Sunday, January 25, 2015

What promotes bullying and polarization?

So many people have commented to me that America seems to be so much more polarized and violent than what they remember.  And that coincides with my impression.  So...why is that?

On reflection, there are many candidates...and I strongly suspect that no one of them are the sole basis, nor do I think my list is complete, but I would argue that if we take them all together we will have a pretty good idea of some major influences that work to tear us apart as a nation.

Has anyone else noticed how violent the ads on tv are these days?  Notice how medicine attacks germs, stuff like mucus is killed by whatever medicine prevents it, how bugs aren't prevented, but killed in their tracks?  Everything is not only the best to solve your problem, but seemingly needs to kill the behavior that it is intended to prevent.  And it happens more than ever before.  Think it is an influence on behavior?  Or just a reflection?  Think about it.

How about political correctness?  It stifles a clear expression of what you believe and, more importantly, feel.  Emotions that are squashed and forced to be held in lead to higher stress levels and tend ultimately to show up in physical action...and that is violence.

At the same time, it prevents responding in kind when you are verbally insulted, attacked or disrespected.  Notice how often when someone is bullied in school and reacts by attacking the bullier, it is the person who acted to protect him or herself from the bullying is the one who is punished?  Apparently the bullier is the one protected.  Why?  Again the questions: an influence on behavior, albeit deferred?  And a sign that bullying is a protected activity, despite words to the contrary?  After all, actions speak so much louder than words.

And how about the prevalent attitude that no one should suffer consequences of their actions?  When I was growing up I was taught that all actions had consequences...good,...and bad.  I learned civilized behavior from my parents.  But I learned them from the words and direction...and I learned them from consequences of not acting "civilized."  Lying was punished...immediately.  It wasn't cute to tell "stories" and it wasn't laughed at just because it was inventive...it was punished.  Fighting was allowed if it was to defend you or your relatives honor should that be disrespected.  Fighting just because you wanted something someone else had was not allowed and was punished.  Bad language (and unlike today it included all swear words and scatological references) was punished immediately and the punishment usually included improving your vocabulary, the argument being that if one had an adequate vocabulary to describe your feelings, one needn't employ swearing.

And as to shoplifting and any other law-breaking, like vandalism and other inappropriate acts, it almost never required the attention of the law.  Why? Because the law could never know like my parents how to reach my very soul and the punishment of my parents was personal and left me with immense guild; a punishment by the "state" would never have been so effective.

When in today's America have any of seen true consequences delivered to anyone as not only a punishment but as a natural order of things?  Doesn't occur much today.  Is this absence contributory?

Our teachers are tasked with teaching.  Yet both administration and parents often act as if teachers are only to be "praisers" of children, approving everything they do, passing out passing grades as a matter or right, and never interfering with children's social lives even during class time...and if they dare interfere and the child physically attacks the teacher, it is the teachers' fault.  Does this sound like civilized behavior, much less justice, to you?  Doesn't make much sense to me.  Teachers are not always blameless, but I think that they could accuse most administrations and parents of fraud in the inducement; what they got isn't what they were promised.

I don't have the expertise to define what is cause and effect here, but it is hard to look at all these tendencies so prevalent today and not think that civilized behavior is not of high priority in the minds of today's citizens.  Narcissism is the practice of today, with parents choosing to accept government benefits that will have to be paid by their as-yet-unborn heirs, and even to the point of meeting their own desires while ignoring the needs of actual children.  How sad!  How ugly!  And how profoundly disappointing to those of us who must witness it and not have the power to effect any meaningful change.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Islam: Peaceful, or a threat to the West?

Have you noticed how the great majority of terrorist acts recently have been perpetrated by those who uttered words, or left written evidence, that indicated they were acting as Muslims in the service of God?  And have you also noticed that almost every politician, with the two exceptions of the current President of Egypt and the French Defense Minister, has refused to even use the word "Islam" in anyway when referencing the terrorist acts?  Does that seem as strange to you as it does to me?

After multiple readings of English translations of the Qu'ran, it would seem that the answer to the question posed by my title is...both.

The two major publications that we look upon as the basis for Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are the Qu'ran and the Bible.  According to Muslims, the Qu'ran was written by the Prophet, Mohammad.  We know the Bible was written years after the Jesus lived, not by him.  The Bible in the Old Testament is largely historical and allegorical; it provides tenets for living a live oriented to God, and provides specific instruction as to how to live one's life.  The New Testament is the story of Jesus' life and the message of redemption through faith in Jesus with the promise of rewards in Heaven.  The Old Testament in particular describes historical events when God instructed his "people" to conquer other lands, but nowhere contains any instruction for present day readers to take on any such political activity, even in defense of the religion.  The same is true of the New Testament.  Such actions have been undertaken in the name of Christianity in the past...the Crusades and the Inquisition come readily to mind...but they were movements driven by men who claimed to interpret or receive guidance from God, not from written direction in the Bible.  All religions speak to a higher existence that disdains violence in this life with rewards to come in the next life...except for one:  Islam!

Islam in the west seems to be a religion of Peace.  Yet we are aware that in nations where Muslims are in the majority, or have political control, they have absolutely no respect for any religion other than Islam; they require all to obey Sharia Law and any who are not converted take on "dhimmi" status, a second-class level of existence...or are killed.  To westerners, this is problematic...a conundrum that they apparently have no interest in understanding and definitely no interest in discussing publicly.  Why do you suppose that is?

To understand, one first must read the Qu'ran and understand not only its contents but also its authority.  As I wrote earlier, the Qu'ran was authored by Muslims Prophet, Mohammad while alive, not some historical remembering of him or things he said.  As such, it has absolute authority for devout Muslims...Mohammad spoke for God, and through the Qu'ran continues to speak for him.  There are no accommodations, no interpretations, no bargaining...if it is written, so it is and shall remain.  There is no room for asking what "is" is!

With that in mind, know that the Qu'ran commands that Muslims respect all religions so long as Muslims are in the minority.  They are to live a devout life, but honor others' beliefs and remain peaceful.  If and when Muslims become equal in power or equally influential in political circles, the Qu'ran then commands that Muslims require that Islam be given equal respect with other beliefs, and honor given to those that worship Allah.  So far, all this fits in with the western view of freedom of religion...live and let live, right?  Absolutely.  However it is the next step that means trouble.

The Qu'ran goes on to instruct the devout that should numerical or political superiority be achieved in a country, region or nation, the faithful shall impose Sharia Law and command all to convert to Islam.  If they refuse, or do not abide by Sharia Law, they either become "dhimmi" or are slain.

Some of you about now are thinking that that is ridiculous.  Really?  Consider the governance of Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Cote d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal.  Not enough?  How about: Sierra Leone,  Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, and Uganda.  Shall I go on to the Americas?  Consider: Guyana and Suriname.  In Asia, as just a sampling, we have: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh...well, you get the picture.  In each of these cases, Islam rules and all are answerable to Sharia.  Lashings, beheading and stoning to death are not unusual.  Remember the spate of honor killings here a number of years ago? In lands ruled by Sharia, those don't even make the news, much less be other than proper responses by the heads of house holds.

Many have told me that this kind of thing cannot happen in America...or even in most western countries.  Really?!  How do you know.  Those Muslims who denounce the terrorists do so for one of two reasons.  The one that we wish to be true is that they do not agree with the terrorists in any part of their beliefs.  But there is a very real possibility that some of "our" Muslims are devout, and as such do not try to rush the acquisition of numerical or political superiority...which they think that the terrorists are doing wrongly.  The devout are content to await their ascension to political power and then will, in accordance with their devoutly held beliefs, happily establish Sharia Islamic rule and require all to convert to Islam or take the degrading status of dhimmi while not in any way granting immunity from the application of Sharia law and its punishments.  Western women who like fashion, men or women who like alcohol, unrelated sex, or belong to the LGBT community will find no comfort if that happens.  But meanwhile, devout Muslims...those we could correctly call "fundamentalists"...will continue to get a head start on destroying the West they see as a threat to true Islam...and they will include any Islamic groups they see as no conforming to their vision of what true Islam is...

Anyone can see the politically correct conundrum that these facts would put on today's western diplomats, office holders, militarists should they be required to acknowledge them.  Their cowardice in the face of such a large potential problem is totally understandable...even as it is nonetheless inexcusable.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Do Candidates for Public Office always have to resemble Piranhas?

Politics is ugly.  There is a lot of passive/aggressive behavior lying just beneath the surface too.  During the middle of the last century there was a veneer of civility that provided just a slight softening of the rhetoric.  You could sense the vitriol, but it wan't just thrown out there, but couched in nicer terms with a softer, more civil voice.

There is no question that earlier practice of politics in America was extremely crude and lacked any real interest in truth.  It seemed actually to thrive on emotional name-calling and broad insults designed to anger the foe and inspire smiles, cheering and clapping by those on your side.

I would suggest that there was a conscious effort to "refine" the political rhetoric as we reached into the middle part of the 20th Century.  I always felt that an effort was being put forth to come across to the public as "civilized" in both action and speech...even as the comments sent us all to the dictionaries to determine just how great an insult had just been brandished, albeit by inference or innuendo.

And even as the battles waged at periscope depth, there was what seemed to be genuine friendships among those on opposite sides.  As in the courts, folks could argue emotionally and feverishly one against another, yet sit down and share a drink and good conversation as dinner was served with your erstwhile foe.

Today, rare indeed is a friendship...or even acquaintanceship...that crosses ideological lines, even after the close of the work day.  Not only do people on opposite sides not understand each other...they don't want to understand each other.  At least that is how most of them act, even when saying words to the contrary.

Given that unfortunate state of political art, it nonetheless is confounding to me how people in the same general segment of political ideology can be as negative with each other when vying for a nomination as they are with those diametrically opposed to their point of view.  When viewed as the bigger picture, their differences are extremely minor and, while demonstrably important, don't seem to rise to the level that calls for a "take no prisoners" conflict.  Yet that is what happens in both major political parties...at least as I view it.

I remember Ronald Reagan's admonition to not speak ill of any fellow Republican.  I always like both the sound and the content of that statement.  Even as we now embark on the very beginning of a campaign that will result in a new President of these United States of America, we see this strange sense of cannibalism becoming more apparent.  There used to be an art to a candidate explaining the plus' of their positions that did not require an attack on anyone else; "I am better than 'xxxxx' because I would 'xxxx.' " caused a listener or reader to think about how that person's election would effect the body he was trying to join...and how it would serve our own community.  Those who simply explained why one shouldn't like someone else never used to be a reason to presume that the person deriding another would be a good office holder.  So...why does that seem to work now?  I doesn't with me, but there has got to a serious expectation of its efficacy since almost everyone seems to do it.

And the serious downside of such negative campaigning is that regardless of who wins, that survivor finds that the infighting has handed the real opponents much ammunition to use in the general election.  So...where is the advantage?  I just don't see it.  Short term, maybe there is a boost...but in the age of video tape and recording the long term result is usually disastrous.

Are politicians and political really so stupid as to continue this absurd practice?  I guess we will see in just a bit...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Is President Obama right?

I read recently, with dismay, that President Obama has declared that race relations in the country have improved, even as polls show people believe the contrary.  But...after some quiet reflection, I have concluded that there is at least a reasonable argument to be made that he is correct.

Consider that if a person, a group, or a race feel at risk, they will tend to work at "flying under the radar", so to speak, to avoid problems in their lives.  If one can exist peacefully for the most part, even if not possessed of total equality, it is hard to make a decision to put your sustainable life style at risk without a guarantee of improvement.  If this is Mr. Obama's belief, then he could be arguing that the current crop of demonstrations and the ongoing out-cry by black and other minorities is proof of an improved self-image that not only allows, but requires, the demand for further improvement.

It should be noted that there are myriad black and minority families that have succeeded and achieved great position in our country.  I would argue that the vast majority see only occasional challenges that could even be remotely assigned to race...and those could just as easily be written off as individuals just able to get along.  That happens among all groups and has nothing to do with race.

So, on reflection it would seem that if there is any credence to Mr. Obama's assertion, then it only applies to a select group...a minority of a minority, as it were...that now wants to be treated with respect, regardless of their behavior.  Only time will tell if their claims resonate with the vast majority.  And it would help if their claims were clarified and not related to or based on distorted views of events.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Do Sharpton, Holder and Mr. Obama want to return to "separate but equal?"

It is tough to understand just what the most recent class of demonstrators really want.  They shout for "justice" and for "dead policemen."  But then the media says that they don't really want that.  So...when will the demonstrators speak for themselves and say what they truly want?

Are we to accept that the triumvirate of  President Obama, Al Sharpton, and Eric Holder...and their acolyte, Mayor deBlasio...speak for the group as a whole?  I wonder.  None of that group seems truly dedicated to the plight of black neighborhoods except as it fits and advances their own purposes.  So...what, indeed, is the desire of the unhappy resident of a black community.

The one thing I have heard and read that repeats itself is that they want the police force to be "representative."  In Ferguson that meant that almost all the police were white and didn't understand how to police a black neighborhood.  That does sound reasonable.  It certainly made sense to me.  But then the question is raised just how to accomplish that.  Because, if you do get the desired percentage of black officers, you would still have some percent of white officers continuing to police the black neighborhood.

Ah, I hear, but those white police can be trained to understand how to police the black community "properly."  Oh, really?

I have had black acquaintances and friends tell be that it is impossible for any white person to understand the attitude of any black man or women; that without experiencing it, you just cannot know what it is like.  Well, that sounds accurate too.  Although I think we can all try a bit more to understand those who come from different backgrounds.

Consider the facts that underlie the recent minority (make that "black) deaths in conflict with the police:  first, the (white) policeman in Ferguson was undeniably being attacked and the dead (black) teen would undeniably faced felony charges of attacking a police officer if he had survived;  second, in NYC, the supervising police officer of that arrest was black and there is absolutely no evidence that suggests that there was any racially-based "misunderstanding" of the circumstances of the arrest. (And, let it be noted that there was in fact no actual "choke-hold"; that the deceased died because of the combination of being held down and his own respiratory issues.)

So each of these events were fact based...not racially oriented at all, except by those who wished to promote anarchy, violence, looting and burning.  And those people were honored by comments by President Obama, and the additional gift of the presence of both Eric Holder and Al Sharpton, the President's "go-to guy" on racial issues (although, since he himself is black, one wonders why the President should have to have any assistance in understanding the black community and the nuances of their feelings and desires...but perhaps that is a subject for further discussion another day).

The recurring theme is "we want to be policed by black police officers because they will "understand."

That seems to suggest that they want to segregate the police force so that they can have justice.  They will feel less "threatened" if they have black men in blue in their community.

Do any of you have any suspicions as to what the general populace, and the media in particular, might have to say about such a suggestion if it were made by people in a white community suggesting that they only wanted "white" police officers protecting their interests because only "white" officers "understood" them?  Think that one would fly?  Even get off the ground?  Yet...that is what is the base of the desire of Mr. Obama, Mr. Holder and Mr. Sharpton (No one quite knows what Mayor deBlasio wants or thinks...and no expects to understand that anytime soon.)  They don't use, of course, the phrase "separate but equal" but they refer to "representational" numbers of minority officers.

For some reason, I have always thought that the laws of this country were not "nuanced" by the culture of those who broke a law; that if you were rich or poor, it was still wrong to steal, kill and hurt people.  I believe(d) that one spoke civilly to others, obeyed directions given to you by an officer of the law and, if disturbed by it, argue the propriety about the order later...in a court of law.  You didn't talk back to your parents, your boss or a policeman.  Perhaps I am wrong, but I do not recall any indication that those absolutes were colored ( no pun intended) by the race, nationality, skin pigment, or social position of either the policeman (or other person of authority) of the person being directed to behave in a certain way.  Did I miss that?  I don't think so.

Should be come to accept that black, and other minority communities should be policed by people of their own race, background and gender, it will not be long before those minorities will demand that their teachers by of the same race; that they have bankers of their own race; that all of their political representative be of their own race.

Will the occasional white resident in a black community then have the right to demonstrate, damage, hurt and burn down the community while demanding that a white person hear their grievance?

And I finish with the observation that a large portion of responsibility for the ongoing unrest lies with the media.  They have allowed and helped to spread false claims and comments about the triggering events that only serve to artificially support those who make a living in the Race Industry, fomenting unrest and gaining notoriety for themselves.  Even as they claim "with hands up" that they are only reporting the "news" they are remarkably selective in their reporting, so the claim of innocence rings hollow indeed.

If the black demonstrators get what they seem to be asking for, I suspect that in the end they will rue the day that they allowed some people to "lead" them down this path.  They will not be better off for traveling that directions.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Is "Sony" just the tip of a very dangerous Iceberg?

For a very small, backward, albeit nuclear, country like North Korea to be able to attack the computer capability of a large Corporation in the United States and create enough fear that a scheduled release of a film frowned upon by North Korea was cancelled is, depending on where you stand or work, insulting, inconvenient, threatening, damaging and/or cyber terrorism, vandalism or warfare (chose any combination).

And now we are beginning to see articles touting the cyber-warfare capabilities of the United States that might be used to respond to any attacks on the country.   This is comforting...I think!

But it is also disturbing from another point of view.  The premise seems to be that if some entity attacks the U.S. in cyberspace, we have the capability to attack and destroy the attacker.  Now, as a person who is likely to be one of the citizens whose internet and computer capabilities will be damaged or destroyed, the fact that the entity causing my cyber destruction is being obliterated doesn't really solve my problem or satisfy my dilemma.

I would be much happier to learn that in addition to our country's retributive capability, it could protect me from being harmed in the first place...and our business and utility infrastructure as well.  I don't hear that...not even consideration of the desire to do that.

Not only does that absence of assurance give me pause, but it has been years since I heard anyone mention the need to be capable of defending against EMP devices.  These devices can "fry" electronics, virtually rendering all utilities, communications, and transportation inoperative until the electronic heart of the controls are replaced...an event likely to take many months.  The idea of planes dropping out of the sky, cars losing control, trains stopping, all not to move again for months is not desirable.  The concept of gas, electric and water supplies being rendered inoperative would be dangerous to our health.

Once every great while, I hear some person in government mention that this needs attention, but then the voice fades and I have never seen any report that suggests that we are even working assiduously to protect us from this kind of threat, much less that we are protected now.

Maybe...just maybe...someone ought to make sure that somebody...anybody...works on this stuff?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Is Government of, for, and by the People ever going to be possible again?

It seems as if Politicians always lie.  Maybe not every single one, and maybe not absolutely every time they talk...but often enough to leave us with the feeling...and even the conviction...that they indeed are dedicated to something other than the truth.

Why is that so?

I suspect that they do this because they either know or strongly suspect that if they told us the truth, we would not elect (or, re-elect) them.  But...at some basic level we all actually know that they are lying...yet we allow them to get away with the lie.  And we do that not just once...but over and over and over.

But that isn't the whole problem.  Ask yourself..."Why is it that what they promise so convincingly a lie?"  Most of what they promise...well, except for the fact that they insist that it won't cost us anything...is good, is desirable and is worth at least trying.  So...why doesn't it happen.

Well, everybody has their own answer; conspiracy believers abound; folks of all ideologies have their pet talking points; and there are even some who deny that any lies are ever told.

But I have my own:  MONEY!

No, I don't have an argument with the Citizens United case.  And if all ideological arguments were represented by equal money there arguably wouldn't be anyone with an unequal advantage.  But that argument would be false.

The problem is that people running for office, and those who wish to be re-elected to office have to raise money for their campaigns or their election bids will fail.  And that means that you have to convince people to contribute.  They don't do that so that other people will get something...they do it because they are going to get something they want.  Remember the show and film, The Producers?
Every politician is making those promises to each and every contributor; every politician tries to write their plea for money in general way so they can claim that whatever they do, it fits into the promise you think they made to you.  Mr. Obama was the best at this: Hope and Change, right?  Well, he gave each of us that, didn't he.  That was at least one time when, technically, he did not lie to anyone.  Those words were brilliantly chosen to allow each and every one of us who wanted something to change in Washington to infer that he was talking about our definitions of those words.  But he is just the most recent practitioner of the art of parsing words and phrases.  Every politician on every side of any aisle that has ever existed has done the very same thing.  Let the buyer beware!

But where we, the electorate, really lose control is when you get very, very rich people getting together and meeting personally with a candidate or office holder and making huge donations that carry very specific conditions...conditions that are NOT made public, that are NOT transparent...although if we knew the people involved, we all could probably figure out just what was bought and paid for.  And we get angry...not because it is done, but largely because WE can't do the same thing...OUR wishes aren't going at the top of the list...it isn't votes, it is money, because the money buys the votes through tv, radio, internet and radio advertising; money buys staffs and re-election offices and the best minds to craft high sounding populist slogans that make people trust the untrustworthy.  THAT is where the problem resides.

So...what could be a solution?  Is there one?  One that doesn't offend the Constitution?  I don't know...truly!  But I do have an idea.

What if any politician running for any Federal Government Office did not need to buy advertising space, time or access?  What if any person running for such office did not have to pay for production costs for advertise, whether print or media?  What if pay for all re-election personnel were covered by a source other than contributions?

Supposing every candidate was guaranteed equal time and equal space and they need not do any fund-raising?  Consider that if we can keep the emphasis on the message each candidate is communicating, we all are better off than if the candidate even before the election (and whether he or she even knows it has happened) has sold out.

Is that worth a try?

Hey...there is no such thing as a free lunch.  It'll cost you...you, the electorate, ... you, the taxpayer.  But you just might once again have control of your so-called Representatives, your Senators, your President.  Shouldn't that be worth something to you?  If not, stop reading and go back to whatever you were doing before you tripped over this column.  Otherwise...let's see how we could actually do this...

First, where would the money come from?  That's easy...the Federal Government.  Where would they get it?  That is easy too...from us.  Not that little box we sometimes notice now on the IRS forms each April, but from use of General Fund moneys appropriated for the purpose.

Who would control this attempt?  Well, one possibility would be the creation of an independent organization outside the government run much as the current Congressional Budget Office which is non-partisan and simply applies numbers; for this it would track advertising space, placement, tv and radio time, internet efforts and insure that all candidates got equal time, equal space and equivalent time slots on a rotating basis.  Each outlet (paper, tv station, radio station, etc.) would indicate the total time that they were willing to alot, and that time would be distributed absolutely equally.  All production costs would likewise be covered by tax funds and those expenses would be controlled so that each candidate would have equal resources to produce their flyers, ads, commercial and the like.

The key here is that no candidate would have to sell his or her votes in the future to fund getting elected...they would have the opportunity and perhaps even the obligation to speak truth to the electorate.  This would cost billions...but we are wasting billions now on silly things.  Wouldn't it be better to buy ourselves honest elections?  Do you have something better that would provide more benefit to you and your family than that?  I have to say that as far as I am concerned, there is nothing of more lasting benefit, not just to me, but to my children and my grandchildren.

Why can't people try to find out how to make this...or something like it...work, rather than throw up their hands and simply write it off as not workable.  If you see something wrong with it, come with a way to fix it or make it better.  Because the way we are going is just encouraging our "representatives" to keep on lying to us and selling us down the river.