Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Trading Freedom for Security - why arming serving military members on US Soil is the WRONG response to Chattanooga

Over on Facebook, I commented on a news story about National Guard Troops now being directed to carry side arms while on duty in several states.  The direction comes in the wake of the shooting last week in Chattanooga, TN where 4 Marines manning a Marine recruiting station gave their lives in service of their Nation.   I objected and one of the other commenters gave me a snarky rebuff – that my tune would changes when my sons died at the hands of a terrorist with a misguided agenda.

Sadly such dismissive snark is the hallmark (online) of too many conservative Americans who wrongly equate guns with strength.  And I understand the impulse in today’s insecure environment.  The more we become part of the world around us while losing control over our individual lives, the more everything seems like a threat.  And when you have no other power – political, economic, social – a gun seems like a logical response to all those threats. Being both a Liberal, and a Christian, however, I am always called to another response, which is encapsulated in my reply to that troll below:

My sons will follow the path they choose - and I will rejoice and mourn for and with them as every father does. And not to pick nits but the 9/11 terrorists brought the "war" to American soil. And that doesn't change anything. As {one commenter} pointed out {above}, the Marines would not have been able to engage based on their tactical situation. They also put on that uniform to fight and die for America, where we have the Rule of Law - which supposedly makes us vastly different than many other nations. That law says we DO NOT ARM serving military members on US soil. Period. I have many friends, and family serving - and to a person NONE of them wants to carry a side arm or any other arm while on duty here. NONE. If they see it as a bad idea, then why exactly do we need to embrace it? You cannot create Peace by escalating conflict, and you will never increase security by removing freedom - including the freedom to be free from armed military personnel walking our streets. Nations that do that are places the US has traditionally worked to over-throw - Iran and Iraq leap immediately to mind, as does Cuba, Russia, most Central American countries in the 1980's . . . and the list goes on. The quickest way - if history is accurate - to have "jack booted thugs" on our throats in the US is to destroy the wall separating the military from the civilian population. And arming military personnel on US soil is the first, big step in breaking that wall down.

Make no mistake – I’m as ready as the next person to take up arms to defend my Nation and the Rights and Freedoms it stands for.  But this is not a call to arms as was the Revolution – or even WWII.  This attack is a sad response to decades of US interventionist policies in the Middle East.  It is regrettable, reprehensible, and NOT in keeping with the true teachings of Muhammad (or Christ for that matter). We have to expect this sort of thing so long as we hide from our responsibilities and the collateral damage we cause all the world over.

Semper Fi.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Snapshots of The Digital Age

So it's a late Thursday night, and my wife and her mom are siting on adjacent chairs in our living room reading the same article on their own, separate smartphones. If there's a better image of our disconnected digital age, I can't think of it.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tax Day Redux - The Washington Post slaps Feds too!

So on April 15, the Washington Post published the usual polemics about the 4%of federal employees with tax "deficiencies" meaning they owe some sorts of back federal taxes. The stories also highlighted legislation making its way through the House to make it easier to fire Feds who don't pay taxes properly and on time.

Sadly, both the Post and the House seem to think that the fed tax delinquency rates font merit placement in context. If they did, they would have to acknowledge that Feds at a 4% rate are doing better then the rest of the citizenry, who are running between 9% and 10% deficient (depending on what source you read).

But hey, what role do facts have in a good polemic?

Monday, March 9, 2015

What have we become - the Bachelor Finale

What does it say about our nation that tomorrow's water cooler conversation will be dominated by discussions of whether the "right" woman got get heart broken in a pig barn in Dubuque Iowa? 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Federal Employment Redux - how the House's Selective memory hurts Americans

The House of Representatives wants to continue cutting the size of the federal workforce presumably without cutting the number of this the federal government has to do:

“We’ve racked up $18 trillion in debt simply because Washington has no idea when to stop spending,” Lummis said in a statement. “Attrition is a solution that requires the federal government to do what any business, state or local government would do to cuts costs — limit new hires.”
As I have noted before:

First, looking at federal civilian employment trends since 1962 (Data courtesy OPM.gov), I find that the federal government is nowhere as big as it has been in my life time.  Specifically, the federal government topped out at over 3 Million employees under President Reagan, began to shrink under President Bush 41, shrank dramatically under President Clinton (to less then 2.65 Million), climbed again under President Bush 43 (During the prime years of the Great Recession), and began to shrink again under President Obama. 
 Given the lionizing that St. Ronnie receives these days, I really have to wonder how many current Republican politicians remember what he actually did.  Even if they do, the Federal Government is shrinking in employee size naturally, so I fail to see how this does anything real to the government's continued Congressionally inflicted debt crisis.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"We have come to our Nation's Capitol to cash a check:" How Dr. King's legacy is being destroyed by income inequality and Citizen's United

For someone who spends time thinking and writing about politics and policy, the juxtaposition of the holiday celebrating the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the State of the Union address by the Nation’s first African American President, and the fifth anniversary of the Citizen’s United ruling can’t be ignored.   What makes it all the worse, however, is that the President tonight should – if he wants to keep Dr. King’s legacy alive – make another round of proposals that require starting with rolling back Citizens United.

Unfortunately, This MLK Day finds us in a more divided, more racially, more economically unequal society.  Like it or not, the SCOUTS prediction that their decision in Citizen’s United would decrease campaign corruption – because unlimited funds for “speech” by corporations and other groups would “allow” more people to know who gave what to whom – the reality is that BOTH parties are now both heavily dark money funded, and funded in such significant amounts by super PACs that the political speech of ordinary people is effectively drowned out. In a day and age where it takes $1 Billion or more just to get to the White House, no one can realistically say that any person (except a billionaire or two) has as much political speech as a corporation or Super PAC.  This is critically important, because in the wake of the SCOTUS gutting of the Civil Rights Act, all an individual has left is their speech (since in many cases they have defacto lost their vote).

In turn, that court-created inequality in political speech of necessity creates economic inequality where there was none, and enlarges it where it already exists.  Wages after the Great Recession are stagnant at best, and the reality is that while unemployment keeps dropping, the two biggest forces driving it are people taking lower wage jobs (and often at less than full employment) and people simply exiting the workforce all together.  These things, not coincidentally, have driven corporate profits up to the highest levels in decades.  Sadly, the income inequality that this created is now coming back to haunt those corporations, as lower gas prices give underpaid workers some economic breathing room to clear up debts and begin saving again.  Consumers can also spend again (though it seems they aren’t – waiting further price drops), but many more of them may well lose their jobs in the formerly growing energy sector if prices continue to stay low.  In addition, the financial sector that is now the “bedrock” of our economy is taking stock hits to energy sector stocks, which means that Wall Street will likely start advocating for government interference in the market to boost oil prices. After all, you can’t invest tens of millions of dollars on a Presidential candidate, or tens of thousands on a Senator if they don’t help you stay afloat, can you?

All of this would look and sound eerily familiar to Dr. King, who died in 1968 preparing his Campaign for the Poor as the next chapter of his Civil Rights Movement work.

Then, as now, most of the poor of working age had jobs, but, as King puts it: “they are making wages so low that they cannot begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation.” In 1968, 25 million people — nearly 13 percent of the population — were living below the poverty level, according to the Census Bureau. (In 2013, 45.3 million people — 14.5 percent were below the poverty level.)

Dr. King understood, as do a few folks today, that access to the voting booth, or forced desegregation, would do little to ease the plight of racial minorities if their economic condition – along with the economic condition of the poor whites who were often their most violent opposition – didn’t improve.  Then, as now, minorities and poor whites compete for fewer and fewer lower paying jobs, and that competition stokes much of the fear used by politicians to drive a wedge between groups that should be allied.  Yet because he was unable to carry on with his important work, we are left to apologize to our descendants, as we seem unwilling to do anything to support the radical change now necessary to keep the Dream Alive.