Alan Vervaeke - Oath is to our Constitution, not to a flag

Since 1869, the oath of enlistment has stayed essentially unchanged for our armed services. Everyone who joins the military — regardless of branch — has one thing in common: they must swear in by repeating the oath. It is something that every service member must promise and adhere to for his/her entire military career. From the oath, it’s clear that members are defending the Constitution — not a person, flag or song. Discipline and accepting orders is sworn to. If you betray your oaths, you are subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I swore this exact oath on June 13, 1978, for the first time:
“I, Alan Vervaeke, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
Before you raise your right hand, you make damned sure you understand what you are swearing or attesting to. Because servicemen and women don’t protect a flag. They protect your rights. The right to kneel. The right to burn a flag. The right to fly any flag. The right to curse in public. The right to march in protest.
If you served and you don’t get that, then you never understood the oath you swore. If you didn’t serve and you keep kvetching about “they’re disrespecting our service men and women!” then you need to keep quiet because you don’t get it and quite possibly you never will. Your sense of entitlement is huge and it stems from ignorance. As my friend Jim Wright says, making someone — anyone — salute the flag while your boot is on their throat isn’t patriotism. It’s fascism, and you should repeat that over and over until you get it because our military fought fascism for four long years and lost hundreds of thousands of young men and women to do so. Yet here you are supporting it and a man who faked medical issues to avoid military service. That’s a travesty.
Meanwhile, it’s OK for the vice president to cost U.S. taxpayers $100,000 for travel to an NFL game in order to protest a kneeling man who didn’t cost us a damned penny. That’s hypocrisy,  blatant and horrific. Not surprisingly, it was orchestrated in advance by a president who called a man who was exercising his First Amendment rights a “son of a bitch.” When Trump did that, dozens more men took a knee. Dozens more linked arms in solidarity with those who knelt. Then the president escalated the situation further with more disparaging remarks. In a league where 70 percent of the players are people of color and 83 percent of the fans are white, it smacks of racism. White people telling black people to shut up about racial injustice and just play football. But why should the man who told us that some of the white supremacists in Charlottesville were “really fine people” — or those who voted for him — surprise us?
Perhaps people should comprehend why a football player chose to kneel at all. Originally he sat down, and people were furious. Then a former Green Beret named Nate Boyer talked to Mr. Kaepernick and told him that while he disagreed with what he was doing, it took significant courage to do it. He said “I’m not judging you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s your inalienable right. What you are doing takes a lot of courage, and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was like to walk around in your shoes. I’ve never had to deal with prejudice because of the color of my skin, and for me to say I can relate to what you’ve gone through is as ignorant as someone who’s never been in a combat zone telling me they understand what it’s like to go to war.”
Later on, Mr. Boyer proposed that Mr. Kaepernick instead kneel while facing the flag. Why? Because In a military funeral, after the flag is taken off the casket of the fallen military member, it is smartly folded 13 times and then presented to the parents, spouse or child of the fallen member by a fellow service member while KNEELING. The two of them decided that kneeling for the flag would symbolize his reverence for those that paid the ultimate sacrifice while still allowing Mr. Kaepernick to peacefully protest the injustices he saw.
Meanwhile, to exacerbate all of this, clearly demented televangelist Pat Robertson blamed the Las Vegas shooting on the NFL’s disrespect for Trump, God and the National Anthem. As though football players at ANY point ever demeaned God. Some people wonder why I detest the religious right getting involved in partisan politics that more resemble hate mongering than anything else? We’ve seen it here in this paper time and again. Religion truly is the last bastion for the ignorant to hide behind and rally ‘round.
Am I angry? You’re damned right I am. People are more upset about a black man kneeling than they are over a white man shooting 600 concert-goers. I’ve smelled the stink of white privilege while it tries to justify tearing our country apart in order to substantiate itself. And all the while, in the noise and confusion, the president of the United States continues to shred protections for women and minorities, the environment and the working class.
So if you truly want to live in a country where everyone is required to worship the flag and pretend that everything your leader is doing is just plain awesome, you’ll fit in perfectly in North Korea. Have a nice trip. Bring warm socks — you’ll need them. Bye, Felicia!
Alan Vervaeke is a veteran and father happily living in Gilford.

  • Written by Mike Mortensen
  • Category: Columns
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Michelle Malkin - Obama lied & my 4th health plan just died

Cue the funeral bagpipes. My fourth health insurance plan is dead.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I received yet another cancellation notice for our private, individual health insurance coverage. It's our fourth Obamacare-induced obituary in four years. Our first death notice, from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, arrived in the fall of 2013. The insurer informed us that because of "changes from health care reform (also called the Affordable Care Act or ACA)," our plan no longer met the federal government's requirements.

Never mind our needs and desires as consumers who were quite satisfied with a high-deductible PPO that included a wide network of doctors for ourselves and our two children.

Our second death knell, from Rocky Mountain Health Plans, tolled in August 2015. That notice signaled the end of a plan we didn't want in the first place that didn't cover our kids' dental care and wasn't accepted at our local urgent care clinic. The insurer pulled out of the individual market in all but one county in Colorado, following the complete withdrawal from that sector by Humana and UnitedHealthcare.

Our third "notice of plan discontinuation," again from Anthem, informed us that the insurer would "no longer offer your current health plan in the State of Colorado" in August 2016. With fewer and fewer choices as know-it-all Obamacare bureaucrats decimated the individual market here and across the country, we enrolled in a high-deductible Bronze HSA EPO (Health Savings Account Exclusive Provider Organization) offered by Minneapolis-based startup, Bright Health.

Now, here we are barely a year later: Deja screwed times four. Our current plan will be discontinued on Jan. 1, 2018.

"But don't worry," Bright Health's eulogy writer chirped, "we have similar plans to address your needs."

Riiiiight. Where have I heard those pie-in-the-sky promises before? Oh, yeah. Straight out of the socialized medicine Trojan horse's mouth. "If you like your doctor," President Obama promised, "you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what."

Is pathological lying covered under the Affordable Care Act?

Speaking of Affordable Care Act whoppers, so much for "affordable." Our current deductible is $6,550 per person; $13,100 for our family of four. Assuming we can find a new plan at the bottom of the individual market barrel, our current monthly premium, $944.86, will rise to more than $1,300 a month.

"What's taking place is a market correction; the free market is at work," says Colorado's state insurance commissioner, Marguerite Salazar. (T)his could be an indication that there were too many options for the market to support."

This presumptuous central planner called federal intervention to eliminate "too many" options for consumers the free market at work. Yes, friends, the Rocky Mountain High is real.

This isn't a "market correction." It's a government catastrophe. Premiums for individual health plans in Virginia are set to skyrocket nearly 60 percent in 2018. In New Hampshire, those rates will rise 52 percent. In South Carolina, individual market consumers will face an average 31.3 percent hike. In Tennessee, they'll see rates jump between 20-40 percent.

Private, flexible PPOs for self-sufficient, self-employed people are vanishing by design. The social-engineered future — healthy, full-paying consumers being herded into government-run Obamacare exchanges and severely regulated regional HMOs — is a bipartisan big government health bureaucracy's dream come true.

These choice-wreckers had the arrogant audacity to denigrate our pre-Obamacare plans as "substandard" (Obama), "crappy" (MSNBC big mouth Ed Schultz) and "junk policies" (Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa). When I first called attention to the cancellation notice tsunami in 2013, liberal Mother Jones magazine sneered that the phenomenon was "phony." And they're still denying the Obamacare death spiral. Liberal Vox Media recently called the crisis "a lie."

I don't have enough four-letter words for these propagandists. There are an estimated 450,000 consumers like us in Colorado and 17 million of us nationwide — small-business owners, independent contractors and others who don't get their plans through group coverage, big companies or government employers. The costs, headaches and disruption in our lives caused by Obamacare's meddling meddlers are real and massive.

But we're puzzles to corporate media journalists who've never had to meet a payroll and don't even know what is the individual market.

We're invisible to late-night TV clowns who get their Obamacare-at-all-costs talking points from Chuck Schumer.

We're pariahs to social justice health care activists and Democrats who want us to just shut up and subsidize everyone else's insurance.

And we're expendables to establishment Republicans who hoovered up campaign donations on the empty promise to repeal Obamacare — and now consider amnesty for immigrants here illegally and gun control higher legislative priorities than keeping their damned word.

We're the canaries in the Obamacare coal mine. Ignore us at your peril, America. You're next.

(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)

  • Written by Edward Engler
  • Category: Columns
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Froma Harrop - Will you wed work till death do you part?

Many Americans now face retirement, hearts full of dreams, bank accounts full of nothing. For them, those Wall Street ads showing silver-haired couples sailing warm blue seas may seem aspirations beyond their grasp. Instead, they may find themselves the 72-year-old hired to drive the platinum couple from the airport to the docks.
Some 45 percent of Americans have zero saved for retirement, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security. Why would that be?
The reasons are diverse. The problem may be stagnating wages, an expensive medical crisis or divorce that chopped household income in half. Or while collecting paychecks, they didn’t save enough, invested unwisely and spent too much on vacations, cars and pricey luxuries.
A big reason is the near disappearance of the traditional pension plan. It made saving for retirement a no-brainer. Employees didn’t have to decide how much, if any, of their paycheck to set aside. They didn’t do the investing. The company did it all. On retirement, former employees would be sent a pension check every month, possibly for the rest of their lives.
The 401(k) plan has taken its place. This is a deal whereby workers elect to move a certain amount out of their paychecks every week and into a retirement account. Participants usually have a say in how the money is invested.
And the 401(k) is a deal — even though investment companies often take a too-big chunk in fees. The employer may match some of the contributions. And the earnings deposited in the 401(k) are not taxed. You pay taxes only when you retire and withdraw the funds.
Though 80 percent of workers have access to a 401(k), only 61 percent put anything in. And many who do vastly underestimate what they’ll need and contribute far too little.
Whether they have other savings or not, Americans know that Social Security is there as a backstop. (Don’t let anyone tell you the program is going down.)
Social Security is beautifully simple, but even here, people make mistakes. For one, they start collecting benefits too early.
Consider the 61-year-old entitled to $1,000 a month at the full retirement age of 66. If that person starts collecting early at 62, the monthly check drops to $750. By waiting until age 70, the benefit jumps to $1,350. The difference between dipping in early and late is, starting at 70, $600 a month for the rest of one’s life.
In a recent poll of Americans over age 50, 4 in 10 said they plan to start collecting Social Security benefits early. Less than 9 percent said they’ll hold off until 70.
On the spending and borrowing side, the housing bubble of the 2000s fostered some bad habits. As real estate values rose, people started seeing their home as the pot of gold funding their retirement. They figured they didn’t need other savings.
Many also started treating their homes like piggy banks. As home prices rose, they refinanced their mortgages, borrowing more so they could take cash out for whatever. Home equity loans were another means of doing that. Mine came with a checkbook, meaning I could pay the electric bill by reducing my home equity (the part of the house that I, not the bank, owned).
Toward the end of last decade, the bubble popped, and for many, the magic money vanished.
Savvy Americans with high net worth seem quite able to guarantee clear sailing in retirement. Others who don’t plan, can’t plan or are in too desperate straits to put anything aside may end up working for the rest of their lives. That presupposes they can work. What if they can’t?

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

  • Written by Edward Engler
  • Category: Columns
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Jim Hightower - Think your job is safe from the robot revolution?

Industrial automatons have been on the march for years, devouring the middle-class job opportunities of factory workers. But this time is different.

If you think your family's future is safe because you don't rely on factory work, think again. Rapid advances in AI have already turned yesterday's science fiction into today's brave new "creative destruction" — the constant churn of economic and cultural innovations that destroy existing ways of doing things. A network of inventors and investors, hundreds of university engineering and math departments, thousands of government-funded research projects, countless freelance innovators and the entire corporate establishment are "re-inventing" practically every workplace by displacing humans with "more efficient" AI robots.

This mass-scale deployment of robots has already ushered in a whole new world of work. It's a CEO's capitalist paradise, where the workforce doesn't call in sick or take vacations, can't file lawsuits, doesn't organize unions — and is cheap.

As a result, robots are rapidly climbing the pay ladder into white-collar and professional positions that millions of college-educated, middle-class employees have wrongly considered safe, including:

Doctoring. Robots have long served as surgical assistants, but today's robotic sawbones can be the primary slicer-dicers, operating with more precision than humans. Robots are now performing millions of surgeries every year. Moreover, advanced doc-bots increasingly diagnose and choose treatments based on their ability to digest thousands of scientific articles, medical reports, patient records, etc. In 2012, Vinod Khosla, billionaire co-founder of Sun Microsystems, noted: "Much of what physicians do ... can be done better by sensors, passive and active data collections, and analytics." His stunning conclusion was that computers will eventually replace 80 percent of what doctors now do.

Delivering the goods. While online retail giants have already eliminated hundreds of thousands of sales clerks by radically restructuring how consumers make purchases, AI systems are poised to gobble up the jobs transporting those products. The first big targets are America's truckers, who number 1.8 million and have some of the few remaining, decent-paying jobs not requiring college degrees. Engineers at Google, Uber, et al. are rolling out prototypes for driver-less trucks that can crisscross the country without rest breaks, sleep, or days off.

Amazon. This corporate behemoth's focus on workplace "efficiency" has made it the poster-child job disrupter in the retail economy, maximizing robots to displace as many humans as possible, as soon as possible. Their massive warehouses are already buzzing hives of robots plucking millions of products from miles of shelves to fill online orders. More are coming. While Amazon staged a PR show in August around its nationwide "Job Day" event to hire 50,000 human workers, it has been expanding its current swarm of full-time robots. In 2012, it bought an artificial intelligence developer, now named Amazon Robotics, to breed its own line of androids, and by August had added another 55,000 of these creatures to its 100,000-strong warehouse workbot-force. Amazon is also pushing regulators to let it replace delivery workers with drones and is testing a chain of "Amazon Go" convenience stores "staffed" almost entirely by AI systems. And it just swallowed Whole Foods grocery chain, loudly promising lower prices but whispering the method: replacing clerks, stockers, et al. with robots.

We already have human-less branch banks; restaurants with Chef Rob Robot in the kitchen; financial firms with online robo-advisors picking stocks; hotels with cute robotic bellhops; driverless farm equipment with computerized sensors dictating when to plow, plant, spray and harvest; automated lawyer replacements for everything from contracts to divorces; computer-generated AI algorithms replacing human football coaches in deciding whether to run, pass, or punt; news reports without reporters, written instead by computers; and on and on. The Washington Post reported that the "automation bomb" could destroy 45 percent of U.S. work activities, causing $2 trillion in lost annual wages.

CEOs and other top dogs in our economic hierarchy are, of course, the primary "winners" in the race to roboticize work. They are gleaning ever-higher profits and extravagant annual bonuses for themselves by pushing multitudes of living/breathing workers off the corporate payroll. But, surprise! Maybe even these fortunate few are not immune from harm. They might take note of a 2014 move by Deep Knowledge Ventures, a Hong Kong financial corporation: It chose a robot to serve on its board of directors. Citing its superior ability to analyze and predict market trends, DKV's human directors elected the algorithm, named "VITAL," as an "equal member" of the board, with a full a vote on investments. How soon, then, before we have a bot-plot, with a cabal of rogue robots conspiring to overthrow an unsuspecting CEO and seize control of a corporation?

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

 

  • Written by Edward Engler
  • Category: Columns
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Bob Meade: When punishment is needed

By BOB MEADE

U. S. District Court Chief Judge Brian Jackson recently ruled that a Louisiana policeman, who was injured by a rock thrown at him by an unidentified protester in a Black Lives Matter protest rally, cannot sue Black Lives Matter because it is a “social movement.” In other words, if the person committing the felonious act while in the social group cannot be positively identified (and I assume the identity corroborated) the person being injured has no legal recourse to seek damages for injuries suffered. Wow! Has the Judge just found a way to legalize mayhem by “social groups”?

Let’s think this through for a few minutes. First, one might assume that to hold a protest rally, the leaders of that rally should need a permit from the municipality.  It is also reasonable to assume that the permit allows for “the people to peaceably assemble” as cited in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is hard to imagine that the founders would have endorsed participants in such an assembly having the ability to commit felonious acts without any chance of being held accountable.  The Amendment specifies peaceable, not felonious.

Next, the judge’s ruling cites Black Lives Matter as a “social” movement and denies the officer the right to sue for damages to his person. Wouldn’t one think that a truly “social” movement would not have a problem asking its participants to identify the person(s) who threw the rocks? And, if a “social” group is given a permit to “peaceably assemble,” but the group breaches that permit by committing felonious acts, should it still be considered a “social” group? And, should all “peaceably assemble” permits now require all participating in the rally to be verifiably identified and also sign the permits?

One has to wonder if the judge either didn’t know of, or if he simply ignored the numerous incidents of those groups attempting to incite violence when their protest slogans called for policemen to be killed and calling them pigs, to be fried like bacon? Do you think our founders would have judged those marches as “peaceable” assemblies?
Thinking of a recent protest rally in Boston, it is estimated that seven thousand people showed up to protest a “free speech” rally being held by approximately fifty people. I don’t recall if the protesters had a permit, or if they were a “social” group but, as a matter of context, if a Boston police officer were to have been similarly injured at that protest rally, would he or she have been allowed to sue the rally organizers? Equal justice? Blind justice?

One also has to wonder if Judge Jackson would have made a similar ruling if the person who was injured was not a Louisiana policeman, but was a child who was visiting her grandmother. If justice is to be blind, the ruling of the judge should be the same regardless of who was injured.

Sadly, we have seen our court systems become politicized, making decisions that are more socially driven than Constitutional. We have judges who have imposed large “cash bail” requirements on people which has resulted in some being held in jail for lengthy periods prior to their trial dates . . . essentially prejudging their guilt. We have seen judges refuse to accept a change in plea request seemingly because others charged with the same crime were not found guilty by a jury of their peers. Prejudging guilt!

The recent tragedy in Las Vegas that resulted in the killing of 58 innocent people, and the injury to over 500 others, is going to present many more serious claims for damages. In all likelihood, not only will the estate of the shooter be sued, but so will the hotel, gun manufacturers, and maybe even municipalities, for failing to prevent the “peaceful assembly” of the concert goers. It seems like there would be no questions as to suing the estate of the shooter, but perhaps the hotel will seek to be absolved of any responsibility. Obviously, a vigorous case will be presented alleging that the hotel turned a blind eye to the unusual amount of baggage that was brought in, the fact that the alleged shooter refused housekeeping entry into the room for a number of days, or ignored the sounds that resulted from the building of the platform from which the shots were fired. We have to wonder, if a judge can prevent what he deems to be a “social group’’ from being sued by a policeman who was injured by someone in that group, can another judge also prevent a hotel from being sued for ignoring out of the ordinary conditions that resulted in such a tragic event?

We are all fallible; we make mistakes, as do organizations, businesses, and government entities. We need to find ways to do better, but that won’t happen if we don’t acknowledge the failings and assess some punishment for them.

Bob Meade is veteran, retired businessman and longtime volunteer in Laconia.

  • Written by Ginger Kozlowski
  • Category: Columns
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