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Title: Blog by Novelist William S. Frankl, MD

Archive for January, 2018

Mozart and Constanza/A lovely Tale

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Mozart at his happiest? A little tale whose truth we will never know. But, whether it is true or not, it IS a lovely story.

If Mozart’s widow, Constanza, is to be believed, the happiest days of Mozart’s life occurred in 1780, when he was 24 years old and writing the music for “Idomeneo,” an opera that had its premiere performance in Munich on today’s date in 1781. Mozart had good reason to be happy. For starters, the best orchestra in Europe, the Mannheim Court Orchestra, had relocated to Munich, and that orchestra would be the pit band for his new opera. The lead role was being written for Anton Raff, a famous tenor of his day, and, even better than that, there were some exceptionally talented—and exceptionally good-looking—young sopranos in the cast as well. Mozart promptly fell in love with one of them, a strikingly beautiful diva named Aloysia Weber, but ended up marrying her sister Constanza instead. By contemporary accounts, Aloysia, with her high cheekbones and magnificent carriage, was close to the ideal beauty of the day. But Mozart came to appreciate Constanza’s more sympathetic personality, not to mention, in his own words, her “two little black eyes and pretty figure.” Mozart had written several operas already, but music historians are right when they say the canon of truly great Mozart operas begins with “Idomeneo,” an opera that must have been, literally and figuratively, a labor of love.

Economic state of the States

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

A serious, little known problem could scuttle the great economy we are seeing now.

Washington Examiner

A Financial “bomb cyclone” is coming for the states in 20181/8/18
By Sheila Weinberg

January is traditionally the time to put the past behind us, turn over a new leaf, and make plans for what’s to come. Many indicators show the country’s economy has been pumping on all cylinders this past year. Stocks are at record highs and the unemployment rate is at its lowest point in 17 years. Many would agree that the economy is moving in the right direction, which is excellent news.

Unfortunately, this optimistic news is somewhat undercut by worsening financial trajectories at the state government level from coast to coast. The nation is not in as good a shape as it seems.

Recently updated government financial disclosures show alarming levels of red ink on statehouse ledger books across the country. A 2017 analysis shows $1.5 trillion in state debt, a 15 percent increase over the previous year and part of a long-term worsening trend. In the last year, only seven states reported improved financials, while three were unchanged, and 40 are on a troubling downward trajectory.

There is a significant variation in the fortunes of the 40 downward trending states, which include examples at both ends of the extreme, such as Alaska’s declining surplus and New Jersey’s skyrocketing $208 billion debt. However, when the data is taken as whole it is hard to understate the scale of the precarious fiscal situation at the state government level. Truth in Accounting, an organization I founded in 2002, analyzes the most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, and our data shows that the average state now carries a staggering $10,020 in debt for every one of its taxpayers.

TIA’s sister site, State Data Lab, is a statistical resource created to help citizens understand the complex relationship between inputs and outputs that has led to this fiscal tailspin. None of these data points can be interpreted in a vacuum, but a clear image emerges when they are considered as a whole. Across the most financially challenged states, you can find above average public-sector compensation, higher unionization, and more egregious gerrymandering.

These data points hint at some of the intangibles that challenge budgeters at the state government level. But the most illuminating examples are simple increases in public-sector spending that are paid for with the taxpayer’s credit card.

Across all 50 states, we have seen expenditures creep up over the last 10 years in every category. Average state spending on education has increased 31 percent over the decade, spending on health and human services has risen 68 percent, and interest payments on debt have jumped by 36 percent. This spike in public-sector spending far outpaces inflation, and has pushed the average individual taxpayer’s burden up from $8,900 in 2009 to $10,020 in 2016.

Increased government spending doesn’t necessarily foretell financial doom if it’s linked with corresponding revenue increases. But most states have opted to cover their spending sprees by unfairly shifting the burden onto future taxpayers, including our children and grandchildren. Vast amounts of money—mostly in public-sector pensions and other post-employment benefits such as retiree health care—have been promised on paper without sufficient funds to back them up.

This short-sighted accounting trick allows governments to claim they have balanced their budgets while artificially deflating their published debt numbers. However, the day will come when they have to decide whether to default on promises made to state workers, or hand the bill to surprised future taxpayers.

These accounting gimmicks amount to financial negligence, and undermine democratic checks and balances. Governors and state legislatures are saying one thing—in the form of bogus bookkeeping—and doing something else without scrutiny from constituents. If voters don’t have access to honest information, they can’t make informed choices at the ballot box. As we close out 2017, let’s set some goals about the nation’s financial trajectory. We deserve governments that live within their means, and above all else, we have a right to honest accounting disclosures from our elected officials.

Sheila Weinberg, CPA, is the founder and CEO of Truth in Accounting, a nonprofit organization that researches government financial data and promotes transparency for a better-informed citizenry.

Political Stalemate

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

More of the same!! Washington is broken politically. Read this and see what the future holds( or doesn’t hold).

The Washington Examiner

GOP Agenda Up Against the Midterms
Susan Ferrechio
1/9/18
Happy New Year from Capitol Hill. The House is still in recess but the Senate is back to work today. Here is your weekly insight. America’s gain from the recent tax reform victory could soon be squandered if lawmakers fail to control spending before the end of the month. Heritage experts explain why. Also, you can count on amnesty for “Dreamers” being a sticking point in the upcoming budget battle. Heritage has research that proves amnesty doesn’t work. Plus, as protests continue in Iran, our experts know how Washington should respond. Take notes, we have your conservative policy solutions right here.

How Republicans can squander tax reform gains.
Lawmakers passed a short-term spending bill right before Christmas, averting a government shutdown, but the current patch expires on Jan. 19. “Now that Congress and the president have achieved significant tax reform, they must work together in 2018 and beyond to realize fundamental budget reform. If they fail, the gains just realized on taxes could be too soon undone,” says Romina Boccia, deputy director of Heritage’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies and Grover M. Hermann research fellow. Read five key facts about federal spending in 2017 as Congress moves toward a new deal.

The reality behind America’s “Dreamers.”
It’s very likely that providing amnesty to illegal aliens, who benefited from President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, will be a sticking point when Congress resumes its budget battle this month. Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow in Heritage’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, says lawmakers should stand strong against amnesty. “Amnesty will encourage even more illegal immigration—just as the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act did,” writes von Spakovsky. “That bill provided citizenship to 2.7 million illegal aliens. Yet by 1995, another 5.7 million illegal aliens were residing in the U.S.” Read von Spakovsky’s latest commentary on cutting through the media’s falsehoods about “Dreamers.”

What the United States should do as protests escalate in Iran.
The people of Iran have taken to the streets to protest the economy and the country’s rulers. Iran hasn’t seen this type of unrest since 2009’s “ green movement.” Twelve people have been killed in demonstrations so far. President Trump tweeted out his support for the protests Saturday morning, calling out Iran for spending the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Jim Phillips, a senior research fellow in Heritage’s Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, says Trump’s tweet was right on. “Washington must continue to drive up the long-term political, economic, and military costs of Iran’s military interventions in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. It should underscore that the regime’s economic mismanagement, corruption, and support for terrorism and Islamic revolution, which provoked sanctions, have exacerbated Iran’s economic problems.” Keep reading Phillips’ op-ed on what the Trump administration should do next.

Religion Under Assault

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

This is a frightening story of the assault on religion in Canada. Is the USA far behind?

The Heritage Foundation

Religious Liberty is Eroding in Canada. Here’s What Americans Should Learn
The Daily Signal
12/28/17
By Emilie Kao and Zachary Jones

Outside of watching the occasional hockey game or purchase of maple syrup, most Americans pay little attention to Canada.

We may know of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s colorful socks, but little of how unpopular he is among his constituency. We may discuss the single-payer health care system, but are unfamiliar with the government’s disrespect for religious liberty of our neighbors to the north.

Faithful patriots in this country who are concerned by the attacks on free exercise of religion in America should also be concerned by the similar attacks on liberty echoing within Canada, a country with strong protections for religious liberty in its Charter for Rights and Freedom.

In light of the immense trade between our two countries, we must determine if religious intolerance is an intangible export that has escaped our notice.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. But this can’t be done alone. Find out more >>

Last month, Alberta’s Child and Family Services barred a Christian couple from adopting a child because their religious views about sexuality—views shared by orthodox Jews and Muslims—were incompatible with “the official position of the Alberta government.”

The Ministry of Children’s Services stated that the couple’s belief that sexuality should not be experienced or explored until a person is married, would not create a “safe, healthy, loving, and inclusive home.”

And in June, Ontario passed a law that gave state agencies the power to prevent families from adopting or fostering children if the parents would not affirm the child transitioning their “gender identity” from male to female or vice-versa, calling such a denial “child abuse.”

Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state of Michigan over legislation that allows faith-based adoption agencies to only place children into homes with mothers and fathers while under government contract.

And much like Ontario, Illinois is requiring foster parents to affirm the gender identity of any child in their care and aid in any medical procedures the child wishes to undergo.

The Canadian government has unilaterally taken positions on sexuality without the consent of its citizenry, much like the Obama administration’s unilateral decision to reinterpret the definition of “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity in Title IX.

But if Americans and Canadians can’t adopt or foster children because they don’t affirm a child undergoing potentially harmful hormone therapies and sex-reassignment surgeries or sexual activity outside of marriage, will the government also begin using this criteria for “good parenting” of biological children?

Will they treat the parenting practices of Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims as suspect if they simply refuse to adopt the latest sexual trends?

Also in Canada, the Supreme Court will soon determine if attorneys who hold orthodox religious beliefs on sexuality are eligible to practice law.

Before Trinity Western University could even open its law school, the accrediting legal societies within Nova Scotia, Ontario, and British Columbia voted not to accredit graduates from the university’s school of law, because the Christian university has Orthodox Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality.

Trinity Western University is the only Canadian university to have received an A+ grade in quality of education over the past seven years, yet in 2014, the Law Society of Upper Canada labeled the students’ views as “abhorrent” and “not welcome in the public marketplace.”

Without a degree from an accredited law school, students cannot practice law in the province.

Similarly, in 2015, the mayor of Salem, Massachusetts, lambasted Gordon College, a Christian university, for its beliefs about marriage after the university president wrote to President Barack Obama asking for a religious exemption from a forthcoming executive order on hiring practices related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The mayor decided to prohibit Gordon College and its students from using a local meeting hall they had used for years. Lynn Public Schools then banned Gordon College students who were majoring in education from training as student teachers at local public schools.

The New England Association of Schools and Colleges even held a special meeting to consider revoking Gordon’s accreditation.

In both the United States and Canada, governments and accreditors are threatening the ability of graduates of Christian universities to work in the professions for which they have been trained.

Canadian members of parliament also denied member Rachael Harder the chance to chair the Status of Women Committee led by the Liberal Party solely because of her pro-life views. Despite the chair position being procedural, not political in nature, the Trudeau government refused to allow Harder’s “outrageous” views into any kind of position of authority.

Much like a scene from “Mean Girls,” politicians staged a walkout to protest Harder’s appointment because of her viewpoint on abortion. Ultimately, they gave the position to a member of parliament who did not want it.

In the United States, senators, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; and Al Franken, D-Minn., and leftist organizations like the American Bar Association have smeared judicial nominees like Judges Amy Barrett and Steve Grasz and public officials like Kelvin Cochran and Russell Vought as “unqualified” and “hateful,” simply because of their Christian beliefs.

Their ability to serve as judges, work in government, or lead a fire department is being questioned solely because of their religious views.

In both the United States and Canada, the ability to work in government and pursue your dreams is becoming increasingly dependent on one’s beliefs about sexuality, biology, and the beginning of human life.

These developments should concern all those who believe in the right to not only hold religious beliefs in private, but to exercise them in public.

Canada was founded on the idea of religious pluralism, allowing Catholics living in Quebec to freely practice their faith. The United States was founded as a refuge for religious dissenters, as the Puritans fled persecution from the Church of England.

It is this commitment to religious liberty for all that has led America to defend religious minorities around the world, including Jews, Muslims, Baha’is, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians.

The U.S. and Canada were the only two countries that had ambassadors for international religious freedom. But Trudeau opted to dissolve Canada’s office of ambassador of religious freedom.

If America and Canada, who are traditionally the foremost defenders of religious freedom around the world, are now forsaking that value, what will happen to the Rohingya Muslims in Burma, the Christians and Yazidis facing genocide by ISIS, and the Jews who are facing renewed anti-Semitism in Europe, all of whom the U.S. has fervently advocated for?

Right now, Canadians and Americans of faith have the opportunity to form strategic alliances, especially as they relate to marriage, family, and the free exercise of religion. But the growing threats to religious liberty and freedom of conscience make it especially urgent that these partnerships develop quickly.

Many of the world’s most dire and violent religious conflicts are rooted in lack of respect for religious freedom and religious diversity. There is no time to waste.


William S. Frankl, MD, All Rights Reserved