The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

INTO THE LION’S DEN

For years I have had Yahoo as my home page.  I’m not exactly certain why I selected them, but I did.  They carry at least a few interesting stories every day which often give me thoughts on new subjects for my own posts.  Some of those stories come from other sources – such as the Huffington Post.

The other day I was reading one such story and decided to reply to it.  The story was one which denigrated the Koch brothers and asserted that they were in the process of turning the country into an oligarchy in which they would reign supreme.  It seemed a little bit over the top and I wanted to try to offer a comment which would put things in a more balanced perspective.

Before I posted my own comment I read through those that had already been posted by other Huffington Post readers.  I was truly amazed.  After I scrolled through well over one hundred such comments, (this article generated a great deal of interest with more than 900 responses posted), I realized that I was stepping into the proverbial lion’s den.  Of the comments that I read, only one challenged the assertions in the original article.

Now I realize that the Huffington Post is a liberal vehicle.  But you would have thought that they had taken a lesson from Kim Jong Un on how to rig results.  I was surprised that there appeared to be such unanimity of opinion among the Post’s readership.  I mean, I read liberal journalism with some regularity, merely to see what it is that they are thinking.  It’s hard to offer an alternative to a differing philosophy if you don’t know what it is.

So I penned my comment after creating an account with the Huff Post and hit the “Submit” button, anxiously awaiting the appearance of my thoughts on the web page on my screen.  Instead of seeing my comments posted, I received the following message:  “Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter your comment is awaiting moderation.”

That took me aback as discussing campaign contributions and the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court didn’t strike me as being nearly as “sensitive” as watching Miley Cyrus twerk on prime time TV, looking at ads for vaginal creams to lessen the pain of intercourse after menopause or seeing ads by Hotels.com for an app in case you scored at the bar and suddenly needed to book a hotel room so that you could make the beast of two backs.  But maybe that’s just me.

Well, true to their word, three hours later whoever is responsible at the Huffington Post for reviewing comments and “moderating” them decided that my comment was “acceptable” and it was posted.  Much to my surprise there was a reaction to my brief comment as the next time I logged into the Huffington Post website, in the space that indicated “notifications” I found that that I had 22 of them.

I wasn’t sure quite what that meant, so I clicked on the notification button and found that six people had “faved” (their equivalent of like) my comment and 16 comments had been posted in reply to mine.  It will not surprise you that there was only one which supported my comments.  It will probably also not surprise you that the remaining “comments” were not actually a response to the points I had raised but were personal attacks.

It’s been a long time since I was called a “Fascist pig.”  In fact, to the best of my recollection, it’s never happened before.  Frankly, my response to reading that comment was to chuckle.  And then I thought to myself, no wonder there is such much division and dissension in this country – and such a lack of serious conversation on important issues.

One of the first lessons that the coach of my high school debating team advised us team members was that engaging in ad hominem arguments and personally attacking our opponents was the surest way to lose a debate.  If we resorted to that tactic it meant that we simply didn’t have either facts or logic on our side and clearly the person whom we were debating had triumphed.  I sincerely doubt that many of the Huffington Post’s readership ever was a member of a debating team.

As a result of this experience I’ve made a decision.

Now this may sound mildly masochistic to you, but I’ve decided to continue commenting on the Huffington Post’s stories.  I’ve gone out and purchased a new set of chain mail to protect me from the slings and arrows and the mauling that I expect will ensue.  But it seems to me that while preaching to the choir offers some psychological validation, it doesn’t have the potential for effecting change as going into the camp of one’s opponents with the hope of finding one or two of the troops who might be willing to consider an alternate point of view.

We’ll see how this goes.  But just in the event that there’s a weak spot in my newly acquired armor, I’ve laid in an adequate supply of gauze bandages and disinfectant.

HUMILITY

foot washing

 

“Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”  – Matthew 25: 40 (KJV)

 

 

As we prepare to celebrate the most holy period of the Christian calendar I wanted to take the time to wish all my readers a blessed Easter and the hope that all of us will focus on those things that are truly important, remembering that all else will eventually “pass away.”

“ANNIE GET YOUR GUN”

It was the first movie that I ever saw.  Mom, grandma and I were in Carmel, NY and dad was on the road.  It was summer and we had rented a little cabin for a week’s getaway from the city.  There was one theater in the town with one screen and the movie that was playing that week was the classic, “Annie Get Your Gun.”  The film, loosely based on the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley, starred Betty Hutton and then film idol Howard Keel.  I was too young to remember the film but I’ve seen it several times since and find it a charming, musical bit of fluff.

Sadly, today there probably would be little market for a film of this type.  To begin with no one was killed in the movie.  Worse yet, no cars exploded – because of course there weren’t any in those days – but they might, at the least have detonated a couple of horses.  They didn’t.  And worst of all was that our heroine was a gun toting sharpshooter who was able to get the best of her male counterparts.  Shock.  A woman being the champion rather than the victim.  That simply doesn’t fit the current narrative.

 

 

“I worked out of desperation. I used to hit fast and run in hopes that people wouldn’t realize that I really couldn’t do anything.” – Betty Hutton

If I didn’t know the source of that quote I would have thought that it came out of President Obama’s autobiography.

Under the heading of “Never let a good non-issue die” we have former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg now engaged in yet another assault on gun ownership – purportedly to the tune of about $50 MM.  That makes the Koch brothers look like small time pikers.  Apparently His Eminence is going to direct these funds from his personal treasury to developing anti-NRA ads.  This might prove to be yet another instance where in the interest of “doing good” the mayor might prove to benefit those whom he views as the source of all violence in America – legitimate gun owners.

There are a number of our incumbent Democrat senators who ware running against the gale force wind that Obamacare is blowing through the nation and who happen to represent either purple or red states where the electorate has long ago decided that legitimate gun ownership is a fundamental right, guaranteed by the Constitution.  The mayor’s efforts to coalesce anti-gun voter sentiment might very well backfire in Louisiana, Alaska and Arkansas, to name a few states.  So Bloomberg may be doing the GOP a great favor.

One of the (phony) arguments about guns is that their presence in a home significantly increases the likelihood that domestic violence is more likely to become fatal than if a gun were absent from the premises.  But what we have seen over the last twenty years is a significant reduction in the number of fatalities due to firearms at a time when gun ownership has increased dramatically.  Notwithstanding the less than riveting revelations that have been forthcoming from the Oscar Pistorius trial, there seems to be little to give credence to that argument.

Are women at risk in our society?  Well, I hate to inform the uninformed, but life is a risk and we all drink from the same punchbowl – male and female.  I cannot give you an exact figure, but of the women I know, probably at least half of them carry pepper spray in their purses.  If they felt secure would there be any reason for them to buy what is clearly a self-defense weapon?  Would they be more or less safe if instead of a spray they were armed with a small caliber weapon which they were trained to use, should the need arise?

It’s nice to believe that we can depend on our paid police forces to keep us safe from harm.  That is if you don’t live in Detroit where the average response time for an emergency call (when their 911 service even picks up) is currently over an hour and a half.  By that time your body has already begun to cool and the murderer is long gone.  But Detroit is not an isolated instance where the police are so overwhelmed that they can’t act in an expeditious manner.

Las Vegas’ Metropolitan Police Department recently announced that due to the volume of calls, officers will not be dispatched to the scene of a traffic accident unless there are people who suffer bodily injury.  If the police are currently so occupied with more serious issues than car wrecks, what level of safety might the ordinary citizen expect if something really serious, say a power outage, were to occur?  In that event were I a store owner, I’d want to have some protection in my shop from the mobs which might seek to take advantage of the situation.

It would be excellent if we could rely on our law enforcement agencies to keep us safe from evildoers – and for the most part they do their best to fulfill their responsibilities and protect us.  But in the event of something catastrophic, former Mayor Bloomberg (who has a paid, armed security detail attached to his person) might realize that – “Anything they can do, we the people might do better.”

sebelius-resign

As my nominee for the “Poster Child” for the “War on Women” I would offer the former HHS Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius as a candidate.  True, I’ve not been a great fan of Ms. Sebelius but in the interest of fairness, it seems appropriate to look at her track record to put her tenure at HHS in perspective.

In 1986 Ms. Sebelius won her first of four terms to the Kansas House of Representatives before running for Kansas Insurance Commissioner to which she was elected and held for an eight year period.  To her credit in her campaign for Commissioner she declined to accept campaign contributions from any insurance companies.

In 2003 she ran for Governor of Kansas, a position she won and to which she was subsequently re-elected.  Then she was tapped by the Obama administration to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services, a position which she held until she resigned last week.

Whether or not we agree with Ms. Sebelius’ philosophy it would be difficult to say that she is not a woman of principle.  Although a Roman Catholic, she has consistently held an unwavering pro-abortion stance and has been informed by the Apostolic Signatura, the Holy See’s highest court, that “she should not approach the altar for Holy Communion” because of her support of abortion.  She also came under fire by conservative groups for accepting donations from George Tiller, the director of one of only three late term abortion clinics in the country.  Tiller was subsequently assassinated.

By general standards it seems that Sebelius conducted herself in a manner that was consistent with the law and ethics.  However, an inquiry was made into her possible violation of the Hatch Act when, as HHS Secretary she made a political remark during an official government event – an action that was prohibited under the act.  Sebelius found a way around that by reclassifying the meeting from governmental to political and reimbursed the government for the expense it had incurred for her to attend the meeting.

As I said at the beginning, I am not a big fan of the now former Secretary.  That is a statement that relates to her policies and not to her as an individual.  Frankly, of the many people whom we employ in Washington, I would have to give her one of the better grades for ethics – perhaps a B+/A-.  I believe that it is not only possible but essential  to separate the individual as a person from her beliefs if we are ever to enter into substantive debate over policy.  But with certainty, if we continually engage in a battle over person rather than policy we will prove ourselves to be little more mature than seven year olds engaged in a grand battle of name calling.

To be sure the Obamacare rollout was a disaster.  Ms. Sebelius was at the helm when that was implemented.  But in the crony environment in which she found herself, I sincerely doubt that the decision to hire the prime contractor, CGI Federal was her choice.  As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, a school buddy of First Lady Michelle Obama’s happened to be an executive with the firm – which was awarded the contract on a no bid basis.

Attorney General Eric Holder spoke last week about the “shameful way in which he and the president have been treated.”  Although there were allegations that he was alluding to the cause of this as “racism,” he clarified that by categorically stating that was not his intent.  But can we make the same claim that Sebelius’ resignation was not a result of sexism?  Although her proposed successor is also female, perhaps that is for no reason other than to dispel that allegation.

There is no question that Ms. Sebelius was scorned by the president when he gave his speech proclaiming victory at the announcement of the number of Obamacare signups – consigning then Secretary Sebelius to a seat in the front row, rather than a place on the dais.  That is unfortunate considering her stalwart defense of both the law and her department’s implementation of it – and, collaterally her boss, Obama.

It is not unusual for the left to place “ideals” above individuals.  And if there are some who have to be thrown under the bus in order to achieve the “Nirvana” to which they believe they have found the key, so be it.  Ms. Sebelius seems to exhibit some of the marks that are consistent with tire treads from a vehicle that is being driven by President Obama.

The war on women?  There probably are some who are victims.  And to find out who is responsible, we have no further to look than the Oval Office.

ROSSINI AND THE TAX MAN

As we are on the eve of that fateful day, April 15th which will usher in a total eclipse of the moon, the beginning of Passover (good Lord deliver us) and, of course, the deadline for filing our individual tax returns, it seems appropriate to ease the burden of all this weighty stuff by listening to a little soothing music.

The overture to Gioachino Rossini’s two act opera, “La Gazza Ladra,” (The Thieving Magpie) seems especially appropriate – particularly as it relates to the third of the events enumerated above.  I make that statement not so much because of the wonderful music but because of the title of the piece.

Those last minute tax preparers will probably identify with the sense of urgency that the music builds as it rushes to its final climax.  And, of course, we must not overlook the famous “Rossini crescendo” which the composer incorporated into virtually all of his work.

So sit back, enjoy, get a pot of coffee going, pull out all the papers you’ve stored in shoe boxes and know that you’re engaged in a patriotic duty as you get ready to figure out how much money you are going to send to the IRS so that Ms. Lois Lerner can enjoy a comfortable retirement.

THE SINS OF THE FATHER

“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”

- Exodus 20:5 (KJV)

There are some conservative American Christians who believe that the government is conducting a systematic attack on their beliefs.  They point to an increasing volume of anecdotal evidence to support this claim.  But in light of recent events, perhaps they will have to re-examine their view.

It would appear that at least one governmental agency has taken the admonition in the above Scriptural verse to heart and has decided to act as God’s instrument to fulfill it.  It may come as a surprise to most of us but that agency is the IRS.  Perhaps IRS has misread the verse from Exodus and believes that it is the Supreme Being – or at least the Supreme Enforcer of Righteousness.

Most people when they hear from the IRS are, like Queen Victoria, “Not amused.”  There is nothing very funny about anything that agency does – or threatens to have the ability to do.  That sentiment has long preceded the obvious politically motivated refusal to give conservative organizations a tax exempt determination.

But even the IRS has reached a new low – leading one to believe that somewhere there really is a bottomless pit.  Thanks to an act of Congress, the former time limit of ten years that the agency had to collect taxpayer debts has been lifted.  And the IRS has wasted no time taking advantage of its newly extended abilities to reach into the taxpayers’ pockets.

The problem isn’t that the agency is collecting monies that a specific taxpayer has failed to fork over to them.  The agency feels that it is perfectly correct to collect those funds from the descendants of the taxpayers who originally incurred them.

Now this may astound you but there are apparently some “errors” which occur in the course of governing this great country.  In fact, there are quite a few of them which occur regularly.  In previous posts I made reference to how the IRS annually sends refunds to people who fraudulently claim that the government owes them money.

From sending millions in over 200 separate refunds to a single address in Florida or similarly sending half a million bucks claimed on 100 returns to one address in Bulgaria, the agency has shown its abilities in mastering the fine art of ineptitude.  But the current rampage against the taxpayer comes not from the IRS’ own inadequate procedures but rather from another federal entity.

If you’ve been amazed at how inept the roll out of Obamacare has been, it should be no surprise that the same agency which was responsible for that debacle, HHS is also the source for other mistakes which the IRS is trying to set right.  And the particular division of HHS which apparently screwed up is none other than the Social Security Administration.

SSA not only administers retirement benefits into which all Americans are forced to pay through payroll deductions or, in the alternate, on their tax returns.  But it also administers disability payments to workers who are (purportedly) unable to work due to physical impairment or mental issues.  The second of these two programs has been fraught with fraud.  Even SSA acknowledges that.

But while the erstwhile crooks who con the taxpayers out of their hard earned dollars by making false disability claims has increased substantially in recent years, there have always been some who made false claims or received benefits after they no longer qualified.  It is these people who are currently being targeted by IRS.  Or more correctly, it is their children who are being forced to make restitution for these “overpayments.”

Let’s think about this for a moment.  Purportedly, a person received payments to which he or she was not entitled – let’s say 40 years ago.  Then, for lack of anything better to do, someone in SSA noticed that their agency had made a $350 mistake.  And they decide that going after this will help relieve the national debt.  So they inform IRS that there is a balance due them for the mistake which they originally made.

But there’s a problem.  The individual who received this overpayment died ten years earlier.  Not to be deterred by this, the IRS has figured out that their child, who was four when this problem started, is still alive and has a refund due on her return.  So the IRS flags her return and deducts the overpayment to her parents from her return and sends her a notice, explaining why her refund is $350 short of what she was expecting.

I’m not sure this program will prove to be anything near the windfall either for IRS or SSA that pursuing and shutting down fraudsters who collect around $50 MM per year in bogus refunds receive would prove to be.  Frankly, I doubt it.

As this will do little to contribute to federal revenues, I can only assume that the IRS is adhering to the principles espoused in our quote from Exodus.  It will be interesting to see if some religious group decides to file suit to block this program, citing the once venerable precept of “Separation of church and state.”  Meanwhile, it appears that the sins of the father will indeed be heaped upon the children.  We’ll have to stay tuned to see for how many generations that will last.

Whether it’s first rate sushi, shabu shabu or teppanyaki style cooking, I really enjoy Japanese cuisine.  Alas, I fear my days of being able to enjoy them in this country may be marked.  That is truly tragic.

If you’ve ever been to a Benihana restaurant then you’ve experienced teppanyaki cooking.  The meal is made at a counter where the master chef, with great flair, prepares your meal on the griddles that are in front of him, placing your food on your plate with a cleaver.  Part of the joy of seeing a teppanyaki meal being prepared is watching your chef throw his knives in the air, juggling them and then catching them as he then applies himself to slicing your shrimp or chicken or filet of beef.

A wonderful teppanyaki meal is both delicious and at the same time you get a show which makes an evening out less expensive and more filling than buying a ticket to see Cirque de Soleil.

Recently our esteemed Attorney General, Eric Holder proposed creating “smart” guns which would only be able to be discharged if the actual owner held and fired the weapon.  Naturally, our government will supply some of the cash to help bring about this technology.  If you’re not in the military and might have to pick up someone else’s gun to defend yourself, on the surface I guess that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.  Naturally, we will have to round up all the thugs and their illegal weapons, retrofit them, and then return them to their owners in order to get this plan to be really effective.

It is understandable that in the wake of multiple shootings, most recently the one that occurred at Ft. Hood in Texas, that once again we turn our attention to the issue of gun violence.  If there were a workable solution to this problem, I would be the first in line to support it.  And although at one point in my life, I pooh-poohed the statement that, “Guns don’t kill people – people kill people,” I have to admit that as I’ve gotten older (and hopefully a bit wiser), I do see the merit of that comment.

Several days ago in Murrysville, PA a high school sophomore came to class, armed with several of his family’s kitchen knives, and then used them to slash or stab twenty of his fellow students and a security guard.  At this point there is no known motive for his behavior.  He is described as a “quiet young man who seemed to get along with his fellow students and teachers.”  That didn’t preclude him from going on a rampage for whatever reason.

Fortunately, there were no fatalities as a result of this attack.  But there might well have been.  After all, knives – even if they are designed simply for preparing meals – can be misused as this episode demonstrates.  Does that mean that Atty. Gen. Holder should proscribe their use in society?

Consider another potential hazzard to society, unveiled and documented for us by Hollywood. In sequel after sequel moviemakers have shown the potential for violence that the useful chainsaw can cause if it falls into the wrong hands.

Or let’s consider another recent event.  In Houston, Ana Trujillo was convicted of killing her boyfriend and today was sentenced to life in prison.  Her weapon of choice was one of her 5-1/2” stiletto heels.  Watch out shoe manufacturers.  Your product might well become the subject of lawsuits since you are apparently foisting on the unsuspecting, fashion conscious, unregistered lethal weapons.

Our world is fraught with danger.  I simply didn’t realize how readily available “weapons of individual destruction” were in our Discount Shoe Warehouses, Home Depots and Sur la Table stores.  But at least one good thing came out of these tragic stories.

Now I understand why, in traditional Japanese restaurants, they ask you to remove your footwear.

Tag Cloud

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 384 other followers