The Sarah Palin Incident – Political Ends and Personal Destruction

By Francis Pennyworth, Jr.

In September of 2008, when Senator John McCain selected Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate on the Republican Ticket, my first blush reaction was that he had literally handed the Presidency to Obama on a silver platter.  As it turned out the Palin choice actually was a colossal mistake for the Republicans.  Moreover, the firestorm it triggered truly transcended the 2008 presidential campaign.

  The Palin Family 2007

Governor Palin apparently engenders two, and only two, emotions among female voters – either fear and loathing (not necessarily in that order) or complete admiration. In the last half century, with the possible exception of Anita Bryant, I can’t recall a more polarizing female appearance on the national scene.

Before I get to the meat of the Palin controversy, it’s important to set the national stage and establish the context of the scene in which she appears. We need to recall that women in the United States have almost always been engaged in a continuous and sometimes furious running gun battle for “women’s rights” and everything that $2 phrase represents.

The women’s liberation movement, at least in a modern sense, returned to life in 1961 with the creation of the Commission on the Status of Women under President Kennedy. After a very short time this federal commission dissolved into an amorphous cloud of state level commissions.

Just as it was beginning to look as if the feminist issue had been relegated to a slow death in committee, the National Organization for Women was formed in 1966. NOW’s initial goals, enunciated at its 1967 convention, were passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and the repeal of all abortion laws.

The abortion agenda was particularly aggressive since, by comparison, the AMA had only recently (in the same year) voted to support “therapeutic abortions” and then only under three very narrow circumstances. (1) The pregnancy represented a direct threat to the health either physical or mental of the mother, (2) The unborn fetus would be born with a mental and/or physical defect, or (3) The pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

As we now know, ERA was doomed, but there was success with the abortion issue. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Roe v. Wade, (1973) 410 U.S. 113 which overturned all state and federal anti-abortion laws inconsistent with it holdings. The details of the decision are a book in and of themselves. Suffice it to say that abortion suddenly became legal, at the woman’s choice, for any reason, up to the point where the fetus becomes “viable.” At the point of viability, conditions attach to the performance of the procedure. The abortion battle was protracted, and brutal, and continues to this day.  Which is not surprising considering the involvement of organized religion.

In the 1970s and 1980s the concept of “equal pay for equal work” was expanded into the broader, more inclusive concept of “equal pay for work of equal value.” This new definition seems to have included within its ambit an attack on “glass ceilings”. Along with this new concept came a growing sense of feminine pride in achievement and a desire for professionalism in the workplace. Something I have tried to instill in both my daughter and my son.

The remainder of the 20th century and the first years of this century have been filled with a continuing struggle against glass ceilings and a resurgence of anti-abortion sentiment.

With the above context in mind, I find myself observing the explosive discourse surrounding Sarah Palin and wondering if the anger I’m hearing will rob women of their credibility and, as a result erode, their hard earned gains. It seems that Sarah Palin’s mere existence is perceived by many to be an insult.

  The Alaskan Campaigne

The one organization which has ostensibly worked the hardest for women’s rights immediately turned its back on a woman who was attempting to achieve the second highest office in the land. Per, Kim Gandy, of the National Organization for Women, that organization announced it would endorse Obama and Biden. The basis of this rejection of Governor Palin was purportedly based on Ms. Palin’s personal belief in Right to Life.

The internet, as well as the “main stream” media immediately filled with vituperative comment on the Alaskan governor’s personal life, children, husband, and practically anything else even remotely related to her (i.e. her sister’s divorce, etc., ad nauseum).

Right to Life vs. Freedom of Choice

This is a purely religious controversy, laden with unfathomable and unprovable issues. If you believe that human life begins at conception, then an abortion is the intentional termination of a human life (i.e. murder). The language sounds strong, but (setting aside a state of intellectual denial) this is what it boils down to. A crystal clear case of either “yes” or “no.” The relevant question to ask a candidate is not so much, “which belief do you hold?” Rather, it’s “will you force others who disagree with you to conform to your belief?”  The latter is a fair question which seeks to identify the ideologues.

Rather than ask the right question, or even listen to the answer (you can find the Governor Palin’s answer on the internet) a large number of women (including the NOW organization) basically called her a traitor.

The unintended consequence to this, is the inescapable conclusion that feminists are not as interested in women’s rights as they are in their own philosophical agenda. And, any woman who disagrees with them isn’t entitled to equal rights.  (We sometimes see analogous behavior when those who demand freedom of speech refuse to let others talk.)

Governor Palin was even attacked for her decision to give birth to a special needs child with the resulting implication that the child should have been aborted. Of course, not all of this can be laid on the doorstep of the feminists. Much of the negative diatribe emanated from a left leaning press (there is of course also right-leaning press) as well as a left leaning entertainment industry (i.e. SNL).

Regardless, affirmative feminist support for the Governor was conspicuously absent.

From my outside point of view, NOW could have really racked up some points by publically defending the Governor’s right to her religious belief. It’s kind of like the ACLU defending the right of a neo Nazis to demonstrate. Equal rights actually does mean equal rights, whether you agree with the specific exercise or not.

Of course, an argument can be made that if Sarah Palin were to become President then she might have an opportunity to appoint a judge to the United States Supreme Court and shift the balance of the Court to the conservative side. That argument is a proper one, based on the information that the Governor is a conservative. Unfortunately, that argument is only being made to the extent it’s wrapped deeply within character assassination.

Contraceptives vs. Abstinence

Whether or not a women chooses to use a contraceptive or just plain abstinence is another fundamental question of religious belief. Moreover, there is a strong sentiment which suggests that the distribution of contraceptives to minors is tantamount to a societal endorsement of premarital sex. Again, the issue is intertwined with very intense religious beliefs.

Here again the law of unintended consequences lurks in the background. The fact that Governor Palin’s minor daughter was pregnant was used by female detractors as purported evidence that not only can’t the Governor control her own children, her preferred method of birth control is intrinsically flawed. These comments are totally irrelevant to the subject matter of the election and are not calculated to lead to the discovery of useful information upon which to base a vote.

The proper inquiry is – “will Palin attempt to subject others to her preferred method of birth control?” Rather than ask that question, female detractors chose to invade the privacy of a minor child and to suggest by innuendo that Palin’s beliefs are a fortiori dangerous and defective.

From the outside looking in, it appears that the objective of this criticism is character assassination rather than political discourse. For example, if the Governor’s intention was to let others find their own way on the issue, then her personal beliefs were never in issue.

As an aside, if Roe v. Wade were overturned this afternoon, abortion would not suddenly become illegal. The states would simply become free to pass their own laws on the subject.

Equal Pay For Work Of Equal Value

In order to be paid equally, for work of equal value, women must obtain a job of equal value. Interesting. This position is, at its most fundamental level, about glass ceilings. Governor Palin is a woman who has already shattered one glass ceiling, and with some help from her friends might shatter them all.

Unfortunately, the Governor’s accomplishments were buried under an avalanche of character attacks and outright falsehoods. Is it actually impossible to both applaud her for her success in the nomination and at the same time disagree with her politics? Don’t boxers (participants in a brutal full contact competition) shake hands, before they come out swinging? I don’t know about you, but whether or not I agree with her politics, I think Governor Palin’s selection as the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States was a fabulous milestone for women.

Working Moms vs. Stay At Home (“Soccer”) Moms

One of the most deep seated prejudices against women’s liberation has quite frankly been the male perception that women belong at home with the children, and that a business investment in a woman is a waste of precious time and money, because when they get pregnant they will leave and never return. I’ve heard this sentiment expressed in many a management meeting, and it’s always said by men, with a straight face, and in complete sincerity.

We all know, the women’s movement has struggled against this virulent stereotype for decades. So guess what we heard about Governor Palin? – “She has five kids and doesn’t have time for a political career.” And, we heard that from women. We have never heard that about male candidates.

In fact, the criticism of Governor Palin descended to the level accusing her of being a poor mother because she isn’t at home caring for her family. Implicit in this tripe is the implication that Mr. Palin is ineffectual as a stay-at-home dad. How that statement could be made without any evidence boggles the mind.

Playing The Experience Card

The most interesting, and probably most one-sided attack on Governor Palin was the assertion that she had no relevant experience. Let’s take a look at that.

At both the state and federal levels, government in the United States is structured in three branches: (1) the Executive; (2) the Legislative; and (3) the Judicial. The Executive Branch runs the government just like a CEO runs a corporation. The Legislative Branch writes laws and oversees their efficacy (oversight). The legislature runs nothing. It is not responsible for the management of anything. It is not analogous to a CEO, CFO, COO, or any other management position. The judicial branch interprets and enforces the law written by the legislative branch and that’s all it does.

McCain, Obama, and Biden are all Senators in the Legislative Branch. They write laws (btw Senator Obama hadn’t even authored a bill) and engage in oversight. I repeat, they do not manage anything, they do not run a governmental organization, they are not responsible for operations. They are not, and none of them have ever been, in the executive branch of any government. They – have – no – executive branch – management – experience – whatsoever – period.

Governor Palin, on the other hand, did have executive branch experience at both the city and state levels (you’re right not a huge amount of it, but she does have it.). The office of the Presidency is the top office in the executive branch. The conclusion is actually inescapable! Governor Palin had more executive experience than all three of the male candidates!

Does this qualify Governor Palin to be Vice President of the United States? Not necessarily, but it does render the argument that she has no relevant governmental experience completely spurious. Women (including Hilary Clinton) should be universally enraged by what went on here. I certainly am and I’m not even of the female persuasion.

Setting The Flares For The Future

In the first paragraph of this hubpage, I suggested that the Sarah Palin issue transcends the 2008 presidential campaign. I don’t retreat from that statement and respectfully suggest that Sarah Palin represents a clash of honest competing female interests, points of views, desires, wants and needs, and just plain heart felt aspirations.

At the end of the day, it seems that the manner in which women handle the issue of Sarah Palin will in great part define how they, themselves, are treated in the future. This election gave us a rare opportunity to look behind the curtain of the feminist movement and what we see there was decided by the feminists themselves.

At another level, this election became a forum in which a new morality was allowed to run free. It was one in which people could and did say anything and do anything, so long as it served their agenda. It was not enough to disagree, it became necessary to destroy.

By Darwinian selection we are breeding an entire generation of politicians who don’t give a wit for the people they serve. They are, however, very, very good at innuendo, issue avoidance, responsibility avoidance, and of course, character assassination.

By our own complacency we have allowed “winning” to become the arbiter of morality. Wasn’t it Hitler who said, “The winners will decide what is right, and what is wrong.” This my friends is the beginning of fascism – a state where individuals with nonconforming  points of view are destroyed.

By October 2, of 2008 the debate between Governor Palin and Senator Biden was over. The week preceding the debate was filled with some pretty intense press, accusing Governor Palin of outright ineptitude. She was accused of not being able to answer simple questions, and some of the right wing conservatives actually suggested she step down.

I was personally afraid for her to stand toe-to-toe with Senator Biden, a man with more than three decades of experience who had spent the previous 12 months on the campaign trail, giving speeches, town hall meetings, and participating in debates with the democratic Presidential candidates.

Moreover, I was concerned for the Governor’s ability to fend off Senator Biden’s well known ability to become sarcastic and abrasive. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within a few minutes it became painfully obvious that Governor Palin was no pushover. In fact, throughout the debate the Governor emanated a quiet assurance, and a definite ability to both defend herself and to attack in an orderly and effective fashion.

At the end of the day it was clearly demonstrated that Governor Palin is no easy target and that Senator Biden was wise not to believe the press descriptions of her abilities. Prior to the debate, the Senator had said in more than one interview that he wasn’t taking the Governor lightly and that it was his intention to prepare as he would for any experienced opponent. And, in so doing Senator Biden showed Governor Palin more respect than the women’s rights organizations which should have supported her right to compete and to disagree with them.

At this point you might be asking yourself, “Why the history lesson?”  The answer is simple, it’s now 2013 and the “new politics” have settled in like concrete.  Winning is now accepted as sole arbiter of right and wrong.  Ideology has become a powerful god worshipped by politicians and reporters alike.  Innuendo and character assassination are the order of the day.  I offer you the gridlocks of the national debt, sequestrationboarder control, and gun control as supporting evidence.

And Governor Palin?  Well, she recently gave a speech at the annual CPAC convention and she still engenders the same reactions.  If you are a twitter user you might find hashtag Palin an interesting collection of comments.

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Sequestration?

By Francis Pennyworth, Jr.

In the world of politics Sequestration refers to the process of automatically employing mandatory spending cuts in the federal budget if some stated event occurs.  The automatic triggering of mandatory budget cuts is usually related to the either the annual cost of running the government,  the amount of revenue produced by the government, or some other equally relevant event.

The scary thing about sequestration is that it usually involves an indiscriminate, across the board reduction in spending by some stated amount or percentage.  Not that it helps much, there are some exemptions and/or special rules applicable to the present sequestration.

When you think about it, the whole sequester concept smacks of a heavy handed method of controlling Congress.  Kind of like forcing someone to commit suicide if they fail to live a healthy life.  Rather drastic to say the least.  Sequestration also assumes facts not in evidence,  namely that Congress has some degree of desire to negotiate a meeting of the minds.  An assumption which doesn’t work with the current Congress in which the left and right are widely separated and there is no apparent middle ground.

So how did the current sequester come to be?  Whose brain child was it?  And, how did it get passed and who the devil is responsible?

It seems to have all started with the  Budget Control Act of 2011 under which a Congressional Debt Supercommittee was created.  That supercommittee was made up of an equal number of members from both parties of the House and the Senate.  Once formed,  this supercommittee was charged with the responsibility of cutting $1.5 Trillion from the federal budget (good luck there).

A failure to agree to at least $1.2 Trillion in cuts over the next 10 years would, under the Budget Control Act of 2011, trigger automatic budget cuts according to some defined rules (i.e. the sequestration).

Of course, the Supercommittee recessed permanently in November of 2011 without reaching an agreement.  What a surprise!  This predictable failure to reach an agreement triggered sequestration budget cuts of $1.2 Trillion  to be spread out between January 2013 and October 2021.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 was signed into law by President Barack Obama on August 2, 2011 who, at the time, didn’t seem to be too worried about it.  And, in all fairness, neither did the Republicans.  In fact Speaker of the House, John Boehner, didn’t seem to be bothered by the sequestration until after the fact when he began to voice concerns about its affect on the defense budget.  A day late and a dollar short wouldn’t you say?

To make matters even stranger, President Obama, would later call the sequester a “meat cleaver” approach to the deficit which would jeopardize military readiness.  And, at the same time President Obama denied responsibility for the sequestration, the Republicans claimed that it was the President’s idea!

Really?  Is this the twilight zone?  Are we supposed to think sequester just crept into the Budget Control Act of 2011 like an undocumented immigrant?  Maybe it’s the fault of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) Nevada?  Could be!  After all he’s the guy who, back in the summer of 2011, listened to President Obama’s top aids who brought him the idea.

Wait a second!  If it was White House aids who suggested the sequestration to Speaker Reid, where did they get the idea?  They’re not supposed to sua sponte make up ideas on their own, are they?  Well we know one thing for certain (I think), these mysterious unnamed aids don’t work for the Republicans.

Maybe the answer is simple.  Bob Woodward’s book was just wrong about who met with Speaker Reid and what they said.  You’ll just have to buy your own copy of “The Price of Politics” and decide for yourself.

Lest I forget, here’s a thought for all of you conspiracy theorists.  Maybe the sequester actually was the Administration’s idea.  An idea quietly proffered with the knowledge of two things.  (1.) Sequestration would be immensely unpopular; and (2.) The Supercommittee didn’t have a bat’s chance of coming to a consensus.  Then at the 12th hour, when there would be no practical way to avoid the cuts, the Administration would launch it’s “meat clever” attack and blame the upcoming disaster on the recalcitrant ideologues in the right wing of the Republican party.

Result?  Much needed budget cuts actually happen and all of the voter displeasure falls upon the  Republicans for not agreeing to a less painful haircut.  Could it be possible?  Bob Woodward sure believes his version of the story is the correct one.  But no it all sounds like something that could only happen in Chicago or some other such rough and tumble place.  Too bad, we’ll probably never know all of the facts.

Ok, enough terpsichore.  Let’s back out of the weeds and take a look at the big picture.  This isn’t rocket science!  We spend more than we have and even 100% taxation of the wealthy won’t get us out of the problem.  Given the simplicity of the problem I think we can conclude that Congress is filled with overpaid elected officials who don’t seem to have enough sense to come in out of the rain.

So what’s the take away from all of this?  How does one explain the current fiasco?  I’m afraid I can’t.  No matter whose idea sequestration originally was, both parties ultimately agreed to it.  To put a fine point on it – Congress is  broken and I personally doubt it can be fixed.

It might actually be time to vote them all out and start over again.  Too bad we have to wait until the midterm elections.

I’d like to make some suggestions.  Maybe we should have some minimum educational requirements for admission to the federal congress.  The same goes for the Presidency.  For example, we should require a college degree in some relevant subject matter – like maybe Business or Finance?  Law degrees shouldn’t count.  I’ve got one of those degrees and it’s worthless when it comes to the nuts and bolts of management, finance, banking, and/or economics.  For purposes of understanding the economy, a B.A. degree in Business Administration is far more valuable than a Juris Doctorate.  Shouldn’t these guys at least know the difference between Keynesian and supply-side economics, as well as the history of what has and hasn’t worked.  Otherwise, aren’t we going to make the same stupid mistakes over and over again.

In addition to a minimum relevant education shouldn’t there be some some minimum real life job experience requirements related to the desired position?  Maybe state legislative experience should be required before someone runs for a seat in the federal Congress.  As for the Presidency, it’s a management position and we should require actual management experience.  Possibly Mid Cap or larger corporate management experience and/or experience as a state governor.

If you owned a business grossing a billion dollars a year, would you hire a person to run it who had no previous management experience whatsoever?  If you had the opportunity to establish the rules of the environment in which your business would operate, would you hire a rule maker who didn’t have a working knowledge of finance and macro economics.  How do you think Bill Gates, Oprah, Warren Buffett, Larry Page or Sergey Brin would answer these questions?  When placed in its proper perspective it makes you wonder what we’re doing.

Other People’s Money

by Francis Pennyworth, Jr.

A couple of weeks ago I saw what purported to be a real time calculation of our national debt.  I wanted to write the total down, but the numbers were going up so fast it was literally impossible.  Suffice it say the total debt was just this side of 17 trillion dollars.  Some of you might say it’s old news, but for me the reality of what I was seeing really slammed home and I haven’t been able to get those blurred numbers out of my mind.

A few days later, I heard a Senator explaining angrily that she wasn’t going to cut her budget any more and despite what we hear on Fox News, Congress does not have a spending problem.  A short while later Ms. Pelosi opined that the deficit isn’t the result of out of control spending, instead, it springs from the fact that the wealthy aren’t paying their fair share of taxes.  Gee, maybe that’s why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t need to pass a budget.  He already knows what he wants to spend and like Ms. Pelosi said, spending isn’t the problem.

Could Pelosi and Reid actually be wrong?  A few seconds of research disclosed a Washington Times article reporting that the wealthy pay 70% of all taxes!  Don’t the statistics make their own statement about who pays their fair share?  For example, in 2009, the top 10% of earners paid 71% of all taxes even though they earned 43% of the income.  Is that a fair share?  At the same time the bottom 50% of earners paid only 2% of income taxes while earning 13% of the income.  Nearly 50% of earners paid no taxes at all!

The facts make you wonder exactly how Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid define the term “fair share.”  What exactly are the characteristics of a “fair share?”  The meaning of the adjective fair is pretty straight forward.  It basically means to be treated equally.  Proportionately, on the other hand, means to keep the same relationship of size or amount to something else.  A fair share of taxes would require that the wealthy be treated equally and that’s not what’s happening.  Maybe Ms. Pelosi, et al, meant to use the term “proportionate share” of taxes, because I don’t think “fair share” describes what’s really happening.  “Fair share” is being to look like one of those artfull misuse of words.  Kind of reminds you if “undocumented immigrant” doesn’t it.

Think about it.  The wealthy don’t use the public streets more than anyone else.  They pay for the utilities they consume.  They pay for their food, they pay for the chattels they purchase.  Every time the wealthy purchase something tangible they pay sales tax.  If they own real estate they pay property taxes.  When the wealthy pay their employees they pay employer withholding etc. etc.  In fact as you drill down into the issue it becomes obvious that a large poor family consumes more far more entitlements than their wealthy brethren.

Maybe we should do the research before we string these people up.  The wealthy clearly pay a disproportionate share of income taxes, and indeed if they live in the wrong state (e.g. California) they only get to keep about 36 cents out of every dollar they make.  I suspect that if you were told you could only keep 36 cents out of every dollar you might feel like you weren’t being treated fairly.  But then what do I know.  You can always find a wealthy guy who says he wants to pay more in taxes.  Then it occurs to you that they could pay more anytime they want.  The IRS won’t tear up their check.  What’s going on?

We should also remember that virtually all of the charitable donations to charities in this country are the result of some wealthy person’s desire to help.  Do the research.  Warren Buffett might have paid taxes at a lower rate than his secretary (long term capital gains vs ordinary income) but at the same time he gave $3.1 billion away in charity.  Makes you wonder why he didn’t just pay his secretary’s income instead of giving away $3.1 billion.  For that matter, why didn’t he give his $3.1 billion to the IRS?  Could it be Mr. Buffett felt like he could spend his money more wisely that the federal government?

According to President Obama it’s “patriotic” for the wealthy to want to pay more in taxes.  What does that really mean?  Because it sounds like the President is saying that it’s unpatriotic for a wealthy person to want to pay a fair share instead of a proportionate share.  There I go with the tricky words again.  Sorry.

Let’s back out of the weeds for a moment and recap what we’ve got.  We have a national deficit approaching 17 trillion dollars.   We have a Senate which refuses to pass a budget or even consider one.  We have a President who thinks it’s unpatriotic not to want to pay more taxes.  We have powerful politicians telling us with straight faces that there is nothing wrong with the federal government’s addiction to spending and that the deficit is all the fault of the unpatriotic wealthy who won’t pay a larger share of the income taxes.

How about this?  What if we just took everything the wealthy earn?  I mean every nickel – 100% taxation.  Gee, by the President’s way of thinking that would be super patriotic wouldn’t it?  But would it cover the deficit?  No.  Not even close.  Even in the face of the mathematical realities the prevailing view in Washington is that spending doesn’t have to be cut!  Unbelievable!  How do these people make it through the day unassisted?

If the directors of a publically traded corporation managed their finances like our government does we would see shareholder derivative suits for malfeasance popping out of the woodwork left and right.

The more subtle part of all of this and possibly in the long run the most destructive, is the class warfare which is being promoted by the powers that be.  It seems to me that “wealthy” used to be a good thing.  Success and the achievement of wealth used to be the goal of every American.  And, the fact that it could happen here was the key to America’s achievement and desirability as a country.  At least that’s the way I remember it.  When we were growing up we didn’t aspire to be on welfare.  We were trying our level best to get ahead.

Isn’t it obvious?  We’ve forgotten where we came from!  Now we have a whole generation of politicians who believe that their climb to power requires the exploitation of the human failing of envy.  To hear them tell it, all of the wealthy got wealthy by cheating you.  The wealthy won’t pay their fair share.  The wealthy aren’t patriotic.  It’s because of the wealthy that your entitlements have to be cut.  You’ll never get ahead because the wealthy are holding you back.  Your only hope is a large federal government which will hold you, and shelter you, and take care of you.  You don’t have to work hard, the  government will give you food stamps and welfare and free medical care.  Your government will protect and nourish you.  All you have to do is surrender your ambition.   Forget trying to work for yourself, and give up your willingness to work hard.  For heaven’s sake don’t rely on yourself when you can rely on Big Brother.

For me the take-away is simple.  Contrary to what Samuel Clemens may have thought the members of Congress aren’t idiots.  They watched the news and saw the anti-austerity protests in Greece, France, Spain, Wisconsin, and elsewhere.  And they’ve figured out that people don’t like to get their entitlements cut, even when their government has flat run out of money.  So the politicians who aren’t brain dead are refusing to touch that third rail.  Instead, they are playing to our most base emotions – hence the class warfare and hatred of the wealthy.  Let’s get more money from the rich guys so we don’t have to make any adjustments to the entitlements.  They say this even when the math clearly tells them that even if we robbed everything the wealthy earn it wouldn’t be enough!

You might want to read William Baldwin’s article then ask yourself whether or not the private sector workers are outnumbered by the people who are dependent on the federal government.  But be careful who you share your conclusions with, Mr. Romney expressed some thoughts on the subject and we can see what it did for him.

I Stole It – Now It’s Mine!

by Francis Pennyworth, Jr.

I supported Ronald Reagan’s amnesty program which was supposed to manage our borders, and control the massive influx of illegal aliens.  Not only did the program fail, it’s holy grail of  “amnesty” became a powerful magnet drawing people into the warm glow of its promise.  And now, we are once again faced with the same vexing problems.

The only exception is that today’s narrative is different than that of 1986.  Now when I hear the pundits talk about “immigration reform” an unpleasant allegory immediately comes to mind.

It goes something like this.  Let’s suppose you have a wonderful solid gold Rolex watch.  The type of watch that’s priceless; a thing to covet – so valuable as to be beyond the reach of five out of six people on the face of the earth.  Then, one night while you’re sleeping I slip into your home, tip toe into your bedroom and take the watch while a few feet away you lie happily asleep.

A few years later we cross paths and you recognize your watch which I’m wearing on my left wrist.  You immediately demand the return of your Rolex.  At this point, most of us would agree your reaction is quite reasonable.

Unfortunately I see things differently than you, and I’m not about to return your watch.

Filled with righteous indignation I lecture you on the reasonableness of my theft.  After all, I couldn’t ever afford a Rolex and I was only trying to improve my life.  How can you fault me for that?  Why in heaven’s name would you try to keep someone from improving themselves?  Don’t you have any compassion for your fellow human being?

Think about it.  I took the watch years ago, and I’ve grown used to wearing a Rolex.  It’s part of me now – the only life I know.  In fact, I’ve worn it so long I now speak Rolex, as do my wife and children.   The Rolex helped me get a job and become a productive citizen.   You can’t penalize me for improving my life.  Can you?  Besides, somewhere back in your family history someone stole something that helped get you here.  In the final analysis we’re all thieves aren’t we?  That makes it all good, doesn’t it?  I mean if everyone does it, it can’t be bad.

Then as you begin to shake your head in disagreement I jam my finger into your chest, lean in close to your face and in a low accusatory tone say, “You’re a racist aren’t you?  Because if you weren’t a racist you’d let me steal your watch.  Oh, and by the way.  It’s not theft, it’s just a transfer of ownership!”  Obviously offended, I start to walk away then struck by a revelation, I stop in mid-stride, spin around angrily, point to the Rolex and shout, “And! By the Way, the transfer wasn’t illegal, it was just undocumented!”

Sound strangely familiar?   Of course it does.  We hear the drum beat of this strange make-weight logic on a daily basis.  The repetition doesn’t validate the argument, and the careful manipulation of the words used to describe the situation can never change the facts.  If you aren’t here legally,  you’re here illegally.  If you’re a citizen of another country then vis a vis the United States you’re an alien.  Hence the descriptor, “illegal alien.”  It isn’t a pejorative, it’s a fact.  The slight of hand embodied in the phrase “undocumented immigrant” doesn’t even remotely take us in the direction of a viable solution.  And, quite frankly, I find the deception offensive and so should you.  Why?  Because it infers that we are too stupid to know the difference.

Of course, if you’re an ideologue chained to a private agenda, you were calling me a racist by the end of the second paragraph, and I’ve lost you.  If, on the other hand, you’re a compassionate person who feels torn between sympathy for the human condition and concern for your country then maybe this article will at least help bring the issues into focus.

The problem I’m seeing is that the damage caused by our porous borders isn’t limited to just the theft of the benefits of American citizenship.  The damage is much more insidious than that.  For example, you may not realize it, but Emergency Rooms are required by Federal law to treat all patients who need critical care.  And an ER is absolutely required to provide this critical care treatment even if the patient is unable to pay.  Legal status may not be considered when deciding whether or not to treat, and if you were an illegal alien who required immediate care where would you go?  Obviously you would go to an ER where they couldn’t turn you away.  That is exactly what has happened (in a very big way).  According to the CDC, between 1990 and 2006 the number of ER visits rose from 90.3 million to 119.2 million per year.  That’s about 20 million new people who seem to have just popped out of the woodwork.  Not a small number to be sure.

The effect of this people tsunami is that virtually one out of every four ERs in the United States was driven out of business between 1990 and 2007.  By 2009 another 27% had gone out of business.

It gets worse.  When an ER closes the people it served don’t just go away.  They go to another ER triggering a domino effect of closures.  The sad thing is that the poor are the most directly impacted.  By not controlling the flow of illegal aliens we are placing American citizens in a position where critical care is becoming hard to find.  This is just one of a large number of unintended consequences to our failure to control and organize our borders.

The much vaunted Obama Care program will do nothing to correct the ER problem.  While it’s proponents swear the system won’t be swallowed up by the illegal alien population, there seems to no citizenship requirement in the required qualifications.  How large might that problem be?  Well the illegal alien population has been estimated, on the low side, to be in the neighborhood of 11.2 million  people (some say 20 million) not counting their children, who may or may not have been born in the United States.

As constituted, Obama Care will force the existing medical system to handle the currently insured citizens, plus another 20 million currently uninsured Americans, plus another potential 11 million illegal aliens all at the same or lower cost, without adding a single new hospital or doing anything to increase the number of doctors and/or nurses.  Good luck with that.  If that doesn’t make you want to stop and take a deep breath nothing will.  But then according to Ms. Pelosi we had to pass the bill in order to know what was in it.

Oh, and how about the good old public school system?  Unless you live in a sound proof bunker you will know that our public grade school system is completely free.  And, you don’t have to prove you are an American citizen to go to school here.  All you have to do is be a kid and show up for class.  I’d say that was pretty neat.  Especially if you come from a country where a sizable number of people still live on dirt floors.

Without getting sucked into a discussion of the quality of our public schools, let’s go straight to the bottom line.  Our public schools are paid for by property taxes.  Property taxes are paid by property owners.  Far more people rent than own, and renters don’t pay property taxes.  The cost of our school system exceeded the taxes collected a very long time ago.  As a result, some states turned to Lottos to increase their supply of money for schools.  Unfortunately, even Lotto proceeds are too little and too late.  So we have American citizens sitting in over crowded classrooms enjoying a substandard education even without the added pressure of the children of illegal aliens.  Again we find that our poor and low income families are taking the brunt of the damage.  What’s the moral of the story?  You can’t put 10 pounds of people into a 5 pound bag.

There is also the anecdotal argument that illegal aliens work hard and pay their taxes.  An interesting point which I am sure is true at least in part.  However let me respond with something equally anecdotal.  The wire services and multi national banks are making a fortune transferring funds to foreign countries for a reason.  A lot of these transfers are monies earned here and sent back to families in other countries.  Generally that’s not a bad thing, I might even do it myself if the roles were reversed.  On the other hand it doesn’t help our economy much and to the extent that taxes aren’t paid it’s a problem for the rest of us.

By the way, how do you pay income taxes if you don’t have a valid Social Security Number?  It must be easy if all of the illegal aliens are doing it.  I’m sorry I couldn’t resist the sarcasm.  Let’s just agree to footnote the alleged fact that all illegal aliens are paying all of their taxes with a question mark.

Shifting gears to another subject – what about our need to control the transmission of serious diseases into this country?  When the flow of people is unrestricted and unchecked we allow serious diseases like tuberculosis to invade our population.  You should know that the rate of TB infections among foreign-born persons in the United States has been documented to be twelve  times greater than among U.S. born persons.  Not surprisingly, in 2011 California, Florida, New York and Texas accounted for more than half of all of the TB cases reported.  Gee, do you wonder why that might be?

Enough about diseases.  I’m sure we could find a lot of data suggesting that it is not in our best interests to allow a system which fails to identify and cure communicable diseases in aliens before they’re granted entry into the country.  At least I think I’m sure.  You never know these days.

What about terrorists?  Remember those guys?  It seems that virtually anyone can take a wade across the Rio Grande and by noon the next day be eating lunch on the River Walk in San Antonio.  On the other hand, if you don’t mind snow or mosquitoes you could walk in from Canada.  Heck, you can even fly in on a tourist visa or a student permit and just stay.  Gee, do you actually think all of this is lost on al-Qaeda?  If porous borders don’t frighten you, we need to get you checked for a heart beat.  What else needs to be said?  Control of our borders is a matter of national security.

Even if we don’t elevate the problem to the level of national security think about “what” as opposed to “who” is coming across our borders.  You name it.  Drugs, guns and/or any form of contraband you can think of.  Let’s keep it simple.  How about guns?  We’re in the middle of a major national debate about gun control.  The size of magazines and the type of action (semi-auto vs. auto) are being hotly discussed.  Let’s say we outlaw magazines holding more than 10 shots and we outlaw the sale of automatic military style rifles.  What do you think is going to happen?  Every Tom, Dick and Harry will be rushing down to Venezuela to buy up Kalashnikov assault weapons from Mr. Chavez’s factory.  Who do you think is going to purchase those weapons – law abiding citizens, or the bad guys who could care less about legalities?  That should at least make the gun control crowd unhappy.

There is always the employment thing.  The pro free-for-all crowd argues that illegal aliens are only taking jobs Americans don’t want.  I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that our American high school and college students are hard pressed to find a summer job of any kind.

Oh yes, I almost forgot crime.  According to NewsMax, in 2007 approximately 40% of the prison population in California was made up of illegal aliens.  And, according to the Federal Bureau of Prison Statistics up to a third of the federal prison population is composed of non-citizens.  Of course they aren’t all illegal.  Investor’s Business Daily has opined that once illegal aliens arrive here they are 50% more likely to be on welfare than citizens.  If these stats are only half right it’s not a good thing.

To borrow from the Buffalo Springfield, it’s time to, “Look what’s going down.”  Our borders are so porous they’re virtually nonexistent.  The Federal government is refusing to enforce the current laws and beyond that is suing those state governments which have taken it upon themselves to protect their citizenry.   Our border patrol is prosecuted by our own government and told not to do their jobs as defined in existing laws.  The Attorney General’s office gives the appearance of attempting to defeat the purpose of the borders and seems disinclined to protect the sovereignty of America.  Now the powers that be are arguing that illegal aliens should be given driver’s licenses.  Which is about all you need to vote.  Hyperbole?  Maybe, but you must admit it’s uncomfortably close to the truth.

Why is all of this happening?  Really?  Why does our government refuse to control our borders?  What is going on?  Can the problem be that difficult to understand?  Are the issues so complex as to befuddle our brightest leaders?  I doubt it.

It seems pristinely clear that it is critical to our best interests as a nation to control our borders and to modulate the flow of immigrants into this country.  It should be obvious that aside from the national security issues the most directly damaged segment of our population are low income and poverty level families who are in greatest need of the safety nets being consumed by illegal aliens.

The only answer to the question of why this situation hasn’t been corrected, that I can think of, is less than flattering to either political party.

Think about it.  The illegal alien population represents millions of new voters.  In this context it is useful to remember that the popular vote in the 2012 presidential election was 65,367,939 to 60,707,106.  It should be clear that the political party which captures these new immigrant votes will be positioned to hold power for a very long time.  From another prospective the illegal alien population represents a massive labor force willing to work at a discount.  The value of that to U.S. business should be intuitively obvious.  I fear that the conflict of interest for either political party is just too great to be disregarded.

So what do we do?  I don’t have the answers, but I do have some thoughts which aren’t detailed enough to qualify as suggestions..

Let’s close our borders sufficiently to prevent anyone from entering without our knowledge and permission.  Recall that the failure to control our borders was the fatal defect in the Reagon amnesty plan.  The failure to control our borders is the single most important factor bringing us  to where we find ourselves today.

True control over our borders will have a profound effect on the supply of illegal drugs, the smuggling of weapons, the survival of our health care system, the amount of crime in our streets, the composition of our prison populations, and the consumption of welfare, food stamps and other safety net programs intended to benefit our own poor and underprivelged citizens.  Then, of course, there is the benefit to national security.

Under no circumstance would I trust our extant politicians to make the determination that our borders are under control.  That responsibility should be placed in the hands of a carefully vetted Border Control Committee made up of individuals selected from the rank and file of relevant law enforcement agencies and bureaus, as well as state and federal military.  I would also require that 75% of the committee members must agree before the committee could authorize the implementation of any border program.  Part of this initial set of controls must include the creation of a sophisticated database of who belongs here, who doesn’t belong here, and who is applying to come here.

While the border control process was occurring the process of identifying and documenting all illegal aliens within our borders should begin.  Those individuals who fail to fully document themselves within a reasonable period of time would be forever barred from legal status.  The newly documented applicants could then be channeled into either a redefined work permit system or a redefined immigration process.  At the same time the anchor baby law should be rescinded.  All other enticements to enter the country illegally should also be removed.  For example, welfare, food stamps, Obama care, access to public schools, employment, etc.. should only be available to citizens, documented aliens applying for citizenship, and/or authorized individuals living here pursuant to a valid work permit.

A key to the success of such a program is the development of a reliable universal method of identifying people.  The work permit program must be an expedited process whereby the worker is reliably identified and documented into a database.  Any employer willfully failing to clear and register their employees through this system should be subject to very significant civil and possibly criminal penalties.

The immigration process must also be expedited and available to illegal aliens already within our borders who have complied with the registration process.  The trigger for initiating the new work and immigration programs would be a decision by the Border Control Committee that the borders had been in fact been  “controlled.”  To approach it any other way puts the cart before the horse.

The conflicts of interest are so great, I fear we will never extricate ourselves from this mess.  Where are the American patriots who simply want treat the problem equitably, compassionately and with an eye toward what is best for this country?

 

 

Common Sense

by Francis Pennyworth, Jr.

I was heartily disappointed when, in the shadow of the evil that visited Sandy Hook, we were suddenly and aggressively bombarded by the gun control ideologues.  Shame.  This was a time when we should have been giving space to those grieving for their loved ones, so that they might have a measure of peace within which to heal their souls.  Instead, the politics began immediately and we heard the hue and cry for gun control.

Frankly, the timing of the gun control onslaught smacked of a patent attempt to capitalize on the nation’s grief.  It was as if the advocates of gun control had been waiting for an atrocity of sufficient magnitude which might get the better of our judgement, and cause us to act precipitously out of emotion, as opposed to intellect.

As I listened to the growing cacophony, I began to worry that we might actually allow ourselves to become the tools of those who would promote gun control as a panacea for all firearm related  crimes.

It didn’t help when Mr. Biden, a long standing and relentless gun control advocate, was flipped the task of making recommendations to the President.  The bias involved was only thinly disguised as the news outlets leaked, drop by drop, some of Mr. Biden’s thoughts.  Little things, like using Executive Orders instead of laws which must be debated and voted upon by our legislature.

Some of the intelligencia in our foremost law schools even began murmuring about getting rid of the Constitution, which they opined was antiquated and “evil.”  So much for the Second Amendment.

Then, in a speech perfectly timed much like a surfer who waits for a wave until he is actually lifted by the swell, President Obama finally shared his thoughts.

Now even though I didn’t vote for this man, and in all honesty don’t “get” his politics, I was encouraged – at least for a moment.  Why?  Because I heard him say three simple words, “reasonable” and “common sense.”  To my way of thinking the President had put his finger on the exact problem.  Reasonableness and common sense are good things.  And so, for a couple of days I thought to myself I was probably wrong about what was going on, that is, until I realized that the words “reasonable” and “common sense” are subject to many and varied interpretations.  In other words, they are vague and ambiguous.

After all, ambiguity is the camouflage of those who obfuscate.  Ambiguity is that shadowy grey world where anything can be anything, and nothing has objective substance.  Do I sound bitter?  I hope not because I’m not bitter, I’m just stunned by the open manipulation of our political system and our populace, by an anointed few.

Without becoming completely lost in the weeds let’s examine the ideologue’s use of “reasonable common sense” measures to control gun related homicides.  Consider the following.

We are told it is quite reasonable for a few select Mayors to take it upon themselves to demand that banks refuse to do business with law abiding gun manufacturers.  We are also told it’s reasonable for our President to use Executive Orders instead of legislation to further his agenda.

We are told that it is just common sense to ban the sale of “assault” weapons even though there is no intelligible definition of the word “assualt”.  These same people seem to believe that anything which looks “military” needs to be banned.  And that the capacity of clips must be restricted to some magic number (5, 7 or 10 bullets depending on where you might live.) thereby insuring that the bad guys will have more bullets than the good guys.

Never mind that these “assault” weapons are long guns and that the majority of gun crimes involve hand (short) guns.  Never mind that none of these guns are “automatic”, indeed, it is unclear whether or not the ideologues even understand the difference between automatic and semi-automatic actions. Never mind that such laws will only affect the honest, sane, law abiding citzens.  Never mind that the Second Amendment does not require a justification for the posession of a weapon.  It’s gun control and it’s all good.

We are also told, with great authority, that the statisics mandate these gun controls.  The only problem is the statistics we now gather only serve to cloud the important issues.  For example, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), in 2009 there were approximately 31,347 deaths attributed to firearms, or about 10.2 per 100,000 in population.  In the same time period there were 34,485 motor vehicle traffic deaths and 41,592 deaths by poisoning.  Taken by themselves these numbers tell us almost nothing.  For example, of the firearm related deaths, the CDC reports that 18,735 of the deaths were suicides and 11,493 were homicides.  Without drowning in the details, suffice it to say that homicides by firearm in the United States in 2009 were a fraction of the deaths resulting from other instrumentalities such as vehicle accidents and poisoning.  This fact has not changed in any significant way over time.

Why point this out?  Because it shows us how misleading the statistics can be.  Not only are we being mislead as to the true relative size of the problem we have learned absolutely nothing about causation.  If we use these stats to contruct an instrumentality-based logic, which supports gun control, we will also be constructing a narrative which would support the outlawing of vehicles, poisonous chemicals, knives, bows and arrows, gasoline, fertilizer, fuel oil, glass bottles, etc., etc., ad nauseam.  It’s a failure to recognize the difference between correlation and causation and, it flies in the face of common sense.

You disagree?  Maybe you shouldn’t.  By the logic of the argument, aren’t all of these items responsible for deaths just like guns?  Think about it.  If we remove all vehicles we’ll save 35,000 or more lives a year.

Of course this suggestion is nonsense.  Why?  Because mere instrumentalities don’t have a mind of their own.  Steak knives, unless possessed by poltergeists, simply don’t kill people.  And neither do guns.  Yes, I know you’ve heard this before, however, think for a moment – what is the one common factor in the CDC statistics for knife deaths, traffic deaths and gun deaths?  It’s people!  Not vehicles, not knives and not guns!

Common sense dictates that instead of continuing the useless, unceasing arguments we should be constructing a data suite designed to disclose the causative factors of these homicides and their respective rates of occurrence.

I submit to you that it doesn’t occur to us to remove vehicles, or knives, or gasoline from society.  Instead we address the issue of causation.  For example, in the case of vehicles, research and common sense observation have suggested that maturity, training and lack of impairment etc. are accident causing factors in vehicle use.  As a result, our approach to the use of vehicles seeks to address the causative factors instead of the instrumentality.  In other words, we don’t outlaw Lamborghini’s (a very fast car) instead we pass laws to make sure the driver is properly trained, tested and licensed.  We handle airplanes, trains and large boats the same way.

Why don’t we apply this same rational approach to weapons?  The answer is simple.   There is a sizable number of people who see no value whatsoever in the constitutionally protected right to bear arms.  In fact, some of these ideologues don’t even find value in the Constitution itself.  And, whether well intended or not, this group of people seeks to impose its will on everyone else.  Because of this political agenda we are becoming lost in the weeds.  Instead of addressing the causative factors of gun murders we waste our time arguing about the size of a clip, or the presence of a tripod.

The intensity of the argument has surpassed the irrational.  Within a few days of this writing an east coast newpaper known as the Journal News went so far as to publish the addresses of local gun owners.  This short sighted attempt at intimidation accomplished nothing, and only served to provide a road map to unprotected homes for those who might be planning robberies.  It’s a marvel to behold the extremes of dedicated zealots.

The hallmark argument of this pro-control group is, “Why do you need a semi-automatic weapon?”  The question is totally irrelevant to the issue!  The right to bear arms is just that, a right!   And, this right is not conditioned upon needNeed is simply not in issue.  To engage in this type of constitutional erosion is the mother of all slippery slopes.  Ultimately it will lead to questions like, “Why do we need people over 65 years of age?” or “Why do you need a 24 ounce coke?”  Oh, I forgot.  It’s already been decided for us that we can’t drink 24 ounce cokes.

“Why do you need … ?” could be the subject of an entire book and absolutely none of it would, in a productive way, address the relevant causative factors of crimes involving guns.

I submit to you that a man who is not inclined to commit murder will not be persuaded to do so just because he’s holding a fully automatic weapon.  Nor does the absence of a fully automatic weapon make it substantially harder to kill a room full of people all at once.  Timothy McVeigh is a case in point.  Think about it.  It’s common sense.  Let’s try to find the guys who are inclined to commit murder before they find us, because its damn sure that disarming the good guys isn’t going to help any of us.

Where are the statistics pulling out the factors of emotional maturity, training and mental impairment?  Why aren’t we breaking down the causative factors on an incident-by-incident basis so that we can address the situation intelligently?

Shouldn’t our objective be the reduction of homicides, as opposed to a witch hunt for the instrumentality used?  Can’t one instrumentality be easily replaced by another?  If you take away the bow and arrow can’t it be quickly replaced with a bottle of gasoline and a burning rag?  Doesn’t it make more sense to focus on the causation of the violence?  Isn’t the instrumentality used merely coincidental to the act of murder?  Just a thought.

Stiffer penalties for the violation of gun control laws are a demonstrably failed approach.   Once a person has decided to commit a homicide, ostensibly that person has also decided to commit the violence and has accepted the punishment of death.  Given that fact, what in God’s creation causes us to think that super strict gun control laws will be a deterrent?  If the bad actor is already willing to die, why would a few more laws prohibiting the possession of a gun be a deterrent?  Obviously it wouldn’t.

Can you think of some of the unintended consequences of completely outlawing guns?  How about this?  We can reasonably assume that law abiding citizens wouldn’t break the law.  But as we’ve just realized, the bad actors will have no reason not to.  Result: The bad actors have weapons and the good guys don’t.  Does that work for you?

This might be a good place to remind you that the police are a responding force whose job is to show up  after the crime has been committed.  For those who are still confused, that would be many minutes after you needed to defend yourself and your family.

The problem with genuine tragedy is that it screams for immediate action.  The more heinous the act, the greater the sorrow, and the more ferocious the hysteria to immediately take steps to prevent a reoccurrence.

As a father and grandfather I cannot conceive of a greater sorrow than that of the recent massacre of innocence at Sandy Hook, Connecticut.  But as I listen to the news and I hear the pundits ask, “Why do we need semi-automatic weapons?” and “Why do we need rifles like the Bushmaster?”  I get sick to my stomach.  Off we go on another meaningless treasure hunt!  The ideologues are once again seizing the opportunity to impose their will on everyone else.

Why can’t we set aside the private agendas and stop focusing on the instrumentalities?  Let’s concentrate on the causative factors of gun murders, and within that focus we might find the bits and pieces, and beginnings of a rational and reasonable solution.  Let’s go back to basics such as maturity, training, mental impairment and/or any other factor we can reasonably identify, quantify, and control.

What are the forms of mental impairment (chemical or otherwise) which might cause an occurrence like Sandy Hook?  Can those conditions or propensities be recognized in advance?  If so how?  How prevalent are these conditions in our population?  Can we reliably test for them?  Are there behavioral traits we should be looking for?  And, why aren’t we gathering the information which might help us prioritize the causative factors?

What are the behavioral warning signs that presage this type of violence?  What requirements/responsibilities can reasonably be placed upon parents vis a vis the mental condition of their children/dependents?  What reasonable requirements/standards can be placed on the storage and safekeeping of weapons.  Can weapons be so personalized as to be rendered unusable to anyone but the authorized owner?  What liability might be assessed for the failure to comply with those requirements/standards?  The questions to be answered are endless and to make matters worse, no one appears to be looking for the answers.

Shame on us for the disingenuous politics!  Take a close look at our elected officials.  Do you see how they scramble for the bragging rights of being the first to propose some nonsensical gun law?  I respectfully suggest that they breath through their noses, sit down, and read the recent blog by Lisa Long entitled, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother: A Mom’s Perspective The Mental Illness Conversation In America.”  It’s an important read.

Let’s take this dialog to a place that actually addresses the problem.  Lisa Long said it best when she wrote, “… it’s easy to talk about guns.  But it’s time to talk about mental illness.”