If you believe that the government does not or cannot monitor every type of “connected” electronic device, then you live in a bubble. It has been shown many times that the NSA has the ability to monitor every call, text, e-mail, tweet, and even packet sent across the internet. It is hard to tell if they focus on particular groups of people based on some set of algorithms, but regardless, they are doing it without Constitutional safe guards. So just watch what you say!
There was high drama last week when Rep. Devin Nunes announced at the White House that he had seen evidence that the communications of the Donald Trump campaign people, and perhaps even Trump himself, had been “incidentally collected” by the US government.
If true, this means that someone authorized the monitoring of Trump campaign communications using Section 702 of the FISA Act. Could it have been then-President Obama? We don’t know. Could it have been other political enemies looking for something to harm the Trump campaign or presidency? It is possible.
There is much we do not yet know about what happened and there is probably quite a bit we will never know. But we do know several very important things about the government spying on Americans.
First there is Section 702 itself. The provision was passed in 2008 as part of a package of amendments to the 1978 FISA bill. As with the PATRIOT Act, we were told that we had to give the government more power to spy on us so that it could catch terrorists. We had to give up some of our liberty for promises of more security, we were told. We were also told that the government would only spy on the bad guys, and that if we had nothing to hide we should have nothing to fear.
We found out five years later from Edward Snowden that the US government viewed Section 702 as a green light for the mass surveillance of Americans. Through programs he revealed, like PRISM, the NSA is able to collect and store our Internet search history, the content of our emails, what files we have shared, who we have chatted with electronically, and more.
That’s why people like NSA whistleblower William Binney said that we know the NSA was spying on Trump because it spies on all of us!
Ironically, FISA itself was passed after the Church Committee Hearings revealed the abuses, criminality, and violations of our privacy that the CIA and other intelligence agencies had been committing for years. FISA was supposed to rein in the intelligence community but, as is often the case in Washington, it did the opposite: it ended up giving the government even more power to spy on us.
So President Trump might have been “wiretapped” by Obama, as he claimed, but unfortunately he will not draw the right conclusions from the violation. He will not see runaway spying on Americans as a grotesque attack on American values. That is unfortunate, because this could have provided a great teaching moment for the president. Seeing how all of us are vulnerable to this kind of government abuse, President Trump could have changed his tune on the PATRIOT Act and all government attacks on our privacy. He could have stood up for liberty, which is really what makes America great.
Section 702 of the FISA Act was renewed in 2012, just before we learned from Snowden how it is abused. It is set to expire this December unless Congress extends it again. Knowing what we now know about this anti-American legislation we must work hard to prevent its renewal. They will try to scare us into supporting the provision, but the loss of our liberty is what should scare us the most!
As someone who lives in a rural area that is 99% white, I can back up all of the data in this article. A lot of these people are poor and uneducated. They do not take care of themselves, eat mainly processed foods, drink alcohol like a fish, and have no motivation to be healthy. The youth is plagued by a drug epidemic. I cannot speak for urban areas, but rural white America is not doing so well.
In 2015, a blockbuster study came to a surprising conclusion: Middle-aged white Americans are dying younger for the first time in decades, despite positive life expectancy trends in other wealthy countries and other segments of the US population.
The research, by Princeton University’s Anne Case and Angus Deaton, highlighted the links between economic struggles, suicides, and alcohol and drug overdoses.
Since then, Case and Deaton have been working to more fully explain their findings.
They’ve now come to a compelling conclusion: It’s complicated. There’s no single reason for this disturbing increase in the mortality rate, but a toxic cocktail of factors.
In a new 60-page paper, “Mortality and morbidity in the 21st Century,” out in draft form in the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity Thursday, the researchers weave a narrative of “cumulative disadvantage” over a lifetime for white people ages 45 through 54, particularly those with low levels of education.
Along with worsening job prospects over the past several decades, this group has seen their chances of a stable marriage and family decline, along with their overall health. To manage their despair about the gap between their hopes and what’s come of their lives, they’ve often turned to drugs, alcohol, and suicide.
Meanwhile, gains in fighting heart disease have stalled, and rates of obesity and diabetes have ploddingly climbed.
So the rise in mortality for white mid-life people in America since the late 1990s is actually the final stage of a decades-long process. “It’s about the collapse of white middle class,” said Case. Here are the five big takeaways from the researchers’ new opus.
1) Suicides, alcohol, and drug overdose deaths have gone up across the entire country. (Read: It’s not just a rural problem.)
As you can see on the left-hand map, the epidemic started in the Southwest. Now it’s “country-wide,” the study authors write, and the increase can be “seen at every level of residential urbanization in the US.” So it’s not just a rural problem or an urban problem — it’s both.
The crisis is particularly acute among middle-aged whites. “The deaths of despair come from a long-standing process of cumulative disadvantage for those with less than a college degree,” Case and Deaton write. “The story is rooted in the labor market, but involves many aspects of life, including health in childhood, marriage, child rearing, and religion.”
In an interview, Deaton explained, “The cohort that entered the labor market in the ’70s on down, their jobs earnings and prospects are worse. That affected their marriage prospects. Marriages got screwed up. They had children out of wedlock. Their pain levels [are] going up.” All that contributes to the deaths of despair.
The study authors don’t see the opioid supply as the fundamental factor here, but “prescription of opioids for chronic pain added fuel to the flames, making the epidemic much worse than it otherwise would have been,” they wrote.
The impact of rising deaths of despair on overall mortality was masked until the late 1990s by the decline of heart disease deaths. But recently that has changed too.
2) Deaths from chronic diseases such as diabetes have been rising
Progress against mortality from heart disease has slowed and stopped, and deaths from cancer, which had been on a steady decline, are also stagnating in this group.
Meanwhile, other chronic diseases have continued to rise in the whole population, particularly among middle-aged white people. Diabetes’ prevalence has exploded in the US over the past 20 years. Nearly 30 million Americans live with the disease today — more than three times the number in the early 1990s. And this may be a major, underappreciated driver of the mortality trend.
3) The least-educated Americans are suffering the most
The rise in mortality among middle-aged whites is largely being driven by those with a high school degree or less. The researchers find that the gap in mortality between more and less educated is increasing, while mortality is also rising for those without a college degree and falling for those with a college degree.
“It looks like there are two Americas,” Case said. “One for people who went to college and one that didn’t.”
The middle-aged whites with less than a bachelor’s degree saw “progress stop in mortality from heart disease and cancer, and saw increases in chronic lower respiratory disease and deaths from drugs, alcohol, and suicide,” the researchers write.
Why education is such an important health indicator is difficult to untangle, Case added. “But when you think about what happens when industries pull out of towns, the tax base implodes, schools [are] not well funded, and the death spiral continues.”
In the past, people with low levels of education could get a job in a factory and work their way up the chain of command. “You could graduate high school, work at Bethlehem Steel, get more money every year as you get more experienced,” Deaton said, “and turn yourself into one of the famed blue-collar aristocrats of the 1970s.” Now, he added, “There’s a feeling that life has gone, and remainders of that life are getting less and less for each generation.”
To be clear, the study authors don’t buy the idea that one’s income relative to what one expected is influencing mortality. Rather, “It’s the life you expected to have relative to your father or grandfather — it’s just not there anymore,” Deaton said.
4) Other nonwhite racial groups aren’t experiencing the same mortality uptick — so it’s not just about income
As you can see here, mortality for middle-aged black people converged with mortality for middle-aged white people with low levels of education in the late 2000s (though the white population overall is still doing better than African Americans). Meanwhile, mortality rates among Hispanics continued to fall.
These other racial groups aren’t necessarily doing any better economically than their white counterparts, which is part of the reason Case and Deaton don’t accept a simple income explanation for the death uptick.
“It is possible that it is not the last 20 years that matters, but rather that the long-run stagnation in wages and in incomes has bred a sense of hopelessness,” they write. “But … even if we go back to the late 1960s, the ethnic and racial patterns of median family incomes are similar for whites, blacks, and Hispanics, and so can provide no basis for their sharply different mortality outcomes after 1998.”
Instead, the researchers think the fact that the overall life prospects for white middle-aged people without a BA have declined over time — they are doing worse than their parents on both a personal and professional level, and probably worse than they expected — is nudging mortality downward. This regression is different from the story of progress in the African American community, for example. Here’s Case and Deaton again:
The historian Carol Anderson argued in an interview in Politico (2016) that for whites “if you’ve always been privileged, equality begins to look like oppression,” and contrasts the pessimism among whites with the “sense of hopefulness, that sense of what America could be, that has been driving black folks for centuries.” That hopefulness is consistent with the much lower suicide rates among blacks, but beyond that, while suggestive, it is hard to confront such accounts with the data.
5) This story is unique to the US
The US, particularly middle-aged white Americans, is an outlier in the developed world when it comes to this mid-life mortality uptick.
“Mortality rates in comparable rich countries have continued their pre-millennial fall at the rates that used to characterize the US,” Case and Deaton write. “In contrast to the US, mortality rates in Europe are falling for those with low levels of educational attainment, and are doing so more rapidly than mortality rates for those with higher levels of education.”
If American wants to turn the trend around, then it has to become a little more like other countries with more generous safety nets and more accessible health care, the researchers said. Introducing a single-payer health system, for example, or value-added or goods and services taxes that support a stronger safety net would be top of their policy wish list. (America right now is, of course, moving in the opposite direction under Trump, and shredding the safety net.)
They also admit, though, that it’s taken decades to reverse the mortality progress in America, and it won’t be turned around quickly or easily. But there is one “no-brainer” change that could help, Case added. “The easy thing would be close the tap on prescription opioids for chronic pain.”
There was a time when there were no speed limits, no seat belt requirements, and a car never had to be registered or inspected. One simply purchased a vehicle, hopped in it, and drove off. Today we are embraced with hundreds of different traffic regulations, some of which the average person doesn’t even know exist.
Common sense would dictate that one should drive carefully for the sake of themselves and other drivers. Unfortunately common sense isn’t so common nowadays, so the traffic enforcement system is in place to help keep people in check. If one exceeds a set speed limit or fails to wear a seatbelt then their punishment is to pay the state a fine. Of course no one can as much as start a vehicle without possessing a proper state issued license and registration. As with everything else in the operation of America, there is a government organization in place to administer the regulations. Everyone has come to love this organization known as the DMV. Driving in America can be broken down fairly easy – Average Joe gets his license at 16 years old. He is required to register his first car, but not without first having insurance on it. He must also get the vehicle inspected. All of the above come with a cost of course. Joe must do a set speed limit, wear a seatbelt, use all signals as intended, keep vehicle in between a narrow set of lines, not follow too close to others, and of course not be distracted in any way. A violation of any of the above will result in a cop pulling him over and writing him a ticket that will surely result in a fine.
The state knows that people will break the rules and as such know they can make a lot of revenue from traffic enforcement. Millions of people are pulled over every day for simple “infractions” such as failure to use a turn signal or rolling through a stop sign. Most will receive a ticket and then have to pay a fine. Others may be let go with warning, while some may be subject to even bigger issues if the cop chooses to ignore the Fourth Amendment and incriminate people with searches and questioning. Now I believe safety is an important issue, but not at the tradeoff of gouging people of their money. I do think that there should be speed limits on certain roads. I believe that people have a right to choose if they want to wear a seatbelt, even if it is common sense to do so. I think seatbelts should still be enforced for children as they are not old enough to make their own decisions. I think police should not be focusing on giving out traffic tickets, but instead be focusing on the real crimes that are occurring. If car registrations, licenses, and other regulations are to be kept then they should be inexpensive, or better yet, free. The DMV, like any other government organization, is bloated and can be drastically downsized. Computers can handle most of the work that people used to handle. The DMV can still collect fees, but nowhere near the amount they do now.
Of course I do not have all the answers to regulating traffic and making the roads safer. But I completely disagree with extorting money out of people. New York State has a points system on their driver’s licenses. I think the points system is a good idea and should be used for those that violate traffic laws. If someone starts out at 0 points on their license, that means they have a clean driving record. Speeding over certain posted limits will cause the points to increase. The points stay on the driver’s record for a set period of time. If a driver hits a certain amount of points, they can lose their license for a certain period of time. Repeat offenders will simply lose their license for longer periods of time. Insurance companies can penalize drivers due to their risky driving behaviors. This may seem contradictory to my view on fines, but insurance companies are able to judge drivers based on their risk, and those that speed or break other traffic laws are higher risk and should pay more. Drivers can choose to take defensive driving courses to lower their points, and ultimately stop breaking traffic laws. The above already takes place, at least in NY. By changing the rules slightly, the state could abolish traffic fines. This would also lower costs that are involved with town courts and county District Attorney’s from spending all their time on traffic violation offenders. Highly trained and educated police officers can also focus their time and efforts on the criminal element, and not sitting in a car checking for people that break the speed limit. I am all for traffic enforcement laws to keep our roads safe, but fines are not the solution, they are simply a way for the state to extort money from the citizens.
Those of you who have read Dr. Paul’s columns on healthcare will see the same message that Libertarians have been preaching since day one – get government out of healthcare! The Republocrats have failed in repealing Obamacare and replacing it with essentially the same thing. This may be a good thing…perhaps now our representatives can sit back and discover what a mess Obamacare is and that full repeal is the only action they should take. High hopes.
This Thursday, the House of Representatives will vote on a Republican bill that supposedly repeals Obamacare. However, the bill retains Obamacare’s most destructive features.
That is not to say this legislation is entirely without merit. For example, the bill expands the amount individuals can contribute to a health savings account (HSA). HSAs allow individuals to save money tax-free to pay for routine medical expenses. By restoring individuals’ control over healthcare dollars, HSAs remove the distortions introduced in the healthcare market by government policies encouraging over-reliance on third-party payers.
The legislation also contains other positive tax changes, such a provision allowing individuals to use healthcare tax credits to purchase a “catastrophic-only” insurance policy. Ideally, health insurance should only cover major or catastrophic health events. No one expects their auto insurance to cover routine oil changes, so why should they expect health insurance to cover routine checkups?
Unfortunately the bill’s positive aspects are more than outweighed by its failure to repeal Obamacare’s regulations and price controls. Like all price controls, Obamacare distorts the signals that a freely functioning marketplace sends to consumers and producers, thus guaranteeing chaos in the marketplace. The result of this chaos is higher prices, reduced supply, and lowered quality.
Two particularly insidious Obamacare regulations are guaranteed issue and community ratings. As the name suggests, guaranteed issue forces health insurance companies to issue a health insurance policy to anyone who applies for coverage. Community ratings forces health insurance companies to charge an obese couch potato and a physically-fit jogger similar premiums. This forces the jogger to subsidize the couch potato’s unhealthy lifestyle.
Obamacare’s individual mandate was put in place to ensure that guaranteed issue and community ratings would not drive health insurance companies out of business. Rather than repealing guaranteed issue and community ratings, the House Republicans’ plan forces those who go longer than two months without health insurance to pay a penalty to health insurance companies when they purchase new policies.
It is hard to feel sympathy for the insurance companies since they supported Obamacare. These companies were eager to accept government regulations in exchange for a mandate that individuals buy their product. But we should feel sympathy for Americans who are struggling to afford, or even obtain, healthcare because of Obamacare and who will obtain little or no relief from Obamacare 2.0.
The underlying problem with the Republican proposal is philosophical. The plan put forth by the alleged pro-free-market Republicans implicitly accepts the premise that healthcare is a right that must be provided by government. But rights are inalienable aspects of our humanity, not gifts from government.
If government can give us rights, then it can also limit or even take away those rights. Giving government power to enforce a fictitious right to healthcare justifies government theft and coercion. Thievery and violence do not suddenly become moral when carried out by governments.
Treating healthcare as a right leads to government intervention, which, as we have seen, inevitably leads to higher prices and lower quality. This is why, with the exception of those specialties, like plastic surgery, that are still treated as goods, not rights, healthcare is one of the few areas where innovation leads to increased costs.
America’s healthcare system will only be fixed when a critical mass of people rejects the philosophical and economic fallacies justifying government-run healthcare. Those of us who know the truth must continue to work to spread the ideas of, and grow the movement for, liberty.
I have a deep passion for the subject of history, especially American history. I enjoy history not because I want to become an ideologue or subject matter expert, but instead because I simply enjoy learning about how humans have evolved over time. History is generally taught in academia as a timeline of human progress and lessons learned. We are told that we have evolved to be more sophisticated than the generation before us. While indeed we have become much more civilized, there are many traits we have lost to history. Many of these traits have become history simply because there are those that feel it has hampered our progress, even though they were morally sufficient and produced a normal society.
I am considered a “Millennial” by name only. I refuse to accept that title because there are certain traits that I refuse to give up in the name of political correctness. I have always said that I belong in the 18th century as far as my values and morals are concerned. That does not mean that I believe in a world where slavery is acceptable, or where technology is non-existent. Again, I believe we do advance through history, learn our lessons, and progress as humans. But in my studies of early American culture I can’t help but wonder why we left some of the good values behind. To make it easier to see where I am going with this, I will simply list some of the values that, if kept, would be good for us today. I will also explain the outcome of not possessing these values on generations such as mine and the generations that are to follow.
Family: The modern family has been ripped, torn, and stomped apart by political correctness. 19th century families were considered whole in nature. There was a father, mother, and children all living under one roof. The father and mother were married before even thinking of baring a child. The parents stayed married until death and worked out their differences. Their most important goal in life was to raise their children to be better off than they were growing up. There was dinner on the table every night and quality time was spent with the children. Outside influence by the government did not exist. Today we find broken families, single mothers raising children, fathers paying half their earnings because of court orders, and children being torn in custody battles. Children live in households where the siblings may have a different father or mother. Even families where both parents live together may be living off of government assistance. The modern family is poisoning the next generation of children. Children are growing up with no father figure or the lack of a mother. This instills a mental scar on children and can hinder their development into adulthood.
Men: I have tremendous respect for my grandfathers and my father. I look up to them because they are true role models for what I wanted to be. They are men in every sense of the word. They lived their life working hard, not for their own good, but for the good of their family. When down and being kicked, they got up swinging. I look at “men” from my generation and I do not see the strength and stamina that make a man, a man. I include myself in the mix as I am not married and have no children, so I do not see myself as strong of a man as I should be. But having children doesn’t necessarily make a man. There are many deadbeat fathers out there. How the modern man treats a woman is one area that defines his character. I feel that women are to be respected by men. Yet looking around you see constant heartbreak of women due to mistreatment from men. I am not bashing all men, there are some good ones out there. But a lot of men use women as an object and it has led the charge of the women’s independent movement of men altogether, which may seem all well, but creates a hole in the family structure as will be explained below.
Women: First let me start out by saying that I am not advocating that women should all be stay at home moms and not have independence to become what they choose. Furthermore, I am not saying that women should not have the same rights as men. But comparing the millennial generation of women to those before them brings about a lot of noticeable changes. Younger women are being taught that they are seen as inferior to men and should constantly strive to become better. This teaching has come down from the politically correct education system and has created a real mess of our society. There has always been a natural divide between the genders. For example, a man is physically stronger, therefore men fight wars and build things. But the modern day women is taught that she can do the same and should fight for that right. Women have abilities that men simply can not do. Child bearing is one such ability, as is their relationship to an infant the moment he/she is born. The ability to support a child in the womb for 9 months, give birth, and then nurture it through infancy, is simply an amazing thing. But again, modern women are told that they should be seen as more than just someone that can bear children or cater to a household. This ‘independence’ movement has done nothing but corrupt most women as they continue to strive to be something they should not be. If a woman chooses not to have a family and instead follows a career path, that is perfectly fine. But regardless on how the subject affects someone emotionally, a woman needs a man and a man needs a woman. Modern society has done nothing but push men and women apart and it has ruined the whole concept of the family structure. Even couples that marry nowadays tend not to stay together. The main reason always comes down to independence. Couples eventually believe that being married hinders their individual progress in life. Marriage used to be a bond between two people and they progressed together till death. Nowadays, it is everybody for themselves for the sake of ‘independence’.
Morals: I think the one thing that makes a society normal is having morals. Looking around today it seems that no morals exist. Turn on the TV and violence, sex, and vulgarity are everywhere. People have no respect for one another and will lie, cheat, steal, and even murder for the sake of becoming better than the next person. I cannot put a finger on where we went wrong with our morals, but I have a theory. Throughout humanity we have had periods where humans have lived in peace only to be followed by chaos. I believe that it is a natural thing for humans to want chaos in their lives. We cannot survive without drama, violence, hate, and war. It is in out genetic makeup to want chaos. But I also believe that there is a good inside all of us. But the good in us has to overcome the outside influence of the bad. Looking into history I have found that the swings between moral periods and immoral periods comes down to influence from powerful people, technology, and events. I think someone who has a family and is left to live a peaceful life will tend to be more moral. They will devote themselves to family and friends. The fast paced world we live in has pushed out the inner good of people and brought out the bad. Just walk into a store and hold the door for someone. If they do say “Thank You”, it will be a mere mumble with no eye contact. Pass someone in the aisle and say “Hello”, they will look at you like you have three heads. Complement a woman and you may end up in jail. Befriend someone and find they betrayed you in some way. The list goes on. Believe it or not, human beings have not always been this way. Above I stated that marriages do not last because of the ‘independence’ movement among women and men. Marriages are also affected by immorality as well. A man should never look at another woman like he looks at his wife. Yet both men and women cheat on their significant others with very little consequences. Children adapt to their environments and learn from their parents. The immoral behavior of the previous generations affect the current. I think the fix for immorality is to focus on the next generation and not let them be influenced. Raise children to be educated and to be critical thinkers, mainly to think for themselves. Avoid vulgar TV shows and movies. Teach them at a young age about the power of the 10 Commandments, even if you are not religious. Teach them that the bond of family is very important and that material possessions should not be a major factor in their life. Teach them what normal is by showing them what isn’t normal. We need the next generation to fix the issues that we have caused.
In Part II I will discuss Work Ethic, Government Dependence, and influence of Technology, and how all three have an affect on my generation and where we swayed from previous generations.
I just finished up watching the HBO Miniseries ‘The Pacific’. I seldom binge watch (or watch TV period), but there is something about historical dramas that keeps me going back for more. The miniseries is produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg and covers some of the major campaigns of the Pacific theater during World War 2. I was extremely impressed with not just the historical accuracy of this show, but attention to detail down to every knot, button, and seam of the 1st Marine division. As most shows, there is a focus on a particular group of main characters throughout. I will admit there are some inappropriate scenes which will discourage parents from allowing younger kids to watch. Then again, the scenes of Marines losing limbs is just about as gruesome, but it is reality and should be shown as so. I will not give an overview of the show since you should watch it for yourself. I think it was very well put together.
Not surprisingly, the education system barely covers the battles fought during World War 2, especially in the Pacific theater. If you were to ask any high school or college student about the battles of Guadalcanal, Peleliu, or Okinawa, you will most likely get a deer in the headlights response. They may know about Iwo Jima, simply because the image of the American flag being raised up on Mount Suribachi has become a symbol. Educators may say that the average student who has no interest in history should not be forced to learn the minute details of the war. I say too bad! The average student wouldn’t know a thing about jumping off a ship at 18 and marching up a beach head with shots firing at them either. I believe ALL students should learn about the major Pacific battles, as well as every other battle fought in every American war since our founding. They need to appreciate the freedom they have by discovering firsthand the atrocities that the previous generations had to go through to secure them. Now I have my reservations on war and believe that most wars, WW1 and WW2 included, are started by individuals of high power for their own benefit, but I will never stop honoring the young men and women who risked their life to go fight in them. Honor and respect for the American soldier should go beyond a few holidays and a couple stickers on a car bumper. The American people should know the horrors of war and should know the history of them in and out.
I would like to see more miniseries produced like ‘The Pacific’. Tom Hanks seems to like covering the World War 2 era and had educated himself quite well. Unfortunately, the bulk of television will be smutty dramas and “reality” TV. Sadly our children watch the crappy stuff and poison their minds. If they were to watch more shows like ‘The Pacific’, they would become educated and perhaps appreciate their freedom more. Of course picking up a book and reading also helps, but that is even more of an impossible feat. So take a couple weeks off from watching ‘Shameless’ and instead turn on ‘The Pacific’, you will not only learn something, but will be impressed on how well the show portrays the World War 2 era.