The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘common sense’

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ISLAM, MODERATE ISLAM AND RADICAL ISLAM – PART II

I apologize to my readers who anxiously awaited part two of this piece for my delay in posting but sometimes life not only imitates art – but it gets in the way of it.

In response to the recent and ongoing terrorist attacks carried out by people who are Muslim throughout Europe and the United States among other places, the news media has found a new go to buzz word that they have nearly succeeded in beating into the ground.  That word is “radicalized”.  It’s as though they feel they should be able to pinpoint that psychotropic moment when a perfectly happy, normal individual suddenly has an internal button pushed by some external entity or event and they suddenly enter a different world with a personality totally antithetical to their previous one.  That is nonsense and hog wash of the first order.

Of course, the present administration has bent over backwards with the limberness of a double jointed gymnast to avoid calling Islamic impelled terrorism what it is, despite the fact that every one of the three acronyms we give it, IS, ISIL, ISIS all start with the word Islamic.  The official, politically correct reason is that using that term disparages a religion and brands all Muslims with the same broad brush strokes of hatred which is essential to the makeup of those who blow themselves and others up with a religious zeal that can be described as nothing other than Islamic.  The holy book of Islam, the Koran, encourages this behavior.

I find it hard to understand how those on the left proclaim that we should have understanding and respect for one of the world’s largest religions – yet they do not see what it is that Islam actually is and what it teaches.  The throw away phrase that it is a “religion of peace” is belied by the facts of history from its inception until today’s most recent atrocity in a parish in France.  Islam is both a religion and a political entity which teaches that it should be the exclusive faith of every human on earth and those who fail to convert should be killed. That is Islam at its core.  In it’s political aspect it is no more or less totalitarian than Hitler’s Third Reich or Stalin’s Soviet Union.

For a moment, let’s consider the left’s premise that those who drive trucks through crowds with the intent of killing as many as possible, carry out beheadings of people of other faiths, throw gays from buildings, stone to death women accused of adultery and perpetrate “honor killings” should one of their children marry outside her or his parent’s determination of who should be their spouse, are really only lost souls who have gone mentally AWOL.  Their Islamic faith had nothing to do with their behavior.  But the fact is that Sharia Law, the codification of behaviors and punishments set forth in the Koran and in the Hadiths (sayings) of Mohammed preach exactly those forms of punishment and dictate that exact behavior in Islam’s adherents, the truck and flying planes into buildings being modern improvements, of course.

For an administration that considers the luxury accommodations at Guantanamo Bay to be cruel and unusual punishment, it is somewhat difficult for an intelligent person to understand how it dismisses, or more exactly, totally ignores the pernicious punishments which Sharia Law so generously hands out with the sanctity of what they believe is their holy faith.  Most Westerners would consider Sharia Law to be an exact description of the term “radical”.  And while the left so quickly dismisses these horrific acts as mere aberrations of the mentally challenged, let’s see how many Muslims actually believe in the sanctity of Sharia Law.  To that end, we’ll spend a moment with Ben Shapiro, one of the most brilliant people I know and see his analysis of this issue.

https://youtu.be/g7TAAw3oQvg

So according to Mr. Shapiro’s presentation there are (or were a few years ago) 680,000,000 “radical Muslims” in the countries he analyzed.  And while I have the greatest respect for Mr. Shapiro, I think he (and most others) are missing the point which is that by the very nature of Islam, any true believer is “radical” – at least as we in the West think of civilized conduct and behavior.  But even if we accept Ben’s analysis of “radical Muslims” and were to assume that while “radical” most of these are not “motivated” to perform radical deeds, let’s say one out of one thousand, that means there are 680,000 Muslims worldwide who might strike out against what they perceive as the enemies of Islam – which is to say the entire non-Muslim world.

While some may consider that a slam against a religious faith, Islam of the three great “faiths of the Book” is the only one which has both a religious and political agenda.  And it is that political agenda to which I am referring.  By contrast, Christian missionaries try to convert those who are non-Christian through preaching and example.  By contrast, Judaism discourages people from converting to that faith.  It is only Islam that views all infidels as worthy of contempt and in the failure of conversion, worthy of death at the hands of the devout Muslim.

It fascinates me how the left, so pre-occupied as they are, with “diversity” can be so defensive of Islam which preaches nothing other than religious and political homogeneity.  It amazes me that the left that so decries the “racism” inherent in the pre-amendment Constitution, valuing a black person as only three fifths of a white person for purposes of census and apportionment of Congressional seats, can be so supportive of Islam which states that a woman’s inheritance shall be only one half that of a male relative’s.  It astounds me that the left, so intent on equal justice for the bathroom rights of transgenders should be so silent when it comes to Islam’s imposing the death sentence on men who are involved in homosexual sex acts.  But then, one has to be logical to be astounded – and that has never been a core principle of the left – and most likely never will be.

The American apologist in chief, President Obama, has led this country and the Western world down a dreadful path with the “Iranian Nuclear Deal.”  The mullahs in Tehran must be laughing and drooling in their beards.  This is a bad deal, not because of the terms which they essentially dictated, but because there can be, as holy followers of the Koran, no deal whose terms they must honor because one of the parties is not a Muslim state.  According to both the Koran and Mohammed’s own actions in dealing with non-Muslims, any requirements imposed on them cannot be enforced as Allah allows, in fact, invokes faithful Muslims to agree to anything that will advance the furtherance of Islam in the world but in no way penalizes the faithful if they default on their end of the bargain.  It’s not unlike negotiating with an extortionist who has your entire family hostage and threatens to dismember each one of them if you don’t agree to his terms.

In light of this admittedly negative view of political Islam, Donald Trump’s much denounced statement about a “religious test” for admitting Syrian “refugees” is, perhaps, not so terribly outrageous.  The fact that every intelligence branch of our government has acknowledged that there is no way we can possibly corroborate the backgrounds of those who wish to migrate here should, of itself, be sufficient reason to oppose letting potential Trojan horses into the United States.  But there is a way out – one that would allow us to fulfill our welcoming outreach to the downtrodden and which would provide those who are already here with at least a moderate sense of security.

Let us open our arms to those few remaining Christian Syrians whose population has been so genocidaly reduced by ISIS.  They are people who most desperately need our help.  And they are people who are most likely to assimilate and be thankful for having the opportunity to be a part of the American dream.

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A BRIEF TUTORIAL ON SOCIALIST ECONOMICS

Dorm life at the University of Chicago included endless reading lists, study groups and a twelve times a week food contract in the building’s cafeteria.  As one of my fellow students whose epicurean background was similar to mine put it, “They should put out a contract on whoever had the gall to call this food.”  Fortunately, we all got to enjoy a respite from this gastronomic abuse.  It was called Sunday and the cafeteria was mercifully closed.

This, of course, forced us students to fend for ourselves for sustenance.  As I was the organist for the Episcopal Church services on campus at Bond Chapel, Father Pyle and his wife had established a Sunday supper program for us poor waifs who had nowhere else to turn.  I wished that the program were a nightly event as I would greatly have preferred the fare at Brent House to that in my dorm’s cafeteria.

Hyde Park had only one establishment that could be referred to as a “supermarket”.  At the time I moved into the neighborhood it had been operating for over thirty years, having been founded during the Great Depression in 1932.  It was called the Hyde Park Cooperative Society.  But the “Co-op” as it was generally called was two miles from my dorm, far too long a journey on foot to buy a piece of fruit during the depths of winter.  So until I moved out of the dorms in my fourth year I was constrained to buy provisions from the two small mom and pop stores that were within reasonable walking distance.

My fourth year in college brought with it two major developments.  The first was that I paid for driving lessons and set to inflict myself on the general automotive community by purchasing my uncle’s two year old Dodge Monaco.   I also moved to the east side of Hyde Park and was only a few blocks from the Co-op which was the anchor tenant in Hyde Park’s largest shopping center – though by comparison to today’s mega centers it was really quite small.

Now that I was freed from the bondage of a dorm food contract, I naturally turned to the Co-op as my preferred choice for grocery shopping.  I walked into the store for the first time and wanted to find out how to become a member – it was, after all, a co-operative society.  I went downstairs to the membership department, picked up a brochure and couldn’t help but notice the photo montage that was on the walls showing the growth of the store from its original founding when four people got together and decided that they could help out people in the neighborhood if they banded together, bought food in quantity and passed along the savings to their customers.  In other words, the original founding motivation was based on a social philosophy – and the implementation of that happened to take form as a grocery store.  This philosophy continued to permeate the Co-op when I joined.

Now I must admit that I might not have been imbued with the same desire to help out the poor and downtrodden – but I was motivated to purchase a share because for ten dollars, I was going to receive a five percent return on my small investment while the banks were only offering four percent and I was promised a rebate on my annual purchases based on the store’s profitability.  Sounded like a decent deal to me.  I unfortunately made the small indiscretion as I signed up to refer to myself as a shareholder in the Co-op.  After all, I was purchasing a share so that seemed like normal terminology.  The person who accepted my ten dollars and signed me up explained that I was not a shareholder – but a member in the Co-op.  Well, shiver me timbers, apparently political correctness was floating around even back in the late ’60’s.

As I came to find out when my first year of membership had passed and the Co-op sent out its annual accounting, I apparently was not a “full member.”  My statement arrived showing my fifty cent credit on my one share investment.  In addition, I had received a 2.3% rebate on my purchases during the year.  So I was entitled to a distribution of just under three dollars.  But rather than sending a check for that amount, it had been re-invested in an additional partial share.  The explanation included in the letter indicated that until a person became a “full member,” which was to say owned ten shares of stock, that procedure would continue. And it did for many years.  I was moderately offended that the Co-op in the finest tradition of socialist organizations everywhere dictated, through it’s infinite collective wisdom, what its members should do.  Nothing could be more apparent to demonstrate that than what I will next relate.

Perhaps you will remember Cesar Chavez and his United Farm Workers’ Union.  If not, Chavez organized the farm workers to protest the poor conditions under which they labored.  He effectively called for a boycott of farm workers from picking lettuce and grapes.  The Co-op, always mindful of its social, primary mission, aggressively concurred with this policy and refused to carry either of these products during each of these boycotts.  (Those two mom and pop stores saw a significant increase in their sales while the Co-op refused to allow its patrons and members to purchase lettuce and grapes).  Apparently their customers didn’t completely subscribe to the collective wisdom.

As years went by, Chicago saw a significant increase in the number of chain grocery stores.  While the Co-op might have been the biggest fish in a small pond, it’s original concept of saving money by purchasing in bulk could in no way compete with much larger grocery stores with hundreds of outlets throughout the country.

The share dividend decreased regularly to the point where there was no dividend at all and the rebate percentage declined precipitously as shoppers found themselves with far less expensive alternatives.  On May 5, 2009, The Hyde Park Cooperative Society filed a petition of bankruptcy under Chapter 7 in the Northern District of Illinois.  The store was subsequently taken over by one of the smaller, multi-store chains, Treasure Island and is still operating under that name.  Seeing the writing on the wall, I had divested myself of my interest in the Co-op a decade earlier.

There are several points I hope that my readers will take away from this story.

The first is that when ideology, no matter how well-intentioned, is the driving force behind making business decisions even though that philosophy flies directly in the face of economic reality, that business is, sooner or later, doomed to fail.

The second is with regard to bankruptcy law – and the presidential campaign.

Much has been made, particularly by the junior senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren about the horrible things that Donald Trump has done to people because of his using the bankruptcy laws to his advantage.  She has painted a picture of his using those laws to “stiff” small companies and “cheat” them out of monies that were due to them.  So a word on bankruptcy law is in order.

If you’re familiar with the novels of Charles Dickens, you already know that he was a crusader for social justice.  One of the most egregious evils he identified was the existence of debtor’s prisons.  Yes, back in Dickensian England, a person could be imprisoned for failing to meet his debt obligations.  Bankruptcy laws came about as a reform to this form of societal punishment, recognizing that sometimes people found themselves in situations that were out of their control and the law was formulated to allow that person to make a fresh start.

As I mentioned, the individual who has most aggressively inveighed against Mr. Trump for following the law is Sen. Elizabeth Warren.  During her less than stellar career, Sen. Warren, prior to her election was a professor at Harvard Law School, among other venues. While there she gained a reputation as one of the nation’s foremost experts in and exclusively taught students – you probably guessed it – bankruptcy law.  It’s a bit hard for me to comprehend why a person who has spent a career teaching and representing clients in bankruptcy cases would hold such a negative view of that very law.

But then, I did sell my interest in the Hyde Park Co-op – before that very liberal organization had to resort to that same law.  Just saying …

 

T

 

 

 

 

MANAGEMENT AND MS.MANAGEMENT

Ah, to sit at the top of the corporate food chain.  There you are, a middle-aged white male (with or without paunch), showing up occasionally to work in your chauffeured vehicle, taking a few minutes to check the emails that your underpaid assistant has already reviewed, then off to a three martini gourmet lunch followed by a full body in office massage and, noticing that it’s quitting time off you go to the palatial home in which you live thanks to the fact that you are overpaid for being the CEO of your company.  That is the general picture that those who argue against “income inequality”  put forward.

While the picture of a day in the life of the CEO as I just enumerated it is, of course, a gross exaggeration, since most of us are not and will probably never be CEO’s of any major corporation, we simply are not privy to what the CEO actually does. As a result it is not difficult for those who are “anti-corporate” to sell this image.  This resonates particularly well with those who are at the low-end of the corporate ladder and already view themselves as victims of “the system.”

If truth be told, I suspect that a significant number of those who rail against the inequities of corporate America would, were they offered the opportunity, gladly accept the position of CEO of their company complete with a seven-figure salary, stock options and all the perks that accompany that position, quickly forgetting their comrades in arms on the assembly line.  If that analysis is correct, then we can say that it is not the inequities of corporate America toward which people are hostile.  It is merely the fact that they are not the beneficiaries of the positive benefits that those at the top receive.  In other words, their motivation is predicated on one of the ugliest of the deadly sins – envy.

While I have never run a Fortune 500 company, I imagine that my experiences as CEO probably mirrors that of others who ran their own small businesses.  I can assure you that the glamor and prestige which is attributed to being the leader of your business is more than offset by trying to keep the company afloat, making sure that the cash is in the bank to pay your employees (even if that meant skipping your own paycheck) and the sleepless nights – wondering if your plan and your vision will be enough to bring you through a slow patch – well, who would ever trade pacing the floor at three in the morning in favor of a restful night’s sleep?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from viewing the actions of a number of NFL players off the field, it is that if your job requires you to be aggressive and violent, it is sheer folly to believe that removing a helmet and shoulder pads turns you into Mary Poppins.  We are who we have become – both in our place of work and outside the office.

People tend to want to associate with people who are like them.  By that I am not speaking of superficial characteristics such as race, gender, ethnic background or religious views.  At the heart of this desire to associate with others like us is a general outlook on life and the way in which we conduct ourselves with others. That is as true for a CEO as it is for someone on the assembly line.  There is a reason that the term “den of thieves” is part of our vocabulary.  It speaks to the fact that those comprising the “den” all share a common value system – that theft is not only an acceptable way of conducting oneself – it is an underpinning of  their core belief of how they view the world and their role in it.

People, of course, can change.  But let’s think back to the era of light bulb jokes as one of those comes to mind.

“How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Only one.  But the light bulb really has to want to change.”

The fact is that behavior whether it is constructive or destructive seldom changes because miraculously the owner of that behavior has a sudden epiphany.  Normally, the longer we repeat doing the same thing seeing what we believe are positive consequences, the longer we are likely to continue in that same behavior.  The thief who knocks over a convenience store and gets away with the crime, is likely to plan additional convenience store robberies.  Or, he might expand his horizons by considering how to make an even bigger haul by robbing a bank.

As he continues in successful caper after caper there is no reason for him to change his modus vivendi.  The only likelihood that he will abandon his career is if he is apprehended, tried and incarcerated.  And even then, we know the rate of recidivism of convicts is extremely high.

There is a reason that two-thirds of Americans view Hillary Clinton as “dishonest and untrustworthy.”  (I am in that camp).   She has a track record which she has developed over decades for, at the best, being barely inside the furthest edges of what might be considered legal; and at worst, violating the law but escaping the consequences of those misdeeds by virtue of her being well-connected and privileged.

Now the primary argument advanced by Ms. Clinton and her cohorts to dispel all the controversies that have surrounded her and her husband for decades is that, “it is a great right-wing conspiracy to disparage and impugn them.”  I would consider myself on the right side of things politically.  Yet I’ve never in all these years received even one invitation to attend an anti-Hillary conspiracy meeting.  Perhaps I should feel offended by this omission.

In evaluating a candidate for president, I try to employ the same standards that I used in my business life in which I referred executives to our client companies for potential hire.  Does the candidate have the requisite experience to handle the position in an exceptional manner?  That was the primary determining criterion that i used.  But beyond that there was a subjective component to my decision either to refer a particular candidate to my client or to withhold that referral.  Did I like the person?

As subjective as “liking” someone is, I tried to apply objective standards to that decision.  Was the candidate late, on time or early for our scheduled interview?  Did she come to the interview in a crumpled outfit or were her clothes fresh out of the cleaners?  Did the candidate have a good handshake or was it limp and fishy?  How was the candidate’s eye contact and general body language during our interview?  Did the candidate respond to questions in a clear and succinct manner or did she or he talk around the answer?  Did the candidate engage in any activities whether on or off the job that suggested a generous nature and a team spirit?  And perhaps most importantly, after we concluded our interview, did the candidate take the time either to call or send me a note, thanking me for the opportunity to meet and expressing an interest in the position we had discussed?

In essence, I mentally compiled a FICO score of personality for each candidate.  Perhaps it was not quite as scientific or mathematical as those which are put together to determine credit-worthiness.  But it seemed to be pretty effective as more than ninety-five percent of the candidates we referred to our clients and who were hired had long careers with those companies.

Applying those same standards to Ms. Clinton, I would not in good conscience have referred her to a client should the position of CEO be vacant and she had come in to apply for the job.  That decision has nothing to do with our divergent political views.  Rather, it centers around the woman herself.

I lived in the same condo for twenty-seven years and served as president for eight of those and as a board member for eighteen.  Many of the owners were in the building for similar amounts of time – but there was some turnover as people changed jobs and relocated or found other accommodations.  In some cases, I only learned the names of the other owners when, after three or four years, they had sold their apartment and were moving.  The reason for that was simple.  They followed the few rules we had, were good neighbors and gave the board no reason to have to intervene in any disputes in which they and their fellow owners engaged.

But as luck would have it, there were two of the seventy-two units whose owners either would appear before the board’s monthly meetings with regularity to allege a complaint against either management or one of their neighbors or who were the subject of just such a complaint by one of their neighbors.  I remember that when they showed up for a board meeting, the rest of the board’s membership joined me in a collective groan as we knew what was in store.  And it seemed that no amount of negotiating, no amount of pacification, nothing we could do would deter these two people from having another problem in the months that would follow.  Very early on in this process, I believe that we all correctly came to the conclusion that the source and cause of the alleged problems was not the neighbor but the complainants themselves.

It was my experience that the overwhelming majority of my neighbors were kind and courteous people.  They acknowledged their neighbors with a cheery, “Good morning” when we’d run into each other in the lobby and perhaps take a moment for a little chat even if they were on their way to work.  They always thanked the doorman for opening the outer door of the building for them.  On the other hand, the two people who regularly showed up at our meetings to file their complaints were cold and dismissive.  They would seldom say hello to other residents and treated the doorman and the janitorial staff as though they were indentured servants.  On more than one occasion, I apologized to our staff for their rude behavior.

Now consider for a moment that somehow, one of these two people were not only elected to the board but, even worse became president.  What was once a generally well-functioning entity is now being run by people who had demonstrated that they were always at the center of controversy – and because of their actions were the cause of that controversy.  How long would it take for the building’s operations to deteriorate, first into mediocrity and then into chaos?  I suspect not long at all.

Ms. Clinton brings with her candidacy a great deal of baggage that has caused many stirs over the decades.  One might agree with her assertions these are all a function of that vast great right-wing conspiracy.  Or one might argue, the reason for all the controversy surrounding her is that she, through her own actions or inactions, has focused scrutiny on herself.  If the same person is on site every time an arsonous fire is set, it would be foolish to overlook that person’s proximity and not have thoughts of suspicion arise toward them.  Accidents happen fairly infrequently – and coincidences even less often.

Despite her proclamations to the contrary, Ms. Clinton is one of the least transparent political figures in this country.  I cede the award of first place to President Barack Obama, hands down, undisputed, no argument. But Ms. Clinton is running a close second.  She has, through her cohorts in the establishment in the DNC managed to schedule very few debates and most of those were aired at a time when people were absorbed with watching major sporting events or preparing to celebrate the Holidays.  She hasn’t had a press conference for six months, unusual for a candidate for president who logically would want the public to know and understand what her positions are on important issues.

If we remember the premise that people tend to associate with people like themselves, what kind of staff would Ms. Clinton hire should she be successful in her bid for the White House?  Well, we do know what kind of staff and who it was that she hired in the only executive position she has ever held – as Secretary of State.

The Dems in Congress have downplayed Ms. Clinton’s role in what lead to the death of our ambassador in Benghazi and that of three other Americans.  To be candid, we may never know if their deaths were preventable.  We also may never know whether the State Department acted in a prompt manner to attempt a rescue effort.  But we do know that the State Department and President Obama knew the night of the attack that their explanation for the attack, that it was due to “an internet video besmirching the Prophet Mohammed” was a false narrative, repeated over a week’s period of time.

Further, we know that Ms. Clinton clung to this narrative while she “consoled” the families of those who had fallen in Libya – though she now denies that despite the testimony of those family members who heard her speak those words.

We also know that despite the Benghazi Committee’s Democrat members who have and still call this a “witch hunt,” were it not for the committee’s investigations, we might never have known that Ms. Clinton maintained an unsanctioned personal server and communication system nor that she deleted thirty-three thousand “personal” emails.  These, among other matters, are currently the focus of an FBI investigation – not the “security review” that Ms. Clinton speaks of when addressing this issue.

Besides the FBI investigation, a number of organizations including Judicial Watch have filed suit to determine whether Ms. Clinton (and her staff)have violated any Federal statutes.  Under the Freedom of Information Act, one of her senior assistants, Cheryl Mills gave a deposition last week.  Ms. Mills was accompanied to this hearing by no fewer than seven lawyers – three who represented her personally and an additional four from the Justice Department.

While I’m sure that it was Ms. Mills’ intent to be transparent and totally forthcoming in her deposition, apparently she refrained from answering a significant number of questions put to her because it might have “compromised national security.”  How ironic.  That Ms. Mills could so clearly identify issues of “national security” in the questions posed her, yet her boss, Ms. Clinton was so unable to determine that thousands of the emails she received could not be so identified truly amazes me.  I am further startled at the sheer numbers of legal talent that were assembled to advise this woman.  In twenty-six years in business I don’t think I had need to consult with that many attorneys in toto.

Throughout her career, both Ms. Clinton and her spouse have regularly relied on legalistic defenses for their actions.  It is reasonable to expect that should she be elected president, that sort of approach will continue.  Perhaps we will see her put the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe on retainer.

But to my thinking, legal redress in most cases could be avoided by simply doing the right thing in the first place.  That, it seems to me, is one of the fundamental roles that good management brings to the table.

In Ms. Clinton’s case, I am afraid we would see little more than Ms.management. And all of us will end up footing the bill.

MOTHER, MAY I?

Virtually every American city which has what we euphemistically call an “inner city,” (translation being an area of urban blight and poverty, overcrowding, under-education and where single parent families are the norm), has one thing that provides some constancy.  That is that “progressives” (translation Democrats) have been in control for the better part of half a century or longer and have created the perfect conditions for all of this human tragedy.  While I can’t personally speak to the conditions throughout the country, after thirty-six years of living in Chicago I do feel qualified to address the disaster that city has become.

Moving from Manhattan at age seventeen was not only a nine hundred mile geographical relocation.  I felt as though I had moved back in time by a century.  Truly, I had the sense that I was now living in the Wild West – with all the disadvantages that entailed and few of the benefits of modern 1960’s society.  Perhaps those feelings came from snobbery.  But as involved as I was with classical music, I was shocked that the classical radio station WFMT went off the air at 10:00 p.m., the Chicago Symphony at that time was a mediocre ensemble and Chicago’s “opera scene” was only ten years old.

To usurp a Robert Heinlein title, I felt as though I were A Stranger in a Strange Land.

Well, I adapted.  I found a local store that sold used vinyl and the broadcast void was filled with recordings of all the masters, bought on the cheap.  I became used to the fact that in Chicago you couldn’t buy meat in the grocery stores after six in the evening, even though it was sitting there pre-cut in the display case.  (This was a concession to the butcher’s union).  And I later became aware that on “Days when members of the Illinois General Assembly were being elected, it was illegal to buy a drink at a bar or buy a bottle of liquor in a liquor store during the hours that the polls were open.”  As I was under the legal age to buy liquor at any time and didn’t drink it, I found that law amusing – because as I later came to view the Chicago political process, it seemed to me that the only conditions under which one would voluntarily vote for the hacks who held office for decades was if the voter were completely inebriated at the time of casting his ballot.

I’m not sure how my thirty-six year long experience with crime compared to that of other Chicago residents.  One mugging; one near mugging (rescued by my Irish Setter); one car stolen (twice in six months – the second time permanently); one car vandalized twelve times in sixteen months so the thieves could steal the Blaupunkt radios.  As I said, I don’t know how that experience compared to that of your average Chicagoan.  Nor was any of this the basis for my reason to move to Nevada.

It occurred to me that I was paying the State of Illiniois three percent of my income (now four and one half per cent) for the privilige of residing in the state.  Notwithstanding all the monies that Illinois extracted from its citizens, the state’s budget was completely out of balance, has only gotten worse and Illinois now finds itself right behind Puerto Rico in terms of defaulting on its obligations.  But that was not the motivating reason for moving.  The City of Chicago was.

I had been giving some thought to relocating and felt that I needed a change.  As most of us, myself included, fear change, after thirty-six years this was a big decision.  But what decided me was looking at the City of Chicago’s budget for the year 2001.  Included in that budget was a line item for five million dollars.  The expenditure was for something called an anti-graffitti campaign – to purchase equipment and pay for the manpower to remove the graffitti the city expected would be applied to public buildings in the following year.

Consider the thinking behind this one item.  Rather than attack the problem at its source, apprehending people who applied graffitti, the city’s solution was to tolerate the application of paint to its buildings and then return the buildings to their original appearance – at the taxpayer’s expense.  This “solution” is so typical of government’s approach to problem solving at all levels.  And it is infuriating.

It is akin to a man walking into the Emergency Room of a hospital with a gun shot wound, the bullet still embeded in his abdomen.  The attending physician, rather than removing the bullet, gives the man a narcotic based pain killer to remedy his discomfot.  If that were to happen, you can bet that the hospital and doctor would be served papers as the defendants in a medical malpractice law suit.

Many who self-apply the misnomer, “progressives” to their political philosophy view government intervention as the first step toward creating a paradise on earth.  But with the sort of thinking that treats symptoms rather than addressing the underlying problems, what they and their political minions do is ignore problems to the point that they fester – perhaps beyond repair.  And that is precisely what has happened in Chicago and other major cities.

This being the Memorial Day weekend, Chicago started off last Friday with several murders to give us more people to memorialize.  The first death was a fifteen year old girl and was what inspired this post.

Veronica Lopez’ was the first of four murders last Friday in the Windy City.  She was in a car on Lake Shore Drive and at 1:30 a.m. was gunned down when a car pulled up to the vehicle in which she was riding.  Her car was being driven by an unidentified 28 year old male, the presumed target of the attack.  Veronica was apparently an unintended victim of what the police believe is a gang related shooting.

Those who believe in the efficacy of “nanny government” should be inspired by how effective this form of overseeing our citizenry proved to be in this case.  You see, Chicago, like many other cities passed curfew laws regulating when juveniles might be out on the city’s streets when they are not accompanied by a legal guardian.  In Chicago’s case, all juveniles under the age of eighteen are prohibited from being out after 11:00 p.m. on weeknights.  That law has been on the books for over seventy years.

Veronica Lopez’ death would have been avoided if she merely had obeyed the law.  Her mother, Diana Mercado was understandably distraught at learning of her daughter’s death.  “They took my baby,”  she said.

Well, fifteen year olds don’t always exhibit the best judgment.  But sometimes parents don’t either – as in this case.  Ms. Mercado should ask herself, particularly if she has other children at home, if she is enforcing the sort of discipline that a parent has the right to command of her offspring.

Why did she allow her daughter to violate the curfew law?  Even more to the point in these days when acts of predatory rape are as common as grains of sand on the beach, why did she allow her daughter to hang out with and go driving with a twenty-eight year old male?

As a kid, I used to resent what I viewed as my parents’ over-protectiveness.  If a friend invited me to a party at their apartment, my parents wanted the phone number where I could be reached.  And while I could walk there by myself if it were light out, my father would pick me up if it was dark when the party ended.  This was back in the fifties when it was considerably safer for children than it is today.

But the important thing was that my parents strictly regulated what I could do.  I don’t remember going out more than a few times during my time in grammar and high school years on a school night – and then only after I had completed my homework.

The usual response I received as I requested to go out and asked, “Mother, may I?” was “No.”  I wonder if more parents today exercised their authority, laid down rules for their kids and enforced discipline for infractions of those rules, how many more fifteen year olds might be alive in Chicago – and elsewhere.

DIVERSITY

It was a late fall day as I waited for the elevator in our apartment building.  Several floors below from the open stairwell,  I could hear two of the tenants having a conversation and I realized that one of them was holding the door open.  If they didn’t finish their confab quickly, I ran the risk of being late for school.  Finally, I heard the door close and the gears begin to move the old elevator – but it was headed down to the lobby.  I would have to wait for its arrival there and then its return up nine floors for me to board.  I looked at my Mickey Mouse watch with the red plastic wrist strap and realized that I would have to hustle if I were going to keep my perfect on time record intact.

When I opened the building’s front door, I could see a gentle snow was falling.   I hadn’t gone two feet when a flake landed on the left lens of my glasses.  It seemed that eyewear was a magnet for snowlakes.  This had happened before – and I learned from an earlier experience that it was better to let the flake melt rather than trying to wipe it off with my sleeve.  So I semi-ran the two blocks to school trusting my familiarity with the route to get me there despite the waterfall through which I was looking.

I opened the school door with three minutes to spare and slowed down to the acceptable pace which we were supposed to use when we were in school and calmly walked up the flight of stairs to my classroom, passing the older kids who were stowing their outerwear in the lockers which were in the hallway.  It would be two years before I would have one of those – with my very own combination lock.  I was looking forward to being in fifth grade with all the priviliges that came with that achievement.

I opened my classroom door and saw that Mrs. Bounds was writing on the chalk board.  She turned and welcomed me with her usual warm, “Good morning.”  So I went to the rear where I hung my coat in the communal locker and took my seat.  We were starting the morning with math – one of my favorite subjects.  I was ready for a busy day of learning.

We had previously learned how to count by ones all the way to one thousand.  That was a heap of counting.  And my father, seeing how much I seemed to enjoy it said, “You know, you can count to one thousand by twos and threes and fours as well.”  I decided to take him up on this tidbit of information and I managed to count myself up to one thousand by twos.  Not to anyone’s surprise but mine, this took only one half as long as doing the same exercise by ones.  So I thought I would try threes.  And when I got finished, although this took even less time than twos, I thought I had done something wrong.  I got to 999 instead of my expected one thousand.  I couldn’t wait for my father to come home so that he could show me what I did wrong.  But then instead of just deciding to speak the numbers, I thought I would write them down to see if that made a difference.  It didn’t.  But I did get an interesting lesson on fractions which gave me a head start when we started learning about them later.  And I also learned that one thousand was not the end of all numbers.  That inspired me to count to two thousand, which I started doing that night.  But I fell asleep well short of my goal.

As Mrs. Bounds took attendance and we raised our hands when our name was called, I noticed that the small flurry of snow I had encountered on my way was growing in intensity.  In fact, it was falling quite hard.

Mrs. Bounds looked out the window and commented, “You know chidren, there are no two snowflakes that have ever fallen that are exactly alike.”  This statement had as much impact on me as learning that one thousand was not the top number.  And I believed Mrs. Bounds because she was originally from Canada where it snowed all the time – or so I believed.  While I was, of course, unfamiliar with the words millions or billions, after all it was third grade, I started thinking about how many snowflakes must have fallen since snow started falling.  And although I couldn’t express that unfathomably large number with a word, my mind reeled as I thought to myself, “That’s probably more snowflakes than there are stars in the sky on a clear night.  Way more.”  I was awestruck.

After one of the  Republican presidential debates, I caught an interview with the Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  I’m not sure if she’s related to the person who invented the Wasserman test to determine if a person is syphilitic, but I’m quite certain that she missed the science class in which she would have learned that standing in a pool of water through which an electric current is flowing is likely to have devestating effects on your coiffure – perhaps even beyond the ability of the finest hair stylist to cure.  If you’ve not already guessed, I’m not a big fan of hers.

Ms. Schultz went on her usual frontal assault about one of the earlier Republican debates, striking what I’m sure to her was the most damning condemnation in her claim that there was “no diversity” among the candidates.  Diversity is a very big talking point for the left.  But I wonder if those who espouse this principle really understand it – or, more importantly, really care about it.

Long before diversity became such a big PC bell ringer, I was introduced to it when I read some literature about how thousands of species were dying off in the South Amerian rainforests every day.  And I already knew that the Dodo and the Passenger Pigeon had gone extinct.  Well, of course, so did the dinosaurs.

But do we really want diversity?

Last year there was a huge brouhaha about those parents who did not want their children to receive a measles vaccination.  Rubella is a virus, as are ebola and polio and smallpox and our now most current virus poster child, zika.  Yet, apparently, humans would be very content if all of these viruses passed into oblivion.  Do they, as part of the ecosystem as much as are elephants and puppy dogs and snail darters and humans not have as much right to exist?  Wouldn’t fighting on behalf of these and other harmful viruses be advocating for diversity?

Several millenia ago, Christianity happened upon the scene.  One of the principles of that faith is that each person is unique and special.  I don’t see how you can get more diverse than uniqueness.  And, finally, science has caught up, confirming what religion has taught for centuries.  The proof of that is, of course, the fact that we now use DNA evidence either to exculpate or convict people of criminal activity – relying on our scientific understanding that each person’s DNA is unique. Who says religion and science can’t get along?

If we proceed from that standpoint of uniqueness, why then do we not view diversity within that framework?  Any crime against any other person should, in today’s context, be considered a hate crime or, at the least a crime against diversity.  That is true irrespective of whether either party is male or female, of the same or different races, whatever their religion and irrespective of sexual orientation – or whatever moniker we concoct further to divide, partition and pigeon hole ourselves.

And while we tend to focus on the negative and express real or imagined outrage when people act disrespectfully towards one another in any of the myriad way we express that, it might be useful to consider how our world might benefit if we actually embraced diversity in its truest sense and demonstrated that in simple acts of kindness or charity or, at the very least, in expressions of common courtesy to everyone we encounter.

The latest flare up in the war for diversity stems from North Carolina’s recently passed law regulating who may use which public facilities including bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.  Opponents of the law claim this will disenfranchise those few citizens who are trans-gendered, restricting them to using those facilities designated male or female and requiring them to use those which correspond to their genital equipment rather than their inner emotional sense of identity.  Proponents claim this will protect people from those who might be sexual predators.

Not meaning to sound dismissive of those who are trans-gendered, people with that condition represent, I suspect, a very small percentage, perhaps less than one percent, of our entire population.  Is it reasonable, by any logic, to inconvenience ninety-nine percent of the population to accommodate such a small minority?  And to ask a question, which I have never heard brought up in the debate, does that small minority have a responsibility to respect the vast majority’s concerns?  Isn’t that, after all, what a democracy is about?

It’s interesting to me that with the furor over this issue, I have heard the loudest voices coming from an amorphous collection of left wing people who themselves are not trans-gendered – but nothing from those who are trans-gendered themselves.  On the one hand I suppose one might look at these righteous crusaders as just that – people pursuing a magnanimous quest on behalf of the downtrodden.  On the other hand, one might argue that they believe the trans-gendered don’t have the verve, perspicacity or capability of speaking for themselves.

It always troubles me when there are those who, under the ageis of pure philosophical conviction, take up a cause and point out the injustices in society which are many and pervasive.  They, of course, are not affected themselves by the presumed inequity as they seek to wipe from the face of the earth any malevolent regulations or behavior.  So I thought to myself, what if we were to find a solution that would accommodate every person and see how that worked?

My solution is simple.  Just allow people of either sex to use whatever restroom facilities are handiest, irrespective of gender.  I suspect that within a week or so the outrage would be so loud that this issue would soon be buried in the footnotes of the annals of history.  But that’s just my opinion.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to this coming winter and hoping to catch a glimpse of the unique miracle of the diversity we find in snowflakes.  And, I anticipate just kicking back and chilling out.

Perhaps we might all benefit from that approach to viewing life.

 

 

 

HEALTHY SKEPTICISM

It was 1972 and the Democrats had settled on Sen. George McGovern as their nominee for president to face off against former Vice President Richard M. Nixon.  McGovern felt certain that Ted Kennedy or some other well known, prominent Democrat would readily agree to fill out the ticket in the VP spot.  He was surprised that all of those whom he asked declined his invitation.

After culling through other possible Democrats, McGovern was advised by the Massachusetts head of the Democratic Party that he would support the candidacy of Sen. Thomas Eagleton (MO).  The McGovern camp approached Eagleton who agreed to meet with the candidate for an interview.  The two got on well and McGovern settled on his choice for the second slot on the ticket.

Shortly after he became the vice presidential nominee, news leaked that Eagleton had been hospitalized on three separate occasions for depression.  During the course of his hospitalizations he had been given shock treatment to treat his condition.  The prospect that, should he happen to become president, these conditions might impair his judgment as the nation’s chief executive, caused McGovern to remove Eagleton from the ticket, replacing him with Kennedy in-law, Sargent Shriver.

In the Electoral College, the only votes the McGovern/Shriver ticket garnered were cast by the Massachusetts and DC delegations. Remarkably, the senator did not even carry his home state of South Dakota.

There have always been frivolous if not outright deceptive comments made about a presidential candidate which emanate from the other side.  Harry Reid made totally fabricated statements about Mitt Romney’s “non-payment of any taxes for ten years” and when he was confronted with the fact that Romney had delivered copies of his returns showing that he had paid income tax replied, “Well, he didn’t win did he?”  That’s just politics at its slimiest – and who better to engage in that then the senior senator from Nevada.

There are serious matters of character which rightfully should be examined by the voting public.  Naturally, people on one side will try to get maximum mileage out of any gaffe, slip or past indiscretion which they can attribute to the candidate of the other party.  And the hyperbole of electioneering unfortunately allows people to make allegations which simply are untruthful.  That’s why we now have “fact checkers” to correct mis-statements.  But the fact is that while many of us might have seen the untruthful ad containing these assertions, few of us read the story that the information and accusations contained in them were lies.  That’s why most political ads, at least the most effective ones, are negative in nature.

Back in 1972 there was not the immediacy with which information could be communicated.  It was far easier for a candidate to fail to reveal a negative event or trait which was part of his background and hope to escape detection.  That was the route that Eagleton took – failing to disclose his hospitalizations and the reason for them.  But the information came out and that ended Eagleton’s short-lived berth as the number two person on the Democratic ticket.

McGovern acted decisively in having Eagleton step down.  I never agreed with McGovern’s policies, but I do believe that he was a man of integrity.  No doubt, taking Eagleton off the ticket was self-serving, a move which McGovern must have felt would improve his unlikely chance of winning the election.  But I also suspect that he was concerned about the future of the country should something happen to him, Eagleton became the president and then have another of his depressive episodes.

Hillary Clinton is under scrutiny on issues that seem, at their root, to question her honesty and integrity.  That is the case whether the question is about whether she failed to take appropriate steps that might have resulted in a different outcome in Benghazi; why she maintained a private unsecured server and then deleted half of her emails; and whether foreign donors and governments might have bought influence while she was Secretary of State.  Those investigations should be conducted and the facts should be made public without the interjection of partisanship.  The presidency of the United States is too important to hand over to anyone because they make nice speeches or belong to a particular gender.  The past seven years have made that only too clear.

But, as with Eagleton, there is an even more fundamental issue that has been significantly neglected by the press – the question of whether Ms. Clinton is healthy enough to be president.

You may remember that she was to testify before the Benghazi Committee in 2014 but suffered a fall, injuring herself, and was granted a change in date because of this episode.  In his newest book, “Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary,”  prolific political author, Ed Klein asserts that Ms. Clinton has experienced a number of small strokes and, as is not unusual with women her age, might be expected to experience more in the future.  He describes her feeling fatigue as she hits the campaign trail and having bouts with insomnia.

In fairness to Ms. Clinton, Ed Klein could hardly be described as a fan of hers and I’m sure that the book is slanted to open questions into the state of her health.  I would not accept his statements as absolute facts which are beyond dispute.  But on the other hand, I’ve seen enough footage of Ms. Clinton stopping to make speeches and meet voters at small assemblies to have noticed that she does look rather haggard.  That might be understandable were she in a hotly contested primary race – but that simply is not the case.

I would hope that the media would look into the state of Ms. Clinton’s health more thoroughly so that we don’t have another Thomas Eagleton moment on our hands.  The people of this nation deserve a president who is, at the very least, healthy enough to discharge the duties of the office.

Whether Ms. Clinton fits that description – well, at the moment I’m maintaining a healthy skepticism.

FEAR

It was 1960 and time to watch one of what, was to me, one of the most interesting shows on television, The Twilight Zone.  That night’s was the twenty-second episode of the show’s first season, an installment entitled, “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.”  Perhaps you remember this story.  Critics have called it one of the show’s ten best and it is always included in the “marathons” that run every New Year’s Day.  But for those of you who may have missed it, here’s my synopsis of the plot.

On Maple Street, a street in a typical middle class suburb somewhere in America, strange things start to happen.  Suddenly the electricity goes out.  The neighbors come out to see if anyone else is experiencing the same problem or if it is merely a power failure in their home.  But the outage extends throughout the entire block.  They begin discussing their options – whether they should call the power company – but they find their phones are out as well.  They also discover that they can’t start their cars.  Of course, they begin speculating about what could be the cause of all of this.

One teenager says that what is happening to them is just like what he read in a book – about how monsters from outer space came to Earth and disrupted our power – just before they launched an invasion of the planet.  And the scariest part of their invasion plan is that they had disguised themselves to look human and for a long period had planted spies among us.

Suddenly, one if the neighbors who had been working on his car is startled when it suddenly starts by itself.  The others begin probing him as to why his and only his car is now working.  They become suspicious of him, now that they have been seeded with the teen’s story about enemy infiltrators.  And they not only bring him under scrutiny but begin questionning why others of them do what they do, like going out late at night and staring up at the sky.

Rational people are quickly turned into a lynch mob and one of the neighbors who had walked over to the next block to see if their power was out as well returns and in the darkness of night is shot dead by one of his friends.  Their fear of the unknown and the imponderable has overwhelmed their felings of friendship.  Unexpectedly,the lights come back on and they are left with a murder and the realization that their comity is not as deep as they might have believed it to be before it was put to this test.

In the final scene, we learn that there are indeed aliens on the planet and that they were responsible for the power failure.  Their plan to conquer the planet is to allow us to destroy ourselves and then they can mop up the residue that remains.  One of the aliens speaks the last line of the episode, “It’s always the same  – every time, everywhere.”

In 1939 the S. S. St. Louis, a luxury cruise liner, departed Hamburg, Germany.  Aboard were 900 Jews who were fleeing Hitler.  They were bound for Cuba with the ultimate intention of coming to the United States.  But when they reached Cuba, the authorities refused them permission to dock or for any of the passengers to debark.

The captain tried negotiating with the authorities over several days but they were emphatic in their refusal.  So the captin turned the ship northwest toward Miami.  The ship was intercepted before it reached that port and they were again refused permission to dock – this time by the government of the United States.

Direct appeals were made to then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but the ship did not receive permission to land and ultimately the captain had no choice but to turn the ship back around for a return voyage to Europe.  Out of fear and desperation, one of the passengers on board had slit his wrists and thrown himself into the ocean.  Of the remaining passengers, two hundred fifty-four were killed in the death camps.

One might argue that the reason that Hitler’s agression was allowed to grow exponentially as it did was because the other European powers chose to hope that they were dealing with a person who could be pacified by giving away the Sudetenland – a geographic area which was removed from their personal neighborhood and in which people lived to whom they were unrelated by blood.

One might argue that the reason that we have a Syrian refugee crisis today is that as the de facto leader of the free world, Obama has abdicated his and our country’s position of leadership and tolerated the intolerable – a dictator in Syria who regularly gasses his own people and has slaughtered more than 250,000 of them.

When the U. S. turned the S. S. St. Louis away it was four months before Hitler invaded Poland and started WWII.  There was no reason to fear that these refugees were coming here to act as a fifth column.  No open hostilities had yet occurred.  The sole reason for refusing them entry was that Roosevelt was not a fan of Jews in general.  He did consider allowing some of them admittance but wanted to keep them in small numbers and spread them throughout the country so that, “They wouldn’t disrupt our culture.”  This was discrimination and racism in its purest form.

The Syrian situation is very different.  For one thing, while it is apparent that ISIS has declared war against the U. S. and the West, they are not an enemy in the traditional sense.  Their borders are amorphous albeit growing.  The other nations of the world do not recognize them diplomatically.  But they are beginning to look more like a traditional country as western leaders, notably Obama, dawdle in their efforts to defeat them.

They do occupy territory, now the size of the UK.  They have an income stream from black market oil sales, and they have initiated laws which they impose on those who live within their occupied geography.  They have also developed a currency.  All these are characteristics of legitimate governments and countries.  And, to state the all too obvious, they have weapons and are not hesitant to use them.

Two thirds of Americans do not want us to admit any of the Syrian refugees.  But is their opinion formed by the attack in Paris, the Brussels lockdown or is this merely an overreaction owing to the “Maple Street Effect.”  For me, I think the most alarming reason for leaning this way is Obama’s statement that, “We really have nothing to worry about in the U. S.”  The man hasn’t made a truthful statement on any issue of substance during his seven years in office.

At the very least, we ought to take a pause before admitting anyone who might potentially be a terrorist.  That is what the House bill does.  It is sad that partisan politics rather than national security in the guise of Harry Reid may delay or abrogate discussion of this matter in the Senate.  But it is government’s responsibility to keep the country and its citizens as safe as it can within their capabilities.  However this plays out, this is merely a short term deferral of the real problem.

And that real problem is ISIS, its sister organizations and terrorism in general.  And the real solution is for America to get on the Reality Train that Europe is now boarding, make and take real steps to decimate it militarily so that the refugees can return to their homes and start the process of rebuilding their country.

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