The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘ethics’ Category

OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE (BUT WHICH PEOPLE?)

As we come down to the wire and the general election is less than two weeks away, I look at it’s being over with a mixture of gratitude and trepidation.  Gratitude that the endless political ads will have ended – and trepidation as to the outcome.

That we have two flawed candidates (my apologies to Gov. Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein who are essentially irrelevant), from whom we must choose is rather distasteful.  But at least one of those, Donald J. Trump won his nomination fairly and squarely in a field as crowded as the Kentucky Derby and despite an entrenched Republican establishment that actively opposed him.  They lost that battle and are working hard to lose the war because they refuse to recognize a truism uttered by the late Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, “The people has spoke.”

From  a quick read of some of the revelations being supplied by Wikileaks, it’s becoming clear that Hillary Rodham Clinton had some underhanded (and perhaps illegal assistance) in getting where she has gotten.  Nevertheless, she is on the ballot and we Americans have a choice to make.  The decision is effectively a binary one – and I have thrown my support and my vote to Trump for one simple reason which the late humorist, Will Rogers so eloquently expressed:

“I am less concerned about what government can do for me than I am concerned about what government can do to me.”

There are two things we can say about Trump and Clinton with some degree of certainty.  The first is that they are both human (although extreme partisans in either camp might dispute the validity of that statement as it pertains to the opposing candidate).  The second is that they have, during their lifetimes, both switched party affiliations.

Trump claims that in order to do business in his home base of New York City, it was essential that he both register as a Democrat and contribute to various Democratic candidates in order to “grease the wheels” of commerce.  While I don’t know if that was true in NYC, I do know that was a certainty in Chicago where I spent most of my adult life.  Attempting to do business with the City of Chicago as a self-identifying Republican was about as fruitful as a man who had lost both his arms in an accident attempting to engage in a little self-abuse.

Clinton arrived at Wellesley College armed with a copy of  Sen. Barry Goldwater’s book, “The Conscience of a Conservative” and four years later had shed this tome in favor of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”.  With her newly enlightened mindset, naturally Clinton turned her political allegiance away from her Republican foundation and joined the ranks of the militant Democrats – the purported champions of the “little people”.  But is that characterization in fact consistent with the real history of  Democrats?

Dinesh D’Souza took on this subject in his excellent documentary, “Hillary’s America:  The Secret History of the Democratic Party”. The movie is available on-line and I heartily recommend watching it by anyone who has an interest in American politics.  But below you will find my marginally edited recap – together with some additional material that I believe is relevant and important.

In 1838, Democrat president Andrew Jackson implemented his plan to remove the indigenous pre-Columbian Cherokee people from the ancestral lands they occupied east of the Mississippi River, relocating them to what is now the state of Oklahoma.  The Cherokees called this “The Trail of Tears”.  Of the estimated 15,000 men, women and children who began that march, it is estimated that 4,000 perished en route.  Jackson was no friend of “diversity”.

The year was 1861.  In South Carolina, Democrats fired the first shots on the Union garrison at Ft. Sumter beginning the Civil War.  The reason for the salvo and the primary motivation for the Confederate onslaught that took more American lives than any other war in which this nation has been engaged since it’s inception was the preservation of the institution of slavery.

It was the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln who wrote and spoke the words of the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves from their bondage.  It was Democrat John Wilkes Booth, the active agent of a covert conspiracy who fired the fatal shot, killing the president.

In the Reconstruction Era, Democrats founded the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate the newly freed slaves and discourage them from exercising their newly forged freedom.  The tactics that were employed included whippings and lynchings.  Although this original hate group soon died out, it saw two later reincarnations -revived in both cases by people who identified as Democrats.

In 1878, U. S. Senator Aaron A. Sargent introduced a bill that was destined, forty-two years later, to become the 19th Amendment to the Constitution – granting the right to vote to women.  Not one single Democrat in the Senate voted for this legislation and it had to be re-introduced two more times before it met the requirements to be voted out of the Congress and given to the states for ratification.

The year was 1942 and Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the War Department’s Executive Order 9066 which authorized and resulted in the internment of more than 110, 000 Japanese-Americans who were legal residents in the United States.  Of these, more than 20,000 were U. S. citizens.  This complete violation of the Constitutional rights of these individuals was upheld by a majority Democrat dominated Supreme Court.

A significant number of the ads which are being aired in Nevada and, I presume, in most other states, portray Trump as a person who is “unstable” and should “never be trusted with the codes that could launch our nuclear weapons”. Personally, as a child of the cold war, I remember my many nightmares in which, despite our air raid drills at school and the yellow and black signs on our public buildings indicating that they were “bomb shelters,” none of these made me feel secure.  That humanity has both developed and continues to stockpile a sufficient quantity of these weapons effectively to destroy all life on our planet still causes me to shudder.  But what is the actual history of the deployment of nuclear weapons?

The year was 1945 and Germany and Italy had been defeated by the Allies.  The war against the Japanese Empire continued.  Despite the advice of his military advisors, including Dwight D. Eisenhower who would succeed him in the Oval Office and who advocated for a naval blockade of the Japanese islands, Democrat President Harry S. Truman gave the order to drop atomic weapons on Hiroshima and two days later on Nagasaki.  Although there are no exact statistics of the number of people who were liquidated immediately when the bombs fell or who subsequently perished from radiation poisoning, the estimates are that at least 600,000 people died, making these the most devastating two days in human history.

In its historic decision in 1957, the Supreme Court struck down school segergation, a policy that was typical of the discriminatory anti-black laws which Democrats had championed in the South.  In Arkansas, a state in which Hillary Clinton should later become First Lady, the scene was set for confrontation as Democrat Governor Orval Faubus intended to resist the Supreme Court’s ruling.

At Little Rock Central High School, formerly an all white school, nine black students had enrolled for the new school year.  When they arrived at school they were greeted by angry crowds.  President Eisenhower summoned Faubus to the White House to demand that he call in the National Guard to ensure the safety of these students.  Faubus declined to do so, ultimately causing President Eisenhower to call in the 101st Airborne to ensure the students’ safety and to control those who protested the integration of our public schools.

Republican President George W. Bush has been widely excoriated for engaging in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in which more than 7,000 American service people have died.  Part of that criticism comes from the fact that among the dead enemy were additional people, euphemistically called “collateral damage” who were civilians including women and children.  That is tragic – but we should be used to this sort of tragedy as it happens every time violent conflict occurs.

But in contrast, our fourth bloodiest conflict, exceeded in death count only by the Civil War, WWII and WWI, the war in Vietnam, vigorously pursued by Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson, makes these recent sorties look like a nice day at a church picnic.

We lost 58,209 servicemen in Vietnam with an additional 1,643 MIA and presumed dead.  Perhaps the turning point in the mindset of Americans who originally supported this war, came about not only as the numbers of soldier deaths mounted but as the media began reporting on the way in which the war was being pursued, specifically that we were using napalm as a tool to “flush out” the Viet Cong.

Napalm is a gelatinous compound that burns through almost anything in which it comes in contact – including human flesh. This iconic Time Magazine photo of a naked nine year old girl and her friends who had napalm dumped on their village in 1972 might have been the most gripping of any picture taken in Vietnam or perhaps any war.

 

File:TrangBang.jpg

 

And there you have it … a somewhat concise history of nearly two hundred years of how Democrats have addressed the questions of race and women and bringing about peace through diplomacy.  It hardly squares with the propaganda about “inclusion” which is one of the central themes of their talking points.  Is there an explanation?

At the beginning of D’Souza’s movie, he speaks with a fellow prisoner in his jail.  (D’Souza was convicted and sentenced for improperly making a ten thousand dollar political contribution to a friend’s campaign).  In light of the information coming out from Wikileaks about monies being moved around to support a failed Democratic candidate for the Virginia Senate – amounting to close to three quarters of a million dollars – whose husband is the number two person in the FBI and had oversight responsibility into the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email illegalities, D’Souza’s offense seems rather like small potatoes.

His fellow inmate was a con artist.  And as though it had been lifted directly from Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” if the truth about his con were uncovered and the facts revealed that his con was a sham, D’Souza asked, “How do you deal with that revelation?”  His answer was, “Lie, lie, and keep on lying.  Never admit to or give up the con.”

Hillary Clinton has lied and lied and lied and has never given up her con.  And that’s precisely why I cast my vote for Donald J. Trump.

BILL CLINTON AND THE DECLINE OF AMERICA

There has been quite a lot of head shaking among my fellow Baby Boomers at the current state of affairs in America both political and cultural as though they are thinking, “How could things ever have reached this low?”  Well, for them I have some good news.  We’ve been there before – about 50 years ago.  And we made a comeback.  Perhaps the core of our problem is that we think of things in a linear manner.  We would be better served if we adopted the Mayan view of time and events and thought of them as circular and recurrent.

That is not to say that as I watch the idiocy, misinformation and shear ignorance that is the stock in trade today of today’s younger generation brought about by an educational system that has largely failed them and turned it’s attention to creating “safe spaces” for these poor, shrinking violets rather than educating them in the classics and history, I do not wring my hands with despair and despondence.  I do.  But then I remember embarking on my college career as the country was highly polarized both by race relations and the Vietnam War – and I think to myself, I’ve seen this movie, well at least the original version if not the remake.

The college at the University of Chicago was left leaning since long before I started there in 1964.  The only place on campus one might find conservatives was at the Business School and, to a lesser degree, the Law School.  But for those of us who were undergraduates, we were generally immersed in a culture of the left – whether we wanted it or not.  Notwithstanding the political orientation of our teachers, we were exposed to a wide variety of thought – often thought which directly conflicted with our instructors’ own political or social viewpoint.

One of the mandatory courses was Sociology 101.  The reading list was extensive, almost unmanageable because of its volume.  But among those books which were required reading were the works of J. J. Rousseau, John Locke, the Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville.  These authors could hardly be described as proponents of the philosophy of the left.  Despite the fact that my professor for this class was a good friend of Saul Alinksy (Rules For Radicals) who dedicated this work, the subject of Hillary Clinton’s 1969 college thesis, to Lucifer, his approach to dealing with this material was to present it and, because he believed he had a superior mental ability either to the authors or his students, attempt to debunk what they had to say.

Consider that last line as a sign post of the difference between then and now because it is crucial.  The material was presented and debated – or at least it was.  Today’s universities do not exercise the same intellectual honesty because they present only one side of the story, pretending that is the only side to be told.  And this manifestation of intellectual dishonesty extends everywhere into the culture where freedom of speech merely means, freedom to speak but only in the manner that the vocal left minority deems appropriate.  The late Chairman Mao would be proud of them – as would have been Adolph Hitler.

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

– Alexis de Tocqueville

De Tocqueville was sent to the fledgling America by the French government to study her prison system and went on to write his classic two volume work, Democracy in America.  There are many profound observations which he made in that work and over the next several posts I will be using several of them to illustrate my point.

But let us move on to the subject of this post with the assistance of another of his quotes:

“The greatness of America lies in the fact that her laws are applied equally to everyone.”

There are two separate but equally important points to be taken from these quotes.

First, de Tocqueville recognized that moral behavior was an absolute thing.  That there was right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood and that God, not man established those things which also gave rise to the Founding Fathers’ exclamation that “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”.  Truth, right and good were ordained as such by God and no matter how man might convolute these to suit his own personal needs, were immutable. There is no clearer expression of this than in our legal system where the person testifying is required to take an oath, pledging to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

But to whom is this oath sworn?  To God.  As de Tocqueville points out in the first of these quotes, morality is dependent on faith.  So if we set God aside, then the only concern of a deponent in a jury proceeding is not in testifying truthfully but in testifying in a manner which best serves his purpose if he is confident that he will not get caught lying.  And the sad truth is that there are few cases of perjury which are ever prosecuted – thus reinforcing this self-serving behavior.

During President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial our then Chief Executive clearly lied about his sexual liaisons.  Frankly, I could care less about them and would have had more respect if he had said, “Yes, I had sex with that woman in the Oval Office.  So what?” Clearly there have been other presidents who had dalliances outside their marriages including FDR and Eisenhower to mention just two who come quickly to mind and those relationships didn’t seem to impact their ability to govern.  Instead, Clinton chose to take the low road with a series of legalistic responses to avoid the embarrassment of public revelation about his numerous sexual relationships.  And his punishment for this perjury – a fine and the revocation of his law license.

Second, let’s consider the concept of “the equal application of the law” which de Tocqueville lauds and review the case of Martha Stewart.

On December 27, 2001, Martha Stewart disposed of her interest in Imclone stock based on inside information she had received.  This helped her avoid a loss of about $50,000 as bad news on the company was about to break.  Ms. Stewart was arraigned and her trial took six weeks, resulting in her conviction on nine felony counts.  But the bulk of her penalty – a six month imprisonment followed by five months of electronic monitoring and an additional thirteen months of supervision was the result not of insider trading, for which she paid a fine but because she had lied to the FBI while being interrogated under oath by them.  As an aside, until 2014 when the law was changed, the insider trading activity in which Stewart engaged and which was illegal for any American to participate in – was fully legal if you were a Member of Congress.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons that so many congressmen and women enter the Rotunda poor and emerge as millionaires.

In my view, the penalties meted out to Clinton and Stewart were hardly comparable.  If anything, Clinton’s should have been the more severe because he held the highest of public offices and Stewart merely saved herself some money – an insignificant amount considering her net worth.  But both of them have returned to the limelight in society, their past transgressions forgotten and forgiven.  To this day, Bill Clinton is one of America’s most admired politicians.  And de Tocqueville has an explanation for that in our closing quote:

“Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.”

THE SWOOSH LAW

The other day I was thinking about our law-making process and for some reason Moses popped into my head.  I’m sure that the prophet had no idea how grateful he should have been that God knew what he wanted to convey to mankind and was able to do so quite succinctly.  What would Moses have had to endure had the Creator crafted his commandments to the children of Israel in the same way as our modern legislators promulgate new laws?

There’s Moses, curious to find the source of the bright light on the top of Mount Sinai.  He experiences his encounter with the Lord and obeys God’s order to bring his commandments to his people.  So Moses takes the tablets, “written with the finger of God” and goes down the mountain to deliver them to the Israelites.  And he goes back to retrieve more … and more … and more.

After the forty-third trip his brother Aaron says, “Is that it?”

Moses, wearied from all the trudging and schlepping he’s done, wipes his brow and says, “Well, actually, there are nine more.”

Perhaps the reason that those who pass voluminous laws that no one really understands, themselves included, can be attributed to the way we were taught to do things in High School.  Maybe, like me, you had an English or history teacher who handed out an assignment which included the requirement that the essay we were to compose had to be at least two thousand words long.  What made that number of words sacrosanct was never clear to me.  How in the world did laconic President Calvin Coolidge ever earn a diploma?

But let’s get back to the Ten Commandments.   Take Number Seven, as an example.  That’s that hairy one that says, “Thou shall not commit adultery.”  Notice how simple, straightforward and brief it is.  I had memorized this long before I knew what adultery actually was – but, of course, I asked – a little bit to the embarrassment of my Sunday School teacher.

Now those of us who believe that following that commandment is part of what I refer to as “normative” behavior, there is very little ambiguity – so it’s apparent that God knew precisely what he wanted people to do (or more exactly) to avoid doing.  But what if this commandment had been constructed by Congress?

The commandment comes out of the “Congressional Morality Committee,”  (wouldn’t it be remarkable if there were one – but then who would we be able to find who could with clear conscience become members?) and, like the original that the Divinity established, it’s a simple five word declarative sentence.

But then it moves forward in the process and has a hearing in the Economics Affairs Committee.  They recognize that this proposal could have serious implications and adverse impact on various business operations – specifically, those hotel/motel owners whose rooms rent out on an hourly basis.  And the members of that committee get lobbied by advocates for that industry.  So they amend the original commandment so that it reads, “Thou shall not commit adultery before six o’clock a.m. local time.”    (Since most of the commerce and congress at these hotels/motels occur in the afternoon, this effectively nullifies the original intent of the commandment).

But things don’t stop there.  Business is down at the hairstylists and beauty salons in America.  Because of the Obamacession, fewer customers have the money to spare to color their hair.  So the members of that profession press their association’s lobbyists to get something included in the law which will improve their business.  After considerable pressure, the law now reads, “Thou shall not commit adultery before six o’clock a.m. local time.  However, those whose hair has been dyed by a professional stylist are exempted from any and all provisions of this law.”

It might be well if it had ended there.  But, of course, it doesn’t.  The street prostitutes, straight, gay and transgendered can see that this might impact their business negatively.  An impassioned group of “sex workers” appear before Congress to make their case that this law is discriminatory – they being the recipients of that bias.  Of course, the Congressional committee which hears their testimony is quite respectful of this contingency since some members know those testifying on a first name, professional basis.

And then further testimony is given by several American mullahs who believe that their faith and their followers are “once again” being victimized and persecuted in what is supposed to be the ultimate land of freedom.  There can be no clearer evidence of that then that the law allows adultery to be engaged in on Fridays and during any day of Ramadan.  Furthermore, the law makes no mention of protections for virgins, quite a few of whom are required for those jihadists who die in the “holy war” against the infidel, particularly those in America.

Needless to say, “environmentalists” were outraged at this prospective law.  They commissioned a study that substantiated their belief that many of these adulterous trysts would be engaged in with one or both participants arriving at the site by using gasoline based automotive conveyances, thus contributing to the issue of “climate change”.  They demand that there be a stipulation in the law that only adulterous affairs in which both parties got to the rendezvous via public transportation will be “licit”.

Needless to say since the concept of adultery and its being wrong is based on religious moral concept, it was only reasonable to expect that members of the clergy weigh in on the subject, which they did.  A number of pastors who had fathered out of wedlock kids expressed their belief that we must view “ancient” rules in the context of the times; that times had changed and we must change with them.  Their testimony, offered in a brilliant Hip Hop style and recorded and released on MTV got more than four million hits within an hour of its release.

So in light of all this testimony, our legislators took the bill which had been introduced by Reps. Jack Mehoff and I. Fool Around and they reworked, rewrote and transformed it into The Swoosh Law with the subtitle, “Just Do It”.  This law confirmed that adultery was a highly overrated infraction of “morality” and that it was perfectly reasonable, in fact, healthy for people to engage in it in order to promote a strong, healthy marriage.

And a lot of public officials in America felt vindicated – and breathed a sigh of relief.  The bill, as it was finally presented to the full membership, got overwhelming bipartisan support.

HYPOCRITICAL HIPPOCRATS

“With regard to healing the sick, I will devise and order for them the best diet, according to my judgment and means; and I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.”

– The original Hippocratic Oath – third paragraph.

Teddy Papadopoulos and I met during Orientation Week at the University of Chicago.  He was one of the few students among us who was a native Chicagoan.  A lifelong resident of the university’s Hyde Park community, he was brilliant and was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in physics.  In any event, we met over what passed for a typical dormitory dinner and both of us had equally unkind comments about the cafeteria’s culinary output.  Naturally, we hit it off and became very good friends – a relationship that exists still today.

Nikos Papadopoulos, Teddy’s father, was an extremely congenial man who was one of the partners in Café Hellas, one of the many restaurants on Halsted Street that comprised Chicago’s Greek Town neighborhood.  He could be seen there six days and nights a week greeting and seating the busy restaurant’s customers, treating regulars and newcomers with the same obvious joy that they had decided to patronize his establishment.

Nikos was an immigrant from Thessalonika who came to the United States when he was eight years old.  He met his wife Diana here.  She was the daughter of a green grocer, one of seven children, six girls and one boy.  They married when he was thirty and she was twenty-six.  Besides Teddy, they had two other boys.  Teddy, by the way, was named for Theodore Roosevelt.  Nikos admired the former president as a person who said what he meant and meant what he said..

Diana was typical of many women in Chicago’s Greek community.  She was, to use an out of date phrase, a homemaker whose enjoyment came from keeping the house neat as a pin and making dinner for her children and on Sunday for her husband when he wasn’t at the restaurant.  She made sure that the kids all looked their best for the lengthy Sunday services at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral which they attended.  She was a warm and very loving person who enjoyed nothing more than giving everyone a hug and if they were short enough like her, a kiss on the cheek.  Although it was never official, I thought of her as a foster mother.

During my third year in school, Diana was hospitalized.  She was in her late forties.  She was, I think more concerned about being away from her family than she was for her own condition.  But she tried to wear a happy face and joked about getting out of the hospital so that she could cook her family dinner.  “By now I’m sure the house is not fit for pigs to live in,” she said on one of my visits.  That was the visit when she got the news.

Teddy and I were in her room when a specialist whom she had not seen before came in.  He had the results of the tests and the lab work that had been conducted over the previous ten days – and had an analysis.  His name was Dr. M., an oncologist.

Without so much as a, “Hi, how are you,” he introduced himself.  Perhaps you’ve heard of bedside manner.  Well, Dr. M. had obviously cut that class.

“I have reviewed your tests and your lab work and I need to tell you that you have cancer of the pancreas.  It’s inoperable and there’s no treatment.  Based on the progression of the cancer I estimate that you have at most four to five months to live.  I’m sorry.”

And he turned on his heel and left the room.

Diana burst into tears and Teddy rushed to his mother’s bed, sat down and put his arms around her.  I was so shocked, my mouth wide open at the ruthless way in which this physician had delivered his news that I didn’t know what to do.  But in a few second my shock turned into serious anger.  I have only been really angry three times in my life – and this was one of them.  I rushed from the room to find the doctor, half intent on slugging him.

When I caught up with him I grabbed his arm and said, “Excuse me.”   By now my blood pressure was returning to only twice its normal range.  “I can’t believe that you as a trained medical practitioner who is supposed to try to help people could have told that poor woman her prognosis in such a cold and uncaring manner.  You should be ashamed of yourself.”

He replied, “Why?  She’s a dead woman.  If I waste my time on her I might be putting someone at risk whom I could actually help.”  And he walked off.

I remember standing there for a few minutes, totally numb, completely shocked and feeling the tears run down both my cheeks.  And then I returned to Diana’s room.

Well, Dr. M. was fairly correct.  But Diana lived seven months from that date and the outpouring of love and grief from her friends and members of the closely knit Greek community was amazing.  There were well over four hundred people who attended her funeral that September.

“Moreover, I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroy the child.”

– The original Hippocratic Oath – fourth paragraph.

The original Oath has been changed many times.  Obviously, were the above portion of it still in effect there would be no abortions performed by any physicians who swore to it nor would we have things such as the “morning after” pill.

This week a pro life group released an undercover video in which Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Deborah Nucatolo discusses in a very off handed, dismissive and clinical manner the method of performing abortions so as to “extract the most tissue which can then be furnished for research.”  The link to the video and a CNN piece on what has become a very controversial issue can be found below.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/15/health/planned-parenthood-undercover-video/

One of the counter attacks by those who are Pro Abortion is that the video was edited.  So is every movie that is released by Hollywood and every news story that appears in print.  Many years ago I had two separate three hour conversations with a Wall Street Journal staff writer and when the piece on which she was working, appeared in the paper she had reduced our conversation to two lines.  Editing is not the issue.  Nor is the motivation of the group that produced it – so long as the facts presented are actually the facts.

What really is the issue, something about which people who are both Pro Abortion and Pro Life should be concerned, is the level of ethics – both in our society generally and by extension among our medical practitioners.  In a self-centered, self-absorbed society that is a serious question.

Presumably, most of us would have no question about returning a guilty verdict in the case of a mother who suffocated her three  year old Downs Syndrome child because she couldn’t handle the stress of dealing with a youngster with this disability.  So why then would we applaud the woman for aborting that child as a fetus if it were clear the child would be born with this genetic defect?  Or for that matter, a child who would be born with Cystic Fibrosis?  Or for that matter, a child who was a female when the parents wanted a boy?  Or a child whose hair color would be red when they wanted a blond?

Today, whatever your philosophy, this is a choice that is purportedly left to the parent.  But those who press most strongly for further government entrenchment in our lives may not fully perceive where their efforts, if successful, may lead.

Because the truth is that government might one day decide that the right to reproduce is not a right but a privilege and it is they, (in the interest of the greater good) who should determine to whom that privilege should be granted and to whom it should be denied.

After all, the right to have children is not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, that venerable document that receives as little attention from those on the left as some members of the medical community pay to the original Hippocratic Oath.

THE PERMANENT POLITICAL CLASS

If you’ve read any of the liberal press during the last several years you have no doubt heard about the Koch brothers.  They are the favorite whipping boys for our leftist friends, spawn of the devil and the root cause of all evil in the country and the world.  Well, they have made a lot of money which used to be thought of as the source of all malevolence.

The objection that the left has toward the Koch brothers, other than that they are extremely successful, is that they are involved in the energy business which is causing “global weather change” and even more important than that, they are not ashamed to use their wealth to support candidates for public office or, as the pundits like to phrase it, “buy elections.”  That the left has no objection to other billionaires who subscribe to their own agenda doing the same thing is a matter for a separate conversation.

An excellent book by Peter Schweizer entitled, “Extortion” ( Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2013) calls this theory into question – and does so with a great deal of interesting, detailed documentation.  The point that Schweizer makes in his work is that it is those in Congress actually extort these contributions from their constituents – and from those businesses and individuals which might suffer grave repercussions if they do not donate to them.  Schweizer uses the term extortion liberally throughout this extremely interesting book.  Incidentally, this technique is not restricted to members of Congress on only one side of the aisle but is well accepted and utilized by members of both caucuses.

Schweizer refers to those in power on Capitol Hill as the “Permanent Political Class.”  Once elected to office, we all know how difficult it is for a newcomer to unseat an incumbent.  And in the rare instance that happens, the power, influence and opportunity for self-aggrandizement is so strong that only the purest of souls can survive the overwhelming pressure to play the game – and sadly, that candidate isn’t running this year – or almost any other one.

A reasonable person might question why anyone would spend millions of dollars, and in some cases tens of millions, to secure a congressional seat which pays only $174,000 per year (plus some very attractive perks).  The spending on this year’s election is, by some estimates, going to approach $4 Billion.  That’s Billion with a capital “B” and will set an all time record for a mid-term election.

A further question is, what is it that large contributors get in return for their contributions?  Are they simply motivated by a sense of doing good for the country or are they merely trying to buy votes which are positively disposed to support those donors’ interests?  Or, more interestingly, as Schweizer convincingly points out, are they doing this because they are being extorted by those in power to make these contributions – threatened with adverse consequences and unfavorable votes should they withhold their donations.  How do veteran members of Congress perform this extortion?  The answer, while distasteful, is that they do so legally – but then, who wrote the rules?  They did.

Several years ago, two laws known by their acronyms of PIPA and SOFA were proposed.  These were supported by the entertainment industry because the two were purportedly designed to safeguard their intellectual property from theft – in large measure from Chinese pirates who stole new movies and recordings almost as fast as they were released.  Naturally, to secure a favorable vote on these two measures, Hollywood poured vast amounts of money into the PAC’s on which members of the committees that were writing these bills served.  Their lobbyists dropped millions of dollars worth of checks to secure their clients’ interests.

On the other side of the issue were companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook.  They were concerned that the way the law was written there would be a restriction on access to the internet.  They also dropped massive amounts of money in an effort to defeat the two measures.  That money went into exactly the same coffers where the lobbyists for Sony Pictures and their colleagues had left their deposits.  Schweizer refers to this procedure as “ The Double Dip,” and our politicians drool when they have the opportunity to play both sides against each other, collecting their tribute from all with great equanimity.

Another example of ways in which members of Congress can monetize the bills they pass is by passing laws which are so complex that no one understands them.  Two excellent examples are the PPACA (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  Both exceed two thousand pages in length and contain language that is not only confusing but in some instances is contradictory.  Enter the lobbyists – to the “rescue” of those who are impacted by these bills.

Interestingly, each law that Congress enacts then goes into a second phase in which unelected bureaucrats “interpret and clarify” the language and meaning of the original bill.  Staff members, rather than our elected members of Congress, actually write many of the laws which their bosses then pass.  So who would know better than those who actually crafted the language of the law what that language means?

It should come as no surprise that many of these staffers realize that they can maximize their personal earnings potential by joining a lobbying firm on “K” Street – and those firms, realizing that they can charge enormous fees – sometimes at ten thousand dollars per hour – hire them.  Many times these firms hire the sons, daughters and wives of members of Congress.  Just another perk of having a seat on the Hill.  A seven figure income is not only a nice “perk” – but it isn’t a bad living.

There are additional reasons that our elected legislators raise money which go beyond making sure that they have a sufficient war chest so that they can get re-elected.  One of the most egregious of these is that, should they decide to retire from “public service” they legally can take whatever funds remain in their PAC accounts, pay taxes on them and keep whatever’s left.  But in the meanwhile, it’s perfect legal for a congressman to “lend” money to his PAC and charge “a reasonable rate of interest” on the funds so loaned.  One congresswoman “loaned” herself $250,000 at an interest rate of 18% per year.  That loan has been on the books now for over twenty years, despite the fact that her PAC has always had sufficient funds to repay the loan.  Perhaps she considers that $45,000 annual interest payment as “mad money.”

If this leaves you with a sense of corruption gone wild, then your opinion exactly mirrors mine.  It is perhaps the reason that I tend generally not to vote for any incumbent in elections, whether that person is being elected to a federal, state or local position.  There are exceptions to that rule – but they are few and far between.

“Power corrupts – and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  The Permanent Political Class knows that – and they’re smiling all the way to the bank.

CHUMP CHANGE

Before he went into business for himself, I remember the night that we were having dinner and my dad made a big announcement to the family.  He had been offered a new sales position with a firm that was a competitor to his present employer and he had accepted it.  But the big part of the announcement was, “If I exceed my quotas, I can earn twenty thousand dollars in my first year.”  A hush fell over the table as mom, grandma and I were awestruck as we tried to contemplate  that massive amount of money.

To put that into perspective, a candy bar cost a nickel; a newspaper cost a dime; and a ride on either New York’s busses or subways cost fifteen cents.  As you’ve guessed, dad’s announcement was a few years ago – when being a millionaire meant being a person who could just about afford to buy or do almost anything.

The way the government throws money (yours and mine) around, we regard hundreds of thousands of dollars as mere rounding errors.  Millions barely get a second look and until we get to billions it doesn’t seem that we want to be bothered with much oversight of how we’re spending the taxpayers’ wealth.  Perhaps that’s how we’ve gotten to a debt that is in excess of seventeen trillion.  That’s seventeen thousand billions – or seventeen million millions.  However you slice it, that’s a whole lot of zeroes.

Now the reason for putting this all in perspective is so that I might mention what in my childhood would have been a massive amount but today is viewed as little more than chump change – the sum of $608,000.  What is this number and why devote a post to it?

Washington, D.C. businessman, Jeffrey Thompson, originally a Jamaican national, is alleged to have raised that sum to benefit a number of our politicians including the candidate-presumptive for president on the Democrat ticket in 2016, one Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Now fundraising isn’t in and of itself illegal if it’s done properly – in fact Obama is in New York today on exactly the same mission.  But what is illegal is for an agent or officer of a campaign to solicit illegal contributions.  Enter Minyon Moore, a top operative in Mrs. Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 nomination bid.

Thompson, who pleaded guilty today to illegal fundraising activity with respect to the 2010 election of D. C. Mayor Vincent Gray, apparently told federal prosecutors that he had been approached by Ms. Moore and was asked by her to conduct illegal fundraising activities in four states and in Puerto Rico.  The investigators went quickly on to add that “there was no evidence that Mrs. Clinton had any knowledge of this activity.”

Now think back a few months to that event in New Jersey known as “Bridge Gate” with which the media had a field day and which is being investigated by a committee of the New Jersey legislature.  In that event, one of Governor Chris Christie’s top aides apparently decided, out of political retribution, to constrict the traffic on the George Washington Bridge to “punish” the mayor of Ft. Lee because she did not endorse her boss.

One of the comments that came from the lead investigator looking into this matter was, “It’s hard to believe that the governor didn’t either direct this or at the least he should have known that it was going to happen.”   Christie in a now famous news conference accepted full responsibility for the event although he denied having any personal knowledge of it.  He fired his aide immediately.

I am inclined to believe Christie’s profession of ignorance.  However, I am also inclined to agree with the investigator’s comment that, “he should have known about it.”  It is exactly for that reason that I discredit the president’s statements that “he didn’t know about the insurance policies that would be cancelled; the fact that everyone is not saving $2,500 a year and people are losing their doctors because of Obamacare.”  It is exactly for that reason that I would not support Chris Christie for president.

But if we apply that logic fairly, how should we be disposed to the potential candidacy of Hillary Clinton?  Should she not have had knowledge of impropriety that was ongoing during her campaign and take responsibility for her staff’s activities?  Or would even raising this issue be nothing more than another assault in the “War on Women?”

I guess if we want to be “gender blind” and fair we should remember the old adage,  “What’s good for the ganders should be good for the goose.”  Even if that goose is Hillary Clinton.

THE MOUTH THAT ROARED

“Glad tidings of great joy.”  That is the message of the Nativvity, preached from a thousand pulpits this Christmas.  But for at least one of our clergy, Jesse Jackson, Sr. there is never a holiday so solemn that he can’t refrain from preaching about the ethereal to offer his opinion on the mundane.  In his most recent foray, the Rev. Mr. Jackson decided to express his outrage at the “racist and anti-gay comments” that “Duck Dynasty” star, Phil Robertson made in his GQ interview.

Thanks to the controversy of Mr. Robertson’s remarks, there may only be a handful of people in the United States who have not seen one or more episodes of “Duck Dynasty.”  I am one of them.   If I want to watch reality television, I have only to step out on the streets and observe those who pass by.  At least that is unscripted.

I’m not certain how many of us read the GQ interview.  I have and would agree with those who found Mr. Robertson’s remarks to have been phrased in a less than poetic way.  But those are the remarks he made and considering his background as a backwoodsman I’m sure that he expressed himself in the way which is familiar to him.  That is hardly a reason for condemning the man.  If it were, Vice President Biden would be under a gag order.

For those of us who subscribe to a Christian ethos,as I presume the Rev. Mr. Jackson does, there is no reason nor does any of us have the right to condemn anyone else.  We leave that job to a higher authority.  Subsequent to the interview, Mr. Robertson made it quite clear that he personally condemned no one personally.  That is not his job.

What Jesse Jackson categorized as “anti-gay” remarks actually related to sexual activity outside the traditional marital relationship.  Mr. Jackson should be aware that the Bible does condemn all sexual activity other than between a husband and wife, whether that is between two men or two women or a man and woman who are not married.  We all transgress.  The Rev. Mr. Jackson is no exception, having fathered a child outside his marriage.  Hopefully he has mended his former ways.  But it is hard to listen to his condemnation of another on this subject and not have some reservations about his sincerity or the worth of his words.

Then there is the second issue, Mr. Robertson’s “racist” remarks.  As far as I could tell from the interview, Mr. Robertson merely described the condition and the attitudes of those blacks with whom he worked in the field.  Whether his interpretation of their condition was accurate or not, none of us can truly say.  But to categorize his belief that those blacks never expressed outrage at their conditions as being racist seems to be an overreach.

Racism – or for that matter – any form of prejudice is a horrible thing.  All of us should pity those who make it the central point of their worldview.  That includes Mr. Jackson and all others who profiteer by pitting one race against another.  People who truly oppose racism, as Mr. Jackson did back in the ‘60’s should be equally outraged when anyone is attacked solely on the basis of that person’s skin color.  Of course, back then, Mr. Jackson would not have attacked Phil Robertson for his position on homosexuality since he espoused exactly the same view..

Have we heard Mr. Jackson speak out about the “Knockout Game” in which predominantly black young hoodlums attack innocent, defenseless people and try to knock them unconscious with a single punch?  Have we heard him protest the fact that most of the victims have been Jews?  Has he spoken out about the tragic shooting murder last week of Brian Friedland in the Short Hills, NJ mall at the hands of four black thugs?  Of course, this most recent murder might have been the unfortunate result of a car jacking, nothing more.  But whenever a black is attacked by a white person, Mr. Jackson assumes that the motivating factor behind the attack is racism.  Why doesn’t the same logic apply when the roles of assailant and victim are reversed?

Over the years I’ve watched Jesse Jackson morph from a committed advocate for the disadvantaged to a purveyor of racism for the sake of personal gain and prestige.  That is perhaps the greatest tragedy – watching his perversion from a crusader to a succubus.

While his words once had meaning and his message had value, they are now little more than the vitriolic output of a mouth that once roared and whose passion once soared.  And there are fewer people of conscience who  bother to listen to him any more and worse, are embarrassed for him..

Tag Cloud