on-us-internet-surveillance-a-911256.html#ref=nl-international

The NSA spying scandal shows that America’s pursuit of terrorists has turned into a mania. Spying on citizens is as monstrous and unlawful as Guantanamo Bay and drone warfare. The German government’s response has been woefully weak.

America is sick. September 11 left it wounded and unsettled — that’s been obvious for nearly 12 years — but we are only now finding out just how grave the illness really is. The actions of the NSA exposed more than just the telephone conversations and digital lives of many millions of people. The global spying scandal shows that the US has become manic, that it is behaving pathologically, invasively. Its actions are entirely out of proportion to the danger.

Since 2005, an average of 23 Americans per year have been killed through terrorism, mostly outside of the US. “More Americans die of falling televisions and other appliances than from terrorism,” writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, and “15 times as many die by falling off ladders.” The US has spent $8 trillion on the military and homeland security since 2001.

America has other threats. The true short-term danger is homegrown:

  • More than 30,000 Americans are killed by firearms every year.
  • An American child is 13 times more likely to be shot than a child in another industrialized country.

When it comes to combating the problem, President Barack Obama and Congress are doing very little — or, to be fair, nothing at all. They talk about it every now and then, after every killing spree. The gun lobby, incurably ill, counters that the weapons are necessary for self-defense.

And when it comes to real long-term dangers, such as climate change, America, its prime perpetrator, does nothing — or, to be fair, too little too late.

As Monstrous as Guantanamo

All of this is not to say that terrorism doesn’t exist: 9/11 happened, and al Qaida is real. But spying on citizens and embassies, on businesses and allies, violates international law. It is as monstrous and as unlawful as Guantanamo Bay, where for 11 and a half years, men have been detained and force-fed, often without evidence against them, many of whom are still there to this day. It is as unlawful as the drones that are killing people, launched with a mere signature from Obama.

There has been virtually no political discussion about all of this. Attacks have been prevented through the spying program — Obama says it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it, and we have to believe them. Voters and citizens are akin to children, whose parents — the government — know what is best for them.

But does the free America that should be defended even still exist, or has it abolished itself through its own defense?

An American government that gives its blessing to a program like Prism respects nothing and no one. It acts out its omnipotence, considers itself above international law — certainly on its own territory and even on foreign ground. The fact that it’s Obama behaving in such a way is bleak. If this were happening during the administration of George W. Bush, we could at least think, “It’s just Bush. He’s predictable. There is a better America.” Now we know: There is only one America. Did Obama, the Harvard Law student, even believe what he was saying in his speeches about the return of civil liberties? Can someone be so cynical that they promise to heal the world, then act in such a way all the while giving the xenophobic explanation that only foreigners would be monitored? Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are Obama’s role models. What would they say?

The Stasi Comparison Stands

The German government has shown devastating weakness. Merkel should say, “You are manic, and what you are doing is sick.” That’s what friends do. Instead she weighs every word to avoid annoying the Americans. She said that a comparison between the NSA and the Stasi is inappropriate, but she’s wrong. A comparison doesn’t require that two things be identical. The Stasi destroyed families, the NSA probably not. But the use of technology, the careful nurturing of the image of the enemy, the obsessive collection of data, the belief of being on the right side, the good side: Is there really no resemblance?

Angela Merkel promised to defend the German people from harm. To have your phone wiretapped and accept the fact that every one of your emails could be monitored — the violation of the private sphere — that qualifies as harm.

Every voter knows that realpolitik can be ugly, because politics require the balancing of many considerations. The decisive question is: What greater good justifies this breach of law by the US and the cooperation of German agencies? It is time for answers.


Scandinavian Countries Global Leader In Social Justice/Cohesion

English-speaking countries rank above average; immigration levels statistically insignificant

Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland have the highest levels of social cohesion, followed by Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand, according to the Social Cohesion Radar, a study released July 16 by the Bertelsmann Foundation, a German-based think tank, and Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. The study examines 34 countries in the EU and the OECD: the 27 EU member states and seven OECD countries: Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the US.

While many conservatives continue to bash the liberal social program paradigm as an unwieldy welfare state of dependency…

differentracesScandinavian countries have the most equitable societies in Europe, according to research by the Bertelsmann Foundation, a German-based think tank — finding the strongest social cohesion in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

In these Nordic countries, which consistently rank at the top, a universal welfare state actively redistributes wealth and promotes equality of opportunity — the heart of Faustian urGe “Economic Morality: EQUALITY of advancement opportunity and treatment under the law and social memes — EQUITABILITY of rewards and outcomes [economic and social].” The quality of these countries’ institutions is also unusually high. These appear to be the factors behind the strong social cohesion in the Nordic pattern.

Most of Western Europe—Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Spain—feature above-average to average social cohesion. Lithuania, Latvia and the southeast European countries of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania suffer from low social cohesion.

SOCIAL COHESION?

Social cohesion is defined as how well members of a community live and work together. A cohesive society is characterized by:

  • resilient social relationships,
  • a positive emotional connectedness between its members and the community and
  • a pronounced focus on the common good.

“Social cohesion is crucial for any society’s future and has a profound impact on a person’s perceived well-being. More cohesion equals more life satisfaction”, said Liz Mohn, vice chairwoman of the Bertelsmann Foundation’s executive board.

Thusly, an increasing amount of academic research indicates — what one might logically expect — that “socially cohesive” countries are more likely to have lower levels of crime, substance and alcohol addiction, and higher levels of social mobility.

The report attempted to identify levels of cohesion in society by assessing people’s social networks, levels of public trust in others, confidence in social and political institutions, willingness to help others, and participation in public activities.

• High living standards • Low levels of income inequality and • Technological process toward achieving a knowledge society stand apart as the three most important socio-economic factors to promoting a cohesive society.

The report, therefore, compared metrics such as • national wealth as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) • a country’s income gap as measured by the Gini coefficient, and its • level of development towards a modern information society as measured by the Knowledge Index:

  • First, greater national wealth has a correlation to greater social cohesion.
  • Second, a country’s income gap has a moderately strong and inverse correlation to social cohesion, indicating that less equal societies tend to be less cohesive. Few countries with a large income gap (e.g., the UK or Ireland) manage to avoid below-average scores on the social-cohesion index.
  • Third, a country’s level of development towards a modern information society has a more profound effect on social cohesion than national wealth. The higher a country’s ranking on the Knowledge Index, which measures the diffusion of modern communication technology, the more likely that country is to show high social cohesion.

SOLIDARITY FROM DIVERSITY & IMMIGRATION

Moreover, the study dispels the popular belief/misnomer that immigration is intrinsically harmful to social cohesion. The share of immigrants in a country’s population shows no statistically significant effect on social cohesion. Why?

Modern societies are based not on solidarity rooted in similarity, but on solidarity rooted in diversity and mutual interdependence“, said Stephan Vopel, Bertelsmann Stiftung program director. “Therefore they need an inclusive form of social cohesion that… accepts a multitude of lifestyles and identities and views them as a strength.”

This understanding sheds light upon a particular pattern found in the English-speaking countries of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States, as well as Ireland… all of which generally rank right behind the Scandinavian countries. They are equal to the Nordic countries in terms of perception of fairness, and outperform them on solidarity and helpfulness.

It is interesting to note that conditions in these countries are quite different from conditions in the Nordic countries; for example, their welfare systems are less active in redistributing wealth, and their societies are characterized by a larger gap between rich and poor. But… as immigrant societies, the non-European countries are ethnically and religiously diverse; multicultural policies are in place to manage that heterogeneity.

In this group, also, are two relatively religious countries: Ireland and the United States. These countries appear to be able to achieve a level of social cohesion similar to that found in the relatively non-religious Nordic countries, under very different circumstances. Despite conservative political rants, respect for varied religious views ultimately prevails and tolerance — perhaps at times uneasy — holds sway, especially within the United States.

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HBO’s “The Newsroom” Video Clip… Evokes My Own Rants & Received Stares

Why America is NOT the greatest country in the world, anymore — A Provocative Rant

In fact, waking up this morning with the weight of last evening’s intellectual joust at a dinner with friends still pressing on me, I found this video rant to be like looking into a mirror. So much so that I forwarded the clip to one of my best friends (who’s often witness to my passionate defense of how I see the world — our reality — and this nation’s place in it) with the subject: “Oh, My GAWD! This Is Me Going On My Rants & Receiving The Same Stares.”

When I encounter the too-often-experienced-and-reflexive pushback to any criticism-observation of our nation’s current reality or my past experience within that reality, my passions take hold. I stake my position and launch into an energized and confident diatribe citing the same statistics and facts and interspersing the same colorful metaphors and F-bombs dropped throughout this video. And I usually receive the same stunned stares from those uninitiated to my opining, as well as the slanted smiles from experienced ones thinking, “Well, now it begins.”

Such was the experience last evening in a Japanese restaurant, around a low slung table with eight extremely intelligent and educated friends seated on thin mats on wooden benches near the floor. As always the discussion evolved from casual and superficial fare to more high-brow and intellectual pursuits. So, toward the end of the several-hour-long meal — and after much sake, wine, and drink — three of us began to discuss the recent Supreme Court decisions. Ah, nothing unusual here…this would be expected of us.

What was unexpected was one friend’s reaction to my assertions: 1) That I thought the court’s and Scalia’s decisions in the cases concerning the Voting Rights Act and the cases regarding gay marriage were inconsistent and conflicting and thus indicative of decisions based upon ideological grounds rather than point-of-law; and 2) That the decisions involving gay marriage moved me to tears because it was the first time I felt at least partly validated by my nation as a full citizen worthy of the rights that should be mine simply by definition. By implication, I asserted that ethnic minorities like my husband might rightly feel more ostracized and invalidated by their nation because of the SCOTUS decisions on voting rights.

I was informed by my friend seated directly next to me that I was being extreme in my tearful reaction and unreasonable in my attitude toward both the nation and these court decisions…that this was a great nation, that the courts were basing decisions on points-of-law, and that I could not possibly know what was in the mind of someone like Supreme Court Justice Scalia (Well, of course, no one knows his mind except Scalia but I can have a perspective of his mindset and an opinion about it…damn it!).

As a gay man married (in Europe) for several decades to a gentleman of mixed ethnicities (African-American, American-Indian, and White Anglo-Saxon), I’ve personally experienced, heard personal recounts, and witnessed a few of the discriminations that expose me to the raw realities of modern American life. I’ve thoughtfully considered those events and experiences to better know and understand that reality, why it exists as it does, and what must change to make us a “More Perfect Union.”

On what are clearly very personal and emotional issues to me, I was informed in a coldly intellectual and dismissive manner that I was being extreme in both my judgement and my reactions to the decisions.

So, when I received further criticism that I was being extreme and unreasonable in my tearful reaction to the gay marriage ruling and resentment to the voting rights decision, I launched into a typical Faustian urGe to explain my positions. Namely, I went into the America-is-not-as-great-as-you-think rant (ala, the above video), nor does it offer the constitutionally mandated protections this person, my counterpart, takes for granted (assumed from my perspective).

After attempting to keep the discussion confined to intellectual reasoning, I finally just had to blurt out loudly , “You only feel this way and don’t understand how important these rulings are to real lives, to real people, to people you know like me…because you didn’t experience working a decade for a major corporation for which you helped to earn tens-of-million-of-dollars in profits and then get tossed out with no recourse because you were a ‘faggot’ too high up in the ranks! But I have. And you don’t know what it feels like to have state constitutional amendments banning you as a person from ever receiving your rights as a citizen! But I do!” Silence, and then, “I didn’t know that.”

The point is that one shouldn’t have to “know that,” to know a person viciously discriminated against simply because of who they are, simply because of their very existence as a person. Everyone’s rights are worth protecting and enforcing. That’s why they are called “Rights” and not “privileges.”

The third person in this troika discussing the courts, the national reality, and experience then interjected and said to me, “I think you’re being very reasonable. In fact, it amazes me that people like yourself and especially african-americans like your husband have any love or respect for their country at all. Always amazes me. That you work to improve this country on many levels is a great testament.”

marriage-equality-more-perfect-union-large


Can America Become More Obtuse? — Affordable Care Act & The Public’s Profound Ignorance

American Citizens Remain In The Dark On Crucial Aspects Of Health Care Reforms

American Gothic

How many times do we need to take a step back and try to explain health care reform… again? For huge swaths of the American public — for a ridiculously absurd number — it’s just not sinking in.

Forget whether you and I disagree on the merits of the Affordable Care Act. We would engage the debate because we are “aware” and educated about the issue’s facts. I’m not speaking about knowledge-based disagreement; I’m talking about willful ignorance proliferating across the nation.

This is the depressing, discouraging take-away from the monthly Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, published by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And once again in April, the numbers underscore our collective ignorance about the domestic policy issue that has dominated political and business news coverage for nearly four years — not to mention an entire and most expensive presidential election!

  • Only 3 out of 5 Americans understand that the 2010 Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” remains the law of the land and is being implemented at full speed, according to the April survey of adults from April 15-20.
  • Among the 42 percent who got it wrong, 7 percent think the Supreme Court overturned the law (it didn’t),
  • 12 percent think Congress has repealed the law (it hasn’t), and…
  • 23 percent simply don’t know (where have you been?)
  • Nearly half — 48 percent — of Americans told Kaiser pollsters a month earlier that they have heard “nothing at all” about their State’s debate over whether to set up an online health insurance marketplace, called an “exchange,” and…
  • a stunning 78 percent said they didn’t know whether their state had decided to expand Medicaid, the law’s single largest avenue to coverage for uninsured Americans!
  • 58 percent of respondents in March told Kaiser they believe health care costs are rising more quickly than usual over the past few years… the exact opposite of what has actually occurred!

Kansas Bored of Education

It’s all very nice and easy to explain away or excuse these figures of ignorance about the single biggest influence in business and inflation and personal bankruptcies in America. Sure, “regular people’s” lives are shaped more by youth soccer schedules than by health care policy, so we should cut the public some slack. Right?

A resoundingly negative, No! If you are voting in elections, you need to know truth and facts. If you don’t, then please keep away from election day voting stations. You endanger democracy and societal progress. And we should be calling it and you out for exactly the danger ignorance presents.

Better yet, please don’t offer up opinions on anything more important than Justin Bieber’s incessantly changing hair styles.

More and more, Americans are embracing the logical conclusion that if they don’t know the facts, it’s difficult to form an opinion. D-oh!

In April, a historic high — 24 percent — said they have no opinion when asked if they generally approve or disapprove of the new health care law. That’s progress of sorts, in a dystopian way.

America’s blind and willful ignorance… That’s why…

  • That’s why we went to war preemptively against a nation that not once threatened the US and had not one weapon of mass destruction (that would be Iraq, my fellow Americans)
  • That’s why the knee-jerk reaction to rescuing the financial markets from complete destruction was considered “communistic” and led to the rise of the hateful Tea Party
  • That’s why the “Birther” movement questioning the President’s American birth got traction
  • That’s why it matters that a dullard such as Sarah Palin even existed on the political scene and almost become the second-most powerful person in the world
  • That’s why our schools are failing and the US falls behind every other major industrialized nation on test scores (how can schools succeed with kids molded [or left bereft] by ignorant parents?)
  • That’s why we need strong federal regulations to protect the safety of Americans from their own ignorance
  • That’s why we need Obamacare to mandate and provide necessary insurance to protect Americans’ health from their own ignorance

ignorance


What’s The Big Deal About Chained CPI? — Obama vs Social Security

Robert Reich on Chained CPI (Obama’s proposal to cut Social Security benefits)

In an effort to assuage Republicans and entice them to sign on to long-term deficit reduction with increased revenues, President Obama proposes to throw under the bus the generation he lauded in his inaugural address.

Apparently, President Obama quickly forgot his own inaugural words:

We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.”

Reich established this petition to the President:

Mr. President, the chained CPI is a cut to Social Security benefits that would hurt seniors—it’s an idea not befitting a Democratic president. If you want to reform Social Security, make the wealthy pay their fair share by lifting the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes.

If you agree, please sign this petition, then share with your friends.

http://signon.org/sign/mr-president-please-do-1