America’s racial tension from a different perspective

If you watch the news, you can’t help but notice that race relations in America are in bad shape. Of course, usually the news only focuses on the most extreme opinions from all sides. Here are some refreshing exceptions.

The constant barrage of media coverage on race in America does little to get to the heart of the problem.

But Fox 2 Detroit’s Charlie LeDuff offers a little insight with this recent dispatch from Milwaukee. The video is a refreshing departure from the coverage we’ve all become accustomed to on matters of race in the U.S.

Next up, is the remarkably honest man who called C-Span’s Washington Journal last week.

The show that day featured guest Heather McGhee who heads up the progressive think tank Demos Action.

The caller, Gary, said: “I’m a white male, and I am prejudiced. The reason it is is something I wasn’t taught but it’s kind of something that I learned.

“When I open up the papers, I get very discouraged at what young black males are doing to each other, and the crime rate.

“I understand that they live in an environment with a lot of drugs ― you have to get money for drugs ― and it is a deep issue that goes beyond that, but when, I have these different fears, and I don’t want my fears to come true.”

Gary added that he doesn’t like to “be forced to like people.”

“I like to be led to like people through example,” he said, before asking, “What can I do to change? You know, to be a better American?”

McGhee’s response couldn’t have been better, from noting that “people of all races and ethnicities and backgrounds” have certain prejudices to suggesting that Americans watch less of mainstream media’s coverage on race.

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Re-working an old law for a new ‘effective immediately’ gun grab

Gun owners in Massachusetts are running into all kinds of problems as they attempt to deal with Attorney General Maura Healey’s unilateral decision to ban hundreds of previously legal firearms by reinterpreting a 1998 law.

Boston Herald reported that Healey is taking a new approach to enforcing the law, which mirrors the federal assault weapons ban which expired in 2004, to keep gun makers from producing state-compliant versions of the rifles on the ban list.

From the report:

Healey said the state law not only bans the sale of name-brand weapons, but also bans copy or duplicate weapons. She said gun manufacturers have marketed “state compliant” weapons with minor changes, such as being sold without a flash suppressor or with a fixed stock instead of a folding stock.

She said those weapons are still illegal under the 1998 law.

Healey said her office considers a weapon as a copy or duplicate if its “internal operating system is essentially the same as those of a specifically banned weapon or if the gun has key functional components that are interchangeable with those of a banned weapon.”

Basically, if it looks like a big, scary black gun, Healey wants it banned. And when she unilaterally made the change last month, she declared it “effective immediately.”

And then the confusion set in. Gun owners and sellers were told they faced a 10-year charge for selling banned weapons. But beyond the semi-automatic weapons already banned in the state, no one is really sure what firearms are now also on the list.

That’s because the AG’s edict made hundreds of previously legal guns illegal.

Groups like the Gun Owners Action League are suggesting that the AG made the changes intentially ambiguous to intimidate firearm owners.

“On July 20th Healey launched a campaign of intimidation, fear, and abuse at law abiding gun owners their families, and many family owned businesses throughout Massachusetts.” Said GOAL Executive Director Jim Wallace.

He added: “Not only is Healey threatening licensed gun owners with a felony for legally owned firearms, she is also changing the language of the enforcement notice on an almost daily basis. Nothing in the notice matches existing federal or state law, she literally made it up, and continues to do so as she goes along. Yet, the ten-year felony charge remains

“Gun owners are justifiably upset, the attorney general has disregarded due process, that’s the crux of the issue, and we have to ask, what and who is next? She is setting a dangerous precedent with this action.”

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Capitalism is not to blame for exorbitant rise in price of EpiPen

The outrage of the week is the exorbitant rise in the cost of the EpiPen Auto-Injector. Predictably, the progressive left immediately jumped into full battle mode and trotted out its favorite boogie – capitalism. And just as predictably, they are looking to government to fix it.

The price to cash-paying customers for EpiPens is up some 600 percent to 700 percent over the past decade, with cash customers paying as much as $840 for a two-pack – though coupons are available that would bring the price down to around $650. (Hoping to dampen criticism and head off congressional hearings, Mylan announced yesterday it would begin offering a savings card to reduce the cost by as much as $300.) This is for a $2 ($4 for a two-pack) dose of medicine – a medicine available in Canada for about $100 without a prescription.

So EpiPen maker Mylan is coming under the scrutiny of the congressweasels – although that scrutiny has been tempered by the revelation that Mylan’s CEO Heather Bresch is the daughter of Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Over the last several days, Senators Chuck Grassley, Amy Klobuchar and Richard Blumenthal and Representative Elijah Cummings and others have called for information, investigations and explanations from and of Mylan. Klobuchar and Blumenthal are calling for price fixing – a form of collectivism that always fails and leads to shortages and more corruption.

If that’s where they’re looking, they’re looking in the wrong place.

In the years 2012 and 2013, Mylan spent about $4 million lobbying Congress and the Food and Drug Administration. The result is a defacto monopoly on epinephrine injectors. The FDA’s rules require companies with competing injectors to exceed the specifications required by Mylan, and so far the FDA has killed or stymied almost every potential competitor that’s come along. One epinephrine injector allowed into the market is dubbed “inferior” and rarely prescribed.

In 2013 Congress passed the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act that provides schools with financial incentives (read money from the federal treasury) to stock epinephrine injectors in case of emergency. The approved injectors are EpiPens, of course. The primary lobbying group pushing the bill was the group Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). The primary corporate sponsor of FARE is Mylan.

EpiPens have an FDA-mandated one-year expiration meaning, whether used or not, patients are cowed into tossing their old ones in the trash and replacing them and the doctors write new prescriptions each year. The government, through Medicare and Medicaid, pay whatever Mylan decrees the price to be, sans applicable deductibles.

Government meddling in the insurance market – first simply through the regulatory process and via Medicaid and Medicare and now through Obamacare – has completely distorted the pricing structure of health procedures, physician charges and pharmaceutical prices.

In fact, government meddles in the price of everything through the obscene regulatory structure, the tax structure, via subsidies and price supports and corporate welfare, all of which drive up the prices of products and services. This is especially true of most of the foods you buy: from sugar to rice to chicken to raisins.

America is not a capitalist system and has not been for more than 100 years… nor is there one in existence much of anywhere. What there is is a marriage between big government and big business. It’s called fascism – or it was in Italy. And now we have the same thing.

It is state capitalism or monopoly capitalism and, with only very small variations, the whole world is on this system.

Bureaucratic tyranny is as bad in the U.S. as it was in fascist Italy, national socialist Germany or communist Russia. It’s just more sophisticated and the media and the public (non)education system has sold it as democracy and capitalism.

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Finding safe, guaranteed income

Protect my principal, and guarantee my income. Those are the goals of many investors today, especially those in or nearing their post-career years. Now that the equity markets no longer are rising steadily upward, investors aren’t looking for ways to match or beat the indexes. They’re looking to protect the nest eggs they’ve worked hard to accumulate and ensure they don’t run out of income.

There are a number of ways to protect your nest egg. But there also are perils in the market for safe, guaranteed income.

When you’re in the spending years and looking to convert part of your nest egg into a stream of income, the immediate annuity is the conventional, reliable strategy. You give a lump sum to an insurer and it promises you a stream of income for life, or whatever other period you select. The payments to you include both income and principal. But you don’t have to worry about outliving the money. That’s the insurer’s worry.

There are some disadvantages. You have limited or no ability to dip into the principal when spending needs exceed the regular payments. That’s one reason not to put all of your nest egg into immediate annuities. Another downside is there’s nothing left for your heirs or charity after the income payments end. That’s another reasons to use only part of your nest egg to buy an annuity.

The amount of the income payments is fixed. Over time, inflation likely will erode their purchasing power. You need other income or assets to allow your spending to grow as the annuity’s purchasing power declines. Or you can buy an inflation-indexed immediate annuity instead of a standard annuity. Your initial payment will be lower with the inflation-indexed annuity. Normally it’s about 20 percent to 33 percent lower. But the payment will increase over time if there is inflation.

When you’re still in the accumulation and saving years, there are other options to guarantee your principal and minimum returns.

You can look at the traditional plain vanilla deferred fixed annuity. With this annuity you pay a lump sum to the insurer. In return, your account is credited with an income return each year. The return usually changes annually in line with either intermediate bond yields or the investment returns of the insurer.

Some insurers complicate these annuities with bonus interest, teaser first-year yields and other features. Remember these will cost you in some way. Also, weak insurers sometimes use these features or above-market yields to attract investors and gain market share. In those cases, you often pay for the higher yields with below-average returns in the long term.

When you want to try for a higher yield, consider an indexed annuity (once known as equity indexed annuities). These credit your account with a yield based on the behavior of a stock market index. The specifics of the formulas can get complicated. You won’t receive the full return of a stock market index, and there will be an annual maximum return, usually of 10 percent to 12 percent, regardless of how well the index does. But when stocks are rising you should receive a higher return than from a fixed deferred annuity and won’t risk losing a substantial sum as you would in the stock markets.

A traditional index annuity guarantees your principal never will decline. (Before 0 percent interest rates you also might have received a guaranteed minimum annual return.) But index annuities have optional bells and whistles that could cause a decline in principal. These features include guaranteed minimum death benefits and guaranteed minimum (or lifetime) withdrawals benefits. We’ll discuss what these terms mean shortly.

If you choose these riders, an additional fee is charged against your account. When interest rates are as low as they are now and the stock market has low or negative returns for the year, there might not be enough income to offset the additional expense of these riders. That means the value of the annuity account can decline because principal will be used to pay the expenses. Be sure you fully understand the income crediting and expense rules and whether the account could decline under some circumstances.

Versions of or competitors to index annuities are offered through banks and brokerage firms. You might see them described as principal protected notes, indexed certificates of deposit and other names. In most cases they’re backed by an insurer, so if you’re considering one compare it with available insurance offerings.

Variable annuities weren’t associated with principal protection and guaranteed income until fairly recently. In the wake of sizeable losses in the early 2000s that scared away buyers, insurers developed the guaranteed minimum annual return/accumulation (GMAR) and guaranteed minimum/lifetime withdrawal benefits (GMWB). These features try to combine some elements of immediate and fixed annuities with variable annuities. The GMAR is what the name implies. But you should read the fine print when you consider one so you understand the limits of the guarantee and what might happen under different circumstances.

Let’s focus on the GMWB. A GMWB rider promises the annuity will pay the owner an annual distribution for life equal to a minimum percentage of the initial investment. The guarantee depends on the owner’s age and how long he or she waits before beginning distributions. For example, a 60-year-old who begins distributions immediately will be guaranteed a 4.5 percent annual distribution in one popular annuity. A 55-year-old who doesn’t begin benefits until age 60 receives an initial payout of 5 percent, while a 50-year-old who waits for distributions until age 60 receives a 5.5 percent payout.

The minimum distribution is guaranteed regardless of the actual returns generated by the investments the annuity owner selects and how long the account owner lives. The distribution could increase if investment returns are high.

The guarantee increases the fees charged to the variable annuity account, which already are high. Because of the higher fees, it becomes more difficult for the account to earn high enough returns to increase the account balance enough to meaningfully increase the annual distributions above the guarantee. So, you’re basically locking in the minimum distribution with a fairly low probability of increasing that amount.

A rider for guaranteed minimum death benefits is a way of protecting your principal for your heirs and buying a form of life in insurance when you otherwise aren’t able to. It’s probably more expensive than straight life insurance if you’re of average health.

Guaranteed income and principal protection are available in many forms. They’re available whether you are in the spending years or the accumulation years.

When considering any of these vehicles, keep a few points in mind. One point is that you’re transferring risks to the insurer. You’re transferring the risks of low investment returns and a long life. In return you’re taking the risks that you won’t live to life expectancy and that investment returns will be high in the future. If either of those events occurs, the insurer makes a nice profit at the expense of either you or the insurer.

You’re also giving up some liquidity. Withdrawals above a guaranteed or scheduled distribution are limited or prohibited. You also either won’t be able to exit the annuity or will pay a penalty for doing so, at least for a period of years. Of course, you’ll also pay the insurance company’s fees and expenses, whether they’re explicitly stated or not.

Most people evaluate these guaranteed income opportunities the wrong way. They’re presented one product and evaluate it on its own. Instead, you need to determine whether or not you want guaranteed income and principal protection. When you do, first decide how much of your portfolio you want to allocate to it. Then, you should compare the different generic vehicles available. For example, do you prefer the simplicity of an immediate annuity, the protection of an inflation-indexed annuity or the potential for a higher payout from a variable annuity with GMWB? After answering those questions you can contact different brokers and insurers to see how the payouts and other terms differ between insurers.

A major disadvantage to buying guaranteed income and principal protection today is the income guarantees are low. That’s because the Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates low. Once you’ve decided on the guarantees you want, consider delaying the purchase. Suppose you decided on an immediate annuity for 25 percent of your portfolio. Instead of buying the full annuity now, you could buy an immediate annuity for life with 5 percent of your portfolio each year for the next five years. Or you could buy a five-year annuity now and hope interest rates will be higher in a few years.

— Bob Carlson

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Earlier this year an actress named Leslie Jones, the co-star of the box-office-bomb Ghostbusters remake, got embroiled in a nasty Twitter flame war.  That particular battle, which stemmed from a bad review given to her cut-rate Ghostbusting, resulted in the social media giant expelling Breitbart Tech editor and conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopolous; a topic I discussed in my column The Twittering of America.

Wednesday afternoon Jones again stepped into social media ground zero when her personal website was reportedly hacked.  The hacker(s) supposedly gained access to her site to post private files, including naked photos which were reputedly of the actress.  And then Leslie Jones became the most important person in the weird world of online discussion.  Lost in the chaos: whether she deserved any of it.

Every liberal within reach of a computer, tablet or smartphone began shrieking loud enough to wake the people who bought tickets to her movie.  Jones was a victim of racism! Jones was a victim of sexism!  Jones was a victim, period!  And here I was, thinking a “strong, black woman” could handle the rigors of maintaining a celebrity lifestyle, even against the supposed demons of social media.

The outraged roar (which I lovingly call “the coefficient of butthurt”[CoB]) rose to a fever pitch throughout the day.  Hollywood stars poured out messages of support for the supposedly-embattled actress.  Hate blogs like Salon, parody sites like “Vox,” and tabloid rags like The New York Daily News and The New York Times published lengthy condemnations of the purported cyber-intrusion.

Not one made any mention of the ugly truth waiting in Jones’s closet.  Leslie Jones may be a victim, but Leslie Jones is also a raging bigot.  Among her “punchlines:”

  • A profane rant in which she referred to Yiannopolous as an “Uncle Tom Faggot” whom “we need..to gas..to death.”
  • An assertion that all white girls look alike.
  • This insane bit of antisemitism: “Yo them dudes with the curls on the side of they head does that make them more Jewish?”
  • An apparent — and stunningly racist — reference to Lebron James having an off night: “Why is the goofy white boy coming thru!! The announcers won’t even call him lebron. The jamesing like a Muthafucka! Wake up James!!”

So, the “victim” has quite a few “victims” of her own; although her ugly bile seems to have slipped behind the curtain, drowned out by the sudden CoB. Considering her track record of noisy and noisome public remarks, including the box-office implosion of the Ghostbusters remake, Jones certainly needed a boost.  Lo and behold, along comes the “hack” of her personal site.  In what must have been a coincidence, the “hack” occurred a day before Hillary Clinton, who leaves victims nearly everywhere she goes, was scheduled to deliver a speech in Reno, Nevada on the evils of online harassment.

Look, it’s possible Jones is the victim of a hacking.  Just because the circumstances around the event seem rather neatly assembled to her benefit doesn’t mean she “Kardashian-ed” the whole thing.  Just because she’s an unfunny racist who clearly needed a career win doesn’t, either.  Nor does the curious timing of the incident, which will likely feature prominently in Clinton’s Reno babblefest (my deadline arrived hours before the old girl took the stage).

However, I can’t help but notice the CoB for poor miss Jones is significantly louder than that proffered for the victims of President Obama’s illegal hacks of everyone from reporters like James Rosen to pretty much anyone who used “tea” and “party” in the same email.  I also can’t help but notice that the same people who defended the now-defunct paparazzi site Gawker are suddenly furious about a very conveniently-timed hacking of a supposed comedienne.

There is no doubt that cybersecurity is — or at least, should be — a major concern for everyone, celebrity or not.  I strongly recommend everyone take a gander at G.S. Early’s column in yesterday’s Personal Liberty Digest®.  But save the sads for someone who deserves them.

— Ben Crystal

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Trump makes Minnesota ballot at last minute

(CNN) Donald Trump will appear on the ballot in Minnesota, after a last-minute scramble by state Republicans who discovered Wednesday that their nominee was not yet on the ballot.

The party had until Monday to submit the names of 10 electors and 10 alternate electors — the people who will officially cast Minnesota’s votes for president — to the Secretary of State.

“We just received the last item. We were waiting for a pledge from one of the alternate electors. The filing is complete and the Republican ticket should be listed on our site shortly,” Secretary of State spokesman Ryan Furlong said in an email Thursday afternoon.

A sample ballot produced on the Secretary of State’s website Thursday morning showed third party candidate Evan McMullin and candidates for many other parties on the ballot, including former Democratic candidate Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, now with the American Delta Party — but no Trump.


Alt-Right: Hillary supporters at speech clueless

(Breitbart) Hundreds of Hillary Clinton supporters lined up to hear her deliver a speech about the “alt-right” and Donald Trump on Thursday afternoon. Few, however, seemed to have any idea what the “alt-right” actually is.

Breitbart News spoke to over a dozen Hillary Clinton fans outside the Truckee Meadows Community College. None knew exactly what the “alt-right” is; a few had a vague idea that it referred to Republicans, or that Democrats were trying to connect it with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Most simply had not heard of the “alt-right,” and some misidentified it completely.