Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Doomed to repeat

Ever since our country was formed by this constitution, this form that everyone holds so dearly, we have been a nation of hypocrisy. We want every man to be free. From the start that really only meant ones that were of  White Anglo-Saxon descendant. Every generation, we have despised these new people that threaten our country. Except for maybe the Native Americans when Europeans came here, but that is for a different story, different time.

We enslaved Africans. We shunned the Chinese and practically enslaved them too. Up and down the generations. The Irish. The Italians. The Jews. The Japanese. In my time, Puerto Ricans and other Latin American descent.

If we claim to be a nation built upon Christian values, we don't we act like it? Love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Jesus, if you believe in him and his teachings, wanted us to take care of people that are worse off than ourselves. He wanted us to clothe and house the homeless. Feed the hungry. Show compassion and caring.

Millions of Syrians are homeless. I am not here to debate why they are today, but I am here to say they are homeless because their homes are gone, their livelihoods destroyed. In what was deemed and Arab Spring has become a Winter of dread. Not knowing where your next meal is coming from is just something we should never have to imagine. But some of these people have had to do that for years.

Bad people are going to pass themselves off as one of these people. The United Nations and the US Government, though it may not be perfect, has an extensive vetting process that takes 18-24 months to go through. The people that wrecked havoc in Paris just walked in, walked through Europe. Their porous borders allowed this to happen. That is not the US. It is a lot easier for one of these terrorists, like the one from Belgium, to get in a plane and come here to create terror than a refugee.

Let us be deliberative in our actions. You might say will what about all of the homeless in our country? Have you ever attempted to help remedy this, instead of forwarding Facebook vitriol? I have. It is not about giving a homeless Veteran a home. Many of them had one. It is beyond that. We have systems that can help our people. Volunteer to help with the homeless before you use that argument. Mental health issues prevent many homeless from being housed. Again, the mental health problem is an issue for another day.

If we are a Christian country, should we not take care of them, the Syrians. Shouldn't it be a moral and a spiritual obligation to help all that are in need? Think about this poem:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

This is the poem at the Statue of Liberty. The same poem that your ancestors may have seen sailing into New York. Let's not repeat our history once again. Let us take care of the people that need us the most. That is truly what makes our country great. 


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Mass shootings: No end game in sight to prevent them.

Candlelight vigil after the Oregon Shootings.
Sensible gun control is not about taking guns away from everyone. Sensible gun control is about taking guns away from people that are unstable mentally. If you look at mass shootings, the overwhelming majority is about the gunman having some type of mental issue going on in their life prior to the shooting.

We need expanded background checks that include mental health history. If, say 5 years ago, someone was treated for depression for about a year, that shouldn’t preclude them from getting a gun. But if they have current mental issues, similar to domestic abuse cases, they should be prevented from owning guns. I know that this throws the onus onto the doctors, but this is where real reform needs to start.

I also believe background checks should be in place for gun shows and re-sellers. If I have to register a car, show it is insured, and carry a valid license, why can’t a background check for a gun be done. A car can be used as a weapon, but it is not a weapon. A gun is a weapon. It’s designed to kill. You should have a license per se to kill.

In many of these shootings, the perpetrators had legal guns. If we add this to background checks, it should significantly lower the mass shooting rates. Let’s be realistic, over 310 million guns are in the hands of Americans. We have a constitutional right to bear arms. A significant percentage of these guns have been re-sold and traded. Anyone can get a gun through legal or other means. If you want a gun, you can get a gun. But remember the perpetrators here mostly had legal guns.

 I think that part of the law should be changed. Have mental issues, you can't have a gun. I know this opens up more issues like who determines how ill they are that would preclude them or will people hide their illness so they don't give up their gun. I get it. It isn't a simple work around. But this is a start for reform. 
Ponder this. No one is talking about copy cats at this point. Once all the high school shootings started (Columbine), we saw an increase in high school-related shootings. Now we have colleges being the targeted. Why? Because in these shooters’ warped minds, they see themselves as martyrs. They want their names in the media. Everyone that we do this for, we memorialize them and it inspires the next one.

As we saw after the Oregon shooting, authorities wanted to not give this guy’s name out and wanted to emphasize the victim’s stories. It is a great narrative that all mass shootings should take, but because of the media’s incessant need for that information, his name and history is now known. Should we get media to re-evaluate this policy? Media outlets do not release sexual assault victim’s and minor’s names when it comes to reporting. Can’t they do the same but with regard to these murderer’s names?

My dad was a police officer. My grandfather was an avid hunter. I owned a shotgun and several rifles. Gun ownership is part of our culture. When a tragedy occurs, our initial instincts is to blame the gun. That is farther from the facts. We need to look at the cause and effect instead. What are the root causes for these tragedies? It always comes back to mental health and better, enhanced back ground checks that includes a medical/mental evaluation. Then stop identifying the perpetrators in the media.

Will it end the tragedies? No. But I think it is a commons sense approach to start with. It is better than doing nothing at all.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Current state of politics

The country is so fed up with what the media calls establishment politicians that the left is flocking to Bernie Sanders and the right is jumping off the deep end with Donald Trump. To me, this is the worst that this country has ever been with regards to politics. Politics aside, despite what both sides tell you, we aren’t in too bad of a shape.

Let’s start with the economics of our country. In 2007-2008, we had the worst financial crisis in a generation. Greedy investors, bankers, and regulators created this problem. The real estate collapse was caused by banks that created new and improved ways that regulators couldn’t get a handle on. Then bundle the horrible loans into bundles and had investors hedge against those loans. Guess what we all lost.
At the same time, we elected our first black President. Some would say that his race doesn’t matter, but if you look at why Trump is leading GOP polls, think otherwise. After the stimulus package was passed in 2009 (everyone forgets in 2008 Bush pushed a smaller stimulus package through too), that was the beginning of the fracture between the two parties. With the Affordable Care Act pushed through that solidified partisan divides.

Because of the ACA, the Tea Party came about and forever changed politics. Now conservative politicians were tested by “are you conservative enough?” litmus tests. Just because of that fracture among the GOP, Conservatives even if they wanted to, could not reach across the aisle and compromise. Ever. Despite the rhetoric, our economy has grown ever since Obama came into office.
Politics is messy. No one wins. Everyone compromises. At least that is how it always was until then. 

What is good for the country is no longer good politics. Compromise was always a cornerstone of good governance. The Democrats in 2009 ended it. The Tea Party Republicans, ever since, perfected it. Rhetoric trumps substance (no pun intended).

Whatever your party allegiance falls on, Republican or Democrat, are you truly voting for what’s best for the country or are you voting clearly on style over substance? Case-in-point, Department of Homeland Security funding in the beginning of 2015. DHS funding was taken to the brink again by the GOP because they couldn’t pass the bill. They can’t govern when the majority of party can’t even agree, let alone have Democrats help. Dysfunction at its finest.

Demagoguery by both parties have blown up our political process and has left it in shambles. Sadly, the parties have drawn lines in the sand and no one can cross those lines now. This is why Sanders is appealing to the left. Trump is appealing to a far troubling side where misogyny and bigotry far outweighs substance.  Flash is winning the GOP over. That is not good. You will absolutely win the majority of the White vote, but you will lose all the rest. Mark my words here, if Trump wins the nomination, we will have another Democrat in the Oval Office. It won’t matter who it is.

When it comes to the Republican party, the gerrymandering of House Districts have created GOP safe Districts so their biggest fights are against each other, not Democrats. It is a race to be the most Conservative. That is great for that district, but the majority of the country are now voting for Democrats. It will not play well in a General Election especially when your main candidate is bashing women and minorities, the people you need to get elected President. White males are quickly becoming a minority and like it or not, the GOP must attract them. Your own party leadership said as such in your 2012 "autopsy" report.   

It is true that the majority of people don’t want another Bush or Clinton in the White House. Sure that plays a big role in the current state of politics right now, but the other underlying anti-partisan, the “if you’re for them, you’re against me” attitude is destroying our politics and the political processes that have worked.

Remember you don’t want to see sausage and laws being made. Compromise is not a dirty word in politics. We need party leaders that will not only corral their party, but also bridge the divide. We have no one like that now and I am worried we shall never see that again, at least any time soon. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A little rant on today's social issues.

Our Founding Fathers came to this country to escape religious persecution. They didn't believe living in a country where your country tells you what religion you should follow or how to follow it. By design, religion was separated from government. Why do you get upset when the country reaffirms that? The Constitution says nothing about marriage, gay or otherwise. The First Amendment "provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." By allowing everyone to marry, no church is forced to marry anyone. Stop pretending this is the end of the sanctity of churches.

Do a little research. You shouldn't pick and choose which part of the Bible works for you or not. If we would use it as strict doctrine, we would still have slaves and beat our wives. The Jesus that I was taught about cared for the less fortunate, the marginalized, the oppressed. Are you doing that living your Christian life?

Then we have the debate about God in our Government. The 20th century is when our country started adding "Under God" to everything or adding Ten Commandments to public buildings. I am a proud Christian, but having the line between church and state is perfectly fine with me. That is how it was and should be. When referring to our country and how it has strayed from our founding principles, I think you are not looking far enough back in our history.

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

On the eve of 4th of July weekend be proud of your country. Stop beating it up. It is by far the best in the world when it comes to freedoms. Enjoy it! Go out and try to "form a more perfect union."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Biker thugs- is it a racial thing?

Over the past week, race once again has dictated narratives in the media. People have been scrutinizing the national media because of the coverage over the biker gang shootings. The narrative is that because they are white, they aren't being called thugs.

First of all, I think the word thug is a very generic term that I see can be interchanged with so many other terms like hooligan or any other negative connotation of unacceptable and probably illegal actions by individuals. Whites, blacks, men, and women can all be considered thugs. To me, it is not a specific person, it is about a specific person's action that make them a thug. By definition, a thug is a brutal ruffian or assassin. True in all instances, they all can be considered thugs. But I think modern day connotation just means a person causing a brutal act.

When it comes to the bikers, I see it very differently. I see, and probably wrongfully so, that biker gangs are even more brutal than the generic term of thug. When I see biker gang, Hell's Angels come to mind along with the brutality exuded by these men. They are cold-blooded killers that kill to make a point. Their disregard for someone's life is evident. That to me is worse than a thug.

These biker gangs were there to cause trouble, pick fights, and hurt/kill people. That is my initial thoughts without delving down deeper. If that narrative holds true, I don't know. But for me, I see biker gangs as the definition brutal, lawless, disregard-for-life kind of people, not as a mere thug.

But back to the "thugs" in places like Ferguson and Baltimore. I have no doubt that the population in these communities have lived under or perceived that the police and or the community has marginalized them. Protests change the world. It is a small minority within these groups that ruin the movements though. Some people just want to see the world burn, thrive on anarchy. Looting is an unfortunate side effect of mass protesting. Thugs see the opportunity is there and take it.

Right or wrong, we as a nation need to look at the underlying issues that are creating these problems eg, poverty concentration which then in turn naturally begets segregation, income disparity, and education gaps. Until we are ready to tackle these issues, these racial tensions will get worse.    

Thursday, September 19, 2013

House GOP at it again....this time they are taking food out of children's mouths!

Charlie Dent and the rest of the House GOP Caucus should be ashamed of themselves. They voted over 40 times to stop “Obamacare” instead of letting it become law. If the law is broke, fix it. If you oppose it, propose a workable solution. With a Democratic-run Senate, moves like that are only symbolic. They complained for years that the Senate did not pass a budget. When they did, now the GOP is blocking the bill to go to conference. Partisanship is getting old. What happened to working together for the betterment of the country, not for the betterment of your base?

Now the latest comes down to the Farm Bill. For decades, the Farm bill had both legislation for farm subsidies and food stamps. That is the only way both Republicans and Democrats can agree. It is called compromise and (Gasp) Bipartisanship! Earlier this year, in their first bill, the GOP bloated the subsidies and slashed the food stamps allocation. This bill failed spectacularly because it was too bloated in subsidies, even for the GOP and it cut too much from food stamps for the Democrats to get behind. Now the latest thinly-veiled grand-stand bill was to slash a food stamp only bill. The House GOP, including Charlie Dent, passed the bill with a whopping $40 billion slash in cuts! Part of the bill requires that people on assistance get a job. In case you didn't notice, we are well over 7% unemployment, which in any other downturn, would be considered still be in a recession. 

I am a volunteer at The Pennsylvania Avenue Interfaith Food Pantry. We provide direct food assistance to low-income people. Do you know what the faces of these people look like? They are grandmothers; they are children (over 40% of people receiving assistance are kids); they are the unemployed or underemployed. They are anyone that goes hungry. Are people defrauding the system? Are we feeding too many hungry people? It is just food, a basic necessity. Are people abusing this system? Maybe some, they may have gotten an extra jar of Peanut Butter. GASP! By slashing this money, you are directly taking food out of mouths. Nothing more or less!

If you think this is outrageous and want to reverse this, try doing the following:
Call or write Charlie Dent or whoever your representative is!
September is Hunger Awareness Month! Click here to find out other ways to help the hungry! 
Or just maybe take the #SNAPChallenge by eating on $4.50 a day. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Voter Fraud vs. voter suppression

A friend posted on Facebook about the new voter laws being on the books and questioned why it was such an uproar. I am not trying to hijack her discussion, nor do I want to offend her, but it has made me think about this subject a little more.

It is true that we ask for ID for anything we do now so it should be a foregone conclusion that everyone has one, right? You all know I lean left when it comes to politics, but I had to think a little about both sides stances. I think that both sides are truly hiding the reasoning behind why there is a big push.

Make no mistake that this is a push by the GOP party. The Republicans own this legislation. Why all of a sudden do we need to implement these laws? Why now in a Presidential election year? Would this be advantageous for the GOP to do this now? In 2010, the GOP made huge gains in many states not just in the National stage, but also in the State-wide races as well. Is this an attempt to keep the people elected, elected?

There is no evidence that wide-spread fraud is occurring. In fact, the biggest problems with voting has been the people that oversee the elections and election sites eg. adding more votes that weren't there, losing certain votes, etc. That is where the actual vote cheating is occurring. So a solution was created where there was not a problem.

Pennsylvania passed the law in March. That gave the state a little over 7 months to create a system and implement it.Why does it have to be so quick? When was the last time any state or Federal program was ever rolled out that quick? I know seniors especially the elderly that don't have, lost, or have the wrong name on their birth certificate. Many of these people don't drive or are limited in driving. It takes time to remedy these issues.

You may say that the Democrats are saying that this is hurting the poor. But if your poor, you have these documents already especially if you are receiving assistance (housing, food, etc.). So that particular argument doesn't wash with me. They are just ticked off because this shouldn't be a law to begin with. I still don't know if that is true or not. I still flip flop on this issue.

Here is the bottom line, as I see it. The GOP establishment is pushing this now so they can add another obstacle for low-income and seniors to overcome. If it is an obstacle or not, that is why they are doing it. They are doing it under this ruse they are calling voter fraud. Democrats are mad because the GOP is going to take votes away this elections. That may or may not be true.

In the end, I am probably for this law. It can legitimatize the election process. In fact, I always wondered why we didn't have to show ID to vote. But in the short term, the GOP is trying to hijack this election cycle.