CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Remembering my Father

In a post on Facebook, I described going through a lot of old books I had stored in the garage. In sorting through them, I also came across a multi-page binder my father had used to write about his experiences in World War II.

Background: my father was my first hero. He was a quiet man who gave up a lot for his family. I remember one time he and I were driving somewhere and we drove by the rail yards in Meadville, PA. They were run down and rather unattractive, and his idealistic teen-age son remarked that this was America, and how could anyone work at a place like that. If you hate your job, just find a better one. In his typical quiet, wise way, he simply said, “Son, sometimes a man just does what he has to.” I think it was at that point that I realized how he hated his job, but he stayed there to provide for my mother, sister, and me. After I got married, he and my mother were visiting us, and we found an old Primer from when he was a student in a one-room schoolhouse. In his late 70’s he was able to do Algebra in his head, stuff that just made my eyes cross. How much he gave up for me! He was a smoker, but he gave up cigarettes for his six year old son that cried because he was afraid of his Dad dying from cancer (in retrospect, I wonder if that wasn’t planted by my mother. I mean what does a six year old kid know about cancer in 1963?). Pop was a machinist, and once and when I was in junior high school, he worked at a rather large shop in Saegertown, PA. He worked second shift, and I remember talking to Mom about missing him so much. He enjoyed that job, but for the love of his son, he took a different job. I believe he hated the new shop, but stayed there the rest of his career. I learned honor from him, self-sacrifice, duty. He was far from perfect, but I loved him, and have missed him since year 2000.

Anyway, while sorting books, I found his short wartime memoir. In it, he describes his basic training, deployment, and experiences in the US, and in France. He freely stated he probably forgot a lot, and I wonder if some of that was kind of on purpose. As I was growing up, he seldom talked of his service, but every now and then he would open up and I would get a glimpse of his experiences. Two examples: one time he told a group of Scouts that when in France they trained them to not light cigarettes in the open, as the glow from a match can be seen for a mile, and the enemy was just waiting to pick them off if they were that stupid. He also told of his squad being in foxholes when a sniper started taking shots at them. One of the guys (Pop didn’t show a lot of respect for this guy) loudly said he wasn’t afraid of that sniper and jumped up and quickly back into his foxhole, exposing himself for a shot. The first couple went over/past him. But about the third time or so, the sniper was waiting, and took him out. That was the end of that. Another time, Pop and I were working on a plumbing project at my home here in North East, and went to the plumbing shop I utilized. The owner had been in the Navy in WWII, and he and Pop got to talking. At one point he said, “Yep, those were the good old days.” Pop replied that yeah, they were the old days anyhow. Back in the car, he expressed that he wasn’t real impressed with the owner. I think I get it.

It is interesting that in his memoir, he doesn’t really discuss his combat time much. After he died, I wondered if he had been due any medals, and sent his information to the appropriate Army department. I kind of forgot about it until some time later, when I got a rather large-ish package in the mail. I opened it up, and found the medals that my father earned while in the service. In it were a number of medals, including a Marksmanship badge, Good Conduct medal, Unit Citation, Victory in Europe badge, Occupation of Germany medal, and Purple Heart. I opened up the largest one last, and found that my father, a quiet and humble man, a non-com in WWII, had earned the Bronze Star. Tears come to my eyes as I write this. I am so very proud of my father, who served as he was called, and never made a show of his accomplishments. A man who carefully and lovingly gave as much credit to my mother and the women who kept the country running as he did to himself and the other men who were fighting in far off countries to keep the world free.

The most frustrating thing about the Bronze Star? The records for many of the WWII vets were kept in a repository in the mid-west somewhere. Unfortunately there was a fire, and many records lost. Dad’s records were damaged. The part telling WHICH medals he was due were ok, but the part telling what he had done to earn the Bronze Star were destroyed; I will never know what he did that he was awarded this medal for bravery. I used to be really frustrated that I hadn’t sent away for them before he died, but as I think on it, I believe this is for the best. It isn’t necessary that I know all the details, and he was such a private man. Had he wanted to talk about it, he certainly could have. I am proud of him, and proud to be his son. It is enough.

In year 2000, he turned 80. It’s kind of strange, he was terrified of turning 80. Apparently his father and his older brother both died at 80. And that year, he went into the hospital with bacterial pneumonia. He got more or less straightened out and was discharged home from the hospital. Unfortunately, he immediately got viral pneumonia and went back to the hospital. While there, he caught strep, and the combination was more than he could fight. After a couple weeks, the doctor told us that his lungs were shot. That Dad needed to come off the respirator, and had two choices: go on a permanent respirator, or take his chances without one. But the doctor did not believe Dad’s lungs were strong enough to make it. I discussed it with Dad, and he did not want to be on a permanent respirator in any way, shape, or form. So we had the doctor remove the temporary respirator that had been keeping him going. That day Dad was his old self; although his throat was too sore to talk, he was writing jokes with us, teasing, communicating. But the doctor was right, and Dad got progressively weaker as he day went on. He got to the point that he couldn’t communicate any more, but I believe he was attentive to what we said to him. I told him how very proud I was of him, and how proud I was to be his son. I told him I wasn’t afraid anymore, and that he could let go, that we would be fine. I told him what a fine father he had been, and that no one could have done as well as he had with his family. Later on we were in the waiting room, knowing it would be soon but getting some needed rest. At some point a nurse came in and got us in the middle of the night, telling us it would be very soon now. We hustled to his room, and we’re able to spent his last minutes with him. I watched my father breathe his last, and his only son closed his eyes when he left us.

Oh, Dad, I miss you. It’s been 20 years, and I still don’t know the way. You taught me so well, even how to die correctly, and I still long to hear your voice, to ask you questions, to lean on your wisdom and your example. John Melvin Peters, you were one of the finest men I have ever known, and if I am half the man you were, I will be content. Vaya con Dios, mi Padre. Rest easy now. If any man deserves it, it is you.

On abortion

Abortion is recently in the news, but has been a topic of debate since AT LEAST Roe v. Wade. And I have seen multiple memes and opinions condemning both those that support abortion, and those that oppose it. As a Bible-believer and Christ-follower, I recognize that I must be careful in how I present my thoughts and opinions. But for too long, I think that many that agree with my positions have felt this meant we must be silent. But I don’t believe that. I think that we have the right to voice our opinion, the right to vote in elections as we see best, to support candidates (even flawed ones that we don’t entirely agree with) as we wish, and to influence legislation as we desire. No different than any other American. So here is my position.

Disclaimer before I start: this is no NO way a value judgement, or ANY kind of judgement against anyone that has gotten an abortion. If you have, then know that I believe you did what you felt you had to. I think that it was likely a very difficult decision, and I sorrow that you were IN a position that you even had to contemplate it. But you did what you thought was best, and you may be proud of it, you may regret it, you may be in anguish because of it. I am still with you, and care for you. But that doesn’t mean I must support abortion in general, nor is my own position any less valid, nor is it inconsistent.

In any case, here we go:

First, Roe v. Wade is poor law. Although I am not a legal scholar, I have read enough that I know that even many attorneys that support abortion believe this.

Second, I totally reject the vacuous argument that if I don’t have a vagina, I have no say on the topic. This “argument” has multiple problems: if one believes this, then one must also discount any male that SUPPORTS abortion, as well as those that do NOT support it. And I have never heard male abortion supporters told to “sit down and shut up, your opinion does not count, since you don’t have a vagina.” Third, if one subscribes to this, then one must also apply this thought to other sub-groups. If you don’t have Down’s Syndrome, you have no say in legislation effecting those that do. If you have all your limbs, sight, hearing, you have no say in legislation effecting those that don’t. And if you don’t have a penis, you have zero say in what someone that does have one does with it. Including when, where, why, how, and with whom I use it. Be it used with a child, be it with someone that does not wish it, that is not your concern, nor do you have the right to vocalize against it. This all is, of course, if one is logical and consistent with their position. And I reject this entire line of thought.

Third, that zygote/fetus/baby is NOT part of the woman’s body. If a woman wishes to alter her nose, her boobs, her butt, thighs, hair, ears, whatever, I TOTALLY agree that I have no voice in her decision to alter them. But that (whatever) in her womb is NOT functionally part of her body, it never was, nor will it ever be. Therefore, I reject that a woman has the “right” to do with as she wishes. I will return to this in a second.

Fourth, there are only four things that separate that separate entity in the woman from any human being on earth. This argument does not originate with me, it was developed by Scott Klusendorf, and I quote him here:

“Philosophically, there is no morally significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not relevant in the way that abortion advocates need them to be. The simple acronym SLED can be used to illustrate these non-essential differences:

Size: True, embryos are smaller than newborns and adults, but why is that relevant? Do we really want to say that large people are more valuable than small ones? Men are generally larger than women, but that doesn’t mean they deserve more rights. Size doesn’t equal value.

Level of development: True, embryos and fetuses are less developed than you and I. But again, why is this relevant? Four year-old girls are less developed than 14 year-old ones. Should older children have more rights than their younger siblings? Some people say that the immediate capacity for self-awareness and a desire to go on living makes one valuable. But if that is true, newborns do not qualify as valuable human beings. Infants do not acquire distinct self-awareness and memory until several months after birth. (Best case scenario, infants acquire limited self-awareness three months after birth, when the synapse connections increase from 56 trillion to 1,000 trillion.) As abortion advocate and philosopher Dean Stretton writes, “Any plausible pro-choice theory will have to deny newborns a full right to life. That’s counterintuitive.”

Environment: Where you are has no bearing on who you are. Does your value change when you cross the street or roll over in bed? If not, how can a journey of eight inches down the birth-canal suddenly change the essential nature of the unborn from non-human to human? If the unborn are not already valuable human beings, merely changing their location can’t make them so.

Degree of Dependency: If viability bestows human value, then all those who depend on insulin or kidney medication are not valuable we may kill them. Conjoined twins who share blood type and bodily systems also have no right to life.

In short, although humans differ immensely with respect to talents, accomplishments, and degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal (and valuable) because they all have the same human nature.”

Fifth, I DID develop these thoughts a few decades ago.

1. Why do we have laws at all? What is the purpose of having a series of laws and the legal system that we do? The entire purpose of our laws and legal system is to protect the weak from the strong. Without our laws and legal system, anyone that is stronger could prey on the weak with little to no consequence.

2. What is that embryo? Is it “potentially” an oak tree? A Rainbow trout? A poodle? No, it is human. It cannot be anything BUT human. And I would submit that even those supporting abortion concur with this view, albeit by accident, when they voice an opinion on, or are actively involved in harvesting organs from aborted fetuses. As a general rule, one cannot harvest organs from anything but another human to use in living humans, except from deceased humans, or humans that have given consent to do so.

3. Is that embryo alive? What is the definition of life? A heartbeat? The ability to feel pain? Brainwaves? It is generally acknowledged that embryos have a heartbeat as early as four weeks; brainwaves as early as week five. They can feel pain as early as eight weeks. I would argue that whatever criteria one uses to establish life, an embryo is “alive” before a woman knows she is pregnant.

4. What is smaller and more helpless than an infant of any animal species? A baby rat, a baby chimpanzee, a puppy, a baby bird, an infant human, it makes no difference.

So using my argument, an embryo is human; it is alive; it is smaller and more helpless than any other human on earth; and our system of laws is designed to protect exactly this from the larger and stronger. So how can we not afford this tiny, living, human the utmost in legal protection?

Fifth, in the case of non-consensual sex, when reported even within a window of a couple weeks, procedures are in place to prevent conception (D&C and certain drugs), which prevent conception, which may not occur for up to two weeks. This prevents many, many rape-caused pregnancies. Clearly not all. But I have philosophical problems with even the rape exception. First, I can attest personally to at least two instances of a rape being reported to the police (I investigated these when I was a detective) for the sole reason that they could get a free abortion if they reported the pregnancy as a rape; each woman specifically told me this was why they were reporting it as such. I can also personally attest to multiple rape reports that were proven to be false reports. This is not the rule on rapes, and I believe each and every rape report should be investigated as genuine, until facts would prove them otherwise. My heart hurts for any victim of crime, as my forty year law enforcement career will attest. I only offer these examples to illustrate a couple of my concerns with the rape exception. My larger concern regarding the rape exception is as I have detailed above. If the embryo is a living human child, it is certainly not that child’s fault regarding the circumstances of it’s conception. And if one supports abortion in the case of rape, when is that exception withdrawn? At three months? Six? Nine? The moment before birth? Why not the moment after? Why not six months after? Nine months after? One year? The line is arbitrary. Additionally, if one supports the rape exception to abortion, what exactly does that say to those that were conceived as a product of rape, carried to full term, and grow to be functional, protected adults? Does this not say that they have no value, that they should have been aborted? Or that the only reason they are allowed to live is the decision of their mother? And again, I want to reiterate that this is not a judgement on anyone that has chosen an abortion after being raped. This is a horrid, horrible crime, and my heart aches for any woman that has been brutalized and has been forced to make this decision.

Sixth, if a woman or couple are permitted the decision to abort, why is that decision not permitted after a certain time? Why not allow an abortion at six or nine months? What does viability have to do with a woman’s decision to abort? The time period permitted to abort is at best an arbitrary one, and if one supports abortion, to be consistent one must allow the woman to abort at any time she desires, including up to birth. I would argue that if abortion is permitted, the woman has the “right” to not only terminate an embryo or viable child up to birth, but also AFTER birth, until that child is self-sustaining. And that is madness.

In summary, my position is that one must answer two questions: is that “mass of cells” alive; and is it human? If the answers are yes and yes, than one does not have the right to terminate that life.

I believe that those that support abortion cannot offer factual, logical arguments to support their position. I believe that support of abortion is de facto based on emotional content alone. I believe that support for a “woman’s right to choose” is arbitrary and not logic based. And I believe that emotional content is the worst possible reason for legislation to be passed. I believe that legislation must be based on enduring truth, that emotional content and “opinions” change, and I fear a future where emotional content is the basis of law. Opinions change. Societal mores change. Laws must protect against such arbitrariness, and must be based on morality that is enduring.

Final note: If I have hurt anyone with this post, I most humbly apologize; this is not my intent. I know that words hurt, and it is difficult to present opinions on many topics when not face to face without causing genuine offense. Again, if I have done so here, I sincerely apologize.

Bachin’ it.

Me Sunday morning:

 

*Ok, lets see, Beth’s been gone since Thursday, let’s get that checklist done.*

 

Toilet seat left up. Check.

Shower dry and unused. Check.

Stuff still where dropped it. Check.

Bed rumpled/unmade. Check.

AC set to “Planet Pluto.” Check.

Same dishes out since Thursday, rinsed off (kind of) for next meal. Check.

NOTHING healthy consumed since Thursday. Check. Wait. Chips are potatoes. Are chips a vegetable? Better check the “Man-ual.” Lets see, are chips vegetables…ok here it is. “Official man rule: chips are NEVER to be considered a vegetable UNLESS justifying one’s diet to one’s wife. Then chips can be used to justify your food intake. Use such phrases as, ‘OF COURSE I had vegetables,’ or ‘Honey, I’m not a child, yes I ate vegetables while you were gone.’ We suggest using a hurt or indignant tone.” *ok, I’m good.*

Used coffee pods left on counter, but arrayed like a pyramid. Check.

Adult beverage bottles left on same counter, but placed like bowling pins. Check.

In the same clothes since Thursday. Check.

Dirty Harry or shoot ’em up movies every night. Check.

“Parts” scratched liberally and farts amusingly popped as needed. Check.

 

Also me Sunday afternoon:

 

*Beth’s coming home. Awesome! Missed her…OH, CRAP, BETH’S COMING HOME!*

 

Get the dirty clothes in the hamper! Check!!!

Clean up my messes!!! Check!!

Vacuum, run the vacuum! Check!!

Dishes! Gotta do the dishes! Check!!

Make the bed! Check!!

*whew, all done! Woof, what is that SMELL? What did I forget? Oh, geez, it’s me!*

Shower, gotta shower, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up! Check!

*Nuts, forgot the coffee pods and adult beverage bottles! Get ’em to the basemen…too late*

Hi, Babe, welcome home!

“Aw, hi, Hon! Aw, the kitchen looks nice.”

Well, of course, Beautiful, I wouldn’t want it nasty for you.

“And you smell so nice!”

Neat and clean, that’s me.

“What’s with the coffee pods and bottles?”

Uhhh…

U.S. Immigration Issues

Ok, one pretty hot topic right now is the detention of people at the U.S. illegally, and the separation of them from their kids.  I had my opinions on that, but a couple friends of mine challenged me on actual Federal law, and why the families are being separated.

It was worth the effort to actually read the law and extrapolate from there.  I have not changed my opinion on how they are currently dealing with illegals at the border, but I am more informed than I was.

Anyhow, here’s what I found.

First, there is no federal law that says if someone requests asylum they must be separated from their children.  My bad.  What is law, is that in 1997, regulations were put in place regarding (mostly) unaccompanied children showing up at the border.  It’s called the Flores Settlement, and springs from a Supreme Court decision in 1993 in Reno v. Flores (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reno_v._Flores).  Bottom line in this is that non-citizen minors can be held by the Federal Government, but only for 20 days.  They are then required to be released into some less restrictive environment (roughly in order, family, friends, foster).   And, it is called an agreement or settlement because although it mandates requirements on Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), it was intended to be temporary until Congress passed appropriate law to address this situation.  However, since this has not happened since 1997, the Flores Agreement is still in effect.  Here is the “meat” of the Flores Agreement from the wiki page:

“The Flores Settlement Agreement … imposed several obligations on the immigration authorities, which fall into three broad categories:

  1. The government is required to release children from immigration detention without unnecessary delay to, in order of preference, parents, other adult relatives, or licensed programs willing to accept custody.
  2. If a suitable placement is not immediately available, the government is obligated to place children in the “least restrictive” setting appropriate to their age and any special needs.
  3. The government must implement standards relating to the care and treatment of children in immigration detention.”

The law that President Trump is following is found in Title V, Subsection E, section 462 (6 USC 279, sec. 462), roughly page 71 of the government document (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-107publ296/pdf/PLAW-107publ296.pdf).  Regarding the current debate, the essentials of this section, dealing with kids, is found under (g) Definitions:

“the term ‘‘placement’’ means the placement of an unaccompanied alien child in either a detention facility or an alternative to such a facility; and (2) the term ‘‘unaccompanied alien child’’ means a child who— (A) has no lawful immigration status in the United States; (B) has not attained 18 years of age; and (C) with respect to whom— (i) there is no parent or legal guardian in the United States; or (ii) no parent or legal guardian in the United States is available to provide care and physical custody.”

The above was all pulled from legal statutes and is pretty much U.S, Law.  Follows is more my interpretation of current events and my opinion.

Ok, first there is no argument or doubt that the parents of the children that are detained and separated are not legally in the U.S.  The question is, “what do we do with them?”  I want to stress here that no one with whom I associate and/or call friends, has any problem with non-citizens coming to the U.S. as long as it is done legally.  My problem with illegal aliens in the U.S. is contained within the word “illegal.”  Personally, I don’t see them as “immigrants,” they are aliens by definition, have no “rights” within the Constitution, and no right to expect anything other than basic human rights.  Their only expectation should be that if caught, they will either be jailed and then deported, or in mercy, just deported.  Period.  No amnesty, no citizenship.  Deported.  I don’t care if it’s their first day in the US or if they have been here for 20 years.  Oh, and at the risk of being stoned at the gates, I don’t believe in anchor babies, either.  A child born to illegals in the US is not automatically a citizen.  They have a saying in the South (you have to read it in a Southern accent, too) that I am using for my own purposes here: “Just because a cat has kittens in the oven, don’t make them biscuits.”

Back to the main topic.

Under Immigration law, any individual who comes to the US without a Visa and/or passport, is here illegally.  Period.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  They are illegal.  And in those cases, if they bring their kids with them, those kids are here illegally as well.  Even with strict interpretation of the law, under normal circumstances, the families are simply deported, with this exception.  INS can look at the situation of an illegal and his family trying to get into the US illegally as the adult “smuggling” the child into our country, and can be prosecuted for that.  I don’t have fully formed opinions on that, but I’m not going to argue against it.  It is the law, and if the choice is made to strictly enforce it, well then so be it.  As a cop, I hated writing traffic tickets.  But some guys loved it.  I couldn’t argue the fact, if someone rolled through a stop sign and got written for it, well, you did what you did.  I can’t help much.  It wasn’t my thing, but it was the law.  Same here.  Come here illegally you don’t stay.  Come here with kids and get prosecuted for human smuggling, so be it.  You did what you did.  Don’t wanna risk it?  Don’t come here illegally.

Now the proverbial sticky part comes when the adult requests asylum.  Again though, this comes to strict interpretation of the law.  I was wrong, there is no Federal law that requires separation of families under those circumstances.  However.  We are dealing with people that have come to the U.S. illegally, and then ask for asylum.  As I said at the very beginning, the question is, “What do we do with them?”  All Presidential administrations have detained people in those circumstances.  The more lenient administrations have detained them together, in less “detention-like” settings (I think.  I have not confirmed this).  But strict interpretation of the law does not require such.  The adult is put in detention, the child is separated from the parent(s) and placed in a juvenile detention setting, which is worlds different.  All lawful and justifiable under the law (hold on to the moral outrage, you can address that in a bit.  I wanna get through this first).  Given this interpretation and approach, that separation is mandatory.  Under the U.S. law that I cited above, the children are “unaccompanied,” and must be detained.   However, the authorities are required to find something less “detention-ish” for the kids within 20 days under the Flores Agreement.  And this is all law, not administration policy, not procedure.  This is adhering to the law.

What I found is that the left is as ambiguous as the right in citing precedence, law, and policy in this situation.  Two sources in particular stand out.  Snopes addressed this topic (https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/was-law-separate-families-passed-1997/), and not unexpectedly, in my opinion, slanted left.  It seemed to me that they focused on one area of this issue (separation of families), but not the entire situation.  They are correct, there is no Federal law mandating separation of families.  The second, (https://www.texastribune.org/2018/06/18/separated-immigrant-children-families-border-mexico/)  is perhaps more balanced in explaining what is going on with the detainees, but also does not address the entire situation.

Here’s why I don’t have a problem with what is going on.

I have always been a bit hard hearted with this stuff.  You guys are probably too young to remember the “Vietnamese Boat People.”  After we left Vietnam, we left behind many, many people that were allies of the U.S. but were stuck in a Communist takeover that was, shall we say, not sympathetic to them.  Many people tried to get away from Vietnam in little more than skiffs, risking open seas to get away from the oppression they knew was coming.  I have no problem with them doing that.  Where my hard heartedness comes in is when people do that and expect the U.S. to rescue them.  Nope.  You get found, you get rescued.  But if not, well, you made your choice.  Similarly, you wanna live on the side of Mount St. Helens when you know it’s gonna blow, well, whatever.  When it does blow, see ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya.  You want to take pictures of lava flowing toward you in Hawaii?  Good for you, but if you trip and fall and start screaming for rescue, not gonna happen.  Sucks to be you.  Heroin addict (defined as someone stupid enough to inject something that is illegal and potentially fatal in a number of ways into their veins for a kick, and then get to where you gotta have it) that OD’s?  Want Narcan?  Hold on, I’ll run back to the office and get some; oh, look a kitten!

So yeah, heartless.  But you know what? I’m ok with that.

In the movie Jurassic Park, the computer guy way underbid himself and was complaining about it.  The owner says to him, ” I don’t blame people for their mistakes. But I do ask that they pay for them.”  You choose to stick a needle in your arm, well, better be ready for worst case scenario.  You live on the edge of an active volcano that is going to rupture, that’s you call.  But you made your bed, you gotta lie in it.  You come to this country illegally, you have to face the consequences of breaking U.S. law.  To me, it is a question of being accountable for your actions, for your choices.  Sometimes one gets lucky and escapes the consequences.  But if not, don’t boo de hoo all over the place.

I was always tall.  In High School, I was the second tallest kid in my class (and as coordinated as a brick).  I have always done stuff that my parents (and now my long-suffering wife) would call stupid.  I prefer the term “funny,” but whatever.  And I always got caught and had to suffer punishment for it.  But did my other friends have to suffer the same punishment as I did?  Oh, no, they did not.  I would complain to the teacher, and they invariably said, “Well, I didn’t see them do it.  I did see you.”  Not fair!  Being tall definitely had it’s disadvantages.  But you know what?  it was fair.  I deserved the punishments I got.  I broke the rules, I got caught, and I paid the penalty.  Not always with grace and aplomb, but…

Now, in any of the above situations can grace or mercy be extended?  Sure!  Someone shoves off a mainland in a rickety open boat into open ocean, and you decided to risk yourself to rescue them, that is awesome!  I applaud your heroism.  An idiot lives on a volcano and it ruptures, and someone drives like a maniac to rescue them, wow!  Is that amazing or what!  You come to this country illegally and are detained with all the comforts of (my) home, well, I am not so understanding.  Look, I understand why you want to get out of the situation you are running from.  I sympathize with that, and I understand.  But that does not mean I am obligated to take you in, support you, show you mercy beyond the absolute basic necessities.  And that goes for anyone else that you brought with you.  I believe they should be treated kindly, not molested, not harmed, fed and housed.  But beyond that, I’m not very compassionate.

Best current estimates are that there are around 2000 kids or a bit more that have been separated from their families.  I believe this is almost entirely due to the asylum question, but I can’t guarantee that.  My best understanding is that the vast majority of the kids being held were “unaccompanied.”  This could be “shading” by the Trump administration.  If the decision is made to detain the adult that is here illegally, then the minor doesn’t have a parent in the U.S. that they can lawfully stay with.  So, it is possible that the children are “unaccompanied” because the parent has been placed in detention prior to prosecution/deportation/review of asylum.  It is also possible that the “unaccompanied” kids are here because their parents put their kids in the trust of someone else in order to get them into the U.S.  I’m not sure there’s any way of determining the correct circumstances of this.  To me it is largely irrelevant.  The child is in the situation because of the actions of the parent(s).  We are not obligated to extend more than the bare minimum.

And, once the decision is made to put the adult into a detention facility, it is the law that kids cannot be put into detention with the adult.  That is no different than a citizen committing a crime in the U.S. and having their kid(s) put into the care of Health and Human Services.  You can’t “jail” families.

Finally, I want to again stress that the key word here is “illegal.”  If a citizen in the U.S. breaks the law, they face prosecution and incarceration, and that includes being separated from their children.  Like the old saying goes, “If you can’t do the time, don’t pull the crime.”  If someone comes to the country illegally, well by definition they have broken the law.  And in my opinion, the reason does not matter.  Especially when they have been warned repeatedly that they would be prosecuted.  If someone is repeatedly warned to not do something, and they do it anyhow, either they are stupid or they have an agenda.  And neither one gets my sympathy.

I remember a bank robbery in the City of Erie, PA some years back, around Christmastime.  The guy was quickly caught, and his was a sad case to me.  From all accounts, he was a decent guy, worked hard, provided for his family.  But sometime before the Christmas season, he lost his job.  As I recall, his unemployment ran out, he couldn’t find work, and he had no prospects for taking care of his family or for providing them a Christmas.  He simply felt he had no options left, so he robbed a bank.  To me, this was heartbreaking.  He wasn’t greedy, he wasn’t an addict, he just felt he had no other options.  However, he was arrested for breaking the law, and properly prosecuted and jailed for his actions.  The “why,” although important in understanding, is not as important as the “what.”  He did what he did.  And he was required to face the consequences of his actions.

People at the border that are here illegally, and then separated from their kids, is a sad situation, maybe even heartbreaking.  But the separation is on them, not on those enforcing the laws.  Don’t like the law? Do what Trump suggests.  Get the law changed.  But don’t blame anyone except the adults bringing the kids.  And Congress.  You can blame Congress.  They could change the law today and make it more favorable to families.  And that’s who I blame.  Not the one(s) enforcing current law.

So Here I Am

I’ve been really weary for a while. I’ve not strayed from devotional times in the Bible, but I have had little energy to step beyond the basics of getting through each day.

But my devotional time this morning was particularly fulfilling, and I want to share that with you.

I first read in Isaiah, chapters 34-36, and was reminded that God is in control, of the just and the unjust.

I next read Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening for this morning, and I share that here:

Morning

The king also himself passed over the brook Kidron.2 Samuel 15:23

David passed that gloomy brook when flying with his mourning company from his traitor son. The man after God’s own heart was not exempt from trouble, nay, his life was full of it. He was both the Lord’s Anointed, and the Lord’s Afflicted. Why then should we expect to escape? At sorrow’s gates the noblest of our race have waited with ashes on their heads, wherefore then should we complain as though some strange thing had happened unto us?

The KING of kings himself was not favoured with a more cheerful or royal road. He passed over the filthy ditch of Kidron, through which the filth of Jerusalem flowed. God had one Son without sin, but not a single child without the rod. It is a great joy to believe that Jesus has been tempted in all points like as we are. What is our Kidron this morning? Is it a faithless friend, a sad bereavement, a slanderous reproach, a dark foreboding? The King has passed over all these. Is it bodily pain, poverty, persecution, or contempt? Over each of these Kidrons the King has gone before us. In all our afflictions he was afflicted. The idea of strangeness in our trials must be banished at once and for ever, for he who is the Head of all saints, knows by experience the grief which we think so peculiar. All the citizens of Zion must be free of the Honourable Company of Mourners, of which the Prince Immanuel is Head and Captain.

Notwithstanding the abasement of David, he yet returned in triumph to his city, and David’s Lord arose victorious from the grave; let us then be of good courage, for we also shall win the day. We shall yet with joy draw water out of the wells of salvation, though now for a season we have to pass by the noxious streams of sin and sorrow. Courage, soldiers of the Cross, the King himself triumphed after going over Kidron, and so shall you.

 

I next read Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost His Highest:

 

May 31

Put God First

By Oswald Chambers

Jesus did not commit Himself to them…for He knew what was in man. —John 2:24-25

Put Trust in God First. Our Lord never put His trust in any person. Yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, and never lost hope for anyone, because He put His trust in God first. He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for others. If I put my trust in human beings first, the end result will be my despair and hopelessness toward everyone. I will become bitter because I have insisted that people be what no person can ever be— absolutely perfect and right. Never trust anything in yourself or in anyone else, except the grace of God.

Put God’s Will First. “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:9).

A person’s obedience is to what he sees to be a need— our Lord’s obedience was to the will of His Father. The rallying cry today is, “We must get to work! The heathen are dying without God. We must go and tell them about Him.” But we must first make sure that God’s “needs” and His will in us personally are being met. Jesus said, “…tarry…until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The purpose of our Christian training is to get us into the right relationship to the “needs” of God and His will. Once God’s “needs” in us have been met, He will open the way for us to accomplish His will, meeting His “needs” elsewhere.

Put God’s Son First. “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me” (Matthew 18:5).

God came as a baby, giving and entrusting Himself to me. He expects my personal life to be a “Bethlehem.” Am I allowing my natural life to be slowly transformed by the indwelling life of the Son of God? God’s ultimate purpose is that His Son might be exhibited in me.

 

I also subscribe to a couple “Verse of the Day” apps, and here are those two verses:

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians, 15:57

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10

 

Beth also shared with me the devotional Jesus Calling for May 31:

Joy Each Day

May 31 – “Jesus Calling”, by Sarah Young

The Peace that I give you transcends your intellect. When most of your mental energy goes into efforts to figure things out, you are unable to receive this glorious gift. I look into your mind and see thoughts spinning round and round: going nowhere, accomplishing nothing. All the while, My Peace hovers over you, searching for a place to land.

Be still in My Presence, inviting Me to control your thoughts. Let My Light soak into your mind and heart, until you are aglow with My very Being. This is the most effective way to receive My Peace.

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.
—2 Thessalonians 3:16

“Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you.”
—Job 22:21

 

It was kind of cool how everything this morning seemed to flow from one aspect of my devotional time to the next, but I was particularly struck by Spurgeon’s words, and here’s what I wrote in response to “Morning and Evening.”

I needed this today! Life has objectively been difficult since around the year 2000 (Yeah, I know, “Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone that tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.”  But still…). My parents are both gone, my bio mom died, my only sister growing up is gone as well. I am the first “orphan” I know. Both of our beautiful daughters have turned from God. We love them with all of our being, but it is wrenching to see them in this place. I found my dream job after twenty years as a city cop, but within five years I was forced into a position of having to choose between my integrity and doing a boss’s will. I chose integrity and was fired for it. I’m currently working at a job that is less than optimal, finding no fulfillment in it, little satisfaction, and no “significance,” I find each day a trial. My boss is great, and my “big” boss is awesome, especially with this past year.  I have really come to love and appreciate her, but the everyday aspects of my job are difficult. My relationship with my wife is, and has been great, and I discovered that our marriage was the only thing in life with which I was content.  But Beth was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer last year, and we spent the entire year of 2017 fighting that horrid and unexpected disease.  Much of the time I thought I was going to lose her; this whole “C-word adventure” has proven to be extremely difficult for a number of reasons. For one thing, being a cop for nearly four decades, I pretty much got accustomed early in my career to the idea that “today may be my last shift. Today I may not come home.” But it was never even on my radar that I might lose Beth. I understood that accidents can happen, we all die, but I never had to face Beth’s “imminent departure.”  God was gracious, Beth is in remission and currently in a clinical trial to push back any re-occurrence, but I have been shaken to my core. Our younger daughter has been terrific, but our elder daughter has broken all contact with us, even in the midst of this.

I am pretty much an introvert, and I find I just want to hole up in my home and have no contact with people at all.

Finally, I have recently started my journey with Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step program with emphasis on Jesus. I have thrown away an addictive behavior that has plagued me for some time, so I don’t even have the sinful, guilt-ridden “pleasure” of turning to that. It takes time to re-wire one’s brain. It can be done, it is being done in me, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

So I have nothing; I AM nothing. Except for two words: “But God…”

My heroes of the Bible have, for some time, been Moses, Abraham, Joseph. All of them spent years, decades, in difficult circumstances before God used them, before it became apparent to them what God had in mind. How often, I wonder, did they cry out to God in their pain and humiliation.

Thinking about this once, I thought, “but I’m not Abraham! I’m not Joseph.” And I felt/heard/understood that God answered me and said, “No, you’re not. And yes you are.” They, too, had no clue as to God’s purpose when going through their trials, but “wholly leaned on (the promised Messiah’s) name.” And that’s my job right now.  I want to understand.  I want to be in a “good” place.  But God is directing me otherwise.  “But God…”

One time, long ago, I sincerely prayed, “God, make me like Jesus.” Looking back, I can almost hear God chuckling, and saying to me, “Ok, buckle up, son, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.” I have said (mostly) in jest that I should have prayed, “Leave me the frick alone!”

But here we are.

I’m tired, I’m weary. I don’t understand, I am impatient, I am spent.

And all I have is, “But God…”

This is the Serenity Prayer in its entirety as written by Reinhold Niebuhr.  Good prayer!

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

enjoying one moment at a time;

accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;

taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is;

not as I would have it;

trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to your will;

so that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”

Amen.

Thoughts on the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

A friend of mine, not native to the United States, contacted me this past week, and asked me my thoughts on the Second Amendment to the Constitution. He had specific questions that I thought were excellent questions, and honestly gave me “incentive” to give the matter more of a ponder than I had. I know what I believe, but articulating it is a bit different. It’s kind of like, I know I like vanilla ice cream, but when someone asks me why I like it, and are hoping for a serious answer, I have to think about it a bit.

Anyhow, I broke his questions down, and there are basically eight questions. I will answer them each in turn.

Last points before I start. 1) Many Americans (and I am one of these), specifically “Constitutionalists,” believe that the Constitution is not a “living document,” intended to evolve and change with the times. It is instead, a legal document, iron-clad, that can only be changed by an intentional, rather difficult, and specifically detailed process. 2) The rights one finds within the Constitution and the Amendments are not given by government. They are, rather, inherent rights of every individual, given by God. These rights may not be taken away in a general sense. They can be infringed upon, but they are still the rights of each individual. 3) Individual rights can be taken away, but only by due process, also spelled out by the Constitution.

First, here is the wording and punctuation of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution:

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Ok, here are my friend’s questions:

  1. The US Supreme Court has broken the 2nd Amendment into two parts. Do you think that’s a correct interpretation?

He is referring, I believe, to District of Columbia v. Heller, a case appearing before the US Supreme Court in 2008. The decision was a narrow one, 5-4. I have included the majority opinion:

Before addressing the verbs “keep” and “bear,” we interpret their object: “Arms.” The term was applied, then as now, to weapons that were not specifically designed for military use and were not employed in a military capacity. Thus, the most natural reading of “keep Arms” in the Second Amendment is to “have weapons.” At the time of the founding, as now, to “bear” meant to “carry.” In numerous instances, “bear arms” was unambiguously used to refer to the carrying of weapons outside of an organized militia. Nine state constitutional provisions written in the 18th century or the first two decades of the 19th, which enshrined a right of citizens “bear arms in defense of themselves and the state” again, in the most analogous linguistic context – that “bear arms” was not limited to the carrying of arms in a militia. The phrase “bear Arms” also had at the time of the founding an idiomatic meaning that was significantly different from its natural meaning: “to serve as a soldier, do military service, fight” or “to wage war.” But it unequivocally bore that idiomatic meaning only when followed by the preposition “against,”. Every example given by petitioners’ amici for the idiomatic meaning of “bear arms” from the founding period either includes the preposition “against” or is not clearly idiomatic. In any event, the meaning of “bear arms” that petitioners and Justice Stevens propose is not even the (sometimes) idiomatic meaning. Rather, they manufacture a hybrid definition, whereby “bear arms” connotes the actual carrying of arms (and therefore is not really an idiom) but only in the service of an organized militia. No dictionary has ever adopted that definition, and we have been apprised of no source that indicates that it carried that meaning at the time of the founding. Worse still, the phrase “keep and bear Arms” would be incoherent. The word “Arms” would have two different meanings at once: “weapons” (as the object of “keep”) and (as the object of “bear”) one-half of an idiom. It would be rather like saying “He filled and kicked the bucket” to mean “He filled the bucket and died.”

I think this is the correct interpretation, as the minority view (not included) is a rather tortured extrapolation of the words and punctuation of the 2nd Amendment. Additionally, my reading of the 2nd Amendment is that what the founders intended is rather obvious. What I mean is this. To my reading, the Amendment is naturally broken into two parts, as interpreted in Heller. Part one: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…” Part two: “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” I want to state here that I believe the Founders were stone-cold geniuses. These were men that believed in what they did, to the point that they were willing to die for these beliefs. And many did. The United States was a huge leap away from government at the time. Yes, they borrowed ideas from Greek democracies, as well as philosophical and Biblical sources, but the entirety of the country they founded had never been seen in the history of the world. They argued, debated, fiddled, fussed, compromised, and published a document that is breathtaking in its brilliance. Not one word is unintentional.

That having been said, it appears to me that what they intended with the 2nd Amendment is that each citizen has the right to “keep and bear arms,” and that if called upon, that each citizen be prepared to defend their country. And it was each citizen’s responsibility to be prepared and equipped to do exactly that. There’s another way (and only one that I see) to word the 2nd Amendment so that it is not tortured into some other meaning. “Our new government will not infringe on each person’s inherent and God-given right to keep and bear arms, because we understand that it is a given that people need to be prepared to defend their country when called upon.” Yes, I know the Second Amendment (AKA: 2A) says “militia.” That was the form used to defend the country at that time, and I will address this a bit later. However, for now, the point is, the point is, the point is, that the right they are talking about is that each and every citizen has the right to own firearms. If written in today’s idioms, they might start off with, “Ok, we know that everyone has the right to own firearms (duh!), so since that’s the case…”

Further, as evidenced in other parts of the Constitution, they were well aware that the government under which one lives could easily be (or become) tyrannical, and that individual citizens have the God-given right to throw that government to the curb. Kind of difficult to do if individuals can’t own firearms.

2) It says “militias.” Are there such in the US? If so, how would they carry out their duties, and how would they be recognized by the US Military or by police agencies.

As I said above, I don’t think “militias” is the point of the 2nd amendment. Maybe a different way to say it is that “the right to keep and bear arms” was, to the Founders, a “given;” that there was no need to discuss it, since it is so obvious, “but we will do so, since we know people can be dense.” What the 2nd (2A) does with militias, is to say that since individuals have the right to own firearms, the federal government may not prevent militias from existing, so that “citizen soldiers” can train to be an effective fighting force for the defense of one’s country. In the US, each state has a National Guard (in essence the descendants of the early militias). They are primarily a state entity, but can be mobilized by the President so serve as a Federal agency if the need arises. Members of the National Guard train and are equipped similar to those in the US Military. Most of their equipment, although issued, is the responsibility of the individual to keep and maintain. Weapons are issued.

At the time of the Founding, the US Government had not the means nor the ability to supply individuals with all needed equipment, and especially for state militias, so that responsibility was left to the individual. The National Guard has basically taken over the role of the early militia, and of course is recognized by law enforcement and the US Military as such. However, I need to again point out that a militia was the byproduct of the individuals’ right to keep and bear arms (which is/was a given), not the sole reason that individuals are permitted to own weapons.

3) What arms do I see as necessary for the individual to use in self-defense?

This isn’t spelled out in the Constitution or the Amendments. So this requires extrapolation. Here’s mine.

I have heard the argument that at the time of America’s founding, the weapons available for the military were also available for any individual to purchase and own if they had the cash and desire to do so. Ok, that’s true, but only the wealthy could afford multiple firearms (rifled and smoothbore, long guns and hand guns), cannon, sailing ships, and so on. I also believe that the Constitution is not just for the wealthy, but for the common man as well. So what did the common man have at the time? Mostly a musket, and maybe if he was lucky, a rifle, but usually one or the other. Those were also the arms commonly carried by the individual soldier. Translate that to today, and you are looking at a rifle or shotgun, and maybe a sidearm (handgun). Yes, soldiers also have access to grenades, RPG’s (Rocket Propelled Grenades), machine guns, mortars, and so on, but the basic weapons are rifles, shotguns, and hand guns. And I don’t think there is any cogent argument against individual citizens having the right to own weapons in those categories. However. I also believe the government has the ability to regulate the ownership of fully automatic weapons, hand grenades, RPG’s, artillery, war planes, battleships, and whatever. Is this an inconsistency on my part? Not sure, but I don’t think so. Of the weapons available in gun stores now, I am adamant that they are currently legal to buy, own, and use. Further, I am adamantly opposed to restrictions on those firearms that are currently legal.

As a side note, it is actually legal to own most of the individual weapons listed above, at least fully automatic weapons and other individual weapons of exotic nature. First, one must apply to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, must pass a rather rigorous background check, and must pay a yearly tax to continue owning the weapon. And this is per weapon, so for every exotic weapon I may want to personally own legally, I must go through the process again.

To specifically answer the question, as a home owner and as a decades-long police officer, here’s what I see as necessary for the individual to have available to use in self-defense: rifles, shotguns, and hand guns. Now the question becomes, “which ones?” And my answer for that, is anything that is currently legal. And by “currently,” I mean now, today, October 15, 2017. I do not mean “currently” as in whatever is legal at a particular date and time in the future. If it is legal now, at this specific time in history, then I think it is valid for an individual to buy, own, and use for self-defense. I personally have all three in my home: rifles, from AR-15 type weapons, to hunting rifles (from .22’s to big bore); shotguns of various gauges; and handguns of multiple caliber. I have owned weapons my entire adult life, through the raising of children, visitors to my home and company staying for a while, and I am confident that myself and my wife can protect ourselves as needed, and still be safe from accidents as we can be.

4) Is there a practical need for “assault-style weapons?”

Ok, this is kind of a loaded question, and I need to break it down. Unfortunately, the term “assault weapon” has been emotionally loaded with a huge negative connotation. Historically, “assault weapon” didn’t even exist before 1977, and was used by the US Military for a specific rifle-fired grenade launcher. The term was appropriated around 1985 and later by people on the political far left and by the left coast state of California to include just about any firearm that looked scary and could be used to further the anti-gun agenda. Seriously. Although I’m not going to quote him here, if you’re interested read some of the early stuff written about “assault weapons,” you can look up an article written by Violence Policy Center founder Josh Sugarmann in 1985. One of the things he said, though, was that by describing weapons as “assault weapons,” most people would see no practical use for them, thus making it easier to get bans and limited ownership enacted.  In other words, make a weapon sound scary enough, and people can be manipulated into banning it.

In 1994, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was enacted (mercifully it has expired, and not re-enacted). At that time, the United States Department of Justice defined assault weapons as generally being semiautomatic firearms that had a large magazine for ammunition and that were “designed and configured” for rapid fire and combat use. The problem then and now is that technically a six-shot revolver, semi-auto handgun, automatic shotgun (in actuality a semi-auto, so don’t get all ya ya about it, that’s just what they are called), pump shotgun, semi-auto squirrel rifle, and lever action rifle can fit under the designed and configured for rapid fire and combat use designation. Plus, magazine size is no issue either. What is the definition of a “large” magazine? Twelve rounds? Twenty? Thirty? Let’s say for argument’s sake that a fifteen round magazine is ok, but nothing more. So, take two fifteen round magazines and load them up. You have two fifteen round magazines, both legal. Now, get a roll of electrical or duct tape, invert one of the magazines, and tape the two magazines together offset so that each magazine sticks past the other a couple inches. What do you have now? A completely legal thirty round magazine. With someone not real practiced with this, firing off fifteen rounds, extracting the empty magazine, flipping it around, inserting the full magazine and charging the weapon to get back into action is at most a three second delay. For someone practiced and comfortable, it will take less than one second. Trust me on this.

Currently, most definitions of the term assault weapon have some common elements:

  • Semi-automatic firearm capable of accepting a detachable magazine;
  • Folding or telescoping (collapsible) stock, which reduces the overall length of the firearm;
  • A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
  • Bayonet lug, which allows the mounting of a bayonet;
  • Threaded barrel, which can accept devices such as a flash suppressor, sound suppressor, compensator or muzzle brake;
  • Grenade launcher; and/or
  • Barrel shroud, which prevents burning of shooter’s arm or hand as a safety device.

None of which has anything to do with the caliber of ammunition used or the damage that can be inflicted. The only thing affected is how the weapon looks. Military rifles are often in either .223 or .308 caliber, and either caliber can be found in a semi-automatic rifle without any of the “common elements” listed above. But even assuming one purchases a military-type rifle, it is common that rifle will be semi-automatic with a telescoping stock, a pistol grip, and a barrel shroud. Is there a practical use for such a weapon? Well, yeah, I guess so. None of those standard features are mandatory, but the pistol grip is more ergonomic, and the barrel shroud keeps me from bad burns on my hand. I think I would reverse the question. Is there a practical reason to ban them? What would such a ban accomplish? Even assuming each currently existing and privately owned weapon meeting the above criteria were confiscated, there are still rifles that would be outside the definitions used. And they would still do the damage that the “assault weapons” are capable of doing.

5) Have you ever been in a situation that you felt hampered by the lack of an “assault-style weapon?”

No, I thank God I have never been in a situation where I didn’t have a weapon that would fit into the “assault weapon” designation, so I have never felt endangered by not having one at hand. However, is “only if needed” part of the 2nd Amendment? If I am not likely to be in a situation where I need such a weapon, does the 2nd Amendment then not apply to me? Is this how any of the Amendments are, or should, be interpreted? I would argue against that. Our rights, as guaranteed by the Constitution and its Amendments, are not need based; they are inherently our rights to use or not use, as we wish. The point is not that those rights are there for us to use when needed, the point is that I always have those rights, and the government may not take them away from me without due process.

As a corollary,  I was once talking with some friends about cars, and I voiced that I would really enjoy owning one of the original Hummers. One of my friends, in a rather condescending and sarcastic voice, said, “No one needs one of those.” My response was, “Who said anything about need? I said ‘want.’ And who are you to say what I can own or not own? If I have the money to buy something, I want it, and I buy it, who has the right to deny me that?” The same goes here. If I have the money for an AR-15 style rifle and I want one, I may buy one. Without due process, I am permitted to own one, two or as many as I wish, and this is guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment. It has nothing to do with need. And although I own several firearms, I am a piker compared to others that own many, many firearms and a lot of ammunition. But who is in a position to dictate how many someone can own?

I would also point out that I have never been in a situation that I felt hampered by the lack of a fire extinguisher, either, but I have them all over the house. I’ve never needed a fire extinguisher and I’ve never had a fire in the house, but I own fire extinguishers.

6) What can you achieve with such weapons that you couldn’t achieve with a handgun?

This one is relatively simple, and that is just that one is a rifle, and one is a handgun. Rifles are inherently more powerful and have greater range than a handgun of similar caliber. Personally, if I had to take on a grizzly bear, I would rather have a heavy caliber rifle than a .45 Colt. On the other hand, when I go to the store, I don’t want to lug my shotgun, I want to carry my handgun. Rifles are more useful for long distances, handguns are better for close targets. So, this is kind of an apples and oranges thing, it depends on the circumstances.

Let’s say that I hear someone breaking into my house, cursing and screaming that he is going to do me harm. Measuring the situation, I know that he’s still outside the house, but he is determined to get in. With this in mind, I would likely get my AR-15 type weapon, load it, and prepare to confront him. Under these circumstances, I have the time to prepare and I have plenty of distance between me and him. If he gets in and charges me, I can weigh my options, and if he is armed, the fact that I have a semi-automatic rifle with multiple rounds, I can pretty much guarantee the only thing that will be harmed on me is my hearing from the discharge of the minimum rounds needed to cease the attacker’s aggression.

On the other hand, if I wake up and realize that someone has broken into my home, and is already inside, I would prefer my .45. I don’t have the time to prepare, and I can’t be sure I will have enough distance between me and him to bring a rifle to bear before he gets inside the barrel, thereby making the rifle useless in the fight. With my .45, it is not possible to “get inside.” Even if he makes physical contact with me, the handgun will be effective in my defense. In addition to the hearing loss, I will probably also have powder burns, and maybe even a bit worse, but I am still confident I should be able to stop the aggression.

So, it depends on the situation, as to which would be optimal, and which I would need to achieve my goals.

Finally, my friend posited a story in which one woman pulled a handgun (presumably owned and concealed legally) on another woman in a store over an item that both wished to buy, but was in short supply. He asked if her rights under the 2nd Amendment should be infringed.

My answer is that any citizen’s rights under any of the Amendments to the US Constitution can be removed or infringed with due process. For instance, someone convicted of a felony may not own firearms and cannot vote in US or State elections. One’s right to worship can be infringed, if that individual’s religion entails illegal or violent activity. One’s right to publish a free press can be denied if that newspaper is intended to incite or harm other individuals. But here’s where each of us is protected. None of these rights can be taken from any citizen without due process. The due process is in this case, the “however.” If, after due process, the determination is made that for clear and convincing reasons, someone’s rights in a particular area should be removed, then yes, those rights may be denied to the individual. In the case presented by my friend, let me look at it as a cop. First, I would have absolutely no problem in arresting someone under those conditions. I would then take a statement from both parties, as well as any other witnesses nearby. I would next get a copy of store surveillance cameras, if any existed. I would then contact the District Attorney’s office, present my facts, and follow their decision as to charge the individual criminally or to not file criminal charges. If charged, and if the case went to trial, and if the person were found guilty of any crime which is a contra-indicator of that person owning firearms, I would be perfectly fine with that.  These Constitutional rights that we have are ours by birth or by naturalization, but with these rights come responsibilities.  And if we as individuals misuse our rights, then after due process, we may lose our ability to utilize those rights.

Just a few final points.

First, automatic weapons have been used in mass shootings only three times since the 1940’s. So for well over 70 years, automatic weapons are statistically irrelevant when one is discussing mass shootings. Yeah, I know some folks will take the “moral high ground” and say that it’s not irrelevant to those involved. The problem with this argument is that it is easily countered with just a few questions about their “moral high ground.” And this is clearly not what my friend was asking about. I just threw it in. Because I could.  So there.

Second, look at the total numbers of weapons out there, versus the homicide rate utilizing those weapons. Since 1993, gun ownership in the US has increased from 0.94 guns per person in 1993 to 1.45 guns per person in 2013. Gun related homicides (suicides are removed from this statistic) has actually decreased from 7.0 gun related homicides per 100,000 in 1993 to 3.6 gun homicides per 100,000 in 2013. So, although the number of guns per person has increased approximately 64% between 1993 and 2013, gun related homicides have actually decreased over 51% in the same time period. This is hardly an indictment on guns of any kind. Yes, homicides are reprehensible. Yes, we should work to reduce them. But consider that despite the number of firearms in the US, homicides utilizing them are way down.

Lastly, in many ways, this is just an academic exercise. In practical terms, the genie is out of the bottle. The only way to stop firearm related homicides is a total repeal of the 2nd Amendment and 100% confiscation of all firearms. And I know of no one that honestly believes this possible, even if they desire such a solution.

So what is the answer? I don’t know. Rather, I have my opinions on this, but that would be for another post.  But for now, I just don’t think that banning firearms based essentially on how they look is the solution.

President Trump’s cuts to the EPA

Since his election, President Trump has not particularly shied away from controversial decisions and appointments. Supporters argue that he is doing exactly what he said he would do, so why the surprise? Detractors argue that he is doing exactly what he said he would do, so where’s the outrage? I have read that part of the problem may be that he might just be the first person elected to be President of the United States that is not only intent on fulfilling his campaign promises, but is also determined to fulfill them.  And that is a shock to nearly everyone.

Be that as it may, the current issue is his proposal to cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I was asked my thoughts on this by a good friend of mine. I started to reply specifically to him, but there’s a lot here, from theoretical to political, to practical, and I found that my response would be far too long for a social media reply. So I am posting my reply here, and I will deal with the theoretical, political, and practical aspects separately.

Theoretical.

This is an area that liberals and conservatives butt heads on all the time. Ok, in theory, the EPA is a good thing. It is supposed to protect the environment, right? After all, that’s its name! But is that what it does? Even when it’s at its best it imposes hardship on businesses, forcing them to blow out cleaner air, cleaner water, less effluviants, less waste, and so on. That’s a given, and that is a good thing; I have no argument with any of those, nor does any realistic person. But the realism of such demands must be measured against the need for the hardship imposed. Example: It is reasonable to expect that factories do not spew proven carcinogens into streams and rivers. But it is not reasonable to expect that each and every drop of water is distilled water clean. One end of that spectrum protects people, the other bankrupts the company. Most regulations are some compromise between the two, allowing guck at a rate of some certain parts per million.  Enough to reasonably protect the citizens, but not unrealistically severe.  I am old enough to remember the Cuyahoga River catching on fire, and I do believe in a clean environment.

The problem is that the EPA doesn’t necessarily follow a reasonable compromise. Under one president, it might slash regulations without regard to public safety (this, I understand, is the fear under Trump). Under another president, it might be utilized to push a more socialist agenda and a power grab, making it extremely for businesses to realistically remain in business (which is what many believe happened under Obama).

Even more theoretical is the “who’s gonna pay for it” vs. “it’s a good thing we gotta do this” argument. This is one of the points on which I frequently take issue with liberals. As soon as someone brings up the cost of a particular program, liberals tend to howl that those asking the question are unfeeling brutes, only concerned with money. And that’s just not so. Of course cleaner air is a good thing. Of course less waste products is a good thing. But it is a reasonable thing to ask about the cost. A friend of mine in an unrelated discussion once said that it’s easy to choose between a good thing and a bad thing. But its a lot harder to choose between a good thing and a good thing. Example: A family needs to put a new roof on the house; the old one is leaking badly, and patching simply won’t do it. But little Suzie needs braces, and they can only pay for one. What do they do? According to the typical liberal thought, do both, why is money an issue, how horrible are these people that they would consider the cost? But it’s not horrible; it’s called being a grown-up. Liberal spending in general, and the EPA regulations specifically, are exactly the same. Right now Federal spending is totally out of control, and hard choices have to be made. We simply cannot continue at the current rate, and everyone knows it. The problem is which good thing does one cut? No matter which budgets get cut, someone’s gonna scream. But it has to be done. The current spending is just unsustainable.

Political.

President Trump’s current EPA cuts are causing a lot of liberal heads to explode. I think that for the most part, a liberal never met a regulation they didn’t love. Regulations give the government a lot of control, which is exactly what liberals want; control over whatever area one wants to discuss.

Under Obama, nearly 4,000 new EPA regulations were written. That’s an average of nearly 500 a year. And it is simply unbelievable to me that these were not intended as a power grab. One of President Trump’s campaign issues was exactly this, that he would roll back Obama’s power grab through regulation in the EPA. It’s true that he has slashed the EPA budget by about 25 percent. That’s a huge cutback, right? But do you know what their budget is after the cutbacks? After a 25 percent cutback? President Trump’s 2018 proposed budget for the EPA, after cutting the budget by 25 percent, is $6.1 billion! After the cutback! Six. Point. One. BILLION. I am sorry, but that is a huge number, and I simply cannot get worked up about the EPA “losing funding” but still retaining a budget of that amount. And this is where many liberals start screaming that people like me “don’t care about the environment.” Not true. I do care. However the approach I prefer is more measured, slower. Prove to me that it is needed. Show the consequences of enacting the rule/regulation, and the consequences of not enacting it. And I don’t mean “the sky is falling” kind of consequences, but factual, thoughtful discussion of the possibilities.

Practical.

Trump has ordered the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to review and reconsider the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule put in place by Obama in 2015. It appears that this was a genuine effort by the Army Corps and the EPA to more clearly define regulations already in place since 2001 and 2006. The pushback, as I understand, is not on the rule itself, but on the potential for future misuse. And I think that is a fair concern. After all, isn’t this how the government has already seized as much as it has? This is the old story of putting a frog in water. Put it in boiling water, and it will fight to get out. Put it in cool water, heat the water slowly to boiling, and the frog will just float there until it is gone. Honestly, I don’t even know if the frog story is true, but the illustration is apt. The government has constantly and consistently taken a piece here, a nibble there, until nearly every aspect of our lives is regulated. Incandescent light bulbs. Toilets that don’t flush well. Nozzles for gas cans that simply suck. These are just a few examples of Federal rules and regulations passed, perhaps with good intentions, but the fallout and intrusion is real. So I don’t blame critics of the WOTUS rule for being concerned.

Finally, the Great Lakes Initiative funding.

I want to make something very clear here. I am a scuba diver that lives within walking distance of Lake Erie. My wife and I have dived incredible wrecks in the Great Lake, and we are very well aware of the negative impact that neglect, pollution, and invasive species can have. We believe in clean water, and in a clean Lake. We support efforts to keep it clean, and are doing what we can to assist in efforts to create a Marine Sanctuary area in Lake Erie. Further, we raised our children here, drinking Lake Erie water, as well as water from other areas that would be affected by EPA rules and regulations. The Great Lakes Initiative is intended to combat pollution and invasive species in the Great Lakes, and President Trump has proposed eliminating nearly all of the funding for the Great Lakes Initiative, from $300 million to about $10 million. And I confess to a certain amount of trepidation about that. Three hundred million is a drop in the bucket for the Federal government. On the other hand, a dollar saved, and all that. Plus, I think it would be kind of hypocritical if I expanded on how it’s ok for Trump to cut spending on EPA regulations, but I insisted that the one that I care about be untouched. Especially since I have been in favor of a Presidential line item veto in the Federal Budget for years.

So. I guess we will have to wait and see. All of this could be changed or modified by Congress. It could be that all or none of Trump’s proposals make it through. And it could be a disaster or a triumph, or anywhere in between. Time will tell.

Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education?

DeVos Post number 3.

Not really. I started with that for continuity, since a lot of folks have seen my previous Facebook posts regarding Betsy DeVos. This  post is about education in general.

I have been thinking a lot about education the past several days, due in large part to the controversy surrounding the Betsy DeVos nomination for Secretary of Education in the Trump administration.  There has been a huge amount of animus toward her, and I have been curious as to why.  The debate on my threads has been intense and impassioned. I have enjoyed the thoughts back and forth on the issue.  But I think the problems we face in education go much deeper than simply the Betsy DeVos nomination.

It is inarguable that the education system in America is in dire straits. The statistic I recently heard (I did not vet this) is that the United States currently  ranks 25th in science, mathematics, and reading. Twenty-fifth in the world! At one time, we lead the world in nearly every metric, but not now. But as poorly as we do in actual understanding, I also heard that our high school graduates rank near the top in their confidence in themselves. Educationally, our kids suck compared to the rest of the world, but they feel pretty darn good about themselves.  So why is this?  It is far too easy to blame “the teachers,” “the unions,” or “the parents.” Although I think there are issues within each of those categories, I think the issues run much deeper than those easy targets. Here are my thoughts.  Admittedly, they are rather general and simplistic, but for the purposes of this post, they will suffice.

Public education is indeed the bedrock of American education, and our public education system has been the model for education around the world. Historically, education in the United States started in “one-room,” with one teacher for all grades. As students got older and moved through the grades, they helped teach the younger kids, and on and on. Huge amounts of individual attention. On the other hand, education was rather optional, and families that didn’t think education important would just not send their kids, or sometimes the kids were needed at home to help with the family business.  Very, very few went to University after high school, and often “grammar school,” or primary school was as far as most students went in their education.  Teachers didn’t necessarily need a degree, many lawyers learned through apprentice-type programs, and most jobs that now require a degree were learned on the job.

After education became mandatory, there were loose standards for advancing through the grades.  Students usually needed to pass some sort of primer to move on to the next grade, with a fairly comprehensive test that one needed to pass in order to graduate high school.

Post-high school education was relatively strict, teaching a broad curriculum. As emphases changed, the curriculums became more specialized, with degrees in multiple areas. Today there is nearly an unlimited number of “specialties” in which one can major and get a degree. And that includes a number of specialties within the field of education.

There are multiple problems that I see for those getting a degree in education.

First, much of college education is structured around innovation. Partly this is understandable. Who, after all, wants to “rest on someone else’s laurels.” Most people want to make their own mark on the world. And the thought is that there is “always” a better way to do something. I don’t happen to believe that. I think there is definitely a place for rote memorization, and for learning to do things “as they always were.” Understand, I am NOT opposed to innovation. Otherwise, we would still be using an abacus for math, and if lucky, a slide rule for complex engineering issues. Heck, I’m so old I remember when a Texas Instrument calculator was about the size of a small iPad, could add, subtract, multiply, and divide, and ran around $100.00. So no, I am not a luddite, and I am not against innovation. But I think innovation should be measured, and should replace something only when it is proven to be better/faster/more effective than that which it is replacing. And I do NOT think that which we currently have is better than that which we used to have.

My father, when he was 79 years old (about 15 years ago or so), came to our home for a visit. While he was there, we found one of his old one-room schoolhouse primers. In it were several Algebra problems which my father figured out in his head. I couldn’t have solved them with an engineering calculator, paper and pen, and five hours to try. Admittedly, my old man was good at math; I am not. However, that doesn’t explain all of it. My education was good. Not excellent, but good. Our daughters’ education was very good; my wife and I saw to that. But what of those that don’t have “activist parents,” or dedicated teachers? Not sure. I agree that there needs to be a baseline. But common core isn’t it. Not with how math is currently taught.

I understand the theory of Common Core. As I understand it, the purpose of common core math is to teach kids an intuitive understanding of mathematics and how the numbers all relate to each other. And I know that some kids already think in a way that common core math reaches; that when common core math is shown to these kids, they instantly “get it,” because that’s how they already analyze problems. But many, many children do not think in a way that common core reaches, and will simply not understand common core math. In my opinion, I think common core math should be offered as one method of learning, but not demanded of all students. There is absolutely nothing wrong with rote memorization of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division tables. This works as well, and works far better for some. Let me end this paragraph with this thought: I wonder if common core math is kind of like the metric system. Yes, there are applications in which metric is far, far superior to the English method we currently use. But metric will never be adopted as the standard in the US, certainly not in my lifetime, anyhow. It’s superiority is irrelevant.  The Standard measurement system is so entrenched that to switch over would be nearly impossible. In the computer world, it is no different with Apple products. It is inarguable that there are applications in which the Apple operating system is far, far superior to the PC. But Gates is a marketing genius, and the PC is far too entrenched to ever be moved out of its current position.

As I said earlier, I think that “innovative” educational approaches are demanded, and perhaps to the detriment of what has worked, and worked well, for ages. But that is not the only issue.

One of the objections raised on Facebook regarding charter schools as opposed to public education is that charter schools might “put profit before education.” This is a valid concern. But my observation is that since the 1960’s, the socialist left/liberals/progressives (in my opinion, “a rose by any other name…) have done an excellent job of co-opting education; it appears that education is currently used to “put ideology before education.” And I believe that is inarguable. This is not to say that every single educator is a leftist intent on indoctrinating their students, but I am saying that such indoctrination is pervasive within higher education and it has been very effective, to the point that many, many secondary education teachers now follow the same ideology and use their position as teachers to influence the political leanings of their students. Debate is not encouraged, and opposing thoughts and beliefs are not only discouraged, but mocked and vilified.  And herein lies the basic problem.

At its best, education teaches one how to think. This is what I learned, although much of that was self-taught. I fear that much of current education is not so much about how to think as it is what to think. And that is a definite problem.

What is the answer? Not sure. But with our current world standing(s) in education, it is imperative that we do something, and do it soon. The status quo will not suffice, and the United States is on an educational slide that will harm our country for generations if it is not arrested and reversed.

Betsy DeVos has a passion for education. She has no formal learning in that area, nor first-hand experience. But she has been confirmed as Secretary of Education under the Trump administration. Although I am not an avowed “Trumpie,” President Trump has my support, and thus far, DeVos is the only appointment, decision, or executive order by President Trump that I am not entirely behind. With DeVos I am neutral, I am withholding judgment, and I am puzzled. Time will tell what policies will be enacted in the Department of Education, how those policies will be implemented, and what effect such policies will have on the education of our children in the United States. If those policies succeed, 100% of the credit goes to the Republicans. Not one Democrat supported her. If she fails miserably, 100% of the blame goes to the Republicans. Not one Democrat supported her. Time will tell. I hope she succeeds, and I hope the educational system tailspin in which we find ourselves is halted and reversed.

Final Thoughts for the Presidential Election

It’s Election Day.

 

Election season is finally past,

And Election Day is here at last.

 

I know everyone will mourn with me that we can’t extend the season a few months. Perfect would be about a year of what we’ve had the past few months, with temperatures in the 20’s, and about three feet of snow. Right? Well, SOME people will agree with me. Alright, a few. Maybe a couple? Ok, ok, I’m pretty sure SOMEONE will. I hope.

 

Anyhow, I wanted to offer some final thoughts. First of all, remember I am an unabashed Conservative. What that means is that I “lean” Republican, but I am not joined to the hip with the Republican Party.  But generally speaking, the Republicans are closer to what I believe than Liberals and the Democrat Party. Further, I am a Christ-Follower; a Bible believing adopted Son of the King. So, I speak from that foundation.

 

And I start with this: God is STILL on His throne. Regardless of who wins. And I need to be content with that. I am called to pray for the President, and to seek God above all. My Bud, Dan Sheldon, read the absolute correct scripture this morning on WCTL radio;

Psalm 20: 7-8. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright ….”

 

Our hope is NOT in our country, our hope is NOT in a political party, or even a political movement. Our hope, our promise, is in He who rules the Universe.

 

But that does not mean that we just sit back and placidly watch the world spin around us. It is not incorrect to become politically involved, to follow the process, to formulate opinions and to voice them. But. As a follower of Jesus, I must remember that whomever inhabits the White House is not nearly as important as is keeping my eyes on Him who sits on the Throne of Heaven. And anyone who knows me knows how involved I have been throughout this election season. I enjoy the dialogue and the back and forth. And today we vote.

 

On the Candidates:

 

First, Hillary.

 

I am really, really frustrated with people that would still vote for this person. There is absolutely no doubt that in the course of her career she has committed election fraud (i.e. the primary as regards Sanders), bribery (minimum the same, possibly the FBI director as well), blackmail, destruction of evidence, money laundering, and lying under oath. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

What frustrates me is how people either ignore what she has done, the crimes she has committed, or they simply don’t care. In either case, it appears that rule of law, as well as morality, take a back seat to ideology and world view. If a candidate believes the “correct philosophy,” they are permitted to literally any action whatsoever. Adultery? No problem. Rape? He’s just “hot blooded.” Lying under oath? No issue there. It’s a conspiracy against them. Drug use? Psssshhh. Everyone does that. Misuse of Classified material? Their maid printed out and handled Classified material? But look at how much good they have done. Sold Uranium to countries that will either use it against us or distribute it to those that do? Blah, Blah, Blah, don’t hear nothin’. And these are just the known and proven accusations against Hillary (and her husband). I haven’t even touched on the nearly certain issues that have followed Hillary over the years, but the evidence isn’t as “conclusive.” For those on the left, the ends justify the means. As long as one is working for the “correct” conclusion, one’s behavior is excusable. And that I find abhorrent. A Republican candidate, with the same baggage, wouldn’t even be considered. Further, if it were a Republican with any of these strikes, the loudest shrieks against them would be from the left, which would moralize against the candidate, and regard the issue(s) as proof that the Republican candidate is “not fit” for office, that they are “out of touch” with ordinary people, that they think they are “above the law.” While their own current candidate is all of those things.

 

So, my issues with liberalism in general are ideology over morality, a lack of morality, and hypocrisy. And Hillary Clinton is the poster child for all of these. In my view, she has absolutely no redeeming qualities, either as a person or as a politician, and she certainly has no qualifications to run for or hold, the highest office in the United States. At least I can look at Obama and see a relatively decent individual, one who appears to love his family, even if I vehemently disagree with every single policy, position, and action he has taken over the past eight years. With Hillary, there is not one single thing that would fit in this category.

 

Now Trump.

 

Am I excited about Donald Trump as an individual running for president? No, not really. Trump is crass, egotistical, over the top. But there are a number of things that I do like about him. He has helped folks when he didn’t have to, when no one was watching, and he wasn’t trying to score political points. So he is genuinely generous. He is clearly a political outsider. I find it interesting that on that note, people howl for “an outsider,” but when they get someone that is actually outside the political realm, then that person is suddenly “not qualified.”

 

Trump is ambitious. He wants to succeed. He is preaching a conservative agenda. He has beaten seventeen of the toughest Republicans to ever seek the presidency. He has waged an awesome campaign against Hillary, and has held his own in slanted debates with biased “moderators,” some of whom have been found to have given the questions to the Clinton camp, or have even gotten the questions FROM the Clinton camp. I find it interesting that Julian Assange of Wikileaks, when questioned as to why he hasn’t released incriminating stuff on Trump as he has with Clinton, said that there simply wasn’t anything to release. And remember, Assange was a darling of the left up until now. Has Trump had controversy? Oh, you bet. But not one of the scandals has shown much substance. Accusations of groping or sexual assault, withdrawn or the accusers shown to lack credibility. Crude language, yeah, he said lewd, crude stuff. Stuff of which I don’t approve. But stuff I have heard in the high school locker room, and from just about any group of guys I have ever been around.  I am far more concerned with what Hillary has done than I am with what Trump has said.

 

I have absolutely no illusions about Trump. If he gets elected, we will have to see how he will turn out. He could be a poor president. But, he could be good, even great. Hillary, on the other hand, will undoubtedly be a disaster. Illegal aliens will be welcomed with open arms. Unvetted refugees, a number of which will undoubtedly be terrorists, will come into the country in record numbers. America will slide further down the slide into socialism, even though socialism is a discredited governmental system with no successful implementation in the history of the world. Supreme Court appointees will further erode American freedoms and constitutional rights, and things that are not constitutional rights will be further elevated to the status of rights.  Government will be increased in size and seen as the answer to America’s problems.  A leftist worldview will be further implemented and entrenched.

 

Even after the Presidential disaster of the past eight years, I think America can recover. But not if we have another four to eight years of wimpy Republican leadership and overt leftist engineering of a socialist agenda. So I will vote for Trump. Honestly, I have hopes for him. With Romney, with McCain, I had to “hold my nose” and vote for them, because they were the lesser of two evils. I think Trump is a far, far better candidate than either of them, and I have hope that he will be a much better president than we could have expected from them.

 

We will see what the day brings. And God is still on His throne.

On Politics and the Presidential Election of 2016

Politics.

Ugly, dirty, nasty word, even for those that enjoy it. Politicians tend to be close to the very bottom of nearly every survey regarding profession’s standings as liked or trusted. Yet we are inundated with politics nearly every day, particularly so every couple of years, and overwhelmingly so every four.

Some of my friends absolutely hate it. Politics to them is about as tasteful as eye boogers, coughing in someone’s face, or pooping in public, and as welcome as fingernails on a chalk board or listening to Justin Bieber sing (but I repeat myself). Some friends just tolerate it and hunch their shoulders, just hoping to get through the “silly season” relatively unscathed. I think both of these groups just figure that it doesn’t really matter who is elected, one is as bad as the other,

But although it isn’t much of a secret, I personally love politics. No, let me clarify that. I am passionate about politics. To me there are very few things as important to the direction that we go as a society as who is elected, what their world view is, how are they going to solidify or change the status quo.

The reason I started thinking about this topic as an evaluation is that I saw a couple friends posts on social media in which they loudly proclaimed their hatred of politics. And they got several “Amens” on their posts. I can understand their feelings. I know how distasteful the process can be. Mudslinging, disparaging comments, accusations, candidates’ current nastiness revealed and past nastiness rehashed, skeletons best left in the closet discovered and paraded around in public, counter muck thrown, indignant denials and rebuttals, and on and on and on ad nauseam every hour of every day until one feels like they are Prometheus chained to a rock, watching an eagle rip out and eat their liver. Every. Single. Day.

So. I understand, and I respect them for their viewpoints. I understand their anger. We are all unique (Wait. Does that mean that by definition we aren’t unique? Whoa…), and we have our own individual likes, dislikes, enjoyments, and tolerance levels to those things happening around us. But sometimes we have to pay attention to situations, and do stuff we don’t like to do. When one is scheduled for a colonoscopy, one must ingest certain compounds that will, shall we say, hasten the movements of one’s bowels. Sometimes one must receive an enema. None of these things are enjoyable, including the colonoscopy procedure, but sometimes, as distasteful as these things may be, they are necessary. And I think the political process is one of those necessities (comparing politics to an enema? Kind of hard to rebut that.).

Ok, here is where I was going to go into the responsibility and necessity of being politically informed. But a few days ago, I read a column by Mike Rowe, and it actually changed my mind about a few things. Read Mr. Rowe’s thoughts here: (Mike Rowe: Urging “The Masses” to Get Out and Vote). What has changed for me is this.  Since I was about eighteen I have felt that not only is it our right to vote, but it’s our responsibility to exercise that right. But I was wrong. Yes, it is the right of every citizen to vote, but like every right guaranteed by the Constitution, each citizen has the choice to exercise, or not exercise, that right. The example given by Mr. Rowe concerns the Second Amendment. I am a huge Second Amendment guy, but I agree with Mr. Rowe that not everyone should own a gun. Before owning a gun, one should know how to use it, clean it, one should practice with it, and be comfortable with it. Yes, it is one’s right to own a gun, but nowhere does it say that one is obligated to use that right.

And Mr. Rowe’s example can easily be carried over to other rights as well. We have the right of free speech. But we are not obligated to speak freely in every situation at any time for all reasons. Same with our Freedom to Assemble (we do not have to go to the protest if we choose not to), our Freedom of Religion (we can be of any religion we choose, or none at all, as we wish), and on and on. What the Constitution guarantees to each of us is a binding contract between the government and the people, that our rights, should we choose to exercise them cannot be arbitrarily taken away, or refused. We are not required to exercise these rights.

And that includes the right to vote. Exercise that right, or choose not to. Your call. For me, I would feel guilty if I did not vote. For 41 years I have voted in every presidential election as it came along. And I have probably missed only two mid-term elections in that time period. But I have also taken my vote seriously. I don’t go in just to pull a lever, I study the issues. I study the candidates, their stands on the issues, their platform as well as the party planks. I look at each candidate’s background, how they have voted in the past, what they may have studied as younger people, and how they are likely to vote in the future. Or in the case of a candidate for President, what programs they will likely move to enact, what type of Supreme Court (or lower court) appointees they will try to confirm, and how they would likely protect the U.S. in the case of war or domestic trouble. I compare them to my values, and my understanding of right and wrong. I then vote for the individual that is closest to my beliefs. And I also confess that I very, very seldom vote “third party.” I know many people believe the third party candidate has a chance to win, but I simply don’t believe that. Third party candidates have not won since Lincoln, and that was a unique situation, in which one of the two major parties was nearly extinct anyhow. In fact “The Party of Lincoln” actually replaced the dying major party and became the Republican Party we know today. So when I vote, I contain my vote to one of the two major parties, today being the Republican Party and the Democrat Party. And as I said, when I vote, I vote for the candidate that is closest to my values and my worldview, regardless of the “D” or “R” by their name.

By the way, I actually think that an understanding of the issues is required of anyone that chooses to vote. I understand voting is a right. But if someone doesn’t know some basics of American politics, why do they feel that they should exercise that right? Some examples: What are the three basic forms of government (Monarchy, Socialism/Communism, Democracy)? What are the three branches of American federal government (Executive, Congress, Courts)? What are the two major political parties in the U.S. (Republican and Democrat)? Who are the two party’s candidates for President (this year, Clinton and Trump)? Who are their running mates for Vice President (this year, Pence and Kaine)? If one can’t answer these basic questions, how can they possibly have the depth of understanding to know the issues, and how the candidate elected will affect those issues? In my opinion, these are hugely important issues, and this is why I study, learn, and choose “my” candidate.

This year, we have two clear choices for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And here is where I will probably veer away from relative objectivity to opinion. You see, I think this election is immensely important, perhaps the most important since 1776. Big statement. I know many elections have claimed that “this election is the most important ever,” and that this claim is overused. But for over 40 years, I have seen each successive election as hugely important. I have seen Presidents that have helped our country, Presidents that have at best done no harm, and Presidents that I believe have harmed our country. Unfortunately, I feel that three of the presidents I have seen as an adult have done tremendous harm to America, and have successively, in their turn, worsened our country. I believe that the values upon which this country was founded are under assault, and that America is dangerously close to being radically changed into something that was never meant to be. So I think that this year we are at a watershed moment in our country, and depending on which candidate is elected, I believe that our country has at least a chance to flourish, or that it will cease to exist as a vibrant, shining City on a Hill.

As I said, we have a choice between Clinton and Trump. One is a career politician, having married a politician, and has been personally involved in politics or connected to politics for pretty much her entire adult life. The other has never been in politics, but is an extremely successful businessman, and is connected to entertainment as well as more traditional “business” ventures. One is a committed Socialist who believes our current system is unfair and in need of drastic change. The other believes the “traditional” values should be revived and the changes made in the last eight years reversed. Critics of Clinton say that she may be a Socialist, but she is just as concerned for her personal power as she is for social change (if not more so). Critics of Trump say he is a bloviating political bumbler and a liar that has only converted to conservatism when it was expedient for him to do so. All of these observations have at least some basis in fact. Any objective analysis of Clinton will show that she is clearly a Socialist, and that she is tremendously concerned with her own wealth, power, and position. The same analysis of Trump shows that he was at one time a Democrat, that he moved in the same circles as the Clintons, that he has a huge ego, and that he is an absolutely novice in politics. However, none of these negatives are enough, in and of themselves, to disqualify either candidate from the Presidency. Depending on other factors, any candidate, even with the negatives cited, could be a good president.

But I believe this country is at a crossroads. A watershed moment. There is no need in this post to go into the specific negatives of Clinton or each of the positives of Trump. My personal opinion is that Ms. Clinton has absolutely no accomplishments that qualify her to be president. I believe her to be an evil person, and that she has already harmed this country terribly. And I honestly feel bad for her, as I think her health is such that she simply cannot serve competently as the President of the United States. Conversely, I think that Mr. Trump has shown that he has the chutzpah to be the president, that he has succeeded in every endeavor he has attempted and I believe he has the temperament and ability to do the job.  Mr. Trump is a true outsider. And I find it interesting that people clamor for a political outsider, but when they get someone that actually is an outsider, the fact that he is a political outsider is characterized as a negative and should be a disqualifier. Further, I believe that the traditional news sources have abdicated their responsibilities to be objective and equitable, and are now committed to the Democrat party, to the extent that organizations such as Wikileaks (https://wikileaks.org/) is now doing the job that journalists used to do. It appears that traditional journalists are willing to dredge up and present any potentially scandalous tidbit on Trump, but refuse to investigate the actual actions of Clinton, actions that may be illegal and disqualifying.

This is why I am passionate about politics. This is why I pay attention. I do not enjoy the process, and heaven forbid that I should ever be a politician. But the importance is huge, and I believe that the Democrat party, United States news organizations, and other areas of society are skewed against my beliefs and worldview. This election may well determine the direction of the Supreme Court for decades, as will any appointments to lower Federal courts.  America’s standing as a superpower will either be rehabilitated or further degraded.  The influx of undocumented individuals, among whom are undoubtedly hidden a number who want to harm this country, will dramatically increase or dramatically decrease.  Our methods of dealing with terror groups will continue as it has (in my opinion very ineffectively), or change to be more direct and effective. The President lying and disregarding facts about the actions of police officers will continue or cease.  Respect for law and order will continue to decline or police may be supported again.  Jobs will continue to erode or increase.  Dependence on government for income and insurance will grow or revert to the individual.  I believe we are on a slide toward Socialism, which will very quickly mean the end of the greatness of America. I believe that it is getting more and more difficult to slow down this slide and reverse the trend. Looking at Mr. Trump, I am hugely impressed with his drive and his ability to persevere. I also recognize his positives and his negatives. I believe it is possible that he may be a poor president. But I also believe that he has the potential to be a good president, or even a great one. It is far too soon to tell. But I absolutely know, without a shadow of a doubt that if elected, Ms. Clinton will be a disaster. So I will vote for the one that at least has potential to be a positive.

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