European Court Rules on Crucifix in Classrooms

italian_schoolSomewhere, Michael Newdow, the California atheist obsessed with striking God from everywhere but the Bible, is smiling…

As yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights headlined Italian news when they ruled on a case brought by Soile Lautso Albertin, an Italian citizen originally from Finland, who wanted crucifixes removed from her sons’ classrooms. The court decided that the presence of crucifixes in the classrooms is a “violation of the right of parents to educate their children according to their wishes,” and an assault on the “freedom of religion for the students.”

The Italian government was also ordered to pay, five thousand euros, for their part in psychologically damaging the boys who were forced to learn in the midst of a crucifix.

Unscientific results from a web poll posed by Corriere della Sera, show slightly more than half, 52.3%, disagreeing with the court’s decision, with a tad more than nine thousand respondents.

Politicians reacted predictably. Adel Smith, President of the Union of Muslims in Italy who once referred to Jesus Christ as a “miniature cadaver,” questioned how crucifix defenders could have been surprised; “in a state which defines itself as secular, cannot oppress other faiths by showing a particular religious symbol.” And the national secretary of the Union of Atheists and Agnostics joined an Italian communist leader proclaiming victory.

Many mainstream politicians, however, disagreed with the decision. “I think that the ancient tradition of the crucifix could not be offensive to anyone,” argued Pierluigi Bersani, leader of the neo-PD. For Minister Mariastella Gelmini (PDL) “the presence of the crucifix in the classroom does not mean adherence to Catholicism, but is a symbol of our tradition.”

The Vatican is obviously disappointed. From the Corriere della Sera:

Father Federico Lombardi, in a brief speech to Vatican Radio and the Tg1, told of “surprise and regret” with which – in the Papal city – has greeted the decision of the court Council of Europe. “The crucifix – he explained – was always a sign of God’s offer of love and union and shelter for all humanity. It is sad that it has been regarded as a sign of division, exclusion or restriction of freedom.

Regardless of whether one agrees with the ruling or not, the refreshing candor shown by vocal Italian politicians who are unthreatened by their faith and culture, should serve as a lesson to milquetoast American pols, who are often all too eager to undercut their own beliefs to exude tolerance.

As Americans, we always hear how secular and opposed to organized religion Europeans are, yet there are still many schools in Europe where Christmas is celebrated and crosses hang undisturbed.  That might change, and yesterday’s ruling might signal a push for heightened secularism and greater division between governments and religion, but as of today, Christians have more freedom to celebrate their faith.

U.S News vs World Report

Dissent at your own risk.

8655_corriere_della_sera_2006These days, voicing contrarian positions in America has become an act of bravery, as self-defined progressives now control the White House, Congress, academia and the mainstream media. Don’t buy ‘man-made’ global warming? The warming nazis might cut your mic. If you believe immigration laws should be followed, be ready for the ‘racist’ label that’s headed your way. And if your version of healthcare reform favors reducing costs over creating a greater burden, you’d better be prepared to be called an ‘old people killer.’

But liberals/progressives, by definition, should embrace free thought and debate, instead of running around like the Gestapo to silence critics. Conservative talk-radio’s success coupled with the failure of any lefty-talk programming, have inspired whispers of a ‘fairness doctrine’ resurgence from Capitol Hill. In commie land, Fox News is a propaganda network, but MSNBC would make Murrow proud.

It’s a shame, but I often have to read my Italian newspaper to obtain American news stories; because the stories or studies that conflict with the mainstream media’s agenda go unreported. Monday, the PNAS or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences released a study by two Vanderbilt professors who maintain that individual households can reduce carbon emissions by thirty-seven percent if the actions were implemented by everyone. By their estimation, using past energy-efficient programs to estimate the number who would participate, the researchers claim that the total U.S emissions would be reduced by 7.4%.

Kyoto failed, as will Copenhagen. But individuals, by choice, can make a difference.

Tuesday, this study made the front page of the Corriere della Sera. Curious, I performed a quick Google search of news containing the aforementioned study and noticed that it did make Vanderbilt University News, along with a couple of local TV stations’ websites. What is groundbreaking to some remains insignificant to others. It’s Friday now, and the study still hasn’t been reported.

Making global warming news Tuesday, in the U.S, was  Britain’s climate chief who was interviewed by the UK’s Times. He believes we should all become a bunch of vegans to save the planet from methane created by cow farts. And just a few days ago, it was a New York Times writer asserting that young Americans had a duty to the planet: have fewer children.

While the UN and its elite accomplices, some with a financial interest in the adoption of cap-and-trade, are hoodwinking Americans into scrapping 80% of their economy over climate change’s unproven hysteria, the mainstream media seems only interested in pushing population control and cow-culling when all it might take would be to insulate our water heaters and better service our cars.

Maybe learning a second language isn’t such a bad idea after all.

The Nobel Prize and ‘Cookie Diplomacy’

obama_looking_up Today’s announcement of President Barack Obama as the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” illuminates the organization’s preference for lofty talk over worthy actions. Heretofore, President Obama has failed to make progress in Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea, but Nobel voters have rewarded his apologetically deferential rhetoric anyway.

Gone are the days of victories, verifiable accomplishments and winners, because western society now prioritizes effort over results. 

Arafat promoted peace as he prepared suicide bombers to attack Israel. Mohammed el-Baradei, former head of the IAEA, inspected, and now Iran is as close as it has ever been to possessing nuclear weapons.  Al Gore talked a good green game, as his home consumed twenty times the electricity of an average American home. All of these men were awarded the Nobel Prize for peace, because for the committee, accomplishments don’t matter—politics do.

Clearly, Obama’s ‘cookie diplomacy’ has had quite an impact, not only with American liberals, but with elites in Western Europe. To understand this complex ‘cookie diplomacy’, one need not look to Iran or North Korea, but to Sudan.  Yes, the poster children for bad behavior have become the latest subjects for the Obama policy of unconditional engagement. The U.S. envoy to Sudan, Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, senses change sweeping the only country led by an indicted war criminal, and despite the millions of displaced and dead Darfuris, the Maj Gen. sees ‘cookies’ as a way to end the hideous atrocities perpetrated by the Arab Sudanese against the African Darfuris. Yes. Cookies.

 Washington Post:

 “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies,” said Gration, who was appointed in March. “Kids, countries — they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.”

 These policies are more apt to work in Neverland than in Sudan. And they aren’t simply doomed to fail, they are doomed to exacerbate an already tragic situation. Experienced diplomats and rebels fighting the government have tried to educate Gration in the ways of the Sudanese regime.

 Again from the Washington Post:

John Prendergast, co-chairman of the Enough Project, a human rights group advocating tougher, multilateral sanctions against Sudan, said Bashir and his top advisers respond only to pressure. “They do not respond to nice guys coming over and saying, ‘We have to be a good guest,’ ” he said. “They eat these people for dinner.”

Adam Mudawi, a Sudanese human rights activist who has seen envoys come and go, put it more bluntly: “In six months, he’ll find out,” he said. “They are liars.”  

Appeasement, ‘cookie diplomacy’, call it what you will, it’s everywhere. Last week, another Nobel winner, the Dalai Lama visited Washington D.C, and for the first time in ten visits, a sitting U.S. President rejected a meeting in order to gain favor with the Chinese. Apparently, budget deficits and healthcare reform rank higher than human rights on Obama’s curious priority scale.

Imagine winning the Cold War, WWII or the Korean War with a box of Nestle Tollhouse…it would have been nice.  I’m afraid that until Obama’s foreign policy grows up, we’ll all—save the lefties—be eschewing cookies in favor of a nice swig of Maalox.

When Did Americans Lose Their Balls?

Like other seminal moments in history, most remember where they were when the first passenger jet hit the twin towers. Other turning points are just as significant, even if they aren’t marked by a single catastrophe.

 Last night, Congressman Wilson’s ‘liar’ assertion and the aftermath which ensued, prompted, once again, the question: when exactly did Americans lose their balls? It wasn’t Obama’s speech, or even the President himself spurring the eye-rolling; it was a congressman’s response to his own outburst and the reactions of his fellow republicans.

 “You lie.”

 Ok. Perhaps that wasn’t the place to call out the POTUS, however, the congressman’s initial reaction was, in fact, the correct one. It’s a fact that the House has refused to adopt the Heller amendment which would prevent illegal aliens from receiving health care coverage. Current legislation doesn’t require agencies to check the citizen status of the applicant; therefore, illegals wouldn’t have their status checked prior to obtaining coverage, thus insuring illegals without insuring illegals. So, technically, the language excludes them, while implicitly including them, via processes.

 If their ever was a carpe diem moment, it was last night. Congressman Wilson’s manhood was screaming to be acknowledged. Have some courage man. Tell the truth. Call him out.

 All gave way to what has, unfortunately, become the norm in the United States. Let people talk, and whatever you do, don’t challenge the substance of their arguments. We have Presidential debates with moderators who might as well be analysts announcing the down and distance at a football game. Pols are able to spin and lie about issues without challenge. I’m surprised no Presidential hopeful has asserted that the sky is green, because there isn’t a chance his claim would be disputed.

 “This evening I let my emotions get the best of me. While I disagree with the president’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.”

 Disagree with the statement? Nice walk-back from calling the President a liar. Disagreements should be reserved for opinions, not statements of fact. Obama’s assertion that illegals wouldn’t be covered under the bill is false, unequivocally so.

 It’s more than the congressman. Where is the media? Bias aside, liberal bias in the established print and television medium is well documented, where are the questions? Why is it so hard to ask questions, instead of allowing politicians, or anyone else for that matter, to get away with lying?

 We used to call it lying; now it’s simply ‘misleading’. We used to call 700 lb people ‘fat’, now they are just ‘overweight’. We used to call those who finished second ‘losers’, now we call everyone ‘winners’. We used to respond to questions, now we simply spin. We used to have courage, now, we just say sorry.

“The Absentee Ballot”

 

hammer_sic3aFor generations, Italy has inspired transplanted writers. From personal narratives to cookbooks, from history books to blockbuster fiction, its enchanting culture and historical legacy has helped to churn out manuscript after manuscript. Although I was fascinated by its history, transfixed by its culture and wowed by it cuisine, my Italian experience, as I write about in The Absentee Ballot, falls into an entirely separate category of “back from Italy” books: surviving liberalism and living to tell about it.

Unlike those who vowed to leave the U.S. if George Bush was elected, I had simply decided to follow my Italian husband who was returning home after spending several years in the U.S. My husband had motivated my move, and in chapter one, I explain what motivated my book.

Historically, there have always been hypercritical Europeans, but the shameless assault that I was seeing emanate from American leftists prompted me to give a broader perspective on a Europe that I found strikingly different from the one championed in their blogs, e-mails and newscasts. European attacks on U.S foreign policy and culture weren’t new, but the rhetoric that was spewing forth from American liberal circles had become unbearable.

More and more Americans jumped on the bandwagon, and the America bashing intensified. It became hip to be an Amerihater.  With the casualties rising in Iraq and no WMD to be found, they became bolder in their criticism.

Not only were these Americans blinded to the notion that they were living in the greatest country on earth, most of them hadn’t a clue about the practical effects of the policies which they advocated. George Clooney might have filmed a commercial for the former communist running for Prime Minister of Italy, but his Italian experience is quite atypical. His American paycheck, his reluctance to learn the language and his lakefront villa opulence keep him from grasping the frustrations of a typical hard-working Italian, so how is he qualified to comment, let alone recommend a candidate.  I wonder if he has ever attempted to reach the center of Milan on a train, bus or subway when strikers have shut them down. Because I used the train and the subway, I wasn’t as lucky. Then again, I was, because I was able to witness socialism at work.

Looking down, I watched impassioned hippies march through the otherwise car-packed streets, while flags and banners waved as thousands of people chanted and played music. The sea of red had the odd Soviet flag sprinkled here and there. Some protestors screamed into megaphones, while others sang the communist worker’s hymn. Not being a communist myself, I didn’t recognize what the song was until I watched the news later that night.

CGIL (ex-communist union) had turned out thousands of people, including children, to manifest in over one hundred towns across Italy.  The strikes varied in complexion from city to city, but the scioperanti, as they are called in Italy, used this occasion to protest a panoply of issues ranging from the war in Afghanistan to environmental policies. In Bologna, they took over a Benetton shop.  Elsewhere, anti-Big Mackers organized a three day event against McDonalds.

Every drumbeat and bell struck in squares across Italy signaled new grievances. Ding: Global warming. Dong: Unfair layoffs. Bing: No War. Bong: More vacations. However serious or ridiculous the grievance, the habitual strikers used any and every excuse to march and complain. I guess Machiavelli was right: the power wears out those who don’t have it. Berlusconi and the right had worn them out just as Bush had exasperated leftist Americans.

Strikes were inconvenient and periodic monkey wrenches, but there were other more critical errors in the liberal utopia, namely multiculturalism which is fundamentally altering Europe’s cultural landscape. And because Italian isn’t a widely spoken language, their struggle with immigration doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Italians have struggled with illegal immigration and waves of refugees from Africa, because of their preference for multiculturalism over assimilation. The crisis has been compounded by the severe religious divide between the Catholic majority and those Muslims calling Italy their new home.

The battle between the leftists and those vying to preserve Italy’s storied culture is growing increasingly bitter.

It wasn’t just embarrassment or adding members to their roles that interested the communists. They also used the religion of the immigrants to beat back the dominant faith which they despised. Near Siena, well-known for the palio, a centuries-old horse race in the town square, religious tensions were stoked by a communist mayor, who, without seeking the approval of those living in Colle Val d’Elsa—a village just outside of Siena, brilliantly decided to provide public funds to build a mosque on a public park. The locals were outraged, not because of racism or bigotry toward Muslims in the town, but because they weren’t asked their opinion. There was no referendum.

Construction has begun and minarets will soon tower above the small cobblestone streets and medieval frescoes. Score one for those Marxists who would love nothing more than to snuff out the “opium of the people.”

At times, politicians on the far right utilized rather unorthodox strategies to affect the growing Islamic influence in Italian society.

Roberto Calderoli, a La Lega politician, planned a “pig day” to protest another planned mosque in Bologna.  “I place myself and my pig at the disposal of those who are against this mosque,” he said, offering to tour the construction site with his pig, after which the ground would be “considered infected and no longer suitable” for building.  Although the pig day proposal shocked many Italians, only 28% of the population supports any new mosque construction.

Immigration is a main concern of both Americans and Europeans; so is racism.  

It didn’t take long for me to recognize a peculiar connection between swastikas, old soviet flags and banana peelings. During European soccer matches, all were liable to end up littering soccer stadiums in appalling displays of racism.

At Milan’s San Siro soccer stadium, Zoro, a player for Messina, heard taunting so severe that he threatened to leave the field.  Other players convinced him to stay and play, but the next time he traveled to Milan for a game, he was greeted with a sign that read, “Peanuts and bananas are the price of your fame.”

I wonder how the elites, the self-loathers and the race-baiters would get along in Europe.  From human rights to UN resolutions, these folks are constantly in search of European approval. But how would they fair living inside their socialist utopia, and would they be surprised at the life they would find?  Would Jesse Jackson continue cashing in on corporate shakedowns and exploiting every race related issue to get mug time on television?  In Europe, he would have plenty of opportunities.

If Jesse and Al could help ease European racial tensions, then maybe Al Gore would be happier in Europe under its proactive environmental policy.  But, could Gore really last? He would have to alter his rather liberal use of electricity—reported to be twenty times that of the average American household.  Electricity in Europe, like fuel, is much more expensive

It would be costlier to operate his SUVs and private planes and then there are also the inconvenient “time outs” from driving in the city. When pollution levels reach a certain level inside the municipalities, the government bans city traffic and declares a pollution free zone.

If Gore lived inside an Italian metropoli, he’d have several options, starting with the many systems of mass transit. If the busses, trains and subways are not available because of strikes, there are always other viable alternatives, such as riding a bicycle or a horse.  Somehow I don’t see Al Gore riding the subway or a horse.

If it wasn’t striking workers grinding the transportation system to a halt, it was the ‘save the earth’ crowd’s efforts to ease smog in the cities and municipalities. But as inconvenient as those interruptions were, Italy’s outrageously high taxes had an even greater impact on the lifestyles of Italians, and me. Italians are known for their creativity, and their tax-evading maneuvers required every ounce of it.

I learned the routine rather quickly. If I requested a receipt for any labor completed, the bill was usually higher. Cash was always welcome and utilized more often than I was used to in the United States. My friends were refreshingly honest about their Swiss bank accounts, and would occasionally recount their tax escapades. One of my favorites was a friend who had made trips to Switzerland for years.

One afternoon when it came time for him to cross into Switzerland, the border patrol directed him to pull to the side of the road. They needed to search the car, and they did.  They looked through his briefcase, his jacket, the car and in the trunk, but found nothing and let him pass through. The only place they hadn’t checked was underneath his hat, which was where the smuggled cash was hidden. His behavior might seem extreme and deceitful, but the strain and limitations of the tax system had forced him to find another way.

High taxes, multiculturalism, environmental treaties and overbearing unions were just a few of the many socialist surprises that I found had been misrepresented by socialist sympathizers in the American mainstream media. However, their most egregious propaganda—the one that prompted my book—is their suggestion that Europeans hate America.

Getting along was easy. Europeans hadn’t held it against me that I was American, just as I hadn’t held it against them that they were not.

My neighbors didn’t seem to mind having a Yankee in their backyard. As a gated country club community, Monticello wasn’t necessarily a typical Italian neighborhood, but it was almost bizarre to see how the American flag functioned as a brand. I was amazed to see kids wearing sweaters of old glory or shirts with “I love the U.S.A” scribbled across them.  None of them had “I love Germany,” or “I love China” t-shirts. It was America they were wearing.

Surely, part of this curious admiration was due to the great marketing of the flag by designers in the U.S. However, if Italians felt loathing or even indifference toward the U.S, they would avoid dressing themselves in red, white and blue.

The most recent U.S. Presidential election, provided voters a clear choice, perhaps the most unambiguous in decades. The background of candidate Obama enticed voters with a chance to make history, while his eloquence before the teleprompter invoked comparisons with Reagan. Since his presidency has begun, however, it has been his frightening policy proposals like healthcare that have functioned as a collective double espresso to the voters.

The triple espresso is The Absentee Ballot.

Health Care Reform: Giving Chemo and Leaving the Tumor

 

child_vaccinesPhone calls to defensive health insurance officials can be nerve racking, as can opening those statements to determine which visits or interventions were covered and what percentage the turkeys decided to pay. It shouldn’t be arbitrary, but often times, it is.

 But I thought this procedure was covered completely with just a co-pay…My doctor was ‘in-network’. Or, what about when they ask you if your procedure or expense was ‘medically necessary’? Yeah, I thought about keeping that dysfunctional prostate a couple more years before deciding to just let ‘em fix it.

Haggling, arguing, pleading and sacrificing have become much too common in the lives of everyday Americans, regardless of whether they carry insurance, and some 46 million don’t, although many of them can afford it but choose not to purchase it. Excluding those making $50,000 per year or more, only 20 million, or less than seven percent of the population is left.

According to a recent survey, most Americans consider health care a “threat to their security,” and some 80 percent believe it isn’t functioning properly.

Obama’s health care plan may cost upwards of $1.5 trillion over the next decade. And largely overlooked in the ‘who is going to pay for what’ debate, is the reason why we’re here—cost. Our system is overpriced. Our drugs, doctors, hospitals and health coverage cost too much for a variety of reasons.

It’s not about who is paying the bill. It’s about the bill.

New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg echoes that belief. “We shouldn’t just be throwing more money on top of the present system, because the present system is so wasteful.”

Over the years, the AMA has vociferously lobbied to limit the number of doctors. As a result, qualified students like my friend Karen, a University of Florida graduate in microbiology, zoology and a minor in chemistry carrying a GPA of over 3.5, didn’t qualify for medical school after graduation. Rejected but determined, she entered graduate school in microbiology and received her master’s degree with a 3.8 grade point average. Still not good enough. Oh, and her MCAT (med-school entrance) score was above average. She also had extracurricular qualifications on her resume—she was the university’s mascot for several years, the same years she spent breaking her back to qualify for Med School. 

While the AMA lobbied to limit doctors, the ABA campaigned against malpractice caps. That guy who went in for an appendectomy and left without an arm couldn’t pay his bills or retire on just $2 million. The least that the hospital, doctor, and ultimately, insurance company could do is give him $10 mil.

Doctors. These days, it’s difficult to sympathize with those who run their offices like an assembly line of “get them in and out inside of five minutes,” because the HMOs, Medicare and Medicaid have destroyed their dreams by sapping the automatic riches owed them by their choice of profession. For many of them, it’s a business. You want a refill? Leave a message and give them a couple of days. You want test results? You might have to wait and take an e-mail. You want them explained? Talk to the nurse.

And honestly, spare me the woe is me argument. I was recently introduced to a doctor, born in raised in Milan, Italy who is now working in Orlando, Florida as a cardiothoracic surgeon. We exchanged pleasantries, and I explained that I was moving back to Como, which is a forty-five minute drive, well, Italian drive, from Milan. “I’ve thought about going back,” he told me, “but I wouldn’t make the kind of money I make here. Now that Obama has been elected, though, I might go back because the system will look more like Europe’s.” 

While every industry is getting hammered in the market, pharmaceuticals have dipped but they certainly haven’t cratered like other Dow stocks. It’s enough to do a chart comparison between Roche and Pfizer against the Dow’s performance. Despite spending millions in commercials of couples in bathtubs (Cialis) and in print advertising advising patients which medications they should be requesting from their doctors, these pharmas just keep raking it in. Never mind that Canadians and Europeans pay a fraction of what Americans pay…

Their argument? They need their R&D.

Simple question. How do other companies manage to create new products without price-gouging? Does Microsoft charge $4,000 for the new Windows application? Do Airlines attach an $800 surcharge to passengers for flying in the new Boeing 777?

Memo to pharmas: We don’t need to pay several hundred bucks for a prescription of Nexium to ease heartburn, we can take Prilocec.

I’ve neglected to mention hospitals for a reason. Despite their cumbersome bureaucracy and $50 aspirins, they are forced to deal with all of the above, plus two—the illegal immigrant patient who has 911 on his or her speed dial and the uninsured patient who might declare medical bankruptcy to avoid the ridiculous bill presented by the hospital.

Every industry and every professional involved in the United States health care is culpable in accelerating its demise, yet integral to its possible turnaround. For years, the American people have been doing the sacrificing, and now is the time for those in the industry to do the same.

It doesn’t matter who picks up the tab. The problem is the tab itself.

Are We Really a Meritocracy?

mark_sanfordWatching Mark Sanford give that speech yesterday gave me an idea: what if hard work and intelligence aren’t the prerequisites to success?  What if reaching a certain level has nothing to do with merit and everything to do with luck?

A governor and likely front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination for 2012, an ‘everyman’ he is not. Yet defying common sense and sanity he carried on for months indiscreetly scribbling love e-mails and planning trysts. Presumably he traveled commercial, so, my question is this—did he think he wouldn’t be recognized? And, considering it was Father’s Day, did he not consider that his kids would be calling? Couldn’t he have kept it zipped until his term was up? Had he ever heard of phone sex? Considering she lives in Argentina, it would have been more convenient and much less expensive.

His bizarre disappearance and even more bizarre press conference made me wonder—maybe the leaders in business and politics today aren’t the best and the brightest, perhaps they are simply the luckiest or come from the most influential families. Sanford’s wife  who led his campaigns came from a wealthy, influential family.

It isn’t just Sanford, what about George W. Bush. In his defense, he had eight years as president to shape his image as a thinker, or non-thinker. The list is long: He advocated democracy amongst advanced societies such as Egypt and Pakistan,  passed a prescription drug benefit without allowing the government to renegotiate pricing with the pharmas, nominated Harriet Meyers, condoned cronyism throughout his presidency, failed to pardon Ramos and Compean, bailed out GM and Chrysler and set the stimulus spending spree in motion.

Could he really have made it in business or politics without Daddy Warbucks?

And Nancy Pelosi? Would she really be Speaker of the House without her wealthy family behind her? Couple a grating and phony laugh with a juvenile, clique-like view of Congress and we have a country in gridlock. The same deer-in-headlights gaze that plagued President Bush transmit an emptiness of thought which make irrelevant any of her words spoken thereafter. Is she really the brightest and best our country has to offer?

The argument extends to the business community as well. Maybe those genius financiers and business founders don’t always merit that ‘genius’ label.

Madoff and his fellow Ponzi consigliere: Were they really smart? Making obscene amounts of money doesn’t automatically add up to a membership in Mensa. How much smarts does it take to recruit investors, take their money and promise a certain return which is made possible by taking on more investors?

What about the futures traders and hedge fund founders living in Manhattan or on palatial estates in Connecticut? Should they be considered worthy of wealth simply because of the profits they created? The credit default swaps that brought down the U.S financial system are complicated mechanisms created by said traders and hedge funders to avoid regulation. Maybe they should be given credit for the complexity of their trading, but make no mistake—walking into a casino, sitting down at a poker table and playing million hand poker with nothing in your pocket isn’t genius, it’s something else.

Growing up under the most optimistic of Presidents, inspired me to believe that the hardest workers, the believers, the doers made it in America. Watching Mark Sanford and our leaders over the last ten years makes me wonder.