Insights from 60 Revolutions of the Sun

In my now sixty complete revolutions of the sun, I am struck by how much the world has changed and how little people have progressed.

We are a single race. The human race. Yet, one is hard-pressed to find examples of this.

We live at a time when access to information is at an all-time high and rationality at a depressing low. Instead of recognizing our differences as nothing more than window dressing, we isolate ourselves with those we share those shallow aspects and separate ourselves from those we see as different.

Why is it we fill our hearts with the irrationality of prejudice, the willful ignorance of others, instead of embracing the commonality of our nature?

Tolerance is something we demand for ourselves and deny to others. The surface differences that comprise such a small percentage of our being cloud the overwhelming similarities.

At a time when it would seem the very survival of our common race is at hand, we focus on promoting our differences instead of joining together to insure our survival.

The faiths of the world publicly espouse their common goal yet continue to teach the doctrines of difference.

Politicians play to the lowest common denominator of fear to further than own careers no matter the cost.

We resort to violence as a solution rather than recognizing violence is at the root of the issue. Violence is the tool to protect differences not people . What we need is the rationality of diplomacy and acceptance.

I can only hope that five hundred or a thousand years from now the descendants of the human race look back on the foolishness of this time as a product of ignorance and stupidity.

Much like we mock the ignorance of the Dark Ages or the image of Stone Age man cowering in his cave from the thunder and lightning of the gods, future humans will find a similar ignorance in the history of our time.

If there are any descendants to do so.  I can only hope we survive  to live up to our self-described moniker of Homo Sapiens.

With all the tools of destruction and our skills at killing our fellow humans over artificial differences, there may not be anyone left to attain such insight and maturity of character.

Rationality is Overrated: Time for America to Face Her Problems

Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.

Perhaps it is time for the vitriol of hate and fear to win.

Perhaps it is time we obliterate an entire group of people based on their common religion.

Perhaps it is time us to consider a policy of irrationality. Focus our anger not on finding a solution, but eliminating the need for one.

After all,

It is Muslims that are killing Americans.

It is Muslims that are trying to destroy our culture.

It is Muslims who wish to enslave us in the violence and intolerance of Sharia.

Perhaps it is time we stopped worrying about the innocence of most Muslims.

Perhaps we should use our overwhelming military power and take them all out as a way to insure we get the guilty.

I fear there are those reading this who mistook my satire as something worth serious consideration. A frightening prospect but we see evidence of such irrationality every day in this country.

Just look at the Presidential campaign.

Now comes the part they will ignore because it is hard and might force them to think.

Is it possible we bear some of the blame for the terror visited upon Orlando? Is it possible the blood of those victims are on our hands as well?

It is clear that we are unwilling to do the right thing. Unwilling to confront the scourge of violence that plagues this country.

What happened in Orlando is a tragedy. In far too many cities in this country, it’s called Saturday night.

Those that see one side of the issue see guns as the problem. We need to control the guns, they scream. But they offer no real solution. No answer to how to deal with the 300 million firearms in private hands. Do they blame the car when a drunk driver runs over a group of children?

Those that cherish their guns wrap themselves in the Second Amendment. They scream, I have a right to protect myself. I have a right to own as many guns as I like. The problem is not guns, it is criminals. Lots of I, I, I’s there.

Do they offer even a nod to OUR interest in preventing these incidents? Do they show a willingness to be part of the solution instead of being a roadblock to even considering one? They look at Sandy Hook and Orlando, hold up their copy of the Second Amendment, and say this is more important than those lives.

They argue that if every law abiding American that wanted to carry a gun did, we’d all be safer. Now there’s a comforting thought. Think of some of the idiots you meet on a daily basis and imagine them in a firefight in a school, or theater, mall, or the desk next to yours.

Imagine good old Harry, waiting to pick up his grandkids, whipping out his trusty .45 and taking on a crazed gunman in an elementary school. Within just a few short years, we’d need fewer schools.

It would raise the effect of friendly fire to a whole new level.

If that is their idea of a rational solution to preventing these incidents they’re more delusional than even I imagine. It would make as much sense to make everyone wear ballistic vests.

In the aftermath of these things, we follow a familiar pattern.

It was only a matter of time before the right-wing lunacy put the blame for this on Obama. Somehow his policies created an environment where this would happen. After all, he is a secret Muslim. I mean, come on, Barrack Hussein?

And it was only a matter of time before the left began their worn and useless chant for gun control.

They yell and scream. Hold hands. Pray. Make speeches about the tragedy of guns.

Which accomplishes nothing.

There’s a brain tumor eating away the mind of this country. We are one candidate away from palliative care.

The nut who purchased this weapon is, according to the media, on an FBI Watchlist. One which would prevent him from flying.

We have a system in place to stop someone we suspect of terroristic leanings from flying. We recognize our overwhelming interest in airline security.

Sounds logical. I fly quite often and I support such policies.

We can stop them from doing something that requires a certain amount of skill and planning. We can stop them from doing something that is hard to do.

Why not expand that list to the purchase of firearms, which is easy to do? I’ll tell you why. Because the NRA opposes it.

They think the government cannot be trusted to do such things fairly. They contend it might prevent an innocent person from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

How do they do this? They control the cowards in Congress addicted to the gun lobby money. They manipulate them into killing such legislation and killing Americans in the process.

They stop the government from having an effective tool against these incidents.

The same incompetent government they blame for these incidents. Which government is it they fear most?

They spin the story and blame the President. They whip those who would have a difficult time finding a foreign country on a map into a frenzy.

They then focus them on anything other than the actual problem.

Their solution is simple. It is more important that I have my gun. They would prefer we eliminate an entire group of people rather than risk a few extra steps in buying a gun.

The nut who pulled that trigger was an American citizen. He exercised his Second Amendment rights so precious to so many.

Think of it this way, if the Orlando gunman had been denied his Second Amendment right to purchase a firearm, the NRA would support him in his case to right that wrong. Let that bounce around your brain for a bit.

On the other hand, he is the wrong flavor American. His parents are from Afghanistan. What do you expect, they would argue?

So, perhaps it is time for their Final Solution. If we are unwilling to balance responsible gun ownership against preventing tragedy, it leaves us little choice.

Perhaps it is time we embrace the words of Arnaud Amalric, Papal Legate and Cistercian abbot.

A man of the Christian God. That might offer comfort to those who do not understand Islam.

His words brought solace to those seeking vengeance against that which they feared. He spoke these words before the massacre at Beziers. Where one faith confronted a difference they perceived as a threat.

“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius”

“Kill them all, God will recognize his own”

This is a country that once decided to put a man on the moon, built the technology to do it, and did it. How is it we cannot find the courage and conviction to protect our people?

The real tragedy here is that as a nation we have forgotten the great things we are capable of accomplishing.

Encouraged by a zealot on a crusade of intolerance, we chant slogans illustrating our ignorance. We ignore the foundation of fairness and justice upon which this country was built.

The blood of the victims of gun violence is on all our hands. Until we regain our rationality and work toward a real solution, more will come.

Once Again, it is Obama’s Fault

 

New Author Photo

The disaster that is the Obama Presidency has struck again. His abject failure to improve on the robust economy handed to him on a silver platter by the Bush administration has caused the loss of more jobs.

Carrier Corporation, a division of United Technologies, is closing its Indiana plant and putting 2100 workers out of a job. The company cites labor costs and their inability to compete with other companies that made similar moves south of the border.

They did not say they would find better, more qualified workers. They did not say it was a shortage of workers. They did not say it was for better business prospects (they fully intend to sell things in the US, just not make them here.)

What they said they would find is cheaper labor. I bet they will.

Of course, this is Obama’s fault. Obama’s economic policies have not improved the economy and have hurt business according to his critics.

Odd, since the numbers do not reflect that. According to Factcheck.org, an independent non-political organization (http://www.factcheck.org/2015/01/obamas-numbers-january-2015-update/) under Obama:

  • 2014 was the best year for employment growth in 15 years (6 million more jobs since Obama came into office in 2009. Under George W. Bush the country suffered a loss of 4.4 million jobs in his last year)
  • Overall inflation under Obama has been moderate, 11.8%
  • Real weekly earnings (adjusted for inflation) has risen 1.7%
  • Corporate Profits have soared under Obama, after-tax profits are running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.9 TRILLION
  • Stock market is up 156% since Obama came into office.

There are some negatives as well. Long-term unemployment (those out of work for more the 27 weeks) is higher than before Obama. The number of families on food stamps is higher as well. Much of this is the hangover from the 2007-2009 recession.

I wonder if these negatives are compounded by business decisions like Carrier Corporation moving to find cheap labor in Mexico.

Now if I understand his critic’s positions, Obama has not done enough to improve the economy. What he has done has not worked and the Affordable Care Act has been a disaster. How can finding a way to provide health care to all Americans be a disaster?

If there are problems within the economy, I think much blame goes to companies that put profits before people. Some would argue that a company has an obligation to stockholders to seek cost reductions and increase profits. At what cost? It would seem at the expense of loyal employees that helped build the company in the first place.

We should not only accept but also applaud their narrow-minded, single purpose pursuit of profits over people. This is what made America great according to some. They would contend that is Capitalism.

Now I am not advocating socialism or any artificial redistribution of wealth. The opportunity to pursue the American dream IS what makes this country great.

What I am advocating is reinvigorating the essence of American capitalism. A capitalism with a heart for those that provide the bulk of the energy for that economic engine.

Funny how the same people that approve companies running to Mexico to avoid paying fair, negotiated union wages and benefits are the same ones with bumper stickers proclaiming Buy American.

I bet many of these same detractors of Obama also trumpet the idea of building a fence to keep the Mexicans from coming to the US.

Take heart, if Americans continue to support companies that flee the US to avoid paying fair wages, it will be Mexico building a fence to keep the unemployed Americans out of their country. Maybe Mexico can hire the unemployed Americans to build the fence as a form of foreign aid.

Somehow, that will be Obama’s fault as well.

Oh, and by the way Mr. President, since you haven’t done anything to help the economy why don’t you take the rest of your term off and NOT nominate anyone to the Supreme Court either. We got this.

 

Mr.President, the Silence is Deafening

President Barrack Obama

White House

Washington, DC

Dear President Obama,

Please excuse my confusion here.  For the most part I have found your Presidency to be a positive one.   The historic, and long overdue, election of a person of color to the office bodes well for the future of the country.

With that said, I am troubled by an inconsistency in your response to attacks on our system of justice, in particular, police officers on the front lines.

A twenty-five year old NYPD Sergeant is executed for doing his job, and all that comes out of your office are some platitudes about a noble profession and the tragedy of his death.

Where’s the outrage?

Where’s the mobilization of the resources of the Justice department to investigate how a convicted felon came to be in possession of a firearm?

Where are ranking members of your cabinet and why are they not traveling to New York, standing shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of NYPD, demanding that we all must know that Blue Lives matter?

Mr. President, I am sure you realize that Blue Lives matter, I am sure you realize that Black LIves matter,  I am sure you know all lives matter.

But your relative silence on the death of this young officer and those that died in the line of duty before him makes it seem that some lives matter more.

I realize this country still has a long way to go before the words, “All men are created equal,” apply to everyone.

I realize it is important for the office of the Presidency to point out that inequality and to pursue Justice against those that would deny equality to others based on the color of their skin.

I realize all that.

But I also realize that even the perception of difference in responding to these situations is dangerous and disheartening.

I hope you’ll have a strong respresentation at the funeral  for Sergeant Brian Moore,  I hope you’ll demand that we do everything we can to prevent such tragedies in the future.  I hope you’ll show the same genuine concern for the lives of all Officers as you have for other victims of injustice.

To do any less diminishes the high regard the office of the President commands.

Do not let political correctness temper the outrage.

Speak long and loudly of this, end the silence.

Cold Memories and Critical Thinking

The recent cold brought back memories of when I was a young boy growing up in Cumberland. We had a trash barrel in the backyard where, a few times a week, we would burn our trash.

I know this is giving the environmentalists among you nightmares, but it was a different time.

During the cold months, my father and I would stand close to the flames.  He sometimes told me stories of the Korean War, fighting in temperatures of minus 30 degrees.  He hated the cold.

I was thinking about this in light of some recent headlines.

In one headline, state legislatures want to eliminate funding for Advanced Placement History classes, because these classes are critical of America.  According to one of the Oklahoma lawmakers, these classes only teach what is “wrong with America.”

The other headline is from Rudolph Giuliani talking about President Obama.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

Giuliani believes Obama is too critical of past American policies and decisions.

How does this all relate to Cumberland, Rhode Island in the winters of the 60’s you ask?

It matters because our government made decisions, against the evidence, sending my then 18-year-old father to Korea.  These decisions put him, and thousands of other Marines, at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea in November of 1950, surrounded and outnumbered by the Chinese.

General MacArthur ignored evidence of a sizeable Chinese presence on the border.  He ignored his own intelligence reports that the Chinese might enter the war; in fact, they had already crossed the Yalu River.

The Truman administration ignored a message from the Chinese, delivered by the Indian Ambassador to China, that if the US crossed the 38th parallel, China would respond militarily.

The horrors experienced by my father haunted him his whole life.

I have another memory from those years; my father screaming in the middle of the night, thrashing around on the bed, my mother desperately trying to hold him until the nightmares, reliving the battles, drove him to exhaustion and he fell asleep.

I believe those experiences contributed to my father’s battle with alcoholism and death at the relatively young age of 65.

To argue that we need eliminate classes that educate our future leaders in critical analysis is ludicrous. This country needs more critical thinking, not less.

The decisions in Korea were not an aberration.  In 1965, we did it again, sending American troops into the wrong place, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons despite knowing the impossibility of the mission.

During WWII, we supported Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese yet, twenty years later, we sent our soldiers and Marines to fight him. It cost the lives of almost 60000 Americans, along with millions of Vietnamese. We failed to understand the nature of the conflict.

We did it again in Iraq, ignoring or fabricating intelligence, in pursuit of a doomed policy.

In each case there was evidence against the efficacy of those decisions, we knew it, we ignored it, and we did not learn from it.

Giuliani says President Obama does not love this country because he is often critical of it. Giuliani has it all wrong.  No one demonstrates love of country better than through a willingness to seek the truth, no matter how critical or difficult, in pursuit of improving our future decision-making processes.

I understand sometimes going to war is inevitable.

However, critical analysis shows there are opportunities to avoid them. Perhaps, if critical thinking took center stage rather than blind patriotism or hubris, we might have found such an alternative.

The freedom to criticize government is the foundation of our political system. Freedom of speech is the First Amendment for good reason. The founders recognized the absolute necessity of open and free discourse without fear of governmental intrusion.

Critical analysis of past actions can lead to a better future.  Many of the founding fathers owned slaves.  It took almost 70 years after the creation of the Constitution before we abolished slavery.

“All Men are Created Equal.” When these words first appeared on paper, All Men meant white men.  Black men were not included until the Civil War and women not until much later.

It was critical analysis of the errors of the past that righted those wrongs.

Legislative discussions should not be about reducing funding for advanced courses; it should be for increasing the funding.

Perhaps, with a stronger understanding of all the good this country does, tempered by recognizing our weaknesses and mistakes, future generations will not send young men and women into the nightmares of warfare absent full, and continuous, critical analysis.

Random Thoughts

Here’s a rule to live by, if your thong bikini can double as a hammock for a normal sized human find another swimwear style

How to solve the perceived problem with Police shootings, make omniscience a job requirement. It seems it is expected anyway. That way, before they return fire, they’ll know the suspect shooting at them was a good boy/girl/man/woman just turning their life around.

For those of you that think because Cops wear vests, they should have to wait to be shot at before using deadly force, one of the things to keep in mind about Bullet-Proof vests is, they are not. Bullet-resistant, perhaps, Slow-the-bullet-down-a-bit, maybe, Reduce the force of impact, a little. However, BULLET-PROOF, definitely not.

Another rule to live by, if you are walking along and find yourself coming upon a huge amount of Bird shit on the ground, do not look up. Particularly with your mouth open.

It seems that those most enamored of criticizing cops base this opinion on Law Enforcement on what they’ve learned by (in no particular order);

Watching Television
Playing video games
Getting arrested
Bailing out relatives, friends, or neighbors that were arrested

When did holding a door for someone become extinct? Seems people now take pleasure it watching others struggle.

Ban the word, awesome. The correct meaning, something invoking an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear, has now been reduced to the level of meaninglessness.

I do not understand most tattoos. I get the meaningful ones, military, family members, the good old MOM, subtle messages of importance to the wearer that can be hidden, when appropriate. What I don’t get are the ones that are seemingly random images resembling color-by-number paintings done by a child that doesn’t know numbers yet and can’t color in the lines. When did we become a society of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man?

Why is it that a significant number of people in this country couldn’t find Syria on a map, don’t know the name of their Congressman or Senator, yet can name all the cast members of Jersey Shore, have seen every episode of The Real Wives of (Insert City), and fret all week until the conclusion of Dancing with the Stars?

And a corollary to the above, even though unable to find Syria, or a host of other trouble spots, on a map, they know exactly how to solve the ISIS problem, the militant Islam problem, the issues in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. (Hint: It usually involves the Military strategy of the Middle Ages, Kill them all, God will recognize his own) Just ask, they’ll tell you.

That’s all for now, must be this hot, Aruban sun.

For (which?) God and (whose?) Country

I just read the New Yorker report on the raid that killed bin Laden.

(http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/08/08/110808fa_fact_schmidle)

I took a few things away from it.

1st. There is no military organization in the world that can even come close to matching the courage, determination, ability, and competence of the armed forces of the United States.

This is compounded by the willingness of the American people to pursue Justice.

You can hate President Barrack Obama’s policies and politics, but you cannot doubt his courage, his willingness to make difficult decisions, his admiration of, concern for, and confidence in the military.

He risked his Presidency on doing the right thing.

2nd (and this is more troubling)

The article reports the following transmission was sent to confirm contact with bin Laden (known as “Crankshaft” by JSOC group and referred to as “Geronimo” in the broadcast”).

Inside the compound the Seal team radioed;

“For God and Country, Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo”

This was immediately followed by the words “Geronimo, E.K.I.A.” (Enemy Killed in Action) to confirm he was dead.

The article goes on to describe the tension in the White House situation room.

At one point the article points out “as they awaited word, VP Biden nervously fingered his Rosary”

I was struck by the incongruity of these statements.

It was blind, nonsensical, religious belief that triggered the situation in the first place.

What was the difference? Our praying to a different invisible “God”?

One God sent planes into buildings.

One God guided forces to a house in Pakistan.

Taken in the best light, I guess the “Christian” God is more “surgical” in his vengence.

To borrow a line from a t-shirt I once saw;

“Science flies you to the moon, Religion flies you into buildings”

I do not begrudge people their religious beliefs. I do not doubt their sincerity. As long as it is personal and private.

I am troubled by any of our governmental actions, our elected officials, our powerful military being guided by any religious tenets.

Morality, honesty, and integrity do not exist because of religion, they exist in spite of it.

Studies show humans are evolutionarily “designed” (now that’s Intelligent!) to be moral, empathetic, and ethical.

Religion compels a certain behavior out of fear of eternal damnation or reward of a blissful, eternal life (especially with Seventy-two Virgins).

Humans have an innate sense of right and wrong and most follow that path. Religiosity, a by-product of our evolutionary development, is unnecessary.

If those Seals want to pray to thank God, if the Vice President wants to recite the ‘Holy Rosary’ and go to Mass, if the President wants to acknowledge God’s help in making the decision, I fully support their right to do it, privately.

But not as Officials of the US Government and not using any resources of that government.

I believe the decision to send bin Laden’s remains into the ocean, with appropriate Islamic burial protocols, was a brilliant tactical decision. Equally so, the offer of the remains to the Saudi Government (who wisely declined). But I don’t think they are an endorsement of the efficacy or effectiveness of the religious procedures. Nor should they be.

In the interest of full disclosure and if, in the unlikely event I am wrong and God does exist, Osama bin Laden’s passage into the eternal was dependent our exact adherence to Islamic protocols, I pray we fucked it up!

This will be a better world when the world adopts the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” approach to Religion.