Thursday, June 28, 2012

Supreme Court Decision on Health Care Reform.....A Good One

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court always feels the weight of responsibility and the weight of history.  We have seen it before.  Brown vs. the Board of Education, Roe vs. Wade, United States versus Richard all these landmark cases the Chief Justice is leading the majority.  In today's historic decision on the Affordable Care Act, Chief Justice Roberts, a conservative Republican appointee, courageously lead the majority in an opinion uphelding the law in a 5-4 decision.

The great thing about the fact that justices are appointed for life is that they are not subject to re-election or popular appeal.  Their job, however unpopular or popular a particular decision might be, is to strictly and fairly interpret the Constitution.  Sometimes we are ideologically pleased, sometimes we are not. The framers got it right again.

Chief Justice Roberts honored "the robe" today, honored "the court", honored the judicial system. He is a conservative Republican, has conversative friends, likely conservative family, he was appointed by GW Bush, he was fought for and confirmed by conservative senators, and today he honorably disappointed all of them. He "took one" for the country. He sealed quite a legacy today, in my view.

This decision is a landmark decision and a victory for America.  I have been in the health insurance business for 35 years.  I do not know how the law will impact my business.  I do know the current system is broken.  This law will be no panacea.  But I believe it will put us on the right trajectory.  Health care is a long and complex discussion (example: the cost for America's health care is ALREADY being very inefficiently absorbed into the system!). It consumes close to a one-fifth of our economy.  Anytime that much money is involved, easy solutions or simple discussions they are not.

Politically, this affirmative decision will only add momentum to the President's re-election efforts.  It puts Mitt Romney in a position of having to campaign on taking American's health care away from them.  It will have him campaigning against a concept of which he is the "father" (of which he will be often reminded), a concept which is said, by a Washington Post Congressional Budget Office piece, to reduce the deficit by $1.3 trillion, (of course, I'm sure many of my conservative friends know better than the CBO). ;-)

This issue is also another example of the difficult environment in which an incumbent President functions.  The world and it's institutions are under tremendous stress and transition.  It behooves all of us to stay closely engaged in the process.  If we do not, special interests and the pawnes and puppets of special interests, will prevail.  Stay informed and stay vigilant.  Our founding fathers, as wise as they were, did not envision the complexity and the varibles we face in the 21st century.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Portofina, Italy

Beautiful color and reflections.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thought for the Day

"Satchel Paige - 1941" by Bernie Hubert

What a wonderful painting of one of the most colorful and cool players in the history of baseball.  Satchel Paige began his career in 1926 with the Chattanooga Black Lookouts of the Southern Negro Baseball League.  He became legendary, often pitching both ends of a doubleheader, later becoming the biggest draw in the Negro Big Leagues.  He played his first game in the Major Leagues at age 42, after Jackie Robinson finally broke the carrier barrier in baseball.  Satchel pitched his final professional game at age 56 for Peninsula of the Carolina League in 1966 against the Greensboro Yankees.

Thankfully Satchel was inducted into The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  He was such a character of our times.  A great Satchel quote is, "Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits." In the above painting, appears he may just be sitting.  The Atlanta Braves allowed Satchel to travel with the team as a pitching coach in the late 1960s, allowing him to build up some pension credits.  Kudos to the Braves.

Canadian Rockies

Cabin on a lake in the Canadian Rockies.  I would likely refuse to leave......... (provided I had internet access and my bride). ;)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

2095: A 20th and 21st Century Journey Begun in the Old American South

(A synopsis of a novel to be written in the future):

As they hover close to one another for both physical and emotional warmth on a cold and blustery February day in 2040, a 23-year old Angela can't help but feel the love which permeates from this large, southern American family.  They stand outside of the First Covenant Community Missionary Church, a beautiful large red brick church with enormous columns and a great holy steeple, a Christian church once called The First Baptist Church, in a proud, midsized, progressive southern city, Angela's roots deep in this pleasant southern hamlet. They stand in front of what has become a very large columbarium, where the remains of a grandfather she so adored will be honored and stored.  So much for which to be grateful, so much on which to reflect, so much ahead, an adventure for Anglea for the balance of an amazing 21st century beyond the wildest of imaginations of any of those gathered at this beautiful celebration of life.

This is the story of Angela.  At age 5, her parents would take her to minor league baseball games, camping, to Sunday School, as a way to remain at least somewhat tied to a past mostly now a long and distant memory.  She loved stories her grandparents told, stories of the past, tales of a time gone by.  The pace of cultural, technological, societal change had become so rapid that a five-year span now resembled a 35-year span during a previous time.

Difficult to may have been a typical or an atypical southern American family story, dotted with contradictions, dating back to the early 20th century.  Her great grandfather, born in 1915, whose roots trace back to Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain, and whose grandfather had been a young confederate soldier in the American Civil War, was a rough, crusty product of a wanting, farming, agricultural age in an America of a radically different time. His development was stunted by the Great Depression and harshly impacted by a poor, rural, uneducated, racially conflicted South, where he struggled to find his place in America. One entrepreneurial venture and failure after another, seemingly always on the wild and risky side, ranging from moonshine production and logging ventures, made for a tumultuous life for he and his family in the early 20th century.

Her grandfather, born in the 1940s, was a product of post-world war prosperity, a more peaceful, structured, educated Southern environment.  He grew up in a small southern city during the second half of the 20th century, a time characterized by more opportunity in the South, but a South still struggling to find it's place in mainstream 20th century America.  Influenced by the Bible-belt, yet a much more progressive South, her grandfather was well-educated, intellectually curious, upwardly mobile, slightly rebellious, yet grounded in a hope of instilling a sense of worth in his own children someday.  He had a need to accomplish, a need to contribute, a desire to better understand a new South, a changing America.  He married a beautiful, cultured, bright, accomplished girl from an old southern family. 

Angela's parents themselves were adventurous early-on in their relationship. They lived in the southwest first, her Dad a U. S. Customs Agent on Border Patrol at the second largest crossing on the southern U. S. border, venturesome and hazardous.  Later they would move to a deep south, river/ mountain town with a storied history dating back to the Civil War and early railroad dominance.  As they began to experience the uneasiness with a radically changing landscape in America, especially based on experiences in the southwest, they began to see the need and advantage of geographic closeness to roots, to family, to culture which seemed calming, stabilizing, warm, familiar.  The world was beginning to change, radically, and they could sense it, even in the very early years of the 21st century.

Angela herself, was a beautiful, bright, athletic, gregarious, academically gifted 18-year old young lady, born and raised on a magnolia-lined suburban street in the deep south. She graduated, with honors, from her public high school on a muggy, hot summer night in early June, 2035. Colleges from around the south and throughout the east made offers to attract her to their campuses, as they were certain she would enhance the student population at their institutions. As she settled in on a small, private college in southern Vermont, she had little idea of what was in store for her as she entered the world, a 21st century now in full swing.

Outside of her rather sheltered existence in the little deep south town where she began, the world was under tremendous stress and in virtual chaos.  What was once The Euro Zone was now controlled by the Republic of Germany which was threatening smaller northern and eastern European countries.  China and India had grown tremendously large middle classes which were putting great pressure on their environments and both country's ability to maintain order.  American civil discourse had deteriorated to the point of near class warfare, well beyond what some had been calling a Cold Civil War for some time.  Angela inevitably began to travel the world.

It was the early-2050s when Angela barely escaped death as Israeli scud missiles began relentlessly hammering downtown Amman, Jordan.  Angela clung to a male companion, as they dashed out of the American Embassy on to the street of the Jordanian capital.  The scene was chaotic as people ran for shelter amidst a rain of dust and debris.  Angela, returning to Jordan for the first time since a church mission trip during college, she had been inside the embassy viewing plagues and photos honoring her great great Uncle Harrison who had occupied the embassy representing the United States as Ambassador to Jordan during the late 1960s.  Little did she know that she was witnessing the initial shots of a Third World War, which would consume much of the world's economic resources.  Israel was launching simultaneous, preemptive strikes on Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Iran, having been continuously threaten and harassed with nuclear annihilation over the past few decades.  Russia and the United States would become heavily invested on opposite sides of the conflict over the next 7 long years, a conflict which would take a great toll on the world, including the total ruin of several nations in the old Euro Zone, the Middle East, East Asia, and North Africa.

Back in America, poverty was rampant in big and small city America, most of the social safety net now non-existent, and gated upper class communities prevailed in much of the south and the midwest.  Large northeast and southwestern cites were unsafe for most, the exception; heavily armed residents, and these cities continued to lose residents at a rapid pace. Mexican immigrants made up 65% of the population in the south and 80% of the population in the southwest, "people of color" making up 70% of America's population.  The prison population was at an all-time high in America, five times the largest population of prisoners of any developed country. The legalization of some lower impact drugs such as marijuana, had done nothing to lower the crime rate.  It had only slowed it's rapid growth.

Religious compounds had sprung up all around America.  They served to assist the the elderly, as well as safe havens for low income people of all ages.  Private heliports, and health care boutiques were scattered about the country to serve the needs of the super wealthy.  The wealth gap between the wealthiest and the poorest of Americans had grown obscenely.  There was no semblance of a middle class. Political parties had little influence any longer.  Special interests organizations such as big business, doctors, unions, environmentalists, religious cults, socialists, white supremacists, were competing for campaign dollars and fielding independent candidates who served their own narrow interests.

Now....... fast forward to the year 2095.  Angela, at age 78, has now lived in many parts of the world.  She has witnessed numerous wars, including a major third world war, and repeated cyber attacks and germ warfare which wiped out large populations and caused major chaos, including a multitude of death and damage in Washington, DC, Seattle, and San Jose, California.  Repeated, extreme conflict in the middle east, pulling America into defense of Israel as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas warred relentlessly on Israel, and guerrilla war in Asia, prevailed during the mid-century.  She witnessed and was impacted by the total disappearance of many coastal cities around the world, including Mumbai, Singapore, Venice, and New Orleans, as 95% of the Arctic melted and sea levels  rose around the world as the globe warmed to an average year around temperature of 94 degrees. She lost a dear daughter and grandchild in this climate catastrophe of the last quarter of the 21st century.

Angela was part of major technological advancements during her time spent in a cyber colony in northern Europe as one of her second husband's companies produced robots used in counter-terrorists special forces operations around the globe.  She witnessed major medical cures, human cloning, and medical advances as her son practiced medicine in an upper class private American medical reserve in California.  Forty-five percent of America's gross domestic product was going into the bio-medical, pharmaceutical, wellness, healthcare industry by the mid-21st century. She watched the world population explode as life expectancy soared.

Angela  lived to see world power shift and come full circle, as America, after great turmoil, civil unrest, economic struggle, and near demise, once again rose to full preeminence and once again become the premier super power in the world.  A world government was now in place, headed by a panel of seven  superpower Presidents and Dictators to maintain world order and control over less developed nations, while coordinating emergency climate response, food distribution, and, mostly importantly, for the maintaining of a worldwide extraterrestrial defense system, the coordination of space travel, and for the overseeing of 5th generation internet development.

The story of Angela's life is beyond the wildest of  imaginations.  At age 78, having narrowly escaped death on two occasions, Angela is alive, she is beautiful, and she is very healthy, thanks to bio-medical organ cloning and other nutritional and medical advances.  Her life expectancy is age 118.  She is surrounded, virtually, by a beautiful, loving, wealthy family (they live around America) as she lives in an assisted living medical / nutritional / spiritual compound back in her deep south town, now on the outskirts of a super megalopolis stretching from Havana south, to Charlotte north, and to Mexico City west.  Havana and Mexico City are now the southern-most large American cities, with Charlotte serving as a more central national capital, while Washington continues to recover from heavy mid-century catastrophic damage to the city and it's people.  Angela has married three times, first to a college sweetheart, then a European baron, and she is living in retirement with an Asian spiritual/yoga guru from Tibet she met on an Asian cruise ship. 

Come, follow Angela, her roots in the rural 20th century American south, as she makes her way through an amazing 21st century.........a century you could never envision.

 Here she is in 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Greensboro Grasshoppers - June 16, 2012

One of America's great minor league venues, Newbridge Bank Park, downtown Greensboro, NC, 8,000 in attendance on a beautiful June night, Charleston Riverdogs (Yankees affiliate) vs. the the Grasshoppers (Miami Marlins affiliated).  See the very cool covered outdoor sports bar, with ceiling fans and flat screen TVs, in left field corner.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Election of 2012 and Proper Focus

As the 2012 Presidential election approaches, it will be important for the electorate to keep the proper focus.  We can be easily distracted by "slick" ads on both sides.  In addition, the communications "war" on cable, in print, and on blogs and other websites can be overwhelming. 

Above are two charts.  The first one simply charts the decline of jobs prior to January 2008 and the subsequent steady growth of job creation since that time.  We have had 28 straight months of job growth.  We lost 750,000 jobs in the last one month of Bush.

The bottom chart graphs the components of the deficit.  As you see, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan account for well over a third of the debt. The Bush tax cuts could easily be reversed with a return to Clinton level tax brackets for upper income. The source of the information is Congressional Budget Office and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Be informed.  Vote wisely.  I say "stay the course".  The economic hole we are in is deep, and the direction and the vision for America is correct.

Monday, June 11, 2012

An Old Country Squire

I like this photo.  We have a picture of a country gentleman and his dog taken in 1935 by the fireplace in his cabin in North Carolina.  Notice some of the details in the photo.  The square and plane on the wall indicates he is likely a carpenter and craftsman.  Note the violin case on the floor.  He likely plays good country music.  The fine clock and printed material on the mantle indicates some education and the fact he may be able to enjoy some of the nicer things of life.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Beacon Hill area, in my favorite large city.

New York City

NYC.  I could live here.

Alamance County Centennial Photo From 1949

This photo was taken in 1949 as part of the Alamance County, NC 100th year anniversary.  Men were asked to grow beards.  My Uncle Oscar A. Bass, Jr. is the fourth fellow at the bar.  He was a great guy.  Interesting to see a female bar maid in NC in 1949.  The "Magic Shoe" sign in the rear may have a family connection to my family as well.  Thanks to the Burlington Times-News for publishing these great vintage photos. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Picture of the Day

Making ice cream on a Sunday afternoon.

Beautiful Spots in the World

 South Pacific
Colmar Alsace, France
 Kawana Falls, The Phillippines
Storseisundet Bridge, Norway

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

JFK Death Announcement at Boston Symphony Hall

Could you imagine having been in Boston Symphony Hall the day of November 22, 1963 when John F. Kennedy's death announcement was made to a Boston audience who had not heard it?  President Kennedy was a frequent visitor to the hall.  In your mind's eye, go back, place yourself there.

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