Category: Said-It News

Said-It: People Lifting People Becomes Perpetual Motion

Business Woman Media

The cheerleading squad at Shoreline Junior High took two official team portraits this year. The first photo included Morgyn Arnold, a 14-year-old student with Down syndrome who’d been working as the cheer team manager and knew all the routines by heart. The second photo included all the other girls, but was taken without Arnold, who was noticeably missing from her spot in the front row.

And it was that second picture without her that the school used on social media and in the yearbook. Jordyn Poll, Arnold’s older sister, said Arnold was heartbroken when she flipped through the pages and saw she wasn’t included with the rest of her teammates. Her name wasn’t even mentioned. Poll believes the decision was made because of Arnold’s disability. The Salt Lake Tribune (Courtney Tanner)

Last Saturday, Assistant Attorney General Steven A. Wuthric said he was woken up from a nap by City Council member Darin Mano, who was knocking on doors in a neighborhood as part of his campaign to be elected to the Salt Lake City Council.

Wuthrich then sent an email to Mano filled with expletives and hateful language. “On a nice Saturday afternoon, myself and my wife were downstairs when some mother f***ing ignorant son-of-b**** rang our doorbell and put your piece of s*** unwanted solicitation in our door waking the dogs and waking us and the neighbors with an uproar,” Wuthrich said in the email.

“I will do everything in my power to see you never get elected to any office higher than dog catcher,” Wuthrich added in his email to Mano. “I hate you, I hate your family, I hate your solicitors, I hate your contributors, I hate your sponsors, ” Wuthrich continued to say in the email. “Kindly go to hell and die motherf***er.”

Wuthrich issued a statement apologizing on Tuesday for the email sent to Mano… ABC4 News (Craig Proffer)

Analysis: The last week or so has been a difficult time for some people in the state of Utah (USA) to present their best selves. I’ve always been fascinated by the ability of the human animal to be, well, animals. Certainly, if given the proper environment and circumstances and say, maybe the ability to think things through to their logical conclusion, some people would choose not to come off being jerks. I’m thinking this would especially be the case if they knew their boorish behavior was going to be published in the news.

Invariably, people get it wrong in so many instances. Life really does get in the way and perfect storms are created – the results of which can be horribly embarrassing – and to others, hurtful. Lack of sleep, hunger, anger and frustration, worry, and the undeniable truth that some folks are just social Neanderthals, all contribute to people being jerks to other people. What would cause someone to decide to intentionally leave out a ‘special needs’ girl – a member of the team – in a yearbook team picture? Why would a prominent leader in a community intentionally send an excoriating, vulgar email to another prominent member of the community?

These two situations are unique. They didn’t occur because of people’s spontaneous reaction to something. These people can’t argue they were taken by surprise. No, the actors in both these cases methodically and intentionally set about to diss on other human beings. Sadly, the actors in these cases felt their behavior was justified. And that, to me, is all-telling and what makes these two cases egregious.

But good can and often does result from these types of situations. People changing – individuals transforming, with a renewal of goodness within themselves is miraculous. These two situations that happened in Utah should be a wake-up call to all of us. We can all learn something from these reports. A little kindness, a little understanding, a little compassion, a little love goes a long way in our relationships with others. The essence of our existence lies in our relationships with our fellow humans. Let’s not screw it up. But when we do have lapses in judgement, perhaps we can quickly and sincerely apologize and make it right. People lifting people becomes perpetual motion.      

When the American Dream is Unattainable

The United States averted the most dire predictions about what the pandemic would do to the housing market. An eviction wave never materialized. The share of people behind on mortgages, after falling steadily for months, recently hit its pre-pandemic level.

But a comprehensive report on housing conditions over the past year makes clear that while one crisis is passing, another is growing much worse.

Like the broader economy, the housing market is split on divergent tracks, according to the annual State of the Nation’s Housing Report released on Wednesday by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. While one group of households is rushing to buy homes with savings built during the pandemic, another is being locked out of ownership as prices march upward — and those who bore the brunt of pandemic job losses remain saddled with debt and in danger of losing their homes. The New York Times (By Conor Dougherty and Glenn Thrush)

Analysis: So, what happens when you work two jobs and still can’t afford to own or even rent a home? That seems to be the problem right now in the U.S. housing market. Some people are simply priced right out of the market. And that’s a problem. How can the “American Dream” take shape in people’s lives if they can’t even have a place of their own? Or was the American Dream an illusion all along?

Problem is, in a recession, things turn upside down and prices on normal, everyday things get weird. A recession was predicted; we knew it was coming. You can’t send people home and shut down factories, shops, and businesses without some fallout. Even with the government subsidies to hold things in place, we’re seeing the results of economic shutdown and subsequent start-up. Supply and demand usually keep things balanced, but it takes time for the system to work. If supply is short and demand is high, prices will invariably shoot up.

Problem is wages and salaries have not kept pace with the pricing index on goods and services. Inflation wreaks havoc on people’s bank accounts. And a suitable place to live in a suitable price range is simply not possible for some people – a lot of people – when that happens. That’s where we’re at right now in the United States; it’s the same problem in other developed nations, too. Look for the problem to get worse, much worse, before it gets better.

Biden and Putin to Meet

U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have arrived on Wednesday at the lush lakeside Swiss mansion for their highly anticipated summit, a moment of consequential diplomacy at a time when both leaders agree that relations between their countries are at an all-time low.

The two leaders shook hands while appearing briefly before cameras with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, who welcomed them to Switzerland, and then entered the mansion for what is expected to be four or five hours of talks.

For months, they have traded sharp rhetoric. Biden has repeatedly called out Putin for malicious cyberattacks by Russian-based hackers on U.S. interests, a disregard for democracy with the jailing of Russia’s foremost opposition leader, and interference in American elections.

Putin, for his part, has reacted with whatabout-isms and obfuscations — pointing to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to argue that the United States has no business lecturing on democratic norms and insisting that the Russian government hasn’t been involved in any election interference or cyberattacks despite U.S. intelligence showing otherwise. AP News (By Aamer Madhani, Jonathan Lemire and Vladimir Isachenkov

Analysis: Joe and Vladimir have a lot to talk about. Not much will be resolved in this four-to-five hour chat session, but the ice will be broken and the two world leaders, as far as anyone knows, will have talked things over and addressed the issues. And that’s a big deal when it comes to mediating national differences. I can tell you, in all my graduate-level studies in conflict resolution, one thing was clear, the initial hurdle in mediation is getting the combatants to the table.

The January 6 insurrection in the United States erased over 220 years of its democratic superiority on the global stage. We knocked ourselves off the pedestal and with it, the ability to lead by example. Now we’re just like everyone else and people know it! So, Putin is right, the United States has no business lecturing anyone about democratic norms.

Games of semantics take place in these discussions. Putin has been saying for months that his government is not involved in cyberattacks or election interference. He’s right; the cyberattacks and interference were orchestrated by an outside group chosen and supported by the Russian government, but not the government itself. Gotta maintain that level of deniability! It’s the first thing they teach you in ‘global leadership’ classes!

Nothing will be resolved in this summit discussion. But it’s good to see some face-to-face action by the two leaders. Despite losing it’s position on the democratic highroad, the United States’ influence regarding freedom and democracy on the world stage is still pervasive. Joe Biden is doing a decent job restoring what was lost with the last guy. Putin knows there’s a new sheriff in town.    

Meet the New Boss; NOT Same as the Old Boss!

Naftali Bennett (LA Times)

A day after they gained the confidence of the Knesset and were sworn into office, Monday saw the ministers of the newly confirmed government take up their roles at various ministries, where some were treated to handover ceremonies by their predecessors and others were not.

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who the night before was ousted from power after 12 years in office by the incoming coalition, gave his replacement, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, less than an hour — according to some reports, just half an hour — for their handover, before publicly declaring that he would swiftly bring down the new government.

The formal transfer of power ended without the traditional ceremony and public good wishes, without a handshake and with no photo-op, an indication of the animus Netanyahu harbors toward Bennett, his own one-time chief of staff. Addressing the heads of the parties, Netanyahu demanded discipline and cohesion in order to make life harder on the coalition and “rescue the people and State of Israel.” The Times of Israel

Analysis: One of the indicators of a leader’s character is the way he/she bows out when defeated. For twelve years, I’ve admired Benjamin Netanyahu for his ‘stand-up’ leadership style. He’s ran a good race; perhaps it’s time for him to move on. Unfortunately, now that he is out of office, he may be facing a trial for corruption soon. Maybe that’s one reason he seems adamant in clinging to power.

The incoming coalition will have its hands full and will need to hit the road running. With the Syrian war a continual problem next door, in addition to the problems in Gaza with Hamas and the continual situation up north dealing with Iranian-supported Hezbollah, astute leadership will be needed.

There will be compromise on some level coming in the Middle East. Iran wants and expects U.S. sanctions loosened in exchange for transparency on its nuclear programs. The resultant agreements through the Abraham Accords will be continuing. Like I’ve maintained, a major portion of that agreement turned out to be nothing more than an ‘arms-for-peace’ deal, with the F-35s thrown in to sweeten the pot. If anyone suggests there will suddenly be peace in the region because of the accords, they have more hope in the system than I do.

The age-old, two-state solution debate between Israel and the Palestinians will continue. The Palestinians will likely never agree to what’s offered by Israel; there are too many deep-rooted differences regarding Jerusalem and the West Bank. And with Bennett in control, I doubt any compromises will take place any time soon.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said Sunday [Associated Press] that the Palestinian position remains “adherence to international legitimacy and the two-state solution by establishing an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.” According to the coalition, discussions regarding this issue will be tabled for the time being.      

Thank the Lord for the Press!

(Journalism)

As the Justice Department investigated who was behind leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, it took a highly unusual step: Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides, and family members. One was a minor.

All told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman, according to committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry. Representative Eric Swalwell of California said in an interview Thursday night that he had also been notified that his data had been subpoenaed.

Prosecutors, under the beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, were hunting for the sources behind news media reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Ultimately, the data and other evidence did not tie the committee to the leaks, and investigators debated whether they had hit a dead end and some even discussed closing the inquiry.

But William P. Barr revived languishing leak investigations after he became attorney general a year later. He moved a trusted prosecutor from New Jersey with little relevant experience to the main Justice Department to work on the Schiff-related case and about a half-dozen others, according to three people with knowledge of his work who did not want to be identified discussing federal investigations. The New York Times (By Katie Benner, Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt, and Adam Goldman)

Analysis: Government leaks are as common as snow melting in springtime. Information is power. And some things just need to see the light of day. Remember “Deep Throat?” Remember Watergate?

News papers in general and journalists specifically have a duty to sniff out a story and make sure truth gets published. The news keeps government honest, and to the point, it keeps politicians beholden to their oath to protect and defend the Constitution and represent their constituencies honorably.

Historically, authoritarians hate the press, especially a press protected by a Bill of Rights. Rights of the masses invariably hinder in one way or another an authoritarian’s hunger for more power. Every time I hear a hard-nosed journalist asking tough questions, especially to a politician, I thank the lord I live in a land that constitutionally values and protects the free press and all the privileges associated with it. On the flip side, I shudder when I hear politicians, especially the president of the United States, excoriate the press.

But things get dicey when investigations get underway. The Department of Justice has an obligation to investigate unlawful acts. Leaking classified information could compromise national security, and under the Espionage Act, if found guilty, a person who is found in violation can be sent to prison where they belong.

But what about a citizen’s rights to privacy? At what point do government investigators, given carte blanche authority to subpoena and view private records, overstep their lawful bounds? It’s a fair question to ask, “At what point do the investigators of lawbreaking actually become lawbreakers themselves?”   

And back to the issue of Watergate, where would we be if FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, (Deep Throat) would’ve held back on disclosing information to journalist Bob Woodward?

The constant engagement of citizens living in a free land to hold their government representatives accountable is absolutely necessary as a means to protect against tyranny. Leaking information related to malfeasance is a necessary part of the process in some cases. Otherwise, government officials would only declare their unlawful actions as “top secret” to cover their tracks and bury their misdeeds. The U.S. Federal government and its workers will always be beholden to the people. It’s critical to the continued existence and freedoms of the United States of America that it remains so.    

Who Wants to Be a Billionaire?

ProPublica

ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings, and even the results of audits.

Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The IRS records show that the wealthiest can — perfectly legally — pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year. ProPublica (Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Ernsthausen and Paul Kiel)

Analysis: ProPublica’s revelation report cast more clouds over some of the U.S. wealthy. We are all used to the financial class (caste) system – the haves and the have-nots. I suppose we should include another level in that stratum and call it the ‘in-betweeners.’ That’s the middle class. I’m middle class; I have just enough to keep me going from paycheck to paycheck, a vacation once in a while, a couple cars, and a house in a decent part of town. And I pay over 35 percent of my income to taxes of one kind or another.    

In the above quote from the ProPublica article, the emphasis should be put on “the wealthiest can – perfectly legally – pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction…” It appears the system is tilted in favor of the rich. There should be no gasps of surprise there. The system has always been tilted in favor of the rich. Perhaps you’ve heard this variation of the ‘Golden Rule, “He who has the most gold makes the rules.”

Many middle- and working-class Americans have suspicioned for years that they pay more in income taxes than many of the extremely wealthy in the country. That was confirmed when it was revealed just how much Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed billionaire, paid in Federal income taxes compared to those workers.

The point always comes down to fairness and the equity associated with everyone paying their share for the benefits received through taxation. Frankly, I get tired of being nickel and dimed to death on taxes, from income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, and all the usage fees and dues, which are actually taxes. So, if I had the opportunity to take advantage of the tax-avoidance schemes (legal) that the rich use, I would likely do it without hesitation.

What I am in favor of is a tax system that does not benefit or favor any one class. How about a flat tax system? If you make this much money, you send the U.S. Government 5 percent – no loopholes, tricks, or surprises. That goes for all individuals and incorporeal entities.   

Said-It News: Bitcoin Becomes Legal Tender

(Medium)

El Salvador makes bitcoin legal tender

El Salvador has become the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender after Congress approved President Nayib Bukele’s proposal to embrace the cryptocurrency.

Bukele has touted the use of bitcoin for its potential to help Salvadorans living abroad to send remittances back home, while saying the U.S. dollar will also continue as legal tender.

The use of bitcoin will be optional for individuals and would not bring risks to users, Bukele said. The government will guarantee convertibility to dollars at the time of transaction through a trust created at the country’s development bank BANDESAL. Reuters (Tom Wilson)

Analysis: Bitcoin seems to be the wave of the economic future. The move will provide secure ‘buy and sell’ transactions for El Salvadorans who choose to participate. This will also be a boon to El Salvadorans who work abroad and send their wages home in the form of remittances. The issue could prove to be problematic, however, as bitcoin is more prone to market and other economic fluctuations. Look to other countries to jump on this alternative currency bandwagon.

Africa desperately short of COVID vaccine

In the global race to vaccinate people against COVID-19, Africa is tragically at the back of the pack. In fact, it has barely gotten out of the starting blocks.

The World Health Organization says the continent of 1.3 billion people is facing a severe shortage of vaccine at the same time a new wave of infections is rising across Africa. Vaccine shipments into Africa have ground to a “near halt,” WHO said last week.

“It is extremely concerning and at times frustrating,” said Africa CDC Director Dr. John Nkengasong, a Cameroonian virologist who is trying to ensure some of the world’s poorest nations get a fair share of vaccines in a marketplace where they can’t possibly compete. AP News (Gerald Imray)

Analysis: Vaccines are like most other commodities on the open market; unfortunately, many nations with small economies cannot compete and secure vaccines for their populations. Despite the efforts of rich countries to offer vaccines to poorer nations, the numbers are dismal. African nations face the same fate as India, where COVID spiked resulting in a total of nearly 600,000 deaths, unless a vaccine program is administered quickly.

Nicaraguan government launches mass arrests

President Daniel Ortega’s government has carried out sweeping arrests of his top challengers in the November elections, in a sharp escalation of political repression in Nicaragua.

Two of the presidential hopefuls were arrested on Tuesday — Félix Maradiaga, an academic and political activist, and Juan Sebastián Chamorro, an economist. During the past week, two others, Arturo Cruz and Cristiana Chamorro, were also detained. The Washington Post (Ismael López Ocampo and Mary Beth Sheridan)

Analysis: Daniel Ortega will do what it takes to stay in power. One of the oldest political strategies in the book to maintain power in a democratic government is to remove all competition at the polls. Arresting the opposition is one way to do so. This action is a challenge to the U.S. Biden administration, as Vice President Harris is in the region promoting good governance. Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term in November; polls show his popularity has dropped to its lowest point ever.