The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘employment’ Category

THE MATHEMATICS OF POLITICS

I remember my first job as though it were yesterday.  I was probably ten or eleven years old when I got hired.  Now I have to admit that I had an “in” getting the position.  My father ran the company.

On many Saturdays my father would go in to his office and take me along with him.  I particularly enjoyed that on days when it was raining and the prospect of spending time in Central Park on the swings had little appeal.  (That was back in the day when a youngster like myself was freely allowed to swing on these wonderful contraptions, before we viewed this as a life threatening exercise and prior to the time when we considered parents who permitted this to be guilty of child abuse and neglect).  Incidentally, with the hundreds of times I played on the swings I never suffered any injury which exactly mirrored the experience of my friends and classmates who similarly played on them.

There we were at Dad’s office.  There was no hustle and bustle as on a normal workday.  At most there were four or five employees in the whole place.  Mr. Chen, who wired lamps, might come in if Dad had received an influx of orders resulting from one of the trade shows that occurred around the country on a monthly basis.  I adored Mr. Chen.  He taught me to count to ten in Cantonese and showed me how to wire a vase and turn it into a lamp.  Under his close supervision I probably made forty or fifty lamps over the years.

I also liked Carmine who was in charge of the shipping department.  He would let me follow him, watching him pick inventory from the metal shelves which housed it, placing each item on one of the carts used to transport the merchandise until the order was complete and ready to go to the packers.  After following him over the course of several Saturdays, it occurred to me that I could pull the inventory and asked him if he would let me fill a small order – just to prove that I could.  After a moment’s hesitation he agreed.

And so off I went with my order and my cart.  By this time I knew in which rows various of the items could be found.  My biggest challenge was reading the handwriting of some of Dad’s salespeople – who would have gotten extra attention from my grammar school teachers who still believed that “neatness counts.”  The other challenge was that the inventory racks were quite high – and one of the items was on the top shelf – way too high for me to reach safely – either for me or the vase.  So I filled the rest of the order and told Carmine that I had left the cart in front of the remaining item but couldn’t get it down.  He smiled at me, I think recognizing that I had been prudent, walked over to the rack and finished the order.  After that he allowed me to help him whenever I asked to do so.

But my favorite department was billing.  Generally, the department was quiet on Saturdays.  But I had gotten an education in how to use the billing machines during a school break from the woman who was in charge of the department.  Her name was Rachael.  She had gorgeous black hair and a beautiful smile and was one of the most warm and friendly people I had ever met.  I asked my father why she was never there on Saturdays.

Dad explained that she was a Sabra, born in what was then Palestine and was an Orthodox Jew.  My father explained that Saturday was the end of her weekly Sabbath and that she was not permitted to do any work on the Sabbath.  My father also explained that he let her go home earlier than usual on Fridays, particularly during the winter, so she could get home before the Sabbath began.

Rachael had fought in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.  That explained the ugly scar that extended down from the left side of her neck to below her very conservative dress.  That wound had happened as a result of her being in the wrong place when one of the Palestinians used a flame thrower against her.  In that same attack her brother had been burned so badly that he died as a result of his wounds.  So I only got to see Rachael occasionally.  But when my father knew that he would be bringing me to the office, she always gathered a number of orders that were ready for billing so that I could keep myself occupied.

Saturdays at Dad’s office usually started at around eight in the morning and by noon he had caught up with his paperwork and was ready to call it a day.  That meant I was going to get paid for my efforts.  That compensation took the form of lunch at Vito’s, two doors down from our office.  Since I’m pretty sure that my father would have fed me anyway, I guessed that I was really working for free.  But that was okay with me since I felt that I was getting on the job training and was, in some indirect way, helping out and making the business more successful.

Vito’s was – well, it was a dump – but the food was terrific.  Vito had figured out that the truck drivers and office workers who worked in the neighborhood and patronized his restaurant were more interested in getting a good meal at a good price than they were in ambiance.  And there was no better food than one of Vito’s meatball sandwiches served in a crusty Italian roll and slathered with a generous helping of his homemade marinara sauce.  This was not food for the chic because there was no way to consume it without getting sauce on your chin and fingers.   Notwithstanding, I think even Emily Post would have approved of a meal at Vito’s.

I hadn’t really thought much about my first job experience until yesterday when I read that San Francisco had voted to phase in a minimum wage of $15.00 per hour over the next few years.  As I thought about it, my father probably violated Federal and NY state child labor laws not to mention the minimum wage laws which were in effect at the time.  While I was unaware of these back then, I am glad to report that despite this parental “abuse” I didn’t suffer any permanent psychological or other damage as a result.  I didn’t realize that my father was taking advantage of me.  I actually looked at the experience as providing me with an education in how business worked.  As it turned out, those Saturdays at my father’s office helped me in my own business many years later.

Now I realize there are divergent views on whether raising the minimum wage is a good or a bad thing.  Those who support increasing the minimum wage make arguments that include “paying a livable wage is a fundamental matter of equity” and often characterize those with a different view as being “cold, heartless people who put profits over people.”  Together with that assessment is the implied or stated view that these same people would be perfectly happy if all these minimum wage workers just died.  Of course, that  takes the issue beyond the boundaries of having a real debate on the merits or demerits of such a raise and turns it into a name-calling event.

Let’s set aside the counter-argument that any raise in the minimum wage will result in further automation of some of those positions, meaning that there will be fewer workers earning more – or, in fact, anything – and focus on the purported cupidity of businesses – interested in maximizing profits – even at the expense of personnel.  If we accept the credo that businesses are simply motivated by profit, we need to consider what the net cost of a wage increase does to the bottom line.

Wages are a fully deductible expense to a business – so any increase in the minimum wage would, to some extent, be offset by a reduction in state and federal income taxes that would be collected.  Perhaps more importantly, we hear anecdotal stories about minimum wage workers who are unable to make it on the income from their employment and who qualify for various welfare programs.  Wouldn’t raising their hourly rate potentially exclude some of them from being the continuing beneficiaries of these programs – thus saving not only their employing companies but all taxpayers from providing these benefits?  If that’s the case, the intelligent business person should eagerly embrace such a wage increase.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in the minimum wage argument is that it suggests by the mere act of guaranteeing a higher minimum wage, whatever that number might be, it will impel the country into a new age of prosperity.  If that were the case, we could eliminate world poverty by suggesting to the governments of Mexico, Sri Lanka and Liberia among others,  that they adopt an American style minimum wage for all their citizens.

The citizens of San Francisco voted in this minimum wage increase overwhelmingly.  They also returned Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a staunch advocate of the measure, to the House with 82.4% of the vote.  I wonder why she never thought of my simple solution to world poverty herself.

HOBBY LOBBY

The Supreme Court heard arguments recently with regard to a privately owned company by the name of Hobby Lobby which had requested that they be exempted from certain provisions of Obamacare because of the owners’ religious beliefs.  Specifically, they wanted to be exempted from the requirement that they carry insurance which would pay for abortifacients for their covered employees.

I read the arguments made to the Supremes and their questions to attorneys representing both Hobby Lobby and the government.  Despite what has been referred to by liberal activists as another in the continuing “assault on women’s health,” the facts are rather clear.  Here they are.

There are twenty different prophylactics and abortifacients which the government mandates be available under Obamacare.  The company has no objection to providing coverage for sixteen of these.  Those include birth control pills and prophylactics.  Their objection relates specifically to the four which might terminate a pregnancy if one occurred – otherwise known as abortifacients.  We might be familiar with at least one of those, known as “the morning after pill.”

In light of the court case, an article appeared in the “Huffington Post” on April 1, 2014, written by liberal writer and commentator, Rick Ungar.  Of those on the left I have to say that I consider Mr. Ungar to be one of the most reasonable and rational who interpret and spin our news.  It was, therefore, with some dismay that I read his article which was entitled, “Hobby Lobby Invested In Numerous Abortion And Contraception Products While Claiming Religious Objection.”  The source of Mr. Ungar’s information was “Mother Jones.”  I have attached the link to the full article below.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2014/04/01/hobby-lobby-401k-discovered-to-be-investor-in-numerous-abortion-and-contraception-products-while-claiming-religious-objection/

If you were to read only the title of this piece, you might be led to believe that Hobby Lobby actively invests in pharmaceutical companies which manufacture abortifacients because they are trying to maximize their personal profits.  As you go into the article, what the company is actually doing is providing a variety of mutual funds in their corporately sponsored 401(k) from which their employees may select.

There are currently approximately 4,600 equity mutual funds which are offered to investors.  Any retirement plan administrator – an outside entity that has no connection to Hobby Lobby or any other company that offers this retirement benefit – determines which funds it will include in the plans that it administers.  But of the funds which focus on growth of principal, over 86% have some investment in pharmaceutical companies.  And of the growth funds that Morningstar rates with their highest five star evaluation, investment in pharmaceutical companies can be found in 99.3% of their portfolios.

There is an adjunct to Mr. Ungar’s accusations about morality in investing which he might not have considered.  The number of growth funds that invest in energy companies such as Exxon Mobil and BP approximate the percentage of funds that invest in pharmaceuticals.  If he takes his argument to its logical conclusion, there are a lot of his associates who support green energy who would need to opt out of their own retirement accounts to maintain their own purity of principle.

There is one realistic way that Hobby Lobby could avoid this possible conflict of conscience.  It could abolish offering a retirement plan for its 18,000 employees.  Would that be a workable alternative for Mr. Ungar, who does acknowledge that the company pays “above the minimum wage” – actually more than twice the minimum wage that is currently in effect.  But we should always remember that the left seldom lets facts stand in the way of ideology.

As a result of the Supreme Court hearing I thought that I would show some support for the company by patronizing them.  I had never before been in one of their stores.  As it happened, a friend had invited several of us to dinner and I wanted to buy a thank you present for him for his kindness.  He happens to be an aficionado of jig saw puzzles and I was able to find one that I thought he would enjoy on Hobby Lobby’s website.

I called their closest location to see if they had one of these in stock.  A very pleasant young woman cheerfully answered my call and directed me to the correct department where another cheerful young woman asked me to hold on while she checked to see if the puzzle were available.  After a very brief wait she returned to say that they did have several and she would be happy to reserve one for me.  I thanked her and said that I would be by later that afternoon to pick it up.

I had several errands to run that day which would culminate in taking Gracie for her afternoon visit to the dog park.  I wasn’t sure what Hobby Lobby’s policy was regarding allowing dogs within their store, so I called back and asked if I might take Gracie in with me while I picked up the puzzle I had reserved.  The young lady said that they would be happy to see both of us.  Naturally, this disposed me favorably to the company.

When we arrived, a freshly scrubbed, courteous young man asked if he could help me.  I told him that I had reserved a puzzle.  He immediately found it and offered to ring my purchase up at a register which was closed.  While I waited for my total, I asked him if he liked working at the store.  His comment was, “I can’t imagine a better company to work for or nicer people to work with.”

I wonder if Mr. Ungar or other Hobby Lobby critics have ever visited one of their stores.  My guess is, probably not.  After all, they wouldn’t want the facts to get in the way of their opinions.

 

 

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RAPE AND RACISM

There is no secret that the number of black Americans who identify themselves as conservatives is very small.  It’s not surprising that those who do are people who made something of themselves – despite the hurdles and barricades that they had to overcome.  And we have do have a history of making things tough for American blacks.

Now most of us will point point to organizations such as the KKK and their harassment of southern blacks – or point to the American Nazi Party and other white supremacist groups and lay the blame at their feet.  There is no question that their message of hate has resulted in violence and death among our black community members.  They are Neanderthals who need to go to night class so that they can learn how to evolve an opposable thumb.

But as evil as they have been in expressing their racism in acts of violence against individuals – they are not the real problem – at least not today.  No, the real racists are those of whatever color who believe that we should keep our blacks on the plantation.  But rather than have them work in the fields or serve as butler or servants in the main house, we reward them for indolence with our paternalistic continuation of “the white man’s burden” philosophy that was so prevalent in the European colonization of Africa and the Indian subcontinent in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

That paternalism results in one thing – dependency.  And if someone controls another person on the most fundamental levels of providing that person food, shelter and medical care, he holds power over that individual.  Psychologists tell us that the rapist is not fulfilling a sexual fantasy when he defiles a woman.  Rather, he is satisfying a need to demonstrate his superiority and the fact that he has power over that victim.  To my mind rape and racism are terms which are largely interchangeable. Both are evil.

Perhaps the difference between the two is that rape is little more than a specific event – which for the victim has long-term psychological implications.  Whereas racism is an on-going process – which also has long-term psychological implications not only for the victim but for society as well.

There is a reason that when slavery was legal in the United States, every state which allowed the practice had laws on the books which prohibited the education of slaves.  “Keep them dumb and pregnant” – that was the mantra and the business model.  And by and large it worked.

Well, in theory we now educate blacks – but that is more theory than reality.  If you look at the four year high school graduation rate in the black community it is only at a 52% level.  And that only reflects those who have actually gone on to high school.

What can you do with that level of education in today’s technological society?  Work at a fast food restaurant – at a minimum, unlivable wage.  The only hope that offers is that a person will survive for another day.  That isn’t life – and certainly is not the American dream.

When Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech he had a vision of equal opportunity for all.  Those in the black – and many in the white community – welcomed and embraced his message.  Had he lived, this country might look very different than it does.  I have no doubt that Dr. King would not have endorsed the philosophy or presidency of a Barack Obama.  Because Obama has, at every opportunity, perpetuated the philosophy of the old slave owners.  “Keep them dumb and pregnant.”

For a president who excoriated the colonialists and their paternalism, he has written a playbook of which they would have been proud.  He has increased black dependency in order to get their votes and gain personal power.  He is no different than the rapist who has molested his victim.  But in this case, the victim is the United States of America.

And frankly, most blacks in this country have bought into their own enslavement because they simply haven’t received the cognitive training and education to see through this welfare farce and recognize it for what it really is – enslavement.  If you question that, look at the percentage of blacks who voted for the Chief Enslaver.

But there may be some hope.  Some black Americans slipped through the educational abyss and are armed and dangerous.  They are equipped with a vision of a truly equal America and they are prepared to enter the fight armed with one of the strongest weapons mankind has ever known – the truth.

One of those is a State Senator from the state of Louisiana, the Hon. Elbert Guillory.  This might be the most important statement by a responsible person in the black community since Dr. King’s “Dream Speech.”

There may be those within the lowest economic echelons of the black community who might hear and reject Sen. Guillory’s message.  I understand that while they have and realize that they have little, they view that as better than taking the risk of throwing out the slave masters and having nothing.  But as the message points out, one day the food stamps won’t arrive, the Medicare card won’t work and the welfare check won’t cash.

But as long as people are willing to sell themselves into slavery, they ought not to complain about racism.  And if they continue their silence and refuse to act in their own best interests, their continuing rape is inevitable.

HOW TO SETTLE THE MINIMUM WAGE DEBATE – ONCE AND FOR ALL

In today’s press conference, President Obama said Republican opposition to Obamacare is mean-spirited and stems from the core of the Republican philosophy which willfully tries to deprive thirty million Americans of health insurance.  In other words, they are nasty people who are selfish and have only their own interests at heart.

In contrast, that would lead one to believe that liberals who hold a diametrically opposed opinion are just the opposite – warm, caring, loving people who want the best for all of us.  Well, let’s run with that theory and see how it impacts one discussion that is currently on our radar screen – the Federal minimum wage.

The recent strikes by McDonald’s workers over their wages and the statements that the company itself has made “that they don’t know how people can support a family at the minimum wage rate of pay” have fueled this discussion.  Certain of our concerned liberal friends have suggested raising the Federal minimum wage from the present $7.25 per hour to as much as $12.50.  I believe these people are missing the point entirely.

The Federal guidelines prepared by HHS show that a household of four, (in the old days they described these as a family of four), would need an income of greater than $23,550 per year in order to avoid being classified at poverty level standing.  An increase in the minimum wage to $12.50 would put the bread winner at an income of only $26,000 per year – assuming a forty hour work week.  That is just 11% over the poverty level.

Is this the American dream that our liberal friends have in mind for our minimum wage workers?

If we really want to inspire people to get to work and feel fulfilled in their chosen vocation, I believe we need a greater incentive than barely exceeding the poverty level to get people on board.  Therefore, I suggest that we raise the Federal minimum wage to no less than $50.00 per hour.  And if we really want to make an impact then we should make it retroactive say back to 2009 when the Chump in Charge first took office.

Consider the benefits we would gain by doing this.

First, we would give incentives to people who currently can enjoy unemployment benefits for 99 weeks to get off their duffs and go out and look for work.  The savings in reducing the number of unemployed people might just pay for this program in and of itself.

Second, those pesky foreigners who are willing to work at low pay, taking the jobs that Americans spurn as being beneath them, would be put out of the market and would probably go home.  This will save us countless hours of loud and cacophonous debate over immigration reform which will probably be too confusing to listen to anyway and just might interfere with our schedule of viewing reality television.

Third, (and I admit this is my favorite), there wouldn’t be a single fast food restaurant left open in America which just might cause us all to learn how to cook more nutritious food and, in the end, would save us from the self-inflicted diseases which our poor food choices bring upon us – thus bailing out our healthcare system.

Who says that conservatives don’t have a full supply of largesse running through our veins?

THE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL/AN AMERICAN ORDEAL

If I were a bookmaker, I’d lay 10/1 that George Zimmerman will be found guilty on at least some charge.  I’d feel very confident in that bet – and it has nothing to do with my review of the trial or the evidence which has been presented.  It has to do with the culture that is ever-present today in American society.

It is the culture that must find in the scapegoat “racism” the diversion to distract us from the fact that the policies that so-called liberals have put in place over decades have created a permanent, impoverished, uneducated underclass to which the majority of our black (or if you prefer African-American) citizens belong.  It is a tragedy, and anyone who has ever voted in Congress to expand or extend “welfare” rather than devise a program of “workfare” should, in my mind, be arrested, tried, convicted and jailed for life without possibility of parole.

I mentioned this in a much earlier post but an experience from my days in the temporary help business bears repeating – particularly in light of this trial and the overall culture we find in America today.  It is a story about a young black woman who responded to an ad and who was looking for employment.

One of our best clients, the Quaker Oats Company needed someone to do filing and make copies on their Xerox equipment.  The position was scheduled to last for two months but there was a good possibility that they might hire the individual permanently.

Most of the people whom we put out on assignment had extensive skills, far beyond the level of this position so our list of potential candidates to fill this spot was limited which is why we advertised the job.  The day after the ad appeared in “The Chicago Tribune” a young woman arrived at our office to apply for the position.  I interviewed her myself.

Because I was interested in maintaining my relationship with the client, I was willing to take a loss on this job and planned on paying the applicant far more than the going rate – specifically, I would offer a salary of three dollars over minimum wage – minimum wage or a few cents more being what the position was worth in the market.

I sat down with this young woman who was 22 years old.  She was dressed very appropriately for a job interview.  It was obvious that she had taken the time to try to put herself forward in the best possible light.  She seemed eager to find a job and, in fact, was the first one to respond.  I liked that about her.

She did not have a high school diploma – owing to the fact that the first of her children was born when she was 17.  She also had two younger kids.  Nevertheless, she seemed quite bright – and I was impressed with her attitude.  She wanted to do better for herself and her children.

After decades of interviewing people, sometimes you just have to go by gut feelings rather than documentation and I wanted to give her a chance to enter the work force.  (Other than having done some babysitting, she had never held a job).  So I offered her the position and told her what it would pay.

As I said, she was bright.  She asked how many hours a week she would be able to work so I told her 37-1/2.

She did some rough multiplication and came up with her weekly gross earnings.

Then she looked at me and said, “You know, I would really like to take this job but I can’t afford to.  I know there’s taxes going to come out of this, and I’d have to spend on carfare to get to and from, and I’d have to pay a baby sitter, and if I take this I would lose my welfare and Medicaid and one of the babies has got the colic.  I just can’t afford to take this job.”

I nearly cried.  This young woman was exactly correct.  It made no monetary sense for her to accept this job – and if not this one, certainly not any other at minimum wage.  Thus we had condemned her to a life on the public dole – a life in which she had only dependence and could never develop self-respect.  What a tragedy.

That interview haunted me for days and while I will not say it was the “Eureka moment” which caused me to march to a conservative way of thinking (I was already there), it certainly reinforced my belief that was the correct path.

That interview occurred about 20 years ago.  It would be incorrect for me to say that nothing has changed.  It has – and for the worse.  And every time politicians expand a welfare benefit, they tighten their grasp and twist the noose around the necks of those whom they need for the sole reason of getting themselves re-elected.

There is an obvious solution to this problem – so simple that you don’t need a PhD. in Economics to understand it.  Here it is.

Rather than cut off a person from welfare and Medicaid because they have found employment, simply reduce those benefits by a percentage, based on their earnings on their job.  In that way, the person is going to have significantly more money to take home and spend and will have an incentive to seek employment.  The other benefit is that the taxpayers will save money.  And perhaps the most important benefit is that the individual who is working will be able to take pride in herself.

So what does this all have to do with George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin?  Everything.

You see if you slap the word racism around loud enough and often enough; if you have the not very Rev. Al Sharpton bellowing it at the top of his lungs; if you have constant media attention paid to the trial of the allegedly “racist” Mr. Zimmerman; if you have Obama commenting on it; you have set the stage to divert the easily diverted public’s attention from the failings of our Congress; from our departure from the American ideal of America being a place where you can have anything you desire if you’re only willing to work for it; and from the real racists – who have built a power base composed of the ignorant, uneducated, welfare mothers and children who think having an Obama phone is the greatest thing in the world.

Those who have voted to establish this group that is only one step removed from slavery are the ones who should be on trial.  Not Mr. Zimmerman.

AN UNLIT CHRISTMAS

When I spent my first Christmas in my new home I thought to myself, “My goodness.  These people really rush to get those Christmas lights up and try to outdo one another with their display.”

This all started on the evening of Thanksgiving and by that following Sunday, I think that perhaps ninety percent of the houses were decorated.  It was as though there was an imperative written into the HOA document that required a homeowner to decorate with displays of Christmas lights.

Obviously, I needed to get with the program.  And since I had lived in an apartment all my life, I had none of the necessary equipment to comply.  But I found that there was an ample supply of material in the stores to allow me to fulfill my obligation as a new homeowner.

Some of the displays were extremely beautiful and tasteful.  Others struck me as being a bit garish.  I enjoyed the lights – but would not have chosen to fill my lawn with air inflated snow globes.  And the one house with the fornicating elephants was just a bit over the top for me.  (Or perhaps they were a part of a chorus line that was performing the Can Can).

You couldn’t help but notice the lights as the gate opened and you drove down the entrance to this little community.  The lights on the houses provided far more illumination than the street lamps.  White and colored lights lining the eaves and the bushes and wrapped around the palm trees.  But that was then.

It was 2001.  We had just a few months earlier suffered as a nation through the worst disaster in recent American history.  Yet despite the fact that we were all still numb at the fall of the Twin Towers and were listening to the threat level under which the nation existed, we had the spirit and the optimism to put up our Christmas lights.

We still had a symbol of the season on the White House lawn that was called a Christmas tree.  It would take a few more elections for us to put an ideologue in that residence and allow his ethnic cleansing to convert this into a mere “Holiday tree.”

But we did it.  And, as bleak as life was, we managed to do it again.

The comparison of Christmas 2001 and the one this year is so clear that I wonder if this little community of homeowners is an isolated example of the nadir to which our spirits have fallen or is merely a microcosm of the entire nation.  As I drove home from church early this morning, I was struck by the absence of lights.  Perhaps only twenty percent of the homeowners had bothered putting them up at all.

The street which allows entrance to this little community was so devoid of light that the few houses where homes were decorated, seemed more to emphasize the darkness than they did to provide illumination.  I was particularly struck by this as I had just returned from a celebration of the joyous Midnight Liturgy of Christmas.

Faith has been called, “The outward and visible sign of an inward invisible grace.”  If that statement is reflected in our Christmas lights, then surely our faith has been eroded.  And by that, I refer not only to our faith in God but our faith in ourselves as individuals and in our nation.  And could it be otherwise?

We have been brain washed into thinking that government has all the answers.  Yet if we look at the facts, those who are discerning will realize that government has created many if not most of the problems.  Like a parent in denial about the bad behavior of his child who refuses to admit that his offspring is behaving in a way that is societally unacceptable, he continues to reinforce that behavior by doing the exact same things which have caused his child’s condition in the first place.

That we have incidents like Newtown, CT is not an accident.  It is merely the manifestation of a society that has abandoned principle and decency and compassion, while cloaking itself under the self-styled mantle of a new and better principle and decency and compassion.

Newtown and the other incidents like it come about because we have become a society that passes laws which are unread by those we empower to craft those laws on our behalf and who specifically exempt themselves from following them.

What care do they have that a national grocery store chain has just informed their staff that beginning January 1st, all cashiers will have their hours cut to twenty per week, to avoid the implications brought about by an act of Congress and signed into law by the President?  That doesn’t affect them.  Nor will similar announcements that are undoubtedly forthcoming from other companies.

I cannot help but see the parallel between the decline of the Roman Republic into the centralized authority of the Roman Caesar – all with the willing participation of the Roman people who accepted the modest sops and benefits they were given as sufficient payment for their votes and allegiance.

And then one day, so enervated from their abandonment of the principles that had made them a great nation, they were too weak to resist the barbarians who arrived at their gates and slaughtered them.  Like the Christmas lights in my neighborhood, theirs too had been snuffed out.

But if there is one thing that Christmas means to me it is that there is hope – that evanescent precious treasure to which too few of us today cling.  We are taught both by Dante and government that we should, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

And while the lights are now few and dim, I cling to the hope that next year, perhaps there will be one or two more houses that are lit during the Christmas season and that a few more people will remember the old values of real principle and decency and compassion.  Because that is the true message of Christmas.

WE ARE ALL GREEKS

DATELINE:  Wednesday, November 14, 2012

LOCATION:  Spain, Italy, France, Portugal

UNION WORKERS PROTEST GOVERNMENT AUSTERITY MEASURES

A protestor shout at  the police during a general strike in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Spain's main trade unions stage a general strike, coinciding with similar work stoppages in Portuga

Photo By Andres Kudacki

People take part in a demonstration by French labour unions against austerity policies in Europe, in Marseille

Photo By JEAN-PAUL PELISSIER/REUTERS

DATELINE:  November 14, 2012

LOCATION:  America

“PEOPLE MAGAZINE” ANNOUNCES SEXIEST MAN ALIVE FOR 2012

If you wonder why we are on the brink of social, economic and political disaster, consult your mirror.

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