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Posts Tagged ‘obamacare’

Hobby Lobby ruling sets religious freedom in business

In Business, Charities, history, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on June 30, 2014 at 11:59 am

DIH LOGOOn June 30th, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s suit to be exempted from the ObamaCare mandate forcing companies to provide contraceptive coverage to employees, including the controversial Plan B, or “morning after,” drugs. Many conservative business owners equate these drugs to abortion since they’re designed to terminate a pregnancy within hours of conception.

The primary argument to the court is whether the owners or management of a corporation has the same rights to freedom of religion as an individual. The Obama administration has already set exceptions for various religious non-profit organizations, which, other than their non-profit status, are structured similarly to their for-profit counterparts.

In March of this year, according to TheHill.com, the U.S. House of Representatives, “Approved the Equitable Access to Care and Health (EACH) Act, H.R. 1814. The bill allowed people avoid buying health insurance under ObamaCare if they could cite a religious reason. People seeking an exemption would have to include sworn statements in their tax returns explaining their objection to health insurance.” In effect, all they needed to get out of paying the federal healthcare mandate (tax) was a note from home.

A further question is whether there is a fundamental business difference between a non-profit corporation and a for-profit corporation? The practical answer is, no. Charity or not, a corporation is created to protect the individual operators from legal responsibility with regard to the business. Most non-profit filings are for tax and donation purposes, a process that seems outdated and inefficient with the advent of mega churches and multi-billion-dollar evangelical organizations.

uscourtIn America, there are countless religiously-focused, non-profit corporations worth millions more than some of the largest for-profit businesses. The Christian television network, Daystar, for example has been approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a “church,” according to NPR.com news. Celebrity, sometimes politician evangelist Pat Robertson and the late Billy Graham registered with the IRS as “religious organizations,” making them exempt from most taxes. All they had to do was file disclosure papers.

According to available records, NPR.com reports that the top three evangelical television broadcasters – Christian Broadcast Network, Trinity Broadcasting Network and Daystar Television — have a combined net worth of more than a quarter of a billion dollars. It is unknown whether the corporations that operate these broadcasters have filed for religious exemption under the healthcare reform laws.

The question persists, however, that if the only difference between a for-profit corporation and these mega non-profits is an earnings disclosure, why have the distinction at all? Certainly there are for-profit companies that give away millions of dollars in charitable funds each year but still have to comply with the law in every respect. Why then are religious non-profit organizations exempt from anything, much less a controversial healthcare mandate that has American small business struggling to comply or face bankrupting penalties?

The court’s latest decision with regard to religious exemption could have long-reaching implications, and not just in the healthcare arena. Giving a for-profit entity the same constitutional protections provided to non-profit religious groups could cause a flood of lawsuits ranging from tax law to equal employment regulations. Once again, major non-profits have million-dollar earners at the top, private jets, limousines and pretty much every other extravagance thought only to exist in for-profit American business.

If a church – any church – can make a case for religious freedom from legal mandates, why can’t a business owner cite his or her – or their – own religious beliefs for the same purposes? Is the constitution not written for everyone or does it exist specifically to meet the needs of religious groups so they can avoid taxes and dodge the law at their convenience?

This argument poses a great many questions and there will likely be countless more as ObamaCare reaches further corners of commerce. But, if that’s not enough to chew on, here’s another one. What happens if a Muslim, Jewish or non-Christian group requests exemption as well? Will the Christian right fight against their having the same protections?

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer and contributor for WDTN-TV2’s LIVING DAYTON program. More at www.gerydeer.com.

 

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V.A. health care debacle is nothing new

In Health, National News, News Media, Opinion, Politics, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on May 27, 2014 at 8:06 am

DIH LOGOAs an organization that serves more than 9 million, it would be difficult to imagine a more complicated system than the United States office of Veterans Affairs (V.A.). Recent allegations of wrong doing within the V.A. health care system has erupted in congressional investigations and strong admonishment from President Obama, one of a half-dozen occupants of the Oval Office under whom this system has thoroughly failed its distinguished beneficiaries.

Naturally, the White House spin doctors tried to express the president’s astonishment and outrage over this issue with their typical press room song and dance. When he finally spoke about the matter publically last Wednesday, Mr. Obama said, “I will not stand for it. There must be consequences.”

Of course there was absolutely no mention of exactly what kinds of consequences.  Even more insulting was the way the administration has fained ignorance about one of the worst kept secrets in America – that there is a mind-blowing level of back-door politics and bureaucracy grinding away below the V.A.’s spit and polished façade.

In the 1992 movie, "Article 99," Kiefer Sutherland struggles to adapt to a broken V.A. system.

In the 1992 movie, “Article 99,” Kiefer Sutherland struggles to adapt to a broken V.A. system.

Critics of the administration are also using this crisis to, once again, lambaste Democrats over Obamacare, to which they compare the crippled V.A. medical system. Some of them have even suggested that the problems deep in the core of the V.A. health care system will eventually overwhelm Obamacare in a similar manner.

Plagued with technical issues and lackluster participation, the “Affordable Care Act” has not been the overwhelming success once envisioned. Legislating mandated health care coverage for all is one thing, but managing patient care based on politics is quite another.

But if you think it’s a stretch to compare the V.A. problems with eventual Obamacare snags, consider this.  Once the Affordable Care Act became law, the U.S. Government suddenly turned into a middle man for selling health insurance and controlling the care received by the patients. Keep in mind this isn’t a “Conservative vs. Liberal” problem. The simple lesson to be learned here is that the government should stay out of the health care business.

As for the existing V.A. problems, the congressional hearings so far have managed to do little more than humiliate the head honcho, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, a guy who, while maybe turning a blind eye to these concerns, most certainly inherited the majority of them.

Way back in 1992 director Howard Deutch released a dramatic comedy  called, “Article 99,” which followed a V.A. hospital intern played by Kiefer Sutherland who struggled to acclimate in ridiculously bureaucratic and money-driven system where patients are either denied treatment or made to wait months for life-saving procedures until it’s too late. In a style similar to Robert Altman’s original 1970 film, “MASH,” the main characters are dedicated doctors who regularly defy government rules to help get their veteran patients urgently needed care.

Set in present day – 1992, during the Clinton administration – “Article 99” exposes only a few known problems within the veterans’ health care system. Apparently, things grew increasingly worse.

Oddly enough, government’s treatment of veterans (of all ages) can often mirror the way in which American society deals with the elderly; by putting them off a few more times until they eventually die and the problem solves itself. Shameful.

Perhaps it’s time for the V.A.’s executives, congress and the president, maybe even Supreme Court justices, to be forced to wait a ridiculous amount of time for care. It’s a foregone conclusion that a solution would rapidly appear if the Obama daughters had to wait six months to get their tonsils out, or if John Boehner knew that coverage for some future tanning-induced skin cancer would be denied because it wasn’t a work-related condition. Instead, they enjoy free, top-of-the-line medical care, all on the dime of hard-working Americans, including veterans.

So what to do? Well making a blustering speech on TV is a start, but it’s also an overture to a lack of any real action. Firing the head guy is a gesture to appease the public but it’ll last about 12 seconds. Instead, the entire system needs a full shakedown. That’ll take time and money. Meanwhile, more veterans are waiting for treatment. Drop the bureaucracy and treat the patients, regardless of the paperwork and expense.

 

The Jamestown Comet editor, Gery L. Deer, is an independent columnist and business writer based in Jamestown, Ohio. More at http://www.gerydeer.com.

 

 

 

Obamacare: Politicians lie to cover bad legislation

In Economy, Health, National News, Opinion, Politics, sociology, Uncategorized on November 19, 2013 at 5:03 pm

DIH LOGOHow ever the White House and the Democrats want to spin it, President Obama lied about the Affordable Care Act – and he wasn’t the only one. But it’s “his” plan and legacy that are on trial now.

Denying that he ever said the line is ridiculous and just makes liberals look worse. It has been fact-checked repeatedly even by liberal news media. The first appearance of the empty promises came at a town hall on August 15, 2009 when the President said, “I just want to be completely clear about this; I keep on saying this but somehow folks aren’t listening — if you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan. Nobody is going to force you to leave your health care plan.”

Less than a year later, he said essentially the same thing at a speech on March 25, 2010 in Iowa City, Iowa. Speaking of those who were skeptical and cynical of his health reform President Obama said, “They’ll have to finally acknowledge this isn’t a government takeover of our health care system. They’ll see that if Americans like their doctor, they’ll be keeping their doctor. You like your plan? You’ll be keeping your plan. No one is taking that away from you.” If you’re curious, none of this is out of context and full texts for these speeches are available at the White House website.

Without beating a dead horse, this is thoroughly inaccurate or, as the Democrats would say about a Republican president, he lied. There is no caveat stated in any of these remarks related to grandfather provisions or referring to existing medical plans that must meet some set standard required by the new law. It says, very clearly, no one would lose their existing coverage.

In a live address July 25th, President Obama urged Americans to pressure congressional leaders to move toward a compromise. (AP Photo)

So how can anyone say he did not lie about it? Making excuses for lying politicians – on either side of the aisle – does not an honest man make. It’s no secret I’ve never really been a fan of this president, nor the last one either for that matter. But regardless of your loyalties, to deny that he misled the public is just feigning ignorance. He didn’t misspeak or stumble on his phrasing, and leaving out a vital piece of information is a lie by omission, so Dems need to stop trying to defend it.

The Affordable Care Act is a badly written piece of legislation that was pushed through to meet a political agenda rather than to benefit the population as a whole. Overall, I agree with the concept that we need some way to cover those people who cannot afford health care. But at the same time, those already paying their own way shouldn’t be punished by having their current policies systematically cancelled just to meet a set of arbitrary requirements established to force enrollment in the government’s new insurance monopoly.

Speaking of monopolies, wouldn’t it have made sense to have something in the law requiring premium caps and policy cost regulations? What about some kind of legislation that would control the pricing of health care services and keep the cost lower in the first place? One would think our government is more concerned with the expensive cost of a pack of bubble gum than the outrageous price of a critical medical test.

Lobbyists from the medical and insurance industries are extremely powerful, far more so than the average small business owner or individual health insurance consumer. Since most legislators are in the pocket of some major lobbying group, it would be financial suicide for them go against anything as massive as the insurance industry.

The only practical solution to this issue is to correct the problems within the content of the Affordable Care Act; not by presidential mandate, but through the legislative system. Congress needs to re-open the letter of the law and grab an eraser. Force the insurance companies and hospitals to lower costs and let people keep their insurance. Bad legislation only gets worse and wastes taxpayer dollars instead of more efficiently allocating that money to more productive purposes.

Reduce spending, the deficit and congress

In Economy, Education, Jobs, National News, Opinion, Politics on October 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm

DIH LOGOHow long can the national debt continue to increase before it finally collapses under its own weight? Congress seems to think it’s indefinite but when the debt is growing twice as fast as the economy, the country’s financial stability is so compromised it’s making the rest of the world nervous.

Just like having a credit card with an over-extended balance that racks up fees and penalties when defaults occur, the federal deficit grows exponentially with time. Even knocking a few billion off here and there won’t make much of a difference if the economy remains as stagnant as it has in the last several years. America cannot simply keep borrowing more money to cover debt that should have been reduced far earlier.

Photo Courtesy USA Today - www.usatoday.com

Photo Courtesy USA Today – http://www.usatoday.com

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it means to raise the debt ceiling. But continually increasing the amount of money the country is allowed to borrow will only add to the problem. Amid the congressional battles and strong-arming is a dance that averts the actual problem – the only way to reduce the deficit is to cut spending – period. That’s a tall order when all congress seems to want to do is sit by and watch the country hemorrhage money.

As the government shutdown enters a third week, congress is no closer to a solution than it was on October 1st. Government employees are still either furloughed or working without pay. Sure, they’ve been promised back pay, but how does that help when a family has mouths to feed and an upside-down mortgage to pay?

The real question is, apart from the small percentage of Americans who work for the federal government, who has really noticed the shutdown? Many experts say, very few. There are even those who say the park and memorial closures were done more as a publicity stunt to elicit public outrage towards the Republicans than to save money.

Looking at it objectively, that actually makes sense considering that government workers will receive back-pay for any and all days missed on furlough or unpaid time. If the shutdown of national parks services was really because “there was no money to pay them due to the fiscal crisis” during the shutdown, why would there be back pay to offer?

It has also been suggested that the shutdown has exposed another inherently expensive issue within the federal government – redundant or unnecessary employees. Excluding the military from the discussion for the moment, a certain level of redundancy is necessary for various reasons, but there is such a thing as overkill, even at the federal level. That overkill could be costing the taxpayers billions spent on unneeded civilian, contracted and other extraneous personnel.

After all, if you were running a small business and hired six employees when three would have sufficed, your business would soon be in financial distress. After a period of time, even large companies feel the effects of that kind of waste. It’s entirely possible that the government hires many more people than it needs (yeah – shocking, right?). This happens for a number of reasons from bad accounting to nepotism, but it does happen.

Which brings back the original point – Reduce spending and the deficit will come down. Clearly there are cuts that could be made without affecting the government’s overall operation or causing widespread layoffs. Reducing congressional salaries and perks would be a great place to start – particularly their perks. But the shutdown is proving that there are other areas of waste to be addressed. The trick is going to be finding the ones that are genuinely wasteful compared to those that need to be funded.

The difficulty exists in coming to an agreement about what needs to be cut and how much. Different sides have opposing ideas about the definition of “necessary” and required. Eventually they’ll have to come to some common ground and work it all out, but for now things still seem stalled.

The president’s approval rating, according to the Associated Press, is down to 37-percent and congress still lags behind at less than 20-percent. If people re-elect any of these people to congress they have only themselves to blame when this all happens again.

 

27th Amendment: Congress gets paid no matter what.

In Economy, history, National News, Opinion, Politics, Uncategorized on October 1, 2013 at 9:57 pm

DEER IN HEADLINES

By Gery L. Deer

Did you know that the 27th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibits Congress from changing its own pay? The exact wording is, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

congress 1Although the amendment was submitted to the states for ratification way back in 1789, it was not adopted until 1992, more than 200 years later. It was conceived to prevent the legislative branch from giving itself unwarranted and outrageous increases in pay, but it also works in the reverse. So, according to the constitution, congress gets paid, no matter what happens.

Amid a government shutdown unnecessarily created by a congress that simply refuses to compromise (on either side), it is thoroughly reprehensible that they are not also deprived a paycheck. Compensation certainly outshines performance, particularly by congressional leaders.

According to an article published in 2011 by the Center for Public Integrity, “No legislator – living or dead – has been paid a higher salary by the taxpayer than Speaker Boehner.”

The article notes that the Speaker earns the highest annual salary of all his peers, at $223,500. On the other side of the dome, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other congressional leaders are paid much less; just $193,400 per year.

Poor folks; It’s hard not to feel bad for them. Really, it must be terrible to have to struggle by on a measly couple-hundred-thousand a year. Yes, that was sarcasm.

There should be some way to cut Congress’s pay in midterm when they’re not living up to expectations and actually doing more harm than good. If they had to work a normal job, the current level of unsatisfactory performance would have gotten them all fired a couple of years ago.

con1Apparently, the only way to do have any financial impact on these people is to amend the 27th Amendment, allowing for congressional pay reductions at the will of the people. Administering such a procedure would be something of a logistical and legal challenge, but working it out would pay off in the end.

Direct and immediate job performance accountability, like everyone else endures at work, might actually motivate congressional leaders to the action of the people. At the moment, the only action they are taking is that which gives them the most spots on the Sunday morning news shows.

While hard-working government employees and their families go without pay, some struggling to put food on the table due to recent sequestrations, congressional big wigs luxuriate in the perks of the office, content in their jobs and in the foolhardiness and shockingly short memories of their constituencies. While there may be a few normal people on Capitol Hill, they are greatly outnumbered and hopelessly meek-voiced. A whisper from the back of the hall is nothing to the roar from the leadership seats.

Congress is currently enjoying its lowest approval rating ever, 87 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress’s performance according to an October 1st CNN poll. But until the American people say, “enough is enough,” this pointless bickering over the country’s finances will never cease. It’s as if the House and Senate are like an old married couple arguing over the checkbook register and who spent too much on the new blender they both needed.

Ridiculous filibusters and other Washington-style temper tantrums accomplish nothing, except to secure free press by presidential hopefuls no one has ever heard of now clambering for the spotlight. But, if members of Congress suddenly knew their pay would be cut and their jobs were in danger – now, not two years from now – they might make some effort to straighten all this out.

Until the 27th Amendment is amended, however, every single ineffectual member of congress will continue to collect their overstuffed paycheck. It’s time to show these people how the rest of America has to live because they clearly have no idea.

 CLICK HERE TO SIGN A PETITION TO AMEND THE 27th AMENDMENT …

Over-medicated and under-educated

In Children and Family, Education, Health, Media, National News, Opinion, psychology, Science, Senior Lifestyle, Technology, Uncategorized on September 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

DIH LOGOA recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) noted that at as many as two-million Americans become ill from antibiotic-resistant infections annually, killing at least 23,000. The report notes that less than half of the antibiotics prescribed for patients are unnecessary or incorrectly used increasing the potential for more drug-resistant germs to evolve, exacerbating the problem.

Over time, the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics rather than ones targeting specific infections can cause various strains of bacteria to become immune and render conventional treatment ineffective. According to C.D.C. Director, Thomas Frieden, as the trend towards overuse of antibiotics continues, “The medicine cabinet may be empty for patients with life-threatening infections in the coming years.” Additionally, the overuse of antibiotics on farms as preventative medicine in healthy animals is also a contributing factor.

All of that said, these drugs are not prescribing themselves. Doctors know better than to continually prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics unnecessarily or to treat viral infections, for which the drug is completely ineffective. But, many still do both, either at the insistence of the patient or as a preventative measure. Beyond the issue of nagging patients who want a prescription every time they have a sniffle is the point where the medical professional should say, “no.”

medsIn addition to antibiotics, it seems as though doctors are passing out a pill for everything and never seem to try to dig deep enough to address the real cause of various health problems.  For people with chronic illness it seems like that would be extremely frustrating. Apart from something like long-term, degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis, there should be a way to find the cause to a problem and treat that, rather than just trying to drown the symptoms in medication.

More often than not, patients get, maybe, 10 minutes with their doctor after a two-hour office wait only to be handed a prescription and shuffled out the door. People spend far more time filling out forms and waiting to be seen than ever actually getting attention from a person who bills hundreds of dollars an hour for a few minutes work per patient.

An additional problem arises when the drug manufacturers spend far more time and money marketing to the patient than educating the physician about the proper use and potential hazards of a medication. However unethical it should be, doctors are given trial samples and kick-backs for going with one drug-over another. All the while, patients are inundated by drug ads on television, the Internet and in periodicals with no understanding of the treatment process.

Which actually contributes to another step in the downfall of health care is the all-knowing, internet-browsing patient himself. These home-spun experts come in with a fist-full of self-diagnosis printouts from Web MD and a stack of drug ads from Cosmo.  They demand medication for what they are certain is their particular ailment and there is no swaying their shade tree expertise. Except that’s exactly what the doctors should be doing – dissuading them and refusing to prescribe medicine without a thorough examination of the problem.

So what is to be done? Unfortunately, not much can be done. Unless healthcare providers are going to be more proactive and limit use of antibiotics except for targeted need, and other drugs are prescribed only after the cause of the symptoms is determined, it’s unlikely that anything will change soon.

It just seems as if everyone is sick all the time. Chronic illness like fibromyalgia (long-term, body wide tenderness and pain) seem to be affecting more and more people and early-onset dementia appears to be far more common than it once was. Could these diseases the result of long-term misuse of various drugs, including antibiotics?

The truth is, no one really knows for sure. Many of these drugs are relatively new and scientists are only now learning how the long-term use of previous medications is affecting second and third generations. From birth defects to chronic disease, overuse of drugs and under-education of patients definitely has the potential for some serious side effects.

 

Is PBS television for rich people? Ask Mitt.

In Children and Family, Education, Entertainment, Health, Media, National News, Opinion, television on October 16, 2012 at 9:22 pm

DEER IN HEADLINES

By Gery L. Deer

Poor Big Bird; he was just walking around Sesame Street minding his own business, collecting a government paycheck – just like Mitt Romney – and the next thing he knew he was the topic of national political debate. The former Massachusetts governor has made it clear he intends to end funding to the Public Broadcasting Service. If he were old enough to vote – and human – he would go to the polls and help re-elect President Obama, if for no other reason than just to keep his job.

Sadness has gripped Hooper’s Store. No one’s buying sodas. Oscar the Grouch is even more cross than ever, and Cookie Monster is so distraught he turned down a plate full of chocolate chip raisin. If that isn’t bad enough, Charlie Rose might have to get a personality and stay on morning news television, evicted forever from his blackened studio.

If Mitt Romney has his way, hard line left wingers will have to find somewhere else to distribute their propaganda besides public television. But, aren’t the republicans the ones who are always saying that PBS is television for rich people? So, if that’s true, shouldn’t Romney be trying to preserve this refuge for every 20-year-old British television show ever produced? Nope. In Romney’s eyes, PBS is a complete and total waste of taxpayer dollars.

Seriously though, make a list of all the wasteful spending Congress will pass in a single year and the resulting torrential flood of pointless programs and pet projects funded in the billions by tax dollars would stagger the imagination. There’s nothing wasteful about PBS and it costs more to fill the presidential limousine once than public television costs the individual taxpayer for a year.

Fact: PBS accounts for only 0.00012 percent of the country’s budget. That’s about $1.35 per person, per year. That’s it. That’s what Romney is saying should be cut from the budget to reduce the deficit. He needs a calculator and some fact checking – something that’s not happening much in the current campaign.

In a country where we underfund schools and undervalue teachers, the American educational system needs all the help it can get and PBS offers that support.

Perhaps a more practical way to ensure the public is getting its money’s worth on PBS is to check over their spending. Paula Kerger, the PBS CEO earns just over $623.000. Is there a need for such a high, six-figure salaries at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? What about the the political side?

Is the overall message coming from PBS programming too liberally biased? If the tax payers are funding the programs, they should be neutral – fair and unbiased. But that’s not the generally sense.

Most conservatives believe that PBS is harshly liberal, anti-American and catering to the rich, democratic elite. Most liberals think that people who don’t watch Upstairs Downstairs, or PBS Newshour, just for example, are uninformed, unsophisticated and brain dead. Well, there’s probably some truth to both of those statements. But the value of PBS is not in the news or bad English sitcoms.

The majority of those who benefit from public television are underprivileged children. In defense of PBS, commentators and pundits are saying that PBS is one of the most valuable video resources for school teachers and students, providing a type of professionally-made educational programming that is free to the public.

No, Mr. Romney, Big Bird isn’t the problem with the deficit. Your overpaid, over privileged friends in Congress are responsible for the out of control spending. Never do they have to watch a true budget, forever dipping into the bottomless pocket of the suffering tax payer.

Additionally, with all of the economic difficulty befalling the country right now, should the focus of the candidates really be on Big Bird and PBS? It just offers more proof how out of touch both of these candidates are with the problems faced by the regular people of America.

Voters can’t handle the truth

In Business, Economy, Education, Local News, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, State News, Uncategorized on October 9, 2012 at 9:03 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

Politicians distort the truth and exaggerate facts to elicit effect from an audience. All of them do it. The idea of any candidate being open and honest is not only unbelievable, but would likely bring the American political system to a dead stop.

No one is going to be completely honest and the determination of whether a politician is lying is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately die-hard fans of a particular candidate will insist that it’s only the opponent who lies. The hard, cold truth is, they all “lie.”

In the Star Wars film series, mentor Obi Wan Kenobi warns Luke Skywalker that many of the truths we cling to in life depend greatly on our point of view. Nowhere is that a more appropriate statement than in the political ring.

Often, distortion of the facts is an effort to cover uncertainty or a lack of knowledge. No one could possibly provide an answer to every problem and, rather than appear weak or uninformed, a candidate has prepared a neutral response to counter his or her lack of a solution. Voters should learn to read between the lines and determine whether this behavior is a character flaw or the nature of the job.

Sometimes a candidate, in a moment of either clarity or misstep, will betray his or her thoughts. Mitt Romney’s off-the-cuff remarks about the 47-percent of people who will vote for Obama because of the president’s predilection for endorsing entitlement programs is a perfect example of what can happen when a candidate’s true thoughts come to light.

Political candidates are under intense, constant scrutiny. Every word, every step, every mispronounced name can affect their overall image and subsequent performance in polling. Even misspeaking can be inferred as a lie and bring a campaign crashing down at any moment.

No matter how carefully words and phrases are chosen, however, they can still be used out of context to paint a candidate with a single brush stroke. Generally referred to as “sound bites,” the act of hacking up entire speeches into 30-second snippets has become far too common and can lead the listening public to the wrong conclusions.

Along the same concept, political advertising should be focused on informing the public about the intentions of the candidate. Instead, the point of these messages is to tear down the other guy, discrediting the opposition to the point of exclusion. Millions of dollars are poured into these ads just so each campaign can go back and forth on television, radio and on the Internet, just trying to counter the latest round of jabs from the other side.

Print or broadcast, generally the ads follow a simple pattern. One candidate takes a stab at the opponent’s position on something which is then answered from the other side with an accusation of lying about it, followed by some kind of weak rebuttal. But who is actually lying? Once again, that may depend on a point of view.

Developing and keeping on track a strong platform is tough for a political operative in today’s 2-minute news cycle. Since the American voter tends to go on hearsay and emotional preference rather than fact, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a consistent message. Much of the time is spent on damage control, like the president is doing now after his lackluster performance in the first debate.

Still, whether or not a politician lies is almost irrelevant to the modern voter. Americans seem to be more interested in trivial issues than the larger picture, proven by how easily they are distracted from more important problems by garbage issues. One man’s garbage, however, is another man’s treasure; so once again, it’s back to the pesky point of view.

One thing is for certain – all politicians lie. Voters just need to come to terms with how much of that really matters and learn how to separate the facts from the rhetoric.

 

Revising the Book of Romney

In Business, Economy, Jobs, National News, Opinion, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized on April 17, 2012 at 8:38 am

Mitt Romney will have to work hard to earn the 'regular guy' vote in November. Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

Presidential GOP front runner Mitt Romney has been repeatedly criticized as being elitist, out of touch, self-aggrandizing and focused only on his capitalist endeavors for gaining wealth. Critics say that he has absolutely no idea what the average American has to go through just to make ends meet in today’s economy, and, unfortunately, his own words have reinforced that image.

During a speech on theMichigan campaign trail, Romney commented that his wife had two Cadillacs. He was attempting to show people that his family owned American-built cars, trying to relate to theDetroit audience. Instead, he left the impression that he thinks that every stay-at-home mom can afford to own two luxury vehicles. Out of touch, or just bad speech preparation?

During the run of the GOP primaries, Romney has often presented himself as snobby, elitist and completely misunderstanding of the challenges faced by today’s worker. His multi-million-dollar income affords him at least two homes, vacations all over the world and much more. But while people are criticizing that kind of success, it’s important to remember that President Obama has also spent a great deal of his adult life in the lap of luxury.

As he finished his first year in office the president reported more than $5 million in personal income; not bad for a junior senator fromIllinois. Like Romney, his fortunes have accumulated because of good financial decisions and investments in the capitalist system – a fact Democrats like to downplay whenever possible.

The truth is, neither man can truly grasp what it’s like to have to scrape together enough money to feed a family or worry that his paycheck won’t be enough to keep the electricity on for another month. But some are working to help change Romney’s image.

Author Jeff Benedict has just released an updated edition of his 2007 book, The Mormon Way of Doing Business, featuring a new chapter about Republican front runner Mitt Romney. Benedict touts a lifetime of the formerMassachusetts governor’s selfless good deeds; from his church-going youth to his big-business adulthood.

No doubt the author added the chapter to use Romney’s fame as a way to refresh book sales, but whatever the motive he does reveal a softer side to the Mormon candidate. In one story Romney grabbed a shovel to assist a family friend after a wildfire nearly destroyed their home. In another, he mobilized a city to search for a missing girl.

In 1996, when the 14-year-old daughter of a business partner disappeared, Romney mobilized the business community and local authorities, creating a command post at his office and utilizing his position to leverage assistance wherever possible. Thankfully, the girl was found, but relatively few know of Romney’s involvement in the incident.

While these stories are emotionally compelling and help to humanize a man who is often seen as cold and without compassion, the timing of their release is precarious. At this point, trying to throw out selfless tales of heroism and personal generosity will likely be reflected by critics as grandstanding from the Romney camp in an effort to win over a few bleeding hearts.

Romney’s business savvy is without question, but can the same be said for his integrity and commitment to working on behalf of a country shackled by an ever-increasing deficit and floundering economy? It’s hard to imagine that a few kind anecdotes will be enough to change his harsh, all-business image enough to sway voters to unseat the president in November.

Given the number of delegates he’s earned in the primaries, the former governor certainly seems a shoe-in for the GOP nomination. If he is chosen to run on the Republican ticket, the challenge will be to convince the majority of the country to give up Obama-ism and follow the book of Romney. It’s too bad the Prophet Moroni didn’t leave behind another golden book to guide his way like the one Joseph Smith found. Romney will simply have to rely on opinion polls and CNN, just like everyone else.

 

Don’t Believe Everything You Read. Seriously, don’t.

In Entertainment, Local News, Media, Opinion, Politics, psychology, television, Uncategorized on April 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

By Gery L. Deer

Deer In Headlines

 

For reasons I still can’t totally understand, many people insist on believing whatever they read on a printed (or digital) page, regardless of how inane or baseless the material may seem. Generally the topic or tone falls in line with the reader’s interests or personal opinions and if it strikes them just the right way they fall for it, bait, hook and headline.

For example, while I appreciate the loyalty of my readers, I always encourage them to explore for themselves whatever topics I present and not simply take my word for it. An op-ed (opinion-editorial) column like mine offers one or two viewpoints about a particular topic but always has a ‘slant’ to it. For the author, the column can serve several purposes.

Some op-ed columnists are simply trying to put a voice to a particular viewpoint and provide food for thought to the reader. Others are doing everything they can to sway public opinion, by whatever means available to them, even by misrepresenting the facts.

Talk radio personalities and television news commentators offer the broadcast version of a written editorial column, usually with a much wider reach and, thus, a larger audience. Broadcast celebrity opinionists (my word for them) have one goal which is to please the advertisers by increasing ratings.

Banging on the desk and yelling, playing sound bites out of context and using as much spin as possible, these over paid blowhards ply the mushy brains of audiences with a lot of self-appointed authority. That authority is false but accepted by the masses, leaving them unable to tell the difference between fact and sensationalism.

Eventually, the Internet provided yet another outlet as audiences took to the computer screen for their news and information. So much pseudo-journalism has flooded the web that many now question the legitimacy and accuracy, not to mention the political slant, of modern news agencies. Take blogs for example.

The word blog is a shortened form of web log. Blogging started out simply enough as the ramblings of disgruntled workers or bored housewives who found an audience for their personal diatribes in the vast wasteland of the information superhighway. Over time, the number of blog followers has begun to surpass broadcast news and print journalism.

Depending on the content, a blog can attract millions of readers worldwide. According to the website InitialTraffic.com, the official blog of The Huffington Post was the most visited blog website of 2011 citing millions of hits for the publication. Other blogs have become mainstream resources, having transformed from op-ed material to news and video content.

Competition for subscribers and high-volume audiences is fierce between media outlets and some will do whatever it takes to keep advertising and subscription revenue coming in. It’s important that readers know the difference between opinion, editorial, news and sensationalist content. But how do you tell the difference?

An article or broadcast story that can be considered ‘news’ will provide the reader with the who, what, why, when and how of a topic, giving you the information without commentary or speculation. An opinion or editorial piece will include conjecture or literally offer the writer’s views in an attempt to slant the story or alter public perception of the topic.

In my columns, I generally cite the facts of a current event, a quote by a politician (in its entirety, so the context is clear), express the concerns of fellow citizens or I will base the work on a historical reference of some kind. The idea is to provide the solid, factual basis for whatever argument I wish to make.

For all of the chatter online, on television and on the radio, your local newspaper, in my opinion, is still your best bet for accurate news coverage regarding events immediately affecting you and your family. Online or in print, it offers a ground-level look at the day-to-day happenings without the ‘noise.’ Whatever your choice for news and commentary, be an informed reader.

 

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