Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Globe Special: An$wered Prayers

Got quite a spread for you this morning:

"Wanted: Help handing out Buffett’s fortune" by Sacha Pfeiffer Globe Staff  August 13, 2016

For anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to give away millions of dollars to people in need, here’s your chance to help Warren Buffett and his sister do just that.

One consequence of being extremely wealthy is that strangers ask you for money — not just donation requests from countless charities, but pleas for financial help from individuals all over the world.

Each year, Buffett, the billionaire investor, receives thousands of letters from people asking whether he would pay their mortgages, medical bills, credit card debt, and more. Through a unique sibling partnership, Buffett forwards the letters to his older sister, Doris, who decides which ones to fund. Over the past decade, at least 22,000 letters have crossed their collective desks, and they have given away more than $12 million.

Yup, the face of the benevolent billionaires.

And now, in what might be Boston’s most unusual volunteer opportunity, Doris Buffett — who moved to the city last fall — is looking for people in Greater Boston to help her read a backlog of those letters, as well as new batches that continually arrive.

“My brother is putting up the money, so we’re sort of limitless,” Buffett, 88, said in an interview with the Globe. “He’s told me that any time I run out of money, all I have to do is call him.”

Warren Buffett, the chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., has an estimated net worth of $66 billion, ranking fourth on Forbes magazine’s list of the richest people in the world.

In recent years, Doris Buffett has had about a dozen volunteers helping her review letters in Fredericksburg, Va., where she previously lived, and Rockport, Maine, where she has a summer home. But that group has dwindled, so she wants to replenish its ranks with people from the Boston area. That proximity is important because Buffett wants volunteers who can meet with her regularly — she lives in the Back Bay — to discuss which funding requests are reasonable.

Her goal is to provide what she calls “life-changing” grants to people who, for reasons beyond their control, have fallen on hard financial times. A check from Doris Buffett is not akin to hitting the lottery; her gifts average about $4,800, although her largest to an individual was nearly $100,000. The intent is to stabilize people struggling with money woes.

“Bad things happen to good people, and sometimes, even if you try everything and keep plugging away, it doesn’t work and you just have no options,” said Noni Campbell, one of Doris Buffett’s original volunteers. “When there’s rent or cancer bills that have to be paid, a thousand dollars when you’re in a very, very bad position in your life is like a million dollars.”

Doris Buffett, who has been married four times and has three children, has paid for used cars, dentures, winter boots, tooth extractions, hearing aids, children’s clothing, furnaces, funerals, and tombstones. The money does not go directly to individuals; instead, Buffett and her volunteers buy the requested items and have them delivered, or send payments to mortgage companies, utilities, and other creditors.

“You are thrilled when you can answer somebody’s prayers,” said Buffett, who moved to Boston in October to be closer to her doctors; she is being treated for several medical issues.

The volume of incoming letters, many of which arrive handwritten on loose-leaf paper, fluctuates. It surges whenever Warren or Doris Buffett makes a media appearance, as well as after natural disasters and economic downturns, like the mortgage collapse. The Buffetts estimate they make at least 250 gifts each year totaling about $1.2 million, although some years the annual total has exceeded $2 million.

The money is funneled through Doris Buffett’s Sunshine Lady Foundation, which she created with an inheritance in 1996 and which also receives funding requests from strangers. Warren Buffett transfers Berkshire Hathaway stock — now worth more than $221,000 for each class A share — to replenish the fund when it gets low.

Writing checks from someone else’s checkbook might sound like a fantasy job, but it’s rigorous work on Doris Buffett’s watch. Volunteers do background checks on letter writers, including research on their income, assets, and debts. They contact references, which grant applicants are required to supply.

Sometimes, rather than provide money, the volunteers teach letter writers how to budget and connect them to government services or nonprofit groups that can lend assistance. They must also be on the alert for scam artists, such as people who write numerous letters from the same address using different names.

And they have to learn to gently say no.

Like declining tax subsidies or.... ??

“Sometimes it’s tough love,” said Campbell, who now works for Doris Buffett, whose nickname is Dodo and who, like her brother, grew up in Omaha. “If you’re going to lose your house because no way with your income could you possibly support a mortgage like that, we might say, ‘You have to face reality and find something you can afford.’ . . . It can be very heartbreaking.”

Notice how the insider trading charges were dropped, too? 

I suppose when you buy shares and stock that assist the government with their bailouts you are rewarded.

Life experience is also important, she said, because wisdom and perspective often come with age. For that reason, she usually chooses older volunteers, but Buffett said she would not rule out younger applicants because some young people are wise beyond their years....

You know what I'm going to rule out?


I don't want his dirty money. 

Let's see if the women will answer the war machine's prayers:

"Marine Corps working to add more women" by Lolita C. Baldor Associated Press  August 13, 2016

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Marine recruiters are turning to girls high school sports teams to find candidates.

Please God, no! 

What's worse, this society has gone so far down the road of militarism and the war machine is scraping for every last body it can to throw into the pit, there isn't even a peep of protest anymore. At least during the Bush time this kind of stuff bothered some. I remember controversy over whether recruiters could be on school grounds. That battle must have been lost long ago. 

Now they want our young girls to be ground up in the war machine. That's a sign of desperation and of being on the losing end of the war if history is any guide.  

Major General Paul Kennedy, head of the Marine Corps’ recruiting command, is aggressively recruiting women for the service.

Are they women? I was under the impression that they were still girls at that point.

He’s sending targeted mailings, changing advertising to better represent female Marines, and traveling the country to meet with coaches and female athletes who may be well-suited for the rigors of Marine service. In particular, Marine Commandant General Robert Neller believes female wrestlers are good candidates.

The few, the strong, the sexy....

‘‘We looked at that and said, ‘Wow, that’s kinda what we’re looking for,’’’ he said. ‘‘They’re disciplined, they’re fit, they’re focused on their mission.’’

According to Kennedy, the Marines, for the first time, are mailing recruiting literature to thousands of high school girls. Also, updated advertising will show active-duty female Marines doing their jobs on the battlefield.

It's almost as if they are recruiting children, and imagine the human rights squawking AmeriKa would do were it the terrorists or an enemy.

Already he’s gone to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association conference and has targeted wrestling and other sports gatherings this year.

In those sessions, he said, he is working to debunk misconceptions about women in the Marine Corps, including worries about sexual harassment and sexual assault, limits on career options, lack of stability and difficulties having a family life.

‘‘We got to talk to them, got to show them there are plenty of female married officers and enlisted, that it’s not a good ol’ boys club anymore when you talk about the career issues,’’ Kennedy said in an interview.

They are not trying to end the wars, folks, meaning my prayers are not being answered.

The other military services attract far more women, and may be viewed as more receptive than the Corps, whose slogan used to say it was looking for ‘‘a few good men.’’ The current slogan is more inclusive: ‘‘The Few. The Proud. The Marines.’’

The Air Force has the highest percentage of women serving on active duty, with more than 19 percent, followed by the Navy at 18.6 percent, the Army at 14.4 percent and the Marines at 7.9 percent, according to Defense Department data from May.

The key, Kennedy said, is to get to influencers — parents, coaches — and convince them that their daughters, their athletes, will be treated fairly. And he said he allays fears that women would be forced into combat jobs they don’t want. 

Well, that paper you sign when you join pretty much means you are their property so.... orders are orders. Shoulda read the fine print.

The recruiters, however, know it won’t be easy. Data suggests they have to contact twice as many potential applicants to find a female candidate as they do to find a man. So far, very few are interested in the combat jobs.

In suburban Chicago, Marine Maj. Shanelle A. Porter, commanding officer for Recruiting Station Chicago, said most women coming in the door just want to be Marines, but so far two women have said they were looking for front-line roles.

The women, she said, want to be pioneers.

‘‘They’re looking for that challenge,’’ said Porter. ‘‘They’re trying to show we can do it, too.’’ 

That's what one of my problems is with this sort of feminist mindset. 

Why is equality equated with the ability too kill and loot like a man? I know I will be viewed as a sexist, but what was wrong with being the moral driver against war that women have always been?

Then there is the procreation aspect of it all. Despite all the openings regarding gay, transgender, and gender identity issues, there is really only one way to make a baby (even in a lab). Need an egg and some sperm.... 

Why are we sending women to war when they have the unique ability to create and keep life going on this planet? It is such an awesome gift! Why can't women revel in it, rather than despising it the way some feminists do?

A Marine for 13 years, Porter participated in college and professional sports — running the 400 meters — for seven years. So her goal is to make sure that any female recruit she sends to training is ready.

Some can’t do a pull-up or hang from a bar for long enough. And sometimes they need to get faster so they can finish the 1.5-mile run in 13.5 minutes.

All female recruits, she said, go on a ‘‘high-risk action plan’’ for at least five months that include vitamin supplements, weight management and an exercise regimen that includes weights, cross-fit training and a pull-up program.

For Kennedy, having a female Marine like Porter available to talk to female recruits and their families is helpful. Women make up 165 of the Corps’ 3,565 recruiters, and five of the 48 recruiting station commanders. For now, he says, that’s sufficient.

‘‘They don’t actually need a female recruiter,’’ Kennedy said, adding that the first person a potential recruit meets in high school or a shopping mall doesn’t have to be the same gender.

But, ‘‘there has to be a female in the process,’’ he said. ‘‘At some point, you’ve got to have a woman that can answer the specific questions and maybe even answer the parents’ questions.’’

Already, he is having some success and is on track to send enough women to boot camp this year to hit 8.7 percent of the annual recruits, or about 3,100 women. The 10 percent goal would require him to bring in about 3,400 women recruits a year; he believes that is well within reach.

‘‘We’re going to exceed the goal that was set for us. I feel confident,’’ said Kennedy. ‘‘I think we can blow through 10 percent like it’s an elevator stop.’’

Does he take such a cavalier attitude about life when it comes to the battlefield?

Or does he just blow through the dead bodies?


All set for boot camp?

Here is the woman who will likely be casting a vote  to send them to war:

"Wyoming’s Liz Cheney makes another bid for office" by Mead Gruver Associated Press  August 13, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — This time, Liz Cheney’s the one to beat.

Accusations of carpet-bagging, a ticket for illegal fishing, and a family spat over gay marriage led up to Cheney abandoning her bid to unseat US Senator Mike Enzi, a fellow Republican, last election cycle.

Now, Cheney’s got credibility, money, and momentum after a focused and far less dramatic primary campaign for Wyoming’s lone House seat. Eight are seeking Tuesday’s GOP nomination to replace retiring Representative Cynthia Lummis.

‘‘Everything’s a learning experience,’’ said Tammy Hooper, Wyoming’s Republican Party director from 2011 to 2015 and a Cheney backer. ‘‘You hone your message. You think about what works and what doesn’t.’’

Former senator Alan Simpson also is among Cheney’s supporters for the job her father, former vice president Dick Cheney, first won 40 years ago. Hardly anybody of note in Wyoming backed her against Enzi a year after she moved to Jackson Hole from Virginia, where she lived for decades.

Dick Cheney has kept a low profile but is a top donor, along with the likes of former president George W. Bush, Bush adviser Karl Rove, and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

I can't think of a more motley war-criminal crew!

As of July 27, Liz Cheney had raised almost $1.5 million. She still had about $540,000, or almost 10 times more than the next three candidates combined.

Liz Cheney has kept tightly focused on national security, saying federal regulations distract the government from protecting the United States from threats from abroad.

‘‘The federal government is involved in so many things it shouldn’t be involved in,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s unable and unwilling to do the things we need it to do.’’

I know one person I would rather not see involved with it.

Cheney’s opponents often present themselves as alternatives to the former Fox News commentator and State Department official. They include:

■ State Senator Leland Christensen, a former sheriff, county commissioner, and US Army special operations forces soldier who accused Cheney on Facebook on Thursday of ‘‘using millions of out-of-state dollars and her Dad’s last name to try to buy the election.’’

■ State Representative Tim Stubson, an attorney who said in May: ‘‘If you think Washington is working well, then I think it’s a logical decision to send somebody that’s made their whole career within the Washington bureaucracy, like Liz Cheney.’’

■ Attorney Darin Smith, a Christian Broadcasting Network executive who described himself Monday as ‘‘Wyoming born, Wyoming raised, Wyoming bred’’ and said: ‘‘If you vote for anybody but Darin Smith in this race, you are voting for Liz Cheney. I’m the only one that can beat her.’’

Put me in the ABC camp -- Anybody But Cheney!

Cheney has avoided distractions like her 2013 public kerfuffle with her gay sister, Mary Cheney, over gay marriage, which Liz Cheney opposed, and the $220 ticket she got for fishing with a resident Wyoming license for which she didn’t qualify yet.

Nowadays, she spins her years outside Wyoming as an asset. They ‘‘give me the ability to bring a national focus to our issues,’’ she said.

How did my morning prayers turn into an evening in hell?


Do you know Warren's views on women?

I've run out of time for today, sorry.

And now I lay me down to sleep.....