Trump was right about fake news.

trump

Donald Trump and his rag-tag team of amateur politicians were continually chastised by established media outlets. Their stories were researched and verified, and obviously true. Trump’s life and career have always been well publicized, with most of the the publicity orchestrated by Trump himself. Like a spoiled child who always gets his way, Trump’s only defense was, “They’re lying.” His campaign coined the phrase “fake news.” Millions of people believed him. Those of us with I.Q.s higher than room temperature knew Trump’s people were blowing smoke.

Of course, there are (and always will be) pathetic racist idiots who want “America back,” most who believe that only a white man should be in the White House. I am still amazed at how many women think this way. I always thought they were smarter than that. As I perused their Facebook and Twitter profiles, I wasn’t all that surprised to find most were over 60 and subscribed to the feeds of genuinely fake news sites. Nothing will ever change their narrow minds.

However, now that we’ve seen him in office, something clicked. Trump is so awkward. He’s making faces, pointing, butting in, suddenly praising a certain nasty woman, and spouting off unpresidented – sorry, unprecedented things a sitting or retired American president should never say. I began to wonder if Trump and his cronies were right about fake news. But now in the way you think.

Maybe there was fake news. But not news that would pull people away from voting for Trump. It was fake news that would convince people to support him. I wonder if perhaps we have just witnessed the most brilliantly executed reverse-psychology the world has ever seen. This was a social sham that might have made Edward Bernays proud.

But why? Well, I can think of two primary reasons. One, media success is based on viewership and readership. The more readers, the more advertisers. The more advertisers, the higher the ad rates. And nothing would generate more sensational news than a Trump presidency. Imagine – four full years of viral, easy pickins. The New York Times knew damn well their detractors weren’t and would never be subscribers. They either can’t read, or can’t afford the subscription. It was a perfectly calculated ploy.

Secondly, proof was needed to ensure the American public was still as gullible as they’ve been since the Eisenhower days. Apparently, the miracle of free and untethered global information offered by the internet hasn’t made anyone smarter. The press can still twist a story any way they want, and people will take it for gospel.

Hey, it’s not all the Trump voters’ fault. Blame our schools and the textbook mafia curriculum. Blame generations of parents who never had a chance to be critical thinkers. Blame community leaders and churches who spoonfeed whatever story best suits their agenda. Blame capitalism’s continual impulse to enrich those who control it, the media’s tendency to celebrate them, and our willingness to watch or read that crap. That’s right, folks, we’re all to blame.

Ultimately, wittingly or not, we all contributed to the rise of fake-fake news, and the election of a sad clown who will adorn our headlines for as long as he can bear it.

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A Democratic Failure.

Republican presidential candidate Trump autographs chest of woman at his campaign rally in Manassas, Virginia
On November 9th, 2016, for the second time in 16 years, an American presidential nominee lost an election although that candidate had won the popular vote. How could that be? The people have spoken! Apparently, that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of American politics. Sure, you have the right and responsibility to vote – for Senators and Representatives. However, it turns out your presidential vote doesn’t really matter.

The term “democracy” comes from two Greek words: “demos” (the people) and “”kratia” (power or authority). Theoretically, DEMOCRACY is a form of government that gives power to the people.

de·moc·ra·cy (dəˈmäkrəsē): a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives

Nowhere is the word “democracy” mentioned in the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution. But isn’t the United States government a democracy? Nope. You’ve been duped. The Founding Founders feared democratic rule. James Madison expressed this attitude in FEDERALIST #10: “…instability, injustice, and confusion …have in truth been the mortal disease under which popular governments everywhere perished…” In the late 18th-century, rule by the people was thought to lead to disorder and disruption. Yet a democratically-based government was seen as superior to the monarchies of Europe.

America uses an “indirect” or “representative” democracy. In this system, representatives are elected by citizens to make decisions on their behalf. The Founders preferred the term “Republic” because it described a system they generally preferred — the interests of the peopled were represented by more knowledgeable or wealthier citizens who were responsible to those that elected them. No, America did not invent this system. Britain has had a representative democracy since the seventeenth century. Members of the British Parliament are elected from across Britain and represent the interests of their constituents to the government.

If America isn’t a true democracy, has it devolved into a plutocracy?

plu·toc·ra·cy (plo͞oˈtäkrəsē): a country or society governed by the wealthy

Ever since the Supreme Court opened up the ultimate floodgates with its 2010 Citizens United decision, each subsequent election has seen record-breaking amounts of money donated and spent by wealthy citizens and corporations looking for favors.

Corporations seem to have unlimited freedom to merge and combine with little oversight, creating more powerful entities and less threats from competition. The lines have greyed between banks and investment firms, creating a dangerous environment for those of us without a financial cushion. And although capitalism technically is supposed to let the chips fall where they may, our government has deemed some industries “too big to fail” and stepped in with a more socialist form of aid.

No one dares question our military industrial complex, deeply entrenched by very wealthy companies providing support and logistics. Only Congress had the power to declare war, but today’s Congress has been reduced to debating wars that already exist. The current war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has already been underway for months whether Congress authorizes it or not. Someone is making a ton of money producing items that kill humans, and that profit center is showing no signs of waning.

Back to our most recent presidential election. Rising from a slew of many more experienced and qualified candidates, the victor achieved success through insults, lies, impossible promises, and fame from a reality television show. And, oh yeah, he’s supposedly a billionaire – but we’ll never really know if that’s true because he effectively decimated the tradition of presidential transparency by voluntarily withholding his tax returns and financial statements. What’s most frightening is more than 60 million of our fellow citizens actually believe this man and all his words. I supposed we shouldn’t be surprised, given the state of out-of-reach higher education and radical Christian fundamentalism that exists throughout our populace and government.

The United States of America has often touted itself as not only the beacon of democracy but as the model the rest of the world must emulate. In the seaside cafes of Beirut, the whole thing looks “like a bad joke.” To persecuted journalists in Burundi, it amounts to “a total loss of dignity.” The government-scripted press of Beijing diagnoses “an empire moving downhill.” And the spin doctors of the Kremlin see cause for pure and unambiguous delight. Debates devoid of issues and deep in the gutter of personal insult. Interference from foreign intelligence services. The U.S. presidential election — America’s quadrennial chance to showcase for the world how democracy works in the most powerful nation on Earth — has become instead an object lesson in everything that ails a country long seen as a beacon of freedom and hope. Adversaries have looked on with glee, surprised at how easily the country that casts itself as the greatest can be knocked off kilter.

America does have some pressing issues. Due to a fundamental shift in economics and technology, there aren’t enough good paying jobs to support the lifestyle most Americans are taught to expect. And due to imports, outsourcing, automation, and the economics of such things firmly controlled by plutocratic powerhouses, those jobs will never come back no matter what anyone promises. Our children are eclipsed globally in math, science, and engineering, yet that seems surprisingly acceptable to the masses. The Democratic idea of free or reduced price higher education was just shown the door in favor of enhancing the military. Affordable health care as a human right continues to be elusive, with insurance providers playing unfortunately legal and complex games with coverage and costs. A woman’s right to choose what happens with her own body will undoubtedly be governed by a loosely translated ancient Hebrew text rather than a document written by well-intentioned pioneers. And regardless of cause or fault, science will again be overshadowed by economics, as we shift the effects of climate change to citizens who will be forced to be born into a world our “democratically elected” leaders refuse to shepherd.

To simplify what just happened for those 60 million voters in words easier to understand – you’ve been duped. Nothing will get better for you. Opportunities for success will continue to dwindle regardless of anyone’s tax burden. You won’t be safer, you won’t be richer, you won’t be more proud. We’re not going to conquer any nations. We’re not going to control Islamic fundamentalism here or abroad. We’re not going to solve any problems by building a wall between the United States and Mexico. Drugs will continue to be a growing problem. Crimes committed by poorly educated Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, and Caucasians will persist regardless of any new laws or adding more police. Allowing more people to carry guns won’t frighten potential perpetrators – what’s more likely is the perp will shoot anyone who looks like a gun owner first. And America will continue to be the laughing stock of the world.

Perhaps critical thinking is a curse. It sure is a lot easier and perhaps satisfying to be ignorant. Too late for those of us who took the metaphorical red pill. We’re all stuck in this sinking plutocratic ship for at least four trips around the sun, unless it is subsequently proven once again the sun does indeed revolve around the earth, resulting in a mindless world on which I wouldn’t want to live on. Countless educated and thinking Americans, while hoping for the best, feel stunned and depressed as we hopelessly plunge what was meant to be an example to the world into a complete reversal of civilization. And regardless of your will or hope there’s not a damn thing any of us can do about it until 2020. If we’re still here.

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Three Reasons I Would Not Vote For Trump.

The Republican party couldn’t field a worthwhile candidate this cycle. We were left with the biggest bully with the loudest mouth, and sadly, many very confused and misguided Americans believe he is their savior. He has insulted our politicians, our military, our veterans, our women, and even his own voters. Yet these fools continue to follow him into the fires of Hell. Not all of us are fooled, Donald. Here’s why I could not, in good conscious, give you my vote.

Taxes.

Obviously, by not releasing his tax returns, something every presidential candidate has done over the past 40 years, Trump has something to hide. We don’t know if it’s pertaining to a lack of income or zero charitable contributions. We don’t know if he supports Russian or Chinese businesses. Now that Republicans have allowed this omission to happen, we may never know anything about Trump’s (or any future candidate’s) real financial status. For a candidate who is supposedly selling transparency, he has not allowed his own affairs to be made public. That should be a material fact in everyone’s voting decision. Most people agree that a blatant omission is the same as a lie. I cannot attest that Mrs. Clinton is an honest person, but she is no less dishonest than her opponent. Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.

Temperament.

Children all over America have been taught that taunting and name calling are acceptable behaviors, since those two actions have been embraced by the highest powers in our nation. Trump’s behavior is no less than bullying. We don’t stand for it in our schools, and we should never stand for it in politics. Trump’s narcissistic mentality seems to be widely approved and accepted, and that is a frightening precedent for presidential behavior. Ms. Clinton is cool, calculated, and experienced in foreign policy. She may not always be right, and no one is perfect, but her experience will help her avoid being as wrong in the future.

Women.

It is readily apparent that Mr. Trump has less respect for women than his Radical Muslim Terrorist neighbors. He has admitted on camera that celebrities can do whatever they want to women with no worries of retribution. Trump didn’t marry an American woman, settling instead for an immigrant, probably because he believes she is more submissive than an average American woman. The only reason any woman would support Mr. Trump is because she’s a complete idiot, or she’s radically religious and convinced Trump actually cares about unborn children. It’s quite obvious that Trump cares for no one but himself.

It is true the media supports Mrs. Clinton. The average reporter is well educated and well versed in our nations policies, relationships, responsibilities, and our constitution. There is a reason they support Mrs. Clinton – continuity. Things aren’t as awful as Mr. Trump portends. But they could get much worse with an inexperienced nut at the nation’s wheel.

Change is always better if it is instituted gradually. Radical shifts in policy and society typically result in recession, revolution, or war.

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Conservative Hypocrisy.

A friend of mine drives a lot. He’s in a shitty situation, stuck in a row home in North Philadelphia with his elderly mother after a messy divorce and a failed business. His escape is driving. He’s got a well-worn Toyota Camry with about 200,000 miles on it. I’ve told him that driving is costly, wasteful, environmentally non-friendly, and downright dangerous. But I completely understand his therapy. My friend’s problem is that he listens to the radio during his many hours of driving. And since the civilized world has abandoned terrestrial radio, conservative talk radio hosts who cannot seem to find a home anywhere else have usurped the airwaves. His countless hours burning fossil fuels have allowed these blowhards to brainwash my friend, converting him from a good-hearted Puerto Rican Catholic to a conservative Republican.

Conservatives are firmly convinced that the rich and powerful got that way because God meant them to be rich and powerful. They believe society owes the prosperous, and that our government should not interfere with anyone’s success. Conservatives believe government should just let the chips fall where they may, and everything will magically work itself out. On the other hand, progressives realize it’s the less fortunate who need protection provided by their government. Workers need to be protected from ill-mannered employers, and consumers must be protected from unfair business practices.

Ironically, conservatives consider themselves very religious, and almost always Christian. There’s a fundamental disconnect here.  In the New Testament, it’s crystal clear that Jesus Christ was quite concerned about the poor, the oppressed, and the outcast. The Gospels reflect on Christ’s treatment of the poor, generosity to those in need, mercy to the outcast, and scorn for the wealthy and powerful. As a matter of fact, the entire Christian philosophy is centered around loving others. There is no mention of greed or selfishness, and nothing that even remotely relates to a capitalist society run by some invisible hand. Jesus never said poor people were lazy leeches of society, or that we shouldn’t help the poor because it weakens them. There is nothing in any gospel about charity or welfare corrupting a person’s spirit. There must be a new new testament that most of us have missed. Perhaps that is entitled Christianity, But Only When Convenient.

My friend went to Catholic schools for 16 years. He would lecture me on the benefits of Christianity, and my atheist mind would politely let it pass from one ear and out the other. You’d think that brainwashing might have stuck a little better. But that’s how easy it is to sway a typical human being. Simply pound your own flavor of sludge over public airwaves repeatedly, and they’ll begin to believe you. He has conveniently forgotten all of Jesus’ teachings and philosophies, and is committed to voting a straight Republican ticket. What the hell happened to him, I wondered?

“Progressive” or “Liberal” are now considered bad words. These people are considered to be Socialists of Communists. They’re called “soft” and thought to be detrimental to American society. To me, that’s crazy. The Statue of Liberty itself has The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal’s lower level. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Have we forgotten what America stands for? Should that plaque be replaced with something that lauds greed, ignorance, and disdain for deplorables?

Look, Conservatives. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t pretend to be a faithful Christian and an anti-government pundit simply because it’s convenient. You cannot support a pussy-grabbing billionaire narcissist simply because he pretends to give a shit about unborn babies. The only reason Conservatives want to keep their guns is because they’re scared to death of being poor like you and me. Have you priced assault rifles lately? When you think about it, it doesn’t make sense. It’s one or the other. You can’t be Conservative and Christian, fool.

I’m about to have this discussion with my high-mileage friend. At this point, he seems pretty well gone. It may require an exorcism.

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How to Fix Freedumb.

Freedom is a wonderful thing – but only when it’s fair, and when it follows common sense. One-percenters have more freedom than the other 99 percent of us because they can afford better legal representation, and they have the resources to slant the rules in their direction. That’s not fair. Unfortunately, common sense seems to be missing in much of today’s society. Think the popularity of Donald Trump, Jay Z, and the Kardashians. This whole freedom thing is a global experiment in society, and you and I are the test animals. Freedom at this level has never really happened in the civilized world. It’s original intent was innocent – give people the freedom to spawn wildly successful innovations, ultimately making life better for everyone, and yielding rich rewards for the creators. And for many years and several generations, it seemed to work.

Then something happened. Production efficiencies, automation, globalization, and the rise of investment markets eradicated much of the former success of the middle class. Mass media dumbed-down the populace with fairytale stories that captivated the masses. The information age arrived. It’s ubiquitous availability should have spawned universal intelligence, now that everyone had equal access to the encyclopedia of civilization with a global sharing of knowledge. Virtually unlimited learning opportunities still exist for anyone who wants them. You can learn art, languages, engineering, mathematics, science, or anything else you were curious about in the privacy of your own home. The potential is beautiful. Still, it’s apparent that American citizens are becoming even more stupid. Writer and director Mike Judge summarizes the inevitable human prophecy here in less than three minutes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzbWXgM0ygU

Apparently, as we’ve discovered in the dawn of this 21st century, too much freedom leads to a lazy and stupid populace. Freedom has become Freedumb. Our founding fathers themselves wrote:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We need to begin the process to separate ourselves from an impending Idiocracy. Don’t worry, I’ve figured it all out for you. After all, like Joe Bauers, I may be the smartest man on the planet. Here’s how to begin our ascendancy towards a free and prosperous greatness.

Guns.

An amendment is a fix to something that was missing or wrong in an original work. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Although folks have been questioning the intent of that statement for more than two centuries, I’m fairly confident the gentlemen who penned the Second Amendment sure as hell didn’t include the right for a drunk roofer named Billy Bob to keep an arsenal of weapons and high-capacity magazines in his Alabama garage. Gun nuts defend the notion of “assault rifle” as a silly and baseless description of a harmless hunting rifle with some cosmetic tweaks. The truth is these weapons, automatic or semi-automatic, are designed hold a high-capacity magazine in order to spray-fire a high volume of bullets over a wide killing zone. Unlike in the movies, a single 5.56 NATO round typically doesn’t kill or disable instantly, so you’ll probably need to hit your target with a few of them. A human trigger finger can be pretty darn automatic.

What no one has yet been able to define is “well regulated Militia.” In the old days, there was no formal army. Today, we have police, a public army, a National Guard, and several private armies to protect rich dudes. Is a well regulated militia still necessary or relevant? And if so, just what the hell does “well regulated” mean? Who gets to do the regulating? And it’s impossible to believe that a bunch of idiots running around with their assault rifles is really what our mostly level-headed founding fathers intended. I still question their judgment since all of them were of European descent, Caucasian, male, and most believed owning dark-skinned human beings and indentured Irish servants was completely normal. That is certainly not an adequate representation of today’s America, or any free modern society based on common sense.

The truth is gun rights have spiralled way out of control. In a society with a public police force (that’s Socialism at work, folks, in case you didn’t realize that), there really is no valid reason for any average non-security citizen to own any sort of gun. Unlike automobiles, knives, or even explosives, which all have other valid uses in the modern world, these particular devices were built with one single intent – to kill another human being. The truth is rich white people are scared to death of their hungry, poverty-stricken peers of all colors and want to keep guns to protect their wealth and property. Their main argument being the bad guys will get them illegally, which is a valid point. Rich folks can afford to contribute and pay billions to their lobbyists and favorite politicians to ensure their loosely-interpreted Second Amendment is never stricken or challenged. That’s why gun laws need to be powerful, unforgiving, and sweeping.

A study promoted by the NRA stated private guns thwarted over 12,500 crimes a week. Further look into that study shows how it was riddled with bullet holes. The study did not consider the question of lives saved, nor did it conclude that a crime or an assault had been stopped in each of the estimated 645,000 annual instances of a protective use of a gun. The study may have included incidents in which a homeowner merely heard noisy youths outside his house, then shouted, “Hey, I’ve got a gun!” and never saw any possible attacker. Add the fact that countless inexperienced folks, generally dumb people, and accidental shootings take the lives of innocent children (and adults), and you’ll begin to realize all guns are a bad idea. A better alternative for our compulsively nervous wealthy suburban brethren could be bullet proof windows and Kevlar clothing.

We’ve seen our share of white, yellow, black, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim people use these terrible weapons to do horrible things. Perhaps it is time to amend that Second Amendment to something that’s a bit more safe and relevant. How about this:

AMENDMENT 28

This shall revoke Amendment Two. A well regulated militia is no longer necessary or relevant to the security of a free state. Drones, bombs, nukes, biological and chemical weapons have rendered militias (and your silly little pea shooter) pretty much useless. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall be limited to licensed and registered concealed small arms used for police and licensed security protection, and registered and licensed non-concealed non-automatic guns designed for limited sport and hunting only. Automatic weapons and any modified non-standard NATO, hunting, or sport ammunition shall be limited to the national military only, and never allowed on American soil except in defense of the nation against a foreign invasion. Conviction of the possession of any unregistered or unlicensed weapon and/or any non-standard modified bullet or ammunition by any citizen not performing an official military action shall be punished by a fine of no less than $100,000 per infraction, two years imprisonment per offense in Guantanamo, and permanent expulsion from the United States of America with permanent loss of citizenship for life with no appeal.

Wealth.

People argue that the magic of capitalism is rewarding innovation. I’m still trying to figure out what Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, or Donald Trump have contributed to innovation over the past twenty years. Yet we keep rewarding them with money they’ll never be able to spend. History shows us that innovations are created to solve problems, not necessarily to create profits. The printing press was created in the 1400s not to sell books or magazines, but to spread propaganda. Anesthesia, penicillin, and vaccinations were created long before health insurance. Nuclear fission was created to devastate nations, not to sell power. The fallacy that only the promise of vast capital rewards will spawn innovation is as stupid a notion as trickle-down economics.

Two important things to remember here. Now that America no longer uses the gold standard, all money is basically worthless. It’s based on the whims of a few well placed people. And since we don’t really make anything anymore, the best way for the wealthy to make money is to invest in other people’s money, which acts as a dynamic multiplier. Think what you want, but if you’re not already a billionaire, you’re not really wealthy. Chances are your wealth will be usurped by the next market crash. Your investments will be worthless, and you too will suck as bad as we do.

Honestly, how much money does one person or family really need? If one man is worth more than $60 billion dollars, what could he possibly buy with that money? Think about it – a billion dollars is a thousand million. Theoretically, it’s not even possible to give that much money away to someone else without a substantial tax. I figure the most money a person can spend over a lifetime, even if you’re a complete celebrity idiot, is about $750 million dollars before you go broke or OD. That’s counting homes, cars, airplanes, yachts, heroin, child support, and a staff. Anything over that is a ridiculous waste.

Warren Buffett has publicly admitted his 17% tax rate is lower than his secretary’s. What makes even less sense is that Buffet’s $40 million of taxable income is less than one percent of his reported net worth. To put that into perspective, Barron’s compares this situation to someone with an ever-expanding net worth, currently $10 million, for example, reporting taxable income of only $5,000 and paying a federal tax bill of only $900. That is certainly not a fair share. And that’s the problem with our tax system, folks.

Conservatives argue that overtaxing the wealthy will stifle the trickle-down theory and harm the economy. The truth is trickle-down doesn’t drip anywhere, and most of the uber-wealthy wouldn’t even feel a tax increase. Bill Gates himself noted on CNN that America’s highest economic growth decade was the 1960s, when marginal income tax rates were 70 to 90 percent. This proves that the supposed mysterious connection that business leaders and innovators will not be as productive due to higher tax rates is a ridiculous notion.

Here’s the real deal. Gates, for example, has a net worth of some $80 billion. The fact that he gets to pay less taxes on that money than most middle class Americans will not incentivize Gates to consume more. He probably won’t buy 10,000 automobiles, 100 new homes, and 500 Michael Kors purses (which might help China’s economy more than America’s). Although Gates and some of his peers admit they aren’t contributing proportionately to our economy, I don’t see them voluntarily writing checks to the United States Treasury.

Now, wrap your head around this. If you theoretically took Gates’ fortune and divided it up among 1 million people, giving them $80,000 each, you can imagine how beneficial that would be for the economy by spurring employment, taxes, and GDP. Sure, most people would completely waste that money on Michael Kors bags and other frivolous bullshit, but that spending would create a short economic boom. Gates is a very generous man, now working primarily with his philanthropic organization. Unfortunately, most of his money is going to facilitating vaccines and toilets in developing nations. Great causes, but unfortunately, causes that aren’t returning anything beneficial for the nation that made him so wealthy.

I firmly believe you should be rewarded for your discoveries, inventions, efficiencies, and work in general. But there has to be a limit when that reward becomes ridiculous and unfair to society. How much money can one person need before it’s impossible to spend it all, and how does that benefit anyone? If it were my call, I’d set that arbitrary limit at about $50 million. Anything above that returns to society in the form of taxes or public investment. If you can’t live a decent life with $50 million, you don’t deserve to have that much money.

The truth is our current tax basis makes no sense. Wealthy politicians, noting the average net worth of someone elected to the U.S. Congress is now over one million dollars, have worked with their wealthy donors to support and enrich tax loopholes that benefit the wealthy under that ridiculous trickle-down notion. The tax code needs to change. It needs to change drastically. And it needs to change immediately before any further damage is done.

All we need to do is look back to the 1960s. Marginal tax rates are tax rates applied to each bracket of income. The more money people make, the higher their marginal tax rates, and only the people with the highest incomes pay the top rate. If we increase marginal rates to the levels of the 1960s, exclude investment loopholes, and expand capital gains as income, America could easily cut away deficits and return that money to rebuilding its crumbling infrastructure.

American companies and residents that move money offshore to avoid taxes should be penalized with an even higher tax rate. The $2.1 trillion moved offshore by American companies would provide a nifty bonus for our own coffers.

The outliers that politicians dwell on during election years are terrific ways to generate more revenues. Death taxes are a smart way to collect more dollars. Continuing to propagate wealthy families who don’t work or contribute to our economy doesn’t make sense. Congresspersons should not be rewarded with a pension, because government was designed to be a temporary public service and not a career. We also need to look at excluding Social Security benefits (not taxes) from folks with a ridiculous net worth.

Opponents (one-percenters and their well-trained sheep) will argue that higher taxes will collapse the American economy by sending business abroad. I argue that other nations will follow suit. Besides, most American companies have already moved money abroad, in tax havens, outsourcing, or in manufacturing, so I fail to see the dramatic effects.

Education.

American education isn’t just bad – it’s figuratively, literally, statistically, comparatively, politically, and unfortunately at times, criminally bad.

The 39 brave individuals who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 crafted a constitution to establish a strong central government empowered to do certain jobs that the states could not manage effectively on their own. These duties included making sure to provide a common defense, for example, and to ensure that a contract signed in one state is binding in another. But the ultimate law of our land says nothing about the right to a public education. Not a single word, phrase, clause, or article. Back in the stone ages when we were a much different largely agrarian society making big money selling hemp, those framers could not have imagined the diluted mess of a society their infant nation was to become. I’m no Justice Scalia, who apparently contacted our founding fathers telepathically on several occasions while on expensive sponsored vacations, but I would imagine if the framers were here today, they would certainly rethink overlooking education as a fundamental right on the national stage.

Parents and politicians have attempted to fix the system, but push-back from powerful unions and confused parents continually brings us back to mediocrity. 

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), the single only bright spot in George W. Bush’s administration, was a rare non-defense bipartisan effort passed by the House of Representatives 384–45, and also by the Senate 91–8. President Bush signed it into law on January 8, 2002. No Child Left Behind required all public schools receiving federal funding to administer a statewide standardized test annually to all students. Schools that receive Title I funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 must make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in test scores – meaning each year, students must do collectively better on standardized tests than the previous year’s students. If the school’s results were repeatedly poor, then steps were taken to improve the school.

Supporters of the NCLB claim one of the strong positive points of the bill is the increased accountability that is required of schools and teachers. If required improvements were not made, schools faced decreased funding and other punishments. These goals were meant to help teachers and schools realize the significance and importance of the educational system and how it affects the nation overall.

Opponents of NCLB said that the punishments only hurt the schools and do not contribute to the improvement of student education. Critics argued that the focus on standardized testing, where all students in a state take the same test under the same conditions, encourages teachers to teach a narrow subset of skills that the school believes increases test performance, rather than achieve in-depth understanding of the overall curriculum. For example, a teacher who knows that all questions on a math test are simple addition problems might not invest any class time on the practical applications of addition, which is a very valid point. This is referred to as teaching to the test.

Granted, there were some wonky things in the bill, like requiring schools to let military recruiters have students’ contact information and other access to the student, if the school provides that information to universities or employers, unless the students opt out of giving military recruiters access. And teaching to a test is not the best way to create a true understanding of subject matter. By 2015, criticism from right, left, and center forced another bipartisan Congressional effort, this time one that stripped away all the national features of No Child Left Behind. Its replacement, Every Student Succeeds Act, turned the remnants over to the states. Now, we’re fighting to tear down Common Core.

So now that we’ve stripped accountability from states, schools, teachers, students, and basically everyone, we should notice vast educational improvements, right? And considering that it’s no surprise that you and I, the American taxpayers, fund the single most expensive educational system on Planet Earth, we should be leading the entire world in each and every subject, right? And since we spend soooo much on education, teaching is undoubtedly the single most esteemed position in America, because teachers must be paid very highly considering what we’re spending, right? Wrong, on all three accounts.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — an international economic organization of 34 countries that stimulates economic progress and world trade — writes in its annual report that brand-new and experienced teachers alike in the United States out-earn most of their counterparts around the globe. But U.S. salaries have not risen at the same pace as other nations. The United States spent more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student. When researchers factored in the cost for programs after high school education such as college or vocational training, the United States spent $15,171 on each young person in the system — more than any other nation covered in the developed world. Comparatively, Switzerland’s total spending per student was $14,922 while Mexico averaged $2,993 in 2010. The average OECD nation spent $9,313 per young person.

As a share of its economy, the United States spends more than the average country in the survey. In 2010, the United States spent 7.3 percent of its gross domestic product on education, compared with the 6.3 percent average of other OECD countries. Denmark topped the list on that measure with 8 percent of its gross domestic product going toward education. The federal government spent a total of $3.7 trillion in fiscal year 2015. That means the approximate $154 billion in education spending accounts for approximately 4.2 percent of the entire federal budget.

U.S. fourth-graders are 11th in the world in math in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, a separate measure of nations against each other. U.S. eighth-graders ranked ninth in math, according to those 2011 results. The Program for International Student Assessment measurement found the United States ranked 31st in math literacy among 15-year-old students and below the international average. The same 2009 tests found the United States ranked 23rd in science among the same students, but posting an average score.

For post-high school programs, the United States is far outspent in public dollars. U.S. taxpayers picked up 36 cents of every dollar spent on college and vocational training programs. Families and private sources picked up the balance. In other OECD nations, it was roughly reversed: The public picked up 68 cents of every dollar in advanced training and private sources picked up the other 32 cents.

Maybe our problem is America’s teachers are unappreciated financially? That doesn’t appear to be the case. The average first-year high school teacher in the United States earns about $38,000. OECD nations pay their comparable educators just more than $31,000. Luxembourg pays its first year high school teachers more than $72,000 a year, but Slovakia slacks by paying first-year high school teachers a measly $10,000. Of the 30 OECD member countries, teachers in Switzerland get the highest annual salary, an average of $68,000. This is higher than the average salary in the country, which is around $50,000. Switzerland is followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium in terms of having highly paid teachers. Teachers in the UK earn less than the annual UK average salary of $44,000, receiving just over $40,000 and ranked 13 out of 30 countries listed. Teachers get paid more in the UK than other European countries. In France, for example, the average teacher salary is $33,000, and in Greece teachers earn an average of $25,000. The average high school teacher in the United States earns about $53,000, well above the average of $45,500 among all OECD nations.

Unfortunately, American teachers are looked upon as the dreads of our society, just a step over mail carriers and other government employees. They’re commonly described by idiots using the phrase “Those who can’t do, teach,” one of many crude bastardizations of a classic George Bernard Shaw line, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” Either way, I’m sure you get the drift. Teaching is widely regarded as the last fallback position – it’s what you do when nothing else works out, or when you’ve decided, typically during college, that you simply don’t want to work all that hard and pursue that science degree you thought you wanted. You’ve already invested time and money into school, and you’ve got to pay those student loans back somehow, so teaching it is. This is a societal imaging problem that needs to be addressed and fixed immediately. I’d love to see some of those stupid anti-smoking dollars funneled into this campaign (especially the money spend on running the one about your cat getting cancer), but it’ll never happen.

Teaching is not as easy as you think, and not everyone can do it well. A key component for a successful teaching career is a passion for education. Emotional demands on teachers and the challenges of working with children can be uniquely stressful, especially in lower-income school districts. In my own county, I’ve heard firsthand stories of children whose parents aren’t available to guide – or feed – their children. It’s more common than you think. And it’s impossible to pull your emotions away from the curriculum when you know for a fact there’s a potential human tragedy sitting in the third seat in the back row. Only teachers who are passionate about their profession and realistic about their expectations are able to succeed despite the obstacles that are part of the job.

According to Edutopia, about 30 percent of teachers leave the profession within their first three years and more than 45 percent leave within five years. Turnover is especially high in high-poverty areas, where children are more apt to absentee parents and an overall lack of respect.

That brings us to the multi-billion dollar question – if all the money and resources are not going to the teachers or students, where the hell is all that money going?

A few weeks back, in my own school system, some maintenance jackass was caught buying Jeep tires and Harley parts on the school’s dime, just months after an additional 1/2 cent sales tax finally passed during the last election. Fraud is rampant in school systems that are highly political, overfunded, and dramatically short of oversight. Charter schools may be even worse – as we’ll discuss in a moment.

But the biggest fleecing of all may be an integral part of the education process – the textbook cartel. The three largest textbook publishers,  Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, rake in more than $4 billion each year. A big part of that haul comes from education budgets nationwide.

According to NBC’s review of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, textbook prices have risen over three times the rate of inflation from January 1977 to June 2015, a 1,041 percent increase. “They’ve been able to keep raising prices because students are captive consumers. They have to buy whatever books they’re assigned,” said Nicole Allen, a spokeswoman for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. It’s important to mention this data does not include alternative means of textbook acquisition including buying second-hand or textbook rentals, as seen in most college environments.

The push continues for school districts to move away from paper textbooks and toward digital curricula and e-textbooks. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged educators to move quickly to adopt digital textbooks and materials. The Federal Communications Commission and the Education Department released a report, the “Digital Textbook Playbook,” which provided a blueprint for schools to make the shift. Florida, for one, has already adopted legislation requiring districts to spend half their instructional-materials budgets on digital content by 2015-16, and other states are considering legislation promoting digital textbooks. Unfortunately, the only advantage of going digital seems to be loss aversion, since the licensing prices of the digital versions are roughly the same as the printed editions.

Apparently, schools didn’t earn the right to the publisher’s drastic savings on ink, paper, processing, packaging, warehousing, and shipping.

An article in The Atlantic states academic publishers will tell you that creating modern textbooks is an expensive, labor-intensive process that demands charging high prices. But as Kevin Carey noted in a recent Slate piece, the textbook industry shares some of the dysfunctions that help drive up the cost of healthcare spending. Students don’t have much choice to pay up, lest they risk their grades. Meanwhile, Carey illustrates how publishers have done just about everything within their power to prop up their profits, from bundling textbooks with software that forces students to buy new editions instead of cheaper used copies, to suing low-cost textbook start-ups over flimsy copyright claims.

My kids, attending a relatively new charter school, have to leave their textbooks in class, with school administrators citing they can’t cover the potential destruction or loss of a $100 – $200 elementary school textbook. And the school has failed to obtain licensing for the e-versions of the textbooks, as promised at the beginning of the school year. When my children have homework and they need to refer back to the text, sorry Charlie, that’s not possible. Many public schools experience a similar dilemma.

All that money spent on textbooks, and the textbook cartel’s stronghold on the industry, stifles educational budgets nationwide. Children will have a difficult time with homework if the textbook is unavailable, and education will continue to suffer if better competition continues to be stifled. It might be time to take an in-depth look at lobby and PAC spending by Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. A former Pearson and Houghton account manager made some interesting and potentially incriminating comments in this video.

You might think charter schools are the answer. Most promise to blaze bold new trails that will solve all the world’s problems. However, fraud is just one of the major problems in the lack of adequate controls over how Americans’ taxes are being spent in the charter industry. A 2012 study by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University found that charter schools spent “nearly $800 more per pupil per year on administration and $1100 less on instruction.” Where’s all that money going? Ironically, the chairman of the board at a local charter school I know of happens to run a procurement company that also dabbles in construction, which hopefully doesn’t matter, but nonetheless didn’t seem to shake any other heads during the development and construction process.

You have to wonder whose interest is at the forefront in many charter school situations.

California is home to the largest number of charter schools in the country, with over 1100 schools providing instruction to over half a million students. In the 2013-14 school year, California charter schools received more than $3 billion in public funding. Despite the tremendous investment of public dollars and the size of its charter school population, California has failed to implement a system that proactively monitors charters for fraud, waste and mismanagement. While charter schools are subject to significant reporting requirements and monitoring by oversight bodies, including chartering entities, county superintendents and the State Controller, no oversight body regularly conducts audits. California may have lost more than $100 million to charter school fraud in 2015.

The vast majority of fraud perpetrated by charter officials will go undetected because most states lack the oversight necessary to identify fraud. California’s oversight agencies rely almost entirely on audits paid for by charter operators and complaints from whistleblowers, neither of which is a systematic approach to fraud detection, nor are they effective in fraud prevention. Audits commissioned by the charter schools use general auditing techniques rather than techniques specifically designed to detect and uncover fraud. In California, the vast majority of charter schools are authorized by local school districts that lack adequate staffing to monitor charter schools and ferret out fraud.

The good news is that overall, a 2013 Stanford study shows across the charter schools in the 26 states studied, 25 percent have significantly stronger learning gains in reading than their traditional school counterparts, while 56 percent showed no significant difference. The bad news? Nineteen percent of charter schools had significantly weaker learning gains. In mathematics, 29 percent of charter schools showed student learning gains that were significantly stronger than their traditional public school peers’, while 40 percent were not significantly different – and 31 percent were significantly weaker. So much for a national focus on STEM.

The only feasible solutions are twofold:

  1. Nationalization of the education system.
  2. A comprehensive rewrite of the industrial-age curriculum.

For America to succeed as a nation, we need to admit the founding fathers could not have fathomed the vital needs of today’s modern society, and amend the Constitution to reflect this. Education is a fundamental right of all citizens, and should be provided by the federal government. Nationalization would ensure that all students everywhere would learn the same exact topics, be tested similarly, and ultimately share in the same opportunities. There would be no jockeying for state dollars, and no ill-advised state caucus could promote a special interest agenda that might lead children to become less competitive in a global environment.

Economies of scale would promote billions of dollars in savings to school districts nationwide. And an area with a low tax basis would have equal footing with economically advantageous areas.

Curriculum-wise, states have been teaching the same boring, useless, irrelevant, and meaningless curriculum since public schools were established in the nineteenth century. Industrial-age mathematics and science classes should be replaced with applied math and science classes that engage students in using modern technology without the useless memorization of formulas and methods they’ll soon forget. Do you remember any trigonometry and calculus? I don’t. Let’s teach children practical skills, communication methods, teamwork, tolerance, and problem solving. We should move away from concentrating on unnecessary memorization, instead concentrating on applied skills utilizing existing and upcoming technology. High schools should be separated into tracks which concentrate on academics or trades, because one size does not fit all.

All schools should de-emphasize religious studies, leaving that subject matter to community churches or post-secondary electives. No matter how you attempt to justify it, brainwashing an American child with silly stories from either testament is not much different than what’s fostering today’s militant Islamic movement in the Middle East.

Although physical education is critically important, organized sports teams are an irrelevant and unnecessary diversion through the college level, and should be removed from all schools immediately. School spirit based on the win-loss record of a football team is ridiculously menial and more often detrimental than not. Although many of today’s Millennials have racks of trophies for nothing more than participation rather than perspiration, it is certainly not wise or realistic to promote that everyone can be a winner. Perhaps the realization of inevitable losing is what’s causing rates of depression to rise. Removing sports from schools eliminates non-academic winning and losing.

Society certainly needs more study in civil law and business ethics. More everyday financial skills, including the long-term effects of borrowing and interest rates, should be emphasized. Life lessons are often overlooked in our schools, including common sense training in topics like basic computing, plumbing, electricity, CPR and first-aid, defensive driving, the political process, parenting, nutrition, and community service, among various other societal skills.

Having worked for the federal government, I recognize the inefficiencies of civil service first hand. It’s surprisingly easy to get very comfortable as an employee who does next to nothing, and it’s even easier for a vendor that’s lost in the system to remain on a contractual payroll in perpetuity. Education should become a hallmark effort to shore up all federal agencies. A new federal agency might hold a peer-reviewed contest to create better textbooks written by the best and brightest American professors. An impartial external rewards-based oversight committee comprised of parents and concerned citizens could audit budgets and look for suspicious entries. And a national competition could reward outstanding teachers with recognition and generous pay increases. Meanwhile, the all-too-powerful teachers’ union could be dismantled, stripping the protection of tenure from teachers who don’t deserve to be protected.

Sure, it’s a ridiculously large change that will be costly, awkward, and extremely difficult to implement. But it must start somewhere. The first phase might be the nationalization of all existing charter schools. Let’s end that potentially fraudulent accident immediately, and roll out new and better fundamental changes in scale.

Education is a not only a fundamental right in society, whether it’s public, private, charter, or home-schooling, it’s a necessity to ensure domestic tranquility. Kids who don’t learn societal fundamentals fuel what’s already the world’s largest prison population, which may eventually bleed into terrorist groups. Education needs to be monitored and measured on a national level. Most importantly, there must be accountability from the topmost levels down.

Our children are responsible for our nation’s future. When we retire, those kids will be running the show, ensuring that we too are safe and provided for. It’s our responsibility as stewards of this great nation to ensure our children are headed in the right direction, and receive the excellent education and preparation they’re entitled to. Education shouldn’t be bad. Reform is necessary, and it needs to happen right now.

Politics.

Investing in stocks is a heartbeat away from gambling, but we let it happen. Betting on fantasy sports leagues is in fact gambling, but we let it happen. So what’s the fundamental difference between a corporation you own sliding an investigator a check for $1 million to look the other way when something unethical happens, and some other organization spending the same amount to influence the election of a certain candidate who could potentially deliver political favors that make that unethical event not so unethical, which results in a favorable stock valuation? Nothing, other than a matter of time and process. A bribe is a bribe regardless of what you call it.

Citizens United was the plaintiff in a Supreme Court case that began as a challenge to various statutory provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), known as the “McCain-Feingold” law. The case revolved around the documentary Hillary: The Movie, which was produced by Citizens United. Under McCain-Feingold, a federal court in Washington D.C. ruled that Citizens United would be barred from advertising its film. The case was heard in the United States Supreme Court. The government argued that under existing precedents, it had the power under the Constitution to prohibit the publication of political books and movies if they were made or sold by corporations. On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court overturned the provision of McCain-Feingold barring corporations and unions from paying for political ads made independently of candidate campaigns. The Supreme Court decided 5-4 that corporations are persons with the right to free speech—including the right to spend unlimited money to influence the outcome of elections. Corporations, groups, and labor unions could now spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for – or against – a candidate.

It is still illegal for companies and labor unions to give money directly to candidates for federal office. The court said that because these funds were not being spent in coordination with a campaign, they “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” I cannot understand the difference. People own corporations and non-profits, and their motives certainly influence their organizations. Apparently, that one level of indirection is supposed to mean something.

Justice Scalia, perhaps the worst example of a jaded justice who was frequently pampered by various organizations that paid for more than 250 pricey vacations over his time on the bench, joined the opinion of the Court, but also wrote a concurring opinion which was joined by Justice Alito in full and by Justice Thomas in part. Scalia addressed Justice Stevens’ dissent, specifically with regard to the original understanding of the First Amendment. Scalia stated that Stevens’ dissent was “in splendid isolation from the text of the First Amendment… It never shows why ‘the freedom of speech’ that was the right of Englishmen did not include the freedom to speak in association with other individuals, including association in the corporate form.” Apparently, Scalia’s magical post-mortem connection with our Constitutional framers indicated they too believed spending is speech, and is therefore protected by the Constitution — even if the speaker is a corporation.

That decision immediately led to the creation of today’s super political action committees (PACs). Super PACs accept unlimited donations from billionaires, corporations and unions and use it to buy political advertising in an attempt to sway the voting of average American citizens, many of whom, through no fault of their own, received a lackluster public education and willingly believe anything they see on television. Today, there are other associated non-profit groups known as Social Welfare groups that perform similar functions. Unlike Super PACS, these groups do not have to disclose who their donors are. The only catch for these groups is election activity is not supposed to be the non-profit group’s primary activity, but that’s fairly easy to mask. So much for transparency. An attempt by Congress to pass a law requiring disclosure was blocked by Republican lawmakers.

Here’s the problem. If the men and women deciding our legal cases at the highest level aren’t impartial, how can anything or anyone underneath them be?

When Scalia died, he was palling around with some rich bro at a Texas hunting lodge. Legal experts said they saw nothing wrong with Mr. Scalia’s accepting a free room at Mr. Poindexter’s lodge. While the Ethics in Government Act, adopted after Watergate, requires high-level federal employees, including judges, to fill out disclosure reports for reimbursements worth more than $335, Scalia’s visit to the ranch might not have required a formal disclosure because accommodations provided by a private individual are exempt under current rules.

Supreme Court members disclosed 1,009 paid trips between 2004 and 2014. The destinations often are luxurious, including the Casa de Campo Resort in the Dominican Republic, where Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. was listed as a speaker for an event last February, or Zurich, where Justice Scalia traveled at least three times on privately funded trips. In 2011, a liberal advocacy group, Common Cause, questioned whether Justice Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas should have disqualified themselves from participating in the landmark Citizens United case on campaign finance because they had attended a political retreat in Palm Springs sponsored by conservative financier Charles Koch, who funds groups that would benefit from the ruling. The disclosure report filed by Justice Thomas made no mention of the retreat. It said only that he had taken a trip, funded by a conservative legal group, to Palm Springs to give a speech. Over roughly a decade, Justice Scalia took 21 trips sponsored by the Federalist Society. The Federalist Society also paid for trips by Justice Alito during that period, but not for any liberal justices, the disclosure reports show.

I wasn’t there, I didn’t know them personally, but I’m fairly confident politics for sale to any person or organization was not what our Constitutional framers had intended. Perhaps Scalia is now having that conversation, and realizes the err of his ways. It’s too bad he can’t do anything about it now.

Look, we all have the right to free speech – as individuals or as groups. We all have the right to pursue happiness and financial freedom – as job seekers or developers of new businesses. But the playing field has to be level and fair if this democratic-republic capitalism model is to continue to flourish. PACs and associated groups need to be completely transparent, monitored, and limited. For those of us with the benefit of a sound mind and above-average intelligence, we can see through the fog. But we must, as a nation, help those who cannot. I’ve toyed with the idea of establishing an Anti-PAC, which would explain various PAC motives and intentions in plain English (and Spanish) via social media. I feel I’d be wasting my time due to a peculiar absence of funding.

Here’s the fix.

Amendment 29.

Congress, the Senate, and the Supreme Court seats should not be career appointments, but should be filled somewhat randomly in the way jury duty works. Evaluate a list of qualified individuals with a certain level of education or life experience, and have a random algorithm choose the best person for each civic duty. Let them spend one term in that position, pay them a fair wage, then let them go back to being a normal citizen. 

The American Dream can once again be alive and well. Unfortunately, with the way things are, if you haven’t made it by now, you probably ain’t gonna make it. Even the scales of justice have been tipped with bribes called something else.

Driving.

When the British, French, Spanish, and Portuguese stole North America and terrorized its native inhabitants, they weren’t quite sure how vast this continent was. Long story short – civilization sprawled to a point in which it is inconvenient or impossible to walk or bicycle to work. About 86 percent of U.S. workers commuted by automobile in 2013, down from a peak of about 90 percent in the 1980s. Human beings, challenged with medical issues, poor eyesight, slow reactions, and now, endless distractions, are charged with safely operating a 3,000 pound hunk of metal, plastic, and rubber at breakneck speeds. Speed limits are increasing nationwide as we move further away from federally funded high-speed roadways. Technological advancements in design and collision avoidance have improved over the years, but not enough to save everyone. More than 30,000 people die as a result of automobile “accidents” every year.

Technology has existed for decades that would limit an automobile’s speed to a certain value. Today, a car can actually read speed limit signs. Yet, each and every time someone proposes installing a speed governing device in any American vehicle, a well-funded and quite vocal majority shuts it down, calling it an infringement on their freedom. Apparently, the populace believes they should be able to drive as fast as they wish regardless of the laws set by any government entity.

Automated driving vehicles are being tested in several states, and have shown great promise. Soon, there will be no reason for any American to possess a driver’s license. Investors have gravitated towards this model, with large government-supporting companies including Ford, Google and Apple investing heavily in this technology. There’s a good chance automated vehicles will be introduced in the next few years, and will hopefully remove NASCAR wannabees from our nation’s roadways. However, hackers gonna hack.

Still, today, there are a mess of silly, useless, and contrary driving laws all over the nation. Florida, for example, requires that all automobile drivers and passengers wear seatbelts. However, motorcyclists, who have no protection whatsoever, are not required to wear helmets. Apparently, Florida does not value the lives of motorcyclists.

I’ve wondered why every single hybrid or fully-electric vehicle except the Tesla is hideously ugly. Think about it. Toyota’s Prius. Nissan’s Leaf. Chevy’s Volt or Bolt. BMW’s i3. Ford’s C-Max. I had never heard of a C-Max until someone from General Electric was issued one as a company car. She hated it and now drives a Camry. I was curious why the C-Max model was suspiciously missing from all of Ford’s mass media advertising, until I actually saw one. Common sense dictates I wouldn’t advertise a jacked-up mini-station wagon either. It almost seems as if there’s a – forgive me if I dare say it – conspiracy by the major automobile manufacturers to produce unstylish electric vehicles to dissuade consumer purchases.

Why the lame designs? Is there something about aerodynamics that needs to be different for electrically-propelled vehicles which mandates strangely shaped rear ends? Apparently not, because the C-Max electric-hybrid (it has a gas engine for battery charging, like Chevrolet’s Volt) looks like any other small bubble-shaped mini-SUV. After speaking with my friendly neighborhood aeronautics engineering bros on Florida’s Space Coast – a very strange and boring area filled with real, live rocket scientists – aerodynamics is apparently not the case. Most of today’s vehicles have incorporated aerodynamic designs to save fuel, whether drivetrains are electric or gasoline. The electric versions are optionally ugly with little to no aerodynamic gain over their brethren. I guessed perhaps it’s the configuration of the drivetrain, or maybe the battery storage or cooling requirements that forced the odd look. If that were the case, how did Tesla make a beautiful vehicle (with the longest electric range) that compares with any of the leading luxury brands? Is Elon Musk simply smarter than any of the thousands of engineering teams who work for the large automobile manufacturers? It seems there’s no material advantage in the look or design of the chassis. So why hasn’t General Motors put an electric Volt drivetrain in a Camaro?  Can you imagine how many electric Camaros might fly out of showrooms?

Automobile manufactures may be pushing slow rollouts for two reasons. First, there is a psychological condition known as range or mileage anxiety, the fear an average consumer might have that their electric vehicle will not have enough power to complete a commute. Apparently, automobile manufacturers have decided it may be better to have range anxiety in an ugly vehicle. Secondly, battery technology is still in its infancy. Lithium-ion batteries are heavy, expensive, and temperamental. They don’t work well in heat, and we’re really not sure what they’ll do in various types of accidents.

I began to look a little deeper into this situation. Oil companies stand to lose the most from a transition from oil to electric automobiles. Obviously, electric cars don’t require gasoline unless they have backup generators built in, like the Volt. But they don’t require oil changes either, which would put a big dent in oil revenues. Ironically, automobiles began with electric engines in the late 19th century, but were switched when oil provided more power and longer ranges. For years, big oil and automobile manufacturers have had a symbiotic relationship, especially in research and development. But things are beginning to change, according to a Huffington Post report, and big oil is worried. A new group plans to spend $10 million dollars per year to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles. Koch Industries, the nation’s second-largest privately held corporation, is an energy and industrial conglomerate with $115 billion in annual revenues that is controlled by multibillionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. James Mahoney, a confidante of the brothers and member of their company’s board, has teamed up with lobbyist Charlie Drevna, who until last year helmed the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, for preliminary talks with several energy giants about funding the new pro-petroleum fuels group. Capitalism at its best.

In a strange twist of irony, global oil prices fell dramatically as the threat of electric vehicles loomed. Even so, if you pay $2 a gallon for gasoline, a 25-mpg gas car needs $8 in fuel every 100 miles. An electric car uses as little as a single dollar or two in electricity to cover that same 100 miles, depending on your local rate per kilowatt-hour. Factoring those savings over a year, and an average driver might save over $350 in fuel charges. That’s not a fortune with low gas prices, but there are other benefits. Consider the cumulative hours you’ll save driving to and fueling up at a gas station, along with the risk of being robbed or carjacked while your defenses are down, potential credit card fraud, or boogers (or worse) on gas pump handles. Ewww. And what about the additional calories taken in from junk food purchased at convenience stores while fueling up? Let’s not forget the main benefit – the reduction in the tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants emitted from burning fossil fuels.

Tesla’s Model S is a gorgeous fully-electric automobile. It’s no slouch in the performance department, either. You can drive carelessly and illegally while accelerating from 0-60 in 2.8 seconds while enjoying a top speed of 155 MPH while outrunning your local law enforcement officers on your favorite Interstate highway. Range anxiety? Puh-lease. A range of 270 miles between full charges will get you virtually anywhere you’ll need to go. And a plethora of Tesla charging stations is appearing nationwide. There’s actually one about a mile from my office for the three or four Teslas in my county. I considered leasing one, but the lease payment on a $120,000 vehicle is slightly beyond my comfort range. A $350 annual fuel savings wouldn’t dent a single monthly payment.

If Tesla can make a pretty electric vehicle, why are the rest of us stuck with cars like the tiny, ugly, underperforming i3 or Leaf and its paltry 100 mile range? I hoped Chevy would come to the rescue with its upcoming Bolt. But it too looks like a jacked-up Prius on cheap crack. Fortunately, it’s range is supposedly in the 200 mile neighborhood, which will hopefully open the doors for my electric Camaro. Or better yet, a DeLorean.

Here’s the fix for this too.

Amendment 30.

If common sense dictates an activity, rule, or action is potentially dangerous or harmful to any individual citizen or group; and citizens, groups, or industries continually engage in such behavior and avoid fixing or removing the danger for longer than a reasonable time, the government shall step in and make such provisions. Proof of actual harm is not necessary – any demonstrated threat of potential physical, mental, or financial harm shall suffice.

See? Fixing America is easier than you thought. We can turn freedumb back into freedom, once again setting an example for the world. We can make America great again, but we’ll have to make some painful changes first.

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Left, Right, Whatever’s Convenient.

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One night while tripping over some shitty political commentary program on Fox News, my kid asked me if we lean left or right. At first, I wondered if he might be the next ambidextrous MLB batting champion. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to answer him for several reasons. First, the word right is an English disaster with at least five meanings that span from directional to correctness to societal abilities. It’s even worse when spoken, because there’s a homonym that makes things even more confusing. Secondly, it’s not a wise parental choice to provide a preconceived notion without allowing a child to express his or her own thoughts and preferences. If I labeled him, he’d most likely be jaded for life, or he may label me as an enemy when he decides to change his mind. Finally, I wasn’t really sure what the fuck a true leftist or rightist was, so I needed to do some homework myself. I told him I’d get back to him.

First, I needed to know where the left and right terms originated. Apparently, the terms left wing and right wing are based on the physical seating arrangements in the French National Assembly. During the French Revolution, politicians who met at the National Assembly began to organise themselves into two groups – supporters of the Revolution, who sat on the left, and supporters of the King, who remained planted on the right. ‘Left’ and ‘right’ was from the perspective of the President.The basic beliefs of each side are still equivalent to those of the parties seated there. Hundreds of years later, these terms have become part of the global political lexicon of silliness, where people on the right don’t necessarily support what’s right, but what they think is right for them right now.

It seems these terms left and right could be divided into corresponding ideologies of liberal and conservative, like Fox News does quite well, but it couldn’t possibly be that simple, could it? Further talk show host isolation moves all democrats to the left, and all republicans to the right, but that’s not entirely true as we’ve seen during the continuing decimation of the party of Trump.

Now I was more confused than ever.

A book published in 1947, The Web Of Government by Robert M. MacIver, explains further: “The right is always the party sector associated with the interests of the upper or dominant classes, the left the sector expressive of the lower economic or social classes, and the centre that of the middle classes. The conservative right has defended entrenched prerogatives, privileges and powers; the left has attacked them. The right has been more favorable to the aristocratic position, to the hierarchy of birth or of wealth; the left has fought for the equalization of advantage or of opportunity, for the claims of the less advantaged.”

Things were beginning to become quite clear.

Although I consider myself quite fortunate, being a first-generation American-born son of immigrants who literally arrived in this fine nation with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, of course I am jaded that my rightist fellow citizens have had the opportunity to engage in building successful relationships with like-minded peers who have had the benefit of several generations of land-owning inheritance. It’s not their fault, and I applaud their advantage. However, one conservative republican rightist comes to mind. Her father received a successful company from his father, and died at a fairly young age, leaving the company to this woman who promptly sold it. She lives in a veritable palace, drives a new Mercedes Benz every year, but has not worked a single day in the past 40 years. Ironically, she and her peers support the party that criticizes leftists for advocating social fairness. She has personally called the unemployed lazy and detrimental, as she stuffed her face with a high calorie meal that contributed to her morbid obesity. Living in a fairly upscale retirement area in Florida, there are countless comparative examples I can cite personally.

For example, there was this confused little man who denied his towing services to a stranded disabled woman because she had a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker.

And this well-spoken right wingnut genius, who looked like he was just there with his boyfriend for the party.

Digging a little deeper, I found many religious people tend to sit on the religious right, firmly believing their particular flavor of God chooses who is entitled to leadership, land ownership, opportunity, and wealth. Considering believing in a Caucasian bearded man who lives on a cloud who moves humans like pawns is akin to mental illness, I began to consider the mental state of conservative Americans. Further, watching Donald Trump’s supporters, who are staunch righties, I became convinced that conservatism is a trait of convenience, as well as racism and baseless hate, all of which I strongly condone as a parent, an American, and a human being. Ironically, Jesus Christ himself was surely quite left, but rightists are very careful to never mention this.

Those of us in my shoes realize it’s not the will to work or succeed that the problem in America – it’s the opportunity that’s missing. Apparently, the conservatives are conserving that opportunity for themselves, and regardless of which side of the President you choose to sit, you must admit that’s not entirely fair. This situation is readily evident when Fox News lambasts Burlington College, once run by Bernie Sanders’ wife Jane, for going out of business, and in the same breath, celebrates American funding Libyan rebels with guns and weapons that will probably end up in terrorists’ hands. Again. And even more painful to watch is the plight of American veterans – those of us who risked life and limb to defend our crooked notion of freedom – as they’re chastised and ignored in ridiculously underfunded government programs. Yet we openly admit we can’t seem to find $80 billion dollars that was supposed to rebuild Iraq. Opportunity abounds – but only for those who can afford it.

Although my parents were registered republicans for reasons I will never know, I began to lean further and further left. So far left, I nearly fell over. The left advocates for freedom from tyranny through protections for everyone provided by a government body. The right is overly concerned with protecting their wealth, using whatever convenient excuse is at their disposal.

Later, I told my boy what I found, but was careful not to verbally admit a side. I can only hope his ethics and conscience will help him make a good choice.

 

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A Day With An Average Republican.

Occupations

Gary U.S. Republican.

When I was a kid, someone asked me what religion I was. I replied, “public.” In the good old days growing up in that horrible armpit called Philadelphia, I thought there were two religions – Catholic, and public. Since I went to public school, I assumed I was public. My parents never mentioned religion. I didn’t know who Jesus was until my first girlfriend asked me why I put the communion wafer in my shirt pocket. What the hell kind of parents don’t at least mention religion?

My genius parents were registered Republicans. I’m not sure why. I bet they didn’t know why either. They probably went to a social event with their uppity suburban pals, and were convinced Republicanism was the cool thing to do at the time. When it came time for me to register to vote, I ignored it. Partially out of ignorance, more out of curiosity. I figured I’d better do some homework first. A few decades later, I’m still trying to decide. Eventually, I registered as an independent because, to this day, all political parties seemed FUBAR. Still, I needed to know more. So I hung out with a Republican named Gary for a day.

Gary is a rotund sixty-something year-old white guy with a particularly sloppy southern drawl, a sixth generation American citizen. His parents hailed from Georgia, and once owned a couple of businesses that got bought or sold, or something. I wasn’t sure where his story was going, and he seemed annoyed when I attempted to clarify it. He was much more interested in talking about his investments, and his Harley. Gary bragged that he was an “investment king,” with well over a million dollars in wealth on paper, and a couple hundred grand in the bank. He’s not doing too bad. We talked about how this country has been squashing small businesses, and how they should decrease taxes to give everyone some breathing room.

Upon our conversational segue into politics, things got fugly. Gary could not find one nice thing to say about President Obama. I’ll spare the details. His diatribe on Hillary Clinton was even worse. Gary thinks the Democratic party is killing America, and they are “giving away all [his] money to black people looking for a fucking handout.” When pressed to explain exactly what the Democrats were doing to kill America, Gary had a difficult time explaining. He slurred something about destroying hospitals and health care, letting too many people go on welfare, food stamp families driving Lexuses, and letting those “damned towelheads” in the country. Gary sounded as if he was poorly reading a Donald Trump teleprompter.

A week or so later, Gary called my business. He needed some work done, so I came up with a competitive estimate. Gary called me back and asked for a substantial discount, you know, since we were apparently now friends. That’s right, the millionaire investment king was looking for a fucking handout. I told Gary I couldn’t afford to give him a discount because I had to pay for my own health insurance, and with Obama and all, my premiums had just gone up. Terrified that I’d have to see that miserable wretch again, I added a few additional must-have options I supposedly forgot initially, which safely priced me out of the running.

That’s when it all clicked. Ironically, every Gary I ever knew reminded me of this douche. Republican Garys are mean, selfish, greedy and filled with hatred towards anyone who isn’t like them. Republicans in general tend to be people who are lucky enough to have a little wealth, usually kickstarted by an inheritance or life insurance, or otherwise being hired to a cushy overpaid job because of the color of their skin (black, white, or yellow – this works throughout the rainbow). They don’t want to give it away. Republicans are scared to death of losing their wealth, and taxes are how they believe Democrats are trying to level the field. The worst thing you could do to a Republican would be to make him live like a Democrat.

Not only did my parents fail me in religion, they failed me in Gary too. Tomorrow, I’m having lunch with a Democrat named Joe. I’ll let y’all know how that goes.

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The Sad Truth About Trump’s Success

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History is in the making as we’re experiencing the strangest political behavior ever recorded. The man has zero real political experience, and more importantly, even less experience (or common sense) in foreign policy. Yet, no single newspaper, radio commentator, or conservative Fox News pundit has had the balls to reveal what everyone is thinking – the real reason behind Donald Trump’s surprising support thus far. Frankly, I am amazed Trump himself hasn’t admitted it.

Trump boasts that he “fills stadiums” and “boosts ratings.” Any celebrity who speaks empty promises to frustrated people while embracing public fighting and a circus environment can do that. Betty White could fill a stadium with similar antics.

Trump bastardizes America, criticizing our current Commander-In-Chief as “the great divider.” He repeatedly promises to make America great again. Actually, things don’t appear to be too shoddy right now. Jobs are being created regularly. Oil prices are down. African-Americans are sitting in executive suites and Hispanics with names like Cruz, Rubio, and Sotomayor currently hold some of our nation’s highest political positions. Dark-skinned folks with names like Satya Nadella and  Sundar Pichai are running some of our nation’s largest companies. Food is cheap and plentiful, as evidenced by record levels of obesity and diabetes. People are allowed to speak their mind (as long as it’s not anything remotely resembling anti-Trump rhetoric at a Trump convention). Our economy is still growing, and our current President managed to steer our nation away from a potentially devastating economic disaster, which resulted in current billionaires (like Trump) becoming even more wealthy.

What’s worse is that Trump himself doesn’t have a great track record in paying the working class people he pretends to defend. He’s sued or been sued over 3,000 times as reported by USA Today.

That leaves us to wonder what specifically Trump plans to make “great” again, that isn’t already pretty darn good. To date, no reporter been able to (or is afraid to) nail him down to answer this question. So the real question remains, what’s driving Trump’s surge in popularity? I fear Trump’s “greatness” plan has to do more with military intimidation than economic improvements. After all, military buildups have historically created jobs. Hopefully, those jobs would be domestic and not require the skills of immigrants. But unfortunately, the real reason is psychologically deeper and more menacing.

The real reason Trump survives is because dumb white people think things will get better if there’s a white man in the White House.

The dumbest Americans are convinced that the reason for everything bad that has happened to them personally and throughout history is Barack Obama’s fault. And once Obama is replaced with a white male, things will be happy and perfect and Reaganesque once again. Perhaps Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Duran Duran will have hit songs again.

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Think about a Trump supporter for a moment. These people won’t vote for Hillary. First of all, she’s a woman. The only thing old white men hate more than a black president is a woman president. They can’t envision any woman as Commander-In-Chief, postulating that she doesn’t have the experience, judgment, or balls to punch someone if and when necessary. And they’ll always remember the debacle in Libya, regardless of the truth and fault.

Secondly, many voters have been trained to envision Mrs. Clinton as an Obama puppet, which might translate into a white woman who acts black, leading to eight more years of a terrible, horrible America.

Plus, how are we supposed to trust a woman who sends classified messages through her Yahoo e-mail account? That’s simply no good, according to Republicans running for their lives. Personally, with all the damaging information a terribly misguided Edward Snowden leaked, I can’t imagine there was anything in her e-mails that wasn’t already public.

Bernie Sanders? Trump’s people are completely convinced Sanders is practically a commie. Rednecks with a high school education (or less) are convinced he’ll give Obamaphones, health care, food, and housing to every person of color so they won’t need to work anymore, leaving white people to pick up the slack. Plus they think Sanders talks funny. To the dummies, Sanders is considered a wasted vote.

 

What about Cruz? No good – he’s not quite white enough, according to this group of Trump-supporting idiots. That would be the same as having Obama as president again, only slightly lighter-skinned, and we just can’t have any more dark skin in the White House if things are going to get great again.

Personally, I couldn’t believe people were that dumb until I heard old white guys who actually admit they’re convinced that a President Trump is going to get rid of anyone who “doesn’t belong here” and bring jobs back from China and Mexico, making us all wealthy again beyond our wildest dreams. There is no corporation in America that’s going to let that happen, Billy Bob.

Here’s the thing. Even if Trump did miraculously convince the electorate to elect him, there’s only so much a president can do. He can’t make wide and sweeping changes without the cooperation of the House, the Senate, and in many cases, The Supreme Court, all of which have at least a few smart people remaining in their ranks. Chances are Trump would do something stupid and be impeached, leaving us with a President Christie or Palin. And that could be a terrible, horrible scenario.

The real division in our nation is socioeconomic.

Debatable business success does not qualify someone for effective societal leadership. Capitalism thrives on separating men and women from their money using any means possible to acquire as much as you can, and lying and cheating are quite common. It’s the government’s job to ensure everyone is being treated fairly. The wealth divide in our nation has never been wider. Capitalist leadership and a protected citizenry are polar opposites. Bernie Sanders preaches the best game in this environment, although his past connections speak otherwise.

Immigration reform would destroy many families, leaving many menial yet necessary jobs unfilled, and result in a court backlog that might outlast a Trump presidency. Not to mention that aggressive policies would create even worse ethnic divisions in a nation that has always been a melting pot. Don’t be naive and think it will end at Mexicans and Muslims.

Trump’s empty trade promises can’t work. Even a lackluster threat to build our own factories which might ultimately end our delicate manufacturing and trade agreements with Mexico or China might prove disastrous, causing the worst shortages of durable goods we’ve ever seen, along with Venezuela-like inflation. I’m pretty sure dumb white people will be quite upset when they’re forced to spend $75,000 for a Chevrolet Spark or $2,000 for a new iPhone, even if they were somehow earning slightly higher wages.

And Dictator Trump as Commander-In-Chief? Hopefully, you don’t have teenaged sons whom you actually like, because it’s almost certain they’ll be deployed to some remote desert somewhere and probably won’t return home. Want to jumpstart an economy? Follow the Bush-Cheney doctrine and simply start a war. Or two.

Dumb people also skew more religious, leaving things they cannot explain or control in the hands of a mysterious bearded man who lives in the clouds. Ironically, the bearded guy himself, and his Middle-East born Jewish son, are typically depicted as Caucasian, which makes no logical sense. No one, not even African-Americans, ever bought the notion of someone looking like Morgan Freeman as God. Obviously, that was comical to everyone.

Fortunately, the elections held so far are only primaries. Low voter turnout is typical, since more educated voters have actual jobs. A majority of primary voters are campaign supporters and dumb, unemployed, or poorly educated retired old people. And since Trump is more of a celebrity than a politician or a business man, his carnival-like presence attracts a lot of undue interest, mostly from people who bear an uncanny resemblance to a real-life Archie and Edith Bunker.

Educationally, our irrelevant curriculum has damaged everyone through the Boomers. What we need to focus on now is educating our youth. Somehow, during the past few generations, average Americans have lost our minds. Consolidated media ownership has trained us to believe whatever we see on television. And our lives of leisure have allowed us to become fat, dumb, and happy. Think the residents of the Axiom in Wall-E, or the typical 26th century Dax Shepherd in Idiocracy. Friends, we’re almost there, and it’s frightening.

Trump’s candidacy thus far is an embarrassment to American citizens worldwide, and has created an incredibly poor political example for our children who catch glimpses of the news. It needs to end now. Go outside, right now, and read this to a dumb white person. Severe damage has already been done, and there’s no quick fix. Hopefully we can turn a few dummies around before it’s too late. The world has a very short memory, and the faster we can get past this, the sooner we can begin to heal.

Regarding all the candidates, it’s a Hobson’s Choice situation. Absent a miraculous write-in candidate with the marvelously fictional powers of an Antichrist, we’re pretty much screwed for the next four years.

More:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-president-political-experience_us_55f33fafe4b063ecbfa467f1

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/3-truths-about-trump/398351/

http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/06/16/414609787/5-things-you-should-know-about-donald-trump

 

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They’re Still Killing the Electric Car.

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What the hell is a C-Max?

I’ve wondered why every single hybrid or fully-electric vehicle except the Tesla is hideously ugly. Think about it. Toyota’s Prius. Nissan’s Leaf. Chevy’s Volt or Bolt. BMW’s i3. Ford’s C-Max. I had never heard of a C-Max until someone from General Electric was issued one as a company car. She hated it and now drives a Camry. I was curious why the C-Max model was suspiciously missing from all of Ford’s mass media advertising, until I actually saw one. I wouldn’t advertise a jacked-up mini-station wagon either. It almost seems as if there’s a – forgive me if I dare say it – conspiracy by the major automobile manufacturers to produce unstylish vehicles to dissuade consumer purchases.

But why the lame designs? Is there something about aerodynamics that needs to be different for electrically-propelled vehicles which mandates strangely shaped rear ends? Apparently not, because the C-Max electric-hybrid (it has a gas engine for battery charging, like Chevrolet’s Volt) looks like any other small bubble-shaped mini-SUV. After speaking with my friendly neighborhood aeronautics engineering bros on Florida’s Space Coast – a very strange and boring area filled with real, live rocket scientists – aerodynamics is apparently not the case. Most of today’s vehicles have incorporated aerodynamic designs to save fuel, whether drivetrains are electric or gasoline.

Perhaps it’s the configuration of the drivetrain, or maybe the battery storage or cooling requirements that forced the odd look. If that were the case, how did Elon Musk and Tesla make a beautiful vehicle (with the longest electric range) that compares with any of the leading luxury brands? Is Musk simply smarter than any of the thousands of engineering teams who work for the large automobile manufacturers? It seems there’s no material difference in the look or design of the chassis. So why hasn’t General Motors put an electric Volt drivetrain in a Camaro?  Can you imagine how many electric Camaros might fly out of showrooms?

Automobile manufactures may be pushing slow rollouts for two reasons. First, there is a psychological condition known as range or mileage anxiety, the fear an average consumer might have that their electric vehicle will not have enough power to complete a commute. Apparently, it’s better to have range anxiety in an ugly vehicle. Secondly, battery technology is still in its infancy. Lithium-ion batteries are heavy, expensive, and temperamental. They don’t work well in heat, and we’re really not sure what they’ll do in various types of accidents.

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I began to look a little deeper into this situation. Oil companies stand to lose the most from a transition from oil to electric automobiles. Obviously, electric cars don’t require gasoline unless they have generators built in, like the Volt. But they don’t require oil changes either, which would put a big dent in oil revenues. Ironically, automobiles began with electric engines in the late 19th century, but were switched when oil provided more power and longer ranges. For years, big oil and automobile manufacturers have had a symbiotic relationship, especially in research and development. But things are beginning to change, according to a Huffington Post report, and big oil is worried. A new group plans to spend $10 million dollars per year to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles. Koch Industries, the nation’s second-largest privately held corporation, is an energy and industrial conglomerate with $115 billion in annual revenues that is controlled by multibillionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. James Mahoney, a confidante of the brothers and member of their company’s board, has teamed up with lobbyist Charlie Drevna, who until last year helmed the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, for preliminary talks with several energy giants about funding the new pro-petroleum fuels group.

In a strange twist of fate, global oil prices have fallen dramatically as the threat of electric vehicles looms. Even so, if you pay $2 a gallon for gasoline, a 25-mpg gas car needs $8 in fuel every 100 miles. An electric car uses as little as a single dollar or two in electricity to cover that same 100 miles, depending on your local rate per kilowatt-hour. Factoring those savings over a year, and an average driver might save over $350 in fuel charges. That’s not a fortune with low gas prices, but there are other benefits. Consider the cumulative hours you’ll save driving to and fueling up at a gas station, along with the risk of being robbed or carjacked while your defenses are down, potential credit card fraud, or boogers (or worse) on gas pump handles. Ewww. And what about the additional calories taken in from junk food purchased at convenience stores while fueling up? Let’s not forget the main benefit – the reduction in the tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants emitted from burning fossil fuels.

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Tesla’s Model S is a gorgeous fully-electric automobile. It’s no slouch in the performance department, either. You can drive carelessly and illegally while accelerating from 0-60 in 2.8 seconds while enjoying a top speed of 155 MPH while outrunning your local law enforcement officers on your favorite Interstate highway. Range anxiety? Puh-lease. A range of 270 miles between full charges will get you virtually anywhere you’ll need to go. And a plethora of Tesla charging stations is appearing nationwide. There’s actually one about a mile from my office for the three or four Teslas in my county. I considered leasing one, but the lease payment on a $120,000 vehicle is slightly beyond my comfort range. A $350 annual fuel savings wouldn’t dent a single monthly payment.

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Chevrolet’s Bolt – will it save us all?

If Tesla can make a pretty electric vehicle, why are the rest of us stuck with cars like the tiny, ugly, underperforming i3 or Leaf and its paltry 100 mile range? I hoped Chevy would come to the rescue with its upcoming Bolt. But it too looks like a jacked-up Prius on cheap crack. Fortunately, it’s range is supposedly in the 200 mile neighborhood, which will hopefully open the doors for my electric Camaro. Or better yet, a DeLorean. Staying tuned.

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All Children Left Behind

American education isn’t just bad – it’s figuratively, literally, statistically, comparatively, politically, and unfortunately at times, criminally bad.

The 39 brave individuals who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 crafted a constitution to establish a strong central government empowered to do certain jobs that the states could not manage effectively on their own. These duties included making sure to provide a common defense, for example, and to ensure that a contract signed in one state is binding in another. But the ultimate law of our land says nothing about the right to a public education. Not a single word, phrase, clause, or article. Back in the stone ages when we were a much different largely agrarian society making big money selling hemp, those framers could not have imagined the diluted mess of a society their infant nation was to become. I’m no Justice Scalia, who apparently contacted our founding fathers telepathically on several occasions while on expensive sponsored vacations, but I would imagine if the framers were here today, they would certainly rethink overlooking education as a fundamental right on the national stage.

Parents and politicians have attempted to fix the system, but push-back from powerful unions and confused parents continually brings us back to mediocrity. 

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), the single only bright spot in George W. Bush’s administration, was a rare non-defense bipartisan effort passed by the House of Representatives 384–45, and also by the Senate 91–8. President Bush signed it into law on January 8, 2002. No Child Left Behind required all public schools receiving federal funding to administer a statewide standardized test annually to all students. Schools that receive Title I funding through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 must make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in test scores – meaning each year, students must do collectively better on standardized tests than the previous year’s students. If the school’s results were repeatedly poor, then steps were taken to improve the school.

Supporters of the NCLB claim one of the strong positive points of the bill is the increased accountability that is required of schools and teachers. If required improvements were not made, schools faced decreased funding and other punishments. These goals were meant to help teachers and schools realize the significance and importance of the educational system and how it affects the nation overall.

Opponents of NCLB said that the punishments only hurt the schools and do not contribute to the improvement of student education. Critics argued that the focus on standardized testing, where all students in a state take the same test under the same conditions, encourages teachers to teach a narrow subset of skills that the school believes increases test performance, rather than achieve in-depth understanding of the overall curriculum. For example, a teacher who knows that all questions on a math test are simple addition problems might not invest any class time on the practical applications of addition, which is a very valid point. This is referred to as teaching to the test.

Granted, there were some wonky things in the bill, like requiring schools to let military recruiters have students’ contact information and other access to the student, if the school provides that information to universities or employers, unless the students opt out of giving military recruiters access. And teaching to a test is not the best way to create a true understanding of subject matter. By 2015, criticism from right, left, and center forced another bipartisan Congressional effort, this time one that stripped away all the national features of No Child Left Behind. Its replacement, Every Student Succeeds Act, turned the remnants over to the states. Now, we’re fighting to tear down Common Core.

So now that we’ve stripped accountability from states, schools, teachers, students, and basically everyone, we should notice vast educational improvements, right? And considering that it’s no surprise that you and I, the American taxpayers, fund the single most expensive educational system on Planet Earth, we should be leading the entire world in each and every subject, right? And since we spend soooo much on education, teaching is undoubtedly the single most esteemed position in America, because teachers must be paid very highly considering what we’re spending, right? Wrong, on all three accounts.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — an international economic organization of 34 countries that stimulates economic progress and world trade — writes in its annual report that brand-new and experienced teachers alike in the United States out-earn most of their counterparts around the globe. But U.S. salaries have not risen at the same pace as other nations. The United States spent more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student. When researchers factored in the cost for programs after high school education such as college or vocational training, the United States spent $15,171 on each young person in the system — more than any other nation covered in the developed world. Comparatively, Switzerland’s total spending per student was $14,922 while Mexico averaged $2,993 in 2010. The average OECD nation spent $9,313 per young person.

As a share of its economy, the United States spends more than the average country in the survey. In 2010, the United States spent 7.3 percent of its gross domestic product on education, compared with the 6.3 percent average of other OECD countries. Denmark topped the list on that measure with 8 percent of its gross domestic product going toward education. The federal government spent a total of $3.7 trillion in fiscal year 2015. That means the approximate $154 billion in education spending accounts for approximately 4.2 percent of the entire federal budget.

Federal Education Spending, Fiscal Year 2015 ($ billions)

Dept. of Education: Appropriation 67.1
Dept. of Education: Mandatory (excludes student loans) 9.9
School Nutrition Programs 16.5
Head Start Programs 8.6
Education Tax Expenditures for Individuals 21.2
American Opportunity Tax Credit (Refundable) 5.9
Student Loan Subsidies (Newly Disbursed Loans) 8
Veterans and Servicemembers Education Benefits 16.4
Total 153.6

Despite insane levels of educational spending, U.S. students continue to trail rivals on international tests. 

U.S. fourth-graders are 11th in the world in math in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, a separate measure of nations against each other. U.S. eighth-graders ranked ninth in math, according to those 2011 results. The Program for International Student Assessment measurement found the United States ranked 31st in math literacy among 15-year-old students and below the international average. The same 2009 tests found the United States ranked 23rd in science among the same students, but posting an average score.

For post-high school programs, the United States is far outspent in public dollars. U.S. taxpayers picked up 36 cents of every dollar spent on college and vocational training programs. Families and private sources picked up the balance. In other OECD nations, it was roughly reversed: The public picked up 68 cents of every dollar in advanced training and private sources picked up the other 32 cents.

Maybe our problem is America’s teachers are unappreciated financially? That doesn’t appear to be the case. The average first-year high school teacher in the United States earns about $38,000. OECD nations pay their comparable educators just more than $31,000. Luxembourg pays its first year high school teachers more than $72,000 a year, but Slovakia slacks by paying first-year high school teachers a measly $10,000. Of the 30 OECD member countries, teachers in Switzerland get the highest annual salary, an average of $68,000. This is higher than the average salary in the country, which is around $50,000. Switzerland is followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium in terms of having highly paid teachers. Teachers in the UK earn less than the annual UK average salary of $44,000, receiving just over $40,000 and ranked 13 out of 30 countries listed. Teachers get paid more in the UK than other European countries. In France, for example, the average teacher salary is $33,000, and in Greece teachers earn an average of $25,000. The average high school teacher in the United States earns about $53,000, well above the average of $45,500 among all OECD nations.

Unfortunately, American teachers are looked upon as the dreads of our society, just a step over mail carriers and other government employees. They’re commonly described by idiots using the phrase “Those who can’t do, teach,” one of many crude bastardizations of a classic George Bernard Shaw line, “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” Either way, I’m sure you get the drift. Teaching is widely regarded as the last fallback position – it’s what you do when nothing else works out, or when you’ve decided, typically during college, that you simply don’t want to work all that hard and pursue that science degree you thought you wanted. You’ve already invested time and money into school, and you’ve got to pay those student loans back somehow, so teaching it is. This is a societal imaging problem that needs to be addressed and fixed immediately. I’d love to see some of those stupid anti-smoking dollars funneled into this campaign (especially the money spend on running the one about your cat getting cancer), but it’ll never happen.

Teaching is not as easy as you think, and not everyone can do it well. A key component for a successful teaching career is a passion for education. Emotional demands on teachers and the challenges of working with children can be uniquely stressful, especially in lower-income school districts. In my own county, I’ve heard firsthand stories of children whose parents aren’t available to guide – or feed – their children. It’s more common than you think. And it’s impossible to pull your emotions away from the curriculum when you know for a fact there’s a potential human tragedy sitting in the third seat in the back row. Only teachers who are passionate about their profession and realistic about their expectations are able to succeed despite the obstacles that are part of the job.

According to Edutopia, about 30 percent of teachers leave the profession within their first three years and more than 45 percent leave within five years. Turnover is especially high in high-poverty areas, where children are more apt to absentee parents and an overall lack of respect.

That brings us to the multi-billion dollar question – if all the money and resources are not going to the teachers or students, where the hell is all that money going?

A few weeks back, in my own school system, some maintenance jackass was caught buying Jeep tires and Harley parts on the school’s dime, just months after an additional 1/2 cent sales tax finally passed during the last election. Fraud is rampant in school systems that are highly political, overfunded, and dramatically short of oversight. Charter schools may be even worse – as we’ll discuss in a moment.

But the biggest fleecing of all may be an integral part of the education process – the textbook cartel. The three largest textbook publishers,  Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, rake in more than $4 billion each year. A big part of that haul comes from education budgets nationwide.

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According to NBC’s review of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, textbook prices have risen over three times the rate of inflation from January 1977 to June 2015, a 1,041 percent increase. “They’ve been able to keep raising prices because students are captive consumers. They have to buy whatever books they’re assigned,” said Nicole Allen, a spokeswoman for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. It’s important to mention this data does not include alternative means of textbook acquisition including buying second-hand or textbook rentals, as seen in most college environments.

The push continues for school districts to move away from paper textbooks and toward digital curricula and e-textbooks. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged educators to move quickly to adopt digital textbooks and materials. The Federal Communications Commission and the Education Department released a report, the “Digital Textbook Playbook,” which provided a blueprint for schools to make the shift. Florida, for one, has already adopted legislation requiring districts to spend half their instructional-materials budgets on digital content by 2015-16, and other states are considering legislation promoting digital textbooks. Unfortunately, the only advantage of going digital seems to be loss aversion, since the licensing prices of the digital versions are roughly the same as the printed editions.

Apparently, schools didn’t earn the right to the publisher’s drastic savings on ink, paper, processing, packaging, warehousing, and shipping.

An article in The Atlantic states academic publishers will tell you that creating modern textbooks is an expensive, labor-intensive process that demands charging high prices. But as Kevin Carey noted in a recent Slate piece, the textbook industry shares some of the dysfunctions that help drive up the cost of healthcare spending. Students don’t have much choice to pay up, lest they risk their grades. Meanwhile, Carey illustrates how publishers have done just about everything within their power to prop up their profits, from bundling textbooks with software that forces students to buy new editions instead of cheaper used copies, to suing low-cost textbook start-ups over flimsy copyright claims.

My kids, attending a relatively new charter school, have to leave their textbooks in class, with school administrators citing they can’t cover the potential destruction or loss of a $100 – $200 elementary school textbook. And the school has failed to obtain licensing for the e-versions of the textbooks, as promised at the beginning of the school year. When my children have homework and they need to refer back to the text, sorry Charlie, that’s not possible. Many public schools experience a similar dilemma.

All that money spent on textbooks, and the textbook cartel’s stronghold on the industry, stifles educational budgets nationwide. Children will have a difficult time with homework if the textbook is unavailable, and education will continue to suffer if better competition continues to be stifled. It might be time to take an in-depth look at lobby and PAC spending by Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. A former Pearson and Houghton account manager made some interesting and potentially incriminating comments in this video.

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You might think charter schools are the answer. Most promise to blaze bold new trails that will solve all the world’s problems. However, fraud is just one of the major problems in the lack of adequate controls over how Americans’ taxes are being spent in the charter industry. A 2012 study by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Columbia University found that charter schools spent “nearly $800 more per pupil per year on administration and $1100 less on instruction.” Where’s all that money going? Ironically, the chairman of the board at a local charter school I know of happens to run a procurement company that also dabbles in construction, which hopefully doesn’t matter, but nonetheless didn’t seem to shake any other heads during the development and construction process.

You have to wonder whose interest is at the forefront in many charter school situations.

California is home to the largest number of charter schools in the country, with over 1100 schools providing instruction to over half a million students. In the 2013-14 school year, California charter schools received more than $3 billion in public funding. Despite the tremendous investment of public dollars and the size of its charter school population, California has failed to implement a system that proactively monitors charters for fraud, waste and mismanagement. While charter schools are subject to significant reporting requirements and monitoring by oversight bodies, including chartering entities, county superintendents and the State Controller, no oversight body regularly conducts audits. California may have lost more than $100 million to charter school fraud in 2015.

The vast majority of fraud perpetrated by charter officials will go undetected because most states lack the oversight necessary to identify fraud. California’s oversight agencies rely almost entirely on audits paid for by charter operators and complaints from whistleblowers, neither of which is a systematic approach to fraud detection, nor are they effective in fraud prevention. Audits commissioned by the charter schools use general auditing techniques rather than techniques specifically designed to detect and uncover fraud. In California, the vast majority of charter schools are authorized by local school districts that lack adequate staffing to monitor charter schools and ferret out fraud.

The good news is that overall, a 2013 Stanford study shows across the charter schools in the 26 states studied, 25 percent have significantly stronger learning gains in reading than their traditional school counterparts, while 56 percent showed no significant difference. The bad news? Nineteen percent of charter schools had significantly weaker learning gains. In mathematics, 29 percent of charter schools showed student learning gains that were significantly stronger than their traditional public school peers’, while 40 percent were not significantly different – and 31 percent were significantly weaker. So much for a national focus on STEM.

The only feasible solutions are twofold:

  1. Nationalization of the education system.
  2. A comprehensive rewrite of the industrial-age curriculum.

For America to succeed as a nation, we need to admit the founding fathers could not have fathomed the vital needs of today’s modern society, and amend the Constitution to reflect this. Education is a fundamental right of all citizens, and should be provided by the federal government. Nationalization would ensure that all students everywhere would learn the same exact topics, be tested similarly, and ultimately share in the same opportunities. There would be no jockeying for state dollars, and no ill-advised state caucus could promote a special interest agenda that might lead children to become less competitive in a global environment.

Economies of scale would promote billions of dollars in savings to school districts nationwide. And an area with a low tax basis would have equal footing with economically advantageous areas.

Curriculum-wise, states have been teaching the same boring, useless, irrelevant, and meaningless curriculum since public schools were established in the nineteenth century. Industrial-age mathematics and science classes should be replaced with applied math and science classes that engage students in using modern technology without the useless memorization of formulas and methods they’ll soon forget. Do you remember any trigonometry and calculus? I don’t. Let’s teach children practical skills, communication methods, teamwork, tolerance, and problem solving. We should move away from concentrating on unnecessary memorization, instead concentrating on applied skills utilizing existing and upcoming technology. High schools should be separated into tracks which concentrate on academics or trades, because one size does not fit all.

All schools should de-emphasize religious studies, leaving that subject matter to community churches or post-secondary electives. No matter how you attempt to justify it, brainwashing an American child with silly stories from either testament is not much different than what’s fostering today’s militant Islamic movement in the Middle East.

Although physical education is critically important, organized sports teams are an irrelevant and unnecessary diversion through the college level, and should be removed from all schools immediately. School spirit based on the win-loss record of a football team is ridiculously menial and more often detrimental than not. Although many of today’s Millennials have racks of trophies for nothing more than participation rather than perspiration, it is certainly not wise or realistic to promote that everyone can be a winner. Perhaps the realization of inevitable losing is what’s causing rates of depression to rise. Removing sports from schools eliminates non-academic winning and losing.

Society certainly needs more study in civil law and business ethics. More everyday financial skills, including the long-term effects of borrowing and interest rates, should be emphasized. Life lessons are often overlooked in our schools, including common sense training in topics like basic computing, plumbing, electricity, CPR and first-aid, defensive driving, the political process, parenting, nutrition, and community service, among various other societal skills.

Having worked for the federal government, I recognize the inefficiencies of civil service first hand. It’s surprisingly easy to get very comfortable as an employee who does next to nothing, and it’s even easier for a vendor that’s lost in the system to remain on a contractual payroll in perpetuity. Education should become a hallmark effort to shore up all federal agencies. A new federal agency might hold a peer-reviewed contest to create better textbooks written by the best and brightest American professors. An impartial external rewards-based oversight committee comprised of parents and concerned citizens could audit budgets and look for suspicious entries. And a national competition could reward outstanding teachers with recognition and generous pay increases. Meanwhile, the all-too-powerful teachers’ union could be dismantled, stripping the protection of tenure from teachers who don’t deserve to be protected.

Sure, it’s a ridiculously large change that will be costly, awkward, and extremely difficult to implement. But it must start somewhere. The first phase might be the nationalization of all existing charter schools. Let’s end that potentially fraudulent accident immediately, and roll out new and better fundamental changes in scale.

Education is a not only a fundamental right in society, whether it’s public, private, charter, or home-schooling, it’s a necessity to ensure domestic tranquility. Kids who don’t learn societal fundamentals fuel what’s already the world’s largest prison population, which may eventually bleed into terrorist groups. Education needs to be monitored and measured on a national level. Most importantly, there must be accountability from the topmost levels down.

Our children are responsible for our nation’s future. When we retire, those kids will be running the show, ensuring that we too are safe and provided for. It’s our responsibility as stewards of this great nation to ensure our children are headed in the right direction, and receive the excellent education and preparation they’re entitled to. Education shouldn’t be bad. Reform is necessary, and it needs to happen right now.

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