Sunday, December 28, 2008

What Goes Around

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published by OpEdNews)

In keeping with my virtual national newspaper tour, to be processed in alphabetical order, naturally, I began reading letters written to The Baltimore Sun. I have to say this about people who write to The Sun. They are certainly a progressive bunch. I read letters published over the duration of a few days and I found only one for which I could express a more or less opposing opinion. Even that letter, which was entitled “Extravagant praise for untested liberal”, wasn’t concerned with subject matter that impassions me. It was about Caroline Kennedy’s bid to become a senator from the great state of New York. I was going to write that the author was wasting his time complaining about liberals and keeping the liberal vs. conservative wedge alive, just the way I’ve believed for years The Corporacracy likes it.

I wrote a bit then took a break. I like to write a bit and come back a while later to see if what I’d written still sounds right to me. During my break, I began reading my local newspaper, The Contra Costa Times. I never returned to the letter in The Sun.

A gentleman wrote a letter to The Times blaming the state of the economy on “entitlements”. As I’ve previously written, voice intonation and facial expressions cannot be ascertained by a letter to the editor. However, there were a couple of statements in the letter that seemed to send a message.

According to the letter writer, “Remove entitlements and you reduce government waste.”

He goes on to state that this “reduces government spending, which leads to balanced budgets, which leads to reduced taxes, which leads to people keeping more of their money and investing and spending it the way they want, not the way the government dictates.” (emphasis mine)

Before getting to the emphasized phrase, let’s start at the beginning. According to this fine and, obviously, presently financially secure gentleman, “doling out” entitlements is a waste of the government’s time.

The letter writer tells us that entitlements have been “brewing for 40 years” and have “come home to roost.” This gentleman could possibly stand to read more than a cursory sentence about American history or do more than listen to O’Reilly or Limbaugh. Franklin Delano Roosevelt appeared to have compassion for the 25% of the workers who were unemployed when he took office and implemented many entitlements. That was 76 years ago, not 40 years ago.

Taking care of those who do not work is but one entitlement which it seems the writer of this letter would “remove”. We’ve all heard the argument that those who do not work do not work because they do not wish to work. They’re called lazy and are accused of “living off the state”.

This has been used many times as one example of how this probably isn’t the case. Those who read this column are, by now, tired of following the link and reading about the epiphany that struck me when I hired workers for a Fortune 500 multinational corporation. Maybe someone can share a similar experience that can be interchanged with the above experience. Just the same, that experience opened my eyes to why some people hadn’t worked for many years and how it had nothing at all to do with laziness.

The writer has a point, though, when he implies that taking away an entitlement such as unemployment insurance or removing regulations that prevent employers from turning down perspective candidates for employment simply because those employers are racist or sexist will save money. The unemployed, who may not be hired without the strength of government “interference” and who would be destitute because government shouldn’t bail people out simply because they “screw up” could potentially be strewn along the highways and byways of America, starving to death or even dead. Does the letter writer consider it government’s job to see to it that these “lazy” dead bodies are removed from the emerald paved streets of his America? After all, one shouldn’t have to see such despair while one is “keeping more of” one’s “money and investing and spending it the way” one wants to invest it and spend it.

Now for the emphasized phrase.

Do you get the old argument about republican government in The U.S. when you begin to speak about democracy? Inevitably, when one person says that we live in a democracy, another person who leans a bit to the right reminds us that we don’t live in a democracy, we live in a republic.

If our form of governance worked the way that the text books taught us it works, we, ultimately, live in a democracy. Granted there are no national referenda and the loathsome Electoral College is one huge unnecessary obstacle to real democracy. Nonetheless, with the exception of voting for the president, we were taught and many of us believe that we elect those who represent us and we do it in a democratic fashion. People run for national office and the candidate who receives the most votes is entrusted to represent her or his constituency. In a perfect world, or in a perfect United States, democracy fuels the republic. I have doubts about how legitimate that national view is, but, for the sake of this article, let’s assume things are what they seem.

We elect the people who represent us, so during any given election a majority of those of us who vote shoulder the responsibility for how our government operates. Consequently, we are the government. We are the institution which wastes its time on entitlements. Ironically, many of us are the very same people who accept entitlements. Those of us who accept entitlements need those entitlements.

For example, a person who “screws up” when he causes his back to slowly disintegrate may have a difficult time finding employment. In fact, if he “intentionally” persuades his back to become so decrepit that he’s unable to efficiently and effectively perform almost any task required by almost any job, he will more than likely remain unemployed. With no income and no medical care, his back may become but one link in a deteriorating chain which leads to his death. Lazy, yes, but what a lucky guy.

Another solution that people who believe that entitlements are generally not deserved nor needed is manifested in the form of a tabernacle. They point to churches as voluntary caretakers for the one or two Americans who just may be in need through no fault of their own.

First of all, will atheists be helped with as much enthusiasm as believers? Maybe or maybe not. If someone is an atheist, does he or she want to flip the coin just to see it come up “maybe not”?

Secondly, the baskets passed around on Sundays in most churches will need to be incredibly enlarged. After all, churches will be obligated to purchase medical imaging devices, medicine from the for profit pharmaceutical companies, medical supplies heretofore not considered theocratic tools and hospital beds.

They may not have to pay doctors and/or nurses as the good people who are trained in the field of medicine may do their work gratis. The only professionals who may want compensation would be, of course, the atheists.

A final irony can be found in the list of synonyms for the word “govern”, as found on the web site The Free Dictionary by Farlex. The list includes words like lead, control, command, manage, direct, guide, handle, conduct, order, reign over, administer, oversee, supervise, be in power over, call the shots, call the tune, hold sway over, superintend, rule, decide, guide, influence, underlie, sway, determine, control, check, contain, master, discipline, regulate, curb, inhibit, tame, subdue, get the better of, bridle, hold in check, keep a tight rein on and restrain. In fact these are the only synonyms on that site.

While some of us may have heartburn with words like control, inhibit and subdue, it becomes clear that governing is not meant to be a passive activity or, to put it another way, an inactivity.

Hard as it is to believe words such as ignore, neglect, disregard, shrug off, discount, dismiss, snub and the all important “enrich my friends beyond one’s wildest dreams” do not show up as synonyms for the word govern.

Reinforcing this internet definition of govern is an old standby called The Constitution of The United States of America. It’s obvious to the most casual of observers that the authors of that fine document didn’t intend for government to sit back and merely observe American Society. It, for sure, makes no reference to people in need as lazy, opportunist or stupid. It doesn’t even attempt to foresee a time when every American citizen becomes lazy, opportunist or stupid.

The author of this libertarian-like letter is either one of the very wealthy people in America or is a middle class worker whose been convinced that he is adorned with one of those “you can’t lay me off” shields. If that shield ever fails him, and let’s hope it never does, he will be entitled. Will his outlook on entitlements change? It may or he may think that, in his case, it’s different.

On the bright side, the writer leaves us with a prediction that, after America goes “through its self-imposed socialist cycle”, Americans will look back and say, “Remember when everyone thought they were entitled to everything? Wow, were we stupid.”
At least the gentleman has the clarity of thought and presence of mind to count himself among the “stupid”.


To friendship,
Michael

“Christmas reinforces the greed of the greedy and the need of the needy.” – Michael Bonanno


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Saturday, December 20, 2008

It’s OK to say “Merry Christmas”

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published by OpEdNews)


Let me say right up front that it is not my intention to marginalize and disparage any religious belief in this article.

I’m an atheist. Yet, I think it’s perfectly OK to say “Merry Christmas” during what’s become Christmas season in the US. In fact, out of respect for their celebratory feelings, I might just be inclined to respond with a “Merry Christmas” of my own. By doing this, I’m not recognizing the existence of any supreme being or the story of Jesus of Nazareth. I’m merely informing a Christian friend that I hope he or she has a merry Christmas.

I may do the same with a Jewish friend who wishes me a happy Hanukkah, although, as much as I don’t believe that the New Testament is an intellectual or historical narrative, I believe that the Old Testament or Torah is even less valid. But I will tell people that I hope that their respective seasons are happy and all that they anticipate they’d be. After all, I want people to respect my lack of belief.

I’ve never had the opportunity to say “Happy Ramadan” to any Muslim friends. I just so happen not to know any Muslims personally and I don’t even know that Muslims say “Happy Ramadan”.

The same goes for Kwanzaa. I know quite a few African Americans, yet none has wished me a happy Kwanzaa. In fact, I’ve recently become aware that “Happy Kwanzaa” is not the official greeting of Kwanzaa, but the Swahili phrase “Habari gani?” is. Yes, it is expressed in the form of a question and, depending on which day the question is asked, the answer references one of the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. With Kwanzaa, Africans reference spirituality, but Kwanzaa is not so much a religious holiday as it is a celebration of culture and family. It’s for certain that I don’t know enough about this celebration to greet Africans properly, but I hope that their season of celebration is every bit as satisfying as Christmas is to Christians, Hanukkah is to Jews and Ramadan is to Muslims. Why should I want any less for my brothers and sisters in the world? Why should I want to interfere with their religious celebrations?

So, with all due respect to Christians, why is it that they, like a writer to The Bangor Daily News, insist that everyone should be as enthusiastic about saying “Merry Christmas” as they are. Not everyone is Christian and, even if people like me respond with a “Merry Christmas”, some, many or most, far too many for my taste, become incensed if someone else responds with “Happy Holidays”.

“Merry Christmas. What does that mean to so many? Apparently nothing. Hence, “Happy Holidays.””.

This is the opening paragraph to the above mentioned letter. It’s really a non controversial paragraph as it is a statement of fact. I would bet that the writer from Caribou didn’t write the paragraph for educational purposes, however. The problem, of course, is that we can’t extract voice intonation from the written word. The phrase “apparently nothing” may be a giveaway that this woman is not writing the paragraph as merely a statement of fact. It “sounds” a bit offensive to me, as if “Merry Christmas” should mean more to me, an atheist, that it actually does.

If “apparently not” isn’t proof that the author means to express more of a message and not so much a statement of fact, what she follows the first paragraph with is, indeed, proof.

She bemoans the fact that, “Now I look around and there seem to be many stores or restaurants celebrating not Christmas, only holidays.”

Would the writer expect stores owned by Jewish-Americans, Muslim-Americans or African-Americans to heretically display “Merry Christmas” in their places of business? Would she expect businesses owned and run by atheists to disingenuously display “Merry Christmas”? It seems to me that she would.

In fact, because 78% of Americans consider themselves Christians, many Jewish, Asian non-Christians, Muslim, African-American and even atheist business owners do, indeed, display signs which read “Merry Christmas” and/or have Christmas displays in their places of business. Many businesses have Holiday Parties or Holiday Bashes for their employees, but many, even those owned and/or operated by non-Christians, have Christmas Parties for their employees.

In a land which had, until recently, encouraged other nations to:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

we have become quite selective about who we let through what has morphed from a “golden door” into a velvet rope. Only those who don’t make us uncomfortable need apply.

To say that non-Christians make the writer of the letter to the Bangor Daily News uncomfortable may be an understatement.

There are two books that most people have to prioritize. People have to weigh what the Torah, The Bible or The Quran say against what The Constitution of the United States says. That, in itself, shouldn’t be a problem. I am familiar with The Bible as well as The Constitution.

Even in The Bible, Jesus of Nazareth, if one was to believe he existed, was believed to have said, not once, but twice, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” – Matthew, 12:17, Matthew, 22:21

Was this man not saying that there is room for both secular government and religious belief?

If he wasn’t saying that, it’s for certain that the best and the brightest have said it throughout American history.

A hundred and fifty years before the American Revolution, Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, said, “The Church and State need not be…inextricably linked: 'A Pagan or Antichristian Pilot may be as skillful to carry the Ship to its desired Port, as any Christian Mariner or Pilot in the World, and may perform that work with as much safety and speed.”

Those who are disappointed that more Americans aren’t as enthused about Christmas and, ultimately, Christianity, may very well have familiarized themselves with only one of the two books mentioned above and more than likely it is the book from which they’ve gleaned their religious beliefs.

The other book, The Constitution of the United States, contains laws which people, no matter what religion they practice or even if they practice no religion at all, should be very familiar with if they want to be law abiding members of The American Society. Unfortunately, it seems that far too many people have familiarized themselves with their religious books in lieu of The Constitution and, consequently, use some of the laws contained in their religious books as laws that should be followed by everyone living in The United States.

Even though there are Christians who want everyone in the US to believe that “…our Savior was born and that makes (Christmas) a time of true celebration for us” or “God already has blessed each of us with his most precious gift: his son. His gift is yours for the receiving”, there are many Biblical laws that these very same people may not want Americans to follow or would not follow themselves.

For example, people who follow the following laws should be investigated by The Children’s Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services:

“He that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.” -- Exodus 21:17

“The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.” -- Proverbs 30:17

To repeat, it is not my intention to mock anyone’s religious book and religious belief. However, if one wants to force those Americans who, by law, are free not to be Christians or Jews, to become enthused about the religious implications of Christmas, it would almost seem that they would want the rest of us to become enthused about whatever else is written in their Holy Book. I know that I’m not the least bit enthused with the two passages above. Furthermore, in reading the passages, I’m happy that the Founding Fathers reassured Muslims in the very early days of this nation that there would be no religious test for conducting commerce by stating that “…the government of The United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…” Can you imagine the laws of The United States, based upon the laws of Christianity and/or Judaism, enforcing what the above passages suggest?

When George H. W. Bush stated on August 27, 1987 that, “No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God”, he was directly contradicting Article VI of The Constitution of the United States of America. Article VI states that “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The Constitution was talking mostly about US Representatives, US Senators, The President, The Vice President and the members of The Supreme Court. However, it’s obvious that The Constitution includes all “office(s) or public trust(s) under the United States”.

Surely if the authors of The Constitution specified that “no religious test” would be administered for those wishing to serve in high public office, they would have extended the freedom from such a test to those wanting to become citizens of The United States.

When Bush made that statement, he, I’m sure inadvertently and unknowingly, added the words “as long as they’re believers” to the inscription on The Statue of Liberty.

Bush buried himself in the deepest hole in trying to define patriotism. Patriotism is a personal characteristic, a personal belief. The word and the concept are stretched almost to their breaking points during times of war.

Some say it’s patriotic to unquestioningly engage in warfare because “your government says it’s necessary”. This is patriotism through protecting your country by fighting a war.

Some say it is patriotic to at least question the government’s reasoning before engaging in warfare. This is patriotism through certainty and the genuine elimination of alternative approaches.

Some say it’s patriotic to oppose a war that the government says is necessary if it becomes clear that it, indeed, is not. This is patriotism by truly protecting your country and all who inhabit it.

Some people are pacifists who say that love of one’s fellow man or woman is enough reason to avoid a war, no matter if it’s considered patriotic or not.

Attempting to paint a segment of the population unpatriotic because of their belief toward religion flies in the face of Article VI and the inscription on The Statue of Liberty.

The last paragraph of the Caribou woman’s letter, in its entirety, is, “God already has blessed each of us with his most precious gift: his son. His gift is yours for the receiving. But it is your choice. I pray you choose wisely. Merry Christmas.”

Although I hope that she has a very Merry Christmas, I also hope that, when Christmas has come and gone, this woman searches the internet for a copy of The Constitution of The United States and I hope that she, consequently, “choose(s) wisely” before publishing another un-American, unpatriotic, exclusionary letter.

To friendship,
Michael

“Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily.” - George Santayana


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Monday, December 15, 2008

Stupid Criminal Auditions

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published by OpEdNews)

A letter to the editor of The Town Talk decried the theft of the author’s grandmother’s new generator. Grandma had recently become a widow and, considering the likelihood of Louisiana being hit by a hurricane, obviously thought it a good idea and quite comforting to know she would have a plan B for when she lost her electricity. I think it’s a great idea, too.

Unfortunately, “low down sorry thieves” stole the elderly woman’s “peace of mind and measure of safety”.

An obvious fatalist at heart and a supporter of full disclosure, the “concerned” granddaughter wrote that the burglar “needs to come back and get the wheels”. She even announced that she would leave the wheels “inside…the gate where Maybelle the dog is”.

It’s unrealistic to think that this ploy would work, isn’t it? What kind of criminal would go back to the scene of a crime to steal the rest of the booty?

Not so fast, pal. Don’t be fooled by the title of this article. This is not about auditions that are so unfair they should be called “criminal”.

If you’re like me and you watch Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” on MSNBC, you realize that the women may have a fair to midland chance of catching the criminal.

One of the regular segments on “Countdown” is what Olbermann calls “Best Persons”, but don’t let that fool you, either. This particular segment is not necessarily about people with admirable traits. In fact, it’s often not about people who execute an act better than anyone else. Much of the time, it’s about the most amazing screw up that Olbermann or his staff read about or otherwise know about. In other words, it could be considered the best of the worst. I believe Olbermann mostly wants to expose the funniest of the worst. At any rate, this segment of “Countdown” should give hope to the woman whose generator was pilfered.

For example, in one “Best Person’s” segment, Olbermann talks about a man from the UK who, after waving and smiling at a road side speed camera several days in a row while actually speeding, was caught. He told the authorities that he thought he couldn’t be arrested. What was his special circumstance? The car technically wasn’t his because he had registered it in his thirteen year old daughter’s name.

In another segment, Keith tells us about a tow truck driver who came to the rescue of a police officer who had been hit from behind by a first tow truck. Both tow truck drivers were DUI and both worked for the same towing company.

Then there’s the bank robber who waved down a cab and attempted to use it as a getaway car. Although a number of other circumstances would have blown this Willie Sutton wannabe’s cover, the fact that the cab driver went directly to the police and told them the thief’s whereabouts was all that was really needed.

Naturally, however, the English motorist, the two tow truck operators and the bandit are small potatoes compared to Rod Blagojevich, the soon to be former governor of Illinois. If the other stupid criminals don’t give the elderly Louisiana woman hope, Blagojevich’s imbecility should. As most of us know by now, the governor attempted to sell the senate seat recently vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Apparently, Governor Blagojevich thought he had more friends than was actually the case. Either that or he thought that he wielded so much power that everyone whose arms he tried to twist, including the arms of The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Cubs, would fear the consequences of turning him down.

One or more of the governor’s targets did not fear him and/or did not consider himself, herself or themselves friends of Blagojevich. One or more of the governor’s targets told United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of the governor’s plans and Fitzgerald had Blagojevich’s phone tapped.

Let’s hope that the Louisiana women involved in the case of the missing wheel-less generator read OpEdNews or any other reputable news outlet (or even some news outlets that aren’t so reputable or just about any news outlet in the nation) or have otherwise heard of Governor Rod Blagojevich’s dumb move. The move and especially the apprehension of the reckless governor will give anyone waiting for good news about justice a reason to feel optimistic.

To friendship,
Michael

“Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.” - Bertrand Russell


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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Obama Will Revive FDR’s “Failed” Policies

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published by OpEdNews)

Oh, my, what have we done?

If one was to ask several people who’ve written to The Contra Costa Times, we’ve elected a “Marxist” the likes of which this nation hasn’t seen since the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Furthermore, the policies which our new commie president has promised will worsen our economic crisis, will turn it into a depression and will only be able to be righted by starting a world war.

When FDR took office in 1933, 10,000 banks had collapsed, 25% of American workers were unemployed and people were fighting over scraps of food. No matter how much people want to blame The Depression on FDR’s “hackneyed policies”, it’s obvious that The Depression had a pretty good start before he took office.

In October of 2008, three months before Barack Obama is to take office, Americans lost 240,000 jobs and in November, just two months before the inauguration, Americans lost over 500,000 jobs. If “the inevitability of disaster permeates Obama’s administration,” those 740,000 jobs create a good prelude to that disaster.

When the Stock Market crashed in 1929, stock prices were set based upon the fact that they’d been rising. Since they were rising, investors thought that they’d keep rising and, according to the laws of supply and demand, demand for the stocks rose and so did the prices.

This sounds crazy and like a risky business, doesn’t it? What if something happened to make the stocks worth less? Those hopeful investors would be investing in air. What happened to make the stocks worth less and, eventually, worthless, is that the investors suddenly noticed that nothing was backing up the stocks save for their illusory worth. As one would imagine, this brought on a landslide of selling and the industries to which the stocks were linked began to fail.

This may be an oversimplified explanation of The Great Depression, a very complex issue. Yet, believe or not, Barack Obama is inheriting an economic crisis caused in part by a similar fantasy engaged in by wealthy Wall Street traders. This fantasy is called “derivatives”. What are derivatives?

Derivatives are financial instruments which bet on the success of other financial instruments.

For example, the bank wagers on the ability of a person to pay his mortgage. Traders then come along and bet that the bet placed by the bank will be successful. Traders then come along once again and place a bet on the bet placed by the first traders who, of course, bet on the success of the bank loan.

Ultimately, traders are betting on “air”. There’s really nothing to back up their “bets”. Sound familiar?

One source of proof that the traders are betting on “air” comes from The Bank of International Settlements. The BIS reported that the total of the outstanding “bets” or derivatives is $516 trillion. To put this in perspective, the Gross Domestic Product for all of the nations in the world, combined, is $50 trillion. In other words, there’s not even enough money in the world at present to back up the total of the derivatives waiting for a “payoff”. Obviously, since there’s really not enough money or worth in the entire world for every bet that’s out there to be a successful bet, something will have to give.

Yet, the writers of the letters that I’ve referred to want to preemptively blame the present financial crisis on the “bungling and corruption of the Democrat (sic) Congress” which was elected in 2006, the “64 million groupies” who voted for Obama and on “Messiah Obama” himself and his “socialist agenda”.

As mentioned, the cause of The Great Depression and what got us out of it is far too complex to be sufficiently explained in a brief column like this one and by a person such yours truly, a person who is far from being an economic expert. However, as was the case before and at the time FDR took office, the economic situation is set up for failure as Barack Obama and his administration are set to take office.

This failure was caused by a government who believes that government should not govern. The Regime, and this goes back to Reagan and includes H. W. Bush and, yes, Clinton, believes that government should not regulate the “free market”. As with most Libertarians, The Regime believes that the “free market” will regulate itself.

Although the “free market” has the power to regulate itself, we must never forget that the “free market” is predominantly controlled by people who are like kids in a candy store knocking each other over to get the most candy, even though they know they’ll never be able to eat it all. And who suffers for this greed? The middle and lower classes of Americans suffer.

I’m also very cynical about the one party, two division political system we have in the US. However, Obama and his administration are all we have and I’m willing to sit back and see if I’m wrong about The Corporacracy in general or even if I’m wrong about the relationship that Barack Obama will have with The Corporacracy.

I am a die-hard Progressive and a 9/11 Truther. However, I didn’t join those ranks until 2004. In September of 2001, I was willing to follow George W. Bush anywhere logical to pursue those who had caused that tragedy. I was duped, of course, but I at least gave him a chance to screw up.

Unfortunately, there are people who are not as fair with Barack Obama as I was with Bush and can predict the future and know that Obama will fail. More unfortunate than that are the people, and I believe that some of the writers to The Times fit into this category, who are absolutely hoping that Obama fails.

I find hoping that one’s government will fail before it’s even inaugurated among the most despicable and unpatriotic stands an American can take.

To friendship,
Michael

“We live in a Newtonian world of Einsteinian physics ruled by Frankenstein logic.” - David Russell


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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Failure of an American Triumph

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published by OpEdNews)


A writer to the Chicago Tribune is very upset with an editorial by The Tribune which states, “If Iraq turns out to be a force for freedom and moderation in that crucial but troubled region, as now seems likely, it will mark an American foreign policy triumph that rivals the rebuilding of Japan and Germany after World War II.”

I don’t blame the letter writer for being upset with the Tribune. I am, however, amazed at what upsets the writer.

To call our involvement in Iraq a “triumph” of any kind is to insult any and all people who were injured on account of the unwarranted and illegal US invasion. Anyone who received a paper cut because of the US invasion to those hundreds of thousands of people who died due to the invasion were not wounded because of some morally defensible action by The US. All of the people who exited their homeland did not leave because Americans landed in Iraq to free them and rebuild their nation. The billions of dollars worth of damage to Iraq’s infrastructure and architecture didn’t happen while Americans were busy “rebuilding” the country. How could anything that The US “accomplished” in Iraq be a triumph?

It’s unconscionable to pat ourselves on the back because we helped in getting Iraq’s electricity up and running again or because we helped to rebuild bridges or roads or schools if we were the ones who destroyed it all in the first place. That we should help rebuild Iraq goes without saying.

Bob Woodward told 60 Minutes that he references Colin Powell’s “Pottery Barn Rule” in his book Plan Of Attack. According to Woodward, Powell had previously warned Bush, who, as we know now, probably learned about the invasion of Iraq on the night he was to announce it to the American people, that “if you break it, you own it”. The only reason why The US has to rebuild Iraq is because the US broke it with its illegal invasion.

The possibility that any kind of American triumph can be extracted from our involvement in Iraq ended at the moment that The Regime started floating rumors that we may invade Iraq. A great many of us knew that the rumors were being floated by The Regime and those rumors, along with the stories of possible Iraqi offensives against The US, which may come “in the form of a mushroom cloud”, were outright silly. Hans Blitz and Scott Ritter, two men who had actually spent time in Iraq inspecting the country with the intention of determining if Iraq was engaging in illegal activities as described by UN resolutions, had already concluded that Saddam Hussein had not made any headway in advancing major offensive systems which may have been a threat to, not only The US, but its neighbors.

Of course, this is not what The Regime wanted to hear and it certainly was not what The Regime was about to tell the American people.

The writer, as mentioned, isn’t angry that The Tribune’s editorial refers to our involvement in Iraq as possibly one of the great US triumphs. What the writer of the letter is miffed at is the fact that, as wrongheaded as The Tribune’s conclusion is, it didn’t go far enough in praising George W. Bush and noting that, “in hindsight (Bush) now turns out to be a visionary.”

The Regime took advantage of what happened on September 11, 2001 to convince Americans, blinded by hate toward the Arab world, that 9/11=Arab=anyone who lives in The Middle East=Iraq=Saddam Hussein. At the time, making that hate induced connection wasn’t difficult. After all, if you commit a crime against Americans, especially if your skin isn’t the color of most Americans or if your language uses another alphabet, America will declare war upon people with whom Americans can link you. Get that? Granted, the people with whom criminals can be linked may have nothing to do with the criminals or their crimes. Yet, Americans have no problem making the convenient connection and going from there.

Where Americans go may be wrong or immoral or baseless or unjustifiable, but don’t tell them. After all, Americans don’t make mistakes and, even if they do, the people about whom they were mistaken needed the mistake. Even though Americans made a colossal mistake which killed many civilians and destroyed much of a nation, they can find a silver lining.

Sure there were no weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, America freed Iraqis from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. There would be no more Hussein run torture chambers. They would be replaced by torture chambers run by the American military.

America also “gave” Iraq democracy, as if democracy was something that could be wrapped up and placed under the Christmas tree. I submit that people have to yearn for democracy and be willing to die so that those they leave behind can live in a democratic society. I submit that’s the only way that any nation can move from tyranny to democracy. The people have to want it; the people have to initiate the change; the people have to implement it. Democracy cannot be given to anyone and it certainly can’t be forced upon anyone from the barrel of a gun.

Cheney said that Iraq was in cahoots with Al Qaeda in planning and carrying out 9/11. I believe that Cheney knew who planned and carried out 9/11. That being as it may, Cheney was right. There was a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq. The connection was that the people who supposedly carried out 9/11 and the citizens of Iraq are, in general, Arabs, Middle Easterners and Muslims. Those were the only connections between Al Qaeda and Iraq.

Meeting in Prague be damned, the fact that they could all be referred to as Arabs was all the connection the vast majority of Americans needed. They carried out 9/11. Arabs, seen one; seen ‘em all. Hate 19 of ‘em; hate ‘em all. Kill one for vengeance; kill ‘em all for vengeance.

What The Tribune forgot in its editorial and what the writer of the letter forgets in spades is that intentionally killing the wrong people cannot result in triumph. There is not now, nor could there ever be anything triumphant about what we’ve done in and to Iraq and what we’ve done to the Iraqis.

It’s up to us to continue to dampen every attempt to give The Regime credit for doing anything positive in Iraq. What we’ve done there must never be glorified. We must never let anyone, government official or blind hubristic American “patriot”, get away with saying that anything we did in Iraq, based upon what happened on September 11, 2001 or based upon the lies that were told in support of those actions, was honorable or even necessary. It most certainly was not triumphant.

To friendship,
Michael

“We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.” - Aneurin Bevan

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Matter of Space? Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor

(Originally published by OpEdNews)

In their letter to the Idaho Statesman, a couple from Boise continued the “arguments” against voting for Barack Obama. The couple chastised The Statesman for its endorsement of Obama and said that they would no longer purchase the newspaper.

Their letter is interesting on so many levels to say the least.

First of all, although this is an assumption, I believe that if McCain would have won the election, the couple wouldn’t have cancelled its subscription, in spite of who the Statesman endorsed. This begs the question is the couple cancelling its subscription because it thinks that The Statesman’s endorsement put Obama over the top? Considering that McCain won Idaho, it seems the couple is giving the paper’s endorsement way too much credit.

Another question is does this couple believe in The US Constitution? Obama ran for president in accordance with the laws as stated in The Constitution. Granted, The Constitution doesn’t state that it should cost $72 million to run for president, but that’s a different issue which needs to be tackled at another time (but soon).

Obama is of age, is an American citizen and is not a felon. Does the couple believe that there should be an amendment to The Constitution which states that people ought not to be allowed to run for president if they don’t agree with its opinions? If that’s the case, the couple is obviously saying that 52% of Americans who voted in 2008 were wrong, while the rest were right (with the possible exception of those who voted for Ralph Nader, Bob Barr or Cynthia McKinney). I bet that lots of people would say that the 50% of Americans who voted for George W. Bush in 2004 were wrong and the 47% who voted for him in 2000 were wrong.

Is it possible that the couple believes that the 48% who voted for Al Gore in 2000 were wrong and this it’s OK for a candidate to win an election while garnishing fewer votes than his or her opponent?

I’ve written letters to the editor and, although those letters are called opinions, I’ve attempted to try to squeeze at least one fact into each letter.

However, the couple from Boise, like so many of Obama’s detractors, let their opinions speak for any facts.

For example, the couple informs The Statesman that, by endorsing Obama, it “put all that we hold dear at risk.”

What the couple appears to “hold dear” is ill advised borrowing. It states that Paul is the only winner when the government “robs Peter to pay Paul.”

Not only does the couple not back up the implication that Obama plans to steal money to pay whoever Paul may be in this case, but it describes what The Regime has been doing for eight years.

It would have been easy for the couple to see their misstatement if they only substituted the words “the middle class” for the name “Peter” and the words “the wealthy” or “wealthy corporations” for the name “Paul”. See how much better it would have worked out for them?

With no supporting reference, the couple also states that “51% of the electorate” are “on government entitlements paid for by the rest of us” or, using their logic, paid for by 49% of the electorate.

I’m going to stick my neck out here and not use any supporting reference, but I bet if I did use supporting references, I’d find that 49% of the American electorate does not support 51% of the American electorate.

The couple states that Obama's agenda “is not prosperity for those willing to work.”

Not only is the statement about “those willing to work” specious, but it seems to me that a president who plans a program that would have middle and high school students doing 50 hours of community service a year is a president who’s interested in teaching students the responsibility of earning their way and not having it handed to them. His plan flies in the face of this couple’s opinion.

I realize that newspapers limit letters to the editor to a specific number of words. This might be the reason why Obama opponents never seem to find enough space for facts. However, like the couple from Boise, many seem to find enough space for poorly veiled racism.

To friendship,
Michael

“War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory.” - Georges Clemenceau

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shock And Awe

With the election just 6 days away, I’m publishing this song which I co-wrote with an English friend named Jamie Redhead. Nope, not a handle, a real name.

The title should bring back thoughts of “happier days” when visions of crimson rivers danced in the heads of patriotic Americans. Yep, we were going to get back at whoever attacked us on September 11, 2001 with a plan to shock and awe the people of Iraq, none of whom had anything to do with the attacks of 9/11. We would use the innocent men, women and children of Iraq to warn any nation that, if they dared attack The FUSA, we would mercilessly ravage any nation which sat on top of a sea of oil.

I can still hear Donnie Rumsfeld proudly saying that our tactic was to shock and awe Iraq with bombs and blood; with death and destruction; with the socialistic spreading of Iraq’s oil among the huge oil conglomerates of the world. Can’t you just hear that alley cat voice with its built in distance from reality making up stories about weapons in the four corners of Iraq?

Jamie wrote the lyrics; I wrote the music, arranged, engineered and recorded the song and, as you’ll be able to tell if you listen to the entire song, make very clear that one of the candidates for the presidency is still in shock and awe mode while the other has a word for that mode.

The title is the link to the song. You may have to go to
the song page if you can’t download the song.

Listen, enjoy and, hopefully, be inspired.



There's no hope anymore all that's left is the pain
And the lies they keep feeding corroding the brain
Dark nights keep rolling and tattered faith leads to despair
Society prays a resolution is found with no hope anywhere

Destroying the innocence lost back in our youth
Deceiving the ignorant camouflaging the truth

I'm shocked and awed, I'm shocked and awed
Desensitized to the lies masquerading as law
I'm shocked and awed, I'm shocked and awed
Cold to the deception I can't believe anymore
I'm shocked and awed, I'm shocked and awed

Betrayed by the prints there's nothing to gain
And the greed analyzed realizing we're to blame

Aggressive conflict with conflicted interests; seen
through the eyes of wisdom it seems obscene

Destroying the innocence lost back in our youth
Deceiving the ignorant camouflaging the truth

I'm shocked and awed, I'm shocked and awed
Desensitized to the lies masquerading as law
I'm shocked and awed, I'm shocked and awed
Cold to the deception I can't believe anymore
I'm shocked and awed, I'm shocked and awed

Society crumbles, opulence grows
Apathy and gluttony is exposed
Facing depression and gloom
As humanity confronts its doom

Destroying the innocence lost back in our youth
Deceiving the ignorant camouflaging the truth

I'm shocked and awed, I'm shocked and awed
Desensitized to the lies masquerading as law
I'm shocked and awed, I'm shocked and awed
Cold to the deception I can't believe anymore
I'm shocked and awed, I'm shocked and awed





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Monday, October 06, 2008

Only the Privileged Need Apply

(originally published by OpEdNews)

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor

In 2000, a majority of the citizens of the great state of California flexed their muscles, at least those who voted in the November elections. By way of the ballot box, these fine neighbors told certain members of society that they had no right to marry. In 2000, the citizens of California voted to exclude same sex couples from the super special marriage club.

Despite what the citizens said, in 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome decided on his own that marriage is a right that those who wish to marry should have. I imagine that Mayor Newsome knows that the dictionary definition of marriage is, “The legal relation of a man and woman as husband and wife.”

My guess is that Mayor Newsome also realizes that definitions of words change throughout time. As words pick up or drop certain meanings, dictionaries are modified to keep up with the times. That’s right, it doesn’t work the other way around. The dictionary is not a Bible of definitions.

Even the word gay meant “happy” until the beginning of the twentieth century. It was at that time that the word “gay” began to refer to sexual orientation. Dictionary meanings for words change in accordance to how the words are used.

Those who were outraged at what Mayor Newsome was doing brought suit against the Mayor and the California Supreme Court upheld the citizens’ right to take away the rights of others.

First, the Supreme Court decided that, as the marriage managers spoke in 2000, Newsome was out of line and The Court ordered him to stop hurting the feelings of heterosexual married folk.

However, in May of this year, 2008, the very same The Court had a change of heart and, by a 4-3 vote, decided that people have the right to marry – period. The gender of any perspective spouse would not be a reason to take that right away, even if it meant that the genders of both perspective spouses in any one instance are the same.

Enter the appearance of Proposition 8 on the November, 2008 ballot. Those protectors of marriage are determined that it is their place to choose marriage or bachelorhood for others. Vote “yes” on Proposition 8 and you’ve helped to make other peoples’ minds up for them.

Enter, consequently, the writer of a letter to The Contra Costa Times. The title of the letter is “Marriage is a privilege”. Let’s face it, it’s a different approach. He doesn’t quote The Bible in his letter. Maybe this is one person that realizes that gay atheists, gay Hindus, gay Muslims (I don’t thinks so) don’t necessarily abide by what’s written in the Judeo-Christian “holy book” (minus the New Testament which doesn’t address homosexuality).

The writer doesn’t even claim that extending the right of marriage to same sex couples will marginalize marriage for heterosexual couples. Is it possible that this writer understands that, quite frankly, heterosexual couples have cornered the market on marginalizing marriage?

No, this writer takes a refreshingly new approach. The writer claims that, “As with the driver’s license, marriage is a privilege, not a right”.

It’s really too bad, too, because it was sort of cathartic for me to point out the writer’s steering away from a book of laws that doesn’t pertain to everyone and steering away from the illogical conclusion that homosexuals, who are not legally allowed to marry in most corners of the world, should be blamed for marginalizing marriage.

Let’s look at his argument. Further, let’s use the comparison between the privilege of obtaining a driver’s license and marriage.

The writer is spot on in that, in order to legally drive in The Former United States of America, one has to obtain a license. Likewise, in order to get married, one has to obtain a license.

Unfortunately, that’s where the comparison stops. Other than a blood test required by some states, a waiting period and a minimum age law, there are no legally required tests that a couple needs to pass before being issued a marriage license.

If I remember correctly, my sight was not tested. Of course this worked in my favor as my wife’s sight was not tested either.

We didn’t have to take each other out for a spin in the presence of a marriage counselor, either. We were, and still are too shy for that.

The writer brought one thought to mind, however. If marriage is, indeed, a privilege, then, as with a driver’s license, if the privilege is abused, then I supposed the license should be revoked. Or do we pay a fine first? And if a fine is to be levied, how does the government learn about the abuse? Does a marriage cop sit in the corner of your home, out of site, with a marriage abuse radar gun?

Why do I get the idea that the writer is a Conservative? I suppose there are so called “liberals” who oppose same sex marriage? Just look at those leftist, Marxist Senators Barrack Obama and Joe Biden. They don’t believe in same sex marriage.

I have to admit that I’ve read previous letters to the editor from this very same writer. There’s no doubt the man is a Conservative. He holds that admirable Conservative ideal that government should not be involved in the lives of the citizens. He believes in personal responsibility and living with the consequences of one’s own actions. I agree. I know that many same sex couples agree with him as well.

To friendship,
Michael

“Truth is on the march, and nothing will stop it.” - Emile Zola


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Sunday, September 28, 2008

What's in a Name-Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published by OpEdNews)

On September 24, the Georgia newspaper, The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, published a letter to the editor by a reader who is obviously very upset at what she calls “the socialist wing of the Democrat Party”.

I don’t know what the writer has or has not read, so I can not refute some of her statements.

For example, this so called “socialist wing of the Democrat party” has stated that Sarah Palin showed unfairness to her pregnant daughter by accepting John McCain’s invitation to be his running mate. It’s quite possible that the writer actually read this somewhere. I am not familiar with any such rhetoric put forth by any member of the leadership of The Democratic Party or any of its candidates. However, there are lots of people who vote for Democrats and any one of them may have made the statement.

The writer must also have read that Palin’s carrying a Downs Syndrome baby to term is what “angers the socialist wing of the Democrat Party the most.” She states that this group has “said outright” that the child with Downs Syndrome, as well as Palin’s grandchild, should have been “murdered”.

As we’ve been told by a few people, the media is a “liberal media”. This may be why I’ve never heard that a Democratic Party leader or candidate expressed anger over the existence any of the Palin children nor have I ever heard a Democratic Party leader or candidate suggest that anyone’s children or child should be murdered. Since I don’t know for certain whether the writer’s charges are true or false, I cannot deny them.

There are a couple of points made in this letter that I can rebuff and, although very minor compared to the charges made by the writer, they may give us some insight into the writer’s credibility.

First of all, I am very aware that some members of The Democratic Party want to bring back and/or reinforce many of the social programs created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. These were programs that helped lift America out of what is today called The Great Depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s. These programs are referred to as social programs because Roosevelt saw an American society, “society” being a word derived from the same root word as the word “social”, that was suffering. The percentage of unemployed American wage earners climbed as high as 25% in 1933. American society or, put another way, the social fabric of America was tattered and torn. Roosevelt helped American society by putting people to work fixing the infrastructure of the country, building bridges and completing other necessary tasks. He even created make work jobs which were overseen by the Work Progress Administration.

Although the programs put 8 million people to work, those who had managed to retain their wealth at the time criticized them because the federal price tag of $11 billion was too high. It meant that those who were still wealthy, or even wealthier due to The Great Depression, would have to let go of some of their wealth so that the American society could once again function economically. Roosevelt felt that what might be considered “trickle up” economics made sense. If the greater part of society was able to earn a decent wage, there would be a reason for corporations to exist, especially those corporations related to the banking industry. If there was a reason for corporations to exist, there’d be a demand for labor and, consequently, all Americans could move forward.

Of course, those few Americans who didn’t want to part with any of their money to help the down and out called Roosevelt’s actions “socialist”. Maybe this is where the writer gets the wrong idea that there is a “socialist wing of the Democrat Party.”

Indeed The Socialist Party of the United States may not only disagree with the writer that any part of The Democratic Party is socialist, but they may actually find it amusing that someone might believe that idea.

It didn’t take me long to research my second point. I searched C-Span, The History Channel and the Library of Congress and absolutely nowhere did I find reference to any American political party named The Democrat Party.

We all know, of course, that disingenuous conservative pundits have taken to calling The Democratic Party “The Democrat Party”. This, of course, is a small minded attempt to belittle The Democratic Party. In letters to the editor, and I’ve read my share, many writers who claim to support the Republican Party (or is it Republic Party) use the egregiously inaccurate phrase “Democrat Party”.

Could it possibly be that this writer is transparent enough to give her political leanings away by calling The Democratic Party “The Democrat Party”? Is it possible that the writer made the same typo twice in her letter to the editor? Could it be that she really believes that the official name of the major political party in The FUSA which is not The Republican Party is actually “The Democrat Party”?

One last possibility does exist. It’s quite possible that I’ve not read anything written by Democratic Party leaders that even remotely resembles what the writer has claimed. Could this possibly be because the statements were made by members of The Democrat Party, a party of whom I’ve never heard and, therefore, with whom I am not familiar?

Anybody know anything about The Democrat Party?

To friendship,
Michael

“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” - Elbert Hubbard

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor

(originally published at OpEdNews)

We need to cut some slack for the writer of a letter to the editor of Florida’s Hernando Today. His letter entitled “Never Say Never” was published on September 24, hours before John McCain changed his mind about the fundamentals of the American economy.

On September 17, McCain said, “If the issue is whether the U.S. had a dynamic, resilient economy, and that the long-term trends are positive, I completely agree. ... It's important not to get carried away with gloom and doom.”

Consequently, one can understand why the writer was obviously upset that Obama ridiculed McCain “based not on what he…said, but what…he… meant to say.”

He didn’t realize that, within just a few hours, McCain would be telling the American people that he’s suspending his campaign and returning to Washington, where he thinks he’s needed. Furthermore, he’s attempted to convince Barrack Obama that they shouldn’t waste their time engaging in the partisan debate planned for Friday night. McCain made it clear that he and Senator Obama need to be in Washington until the Congressional vote is cast on the $700 billion bailout for failed business decisions made by such people as Lloyd C. Blankfein, CEO of GoldmanSachs, Richard S. Fuld, CEO of Lehman Brothers and Martin J. Sullivan, CEO of the American International Group (AIG).

The writer implies that Obama wants “to divert a near institutional collapse into a blame game”. After all, the writer sarcastic implies, “Most importantly, all this has to be someone's fault.”

A tornado is nobody’s fault. A hurricane is nobody’s fault. An earthquake is nobody’s fault.

I’m not implying that the fact that Blankfein accepted compensation of $70,324,352 from his company in 2007, Fuld was happy to relieve Lehman Brothers of $34,382,036 to provide him compensation and Sullivan received a total compensation of $14,330,736, almost a poverty level paycheck, for mismanaging their respective corporations was the main reason why, as The Front Man said in his speech last evening, their companies “ran out of money needed to meet their immediate obligations”. I am saying, however, that continuing to receive this compensation while their businesses were skiing down a financially treacherous mountain at breakneck speed is a sign that they either do not have the management skills or ability to see when their businesses are headed for a collapse or they simply didn’t care, as long as they would remain absurdly wealthy.

As mentioned, the letter was published earlier in the day and was probably written and submitted days earlier. At the of composition, the writer, with tongue firmly in cheek, accused Obama of considering McCain’s outlook on the economy “inanely optimistic when pessimism is called for.” This is where we need to cut the writer some slack. After all, he didn’t know that on the evening his letter would be published, McCain would consider suspending his campaign and not engaging in Friday’s debate. This seems to me to be inanely pessimistic and alarming when patience and time for debate is called for. Those sound like actions one might take if one was getting “carried away with gloom and doom.”




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To friendship,
Michael

“An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.” - Simon Cameron

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor

(originally published by OpEdNews)

We are reminded of the civics lessons we learned in high school by a writer whose letter was published by The Delaware News Journal. The writer notes that we should have learned that the power in Washington is not in the hands of the president, but in the hands of Congress.

This is only partially true.

For those of us who were fortunate enough to attend high school and/or even elementary school while civics and/or social studies was still being taught, we learned that The Constitution gives our government three equal but separate branches. They are the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch. One can easily come to the conclusion that the framers created the three branches of government so that the government would not consist of one group of leaders or one leader who governed with no oversight. The framers wanted a set of checks and balances. It was, and still is, a brilliant idea.

The letter writer, however, states that “the Senate and House of Representatives hold the true power to begin change”. While it’s almost always been true that a president who belongs to Congress’s minority party has a more difficult time getting legislation passed or rejected, George W. Bush has rewritten our civics text books.

If I have this right, the way it’s suppose to work is that a bill is presented to Congress for consideration. The members of The House sometimes read the bill, debate the content, possibly add some amendments and either vote for or against the bill.

If the bill passes, it goes to The Senate which basically repeats the same process.

If the bill passes both the House and The Senate, it’s sent to the president for approval or rejection. If the president finds that the bill is not in the best interest of the country or him or his friends, as written, he can veto the bill and send it back to Congress for more debate and possible amendments that will make it more palatable for him.

The bill can then be sent back to the president with the hope that he will approve it. If he still is not satisfied with the bill, he can then send it back again to Congress. If two-thirds of the members of The House and The Senate, in separate votes, of course, want the bill passed in spite of the president’s veto, they can override the veto and pass the bill.

This would seem as though the writer is absolutely correct as the above explanation gives Congress the last word. However, Congress really doesn’t have the final say.

If the president is deeply concerned that the bill is unconstitutional or not as profitable as he would hope, he can turn to the third equal branch of government, The Supreme Court, and ask then to rule that the bill is, indeed, unconstitutional. Deciding whether the actions of a person or a group of people are in line with The Constitution is the job of The Supreme Court.

If The Supreme Court finds that the bill is not unconstitutional, it has the final say. The bill, in that case, would stand and become law.

Equality among the different branches of government. How can one go wrong?

The writer may have forgotten he learned during his studying of The Constitution that the president has the final say. Did he not learn about the all important signing statement that the president can use to decide, without the help of The Supreme Court, that a law, or at least parts of it, is unconstitutional? Neither did I.

Why did we not learn this while studying The Constitution? We didn’t learn this because there is no mention of signing statements in The Constitution.

An article entitled “The Problem with Presidential Signing Statements: Their Use and Misuse by the Bush Administration” by John Dean, former White House Counsel during the administration of Richard M. Nixon, explains the issue of signing statements very clearly. Dean should know what happens when a president tries to circumvent The Constitution. He was part of the group that helped plan and carry out the illegal break-in of Democratic Presidential Campaign Headquarters at The Watergate Hotel in 1972. For initially obstructing justice in The Watergate Scandal, Dean was sentenced to four months in prison. He ultimately told Congress the truth about the break-in, which was that Nixon knew about it.

Although the article is two years old, the use and abuse of signing statements by Bush is still relevant. In fact, when Dean wrote the article, Bush had challenged 505 provisions of laws that had passed in Congress. A more recent list of all of Bush’s 157 signing statements concludes that the number of provisions within legislative laws that have actually been passed but have been “challenged” by Bush has reached 1,100. More specifically, Bush has accepted the fact that Congress passed certain laws. He’s merely made it clear that his position as President gives him the power and right to ignore them.

This, of course, has made a mockery of Congress’s power as “the decider” of whether laws should or should not be enacted. It also makes the writer wrong, although he “technically” presents a good argument.

It’s true that Dubya hasn’t signed more signing statements than any other president. What he has done is ignored more Congressional bills via the signing statement than any other president and for this abuse of power, he could have and, in my humble opinion, should have been impeached.

As it turned out, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi forgot the bring the table and, thus, had no place to put impeachment.




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To friendship,
Michael

“Never has there been an administration so disciplined in secrecy, so precisely in lockstep in keeping information from the people at large.....Never has so powerful a media oligopoly ....been so unabashed in reaching, like Caesar, for still more wealth and power. Never have hand and glove fitted together so comfortably to manipulate free political debate, sow contempt for the idea of government itself, and trivialize the people's need to know.” - Bill Moyers


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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor

(originally published by OpEdNews)

It was good to read my old home town newspaper, The New London Day, which represents Southeastern Connecticut. It was nostalgic. That’s where I spent the first 40 years of my life. “How the hell old am I?” you ask. That is a question for the ages, my ages in particular.

The letter that caught my eye was written by a person who seems to be a Sarah Palin supporter. Although Palin supporters were a large and strong group at one point in our history, they, like the polar bear, are close to being placed on the endangered species list.

The issue that the writer uses to defend the Alaska Governor is the premise that “Creationism belongs in the nation’s classrooms”.

The writer uses several arguments.

For example, he states that Christianity was the principle upon which this country was “solidly founded” and that “the separation of church and state is not a core American principle”.

Nowhere in The Constitution which most agree is the law of the land is “God”, “Jesus”, “The Bible” or any other reference to a specific religion mentioned. Religion is referenced twice in the constitution.

The First Amendment to The Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”

Religion is also referenced in Article VI. “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

If those who wrote and approved The Constitution wanted The United States to be a Christian theocracy, it would seem that they would have been certain to include that fact in the law of the land. Alas, they did not and for good reason.

It’s often said that the first settlers of this land came here to escape religious persecution and intolerance. This is true. However, as history shows, they came here to escape England’s intolerance of their religion.

For example, the Calvinist Protestants who settled in New England immediately took their cue from the intolerant Church of England, from whom they had just escaped, and became the intolerant church of New England. The Puritans, a name by which they came to be known, would not allow Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Unitarians, Methodists, Roman Catholics or Jews on their territory. When members of other religious sects wandered where, according to the Puritans, they did not belong, The Puritans would administer horrific punishment up to and including burning at the stake. New England would founded as an intolerant theocratic region.

Likewise, Virginia was founded as an exclusive Anglican territory. This may be difficult to believe. It’s difficult for me to believe, but it’s true. Virginians also punished those who did not swear allegiance to The Church of England.

So two areas in “The New World”, populated by people who were escaping the results of what happens when religion and state are equal partners in the leadership of people, created communities in which the leadership was based upon theocratic principles.

There is an obvious irony, but it’s not the only irony. The people who populated these two areas knew exactly what happens when state and church join to lead a nation. They were not only victims of England’s intolerance, but they knew of the history of European conflicts based upon religious differences.

The Inquisition, The Reformation and The Bloody Statute were only three examples from which the settlers should have learned, but, obviously, did not.

Luckily, the signers and approvers of The Constitution had learned and made certain that no religion would influence the governing of the new nation.

Contrary to what the writer states, it’s quite obvious that the founders did not believe that “The Bible should be the basis for education in our schools.”

The writer is also mistaken when he writes, “Teaching creationism does not force “religious beliefs” on anyone any more than teaching evolution does.”

Whose creationism is the writer referring to? Do all religions believe the same story of creation?

Hindus believe that the world is billions of years old, even older than the scientific study of evolution claims. Is it this creationism that should be taught in our schools? Or, possibly, Christian based creationism is, indeed, based as much upon science as is the study of evolution, but Hindu creationism is not.

Creationism based upon what’s written in The Bible is, consequently, based upon a specific religious belief. Therefore, teaching it in our public schools which are paid for with the tax dollars of Hindus, Muslims, atheists and others who don’t believe the Judeo-Christian narrative of how the world began, is teaching religion in our public schools.

The Constitution was not ratified easily. One of the most intense arguments against its ratification as it stood at the time was that there was no mention of God or Jesus.

As recently as 1910, groups such as the National Association for the Amendment of the Constitution have been attempting to change The Constitution so that God and even Jesus would be mentioned. All the attempts have failed to date, but the mere fact that groups were formed to put God and even Jesus in The Constitution is proof that there is no mention of them. This begs the question if The United States was founded as a Christian nation, why, throughout the years, right from the beginning, have people been trying to amend it so that it definitively represents a Christian nation? It doesn’t make much sense to me.

Sorry gang, but The USA was never a Christian nation; its laws were not based upon Judeo-Christian holy scripture; the creationism that Judeo-Christians want taught in the schools is based upon the writings of a specific religious belief and, therefore, teaching it would be teaching a specific religious belief; those who signed and ratified The Constitution clearly meant for there to be a “wall of separation between church and state,” as Thomas Jefferson described it in 1801.




<a href="http://www.buzzdash.com/index.php?page=buzzbite&BB_id=117383">How much do you think the Bible influenced the Constitution?</a> <a href="http://www.buzzdash.com">BuzzDash polls</a>



To friendship,
Michael

“It's not a matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true.” - Henry Kissinger

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