Monthly Archives: April 2012

From a Lump of Clayson

There is a columnist in town who has a weekly op-ed in the Waterloo Courier that, intentionally, serves no other purpose but to degrade liberalism and to raise conservatism to the rank of flawless and divine wisdom.  Week after week I dismiss his rambling demagoguery as merely venting from a confused mind, and even though he has plenty of loyal readers, even they realize that 90% of what he writes is based on made up facts designed only to infuriate liberals.

He is the archetype of the non-critical thinker who finds purpose in being oppositional, rather than to serve any greater good.

Like I said, usually I read his column, smile at his broad generalizations and move onto the Celebrations section (I love the wedding pictures from 50 years ago matched up against what the couple looks like today).  This week, however, Dennis Clayson surpassed his usual meandering premise with a column entitled, “Understanding political terms used by the left.”

This “legend,” if you will, to understand the minds of liberals was….well…infuriating.  He got me.  My Achilles heel is blatant hypocrisy coupled with self-righteousness multiplied by the arrogance of shallow thought.

From what I understand, Clayson is an intelligent man; he’s a professor of marketing at the University of Northern Iowa; and I’ve even heard that he’s a “nice guy” when you meet him.  Perhaps, he’s one of those people who is shy and unassuming in person but when in the darkness of their den, armed with a pen (or keyboard), becomes an aggressive, nihilistic, mercenary of bent ideology; you know…kind of like Ted Kaczynsky.

A Kaczynsky reference will not win favor from anyone here who is pre-disposed to disagree with me, kind of like Godwin’s Law and any mention of “Hitler”, but I stand by the theoretical comparison; not because I think Clayson is literally dangerous in a physical sense, but I believe he is “literarily” dangerous in a meta-physical sense.  Clayson demoralizes good people by demonizing what is good about them and he elevates his own dogma by ignoring facts and using superficial analysis.

Okay…so what’s got me in a bunch this morning?  Clayson’s article defines political terms as he believes liberals understand them, and then correcting those definitions with what he sees as the more rational conservative view.  For example…

Clayson defines “Fairness” in the mind of a liberal as: “A primitive type of equality based on demographics requiring certain groups are equal…without regard to innate abilities.  Example: It is not fair that the rich can afford (things) and the poor cannot.

Oh, Dennis…where do I begin?  Apparently you haven’t read the part of the Declaration of Independence that reminds us that “All Men Are Created Equal” and that our system of governance is predicated on equal rights and equal access to justice and freedom.  This does not mean that everyone is of equal abilities and that some will not succeed greater than others and enjoy those benefits, but it means that in the pursuit of greatness, this nation will not allow for unfair inequities to determine that access.

Clayson defines a liberal’s concept of “A Fair Tax” thusly:  “A tax on the rich.  This group must be small enough so that they cannot influence the outcome of an election…”

kevinOh      my       God.

The highest marginal rate has come down over the past 50 years by 50%.  The loopholes and breaks given systematically to the wealthy bring their tax rates down to 15-17%.  In the past 30 years the wealthiest Americans have increased their holdings in America by 250% and the top 10% now control nearly half of all the wealth.  That means the wealthy have been influencing everything.

Is anyone so foolish as to believe that the “small” number at the top that Dennis opines cannot “influence the outcome of an election” have no power?  Does anyone really think legislation has been working against that tender minority and that no lobbyists or politicians (or voters) have been influenced by the billions of dollars they spend to…influence elections?

Dennis, I honestly worry for your safety around scissors.

Clayson goes on to describe the conservative definition of “Fair Tax” as:  “A flat tax which requires all income to be taxed at the same rate.” 

What is aggravatingly interesting about this is that it was not very long ago that conservatives understood progressive taxes.  What Dennis and the other Flat Taxers can’t seem to understand is that LIVING actually costs something.

(I’m going to drill down into this one).  Clayson suggests a 20% flat tax, regardless of income, but if someone makes 20k a year, it probably costs them close to 20k a year just to pay a low rent, have a car for work, buy gas, and purchase food modestly.  There will be no disposable income; in fact, they may be going into debt.

The average household makes around 50k a year and with Clayson’s Flat Tax of 20%, they will pay 10k in taxes.  That means a family will be paying rent or a mortgage, probably need two cars, have children to feed, medical expenses, etc on 40k.  That is about break even.

Our economy, and what makes rich people rich, is the consumer who uses disposable income to buy TV’s, refrigerators, goes on vacation, gets a boat or a van, and drives the engine of Capitalism.

Now, to be realistic, the average American is paying around 20% and the limited disposable income is exactly the problem we face, but the Flat Tax only exacerbates the problem.  What Dennis does not understand; what fries his noodle; is that the 10k in taxes that the average family pays is a far (far) greater tax burden to their budget than 100k in taxes are to the family that makes 500k a year.

Dennis does the easy math and that’s enough for him.  100k is a lot more than 10k, and for that reason he believes the wealthier Americans pay more than their share, but what Dennis cannot, or will not, understand, is that living on 400k is a lot different than 40k and while I say, “Kudos to success!” (and no one I know is saying otherwise), it is still the spending of the majority of Americans (the 90%) that makes this engine run; and if they are just getting by (or sinking), no one gets rich.

It’s why we have a progressive tax scale, and when we reform it so that the wealthy are not paying a LOWER percentage than the rest of us, then we can begin to recover.  This requires critical thinking, Dennis, and I can’t imagine you’ll understand that any time soon.

Clayson writes that a liberal’s definition for “Diversity” is:  “A religion found mostly in North America (and) asserts that an earthly heaven or paradise will result if certain groups (politically defined) are treated in an equal fashion.  Believers maintain that all groups, nationalities and cultures are innately equal.”

Actually, Dennis…I think that’s God’s definition.

Maybe you don’t believe in God, but even if you don’t, the Theists, Christians and Agnostics that comprised our Founding Fathers believed in the Unalienable Rights of Men (it must be noted that our FF reserved politics for white, male, land owners, but as our consciousness as evolved, we have collectively realized and amended to our charter the inclusion of all human beings).  What that means is that “diversity” is the understanding of differences and that the pursuit of such is to be respected equally.

I assume that Dennis is taking what he believes is a patriotic position in favor of American values and taking a stab at….terrorists, maybe?

Clayson gets confused with concepts of Diversity, Equality and Fairness; apparently, each to him is a left wing agenda to manipulate legislation to their liberal bias.  What Dennis does not have the capacity to understand is that the liberal bias is nothing but a leaning toward equal justice in an attempt to alter the course of fear politics, divisiveness, and anti-egalitarianism that is propagated by the inevitable prejudices of human beings. So that Diversity, Equality and Fairness are actually relevant and a truer realization of the promise of freedom that America stands for.

I think…that’s actually quite patriotic…but that’s my liberal definition.

All You Can Eat (Warren) Buffet

“Higher taxes mean fewer jobs,“ proclaimed Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Romney was opposing what is being called “The Buffet Rule” which would end the tax loopholes that bring his tax rate down to around 15%.  Romney is hoping that the average American, who pays over 20%, still hates math and won’t investigate the matter too much.

Mitt feels that the shelters and loopsholes that exist in the present system are a fair reward for all the jobs he and other multi-millionaires create. Yet…with those loopholes still in place, and with the Bush tax credits on the record for 10 years now, Mitt and his friends still don’t think they’ ve put enough in the bank to risk growth.

Romney defends his position by stating that President Obama’s policies have lost 3.1 million jobs.  However, even a 5th grade level analysis reveals that Romney uses the entire month of January 2009 to come up with that figure.  Logic concludes that those 820,000 lost jobs belonged to a previous administrations policies. In fact, 2 million jobs were lost in the first three months of Obama’s presidency, before any of his policies could have begun to take effect, and so honest analysis thereby shows that the numbers Romney (and virtually every Republican) uses are erroneous.

Does raising taxes lead to fewer jobs?  The short answer is “yes.”  In fact, Herbert Hoover made the mistake at the beginning of the Great Depression to raise taxes in order to cover the growing deficit and that saw nothing but less liquidity in the market, exacerbating the problem.

There are those today who want to raise taxes on higher incomes for the same reason, but many of them are confusing two different tax concepts and masking the solution to the problem.  It isn’t about raising taxes; it’s about more equitable tax burden.  This is what Warren Buffett was stating in his now infamous declaration last Fall about his taxes and those who work for him, where he stated that he, in fact, pays less.

Two months ago in Time Magazine, Buffet suggested that America change its tax policy to ensure that people who earn their money from investments rather than by working for a paycheck contribute their fair share. “We need a tax system that takes very good care of people who just really aren’t as well adapted to the market system and to capitalism but are nevertheless just as good citizens and are doing things that are of use in society.” The article clarifies his position with a “Note to bond traders: your higher taxes should help subsidize the building of bridges and the running of state-sponsored day-care centers.”

Let me offer an explanation of the “Buffet Rule” provided by David McAdams, an associate economics professor at Duke University (it must be noted that this example preceeds the actual presentation before Congress and uses 25% to illustrate its application instead of 30%):  If a Middle Class family is now paying 25% in marginal tax rates the Buffett Rule does not change what they pay.  The Middle Class tax “burden” today, however, is greater than for a millionaire whose income derives from both a business (35 % tax rate) and Capital Gains (15%), and more than half of the income comes from Capital Gains.  What he/she is paying is less than 25% and this is for whom the Buffett Rule will come into effect. The question everyone else should be asking is, “Will the millionaire have less incentive to create jobs?”

No. Why would they?

This rule lowers the marginal tax rate for whom it applies to 25% (from 35%), however, it increases their tax burden to a fair share.  Confused? Here’s an example: Someone makes $1,000,000 in Capital Gains and makes a salary from their business of $100,000 (S Corp status allows someone to pay themselves in a lower tax bracket). 15% is paid on the million and 35% on the 100k for a total of $185,000. That is less than 17%, which is less tax burden than the Middle Class earner paying 25%. Under the Buffett Rule, the millionaire will pay 25% on ALL income, however, will now keep 10 cents more on every dollar their business generates (75 cents compared to 65 cents before), therefore, the incentive to expand his/her business will increase. In short, it’s a 10% cut in marginal rates, while evening the tax burden, and a 10% increase in income.

They pay more in total taxes, but can make more from their business. That’s incentive to expand.

McAdams, compared this to the Bush cuts which lowered the marginal tax rate of the highest earners by only 5% and states: “Anyone who argues that eliminating the Bush tax cut…will destroy jobs must therefore also acknowledge that the Buffett Rule…will create jobs.”

Raising tax revenues while lowering marginal tax rates, and increasing the incentive to expand (and hire) is exactly what Mitt Romney should be talking about.  Yet…he’s not.  He’s talking like Mitt Romney who is campaigning to protect…Mitt Romney.

The Pampered Cows

by Gary “Aesop” Kroeger

 there were two brothers who were dairy farmers.  Each had been given by their father the same number of cows and acres and each had an old rundown barn.  The brothers were very competitive but they shared a common goal; each wanted to be the most successful dairy farmer in the county.

On the left side of the divided acreage was Liberal Farmer and on the right was Conservative Farmer.

They were both producing the same amount of milk from their cows and doing just a little better than breaking even, but, Conservative Farmer soon grew restless and wasn’t happy with just getting by.  So he did some math to increase productivity.

He concluded that if milk = profit, more cows would produce more milk and therefore, create more profit.

And so he put everything he had on the line; mortgaged his old farmhouse, and offered to buy half of Liberal Farmers cows.

Liberal Farmer jumped at the offer!  “More money,” thought Liberal Farmer, “means that I could improve the barn and take better care of my cows!”

“Maybe,happier cows…would make better milk.”

But, it was Conservative Farmer who turned out to be right!  He had more cows, produced more milk and the profits were soon rolling in!

He built a bigger house, had wonderful parties for their lactose tolerant friends, and were soon the toast of the county!

Liberal Farmer was defeated.

“I thought I did the right thing, but I’ll never be as successful as my brother!” lamented Liberal Farmer.

But, as months went by…Liberal Farmer started to notice that his cows were producing more milk.  Quickly he realized why:  The cows had more grazing land!

The land was more fertile because fewer cows allowed for more grass to grow!

And that beautiful barn that he had built made milking the cows more efficient!

Soon, Liberal Farmer was producing as much milk, the profits were the same once again, and Conservative Farmer took notice.

“I’ll buy more cows!” said Conservative Farmer. “I’ll put him out of business!”

cowLiberal Farmer sat down to a glass of whole, raw milk from his best cow, Nancy, and thought about what to do.  Finally, he said to Liberal Wife, “I could buy more cows, but that will diminish the land.  I should buy more land so that future cows will have the same healthy grazing!”

And that’s what they both did; Conservative Farmer bought more cows and Liberal Farmer bought more land.

And lo and behold…Conservative Farmer was the smarter of the two again!  He produced more milk, made even more money and his farmhouse got even bigger….but, again, something started to change…

The pampered cows of Liberal Farmer were producing more and better milk from each cow and it cost less to maintain fewer cows, and soon his profits started to grow….and grow…and grow!

On the right side of the fence, Conservative Farmer’s cows were becoming thin from lack of grazing and couldn’t produce enough milk, and profits started to fall…andthCA8MOI6Y fall….and fall.

Before long, Conservative Farmer and Conservative Wife had enough.

“We’ve gotten rich beyond our wildest dreams and if we sell now we’ll get the most for our farm!”

So they put their dairy farm on the market and made plans to retire in Boca Raton.

Liberal Farmer leveraged everything he had and bought Conservative Farmers cows and land and became the most successful dairy farmer in the county!


Did Conservative Farmer lose to his brother?

No….he made a lot of money in the dairy business and from the sale of his farm, he bought a beautiful retirement home at the 18th hole in West Palm Beach.

And Liberal Farmer?  He and Liberal Wife retired a few years later…and moved into that big, beautiful farmhouse his brother had built.

6 Degrees of Abomination

A letter appeared on the internet in 2000.  It was addressed to Dr. Laura Schlessinger who had pronounced on her radio show that “homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22; and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.”

The letter has been attributed to several sources, including Aaron Sorkin (and a version was used on “The West Wing”), none of which pan out consistently, but it stands, nevertheless, as a brilliant satirical response and casts a glaring light onto the hypocrisy being delivered today by Bob Vander Platts, the Iowa Family Policy Center, the National Organization for Marriage and untold millions who use fundamentalist Christian doctrine to define ethics, morality and Constitutional rights.

I am posting the letter here, but I must remind everyone that I did not write it.  God, how I wish I had…   

Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law.  I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.  When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination…End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

  1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
  3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual “uncleanliness” – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
  4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
  5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
  6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there degrees of abomination?
  7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?
  8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
  9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
  10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev.24:10-16). Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14) .

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your Adoring Fan,_________

Dr. Laura, responded by saying that gays and lesbians are “creative, intelligent and valuable” and that her previous words were “poorly chosen.”  What she meant to say, she made clear, was that they are the result of a “biological error” and that keeps them from “relating normally to the opposite sex.”

Well…I’m no “doctor” but, if the difference is biological…doesn’t that make it…natural?  Just askin’…

Loose Stool Economics

The following is a parable that keeps circulating on the internet.  I consistently receive it from my conservative friends because they view it as a reasonable example of how our tax system exploits the rich.  Read it and then read my version.  They call theirs:

Bar Stool Economics

Every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100.  If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that’s what they decided to do, until one day, the owner said, “Since you are all such good customers, I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.  Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.”

The group still paid their bill the way we pay taxes, so the first four men continued to drink for free, but the other six men, the paying customers, were faced with a dilemma.  How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his “fair share”?  $20 divided by six is $3.33, but if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.  So the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay—

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

“I only got a dollar out of the $20,” declared the sixth man, “but he got $10,” pointing to the rich man.

“Yeah!” exclaimed the fifth man, “I only saved a dollar, too.  He got ten times more than I did!

The seventh man shouted, “Why should he get $10 when I got only $2?  The wealthy get all the breaks!”

“Wait a minute,” yelled one of the first four men. “We didn’t get anything at all.  We’ve been exploited!”

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up and so the nine sat down and had beers without him.  But when it came time to pay the bill, they didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!  And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works.

The End.

Cute.  It makes sense to a lot of people, but that’s the problem with parables; they illustrate lessons but they are not real life.  In the real world it might go something like this.  I call my version:

Loose Stool Economics

10 men go out for a beer and the bill comes to $100. They decide that the only fair way to pay is that each man pay for himself.  So each man paid the bar $10 and the bar got $100.

The next day only 6 showed up. “Where are the other guys?” the richest guy asked.

“They can ‘t afford to go out for beer every night so it will be just the 6 of us,” said his middle income buddy.  So they paid the bar $60.

The next evening came and only 3 showed up. “Where are the other 3 guys?” asked the rich guy.

“Bob’s company is laying off and he figured he better tighten his belt.  Jim’s son is going to college next month and Ray needs minor surgery so they won’t be in for a while.  The three men settled their bill and gave the bar $30.

It was like this for a couple of months but then one night only two men arrived and noticed that Jenny the waitress was now missing.

“Where is everybody?” asked the rich guy.

“The bar isn’t making enough because a lot of us can’t afford to go out and they laid Jenny off because there isn’t enough business.  Did you hear?  Bruce’s wife lost her job so he won’t be in for awhile.”

They paid the bar $20 and left.

The next night the rich guy showed up but no one else was there.  He sees a sign on the door:  Closed.

On his way back to his car he’s stopped by a guy in an apron. “I was the dishwasher here and now I’m out of work, can you spare bus fare?”

“You’re a thief!” the rich guy exclaims while throwing his change.

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is why our tax system is progressive. There is no economy when only the rich have money.

The End.

Palin By Comparison

Sarah Palin seems to be front and center again.  Or maybe she’s where she’s always been; front and to the right, just off the radar of relevance but close enough to receive a Queen’s coronation when she steps into the spotlight of what she’s coined as “lamestream media.”

The bio-pic “Game Change” aired last month and our divide found two sides bickering over its accuracy and the danger of America’s near-miss, but it was her appearance on the “Today Show” that has gone the farthest to either enhance or destroy her credibility as a “mainstream” political figure, depending on your pre-disposed point of view.

I have to be honest; I thought she was funny and self-deprecating as Matt Lauer’s co-host; able to interview and add engaging commentary.  She was attractive to say the least and I mean that as being a complete media package.

Talk has sprung up regarding her place within the Republican Party and there are those who think she may still play a prominent, if not THE role at the Republican Convention.  Sarah Palin manages to move, with grace, alongside the candidates, without ever uttering a single phrase that consists of depth, while serious speculation, along with adoration, follow her.

This is where I turn from her affable performance as a chat-show host and face the harsh reality of American history being written as a dancing narrative of popular culture.  From our very beginning, our founding fathers formed a collective brilliance while designing a new government, but were also individually driven by the highest forms of cognition.

Where does a mortal man find words such as these?:  “Fear is the foundation of most governments; but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it.”  Those are the words of John Adams, who, along with Jefferson, Washington, Madison and Monroe were disciplined in the art of ideas; drawing philosophical threads from humanity’s abstract motivations and eloquently bringing them to life.

We measure our historical greatness by the wisdom expressed by leaders whose words have become welded into our national consciousness.  We have produced, since our nation’s founding, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR, Dwight Eisenhower and Martin Luther King; men and women who became philosophers of prudence in the face of great adversity and whose inspiring calls to action still resonate.

Today, however, eloquence seems to be missing from the political discourse.  Sarah Palin being at the forefront of a populist movement that does not seem to demand that inspiration be drawn from the well of wisdom and experience, but is satisfied with platitudes designed only to stir an emotional connection.

I have often said, “I do not dislike Sarah Palin, what scares me is the worship of her demagoguery by the thousands (hundreds of thousands) of people who attend her rallies and hang on her every word.”  I am genuinely fearful of a growing movement that is not confined to wisdom and truthful admonitions and could elect a Sarah Palin (or a Rick Santorum) to our highest office.

With this in mind I did a little “research” and found some Sarah Palin quotes that were well received by her base and found some compatible quotes from history by which to make some comparisons.  The point, believe it or not, is not to embarrass Sarah Palin, rather it is to inspire some reflection by the electorate as to how far we’ve drifted as a nation from the principles of wise leadership.

In 1776, John Adams wrote:  “As good government is an empire of laws, how shall your laws be made? In a large society, inhabiting an extensive country, it is impossible that the whole should assemble to make laws. The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good.”

In 2009 Sarah Palin offered this:  “I think on a national level your Department of Law there in the White House would look at some of the things that we’ve been charged with and automatically throw them out.” (There is no Department of Law, by the way).

John Adams continued about the relevance of laws and a Supreme Court: “The law will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations and wanton tempers of men.  On the one hand it is inexorable to the cries and lamentations of the prisoners; on the other it is deaf, deaf as an adder, to the clamors of the populace.”

Sarah Palin: “Well, let’s see…there’s, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings that there’s never going to be absolute consensus by every American…so, you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but…” (this was an answer to Supreme Court decisions that she disagreed with).

Abraham Lincoln proffered to America as his first political objective: “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition.  Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.  How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed.”

In stark contrast, Sarah Palin described ascension to the presidency thusly: “My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of ‘personal discovery.’  This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn’t just need an organizer.”

To further her populist reputation, Sarah Palin illustrated her cavalier attitude toward language like this:  “Refudiate, misunderestimate, wee-wee’d up.  English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too.  Got to celebrate it!” (I would like to repudiate her use of ‘refudiate.”)

General John Vessey had this to say about the command of language; “More has been screwed up on the battlefield and misunderstood in the Pentagon because of a lack of understanding of the English language than any other single factor.”

Perhaps, Shakespeare is best left to defend himself: “Here will be an old abusing of God’s patience and the King’s English.”

To be fair, Sarah Palin was mostly speaking off the cuff and many of the statements from past leaders were composed with the benefit of thought over time, but I am standing by my premise.  America is moving away from the leadership and wisdom from which our freedom has been forged.  It is declining toward an acceptance of a very common rhetoric that does not have interest in our history and the principles of freedom we uphold;.  It is content with buzz words and platitudes that validate vague concepts of liberty and patriotism.

Nothing will lead us toward tyranny faster than a misinformed electorate.  To quote John Adams once again, “The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good.”  Not easy to do, but we can start by weeding out the politicians who do not embrace the eloquence by which to inspire us with their ideas.

I thought Sarah Palin made a terrific morning chat-show host.  And with just the right amount of news, she deftly worked the medium to create a healthy amount of controversy.  I’d probably make her part of my morning…while surfing between CNN, C-Span and my cornflakes.  Just keep her away from government—Please!

Trayvon was my son, too.

I’ve been staying away from writing about the controversy surrounding Trayvon Martin because I wanted to hear all of the facts first, but today I realized that any new information that may come out is irrelevant to how I feel about this tragedy.

There is a serious illness in our society that is growing more dangerous regardless of what investigators may find regarding the assailant’s (Zimmerman’s) motives.  Despite being late to the blogosphere regarding this, I was instantly drawn to the case and 100% of my concern has been toward the untimely death of this young man and the suffering his family endures.

My initial gut reaction, it should come as no surprise, was (and remains) that Trayvon Martin was completely innocent and was the victim of profiling from an unprofessional, careless, and probably racist application of neighborhood vigilantism.

The tragedy has a number of strange and suspicious circumstances, but I believe the conversation with the young man’s girlfriend, during the event is the most conclusive evidence in terms of Martin’s innocence.  There is inconsistent testimony, unclear or possibly manipulated police work and an odd sequence of conclusions drawn by Zimmerman that lead me to believe the worst; that an innocent young man was killed for wearing a hoodie while walking through a private neighborhood (where he legitimately belonged).

Perhaps he was splashing around in the rain while on the phone with his girlfriend and that led someone, pre-disposed to vigilante behavior with no legitimate training, to play cop, and to conclude that this kid was trouble.  It may be that Martin even got the better of this fake-cop and, perhaps, he was “on top” of Zimmerman as has been stated by at least one witness, but that still doesn’t justify why he was being stalked and apprehended and there is no justification for ending the life of a boy armed with nothing but Skittles.

The investigation will continue and I will table my thoughts for now in terms of what actually happened; I want to talk about a broader issue surrounding this case which I believe is the result of moral decay spawned by fear:  Castle doctrine.

Castle Doctrine, such as the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, is dangerous due to the nature of many citizens who are carrying guns without the necessary and logical training they need to curb violence rather than create more; they also challenge the concept of impartial justice as defined by the Amendments to our Constitution.  Castle doctrine states that a person’s abode (or, in some states, any place legally occupied, such as a car or place of work) is a place in which the person has certain protections and immunities and may in certain circumstances attack an intruder without becoming liable to prosecution.

“Stand Your Ground” law, is a broader realization of that doctrine.  It states that a person may use deadly force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first.   I understand the support that follows this legislation, as I myself have considered what I would do if my children were threatened or in defense of my own person; I would attempt to destroy any threat to my family, and most probably would defend myself to any degree necessary if I thought my life were in jeopardy, but this doctrine is symptomatic of a greater sickness permeating modern society; the sickness of fear and suspicion; it is a degeneration of justice.

It is what we are seeing in Arizona with profiling laws that allow for legal citizens to be apprehended on the fear that they might be illegal.  It is witnessed by American imperialist expansion due to the fear of enemies overseas; it is the creation of the Patriot Act that challenges our personal freedoms in the name of intelligence gathering due to…fear of losing our freedoms.

The problems with these initiatives are not the concepts of protecting our domicile, our family or our person, positions we ALL share but in the language that accompanies them:  “without becoming liable to prosecution.”  This is a sharp turn to the right (or left, I’m not drawing political lines) that compromises the foundation of liberty and justice.

The Castle doctrine implies that if a person has to consider their legal grounds that they will not act appropriately to protect themselves, so by eliminating that concern, they will.   But by making such an action immune to prosecution it also means that justice becomes less relevant than what a sane society must demand from its judicial charters.  Most private citizens are not criminologists, law enforcement officers, detectives or self defense experts and this doctrine empowers them to make professional, trained decisions that can determine life or death.

In Florida alone, where the Martin case has taken place, the law has resulted in self-defense claims tripling and all but one killed has been unarmed.  Critics argue that the law makes it very difficult to prosecute cases against people who shoot and then claim self-defense because they felt threatened, and in most cases, the only other witness is the victim who was killed.  Miami police chief John F. Timoney called the law unnecessary and dangerous:  “Whether its trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn’t want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house, you’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.”

Again, I understand why many people are saying, “Enough is enough!  I have the right to protect my home, my family and myself!” and I do not disagree.  The question becomes HOW while maintaining a just and civilized society.  We have a long history in America of creating shorthand solutions to longhand problems and that’s what Castle doctrine follows.   A law that exonerates a shooter because they make what appears to be a fair claim of self-defense is reckless and ultimately un-Constitutional.  Put the 2nd Amendment blank check aside for a moment and let’s focus on solutions to save lives and reduce crime.

Own a firearm if you believe you should, and stand by your Constitutional right, but in my view everyone possessing a lethal weapon for the purpose of defense should have to pass at least an entry level instruction on criminology and prove firing proficiency and knowledge of safety.  I simply don’t understand why we put logical compliance demands on every other potentially lethal kind of equipment such as motor vehicles yet have relatively lax restrictions on owning and operating firearms; a single function mechanism designed to kill.

I know…eyes rolled to Heaven upon reading “an entry level instruction of criminology” but that’s how successful policy is implemented.  You study American history to become a citizen, you study rules of the road to drive a car, businesses require that their leadership attend seminars to move up…is it far-fetched to think that people owning an instrument that when misused can end an innocent person’s life should be held to the same standard?

In a 2007 National District Attorneys Association symposium concerns were voiced that the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law could increase crime as criminals could use the law as a defense for their crimes.  They questioned safety when more people are carrying guns, and they concluded that people would not feel safe if they felt that anyone could use deadly force in a conflict.  The report also noticed that the misinterpretation of clues could result in use of deadly force when there was, in fact, no danger. The report specifically notes that racial and ethnic minorities would be at greater risk due to negative stereotypes.

That report was dead on.  We honor the life of Trayvon Martin not with our sorrow or our anger but by bringing sanity to our laws.  It’s time to replace suspicion and fear with logic and reason.