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There Can Be No Unity Until There Is an Appetite for Compromise

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Compromise

There were two things that the Framers understood to be abundantly clear. One, the United States would necessarily be a nation comprised of individuals. And two, those individuals, no matter how strong in their beliefs, had to respect each other through the embrace of compromise.

Today, the Marxist-Progressives of the Left are extending a call for unity with a Janus face. Smiling and seemingly conciliatory, the President has issued a call for the nation to come together, for unity. But out of their darker face vomits hatred, intolerance, and a demand for complete capitulation, for surrender.

To the darkened Janus face of the Marxist-Progressive Left, “unity” means adopt our way of thinking or you are an enemy of the state, and enemy of the country. Their thinking, their demand to acquiesce, is the furthest thing from compromise the English language has to offer.

So, the question is this. Unless you are willing to be subjugated, how do you achieve unity with those who do not want to compromise with you on key issues? The answer is you can’t.

Therefore, the Democrats calls for unity as they castigate anyone who does not march lockstep with their neo-fascist ideology is a false plea. They don’t expect their opposition to accept the call for unity. They simply had to make the ask for appearance sake.

That leaves us at a point in our Great American Experiment where we literally have two Americas: one for the those who would like to co-opt the nation for Socialism and Globalism; and one that has fidelity to the Founding principles and American individualism.

Regardless of what you think of him, Glen Beck hit the nail on the head the other night. He said that with all the talk of secession it needs to be realized that the faction that is tempting secession is the faction that has lost fidelity to the Founding Documents.

Those of us who have fidelity to our Charters of Freedom are existing in accordance with the strictures laid out in the founding of our nation. Those tempting to alter the nation from those Charters – the neo-Fascists of the Marxist-Progressive Left – are, in fact, the once threatening secession.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be discussing solutions to the divide. Some are immediate remedies to “stop the bleeding,” and others are more long term. All are necessary.

Interesting in it all is this. The generation of hippies, flower power, the distrust of big corporations and anyone over 30, well, they are the ones in control now.

Ironically, they are indignantly totalitarian and unyielding in their ideology, in their lust for power and control. They have created, bastardized, and aligned with behemoth corporations, they are all in their 70s and 80s, and they have become everything they railed against back in the 1960s and 1970s.

So, were they disingenuous then, or are they disingenuous now? Or has absolute power succeeded in corrupting absolutely…again?

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Is Longevity a Matter of Science, or Fate?

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Billions of dollars are spent each year in an attempt to live longer lives. We are told that, with the right diet and dietary supplement, medication, exercise regimen, attitude, and body weight, we can extend our lives beyond our wildest dreams. Aging and death are the failed outcomes of a poor longevity strategy. 

Then you hear about someone following all the proper protocols for long life who die at a young age from cancer or some other disease. It almost shakes your faith in your ability to live longer by doing all the right things. But you assume that that person must have somehow gotten off the health bandwagon. Maybe it was genetic. 

Then you hear about people who are over 100 years old who still smoke and drink and eat all the wrong foods. How could they survive their lifestyle, and even thrive? By all rights and reason, you insist, they should be dead. 

Few things are more demoralizing to dedicated health enthusiasts than hearing about apparently healthy people dying young and apparently sick people living to be very old. We assume that living a healthy lifestyle will extend your life. Are our assumptions about a healthy lifestyle all wrong, or is there something more to longevity than health? 

Is fate a factor in fatality? 

Despite modern science and rationality, many people still believe in fate. People like to believe that their lives have meaning and purpose that is defined by a deity. So long as that deity is considered to be benevolent, one can take solace in the belief that everything that happens is meant to happen. Thus, when someone dies, calling it a fatality conjures up the thought of a fate that is determined by some deity. 

The concept of fate is an old one, which precedes modern rationalism and self-determination. Are we masters of our own fate, able to affect how long we live? Or has a deity already sealed our fate and the moment our lives will end? 

Answering these questions scientifically is not easy. For example, you can take a group of people and feed them health food and supplements for the rest of their lives and compare them to another group which gets no supplements, and see which group lives longer. You may find that the supplement group indeed lived longer. But, to those who believe in fate, that does not prove that the cause of the increased longevity was the better diet. It could be that the individuals in that group were meant to live longer, and were therefore selected for that study’s group by fate. 

The only way to prove that we can lengthen life by adopting certain health strategies is to study one person as both the test subject and the control subject. Take that person and give him the longevity treatment, and follow him his entire life to see exactly how long he lives. This is the 

test result. You would then need to bring that person back to life, send him back in a time machine to the exact time the first treatment was started, but this time give him no special treatment. This is the control result. Does he die at exactly the same time the second time around? 

Of course, if you have a time machine you could theoretically avoid this issue of longevity by going back in time over and over. On the other hand, if fate is a fact, then your repeated lives would be the same. You wouldn’t be able to change your life each time you lived it because its path and outcome are pre-determined. 

That’s the problem with the concept of fate. Whatever happens can be called fateful, and you can’t argue about it because there are no alternative paths to relive to test for alternative outcomes. You can’t really go back in time to try to test fate, unless, of course, you were fated to go back in time to test fate, in which case your results would have been fated. 

However, the concept of fate has some benefits. Whenever something bad happens, it is comforting to conclude that it was meant to happen, that we could not have stopped it from happening. We don’t have to feel responsible. Cause and effect need not apply when fate lends a hand. 

Indeed, fate can challenge the chain of causality. While science can try to determine the sequential link between certain outcomes and their causes, fate can break that chain and deliver a shocking and surprising outcome. There are always variables which have not been considered when conducting an experiment on cause and effect, leading to an unexpected result. 

For example, we know that applying the brake should slow down a car and make it stop. That’s a simple cause and effect relationship. But if the brakes fail, and the car hits somebody, we can either assume there was another causal factor that was not considered, or we can assume that it was fate that caused the person to be hit. 

Scientists would argue that fate had nothing to do with the brakes failing, and would look for physical explanations for the brake failure. But fatalists would conclude that the failure, regardless of the physical cause, was meant to happen at exactly that time because it was fated. 

This means that the cause and effect of science is really operating along different lines than the issue of fate. Science can explain the mechanism by which things happen, but fate explains why they happen. 

Science is very bad at giving answers to the questions of why things happen. “Why” is a term that implies purpose and meaning. Science explains how, not why. Scientists live in a physical world of cause and effect, where things happen according to universal laws of reality. Why those laws exist, or why existence exists, is not a scientific question. It’s answer assumes a purposefulness and consciousness outside of the reality scientists study. 

Why do people die when they do? Healthcare science can tell you how they died. It can propose mechanisms for letting people live longer lives, based on scientific understanding of cause and effect. But when things don’t go the way they were expected to go, scientists cannot 

tell you why. They will just assume that there were variables they did not consider, or that their knowledge is not yet developed enough to know. 

But people want to know why. They want to know why, when they do all the right things, things can still go horribly wrong. And they want to know why, when they do all the wrong things, things can still go surprisingly well. Fate is a convenient answer. 

The problem, though, is that believing in fate can have fatal consequences. There are cases of religious fanatics allowing their children to choke to death because they believed it was God’s will. Why struggle against fate and God’s will? More generally, if our lives are determined by fate, then what purpose is there for self-directed action? 

If we are fated to live long lives, then theoretically we could do anything and still live. We could eat bad food, risk our lives doing dangerous things, and still live another day because our time to die has not yet come. While this may seem as tempting fate, a true fatalist would see that fate is not something you can tempt, since fate is already signed, sealed, and delivered by God. If you could tempt fate, then fate would be mutable, and no longer fate. 

While there seems to be a conflict between fate and science, ironically science has shown that those who believe in fate have greater longevity. Having faith and belonging to a faith-based group has been scientifically shown to add years to one’s life. Letting go and letting God lead the way by having faith in one’s fate is a successful longevity strategy. 

Who has a greater lifespan, a person following a scientifically-defined healthcare regimen, or a person who believes that it’s all in God’s hands? The answer is unclear, but whatever strategy you choose may already be determined, or not. 

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro–another earbud for the Covid Era

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Who knows when this modern day biblical plague will end?

In the meantime we have 21st century electronic gear to keep us in 7/24 communications–at all times.

The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro (True Wireless Earbuds) are the newest model I’ve tested.

I like them quite a bit.

Not only do they eliminate unwanted sounds, they are super comfortable. When you’re sitting in front of a box all day, that’s really important. Anker provides a whole slew of buds that you can experiment with so eventually you’ll find the perfect fit. They also offer excellent customer service, if you need help. Let’s face it, we all need help once in a while…

So back to the ACN part of the equation. Like so many of us, I work from home and these devices block out ambient noises so I can concentrate on work.

The seal (or is it the technology?) is so good that I can simply insert them in my ear as a noise blocker if I want to meditate.

And that’s when they are not even in use as a listening or talking device!

Of course you’ll want to install the firmware (or at least check to see if it’s up to date) with the Soundcore phone app. Once that’s done you can tune this set precisely to the type of noise you want to filter out. Thus you can filter out “transportation” sounds (ie in your in a car), indoor, outdoor or customize the setting.

Or…you can simply put it on “Normal” setting and use it in the raw.

The app also offers a “Tip Fit Test” that allows you to test the earbud seal. This is important. The right seal will help you isolate noise so that the technology can cancel it. (Back to the cancel culture I guess…)

The equalizer also offers a myriad of settings for everything from the spoken word to “bass booster” or “Hip Hop”. I just put it on default which is recommended.

There’s also an “Hear ID” test that personalizes your earphones. It will take you through a series of hearing tests much like the doctor will do to gauge your auditory capabiities.

Finally for control freaks, you can customize your earphone controls. One tap for volume another to turn it off, etc.

As I alluded to earlier, you can use these in your home office or take these them for a stroll when walking the dog.

All things are possible in this era of high tech audio devices.

I think you’ll be happy with this product. It works quite well and you don’t have to spend a fortune.

Full disclosure, I don’t generally use them to listen to music–it’s phone calls or Zoom that occupy my time. However, I did test them on my favorite bluesman, the great late Albert King, specifically the “Blues Power” concert he gave at the Fillmore and the result was a thumbs up.

Albert’s guitar, Lucy, never sounded better with the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro ear buds.

Ron Wright’s Classic, ‘On Fiji Islands’, Republished

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Travel to Fiji via Hawaii and the Mainland may have come to a standstill with Covid, but the good news is that after 35 years Ron Wright’s masterpiece, On Fiji Islands, has been republished by Eland Books.

Wright, a Canadian, is a travel writer in the classic British mold. Think Morris, Chatwin, Durrell, or Greene. His prose is unpretentious, elegant, and infused with spirit of place. As a reviewer in the Washington Post aptly put it back in 1986, Wright is “open-eyed without being naïve.”

Encountering residents of all vocations in towns, villages and valleys the author weaves his interests in history and ethnology into a heartfelt depiction of late 20th century Fiji.

He is comfortable with whomever he meets and he’s good at snatching insight from the ether.

Whether it’s a conversation about race relations with female patrons at a Suva nightclub or a discussion of the nuances of kava drinking among different ethnicities at the bustling Municipal market, Wright reveals the often-complex shades of Fiji’s pluralistic culture.

Of course, the Fiji of the early 1980s is a different place than the Fiji of today.

After nearly four decades the political landscape has mutated. Wright had the good fortune to experience Fiji prior to the political upheavals that began with a 1987 coup and reverberate to this day.

The pre-coup era could be characterized by a slogan touted by the Fiji Visitors Bureau, “Fiji, the Way the World Should Be”.

I was captivated by that refrain as I suspect were visitors and locals. It summarized the bullish sentiment in the air.

Things looked rosy in those days.

Fiji had only become an independent state in 1970 and the buoyant enthusiasm of a new nation was ubiquitous. The Fiji dollar was strong, sugar was still king and there was hope that the budding tourism sector would gather momentum and raise the standard of living.

Ron Wright has captured the zeitgeist.

Nowadays of course, Fijians are tethered to their “mobiles” like the rest of us and the impact of social media is pervasive.

Popular culture not withstanding, the character of Fiji’s people hasn’t changed. The same deep forces that animated the cultural and psychic landscape back in the day are still present.

Wright’s epiphanies are timeless, and he’ll help you dig beneath the surface.

That’s why this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Fiji, my favorite place on the planet.

Novelist, historian, and essayist Ronald Wright is the award-winning author of ten books of fiction and nonfiction published in 18 languages and more than 40 countries. Much of his work explores relationships between past and present, people and power, other cultures and the west.

A Short History of Progress, which examines humankind’s increasingly precarious experiment with civilization, was the best-selling book in the 50-year history of the prestigious CBC Massey Lectures, winning the Libris Award for Nonfiction Book of the Year.  Martin Scorsese’s Surviving Progress, a documentary film based on the book, premiered in fall 2011. A Fifteenth Anniversary Edition of A Short History of Progress was issued in 2019 with a new introduction and update by the author.

Wright’s dystopian first novel A Scientific Romance  won Britain’s David Higham Prize for Fiction and was chosen a book of the year by the New York Times, the Sunday Times, the Mail on Sunday, and the Globe & Mail. His other bestsellers include Time Among the Maya and Stolen Continents, a history of the Americas since Columbus which was chosen a book of the year by the Independent and the Sunday Times.

Born in England to Canadian and British parents, Wright read archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University and has been awarded two honorary doctorates. He spent many years in Mexico and South America, Africa, and the South Seas on book research, archaeological work, and recording indigenous music. While in Peru he also wrote Lonely Planet’s first Quechua (Inca) phrasebook.

Wright contributes to the Times Literary Supplement and other publications. His latest book is The Gold Eaters, a novel set during the Spanish invasion of the Inca Empire in the 1500s.  Three of his early books are also available in Penguin Modern Classics and in new editions by Eland, with introductions by Jan Morris, Alberto Manguel, and Pico Iyer, as well as new afterwords by the author.

“Ronald Wright is an historical philosopher with a profound understanding of other cultures.” –Jan Morris

“I am an old admirer of Ronald Wright’s work. He writes brilliantly and with a very uncommon level of empathy and sensitivity…No one is better at showing how the past infuses, and, in most cases, continues to blight the present.” –Larry McMurtry

Doctors and Lifestyle: The Blind Leading the Blind

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I met a dermatologist the other day who made my skin crawl. He was in his thirties, tall, lean, and unsmiling, like many doctors these days. But what stood out most was a fresh-looking, full-color, eye-popping tattoo on his right arm that snaked its way up from his wrist, circumvented his forearm, and slipped beneath his short-sleeved shirt to unknown anatomical areas. I believe he also had a tattoo on his left arm, but I was too gobsmacked at the time to take note. 

Now, you might think, as I do, that a tattooed dermatologist is an oxymoron. It doesn’t take much imagination, or research on the Internet, to realize that tattoos are bad for the skin. 

The most obvious issue is that tattooing is done by puncturing the skin, causing skin trauma and risk of infection. Interestingly, there is research that connects the injury to the skin made by both tattooing and vaccinations as a cause of numerous skin reactions, including cancer. 

The 2014 article, “Tattoo and vaccination sites: Possible nest for opportunistic infections, tumors, and dysimmune reactions”, in the journal Clinical Dermatology, explains that, “Both dermal tattoos and vaccine injections may alter local immune responses, creating an immunocompromised district on or near the site of placement. This can lead to the development of opportunistic infections, benign and malignant tumors, and local dysimmune reactions…A variety of tumors including basal and squamous cell carcinomas, keratoacanthomas, and malignant melanoma also have been reported in association with tattoos….Vaccination sites similarly provide a setting for both benign and malignant tumors.” 

The inks used are also a problem, causing allergies and exposure to heavy metals. According to the website Penn Medicine, “It is fairly common for individuals to have an allergic reaction to the dyes used in tattoos. Sometimes individuals are under the inaccurate assumption that tattoos contain harmless paint or ink. However, this ink is actually filled with many chemicals and unnatural ingredients that can irritate a person’s skin.” 

There is also a link to skin cancer. According to the same website, “When it comes to cancer, black ink can be especially dangerous because it contains a very high level of benzo(a)pyrene. Benzo(a)pyrene is currently listed as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Health officials and researchers are especially concerned about the effects of black tattoo ink, as it is the most commonly used color for tattooing.”

You might think that this doctor may have gotten his tattoos before becoming a doctor, so he didn’t know any better. But this was a new tattoo. And he was flaunting it, not hiding it. 

Tattoos are common these days, and fashionable in certain circles. Doctors want to look cool, like everyone else. They grew up like everyone else, exposed to, and brainwashed by, the same cultural messages. They just choose to go into medicine. 

I also met a cardiologist who smoked cigarettes. He was also grossly overweight, and ate a big, juicy hamburger with fries for lunch. Of course, being obese, smoking, and eating fried foods can increase heart disease. 

An obese, smoking cardiologist eating fast food makes as much sense as a tattooed dermatologist. 

Maybe these doctors are attracted to their specialties because they know they will need treatment from that specialty due to their lifestyles? It’s like when mentally-disturbed, neurotic people become psychologists or psychiatrists. 

How about female doctors who constrict their breasts with tight bras for long hours daily? There are many female breast health experts, including breast surgeons, who wear breast- harming bras. Their medical training never mentioned tight clothing as a cause of circulatory impairment and lymph stasis. These doctors willingly immobilize and alter their breast shape, hide their nipples, and basically re-design their breast appearance for cultural reasons, and do this despite the documented harms caused by bras, including causing breast pain, cysts, and cancer. Wearing bras is just something every woman is culturally expected to do, even doctors. 

Is this hypocrisy? Should we expect doctors to be paragons of health and healthy lifestyles? 

More basically, when we seek help, does it matter whether the helper is in the same mess we are in? In other words, can you trust a lifeline from someone in the same boat as you? 

We seek help in many places. 

Would you go to a priest who was a known pedophile? 

Would you use a mechanic whose car is broken down? 

Would you go to a hairdresser who is having a “bad hair day”? 

Would you use a plastic surgeon who has a big nose, cock-eyed chin, and facial scars? 

How about eating in a restaurant where the cook is out because of food poisoning? 

You could also go into a health food store and buy chips, coffee, candy, wine, beer, and lots of other unhealthy stuff. 

Then there are the drug addiction recovery programs that offer coffee to everyone, one of the most addictive substances we consume. 

Clearly, there’s a problem here. We live in a culture where there are lots of products and activities that can harm us. In fact, the biggest cause of disease and death is the culture and all the bad things it teaches us to think, do and feel. We absorb these cultural messages from the uterus onward, as our nature becomes modified by our culture. 

This applies to everyone. It includes doctors, too. Just because someone studied medicine, it does not mean that they personally eliminated all harmful cultural practices in their lives. The same cultural causes of disease that fill their waiting rooms also fill their personal lives. In fact, the medical culture is even worse on doctors. 

For some reason that is not clear, the medical system exploits doctors with long work hours and sleepless day and night shifts. Doctors are rushed and pressured, grabbing unhealthy snacks on the go. They become tempted to abuse drugs to keep going, but may settle for drinking 10-20 cups of strong coffee, instead. They also become tempted to use drugs to relax, but may settle for a few alcoholic drinks. They have little recreation time, or time with their families. And depending on their specialty, they are exposed daily to infectious diseases, death, radiation, the soul-robbing sights and smells of hospitals, and the depression of treating endless lines of sick people, often using treatments that do no good, and for conditions that have no known cause. 

Clearly, being a doctor can make you sick, mentally and physically. No wonder why there are so many doctor suicides. Just practicing medicine is slow suicide. 

This also means that doctors are not the ones to tell patients to clean up their lifestyles. The doctor’s lifestyle is at least as bad, and actually worse. They participate in the same unhealthy culture as everyone else, addicted to many of the same things, and suffering from the same psychological and physical issues. But they are the ones who are meant to treat those problems. 

This is a basic reason why medicine does not emphasize lifestyle or other cultural causes of disease. How can doctors tell patients to not do things that they themselves do? 

This is also why many discoveries of the cultural causes of disease are left unnoticed by medicine. For example, when smoking was culturally accepted as safe and good for you, everyone smoked, including doctors. In the 1950’s, there were ads by tobacco companies using doctors to promote smoking. New research that showed smoking caused lung cancer was ignored, ridiculed, and opposed vehemently by many in the medical profession

Nobody likes to be told that what they are doing is wrong and can harm them, especially doctors who are regarded as the experts on health. Telling smoking doctors that their habit is actually bad is a challenge to their authority. And how can they tell smoking patients to stop? 

Another example can be found in today’s debate over the health hazards of bras and their link to breast cancer. I know about this issue personally, as the co-researcher, with my wife Soma Grismaijer, of the world’s first study focused on the bra-cancer link. We announced our results in the 1995 book, Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, now updated for 2018. 

There are now many studies internationally which link breast cancer with the wearing of tight bras, including a 2018 study from Iran, 2016 study from Brazil, 2015 study from Kenya, and a 2015 study and a 2012 study from China, to give a few. 

Essentially, bra-free women have about the same risk of breast cancer as men, while the tighter and longer the bra is worn the higher the risk rises, to over 100 times higher for a 24/7 bra user compared to a bra-free woman. 

But this information is still being resisted by a culture which has become as addicted to bras as it had been to cigarettes. Women have become conditioned into believing that they need artificially-shaped breasts to be acceptable in public. Even doctors have bought into that message. Under the spell of the lingerie industry, the thought of being bra-free in public sends a chill down the backs of women who would feel naked and ashamed without their breasts being bound by a bra. 

As a result, the bra issue is still relegated to alternative health and fringe groups, although women are now asking why they need to wear bras in the post-#MeToo world. Must women’s breasts be constantly sexualized by pushing, squeezing, prodding, pinching, compressing, constricting, cleavaging, and lifting their breasts with bras? Many women are now saying no. 

Ironically, many female doctors who use bras are insisting that under no circumstances can bras cause disease, especially cancer. The reason is that they cannot imagine themselves being bra-free at work, which is a logical conclusion of this information. If they realized that bras were causing disease, then they would have to defend their bra habit. 

This means that there is an additional problem caused by doctors being as ignorant as everyone else with regards to unhealthy lifestyles. Not only does the bad-lifestyle doctor model bad lifestyles, but that doctor may also be personally and psychologically invested in defending those bad lifestyles. They don’t want to stop doing what everyone else is also doing. They want to belong, just like everyone else, even if that requires smoking, drinking, or doing other harmful behaviors. 

But their denial carries weight with patients. Doctors model and teach implicitly by their own behaviors. 

Should doctors be required to practice the latest lifestyle trend alleged to improve health and prevent disease? Before anything like this can even be considered, the bigger obstacle for doctors is their own medical culture that abuses them and drives them to depression and suicide. So long as the institutional and corporate powers that control medicine continue to abuse doctors with a harmful medical culture, don’t expect medicine to focus on culture. 

Medical culture is a glass house that will not throw stones at pop culture. 

And since the medical industry profits from the detection and treatment of the resulting diseases, there is actually financial incentive to maintain the cultural status quo, even if that culture is also killing doctors. There are many more pre-med students waiting to take their place. 

This is double-blind medicine. Both the patient and doctor are in the dark. It’s the blind leading the blind, except that the blind leaders deny their blindness and scoff at those who see the light. 

(Note: This article originally was entitled, DOUBLE-BLINDED MEDICINE: When Doctor and Patient Are Both in the Dark.)

More Taxes on the Rich – But Guess What, You’re Rich

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On January 12, Governor Ige’s Chief of Staff and former Director of Taxation Linda Chu Takayama told the House Finance Committee a little more about the revenue enhancement measures (tax hikes) that the Administration is going to propose.

Ms. Takayama mentioned “wealth tax.”  But we aren’t sure what that means.

In some states, “wealth tax” means a tax on net worth.  If you add up the values of your house, car, stocks and bonds, artwork, and so forth and subtract your debts, that’s the amount you pay tax on.

That type of wealth tax would be a nightmare to administer here.  Our Department of Taxation used to have people who could value real property, and that is because it administered a state real property tax.  But then we had a Constitutional Convention in 1978 followed by a general election which voted to transfer the power and authority to tax real property exclusively to the counties.  And we never had a tax on personal property (such as the stocks and bonds, art, cars, and so on).  Acquiring the expertise to administer a tax like that would be no easy feat here.  The real rub, however, would be on the taxpayer side.  It’s already a problem getting people to value real property when you need it, such as when you want to sell the property or borrow against it.  But getting the value determined each year, and not only for real property but also cars, boats, art, and furniture?  Auwe!

A more probable scenario is that the Administration is considering a hike in the personal income tax. 

Currently, our state imposes income tax at 8.25% on a single person’s taxable income between $48,000 and $150,000.  A 9% bracket then applies to taxable income up to $175,000.  A 10% bracket then applies to taxable income up to $200,000.  Tax is imposed at 11% after that.

The thresholds are higher, of course, for a married couple or for people that qualify as heads of household. 

Hawaii now has the second highest top marginal rate in the United States.  The top rate belongs to California.  For now.

One big difference, however, is that the California top rate doesn’t kick in until taxable income exceeds $1 million (the final 1% is called a “mental health services tax”).  Their 9.3% bracket applies to those with incomes between $58,635 and $299,508.  When California’s 10.3% bracket kicks in, we are already well into our 11% maximum rate bracket.

Meaning that when our Hawaii legislators say, “Tax the rich,” they are much more likely to be talking about you and me as “rich,” not just folks living in Kahala Avenue mansions.  And, realistically speaking, if our lawmakers are looking to taxpayers to plug a $1.4 billion per year budget hole, do we even have enough of the Kahala Avenue types to make a dent in the problem?  Suppose that the top 1% of our population (1.4 million and falling) pulls down taxable income of $1 million on average.  Tacking on two percentage points to their top rate would yield 14,000 taxpayers times $20,000 in additional tax, or $280 million.  That’s a lot of money but not close to $1.4 billion.

This year, all details must be revealed to the public on January 25th, the day of Governor Ige’s State of the State speech.  At that time, we will know for sure what the Administration is proposing.  But there is much to worry about before then when the Administration and other lawmakers talk about an income tax increase.  In the most probable scenario, there is going to be good news and bad news.  The good news is that they are only going to tax the rich.  The bad news is that you’re rich.

How Dogs Make Us Better People

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Sydney Ross Singer

Medical Anthropologist

Director, Good Shepherd Foundation

There are a lot of things which I hate about people. I’m sure many people feel the same, and have their own list of things they hate about people. 

Let’s face it. As a species, we humans are a mixed bag. For every good trait we possess as a species, there is a bad one. For every human-made treasure there is a human-caused horror.

Thank goodness there are dogs. 

Big dogs, small dogs, medium dogs, dogs of all colors and breeds are Nature’s gift to humans. More than that, they are our saviors. 

What people lack, dogs provide. They are more than our best friend. They are Nature’s complement to our human nature. 

Without dogs, we would be too human. With dogs, we can become the best we can be as humans. 

You might argue that my portrayal of dogs is idealized. Admittedly, some dogs are as bad as people. However, assuming they were trained properly, in a way that respects their nature, they are ideal beings to complement humans.  

Here is my list of 10 bad human traits, and how dogs help us compensate. 

1. People don’t play enough

Sometimes, you want to play, and approach some other human to see if they want to join you, but they are busy with their own stuff and brush you off. We humans take life too seriously sometimes, and lose the desire to play and enjoy life. 

My dog is always ready to play. She can be asleep or licking herself intently, and all I need to do is ask if she wants to play, and she’ll be eager to go. So long as she is healthy, she wants to play. To a dog, life is play. If you want fun, play with a dog. 

2. People don’t show their true feelings

People are actors, so you never really know when they are trying to fool you. We humans are trained to say the opposite of what we may feel, and to do things, and say things, that we really don’t want to do, or say. Great emphasis is placed on the ability to act differently than you feel. The most admired people in the world are actors, who are essentially trained to fool people. 

Dogs never fool you. If they are looking hurt, then they are hurt. It’s not an act to get out of doing something they don’t want to do. If they like you, they show it clearly. If they don’t like you, they also show that clearly. When we are tired of people being dishonest or hard to read, hang out with a dog for some honest connection.

3. People have a hard time forgiving

There would not have to be religious instruction to “turn the cheek” if doing so was a common practice. Humans are a prideful species. Revenge and aggression are the usual ways people deal with insults and injuries from other people. Some people even hold onto a grudge all their lives. 

Dogs also get into disputes with other dogs, but typically get over it quickly. When things get too heated, they shake it off, and move on with life. When it comes to dealing with their disputes with humans, dogs typically give in, and will even apologize. It doesn’t have to have been their fault. Dogs feel badly when you feel badly, and want you to feel better. They don’t have human pride preventing them from saying they are sorry and that they want you to continue loving them.  

4. People rarely give unconditional love

The love we feel from others can seem temporary and conditional. People are often very insecure about their relationships, worrying, for example, that they will no longer be esthetically or sexually attractive, or that age will rob them of their desirability. People worry about others stealing their loved one’s heart. Given all the acting and feigning of emotion that humans can do, their relationships are built on uncertainty and potential dishonesty. Relationships are a social contract, especially marriage, and if any of the terms of the contract are breached, then the relationship can be terminated, along with any love.

Dogs have a much greater comfort with relationships. They don’t care how you look or how gracefully you age. If you show them affection, then they will reciprocate in kind. They will take as much love as you can give, and will give as much love as you can take. They don’t require any contracts or agreements, other than the agreement that so long as you give love, they will be there to love you back. 

5. When the going gets tough, people leave

Friends come and go, depending on your particular fortune at the moment. When times are good, you have lots of friends. When times turn bad, you usually find yourself alone. When you are under attack, don’t expect anyone to come to your rescue, especially if you are not paying them to help.

Dogs never need payment to protect you. They instinctively protect their pack, which includes you. Regardless of your dog’s size, he or she will be there barking for you, defending you against any sized foe. They will stay up at night, or sleep with one ear open, guarding you from threats. When all else fails, your dog will still be by your side. 

6. People are control freaks

Humans are domesticating the Earth. That’s what we do as a species. We humanize the world, and are now aiming to humanize the moon and Mars. We see natural boundaries as challenges to overcome. We want to control our world, and to control other people. We want to control animals and plants, and the genetic code. We want to control everything that is controllable, and thereby humanize it. And we fight among ourselves over whom is ultimately in control.  

Dogs are happy playing with you, or chilling with you. They have no ambition other than to live and be with their human. They are connected to nature, and through our connection to them we renew our connection with nature. 

7. People use too much technology

Technology is great if you want to get certain things done. But the problem is that we humans aren’t very wise with the things we choose to get done. Technology magnifies our ability to control everything, without giving us greater wisdom to control ourselves or best choose how to apply our technology. Our growing technology makes us a growing threat. 

Dogs are low tech. For them, it all comes down to teeth and claws and jumping. Not much wisdom needed, once you figure out what to bite and what not to bite. They have no interest in discovering new ways to bite, claw, or jump. They are not wanting to use doggie tech to take over the world or visit the planet Pluto, despite their belief that Pluto was named after a dog. 

8. People are worried about bad breath

Breath fresheners are big business, since our culture makes a big stink about bad breath, as though we needed more reasons to feel insecure. 

Dogs love bad breath. The more they love your breath, the worse it must be. As for dogs, they only have, well, dog breath, which is not bad if their teeth and gums are healthy. Dog breath is more like ho-hum breath in humans, unless the dog has just been cleaning out the kitty litter. 

9. People need to wear clothing in public

Clothing and fashion are ways we humans redesign ourselves into a more artificial form, which we find more appealing by cultural standards. Some of these fashions change body shape, and thereby change body function, often leading to disease. The link between breast cancer and bras is one example of clothing-caused disease. Corsets, tight shoes, neckties, tight jeans, and tight underwear have all been implicated in causing disease. Meanwhile, body image disorders plague women, and increasingly more men, as they fear exposure of their bodies to the judgments of others. Some cover their bodies in shame, while others display their bodies for reasons of sex-appeal and narcissism. Our personal natures are judged by the clothes we wear, which are also badges of social placement, income level, education level, and other social markings. Being free of clothing is taboo. We cannot exist in public without clothing, a type of textile-oppression. Our identities are part textile.

Dogs are naked, unless their human has dressed them with clothing. They are unabashedly naked, too. They lick whatever needs licking, so long as it can be reached. They want to be free of tight, uncomfortable clothing, or anything that gets in the way of their movement and of their licking and bitting themselves. And they don’t mind seeing you naked, either. You can do anything naked with your dog, even defecate, and they have no problem with it. Depending on what you ate, they may even have an active interest. 

10. People have taboos

Taboos are obstacles to intelligence. You cannot intelligently discuss a taboo subject. These subjects are usually about certain eliminatory bodily functions, such as defecation or urination, or are about sexual organs and functions. There are also taboos in how you dress, what you eat, and what words you cannot say. There are also religious taboos. We humans are guided, and blinded, by many taboos, most of which we cannot even mention without discomfort. 

Dogs have no taboos, apart from stealing another dog’s bone. That’s more an unwritten law of dogs. But dogs have no hangups about bodily functions. They don’t have dress or food taboos, and can bark at anything they like with no concern about censorship or of offending anyone. How liberating is that!

Conclusion

We all have problems as humans. As a species, we have been pretty destructive of  plants, animals, people, and the environment. We can make great food, send people to outer space, and invent great things like the Slinky, but we are incomplete without our canine better half. Dogs keep us grounded, and show us how to love unconditionally. They make us play and exercise with them, and always give us honesty and integrity of spirit. They forgive us when we abuse them, and help us when we are abused by someone else. They don’t ask for much, take life as it is given to them without complaint, and live simple lives being naked and without taboos. 

We all need more of that in our lives. 

Barreling Toward a Tax Hike!

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On January 5, State Director of Finance Craig Hirai was (kind of) answering questions before the House Finance Committee on the Administration’s budget.

In response to questions on what the Administration had planned for revenue increases, he stated that the plan is “kind of embargoed right now.”

“You cannot just present the plan and say the details are embargoed,” replied Rep. Sylvia Luke, House Finance chair. “There is an obligation to be honest with the public, and honest with the Legislature to provide the details on what tax increase assumptions were built into the financial plan that was submitted on Dec. 21.”

“I don’t have my list with me,” Hirai said.

“So, let me just ask you then, are you planning to raise the carbon tax?”

“Possibly.”

“Are you planning to institute a sugar tax?”

“Possibly.”

“Are you planning to raise the GET [general excise tax]?”

“I don’t think so.”

In this article, we’ll provide some information on “the carbon tax,” which is most likely the “barrel tax.”

Hawaii has two kinds of taxes on fossil fuels.  One is the liquid fuel tax, which is normally paid at the pump.  We don’t think this is the “carbon tax” referred to because the fuel tax is earmarked for the State Highway Fund, which only the Department of Transportation can tap, and if this earmark is changed there may be federal consequences because the U.S. Department of Transportation contributes federal highway money to it.

The other tax is the environmental response, energy, and food security tax, which we refer to as the barrel tax.  It has a history of twists and turns.

This tax started off as the environmental response tax, imposed at 5 cents a barrel of imported petroleum product to create a fund for environmental cleanup in case of an oil spill in Hawaiian waters.

In 2010, the tax rate was increased by 2000% (!) to $1.05.  After the increase, the vast majority of the tax was used not only to shore up our general fund, but also to feed various special funds that pay for environmental conservation programs, energy and food security, and related activities. As a result of the additional responsibilities placed upon the fund, it was given its new and much longer name.  The tax increase was set to sunset in five years, on June 30, 2015.  Gov. Lingle vetoed it at the time, but the Legislature overrode the veto and enacted the change anyway.

In 2015, the barrel tax was expanded to encompass not only petroleum products, but any kind of fossil fuel.  Thus, non-petroleum fuels such as liquefied natural gas, propane, and coal were subjected to the tax as well.  In addition, the sunset clause on the 2000% tax increase was snipped away, making the 2010 increases permanent.

In the Department of Taxation’s most recent annual report, the barrel tax was levied on 23.8 million barrels of petroleum for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020, and it was imposed on 5.9 million BTU of non-petroleum fossil fuels, taking in $26.1 million in total.

$26.1 million, however, is much, much smaller than our projected revenue shortfall (more than $1 billion for each of the next four years).  So perhaps we need to brace ourselves for another dramatic increase in the tax rate – another 2000% since they already did that once, perhaps?  Either that, or we may be in for a substantial expansion of the scope of the tax.  In either case, the culture of silence that the Administration seems to be embracing is troubling.

We will know for sure on January 25th, the date of the State of the State address, because all Administration bills will be formally introduced and thus revealed to the public at that time.

Meet 8 Year Old Kaiya Mack with a Voice and a Mission to Raise $10,000 to Help Kids in Need!

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In December 2020, Kaiya Mack launched her first music video and single featured on Reggae Ville titled  “Last Christmas” the Reggae remix, where she has already raised over $5,000 for Ronald McDonald House charities and at the same time being featured alongside the likes of Reggae Superstar Shaggy on the Pandora Very Irie Christmas Reggae Playlist.

Kaiya’s Goal is to raise $10,000 for Ronald Mc Donald House Charities and she is using BTS’s smash hit Dynamite as her rocket ship to help raise funds for other kids and families needing urgent medical attention. Kaiya was born with a rare birth defect called Gastroschisis where her intestines were outside of her body. Her family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for the first four months of her life as she had many operations. Then the family stayed there again last year when she had another operation.

Kaiya’s music has caught the attention of Soca Icon Machel Montano where his label Monk Records will be distributing her next single and music video Dynamite the Reggae Remix on Januaray 22, 2021. It was shot in Iconic Hawaii and produced by Reggae Grammy winner J Vibe. She hopes to inspire other kids like her and hit her goal of raising $10,000.

Donations are being accepted at http://support.rmhc.org. More information about Kaiya can be found at http://www.kaiyamack.com.

Money goes to the Ronald McDonald House chapters in Hawaii and the Bay area.

She’s on social media as @iamkaiyamack on IG, TikTok, Youtube, Facebook.

“We are thrilled to see Kaiya doing so well and grateful that she wants to donate a portion of her fundraiser to Ronald McDonald House Charities Hawaii. Her generosity will help us continue to provide a home-away-from-home and essential services for families staying at our Houses while their children get medical treatment on Oahu.”

RMHC Hawaii President Jerri Chong

MAGA Suppression Fosters Political Split

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I recall the night that Donald Trump was elected president. I was covering election night with a colleague, continually updating with the startling results as they came in.

To my surprise, my normally benign colleague was pumping the air with his fists and his MAGA hat came out of nowhere.

That is when it hit me as an “aha” moment.

A lot of voters that supported Trump were people often denoted by the mainstream press as residents of “flyover” country. They were white working class men and women, people whose taxes were being used to bail out the banks during the recession while they lost their homes and land. They were farmers breaking under the strain of increasing competition from other countries. They were executives who resented their taxes being used for foreign aid and failed social programs. They were workers who perceived themselves as competing with undocumented workers for work. They were wealthy, educated people that held beliefs that were espoused by Trump, who could only talk amongst themselves for fear of retribution.

Shortly after the election, people I knew proudly revealed they had voted for Trump, acknowledging each other and forming bubbles of support. Most were just glad. But some became radical supporters.

A friend that used to silence me when I spoke of politics in groups has now become a member of some GOP groups. She espouses alt platforms on her social media to gain access to information from right-wing organizations that are banned in the usual social media. Once apolitical, she is chasing the info-dragon, searching online for more contact with the alt-right. Another acquaintance uses all his free time trolling the Internet to participate in chat groups and alt-right blogs and to gain more details of the alleged conspiracy to steal the election. Still another friend who is not politically right or left has expressed support for investigating the allegations of voter fraud and strong doubts about the judiciary throwing out all of Trump’s lawsuits.

None of these people are stupid. They have never demonstrated racism to me. I don’t know what their thoughts are on the subject because it has never been up for discussion.

What I do know is that since the siege at the United States Capitol last week, all of them have become more disenchanted with the media, the government, Congress and the attempts by Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Google to silence Trumpers.

When Trump was elected the results showed a rising tide of emotion that translated into votes. Polls misled America into believing that Hillary Clinton would win because, it was theorized, many were uncomfortable expressing who they really supported. Even in an anonymous poll.

Since he won, Trump supporters often bear their politics in public, pushing past doubters and waving their flags and their MAGA hats proudly in protest against the political correctness that dominated the pre-Trump era. Even in Honolulu, a bastion of Democratic politics, Trump supporters rally around the Capitol every weekend in caravan, waving flags and honking horns.

And now, with Trump fading disgraced out of the White House, that political correctness has escalated to suppression on social media platforms and censorship. The book Turner’s Rebellion has even been removed from Amazon’s platform, fearing it will cause insurrection.

It is clearly obvious that these outlets do not wish to be blamed if/when there is another siege, especially as control is being transferred from Republican to Democratic hands in the Executive and Legislative branches.

When there is repression, there arises expression. It is the irony of life, one of those things.

These mainstream attempts to suppress freedom of expression may have untold collateral damage as those who felt marginally disenfranchised before are feeling thoroughly disenfranchised now.

The largely show-impeachment of Donald Trump for a second time has also marginalized a huge group of now-very active people who feel from the bottom of their souls, that the election was stolen from them.

Freedom is the longing of the American soul. That is what we are all about. That includes freedom of expression – no matter how noxious it is – for all. When that freedom is denied, albeit by the marketplace in this case – Americans will find another way. Because the other hallmark of America is American ingenuity. We find solutions. And that is what is happening. New alt platforms are increasing daily.

With it, the disparity amidst the conversation is growing more heated. The sides are hardening; not softening. The discourse is becoming more angry. The self-righteousness of both sides is escalating with the media and the Democrats assuming that they have a mandate to power.

But power has always been intoxicating. Watch Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to see what it looks like when it’s at its peak. Arrogance is not pretty. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

By suppressing the voices of Americans who were already “flyovers” before Trump, the fallout could be unanticipated collateral damage that emerges as a new and more vitriolic group rises in its place; bitter, determined, self-righteous and armed with a new infusion of reactionary passion.