Defining Brendan Doherty: Romney Republican or Moderate

 Published September 28, 2012, Pawtucket Times

            With the upcoming November election just six weeks away, Republican Candidate Brendan Doherty held a news conference last Tuesday at Memorial, attempting to distance himself from House GOP leadership and from Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s anointed Presidential candidate.

Surrounded by a backdrop of the 294 bed CommunityHospital in Pawtucket’s East Riverview Neighborhood, Doherty, the GOP challenger to Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, came before seniors and supporters to do political damage control, with an agenda to set the public record straight about his positions on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Keeping Social Security, Medicare off the Chopping Block

Charging that Cicilline was misleading to voters on his positions on the nation’s most popular domestic programs, the Republican Candidate pledged his opposition to “privatization” of the nation’s Social Security Program, calling for Congress to keep the Social Security and Medicare programs off the budgetary chopping block.  The former state police superintendent, looking to become Rhode Island’s newest Congressman for the First Congressional District, also supported increased benefits for seniors already enrolled in the Social Security Program.

At the morning news conference, Doherty warned that he has no “secret plan” to cut Social Security and Medicare, as Cicilline charges.  He chastised the Freshman Congressman and his Democratic political operatives for using scare tactics and misleading political rhetoric to fuel a misinformation campaign to link him to Republican Presidential Candidate, Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan’s support for a Medicare voucher program.  Doherty stated that a voucher system would shift healthier Americans to private insurance plans and leave the sickest and frailest American’s in a weakened version of traditional Medicare.

Putting the Spot Light on Fraud and Waste

Doherty, calling himself an “independent thinker” a “centrist” who pledged to reach across the aisle to House Democrats, to pass legislation that would root out fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid.  He noted that a new RAND Corporation study showed that fraud and waste in these two programs may be as high as $98 billion.

“While Congressman Cicilline often speaks of his commitment to protect Medicare from any possibility of budget cuts, he failed to take this common sense action to address the fraud, waste and abuse that accounts for at least $48 billion being diverted every year from the Medicare program and taken away from our seniors who depend on the Medicare program,” commented Doherty.

Doherty, however, looks to push for the Medicare and Medicaid Fighting Fraud and Abuse to Save Taxpayers’ Dollars Act or the Medicare Fast Act (H.R. 3399), as types of legislative proposals he could support if he were elected to Congress.

Cicilline did not mince his words after Doherty’s news conference by continuing to tie his Republican challenger to the Radical Republicans who control the House.  He charged that “My Republican opponent supports raising the retirement age for Social Security and if he got to Congress, would vote to keep the Republicans in control of the House where they would continue to push an extreme agenda that would end the guarantee of Medicare and turn it into a voucher system.”

According to the Democratic Congressman, the Preserving Our Promise to Seniors Act, whish he is a cosponsor, is the best way to extend the life of Social Security Program along with improving the Cost of Living Adjustment formula to give beneficiaries an adjustment based on the cost of goods and services that they regularly purchased.  The Democratic Congressman also opposed the raising the Social Security eligibility age or any effort to privatize the system, these changes supported by many GOP lawmakers.

Responding to the news conference, the Rhode Island Democratic Party issued a release calling Doherty’s pledge to preserve Social Security and Medicare “an empty one,” given the Republican House Leaderships efforts to slash funding for these programs for years.

Countering Doherty’s attempt to label himself a moderate, Bill Fischer, spokesperson for the RI Democratic Party called Cicilline’s Republican opponent a “Romney Republican who has clearly stated he would repeal the Affordable Care Act; raise the eligibility age on Social Security; and will vote for Republican control in Congress.”

“If Doherty were serious about protecting seniors, he wouldn’t be calling for the repeal of our historic healthcare reform,” Fischer said. “Maybe he doesn’t understand the enormous benefits Rhode Island seniors have already received since its passage. Thanks to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, 128,390 people on Medicare in Rhode Island have access to preventative health care services, such as colonoscopies and mammograms.

In Rhode Island’s First Congressional District alone, 7,300 seniors have saved over $4 million on prescription drugs because the Affordable Care Act closed the donut hole.”

TV Spot Ties Doherty to Radical Republicans

             With Doherty’s effort to distance himself from the Washington Republican agenda, Cicilline’s campaign released a new television spot, entitled “Fantastic,” to more firmly politically tie his Republican challenger to the Romney-Ryan agenda in Washington.

“At the end of the day, Brendan Doherty wants Republicans in control of Congress and Mitt Romney setting the agenda in the White House. In fact, he thinks Romney would “be fantastic for Rhode Island,’” said Cicilline campaign manager Eric Hyers, detailing the spot..

“Rhode Islanders will have a clear choice this November between re-electing President Obama and Congressman Cicilline so we can get our state back on the right track, or voting for Mitt Romney, Brendan Doherty, and the Washington Republicans who got us into this mess to begin with.”

In the 30 second spot, Doherty emphasizes his support for Romney at a March 3, 2012 candidate forum, saying, “I think he’d be fantastic for Rhode Island.”

In January 2012, Doherty formally endorsed Romney for President, describing him as a “proven leader.”  In the same month, Doherty traveled to New Hampshire to campaign for Romney and was later introduced to the Republican presidential nominee by former Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri.

The political spot also outlines areas where Romney and Doherty agree on policy – including their support for repealing President Obama’s historic health care reform law, as well as their mutual opposition to reproductive freedoms for women and the Buffett Rule that would require millionaires to pay at least the same tax rate as the middle class.

As the Dust Settles…

Here are questions that voters in Congressional District 1 must ask themselves before they enter the polls in the November election:

Can Doherty successfully repackage himself as a moderate Republican?  If so, with a Republican-controlled House, captured by a radical Tea Party who philosophically opposes political compromise, as a moderate Republican will he vote for  Democratic initiatives that the majority of his Democratic constituents support.  Or can he stand the “heat in the kitchen” and vote against his House Republican leadership.

Can the voters forgive the former Providence Mayor, now their Congressman, for his statements made about the fiscal health of his City as he left office?  If so, they must determine if it is more important to keep this seat Democratic, in hopes of bringing the political party back to power in that Chamber.

With the November election looming, the Cicilline-Doherty political battle, truly becomes the classic “He said, She said,” debate, with the voters ultimately finding out the truth in the New Congress.

Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.

Changing the World One Person at a Time

Published September 21, 2012, Pawtucket Times

            You do not have to be in political office, a government official or own and operate a business, or run a nonprofit, to make Rhode Island a better place to live or work.   Individually, we can work daily by performing good deeds to those who cross our paths that ultimately contribute to the greater good of your community.     

            Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel, Pay It Forward, published in 1999, was adapted into a Warner Brothers film (with the same moniker) one year later, bringing the “Pay It Forward” concept to millions of Americans. In the PG film, young Trevor McKinney learns that positive community change can occur just by doing three good deeds.  He sees the positive impact of “Pay it Forward” and learns that the practice of helping one another can “spread geometrically through society at a ration of three to one, creating a social movement to making the world a better place.”

            We are drawn to the tormented 12 year old Treavor McKinney, who is living with an alcoholic mother and conflicted by fears of his abusive, but mostly absent father.  The young boy takes on a school assignment given to his class by the new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet.  The assignment is to “create something to change the world” and put it into action. For his project, Treavor embellishes on an idea where instead of repaying a favor or good deed back to someone  – the recipient would ‘Pay It Forward’ by doing a good deed to three new people.  Ultimately, McKinney sees the impact of this school assignment, like a rock thrown skipping in a pond, making ever-wide traveling ripples in the water.

            This “Pay It Forward” concept is not a new one.  According to Wikipedia, in a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 15, 1784, Benjamin Franklin clearly penned his support of the concept in that correspondence.

            The founding father wrote: “I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you […] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”

           Like Franklin, University student Christopher Lo took this concept to heart.  He was inspired by the unexpected return of a lost video camera, leading him to create the web site http://www.thekarmaseed.org in 2010.  The equipment was misplaced after he accidentally left it outside the University’s library.  Although it did not immediately turn up at the school’s “lost and found” website, a stranger finally turned it in.  Amazingly,  that simple act of kindness of returning a lost video camera led to the creation of a web site to track all the good deeds “passed forward,” to illustrate the positive impact of the concept.

            Lo created a “Karma Seed,” a small plastic card with a unique identification number, detailing the website location.  If you perform a favor for someone, you just give them the plastic card and request that the person register the plastic card at the website.  This person then “pays the good deed forward” requesting that the new recipient of kindness to go online and register the card after they became the recipient of a good deed.  Any recipient or giver of a Karma Seed card can go back to the website and see a detailed history of the good deeds that followed the original act of kindness.

           Lo’s Karma Seed organization contributes 50 percent of the profits to The Karma Seed Foundation to support social projects in communities surrounding WashingtonUniversity in St. Louis.

          One year later, a Louisiana affiliate of ABC NEWS, did a story on The Newton Project, a 501(c)(3) outreach organizations established to show that even with the world facing big problems, each person can make a unique, individual difference simply by taking the time to show love, appreciation and kindness to those around them. Like Lo, the founder, Michael Phillips, based the mission of his organization on the classic “Pay It Forward” concept, but demonstrates the impact of each act on the world by tracking each wristband with a unique identification number and quantifying the lives each has touched. The Newton Project’s attempt to determine the benefits of a Pay It Forward type system can be viewed by the general public at http://www.thenewtonproject.com.

           Meanwhile, the “Pay it Forward” movement got a jump start with businessman Charley Johnson taking the helm of the Pay It Forward Foundation (www.pifexperience.org) in 2012.  He walked away from Corporate America to change the world one person at a time.  The former owner of a manufacturing company had an idea for encouraging kindness acts by creating a Pay it Forward Bracelet that could be worn as a reminder of the importance of doing good deeds to strangers who cross your path.  Today, over a 1.5 million Pay it Forward bracelets have been distributed in over 112 countries sparking some amazing acts of kindness. Few bracelets remain with their original recipients, however, as they circulate in the spirit of the reciprocal or generalized altruism.

            Singing his praises, Pay It Forward author Catherine Ryan Hyde, who also founded the Pay it Forward Foundation in 2000, “Charley says he’s going to make this ‘the biggest thing the world has ever seen. If anybody else said that, I might not believe it.  But nothing is out of the question when Charley goes after it.” 

          Start today with making a difference in your neighborhood, office and throughout your daily travels, with a simple act of kindness to a stranger.  Doing this and requesting the beneficiary of your action to just “Pay It Forward” may have major positive implications for your neighborhood, City or town, the OceanState and even the World.  Amazing.

        Herb Weiss is a freelance writer covering aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

 

 

AARP Research Study Explores Why People Are Happy

Published September 14, 2012, Pawtucket Times

           “Good conversation, meeting new people while traveling, and being in good health” brings much happiness to long-time Pawtucket resident Jean Babiec.  The former Providence school teacher, in her eighth decade, added she would be ‘extremely happy’ if the Rhode Island General Assembly passed legislation, signed by Governor Lincoln Chafee, to create a Pawtucket Red Sox vanity license plate.

           At-Large Pawtucket City Councilor, Lorenzo C. Tetreault, 65, is “the happiest when he can help others.”  The retired Pawtucket teacher is also happy when he holds his one-year old twin grandsons from Narragansett, Samuel and Benjamin, in his arms.

           Former Pawtucket Tax Assessor, Dave Quinn, 64, who now oversees the Tax Office in the City of Providence, finds happiness “knowing that his family is healthy and his children are doing well.”  The Seekonk resident also feels happy by being intellectually challenged by his job.

           Babiec, Tetreault and Quinn’s statements on what makes them happy are reflected by others documented in a recently released AARP study on what happiness means to aging baby boomers.  The findings of this report indicate that relationships and being in control of your health and life are key factors in bringing happiness into your life.  

Defining Happiness

            The new AARP study, titled “Beyond Happiness: Thriving,” found that most Americans age 35 and over are happy, but compared to historical General Social Survey (GSS) data, levels of happiness are on the decline and at their lowest levels (due in part to the nation’s economic downturn).  In an effort to explore what happiness means to aging baby boomers and what it takes to thrive as they age, over 4,000 adults age 35 and over were surveyed to determine what makes them happy.   

             “We’re always looking to get a more robust understanding of the contributors and barriers to happiness in people’s lives,” said Steve Cone, Executive Vice President of Integrated Value Strategy, AARP. “Building on previous AARP research, which shows the importance of happiness and peace of mind to aging baby boomers, these new results affirm that we are on the right track—advocating to ensure basic health and financial security and making available everyday discounts that let people enjoy time with family and friends.”  

             According to researchers, the findings of this study reveal the existence of a U-shape curve of happiness by age. The early 50s is the lowest point from which happiness builds. Thus, if you missed happiness in your 30’s, there is still another chance to achieve it in your 60’s.

             The Researchers note that as people age and eventually retire, they can devote more time to building relationships and just enjoying simple everyday pleasures.  Younger people are still working hard to solidify their accomplishments.

           The AARP study’s results also provide four key insights around the drivers of happiness.

The Happiness Spectrum

            Overall, the strong majority (68%) of respondents say they are happy, although intensity of happiness is somewhat tempered as the largest percent report being somewhat happy (49%) versus very happy (19%). Almost half of those surveyed feel they are just as happy as others (49%) and the rest tend to believe that they are happier than others (31%) as opposed to less happy than others (13%). Part of this may be attributed to the perceptions of people being the masters of their own happiness destiny.

            More interesting, the respondents were concern for the happiness of the next generation. Less than half feel they will be as happy or more (45%). Most are either not sure (19%) or believe they will be less happy (35%).

Relationships Key to Happiness 

           The AARP survey findings also indicate that regardless of your age, good relationships with friends, family, and even pets, were found to be universally important. Activities associated with those relationships contributed most to a person’s happiness. The most significant activity was kissing or hugging someone you love.  Other activities included: watching your children grandchildren or close relative succeed; being told you are a person who can be trusted or relied upon; spending time with your family or friends such as a meal or social gathering; and finally, experiencing a special moment with a child. 

            Researchers say that relationships with family pets were especially important to women, singles and older individuals.  However, relationships did have to be real: “connecting with friends or family on a social media site like Facebook” came in 37th out of 38 activities in contributing to happiness. Importantly, none of the top contributors require a lot of money to achieve; they are “simple pleasures” that can be had by all.

 Good Health Linked to Happiness 

          Without good health, it is far more difficult to achieve happiness: people in “good or excellent” health are three times more likely to report being “very” happy, the researchers say.  However, one’s health may be more a state of mind than objective reality.  The findings noted that the percentage of those reporting good health is relatively stable over the ages 35 to 80, varying only seven percentage points, even as reported chronic or serious medical conditions increase 400% in the same age range. 

Calling the Shots, Brings Happiness

          The majority of those surveyed feel they have control over their personal level of happiness. Interestingly, this sense of control increases with age. Moreover, people who feel in control are clearly happier—reporting that they are 2.5 times happier than those who believe happiness is out of their control. The study’s findings indicate that a sense of control is linked to higher income, higher education, good health and the lack of having experienced a major life event in the past year.

Money Does Not Always Guarantee Happiness

            While many will say having money can bring happiness, this research study showed that it seems that how one spends it seems to matter more.  Happiness increases with income and conversely, lack of financial resources was tied to unhappiness. While less than a third of participants said money contributed to happiness, when asked how they would spend $100 on something to increase happiness, most respondents said they would spend it on their family or going out to dinner. Money is only a resource, that when applied to meaningful areas of one’s life, can provide experiences that can increase happiness.

         Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

Cultual Icons, Celebrities Give Us Cause to Reflect on Our Lives

Published September 7, 2012, Pawtucket Times 

             The death of those celebrities and cultural icons who were familiar to us growing up give us cause to reflect on their lives – and our own, as well as ones’ contributions to society.

             Astronaut Neil Armstrong traveled 250,000 miles from earth to the lunar surface and was the first man to walk on the moon.  At the age of 82, he died last month in Cincinnati, Ohio from complications resulted from cardiovascular procedures.

            With his death on August 25, 2012, hundreds of tributes would come in from all over the world, from world leaders, former astronauts and his family, calling him modest and humble, a “reluctant American hero,” an explorer –  an exceptional test pilot, recognized as a war veteran who flew 78 combat missions during the Korean conflict.

            Not unexpectedly, even President Barack Obama, American’s Commander-in-Chief, recognized Armstrong’s impact on the cultural fabric of the nation.  “When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation,” said Obama in a written statement released by the White House. “They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable – that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible. And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.”

 Man on the Moon

          In July 1969, one month after my 15th birthday, as a young man, I was riveted to our television as my family watched the CBS news with Walter Cronkite, as he told a captivated nation that American astronaut Neil Armstrong and  lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin, along with command module pilot Mike Collins, had reached the moon four days after being launched from Kennedy Space Center. Cronkite, America’s most trusted newscaster, detailed the landing, noting how the lunar module “Eagle” separated from the command module, making its descent to the moon surface.

           When making that lunar contact, the 38-year-old Armstrong would say, “Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.”  No aging baby boomer would ever forget the memorable quote of the young commander of Apollo 11 as he climbed down Eagle’s ladder and stepped on to the lunar soil on July 20, 1969 at 10:56 p.m…  “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

         According to NASA, Armstrong would prance around on the lunar surface for two hours and 32 minutes, while Aldrin, who followed him, spent about 15 minutes less than that.

         For years, a small framed replica of the front page of the Dallas Morning News featuring Armstrong’s voyage sat on my old dresser, which served as an inspirational reminder – a  piece of history I witnessed,  now recorded into the nation’s history books.

 Long-time Comedienne Passes Away

          Phyllis Diller, a high-profile stand-up Comedienne who during a 50 year career served as a role model to younger females (including Roseanne Barr, Ellen De Generes, Whoopi Goldberg, and Joan Rivers among others) trying to make a career out of telling jokes, died on August 20, 2012 at the age of 95.    She was one of the first women to break into this male-dominated standup comedian profession, even giving them a run for their money.

       Over her long career, she made dozens of movies, appeared in specials, situational comedy shows on television, recorded comedy LP records and even performed on Broadway, as well as breathing life into animated characters on films and television shows with voice-overs.   

       Keeping my mother company on the couch by watching Johnny Carson after the late night news, as a young child I would lay my head on her lap, watching The Tonight Show “Starring Johnny Carson” in the early 1960s.  Diller appeared on this show, as well as variety shows, hosted by Jack Benny, Dean Martin, Red Skeleton, and Ed Sullivan.  She captivated the nation with her quirky sense of humor and signature laugh.

       As I grew up watching Diller on television I can remember the self-deprecating professional jokester wearing an unkempt wig, wrist-length gloves, and cloth-covered ankle boots, carrying a long fake jeweled cigarette holder (even though she never smoked) and taking lob sharp barbs at her fictional husband, Fang, and her home life during her routines.  She was confident and proud of her place in the world, despite the trials and tribulations of “family life”.

       At age 37, Diller, a mother and homemaker, got her first break in 1955, playing San Francisco’s Purple Onion nightclub.  The two week engagement ultimately ended a year and half later.

       Diller, a longtime resident of the Brentwood area of Los Angeles, California, appeared regularly as a special guest on many television programs throughout her career, including What’s My Line? mystery guests.  She also made cameo appearances bringing her unique humor to Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, Love Boat, Chips, Love American Style, the Drew Carey Show and even appeared on ABC’s Boston Legal.

       Diller, who underwent 15 different plastic surgeries during her life (this noted in her 2005 autobiography), surprisingly was also recognized as an accomplished pianist as well as a painter.

       Archie Bunkers chair went to the Smithsonian.  So did Diller’s jokes, so to speak.  Even the Albert H. Small Documents Gallery at the National Museum of American History, from August 12 to October 28, 2011, displayed Diller’s gag file, a steel cabinet consisting of 48 file drawers holding over 50,000 jokes penned on index cards and costumes that became part of her “comedic persona.”

 The Passing of Cultural Icons and Celebrities

        When we are young, we feel invulnerable and that we will live forever. Unrealistically, we see death as no match for us. In our later year’s as aging baby boomers, we begin to see death close up, through the passing of our older parents, siblings, co-workers, friends and sometimes even our children.  Health conditions continually remind us of our impending mortality. 

        As we look at the passing of Neil Armstrong and Phyllis Diller, their impressive life stories should give us confirmation of their major impact on our culture. Their passing become “mortality markers” subtly giving us the gentle message that “generations come and go” and that we, like them, will not live forever.  Time becomes the most valuable commodity that we carry throughout our lives.

          If we use time wisely, we can better use our remaining days to make a positive difference in our community, whether it be through the professions we chose or simply our outlook on life to those around us.    Armstrong, to take mankind to where it has never has been –  Diller to make us laugh to forget the pains of life.

         Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.
Additional information about Armstrong is available on the Web at: