Friday, November 28, 2014

Cost of Obamacare for Virginians on Bronze Plan

The Affordable Care Act specifies in Section 1401 of its voluminous content that subsidies cannot be paid to people residing in states that do not have a State Exchange. The decision was upheld in the D.C. Federal Circuit Court and the Supreme Court will make a decision in June 2015.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, no subsidy will thus be paid on the 80 percent of subscribers’ premiums who enrolled in Obamacare and are eligible for subsidies. And the 2015 costs of these premiums have not been made public until November 15, 2014, conveniently after the November election.
Using the calculator on the Obamacare website for the Bronze Plan (a plan with a 60 percent reimbursement rate after deductibles have been met) for a Preferred Provider, Thomas L. Cranmer, Vice President of Fairfax County Taxpayers’ Alliance, determined that a northern Virginia family of four would pay “at any income a deductible out of pocket of $12,600 and a premium of $7,224 per year. The total $19,824 represents 40 percent of $50,000 and 20 percent of $100,000 gross income.”

If doctors are not “preferred,” Obamacare labels them “out of network,” in which case the costs can be limitless. The website calculator, which is now operational (HHS had taken it down temporarily before the elections), can be used anonymously to calculate the cost for any individual or family.
People, who have lost their plans due to the increased demands of Obamacare on private insurance companies, and have been forced to sign for Obamacare, report two and half times higher costs.

Many insured by Medicare have lost their supplemental insurance and those with Medicare/Medicaid have been moved into Humana. Humana is now busy rationing care to the elderly in order to meet the President’s plan to take billions from Medicare in order to fund Obamacare. Many retirees are thus forced to find other plans with higher premiums and deductibles.
Illegal aliens, who were not “supposed” to be covered by Obamacare as falsely reported, are getting their premiums for free or $2.71. A lady I met recently in a doctor’s waiting room was excited that her premium was $24 a month. She had never bought insurance before, betting on her good health, but was now experiencing declining health in her mid-thirties and was glad for Obamacare’s low premium.

With the three plans, Bronze, Silver, and Gold, the reimbursement rates for doctors are 60 percent, 70 percent, and 80 percent respectively. If doctors accept Obamacare, can they cover their expenses?  Do they ask for payments in advance, considering that the out-of-pocket deductible for patients is $12,600, and they may not be able to pay for the visit?
Tom Cranmer asked his physician in a very direct letter if the “concierge fee” of $1,650 he paid him covers his expenses. Additionally, if the “doc fix reimbursement schedule for Medicare does not pass Congress (it comes up for renewal in December 2014), and doctors’ compensation is lowered,“  how would it affect their medical practice in terms of doing what is best for their patients?

Because many doctors and hospitals have been dropped from Obamacare, their services are not eligible for Obamacare payments. What would happen to their patients who are now suddenly forced into Obamacare? Where would they find new doctors, especially since many are retiring or pursuing other careers? Did the President not promise, “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor?” Would these patients be forced to accept nurse practitioner care instead?
Copyright: Ileana Johnson 2014

Executive Action for Immigration

The President’s “immigration accountability executive action” has confused many Americans since a president’s action is more or less a “wish list” and does not have the legally-binding power of an executive order. Unlike an executive order, an executive action is not published in the Federal Register.  An executive order can be reversed by Congress or by the courts. Is this executive action meant to obfuscate the illegal immigration issue and postpone the “fixing of the broken immigration,” a euphemism for refusing to enforce the already existing laws?

Our country cannot afford to amnesty 5 million illegal aliens even though they may be in the country right now or en route. The Heritage Foundation’s chief economist Stephen Moore has calculated recently that illegal aliens cost the American taxpayers $30 billion per year. If we take into account the number of requested work cards by the DHS for 34 million, the cost of an additional 29 million illegals would skyrocket the $30 billion to absolutely unmanageable numbers when our national debt is already impossible to repay, unemployment is in double digits, and the economy is lacking significant job creation.

The November 20, 2014 Department of Homeland Security “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention, and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants” consider drunk driving, sex abusers, drug dealers, and gun offenders secondary priority for deportation; top priority includes terrorists, felons, and new illegal border crossers.

We’ve been told that illegal immigrants work hard and they do. But they also have large families at home that are supported by various welfare programs and are medically treated freely in any ER in the country and eventually under Obamacare.

Illegals are encouraged to pay taxes using the Internal Revenue Service’s Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) designed to encourage illegal aliens to file and pay taxes but some do not. Many that do file, because they report income below the federal poverty level, receive earned income tax credit from the IRS, using children here in the U.S. and children who are still in Mexico as dependents, costing U.S. taxpayers $4.1 billion per year.  

Many illegal aliens, day workers who wait to be picked up at the local Seven Eleven, work under the table, avoiding paying taxes altogether. They do pay sales taxes as they spend some of the cash and the welfare benefits to live in this country, contributing to consumption, the largest component of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, money that is being trafficked and other large sums are being sent to their home countries and never taxed. They thus benefit from our welfare system without paying into the very system that they milk.

Any taxpayer dollars that are spent on welfare for illegal aliens or American citizens are funds that are not spent on investment and on job creation in our economy.

For example, on any given day, at the local international grocery store where I often shop, there is a line of illegals waiting to send money via Western Union to their home countries. I joined the line one day so I could hear for myself how much they were sending. One guy sent $1,200 to Mexico and another $800 to Guatemala. Assuming the average of the two, $1,000 per month, a simple calculation of 5 million illegals sending money home per month would yield $5 billion, a tidy sum of $60 billion per year. And the numbers of illegal aliens reported to be in this country vary widely, from 11-12 million to as many as 34 million.

When liberals spew economic statistics about the extent that illegal aliens contribute to this economy by spending their earned money here, I am very skeptical. No amount of propaganda coming from the left or Pelosi’s theatrics washing the feet of illegal aliens is going to convince me that it is good for our country to accept floods of law breakers and reward them with unconstitutional citizenship. If we do, the notion of American citizenship no longer exists.
Copyright: Ileana Johnson 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Is There Honor in Amnesty?

Thee amnesty by executive fiat is a fait accompli - five million law breakers are now going to become American citizens with all the benefits American taxpayers are forced to provide, including Obamacare.  

The “fiscal cost of immigration” will include: Medicaid, unemployment insurance, Social Security, workmen compensation, TANF, earned income credit, WIC, SNAP, free phones, SSI, free education, free lunch programs, kindergarten programs, day care, and other services such as police protection, fire protection, military protection, libraries, parks, highways,  and over 80 different welfare programs that already provide cash, food, utilities, education, and housing  to 100 million low-income Americans.

Young Americans and their families will pay hefty health insurance premiums for Obamacare, with high deductibles and diminished benefits on the bronze, silver, and gold levels, while illegal aliens will pay nothing or $2.71 per month.

After all, we are such a rich nation; why not spread the wealth around the globe to millions of illegals and to the chain migration that will soon follow. The veterans can wait months to get a doctor’s appointment and American children can be denied entry to colleges or federal grants because minorities and their quotas must be protected and served first. They are the “Dreamers” of tomorrow’s America, the chosen citizens of the new America.

Thumbing their noses at the 4 million foreigners awaiting proper documentation to immigrate legally to the U.S., large groups of illegals bussed into D. C. by Casa de Virginia, a subsidiary of Casa de Maryland, celebrated this week the reward to their lawlessness, waving small American flags handed out to them on the prior-organized buses and at the rally.

Dr. Savage explained on his show that, “while some immigrants work hard, they have large families at home who do not work at all,” subsidized by the American taxpayers. To make matters worse, 30 percent of the prison population in our country is comprised of recidivist illegal aliens, some of whom have committed horrendous crimes.

We are a nation of immigrants but the fundamental difference between the last century’s immigrants and today’s immigrants is that the 20th century immigrants assimilated, came here to take advantage of the opportunity to make a better life for themselves, learned English the best they could, did not accept welfare, and worked very hard to make this country a better place.

The current immigrants come here for the economic opportunity of government welfare, are not interested in assimilating or learning English, and generally do not like America, they want to transform it into the dictatorships they came from,  where the corrupt culture is a culture of government dependency, survival through dishonesty, and breaking the law is a way of life. They are interested in a better life provided to them by our taxpayers with no allegiance to our nation, or respect for our country, borders, culture, language, and the rule of law.

Can we financially afford 5 million amnestied illegal aliens and the remainder 29 million that will follow? No, but the administration will continue to print more worthless money to add to our already unmanageable and exploding national debt, cut more benefits to seniors, cut the military even more, and cut education to fund Medicaid for the new arrivals.

Once illegal immigrants overwhelm the social safety net and bankrupt various programs, there will be chaos. The people most affected by this flood of illegal aliens are not going to be the middle class or the upper middle class, those affected will be the lower middle class and the people at the bottom, who will be competing with illegals for unskilled employment and other government benefits.

This amnesty will benefit the greed of employers seeking employees who will be paid lower wages. Obamacare made sure there was a provision within that protected from penalty employers who hire illegal workers. Amnestied illegals will depress wages for existing legal immigrants and for American citizens and the unemployment numbers and the welfare rolls will swell to unmanageable levels.

There was a pride and joy in waiting patiently for four years to get a green card legally, then another four years to become a naturalized American citizen. There was an honor to be sworn in as an American citizen.

There is no honor in crossing the border in the dead of night, sneaking into our country illegally like bandits, bringing in untreatable diseases, accepting undeserved amnesty and eventual citizenship from a President who single-handedly decided to alter the meaning of citizenship with the stroke of a pen, break the laws of the United States in the process, and forever “fundamentally transform” America into a banana republic mocked by the world.

Breaking into America’s house in the middle of the night, demanding ownership of the deed of trust is dishonorable. If the Congressional Republicans are serious about representing the interests of the American people who rejected amnesty vociferously in the November election, they should veto the discretionary amnesty and refuse to fund it.

Copyright: Ileana Johnson 2014 




Saturday, November 22, 2014

Global Warming as a Fabricated Moral Issue

Photo: Ileana Johnson 2014
The area south of Buffalo, New York was buried this week in 76 inches of snow, quite possibly the largest 24-hour total in U.S. recorded history. At the same time, the desperate advocates of global warming/climate change are finding more novel ways to push their carbon dioxide reduction and carbon footprint taxation in order to redistribute the wealth from the United States to the rest of the world.

David Ignatius suggests in the Washington Post that climate should be treated as a “moral issue – a matter like civil rights.” His idea of “treating climate change as an ethical problem” might succeed in convincing climate deniers that taxing them to death would solve the faux global warming problem. (Washington Post, November 19, 2014)

Unsure of a planetary Armageddon future, an “Endarkenment,” in light of skeptics armed with a “truckload of studies to demonstrate the opposite,” Ignatius suggests, “The safe (and conservative) course is to assume the worst.”

Ignatius concludes that global warming/climate change is a moral issue when “the quality of life around the world is at stake,” and “people who resist action are not just misguided, they’re wrong.”

Even though we are using more natural gas, this administration is shutting down coal-powered plants through impossible regulations, destroying the coal industry, making an unconstitutional agreement with China’s ruler Xi Jinping to reduce our CO2 emissions, the gas of life considered by the United Nations and the EPA a “pollutant.” This unconstitutional agreement which the U.S. Senate has not ratified was signed by President Obama in order to solve “climate change” by Executive fiat, forcing a cut of 25 percent of 2005 CO2 levels by 2025, causing Americans a lot of economic hardship and rationing.

Communist China which produces the highest levels of carbon emissions in the world, will only force their citizens to stop ‘increasing’ their CO2 output by 2030 and use more renewables, eventually. If China follows through, it would be a miracle.

Knowing how polluted China is and how difficult it is to breathe the air in Beijing on most days, the statement of U.N. climate chief and executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christina Figueres, that China is better prepared to fight “global warming,” is laughable.

John L. Casey, a former space shuttle engineer and NASA consultant, wrote “Dark Winter: How the Sun Is Causing  a 30-Year Cold Spell,” warning about a radical shift in global climate due to reduced activity in solar flares, causing a fast cooling of the earth. Temperatures will be similar to those observed during the “solar minimum” in the Middle Ages which lasted for 300 years and ended in early 1800s. It is painfully evident when we take into account the bitter cold fronts, early winters, short and cooler summers, and last year’s winter, “one of the snowiest, coldest, most miserable on record.”

Dr. Klaus L. E. Kaiser described in his latest article the colorful NASA computer simulations of CO2 in the world’s air seen on the National Geographic website.

While visually arresting, the swirls are just pretty pictures. Dr. Kaiser explains that the swirls are produced by a computer model, similar to 50 other computer models created by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), all of which were wrong because they did not predict the 18-year “warming pause.”

Dr. Kaiser says, “The narrative of the video is self-destroying the claims to the ‘global warming’ theory of CO2. It claims (and shows) the highest concentrations of CO2 over the northern polar (Arctic) fringe of the simulation – in the depth of winter. Then in summer the CO2 in the northern air returns to normal levels due to photosynthesis converting it to biomass both on land and in the sea.” If there truly was a greenhouse gas effect of CO2, Dr. Kaiser explains, it “would be most noticeable in the Arctic winter.”

What do the swirls show that isn’t obvious? With most of the world’s population living in the northern hemisphere and most of the world’s consumption of carbon-based fuels also there, should it be a surprise to anyone to see more carbon dioxide in the air over the northern than the southern hemisphere?”

What is morally repugnant to real scientists and logical thinkers, are the lies and deceptions surrounding the manufactured global warming crisis, created for political and financial gain at the expense of millions of people around the globe, who must suffer the consequences of treaties, laws, rules, and regulations controlling their lives and economic activity, so that a small number of global elites can enrich their bank accounts.

Copyright: Ileana Johnson 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How Many Millions of Illegal Aliens Will Qualify for Discretionary Amnesty?

As President Obama is getting ready to make his announcement on immigration on Thursday, November 20, 2014, the Congressional Research Service is advising Congress through legislative attorneys, Kate M. Manuel and Michael John Garcia “on the scope of the Executive’s discretionary authority over immigration matters, including with respect to the enforcement of immigration-related sanctions and the granting of immigration benefits or privileges.” (”Executive Discretion as to Immigration:  Legal Overview,” November 10, 2014, R43782)

The precedent has already been set in 2012 following the “executive initiative” known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) when children brought unlawfully to the United States by their parents were granted “deferred action” and work permit. These young people perhaps voted in the 2012 election.

Critics viewed this executive order as an “abdication of the Executive’s duty to enforce the laws” and violated specific requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Proponents of DACA saw the executive order as lawful discretionary authority conferred on the President by the Constitution and the federal statute.

The authors mention President Obama’s June 2014 announcement that he would strive “to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own.” Here are some of the elements of discretionary authority the President has as described by Manuel and Garcia:

-          The President has “broad discretion” to give relief benefits such as work permits and temporary protected status to foreign nationals

-          INA allows the waiver of application requirements so that a foreign national can be eligible for benefits

-          INA gives the President “parole authority,” allowing aliens to physically enter or remain in the country “without their entry or presence being considered ‘admission’ for immigration purposes”

-          The Executive has a “degree of independent authority” to decide whether to prosecute “apparent violations of federal law”

-          The Executive has “Discretion in interpreting and applying immigration law”

Congress was granted the power to legislate under Article I of the Constitution.  Congress exercised this power in regard to immigration by enacting the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  INA provides rules about:

-          Admission of foreign nationals into the U.S.

-          Conditions of continued presence in the U.S.

-          Eligibility of foreign nationals to obtain employment and public benefits

-          Adjust immigration status

-          Become U.S. citizen

-          Mechanisms to enforce the above rules

-          Removal of aliens found in the U.S. illegally or in violation of the authorized admission

-          Criminal penalties for immigration violations

According to the authors, INA expresses or implies some discretionary authority on the executive branch in regards to immigration enforcement such as:

-          Granting of “certain types of benefits or relief to qualifying aliens who lack lawful immigration status”

-          Immigration officials waiver of certain statutory restrictions, allowing ineligible aliens to receive immigration benefits (via asylum, temporary protected status, or cancellation of removal)

-          The Executive can use its independent discretion in enforcing the law

Article II of the Constitution requires the Executive to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” The authors believe that the “executive branch has historically been seen as having some discretion (commonly known as prosecutorial or enforcement discretion) in determining when, against whom, how, and even whether to prosecute apparent violations of the law.” (p. 3)

The CRS report discusses three types of discretion that the Executive has in regards to immigration:

1.       Express delegations of discretionary authority (granting of benefits and relief to aliens)

-          Temporary protected status to those who “cannot be safely returned to their home countries”  due to armed conflict, earthquake, flood, drought, epidemic, environmental disaster, have been “continuously physically present” in the U.S., and pay a “registration fee required by the executive branch”

-          Work authorization to legally work in the U.S.  (Who will create jobs to fill the need for the already unemployed Americans and the need of millions of illegals with work authorization?)

-          Statutory waivers of restrictions on benefits or relief

-          Waivers of grounds of inadmissibility (aliens who have committed serious crimes,  fraud, misrepresentation, and those previously deported)

-          Parole (waving certain grounds of inadmissibility; parolees can still be granted work authorization) (p. 11)

2.       Discretion in enforcement (prosecutorial or enforcement discretion) – the Executive can decide: “Whether to commence removal proceedings and the nature of the particular charges to lodge against an alien”

“Whether to cancel a Notice to Appear or other charging document before jurisdiction vests with an immigration judge”

“Whether to appeal an immigration judge’s decision or order”

3.       Discretion in interpreting and applying statutes

If the intent of Congress is interpreted as “silent or ambiguous,” according to the authors,” the executive branch must fill in any ‘gaps’ implicitly or explicitly left by Congress in the course of administering congressional programs.”

An example of such gaps is ‘derivatives,’ “noncitizen spouses or children of alien beneficiaries, who can immigrate with the so-called principal whom they accompany.” (p. 21)

The most important question which remains to be answered is how many millions of illegal aliens will qualify for executive discretionary amnesty and will be allowed to remain permanently in the United States, receive work permits, benefits, and eventual citizenship, competing with the already huge block of unemployed, low and high skilled Americans? Additionally, how would such millions be absorbed seamlessly into the fabric of our society without permanently altering the character of who we are and the respect for the rule of law? Will they accept our culture and our language? There was obviously no respect for our borders since they were here illegally. Will this discretionary amnesty encourage an unstoppable chain migration?










Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Snow Up to the Waist

Photo: Ileana Johnson 2014
We had crossed the Allegheny Mountains, driving through a rock tunnel, speeding by changing wintry landscapes, bald trees, and still wind turbines dotting the Pennsylvania sky like giant spiders. After seven hours we made it to Scott’s boyhood home.

As huge snowflakes started dancing in the air, Ray opened up his memory bag of childhood stories. The first snow of the year was beginning to stick to the ground and the drab Ohio landscape was turning into a winter wonderland. But this gentle snow blowing from Lake Erie was just a fuss when compared to blizzards past.

It was 1950 and a monster snowstorm had buried the family up to their collective waist in fluffy whiteness. The small Medina Hollow in West Virginia was far from the maddening world of civilization but this time it resembled a lunar white desert. The roads were inaccessible for an entire week before bulldozers from the county showed up to free them from complete and utter isolation.

The feeling of despair never entered the minds of these resilient , intrepid, and self-sufficient country folk who used the Sears and Roebuck catalog as toilet paper and an outhouse dangling over the creek. Sometimes it was washed away by the swollen waters and had to be salvaged from the mud downstream and drug back to its stilts.

The cows were trapped in the shed when huge snow banks slid off the roof and closed off the only possible exit and entrance to feed and water the cows - their source of milk, butter, and cheese. The boys dug a tunnel through the snow to get the Holsteins out to the water.

The fact that they were cut off from the world by miles and tons of snow did not frighten them. They only went to the store in the nearby town of Ripley once a month to buy salt, flour, coffee, and sugar – everything else they grew and canned themselves. They had no refrigeration and electricity; a building dug into the hill, well-insulated with 8 inch walls of sawdust, kept everything cold and well-preserved.  Apples, pears, potatoes, and onions were covered with straw. The milk was kept fresh in the spring. The flowing water was the magical place that sustained life - it was their cooler, fishing hole, the water source for animals and humans, and their Saturday bathtub before church.

In his typical West Virginia brogue, Ray reminisced about the yearly ritual of breaking the soil, planting the garden, weeding it, watering it, and the pig they always butchered on Thanksgiving Day. They stayed up all day and half the night, up to their elbows in blood, meat, and guts. “We saved everything but the squeal and we would have saved it too if we could have caught it. And we cleaned the guts in the river and made sausage sleeves out of them. We even used the pig’s tail to grease the griddle.”

The men dipped the hogs in a barrel to scald the hair off of them and then laid them on a sled, saved the liver, the heart, and other parts to make sausages or fry them.  I wondered  why they did not take a blow torch to singe the pig’s hair like my Grandpa used to do at Christmas time when he butchered the family’s hog. But then again, I always found hairs in the pig’s hide when I was trying to chew Grandpa’s specialty head cheese.

The large family survived during spring and summer by growing vegetables, eating unwashed tomatoes right out of the patch and raising chicken and collecting eggs. When it came time to cook a chicken, they would hang it live on the clothes line and cut its head off to keep it from flopping around and bruising the meat.

“It was not easy then, that’s for sure,” he said pensively. “We did not go to town much, we sold some eggs, we sold cream from Jersey and Holstein cows’ milk, but we did not buy much.”

They made sauerkraut in steeping barrels, stomping salted cabbage with their feet. When the sauerkraut was ready, they washed the salt off. “We did not know any better - that was normal to us.”

Every morning all kids had to get up at 4:30 a.m. and do their chores first before they went to school. Out in the middle of a field, they drank water from the creek and used nature’s bathroom, with special markers for the spot, no sophistication or hygiene worries.

Many kids dropped out of school too soon but Ray’s brothers stayed through 12th grade because their parents stressed the importance of school, “reading, writing, and Route 21.” Route 21 took many kids out of West Virginia to the “promised land” in Ohio in search of jobs. Medina was so small it only had a grocery store and a church, no chance for employment. Ripley was the big city with one traffic light.

Some kids were so poor, they brought raccoon sandwiches to school. Parents sent them to school just to get them out of the house until they got in fights and tried to beat the teacher and the cops took them back home.  

Kids wore overshoes to handle the deep mud. When the school bus would get stuck in spite of the spare gravel on the road, children had to get out in ankle-deep mud and extricate the bus by pushing it out of the ruts. Nowadays there would be a lawsuit if kids pushed the bus.

It’s a wonder Joan married Ray after seeing all the spitting, tobacco and snuff-chewing men in the main square by the Courthouse. People slept with their dogs in bed and the pig underneath the bed because winters were so fierce and cold. Ray’s uncle was considered rich by most area residents because he owned a jewelry store in Ripley, trading watches.

Joan, Ray’s wife, a city girl from Ohio, was appalled how people lived in West Virginia. She must have loved Ray very much to stick around for 55 years. And Ray’s economical lifestyle became their trademark. Living simply, God, and family remained their guiding light.
Copyright: Ileana Johnson 2014



Monday, November 17, 2014

The Washington National Cathedral, Not an Ordinary Place of Worship

Photo courtesy of the web
On the highest point of Washington, D.C., Mount Saint Alban, a fourteen-century English Gothic style cathedral stands out – the Washington National Cathedral – with its centerpiece of the high altar, “The Majestus,” designed by sculptor Walker Hancock and carved in stone by Roger Morigi.

Also known as the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the Cathedral’s construction began in 1907 and was finished and consecrated on September 29, 1990, eighty-three years after the initial laying of the foundation stone.

Designed by architects George Frederick Bodley and Henry Vaughn, and completed by architect Philip Herbert Frohman over his fifty year tenure, the cathedral was built and carved by hundreds of stone cutters, wood cutters, metal and glass artists, and other workers who built the great towers, the flying buttresses, the crypt, carved gargoyles, grotesques, pinnacles, finials, angels, and thousands of decorative details.

Some stone cutters and carvers hailed from the same part of Italy, with its rich limestone, a material used by Italian builders for their cities, cathedrals, palazzos, monuments, villas, and tombstones. The stone carvers of the National Cathedral came from small towns in Italy as early as 1890. And they all went to Barre, Vermont.

Roger Morigi, who studied at the Academia di Belle Arte di Brera in Milan, arrived in New York harbor from Genoa in 1927. After years of apprenticeship in Milan, Morigi became Master Carver at the Washington National Cathedral in 1956 where he labored for twenty-three years until his retirement. The last sculpture he carved was Adam. His major pieces are Majestus (the centerpiece of the altar), the statue of the Good Shepherd, and Adam of the west portal.

After Morigi’s retirement, Vincent Palumbo became Master Carver in 1978. Vincent started as the youngest and most inexperienced member of the crew, working with his father, Paul Palumbo. He worked at the Cathedral for “thirty-eight years since he immigrated to the United States from southern Italy in 1961.” (p. 77)

Vincent worked on the figures of Saint Paul and Saint Peter on the Cathedral’s west fa├žade. He spent two years with three other carvers working on scaffolding above the Cathedral’s west entrance carving the Creation tympanum.

Frederick E. Hart created the famous base relief sculpture Ex Nihilo (Out of Nothing) that adorns the tympanum over the main entrance of the cathedral. It depicts “creation of humanity out of the torrential void.” Four life-size males and four females with closed eyes are “emerging from the primordial cloud,” a birth revealing the “majesty of the Divine Will.”

Paul Palumbo carved the keystone of Christ on the Cross, an unusual depiction of a very muscular Christ with oversized arms. Paul Palumbo also carved sculptor Granville Carter’s Archangel Michael statue, located in a niche in the south transept of the Cathedral.

Frank Zic and Roger Morigi worked for almost five years carving forty-four voussoir angels in the south portal and ten years above the south portal carving angels, canopies, and other sculptures.

Unfortunately, the stone carvers’ workshop, stone yard, and studio no longer exist on the Cathedral’s grounds; they have been demolished long time ago.  According to Marjorie Hunt, a folklorist with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the workshop was a veritable “League of Nations,” with carvers from all over Italy, Greece, England, Germany, and the United States.

I met Marjorie Hunt ten years ago at Georgetown University. She had co-produced and co-directed The Stone Carvers, an Oscar-winning documentary about the stone carvers she described in her 1999 book with the same title.

I toured the Cathedral with Marjorie Hunt as a guide but I saw this jewel of architecture through my own eyes. While I understood and admired the carving beauty built for posterity, the intricately sewn needlepoint pillows in the pews, bearing the names of powerful men in Congress and the Supreme Court, struck a strange chord with me.

What is so fascinating and unusual about this Cathedral is the fact that the carvers had complete freedom in choosing pinnacles, corbels, capitals, gargoyles, and grotesques.  The grotesques decorate buttresses supporting the nave.

According to Marjorie Hunt, carvings such as gargoyles, angels, columns, pinnacles, and grotesques intertwine “the world of work” with hilarious moments in time, pranks, jokes, stories, memorable characters, quirks of various carvers, their habits and unusual traits of character, and the carvers’ imagination, using the world around them as inspiration:

-          a scholarly owl , a wild cat, a winged creature, flowers, fish, pumpkins, sunflowers, carvers’ faces, the foreman, the laborer, the engineer, the boss, a golfer’s grip

-          an image of Roger Morigi with his mallet and chisels, with a mushroom cloud above his head and a devil’s tail and horn, signifying his fiery temperament, and a set of golf clubs above his head, a symbol of his extra-curricular passion

-          a pinnacle carving of Roger Morigi with his “beloved golf clubs and the master carver’s eagle eye”

-          Vincent Palumbo, holding an air hammer,  with exaggerated curly hair and moustache

-          one carver on the scaffolding whistles at the passing girls while the next carving depicts the former dean of the Cathedral, Francis B. Sayre Jr., with a horrified expression of shock and disapproval

-          Frank Zic carved himself “dreaming of deer hunting and winning the Maryland lottery,” with a wishbone on his left side and a deer antler on his right” (The Stone Carvers, p. 151)

-          Frank Zic carved Gino Bresciani, the trice retiree, who was preparing for his fourth retirement with “a bag of money over his shoulder and his suitcase in his left hand (p. 152)

-          Malcolm Harlow carved his family on the base of a pinnacle

-          He also carved the caricatures of construction laborers Allen Goodwin and Henry Thomas  – Goodwin with a chain hoist and dolly, Thomas with a cup of coffee, a doughnut, hot dog, and piece of pie

-          Malcolm carved a tribute to all secretaries in a grotesque, with telephone, typewriter, and file cabinet (a grotesque is a gargoyle without a water spout)

-          A pinnacle with columns and Ionic capitals honors the Cathedral sculptor Constantine Seferlis, a Greek

-          Richard Feller, the canon clerk, is depicted with his drafting tools and the mountains from his native West Virginia

-          Ludwig Malisky, a carpenter, is portrayed with his hammer and saw

-          Walter Fleming, the foreman of all Cathedral laborers, is holding a whip wrapped around his head

-          There is even an angel holding an Oscar, honoring  Marjorie and the documentary The Stone Carvers that won an Academy Award in 1985

-          Seferlis carved a hippie, an elephant, a donkey, a lawyer, a television producer, an angry cat ready to pounce, a man riding a stolen pig with a chicken in one hand, and a boy with a broken halo and his hand in a cookie jar

-          Vincent Palumbo carved a good boy with a halo – the two boys were carved at the special request of a Cathedral donor

-          A gargoyle was carved for a dentist, depicting him working on the cavity of a walrus

-          John Guarante carved a lion roaring in anger and pain because his tail was tied in a knot; his ninety-six angels with overlapping wings and praying hands holding a dice with 7 encircle the central tower  (pp. 156-157)

A memorial to Joseph Ratti, who died falling from scaffolding, was designed by sculptor Heinz Warneke and carved by Roger Morigi. There are two uncarved blocks of stone on the north wall of the Cathedral, in the spot where Ratti fell to his death. The statue depicts a stone carver working on an unfinished gargoyle, a tribute to Joseph Ratti, but also a reminder of the dangerous work involved in building the Cathedral.

The keystone of Mary Magdalene and Christ, located on the nave’s vaulted ceiling, is the last carving that Vincent Palumbo and his father worked on together before Paul Palumbo’s death.

The Washington National Cathedral is not just a symbol of Christianity and the house of God; it is a “compendium of life and work experiences, … a collection of texts that bear the imprint of the carvers’ hearts, hands, and minds.” (Marjorie Hunt, The Stone Carvers, p. 163)

It is sad that the Cathedral that bears the name of George Washington and represents our Judeo-Christian nation has been desecrated.  What would the stone carvers, devout Christians - Catholics, Lutherans, and Orthodox – think and feel if they knew that their place of worship they spent almost a century to build with blood, sweat, and tears, has been changed, even for a short moment in history, into a mosque?
Copyright: Ileana Johnson 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Democrat Electioneering Day

On Election Day I agreed to pass sample ballots for a couple of hours for the Republican Party. They were having a hard time finding someone to do it - Republicans are generally busy working. How hard could it be sitting down and giving a ballot sample to those who pass by?  It was a gorgeous fall day and I was glad to be outdoors. I would find out soon enough that it was harder than it seemed.

Armed with a small box of papers, I was told to stay behind a certain line, 40 feet from the front door, marked clearly in blue and by several huge signs warning not to cross the electioneering line.

A small unattended box with the name Democrat in big, bold letters was on the grass nearby. About thirty minutes later, a gentleman with a National Education Association (NEA) blue cap and a Mark Warner t-shirt took possession of the box and started giving out Democrat sample ballots.

He seemed oblivious to the Virginia State Board of Elections vote of October 14, 2008, “to ban clothing and hats as well as buttons and other paraphernalia that directly advocate the election or defeat of a specific candidate or issue.”

He was not just giving out ballots; he was walking across the line back and forth, solicitously “helping” the elderly walk to the door even though he kept violating the blue electioneering line. I brought this obvious fact to his attention and to the officials and he told me, quite annoyed, that nothing was illegal as long as he was helping people vote.

This man told me he was a retired reading teacher. Now I fully understand why many students cannot read when they graduate, and defy authority and the law without compunction. For Democrats, the rule of law and civil society are just suggestions.

Car after old and rusty car emblazoned with assorted Democrat/union/ Obama/Biden stickers drove up with voters who did not seem so well-off or particularly healthy – some were in wheelchairs and others moved slowly and painfully with walkers or canes.

These two hours would become an economic voting lesson I would not soon forget. Here were these people, obviously soon to become victims of the rationed and dysfunctional Obamacare and obviously poor, relegated to the same low income status, yet they could not wait to march in and vote joyously for the same status quo that had made them financially poor, unemployed, and on welfare. They rudely dismissed my Republican sample ballots with words such as, “I don’t vote for those crooks that have destroyed our economy and our country.” I was speechless in the face of such economic ignorance.

A couple from Central America, who could still vividly remember the poverty and socialist paradise exploitation they’ve left to come to the freedom of opportunity in America, told me, after they took the Republican ballot, they could not understand why people would vote for socialism.

Did they not learn from history and from the experience of millions of exploited who fled from around the world to come here for a better life, freedom of religion, and a chance to succeed? Apparently not, they are now coming here for the social programs, welfare, and other generous handouts from the hard-working Americans. As long as they vote the “right” way, they remain on the dependent and needy Democrat plantation.

A few well-to-do bureaucrats driving shiny new cars waved me off without a word, turning their noses in disgust, as if I was a malaria-laden mosquito.

I asked the Democrat volunteer why these people who drive up in such rickety cars are voting for Democrats again, for the status quo. He explained that it was a poor district; most people are unemployed, on welfare or disability, thanks to all the Republicans who stalled the Democrats and our wonderful President who tried to help the poor.

I asked him to give me one example of what the President and his party did in a stellar manner that improved the lives of the poor. His answer shocked me, “they sheltered Social Security from the grubby hands of Republicans and increased welfare and food stamp rolls.”

I tried to give him examples of the high unemployment, high inflation, the destruction of the dollar, and the destruction of the best health care system in the world under this administration. He told me that I had no idea what I was talking about, living under communism has warped my mind and thus my ability to properly understand what is going on.

I gave up in disgust and was relieved when my two hours were up – I even forgot my chair. I cannot say it was entirely a waste of my time. It was a reinforcement of what I already knew; the brainwashing of our population and its maintenance on poverty row perennially is a direct result of the warped education they’ve received from the highly inadequate teachers who support Common Core and are dues-paying NEA members.

It was no surprise to me at the end of the evening when all the socialist Congressmen remained in power in Virginia. The densely populated northern Virginia made sure that the Commonwealth maintained its socialist platform.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Interview with Joy Tiz Show from California
(20 minutes)

Historic Spanish Point

Little Sarasota Bay
On a balmy late October day, the sunny, sparkling white beaches of Siesta Key came into view.  The eight-mile long island off Sarasota with its snow-white quartz sand churned by the force of the emerald ocean into a fine powder is home to miles of canals, tropical vegetation, herons, pelicans, sea gulls, wild parrots, and bottlenose dolphins. The occasional ‘do not feed the alligators’ sign reminds mesmerized travelers that there are more creatures in the surrounding waters than the gentle dolphins and the flying fish.

In 1907 Siesta Key, originally known as Sarasota Key, was renamed by Harry Higel and his partners in the Siesta Land Company, Captain Louis Roberts and E. M. Arbogast. Since there was only access by ferry to the island, the first bridge was built in 1917.
According to archeological discoveries, five thousand years ago people lived in the area now known as the Historic Spanish Point. These early Floridians were avid fishermen who harvested “huge quantities of seafood,” hunted deer and raccoons, lived in thatched huts, and used tools made from shell, bone, and wood. The 30-acre preserve dating from 3000 B.C. to 1000 A.D. contains a burial mound and two middens or shell mounds,  excavated by the Smithsonian and archeologist Ripley Bullen looking for clues of the long-ago inhabitants and their daily lives.

Shell midden
According to museum archeologists, the middens were built by pre-Columbian people during a period called the Late Weeden Island period. Shells and refuse were layered in the sand until the land rose 18 feet above sea level, jutting into the Little Sarasota Bay. One of the shell midden sections is preserved inside a specially constructed building as evidence of Florida’s early inhabitants.
When the Europeans arrived in the 1500s, the Pensacola, the Apalachee, the Timucua, the Ais, the Tecobaga, the Calusa, the Mayaimi, the Jeaga, and the Tequeata made their home in Florida. According to historians, when native people “fell prey to disease and warfare,” Indians from Georgia and Alabama, Seminoles and Miccosukees, moved into the Florida peninsula. (Historic Spanish Point Museum Archives)

As the climate warmed, “most large Ice Age animals became extinct, people became less nomadic and the population grew. These archaic people occupied Historic Spanish Point about 4,000 years ago.” (Museum Archives)
Boat house with Spanish Moss
John and Eliza Webb, with their five children, arrived here in 1867 from Utica and claimed 145 acres under the Federal Homestead Act. Because a Spanish trader had guided them to this elevated land extending into the bay, the Webbs decided to name it “Spanish Point” in his honor. For forty years the Webb family farmed 10 acres of citrus fruit. The Packing House has been restored to its pioneer era.

Citrus fruit was brought originally to Florida by Spanish explorers from Southeast Asia in the 16th century.  Spanish missionaries gave seeds to the local Indians who planted orange trees around their communities. Groves of wild oranges were found 200 years later on hammock lands in north central Florida. D.D. Dummitt grafted sweet orange branches onto the wild trees, obtaining the now famous Indian River variety.

During its interesting history, hard freezes, pests, and disease, the citrus industry thrived and by 1980 there were more than 690,000 acres in production, making it the leading agricultural crop in Florida with “146 million boxes of oranges and fifty-five million boxes of grapefruit.” (Historic Spanish Point Museum Archives)
The proximity to so much sea water allowed growers to wash oranges covered with mold or fungus. Some fruit was perfect straight from the grove but most needed washing. The original Webb Citrus Packing House was built around 1870.

Mary's Chapel
A tiny white chapel, adjacent to the pioneer cemetery where the Webb family is buried, was built in the middle of the lush tropical jungle walk. Mary’s Chapel was named after Mary Sherrill, a young woman from Kentucky suffering from tuberculosis, who had come to the Webb’s Winter Resort in 1892 in hopes that the warm Florida sun would cure her. She died five weeks later. The New England Conservatory of Music, class of 1891, donated in 1895 the church bell in memory of their former classmate and graduate.
The flora and fauna found both in temperate and tropical climates offer a unique look to the area. Hardwood forests and hammocks cover about 20 percent of Florida. On the hammock trail one can find oaks, pignut hickory, red cedar, hickory, wax myrtle with its aroma of the crushed leaf and fruit and its candle-making wax, and magnolia trees but also tropical cabbage palms and soapberry trees. On the forest floor there are shade-loving plants such as wild coffee, sea-oxeye (along the border of mangroves), saltwort, and white stopper.

Bridge and mangrove
Branching trees hide insects, songbirds, owls, toads, and epiphytes, plants that grow on other plants such as the butterfly orchid, wild pine, and resurrection fern. Spanish moss, a member of the bromeliad or pineapple family, is an epiphyte that uses trees for support but draws nourishment from the air, the sun, and the rain. Spanish moss literally blankets the area, hanging like nature’s Christmas ornaments.
Red mangroves, found along the seaward edge of the coast, are one of the few trees that can grow and thrive in salt water. Their roots trap silt and eventually build up islands. The black mangroves grow further inland. The white mangroves grow on the highest elevations. The mangroves form a dense habitat that only wildlife can penetrate.

The Gumbo Limbo is a fascinating tree nicknamed the tourist tree because its red bark peels like sunburn.  A large shade tree, the Gumbo Limbo sap is used as a liniment and made into varnish, while the leaves can be brewed as tea.
The bay on the east side of Siesta Key is an estuary, a place where saltwater and freshwater meet. Surrounded by mangroves that prevent shoreline erosion, the rainfall waters mixed with saltwater become a perfect nursery for marine life and wildlife.

Aqueduct surrounded by huge fern
The entire 30-acre Spanish Point preserve with its fern flooded aqueduct, the mangroves, the plantation house, the packing house, the boat shed, Mary’s Church, and the cemetery  are a fascinating walk into the wilderness that used to be Florida, and its rich history. The outdoor museum with the sunken gardens and the pergola are a restful escape from the noisy world into the natural world. The pathways built of seashells crunched underfoot. I got a sense of stepping on history millions of years old.

© Ileana Johnson Paugh 2014

Mary's Chapel original bell