Political Malfeasance in Action

U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) received nearly $1 Million in Wall Street contributions while killing a tax hike on certain Investment Bankers.

I grew up in the 1960’s in Buffalo, NY where it seemed that candidates for election to public office couldn’t get nominated until they could prove their ability to attract illegal political contributions. Over my professional career, I spent significant time in other northeast states, counties and cities where political corruption was often the norm.

Most of the corrupt elected officials I observed were guilty of getting their driveway paved; their house painted; maybe a new roof. Not good, not appropriate, and certainly, not acceptable.

The recent behavior of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) relative to the Carried Interest federal tax loophole puts the actions and behaviors of these historic elected officials in NY and CT into the category of ‘fixing parking tickets’.

The despicable and nefarious posturing by Sen. Sinema has blessed Carried Interest, sometimes known as ‘the cockroach of tax breaks, allowing it to survive another potential assault by Congress.

The proposal to increase the holding period requirement to qualify certain income paid to investment bankers for the lower Carried Interest tax rate was removed from the landmark ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ of 2022 (H.R. 5376) recently passed by both the Senate and the House and signed into law by President Joe Biden on August 16, 2022.

The “compromise” to remove Carried Interest was demanded by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) which she justified on a complex and convoluted set of criteria, and which potentially might be related to the $1 Million in campaign contributions she received over the past year from private equity professionals, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists whose taxes would have increased exponentially under the original plan.

The concept of Carried Interest dates back to the 16th century, when ocean-going ship captains would often take a 20 percent “interest” of whatever profits were realized from the cargos they carried. This approach is logical and defensible on the risks to life, property and personal capital undertaken by ship captains.

In 21st century America, the meaning of Carried Interest has evolved to describe a tax loophole — an income tax avoidance scheme — which allows some private equity and hedge fund investment bankers to classify large amounts of their compensation related to performing services (i.e. managing and/or investing other people’s money) as investment gains, which substantially lowers the amount they are required to pay in taxes.

Today’s Carried Interestis essentially a payment (bonus or commission) for investment services that is taken out of the profits of the money managed for investors. Private equity firms use pooled money from large institutional investors (pension funds, college endowments, ultra-high net worth individuals, etc.) to acquire controlling interests in struggling, underperforming or undervalued companies. When the investment are made, these acquired entities agree to pay the private equity firms Carried Interestout of the investment profits on top of management and other fees.

Under our current tax law, when the carried interest income is paid out of the private equity firm to individual partners, directors, etc. it is taxed at the preferential (‘capital gains’) rates granted to investment income, even though the income represents compensation for services. In all other contexts, compensation income – salaries, bonus, commissions, etc. – is taxed everywhere else as ordinary income.

Investment professionals often are required to contribute capital if they are eligible to receive carry, although it varies by firm and by position in the hierarchy (from 23% of associates/senior associates to 71% of managing partners). Essentially, the Carried Interest tax loophole acts as a magic wand to turn ordinary compensation income into preferentially-taxed capital gains income for a few thousand specially entitled individuals each year.

Private Equity (“PE”) is a $4.5 Trillion industry which tends to follow a predictable model: Use very high levels of debt to take control of underperforming (or undervalued) companies and then extract as much value as possible over a short- to intermediate time frame.

One of my favorite movies, “Other People’s Money” (1991: Warner Brothers [directed by Norman Jewison]; starring Danny DeVito and Gregory Peck) almost perfectly illustrates the potentially powerful impact of leveraged debt strategically deployed against a weak management team. In the film, the end result is: (a) closure and liquidation of New England Wire & Cable Company, a boring multi-generational family manufacturing business; (b) the loss of hundreds of decent jobs in a small American city; and (c) millions of dollars of ‘pirated booty’ transferred to anonymous private equity investors, with a mighty fine Carried Interest reward paid to Danny DeVito (the investment banker).

Zero value added to the overall U.S. economy.

Devastating value lost to a small American city, its residents and the regional economy.

Sure, the investment banker (Danny DeVito) took home a fine bonus. He probably was able to buy a nice airplane and maybe a vacation home in the Hamptons.

Meanwhile, the wire and cable products formerly supplied by the now defunct domestic company now are being sourced from a foreign firm. The American city where the former Wire and Cable business was located lost tax revenue which had formerly been used to support local schools and public works. And, local families abruptly lost their incomes, and their homes potentially went into foreclosure.

Most alarming: U.S. taxpayers subsidized the whole mess because of this crazy, foolish and irrational tax break known as Carried Interest.

Some will say that the movie, “Other People’s Money” is a 1991 dinosaur which has no relevance in 2022.

Yet, the devastation continues. In our current environment, retailers are particularly vulnerable to leveraged buyouts, and they provide the most visible examples of companies which have been acquired, pillaged and wrecked by private equity firms.

In January 2020, the New York grocery chain Fairway filed for its second bankruptcy in less than four years and announced plans to sell off its stores, due to several efforts by PE firms to extract value from the franchise. The Fairway failure joins a long list of casualties that includes: Sears; Toys R Us; Payless ShoeSource; and Sports Authority, among many others.

< ==== >

In theory, PE firms snap up underperforming companies using ‘patient capital’; they bring in professional managers to revamp current operations; and then sell the companies through a Public Offering to generate a healthy return.

In practice, the PE industry revolves around deals known as leveraged buyouts, where the PE investors put up a small amount of their own money to purchase a company and borrow the rest. The acquired business becomes responsible for repaying the debt, which puts an immediate strain on cash flows.

In their quest to generate cash and improve operational efficiency, PE firms often: lay off workers, and cut pay and benefits to remaining workers; they sell off owned real estate and lease back; they sell trademarks and other ‘off balance sheet assets’.

PE firms sometimes extract cash using “dividend recapitalizations” where they use the acquired company to borrow additional money which is then used to pay investors. Beyond that, they often charge the businesses they acquire millions in ‘management fees’.

< ==== >

Shifting the treatment of so-called Carried Interest income from capital gains to ordinary compensation income could raise between $1.4 Billion and $18 Billion annually from income tax on a very small number of investment bankers.

Most informed Americans refer to the lower tax rate on Carried Interest as a loophole that allows already wealthy private equity, hedge fund and other investment managers to pay a lower tax rate than the majority of their employees and other American workers. Once they are fully informed, a significant majority of voters across the political spectrum support legislation that would close this loophole.

“It’s a real rich benefit for the wealthiest of Americans,” said Steve Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “Why should a private-equity manager be able to structure his or her compensation with low-taxed gains? That seems wrong.”

Sen. Sinema was elected to the U.S. Senate by voters in Arizona to represent their interests.  It’s hard to see how continuing this awful Carried Interest loophole is in the best interest of anyone in Arizona, other than to Sen Sinema herself because it seems to provide a rich and reliable source of political contributions to help ensure her continued reelection.

And that also seems wrong.

I don’t either.

Ryan, Trump and McConnell: These were our leaders on January 20, 2017: Inauguration Day

Just because you and I don’t remember the 2020 Recession, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

The official arbiter of recessions — the Bureau of Economic Research — says there was one.

When Donald Trump took office in January 2017, he inherited an economy in its 91st month of economic expansion following the end of the Great Recession in June 2009. That expansion continued into 2020, becoming the longest on record, peaking at 128 months in February 2020.

The National Bureau of Economic Research officially recognized the Recession of 2020 as the shortest on record at just 2 months, with the trough of that recession occurring in April 2020.

One milestone which helps to mark the 2020 recession is the price of oil. During the month of April 2020, the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate was absolutely erratic, actually closing Negative at (Minus $37/bbl) on April 20, 2020. [Was gasoline free that day? I don’t recall.]

Back to January 20, 2017, Trump’s Presidential Inauguration Day.

Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, was serving as Speaker of the House.  Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, was the Senate Majority leader.

Ryan was first elected to the House in 1998 at age 28. He developed a reputation as a no-nonsense deficit-hawk fully focused on reducing entitlements and reducing taxes. Ryan had been serving as Speaker of the House since 2015.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was Paul Ryan’s swan song, eagerly supported by Trump and most congressional Republicans.

Unfortunately, it was exactly the wrong time to enact this complex piece of legislation, primarily because it relied on untested assumptions at a point in time when the U.S. was riding the tail end of the longest economic expansion in history. It created massive increases in our national debt; it favored investment increases in oil and related industries (which to some appeared to be a means to curtail pending increases in oil prices); and exuberant expectations that repatriation of corporate profits parked offshore would be used to create domestic jobs turned into a massive stock buyback across the market.

In early February 2018, Paul Ryan began to reflect on the true consequences of the TCJA. He tweeted, “Julia Ketchum, a secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week. She didn’t think her pay would go up at all, let alone this soon. That adds up to $78 a year, which she said will more than cover her Costco membership for the year.”

In April 2018, Ryan announced his intention to retire from Congress on January 3, 2019 — the end of his current term — thus ending a 20-year career representing his constituents in Wisconsin — so that he could spend more time with his family.

Left to its own devices, the 2017 TCJA may have created an unchecked economic calamity.

Then came the Covid-19 Pandemic which turned into an unforeseen international societal and economic tragedy – and clearly was the trigger which caused the 2020 recession. Yet, the impacts of Covid didn’t begin to surface until 1st quarter 2020, so there is a 24 month period following the January 2018 introduction of the TCJA which economists are now examining to help create real context around current (mid-2022) economic uncertainties.

Even a neophyte like me can add the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine to: (a) the long-term economic damage created by the TCJA; (b) the Covid wild card; and (c) the economic devastation of Trump’s tariffs, particularly on our agriculture sector. When we spread the numbers, we can begin to see an almost perfect recipe created under Trump’s watch sufficient to decimate any economy.

Despite the open hostility and recalcitrance of elected Republicans currently serving in Congress, I must give Joe Biden and the Democrats a 5-Star rating for refusing to capitulate, and for keeping the ball moving forward.

The most recent reactions to the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago from Fox News and among Donald Trump’s followers confirm that Donald J. Trump might be a very dangerous cult leader.

The American Psychological Association (APA) associates Cult Leaders with those who exhibit narcissistic psychopathy in their actions and behaviors.

Cult leaders usually are psychopaths with a desire for power who often take ideas from politics, religion and psychology to fulfill their purpose. Through mind control, they are able to filter their thoughts and behaviors into “fanatical faith and belief” among followers.

According to a number of APA-approved research studies, “a destructive cult is an authoritarian regime, which uses deception when recruiting as well as mind-control techniques to make a person dependent and obedient.”

Some have said that the Church of Scientology resembles a cult, perhaps generally benign rather than overtly destructive.

L. Ron Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology in 1954, and he struggled for many years to gain recognition for it as a legitimate religion. He was often at odds with tax authorities and former members who accused the church of fraud and harassment. Hubbard died in 1986, yet he created an infrastructure which is more powerful and resolute today than any time prior.

Al Qaeda was founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden using a decentralized organizational structure which has survived his death. Most agree that Al Qaeda generally fulfills the criteria for a destructive cult, and a priority within the war on terrorism should focus on application of what we know about destructive mind-control cults.

Experts advise that the best strategy to stop cults from expanding and taking control of large segments of world population is to develop a deep understanding of the psychological aspects of how people are recruited and indoctrinated so that recruitment can be impeded and ultimately stopped.

History tells us that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were a destructive political cult, led by a man with an extreme case of malignant narcissism, defined by a ferocious sense of ‘self’.

Malignant narcissists – sometimes described as Narcissistic Psychopaths — exhibit no empathy. They believe they are above the law; they frequently make threats or speak of committing violence. They’re often paranoid; they demand complete loyalty; and they rarely trust anybody.

Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Putin, Jim Jones and Sun Myung Moon are often cited as malignant narcissists, some more a threat to the continuation of the human race than others.

The most recent reactions to the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago from Fox News and among Donald Trump’s followers confirm that Donald J. Trump must be a cult leader.

“These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, was raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Trump complained in a statement sent out via email by Trump’s Save America PAC. Never bashful in his quest to amass the largest political action fund in world history, his statement concluded with a request for donations: “Please rush in a donation IMMEDIATELY to publicly stand with me against this NEVERENDING WITCH HUNT.”

Almost immediately, Trump’s followers – ignoring the possibilities that Trump was flaunting U.S. laws and regulations – began to circle the wagons, claiming Trump is being unfairly persecuted by the Biden administration and other hard-left liberals. Alina Habba, one of Trump’s lawyers, spent time on August 9 with Jesse Watters on Fox News claiming that the entire FBI operation essentially was ‘illegal, immoral and perfidious’.

We only need to look back to the early morning of September 11, 2001, when 19 terrorists from the religious extremist cult Al Qaeda hijacked four commercial aircraft and crashed two of them into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center complex in NYC. Then, a third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, VA. Passengers on the fourth hijacked plane, Flight 93, fought back, and the plane was crashed into an empty field in western Pennsylvania about 20 minutes by air from Washington, D.C.

Nearly 3,000 people died. It was the worst attack on American soil since the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The terrorists from 9/11/2001 failed to destroy the foundation of U.S. society by force. Undeterred, it seems that these and other external forces have focused on indoctrination as a means to destroy our nation.

The growth of the Trump Cult – estimated to be as large as 35% of the U.S. population today – is proof that constant and focused messaging can be a powerful tool to alienate people who feel disenfranchised, and a majority of those people look like me.

I’m now retired; an over-65 white male who fought it out for 4+ decades to survive and prosper in an ever-changing workplace environment. It would have been easy for me to give up and blame the changes and challenges on women; people of color; immigrants; or ‘government over-reach’.

In fact, most GOP effort over the past several years has consisted mostly of new state and local election laws that have restricted voting in ways that often place a disproportionate burden on Black and Latino voters.

The Trump Terrorists have been programmed to zero in on racial, ethnic, religious and gender differences on the notion that entitled white men could be deprived from their rightful legacy.

The very origin of the Trump campaign is “Let’s Make America Great Again” referencing back to the 1956-57 era when virtually every white male high school graduate could transition into a family wage job – with GM or Ford; in government; mining; agriculture; transportation; construction; or a myriad of other industries. Those were the days when a typical CEO made 20 times the salary of the average worker.

In 2021, S&P 500 CEOs averaged $18.3 Million in compensation — 324 times the median worker’s pay. 

This inequity is the foundation of the real American dilemma. It has nothing to do with ‘deep state’ or a ‘swamp’ in D.C.  It is really grounded in the Dark Money culture which pervades our elections. Trump has plenty to say, but he has never addressed the real issues which haunt American workers.

Meanwhile, the Cult of Agent Orange is alarming, and it threatens to annihilate our entire nation.

We can do better, folks, and we must do better if we intend to survive as a nation.

First Amendment Rights

June 26, 2022

Hey, SCOTUS!

You just imposed the religious will of a small group of Fundamentalist Christians onto our entire nation.

Did you not know the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that everyone in the United States has the right to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all?

The former Clipper Motel, 1850 North Harrison, Clearwater, FL

This property – a 50-unit vacation destination – was acquired by the Church of Scientology FLAG Service Organization in 1996.  Although it is currently assessed for $2.3 Million, it has been off the tax rolls since 2013. That’s right. This 50-unit waterfront motel is tax exempt for religious purposes.

The property is now gated and clearly not accessible to the public, yet it appears to be well-maintained and suitable for its intended use as temporary housing for travelers.

In a post from November 2020, Mike Rinder looked deeply into the concept of awarding tax exemption to the Church of Scientology (Scientology’s Tax Exemption (mikerindersblog.org)

I am resident, voter, property owner and taxpayer in Clearwater, FL where the Church of Scientology has directly and indirectly acquired hundreds of properties, taking many off the tax rolls thus shifting the tax burden to others.

I don’t wish to debate the validity of the religious exemption Scientology won from the IRS, yet I do want to debate the practice of hiring and using an army of lawyers to fight property assessors who attempt to determine that some of the properties owned by Scientology are not used for religious or charitable purposes, and thus not eligible for property tax exemptions.

I also question many of the activities of Scientology which seem to confer ‘excess benefits’ to Chairman Miscavige and others who occupy senior positions in the Organization.

Having received tax exemption from the IRS as a religious organization, the Church of Scientology and its many affiliates are also exempt from filing an annual Form 990 “Information Return” with the IRS:

‘They are encouraged to file, but not required to file.’

The 990 provides a treasure trove of information, including executive compensation, benefits, governance, etc.

If I was a gangster posing as a religious leader, I would want to be exempt from any public disclosure, including the requirement to file a 990.

If I was an honest, fair, selfless religious leader I would hope to be fairly compensated for my education, wisdom and service so that I had adequate shelter, nutrition and safety for me and my household, but I wouldn’t object to disclosing the financial affairs of my organization, which would include disclosure of my personal compensation and benefits.

This goes well beyond Scientology as there are more than a few Exempt Religious Organizations which opt into the nondisclosure arena.

Despite that loophole, a rather large number of religious organizations which have received tax exemption from the IRS continue to file their 990 forms every year.

This seems to be another serious, dangerous and egregious loophole in our Federal Tax Code that needs to be addressed.

We, The People, ought to know what is going on behind the curtain, particularly because we are left paying the piper when those few tax-exempt organizations every year stray from the garden path.

Stock Prices, Inflation, Recession & Economic Cycles

Economic cycles – also known as business cycles — are a reality, and they can be tracked over time.  They generally are predictable, although not in precise time frames. Economic cycles consist of four identifiable phases or stages:  (a) Expansion; (b) Peak; (c) Contraction; and (d) Trough.

Every economic cycle includes a period of euphoria and exuberance marked by a sustained period of economic growth; followed by a period of uncertainty and lethargy linked to a period of economic decline.

When Donald Trump took office in January 2017, he inherited an economy in its 91st month of economic expansion following the end of the Great Recession in June 2009. That expansion continued into 2020, becoming the longest period of expansion on record, peaking at 128 months in February 2020.

We know that Donald Trump never fails to speak his mind.  During the campaign leading to the 2020 presidential election, Trump proclaimed, “If (Joe Biden) is elected, the stock market will crash!

[In 2018, Trump said, “When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win.” In late January 2020, Trump also said, “We have it (coronavirus) totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”]

Facts are facts:

  • The S&P 500 fell from 4,766 in late December 2021 to 3,900 today, a 20% loss;
  • We’ve seen the price of gasoline hit $5.00 per gallon, up from $3.00 just a year ago;
  • Case-Shiller recently reported a 34.8% price increase for housing in the Tampa Bay area (where I currently live) from March 2021 to March 2022;
  • The most recent CPI report reflects an annual rate of 8.6 percent through May 2022, the fastest rate in four decades.

What’s really going on?

There are a number of pieces to this puzzle, including:

  • The lingering effects of a Pandemic;
  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine;
  • Aftershocks (direct and indirect) from draconian tariffs enacted beginning in 2018;
  • Ongoing ripple effects from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA); and
  • Various supply chain issues, both domestic and international.

But, the root cause of our current intersection of inflation and stock market volatility likely traces back to 2010, when the Fed launched “QE2” – quantitative easing – essentially increasing liquidity in the domestic economy to stimulate economic growth. One of the outcomes from QE is a decrease in bond prices due to falling interest rates, combined with a run-up in stock prices as investors search for yield.

When the Fed announced its QE2 plan in November 2010, 30 year mortgages were at 5%; and the S&P 500 index was 1,200.  Over the course of the next few years, rates on 30 year mortgages dropped as low as 3.3%, and the S&P 500 index toward 2,010 (which it reached in September 2014).

Meanwhile, the CPI from 2010 to the end of 2020 remained relatively calm, reflecting the lagging effects of the economic recovery which began in mid-2009.

It is relatively easy to look into the rearview mirror now to observe that the Fed’s response to the impact of Covid on our economy helped to create an environment which fueled the inflation we are facing today.  In March 2020, in addition to a promise to inject a $ Trillion into the U.S. banking system, the Fed cut the federal funds rate to a range of 0% to 0.25%.

Those actions of the Fed likely saved our economy from implosion, but also helped to inspire a dramatic run-up in stock prices:  The S & P 500 index rose from 3,000 in early March 2020 to reach 4,700 in November 2021. (Stock prices were further affected by massive stock buybacks enabled by the 2017 TCJA).

While it seems convenient for some to blame Joe Biden for high gasoline prices; rapidly rising consumer prices; the stock market ‘meltdown’ — even for supply chain dysfunctions – history tells us there is a rather significant lag between the point when policy actions take place, until begin to see the results from those actions.

The Biden White House has pledged to fight against inflation and has stubbornly refused to blame the Fed for our current economic symptoms.

Although there are plenty of contributing factors, the real truth is over a decade of relying almost entirely on monetary policy to steer the ship brought us to this moment, not 18 months of Democratic control in the White House.

Chair of the Select Committee Rep. Bennie Thompson (D, MS) & Co-Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R, NV).

Today is June 9, 2022, the first day of a series of public hearings convened by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, Chaired by Thompson, with Co-chair Cheney.

They are an Unlikely Duo, truly polar opposites in most ways, yet bound together by at least one common thread: an oath of office where they individually affirmed a solemn promise to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”.

Thompson began his service as a Member of Congress in 1993 representing the 2nd Congressional district of Mississippi.  He is a black male; currently age 74; born, raised and still a resident of Bolton, MS: a small, rural and hard-scrabble town in Hinds County, approximately 20 miles from Jackson, the state capital.

Thompson’s voting record has been solidly ’liberal’. His legislative platform is and has been focused mainly on agriculture and rural issues; civil rights; homeland security; equal education; and health care reform.  He is a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Cheney began her service as a Member of Congress in 2017, representing the Wyoming at-large Congressional district. She is a white female; a lawyer; age 55; 3rd generation Wyoming resident on her mother’s side. Her father, former U.S. VP Dick Cheney, represented WY in Congress for 10 years.

Cheney is known as an “ideological conservative”, and a solid representative of the Republican establishment, noted for her focus on national security; support for the U.S. military; a pro-business stance; hawkish foreign policy views; and fiscal and social conservatism.

Prior to her ‘fall from grace’ for refusing to capitulate to the “stolen election theory”, Cheney chaired the House Republican Conference, the third-highest position in the House Republican leadership.

It seems perfectly clear from watching and listening to this first public hearing jointly moderated by this Unlikely Duo that the January 6th Insurrection is a seditious conspiracy against the Constitution of the United States.

It seems entirely plausible that House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell have continued to advance and support blatant political lies — fully disproved by both facts and the courts —aimed to support what has come to be known as the “Big Lie”: an imaginary alternative outcome from the 2020 presidential election.

Are Kevin and Mitch potentially guilty of Sedition themselves, or merely complicit in their disruptive and subversive actions?

Most sad:  Rod Serling could have produced an entire season of The Twilight Zone off the McCarthy/McConnell fabrications.

The time for action on responsible gun control has long passed, yet the opportunity is front and center.

Wayne LaPierre carved out a very lucrative career for himself based on a concept that former Chief Justice Warren E. Burger called “one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public.”

In 1996, under extraordinary pressure from the NRA and other pro-gun rights factions, Congress essentially shut down support for CDC-supported-research into the causes of gun violence.

Human Brain Development: Despite a paucity of research on gun violence, we can look to dozens of studies on human brain development which have provided a rich array of data strongly supporting the fact that female brain development occurs at a more rapid pace than males of a similar age.

Specifically, the frontal cortex — the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act — develops later in males than in females.  The majority of research tells us that females tend to reach maturity toward the end of adolescence; where in males, the frontal cortex is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.

One research paper from an independent private college published in 2015 asserted that, “Men commit over 85% of all homicides, 91% of all same-sex homicides and 97% of all same-sex homicides in which the victim and killer aren’t related to each other.”

The vast majority of mass homicides in the U.S. over the past decade have been committed by American males under 25 using a military-style assault weapon with high-capacity magazine(s).

Although we lack irrefutable proof of causality, it seems reasonable to postulate that eliminating the availability of firearms, accessories and ammunition which are derived from and/or modelled on military grade assault weapons would likely reduce — and eventually eliminate — the opportunity for young American males to obtain and/or use these deadly weapons.

Silver tongued orators: While many of our elected officials in Congress have used their silver tongues to concurrently placate the people and please the NRA, our nation has been violated by domestic terrorists, generally armed with AR15-style weapons.

AR-15: The small-bore, high-velocity AR-15 rifle was originally designed for military use under the mandate: “high-velocity; full and semi auto fire; 20 shot magazine; 6lbs loaded; able to penetrate both sides of a standard Army helmet at 500 meters.” When it entered Army service in the 1960s, it was renamed the M16.

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994) outlawed the manufacture, transfer, or possession of “semiautomatic assault weapons” for civilian use. Unfortunately, that Ban expired in 2004, and since then we have observed the NRA (and some other groups) spending millions of dollars annually on lobbyists to quash any attempts to even discuss rational and reasonable gun control measure.

Example:  An Assault Weapons Ban bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein with 37 co-sponsors (S.736 — 117th Congress) was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary in March 2021 where it has languished ever since.

NRA response to Feinstein’s bill:  ‘Outlawing commonly owned semi-automatic rifles every day Americans use for hunting, recreational shooting, and self-defense will not reduce gun crimes or firearm related homicides. The ban she’s currently offering is just one more attack on the rights of law-abiding gun owners that will have zero effect on crime.’

The NRA has long taken the position that semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 are used for “recreational target shooting, hunting, and home defense” and states that ‘law-abiding firearms owners shouldn’t be penalized because of homicidal loners who use semi-automatics like the AR-15 for criminal purposes.’

The vast majority of independent firearm experts don’t support this position.

Recreational target shooting?  Sure.  Who could refute the adrenaline rush of firing a weapon that is as close to a machine gun in operation as you can legally possess?

Hunting?  Not so much.  The best practice guideline for hunters incorporates a ‘quick clean kill’ which ideally is a one-shot kill, resulting in an immediate downing of the animal; minimizing suffering; reducing damage to the meat; and making the harvest and field dressing much easier.

The AR-15 variants are often effective due to their ability enable anyone to ‘Spray and Pray’ – not for conformance with the one-shot kill preferred by responsible sport hunters.

Home defense?  Not in my home, and hopefully not in my neighborhood. Although the AR-15 is a ‘relatively short’ long-gun, it can be tough to maneuver and aim in tight quarters. With a muzzle velocity in excess of 3,000 fps, it will over-penetrate, sending bullets through the walls of your house, endangering family members and possibly into the walls of your neighbor’s house.  When equipped with a quick-change 30 round magazine — and firing at a rate of 45 rounds per minute — it’s not hard to imagine how many rounds can be launched in a very short period of time.

The core solutions to put a halt to senseless massacres — primarily orchestrated by young domestic terrorists — are well-known.  Eliminating assault weapons is # 1.

Congressional Focus and Priorities:  Instead of working collaboratively to fix a myriad of strategic and critical domestic problems, a rather sizable number of our U.S. elected officials seem to prefer to focus their time and effort on banning books; legislating elementary school curriculum and content; and punishing those who don’t agree with them.

It’s time for our Congress to tell the NRA that they will support rational legislation on 2nd Amendment Rights, with the caveat that in a modern, polite and peaceful society, there is no place for civilian possession and /or use for firearms, accessories and ammunition which are derived from and/or modelled after military- grade assault weapons.

President Biden:  You are absolutely on the right track.

Members of Congress:  No more groveling; no more boot-licking; no more vacillating at or with the NRA.  You still have the time and ability to redeem yourselves as decent human beings. Please don’t squander this opportunity.  Support, fast-track and pass S. 736.

Don’t Say Gay

April 26, 2022

a.k.a. Parental Rights in Education

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed House Bill 1557 “Parental Rights in Education” a.k.a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

DeSantis stated, “Parents’ rights have been increasingly under assault around the nation, but in Florida we stand up for the rights of parents and the fundamental role they play in the education of their children.”

Former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo further said, “Parents should get to decide what their children are taught, not the government or teachers unions.”

And, I absolutely agree. Public schools are available to everyone, and public schools are a compromise between cost and value. For those who have unlimited resources and who want a custom experience for their children, there are a variety of private schools to choose from. And, home schooling is an option for some.

Typical governance of public schools is through an elected school board comprised of residents in the District who take an oath to represent all who are stakeholders in the District.

Thus, parents have a strong voice in deciding what and how their children are taught. Parents can get actively involved in who is running for school board, and to support candidates who most closely mirror their personal values.

Take a look at this school board Oath of Office from Illinois:

“I, (name of member or successful candidate), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of member of the Board of Education (or Board of School Directors) of (name of school district), in accordance with the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Illinois, and the laws of the State of Illinois, to the best of my ability.

“I further swear (or affirm) that:

“I shall respect taxpayer interests by serving as a faithful protector of the school district’s assets;

“I shall encourage and respect the free expression of opinion by my fellow board members and others who seek a hearing before the board, while respecting the privacy of students and employees;

“I shall recognize that a board member has no legal authority as an individual and that decisions can be made only by a majority vote at a public board meeting;

“I shall abide by majority decisions of the board, while retaining the right to seek changes in such decisions through ethical and constructive channels;

“As part of the Board of Education (or Board of School Directors, as the case may be), I shall accept the responsibility for my role in the equitable and quality education of every student in the school district;

“I shall foster with the board extensive participation of the community, formulate goals, define outcomes, and set the course for (name of school district);

“I shall assist in establishing a structure and an environment designed to ensure all students have the opportunity to attain their maximum potential through a sound organizational framework;

“I shall strive to ensure a continuous assessment of student achievement and all conditions affecting the education of our children, in compliance with State law;

“I shall serve as education’s key advocate on behalf of students and our community’s school (or schools) to advance the vision for (name of school district); and

“I shall strive to work together with the district superintendent to lead the school district toward fulfilling the vision the board has created, fostering excellence for every student in the areas of academic skills, knowledge, citizenship, and personal development.”

For those parents who desire a more hands-on role in how their children are educated, there are a number of additional options: (1) regular and active participation in PTA; (2) regular and active participation in parent teacher events, including parent/teacher night and parent/teacher conferences; (3) active and regular daily involvement in children’s homework and assignments; (4) regular and active involvement in after school activities, including sports, band, debate, theater, etc.

As to the quote from Mike Pompeo, it must be taken in context to Pompeo’s personal history and beliefs:

Pompeo is affiliated with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, where he has served as a local church deacon, and taught Sunday school. In talks before church groups, Pompeo has said that Christians needed to “know that Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world” and that “politics is a never-ending struggle… until the Rapture.”

Until the Rapture.

Yes, this is an amazing story, not quite at the top of what DeSantis is engaged in, but pretty close.

There is an old saying that, ‘there is nothing lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon wheel rut’ and DeSantis is jousting with fellow snake Texas Governor Abbott to see who will reach the bottom of the rut first.

You’ve got to hand it to DeSantis on his ability to generate national headlines, following the model perfected by P.T. Barnum in the 19th century: (1) ‘I don’t care what people say about me as long as they say something’ and, (2) ‘There ain’t no such thing as bad publicity’.

Let’s not forget some of the other Governors running in the 2022 Race to The Bottom.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) recently signed a new law making it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion.  Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed laws banning transgender girls from high school sports; restricting the way schools teach about race and gender; and eliminating permit requirements for concealed carry.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) recently launched campaign advertisements which double down on Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ false statements about the 2020 election results.

Several other conservative incumbents who have used scorched earth strategies in their policies and practices – like it or not — now find themselves in the high visibility arena:  Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R); Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R); Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R); and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) all face primary challenges, fueled by more main-stream Republican contenders.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Kimmel probably did the best retort to the Florida math textbook situation.

He said, ‘The Florida Department of Education rejected dozens of math textbooks because they made reference to Critical Race Theory.  If you don’t know what Critical Race Theory is, don’t worry – neither does Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.’ And Kimmel’s monologue goes on from there…

[>>> Watch the Kimmel monologue here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QgdS-G8pi8