French Pension Reform Will Go Nowhere

Have you seen the photo of the one million French people protesting Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform? It is pretty darned breathtaking. If you were in the middle of it, a snack and a bathroom break would be a long struggle. Trade unions are urging even more strikes, far be it that they urge more work to make up for the shortfall in funding of these retirement plans.

We have the same problem here with Social Security and the can gets kicked down the road. We all think we deserve our Social Security. We paid into it. Unfortunately, when it was designed the number of retirees was tiny compared to the number of taxpayers. Like the deceptive computer models for coming famine or climate disaster, there was no allowance made for adjustments to changing future conditions.

Tragically, the retirement funding scheme that could have worked was in place already. But some politician thought he could get reelected if part of the process was taken from us and given to the government.

People all over the world have saved for their retirement. Others have their whole adult life ahead of them and only need to borrow some cash to make their dreams come true. A more direct way to connect savers with borrowers would be through borrowers selling stock and savers buying shares. The system exists.

The idea that savings must be managed or redistributed by government is flawed as evidenced by the waste within the Department of Defense.

The Pentagon failed its fifth audit, not accounting for $220 billion in government property furnished to contractors just last week. In November of 2022 the DOD could not prove expenditures for 61% of its $3.5 trillion in assets. I ask, is the U.S. government to be trusted with our “investments?” If we invest in a private company and it commits fraud we have recourse through the courts. It doesn’t work that way with government. As my dad said years ago when the Farmers Home Administration reneged on our house project, “You can’t fight city hall.”

Anyone who has diversified savings has seen the comparably miserable return on investment offered by Social Security.

The U.S. government is paying interest on the garganchuan debt we owe. Interest rates have risen and so has the cost to our government. But they keep on spending.

The most equitable way to fund retirement is to connect savers with borrowers so the borrowers can pay interest to use cash earned by savers over the years. The closer the connection we can make between them, the less waste and more cash available for each.

It is no surprise that French unions are urging strikes. Unions are like government; force is their language. Fair exchange makes them feel cheated.

Save the Bats, Birds, and Children

A strange thing happened today. Dan Neil wrote about a car powered by an internal combustion engine. He reviews a car most weeks for the weekend Wall Street Journal. Ever since he was embarrassed to discover that what he thought was the best car ever was made by German cheaters, he’s over-corrected and found religion in electric cars. As in most single vehicle accidents over-correcting is often worse than no correcting at all.

Volkswagen cheated on emissions tests. It cost them $30 billion and they pledged to go EV to be popular again.

We can debate the 97% of all climate related scientists’ opinions until we are blue in the face but total transition to EVs is not debatable unless aliens land and rescind logic. The electrical grid nationally would have to be replaced. Africa would have to experience a huge population explosion to increase the supply of child miners because cobalt and other battery materials won’t just come when called, like our dog. By the way, do you know about the child miners? Better not look.

That’s just the small stuff. Look at an aerial photo of a lithium mine. I’ll bet you never thought of New York’s Central Park as untamed wilderness before. If you did, you could call a lithium mine a roadless, wilderness paradise. But that’s okay. You don’t live there. That seems to be a huge problem with advocates of “green” this or that. They don’t live there.

I was at an appointment with my surgeon and (being a California kid, 72, and still a kid, haha) asked him if that was his Porsche in the parking lot. With a twinkle in his eye he said, “I have a Tesla.” At a more recent meeting I mentioned the Tesla again and he said, “It drives me, I don’t drive it.” He lives in Des Moines and works in Clarion and he says it is a great stress reliever to sit back and let his car drive him around.

I can’t imagine the stress of cutting peoples’ legs off and gluing new joints in there. There is not one second where I am jealous of his wealth or don’t admire his skill.

Another one I admire is Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota, who thinks adoption of electrified vehicles will not happen as quickly as the totalitarian politicians wish. To say Toyoda knows more about vehicles than any politician is the understatement of the year. It is so sad that he risks being branded some sort of heretic at the altar of wacko science. It makes it all the more admirable that he goes out on that staunch limb.

When Tesla began, I pretty much hated Elon Musk. The guy, I don’t know, but any company that depends on government subsidies… well, you know me. Tesla’s subsidies have run out and they are still there. Only the rich can afford one. So what? Musk has proven his worth recently in the Twitter files. The presidency was bought, not won, in the election.

The protection afforded by constitutional restraints should make the purchased presidency not matter at all. But those restraints no longer exist. It’s Wild West Days where the powerful take whatever they want. Note today’s headline: “The White House to Ask Congress to Approve F-16s for Turkey.” General Smedley Butler must be looking down from his heavenly perch saying, “Wow, it’s the racket on steroids.”

U.S. Marine Corps Major General, Smedley Butler earned the Congressional Medal of Honor twice. He saw up close how private interests finagle their way to huge profits “reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”

The racket of war is not so much different from the war on individual freedom being waged by the “green” crazies. The fragile lives in the desert in the path of solar farms, the bats and birds flying into wind farms, and the abused children in the Congo are unnecessary casualties.

Why I Hate Democracy

We’ve long heard about voting restrictions like voter ID as being “a threat to our democracy.” Today is the anniversary of the January 6th Capitol riots, “a threat to our democracy” like no other. The Capitol being the home of Congress would make it the cathedral of U.S.democracy, where the will of the (majority of the) people is codified.

I learned about the word “codified” regarding Roe v Wade possibly being made into a law or code rather than a judicial proclamation, in order to protect it from the whims of an unelected body like a court or government agency.

Ever since Nixon expanded the power of the federal government through unelected rule-making agencies like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), Congress has appeared to be unnecessary. Maybe the reason “our democracy” is so fervently defended is to keep two fronts active in the war against individual rights.

The distinction between a republic and a democracy is not addressed in the Constitution. Democracy is not mentioned at all. Maybe the Founders never imagined that theft could be codified and thus legal in their new collection of states. British Common Law from which our system is modeled, was intended to protect individuals from the aggression of their fellow citizens even if those fellow citizens represent a majority.

We hear “a right to healthcare,” “a right to an education” as if those things would not involve violating the rights of someone to finance them. It’s like a civic lobotomy, removing the part of the truth that’s standing in the way of the stuff we want for free.

It took a few years and many mistakes and successes that brought the Founders to write what they did in guiding our young country. They knew early on that when thievery is accepted practice there will be resentment and envy leading to social disturbance.

I think it’s pretty sick to say healthcare or education are so important that the state should be authorized to steal to provide them. If that’s the case then where do we draw the line? When we all are equally destitute? If we bring down a tiny minority of rich people to make them equal with a huge majority of the not so rich, that doesn’t just detract from the wealth of the rich, it eliminates everyone’s future benefits that could have been realized from their ambitions.

It is the wealthy, who earned their wealth through superior skill who provide the human and financial capital for innovation and progress that makes life better for all of us. That is an important fact overlooked by the democracy advocates who seem to think the voting booth is the source of all progress. No! When the rich, skilled, and ambitious are bled dry we will all suffer.

A statistic that isn’t counted is how often one of these exceptional people decide their tax bill has stifled their desire to go on. Rather than research a wonder drug or cleaner energy they buy a yacht or new mansion. It happens. There is no way to know what the rest of us are missing as a result of these penalties imposed by democracy.

Democracy is not freedom, it’s freedom to steal.

California Dreamin’

Last spring we flew out to Los Angeles to see our eldest. He actually lives in Glendale where the Armenians like fast cars and skinny cigarettes. I tell him he has a great place to live because the police are busy cruising by the new car dealerships close by. One of my dad’s clients was Armenian and they came over once a year and grilled shish kabobs. Good stuff.

I didn’t go along on this particular walk in LA, but Dawn and Hans crossed an intersection where the signals go red for all the cars at once where they meet at different angles. The pedestrians have it all to themselves. Dawn said she giggled all the way across.

We met up with my only cousin Christine in Irvine about 60 miles south. I just now dozed off; I guess because of pain pills and lack of sleep. Luckilly with this word processor, I could delete all the brackets, colons, and hyphens I typed accidently. Between my legs jumping around, sleepiness, and pain I’m finding it difficult to write this. I had double knee replacement surgery a month ago and all they say about it is true.

Irvine is an interesting place, that is if you like semi-Spanish style houses rubber-stamped every 50 feet with smatterings of plastic-looking plants scattered artistically between them. In my high school days I lived in Newport Bearch, between Irvine Ranch and the ocean. That was before Irvine was a city.

We used to ride our bikes out to the orange groves and sit under the trees eating oranges. When a farmer came along we thought we were in trouble but he said, “Eat all you want, just let me know if someone shows up with boxes.” Other parts of the ranch were rough so there were cattle. There were shallow sandstone caves that we could duck into if it rained. There was also a rope swing hanging from a huge live oak tree. It was peaceful out there.

In 1930 Irvine Ranch was the site for filming of World War I battle scenes for the movie All Quiet on the Western Front. They dug bomb craters and trenches through the fragile desert grazing land with excavators and bulldozers.

Starting in a high school classroom, the teacher is waving his arms about convincing the whole class to enlist. The boys are followed through the war and they find out the teacher may have been wrong.

For a moving scene, search YouTube for “How does a war start – All Quiet on the Western Front.”

When Obama was bragging about drone warfare limiting American casualties, I could see the largest impediment to eternal war profits was to limit Americans’ exposure. Here we are: American companies reap the profits while Ukrainians lose their youth.

Outsiders Tend To Stay There

I remember driving through Mason City during the last presidential campaign. There was a billboard and all it said was “Tulsi.” I knew who she was but I bet many people did not.

Mitt Romney has called her a traitor and a liar because she doesn’t support handing over our hard earned dollars to one of the biggest crooks of modern times, Velodymyr Zelensky. He shut down the three TV stations that openly criticized him, imprisoned the head of the opposition political party who had come in second in the election, and arrested that party’s leaders.

Many years ago I asked a local politician if he actually believed the War on Drugs stopped drug abuse or did he support it only to appear to care about the people caught up in that trap. That was after an opinion piece he had written and as far as I know, he never mentioned it again.

If we think of the World War II days (That’s two, not eleven as was the case in the experience of a teacher friend of mine.), “we” rose to the occasion as if money was no object. Now we have several conflicts in Africa, Myanmar, Haiti, and Yemen and human rights abuses in Western China. All have civil wars raging where there has to be a good guy who needs our support. If Mitt were to volunteer to help in all these countries he should to be extradited to stand trial for treason.

Treason, a serious charge and if true, as a senator he should press for Tulsi Gabbard’s arrest. But he didn’t because he knows he’s wrong. He knows he’s wrong to rob the American people to enrich the coffers of a foreign politician but he sees a tradition of corruption that shows no sign of changing.

We can go back to The Tonkin Gulf incident and the destruction of 60,000 Americans and a million Vietnamese. History has plainly shown the war was based on lies. Documents continue to be kept secret about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Trump promised to make them public. I wonder what prevented that.

The resulting presidency of Lyndon Johnson brought the biggest step toward socialism and perpetual war a single administration could produce.

The 9/11 attacks also remain a mystery as the investigation goes nowhere. The pleas of survivors and next of kin to make public all of the 9/11 Commission Report have been ignored.

Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura taught the Mitt Romneys of the world a valuable lesson: Don’t let outsiders and reformers be heard. When they were given a place in debate, the establishment found out somebody was listening. Ron Paul was called a racist and an isolationist, Tulsi Gabbard was called a Putin lover and an Assad sympathizer. Bernie Sanders was ignored but his arguments were so weak he didn’t matter anyway and he then supported Hillary Clinton, who might as well have spit in his face. I should have expected as much from a self proclaimed “democratic socialist.”

So when I hear a mainstream politician calling someone names I will now seriously consider that someone’s opinions.

Extreme Weather Conditions

I sit here crippled and having Dawn put bales out for cows. Snow is blowing by the windows on this first anniversary of that day last year when we saw 63 tornadoes in Iowa; December 15th. I don’t usually ring the bell on a Wednesday but it was 70 degrees and a fine day for digging out change for the Salvation Army. All the talk was about when “it” was going to get here, meaning the nasty cold front. Eyes were on the sky and the radar on our phones.

I travel east to get home so I figured I could simply race it home once I got far enough north. As I passed the John Deere store I heard this weird sound that turned out to be a tornado siren. That added some drama. I doubted a deputy would pull me over for speeding.

As I pulled into the garage my sister, my step-mom, and Melba all called and told me to go to the basement. Dawn was camped out down there with Doris (our blue heeler). We sat and waited. At one point Doris yipped and we later guessed that was when neighbor Paul’s house lost its front half. Paul’s dad, Carl figured the deck flipped up and prevented the rest of the house from blowing away. Another neighbor lost hog houses, a modern shop, and a machine shed. Their house was mostly spared.

Another “extreme weather event” happened back at the end of January 1982. I remember the date as when the 49ers beat the Bengals in the Super Bowl. It was our first winter on the farm.

Dad called and said he could stop in Des Moines on his way to New York on business. The old SAAB wagon was bucking drifts already as we turned east on the last leg home from the airport. The oldest house in Ingham Township had a concrete block chimney on the north outside wall. It was the coldest chimney in the world and subject to the wind as it came down from its trip over the corn crib. Every time we opened the lid, wood smoke poured into the house. Cold chimneys don’t draw. A load of wood lasted all weekend.

So we put a blanket across the kitchen door and lived in there. The temperature didn’t make it above zero and the wind stayed 40 miles per hour for three days. The trusty old Majestic cookstove worked fine but took smaller wood. But tending a fire is fun.

Meanwhile the pigs huddled up and we kept them draft-free enough that they didn’t pile and smother each other. The two water tanks had 15 gallon barrels wired down into them where I kept fires going. I dug tunnels for the pigs to get through the drifts to their water.

We had two calves that we had purchased from our neighbor, Kenny. They were doing alright until the wind changed direction and picked up all the snow that had found its place. I thought they would freeze so I tried to get them up a ramp and into the barn. Cattle are cautious. I gave up and brought the chainsaw into the house so I could pull the starter rope. I started the saw in the kitchen and Dad and I ventured out to cut a hole in the lean-to where there was no ramp. I wanted each step to count.

Drifts blocked the road south of the farm and north of it. We made it through that weekend just fine and it provided Dad with a story he never got tired of telling.

The Bionic Man

Some of you might be curious about the knees. My opiate addled mind is in no shape to write The Alternative so this is an update/story.

As I visited with people about the coming operation saying “both knees,” jaws dropped. Then with a little thought it occurred to them that one time might be better than two even with double the pain from a bilateral replacement. Yeah, physical therapy hurts but I’ve only heard one person say they regretted having a knee replaced.

The doctor said x-rays indicated the better-looking knee was the one that hurt the most. That made the decision for me.

This was not a conspiracy, but all three kids have come home from various long distances. The handy one put a riser on the toilet. Getting up from a low level is nasty. The bossy one made a schedule for medications. The chip off the old block made us laugh. He brought his computer and two monitors so he could be here and work.

Step by step I’ve become more dependent. Years ago when we first got married I would hear, “I could have brought you that.” Pretty soon, as a favor, I would let her get something for me.”

I miss ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, but seeing the volunteers come out of the woodwork has been encouraging. And I’ve received get-well cards. One of them is from a couple who are first time bell-ringers and are doing four hours. It has a picture of poppies. Hmm, there’s those poppies again. After all these years nothing has been found to be more effective for pain than opiates. Modern medicine has amazing success and yet there’s no common cold vaccine and no pain relief without horrendous risk.

Scheduling and not being able to ring the bell means I can’t fill in mistakes and failures to fill a spot when somebody forgets to show up. Well, I can fail one way or another. We were in the hospital with family when Stacy called and said Buck had the same slot. Thankfully, Dawn took the phone and fixed everything.

The night before the surgery Dawn’s brother, Danny, Dawn, and I were watching an old “Thin Man” movie. Nick and Nora had traveled out of New York to visit Nick’s folks. Old friends occasionally passed by the white picket fence. One of them was particularly excited and said, “Nick Charles! Well cut off my legs and call me Shorty!” I paused the movie (it’s on YouTube) and turned to Danny, “Did he really say that?” Then a few more minutes into the movie I paused it again and said, “They’re gonna do that to me!”

Anyway, no research was involved in this. I sure will be glad to be normal again. I can’t imagine what gets into people to make them want to be impaired all of the time, like this.