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JDPriestly's Journal
JDPriestly's Journal
May 3, 2015

Great work! Hillary and Bill could do a lot of good with their foundation if they stuck

to doing the foundation work.

But their foundation relies on donations from extremely wealthy people to do that good work.

And that is where a problem arises if we want to get big money, the money of wealth and influence out of our government and have a government that governs for all of us.

It is very difficult to go to wealthy people for money and then turn around and speak out for some cause or law that the wealthy people do not want.

I worked in fundraising for eight years. I know all about the influence that wealthy people and their money can have on you when you go out begging for donations for good causes.

I left fundraising when I caught myself going down my list of friends and categorizing them according to whether they were rich enough to give a sizable donation to the homeless project I worked on. I realized at that point that somehow the need to fund the project was causing me to place the value of wealth, my need for money, above the value of human qualities. I'm not sure many will understand what I mean by this.

But to put it another way, I felt that I might be beginning to "suck up" to people who had money because I needed their money for the project that I and others were working together on. I felt that I was developing discrimination against old friends just because they were not wealthy. I'm exaggerating a bit, but some will understand what I mean.

When you try to raise money from the wealthy, you begin to spend a lot of time with them. You think about entertaining them according to their tastes. They invite you for lunch at their clubs, etc. and if you do enough of that, you lose the sense of the value of people who are middle class and poor and you lose touch with life outside the elite clubs. You go home to your modest house and life and you feel poor.

I don't think I can explain this well.

May 3, 2015

This morning i woke up thinking about a friend of mine who lost her job some years ago

due to a leveraged buy-out and through no fault of her own. (She was an exemplary employee.) Within 7 months after losing her job, she was diagnosed with cancer. Of course, having lost her job, she had no health insurance. (Even with Obamacare, I'm not sure she is covered.) Her medications cost thousands of dollars a month. She and her husband had purchased a home years ago but still owed on the mortgage.

She got Medical, but there is something that most people do not know about Medicaid and Medical.

Here is is:

Under Medicaid law, following the death of the Medicaid recipient a state must attempt to recover from his or her estate whatever long-term care benefits it paid for the recipient's care. States also have the option of recovering all Medicaid benefits from individuals over age 55, including costs for any medical care, not just long-term care benefits. However, no recovery can take place until the death of the recipient's spouse, or as long as there is a child of the deceased who is under age 21 or who is blind or disabled.

While states must attempt to recover funds from the Medicaid recipient's probate estate, meaning property that is held in the beneficiary's name only, they have the option of seeking recovery against property in which the recipient had an interest but which passes outside of probate. This includes jointly held assets, assets in a living trust, or life estates. Given the rules for Medicaid eligibility, the only probate property of substantial value that a Medicaid recipient is likely to own at death is his or her home. However, states that have not opted to broaden their estate recovery to include non-probate assets may not make a claim against the Medicaid recipient's home if it is not in his or her probate estate.

In addition to the right to recover from the estate of the Medicaid beneficiary, state Medicaid agencies must place a lien on real estate owned by a Medicaid beneficiary during his or her life unless certain dependent relatives are living in the property. If the property is sold while the Medicaid beneficiary is living, not only will the beneficiary cease to be eligible for Medicaid due to the cash from the sale, but the beneficiary would have to satisfy the lien by paying back the state for its coverage of care to date. The exceptions to this rule are cases where a spouse, a disabled or blind child, a child under age 21, or a sibling with an equity interest in the house is living there.

Whether or not a lien is placed on the house, the lien's purpose should only be for recovery of Medicaid expenses if the house is sold during the beneficiary's life. The lien should be removed upon the beneficiary's death. However, check with an elder law attorney in your state to see how your local agency applies this federal rule.


Medicaid is not a gift to those who are buying or who own their homes. It is sort of a way of means-testing qualification for Medicaid. So no matter how hard my friend had worked, once she had medical bills in the thousands and thousands, it was gone or most of it was gone.

Cancer and many other expensive diseases including end-of-life care in a nursing home impoverish people at random.

I thought about this when I woke up today. How many heart operations has Dick Cheney had? And he of course is covered by excellent insurance and will not lose his home. But if you or I or our parents or families suffered from a medical problem and faced a choice between paying huge amounts for medications and operations or death, we would suffer and if we had been fortunate enough to buy a house or save money, it would be gone in a flash as it was with my friend.

Obamacare has helped to alleviate this problem, but we still have many people uninsured.

Everyone deserves the kind of healthcare that Dick Cheney has received (even Cheney in my opinion) and we need a system of healthcare that really provides the health insurance to cover that care for EVERYONE, and not just those who qualify for Obamacare and for health insurance in general.

I lived in European countries in which health care was viewed as a right. Of the countries in which I lived, I liked the French system the best. French doctors saved my life, and I was not a French citizen. I had health insurance from another European country, but France took care of me anyway.

That's the kind of health care we need in America. Everyone, even those between jobs, should have the health care they choose. Under the healthcare plan I had, I could choose my doctor. Virtually all doctors were available on my plan, and I could pick a different doctor every few months if I felt I was not getting the care I needed.

Now, think about all I have said and the fact that the Republicans just tried to eliminate any estate taxes on the rich.

The Medicaid claim to the assets of a person who needs a lot of expensive care wipes out the assets of many hardworking people in the middle class. We need to change this, and if everyone pays a fair share to insure against severe illness, we can change this.

I'm voting for Bernie. I don't know whether he agrees with me on my view of health insurance, but I think he has a similar view.

And yes, Bernie is right about Scandinavia. We should learn from them and from the Germans and Austrians and Swiss on many issues.

We can still work on our own problems with racism before we worry about the problems with racism in other countries. Baltimore and Ferguson are my problems, not Stockholm. I want to copy the good things that the Scandinavians do and when our race relations are so good we can brag about them, then we can tell the Scandinavians how to correct theirs.

March 14, 2015

Again, one word: GREENSPAN.

I want the Clintons to explain why in the world Bill Clinton reappointed an Ayn Rand disciple like GREENSPAN to the Fed.

There is no excuse for a Democrat appointing a person who literally sat in Ayn Rand's salon to the Fed. No excuse.

I do not trust either of the Clintons.

" Democratic president Bill Clinton reappointed Greenspan, and consulted him on economic matters. Greenspan lent support to Clinton's 1993 deficit reduction program.[28] Greenspan, while still fundamentally monetarist in orientation, had eclectic views on the economy, and his monetary policy decisions largely followed standard Taylor rule prescriptions (see Taylor 1993 and 1999).

In 2000, Greenspan raised interest rates several times; these actions were believed by many to have caused the bursting of the dot-com bubble. According to Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, however, "he didn't raise interest rates to curb the market's enthusiasm; he didn't even seek to impose margin requirements on stock market investors. Instead, he waited until the bubble burst, as it did in 2000, then tried to clean up the mess afterward".[29] E. Ray Canterbery agrees with Krugman's criticism.[30]"

. . . .

In the early 1950s, Greenspan began an association with novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand.[45] Greenspan was introduced to Rand by his first wife, Joan Mitchell. Rand nicknamed Greenspan "the undertaker" because of his penchant for dark clothing and reserved demeanor. Although Greenspan was initially a logical positivist,[53] he was converted to Rand's philosophy of Objectivism by her associate Nathaniel Branden. He became one of the members of Rand's inner circle, the Ayn Rand Collective, who read Atlas Shrugged while it was being written. During the 1950s and 1960s Greenspan was a proponent of Objectivism, writing articles for Objectivist newsletters and contributing several essays for Rand's 1966 book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal including an essay supporting the gold standard.[54][55] Rand stood beside him at his 1974 swearing-in as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. Greenspan and Rand remained friends until her death in 1982.[45]

He has come under criticism from Harry Binswanger,[56] who believes his actions while at work for the Federal Reserve and his publicly expressed opinions on other issues show abandonment of Objectivist and free market principles. When questioned in relation to this, however, he has said that in a democratic society individuals have to make compromises with each other over conflicting ideas of how money should be handled. He said he himself had to make such compromises, because he believes that "we did extremely well" without a central bank and with a gold standard.[57] In a congressional hearing on October 23, 2008, Greenspan admitted that his free-market ideology shunning certain regulations was flawed.[58] When asked about free markets and Rand's ideas, however, Greenspan clarified his stance on laissez faire capitalism and asserted that in a democratic society there could be no better alternative. He stated that the errors that were made stemmed not from the principle, but from the application of competitive markets in "assuming what the nature of risks would be".[59]


Was Clinton unaware of Greenspan's economic philosophy and history? Or did he agree with Greenspan's dislike of regulation of the markets? Because we cannot afford another Greenspan or another attempt at laissez faire markets. We need fair rules for everyone in our economy. It is still dog-eat-dog out there. And Greenspan supported the privatization of Social Security, Medicare and other similar government programs.

I recommend reading the Wikipedia page on Greenspan, remembering that Clinton reappointed him to the Fed, a top spot in our economy, and the rest is history.

No more Greenspans. No more Clintons.

January 29, 2015

To follow up on Holocaust Remembrance Day,

I recommend the film, The Decent One.

It is about Himmler and is based on the papers and letters that were found in his home by the Allied soldiers who stayed there after the war.

It is quite compelling.

One of the prime architects of the brutal Nazi regime, Gestapo commander Heinrich Himmler was also a dedicated family man, as this documentary illustrates with items from a newly discovered cache of his personal diaries, correspondence and photos.


Reviews are mixed. I think it is very difficult for people to comprehend the banality of cruelty in a fascist society. Cruelty is viewed as virtue. It's hard to reconcile how a man who loves his children can be responsible for so many deaths, such terror.

Today it seems to me that it is particularly important that we be aware of that banality of cruelty. It is so easy for a society to justify extremism and revenge. In particular, we need to consider the torture by our own governmental agencies in the light of this film.

December 17, 2014

We assume, perhaps safely, that our the torturers working for our government are the "good guys,"

and that the people being tortured are the "evil-doers." And so, we and many Americans think the torture program was OK. Maybe it wasn't even torture, many think.

But even if that is true today, to judge the ethics and morality of the torture program for its universal and ultimate value, we have to ask, what if the tables are turned?

What if the people doing the torturing, the people trying to find information through torture or "enhanced interrogation" are the "evil-doers"? And what if those "evil-doers" are as convinced as we are that they, not we are the good guys?

What then?

If torture is OK because, after all, it is being used to help the good guys, then can the "evil-doers" justify it by arguing that after all, they are in fact the good guys and therefore it is OK for them to use torture?

Laws have to be applied universally or at least written and obeyed as if they should or could be applied universally.

There can't be one law for the good guys and a different law for the evil-doers.

There can't be one code of behavior, one set of rules for good guys and another for evil-doers.

That is a big mistake that we make.

We don't want to be tortured or to have our soldiers tortured. We should not be torturing others. One law should apply to all.

December 9, 2014

Comments about keeping the freeways open for emergencies are well taken, however

I am struck today by the proximity of the release of the torture report and the demonstrations against police brutality.

Maybe we are, finally, getting to the point at which we can just say no to the brutal use of force by authorities in our country at various levels of our society.

I hope that some of the people who support the NSA wiretapping, surveillance and eavesdropping programs will stop and ask themselves whether we want a government that is capable of torture of prisoners who have not be tried, of killing suspects with chokeholds and barrages of redundant bullets to have the kind of alll-encompassing knowledge about our communications that the NSA programs permit.

I for one do not.

The convergence of CIA overstepping demonstrated by the torture programs, local police overstepping as demonstrated by the killings of Brown and Garner with the scandalous NSA data collection programs is just enough for me. Somewhere this kind of power has to be checked and checked drastically.

Our government from the national to the local level needs to answer to us for its treatment of suspects and of our information.

December 9, 2014

Problem is the GDP does not reflect median income.

The bigger and more trade deals, the lower the median income compared to GDP in the US. That is how it has worked so far.

U.S. real (inflation adjusted) median household income was $51,939 in 2013 versus $51,759 in 2012, essentially unchanged. However, it has trended down since 2007, falling 8% from the pre-recession peak of $56,436.


We are comparing GDP which measures dollars per individual human being (per capita) of $53,000 per person with per household income of $51,939.

Having lived in Europe, I can say that comparing GDPs is like comparing grapefruits to tangerines. In some countries, small children and babies are commonly cared for by their grandparents or other relatives, for example. There is no monetary transaction to contribute to the GDP of that nation. Same with work on farms. If family farms are the rule, the work of many of the family members does not contribute to the calculation of the GDP. GDP is not just products sold and their value but also services sold and their values. In many countries, services are provided for free and do not count toward the GDP although those same services would be bought and sold and contribute to the high GDP in our country.

Thus, GDP can be a very misleading number and what is more, our GDP compared to the household income in the US reflects the terrible disparity in wealth in our country, a disparity that grows with each trade agreement and our trade deficit. Why is the trade deficit related to our declining wages, living standard and household income? Because the trade deficit represents jobs and wages lost to other countries.

The US trade deficit is much too large.

The reason is that the oligarchs who profit from "free" trade, that is from being able to import products into the US without exporting an equal value in products from the US, take their profits outside the US mostly in small countries in which tax rates are, thanks to their small populations and therefore relatively small infrastructures, governments, etc. and do not pay taxes commensurate with their role in the US economy. They do not pay for the roads that transport the foreign-made goods to markets. They do not pay for the social structure, the schools, hospitals, the lifestyle, etc. that make the US a good place to sell their products.

The rest of us buy the cheapest item offered unable to control where it comes from because almost nothing we need to buy is made in the US.

The GDP of the US does not reflect the loss in living standard that Americans have experienced and are experiencing at an accelerating rate due to free trade that profits the wealthy and leaves other Americans behind.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. trade deficit fell slightly in October as exports rebounded while oil imports dipped to the lowest level in five years.

The deficit edged down 0.4 per cent to $43.4 billion, a drop from a revised $43.6 billion in September, the Commerce Department reported Friday.


While China, Russia and Germany have trade surpluses -- pretty large ones, we have the largest trade deficit in the world.


The last thing we need is yet another trade deficit.

December 3, 2014

My grandparents were farmers. They did not have "savings" sitting around, but they owned

land which they sold to their son. They had "savings" in the sense that they owned something that they could sell. Prior to the 1930s, a good percentage of Americans owned land. It was not so unusual.

Conservatives think that we are still that kind of agrarian society in which if you work hard, you can "save," that is accumulate property or money that you can hand on to your children and that will support you in your later years.

The industrial revolution changed that.

As a society, we did not respond to that change until Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressive Party popularized the idea that working people, people who worked in industry should not have to work a 50 hour week and that child labor should not be permitted. Then, finally, in the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt instituted Social Security which is the savings that most of us have and rely on.

The Republicans still think we are an agrarian society.

Now we have undergone a technological revolution of sorts. The social changes that we need to respond to this new "revolution" in which computers do much of the work we used to do have not yet happened. I don't think we have even figured out yet how to respond to this age of technology. Jobs that used to pay well no longer exist or are filled by people who will work for a bowl of rice and a roof.

Bush talked big about the "ownership society." Remember? Everybody was going to be an an owner. That led to the mortgage crisis and nearly brought down the world economy. Most of us never got to own things, we just got owned.

Each new age, each new level of technology and innovation, as it sweeps across society requires a new kind of social organization.

This is what Republicans don't understand or don't want to admit.

People can't save because the system is rigged to make them think they need all kinds of things they can't afford on the wages that the system is willing to pay them. Our businesses rely for their income on the fact that people spend and don't save.

We need to change the system.

Some people are good at inventing new technology. We need some people in our government and leading our society who are good at inventing new ways to keep our society healthy and working in the technology of our time.

In short, and I know I repeat myself a lot: our new technology requires us to make some changes in our social organization. That's the job of Congress, but there will be individuals, creative individuals to whom we need to listen who will have ideas about how we can best live together in peace with all our new technology.

Right now, the richest, rich either because they are creative with things or because they are clever at accumulating money through sometimes devious means or because they were just born rich, are pretty much grabbing the money and holding onto it tight without doing much of anything of social use.

Even those who have charities are actually controlling where their money goes and trying to determine what kind of society we will have. They are not necessarily the best qualified to respond to technology with ideas about social change. It is a totally different talent.

So the reason that so many people have no savings and no way to support themselves in times of emergency or when they age is that our social organization and the way we allocate money as a society is outmoded. It no longer works.

We still think we are farmers. Most of us are not. There will be no farm to sell or to continue to live on with our children when we are in our 70s, 80s and 90s. (I'm already in my 70s.)

November 6, 2014

So, we have to figure out a new way to campaign.

I've stood on street corners and handed out information for organizations like the ACLU and the Democratic Party. Find someone with a really friendly smile who is a dedicated Democrat, and you will reach many voters. Little old ladies like me are really good at this because we are obviously not a threat.

It's hard work but it is rewarding when your candidate wins or you gain friends for a worthy cause.

Unfortunately, I'm involved in family issues right now and cannot do it.

I really believe that we need to have a loving, kind society that upholds our families, that embraces our children and grandchildren, that is not too busy or too greedy or too needing all kinds of superfluous things to take a moment to listen to someone who has a story to tell or something to say from their heart.

If you want the kind of society that I want -- and it isn't so much about money as about respecting each person for who they are -- then you are a real Democrat and you have a lot to learn from and to teach and to share and to gain from other people who want what you want.

I do sincerely believe that most Americans want to live in a supportive, kind, helpful society. I do believe tha most Americans are loving and creative. I do believe that most Americans deserve a better life than they now have.

And we can build the big tent and the society we want, but we cannot do it if we are driven by people who think that huge salaries make them more worthwhile than the man or woman who cleans their offices at night.

So that's my blueprint for Democrats winning future elections. It's pretty touchy-feely and very big and broad. It isn't a matter of capitalism v. socialism or Christianity v. some other religion or red states v. blue states. It is a matter of valuing the gifts that each of us has. It's a matter of being able to smile at a person, look into their eyes and learn what there is in that person that is loving, that aspires to be better, to share more, to help more, to be more in society than that person thinks he is.

As Democrats we have moved a long way from my view of what we should be.

I think I read everything that I could get my hands on that was written or spoken by Eleanor Roosevelt. I suppose she was my super-hero when I was young. We need to return to her concept of the Democratic Party. And the first step is to validate the union movement which, when healthy, brings all the people that I have described above up and encourages them to want to do something to improve their lives. If they believe that voting Democratic will improve their lives, they will go to the polls. If we who are active Democrats do not persuade them that they will be part of something bigger than themselves, that they will be able to share their ideas and aspirations when they vote for Democrats, then we have failed.

And when I say that I am talking to the Blue Dog, Third Way, corporate Democrats. If you don't respect and love and want to help those who clean your floors and serve your food in restaurants and babysit your kids and cross the border for a better life, then get out of our party. You are not Democrats.

October 26, 2014

Please see my post 186.

The government has the right to keep secrets, but not the right to keep the secret that it is violating our constitutional rights.

In our country, the Constitution and our laws and treaties are the supreme authority. The NSA is subject to the constraints the Constitution places on all of our government. The NSA cannot just do what it will, violate our individual rights to privacy which are protected in a number of the provisions of our Bill of Rights.

Remember. The Bill of Rights does not GRANT us rights. It prohibits the government from STEALING or TAKING our innate rights, the rights that we are born with. We are born with a right to privacy. The Bill of Rights limits the legal authority of the government to violate the right to privacy that we are born with.

The surveillance programs to the extent that they violate the rights of law-abiding Americans violate our innate, constitutionally protected rights to privacy in our communications and associations with others. Remember that often forgotten little phrase in the First Amendment about 'FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION"? That part of the First Amendment has not gotten much attention until now. But when the government studies and analyzes your communications, the lists of those who e-mail you, those you call on the phone, it is violating your right to freedom of association.

There is so much wrong with the NSA's surveillance programs that I cannot discuss it all in one or even dozens of posts. It is a very, very sick program.

It is the equivalent, if you put it in terms of the society at the time of the American Revolution of placing a guard at every intersection of every country road across America so that the guard can take notes on which roads Americans take to visit friends and relatives. It is the equivalent of watching every inn to see who sits at whose table to talk politics, love, business or family issues.

This program poses a great danger to the fabric of our democracy. I think that people don't get it because they haven't really read much history or law. This is a dangerous program. We need to stop it now. And we need to make it impossible for foreign nations to eavesdrop on us too. We need the technology for that, and we need it soon. And if it means that our corporations cannot find out as much about us, well, too bad.

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