Monday, September 15, 2014

When did we become Killers?

Some of you will respond that we are carnivores...we've always been killers.  Well, that is outside my area of expertise, so I won't respond.  Besides, that isn't what I am talking about.  I am talking about the casualness with which we destroy those around us, both friends and enemies, with no guilt, no thought, no emotion and often with no thought or active decision to do so.

I grew up before social media.  You could get bullied in school.  And you could be whispered about in school.  But it was limited to your class or your building and if adults heard any of it, they dismissed it as immature "stuff"...and it was.  It was discarded when you moved on.

A kid getting caught doing something wrong was punished.  Often the police turned him or her over to the parents, 'cause they did a more intense job than the police did...and it didn't leave a permanent record.  Besides...the parents took the responsibility seriously.

And that, too, was left behind even as the lessons learned stayed with us as we moved toward adulthood.  Almost all went on to productive lives, applying for and getting jobs that allowed us to finance and fulfill our families and our lives.

Even in adulthood, if you broke the law in some way, we all knew that was what the Justice system was for and we didn't take punishment into our own hands.  And the few times that that happened, those that gave into "mob" rule, were in turn punished...that was not justice, that was mob rule, feeding a blood-lust that didn't fit our view of what a civilized society should be about.

Law breakers had to word harder at it, but they could rejoin society if the proved that their transgression was a one time thing.  Yes, suspicion remained if something untoward happened, but that was the price...the consequences, if you will...of having broken the law in the first place.

That is not today's world.

Today, children and adults destroy others' lives without even a thought. No guilt!  No shame!  Often not even a thought for either emotion!  And there is a lack of inherent self-control on the part of all that often invites destruction. When I was growing up, it was drummed into me not to do anything that we were not prepared to have appear as a headline, with pictures, in the local paper.  Where and when did that admonition go...'cause it sure doesn't seem to be either known or acknowledged today by children or adults.  And the concept of consequences for both stupidity and purposeful wrongdoing has also disappeared...unless it captures the attention of the media or special interest groups.  No longer can any transgression be left to the courts; there must now be attendant consequences: loss of job, public ridicule, public denigration...often before a legal verdict is rendered.

There are those that will claim that all this is either appropriate or that it is life as it exists today and no thought need be given to it.  Well, time will tell whether that is or is not so.  But I leave you with this thought:  If you did something that was either wrong, or might be wrong, and it was taken up by the legal system, would you accept non-legal punishment dealt out by nameless individuals or groups that destroyed your ability to make a living or walk the streets in safety...all before a Justice system had ruled on you actions and, if appropriate, declared you legal punishment?

Have we reverted so far back to the days of each man for himself that we endorse mob rule based often on rumor as much as fact and taking upon ourselves the right to rule on life, death and pursuit of happiness of others without formal assignment of that task?  I find that a fearful thing from any standpoint: accused, accuser, observer, or judge.

Of course, I also find it abhorrent that so many around me are so uncertain in their place in life that they would make it legally required that I approve of them, their actions, or their beliefs.  I would not want to interfere with what others lives are, provided they do not actively interfere with mine;  I see no reason why I should be required to take any notice whatever of their lives...I do not require their acquiescence to my beliefs, actions or way of living.  I neither need nor want their involvement; why would they required...and that by act of law...mine?  But that is for another discussion.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

President Obama...and ISIS

At the moment, many are concerned about the ongoing actions of the group known as ISIS (or, as the current administration curiously labels it, ISIL).  There are really only two major concerns: 1) why the apparent delay or failure of this administration to have a strategy already prepared for a group who's existence and power is no surprise; and 2) what should that strategy be.

The first answer is fairly straightforward. Mr Obama has shown himself to have little or no interest in devoting the hard work necessary to be an effective President. There is a reason all of our Presidents have looked so worn down after their period in the Oval Office. It is hard, worrisome work. Mr. Obama prefers raising money, making speeches (often including totally unacceptable lies and never followed up on by hard work to make promises a reality), and playing golf while enjoying the image and perks of being President. Also, while he might have proven that he can play well with others, he also has shown a very thin skinned inability to work well with others. He simply doesn't want to do the work of being President, and doesn't want to be hounded or found fault with for that lack of work.

The second question is much harder: what to do. This country...and the world, really...has often shown little initial interest in people being subjected to genocidal and other treatment. The Nazi's are on point, and there are many instances on the African continent and in Asia that come to mind. We need a personal threat that smacks of reality or an actual attack to get our attention and inspire purposeful action. I would think that a lot of governmental people are very nervous about the depleted condition of our military, so I think the first step should be a re-evaluation of needs and purposes and a concomitant authorization of funds to make our military capable of responding to any number of threats.

Additionally, our military and Homeland Security should already have (and if not, to quickly develop) plans on how degrade the military abilities of ISIS (or, as the administration prefers to call them, for reasons unfathomable to me, ISIL) and screen those coming to the U.S. (including finally a securitization of our borders so that we actually know who is arriving) to prevent individual terror acts. And finally, it would seem obvious that any comments that are made by the President...or his "people"...should avoid phrases that seem limiting. One doesn't have to threaten; just indicate a willingness to do "what must be done" to protect and defend. Declaring that no military action involving "boots on the ground" may be true...but you are absolutely insane to verbalize it. Let those who would harm us worry about what we will and will not do...don't hand it to them on a silver platter.

Anyone have a better idea?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Entrapment?

Ever notice how a child, when they misbehave, looks around with a sense of foreboding or fear?  They know they have done wrong and are waiting for the expected consequences.  Present and aware parents are there to respond...the child suffers the consequences that the child expects, and the learning about life in civilized society continues.

But...what about families where that doesn't happen?  No consequences.  Soon the child comes to believe that whatever instincts he or she was born with can be discounted as inconvenient and an impediment to doing whatever it is he or she wants.  Is it any surprise when those children break the law, both in their early as well as later years?

And...what about countries and ideological groups?  Does the same apply?

When, as an example, Hamas launches missiles at Israel, and the United Nations and others defend the practice...is that not the same as not visiting consequences for "bad" behavior?  And...I would suggest...that to allow that to happen over time, is to invite the presumption that there are no consequences and thus invite an escalation of such unacceptable behavior.

Hamas must be punished...or eliminated.  Which is not clear, but one or the other will happen.  But...I think that the United Nations is complicit in encouraging Hamas to believe that they would not suffer consequences for the killing of Israelis or for the destruction of the Israeli State.

Such thinking and behavior should never be rewarded or approved.  The United States of America should cease funding the U.N.  Other nations routinely fail to pay their dues; America should stop paying money to an organization that encourages violence toward others.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Civility

Does anyone out there remember Johnny Carson?  How about Everett Dirksen?  Remember Ronald Reagan? Can your remember what they had in common?  Civility!

I don't bother with late night tv anymore.  It is mean.  The jokes are mean...and I often think the stars are mean too.  I grew up...and more intelligent...with Johnny Carson.  He would poke fun at anyone who acted stupidly, or made a fool of themselves...but it was never mean.  He had a humor that was observational, not an attack.  Don't know how he did it, but he did...and he made America better for it.

Dirksen was a politician...but he understood that politics was a craft that required negotiation, not a "Sherman's march to the Sea."  Progress, as his ideology defined it, was slow...but not a reason for destruction.  He lost some.  He won some.  But he treated his opponents the same way that he treated his allies...with civility.

Ronald Reagan was a man with strong convictions.  He never foreswore those convictions.  Yet he negotiated with a Congress that opposed him to achieve progress.  He didn't demand "winning'"...he gave some and won some, but like Dirkson understood that it was a gradual influence that he wielded, not the label of a "winner" or "loser"...time would determine those things.  Both realized that the job of ruling the country came first.  Each put politics away once an election was over, because they needed to DO THE JOB!  Not only that, they did it exemplifying the art of civility while promoting their own agendas.

Today, I experience ole age with a certain amount of disdain for America.  Not for the country physically, but for our government.  There is no civility.  Oh, sure, there is feigned politeness...but it comes with obvious cynicism...it's not real.

And the President has no skills in negotiating.  Of course, he knows that so there is an avoidance of even entering that arena.  For the first time in my more than 70 years, I see a President afraid of the Oval Office.  I see a President unable to even call Congressmen and Senators and talk about solutions for problems.  Instead, he runs off to fundraise or play golf.  I expect that he is scared of showing his lack of experience if he sits down in the situation room with his military officers and discusses the ongoing world-wide challenges.  For such an intelligent, learned man, how could he not realize that the admitting of ignorance is the beginning of both knowledge and the inspiring of a desire of those around him to help.  Instead, he ducks, weaves and avoids.  And makes believe all is well.

His attitude, mentally, is the equivalent of the old story of the Emperor's new Suit of Clothes.

Unfortunately, this is NOT a fable.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A "probable" solution to the flood of minors coming over our Southern Border

Let us forget the "blame" game regarding the overwhelming flood of minor illegal aliens crossing our southern borders.  The first question should be "how do we stop it and get control over our border?"

The only logical solution I have heard so long has been presented by Senator Flake, from Arizona.  His answer:  Ship a couple of planes to each of the major source countries for these minors chock full of those very same kids.

Consider that families have paid many thousands of Dollars to human smugglers and the cartels to send their children to the "land of milk and honey" expected that we will take them in, and they will have a chance for the American success story.  I can't blame them.  And, truth be told, our current administration has given those parents every reason to think this country will "wink, wink, nod, nod" and allow them to stay.

But...if suddenly those children start showing up back home in planes sent by the United States Government, those parents have just thrown thousands of dollars away...dollars they had to skimp and scratch to get in the first place.  They will not throw...perhaps cannot...that kind of money away again without the likelihood of success.

The result would be that within 30 days the flood would start to abate, and within 90 it would virtually come to a halt, and the border would normalize.

That is not to say that there would not continue to be the ongoing drug smuggling and adult crossings, but that would be a matter for another, much longer, discussion.

Two or three plane loads to each country...9 plane loads tops...and this problem starts to go away.  Mr. Obama, you can fast track  that many kids in two months...get to work.  It would help mightily if you were to discipline yourself to stay in the Oval Office and actually work at this...but even if you have to assign it to someone else, get it done.  Fix this.  You can do it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Would Secured College Loans benefit everyone?

I recently heard that there are more than a trillion dollars in outstanding College Tuition Loans that are increasingly likely to go unpaid.  And the implication was that the federal government would have to step in and take the majority of the loss.

Somebody in charge of this has failed to have the elevator serve the top floor for some time for this to be the case.  A simple review of the risks would suggest that loans for any kind of study program need strict controls to prevent untoward risk.  Just consider the variables: the motivation of the student; the quality of the courses; the appropriateness of the courses to accomplish the goal; and  the likelihood of actually getting the job the student is preparing for and the pay being sufficient to live and also pay off the loan.

Do you know of anyone really looking at those things?  No?  Neither do I, at least not on a required basis.

When we want to buy a home, we need to provide certain qualifying information.  We need to show that our income level is adequate to enable us to pay the proposed monthly charge for the loan; we need to get an appraisal of the value of the house so that, if we should NOT pay, the lender can ultimately expect to get all...or at least most...of his loan value from a sale of the property.

Why can't we do this with college loans?  Consider requiring an application that would do the following:
  1) Indicate the potential student's goal; what is the career that he or she wishes to pursue;
  2) Indicate the number of jobs in the intended area of employment that is expected to be available in 4 (or 6, or 8...whatever the requirements) years when the student would matriculate;
  3) Show the ranking of the intended College in preparing students for that intended job;
  4) Compare the intended College with others that also prepare students for this area of employment, showing costs, both present and predicted for the period of study, percentage of students in each college employed in their area of preparation;
  5) Provide the curriculum..the courses and course load...that the potential student is committing to if the loan(s) are granted;
  6) An attestation by a qualified College Advisor to the accuracy of the analysis provided in 2-4 above;
  7) An agreement that after each semester, prior to release of the next semester's tuition, the Student will provide a certified copy of a transcript showing successful completion for graduation credit of all coursed taken in that semester, plus a certified copy of the course schedule to be taken during the upcoming semester together with a comparison to the obligation of course load committed to prior to the origin of the loan(s).

This would accomplish three (3) things:  it would a) show the quality of preparedness of the student for the College process, proving a sense of direction, together with the ability to provide a personal business plan for his or her life; b) it would provide proof of the value of spending for the degree in showing how likely successful employment could maximized and actually provide for repayment of the loan; and c) it would pressure Colleges to teach for the measurable benefit of their students, showing that there was demonstrable value in the offered degree.

It is true that this would have no effect on those of means...or perhaps more properly, of parents with means...in going to College just to party or "search" for themselves.  But it is their money involved, not the government's...which is to say, "ours", since it is our tax dollars that now fund such loans.

There are thousands of very good paying jobs right now that go begging because of our current over-valuation of a College degree.  My parents worked at whatever job they could find that paid enough to live.  They researched...looked...for better opportunities, figured out how to prepare to do those jobs and moved on, eventually starting their own business.  There was no guarantee of success...and there interim failures...but all served to teach them things that were required to succeed.  And succeed they did.

Would it be so bad for those without the money to pay for college to have to prove to any person or entity that was inclined to consider loaning them the money to go to college to show that proposed lender that they were making a good investment, to prove their readiness to work toward a goal that would provide for repayment to the lender, and a successful career for the applicant?

I would suggest that it would be a benefit almost as great as the degree itself.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What does President Obama think?

I am old.  I remember my parent's thoughts about President Roosevelt, and I personally remember all of our Presidents from then to now.  Some I noticed more than others as they acted.  Others I have come to study as I grew older and wanted to "understand" ... not a totally achievable goal, but one can try.

What I found for most of my life was that, while I could disagree with their actions, I could always agree with their motivation; Presidents acted, in office, for the good of all the country and with recognition of differing beliefs on what the problems were as well as what their solutions might be.  There was a desire to represent all the people, not just one segment.

And all of the Presidents admitted to errors...and mistakes, both in evaluation and in execution.  They all had experience that they brought with them to the Office and surrounded themselves with people who were able...and obviously supporters.  But the prime consideration was ability, with ideological identity and loyalty following.  So...I didn't like a lot of our Presidents, but I respected them all...they campaigned, then upon taking office, stopped campaigning and worked in the Oval Office to serve the country at large...to serve ALL of the American people.

Were promises not kept?  Of course.  Were there compromises? Yes. None were ever perfect...but they served the country and seemed to realize that as President they owed an allegiance to each citizen, not just those who voted for him.  They were honorable men.  Men with which to disagree, but to respect and honor.  And they showed respect to us; in office they told us the truth, acknowledged failures and worked to make things better.

Then President Obama took office.  He promised to correct the problems with the Veteran's Administration, to be the most transparent administration ever, to fundamentally change America.  Well, one out of three might be good in baseball, but not so much in public office.

I cannot come up with any logical evaluation of President Obama's thought processes or his motivation. He seems to have chosen his Cabinet Members by looking first at loyalty, then at contributions.  I see no sign that ability or qualifications based on administrative accomplishments were ever considered.  That by itself is madness, because the government is far too large for one person to track, so able subordinates are essential if you are not to be ill served and surprised by problems.

Is there any doubt that a President has to be interested in actually administering?  Can you imagine that a President promising to correct the already flagged inadequacy of the Veteran's Administration wouldn't call the Cabinet Secretary responsible for that area every quarter to make sure that he was correcting the errors he had identified during his campaign and which he had promised to correct? \\

When your President campaigns on lowering health care costs and promises that if your are happy with your health care plan, you will be able to keep it, aren't you entitled to believe that?  After all, the campaign is over, he is elected and as President shouldn't you expect he must be speaking the truth?  How did that work out.

And how about your Representatives, who repeated that same plan.  How do your feel about a government where your elected officials vote to enact a bill without ever actually reading it.  How respected does that make you feel?

With the IRS looking at organizations on the basis of their expected ideological positions, rather than their technical qualifications, the Justice Department ignoring some laws that Mr. Holder disagrees with ideologically, but taking action where those with whom he disagrees, and Mr. Obama using Executive Orders to exercise King like power, by-passing Congress, my mind cannot find any way to understand Mr. Obama's purposes when comparing his actions to those of past Presidents...with the possible exception of President Roosevelt's attempt to pack the Supreme Court.

While it is clear that President Obama is an elitist and thinks highly of his opinions and has quite a thin skin when faced with opposition or challenge, that does not fully account for his administration.

Certainly, he lacked experience in administration.  But even after over one term, he still seems not to have developed an ability to work with...to horse trade with...Congress, nor even a recognition to develop personal relationships with those in the Congress.  That is troubling.  He seems to not want to work at the job  to which he was elected...he seems to salivate at the opportunity to leave the Oval Office for almost any reason: to campaign; to fund raise; to go abroad; to vacation; to play golf.

President Obama reads a great speech.  But the value of a President is how he follows through on what he says or promises in those speeches.  He has been proven a liar.  Some of his Cabinet Members have been proven to be not up to the job.  He has promised much, but accomplished little...and that is accompanied by a seeming inability to recollect his own promises, or acknowledge his failure to keep them.

My conundrum is that I simply cannot decide whether President is simply inept, or intending evil.  If someone could offer a third option...other than "both," I would love to hear it.  I keep coming back to the the work, "obtuse" but even that seems inadequate.

If he were a Republican...or anything other than a Democrat...I cannot understand how anyone could support anyone who was in President Obama's camp...following his party, his party's leaders or his party's talking points...

My State's Representative...actually MY Representative parroted Obama's promise of "if you like your health care plan you can keep it" nonsense.  Will I vote for him again?  Nope.  He has proven himself not only inept by not reading the bill before voting, but disrespecting of his obligation to represent my concerns...again, by not knowing what he was doing and listening to his party's leaders instead of to my questions.