The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘liberty’ Category

STONED

 

 

 

American pothead

Somewhere in California.

 

 

 

two gay men being stoned to death by isis

Somewhere in ISIS controlled Iraq.

THE WELCOME MAT

The Las Vegas Valley Water District has a motto, designed to remind us that each of us has the responsibility to conserve water.  “It’s A Desert Out There.”  The casual visitor to Las Vegas, had he been here last week, might have shaken his head incredulously at that slogan as we had a three day substantial rainfall.  It reminded me of being back in Chicago.

The rain continued for long periods of time throughout the day, would pause for perhaps ten minutes and then resume.  Because of the precipitation and the ominous and gloomy clouds which brought it, I decided to skip Gracie’s normal evening sojourn to the Dog Park and walk her through the neighborhood instead.  At least we could scurry home quickly should the downpour resume.

While Gracie is one quarter Golden Retriever, apparently the gene that accompanies fondness for water is missing from her DNA.  True, she does love to hit the fountain of the lawn sprinklers for a refreshing drink, but the stuff that falls from the skies doesn’t, in her estimation, have the same appeal.  Perhaps that is because the lawn sprinklers are a regular and predictable phenomenon – and rain is such a sporadic event.

In any case, we were meandering around the block and I happened to notice that, without exception, every home had a door mat at the front door.  And interestingly, most of those doormats had the word “Welcome” on them.  Gracie and I are the exception.  Our doormat says, “Please Wipe Your Paws.”  But for some reason, looking at these doormats caused me to think about both the issue of immigration and the allegations of police oppression which have become so rampant in some sectors of the media.

The United States accepts over a million people a year who want to immigrate to the country – more people than the rest of the countries of the world combined.  The process of gaining legal status here is onerous and rather Byzantine – but apparently enough people worldwide are willing to endure both the wait and the process to ensure that a continuous stream of newcomers arrives on American shores every year.

These people have a somewhat different view of life in America than some of us who are here legally by reason of birth.  I mean, who in his right mind would want to go to the trouble and expense of moving to a country where there was a high probability that when he got there he would be “oppressed” by those in law enforcement?  Basic logic would suggest that would be a place to avoid rather than one to which a person would seek admittance.

Now just because a person has a good heart and is welcoming to friends and guests, it does not follow that his kindliness would extend to everyone who presented himself at his door.  Most of us would probably call 911 if we saw a hooded man, brandishing a gun, rather than welcoming that person in for tea.  And while most of us who are here as a result of immigration reflect on our own and our forebears’ experience in coming to America and want to extend that same courtesy to others who are similarly motivated, that does not imply that we want to do so in an indiscriminate manner and open the door to anyone who presents himself.

If we look at the historical waves of immigration that occurred in America, we need to put in perspective that while we gratefully welcomed low wage people in the first and early part of the country’s second century, that in large measure reflected that the country and its infrastructure were under construction and needed those workers to build railroads and dig ditches for sewers.  Their arrival did not displace workers who were already here.  But the infrastructure, notwithstanding its deteriorating condition, and the railroads have been built.  No such need exists today.

Our manufacturing sector has greatly diminished and Wall St. no longer waits with baited breath to hear the U. S. Steel quarterly report as it did in the 1950’s.  Rather, the financial markets are moved by whether or not Google or Apple made their number for the most recent three month period.  Of the thirty stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average , only nine are purely involved in manufacturing and of those, two manufacture drugs.  The other twenty-one companies are primarily involved in providing services.

The problem with a stagnant, albeit slightly improving economy, is that those Americans who are at the bottom of the economic barrel face increased competition from illegal aliens (or if you prefer “undocumented people”) and nowhere is this more evident than within the inner city communities predominantly occupied by blacks.  That, at least in part, explains why the rate of unemployment among blacks consistently runs twice the “official” rate of unemployment – and among young black men runs twice that, nearing twenty-five percent.

If we truly want to face the issue of why there is unrest and despondency among certain groups of our population, racism is a convenient but dishonest explanation.  Let’s face it – the automobile dealer who is selling Ferraris doesn’t really care about the race of the person who buys his vehicle – and cares even less how that person obtained the cash to close the deal.  It isn’t a matter of race – rather it’s a matter of economics.  And the economic outlook for those in our inner cities is very bleak.

Riots and lootings solve nothing but in fact create additional problems for the business owners who are directly affected and potentially can lead to the arrest and incarceration of those who participate.  In truth, some of those who participate are simply out for ill-gotten gain – and any excuse will do to set them and their malicious intentions in motion.  Others probably have a sense of their own helplessness but see no path to extricate themselves from it.  And then there are some ideologues who believe that America is the most racist, despicable country in the world.

To those in the third category, remember that once there was a Berlin Wall – designed to keep the citizens of East Berlin from making their way to freedom.  America has no such barrier in place to prevent any willing person from leaving.  And there are countries which apparently are willing to give anyone, irrespective of background, an opportunity to start over.

The recent committal of five more Guantanamo detainees to Uruguay suggests that country might provide a more nurturing venue for them to spend the remainder of their lives.  And given the generous way in which our federal government spends taxpayer dollars, there’s probably a program in place to help facilitate their change of address.  Take advantage of the opportunity – please.

Via con Dios.

SOME THOUGHTS ON GRAND JURIES AND JUSTICE

The Grand Jury system comes to us from England where it was implemented by Henry II in 1166.  So named because there are more jurors than a normal panel of twelve (a petit jury), its proceedings are done in secret.  If we were previously unaware of how these juries deliberate, that has been dispelled with the notable reportage on the events in Ferguson, MO and New York City.

One of the king’s motivations in using this secretive jury was to be able to ramrod indictments against those whom the crown wanted to prosecute.  I won’t repeat the much used phrase which explains how easy it is for a prosecutor to get an indictment from such a jury for fear of offending our Muslim neighbors.  That in fact, particularly in the Ferguson case, no such indictment was handed down has caused many to question the reason that occurred.  It is at this point that the facts seem to separate from the emotions and some people choose to infer motivations from the actions of the District Attorneys who were involved in presenting the cases.

Surprisingly, one of the greatest claims by those who reject the St. Louis County Grand Jury’s decision is that the system does not provide transparency.  Well, that is certainly true – and the system is designed in just such a manner,  Attorneys for the Brown family are outraged and believe that an indictment should have been handed down and that a public trial should have been conducted.  In fact, they believe the District Attorney should not have bothered with a Grand Jury but moved directly to trial.  That would certainly provide greater transparency, but one has to wonder whether it would have resulted in a different conclusion.

The level of proof necessary to obtain an indictment from a Grand Jury is far lower than that to convict, “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  There have been witnesses, notably Dorian Johnson who initially made the claim that Michael Brown was running away with his hands raised when he was shot in the back by Officer Wilson – testimony that was disproven by the forensics.  Mr. Johnson also changed other parts of his story in subsequent interrogations.  A reasonable person, even without referring to his own personal run ins with the law, might question his veracity as a witness.

On the other hand, six African-American witnesses testified to the Grand Jury that Mr. Brown was charging toward Officer Wilson when the fatal shot was fired.  They further concurred that they heard the officer order him to stop on two occasions – orders which Brown ignored.  Obviously, there is a vast difference between these two accounts.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that in the Brown case the DA had followed the advice of the Brown family attorneys and gone directly to trial.  Given the glaring conflict in witness testimony, there are two possibilities that the trial jury would return a guilty verdict beyond a reasonable doubt – “Slim” and “None.”  But the people of St. Louis County would have had to bear the expense of a trial, the cost of additional and ongoing law enforcement presence throughout that trial – and probably the same amount of damage by way of looting and burning because the only “fair” verdict that those who see themselves as being “Brown supporters” will accept is one of “guilty.”

All of this begs the fundamental question – should we be fearful of authority abusing its power over the citizenry?  That is a question that exceeds the particular of race. If we accept, for sake of argument, that people of certain races are “targeted” and we allow that to continue with impunity, then we open ourselves to the possibility of belonging to some particular group which will subsequently fall into disfavor and be equally subject to that sort of persecution.

This is far more dangerous than what we saw in Ferguson or New York because it is an endorsement that people should have the ability to pick and choose the laws they wish to observe and those they choose to ignore.  Sadly, that is precisely the path that both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have been following during their time in office.  When lawlessness is endorsed in actions by those whose jobs are to ensure that we are truly a “nation of laws,” then they give tacit endorsement to others to be law breakers themselves.

Let the riots, lootings and burnings begin.  Perhaps that’s what’s written on the Christmas cards the White House is sending out this year.

HO, HO, HO!

THE SPOKEN AND UNPUBLISHED WORD

It’s been about three weeks since I’ve had the opportunity to add a post to this blog.  I was not abducted by extraterrestrials (though sometimes I feel I’m living among them).  I have been actively adding my thoughts to the Huffington Post community in response both to stories they’ve published, in response to comments left by other readers and by responding to their critique of my comments.  This has become an exhausting effort.  The total number of these is now approaching five hundred.

In the process I’ve met some wonderful people who may not share my vision but who have the intellectual honesty to be willing to debate by using facts rather than hyperbole.  Of the 65 who are now “fans” they form a small coterie.  I suspect that many of the rest are only “fans” so that, given the opportunity, they can have the chance to leave a disparaging remark.  Fortunately, while I might have been an overly-sensitive child, my skin has thickened with the passage of time.

One of those, whose views are diametrically different than mine and with whom I have engaged in vigorous debate, was kind enough to respond to the snarky comment left by another reader, “What planet are you from? Uranus?” He advised, “Pay not attention to idiots.  I have your back.”  That comment literally caused my eyes to tear.

There are some decent people in the world – irrespective of whether we share the same political viewpoint.  But if we take the stand that we are the sole possessor or recipient of “truth” and anyone who disagrees is, by definition, “wrong” we will never reach any consensus or move toward a more prosperous future.  Sadly, that seems to be the majority view of those who comment on the Huffington Post and, in fairness, probably reflects much the same attitude one would find in an ultra-right publication as well.

One of the brief comments I left, which generated far more activity than I would have expected, pertained to the vote to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.  The rhetoric and hyperbole flowed fast and furiously (no pun intended).  The overwhelming majority of those focused on my being “un-American;” “having no concept of the Constitution – particularly the Fifth Amendment;” or simply pointed to this event as little more than a “Republican witch hunt.”

To summarize my three sentence comment I said, “I didn’t know whether Ms. Lerner had done anything illegal or whether the IRS had engaged in illegal or political activity but that it would be in all of our best interests to get to the truth and, if there were impropriety, to make sure it didn’t happen again.”

If I had a list of statements that I had made over the years which I personally considered “controversial,” this one wouldn’t have qualified.  That was not the reaction of HP readers, twenty-two of whom “faved” my comment – and thirty-eight of whom explained that I was a blithering idiot.  But at least this comment was allowed to stand by the “editorial board” at HP.

Another comment which also generated a lot of interest did not survive the censorship process.  That comment, which follows, was in response to a story which made fun of Brit Hume and FOX News (the greatest evil since Hitler discovered the gas chamber), over the social media effort to rescue the abducted Nigerian school girls by launching a hash tag campaign.

“There’s probably no one in the “civilized world” who doesn’t hope for the safe return of the abducted Christian Nigerian girls. (By civilized world I refer to those who are not members of Boko Haram or any other fundamentalist extreme Islamic terrorist organization).

But this incident is hardly without precedent since in late February, fifty-nine male students were attacked in their Nigerian school and were either shot or burned to death by the same outfit. Where was the outrage; where were the hash tags; where was the love?

Treating symptoms doesn’t cure diseases. And until we admit the real source of these problems and stamp it out as we did with smallpox, we’re all likely candidates for infection – with or without hash tags.

The story here isn’t FOX News. It’s medieval Islamic extremists.”

I can only guess why that comment was deemed as “too outrageous for publication” but I suspect that it was either by using the words, “Islam,” “extremism,” “terrorists,” or some combination of those which caused the deletion.

I would have liked to have had the opportunity to both read and respond to the twenty-two comments that other readers took the trouble to leave.  Sadly, my comment and their responses were deleted before I had the chance to do that.  That is both a discourtesy to me – but more so to those who wanted to share their thoughts.  And it does remind me that what was true more than two hundred years ago is just as true today.

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”
― Benjamin Franklin

A ZERO SUM MINDSET

If there is one common thread that underlies all politically liberal philosophies it is that there are only a limited amount of resources available and equitably distributing those among all people should be our primary goal.  That was the thinking that underpinned “The Communist Manifesto” and that is the attitude that emanates from the current administration in Washington.  It is the mindset which motivates those in political power to seek wealth re-distribution because it has turned its back on the possibility of wealth creation.

When Obama was sworn in as the Chief Executive the country was recovering from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  Instead of seizing the opportunity to focus on the economy, the administration spent its first two years crafting together Obamacare which satisfied its ideology if not the country’s immediate needs.  As a result the country languished and the uncertainty that was created through this signature law have contributed to an anemic semi-recovery.

The Obama administration responded to the faltering economy by securing funding for “shovel-ready” jobs.  While the money was spent, the jobs never materialized.  It used the taxpayer’s remittances on green energy projects like Solyndra which went bankrupt leaving us $400 Million further in the hole as the government increased the official national debt to an historic $17 Billion.  It refused, because of its ideology, to approve the Keystone Pipeline Project which would have provided thousands of jobs and even more importantly would have moved the economy forward by lowering energy costs through additional supplies.

The fundamental philosophy of liberal thinking is the same as that to which a committed gambler clings. “ Let me take what someone else has.”  That is the driving force behind every “game of chance,” every sports bet, every state run lottery and of every system of government which looks to “re-distribute” wealth.

There is only one fatal flaw with this viewpoint and that is that time and again it has been proven to be a failure.  We have no further to turn than to compare the implementation of this philosophy in the former Soviet Union, Cuba and North Korea to realize that.

This paternalistic philosophy, however well-intended, unfortunately is grounded in a world view based on pessimism.  Its premise is that ordinary people – the ones whom they are presumably championing – are simply not smart enough to make rational, self-benefitting decisions on their own and must be “taken care of” by those who are wiser and more prescient – they and those they elect to govern the masses.

Further to their mindset is the belief that all that there is now available to society in the way of resources or the way of doing things is all that there ever will be the, “Everything that can be invented already has been invented,” sort of mentality.  In some respects this becomes a self-fulfilling philosophy.  If we do not believe that there is a possibility for a better future, we must then content ourselves with a dismal past.  Looking for something that we have defined as being non-existent is certainly a waste of time.

This philosophy is not unique or even original to the Obama administration.  The president and his staff are merely its latest exponents.  But we should have realized that when, as one of his first acts in office, Obama made a world tour, apologizing for all the “mistakes” that America had made over the years, there he did not accept the concept of either “American exceptionalism” or, for that matter of “human exceptionalism.”  The concept of “equality” cannot tolerate the notion that some of us are a little brighter, a little more gifted or a little more motivated than others.   Admitting to that is to destroy the goal – which is that we should all be equally mediocre.

Fortunately, there is  a basis for optimism.  Despite its attempts to obviate the provisions of the Constitution, this administration is not as thoroughly entrenched as it believes and the level of disapproval is increasing weekly as more of its flawed policies are making themselves evident, notwithstanding their hyperbole and their rhetoric.  If current polls are an indication, Americans are beginning to realize that Obama and his crew have sold the country a bill of goods which lacks substance and that we’ve had more than enough talk but very little productive action.

When we reach the critical mass of wide-spread awareness, then we can again turn our eyes to the stars and realize, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in Obama’s philosophy.”  Rather than wasting our time trying to re-distribute the wealth which America has created through the individual effort of its exceptional citizens, we can look for ways that we can increase the bounty that all of us were promised in our founding documents and will realize that Obama and his cronies were the necessary distraction which re-awakened us to our real birthright.

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.

DENIAL, DELAY, DA DEMOCRATS

You have to say one thing about the late Richard J. Daley, Mayor of Chicago.  He was a colorful man.  (By that I refer to his speech rather than his skin tone).  Whether you were one of his supporters or one of his detractors, I think it was clear to all of us who lived under his reign that despite his heavy-handedness he truly loved Chicago and wanted to transform it into the greatest city in America.

Perhaps President Obama, as a legatee of the realm of King Richard I, has taken some lessons from the wisdom that the Mayor imparted to us during the years.  This comes to mind as the House holds hearings on the glitch-filled disaster that is the President’s Obamacare website which was rolled out three weeks ago.

“Look at our Lord’s disciples.  One denied Him; one doubted Him; one betrayed Him.  If our Lord couldn’t have perfection, how are you going to have it in [city] government?” – Mayor Richard J. Daley

How, indeed?  And at the core of that question is that if we should not expect functionality, let alone perfection, why would any rational person believe that turning over one-sixth of the national economy and our right to life to a cadre of bureaucrats who have proven, time and again, that they are inept, unaccountable and unconcerned about those things which concern its subjects?  I use the term subjects rather than citizens because that is the way that this imperious administration views the American people.

Right now the focus that the Congress is bringing to bear is on the only marginally functioning government healthcare web site.  The second portion of the investigation is centered on who should be held accountable for what now appears may amount to a one Billion dollar “glitch” when and if it is able to be repaired.

It would be unfair to say that conservatives are not taking a certain amount of glee at this massive screw up.  I know I am – other than for the fact that it is costing you, me and everyone else about $300 per person – money I would choose, if given the opportunity, to deploy on things other than a poorly designed website – like a donation to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital which charges none of its patients for treatment and actually delivers outstanding healthcare, specializing in pediatric medicine.

The first step in fixing any problem is admitting that the problem exists.  Every twelve step program is based on this fundamental truth.  And that might be the biggest impediment to repairing the website – if it is indeed reparable.  During the first days after the website’s not-so-grand opening, perhaps out of ignorance and perhaps out of denial, those who support Obamacare had a number of explanations for the site’s issues.

During the first few days, it is understandable that the source of the problem had not yet been identified.  But after several weeks, it is clear that the excuses which were offered were simply not the cause of the issues which surfaced.  To suggest that the site was experiencing difficulties because there was “too much traffic” is laughable since the goal of enrolling seven million people in the first wave would require that the number of visitors exceeded the amount of traffic the site actually received.

So, still in denial, a variety of other excuses were set out.  One of those was that there was insufficient time to get the product out.  The explanation for this argument was that the administration didn’t really have the full three and one half years to accomplish the setup for the website since the law was passed..  That is because the GOP had refused to allocate funds to set up the website and HHS had to raid various of its accounts in order to pay the vendors.  I would suggest that any government agency which can come up with over $600 million by looking in its couch cushions is overly-generously funded.  But that’s Washington.

Finally, only because the flaws in the software are apparent to your average five year old, the admission has come out that there are significant problems with this rollout and they need to be fixed.  How long that might take depends on whether the entire system has to be scrapped or whether it can be repaired.  At this point, the jury is out on that question.  But what is clear is that whichever path is followed, there is going to be a significant time lapse until people can actually get on the site and sign up as they are mandated to do by Obamacare.

This has caused five Democrat senators and five Democrat congressmen whose seats are vulnerable in next year’s election, to come forward and suggest that the mandate requiring individual coverage be delayed for some period of time.  The proposals vary in length – partly predicated on the length of time it will take to fix the website which at this point is an unknown.

Wait a minute.  Do you remember the partial government shutdown which recently ended?  Do you remember how the Tea Party and Republicans in general were excoriated as “terrorists” and “hostage takers”?  Do you remember the bill that they sent to the Senate to fund the entire government if the individual mandate were delayed – a bill which Senate Majority “Leader” Harry Reid refused to allow the membership of the Senate even to consider?

Perhaps the key to why we are where we are, not just with Obamacare but with a lackluster economy, over-regulation, the spiraling decrease in the middle class, the over-bloated and over budget federal bureaucracy, the NSA’s snooping and spying on our closest allies, can be found in another pithy quote from the late Mayor Daley – a quote that the president no doubt embraces.

“We as Democrats have no apologies to make to anyone.”

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