The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘protest’ Category

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.

AND JUSTICE FOR NONE

Mom was a very bright woman.  Perhaps the greatest bit of wisdom was her statement, “There are three sides to every story – yours, mine and the truth.”

While I prefer to believe that most people are basically honest, there is no doubt in my mind that some people will do or say anything simply to advance their own agendas.  And all of use have, at some point or other, told a fib, a lie or an outright whopper.  Most of those are relatively harmless – but there are times when they can have serious consequences – not only on our own consciences but on others.

Many years ago I found myself in a legal conflict with a person whom I thought of as a friend as well as a colleague and competitor.  This fellow had an executive search assignment and was having difficulty filling the position.  He asked me and my firm to help.  As it happened, we already knew of the position and the office which specialized in IT had been working on it themselves for several weeks.  I was unaware of that until I spoke with my manager in that office.  As I said to my colleague, I would only enter an agreement with him after I had discussed this with the manager of that office since ultimately I left those sorts of arrangements up to the individual office manager.

Without going into the sordid details, we did fill the position and collected the fee.  Contrary to the facts and despite several conversations with this fellow, he decided that he was entitled to half the fee and filed a law suit to collect what he considered his due.

At the bench trial, my colleague’s attorney called one of his employees to testify to the “facts.”  He did so, and I thought his testimony was compelling.  He specifically referred to a conversation that his boss and I had in which he specifically stated that I had agreed to “splitting the fee” which was the very question at issue.  There was only one problem with his testimony.  He was not present at this meeting or any other I had with my friend and his testimony was totally fabricated and fraudulent.  With that “testimony” the plaintiff rested their case.

When I heard him testify, my heart sank and my mouth opened wide.  I could not believe that someone would have the temerity to bald face lie – particularly under oath.  I was about to turn to my attorney and tell her that this false testimony was totally untrue when suddenly she jumped up and moved for a verdict of “immediately dismissal” since the plaintiff had not proven their case.  I didn’t see how, after listening to this damning piece of “evidence” the judge would possibly rule in our favor and grant this request.  But he did.

As the plaintiff had called their various witnesses, I noticed that the judge seemed a bit bored with this case, as though he had an assignment to read a book for school but had no interest in the subject matter but was obligated to read it anyway.  While he rendered a correct verdict, I thought that might be less because he had sorted through and sifted the facts (we had not yet presented our defense) than because he was late for a lunch date at a fancy restaurant.  Perhaps my mother’s statement about the three sides to a story should be revised to, “Yours, mine and expedience.”

There are a number of corollaries between the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and another, earlier case – the murder trial of O. J. Simpson.  In that case, of course, there was a black alleged perpetrator and two white victims.  But that the sense of public opinion was very neatly divided, primarily on racial lines, suggests the comparison.  If you were a black American there was nearly a ninety-nine percent likelihood that you believed O. J. innocent.  If you were a white American you were eighty percent likely to believe him guilty.  And most of the white twenty percent who believed that O. J. was being railroaded were Buffalo Bills fans.

Another similarity between the two cases was that in both instances, the media, sensing the smell of blood in the water and huge ratings, provided us with never ending coverage of the two events.  And they had rightly gauged that they would develop an audience for this story.  The day by day events of the Simpson trial were the subject of more conversation in the office than I would have preferred.  It’s hard for a person to do his job when he’s discussing issues that are totally unrelated to it.

These two trials bring an important point to the foreground.  During the O. J. trial, there were fears among the white community that if he were found guilty, rioting and looting would erupt countrywide.  When the jury voted to acquit, there was a sigh of relief and a groan of disbelief that came from many of my white friends.  In contrast, my black friends almost universally were of the opinion that “justice had been done.”  A later wrongful death civil suit which O. J. lost, suggested that the criminal verdict was not one that was correct.  Subsequent actions on O. J.’s part further suggest that he was not the American icon in which many of us had come to believe.

In Ferguson, MO we are receiving nearly as much coverage by the media as in the earlier trial.  Sadly, we are primarily hearing only one side of the story.  Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown has yet to be heard from.  But we have the governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon (D) joining the chorus of “justice for Michael Brown and his family” with the release of a video calling for justice to be rendered swiftly.

Perhaps that is a disguised call to quell the violence that has been occurring in that community.  Perhaps that is a political statement to appeal to a black electorate that is crucial to his political aspirations in a very purple, even Republican leaning state.  Whatever the reason, the governor’s statement is totally inappropriate.  Should we not have justice rendered to both Michael Brown and his family as well as Officer Wilson?  If we predetermine what “justice” means without having all the facts in evidence, there is likely to be none for any of us.

Reminiscent of the Simpson murder trial, a black female Democrat state representative is on record saying that “If the grand jury (which convened today) does not return an indictment, the violence we have seen in Ferguson will be dwarfed by what will ensue.”  How does a statement like that do other than inflame an already tense situation?  And, more importantly, if one of those grand jurors hears that statement, how might that influence his or her judgment as that person attempts to evaluate the evidence which will be presented?

Thomas More was convicted because of perjured “evidence.”  As a result, he was beheaded.  The following scene from “A Man For All Seasons” briefly describes how he as a lawyer, viewed how laws should be enforced, irrespective of who was involved in the disputation:

 

If we are willing to allow the subversion of what has been the fairest legal system in the world, albeit imperfect, for the purpose of achieving some immediate personal gain, we are inviting disaster on our heads.  That is true whether we do so and justify our actions because of race, religion, sex or for any other reason.  And then, as More asked, when the last law has fallen, where will we take refuge?  We will bring in a state of anarchy of our own making, there will be justice for none and the Devil will have his due.

STOP TALKING AND START DOING

I was listening to Fox News yesterday and today.  There was a late breaking story about liberal actor Matt Damon which aired yesterday and was expanded on in today’s broadcast.  In essence, the clips which had been put together showed Mr. Damon at a public school teacher’s rally in Los Angeles in which he told the assembled throng that, “We’re behind you all the way.”

Of course, the point of the story was that Mr. Damon had decided that he did not want his children educated by the public school system and was enrolling his kids in a private school.  Shocking.  The hypocrisy of at least one member of the liberal left exposed on national cable television.

So as we all sat there in our self-satisfied way and said to ourselves, “See, see,” our fingers pointed at yet another blatant example of the “do as I say mentality,” I thought to myself, “All this lip beating and finger waving is such an unfortunate waste of time.”  Other than it may make us feel a bit more self-righteous.

Let me be frank.  Pointing out the peccadillos of a Matt Damon or the rest of the Hollywood gang may be an amusing way to pass some time.  But it accomplishes exactly nothing.

Having seen that snippet I am not any less inclined to my conservative views – and if those who consider themselves liberals had seen it, I assure you that in no way would it have affected their political view.  Other than occupying several minutes of broadcast time, airing the story was pointless.

In this conservative/liberal battle, both sides have identified their opponent.  We know who we are fighting.  But we conservatives need to develop an effective strategy moving forward if we are to attempt to restore our Constitutional form of government.

That means one thing and one thing only.  Electing people to office who believe in the same principles which we espouse.  And electing people in today’s world requires raising a great deal of money and spending it effectively.

I read an interesting survey this morning.  It was prepared by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  To be honest, I was so shocked at the survey’s results that I questioned that it could possibly be accurate.  The survey dealt with the ACA (Obamacare) – and stated that 42% of the adult population surveyed did not know that this had been enacted into law.  Have these people been hiding under a rock for the last four years – or longer?

Now someone who is now an uninformed voter is someone who, to my mind, is a potential conservative voter.  It is easy to dismiss them, as did Romney, by saying that there is “no way we are ever going to convince them to vote for us”.  If we take that attitude, we are going to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And the only way to convince them is through the effective implementation of targeted, well-written ads which are widely disseminated on television and through the social media.  And the time to start that educational process is now.

Are we going to “convert” hordes of the uninformed?  Probably not.  But in elections where slim margins make the difference between winning and losing, we don’t need mass defections from the liberal camp – just a small percentage of what they consider their sacrosanct power base.

Not only do conservatives need to make an exceptional effort at fund raising and intelligent spending of those funds, there is something else in which we can engage which will hurt the other side’s ability to do the same.  That something is boycott.

Since the 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Damon has made fifteen pictures.  Those and his previous films are undoubtedly the reason that he is able to send his daughters to a private school.  And to donate to the “Obama for America” campaign.

My question to my conservative friends is how much have you indirectly contributed to liberal causes by spending your money to go see Mr. Damon and his like-minded acting colleagues?  And are you planning on continuing contributing to them so that they can help fund candidates for public office whose mission is to undermine the American democracy and bring about a socialist state?

If only ten people who read this post were to contact ten friends and pledge not to attend any movies, concerts or any other events which star liberal-thinking and liberal-contributing performers, and those ten similarly contacted ten, etc.,  by the time the seventh mailing went out, we would have reached ten million people.  And if you don’t think the absence of that many moviegoers as picture after picture was released would not be noticed by Hollywood, I think you are extremely mistaken.

Of course, this concept could (and should) be extended to other purchasing decisions as well.  But the reason I reference this particular example – as a starting point – is that choosing to purchase a movie ticket is a strictly voluntary and totally discretionary choice.

For those of us who are (or were) movie junkies, making this decision will involve some amount of sacrifice.  But it’s only a small sacrifice when compared with the likely chaos which will ensue if we continue down the path on which our liberal friends have taken the country.

NOSTROVIA (На здоровье)

A long time ago it was grapes.  And then it was lettuce.  Back in the 70’s we consumers knew how to make our voices heard.  So we boycotted those commodities to bring pressure on the growers to improve the wages and conditions of the migrant farm workers.

Whether it was withholding our purchases from these products which ultimately caused the growers to increase the wages they paid their workers or some other factor I’m not sure.  But at least we believed that we had helped make a difference.

if you’ve read this blog for any length of time you certainly realize that I view life through a relatively conservative set of glasses.  So saying that I participated actively in the grape and lettuce boycotts might surprise you.  Let me set the record straight.

No, I did not have some major catharsis which switched me from a liberal view of life to one that was more conservative in nature.  Unfortunately, largely due to an extremely biased media, we have come to equate the terms conservative and uncaring as being interchangeable.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I believe that it is every person’s moral responsibility to help our fellow man out as best we can.  That applies across both sexes and irrespective of race or creed.  I believe and always have that we are supposed to “Do unto others…” and that we are each others’ keepers.  I believe that is the message of true conservatism – however it may have been corrupted in practice or mis-stated on television.

For years I boycotted the products of Canada.  Not that I have anything against our friends to the north.  But I could never in my mind, after seeing several videos and the activity once in person (and that was enough) justify the slaughter of harp seal pups in front of their helpless mothers – all for the sake of human vanity.  That personal encounter left me sleepless for weeks afterward.

As a conservative (and a capitalist) I thoroughly endorse the concept of consumer boycotts.  If the basis of capitalism is making money, then withholding the lifeblood that sustains a company whose products we abjure, for whatever reason, seems a reasonable way to make our demands known and to instigate change on the part of the entity whom we consider an offender.

If you think about it, if we really wanted to force our lawmakers to implement a simplified and equitable tax code instead of spending generations talking about it, there is a simple way to achieve this.  This next April 15, if twenty million people simply refused to file their returns it would make a statement that would awaken even the most hard of hearing in the halls of Congress.  There is something to the concept of strength in numbers.

And that brings us to the topic of a boycott which is currently underway.  The target is Stolichnaya which we all know is a Russian vodka.  Actually, most of it that is produced for export is manufactured in Latvia (Premium Vodka) as opposed to the bottles which are produced in Russia and bear the labels (Russian Vodka).

The boycott began in gay bars in New York but have spread around the world to other such establishments because of the extremely oppressive stance that Vladimir Putin has taken regarding gays in mother Russia.  It is hard for me to comprehend Comrade Putin’s position.

This is not a matter of gay marriage (that is not anywhere near being on the table in Москва).  No this is simply a matter of human rights – and I would hope that people, whatever their sexual orientation, would come together solidly on the side of supporting those for everyone – including our LGBT brothers and sisters.

Perhaps the most difficult to convince in this struggle are those who self-identify as “conservatives”.  I can imagine what a member of the Westboro Baptist Church might do if they were to hear someone preach a sermon on the subject.  The result might be no different than the fate a gay man would expect in most of the Muslim world – death at the hands of an angry, righteous mob.

In St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Summa Contra Gentiles” he offers the following about God and His creation:

“For the virtue of a being is that by which he operates well. Now every operation of God is an operation of virtue, since His virtue is His essence, as was shown above. Therefore, God cannot will evil.”

If God cannot will evil, then certain other conclusions follow.

“[1] From this it appears that the hatred of something does not befit God.
[2] For as love is to the good, so hatred is to evil; for to those we love we will good, and to those we hate, evil. If, then, the will of God cannot be inclined to evil, as has been shown, it is impossible that He should hate anything.”

Well, the Stoli boycott has uncovered a worm in the Tequila (pardon the mixed metaphor).  The Latvian gay community has appealed to their brothers and sisters to stop it – for fear that their this might upset their tenuous position in their home country.  We always should be cognizant of unintended consequences when we embark on something like this.  Whether their words are heeded by their brothers and sisters in the U.S., UK and Canada remains to be seen.

Let me close with a small consumer tip.  I used to drink Stoli.  It is good vodka.  But if you want to have some excellent vodka at a fraction of the price all you need to do is the following:

Buy a charcoal-based water filter (such as a Brita).  Use this filter solely for the purpose of filtering vodka – unless you want your kids walking around all day half smashed.

Instead of purchasing a premium vodka, (Stoli or Grey Goose or such), buy your vodka in the 1.75 liter size (usually around ten dollars).  Gilbey’s and Gordon’s both offer a good product – among others.  Run it through the filter twice, then store it in glass bottles and put it in your freezer for later consumption.  You’ll be amazed at how this improves the flavor and resembles the taste of the premium vodkas that are on the market.

I know that those of you who are vodka drinkers out there will be thanking me for this advice later.  But until then На здоровье!  (And “chin chin” to boot).

ASSUMPTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

If more people had a grasp of the subtleties of the English language, we might go far toward eliminating some of the misunderstanding which exists between us.  But unfortunately, too many of our citizens communicate with a highly limited vocabulary and a poor understanding of the meaning of the words they employ in their speech.

Much of the conversation circling around the question of the profiling of people whom the police believe are likely candidates to commit crimes has taken place because people don’t understand the difference between two important words – assumptions and conclusions.  Unfortunately, President Obama in speaking on the subject today might have reinforced this confusion.

Simply put, an assumption is a belief or feeling to  which a person holds without having the evidence either to support or reject an opinion.  Some assumptions are undoubtedly based on prejudice – whether it is racial, or not trying a specific food because of the way it looks – if it looks funny it probably tastes bad – that sort of thing.

By making the statement that, “Trayvon Martin might have been he,” the President played to his audience and suggested that those who make assumptions merely based on physical characteristics are dangerous elements in our society.  I believe that he referred, as he has in the past, to law enforcement – and now, of course, to private citizens who might have reacted in the same way that George Zimmerman did.

We’ll get back to the President’s statement later in this post.

Let’s turn our attention to the word conclusion.  A conclusion is an opinion that a person may hold after she or he has looked at data, evaluated the evidence and now has a basis for making a determination.  It is only fair to say that two people viewing the same statistics might reach different conclusions.  But, at the least, there is some objective information on which they relied to form their opinion.

An example of “profiling” that we not only permit but endorse is practiced regularly by TSA.  It tends to single out people who appear to be of Middle Eastern origin – and there is reason for this.  It was people of that ethnic background  who we claim were the responsible parties for the events of 9/11.  Based on our experience, they are the most likely people to commit further acts of terrorism.  The sad events at the Boston Marathon support that view.  Is there anyone who fails to see the logic of this or believes that the conclusion to engage in this practice is faulty in its logic or that it is inappropriate?

I recently read some interesting statistics which came from the NYPD.  The city has seen a tremendous reduction in crime since it began profiling individuals and initiating “stop and frisk” measures.  It should be said that more than 90% of those stopped are either black or Latino.  NY Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly makes no bones about his department’s targets for this policy, despite the fact that the Department is being sued over “racial profiling.”

There is a reason that the Department selected this particular demographic to make New York a safer place.  The fact is that, according to the department’s records, 96% of the murder victims in the city are either black or Latino and 97% of the suspects in custody for these murders are either black or Latino.

Those who assume that there is only a racial motivation in these pat downs would probably be right.  But if you look at the statistics, as have the NYPD, do you think it would be productive to pat down 90 year old Mrs. O’Reilly as she returns home from daily Mass?

Much has been written (and this is an excellent example of the faulty logic and the assumptions made by many) about the fact that a disproportionate number of blacks are in jail than their percentage in the general population.  Of course, the assumptive reasoning is that we have an unequal justice system that oppresses our minority black citizens.  What a load of rot.

There are proportionately more blacks in jail because there are proportionately more blacks who commit the crimes that send them there.  And those statistics hold for NY, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit and a host of other cities that will most likely be scenes of rallies for “justice” for Trayvon Martin on Saturday, July 20, 2013.

That young man’s death was tragic – but perhaps it was inevitable that he might have come to this kind of violent end.  And when you, Mr. President say, “It might have been you,” I believe you are correct.  I have seen the commission of crime in the district that first elected you to office and the demographics are not far different than those in New York.

I have been a victim and I have known other victims in that district.  And the perpetrators were young black men – with or without hoodies – high on drugs or merely out for a good time.  Most of those who are violated by these thugs are black men and women – the overwhelming majority of whom are your constituents.

The fear of young black men is real.  It is real among anyone who has been a victim, anyone who knows a victim and among anyone who has done a little research.  This fear shatters all boundaries of race and color and is held as much by blacks as whites – perhaps even more by the former group.  Would you call our elderly black citizens who are fearful of young black males racists – or realists?

If you want to leave a positive legacy for the country, please stop relying on faulty assumptions and take a look at the facts.  If you do that, you will inevitably come to the conclusion that the cancers of illegitimacy and dependence and illiteracy and unemployment are at the core of the black community’s problems.  And if you do that, you will turn from flowery oration to initiating positive action.

It’s long overdue.

WHO’S GOT THE POWER? (PART TWO)

When the last installment of Marcel Proust’s “magnum opus” was published in 1927, it was the culmination of a writing effort that spanned a fifteen year period.  The work was translated into English as, “A Remembrance of Things Past”.

Those who long for the halcyon days of a kinder, gentler, smaller, more rational government already realize that problems which have been created over long periods of time cannot be remedied with short-term and short-sighted solutions.  Attempting to repair society by applying Band-Aids to deep, festering sores may staunch the flow of blood for the moment but this approach will not remove the cancer from the body politic.

It is essential that those who recognize the deadliness of the path on which America has set its footing (and by implication much of the Western civilized world as we know it) are not merely passing through time and history.  We are the ones who have the opportunity to take action and write history through the steps we take today to make ours a better country and a better world.

History provides us with a great deal of nurturing guidance.  And one of its most important lessons is that it takes time to unfold.  From Plymouth Rock to The Declaration of Independence, 156 years of history had to pass.  If we embark on a path of real change today, many of us who start this process will not live to see its fulfillment.  But we will leave, as did the Founding Fathers, a legacy which those who come after us will enjoy.

Those of us who are educated, rational and pragmatic have spent far too much of our time and resources in an effort to convince those of a different opinion that we offered a better way than the one to which they subscribed.  Underlying our arguments was the assumption that these people were also educated, rational and pragmatic.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

When Governor Romney made his famous “47%” remark he was immediately attacked and lambasted for telling it like it was.  His statement was, of course, correct – but the emphasis should have been that meant that there were 53% of the populace who still had the dignity, desire and self-esteem to work toward changing things for all of America’s population for the better.  We’re still here today, despite our war injuries.

So how do we regroup, rearm and begin?  The first thing must be to define our goals and to keep them in mind as our frame of reference.  If we don’t know our destination, it’s difficult to determine a travel plan.  And too many of us are buying into our opponents’ strategy of distraction, holding up minor issues as talking points so that we ignore the real, fundamental and root causes of society’s malaise.

We also have many talking points.  But if we waste our efforts critiquing the opposition on Benghazi, the economy, the general level of unemployment, or a myriad of other subjects we only serve to weaken ourselves and thus give aid and succor to our opponents.

While those criticisms might be valid and well-documented, they mean nothing to an uneducated or under-educated mob whose only concern is surviving today and hopefully tomorrow.  And they mean nothing to those who, through intention, have helped to formulate this permanent under-class so that they may continue their own agenda which is to rule and dominate.

Perhaps the simplest way to define the goals of our war is to say that most of us who are reading this believe that a return to limited, Constitutional government wherein the individual has personal freedom based on a moral code would be a desirable goal.  Implicit in that is our ability to elect people to office who share that view.  And this leads us to a practical way to approach our ongoing battles.

It’s many years since presidential candidates rolled into town on a train, gave a speech and took off for their next destination.  Campaigns were financed with a few dollars here and a few dollars there.  Today, getting elected is a function of how much money can be raised for advertising and whose content slams the opponent the harder.  “Media is the message,” to misquote Marshall McLuhan.

It should be obvious that if those who contribute vast sums of money to get our opponents elected were to have their incomes reduced, they would have less ability to fund them in the next election cycle.  This is nothing more than the boycott strategy which worked so successfully in the 1960’s and 1970’s for the migrant farmworkers under the leadership of César Chavez.

There is a reason that I do not insure through GEICO or Progressive Insurance, or buy See’s Candy or eat at Dairy Queen.  By choosing to spend my money with them, I am supporting those who have helped foster our present policies and contributing to those who want to advance them further.  Why would any person who shares my view, rationally and willingly support those who would make us target practice?

Obviously, this is hardly an inclusive list of companies or services which I avoid.  But it should give you the basic idea.  The fact is that there are alternatives, often better alternatives to these companies’ products and I would rather spend my money with those who share my philosophy.

One person boycotting a company’s products is a personal statement.  But hundreds of thousands doing so will have an impact.  And if that number escalates to the millions, even the most hardcore liberal businessman will take notice and re-consider his thinking.

One of the most consistently generous groups in their views and their financial support for the liberal agenda comes to us from Hollywood.  Arguably, their products are also contributors to the violence which has become so commonplace on the American landscape.

Setting aside the fact that from an artistic standpoint, Hollywood offers little in the way of output that appeals to me, this is an issue which every conscientious conservative thinker should examine for himself.  Do I want to support an institution that actively seeks both to erode my personal freedoms and expose myself and my children to prurient violence and standards of morality which do not meet my personal expectations and example?

Again, one person boycotting the movies is a personal statement.  But millions, committed to a boycott would not only have a financial impact but just might cause those screenwriters to create material that is actually worth viewing.

History is not merely something that has happened before.  Its pages are being inscribed even as I type this post.  But the question is will it be written by those people of conscience who believe in the freedom of the individual or by those who believe in the power of the state?

The answer to that will be determined by what each of us does because, at least for the moment, the power is still in the hands of the people.

THE GREAT SHAM-WOW!

Now that both Western and Eastern Orthodox Easter have been celebrated, it is time to come back from my sabbatical and turn my attention from the sacred to the profane.  Fortunately, this two week hiatus has provided ample material to consider – the most obvious being yesterday’s Senate vote on “the Buffett Rule”.

Of course, this tidbit of proposed legislation had no chance of passage but provides the President, always the consummate campaigner, an opportunity to point to how the GOP is the party that protects the rich – while he as a Dem is on the side of the little guy.  President Obama made this point in a speech in Florida in which he descried the fact that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary and that raising the tax rate on the rich will put our budget in balance and we will finally all again start living the “American Dream.”

Sadly, the facts suggest something quite different  – so either the President is simply very poor at math or is just misinformed.  In either case, it makes the thoughtful person wonder why they would vote for him this November – at least if that person has an IQ that is higher than your average kumquat.  So, for your review and consideration here are the facts about this proposal – and a brief review of how tax equity really works.  Since this is “Tax Return Filing” day I thought this would be an appropriate subject.

First, “the rule” is intended to get the super wealthy (those individuals earning one million or more a year) to pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes.  This should have broad appeal since most of us who are reading this (or for that matter writing it) don’t fall into that category.  Most of us probably don’t even know anyone who fits into that income level – except perhaps for our tightwad Uncle Percival who has terrible halitosis and won’t even leave an honorable mention of us in his will.  So what could be better than to have these wealthy people balance our budget – rather than taking the money out of our own pockets?

Well, according to all reliable sources, including the independent CBO, implementing this rule will actually raise approximately $47 Billion – over a period of ten years.  According to President Obama, during that same time period, the national debt will increase by $600 Billion.  Assuming that the President’s rosy projection is correct, that leaves a shortfall in revenue of a little over $550 Billion.  (I say rosy because during President Obama’s short three year reign, the deficit has increased by nearly $5 Trillion).

So while implementing “the Buffett rule” might be a step in the right direction, it obviously will not resolve our budget and deficit problems.  The only way that can happen is through a reduction in spending (something the Dems bitterly oppose) or increase taxes on a broader base (something the GOP abhors).  Throughout the history of the world, governments have always taken the path of least resistance – and rather than make hard choices like curbing perks for lawmakers and their supporters – have always chosen to heap additional and inventive new forms of taxation on the rest of us.  Let’s take a quick peek back into tax history in the United States.

This is not the first time that the question of tax inequity has surfaced.  In 1969 the Congress was outraged that certain high net worth individuals were paying little or no taxes.  They had primarily invested their assets in tax free municipal bonds issued by the states and various municipalities – the interest on those investments being exempt from Federal Income Tax.

The hue and cry of “tax equity and fairness” was heard in he halls of the Capitol Building and the Congress passed a change in the tax code so that these people had to pay something into the coffers of the Treasury to benefit the common good.  This change in the tax code was known as the AMT (the Alternative Minimum Tax) – and you may be startled to learn that the number of taxpayers who were actually affected by this was a mere one hundred fifteen people in the entire country.  Compare that to the number covered by “the Buffett rule” – estimated to affect over a million taxpayers initially.

Now here’s the tax history lesson.  The AMT which initially was applied to a mere handful of people now affects over thirty-two million taxpayers.  You see, once government gets a hold on a bad idea, there is no limit to how far they can and will extend it.

The GOP has “trickle-down economics”.  This is a theory which may or may not work.  But the history of taxation in this country is clear.  The Dems have “trickle-down taxation” which, using the AMT as an example, clearly does work.  So before you get on the “soak the rich” bandwagon, consider that you may well be the next in line for tax increases.

Until we get true leadership and honesty both in the White House and in the Congress we will continue to stumble along – putting a bandage here and tying a tourniquet there to try to staunch a gaping wound and a gushing flow of budgetary blood.  But until that happens, perhaps both Mr. Buffett and President Obama can show us real integrity by voluntarily sending the IRS a check for the difference in the amount of their effective tax rates and those of their secretaries.  If they were to do that I would take off my hat and say, “Wow!”

Otherwise, it’s hard for me to look at their statements as little more than a sham.

ON ETHICS AND MORALS

One of the few television shows that I really like is NCIS.  The plots are creatively constructed and I enjoy the interaction of the actors in their portrayals.

In one of the episodes, Dr. Mallard (Ducky) is preparing for an examination, aided in this effort by his assistant Jimmy.  Jimmy poses the question, “What is the difference between ethics and morals?”

Ducky responds, “The ethical man knows that it is wrong to cheat on his wife; the moral man doesn’t.”  It is perhaps the briefest and most concise explanation of those two terms and the writer who penned those lines deserves congratulations

The implication is that an awareness of what is ethical logically precedes the ability to act morally.  In the absence of an understanding of ethics, moral behavior simply will not happen.

Perhaps the easiest way to describe the word ethics is to say that it is generally accepted “good behavior,” as it should be  practiced by individuals and ultimately the societies into which they form.  Certainly early man who viewed his personal survival as the most ethical kind of behavior had little difficulty in extinguishing the life of a fellow who might have threatened him and his clan’s security.   But early man evolved and realized that there was a benefit in banding together, ceding certain rights to others and receiving benefits in doing so.  Thus early societies came into being.

As we continued to evolve, we looked beyond mere survival to question higher matters.  Who knows when the first man asked the question, “Why am I here and how did I get here?  And where am I going?”  Those are the same questions that haunt us today.

Most of us, in one form or another, have a belief in a higher power, God though he or she takes many names and forms.  We began to recognize that this higher power had higher understanding – and we accepted the rules that were laid down for us to follow by the Deity.  The Ten Commandments is an obvious and familiar example of how “the law was made for man; not man for the law.”

Most of us would agree that it is not ethical behavior to kill, to rape, to steal, to commit adultery, to covet.  And if we all acted morally in accordance with that we would have no need for police forces or courts or armies.  But it is obvious in reviewing human history that we don’t.  Now comes the reason for the existence of laws made by men.

As our higher power does not actively intervene in the affairs of men on a day to day basis – and, despite the fact that we have received an ethical code by which we are supposed to conduct our lives, there needs to be a practical remedy when those rules are broken.  (That they are broken regularly can easily be demonstrated by reading any local or national newspaper on any given day).

Can you imagine a society in which we all stood aghast on hearing that a murder had been committed?  “My word, that’s the first one that I’ve heard about in thirty-seven years.”  What a Utopia.  The truth is that murders occur about every thirty-seven seconds.

Laws made by men are, of their nature, punitive.  We presume that an infraction of our ethical standards will be breached and then turn our attention to an appropriate punishment for that.  I have no doubt that, for the most part, those who crafted these regulations did so with the best intention of society as a whole in mind.  Most of us would agree that we do not want homicidal maniacs roaming our streets carrying assault weapons.

But what if those who craft our laws are themselves devoid of an ethical standard and are morally bankrupt?  What result might we expect to find in the rules and regulations which they enact?  The answer is nothing that is desirable.

It is always difficult and often inaccurate to paint any group with a broad brush.  However, it is always “politically convenient” to do so.  Hitler found it to be an effective tool in his rise to power.  Great dictators have always used this divide and conquer strategy to attain their ends – focusing the attention of the unthinking mob against some group and using their distraction to usurp more power for themselves.

Fortunately, living in the United States of America we have protections against that sort of tyranny.  In our case it’s called the Constitution.

The Tea Act was the final straw that broke a fledgling giant’s back and patience and tolerance and started a new nation with a higher ethical standard on its way for what has now amounted to almost two hundred fifty years.  But has the pendulum finally begun to swing in the opposite direction?

The American Patriots’ anger at the imposition of British-made rules on them was that they had no voice in the matter.  The British who imposed the rules had the right to collect the monies they had levied on the colonists – but had no obligation to pay a similar tax themselves.  This was aristocracy operating in the way that aristocracy always operates – making rules for others and ignoring them for themselves.

In my posts I often refer to the Washington aristocracy.  I use the term specifically and for the reasons that I cite in the preceding paragraph.  Those who run the government (as our elected representatives or appointed officials) typically exempt themselves from being bound by the legislation that they craft and deem fit for the rest of us.

This is in direct contrast to de Tocqueville’s comments in, “Democracy in America” when he said, “the greatness of the American nation is that all are bound by the same laws.”  It was an obvious differentiation between the fledgling America about which he wrote and the entrenched aristocracy that then ruled in Europe.

Let’s look at one of the laws which passed, commonly known as “Obama Care” and, putting aside the emotion that surrounds some of its provisions, try to examine the passage of this law from a purely cold and logical basis.   While there is always a middle ground, I have decided to undertake this brief review by deeming it either a “good” or “bad” law.

Case One – Obama Care is a good law.

I defer to the legislators who spent their time crafting together this two thousand page document.  At least some of them probably know the provisions better than I as I have only read it once and then only with the aid of many pots of coffee.

My question, as a logician is, “If this is such a good law and has so many benefits, why did you specifically exempt yourselves, the President and Vice-President, members of the Supreme Court and thousands of other appointed officials from being bound by its provisions?”

Case Two – Obama Care is a bad law.

See Case One.

Two hundred fifty years ago the American people overthrew one set of aristocrats.  With few notable exceptions, those in power now seem to have forgotten that most basic American tenet, “Of the People, By the People, For the People.”  To exempt themselves from the laws they pass for the rest of us can only be an act of insanity or of gross calumny.  In either case, why would we continue to return these aristocrats to office – unless we ourselves are deranged or masochistic?

My hope is that we can purge ourselves of those with an aristocratic mindset and start electing people who are firmly entrenched in an ethical standard to bring guidance and inspiration to this land.  After we accomplish that, we can work on the question of morality.

CONTRASTS

It’s hard not to see a tremendous similarity between today’s America and the America of the mid-1960’s.  The country was and is divided – severely so.  In the 1960’s the source of this division was the War in Vietnam.  Today it is divided by many more issues.  If there is one thing that unifies these two periods in our history it is the involvement of young people in the political process.

The protests against the Vietnam War were categorized by biased reporting by the mainstream media of the time and generally characterized as the activity of “hippies” and other ne’er-do-wells when it began to evolve.   As President Lyndon B. Johnson increased the number of American soldiers in Vietnam to its greatest level of 535,000, as the war began to affect more American families with the losses of their sons, the protests swelled through the mid-1960’s to climax at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968.

America brought the war home to what was then America’s “Second City.”  The protestors, generally supporters of Senator Eugene McCarthy or Senator Robert Kennedy whose brother President John F. Kennedy had escalated the number of troops in Vietnam from less than one thousand  to 16,000 came unarmed, to be battered by the Chicago Police under the direction of then Mayor Richard J. Daley.

The country realized that this was no longer about a small group of “radical misfits.”  This was not about burning draft cards or burning bras.  This was a war against Americans fought by other Americans.

Fortunately, there was no dropping of napalm, the flesh-searing chemical compound developed by Dow Chemical, which we liberally used in Vietnam, ultimately killing or  disfiguring  thousands of innocent civilians along with our intended targets, the Viet Cong.  We personalized the chaos in Chicago by applying police night sticks to the protestors who tried to voice their opinion and their rage against the war.

Beyond the hundreds of protests and rallies and sit-ins which had grown in number across the country as we continued to send more and more of our young men to their deaths in a war which could not and would not be won, the brutal response of the “authorities” at the Chicago Democratic convention was a true turning point in the minds of many in mainstream America.

It would take seven more years after the convention before our troops finally withdrew from Vietnam.  It would take four more decades before Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense under President Kennedy would admit something that most of the country already knew, “Vietnam was America’s greatest mistake.”  The concept of the “domino theory” which it was believed would cause southeast Asian countries to fall victims to communism have long since been dispelled by the evidence of history.

People, wherever their location and whatever their skin color have rejected that economic system.  Even those countries which provided a nascent home for communism, the former Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China have moved away from the musings of Karl Marx and Mao-Zedong.  Today’s Vietnam has a vibrant and capitalist-based economy and is flourishing.

It took the events in Chicago at the convention of “The Party of the People” for many of us to realize that it was only the party for some of the people.  It was willing to include only those of the people who heeled to the party line.  It accepted only those who fit into the mold that its leadership had determined was appropriate.  It was welcoming – but only to those who met the standards that those in control of the political machinery had set forth in their agenda.

The protests against Vietnam were at first viewed as an anomaly.  As they grew in size and number and frequency, the political authorities began viewing them as an annoyance.  When they built to a crescendo that swept across the country they were viewed as a threat – a challenge to the entrenched politicos and their ability to retain control of their fiefdoms.

The protests changed American opinion and  ultimately forced those in political power to exit our shameful undertaking in Vietnam, leaving millions of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians dead.  The rosters of the deceased included over 58,000 Americans.

Toady’s America is again divided – but without the single-focus that Vietnam provided.  We are divided over economic and social issues.  We are divided because it is to the benefit of those in power to keep us divided – to divert our attention from the fact that our leaders are only leading us further and deeper and faster into the abyss of mediocrity and failure.

We are divided because we are still at the stage of denial and are willing to hope and believe that the sops that are being strewn by Washington will be effective in staunching the blood flowing from our deep wounds.  We will ultimately emerge into the step after denial and that is acceptance – acceptance of the reality of the true nature of our politicians – and their motivations – which have little to do with the welfare of this country’s citizenry.

It is fascinating  to see to whom the young men and women in this country are rallying in their support for President of the United States.  Ron Paul is the oldest of the candidates in the race.  He carries a message which is different than any of the others of either party.  He is genuine – and the young people of this country, in their short lives, have already been able to differentiate between a genuine message of hope and the hopelessly fetid sausage that is being cranked out of the meat grinder by the rest of the field.

Those of us who remember the Vietnam protests need to get off our comfortable duffs and dust off our consciences.  We have proven that it is possible to change the path which a country follows – and that though it may take some time – that change can be achieved through the cohesive efforts of millions of us unified in a common effort.  We can start a movement.  And the young may well be heading up the parade.

Sometimes it is true, “A little child shall lead them.”

OUR GREEK FRIENDS

 

Without the great Greek thinkers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, Western Civilization would be a very different place. It would be unimaginably different. So much of our thought and evolution both politically and religiously would be unrecognizable to most of us.

It was the ancient Greek philosophers who spoke of the demos – meaning the population of an ancient city-state – the common people. It is obviously the basis for our word democracy.

Christianity would be a different faith without the writings of Aristotle. St. Augustine Bishop of Hippo, one of the Doctors of the Church, relied heavily on that ancient Greek philosopher’s views in writing his massive tome on the church’s view of God, man and the world in “The City of God.”

Today the news is again filled with the Greeks. Although the coverage focuses on the “Greek debt crisis” – this is as much a philosophical crisis as it is a financial one. It is the same debate that will soon occur among other members of the European Union and in the United States. The philosophical discussion centers around one concept. That question is, “What is the role of the individual and the role of the state?”

Thousands of volumes have been written about the greatness of the ancient Greek city-states who brought democracy to the world. The smaller Greek population were able to defeat the mighty Persian empire, the greatest one of its time. The Greeks had numerous achievements in social advancement, philosophy and mathematics. So what happened?

Let’s fast forward a few thousand years to 1946 and the publication of Nikos Kazantzakis‘ book, “Life and Adventures of Alexis Zorbas.” In 1964 the book was turned into the successful movie, “Zorba the Greek” starring Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates. If you’ve never seen the movie you’ve missed one of life’s great cinematic treats.

The movie is a celebration of life. Zorba is the most care-free of men, savoring every day, every meal, every woman. If St. Augustine’s admonition to, “Love God and do what you want” every found it’s way into the heart of any man, that man was Zorba.

He takes life one day at a time and is unworried about tomorrow. It is a joyful way to live – but it has its consequences.

So we turn to Greece today. The economy is in collapse. The government is renting out the Parthenon to raise revenues to try to pay for years of overspending. Today a “deal” has been worked out with the European Central Bank to “bail Greece out.” This has been months in the engineering – and the truth is that it is coming at a high price to the Greek people and will probably only defer rather than solve that nation’s economic problems.

The fact is that while government may provide jobs, those jobs do not contribute to the growth of any country’s economy. In Greece over sixty percent of the population work for government. (In the U.S. it’s closer to thirty-five percent – an all time high). So what are the lessons that we need to learn.

The first lesson is one that everyone who runs a household already knows. If you spend more than you earn you are going to get into debt. At first, it may be possible to refinance this debt – which only defers the inevitable. You have either to increase your income or you have to reduce your spending or both. This is something that the Greeks have learned the hard way – and which America’s political leaders refuse to address in a serious manner – hence our $15 trillion national debt.

The second lesson is that there is no such thing as “entitlement.” At some point in time, our actions have consequences which frequently are unpleasant. In Greece there is twenty-one percent unemployment with fifty percent of the nation’s youth in that category. There are going to be reductions in pension benefits, reductions in the number of government workers – adding to the numbers of unemployed, a two day national strike has been called by the country’s labor unions, and we can all remember last year’s riots and the violence which took place on the streets of Athens. All this in the cradle of democracy.

The third lesson is that the United States is set on the exact same course – although it will probably be years before we arrive at the place where the Greeks find themselves today. But the longer we defer serious action, the more difficult it will ultimately be to extricate ourselves from our malfeasance.

It is easy to turn to those in elected office and lay the blame at their feet. It is true that they are the ones who ultimately set policy and set the country on the course on which we find ourselves.

But let us never forget that it is “We the People” who elect these individuals. It is “We the People” who have the right and the responsibility to remove those who betray the public trust. It is “We the People” who are, in the final analysis the arbiters of our own fate. And if we abdicate that obligation it will be “We the People” who pay the price for our own irresponsibility.

 

Tag Cloud