What is Critical Race Theory?

An Historical Look at the Social Justice Movement in American Society

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Critical Race Theory
Critical Race Theory
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Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a term that is much bandied about on social media and in the press today, but the average citizen is likely to be unsure about what it is. After all, the term is non-specific in meaning, the very definition of a specious term. We know it’s got something to do with race (in America), it’s a theory (OK, an academic concept), and it’s critical, so it’s a make-or-break thing. But, put those parts together, and it’s meant to convey… nothing of any substance. So, to go beyond pundit-spout, we must look at the roots of the movement. Which the mainstream media does not (will not) cover.

The History of Marxism

The Marxist Left structured its political program based on the theory of class conflict. Karl Marx thought that the basic characteristic of his day’s industrial societies was an imbalance of power between the few capitalist have-alls (the 1% in today’s terms) and the many workers. His solution to that imbalance was revolution: the workers would at some point gain consciousness of their situation, secure the mechanisms of production, overthrow the capitalists, and thrive in a new socialist society.

Since then, many societies have enacted Marxist-themed revolutions. Each and every one concluded in sheer disaster. Socialist/communist governments in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Cuba, and elsewhere ended up killing nearly 100 million of their own (expendable or non-cooperative) citizens. Theory generated from the comfort of a London library was one thing, but in practice, Marx’s ideas brought about utter societal destruction.

Fast-Forward to the Mid-1960s

Marxist intellectuals in the West had finally begun to acknowledge these catastrophes. They wanted to close their eyes to Soviet butcheries and ultimately realized that worker’s revolutions could never happen in classic Marxist fashion in Western Europe or in the US, where there were already predominant middle classes and the standards of living were constantly improving. Americans had never really developed a sense of class consciousness or class division in the same sense as those in the Old World. Americans were brought up to believe in the American dream, the concept that they could rise above their beginnings via education, working hard, and practicing good citizenship.

With this realization, Marxists simply adjusted their revolutionary theory to work with the social and racial unrest happening in the 1960s. They discarded Marx’s economic theory of capitalists and workers and substituted the term race for class and initiated a revolutionary conglomerate of the abused based upon racial and ethnic categories, a move where they acted as the cancel culture on themselves! But, Americans preferred the concept of improving the country rather than overthrowing it. The Marxists needed a new strategy.



Critical Race Theory is Born

It was conceived in the 1990s, constructed upon the intellectual skeleton of “identity-based” Marxism. For many years it remained in universities and obscure academic journals. But insidiously, over the past decade, it has solidified into the default ideology in many of our public institutions. It’s been instilled in government agencies, public (and some private) schools, and human resources departments. You’ve probably seen it in the guise of diversity training programs, public policy guidelines, and school curricula. The accepted over-reach is mind-boggling. Writing for Imprimis, Christopher F. Rufo gives some examples:1

  • In the name of equity, UCLA Law Professor and critical race theorist Cheryl Harris has proposed suspending private property rights, seizing land and wealth and redistributing them along racial lines.
  • Critical race guru Ibram X. Kendi, who directs the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, has proposed the creation of a federal Department of Antiracism. This department would be independent of (i.e., unaccountable to) the elected branches of government, and would have the power to nullify, veto, or abolish any law at any level of government and curtail the speech of political leaders and others who are deemed insufficiently “antiracist.” This is the cancel culture at its finest.
  • The Department of Homeland Security was telling white employees they were committing “microinequities” and had been “socialized into oppressor roles.”
  • The Treasury Department held a training session telling staff members that “virtually all white people contribute to racism” and that they must convert “everyone in the federal government” to the ideology of “antiracism.”
  • The Sandia National Laboratories, which designs America’s nuclear arsenal, sent white male executives to a three-day reeducation camp, where they were told that “white male culture” was analogous to the “KKK,” “white supremacists,” and “mass killings.” The executives were then forced to renounce their “white male privilege” and write letters of apology to fictitious women and people of color.
  • In Cupertino, California, an elementary school forced first-graders to deconstruct their racial and sexual identities, and rank themselves according to their “power and privilege.”
  • In Springfield, Missouri, a middle school forced teachers to locate themselves on an “oppression matrix,” based on the idea that straight, white, English-speaking, Christian males are members of the oppressor class and must atone for their privilege and “covert white supremacy.”
  • In Philadelphia, an elementary school forced fifth-graders to celebrate “Black communism” and simulate a Black Power rally to free 1960s radical Angela Davis from prison, where she had once been held on charges of murder.
  • In Seattle, the school district told white teachers that they are guilty of “spirit murder” against black children and must “bankrupt [their] privilege in acknowledgment of [their] thieved inheritance.”

“The climate crisis is a crisis born of injustice. A crisis born at the pursuit of profit… The trampling of indigenous rights is a cause of climate change. The trampling of racial justice is a cause of climate change.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Terminology

Some of the terms employed by its supporters to describe critical race theory are “equity,” “social justice,” “diversity and inclusion,” and “culturally responsive teaching.” Equity sounds benign. It’s easily confused with the American principle of equality. And really, who among us would object to more home equity? That’s got to be a good thing, right? But the distinction is important. Equality, the principle proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, defended in the Civil War, and codified into law with the 14th and 15th Amendments, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965—is explicitly rejected by critical race theorists. To them, equality represents “mere non-discrimination” and provides “camouflage” for white supremacy, patriarchy, and oppression.



Critical race theorists and their sycophants like to project the image of themselves as benign social justice warriors, seeking only to improve the condition of society. Nothing is further than the truth. Like Antifa thugs and the more radical arm of BLM, they are Marxists who are determined “by any means necessary” to shift all the power to their control. Unfortunately, the media is only too happy to be complicit and corporate America pays them more homage than they do to consumers. That is capitalism turned on its head. Perhaps it is working after all.

Further Reading


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.


References

  1. Christopher F. Rufo, Imprimis, Critical Race Theory: What It Is and How to Fight It, https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/critical-race-theory-fight/

The History of Cancel Culture

History and Present-Day Deniers Seek to Modify Society, Generally to Totalitarian Class-Specific Ends

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Nazi book burning; an act of cancel culture
Nazi book burning; an act of cancel culture
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What does the term “cancel culture” mean today? Dictionary.com says it is, “the phenomenon or practice of publicly rejecting, boycotting, or ending support for particular people or groups because of their socially or morally unacceptable views or actions: Cancel culture can ruin careers, but it can also make a public figure think twice before posting controversial comments,” and “the phenomenon or practice of publicly rejecting, boycotting, or ending support for particular people or groups because of their socially or morally unacceptable views or actions: Cancel culture can ruin careers, but it can also make a public figure think twice before posting controversial comments.1

So, you should be concerned, very concerned. We have this “new face” of this form of social engineering and revisionist history, but consider this tidbit from the World War II-era:

First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me

Martin Niemöller, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian opposing the Nazi rise to power

History of Cancel Culture

It has always been used by the powerful to control and isolate the elements of society that they disapproved of. Ironically, today the tables have been somewhat turned via the tools of the internet and social media in particular. Fake news is a particularly efficient vehicle. Here are some examples from a historical perspective.

Where did it all start? Most likely it has been with us from the beginning when a caveman was ostracized from the group for some slight or inability to contribute to the survival of the group. As historically documented though, American Thinker tells us, “Cancel culture has its roots in intolerance dating back to the French Revolution (1789-1794), when Robespierre’s Reign of Terror resulted in some 30,000 deaths — a period accompanied by a concerted effort to erase and destroy Christianity and its traditions and institutions.  The culmination of that phase of the French Revolution was marked by the regimes’ installation of a prostitute as head of the Notre Dame Cathedral.  With that affront to decency and elimination of God, Robespierre and his successors thought they could rule without moral constraints. “2



Russia introduced a kind of Photoshop mentality to the concept. As the head of Red Army, Leon Trotsky was instrumental in making the communist revolution come to fruition for Vladimir Lenin, and for his successor Stalin after the former died in 1924.  However, by 1927, Stalin had purged Trotsky from the now-powerful Communist Party and Soviet politics. He expelled him from the country in 1929. Then Stalin assembled a team to erase all photographs as well as references to Trotsky in each and every historical record. When the order ultimately went out to have him assassinated years later, the cancellation had been done and there was hardly an official record or photograph left showing that Trotsky ever even graced Russia with his presence.

China was hardly different. Mao Zedong’s communist revolution was founded on historical determinism. This was a fundamental tenet of this flavor of Marxism that required the cancellation of past history and the subordination of its citizens to the collective identity of the communist state. During the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, Mao instructed his Red Guards to unify the country’s populace to cancel and rid itself of what he held to be the so-called “Four Olds”: Old customs, Old culture, Old habits, and Old ideas. The result was devastating, with Chinese people turning on each other and confused, brainwashed youth betraying their own siblings parents, and grandparents. At the end of it all, Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Chinese Cultural Revolution were responsible for at least 40 million deaths, both those for which Mao was ultimately responsible and those that sprung from the draconian, disastrous policies he obstinately refused to change.



The Current American Cancel Culture

Until recently, most Americans were rolling right along, prospering financially, advancing technologically, and seemingly happy as the proverbial clam. All was not so with the government apparatchiks in Washington. The mainstream media, in their own bellicose style, were alternately promoting the far-left agenda, and “reporting” (rather, chopped, pressed, and formed; just like your favorite pseudo-food) events with such a spin that fact-checkers couldn’t keep up. No matter, the fact-checkers in their employ were hardly non-partisan anyway. Classic smoke and mirrors.

Black Lives Matter and Antifa entered the fray, orchestrating and participating in “peaceful” rioting, looting, destruction of both public and private property, and mercilessly beating anyone wearing a red MAGA hat. Others eagerly began to participate. Colin Kaepernick fanned the flames of the abolish-the-police faction of the movement with his infamous pig socks which he gladly flaunted to the press. Nike corporate capitulated and responded by signing him as their flagship lackey. College students were rallied in their legions by progressive tenured professors who had been roused from the slumber of their dotage by all the hoopla. The stage having been set, the left began making damnfools of corporate America and dismantling or renaming (taming) these icons of industry:

  1. The Muppets. Inanimate puppets which PBS saw as racially diverse are now seen by the far left as insulting. How does one meander further left than PBS?
  2. Aunt Jemima. Because you have to slave over a hot stove to get those pancakes out.
  3. Mrs. Butterworth’s. The same as her colleague Jemima but with the added slur of using a pronoun that is not LGBT-approved. Also, “Mrs.” rather than “Ms” is supportive of the ersatz concept of patriarchy.
  4. Uncle Ben’s Rice. Lawd no!
  5. Cream of Wheat. There’s a tiny picture of a Chef-of-Color on the box. Real black men aren’t stereotypical cooks unless it’s barbecue in a beer ad.
  6. Eskimo Pies. I get it — Associating indigenous peoples with a frozen confection is racist.
  7. Land O’ Lakes Butter. Lose the Indian maiden logo; alert all dictionary publishers to red-line the word “squaw.”
  8. Gone With the Wind. No longer a valid historical drama and brilliant cinemagraphic presentation because it not only portrays not only slaves-of-color but female slaves-of-color. You damn misogynistic bigots! Two strikes, damn your eyes!
  9. Cleveland Indians baseball team mascot. Because they don’t win enough?
  10. Washington Redskins team mascot. See number 9.
  11. Mr. Potato Head. Just because of the pronoun “Mr.” Company representatives actually said they didn’t want to limit its gender choices. #tubersaregenderfree
  12. Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer. They are saying it’s because he’s a bully. The way I remember it, he was the one excluded from the reindeer games and therefore, the victim. Besides not even getting the story line straight before passing judgement, it’s fiction, you progressive bullies!
  13. Dr. Seus. Oh, for crying out loud. They say the author may have had some racist tendencies which he evolved from post-puberty. When in doubt, pillory and convict.

Did Speaker of the House Pelosi Attempt to Cancel Trump in Violation of the U.S. Constitution?

Judicial Watch, a constitutional watchdog group working in the public interest, has filed a FOIA suit against the U.S. Department of Defense for records of Pelosi’s January 8, 2021, telephone call with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Defense (No 1:21-cv-00593)3 to answer this question.

At the heart of the matter is a phone call that Speaker of the House Pelosi made to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley regarding President Trump. She acknowledges that the call was “to discuss available precautions for preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike. The situation of this unhinged President could not be more dangerous, and we must do everything that we can to protect the American people from his unbalanced assault on our country and our democracy.”

The problem, as the Wall Street Journal editorial page sees it is, “Mrs. Pelosi’s call to Gen. Milley is itself a violation of the separation of powers by seeking to inject herself into an executive-branch military decision. She can offer advice all she wants, but this call at this time has the sound of an order. It might even be construed by some as its own little coup—conniving with the military to relieve of command the person who remains the elected President.”4

Did the CDC Communicate with Big Tech about COVID-19?

Big Tech has taken upon itself the mantle of Ministry of Health Truth by censoring users and doctors with which its opinions disagree. It demands that everyone march in lockstep. To what extent has the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) been involved in this?

Judicial Watch has filed another lawsuit to get to the bottom of this to which they say, “The public has the right to know about CDC’s involvement in Big Tech’s outrageous censorship of Americans, including doctors, who raise questions about the COVID-19 response. The Biden administration should stop stonewalling and release the records about the CDC’s role in suppressing the free speech of Americans.”

The bottom line is that the history of cancel culture and denial of truth is as old as mankind itself but is perhaps more dangerous today than it has ever been. Totalitarianism? Do you think it can’t happen here? The very fact that so many people are willing to accept erasing and banning from society something as mundane as a cartoon character because a manipulative minority finds it offensive (or contrary to a radical political agenda) speaks volumes. Inevitably, the pendulum swings, as it always does.


Further Reading


Resources

  1. Dictionary.com, Definition of Cancel Culture, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/cancel-culture?s=t
  2. Scott S. Powell, American Thinker, Cancel Culture: Its Origins and Implications for America, https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2021/03/cancel_culture_its_origins_and_implications_for_america.html
  3. Judicial Watch, JW v. HHS CDC Social Media complaint 00625, https://www.judicialwatch.org/documents/jw-v-hhs-cdc-social-media-complaint-00625/
  4. The Wall Street Journal, A Coup of Pelosi’s Own, https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-coup-of-pelosis-own-11610148740

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Grow Your Own Orange Tree, Harvest Citrus Fruit

When Life Gives You Oranges, Make Orange Juice!

by Kelly R. Smith

Making fresh orange juice
Making fresh orange juice
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This article was updated on 12/31/20.

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When my daughter Shannon was very young, she had an appetite for oranges that the local grocery store markets as “cuties.” In reality, they are a type of Mandarin orange. Just easy to peel. This caused me to embark on a journey to plant one fruit tree each year. Year one was that Mandarin orange tree, planted in the back yard.

The next year it was a Republic of Texas orange tree (pictured below). In the photo above, you might notice that the rinds darkened a bit from a slight freeze, but the insides remain fine. This tree bears fruit in the summer and by early December it’s ready for picking. No rush though; the fruit will hang there in suspended animation for months.



Choosing Your Fruit Trees

Many people make the mistake of seeing a tree at Walmart, Home Depot, or some other big box store, buying it, planting it, and then wondering why they never get any fruit. Well, it’s because these trees are sold irrespective of customer location. What works in upstate New York does not work here in south Texas. It is all about the growing zone — how freeze-tolerant the tree is. For example, consider the avocado tree. It is a southern tree but some species do well in moderate freezes.

Republic of Texas orange tree
Republic of Texas orange tree

The best bet is to go to a local nursery, after you do your initial research. They have a vested interest in the community and will likely want to keep a customer base. There are other resources to consider. Here, we have Randy Lemon, graduate of Texas A&M, who does a local radio show. I’ve listened to his weekend show for years and I have to admit, I wasn’t totally onboard initially because he poo-pooed organic, but now that his advertisers have began offering organic products, it’s all good. Imagine.

The bottom line here (I know you’ve been waiting for it) is that it is always a good time to put in your own fruit trees. You might be a prepper or not. You might trust organic produce at the grocery store or not. You might just want to save money. Regardless, there is a lot to be said for self-sufficiency. And, if you’ve got the real estate, why not?

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Introduction to Investing for Profit

Types of Stock and Bond Brokerages, Risk vs Return, and More

by Kelly R. Smith

Warren Buffett vs George Soros
Warren Buffett vs George Soros
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Standard Disclaimer—The author is not a financial advisor and this article is intended as educational material gained from 20 years of stock market investing. It is not intended as advice.

Many people still look at making financial investments for profit as a pastime that only the rich such as Warren Buffett engage in. And perhaps that was true in the past, but no longer. There has been a shift over time from pensions to self-directed retirement plans like the 401K.

These are highly managed plans; you look over a menu of funds and choose an assorted basket of funds, hopefully after doing much in-depth research. Some funds are primarily domestic, some are emerging markets, some are bonds—it goes on and on.

Most people are knowledgeable about one kind of investment–the home they pay a mortgage on and occasionally sweeten their real estate investment by remodeling or doing capital improvements like building out their basement.



Risk vs Return

As a general rule of thumb, funds and individual stock and bond returns range from high risk/high return to low risk/low return. Which is right for you? One of the most important factors to consider is how many years you are from retirement.

The most widely-accepted strategy is to begin with high risk positions when you are young with a long window of taking risks. You then re-balance your portfolio (collection of investments taken as a whole), each year so that you are taking less financial risk as you get closer to your golden years.

Choosing Between Buying Stocks or Bonds

Ideally, you want to own both; the ratio is up to you. Bonds tend to less volatile than stocks; they yield less return than stocks. But generally, when stocks are doing well, bonds perform less well and vice versa. When the market and economy burps, as it tends to do, you might want to make adjustments to your portfolio. Stocks like a bull market and bonds like a bear market.

Taking this approach has the tendency to smooth out the net worth of your portfolio, depending on whether we are experiencing a bull or a bear market. Forbes Advisor says, “According to market ‘astrology,’ a bear indicates the market is in decline while a bull signals the market is growing.”1 See the logic here? Always consider the fees that your broker charges per transaction.

As an example, when the conditions were spot-on I began acquiring Blackrock Municipal Income Fund and I did quite well with it. What makes municipal bonds so attractive? It is very stable, and of course, tax-free. There are always exceptions. Liquor, wine, and beer are called “sin stocks.” They almost always do well because as the saying goes, “people drink when the market is up because they’re happy and they drink when it’s down because they’re sad.”

You have probably voted on a “bond issue” in your community to build a new school or library. Upon approval, your city or county borrowed the money from a municipal bond fund and you and your neighbors paid it back over time with your taxes. It’s sort of like financing a vehicle.

How Much Time do You Want to Spend on Portfolio Management?

Investors come in different flavors. They vary from the timid and/or time-challenged to the type that wants to self-manage. If you’re the first type then you might stick with a relatively hands-off completely managed portfolio, like the 401K that your employer might offer.

If you are the hand-off type, keep in mind that you will be swapping convenience for potentially high management fees. Another strategy is to establish a personal account with a brokerage firm like JP Morgan Asset Management. As they say on their website, “We have a deeply resourced global network of investment professionals who take a research-driven approach analyzing every detail to uncover opportunities and risks to help our clients build stronger portfolios.”2

You will be paying for personal attention and remember that your broker is possibly more motivated by his commissions than with your profitability.

Exchange Traded Funds: What Are ETFs?

Forbes Advisor puts it this way, “Exchange traded funds (ETFs) are a type of security that combines the flexibility of stocks with the diversification of mutual funds. The exchange traded part of the name refers to how these securities are bought and sold on the market like stocks. The fund part refers to how an ETF provides easy access to diversification and exposure to a wide variety of asset classes.”3

The financial services company buys a basket of assets, stocks or bonds, currencies or commodity futures contracts, that make up the fund. Buying shares in an ETF doesn’t mean owning a portion of the underlying assets, as it would with shares of stock in a company. The financial services firm that runs the ETF owns the assets and manages them.



Invest at Your Pace with a DRIP Fund

I really like these. When I first started researching, I had rather shallow pockets meaning not much disposable income but I was eager to join in. DRIP funds (Dividend Reinvestment Plans) offer several advantages.

To begin with, they are very affordable. Brokerages operate like this: they charge a nominal fee such as $10 dollars per month for 2 trades. Unlike other types of brokerages, using this approach you can buy a percentage of a single stock. For example, if a stock is trading at $100.00/share, you can get in at half a share for a mere $50.

Another advantage is that in many cases you can sidestep a stock broker altogether and deal directly with the company you are buying into. The best way to identify participating companies is to look through a DRIP fund directory.

When your positions (individual companies you own) pay a dividend, the company (or DRIP brokerage) automatically uses it to purchase yet more percentage of shares and credits your account automatically. It is a frills-free brokerage so you must do your own research.

Play the Market like a Pro

Finally, there are on-line brokerages such as TD Ameritrade. You pay for individual trades, but again, you must do all your research. One good thing is that their on-line tools are extensive. You can drill way, way down when you are analyzing a potential position. You can trade options or you can choose from an extensive line-up of trading options including market, stop market, limit, stop limit, and more.

I hope you found something good to take away from this article on stocks and bonds, brokerages, and the risk vs return of investments.

You Might Also Enjoy:

Resources

  1. Kat Tretina, Forbes Advisor, What Are Bear And Bull Markets?, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/bear-market-vs-bull-market/
  2. J.P. Morgan, The path to stronger portfolios, https://am.jpmorgan.com/us/en/asset-management/adv/about-us/
  3. Miranda Marquit, Forbes Advisor, Exchange Traded Funds: What Are ETFs?, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/what-are-etfs/

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Is Tuition-Free College an American Right?

Should Government Force Taxpayers to Pay for Other People’s Children’s Education?

by Kelly R. Smith

Is tuition-free college a fair trade for tax-payers?
Is tuition-free college a fair trade for tax-payers?
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This article was updated on 01/08/21.

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Tuition-free college is one of those concepts that can be labeled as a “political football” just as topics such as abortion and drug criminalization are. Whether the ideas gain any traction and effect legislation after any given election is doubtful but they are certainly bandied about for the purposes of pandering and invoking the dog whistle.

Painting with a broad brush, it is a safe bet to say that liberals, leftists (yes, there is a difference), and Democrats favor some form of “free” college while those on the right, libertarians, conservatives, and Republicans oppose it. None of this is surprising since the left favors collectivism and the right prefers independence and personal responsibility. But in the end, the question looms — is tuition-free higher education an American right?

Does the Constitution Name Education as a Right?

No, the US Constitution does not express an opinion on the subject of education. You surely have an inherent right to get an education, the have the right to educate yourself, and the right to provide an education to others if you desire. That’s covered under the 9th and 10th Amendments:

  • The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
  • The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

So the Constitution, by deliberate omission, negates the notion that free tuition is a right. The only way the concept could hold water at all would be if the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) somehow made an interpretation and rendered a decision. Not that that is beyond the pale; consider how Justice Roberts allowed Obamacare by somehow interpreting the meaning of the words tax and penalty. Through what lens of reality does that man peer?

Why Tuition-Free Higher Education is Morally Wrong

Let us assume for a moment that all Americans (and as Bernie Sanders and AOC champion, even illegal aliens) have the right to a “free” education. In life, nothing is free. In this case, it’s all tax dollars, baby. This means that applicants would have a “right” to the labor of others. What is the definition of that? Slavery. As per the 13th Amendment, you have no right to the labor of others. Look it up.

Walter Williams nails social justice
Walter Williams nails social justice

So who does end up paying? Obviously, there are those who simply have chosen to go straight into the workplace after high school. They’re paying their own way; why should the law mandate that they shoulder the financial burdens of those why simply want a free ride? Consider these others:

  • In school year 2017–18, the national adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) for public high school students was 85%. Those without a diploma are not headed to college; at least not right away. They will be too busy paying for middle-class kids.
  • Retirees, many of which have already paid to educate their children. Enough already.
  • Members of the workforce making minimum wage or fighting for commission sales.
  • Entrepreneurs taking financial chances and providing jobs for others.
  • Citizens who go by choice go into the trades after high school, becoming carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, etc.
  • People that choose the military or police track. Why should they pay to educate those that they are defending? What an insult.


But Don’t We Pay for Free Elementary and Secondary School?

Yes… it’s apples and oranges. Elementary and secondary education is administered and financed on a local level, not federal. Communities have a self-interest in getting their citizens through this level of life-preparation for local economic, cultural, and security reasons.

How do you now feel about tuition-free college being an American right? If you are looking forward to having someone else support you while you pursue a college degree it’s probably because it’s like free candy and you’ve got a sugar tooth. But the path already exists. Do your bit and take advantage of the G.I. Bill. Get a part-time job. Apply for Pell Grants. Apply for scholarships. Take out low-interest college loans. Take responsibility. That’s my take. Many readers might wonder how I justify my opinion. Well, just to be transparent — I worked part-time at the local library while I used the G.I. Bill. When that ran out, I was a full-time carpenter during the day while attending night school. And after it was all done, no student loans.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Geothermal Energy as the Next Alternative to Oil and Gas

by Kelly R. Smith

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How geothermal energy is produced
How geothermal energy is produced

Geothermal energy is nothing new; it’s been around for decades. During the 1890s, the city of Boise, Idaho accessed a naturally occurring reservoir of geothermal heat close to the earth’s surface and created the US’s first district heating system. This is where one central source of heat feeds into multiple commercial and residential buildings. It’s still in use.

This type of energy production is far more intensive than ground-source heat pumps, which take advantage of steady shallow-earth temperatures to heat buildings or groups of buildings. This type is most likely to be found in single-residence or multi-residence abodes.

Why Geothermal Now?

So why is this alternative energy coming into the limelight just now? I makes sense for a society that wants sustainable energy but is frustrated by other technologies that have been tried.

  • Solar energy. It only works when the sun shines. Solar panel farms take up a lot of real estate. When they get dirty/dusty (as out in the wide, open spaces), water must be trucked out in hydrocarbon-fueled trucks to spray them down. Forms of storage media like batteries save captured energy for when it’s needed, but this is expensive. They require rare earth minerals such as Cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium deselenide (CIGS)1.
  • Wind power. It’s noisy. It threatens wildlife; gold eagles and tailed hawks notably have a propensity to fly into the blades. Studies show that approximately 45,000 birds have fallen victim over the last 20 years due to these wind turbines. They are inefficient; the functional part of the turbines are only able to extract about 59% of the wind’s power. Not much ROI. Installation is expensive; just one can be as much as $2 million or more, and that is before maintenance begins2.

Geothermal carries none of these burdens but it is just as plentiful as sun and wind. Vox.com says, “The heat is continuously replenished by the decay of naturally occurring radioactive elements, at a flow rate of roughly 30 terawatts, almost double all human energy consumption. That process is expected to continue for billions of years.3” What’s not to love?

Vikram (Vik) Rao is the former Senior Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer at Halliburton and is now the Executive Director of the Research Triangle Energy Consortium. He says, “Deep very hot geothermal development looks approachable. Suddenly we are talking about building on a new technology base to exploit heat reservoirs rather than fluid. What this all means is that geothermal is no longer a niche play. It’s scalable, potentially in a highly material way. Scalability gets the attention of the industry. Scalability is required for industry to pursue the opportunity profitably.”4

The Four Fundamental Types of Geothermal Energy Tech

One of the great things about geothermal is that any level of heat can be used directly; there need not be any waste. For example, it can operate pond fisheries or all-season greenhouses, to dry cement, or to make hydrogen. Taking it a step further, we can convert this hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

  • Conventional Hydrothermal Resources. In some areas on earth, water or steam heated by the earth’s core rises up through somewhat permeable rock formations that are full of fissures and fractures, only to become trapped under a solid caprock. These mammoth reservoirs of pressurized hot water usually betray themselves on the surface through fumaroles (holes in or near a volcano, from which vapor rises) or hot springs. Here, a well is drilled. The hot water rises and can be just over ambient temperature up to 370°C. The heat is extracted from it, the fluids are cooled, and then returned to the field by way of an injection well. This maintains pressure.
  • Enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). The limitation of conventional geothermal systems is that they are limited to specific locales where heat, water, and porosity join together just so. Those areas are limited. The way to broaden that scope is to drill down into solid rock, inject water at very high pressure through one well, fracture the rock to give the water a passageway, and then collect the heated water through another well.
  • Super-Hot-Rock Geothermal. The goal here is to tap into extremely deep, extremely hot, rock. The water here exceeds 373°C and 220 bars of pressure, it is called “supercritical,” a new phase that is neither liquid nor gas. It holds anywhere from 4 to 10 times more energy per unit mass than water or steam. It is possible to get more power out of three wells on a 400°C project than out of 42 EGS wells at 200°C. All this efficiency using less fluid and a fraction of the physical footprint. Win-win. Economics shows that that the hotter a geothermal gets, the more competitive its power price becomes, so that super-hot EGS could be the cheapest baseload energy available.
  • Advanced Geothermal Systems (AGS). This is an exciting new generation of “closed loop” systems. No fluids are introduced to or removed from the earth; no fracking is involved. Fluids circulate underground in sealed pipes and boreholes where they absorb heat by conduction and direct it it to the surface, where it can be used for a custom mix of heat and electricity.


It seems logical that geothermal energy could well be the next alternative to oil and gas, at least from a technical point of view. The political realm is another story altogether. Environmentalists and radical democratic socialists like AOC and her squad will surely find something to protest against.

References

  1. The Earth Project, Solar Farms Pros and Cons: 7 Facts We Can’t Deny, https://theearthproject.com/solar-farms-pros-and-cons/
  2. Udemy, 10 Disadvantages of Wind Energy: Not as Clean as You Thought, https://blog.udemy.com/disadvantages-of-wind-energy/
  3. Vox, David Roberts, Geothermal energy is poised for a big breakout, https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2020/10/21/21515461/renewable-energy-geothermal-egs-ags-supercritical
  4. The Heat Beat, ‘I Hated Geothermal. Then I Realized it is Now Scalable’ – An Interview with Vik Rao, https://www.heatbeat.energy/post/i-hated-geothermal-then-i-realized-it-is-now-scalable-an-interview-with-vik-rao

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Cooling Paint Could Cut Emissions From Buildings

Reducing Carbon Dioxide Via Scheduled Building Maintenance

by Kelly R. Smith

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Commercial building with a painted exterior
Commercial building with a painted exterior

The World Green Building Council tells us that combined, buildings and construction account for, “39% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions when upstream power generation is included.”1 In a previous post, I discussed how HVAC units2 (heating and cooling) systems are responsible for the lion’s share of this and a proposal to capture that carbon dioxide to generate hydrocarbons. This article discusses using paint to minimize CO2 in the first place.

The Quest: Finding an Effective Paint

Researchers have been attempting to come up with products to raise the efficiency of cooling and heating for years. Many types of reflective paint have been developed for the exteriors of both homes and office buildings that would reflect away sunlight resulting in a reduction the temperatures on the interior.

Up to this point, none of these reflective paint products have been successful in deflecting enough of the Sun’s rays that would result in the building’s temperature lower than the ambient conditions. That may be changing.

Researchers in the US say they have developed a white paint with strong cooling properties. Prof Xiulin Ruan, from Purdue University in Indiana says, “In one experiment where we put a painted surface outside under direct sunlight, the surface cooled 1.7C below the ambient temperature and during night time it even cooled up to 10C below the ambient temperature. This is a significant amount of cooling power that can offset the majority of the air conditioning needs for typical buildings.”

The Tech Behind the Paint

The researchers found that the key is adding calcium carbonate. By utilizing a high concentration of this chalky substance, differing the particle sizes, they developed a paint that reflected an astounding 95.5% of sunlight.

Prof Xiulin Ruan said, “Sunlight is a broad spectrum of light wavelengths. We know that each particle size can only scatter one wavelength effectively so we decided to use different particle sizes to scatter all the wavelengths. This is an important contributor eventually resulting in this very high reflectance.”

The paint may have a broad range of applications, in particular data centers, which require large amounts of cooling power. Because this particular paint doesn’t contain metal, it is not likely to interfere with various electromagnetic signals. This makes it ideal for cooling telecommunications equipment.

Of course, it goes without saying that there will be a number of steps to go complete before this product can be put on the market, because like any other product, it needs to be tested for its reliability and efficiency in the long term. The researchers remain optimistic; they have already filed patents and there is already a strong interest from major manufacturers. Cooling paint that can cut emissions from buildings of all types will lower costs across the board.

References

  1. World Green Building Council, Global Status Report 2017, https://www.worldgbc.org/news-media/global-status-report-2017
  2. Kelly R. Smith, I Can Fix Up My Home Blog, Can Climate Change Be Minimized Using Air Conditioners?, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2020/07/29/can-climate-change-be-minimized-using-air-conditioners/

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

How Health Care Systems Use Clinical Empathy to Support Patients

by Kelly R. Smith

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Surgeon and nurse operating on a patient
Surgeon and nurse operating on a patient

Introduction: What is Clinical Empathy?

What is clinical empathy? The Journal of General Internal Medicine1 defines it this way, “the act of correctly acknowledging the emotional state of another without experiencing that state oneself.” Note that patients desire empathy from providers, and providers want to make it available. As opposed to the layman’s concept of empathy, professional empathy must be purely cognitive, in contrast with sympathy. Otherwise, the professional risks identifying too closely with the patient, endangering the relationship and clouding the judgement needed for proper medical condition diagnosis and treatment.

Of course, this is not to say that the concept of clinical empathy is limited to the relationship between the provider and the patient (although that is the focus of this paper). It affects the entire medical community in one way or another. It applies to all, from the ophthalmologist to the surgeon and everyone in between.

The Role of Social Media

More patients are going online to discuss what they are experiencing. Such as, “Did you have this side effect from your flu shot? Were you warned?” This is having a relatively new influence on the patient/doctor relationship. The question is – how can this situation be managed in the most productive way possible? Empathy skills can be honed by understanding real-life situations and concerns. In order to get a grasp on what kind of relevant concerns are floating around on the internet, data analysis must be . At first glance, due to the sheer magnitude (and “noise”) of the data set, the problem might seem overwhelming.

This is where specialized software comes into the picture. Specifically, data analysis software that has both the statistical and analytical capacity to inspect, clean, transform, and model data in order to derive important information for decision-making purposes.

What sort of patient concerns crop up often in social media? Wait-time is always a big issue that leads to patient frustration. They see a lot of activity in the hospital or clinic, but nobody has a sense of urgency for their care. Another common concern is doctors and staff that are distracted, aloof, and impersonal. It is also quite common for someone online to seek out others that have had their condition and they want advice or confirmation that their treatment protocol will result in a high level of efficacy. Conversely, some patients reach out to share without being asked. This can be considered empathy in its own right.

Providers have noticed an uptick in this type of social media use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Group norms play a large part in this; while spending more time indoors and online researchers have found that individuals gravitate towards similar age groups, lifestyles, and socioeconomic groups that are similar to their own.

In many cases, the provider realistically can’t spend a great deal of time with one individual, or the volume of information is so large that the patient does not absorb it all. The patient may decide to fill in the gaps, and discover other points of view, via the internet. Social media used properly is a benefit to the medical community.2

Improving Clinical Empathy and Setting a Standard

The first step is to reach a consensus among the group of providers involved. Next is to define the current dynamic. and define specific methods to achieve the level of improvement needed. Some things to consider are:

  • Is there a current system of training for the group to ensure that a standard level of knowledge and application exists.
  • Is emphasis being adequately put on communication skills? There are many times when the provider must deliver negative news to the patient. Empathetic skills are extremely important in these situations.
  • Are providers experiencing “burnout” due to stress, administrative duties, long hours, etc.? This will have an adverse effect on providing empathetic care.

The Importance of Clinical Empathy

The importance of empathy in the provider/patient relationship cannot be overstated. In many cases, a patient who harbors the perception that the provider is not caring or involved will not present sufficient information for a proper diagnosis to be made. Empathy creates a communication bridge between the provider and the patient.

An end-game consequence is fewer situations where a patient does not feel like he or she received the expected level of care. More successful case outcomes translate into greater provider satisfaction and fewer issues with burnout.

What Are Some Relevant Barriers to Achieving Clinical Empathy

  • Lack of emotional intelligence, being unaware that one isn’t being perceived as empathetic.
  • Younger providers during training can seek to emulate more established colleagues who themselves are not empathetic.
  • Trying to balance the need to be objective and the need to show empathy and falling on the left side of the scale. This can be especially problematic when delivering bad news.
  • When a provider is experiencing burnout or has simply become jaded due to the long time spent on the job; enthusiasm to help others can get lost over time.

Empathy Gaps

Empathy gaps occur when the patient has seen his provider but comes away unsatisfied, feeling misunderstood. This can occur when:

  • They feel misunderstood or that the wrong assumptions were made.
  • They feel that the advice was boilerplate rather than personalized.
  • They feel that the level of service was substandard. This can be a problem for doctors that accept Medicare and Medicaid and try to book as many patients as possible.
  • No advise was given for supplements that could help their conditions or interfere with current treatment.

Changing behavior that causes these gaps can be done through MAPS (Motivation Ability Processing). This is formal training that providers go through that touches on areas of concern that have been identified.

Summary

Clinical empathy is not a recent phenomenon but advances in technology present new and powerful tools to identify issues and correct them. A suitable attitude is, “never be satisfied nor complacent.” Empathy has affected the medical community in many ways and is itself being affected by ever-changing conditions. Two of the prominent recent ones are the expanding presence of social media and the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Ways to alleviate it in order to provide a better experience for the patient and the provider are being explored and implemented.

References

  1. Jodi Halpern MD, PhD. What is Clinical Empathy? Journal of General Internal Medicine. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1525-1497.2003.21017.x
  2. Katherine Chretein and Terry Kind, Social Media and Clinical Care, Circulation, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/circulationaha.112.128017

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.


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Home Office Build-Out Tips

by Kelly R. Smith

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A home office
A home office

Recent estimates report that 33% of Americans are self-employed in some capacity. Now, the report didn’t break it down into full-time or part-time details, but it means one thing for certain — lots of home offices! You might need one for the first time because of being locked down thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re remodeling a bedroom into your office, or remodeling your current one, you can use these home office refurbishment tips.

Office Interior Lighting

All interior lighting is not the same. In the office, in particular, it falls into three distinct categories: general, task, and accent lighting. How much of each you use depends on your needs. General lighting is often implemented with overhead fluorescent fixtures. Most home offices just use task lighting.

Task lighting is used to focus on your work area to avoid eye strain. Good choices here are undercabinet fixtures, or track, monorail, or Y lighting systems with halogen or LED bulbs. Accent lighting usually illuminates artwork. This is taken care of with ceiling-mounted fixtures.

Buy Ergonomic Furniture

This is important for your comfort and long-term health. The two most critical pieces are an ergonomic office chair and computer desk. Adjustable standing desks are getting to be more popular. Before shopping, know what you need. Draw a detailed plan noting where things should be situated. Size is important; be sure everything will fit into your space.

Although it might be tempting to do so, I wouldn’t recommend placing the fax, copier, and printer where you can just reach over to make a quick paper grab. Why? Because you need to get out of your chair now and then to get the blood flowing! My Garmin 235 GPS watch actually lets me know when I’ve had too much butt-time.

Flooring – Choose Wisely

You’ve got many choices when it comes to flooring. Carpet is the best choice for sound control and it is forgiving; you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet. The downside is that occasionally you’ll have to hire carpet cleaners or rent a machine at the store. If you’ve got a lot of carpet in your home, go ahead and buy a carpet cleaning machine. It will quickly pay for itself. Who knows how nasty those grocery store ones are.

Are you after a a more contemporary look? You might consider hardwood or laminate flooring. When it comes to sprucing up your home office, consider that you’ll be spending more time in there than you would a conventional office (Netflix). Plan accordingly.

Upgrade Your Office walls

Your office walls are important. You should choose a color that you like, of course, but it should also be a color that is soothing enough to allow you to focus on your work. Small office? Here are some paint illusions to make the space seem larger.

I hope these home office build-out tips have inspired you and given you some food for thought. Always check the latest IRS guidelines to maximize your deductions. It’s like getting a pay raise! Please participate in the poll on the right-hand sidebar of this article. Thanks!



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Live Free or Die by Sean Hannity — a Book Review

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Sean Hannity -- Live Free or Die
Sean Hannity — Live Free or Die

My book review of the new Sean Hannity book — Live Free or Die; America and the World On The Brink (ISBN-10 : 1982149973). I’ve got the Audible.com version which I enjoyed on my 5-mile daily dog-walks, but the hard copy is also available.

So. Sean Hannity. People either love him or hate him, they are rarely on the fence. What I like about him is that like me, at the end of the day, he’s just a working class stiff. 20+ years as a carpenter will do that to you. He was a painter and waiter among other things. Contrast that with Joe Biden who likes to project the image but has no gravitas. Hey, Man!

What the Book Covers

The title is not all that descriptive of the content in my opinion. But, in a broad sense it does describe what’s going on. The book is reminiscent of an extended Sean Hannity radio show, minus the commercials and weather reports. In other words, he gives his conservative opinion but all backed up with hard facts. In my view, this work is just as important as The United States of Trump by Bill O’Reilley. Opinion backed up with hard, documented facts.

This book is a timeline history, compare and contrast, with previous administrations and Trump’s. So how are all these facts a clarion call to Live Free or Die, you might ask yourself? The answer of course, is Trump’s vision to make all citizens more free and prosperous.

Forces Dragging America Down

Yes, there are forces dragging America down even as Trump’s economy is building up employment and home ownership. As Hannity points out, these forces are deeply embedded in and guided from the far left.

Don’t take my word for it. Hannity lays it out in excruciating detail in this book, fact after fact. If you are not a fact and trivia junkie like me, this book might not be for you. On the other hand, if you seek verifiable truth, dig in.

I really found Live Free or Die to be very informative and entertaining but it’s not light reading/listening. Take your time with it and allow time to look up references, if you like. This book is particularly timely considering tat the general elections are almost upon us. Vote Socialist or American traditional values. You have a choice.