Maybe We Can Learn from the Lessons of ISIS

When the former State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf, said “we need to go after ISIS’s root causes, like the lack of job opportunities”, she may have gotten the principle right, but the population wrong. It may arguably be true that if the ISIS recruits were gainfully employed, many would not join in the Islamic revolution. However, ISIS soldiers are not from just the unemployed ranks, but from all strata of society. A better description of the ISIS recruits is that most are either religious zealots or social ‘misfits’. Finding no place in their normal society, they look for acceptance where they can find it. Unfortunately, their choice will cost many lives and probably their own lives at well.

The population Ms. Harf should have been referencing are black males, who are predominantly from single-parent homes. Black families, with children under 18 headed by a single mother, have the highest rate of poverty at 47.5% compared to only 8.4% of black married couple families. Children raised in these single parent homes are 3X more likely to end up in prison and 50% more likely to be poor as adults, according to the Heritage Foundation. “Young black males commit homicides at a rate 10x greater than white or Hispanics combined,” stated Bill O’Riley.

With limited job opportunities available in the ghetto communities, crime offers more than the limited wage. But to be eligible for opportunities that will raise them out of the ghetto, dramatic changes need to be made in our education system— more targeted to preparing them for the work force that matches their talents and teaching how to succeed through honest means. Basic elementary education to prepare them to enter society at the level they are best suited for, but with opportunity to go onto levels of higher education.

The rise in single parent families is not just seen in the black community, but is more prevalent. The reasons fall into three categories— social, religious and economic. Past religious traditions of marriage and the commitments that come with it are becoming more aberrations than the norm.

In 1963, only 6% of all American babies were born out of wedlock. That number has now risen to 41% of all populations and 72% of the black population. The stigma of being born out of wedlock is gone, just as the institution of marriage as a prerequisite before moving in together. Without the formal commitment of marriage, many, if not most, of these relationships fail. Far too often one parent is left with all the responsibilities and the financial burdens that come with raising children.

The social entitlement programs of Medicaid, CHIP, food stamps, and Chapter 8 housing, are all intended to help those in poverty. But they lack the needed incentives to lift those who come to rely on them out of their impoverished existence. In 2005, the poverty rate in this country was 12.6% and it has increased to 14.5% today, even though over $4.5 trillion has been spent on these anti-poverty programs during that time.

It’s not just where individuals come from but their opportunities when they are employable. William A. Darity Jr. of Duke University claims, “that blacks are the last to be hired in a good economy, and when there’s a downturn, they’re the first to be released.” A 2010 Currant Population Survey agreed that blacks in the work force were the first fired in a weakened business cycle. But early in the business cycle, if they unemployed versus nonparticipants in the labor force, the irony is they are frequently hired first.

There are answers to these growing problems that are turning many of our major cities into poverty riddled ghettos, where federal entitlement programs are the only hope and crime is the best means survival. It must come in three areas— education, morality and opportunity. At the early ages, students must be set on realistic pathways— trade schools and on-the-job mentoring versus gearing everyone toward a traditional college education. Instilling the moral concept of doing good for others, even is there is no direct benefit— that it’s not always just about me.  Finally, realistic opportunities to move out of their impoverished communities.

In early 1973, it was announced by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird that no further draft orders would be issued. It could possibly be time to bring it back. On first look, conscription (another form of the draft that pertains also to peacetime programs) is an idea that could deal with the multiple problems that State Department spokesman, Marie Harf, was referencing when she used the term opportunities. According to the latest numbers in 2011, 64 countries still had some form of conscription, which predominately targets young males. Conscription increases opportunities because it teaches certain skill sets that are not all military oriented.  It also teaches respect for authority, discipline and personal responsibility— disciplines that are missing in many single parent homes today. Israel and Switzerland are two countries that exemplify that there should be a price to pay to grow up in the United States and not just wait for the next welfare check and food stamps.

Optimistically, becoming part of something that is bigger than their next ‘hit’, instills loyalty and raises hope that the life they go back to after their service is over, can be made better than the one they left.

It’s Time to Put the Confederate Flag to Rest

One of this country’s basic tenants is freedom of expression. The recent debate over flying the Confederate flag over the state house in South Carolina, put the possible limits of freedom of expression to the test. When the Confederate States surrendered to the Union Army, they gave up control and, once again, our country joined together as one.

That did not mean the Confederate states had to give up all their southern traditions and act only as ‘Yankees’. It did, however, mean the end of slavery. Now, 150 years later, under a black President, this country is dealing with racial unrest in the black community over discrimination with law enforcement and job opportunity. The causes of the plight in the black population are not a point of this posting, but their concern over being offended by continuing to fly the Confederate flag is.

To many, if not most of the blacks, the flag is a symbol of their oppression. Although it was a century and a half ago, their memory of that pain still lingers. As a possible comparison, the oppression of the Jews under Hitler’s Nazi, Germany was a holocaust of even greater proportion, than slavery in the United States. But both injustices left scars that may never be totally washed away by time. Continuing to fly the Nazi flag after Hitler’s army fell was never a question. So, it seems we need to put flying the Confederate flag to rest over the public institutions, not just because the North won the war, but out of respect to the members of our black community.

The Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, called for the American flag to be banned due to its link with racism. Media analyst, Mark Dice, asked random people to sign a petition that would eliminate our current flag and substitute it for another. Although many turned him down, many did not— demonstrating either their lack of concern for our country or ignorance. I’m not sure which is worse.

Our forefathers, black, white and in-between fought for the freedom to raise ‘Old Glory’ as a symbol of our united country. And nothing should stand in our way.


The President Has Already Decided on Global Warming for Us

The debate over global warming rages on. The questions raised are two: Is global warming really happening? If the answer to this first question is yes, then are the variances related to normal cyclical climatic changes, as seen down through the ages, or are they anthropogenic (manmade)?

There seems to be a consensus against pollution. But when the subject is linked to global climate changes, arguments heat up on both sides. The controversy seems to center on the ‘greenhouse effect’, where warming occurs when heat from the earth is trapped in the atmosphere by the greenhouse gases— water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.  When their levels increase, the ocean temperatures rise, leading to a cascade of erratic weather patterns.

Chinese scientists warn that their country’s air pollution resembles a ‘nuclear winter’ by slowing plant photosynthesis that can severely damage their country’s food supply, as well as raising respiratory health concerns. The Chinese air pollution has already created problems in their economy by, at times, grounding flights, closing highways and discouraging tourism.

Historically, India is an agricultural nation that has created major water pollution issues. Discharge of untreated sewage is the single most important cause for pollution of surface and ground water in India. Additionally, their air pollution is worse than China’s.

The oppressive smog in Mexico City, due to its high population density and unique geographic boundaries is legendary. Although not as severe as in many other countries, examples abound here in the United States. The pollution of heavy algae growth of the Great Lakes, caused by chemical runoff into surface water by commercial farming in the Midwestern and Northeastern states around the lakes, is still an ongoing problem.

“The entire climate change situation has become politicized. Those on the right, and those on the left, hanging out in “echo chambers”, listening to those with similar world views refusing to believe anything else could be true.The debate involves the anthropogenic impact.

Many professional meteorologists feel like we are fighting a losing battle when it comes to national media and social media hype and disinformation. They will be sure to let you know that weather events they are reporting on are ‘unprecedented’, there are ‘millions and millions in the path’, it is caused by a ‘monster storm’, and ‘the worst is yet to come’ since these events are becoming more ‘frequent’.

You will never hear about the low tornado count in recent years, the lack of major hurricane landfalls on U.S. coasts over the past 10 years, or the low number of wildfires this year. It doesn’t fit their story. But, never let facts get in the way of a good story…. there will ALWAYS be a heat wave, flood, wildfire, tornado, typhoon, cold wave, and snow storm somewhere.”

James Spann AMS                                    Host of Weather Blog

The supporters of anthropogenic climate changes fall into two categories: local changes only and the cumulative effects worldwide. Those addressing the local or regional effects of pollution should fall under local or state ordinances, but in progressively more situations, the Environmental Protection Agency has taken over. Recently, President Obama issued another Executive Order to create more government control on properties that are covered by water.

As his tenure in the White House draws to a close, President Obama has moved this subject to his top priority, claiming that enforcing climate change regulations will indeed be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership— the Obamatrade pact that he is currently negotiating with Malaysia and 10 other countries.  He is quoted as saying, “If we want to solve something like climate change, then I’ve got to be able to get into places like Malaysia, and say to them, this is in your best interest. What leverage do I have to get them to stop deforestation? Well part of the leverage is if I’m in a trade relationship with them that allows me to raise standards.”

The President is also framing the challenges of climate change as a matter of national security that threatens to aggravate poverty and political instability around the globe, and jeopardizes the readiness of U.S. forces. In an address to the U.S. Coastguard graduates, he tells them, “Make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. So we need to act and we need to act now… Climate change is not just a problem for countries on the coast or for certain regions of the world. Climate change impacts every country on the planet.”

According to Howard Richman of the American Thinker, the daily online magazine that deals with American politics, President Obama would not need to get Congress to approve the unfair climate change treaty terms that he negotiates.  Instead, he could get the Commission set up by the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement to add those terms to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In December, Obama will negotiate a multi-country climate agreement in Paris that will commit the United States to a huge reduction in carbon emissions of 26%-28% from 2005 levels, but he will let China, already a much larger carbon emitter, continue to expand its carbon emissions until 2030.

As the world’s population density grows, bringing with it more commercial transportation, industrialization and large-scale agriculture, pollution becomes an increasing threat to the environment. The scientific community is still in heated debate over whether this growth affects only the local environment or cumulative changes to our planet.

It seems President Obama, single-handedly, has already made up our minds for us!

This Century’s Berlin Wall

Ronald Reagan’s speech has reverberated throughout history as the start of the collapse of the Soviet Union. On June 12, 1987 he commanded, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Reagan’s words professed his strong belief that ‘freedom would eventually triumph over totalitarianism.’

For many years before being elected President, Reagan studied Communism and how its expansion in the decade before he became President had brought 10 new nations under the control of the Soviet Union.  When Reagan became President, he ushered in the largest peacetime military buildup in history. The leadership of the Soviet Union was either forced into accepting the United States’ growing military dominance, or take a chance on bankrupting their own unstable economy, by trying to match it. At the same time, Reagan made it clear that the present coexistence with the totalitarian bloc of Eastern European countries was not only undesirable, but unacceptable.

Although it took three years, following Reagan’s second visit to the Berlin wall in 1987, his exhortation ‘to take down the wall’, served notice to the rest of the world that America stood for freedom.  By accompanying his remarks with the largest peacetime military build up in history, the leadership in the Soviet Union knew he was serious.

President Reagan surely deserves much credit for the fall of the Berlin wall, but it was the actions of Michael Gorbachev, the current leader of the Soviet Union at the time, who had the most prominent role. Previous policy, called the Brezhnev Doctrine, asserted that problems within any of the Warsaw Pact nations were a “concern of all socialist countries,” and that Moscow would intervene to “keep them in line.” More tolerant, Gorbachev pushed for reforms in openness (glasnost) and restructuring (perestroika), beginning in 1985. By abandoning the Brezhnev Doctrine, the possibility of revolution, such as in East Germany, became much more likely. In 1989, the Hungarian Prime Minister pushed an effort to remove the border fence between his country and Austria. In large numbers, East Germans fled to Hungary through Czechoslovakia.  Erich Honecker, who led East Germany, relented to the rising pressure by allowing the refugees, trapped in Czechoslovakia, safe passage through East Germany on ‘freedom trains,’ bound for the West.

One month before the Berlin Wall fell, 100,000 East Germans in the town of Leipzig peacefully protested against their continued isolation from the West. Other protests spread across East Germany and a demonstration in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz public-square estimated at 500,000 strong, culminated in the announcement of relaxation of visa restrictions at the East/West German border on November 9, 1989. The demolition of the wall officially began on June 13, 1990, and was completed in 1992

Former working actor, Governor of California and President, Ronald Reagan had the foresight, far before taking over the nation’s highest office, to study communism and formulate a plan to stop its spread throughout the European continent and abroad. Along with his unwavering optimism, he had the courage to build up the United States’ military capabilities. Even in the face of increasing criticism by many in this country, he believed in avoiding confrontation out of strength and not weakness.

He also backed up his belief that being stronger was better. In response to learning that Libyan President Muammar Kaddafi was behind the terrorist bombing of La Belle Discotheque in Berlin, Germany in 1986, that killed two American soldiers and injured 150 more, Reagan authorized what became known as Operation El Dorado Canyon. United States air and naval forces launched a series of strikes against the headquarters, terrorist facilities and military assets that supported Kaddafi. Dozens were reported killed, including Kaddafi’s daughter.

Facing the difficulties of effectively closing the borders and coming to grips with this country’s unrealistic entitlement commitments must be priorities for whoever follows President Obama. However, dealing with the rapidly, increasing threat of terrorism in the Middle East and here in our own home towns, must be the next President’s top priority. It could be this century’s Berlin Wall.

Let’s pray that this next election will produce, not just another President, but a visionary with the courage of Reagan in the 1980’s and Sir Winston Churchill during the 1940’s. The future of the free world may depend on it!

Groveling for the Truth at the Trough

WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The legendary Bob Schieffer is calling it a career Sunday as he hosts his last “Face the Nation.”

“We now don’t know where people get their news, but what we do know is they’re bombarded with information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Most of the information is wrong and some of it is wrong on purpose,” Schieffer said.

Think of getting the news as akin to eat’n at the trough— you grovel for what they give you and, in most cases, you don’t get to ask any questions. The only choice being what trough you choose.

The facts have been relegated to the metro sections of our newspapers, radio and television stations. Reporters have become journalists and commentators who analyze the facts before they choose what news they want released to the public. Most come with or reflect the bias of their periodical or their station. We, the consumers, those of us who care what is happening around us, are also at fault, since we usually only get the news from sources that are sympathetic to our own points of view.

There are four groups of potential voters that get their information from this biased media— the informational trough.

Group one is mostly comprised of those that lean to the left. The majority are pro-government, anti-big business and eager to expand the entitlement programs. By and large, they are beneficent and idealistic because they know that ‘big brother’ is watching over their best interests and any debt incurred can be put off to some time in the future.

The conservatives comprise the second voting group. They support big business, competition and entrepreneurial endeavors. The less ‘big brother’ is involved, the better. What happens to those further down the economic ladder is contingent on the success of those who create the jobs. Expanding debt is their enemy.

Those that don’t vote and don’t plan to vote because they either don’t care or don’t know enough to make a decision, make up group three. If Australia, a country with mandatory voting is any example, this group makes up about 20% of their population. They live in a world of acceptance— taking what they can and not concerned enough to try to affect change— the entitlement mindset.

Like tall grass flowing with the wind, this fourth group is generally not partisan. It is made up of those whose vote is for what benefits them the most.  Small business owners, housewives and employees comprise this influential group. However, they are large enough to usually determine what candidates are elected to public office. They are often at least partially dependent on the government’s social entitlement programs, but at the same time, dependent on the success of their employer. Their vote is where the candidates target their resources and messages. Minimal wage, equal pay, gay marriage, abortion and education top their lists of interest. They are also the ‘middle’ that is getting squeezed, as the rich get richer and the poor are enticed to stay where they are, by the increasing generosity with the array of federal entitlement programs.

Our President has recently proposed the idea of mandatory voting. Usually, I have not considered this idea seriously, until, through Executive Orders, he seems to make anything he wants happen.

The argument the President makes for everyone voting is that it would be a true reflection of the will of the majority. The argument against it is that the populous, as a whole, is probably not educated enough to make informed decisions that are good for the long term interests of the country, only for themselves. If everyone voted, the populous would probably vote themselves into an entitlement state, which is where we seem to be headed if we stay on the same course. Greece, here we come!

Since the estimates classify about 50% of the voting population as uninformed, it is then pursuant for the other half to not just regurgitate the same old talking points. They should question and compare, not from just their old trough, but other troughs of information.

In 1942, the American health food pioneer, Victor Lindlahr, published his book, You Are What You Eat. Although his interest was in the nutrition of the body, it could just have easily applied to the nutrition of the mind. If we, those of us who pretend to think we are informed about the issues we espouse, just sidle up to the same trough, how can we expect to think any differently?

Would Our Forefathers Find Fault with Obama’s Vision for America?

It’s important to look back to when this country won its freedom from England and what the founding fathers created. Wanting to go in a direction that put control in the hands of the citizens, the authors of the Constitution created what is called a Constitutional Democratic Federal Republic. The power of control was divided into three branches of the federal government— the Executive branch, the legislative branch, or the Congress that was composed of representatives from the states and the judicial branch. In simple terms, the Executive branch was in charge of carrying out the laws, the legislative branch to create or change existing laws as well as allocating funding for government spending and the judicial branch was to judge the laws as they comply with the stipulations as outlined in the Constitution.

This republic is different from a democracy, where the majority of voters can impose their will on the minority. Although political representation is determined by a democratic voting system, the US Republic’s Constitution and the Bill of Rights, even in the face of majority opinion, serve to protect its citizens inalienable rights.

There is now leeway in each of these branches’ roles to better meet the needs of the rapidly and unpredictably changing world. The President can issue Executive Orders that carry the full force of the law, including military strikes against the enemy as long as they don’t exceed 72 hours. In addition to formulating and passing bills that are sent on to the White House, the legislative branch has the power to override the President, through their veto power, to enact or change the laws, if it is by a two-thirds majority by both houses of Congress. They also have the authority to change the Constitution, if their will meets the same two-thirds majority, followed by a ratification of three-fourths of the state legislatures. The judicial branch (Supreme Court) has assumed wider latitude in their rulings by interpreting the intent of the Constitutional amendments.

The problem is that this blurring of the boundaries in our tripartite government is taking the power away from the people and putting it back in under federal control. The result is either autocratic control by whomever occupies the White House, or a deterioration into a mobocracy that is sensitized to the needs of the most vocal of the masses, as in Ferguson and Baltimore. Current examples abound that expose the threats to the Constitution: President Obama’s mandate on illegal aliens, his unwillingness to close the borders and enforce existing legislation that would control the rising inflow of illegal immigrants. Harry Reid, essentially shutting down the Senate, when he was majority leader. The initial ruling by the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act.

The United States is rapidly drifting away from the Republic where the will of the people dominate within the constraints of the Constitution. Instead, the country is moving in the direction of a democracy, that responds to mob outcry, where special interests and not the Constitution rule. A country where the President uses his ‘pen and his phone’ to go around Congress, and issues mandates that often appear to violate the Constitution. Where the work of the Congress is ground to a halt at the will of the Senate Majority Leader.  Where controversial Supreme Court decisions are virtually always determined by one vote margin because the Justices, even in the face of overwhelming testimony to the contrary, are intransigent in their basic beliefs.

Is the threat to our Constitutional Republic’s governance by the people just part of an evolution in an ever-changing and more complex world or is there a slow movement toward socialism? A federation of states, where more power moves under centralized control as the citizens willingly vote themselves more subsidies, leads to more dependency and less independency.

The current entitlement obligations, immigration policies and our runaway debt are going to transform the United States into a democracy under autocratic control. When that time comes, if hasn’t already, let’s just hope the autocrat who occupies the White House isn’t a despot.

Is this the vision for America that our founding fathers wanted?

Do They Remind Us of the Thénardiers?

The musical adapted from the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, is set in early 19th century France. It is the story of Jean Valjean, who was imprisoned for nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving child. Searching for redemption, Valjean breaks parole and starts a new life. Several years later, he assumes a new identity as Monsieur Madeleine, a wealthy factory owner and mayor of the small, French town of Montreuil-sur-Mer.

Fantine, a single mother working in Valjean’s factory, is trying to support her daughter, Cosette, who is being raised by the innkeepers, Monsieur and Madame Thénardier. This deceitful couple uses Cosette as a housemaid, while extorting more money out of Fantine by claiming Cosette is seriously ill, only to indulge their own daughter, Eponine. The morally corrupt Thénardiers also cheated the customers at their inn and lived a life based on personal greed and deception.  Becoming aware of Cosette’s miserable situation, Valjean pays off the Thénardiers, who feign concern for Cosette, and takes her with him to Paris.

The Thénardiers are opportunists— persons who exploit circumstances in order to gain advantages, rather than being guided by consistent principles. Taking Cosette under their wing appeared to be an act of beneficence, so that her mother could work. Instead, the Thénardiers lied about Cosette’s medical condition, exploiting the vulnerable Fantine to get even more money. To make matters worse, they used the child as a servant, rather than treating her as a guest at their inn.

The lying about Cosette’s health takes the Thénadier’s situation, along with the extorsion, to a level of criminality. They also cross the line by forcing her into a role of a servitude, which would probably violate child work laws today. Simply put, not only are the Thénardiers greedy and insensitive, they are criminals— using their economic situation to take advantage of others who were not as fortunate.

The errant ways of the Thénardiers finally caught up with them when they lost their inn, and were forced to become con artists in a street gang. Apparently undeterred and believing that their fortunes someday would turn around, Monsieur Thénardier is last seen roaming the Paris sewers as he loots fallen bodies from the most recent upheaval over the impending death of General Lamarque, a defender of the poor. An excerpt from the song, Beggars at the Feast, epitomizes their almost blind optimism:

           ‘…But we’re the ones who take it. We’re the ones who make it in the end! Watch the buggars dance. Watch ‘em till they drop. Keep your wits          about you and you stand on top! Masters of the land, always get our share. Clear away the barricades and we’re still there! We know where the wind is blowing. Money is the stuff we smell and when we’re rich as Croesus Jesus, won’t we see you all in hell!’

Hugo doesn’t give us any closer look as to what motivated the Thénardiers. They weren’t hardened criminals, more petty crooks, who skirted with the law— mere shysters, who capitalized on others for their own personal benefit. Just as when they forced Valjean to pay them 1,500 francs to take Cosette from them. The Thénardiers never missed the chance to ‘make a buck’. When an opportunity arose, they took it. It would appear that the reason they preyed on Fantine and the guests at their inn was because they could.

Monsieur Thénardier best describes his attitude in the song, Keeper of the House:

 ‘Welcome, M’sieur. Sit yourself down, and meet the best innkeeper in town. As for the rest, all of ‘em crooks, rooking their guests and cooking the books. Seldom do you see honest men like me. A gent of good intent, who’s content to be master of the house, doling out the charm. Ready with a handshake and an open palm. Tells a saucy tale, makes a little stir, customers appreciate a bon-viveur. Glad to do a friend a favor. Doesn’t cost me to be nice, but nothing gets you nothing! Everything has got a little price!’

Does any of this sound strangely familiar?

Why Politics and Religion Don’t Mix

Agreeing or not with his decisions, it would be hard to deny that George W. Bush was a religious man and that his faith in our Creator helped him through some very difficult times. He didn’t use his religious beliefs to define his Presidency, but to give him support during his Presidency.

A growing number of candidates for public office feel they are being forced to run away from their faith publicly, rather than being marginalized. We seem to confuse one’s faith with one’s religion. A religion is a system of attitudes, beliefs and practices that were created by man. Faith is a personal support system that is shored up by the teachings of a particular religion. Just like political persuasions, there may be teachings by a particular religion with which an individual may not fully support, but still align with that religion. In the end, no matter what religion we align with, we all answer to God. The concerns raised when talking about separation of ‘church from state’, come when religious beliefs, which vary from religion to religion, trump decisions are made through faith.

The distinction should be whether the candidates are defined by their faith, rather than just the teachings of their particular religion. Those who are defined by their faith, often attempt to bring others to their own line of thinking. The difference is choice— whether that choice is mandatory or free. Extreme examples of mandatory would be Hitler’s eradication of the Jews and the ISIS killings of those who are not followers of their sect of the Muslim religion. The free choice examples are the thousands of missionaries who spread God’s word or the Reverend Billy Graham who has brought countless to God. Then there is Jesus— no explanation needed!

We debate with fervor the separation of ‘church from state, as if bringing religion into governance is a bad thing. The argument put forward is that calling on religion, in some way, distorts decisions. These concerns are not new, and were confirmed into law by implementing the Treaty of Tripoli on June 10, 1797, which included the clause, ‘the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.’ Based on the many examples including the phrase ‘under God’, throughout this country’s history, our forefathers must have felt decisions reached through faith, are more likely to come to ‘greater good’.

Secular progressives have been very successful in bringing religious freedom legislation (choice), contraception, abortion and gay marriage to the forefront of the political debates that have polarized this country. The effected constituencies often feel disenfranchised by the mainstream population, and tend to align themselves more often on the liberal side of the electoral process.

Most of these issues, that have religious undertones, should be taken out of the federal agenda and moved to the States, whenever possible. The gay marriage IRS deductions and Social Security benefits for same sex partners are examples where total federal disassociation is next to impossible. Whereas, Indiana’s religious freedom (choice) law and legalization of marijuana, as in Colorado and Oregon, should be legislated at the State level and not taken over by the feds.

We need to remember what our founders intended when they initially drafted the Bill of Rights that codifies the freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness— the right to be allowed to act on one’s own volition as long as it does not bring harm to others. Those freedoms do not imply that everyone has to agree, but they have the freedom to disagree, work for change or move on. With more and more government intrusions into our lives those freedoms are slowly being taken away.

Conservative Republican candidate for President, Ted Cruz, has made it clear that he is a man of faith and believes strongly in the Constitution. Former Arkansas Governor, and probable Presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee was a minister before he entered the political arena. Whether their public religious pronouncements work for, or against, them will probably be decided in the primaries, long before the Presidential election.

The religions of Catholicism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and most Muslims share two positions in common, they all answer to their creator and they advocate for a greater good. This country is strong because it allows religious diversity. We may not want those who represent us to interject their religious beliefs into their decisions, but trust that they will call on their faith as they carry out their duties.

At the very least, we can pray that they do!

What It Takes to Have a ‘Good’ Marriage

Over fifty years together should give me the experience of what I’ve learned about the most important union one can have and the commitment it takes to make a ‘good’ marriage…

An ever-growing number of marriages end in divorce and even more are in name only. In reality, just a small percentage can be considered as ‘good’ and none ‘perfect’. Why, when two people appear to love each other so deeply, at the start of their journey, do so many of these relationships end tragically?

Some would say that today most are not willing to make the commitment necessary to build a lasting marriage. After all, marriage is work that takes continued nurturing, not only to grow but to even last. It is two people standing together to face not only the problems that happen to each as individuals, but collectively as well. It is two people doing their part in their own way; each bringing certain strengths as well as weaknesses to the relationship. Not keeping score of who does more or less.

Marriage is not easy. The good marriages work only when both partners make the commitment. When both put the other first. Many start out that way, but gradually one or both partners begin to falter. One can’t do it alone.

Most marriages fail for one of three reasons— fear, selfishness and abandoning one’s commitment. Not willing to make a total commitment for fear of losing one’s identity in the relationship. A fear that if he or she lets down the protective barriers that were so carefully constructed while growing up, they will be vulnerable to hurt and pain. Another is selfishness— never being able to put the partner’s needs ahead of his or her own. Finally, forgetting the commitment they made to God when their relationship was formalized.

It is frequently said that marriages fail because people change. Everyone changes. What often happens is a loss of self-confidence. In an attempt to prove one’s own self-esteem, one looks in other directions. It may be to exercise, a different career, or a casual affair. While this ‘searching’ was not meant to destroy the relationship, it either does, or permanently damages the trust that holds the marriage together.

It is only a fortunate few who enter a relationship where both individuals are brave enough and unselfish enough to make the sacrifices. But for them, a relationship is born that is second to none— a true partnership to share the pleasure and the pain, the joy and the sorrow, and the good and the bad.  Each partner finds that they don’t lose their identity, but because of their mutual support, they grow and flourish.  Sure, they are vulnerable to hurt and pain, if the relationship does not work out, but, nothing in life comes without some risk.

In the movie, Love Story, there is the quote, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry”. That’s not really the way life goes. It should have been, “Love is always to be willing to say you’re sorry”. Not necessarily sorry for being wrong, but sorry because whatever happened might have hurt the one they love.

If a good marriage is so fulfilling, why then are there so few of them? What is the secret that makes these relationships special? Each partner has different ways to keep their love alive.

The first is trust. One can’t keep looking over their shoulder and ahead at the same time. Next is respect for the partner and his/her needs. Forgiveness without reservations, knowing that any hurt was not done intentionally. And finally, loving that person, more than one’s self. Finding that the greatest pleasure comes from making their partner happy.

Good marriages don’t just happen. They are built by two people, who love each other, trust each other, forgive each other and respect each other.

Many never stay around to see the rewards of their commitment. But then again, some very fortunate do, and a lifetime together never seems long enough!

Rob Tenery            1998 (re-edited 2015)

We Live in One Big Infomercial

What do Keith Olbermann and Mark Levin have in common? It might be open to debate, but I would call both of them smart and well informed. They both, however, take the same facts and spin out almost completely different messages. Not that either is lying, only telling the truth  in their way. But what they share is they both bring down the debate to a lower level with their degrading characterizations of individuals with whom they disagree. Even those who support their particular position on a subject are either turned off, or become as radical as they are. In either case, these commentators and those that support them, are often left out of the debate by those who are willing to look at the differing positions in a more reasoned way.  The two make for ‘good press’ but not necessarily for meaningful dialogue. The good they might accomplish is that they bring attention to subjects that can be debated in a more subdued environment, but usually without them.

Being conservative, I support Mark Levin’s positions, almost down the line, but when he labels our Secretary of State as ‘mashed potato face’, it reflects poorly on Levin, even if his negative point about John Kerry was valid. That alone exonerates Kerry to a certain extent. Levin and Olbermann are just trying to entertain their listeners, or viewers, with their added ‘color’, but they, and many other media outlets are instrumental in adding to the unrest in this country. Maybe even more important, they and other commentators are influencing the attitude and methods with whom we dialogue. We have become less understanding because, in most situations, our minds are already made up. Far too many postings on Facebook are nothing more than unsubstantiated babble with an occasional shred of truth dropped in. Like Olbermann and Levin, most of us know who they are and take their comments accordingly.

Reporters in this country don’t just report the news any more. They have become journalists, commentators and editors who analyze the facts and slant their message, before releasing it to the public. Most reflect the bias of their upbringing, their education and their employer. The consumers get the news from these sources, but not all these sources— usually only the ones that are sympathetic to their points of view. We, the consumers, are basically lazy. Rather than doing the background work to come to the opinions we espouse, we rely on others (our preselected media sources) to shape our opinions for us.

Let’s examine how many, if not most of us, come to an opinion on a particular political candidate. First, we take note of the candidate’s political party. Next, we check with the media sources that we rely on, which virtually always lean the same way we do. We may also contact individuals with whom we regularly communicate for their points of view. Finally, we might interact with the candidates by listening to their recorded or printed excerpts, or even attending a rally where they appear. In that order. That’s the exact reverse of the way our positions should be formulated. The truth be told, most of us, who do care about this country, don’t have an open mind.  How many people listen to both CNBC and Fox, on a regular basis? Very few, I would guess. Thus, elections are won or lost by how well those of us who are concerned about the issues that affect this country, get those, that don’t seem to care as much, out to vote.

Another controversial commentator, Rush Limbaugh, once said, “You can never change a liberal’s mind.” I think he was only half-right, because he didn’t include conservatives as well.