The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘responsibility’

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.

Advertisements

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.

IS HILLARY CLINTON RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SAN BERNARDINO MASSACRE?

As most of us who are political junkies know, the slings and arrows and mud throwing of this election cycle promises to be more intense than an extreme martial arts contest.  So without further adieu and not waiting for the actual participants to start the battle, I thought I would stir the pot and get things off on the right foot.  (Pun intended).

The two participants who appear to have emerged as the presumptive standard bearers of their respective parties, Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump, both have a history of flirting with controversy – and if you haven’t heard all the gory details and the sordid particulars, stay tuned because no doubt you will.

There are those BS (that’s Bernie Sanders) supporters who avowedly would never vote for Hillary.  (Although I never considered voting for the man from Vermont who has lived off the public trough his entire life and never accomplished much of anything during that entire period, I must say that my attitude toward HRC is that water boarding and Chinese fingernail torture couldn’t convince me to cast a ballot on her behalf).

Mr. Trump has a similar problem with the most conservative wing of the Republican Party’s constituents.  From day-to-day it is clear or unclear where he stands on anything other than Making America Great Again – an admirable rallying cry and perhaps even an achievable goal – if we ever were blessed to receive some specifics.  However, we are all now getting used to his mercurial stance on positions and can only hope that he puts together a serious cabinet whose members are practical, businesslike and intelligent – something we’ve been sorely missing for nigh on to eight years.

Yes, I have reservations (is that word allowed in the PC lexicon? – well, who cares) about Mr. Trump.  Many of them.  I have on the other hand none about Ms. Clinton who I believe years ago should have traded in her collection of pants suits for an orange jump suit bearing a number.

I have had several conversations with those who advocate Ms. Clinton’s candidacy.  And while I am happy to delve into the many past (and present) controversies which seem inexorably to circle her, I am always greeted with the same rather haggard argument.  “Well, those things were looked into and no charges were ever brought against her.”

My response to that is simple.

According to FBI statistics, since 1990, 211,000 unsolved murders have occurred in the United States.  By unsolved we mean that no one has been arrested, arraigned, tried and convicted of these crimes.  But the fact that our imperfect justice system and law enforcement agencies have been unable to bring these murderers to task doesn’t mean that there are any fewer people who have been murdered.  It simply means that we have not found and punished their killers. The fact that Ms. Clinton has not been held to account as of yet of any misdeeds hardly means that she is not guilty of misdeeds, anymore than O. J. Simpson was not guilty of the death of his wife and Ronald Goldman despite the verdict of acquittal handed down by his jury.

It would be truly surprising if the media treats both candidates equally, given their unarguable left-wing bent.  Perhaps one indication of that is a theoretical question regarding abortion which was recently posed to Mr. Trump by Chris Matthews.  The question hypothesized that Roe v. Wade was overturned by a future Supreme Court decision and a pregnant woman decided to abort her unborn child, despite the fact that doing so was now illegal.  Should she be punished for disobeying the law?

Mr. Trump flailed a bit before responding (and then retracted his answer the next day), but if I were him would have responded as follows:

“You know, Chris, the important question is not about some future event which might or might not happen.  We had a situation that happened recently – a situation that was fact – not possibility – the murder of fourteen innocent people by two Radical Islamic Terrorists in San Bernardino, CA – and whether Hillary Clinton was responsible for this tragedy.  Let me explain.”

“According to FBI Director James Comey, there are open cases in every one of the fifty states – investigations of people who have ties to Islamic Extremism .  Now as we’re all aware, the FBI has been investigating then Secretary of State Clinton’s improper use of a personal, unsecured server exclusively to conduct official government business.  Notwithstanding her protestations that no information ‘either sent or received’ was ‘marked classified’ at the time of its being sent or received, there are at least sixteen separate Federal laws which she might have violated – which are not dependent on those documents being marked with the classified designation.”

“In order to get to the bottom of this mess, brought about for no reason other than Ms. Clinton’s decision to ignore State Department protocol, the FBI has assigned 147 of its agents to the investigation.  So what if, instead of diverting all these individuals from other duties, which might have included monitoring the activities of the San Bernardino murderers, these agents were doing far more important things – like insuring the safety of the American people?  Should we hypothetically hold Ms. Clinton responsible for those untimely and unfortunate deaths?”

“But, of course, that is just hypothetical.  What is absolutely certain is that because Ms. Clinton chose to maintain a private, illegal server, a choice she admits was a bad one, should we, at the least, send her a bill for the salaries of those 147 agents who would have been doing more important things but for her ill-conceived decision?  By my count, that would come to a bill in excess of $10 million.  Perhaps Hillary and Billary could simply call some of their foreign Clinton Foundation donors and explain they are having a tag day to cover this obligation.”

I would have loved to have seen the look on Chris Matthews’ face if Donald Trump had responded in that manner.

Perhaps I have a future as an advisor to him and his campaign.

“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville

THE WAKING DREAD

Several days ago I mentioned the impact that 9/11/01 had on me psychologically.

It was inconceivable to me that a person could be so unfeeling to take an airliner filled with innocent people and crash it into a building filled with thousands of other innocent people.  And that sense of overwhelming despair only increased as we found out that it wasn’t one person but many.  And the death count mounted, as those whom they left behind hoped against hope that perhaps somehow, by some incredible miracle, their loved ones had escaped the devastation and the rubble.  But for most of them, their hopes would not come to fruition and they had to face the reality that they were gone forever.

The ennui that I felt I’m sure was shared by many Americans.  And if there were one thing that helped me through it that came in the person of two individuals.

The first was President George W. Bush, (not one of my favorite people).  But giving credit where it is due, when Bush went to New York, donned a first responder’s jacket and rallied the people of the city to press on, I believe that was one of the defining moments of his presidency and was a statement of his love for this country.

The second was Mayor Rudy Guilliani (one of my all time favorites).  The Mayor not only had the Herculean task of dealing with all the turmoil, the heartbreak and the aftermath of the destruction of two of New York’s landmarks but he did so without giving any indication of feeling the strain from this undertaking and, most importantly got the job done.

Both of these men fulfilled their duty and went above and beyond the call of rallying us out of our shell-shocked state and proved examples of how the American people can rise above tragedy and regroup and rebuild.  They were an inspiration – at least that’s how I viewed them.

One of the more popular current television programs is The Walking Dead.  I inadvertently ran across it as I was surfing channels in a desperate attempt to find something that would be entertaining and stimulating.  I had the show up for probably ten seconds when I saw a lineup of men, apparently kneeling and then systematically having their throats cut over a trough into which their blood ran.  I happened to catch this episode not too long after the iconic picture of some Syrian Christians wearing orange jump suits were similarly slaughtered by ISIS.

I quickly changed the channel.

Now movies about zombies are nothing new.  They’ve been around since I was a kid – although the preferred method of “zombie-ification” was normally caused by a spell or potion which the Haitian voodoo doctor had concocted.  Today, we have managed to advance beyond herbs and arcane rituals and have been able to harness the power of chemicals, germs and viruses with the intent of weaponizing them.  (Normally, the research is done under the much more noble guise of trying to figure out how to weaponize them so that if one of the “bad guys” weaponized them we would be prepared with an antidote – if you believe that story).

But what if, just what if, there were some virulent poison released on the general population which either decimated the population or transformed us into those flesh-eating zombies?  Would those of us who might be lucky enough to survive such an attack be able to rely on the resources and people who head up government – or would we have to go it alone?

Or what if a far more realistic possibility occurred and those JV terrorists knocked out the electric grid?  We’ve known that is a serious vulnerability and have known that for at least a decade.  What is more disturbing is that we also have a way to fix the problem so that it wouldn’t cascade into a national power outage but have failed even to take steps to begin to implement that protection.  And with all that knowledge, with all the money that Washington finds for pet projects, not one dime has been allocated to protect this vital resource which, if it were crippled, might result in the death of as much as ninety percent of the population.

The way in which the Obama administration has addressed every assignment thrown at it or which it has initiated does not inspire me with confidence.  The mantra of Hope and Change suckered enough of us to hear a chord of promise which turned into a cacophony of pretense.  And as I wake each morning with a sense of dread deep set in the recesses of my mind, I now cling to that campaign theme and hope that we make it through the next fourteen months and find a leader who will help us change back into a united country, strong in resolve and optimistically leading the world toward a new and brighter dawn.

REFUGEES – PART ONE

There is a reason that I love and admire dogs which is summed up in the statement, “Dogs never bite the hand that feeds them.”  That is a minimalist statement about the quality which dogs generally exhibit but suggests that they’re at the least smart enough not to kill the golden goose.  I would say that dogs are the most loyal and dedicated creatures with whom I have spent my time.  In fact, in terms of honesty they far exceed most of the people I’ve encountered over a lifetime.

Now our friends the French are happily notorious in their love of their canine companions.  It’s unusual to be at a cafe in Paris and not see dogs of several breeds enjoying a bite to eat together with their companion people.  And I can’t help but wonder if this is one of the reasons that ISIS carried out its destructive mission on Friday the 13th.  You see, dogs are considered “unclean” animals in Islam (not radical Islam – just your plain, ordinary vanilla variety).  A devout Muslim is required to wash his clothes three times should a dog lick them or himself if the same tragic fate befell his hand or face.

We currently see that, owing to the civil war in Syria, there are hundreds of thousands of refugees, most of whom are Muslim as one would expect, who have been displaced from their homes.  That is tragic.  And Europe and the western world is being called to step up to the plate and provide them refuge.  Americans have demonstrated their generosity throughout our history and, on the surface, it would seem reasonable to expect us to accommodate some of these.  In fact, President Obama has committed to at least ten thousand of them with talk of that number increasing to a quarter of a million.

As of this writing, there are thirty governors who have said flat out that they will not accept any of these refugees in their states.  Why are these fiends so hard hearted?  Or are they merely fulfilling the duties of their office for which they were elected by attempting to protect the citizens of their states?

It is clear that, despite the objections of these governors, that they have no supportable legal basis for their positions.  The fact that federal law trumps laws that states pass is a long established principle.  Certainly the governors must know that.  But perhaps they’re relying on the fact that this administration has chosen to ignore this Constitutional principle more than three hundred times by declining to intervene and enforce the law when it comes to the subject of “sanctuary cities” which have been established in clear violation of the laws passed by Congress and signed by the president.

It is perhaps telling that when the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they first turned their attention to the responsibilities and duties of the legislative branch in Article 1.   Only after they had delineated what they considered to be the most important function of government did they turn their attention to the executive branch in Article 2.  And there are few duties that are enumerated in that Article but one of the most important is that, the president  must “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

It is clear what the rationale of the Founders was in the way in which they wrote the Constitution.  They had just participated in a revolution which overthrew a king who could impose law at will.  As a matter of personal and national self-interest, the Founders wanted the law to be made by people who represented the people and wanted to preclude any president from assuming the role that the king had previously held in dictating their affairs.  That seems to be a lesson that our current president either never learned, has forgotten or has purposely chosen to ignore.

While Obama clearly has the authority to bring in an unlimited number of refugees under a 2005 law, if there is anything that will preclude him from doing so will not be the law but his analysis of the political implications of what is a tide of rising public sentiment and even some opposition in his own party.  Those dissident voices come not from a hardness of heart or a lack of concern for the fate of these people but from what might be a well-founded concern that among those are affiliates of ISIS whose stated goal is to do harm to as many of us as possible.

If we have an obligation to accept refugees as we have in the past, it comes from a national sense of charity but there is no legality for us to do so.  Below is a link which is the statement of the UN Human Rights Commission which delineates the responsibilities of its signatory members.

http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet20en.pdf

The document is lengthy but well worth reading as it contains some useful historical information as to the reasons it was written as it is.

But there is more to be said on this subject.  And tomorrow is another day in which we shall continue coverage on this important topic.

HOODZ IN HOODS FROM THE HOOD

Michael Brown was a thug and a resident of Ferguson, MO.  On August 10, 2014 he became the late Mr. Brown after he robbed a convenience store, shoved around the owner of that establishment, wrestled with a policeman for his gun and refused to obey officer Darren Wilson’s order to stop – instead preferring to charge at him.  Officer Wilson shot him dead and saved the country a great deal of expense in trials and the cost of jail time and probably only sped up what was destined to be Mr. Brown’s nearly inevitable future.  RIP, Michael Brown.  And bask in the glory of God’s love – or whatever heat source may be present where you now reside.

In life Mr. Brown physically was a large man.  In death he has become even bigger and been elevated to the status of “martyr” as the poster child for a movement known as “Black Lives Matter”.  I have some experience with movements going back fifty years as both a participant and an observer.  These days, my involvement in them generally centers about my bathroom routine – which I am pleased to add is going nicely.

In 1968 the Democrats held a convention in Chicago.  There was a movement afoot then, an anti-Vietnam War movement, which resulted in violence.  None of the protesters was killed.  But nearly forty demonstrators who were present, agitating for “peace” were beaten by night sticks attached to the arms of Chicago’s police department.  Incidentally, all of the protesters who went to the hospital happened to be white.

Now if you’re thinking that this anecdote supports the present narrative that the police are evil, nasty people who have to take out their repressed need to exhibit violence on anyone who crosses their path, (according to #BLM primarily directed against black law abiding citizens) you should be aware that there is more to the context of this story which might affect your view.

Yes, it is true that the police beat up a bunch of demonstrators.  But was there provocation or did the police simply decide to bash some young upstarts?  Well, the truth is that the police acted in a restrained manner until the demonstrators began throwing bags of feces and urine at them.  At that point they had pretty much the same reaction that anyone in or out of uniform would have felt.  Anger.

To my knowledge, no one has ever died because human excrement was hurled at and hit them.  While being the recipient of that sort of abuse is clearly revolting, it is not life threatening.  And in Chicago, none of the protesters was killed as a result of their incredibly bad behavior.

On the other hand, Michael Brown was 6’ 5” tall and weighed 289 pounds.  I don’t care what color he was but if I saw someone of that size charging at me as Officer Wilson testified and the forensics supports, I would feel gravely threatened.  Wouldn’t you?

So what is the “point” that Black Lives Matter is trying to make?  That seems somewhat unclear other than to have their five minutes of fame as other evanescent groups such as Occupy Wall Street have attained.  As I understand it, which is perhaps imperfectly since their message is a bit opaque, they are angry about the number of blacks who are incarcerated in our prison system.  Well, I’m angry about that too.  If those jailed blacks were leading productive lives rather than committing crimes, we could save about $3 Billion a year.  I can think of a lot of much better ways to spend that amount of money.

According to the NAACP, of the 2.3 million Americans who are incarcerated, nearly forty percent, over one million, are blacks.  On the surface, considering that the black population of the United States is about thirteen percent, this seems disproportional.  The “thesis” that Black Lives Matter puts forth is that blacks are arrested for the same crimes for which whites get a pass.  Their claim is that most of those blacks are incarcerated for “petty drug crimes”.  Not that it will matter to #BLM, the statistics don’t support that argument.

The latest statistics which I could find come from 2012.  In that year, a total of only 309,100 inmates were in jail for drug crimes of any type.  That includes both Federal and state prisons and represents a decrease from the 338,076 people who were incarcerated in the year 2000 for similar offenses.  So if the NAACP’s statistics about black incarceration are correct, that leaves us with about 700,000 inmates who are in jail for other reasons.

In 2012, just under a million people were in Federal or state prisons for either “Violent” or “Property” crimes.  Violent crimes are categorized as ones which include, murder, manslaughter, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, other sexual assault, robbery, assault, and other violent crimes.  A total of 721,200 prisoners fit that definition.  Property crimes are categorized as ones which include burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, fraud, and other property crimes.  There were 247,100 prisoners who fell into that classification.

Even if we accept #BLM’s narrative that blacks get incarcerated for drug crimes which whites skip on, why are the remaining 700,000 black Americans in jail?  Could it be that they have been convicted of either Violent or Property crimes?  And if they committed those crimes, is it not appropriate that a civilized society put them away in the interest of protecting the vast majority of society which obeys the law and do not engage in those activities?

Perhaps the most disturbing part of the recent re-enactment of the protests in Ferguson which took place at the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death was the fact that quite a few of the protestors chose to wear hoods, thus disguising who they were.  In 1968 the protestors at the Democratic convention did not wear hoods.  They were proud to let people know who they were because they believed in what they were doing.  But I can think of two other groups which regularly wear hoods.  The first of those is ISIS’ executioners.  The second is the KKK.

SCRUPLES

There I was in the bulk food section of the supermarket I shop most frequently.  I was in the market to buy some dried cranberries but thought that the $9.99 per pound price was a bit high.  I’ve seen them on sale for half of that.  But as I lingered near the small bins of dried fruit, I happened to notice that the store also carried dried blueberries.  I seldom see them on the market, even at Whole Foods which has a far larger bulk section.  I understood why when I checked the price.  They were $17.99 per pound.  (By contrast I had just seen fresh blueberries on sale for less than $2.00 per pound).

As I pondered, a young woman whom I took to be a part of the Millenial Generation based not only on her apparent age but the fact that her left arm was completely obscured by a swath of tattoos and she had several noticeable facial piercings including a large stud that protruded from inside her mouth into both her cheeks, walked over to the dried blueberry bin and began scooping its contents out and into the plastic bag she had opened to hold them.

I couldn’t help make the comment, “Well, you must be the winner of the latest Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes.  Those berries are really pricey.”

Without hesitating she said, “Oh, well I have a system.  See I just mark them with the code for the raisins which are $3.29 per pound and then I use the self-checkout so that none of the store employees even looks at them.”

I was stunned at this response.  Not because she admitted to me that she was stealing, but in the fact that she showed neither conscience or regret at what she was about to do – and apparently had done in the past.

Momentarily, I thought about engaging her in a conversation about her theft.  But as I thought about it, I doubted that no matter how brilliant a sermon I delivered in less than thirty seconds I would have an impact on a woman who was in her mid to late twenties and who already should know what I would say.  But I did feel that I had to say something, so I told her, “Well, if I were you I don’t think I would put up any reference to your ‘system’ on your Facebook page.  You know that’s out there forever and one day might come back to haunt you.”

She responded, “Oh, you’re soooo right.  That’s really good advice.  Thanks.”

And with that she went off to complete her theft.

I remember taking a five cent candy store from the corner store when I was a kid.  I intended to pay for it – in fact I had the money – but Max who was one of the owners was in the back of the store, there were a lot of customers in the place and I was afraid to leave my nickel on the counter where anyone could have picked it up.  So I left the store without paying.  (I was in a hurry to get to my piano lesson).

Not only did I leave with the Baby Ruth – I left with a guilty conscience, feeling that I had stolen something even though I had the full intention of paying for it.  I wasn’t concerned that I would be caught on video since that technology had not yet been invented.  So I got to my lesson which went poorly because I couldn’t concentrate on either Chopin or Debussy.  All I could think about was the candy bar which had made its way out of the wrapper and into my stomach on my walk to my lesson.

My lesson ran from six to seven and the corner store closed at seven.  But I practically ran the half mile to see if they might have stayed open a little later than usual.  But when I got there they were closed.

I remember having a terrible night.  I was unable to concentrate on my homework and I barely remember what we had for dinner.  My sleep was disturbed by my guilty conscience.  I know I woke up several times in the course of the night which was very unusual for me as I could generally sleep through the loudest noises.  But not that night.

The next morning, tired from what was a very poor night’s rest, I got ready for school extra early.  Breakfast was at the usual time but I needed a few minutes extra because I had to stop at the corner store, pay for my candy bar and get the horrible monkey of theft off my back.

I remember bolting my breakfast down to my mother’s consternation.  I told her I had to get to school a little early.  And as soon as I had devoured the last crumb of toast I grabbed my school books, my poorly prepared homework and left the apartment.

When I got to the corner store, Max’s partner Fred was working.  There were a couple of customers in the store waiting to check out with their items who were ahead of me and I didn’t have a lot of time or I would be late for school.  Naturally, one of the customers had a question about a pen that he was considering purchasing and I remember feeling frustrated that this man was going to make me late for first period.  For a moment I thought about leaving and coming back after school was over.  But I knew that if I didn’t clear this up before school I wouldn’t be able to concentrate all day long – and we had a history test that day.

Finally, it was my turn.  I explained that I had taken the candy bar the day before and that Max was in the back looking for something for a customer, that I was afraid to leave the nickel on the counter with other people in the store and that I was running late for my lesson.  So I paid him the five cents and the thing I most remember was the smile he gave me.  Fred thanked me for my honesty and said not to worry about it.

I always liked both Max and Fred and would never do anything to hurt them.  And I think that they knew that.  It was hard not to like Max because he was the spitting image of Kukla on “Kukla, Fran and Ollie”.  And Fred was about six feet four and looked a lot like Fred Gwynne.

A few days later I went into the corner store to buy another candy bar.  Max was manning the fort.  As soon as I walked up to the counter with my purchase he said, “Well, here’s the little person who tried to bankrupt us.”  I was mortified – until I realized that he was joking.  And then he said, “Fred told me what happened.  Just so you know, if I’m ever in the back and Fred’s not working, just take what you want and come back to pay for it later.  We both trust you.”  That statement has stayed with me over all these years – and may well be the finest compliment I have received in my entire life.

It’s hard to explain why people do the things they do.  I can certainly attribute my sense that I need to be honest as something that my family drilled into me both in words and through their own example.  I like to think that I’m fortunate that somehow it sunk in.  My folks were both scrupulously honest and it was with a sense of trepidation that I mentioned this incident to them.  It was a few days later at dinner and I was waiting for an appropriate lull in the conversation to bring it up.

They listened to my account and my father who stopped in the store almost every day said, “Yes, I heard about it from both Max and Fred last week.  And I hope that you learned from this.  You should always allow yourself some extra time in the event something comes up which might make you late for an appointment.”

Mom’s take was different.  She said, “You know you shouldn’t be eating candy bars late in the afternoon.  They will spoil your dinner.”  Apparently my father had already told her about his conversation with the two store owners.  And that was the end of that traumatic episode in my life.  .

In the absence of good parental guidance, I guess it’s not surprising that far too many of our younger members of society don’t see things in quite the same way as many in my generation.  Perhaps science, the new god that we believe will solve all our ills can come to our rescue and develop a pill that instills scruples in the person who swallows it.

I guess the only question is, would there be any demand for the product?

Tag Cloud