Wednesday, January 23, 2008
We are a nation based on the rule of law. Thomas Paine said that laws set by the government are what allow us to live in peace with one another. In the simplest sense. a law is nothing more than a rule that we set for ourselves and agree that if it is applied to one of us, it must be applied to all of us. Its the fair thing to do. Anything less would lead to chaos in society. Its just common sense that you can't have one segment of society ignoring the rules we set for ourselves.
Of course there is always someone who considers themselves special, the exception to the rule. And will offer a whole host of rationales to prove their point, but, as a society we cannot get caught up in these rationales as beguiling as they maybe. That's why we set up a system of justice to make sure that these laws are applied fairly. Here are several things to think about in that regard.
There are by some estimates 12 million+ "illegal", aliens in this nation. The supporters of this group object to the use of the word illegal as racist. In the english language the word, illegal, is defined as: not according to or authorized by law. There is nothing racist or derogatory about it. Its a neutral definition. We call them illegal because they have entered this country without complying with our immigration laws. They then compound that illegal act by using false documents, another illegal act.
My ancestors immigrated, as did the ancestors of every other legal resident of this country, including the American Indians who were the first immigrants.
The difference is most of the ancestors of current residents of this country waited at the stop signs, erected at the gateways of this country to gain entrance. Consider Ellis Island. That was the law then and its the law today. But they waited patiently knowing that this country was worth the wait. The question is not wether those who come here without proper documentation are here illegally, rather it is what we should do about it.
The solutions are not easy, now that we have allowed the problem to reach such unmanageable proportions. The logistics are mind boggling. How do you round up and deport 12 million+ people? How do you keep them from returning? It would be an impossible task.
In my view, the source of the problem are the U.S. employers who employ these illegal workers at great financial reward to themselves. They defend their actions by saying, "no American will do that kind work". Sorry that doesn't matter in the slightest. The law is the law until the majority of the country says differently. They too, are guilty of breaking the laws of this nation.
Question: Should these employers be fined and or imprisoned for breaking immigration laws?
Monday, January 21, 2008
It was based on the premise that human nature itself dictated how government should work. His idea was that a single man that ruled others, would always put his own desires above the needs (wants) of those he ruled. And therefore would be despised by the governed.
He therefore suggested that it was natural that men who had, common *wants, were far better at determining how they should govern themselves than a King and suggested that when a small group of like-minded men gathered they could determine what rules were needed to keep order.
*It is important to understand that, the word "wants" as used by Paine meant: to have need of: or something that was "required" as opposed to something that was extra or simply a whim or desire.
The heart of his vision is best understood by reading an excerpt in his own words. The emphasis is mine:
This blog was inspired by Thomas Paine and this statement in his pamphlet "Common Sense" and the growing discontent with our current elected officials.
In my opinion the pervading influence of special interests has corrupted the atmosphere in Washington and the officials we elected who have broken faith and subverted that ideal. They have become petty, little kings who are more concerned with their own desire for power and riches than representing our wants. They live in a world unrelated to the lives of ordinary citizens.
And, sadly many of our citizens languish in hopelessness and despair as we see our beloved country in distress and there is a great apathy among us born of frustration towards our form of government. I say that it is not the form of government, but the officials we have elected to represent us, that have led us to our current despair.
We have let some elected officials stay far too long and they are now entrenched. How for example can an elected official who is a millionaire, and who lives in a style of the privileged, have anything in common with the worker who has been laid off by a plant closing and is behind on his mortgage?
Paine called it making a rod for themselves. In his day a rod was a scepter welded by the king to show his imperial authority; also: a wand or staff carried as a badge of office that set someone above another. Paine was trying to tell us let's not trade one tyrant for many tyrants who will lay claim to special privilege by way an imperial authority which their election did not intend.
I, for one say enough, it is within the power of every citizen to remedy the current problem with their vote. I suggest we set term limits for our elected officials, which, if they will not willing set for themselves, we set for them with our votes. Please vote for anyone that is not running as an incumbent.
Common sense dictates that when flesh is corrupt, you cut it out before the infection spreads and the entire body is lost.
I am not saying all the incumbents are corrupt. But when a surgeon operates he must weigh how much flesh to remove and would rather error on the side of more, rather than less, when the life of the patient is at stake.
I believe the very survival of this democracy depends on what we do in the next few elections. We are at a tipping point in our nations history. The situation is that dire, and the surgery we need perform that extreme.
We have the means to preform the surgery. Its called the vote. One man or woman, one vote, it is not one of the rights most often sited by special interest groups or the most glamourous. But, it is the single most important of all of our individual rights. It provides us the opportunity to determine how we are represented and who represents us. It gives us the power to overthrow a government (elected officials) and mount a bloodless revolution. Just for the record, that, for the more radical, is not an invitation to open armed revolt.
It's time we end the petty bickering the elected and powerful special interests use to divide us, and again refocus on our common "wants". Decent wages, education, health care, the end to bad trade agreements that have devastated our economy, bridges that don't collapse instead of building bridges to nowhere and not, i.e. whether someone is gay, which is nobody's business and certainly not any of the governments business. And yes, you can burn the flag, because, it's protected under the first amendment, which a lot of brave men died defending, no matter how anyone else feels about it. I for one, revere the flag and would never desecrate it and what it represents. But, you may feel differently. So go ahead, and light it up. Its not the flag, its the right to burn it that's important. Men don't die for flags they die for what the flag represents. Freedom.
They die not so the government can tell us that this is a Christian nation and we should have religious displays in our public spaces, but, so the government can't tell us how to worship, or we have to worship in a certain way as some would have you believe. The exact opposite is the true in almost all of these false issues that they bombard us with on a constant basis. I am a Catholic by birth, and temperament, but I don't want a crucifix in every public space. Nor do I want the government as the arbiter of my death, like they tried to do with Terri Schiavo. Its not their job and none of their @#*%$(<>) business!!!! Period.
The powerful employ legions of think tanks to conceive of and promote such ideas. Like a magician who employs distraction to keep us from seeing what is really going on right in front of our eyes. They use issues like that to distract us while they and their cronies line their pockets and rob us like the monarchs of old, of who, we fought so hard to rid ourselves. We have traded taxation without representation for something far worse, I fear. Far worse than the pork barrel issues is the fat checks private multinationals write themselves through tax loop holes that allow them to pay virtually no taxes simply by maintaining an address on an off shore island that has no taxation. That is what deregulation has led to by the way, brought to you by your favorite multinational. They write themselves no bid contracts that would make a robber baron flush with jealousy. And invite the oil companies to write our energy policies. Its not a conspiracy! Its not a conspiracy! Its not a conspiracy! Its not a conspiracy! Paper bag! Breath!
I said in a previous post something that I think bears repeating. "If we want to remain the land of the free, that we vote every time there is an election and never for the incumbent. Because, politicians are like ticks, they'll suck your blood and they're damn hard to remove when they've been in there too long. So, vote them all out, every time you vote, until they get the message. Its our country, let's take it back!
The American revolution is now a bloodless event but it continues with every election. It is the only way we have to change things we don't like, by making those we elect listen to us. Make sure you make your voice heard or stop bitching about it. Get off your butt and vote.
In Herbert George Wells, "War of the Worlds", it wasn't some powerful omnipotent force that brought down the alien machines, it was the lowly germ. My point is; it's your dull, boring and often neglected vote that can bring down the caretakers of the current administration, that's what its designed to do. It is that powerful.
Question: Are you going to vote? If not, are you prepared for the end of freedom as we know it? That's what's at stake.
If you are going to vote, are you prepared for the consequences of voting to maintain the status quo and the stalemate in our nation's capitol?
I considered him to be a hero, though I am certain he never thought of himself in those terms. In fact, I know he didn't. He was part of the" Greatest Generation" of young American men and women who were willing to die to preserve freedom in the world. At the time I am sure he was not aware that, that was what he was doing, but, its exactly what he did along with hundreds of thousands of other young Americans.
The army knew him as a serial number and as: Goldstein, Jerome B. but, his buddies, I am sure, probably called him, "Goldie". My two boys, Josh and Jeremy and their first cousin, Michelle called him "Papa". I knew him as Jerome B. Gale, or Jerry. He was my father-in-law. I liked him from the beginning and that fondness grew over the years into the respect and admiration of a son for a beloved father. He had changed his name after the war because of the prejudice against Jews at that time. That must have been a painful and bitter irony for him. He was deeply religious and spent most Saturdays in his room with his Torah praying. He usually had a "stogie", clinched in the corner of his mouth and loved to fish and tell whoopers which he would spin until you caught on that he was seeing how far he could string you along. He was a gregarious man and always made even strangers beam when he showered them with attention, and called them by name even after a brief encounter weeks later.
Memorial Day was a high holy day for him. He complained when he would see people shopping or going about their everyday business on that day. He knew what the day really meant. It was sacred in his view. I could see a transformation in him every year around that time. His usual jovial, outgoing nature became introspective and contemplative. He would dress in coat and tie instead of his usual one-piece jump suit and leave for services at a local veterans cemetery. He'd spend the entire day there by himself visiting graves and listening to the ceremonies, and I am sure praying.
I have always been deeply curious about WWII ever since I read the Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis as a young boy. I knew Jerry had served in that area at about that time period and tried to open up conversations with him several times. It was like pulling teeth to get him to talk about it. It seemed to embarrass him. I think it must have been a part of his life he'd just as soon forget. I knew he had been in the Pacific Theater and fought during the Solomon Islands campaign, which is a string of islands due east of Papua New Guinea and includes Guadalcanal, and that he had been severely wounded, and that he had won two medals. I had a suspicion that the story he told about being wounded while he was on a PT boat, by a shell from a Japanese plane, was not a real account, not because he wanted to embellish the event, but, because the real experience was too painful to be recalled or dealt with.
He opened up once when I gave him several drinks, and he recalled a small glimpse of the hell he and his buddies had endured. His deep baritone voice lowered to almost a rattling growl when he referred to the Japanese as "those dirty rotten sons a bitches." Shaking his head almost in disbelief that he had slept in water filled holes full of slime and mud for weeks on end, and how he had defecated from dysentery in his one piece uniform, because it was too hard to get off without exposing himself to enemy fire. And then was forced to wear it for weeks on end because supplies were limited. He contracted malaria there which flared up from time to time during his lifetime. And was hit in the knee by shrapnel, which left his leg fused like a stump. He moved with a severe limp that forced him to swing his leg in an arc in order to walk. He described how the night was pitch black and full of sounds, and how the Japanese would infiltrate their lines and kill men in his company with knives and grenades. He told me about several men who bled to death when wounded at night rather than cry out and give away their position.
He recalled being in a full body cast, lying in the hold of a hospital ship, and the absolute terror he felt when he was sent home. He was deep inside the ship and knew no one would have time to get him topside if they were torpedoed.
After he died, we found a weathered news paper article about how he and two of his buddies charged three machine gun nests with hand grenades, that were holding down his company. They wiped them out. He won the Silver Star for it. And, a Purple Heart for the leg wound. The article said he was wounded on August 1, 1943. that was the same day John F. Kennedy 's PT boat was sunk in the same area of battle.
I am still digging, trying to find out more about the history of that battle and Jerry's part in it. I just read a book called "Into The Shadows Furious" by Brian Altobello. It recounts in gory detail the battle of New Georgia, which is 180 miles north of Guadalcanal. I found out the objective of the battle was to capture an airfield the Japanese had built there called Munda Field. The author said by the time it was captured, August 5th, three days after Jerry was wounded, it had been bombed so completely that it was of little use, but, it marked a turning point and signaled a rapid decline of Japanese superiority in that region which had threatened Australia up until that time.
I miss you Jerry, and I know for sure that the world, you helped save, is a better place for you having been in it.
Do you know an American hero from WWII?
Please get them to share their story with you, record it and then share it with others through:
The Veterans History Project at:
And If you know a current American hero thank him or her for their service
wether you're for or against the Iraq conflict.
And thank them for me too.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
But, that's not where I want to dwell on this cold January morning.
Today, for this time, and in this space, I'd like to express why this country is worth every drop of blood we have shed to establish and defend it over the past two hundred and thirty two years, since the Declaration of Independence was signed.
I just read a blogger's latest post. Her username was, "carebear". She was trying to express something admirable to write about America, to a foreigner who had ask her: "What's so great about America?" Her response was, to be kind, rather tepid. There was no fire or spirit, or pride in the answer which clearly left her feeling somewhat embarrassed. I could tell from her response that she was young, and didn't have a true understanding of the legacy she and other young Americans were about to inherit. She said she was a Fillipina. In a real sense, that is one of the beauties of this country. Every one of our family trees started somewhere else. Even Native Americans came from Siberia long ago.
So, "carebear", from an older American who still cries when the national anthem is sung, and is steeped in the history of this wonderful country, I'd like to give a very short list that you can share the next time someone asks you, What's so great about America?
1. The Constitution
We are a nation of immigrants, founded by immigrants, on the principle of law. Not just any law, but the mother of all laws. The Constitution which establishes, a government, of the people, by the people, and for the people, and protects the rights of every citizen. It says we are all equal. It says we have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That is not startling news anymore. But, it rocked the world when it was written 232 years ago, because there was not another country on the face of the earth that protected the rights of the individual.
If you lived anywhere else at the time, you were basically a slave in the service of whatever monarch or war lord on whose land you may have been living. You lived and died a slave and all of the fruits and products of your labor belonged to the king. He could kill you if he wanted.
2. The Bill of Rights:
The Bill of Rights state without equivocation what your rights are under the Constitution. One of the most important rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights is the freedom of speech. We have the right to say what we want, to criticize the government, to criticize our institutions, to criticize our fellow citizens and to criticize other countries. In many countries, the punishment for speaking-out can be imprisonment, or even death. In America it is not just a right, but, a responsibility and civic duty. In fact that is what this blog is about.
Other Freedoms it enumerates are freedom of press; freedom of religion; freedom of expression; freedom of ownership of private property; freedom of marriage; freedom of employment; freedom of assembly; freedom of education, and freedom from cruel or unusual punishment. Even law-breakers have rights. The government cannot cut off a part of your body like in some other countries.
Would you like to live in a country where a woman is raped and then she is arrested for adultery, which is a capital offense by stoning? Would you like to live in a country where a woman is murdered because she fell in love and had an affair, and her murders were not brought to trial because she had dishonored her family? Would you like to live in a country where your government hunted you down because you weren't a Muslim? I could go on, but, I think you understand that there are places in the world that still live in the Dark Ages.
3. Public Education
We are a country that boldly declares all men were created equal in the eyes of God. The government can not hold us back from reaching your full potential. And in someways it even demands that you reach that potential. It requires that every American child is educated at public expense. There was nothing like it anywhere else in the world at the time. Education was for the rich and upper classes. With an education you can reach your maximum potential, even become the President if you can meet the requirements of the office. Which means there is are no cast systems, where you are destined the stay an untouchable the rest of your life, like there is in India, for example.
Lack of education is sadly why other countries are not able to compete in the world markets. That is still true in much of the world. Some countries only educate the men. Some only provide a very limited religious education that leaves its people warped, without knowledge to improve themselves and the world they live in.
That's why it saddens me even more when I see young Americans squander the opportunity to enrich themselves, and don't take advantage of that education, because they are America's future and the world's best hope of remaining free.
4. The Spirit of the American People
I've listed this as the fourth item, but carebear, its probably the most important item on the list, because the first three items, sprang forth from the enlightened minds and spirits of our immigrant fathers. Those first Americans were the first people in the world to govern themselves. It was those people, armed with those rights, that recognized that with those rights went tremendous responsibility.
The spirit of the American people is what:
Freed themselves from the yoke of oppression by a foreign king;
Abolished slavery by paying a heavy price in blood by forcing its own citizens to respect all human life;
Fought Two World Wars to save other countries from the oppression of Kings and Dictators and then rebuilt those enemy nations as democracies;
Ended the oppression of blacks by state governments from Jim Crowe laws;
Enforced the rights of blacks to education and enacted laws specifically to protect them;
Fought Communism, that enslaved its people, and freed Eastern Europe from its grip;
Sent more aid to impoverished countries than any other nation on earth;
Created the Peace Corp that sent its best and brightest young people around the world to help others;
Put men on the moon and advanced the technology;
Creates more new medical technology;
Been more willing to fight wars and shed their own blood to free others from the oppression of cruel dictators.
Finally dear, carebear, you are a Filipina, but, honey, first of all be proud to be an American. Learn about this country and what it stands for because it is a precious inheritance and deserves more than, "its OK I guess." I could go on with an endless list of other contributions this country has made to the world, but, I hope these will give you enough information, so you'll never be embarrassed ever again about being an American.
My grandmother was a wonderful woman who told me stories about my family history. The lesson that taught me was this, we find pride in knowing where we come from, that's also true about knowing the history of this country. The blood of many Americans fell on foreign soil, so that other people in the world could be free, including the Philippines. That might be a good place to start learning about the American Spirit. World War Two in the Philippines. God bless you. And God bless America.
Question for discussion: What's right with America?
My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!
Friday, January 18, 2008
In the dream I was no longer living in a country that loved truth and justice, or believed in the right of individuals to a fair trial, or that its citizens had an absolute right to privacy from the prying eyes of the government officials, they had elected to serve them. It was a country that started preemptive wars of outright aggression, much like our prior enemies of old who hated us and our democratic principals. It was an Orwellian country of double speak, where good was evil and evil was good, where a lie was truth and the truth a lie, where a patriot who spoke out was a traitor and a coward who did not serve his country honorably, sent honorable young men to war. It had become a country where I saw our elected officials pass legislation called The Patriot Act, which in fact was an Act of Treason, that undermined the very constitution they had taken an oath to protect from enemies both foreign and domestic. An act that took away in secret, many of our cherished freedoms and rights. It had become a country that in public abhorred torture and practiced it in secret in hidden prisons on foreign soil. It was a government that leaked lies and then sighted those lies as evidence that led us to war. It had become a government of powerful and petty men who punished anyone that said anything they didn't want to hear or that was contrary to their agenda.
In the dream, the government had debased the economy of this nation by selling out to special interest groups and lobbyists. It was run by men who told us repeatedly that government did not work, while all the time they were underfunding and cutting budgets and putting their incompetent cronies in top management positions, until in truth they could say, see, "we told you government doesn't work." It was a government of Homeland Security that failed secure our borders. It was a government of FEMA that failed to react to the federal emergency in New Orleans. It was a government of FDA that lets lead toys from foreign free trade agreements, poison our children and tells us cloned food is really great so we aren't even going to bother to label it, its the same, 'just trust us," agency that protects the Food and Drug companies, that sell us meat contaminated with ecoli and high priced drugs that don't work and have devastating and sometimes lethal side effects.
It was government that betrayed us and who no longer listened to the people that had elected them.
It was a government of remnant Tory seed that wanted us to bow down to kiss their royal asses. It is not lost on me that Jefferson rode unaccompanied to his inauguration, while the Princes we elect now days spend millions on lavish parties while homeless veterans languish in abject poverty.
You can imagine the terror I felt swelled to a near panic when I realized I was not sleeping, but awake, and clearly aware that my beloved country had been taken over by these men. My American Dream had become My American nightmare.
That current American reality is what this blog is about. My questions for discussion are:
How can this nation be free when we owe billions of dollars to the Chinese communists for a war that was a lie from the beginning?
How can this country be free when we are slaves to foreign oil interests?
How can this country be free when we continue to elect officials that undermine our basic rights?
Thursday, January 17, 2008
First of all, my heart, thoughts, and prayers, go out to all the current and past veterans of the Iraq War. My own son was already in service when the first shots were fired. As any father, I worried about his safety, and at the same time was extremely proud of his decision to serve.
But, from the very beginning I had grave misgivings about the reasons we were invading a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack on our country. My deep skepticism was born out of my own generation's experience during the Viet Nam war. I was in service myself when that conflict started, during the last three months of my enlistment. The triggering event at that time was the attack on the USS Maddox in the gulf of Tonkin, which as it turned out was a lie. Just as we were lied to about the real reasons we were hell bent on invading Iraq.
I don't use the word lie lightly, but, I don't believe as some do that it was just bad intelligence, I think it was a deliberate and cynical attempt to deceive the country. For those that disagree consider the following. Why did they out Valerie Plame? Why discredit such a knowledgeable witnesses as Scott Ridder who had served his country with honor? Why fabricate such an elaborate web of facts that all turned out to be false in every sense? I can see if you get one or two things wrong, but in every instance and detail its 100 percent dead wrong? I am sorry but my BS alert goes off.
Let me be clear, I am not a Pacifist, a pinko commie, or left winged liberal and I fully supported the invasion of Afghanistan. However, there were serious questions being raised by many in this country, but, they were to a large extent ignored or labeled as traitors. But the evidence as presented by the administration was largely accepted especially when it came from a man of stature such as Colin Powell. Even the cynical sceptic in me was stilled for a time.
That's why, the full impact of that lie came as a gut crunching shock to me months after the war was under way, and several months after, *our president, declared Mission Accomplished, during the annual **Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner, when he joked about not finding any WMD's in Iraq. At that time my son was still in harms way and we had already lost some 500+ troops. My reaction was to say at the least visceral. I was outraged that a president that had ordered brave young men into battle would be so thick, as to joke about the very reason he repeated endlessly, in order to convince us that we should go to war. I can't think of a word that truly conveys the utter contempt I felt for him in that moment. It was especially contemptible considering his own questionable service record.
You may disagree with such a frank opinion about the leadership of our country, but I would remind you that all men that seek power are suspect. There is more than a grain of truth in the old adage, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. " And offer Richard Nixon as an American example. There is a reason Americans chose to elect a president who serves at our whim, and did not crown a king.
Now we no longer talk about WMD's. But, there are those who continue to justify this ill-conceived war. The new rationales are endless:
There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction
Ya but, Saddam was an evil man who deserved the be brought down,
wait I thought getting rid of Saddam was the mission we accomplished. Isn't he already dead?
I thought we hung him, oops I meant, the Iraq's hung him.
Ya but, We can't leave until we win,
wait didn't we already defeat the Iraq army? In fact didn't we disband them?
Ya but, We have to defeat the terrorist,
wait didn't our invasion create the terrorist who came from every corner of the world so they could kill Americans.
Ya but, there is an insurgency and Al Qaeda, and a civil war and blah ba blah, ba blah, ba blah,
wait, at this rate we could be in Iraq for another 50 years.
Ya but, won't the loss of those brave souls who gave their lives be in vain?
That is where I draw a line and say, enough, who among us would dare dishonor those lives already lost as anything less than heroic. What twisted logic can ever add or detract one iota from those that sacrificed their very lives for this country. It is the political leaders who are using that very argument that should be held in contempt for their cynical disregard of those precious lives and their ill-conceived political agendas.
We are still the home of the brave and nothing will change that as long as don't forget the principles for which we fight.
The question I throw out for debate is: How does the loss of one more life in this war either add or detract from the lives already lost?
*Much to my shame I voted for him when he ran the first time and was disillusioned enough not to vote for him a second time.