The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘libertarianism’ Category

CAN ONE PERSON MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

There is a concept that underlies all the theories that the left promulgates.  It is that the individual is impotent, meaningless and essentially an expendable statistic.  We can see that clearly in the movement behind unionization – but it runs throughout all the currents of the polluted waters that they flush through their philosophy.

There is some truth to the general principle that there is “safety in numbers.”  There are also exceptions to that rule.  Lemmings offer a good example.  As do the six million Jews who live in Israel, surrounded by three hundred million Muslims.  That isn’t working out so well for the mullahs – their best efforts to annihilate the Jewish state notwithstanding.

Recently I commented on a piece regarding “global warming/climate change” that appeared in The Huffington Post.  My response was very simple.  I offered the opinion that I didn’t know whether “climate change” was a reality or a fabrication, but I agreed that mankind does make an impact on our environment – the most obvious being in the form of litter and pollution.  I went on to explain that if one accepted that and disliked either litter on our streets or in our air, he or she should take whatever steps possible to reduce or eliminate taking actions which would result in those conditions.  Personally, I think that is a pretty non-controversial statement.  I went on to offer a simple list of ten things which each of us could do now to work to reduce both litter and pollution – until we wait for science to discover the “ultimate solution.”

Although several people checked the “Like” button, the only written response I received was from someone who apparently had a different world view.  He excoriated my naiveté, thinking that “one person could make a difference.”  Of course, he failed to recognize that I do realize that if only one person out of six billion does something positive, that will indeed be meaningless.  His statement was, of course, an expression of his belief that only through the power of government “enlightenment” would we be able to ameliorate “climate change.”  But he overlooked something far more fundamental which I pointed out in my response.

I answered his comment, “Thank you for your thoughtful response.  In fact I do appreciate that one person alone cannot change the world.  However, I also believe that one person may inspire another and those two might inspire several more.  But irrespective of whether or not that good example causes others to do the same is irrelevant.  Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.”

I received no response to my reply.

Part and parcel of this man’s mindset (and many who think as he does) is an avoidance of taking personal responsibility.  It is part of the “victim mentality” syndrome.  People who hold this philosophy believe that only through the imposition of government rules and regulations can we achieve an orderly society.  And in their absence, they inadvertently feel justified in avoiding taking personal action which, if we all followed a good example, might obviate the need for those government rules and regulations in the first place.

It does seem as though one ordinary person acting alone cannot do much to set the world on a better course.  But if there is no one willing to try, then we must give ourselves up to the hope that somehow fate will benignly accommodate our inherent deficiencies.  And if that is the case, history would suggest that she has been singularly absent from the world stage and the course of human events.

THE DUCK THAT QUACKED

Phil Robertson and “Duck Dynasty” have developed one of the most successful franchises in reality television.  The show, aired on the A & E channel, holds a first place rating among viewers.  Or, at least it did until Mr. Robertson’s interview with GQ magazine was printed.  In that interview Mr. Robertson expressed his personal view on homosexuality which runs contrary to the current cultural trend of acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle.  His opinion was an expression of his fundamental Christian beliefs.

A & E responded to the interview almost immediately by “indefinitely suspending Phil Robertson” from his own show.  They went on to make a statement that, “They (A & E) have always supported the gay community.”  Apparently this has not completely quelled the issue as A & E is getting push back from a large number of their viewers who believe they did not respond appropriately and who are threatening to boycott the network.

There are a number of important issues that this whole controversy raises.

The first, and probably the least consequential, is whether or not a business has the right to conduct itself according to self-imposed standards.  My response to that would be, “Yes it does and A & E made its decision based on its well-established philosophy.”  Of course, if we accept that premise, does that not imply that a company such as Hobby Lobby has the right to refuse to purchase health insurance which mandates that it provide abortion, prophylactics or abortifacients in contravention of its religious beliefs?

The second is whether Robertson’s opinion is protected by the First Amendment and whether A & E is essentially abridging his right to state his beliefs and therefore violating his constitutional protections.  Certainly if he had made his statement in the course of filming an episode, A & E might have the legal right to edit out the comment if if offended their policy.  But to take an interview in a different medium as the basis for their action seems to overreach their authority and to be an infringement on Mr. Robertson’s rights.  We would do well to remember Voltaire’s statement, “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.”  Whether Mr. Robinson made the statement or withheld it, no doubt it reflects his beliefs.  If we invoke cloture on free speech, whether or not we agree with what is said, what is next – restriction of what a person is allowed to think?

Perhaps the most important point this raises is that proponents of PC thinking are engendering the very thing that they purport to correct.  They define people not as individuals but as mere subsets of some larger group – whether that is based on race, sex or sexual orientation.  Their activities perpetuate all the “isms” and “phobias” which they seek to extinguish.  They presume that all gay or straight people, all men or women, all blacks or whites think and act identically based on the way they perceive the group to which the PC police have assigned them think and act.  That is ludicrous on its face and obviously untrue.  This philosophy strikes at the heart one of their most precious principles – allowing for diversity among members of society.

Whether or not I agree with Phil Robertson is irrelevant.  But I believe that those who see this issue only as a matter which pits one individual against a vocal group are missing the point entirely.  If we are willing to throw someone under the bus because we might disagree with his beliefs, the question is how much faster are we heading toward the point where our own opinions, however mainstream they might currently be, come under fire and we are told to recant – or else.

A SOCIETY WITHOUT VALUES IS A SOCIETY WITHOUT A FUTURE

The Greeks fell, the Roman Empire was overrun, the empire Charlemagne forged is no more, the British Empire saw the sun set and America is in disarray and in decline.  There may be those who would challenge that last phrase, but the empirical evidence surely points in that direction.  Today’s disruption and shooting at LAX is simply the latest example of a culture that is failing and lawless because its members have abandoned principles of morality and virtue.

Understandably Americans are worried about manic terrorists.  We should indeed be nervous after the events of the original 9/11, Ft. Hood, Benghazi and the Boston Marathon.  If there is any protection to which we might look it is the universal and equitable enforcement of effective and moral laws.  But when those whose responsibility it is to enforce the laws, fairly and universally, abandon that principle, not only does society suffer but those officials encourage terrorists and others who are lawless and contribute to the general decline in safety in society.

Attorney General Holder has, since his installation as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, consistently followed a policy of selective law enforcement, choosing as his venue the punishment of those who oppose him and his boss, President Obama.  This is not law enforcement but vendetta and any society which condones or, at the least, turns a blind eye to this practice, is complicit in what ensues.  That includes every citizen and especially those in the media..

This administration has followed a policy of replacing the Judaeo-Christian ethic with its own brand of secular morality – a morality which flies in the face of the principles on which the country was founded and which was instrumental in allowing it to prosper.  Human laws are made by human beings and directly reflect their values – or their lack of them.

Fundamental to the enforcement of any law is that those who are either the plaintiff or the defendant or a witness be required to tell the truth.  But if there are no consequences for perjured testimony that requirement is made as hollow as the carved Halloween pumpkin that sits on our front lawns.  And in the absence of fear of any consequences, whether those are meted out by government or by God, there is no reason to believe that anything we hear in our courts is the truth or that any findings reached there are valid.  This is the perfect scenario in which chaos and evil prospers.

In an ideal and utopian society, there would be no need for laws since everyone would innately know the difference between what is right and what is wrong and would by nature cling to the good and eschew that which is evil.  That we constantly promulgate new laws, in some cases to correct the deficiencies of ones that were previously enacted, suggests that we do not live in that sort of a society.

But when those who craft the laws and those who are given the authority to enforce them are themselves corrupt; when government forgets that it exists only with the consent of the governed and believes it has the power to govern without consent; then there comes a moment in history when those who have still clung to their sense of personal responsibility and refuse to cede it willingly or to abdicate this most fundamental right and duty to themselves, no matter the force exerted against them, will overturn the usurpers and cast them out.

That will be a welcome day.

I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM, WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM

When I was a child, ice cream came in three flavors –  Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry.  I was good with that since I liked all three.  Then one day my father shattered my view of the universe.  He came home with a quart of Peach ice cream.  That started me to wondering, “What will they think up next.”  Little did I know that they would think up a lot.

Years later, Dad took me to a Howard Johnson restaurant.  They had an astounding 28 flavors of ice cream from which I could select.  And then I heard about a place called Baskin Robbins that topped that with 31 flavors.  By the time I stepped inside my first BR I was in college and I realized that the universe was a much more wondrous place than the three flavor variety I accepted as a child.

Currently there are thousands of different health insurance policies available to the consumer.  That’s about to change.  Unlike the ice cream industry which realized that consumers liked choices and that limiting those choices resulted in fewer satisfied customers, Obamacare has reduced those thousands of policies to a mere four.  And in the view of the administration that’s a good thing because they, more than the consumer, know what is best.

Well, perhaps they do.  I’m willing to admit that.  But the explanations for why so many people are receiving cancellation notices from their present insurers is a bit confusing.  How many times did President Obama promise, “If you like your policy you can keep your policy?”  The spin put on “explaining” this statement has taken several paths.

The first explanation that is being offered by those who are Obamacare enthusiasts is that this is only going to affect five percent of the population.  That’s about 14 million people.  For a government that runs deficits in the billions, I guess that number would be considered statistically insignificant – unless you happen to be one of those affected.

The second explanation is that it isn’t the government but the insurance companies that are responsible for the cancellations.  That’s true.  But what they fail to disclose is that the insurers are being required to issue these cancellation notices because their specific plans don’t meet the four flavor variety standards which are mandated by the law and the regulations written by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ Department of Health and Human Services.

The third explanation, born out of the largesse and wisdom of the cognoscenti in the bureaucracy is that “We’re really doing these people with ‘sub-standard’ policies a favor by pushing them into policies that offer far better coverage.”  There might be some truth that replacing “skinny” policies with “obese” ones is a benefit – but only if a person wants all the bells and whistles they offer.  Why a single thirty year old with no children would select a policy that includes pediatric eye care and be happy to pay for it is unclear to me – and probably to that thirty year old as well.

I sincerely believe that there are a lot of Obamacare boosters who truly think that they are doing something good for the populace, getting them into more comprehensive insurance – whether they want it or not.  The predication for their assumption is that they, rather than the individual consumer, knows better what is in their best interest and ultimately in the best interest of the country.  Which brings me to a confusing and contradictory provision in the ACA.

If we are to assume that having more extensive insurance will not only be better for the insured and (this is a highly arguable belief) that this will result in better healthcare at a more affordable cost, it would seem logical that if having a better plan is a good thing, having the best plan would be an even better thing.  Therefore, we should encourage everyone to have the best plan that there is.

If we accept that assumption then why, beginning in 2018 does the law impose a punitive tax of 40% on what are known as “Cadillac insurance plans”  – the most comprehensive plans available in the market place?  It’s all so confusing.

Well, I often do my best thinking over a little treat.  So I think I’ll head downstairs to the kitchen and serve up two scoops of Rocky Road ice cream – in honor of Obamacare.

THE DEPENDS GENERATION

If like me you are a member of the Baby Boomer generation, perhaps you will think that the title of this post refers to the likelihood that at some point in the not too distant future we will be in need of a product designed to minimize the consequences of physical incontinence.  Perhaps I’ve been too closely focused on the campaign used to sell Obamacare to America, but I’ve picked up on the “bait and switch” tactics and this post will focus on issues other than adult diapers.

Part of the rite of passage that I experienced as a child was looking forward to being an adult.  Somehow, at that magical age of twenty-one I thought I would be emancipated, free of all those annoying regulations that my parents concocted in the dark of night.  What I didn’t realize was that obeying those parental rules was preparation for my becoming a responsible adult.  I emphasize the word responsible.

It doesn’t take much more than sticking around long enough in order to achieve adulthood.  Maturity is another matter.  And it is not one that is miraculously conveyed by benefit of the calendar.  And I certainly wasn’t mature the minute the clock struck and I was an “official” twenty-one year old adult.

While I didn’t understand why I was supposed to go to school, my parents understood that without an education I had a limited future.  I didn’t like it when Mom reminded me that I had an appointment with the orthodontist to have my braces tightened, but I went to see him anyway.  There were times when I just didn’t feel like playing the piano, but that didn’t make the requirement that I was expected to practice for a minimum of an hour a day disappear.

I don’t think that my parents were very different from most of my classmates’  parents.  And I think that most of us kids, whether we really wanted to or not, heeded them – at least most of the time.  Both the kids and the parents of my generation largely understood that we were responsible for what we did and for what we failed to do – and those decisions had implications – sometimes life altering ones.

But that was then and this is now.

Shirking personal responsibility is largely the measure of one’s fitting into society today.  We have replaced college degrees in engineering with degrees in excuse making.  It’s always someone else’s or something else’s fault for our failures.  We have embraced the psychology of being victims rather than being victors.  And that kiss of death extends from those who are parents to those who have attempted to interpose themselves “in loco parentis” in government.

I think that my parents viewed my twenty-first birthday with a bit of melancholy.  They were happy to see that they had done a relatively decent job of helping me grow up in a nurturing home and were pleased that I had adopted their value system.  But they also realized that I was going to be leaving the nest and that their home dynamic was going to change because of that.

Today there is a different dynamic.  We have dis-emboweled the family and parents have, in large measure, abdicated the responsibility of child rearing – a fact that is not lost on those drooling controllers in government who have always believed that they were better empowered to handle that responsibility.  Perhaps the most obvious example of this is one of the much-touted aspects we find in Obamacare – that a “child” can now continue on his or her parents’ insurance policy until the age of twenty-six.

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, I’ve tried to set aside the hyperbole flying about the government’s website and actually get some facts and figures.  My parents, both of whom had their own businesses taught me a valuable lesson.  What’s the bottom line?

Without going into the much-reported difficulty of getting information from the site, I was able to gather some data in a number of states to determine how this “benefit” really worked.  I was a little surprised at my results.

The fact is that while a family could maintain their under twenty-six year old child on a policy that they might get through Obamacare, there was absolutely no difference in the premium that they would pay as an insured family – or that would be charged if the family dropped their youngster and that “child” purchased equivalent insurance on his own.  In other words, this “benefit” merely allows mom and dad to pay for their child’s insurance.  To my bottom line thinking, I wondered, “Why is this a benefit?”

There is one obvious reason that the liberal left sees this particular provision as a “benefit.”  It extends the period of time for “maturity” yet further than we have ever pushed it before.  It subliminally reinforces the notion of “dependence,” and who better to be dependent on than government?

If you believe in the inability of the masses to make self-interested decisions, you probably applaud this philosophy.  If you believe the fundamental right and responsibility of the individual is to have the ability to make intelligent and conscientious decisions you probably abhor this mindset.

So whether you endorse the philosophy that the government is the best arbiter of what is best for the individual may, in the final analysis, be a function of the way in which each of us was raised.  And on that, each of our future’s and the future of a nation may all depend.

CRISIS

As a child, my parents and my teachers encouraged me to read.  Some of those books were pre-selected by them.  But my folks also took me to a wonderful local book store on Lexington Avenue in NYC that had started a children’s book and discussion club.

It was a warm and inviting place and to a child all the wonderful books with their hard covers, nestled in their assigned places, looked like a vast universe of story telling that were waiting to be discovered and devoured.  I loved the Worthington Book Store and Mrs. Bramley who owned the shop.  Somehow, she just seemed to be the exactly right person to own this wonderful place.

I think that it was a combination of her gray hair rolled into a bun and fastened with bobby pins and the beautiful but simple home made sweaters that she had knitted and wore in the store that conveyed that impression most strongly.  And she had a wonderful smile that welcomed all of us little visitors to join her in the quest for knowledge.

In 1956, Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel, “Time For The Stars” was published.  On one of my Saturday visits I happened to see it among the stacks of books in the fiction section.  Science fiction was pretty much in its infancy at that time, despite the earlier contributions of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.

The dust cover caught my eye.  There was a picture of one of the “torchships” that Heinlein described in his novel.  I’m not sure why but somehow I knew I had to read that book.  I’m glad that I did, finishing it in two sessions.  That book started me on a lifelong interest in both astronomy and science fiction.

Later I joined the Science Fiction Book Club.  They offered an introductory membership for ten cents.  In return they would send me any five books listed in their extensive catalog.  The synopsis of each book also made mention of the number of pages the volume contained.  So I chose the five longest books that they had listed.  I was determined to get my money’s worth.  That was a great investment.

As the genre grew a following, Hollywood got involved.  Science fiction movies began to proliferate.  At first, movies were made of the classics.  “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea”; “The Time Machine”; and “The War Of The Worlds,” were among the first, but certainly not the last.

Perhaps it’s a reflection off our way of looking at ourselves and the universe, but in most books or movies in which mankind makes contact with other species, the aliens are almost always portrayed as hostile invaders, bent on the destruction of humanity.  So for purposes of conversation, let’s assume that should actually happen.

Well, as one would imagine, suddenly our petty spats which we politely call wars would cease as we focused our attention on the greater threat of total annihilation by the invaders.  And, the United States, with our certain military superiority would lead the effort to save mankind.  That’s a frightening concept.

In making that statement I do not refer to the invasion but to America’s ability to respond should we encounter those invaders while President Obama is at the helm.  Consider how this administration has conducted business over the last five years.

Prior to the 2012 campaign, I asked a slue of Obama supporters why they were going to vote to retain him in office, based on what he and his administration had done in his first term.  While most of the answers avoided citing a specific achievement, the few people who came up with an answer considered Obamacare as a great accomplishment.  That was their reason for voting for a second term.

So today we have ten days worth of Obamacare under our belts with the rollout of the exchanges and the initial enrollment in the health insurance portion of the law.  I realize that any new computer program is likely to have some “glitches”.  That is normal – but minimizing those is usually done in beta testing before the product is released.

The initial bill for building this system was $57 Million.  However, in excess of $637 Million actually was spent.  A reasonable person would think that with all those extra dollars being thrown at this (those dollars belonging to you and me), the result would be spectacular.  And it has been – a spectacular disaster.  Even the administration is admitting that there are some “minor problems”.  For a group of people who seem to specialize in rhetorical hyperbole, that statement seems to be a bit understated.

This “signature piece of legislation” is proving in its implementation to be nothing short of a total disaster.  Considering the fact that the financial and healthcare assumptions made in writing this law are unrealistic, with such a bad start it is encouraging that there are a few dedicated members of Congress who have made it their mission to get it off the books.

But while this is the most threatening law ever enacted to restrict personal liberty, it is merely the outgrowth of an administration filled with cronyism, scandals, a CIC who is both petty and whose ego is inflated by hubris.  Our President is a man who has demonstrated a total lack of leadership.  With someone such as Obama as head of the ship of state, one can only hope that should the skies suddenly fill with hostile UFO’s, the Pentagon has stocked a large supply of white flags.

Even in my most imaginative moments, I don’t really expect us to be contacted by alien civilizations.  Why would they bother with us as we are little evolved from our primitive forebears?  And I’m sure there are other spots in the universe that are every bit as interesting as Miami or Laguna Beach.

If we as humans face a truly serious crisis, it is less likely to be launched by visitors from another planet than it is either by ourselves or by Mother Nature.  Tsunamis, epidemics, terrorists – these are not science fiction but historical fact.  And it seems that as we further devolve into our more primitive nature those that are going to be inflicted by men on his fellow man are likely to increase both in frequency and virulence.

Let’s postulate for a moment, that a serious viral or bacterial outbreak occurred which affected the food or water supply or both.  Whether it was a function of something that nature brought on us or whether terrorists were responsible is immaterial.  How much confidence should any American have in the Obama administration to handle this situation effectively?

Setting aside partisan politics and merely looking at Obama’s track record, I have to say that my confidence level in his skills suggests that if I am not prepared to try to cope with that sort of situation by taking my own steps to safeguard myself and family, I am doomed to be one of the many victims who will fall by the wayside.

And what will become of those who have entrusted themselves and their lives, given up their personal responsibility to take care of and fend for themselves to what they believe is a beneficent government?  As they lay dying, they will wonder why no one is answering their 911 call on their free, government provided cell phones.

A PROFILE IN COURAGE

If you ever want to have a keen glimpse of what it is like feeling disheartened, I suggest you spend several decades as a Republican precinct worker in the City of Chicago.  On this subject I speak from personal experience.

There are 2,069 election precincts in the City of Chicago.  In the last twenty years, there is only one that consistently went to Republican candidates.  That is less than five hundredths of one percent.  Sadly, my work on behalf of Republican candidates did not occur in that particular precinct.

So why did my colleagues and I persist in this nearly masochistic endeavor?  The answer is simple.  We continued to beat our heads against the wall and get beaten up by our opponents because we believed that what we were doing was the right thing.

Back in the days when I was involved in local Chicago politics it was much more difficult to get out the vote, such as there was of it, than today.  There was no such thing as early voting.  If you wanted to exercise your civic responsibility you either had to apply for an absentee ballot or you had to show up personally at the poll on Election Day.

Many of those who voted Republican were senior citizens.  And with elections taking place in November, one of the major responsibilities for precinct workers was driving them to the polling place and then returning them to their residences and picking up the next group so that they could avoid the generally inclement weather.

The work was anything but glamorous but it was necessary to try to get out every single voter in order to try to reduce the plurality of votes that we knew would be cast by our opponents.  While we knew there was no chance that a Republican would win a local office, there still was the possibility that the party could elect someone for statewide or national office.

Sometimes accomplishing this, I am a little embarrassed to say, involved offering the voter a small bribe.  I recall one conversation I had with a lady who is now deceased, Estelle Schwartz.  She was feeling a bit under the weather and it was particularly cold that Election Day.  She was concerned about catching pneumonia while waiting in the line to get into the polls.

Despite my great powers of persuasion, I could tell that her fear of illness was overcoming my oratory.  So I asked her, “Estelle, do you like jam?”  She responded that she liked certain jams a lot.  So I said, “I just made up two batches of jams.  Would you prefer strawberry or blackberry?”  The word “blackberry” struck a chord and her face lit up.  “Does your blackberry jam have a lot of seeds?”  I explained that I had removed the seeds before putting it in the half pint mason jars.  This was a good thing because apparently the seeds worked their way under her dentures.  So I drove Mrs. Schwartz to and back from the polls and early that evening when the polls had closed dropped off some blackberry jam for her.  (She told me later that she had enjoyed the jam a great deal).

Despite all the efforts that my co-workers and I exerted, we knew going in to each election that we were going to lose.  And yet we kept putting forth our best efforts.  That is truly a lonely feeling – and most of my non-political friends thought I was either crazy, stupid or both.  Perhaps they were right.

And that brings me to the subject of the junior senator from the State of Texas, Ted Cruz.  As I write this he has just concluded his marathon speech on the floor of the U. S. Senate – protesting, as he promised he would when he was elected, to do everything within his power to disable, defund or destroy the law best known as Obamacare.  He is fighting a losing battle.  I am confident that Senator Cruz realizes that.

So why did this freshman senator engage in this futile effort?  Several more senior Republican senators and conservative commentators have suggested that this is merely an exercise in self-promotion.  They further suggest that this strategy, with its possibility of shutting down the federal government, with have adverse implications for the Republican party in the mid-term elections next year.  Perhaps one or both of those statements are true.

But while those who are part of the Washington establishment focus themselves on the possible results of the next election, they have lost sight of the fact that in following their middle of the road mediocrity, they have lost the country and our Constitutional government with its promise of rights and protections.

So my hat is off to Sen. Ted Cruz and to those few other Republican senators of principal who stood up with him, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Marco Rubio.  If this country has any hope of returning to a Constitutional Republic and to get us back on the path of rationality, it is men and women like these who will lead that effort.

And to those who are primarily motivated by their concern for getting re-elected rather than by doing the right thing for America, I would tell them that they did not deserve to serve the people in the first place and most certainly do not deserve to be retained by them.

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