CQ…Clark Here

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Archive for the category “Politics”

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.

Hateful and Inflammatory? Inconsistent? Not sure I agree.

Note: I first want to apologize to my liberal and libertarian friends for my responses to various comments on social media yesterday.  For various reasons, I was Mr. Cranky Pants, and did not respond as well as I usually do.  I hope this post is a bit more rational.

Note:  For any readers that may be Muslim, liberal, or otherwise disagree with what I write, I sincerely hope my comments will not be seen as hurtful or callous.  They are not intended to be.  However, I will not apologize for what I say here, these are my thoughts and opinions.  I strive to be measured and rational, not strident and angry.  To a large degree, I think I succeed.  But I ask that you not be offended by this post, but I expect that many will disagree, and that, also, is ok.  You are as entitled to your thoughts, opinions, and beliefs as am I.

I am no different from the vast majority of Americans with how I have felt with the terrorist attacks in Paris.  And although I haven’t posted anything new here on my Blog, I have been active on social media, and posted multiple articles, opinions, thoughts, and memes regarding the Paris atrocities.  Regular readers of this blog already know I am a committed Christian, a family man, an American, a political conservative, and rather bold to state my opinions.  Due to my postings, in the past couple days my Christianity and my consistency in applying my Christianity has been questioned, and my posts on the American response to the Syrian refugee situation characterized as hateful and inflammatory.  I disagree with those questions and characterizations, and wanted to address them.  However, I figured my remarks would take a lot more space than social media, and light bulb above my head! I have a blog site that I can write on. (Um, duh?)

Anyhow, I want to address two things here.  First my Christianity, how I have come to this point, and how I interpret the Bible.  And Second, my thoughts on the Syrian refugee crisis.

First, regards my faith, Christianity, and Biblical interpretation.

I believe in the God of the Bible.  I believe that He created everything that exists, that He has always been, and always will be.  I believe that God exists in three distinct but equal “persons:” God the Father, God the Son (Jesus, the Christ), and God the Holy Spirit.  I believe that God is perfect, without error, and has been so forever, and always will be.  I believe that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired, complete Word of God, and includes the Hebrew Scriptures (AKA: the “Old” Testament), as well as the “New” Testament, which introduces the Jewish Messiah, Jesus the Christ.  I believe that I am separated from that perfect Creator-God because of my willful choice to commit “sin.”  Sin is simply doing what I know to be wrong, in the face of a perfect God.  I believe that because of God’s perfection, He cannot even be in the presence of sin, and so my cosmic treason has separated me from ever being able, on my own, to stand in God’s presence.  I believe that God loved me so much that he sent His Son, Jesus (who volunteered for this mission), to earth to atone for my treason. I believe that Jesus was born of a sinful woman, Mary, with no earthly father, but was miraculously conceived by Mary, through the working of the Holy Spirit.  I believe that Jesus was absolutely, completely, perfectly God and simultaneously was absolutely, completely, “perfectly” a man, as are any of us.  I believe that Jesus is the only Son of God, that there is no other.  I believe that Jesus literally lived, but never sinned; never lied, never coveted, never stole, never did any wrong thing that would cause separation from God the Father.  I believe that he led a ministry on earth, and was ultimately arrested by the religious leaders of the time, tried by Roman law, and crucified, suffering physical death, and retaining his spirit until he decided on his own to die.  I believe Jesus suffered a literal death, and was buried for (in modern understanding) for a day and a half (by reckoning of the time, three days); literally dead in a literal tomb.  I believe that when Jesus decided it was time, I believe he literally came back to life; that dead human tissue was re-animated, against human possibility and human rationale.  I believe that when Jesus allowed himself to be crucified, and when he chose to die and take his life back, that he paid the just and righteous penalty for my treason; that because he paid the penalty (my penalty), God is able to forgive me, and that due only to God’s grace, I can now stand in front of Him.  And that He sees me, not as I was, but in light of Christ’s finished work, perfect, just as Christ is perfect.  I believe that Christ came for the Jewish nation first, and that any national Jew that recognizes Jesus as Messiah automatically steps in front of me in as God’s chosen, and are ultimately my elder brothers and sisters.  I believe that it is God’s grace and God’s grace alone that has earned me the right to be called His son.  I believe belief in Christ in this way is the only way for anyone to find the ability to be allowed into God’s presence as a forgiven individual.  I believe that Christ’s sacrifice is all that is necessary for anyone who chooses to believe and confess the above to stand before God.  And I believe that if one does not specifically choose to believe this, then by that choice, that person, when they die, will never be allowed in the presence of God; that all goodness, and all hope will be removed, and that person will spend eternity in what the Bible defines as Hell.

More on the Bible:

I apply various, recognized rules to interpreting the Bible.  These are not “my” rules, but are a standardized method for Biblical interpretation.  First, it says what it says.  There is no hidden meaning, no “deeper truths,” no Gnostic gospel to apply.  Second the Bible is inerrant, inspired, accurate and complete as it currently exists.  Third, context and historical considerations must also be considered for a particular verse, and that each verse must be interpreted, not on its own, but in accord with the Bible as a whole.  Far too many people look at one verse and say, “Well, the Bible says (fill in the blank).” And this happens with folks that believe the Bible as well as those that do not.  One of my favorite examples is the one verse in the Bible that mentions tattoos.  Found in Deuteronomy, it says that one should not get tattoos or marks for the dead.  Many Christians use this to condemn anyone that gets a tattoo as unbiblical.  That is far from the truth.  That verse is speaking directly to the pagan practice of slicing one’s self and/or tattooing themselves specifically for ancestor worship or appeasement.  As such, it is addressing idolatry during a specific historical timeframe, not tattooing at any time forever and ever, amen.  But I digress.

I would also say that in reading and understanding the Bible, the way to do so is no different than reading any “classical” piece of literature.  One doesn’t have to be a Biblical scholar, nor does one have to believe the Bible to read it as it is intended to be read.  One should read it in the same way that one should read Melville’s “Moby Dick,”  Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” Homer’s “Iliad” or “Odyssey,” or anything by Shakespeare.

So that defines my Christianity, and how I interpret the Bible.  Next I want to expound (something some would say I do all too well) on the current situation involving the recent Paris terrorist attacks and the refugees from Syria.

I must first provide a further caveat.  Politically, I am conservative, which means that I do not identify as a Republican first, since I believe that the Republican party has strayed from its conservative roots.  I have been conservative since my youth, and it is my contention that conservatism works every time it is tried.  As a conservative, I believe that Ronald Reagan, although not perfect, was the best president in my lifetime.  I believe that George Bush “41” was more moderate than conservative, and George Bush “43” was more “Neocon” than conservative, but I support most of the actions taken by him during his presidency.  I further think that from Carter to Obama, each successive Democrat president was worse than the previous one, and that Obama is the worst president in my lifetime.  A further note on Obama.  It seems popular to tag those that oppose him as racist, and that opposition is due to his race.  Nothing could be farther from the truth for me.  I vehemently disagree with his politics, just as I do other far left liberals, such as Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Joe Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bill Maher, Barbra Streisand, Michael Moore, and on and on.  I disagree with their politics, and I think their politics are dishonest and bad for the country.  Which is a nice segue into the Paris attacks and the Syrian situation.

The facts:  Just a few short days ago, several terrorists, in a coordinated attack, murdered upwards of 140 civilians in Paris.  Just a few hours later, the radical Islamic group ISIS claimed responsibility.  One of the dead terrorists was found to have a Syrian passport.  This created an immediate uproar, since a very large number of Syrians have claimed refugee status, conveyed by the United Nations, because of an ongoing war in their home country of Syria.  That war itself is very confusing, with the “players,” their “sponsors” and supporters not at all clear cut as to which is the “bad guys,” and which are the “good guys.”  This is not a situation that can be easily examined and a conclusion reached as to whom is at fault.  Due to that war, many people have been dislocated, and have fled the country and/or have sought refugee status.  This includes Muslims and Christians.  President Obama, even prior to the Paris attacks, has declared that the United States will accept up to 100,000 Islamic refugees.  However, the State Department has refused entry to many, many Christian refugees from other countries.

In light of the Paris attacks, it seemed prudent to me to re-think the President’s policy on the refugees, and I admit that I was furious that he did not do so.  In my opinion, the United States is in much more danger due to his position on this, and I posted multiple times on social media regarding this issue.  As I said earlier, those posts were characterized as hateful and inflammatory, and inconsistent with Christianity.  Hence this essay.

Prior to writing this article, I went back to November 14, and read through every single post on my page concerning the Paris attacks.  I then wrote out a line or two of their content.  Understand, I post a lot.  And if I had been required to rely on my recollection, I would have said that nearly all of my posts were somehow related to the Paris attacks, and that I had suspended my normal volume of typical posts, which run the gamut of humor to politics to sports back to humor to scuba diving to the weather and back to humor.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not so.  I still posted my usual volume of non-political posts, with a lot of humor (example: I like to serve Eggs Benedict on hub caps because there’s no plate like chrome for the hollandaise.  Get it? “No place like home…” well, anyhow…).  Follows are the one-line synopses of every single one of my posts on the subject, starting from the first one to the latest:

  • 127 killed.  Bumps up to 140.
  • Putin insists immigrants become Russian. (in comparison to Obama’s lack of any similar conviction)
  • Obama refuses to acknowledge Islamic terrorism.
  • Obama stated that “Isis is contained” and approx. 12 hours later the Paris attacks occur.
  • Isis coming to US.  Warning to all.
  • Article on incident in Kenya, attack on Christians students at university.
  • Meme mocking Hillary.
  • Netanyahu statement that Islam behind Paris attacks; first world leader to say this.
  • Meme pointing out that the Tsarnaev brothers (Boston bombers) were “refugees.”
  • Seven points mocking Obama and the Clintons regarding their policies on Isis, gun control, refugees, police, Islam.
  • Posts regarding Bernie Sanders stupidity with attacks (he said that the attacks happened because the murderers had no jobs and because of climate change).
  • US refugee centers speeding up the process to get the refugees in faster.
  • An article identifying the victims of the Paris attack.
  • Map of where refugees are settling in the United States (including an additional 50 to be settled just fifteen miles from my home).
  • Location of jihadi camps in the US (including two in neighboring states).
  • An article and map of states refusing to accept refugees (multiple posts).
  • An article detailing that the US State Dept. has refused visas to persecuted Christians.
  • Statement from Senator Jeff Sessions that we cannot vet refugees.
  • An article that Republicans in the US House of Reps. are putting a bill together to address refugee issue.
  • An article on WHY Paris attacks get more media mileage than attacks in Africa, etc.
  • Obama saying that he is “not interested in the US leading or winning.”
  • A meme stating that “If you have ten grapes and two poisoned, would you eat them?”
  • A meme with a quote from ISIS: “We have 71 soldiers in 15 states,” and a corresponding quote that “We have 80 million gun owners…” 
  • An original post that there is not an “off-chance” that terrorists will infiltrate with other refugees.  This post sprang from a post I had seen comparing any current refusal to accept Syrian refugees to refusing to accept Jews in WWII.
  • A post, quoted as saying, “Before saying I support France, read this article by Michael Hurd.” This was a very conservative approach to Islam and refugees.  https://drhurd.com/before-saying-i-support-france-please-read-this/
  • A map of worldwide locations of tweets from ISIS supporters.  The US is fourth on the list.
  • An article detailing how President Obama was late for a moment of silence for the victims of the Paris attacks, and him saying that he was “not interested in posturing about the US winning…”
  • A video of a Greece/Turkey soccer match, showing that the Turks booed during a moment of silence for the Paris victims, and chanted Allah Akbar.
  • A meme placing the blame on Obama and Clinton for Muslim extremist terrorism currently being the largest worldwide threat.
  • An article quoting John Kerry, that people “shouldn’t be rushing to judgment” on the refugees.
  • An article expounding on why “Syrians refugees aren’t like Jews fleeing Europe,” and includes the US State Dept. saying vast majority of Syrian refugees coming to America are already safe, and are coming from Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt.
  • Photo showing/comparing starving African babies to Muslim males as refugees
  • An article detailing how 5 Syrians with stolen passports were located in Honduras.
  • A John Pickering video, using gum balls to demonstrate the fallacy with the current US immigration policy.
  • An article that America has already allowed in 2151 refugees, and that only 53 are “Christians.”
  • A quote from Ronald Reagan, “a nation that cannot control its boarders is not a nation.”
  • A meme mocking Obama’s statement that ISIS is a “JV team.”  The meme said, “The JV team is winning.”
  • An editorial cartoon, “Which is the bigger threat to the US: Isis or Obama?”
  • An opinion piece detailing Kerry’s comments to the French regarding the Paris attacks.
  • An article about the female homicide bomber and Obama’s statements prior her death, in which Obama said, “apparently they’re afraid of widows and orphans…”
  • An article saying that a “missing refugee from Louisiana was found in D.C.
  • An article and video of refugees protesting conditions at hotel they were put up in, and giving demands.
  • An article analyzing why those on the political left “prefer” Islam to Christianity.
  • A two paragraph quote that America’s constitution does not vest the national government with enumerated power over immigration enforcement, suggesting that states can, in fact, refuse to accept refugees.
  • A meme stating, “And the sheep decided that instead of making friends with more sheepdogs, they would hang up signs saying, ‘No biting.'”
  • An article that Al Qaeda terrorists that had actually killed US soldiers were STILL allowed to legally entered the US. through a refugee program.
  • A meme that not taking in Syrian refugees and closing our boarders is not mean or heartless, and that “I lock my doors every night not because I hate people outside my house, but because I love the people inside my house.”
  • An article that Christiana Amanpour criticized Obama over statements he made at G20.
  • Another person’s  post that I passed along, stating that President Obama has drawn multiple lines in the sand with Syria, but that he hasn’t enforced a single challenge to those lines by Syria.
  • A bill introduced by US the U.S. House of Representatives that is virtually veto proof, due to the support of 47 Democrats.

 

Ok, admittedly my college degrees aren’t in mathematics, but I counted approximately 50 separate posts on the subject of the Paris attacks and the Syrian refugees.  The bulk of them are pieces that present perspectives from a factual and/or rather objective basis.  Of all of the posts on the topic, I counted three that I could consider to be inflammatory.  I have highlighted those three.  They are opinion pieces, and as such I can understand how they could be construed as inflammatory.  There are also other opinion pieces, editorial cartoons, and memes that I would not characterize as inflammatory, nor as hateful.  Several of the posts are barbed and sarcastic; such is the nature of editorials.  But hateful?  Inflammatory?  I’m not seeing it.  Each of my posts were published with a particular point.  Perhaps that current United States policy is wrong, or that we need to re-visit the whole topic of refugees.  Perhaps that President Obama is (or others are) pursuing a personal agenda that is harmful to the United States.  Perhaps that even Obama’s supporters are questioning him.  Further, I intentionally bypassed anything that mocked Muslims, Islam, or their specific beliefs and religious practices.  There are clearly a multitude of those, and I specifically wanted to distance myself from such, and attempted to present information that would not be perceived as hateful.  Perhaps I did not entirely succeed in that attempt.  I freely confess my frustration on the topic, and it is entirely possible that my frustration leaked over into some of my posts, and if any were hateful or inflammatory, I apologize.  That was not my intent.

Securing our borders and judicious selection of refugees is, to my way of thinking, not just our right as a sovereign nation, but our responsibility as well.  America isn’t perfect.  But because we are a “shining light on a hill;” because we are the “land of the free and home of the brave,” I understand and applaud those that wish to settle here.  I welcome those that come here legally, and make no distinction between natural-born and naturalized citizens.  I do not support those that come here illegally, any more than I would invite a burglar to sit at table with my family.  Nor do I welcome anyone that comes to the U.S., not with the intent to settle and assimilate into our culture, but to commit attacks on American citizens or property.  And I think that any country has the right to permit or deny entry, regulate the process to become a citizen, and to protect those that are legally within that country’s borders.  The first and most important duty of any government is the physical protection of its citizens.  The United States is no less within its rights to protect our citizens (and those here legally) than is any other country in the world.   I have read the scriptures, and thought about application to the current topic.  Nowhere do I read a mandate to commit cultural suicide by allowing an unchecked or un-vetted group to immigrate into our borders.  I recognize mandates to care for the poor, and to treat sojourners kindly.  But I do not think that means anyone can come into the United States at any time for any reason.  So I think that limits on immigration is simply common sense.  And I do not think that violates my Christianity in any way.

Another terrible event becomes an indicment.

The latest incident involving a police shooting (North Charleston, South Carolina) to hit the national news is a cop that shot a man in the back as the man was running away.  The cop fired eight times, hitting the man five times.  The man was killed.  It appears that they were in a scuffle, that the officer hit the man with a Taser, and after that they scuffled.  It looks as if the Taser either was dropped or was thrown prior to the scuffle.  After the shooting, the cop looks as if he picked something up and dropped it near the man that was fleeing.  He radioed in that the Taser had been taken away from him, shots were fired, and the suspect is down.

So, to recap: 1) Cop confronts man, man is Tasered.  2) Man scuffles with cop after being Tasered; Taser is either lost by or taken away from the cop.  3) Man flees the cop. 4) Cop shoots the man from behind. 5) Cop moves something from near himself to near the downed man.  6) Cop calls it in. 7) Man dies. 8) No weapons other than the Taser are found by the man. This case is all over social media, with a huge amount of opinion being expressed regarding the incident.

What is my professional perspective on this?  The shooting looks bad to me.  First, though, here’s a little information on the police shooting someone from behind.  If a police officer shoots someone in the back, that is not in and of itself a disqualifier indicating a bad shoot.  If the individual that is fleeing from the police has committed a violent felony, and the police officer believes others may be at risk if that person escapes, shooting is warranted, if the individual is armed or not.  Couple cases in point:  First, the Boston Marathon bombing.  Once cornered, if the suspect(s) had decided to run away from the police, the police would have been justified in shooting them, period.  Secondly, if an individual just stabbed, shot, or bludgeoned someone, and that individual runs from the police, the police are justified in shooting the fleeing suspect, even if that person is shot in the back.  This is a different standard than for non-police personnel.  A civilian has the right to self-defense, but if the suspect is fleeing, the civilian is not in imminent danger.  In that regard, a civilian shooting someone from behind that is fleeing is much more problematic.

As I said, in the current incident, it looks like a bad shoot to me.  I am more than willing to allow the case to be investigated, and if it is found that the cop acted improperly; if he is subsequently charged, tried, found guilty, and imprisoned, so be it.  However, that is not what troubles me.  What bothers me is that it appears that all that will matter with this incident is the racial component.  Because the cop in this case is white, and the man that died is black.

So in my view, I fear that the cop has little to no chance for any fair evaluation of what happened.  Did the police officer shoot the man because the cop is a racist, and a black man was running away from him?  That is a possibility.  Could the cop have genuinely feared for his life during the struggle and made a horrid, terrible decision that cost a man his life and then tried to cover it up?  That’s possible as well.  I don’t know.   I don’t know the cop, and I’m not competent to read his thoughts at the time he pulled the trigger.  On the other hand, folks are going to say that it isn’t really relevant what he thought.  “White cop shoots Black man,“ and in this case, shot him in the back.  But even that isn’t the main point.  As long as it’s “White cop shoots Black man,” the initial assumption is going to be racism.  Actually, it doesn’t matter if the cop shoots him in the front, back, side, top or bottom, it doesn’t matter what the circumstances surrounding the shooting are, it doesn’t matter how many witnesses there are or what they say.  “White cop shoots black man.”  That’s all that matters.  In fact, it doesn’t even matter if the cop shoots the black man.  If the white cop arrests the black man, if the black man gets bruised or battered in any way, the initial assumption is that it’s racial.  If the black man is merely confronted by a white cop, it’s the same assumption.

What was the cop thinking?  Doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that a white cop shot a black man.  What was the black man thinking?  Likely folks will say he was terrified of the white cop and fearing for his life, fought with the cop and ran, ultimately (in this incident) losing his life.  So, what the black man thought was extremely important.  The white cop’s thoughts?  Irrelevant.

I have tried to educate folks on why cops do what they do; what cops think, why it’s important for the police to operate as they do in probably 99.999% of the situations they encounter.  But my efforts mean nothing.  Folks are going to think what they are going to think, and cops are (in their minds) going to remain racist, and for them the cops are going to remain in many (if not most) cases, the bad guys.

The problem is that cops, including me, just can’t win.  Heck, according to the narrative, we’re so racist (and deluded/ignorant/stupid, use whatever sobriquet you wish) that we don’t even know we’re racist.  The system is so racist to begin with, that even if a cop is trying to use good motivation, it’s racist anyhow!  Even the investigation cannot be trusted to be a fair and partial evaluation (unless the cop is found to be wrong, then at least in this case, justice prevailed), because the system is so inherently racist, that the cop will likely get a pass for killing a black man.

Are there racist cops out there that should not be police?  I would say that is very likely.  But even after a career spanning three and a half decades, I have never seen or heard of a cop acting on a racist impulse to harm, or arrest (or not arrest) someone based on the color of that person’s skin.  What a person thinks, and what a person acts on, are not necessarily the same.  Are there people of color that have gotten a bad shake from the police due to racism?  Sure, I have known a few that have suffered from that, people that I care about.  Do racist incidents happen?  Yep, I will not even argue that point.  I recognize that inequity exists, and that we must fight it.

But, back to the present case.  Did the officer act inappropriately, and should he be punished?  I am willing to wait for the investigation to be concluded.  For me, I don’t care what the skin color of the cop is, or of the man he killed.  If the shooting was appropriate, it was appropriate.  If it was not, it was not.  What I am not willing to do is sit in judgement prior to the facts of the case coming out.  What I am not willing to do is to allow the “courts of public opinion” to make the final determination.

Do I sound bitter?  You bet.  I am tired of police officers automatically being assumed to having acted from racist motivation.  And one more aside.  During my career as a Detective Sergeant, I was assigned a case in which a fellow police officer was accused of improperly hitting a man with his flashlight during an arrest.  I worked with my partner in Detectives and the District Attorney’s office, and ultimately I charged the police officer with assault.  The cop was stripped of his badge and gun, processed like any other arrestee, and taken to trial.  And yes, the cop was white, and the victim was black.  But as I indicated earlier, that is likely irrelevant.  Because according to the narrative, I am a racist, and I serve a racist system.

Post Election Reflection, 2012

I have taken a break from Facebook.  After the election, I was hoping this would not happen, but the “end zone celebration” I saw from some was disheartening.  And I was so heartbroken over the results that I just needed to distance myself for a time.  I posted a couple of thoughts after the election, but since Wednesday I have seldom visited FB.

Wednesday morning, after the 2012 Presidential election, quite sincerely I posted the following on Facebook:

Brief thoughts on the election:

1) I am VERY happy for my friends that were pulling for Obama. Many were really invested in a win by him, and for them, I am truly happy. I do hope that all this silliness of “voter fraud,” disenfranchisement” and so on will be put to rest.

2) God is still on his throne. He did not wake up this morning, check the paper, slap his forehead and say, “Holy crap! …How did this happen?” He knows, he watches, and no matter who is the President of the US, He directs the course of history.

3) I worry for America. I believe we will be looking at a radically (not in the political sense) different country. In my opinion, we have slid a long way since the “Shining City on a Hill” that we were under Reagan.

4)I am disgusted with the Republican party that they cannot present a candidate that espouses conservative principles. I mean TRULY conservative principles. When done properly, conservative principles resonate with every voter group in the US.

5) I like cats. A lot. As much as I like dogs, maybe a bit more. This is perhaps a bit unusual for conservative types, so I am hoping when the liberal zombie police come to eat the livers of all good conservatives, maybe they’ll give my house a pass because I like cats. (kidding, people)

6) I still like good beer, and it is there for our enjoyment. I don’t care what one’s political position is, if you make good beer, we are best buds. Although, I MIGHT direct certain friends toward skunky beer due to their politics. *cough SteveS*

Of course I was being humorous with the last couple points, but the first four were completely serious. I woke up on Wednesday to an America for which I fear. I prayed more sincerely for President Obama than I probably have in the previous four years. I prayed for America, for my children, for my wife, myself, my friends and family.

I started musing on this about a week ago with a post from a liberal friend of mine. He had posted a “Nation of Change” article written by Robert Reich. Read the article here: “We the People, and the New American Civil War”. I had wanted to comment, but my thoughts were far too detailed to present in Facebook’s format.

First, a personal disclaimer regarding Mr. Reich. Robert Reich was in Bill Clinton’s cabinet as the Secretary of Labor. If one asked him, I believe he would say that politically he is a Moderate. But I have trouble with that. His background, his education, his statements all indicate to me that he is definitely liberal, and comes from a liberal perspective. So, I have a problem with him right there. Whatever one’s politics, my preference is that one be honest. Call it “Liberal” or “Progressive,” be honest about your stance.

In his article, Mr. Reich’s point is that our main challenge as a nation is for all of us “to rediscover the public good,” and what he indicates is that we need to meet more in the middle, and basically disregard the far right and the far left. There are several problems with Mr. Reich’s article, and I believe Mr. Reich to be much closer to the “far left” than he pretends to be.

In his first paragraph, talking about the vitriol of the latest Presidential campaigns, he feels that it is “Worse than the Palin-induced smarmy 2008. Worse than the swift-boat lies of 2004…” The problem is that in 2008 the only vitriol that I recall was toward Palin, not because of her. The hatred, vicious name-calling, and sexualizing of Mrs. Palin was truly appalling, and had it been a woman of the Democrat party being treated as she was by someone of the conservative persuasion, the howling and backlash would have been heard around the world, and yet how she was treated is apparently ok according to liberal standards (side note: I am not speaking of all liberals, I have many liberal friends that I cherish and trust. When I speak of liberals here, I am talking about what I see nation wide, in the media, and in the entertainment industry). Further, nothing that the swift-boat veterans said was inaccurate or lies. These were valiant men, serving with distinction in a miserable conflict. These men came forward and testified against the 2004 Democrat candidate for President and his claims of serving with distinction. And that is their crime. They disputed the only veteran the Democrat party has been proud of since the Vietnam war. And that is because he publicly denounced, not only the war, but the men who served in it. These men came forward, knowing they would be reviled, to set the record straight. And Reich calls them liars.

Second paragraph: Mr. Reich recognizes the many divisions in America, including “whether women should have control over their bodies, ” speaking of abortion, and I agree with him that the divisions he speaks of are not new. However, the issue of abortion is not simply that of whether women should have control over their bodies, any more than the Civil War was just a conflict over state’s rights. This is a topic that rates its own blog at some point, I suppose, but for now, suffice it to say that Mr. Reich oversimplified it here, and I believe he likely does it purposely. Or else it is that simple in his mind. Either way, I think it is telling.

I like what he said about things being more separated, geographically and online; this may have a spark of truth. It does seem that we have clustered as conservatives and liberals, without a ton of contact. However, I think that if one is seeking, regardless of political persuasion, relationship with people, it is actually easier to find than before. Many of my liberal friends I have found on Facebook. I enjoy spirited, passionate debate on issues (clearly, they never win, but it’s only because their feeble arguments wither in the presence of my stunning repartee, and the blinding logic of my positions. Right guys? Hey! Did you ever notice when one is correct, one says, “right?” One never says “left.” Kidding guys. Love you all!) with a number of committed liberals, who are just as convinced of their position as am I. We respect one another’s positions, thoughts, and backgrounds. I find that I am actually more brutal with those with whom agree than I am with those that disagree. I insist that my friends be shown respect and consideration, and I try to moderate the debates with those ideals.

In paragraph six, of Mr. Reich’s article he mentions Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, and proclaims both of them to be “ultimate arbiters of truth.” I cannot speak of Murrow, as that was quite some time before me. However, I understand that his fall from grace with CBS happened when Murrow bitterly complained that CBS was giving equal time to individuals on the opposite side of the issues he criticized. Further, Cronkite broadcast also at a time in which he was not the “ultimate” arbiter of the truth, but the only arbiter of the truth. Both men had, and enjoyed, unfettered and unopposed voices in what they presented to the public. And this I believe, is the actual problem. Mr. Reich goes on to attack Fox News and Rush Limbaugh as eagerly exploiting the anger and frustration of the “white working-class.” Mr. Reich calls them “pedlars of petulance,” and states that many of today’s politicians have “gained political power by fanning the flames.”

But I believe that Mr. Reich is emblematic of what the actual problem is here. I believe what he is actually upset about (and I doubt he would agree, or even recognize this) is that conservatives actually have a voice. Conservatives have avenues to get the news that are not controlled by those with whom they disagree. Avenues that are not presenting only one viewpoint. Fox News in particular is reviled by the left, and often cited for its “lies.” Does Fox News lie? Most of the “lies” presented are merely a different viewpoint from the person making that claim, and often, inspection finds that they aren’t lies at all. Further, Limbaugh, although sometimes bombastic, seldom presents anything that could be accused of being a blatant untruth.

I remember when I first heard Rush Limbaugh. It was probably close to twenty years ago, and at the time, I hated talk radio, and I only tuned in because a friend suggested I do so. When I listened to Limbaugh’s show, I nearly wept. I honestly thought that I was one of the few people in the entire world that believed as I did, but here was a man speaking from a position that resonated with me. I continue to listen to Limbaugh, not to “get the truth,” but because in my opinion, he presents the truth. Do I agree with all he says? No, but it’s not that difficult to separate that stuff out, and I think most can do the same.

Same with Fox News. Is it biased? Yep, but they make no bones about it, as opposed to CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and on and on. Nearly every news outlet has a slant or bias, but my frustration is that they refuse to admit it. I would have much more respect for any of the above if they would admit their bias, and work to present the other side. Fox News has a list of liberal commentators and contributors that clearly and cogently present the liberal viewpoint. As far as I have seen, the other networks may have a token conservative or two, but no one noteworthy, and very few that are taken seriously by anyone.

Here is the problem. The “left” has become the new “center.” and “meeting in the middle” means capitulating with the liberal position. Vitriol? That expressed against those with a conservative position is unrivaled and more frightening than anything one hears from a conservative position. Express a conservative thought or position? You are at best uncaring, and more likely a hateful, angry person. None of the conservative entertainers or commentators express the hate and anger expressed by liberals in the same industry, and yet those on the left are defended, and their jokes draw long, sustained laughter. Very seldom (and I am being generous, here) are they castigated for their words, let alone punished or an apology demanded. List something Limbaugh said that was hurtful and I can list ten from top liberals. And I can almost bet that Limbaugh apologized for what he said, unlike the comments from the other side of the aisle.

This post is not intended to be an apologetic for Fox News or Rush Limbaugh. And I intentionally oversimplified the issues. My intent is to describe my thoughts on the political divide in which we find ourselves, and the disparity I see between left and right. In today’s world, the NRA (National Rifle Association) is not a member-driven group intent on protecting one of our basic Constitutional rights, it is an extremist organization. Focus on the Family is not an organization seeking to preserve the family as the Biblical center of our society, it is a hate group. This is a clear shift in where the country has come from. Those who believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God are not sincerely trying to follow God’s design for their lives, they are dangerous haters, trying to shove their zealous religious beliefs down people’s throats.

I am not a Luddite. I love technology, and love many aspects of where our society is right now. However, I believe there has been a shift in our society, and one that I do not see as altogether good. I believe that we must show dignity to all, regardless of viewpoint. However, it seems to me that the pendulum has swung to where those with a conservative viewpoint are increasingly seen as loony, stupid, or mean, or some combination of the three.

After the recent election, I found that I despair for our country. President Obama was elected back into that office, and now has four more years to work on his vision of America. And I believe that vision to be bad news for our country. Call it Socialist, Statist, or simply Progressive, it doesn’t much matter, it amounts to much the same thing. I believe we will see more confiscation of wealth (but not from liberal celebrities). I believe we will see an expansion of government’s role in our lives. I believe we will see the declining of America’s prestige in the world. I believe we will see a reduction in the military. I believe we will see more, not less, terrorism. I believe we are in more danger economically, socially, and physically than ever before. We are a Representative Republic. And the president has been re-elected. And I fear for what that means for all of us.

Honors to the Military

First, I must confess to being an unabashed Conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan.  I have been, since High School.  And for those counting, that’s at least thirty-seven years.  In fact, I invited President Ford to my High School graduation (I still have his “thank you” around here somewhere).  And I have always loved the military.  Understand, as a career police officer, I have known guys that love to hang around cops, are dazzled by cops,  gravitate to cops.  So I’m not like that with those that serve, or have served in the military.  But I respect them and honor them (and their families) for their service.

My Father was drafted into the Army in WWII.  He never talked about his time in the Army much, but every now and then I could get him to tell a story or two.  I know he was in France.  I know he was tapped to go to Officer Candidate School but turned them down.  I know he was a foot soldier under Patton’s crew for a while.  I know he shot at people, and (I presume) was shot at in return.  One of the things he was happiest about regarding his time in Europe was that he could honestly say that “he didn’t know if he ever killed anybody,” which, if one reads between the lines, meant he was in some engagements somewhere.

I remember as a kid finding the few mementos he kept; some collar brass, a compass in a leather pouch, shoulder stripes.  I played with them endlessly, imagining myself to be in the middle of “the action.”  Of course, like most American kids, I had no idea what that meant.  I only knew that at the time, I thought my Dad, my uncle, and everyone else that I knew that had served was a hero (of course, that has not changed.  Ever.).

I had always wondered what medals Pop might be due, but it wasn’t until after he died that I actually looked into it.  There was an address that I found that would supply those medals earned and awarded, so I sent the required information, and promptly forgot that I had done so.  A few weeks later, a rather stuffed package came in the mail from an address that I didn’t recognize.  Upon opening it, I discovered that it contained my Father’s medals from World War II.  He had earned several, including Victory in Europe, Occupation of Germany, things like that.  However, he also had gotten a Purple Heart (he would have said that was for trench foot).  The largest I saved for last.  I opened it up, and my heart nearly broke.  My Father, as a rather low-ranking Sergeant drafted as a farm boy into the Army, had been awarded the Bronze Star.  Included with the medals was the paperwork citing what he had done to earn the medals.  However, there was a problem.

Many years ago, there was a rather extensive fire in a government warehouse that destroyed many, many of the records of military men and women.  My father’s was one of those.  The only thing salvaged of my father’s records was the page listing what he was due, with nothing saying what he had done to earn them.  Even the page with the medals awarded him was scorched and incomplete.  So, with Dad dead and buried, there is little I know to do to find out what he had done to be awarded the Bronze Star.  But I was right.  My Dad is a hero.

So I have always loved and respected the military.  I graduated High School in 1975, and close to my graduation date I called the Army recruiting office to see what I needed to do to enlist.  I remember my heart was pounding, and I was as nervous as I could possibly be.  At that time, I didn’t immerse myself in politics as I do now, and was only partly aware of stuff, although I think I knew more of what was going on than I might think I did.  Anyhow, Viet Nam was pretty much the defining event of my generation, and that was in my mind as I called the recruiter.  And I got  the oddest response I have ever had, and certainly not the one I expected.   He told me, “Don’t bother, kid.  The conflict’s over.”  And that was that.  I still looked into enlisting, in order to pay for college, but my folks insisted that they would pay for school.  As I had posted earlier, it wasn’t until years later that I learned that when I was adopted, my parents promised that they would get me an education, a promise that they were determined to keep, and did.  Even so, I went to Behrend College of Penn State and was one of the founding members of the ROTC program on Behrend Campus, learning under Captain Small (later promoted to Major), and Sergeant King.

These were two very interesting guys.  Captain Small was one of the first Cobra pilots in Viet Nam.  He was a good commander of the ROTC unit, good sense of humor, definitely a leader.  He had an odd habit, though.  He chewed on his hands.  He would kind of nip them all over until there were small scabs all over both hands; they would heal up, look great, and then a while later he would do it all over again.  I figured it was due to his time “in country,” but never asked about it.

Sgt. King was my hero.  I have said that he is the second heroic man who influenced me in my life, my Dad being the first.  Sgt. Don King was a large man, quiet, and a Green Beret.  He had been field grade Captain in Viet Nam, but due to the fact that he didn’t have a college degree was rolled back to Sergeant after the conflict.  I learned a lot from that man.  As far as I know, he retired to his home state of Texas, and if anyone knows of his whereabouts, I would appreciate connection, address, anything.  When I finished up at Behrend, and transferred to main campus, I opted to not continue the ROTC program there, and not enlist upon graduation.  One of the hardest things I have ever heard in my life was the words that Sgt. King said when he learned that I would not continue.  He looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “I’m disappointed in you, Clark.  You would have made a fine officer.”

But even though I did not serve, I have honored the military and those that have served, throughout my entire life.  And this is where I get “political.”  Politically, if you are liberal and get irritated easily, I would not be hurt if you stop reading here.

See, I just don’t understand how one can serve in the military and still lean liberal.  I hear liberals voicing honor to the military and my first inclination is to get irked.  Ok, I know many liberals that honestly appreciate the military, and are sincere in their voicing that appreciation.  My problem comes from having lived through the 60’s.  I remember how the military, and those that served then, were treated.  I remember seeing troops getting spat upon and called “baby killers” in public.  I remember the shame that was heaped on them, and that at a time that, as always, I loved the military.  From my perspective, the “traditional” liberal attitude is one of contempt for the military, including the Clinton years in the Presidency, when a General, upon saying good morning to one of the Clintons’ top staffers, was told, “We don’t talk to uniforms.”  The attitude of liberals may have changed to the point that younger liberals honestly see no inconsistency between being politically liberal and appreciating the military.  As I said, my perspective has been shaped by the 60’s, which by the way, I hated when I was in ’em.  And I simply do not believe liberals of that generation, say anyone older than 40 or 45, when they say that they like, love, or simply appreciate the military.

I seem to recall that during the Presidential election in which George W. Bush beat Gore, that the military vote was suppressed.  I didn’t hear howls of protest from the left about that, and if the military vote had been properly counted (as I recall that it was not), there would have been no doubt of the outcome.  Same with the current Presidential election.  Oh, I hear screaming from the left about this group’s vote being “disenfranchised,” or that group’s vote being suppressed, but the military?  Not a word.  Personal opinion?  Theirs is the only vote that should be taken early.  If you’re not in the military and can’t vote at the appointed time, on the appointed day, too bad, so sad.  There are absentee ballots for those with legitimate reasons for not getting there on time so use them!  If you forget, if you don’t have a legitimate reason to cast an absentee ballot, forget it.  You don’t vote.  In fact, voting is a constitutional right, I understand.  But I think it is a right that is also a privilege, and if you don’t show a certain respect for that right and privilege, then I would have no issue with denying that vote.  Liberal or Conservative, there is no reason that one should not understand the basics of our system.  I would personally institute a test that one must pass prior to voting.  The test would consist of something like the following questions:  first, what is our type of government?  The answer would be Democracy, Representative Republic, something like that.  Second, what are the two major political parties with candidates running for office (Democrat and Republican).  Third, define the difference between Capitalism and Socialism.  Fourth, what are the names of the Democrat and Republican Presidential nominees and their running mates.  Simple.  And if you don’t pass, you don’t vote.

Anyway, back to the military.

I read a Robert Heinlein story once in which the only eligible voters in that society were currently in the military or veterans of the military.  I was intrigued by that concept, and I would almost (emphasis on almost) support giving up the right to vote under that condition.  I would probably add police officers, fire fighters, nurses, and perhaps even something like the Peace Corps.  My thoughts are that if you aren’t willing to serve, do you really have the right to decide the course of the country?  Of course, I know the answer to that, and I support our country, the Constitution, and the intent of our Founding Fathers.  Even so, it’s an intriguing concept.

And I know of liberals that have served in the military.  Several I worked with on the Erie Police Department, and several that I have met along the way.  But I guess I am kind of puzzled, since generally speaking, it is the more conservative political party that appreciates the military.  The liberal side?  Not so much.  I remember John F. Kerry running against President Bush.  Kerry wore his service on his sleeve, and my personal opinion is that he joined, not out of patriotism, but cynically so he could utilize his service after he got out.  Even so, I appreciate his service.  At least he joined.  It’s what he did while in there and after that I despise, and acts as an example of what I believe is the general opinion that liberals have of the military.

I was prompted to write this blog after seeing a post on Facebook.  One of my liberal friends posted an article written by one that had served in the military on why that person was voting for Obama.  My friend stated that because of the author’s service, he should be taken seriously.  My friend and I are in what I would call the beginning stages of friendship.  We respect each other and our opinions, even though they often conflict.  But I am a good judge of character, and I believe that Steve is sincere when he vocalizes support for the military.  But I can judge his sincerity because I know him.  It is much more difficult for me when it is someone I do not personally know, and cannot read their character enough to judge their sincerity.

So, to all in the military, to all that have served, and to all that shall serve in the future, my undying thanks.  You have my appreciation, my admiration.  Your political persuasion is irrelevant to this, and I thank you.  As a right-winger, as an American, I applaud you, even if you are a “leftie.”  Your service is admirable, and this country would not, could not be what it is without your service, and your sacrifice.  May you be blessed and honored for your service.  May we who are protected get it right.  May you never have a moment’s time in which you are not certain that the vast majority of Americans are grateful for what you did, what you do, what you will do.  May God Bless.

Gun Control

Up to now, I have written little regarding politics, but recently comments have moved me to this post.  Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, and uber-millionaire, has made some comments about gun control.  In case you missed it, here it is:

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mayor-bloomberg-comment-police-strike-congress-attention-gun-control-debate-level-drew-mixed-reactions-article-1.1120980

In brief (and I’m paraphrasing), he said that he just doesn’t understand why cops don’t go on strike until gun control laws are enacted, and guns taken away from, well, everybody.

First, it is completely reprehensible that Bloomberg, or anyone else, will politicize events like the Colorado theater shooting (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/21/james-holmes-colorado-shooting_n_1692381.html).  Disgusting.  Let it alone for a bit, let the victims’ families have some time, and get Holmes in jail in preparation for his execution.  At least give it a couple of weeks, then if you must, bring politics into it.  But no.  About ten point five seconds after the last victim hit the ground, Bloomberg comes out with his crap.

A bit of background, here.  I have been a career policeman for over thirty years, first in a small town, then as a cop in a larger city, and now I proudly serve as the Chief of Police at a small University in north western Pennsylvania.  While with the City of Erie, PA, I served as a street patrolman and as a detective.  I also was on the SWAT team and Honor Guard.  In detectives, I was promoted to Detective Sergeant and founded the Homicide division, was co-head of the Burglary division, and ended up working white-collar crimes (forgeries, frauds, bad checks).  I have worked with the FBI, with the U.S. Treasury, and with the Secret Service.  I realize this is not New York City, but I have seen and done a lot.  I have had friends die in the line of duty.  I have had friends shot and their careers shortened by gunmen who I am ashamed to say lived to see prison.  I have faced guns, knives, and angry women (just which is more deadly, I will not speculate).  I have investigated homicides by guns, knives, strangulation.  I have investigated sex crimes, child abuse, bank robberies, and granny’s lawnmower being taken from her garage.  I have seen children murdered by their parents, teens shot by boyfriends, and kids hit by trains.  And I have done what I can to help the families of those victims.  I once held the sister of a boy killed by a train.  Three young kids were on their way to their home in the projects when they decided to run across the tracks ahead of an oncoming train.  She and their friend made it.  Her brother did not, and she watched the train smack him and fling him to the side like so much tissue paper.  She clung to me, and would not let me go for over an hour.  In a hot, cramped little apartment I was her life-preserver, keeping her afloat.

I am a life-long hunter, from the earliest legal age, hunting small game, big game, whatever.  I have held guns, I own guns, and I know how to use guns.  Guns are pieces of steel and alloy engineered to accurately propel a small piece of metal for a distance.  In that regard, they are not much different from a piece of steel engineered and formed to strike a small piece of metal and accurately drive it into wood.  It is not the instrument that matters, it is the person wielding it, and what they do with it that makes the difference.  If a person utilizes an instrument, any instrument, in an improper way, it becomes a tool for evil.  It is not the instrument, it is the person using the instrument.  The differences are that a gun is much less personal (in that it can harm or kill from a distance), and it can harm or kill multiple victims with very little effort.

So, would “banning” guns, or even eliminating them, prevent homicide?  Clearly not, and I doubt that any thinking gun control advocate would say that.  What they would say, I believe, is that it would make such actions more difficult, and require a different dynamic to accomplish such a crime.  Perhaps that is a point.  But assume the banning of all guns for a moment.  Do you really think that will make it all that difficult to commit such an atrocity?  Consider the same type of movie theater as the recent atrocity in Aurora, Colorado.  People enjoying a movie, eating popcorn, relaxing.  Suddenly, multiple bombs go off, killing or maiming dozens of people, with not one gunshot heard.  Fantasy?  Consider:  while sitting here at my laptop, eating a sandwich, I timed myself.  It took less than a minute and a half to find over a million websites on making pipe bombs, and over one-hundred thousand websites on homemade explosives. Guns? We ain’t got no guns. We don’t need no guns! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ guns!  I can make a bunch of pipe bombs with fuses of various burning times, filled with explosive substances, and every piece of this killing machine purchased at my local hardware store.  So, should we ban household cleaners?  Iron pipe?  Nails?  Because with just a bit of planning and time, I can make enough material to kill a multitude of people.

It is a problem of human will and evil intent, not one of “bad” objects.  It is neutral objects being used for evil purposes, and it can be a ball bat, a car, a chainsaw, a knife, or a ball point pen.  Or a gun.

However, it isn’t just gun control that cranked me up about Bloomberg.  There are several things he said that made me want to vomit.  First, his comments were disgusting just on the face.  Cops on strike?  I have been a cop for thirty years, and I have never seen an issue that I thought would justify a general strike by cops.  When I pinned on the badge, I did so as a calling, with a sense of purpose.  Strike?  That is not even in my vocabulary.  Second, even if cops did think an issue worth going on strike, it is illegal in most states for police to do so.  I know this is so in Pennsylvania where I serve, and in New York where Bloomberg lives.  So Bloomberg was kind of showing support for an illegal action.

But you know what really offends me about Bloomberg’s statements?  It is something that as far as I know no one has touched on.  His statement was that he doesn’t understand why cops don’t just go on strike until gun control laws are enacted to protect them.  One of his problems is that the only cops he apparently knows are sycophants and libs who share his views.  I would be willing to bet that most cops, in fact the vast majority of cops, are rather conservative and thoroughly not in favor of gun control.  But this is not the offensive part.  The offensive part is that essentially he is saying, “The issue of gun control is so obvious.  Guns kill cops, and if we ban guns, cops won’t get killed.  Why are they so stupid that they can’t see this or act on this?”  And this ticks me off.  This falls under what I would characterize as “typical liberal thought.”  Now a disclaimer.  I have several liberal friends with whom I have had multiple challenging and enjoyable conversations.  With them there is mutual respect and room for disagreement, as well as passion and commitment.  So when I am discussing “typical liberal thought,” please do not confuse my “debate partners” with my statements.

Bloomberg, I think, likely believes cops to be basically brain-dead thugs, without the capability of deep thought.  Why, they can’t even understand simple issues like gun control!  Clearly they are unlikely to understand more complex issues.  And isn’t that what the liberal elite think of most of us?  African-Americans, Israel, guns, wealth, taxes, the role of government, fill in the blank.  I believe people like Bloomberg think most people simply too intellectually challenged to really understand what is best.

And I believe he shows that with his latest comments about cops.

Is honor a bad thing?

John, a friend of mine, texts me Bible verses fairly frequently, and occasionally a quote or thought.  He sent me a quote a couple of days ago.  Here it is.

The Decline of the Secular University, C. John Sommerville writes, “An ethical system based on honor is a self-regarding ethic, while one based in charity is an other-regarding ethic… With honor goes a concentration on pride rather than humility, dominance rather than service, courage rather than peaceableness, glory rather than modesty, loyalty rather than respect for all, generosity to one’s friends rather than equality.”  John then asked if I agree or disagree.  Here are my thoughts.

In the above quote, clearly Sommerville is not talking about honor, as it is defined.  Honor defined is usually something similar to, “honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions: a man of honor,” (Dictionary.com).  What Sommerville is referring to is a life based on honor.  That is, I think, a life in which honor is the central tenet of one’s existence.  Kind of, to borrow a Star Trek reference, a Klingon approach to life.

My first thought about the quote is that I see what Sommerville is driving at.  But I don’t entirely agree with him.  The opposite of honor is dishonor, and no one would prefer a life that is based on that.  So, right away we can disregard honor’s opposite as an appropriate lifestyle.  However, Sommerville is not advocating a life based on the opposite of honor.

Broken down, Sommerville seems to be defining honor as “Concentration on pride, dominance, courage, glory, loyalty, and generosity to one’s friends.”  I think Sommerville’s point is that he is advocating a life that is based on something superior to honor, a life based on “humility, service, peaceableness, modesty, respect for all, and equality.”

Ok, now look at each word individually.  Pride.  Dominance.  Courage.  Glory.  Loyalty.  Generosity to friends.  Humility.  Service.  Peaceableness.  Modesty.  Respect for all.  Equality.  I realize that a couple of those words or concepts have negative connotations, such as pride and dominance.  But in a proper context, each word or concept is a positive, and I think, a Godly concept.  I know I’m going to catch some flak for that, especially for pride and dominance.  However, on these two words, let’s look at a couple of thoughts.

If I am an architect and I design a truly beautiful building, is it a “Godly” thing to denigrate it, to say it is nothing?  That is what many Christian sources would espouse.  Of course we should give God the glory, but is it “ungodly” or “un-Christian” to be pleased with a work well done?  Think of a Christian singing artist.  Should they not be pleased with the beautiful songs they write, produce, sing?

And dominance.  How many times did God command the Israelites to completely dominate their enemies?  Think of Paul in his epistle to the Galatians.  Clearly he was asserting his dominance over the false teachers that had crept in.  So, in certain circumstances, dominance is a good thing.

Conversely, under the proper circumstance, each and every one of the words Sommerville used can be a negative.  I will show what I mean with just a couple of the words above.

Peaceableness is a good thing, right?  But what happens when a madman breaks into your home at 3:00 in the morning and charges you with a butcher knife held high.  Is it a morally superior, or a more Christian position to be at that moment and whatever the cost, peaceable?  I think that argument silly, at best.  Further, look at the New Testament.  There are several instances of soldiers being saved, or Christians, or whatever.  How sensible is it to expect a soldier to be peaceable, no matter the situation?  Or a policeman.  Perhaps someone would argue that yes, no matter what, the soldier or policeman would be taking a morally superior, or more Christian, approach to shun violence no matter what the situation may be.  Until it is someone dear to that person that a terrorist is about to behead.  Or their loved one that a maniac is about to mutilate.  I think that any sane person would want a soldier or policeman, even if a Christian, to use whatever force necessary to save their loved one.

What about service, that’s a good thing, right?  Sure is, but should we always be in attitude of service, no matter what?  We provide service to our children when they are born.  They are helpless and cannot survive without a caregiver providing for all intents and purposes, unlimited service.  We do this because it is what they need, and because we love them.  But at some point it becomes our task to train them as well as care for them.  And as time goes on, if we have done our jobs as parents, we serve them less and train them more, until the day that they “leave the nest” and strike out on their own.  But what if we “served” them their entire lives?  What if we never told them “no,” but provided them their every whim, their every desire?  Service would cease to be a good thing, and at some point, a bad thing.

Finally, go to any Bible concordance and look at “honor.”  There are probably dozens of references using that word.

My point here has been that each thing is neither always good nor always bad.  What is important, I think, is the attitude of our hearts.  Do I have a heart centered on Christ?  Or do I have a heart that is centered on (fill in the blank, using any of the words in the Sommerville quote).  I think that anytime my heart is not focused on Christ, I have missed the mark.  I cannot focus on pride or humility.  I cannot focus on dominance or service.  I must focus on Christ, and Christ alone.  I do not think that the Christian life and a life of honor are mutually exclusive.  But anything that takes our focus off Christ has become an idol, and therefore, evil.

I’m going to go out on a limb, here.  I am asking for comment on this.  My arguments make sense to me, but that isn’t the end of the matter.  I am asking for you to comment on this and give arguments, with or against me.  I look forward to reading your thoughts.

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