Yes 2016 is different from 2008 but some things are not

There are several major differences between 2008 and 2016, and no I’m not referring to how bad the job market had gotten by 2008.  I don’t blame President George W. Bush.  There were factors within his control, within the control of Congress, but the country is no longer isolated and no entity can control every event and stop the proverbial butterfly from flapping its wings.  I’ll let y’all in on a secret that shouldn’t be a secret.  It’s true that Mitch McConnell did not make his “one term” statement about Barack Obama until 2010.

It was September 2009, however, when Joe Wilson shouted “you lie,” and Louie Gohmert wore his ridiculous “what bill” sign hanging from his neck.  Even before Barack Obama took the oath of office, it was obstructionism, not opposition.  As per his predecessors in the Oval Office, only John Quincy Adams faced similar sabotage of our government, and like his Dad did not attend the inauguration of his successor.  Still both father and son continued to work for the good of this country after their presidencies just as George H.W. and George W. Bush.

Barack Obama appears to be of the same attitude.

In his fourth press conference in a week of sounding out to Americans and world leaders what he thinks they should think about President-elect Donald Trump, Obama urged congressional Democrats not to follow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) model of lockstep resistance against him eight years ago, but to quickly activate all over the country and avoid “micro-targeting.”

“I want to be respectful of the office and give the president-elect an opportunity to put forward his platform and his arguments without somebody popping off in every instance,” Obama said, but “as an American citizen who cares deeply about our country, if there are issues that have less to do with the specifics of some legislative proposal or battle but go to core questions about our values and our ideals, and if I think that it’s necessary or helpful for me to defend those ideals, then I’ll examine it when it comes.”

Still the conservative and alt-right media along with its followers find fault with President Obama’s statement.  Is it because Americans are not supposed to speak out and to follow blindly?

Was Barack Obama perfect?  Of course not.

What strikes me about the opposition to President Obama, however, is few can cite the EOs, EMs, EAs that he actually issued which they oppose.  I’m not even referring to knowing the differences between the three, but just the subject.  Some of these issues existed long before Barack Obama took office, and many more were more akin to “tilting at windmills” in Don Quixote lore.

Most of the conservative and alt-right media and its fans tend to cite stuff that never happened or stuff that had to be done based upon conditions set prior to his presidency in their criticisms

Most from this side fail to differentiate between an issue where the US was the sole operative versus one where the US was one of many involved.

I admit that much of what I’m contending about the opposition to Barack Obama can also be said of the opposition to George W. Bush.

Society has become that polarized, and fewer and fewer seem willing to acknowledge both positives and negatives. Both individuals as President of the United States made mistakes, but I find it difficult to consider either as anti-American.

It’s not that all Americans are supposed to follow blindly as some of the more vocal proponents of Donald Trump have been asserting, but with Barack Obama it’s difficult to not admit that race has played a role in how he has been perceived.

Many people, regardless of where they might be on an ideology scale, become disheveled at the mention of race.  They think race is an excuse or some type of easy out.

My point is that if race were an excuse or easy, we would not be having discussions about race relations today.  Whether things happen in the darkness or beneath a spotlight; whether words are whispered or shouted from the rooftops, racial issues have been and will continue to play a role in our lives.

Why?  My opinion is that we as adults somehow lose the knowledge and wisdom of the smallest of children.  At one time all of us had that ability to overcome such shortcomings, but as we got older, albeit to differing degrees, we either forget or lose the ability.  Why?  I wish someone would tell me.

From Scott Woods Makes Lists:

“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes Black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you.

Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another, and so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe.

It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.”

Admittedly, I know next to nothing about Mr. Woods except that he and I have different skin colors.  He describes an ugly topic eloquently, and I cannot say that I disagree even though I’m looking from a different perspective.

Using the term racism does not label either you or me as people who hate.  Just for the sake of argument, leave race out and think only in terms of privilege.  We are all born with certain privileges.  While I had food and shelter as an infant, I never had the physical attributes to say play in the NFL.  I never had the ability to be a great musician or artist even if I had been immersed within that environment as babe.

With that perspective I’ll expand upon Mr. Woods’s thoughts so that another aspect, discrimination, is considered.

Discrimination may know race; it may know gender; it may know identity; shape; size; it is another creation that manifests itself throughout multiple layers.  Discrimination imbues us all, and the stains cannot be washed away.

Consider my birth state of Louisiana.  Attorney General Jeff Landry and a growing number of Republicans in the state legislature are suing Governor John Bel Edwards because they are “unhappy” with an executive order that adds protections against discrimination and harassment.  Specifically, the protections offered against discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender, race, religion, et al, now include the same protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender state government workers.

Look at the Executive Order:

“No state agencies, departments, offices, commissions, boards, entities or officers of the State of Louisiana shall harass or discriminate on the basis of….”

“All contracts for the purchase of services by any state agencies, departments, offices, commissions, boards, entities, or officers of the state of Louisiana shall be awarded without discrimination on the basis of….”

“Further, all such contracts shall include a provision that the contractor shall not discriminate on the basis [of]….”

I don’t know what’s sadder:

A) that governmental policies have to include such statements because honestly we should not tolerate harassment and discrimination.

B) that the AG along with a cackle of state legislators who campaign against safety net programs, argue that others have removed God from the public square, yet promote a message of no special treatment, and let the “best” succeed, are suing to allow discrimination and harassment for others.

Could it be that they really do not “hate” people in the LGBT community?  Could it be because some people are not racists because we do not “hate” someone with a different skin color?  Could it be that we are not bigots and so on?

I wonder if Mr. Landry and his fellow plaintiffs fear having the privilege they have always been afforded removed.

It’s like Mr. Woods alluded to with racism.  It isn’t simple and easily understood because it is multi-faceted and exists throughout multiple generations.

To explain using my own style of verbiage.

Some of us have been awarded a running start while others must begin their race after getting set in the starting block.  Think of the race taking place on a football field.  Some of us because of things in the past, not of our doing, only have to travel 10 yards to reach the endzone while others must travel 40, 60, or 99 yards to reach that endzone.  Still more have to find a way to make it out onto the field before they can even see the endzone.

Nothing will ever make it possible for everyone to start from the same point.  We should not pull those who start ahead of us back.  We should try to catch up with those who are ahead.  We should try to assist and to encourage those who start behind us.

Often where we end depends upon where we started.

I may have rambled with the combinations of 2008, 2016, racism, and discrimination along with Barack Obama, Donald Trump, George W. Bush, John Bel Edwards, and Jeff Landry.  Sadly, the topics and individuals are connected.

What does this mean to me?

People are people, nothing more and nothing less.  We are different, yet we are all the same.

I’m concerned because when we combine what has never been solved with a decreasing knowledge and perhaps even a decreasing interest in the study of history and people, where do we go?

Historically, the precedents are scary.

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Sandy Hook Ruling Uproar

So many people I know are upset about a ruling handed down yesterday by Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis concerning the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings back in 2012.

“Lawyers for Remington Arms sought to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the federal law shields gun manufacturers from most lawsuits over criminal use of their products. They said Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act after determining such lawsuits were an abuse of the legal system.

Judge Bellis ruled Thursday that argument would be best made in a motion later in the process and is not grounds to dismiss the lawsuit.”

The ruling by Judge Bellis only allows for the plaintiffs to begin a “discovery” process which means that they can request company documents and subpoena company officials for testimony.  Remington can still have the case dismissed if plaintiffs have not shown cause exists with these preliminary documents.

I have no opinion, due to lack of information, as to whether or not this lawsuit should go to trial.  My opinion is that I believe allowing discovery is in the best interests of the common working individual.

Whether you agree or disagree with my opinion, the background which I’ll provide about my opinion may even save someone’s life if they happen to own one of the defective Remington rifles.

I know some will stop reading and dismiss the rest.  Even those who know me might stop and say this boy has lost his mind up in DC.  I do have an agenda.  It is to illustrate how media and pundits slant for their audiences and for dollars by spinning or over simplifying.  I just prefer some context and to look at what the actual costs, precedent, or documentation is from primary sources.

Now I understand the arguments of not fair, cost, and cans of worms with the ruling, but look at the recent history of Remington.  In 2014 Remington agreed to replace the trigger on approximately 7.5 million guns.  Among those were the Model 700 bolt-action rifle, the Seven, Sportsman 78, 673, 710, 715, 770, 600, 660, XP-100, 721, 722, and 725 rifles.

I suggest you use your own search engines and preferred sources of information to learn about why Remington made this decision.  No matter your preferred source, I encourage everyone to view the 10 or so minute clip from CNBC linked below concerning their investigation.

http://www.cnbc.com/remington-under-fire/

There seems little discrepancy in these facts regardless of source consulted.

Debris could get inside the “trigger connector” and cause other parts of the trigger to become misaligned, rendering the gun unsafe.  According to documents obtained through discovery, Remington had been aware since at least 1971 that the Walker Fire Control System can cause the weapons to fire without a trigger pull. Per the claims, the Model 700 can fire upon release of the safety, when the main bolt is moved, or when the gun is jarred or bumped.  The same potential problem existed with the X-Mark Pro triggers.

In 1989 Remington engineers and lawyers met to discuss the problem, but they did not make any design changes out of fear that doing so would be an admission of guilt in various lawsuits filed in the 1970s and 80s.

It was a sad truth that a Remington with a defective Walker Fire Control System just lying on table could unintentionally fire a round.  Even so in the year 2010 Remington issued an official statement that these triggers were free from defects even after their own internal testing duplicated the unintentional firings that had been alleged.

It was not until 11 April 2014 that Remington issued a recall of rifles with X-Mark Pro triggers manufactured between 2006 and 2014.  That happened following the investigation by CNBC.

Now some will argue that this past history has nothing to do with the present case referenced in the FOX article many of my friends are sharing.  Perhaps it doesn’t but I still think that the plaintiffs should be allowed discovery before a dismissal.

We all know that frivolous lawsuits are much too common, and hopefully y’all are different but I can only name 1 attorney who I truly respect as both a person and professional.  Still I think all manufacturers regardless of product should be treated more or less equally.

They were until 2005 when Congress passed PLCAA or what became 15 U.S. Code § 7901 which protects firearms dealers and manufacturers in ways that no other manufacturer or dealer is protected.

Consider that if automobile manufacturers had the same protections afforded to gun manufacturers then devices such as airbags, crumple zones, and other passive or active safety options such as traction control would not exist today in all likelihood.  That’s speculation, but the NRA and gun lobby attack which devalued Smith and Wesson and almost ruined the company in 2000 is proof that a single company cannot take on the power lobbies.

Some I know argue that it is unfair because the manufacturer will waste money in court.  I’ve seen figures which range significantly, so I’m hesitant to guestimate the monetary costs passed along to consumers when certain companies are covered by Confidential Discovery Protective Orders.

If you’ve read this far, are wondering, or have never read anything else I have written about firearms, I think most gun fears are unreasonable on both extremes.  A gun is just a tool.  Used correctly it is good, but when used carelessly or for a wrongful purpose the consequences can be devastating.  Too much gun is just as dangerous as too little gun, and it takes different skillsets to handle different guns.  It’s a similar difference from driving a little car, a truck pulling a trailer, and an 18 wheeler.

Still nobody is confiscating personal weapons.  Statistically it is impossible and if you doubt me, consider how long it would take to hand deliver a $1 bill to 500 households.  How much longer would it take you to collect a $1 bill from those 500 households?  Now imagine that the dollar is hidden, or the people there do not want to give up that dollar.

In terms of protection from our government, the fact is that if our government truly wanted your weapons or my weapons, we do not have enough firepower combined to stop them.  Our military could turn us into dust or vapor within seconds.

When one listens to the arguments about guns, it sounds like we have a paranoia issue of Twilight Zone proportions.  Does anyone really believe that no private usage and ownership of personal firearms existed prior to the year 2008?  That’s what Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox, and the gun lobby claims.

The NRA-ILA has lobbied Congress and successfully banned more types of guns than the Obama White House via Executive Orders, Actions, or Memoranda.  Seriously, you cannot buy a .22 Armatix, and Good Lord protect you if you even think of trying to carry that gun in stock as a gun dealer just down the road from me in Rockville, MD, discovered.  You cannot manufacture firearms using new technology or newly developed materials.  3D technology and printing works and is advancing, but it is not in the financial interest of the gun lobby for consumers to have alternatives.

Things are so ridiculous today that if someone as a parent confiscates a rifle or shotgun from their 16-year-old child because that child was doing something unsafe, the parent may be prosecuted and most certainly labeled as anti Bill of Rights.  To me that’s just as ridiculous as arguing that the same 16 year old is not capable of handling a rifle, shotgun, hacksaw, or even a basic chainsaw safely and responsibly.

I do not support denying discovery before any complaint is made.  FOX News has discredited itself once more with such shoddy appealing to the lowest common denominator reporting.

I just fail to understand the arguments to treat gun manufacturers and dealers less stringently than others.

If you watched that short clip, what did little Gus Barber, his Dad, or his Mom do wrong?  In that case give me any reason not to blame the gun manufacturer, Remington, for continuing to sell a firearm when their own tests confirmed earlier allegations of a dangerous design.

Correct nothing can restore that lost life, but shouldn’t we want to limit the possibility of other lives being lost?

Are we that blasted callous?

I admit that I think you’re right if your argument is that Sandy Hook happened because some sick, deranged, SOB, wanted to murder a bunch of innocent people and most likely had nothing at all to do with Remington.  Many other weapons would have resulted in the same tragic outcome.

Even without Remington’s background in terms of safety, I think the survivors of the victims should have the right to see communications within the company about the incident.

Why, because if a drunken idiot drove a car into a group of people killing several, we have the right to review safety records of that car.   That drunken idiot is to blame, but we may discover that some alteration or safety device in the vehicle may be able to at minimum limit the amount of people killed in another situation.  That’s why many people my age never learned to “pump the brakes” on the first new cars or trucks we bought because everything had anti-lock brakes by that time.

Why are gun manufacturers and dealers alone placed upon this protective little pedestal?  I don’t know but sadly I think that many I know are grateful that gun manufacturers and dealers have more protections than say they themselves do selling a strawberry at the farmers’ market, doing some plumbing or electrical work in a home, or building a piece of furniture.

Why?  I really haven’t a clue, but I reckon the Good Lord knows that none of us survived past the year 2005 when this protection went into force.  Good Lord knows that none of us could own or carry a firearm before the year 2008.

Folks, it is the year 2016, and if you’re reading this or currently speaking with me then you or in some cases because of your age then your Mom and Dad survived after 2005 and 2008 just like me.

When a Life is or isn’t a Life, SCOTUS and Hobby Lobby

What’s new? I’m differing again with many scholars and pundits on the ultimate impact of a Supreme Court decision.

To backtrack even upon a closer reading, I maintain my earlier opinion of the Noel Canning decision and its future effect.

Earlier today, 30 June 2014, SCOTUS issued a 5 to 4 decision on BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL. v. HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC.,ET AL.

As always with me, I encourage you to go to your favorite and least favorite media sources for discussions and coverage of the case. I’ve linked the Court’s decisions and dissent above.

Many are translating this case as a First Amendment decision. It is not. The majority decision rests on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 which itself was a response to a 1990 Supreme Court decision in Employment Division v. Smith.

In writing for the majority, Justice Scalia concludes on page 49:

“Our responsibility is to enforce RFRA as written, and under the standard that RFRA prescribes, the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful.

* * * The contraceptive mandate, as applied to closely held corporations, violates RFRA. Our decision on that statutory question makes it unnecessary to reach the First Amendment claim raised by Conestoga and the Hahns.”

One take is obvious from Justice Scalia’s statement. The law upon which the majority rendered its decision was this 1993 bill passed by the 103rd Congress which had Democratic Party majorities in both Chambers and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The 113th or a future Congress may pass a bill which in effect renders today’s decision obsolete.

Another aspect that I find missing from the media reports of those praising the decision is a failure to recognize where SCOTUS puts the responsibility for these for profit corporations to “provide” the required medical practices under existing law.

From the syllabus:

“Here, there is an alternative to the contraceptive mandate. There are other ways in which Congress or HHS could equally ensure that every woman has cost-free access to the particular contraceptives at issue here and, indeed, to all FDA-approved contraceptives.”

“In fact, HHS has already devised and implemented a system that seeks to respect the religious liberty of religious nonprofit corporations while ensuring that the employees of these entities have precisely the same access to all FDA-approved contraceptives as employees of companies whose owners have no religious objections to providing such coverage. The employees of these religious nonprofit corporations still have access to insurance coverage without cost sharing for all FDA-approved contraceptives; and according to HHS, this system imposes no net economic burden on the insurance companies that are required to provide or secure the coverage.

Although HHS has made this system available to religious nonprofits that have religious objections to the contraceptive mandate, HHS has provided no reason why the same system cannot be made available when the owners of for-profit corporations have similar religious objections. We therefore conclude that this system constitutes an alternative that achieves all of the Government’s aims while providing greater respect for religious liberty. And under RFRA, that conclusion means that enforcement of the HHS contraceptive mandate against the objecting parties in these cases is unlawful.”

Simply, SCOTUS has determined that while for profit corporations have the right to religious objections those items which the for-profit chooses not to provide to its employees will  instead be provided by the government. In other words, public tax dollars will be used.

Justice Ginsburg on page 2 of her dissent opposes placing the burden on the taxpayers to benefit a for-profit corporation.

“Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community. Indeed, by law, no religion-based criterion can restrict the work force of for-profit corporations.”

Once more, we have returned to the question of whether or not a corporation has the same rights as an individual.

Alright some are questioning my opinion because I seem to have avoided the two issues at stake in this decision. One issue being religious freedom and the other abortion.

Back in Baton Rouge, Bobby Jindal’s press release contains:

“For those of us who believe, as the Green family does, in an Almighty God who created the universe and loves us personally, our faith guides us every day: in what we will do, and in what we will not do.

What this decision affirms is that the American belief in freedom of religion still protects the rights of all Americans to live in accordance with their religion, and that these deeply held religious beliefs are more important than the whims and demands of government.”

For once I actually agree with Bobby with a small disclaimer being that I would add “and others” behind government.

Where we differ is that freedom applies to all faiths, not simply Catholicism or a Protestant form of Christianity. It applies to non-Christians, Agnostics, Atheists, and all others. Personally I believe in a Supreme Being or entity who I refer to simply as God or the Creator and in an individual named Jesus who died on the cross for the sins of all mankind. That’s my belief, but it isn’t any better or worse from what you believe. I look as freedom as I have the ability to believe as I choose and as long as my exercising that right does not infringe upon you from having the same ability to believe as you choose we are both free. The only way to be truly free is having the strength and courage to realize that you must sacrifice a minute portion of personal freedom to protect and preserve freedom. Personally I cannot view a corporation as religious as the purpose is to make profit. Individuals, however, can have religious or other beliefs which are true and dear to them.

In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg poses questions about possibilities that people with other religious beliefs may request exemptions from other medical and scientific services which others consider legitimate. Even though the majority believe that will not occur, her reasoning does illustrate the degrees to which we may differ in our beliefs.

I’m not addressing any debates on whether the specific procedures cited in these cases are contraception or abortion causing practices. Others can and will debate when a life begins. I’m not.

My abortion stance is quite simple. I do not believe in abortion as a means of birth control. Many take exception to my position as being too simplistic. I just think that each situation is different, the decision is not simple, and I don’t believe I have a right to decide if I am not directly connected and have access to all the known information. Even as a man, I may not know firsthand, but I have seen the pain and agony of many friends who have suffered miscarriages at various stages of pregnancy. I’ve talked with some of the fathers of these children, and felt their pain. These individuals did nothing intentional to end the pregnancy, yet that knowledge did little to ease the pain and diminish the guilt of “what if” even if “what” could not be defined. Sadly there are people out there who might have no emotional connection, but that is not the case with those I know.

I just don’t see any law addressing this issue in reality. The practice took place before the Roe decision and has continued since. Burying one’s head in the sand only to ignore reality doesn’t solve anything.

The previous House briefly considered advancing a discussion which was utterly ridiculous in my opinion. Essentially any woman who suffered a preterm miscarriage would need to prove her innocence that nothing was done to harm the child.  Only a guy would think of something so callous and so dumb.

If a woman delivered a living baby and that baby died shortly after birth, the mother would be guilty of murder until proven innocent. Many health insurance companies term miscarriages as a form of abortion with terminology such as spontaneous and others. To avoid the abortion stigma, some women have had still births or a living birth knowing the child would not survive outside the mother. I’m sorry, but I only view the above as tragedies and they are tragedies whether or not I’m aware. My ignorance changes nothing.

What does bother me, however, is the lack of acknowledgment to the fact that less information about the reproductive process and limiting access to contraception will result in an increase of unplanned pregnancies. Wouldn’t the increase in that statistic correlate to an increase in abortions?

Granted this source is not ideologically balanced, but I have seen similar statistics in more academic (hence longer) works on unintended pregnancies.

Likewise little concern seems to be given to the woman who may benefit from such medications in areas that have nothing to do with birth control or reproduction. It’s that basic premise of “oh you’re just a woman, you need to pay more for healthcare, you need to publicize your health issues on a public forum, and you need permission from others to do practically anything.”

With the SCOTUS decision I really see little changing. Sadly no lives are going to be saved regardless of when one believes that life begins. Religious freedom has neither been protected nor infringed. For-profit corporations can still invest in areas they choose to reap the best profits for their stockholders even if such investments seem to contradict their religious beliefs. These corporations can assert that the religious beliefs of their major stockholders are superior to those of others. US law, however, will try to uphold a freedom of religion for everyone. In doing so if some groups receive a benefit or protection under the written law, all groups will have a right to that same protection. If corporation A believes that protection violates their religious freedom while corporation B finds no discrepancy between their religious beliefs and the law, then corporation A can pass any financial burdens on to others so that equal protection is at minimum offered.

I know next to nothing about the Green family or any of the businesses in this lawsuit even though I am familiar with some of the groups who financed the challenge. I’m not even sure if I have ever walked into a Hobby Lobby store. Obviously I am not employed by the business or its affiliates and so my health insurance is subject to their beliefs. Actually my health decisions are between me and my medical professionals although family and friends often have input because I seek their opinion, and strangely enough they care for me. Still, according to the Supreme Court I will most likely pay a bit extra so that a for-profit corporation does not contradict its religious beliefs.

Like I mentioned above, I believe that to have true freedom you must sacrifice some freedom. That’s OK with me. What I find strange, however, is how some who claim to be so prolife care next to nothing about children already born. In many situations it seems that all that matters is being seen protesting and then hiding one’s eyes not to see the suffering already there.

Despite all the hoopla and anticipation of this SCOTUS decision, another law can render this decision obsolete as the base turned out to be 1993 and not the First Amendment. Once again, women are required to overcome different obstacles and are expected, I guess, to play the same game but with different rules than men like me.

To Sue the President

Speaker John Boehner announced that he plans to file a lawsuit against President Barack Obama over the President’s usage of Executive Orders.

Just go to your favorite and least favorite media sources, and there will in all probability be an abundance of stories and opinion pieces.

For individuals who would like to learn more about Executive Orders without any partisan bias in that one can read the actual orders and look at numbers from the different Presidential administrations, I recommend using The American Presidency Project at the University of California Santa Barbara, and The Federal Register from the National Archives.

I linked a page with a data table from The American Presidency Project, but to the left is a clickable table of various types of documents they have in their archives. In addition to Executive Orders, one can find transcripts Inaugural Addresses, Weekly Addresses, Signing Statements, and much more. Ideologies or partisanship aside, if you are seeking information from primary documents for any type of Presidential research this site provides easy access to a number of documents which would otherwise require consulting a bunch of resources to acquire.

More people are probably familiar with the vast amounts of information available from the National Archives and The Federal Register in particular. Above I linked directly to Executive Orders. If you are interested in other records and documents from the Federal Register, the direct link to the portal page is here. For research purposes, I can only say that having online access to this material is invaluable.

For opinions on the legitimacy of such an action as suing the President, I’ll link opposing Washington Post opinion articles from George Will and Dana Milbank.

Another perspective which cites Will’s piece specifically is Jonathan Capehart’s piece which appeared in yesterday’s edition of the Post.

Capehart mentions two bills passed by the House, H.R. 4138 the “ENFORCE the Law Act of 2014’’ and H.R. 3973 ‘‘Faithful Execution of the Law Act of 2014,’’ which are designed to give Congress legal standing and to expedite the legal process.

In reference to the legitimacy of suing the President, I believe an exchange which occurred on FOX news between anchor Neil Cavuto and Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) helps paint a picture on reasoning and intent. I’m linking a Huffington Post article which has video of the conversation between Cavuto and Bachmann.

What I find intriguing is Representative Bachmann’s arguments to defund the Executive Branch. One that simplistic statement is impossible as there are multiple aspects of the Executive Branch, and it is unclear as to what aspects would be denied funding. It’s a similar argument to defunding ACA or Obamacare in that which specific elements would be cut as a single container does not exist.

More importantly is a fact that I have brought up numerous times on this blog regarding spending. How is this President or any President responsible for spending and our budgeting difficulties? Representative Bachmann emphasizes the power Constitutional power of the House of Representatives. The House’s own website cites the Constitutional provisions giving that body the power to spend public money for the national government.

It’s a continuation of Congress failing to carry out their duties and passing the blame. Think about sequestration. Congress did not make the necessary cuts and thus the automatic across the board cuts happened. Then, Congress complained that these cuts were broad and not specifically dealing with the important issues in the spending of each individual agency. Sequester was a tool to make Congress conduct business, but they refused. Likewise, think back to the huge carnival of No Budget No Pay. We still don’t have a budget, and both Representatives and Senators are receiving paychecks. Nobody was at risk because of the 27th Amendment, but the provision of delaying pay has not been carried out.

Of course some will accuse me of conflating the issue as the lawsuit is not about what Congress had failed to do but what the President has done to seize power and erode the separation of powers as defined in the Constitution.

Well some argue in favor of the President using numbers. I believe numbers are significant, but in reality tell little in this situation as all Executive Orders are not equal just as all pieces of legislation are not equal. Some have a profound impact while others barely register outside their inclusion in the Federal Register.

I look at the issue from that of historical precedents. The idea of Executive authority has been interpreted broadly since George Washington. Admittedly most are going to review history through their personal ideological lens. Inside a classroom, I know that I can give students copies of Executive Orders from different Presidents to read for content. To illustrate my ideological lens contention, the majority of time a student’s opinion about the legality or legitimacy of an individual order changes when they learn who issued the order.  I once had a class in uproar by “crediting” some orders issued by Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama and orders by Obama to Reagan. Approximately 90 percent of the students changed opinions after they learned which order went to which President. Please try that exercise yourself.

Actually one of the better assessments on the use and abuse of Executive Orders comes from the Heritage Foundation.

“In the end, the constitutional separation of powers supports both sides of the argument over a President’s proper authority. It reinforces a President’s right or duty to issue a decree, order, or proclamation to carry out a particular power that truly is committed to his discretion by the Constitution or by a lawful statute passed by Congress. On the other hand, the constitutional separation of powers cuts the other way if the President attempts to issue an order regarding a matter that is expressly committed to another branch of government; it might even render the presidential action void. Finally, separation of powers principles may be unclear or ambiguous when the power is shared by two branches of government.”

The piece may have been an argument against Bill Clinton, but apply the same points to President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

I think that either both men abused the power or neither abused the power. More specifically, I think it applies more to individual orders than President. I think one can see a pattern developing over the course of history. Ever increasingly, it seems that Executive Orders would not be “necessary” if Congress would have acted one way or another.

My opinion is that we can blame the House or the Senate for causing the gridlock. It really doesn’t matter because We the People are being hurt. Let us keep our blame separate but unify in demanding that both Chambers find a way to work together for the benefit of the country. Once issues have been addressed and We the People are united and the country is moving in a positive direction, we can then debate if we choose who WAS to blame.

If the preceding paragraph sounds profound or idealistic depending on your point of view, I’m not taking any credit since I’m paraphrasing words joined together many years ago by President Abraham Lincoln when it became necessary to Reconstruct the United States of America after more American blood spilled in 4 years on the battlefield than in all the other military conflicts involving the United States from formation until today combined.

Louisiana Senate Race of Keystone, Potholes, Pipelines, and Same Ole…

Whether in favor or against, it seems that many of the most vocal have little factual understanding about the Keystone Pipeline. By understanding, I’m referring to the route, the type of oil, and the intent of the product post the refinery process.

Here I am not debating pros or cons or delving into the history of this proposal. I’m using the pipeline as sadly another example to illustrate the ridiculous nature of our current partisanship.

One article in today’s edition of The Hill begins,

“The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted Wednesday to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, delivering a rebuke to President Obama.All Republicans on the panel voted to clear the pipeline, joined by Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (La.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), two Democrats in energy-heavy states, in a 12-10 vote.”

Another Hill article reads,

“In an election year with control of the Senate up for grabs, Sen. Mary Landrieu isn’t getting a break on issues that she and Republicans would otherwise agree on, such as the Keystone XL pipeline.The GOP on Wednesday slammed the vulnerable Louisiana Democrat, who sits as chairwoman on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, for scheduling what they dubbed a “show vote” on the $3.4 billion oil-sands project.”

Politics as usual some might say:

I agree, but it’s the hypocrisy that sticks out to me.

The GOP and “conservatives” like to promote the lessening of Federal government influence on the states and people. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion. It depends on who has a voice in the states, whether the people have similar opportunities to present their positions and to act upon them, and exactly what is the purpose for Federal involvement. Simply, will opposing sides be able to operate without corrupting influences, intimidation, and so on. If things are more or less balanced and by that I mean opportunities available to one are also available to another, I see less of a need for any outside influence be it the Federal government or something else.

Why is it in this case that the GOP wants the Federal government to usurp the rights of the people in the state of Nebraska? I’m not familiar with Nebraska laws or its state government, but my understanding is that an approval process exists where the opposing factions will each be able to prevent their arguments. That process, however, takes time. Instead of waiting to see how the process plays out, many are calling for Federal intervention.

The conservative Washington Times wrote about the role of Nebraska.

Bloomberg features another perspective but with a similar summation of points.

Let’s tie in another action in the US Senate today.

The Hill headline reads:  “Senators propose raising the gas tax for the first time since 1993.”

The proposal’s intent is to address the fast approaching shortfall in the Federal Highways Fund. It is bipartisan with sponsorship by Senators Chris Murphy, Democrat from Connecticut, and Bob Corker, Republican from Tennessee. The House has its own proposal regarding the Federal Highways Fund shortfall which would utilize funds from the cancelling of Saturday mail service to fund highway repairs.

Since GOP Members of Congress have signed the Norquist Pledge, the tax increase would be combined with many specific tax breaks permanent. You can read of the pledge from ABC here and Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform page here.

Am I the only one who sees that in return for an increase of 12 cents per gallon in gas and diesel cost which will be experienced at the pump and most likely in an increase of products and services transported, specific groups will receive tax breaks? The other Congressional option is to take money from an agency already bleeding money to use toward our infrastructure.

At least Obama has alluded to giving individual states some power in the matter by a possibility of easing the restrictions on toll roads on existing highways.

Still, I would only favor tolls as lagniappe with the Federal Highways Fund being made more efficient and funded through the closing of existing credits and breaks enjoyed by a small portion of the private sector.

Yep, the United States of America where the side which refers to itself as patriots wants the Federal government to enforce its will on an individual state so that a Canadian country can have its pipeline. A Congress where additional taxes or simply changing the direction of a money leak is acceptable as long as selected individuals receive corresponding breaks. An issue of such vital urgency that opponents lambast Mary Landrieu for not using her seniority and position to push for a vote, and yet when that vote occurs opponents attack her because the vote was only for “show.”

I guess I should take solace that this “show vote” was merely a committee votes which costs taxpayers like you and me far less than the “show votes” to repeal ACA over in the House.

I’m not comforted by that but at least Congressman Bill Cassidy from my birthplace district who is running against Landrieu for the US Senate seat from Louisiana favors a committee vote on Keystone to push for a vote by the full Senate to impose the Federal government’s will on the people of Nebraska in support of a Canadian company. Sorry, since the vote is now past tense he apparently believes that committee vote was unnecessary and there must be a more logical way to impose the Federal government’s will on Nebraska to support a foreign company. I wonder if he will be calling for an Executive Order from the President?

Actually, I think he and most candidates in Louisiana will wait to see which outside special interest group will provide the most money to their campaign. Has any candidate for Federal office in Louisiana this election cycle actually used funding garnered from within the state? Seriously every advertisement I’ve seen to this point has come from some special interest group headquartered outside the Bayou State.

Sad…

The Hypocritical Commandment through Partisanship

“Presumed innocent until proven guilty,” that’s what I learned. I also heard that care should be taken with whom you associate. In other words, you might be presumed guilty just by associating with others who cause trouble. Whether right or wrong, you may and will be judged by the company you keep.

Is guilt or innocence determined by placing evidence on a scale and waiting for that scale to tilt beyond any reasonable doubt or at least by a preponderance in one direction or the other? How much that scale must shift to prove guilt depends upon the charge, but it must shift to prove guilt.

Sadly, I think those basic concepts are being forgotten. In many instances, the credibility of witnesses and of evidence presented no longer reaches the scale. People may talk of laws made by man, from nature, by God, or other Supreme Being. Christians recite any number of Biblical passages. Atheists propose numbers of justifications. Non-Christians, Agnostics, and others proffer their own insights.

Constitutionalists quote different passages and statements made by Founding Fathers or Revolutionary period individuals (unfortunately many students in US history courses do not realize the different time frames and are at times totally ignorant about the Articles of Confederation as our government) but rarely within any type of proper context.

What matters most today is not evidence or knowledge but who is being judged and that the judgment is correct if it matches are own personal opinion. I missed what I’ll term the hypocritical commandment. Thou shalt judge others but shall not be judged thyself in the same manner by which thou judges others.

I don’t know SGT Bowe Bergdahl or his family or friends. I’ve never even been close to the state of Idaho. All I’ve done is read a number of articles about the man, his family, and his capture over the past few years. Skip all the 2014 reports, and take a glance at earlier commentaries and opinions. The overwhelming majority write of an American soldier who is being held captive. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle expressed sympathies to the family and vowed to work to obtain his release. People started a White House petition calling for Presidential action. Lawmaker, famous, some like me or you, SGT Bergdahl was a soldier and a person missed by his family here at home.

Sure many questioned details. Was the reason for his captivity his own doing? Was Bowe Bergdahl derelict in his duties? Did he intentionally get captured? Was he just another on that seemingly infinite list of “being in the wrong place at the wrong time?”

Those questions, however, seemed secondary before this week. Secondary in the sense they would be answered when SGT Bergdahl returned to American soil. Those issues would then be addressed according to proper protocol.

I don’t know the answer and neither does anyone else. Nobody, perhaps not even Bowe Bergdahl himself is privy to all the information surrounding all of the events. In most cases, the evidence would be placed on that scale of justice to let it tilt in favor or innocence or to pronounce guilt.

Today, however, judgment in that manner is unreasonable. Unreasonable because what matters more than anything else are the political points one might achieve.  People who claim the United States is a Christian nation basically shove Christianity out the door since it is not convenient in their effort to castigate the President. People who argue for Constitutional provisions ignore those tenants of rights for others which they claim for themselves.

President Obama broke US Code by not giving Congress 30 days’ notice to debate the issue. Consider the origin of that requirement, however, which is the National Defense Authorization Act first signed in 2012 and renewed in 2013 and 2014.

With those acts Congress attached the rider requiring their 30 days’ notice. President Obama signed them into law. Without his signature, military personnel would not have been paid (Congress was adjourned so the bill would die without any action) and Congress made it no appropriations without their rider. In signing, however, the President issued a signing statement calling into question that rider among issues in the “all or nothing” (my phrasing) bill.

Also during the timing of the Bergdahl negotiations, Congress was in another recess. As argued these recesses are for Members to engage with constituents, well I learned that my home state of Louisiana must now be a part of Texas because Ted Cruz, among others, was speechifying in New Orleans. Constituents today seem to be more about campaign contributors and upcoming elections than the people who vote in your district or state.

Some news outlets have already branded Bowe Bergdahl as a traitor.  If it opposes President Obama, apparently information provided by Duane R. (“Dewey”) Clarridge is unquestionably accurate. So what if Clarridge had been indicted for lying to Congress in what we often call the Iran Contra scandal (President George H.W. Bush pardoned Clarridge during the course of his trial so guilt or innocence is unknown, but one would think that more corroborating sources would be sought before declaring “truth” regardless of singular source).

Sarah Palin had one opinion back in 2009 which was on the Alaska state government page:

“Todd and I are praying for Private First Class Bowe Bergdahl, his family, and all of his fellow soldiers who are putting their lives on the line to defend our freedom and protect democracy abroad,” Governor Palin said. “The capture of Private Bergdahl and the bombings in Jakarta prove that we have not defeated terrorism, and that radical extremists will stop at nothing to attack Westerners and our ideals.” (Page removed upon updating but available on the wayback machine).

Today since the exchange occurred during the Obama administration or perhaps as a result of the Clarridge information Palin has on her Facebook page:

“This deserter chose to put our soldiers in greater danger by abandoning his post and purposefully hooking up with the enemy after writing of his disdain for the USA.”

Like so many others, the 180 turn in opinion took place following the release of Bergdahl, and apparently it is unnecessary to hear from SGT Bergdahl since the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Dewey Clarridge, Vladimir Putin, people who have been to Afghanistan, more people who could not find Afghanistan on a map, and every “expert” seeking 15 minutes of fame, are proven credible sources and have already passed judgment. Seriously, that’s how it appears these Constitutional seekers interpret American justice and law.

Sarah Palin also posted a photo of her daughter’s Twitter message. I really don’t know texting language, but apparently the acronym Bristol Palin used is common. As I have written before, the language on her reality show conflicts with my values in the manner in which I interpret Christianity so admittedly I’m not a fan or follower and do not give much thought to her opinion.

Bristol Palin WTF Tweet

Apparently a Christian expression from someone who has been held captive which allows them to judge.

The hometown of Bergdahl apparently does not have the right to celebrate the release of a local resident. Regardless of how Bergdahl wound up in captive hands, his family and friends still care about him as a person. Agree or disagree with the community, but for those who argue rights are suppressed why is it then acceptable to suppress the rights of that community? If you don’t like it, don’t go. Is Idaho really along the way most people are traveling that this event will alter your schedule?

Why have opinions on judgement flipped flopped?

I’m not stating a position regarding Anwar al-Awlaki, but I find it amazing that people who criticized what they termed a “rush to judgment” in that situation have tried and convicted Bowe Bergdahl in their courts of judgment.

Look at the past

Historically, let’s dismiss this idealism that America has never negotiated with terrorists or the enemy. Every President in my lifetime has done so both openly and in private. If you predate the modern terrorist definition and use the term enemy, every President has conducted negotiations and deals. Obama is neither the first nor I doubt will be the last whether from the position of likelihood based on statistics or history.  The ordinary citizen will not know everything regardless of the level of transparency.

We need to know everything? What if telling you or me puts someone else in jeopardy? As per the trade, in combat when is a uniform or person connected with your enemy or opponent not targeted? The kill or capture theme inside a conflict zone has not changed.

The United States in 2006 with President George W. Bush released Guantanamo prisoner Jabr al-Faifi to Saudi Arabia after extended negotiations. Jabr al-Faifi did get “rehabilitated” in Saudi Arabia according to conditions, but he then re returned to Yemen and rejoined al-Qaeda.

Now before anyone goes on the attack of George W. Bush for releasing prisoners and “negotiating with terrorists,” nobody really knew at the time that Jabr al-Faifi would act in essence as a double agent who saved an unknown amount of lives by revealing the 2010 computer ink bomb plot to the Obama administration and the British.

What’s different in that 8 year period is that Congress did not hold paying the salaries of our military over President Bush. he did not have the same Congressional Gitmo restriction as President Obama had to sign for our troops to be paid. Congress squawked over the release of Jabr al-Faifi. What’s different is the political party of the Presidents.

We did not know about Jabr al-Faifi in 2006 and perhaps we do not know about those released from Gitmo here in 2014.

I am not a scholar of that geographical region, but some scholars wonder if actors removed from the scene for a period of 12 years could return as trusted sources. Others wonder if these 5 men would want to leave the life they will have in Qatar to return to any type of life in Afghanistan.

I cannot forecast the future. I can say that I am appalled that Bowe Bergdahl has gone from being an American held captive to a despised and hated individual without any trial or opportunity to speak. I’m appalled that his family is being vilified. If one of my friends or family members were lost or held captive, I would do everything possible to bring them back. Learning a different language to communicate, Twitter, growing a beard, and so on are not evil and anti American. I was a kid during the 1980s, and I could not guesstimate the number of movies I saw with Americans going to rescue American POWs from Vietnam. There preparations and desires were not portrayed as anti-American.

Barack Obama is President of the United States of America. During his presidency, Bowe Bergdahl returned to American hands. SGT Bowe Bergdahl may be the nicest or the most evil individual on the face of the Earth today. Five years ago, however, many here wanted his release and criticized Obama for not making that happen. Today, Obama is castigated for Bergdahl’s release. Bergdahl is guilty without trial while others who had been proven guilty are regarded as American heroes or victims because those individuals shared a disdain for President Obama.

Congress, both sides of the aisle, have time for recess. They have time for investigative hearings after the fact. They don’t, however, seem to have the time to address issues before the fact. They will criticize decisions that they had the opportunity to but failed to make. The President is not stealing any power. The President is being forced to act because Congress refuses to work. They can vote to repeal Obamacare, but dang if they can pass legislation to help it work more efficiently. They will just fight about immigration but do nothing other than speechify.  Economic development, reforming and clarifying the tax code, infrastructure, and so on are not seeing the light of day in either Chamber. Still, there is time for how many committees holding hearings on Benghazi before the naming of a Select Committee? How many committees will hold hearings about Bowe Bergdahl? Will there be another reading of Green Eggs and Ham to force another government shutdown?

Guilt, innocence, and such need not rest on facts. Rhetoric and propaganda sell more, and we do not care until someone judges us the way in which we try to judge another. It’s sad. It’s ridiculous.

Just because Barack Obama supports something, that does not mean it is necessarily good or bad. Those who oppose Obama, however, seem to find fault regardless of issue. Yet, those in Congress offer no alternatives and others fail to comprehend that to humor you, Barack Obama is wrong 100 percent of the time, but someone will still need to fix all of the problems you blame him for creating. Sadly, more time will be spent finding another scapegoat.

It is ridiculous.

 

When Life Fails to Matter

Somewhere right now in the United States and elsewhere throughout the world someone is mourning the death of a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter, a spouse, a grandparent, a grandchild, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin, a classmate, a colleague, a friend, a mentor, or one who simply crossed their path at some point, at some time, in some fashion, in their respective treks.

As John Donne wrote:

“…all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another; as therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come; so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.”

Have we become so callous, so indignant, self-serving as a nation that the loss of life only matters when used as cog to perpetuate our own narrative? Have we lost our appreciation, patience, and understanding of the importance of each volume, chapter, page, paragraph, and word of which we each conform to one minute aspect? How easy we justify by employing a singular abstract. How easy we invalidate, reject, and condemn what is outside our portion and intent.

Has our political partisanship transformed us into primitives without the ability to contemplate and without the capacity to have emotion? Is everything outside our physical domain merely a prop or means to enhance within our sphere while deteriorating that without? Do we no longer occupy or even have the desire to share the same spirit or goal?

Americans died at Benghazi. Americans have died in Afghanistan. Americans have died while undergoing or awaiting medical treatment in all facilities. An American died last night on Main Street in any town, USA. An American died yesterday in an urban area of any city, USA. An American died this morning along an unpaved dirt road that is the sole travel connector from one rural settlement to the next. The causes or translations of their passing differs as some may be categorized as natural, some by sickness, some by injury, some by age, some by accident, some by their own hand, some by justice, some by violence, some in company, some alone, and some by unknown.

Does our political partisanship prohibit mourning for all? Why does it discourage instead of encourage a caring for all?

How can some refer to the termination of a life yet to be born as murder, but turn a blind eye to that life stopped short from starvation or basic medical services? If the death is by violence, why does the instrument used to inflict the deadly force result in more impassioned debate than the actual death?

Why is a question about a death from violence by the means of a bullet from a gun turn into a threat of individual rights or get twisted into comparisons to a banning of automobiles, knives, or any other item which has the potential of inflicting deadly force? Has life become so trivial that it is meaningless?

Increased background checks and all of the proposed gun “control” or gun “safety” measures coming from legislative or credible sources honestly would not prevent all deaths which are a result of gunshot wounds. They may or may not prevent any. Education and training of safe handling and storage practices, however, would most certainly reduce the number of needless accidents.

How many people realize that we have actually reached a stage where if I went hunting with a friend, and I did something reckless such as, I don’t know, cross a barbed wire fence with my loaded rifle in my hands and the trigger snags on the fence resulting in an unintentional discharge, and my friend rightfully calls me every name in the book. Despite the stupidity, the ignorance, everything is acceptable in the realm of rights.

If my friend, however, decides to take control of my rifle because he is worried that my carelessness will result in harm to myself or some innocent bystander, and says that he is going home, that according to the NRA-ILA and legislation on the books in many states, my friend has illegally deprived me of my rights.  Seriously, my friend under those circumstances has usurped, has unrightfully deprived me of what people argue is a God given right and American right with the Second Amendment. In that situation, he is in the wrong. He is the enemy, and it does not matter that I was the stupid, careless fool who he wanted to protect. That’s ridiculous.

When common sense is deemed an infringement, what have we become as individuals and society?

It mystifies me why people shout infringement over something like limiting magazine size for specific guns. Even if you are not an expert, changing a clip out or reloading most guns is a relatively quick procedure. Yes in certain situations, those few seconds performing that procedure may be the determining factor in whether a life is lost or not, but so is the possibility that a larger magazine will jam. Personally, I prefer smaller clip sizes with the weapons I shoot, but the purpose of that weapon and common sense are the real determining factors.

I am mystified above because if something like that is an infringement why is it acceptable for many gun advocates to bully and even threaten a man and his business for wanting to sell a legal type of gun? The freakin’ state law in New Jersey argument honestly holds no water even if this licensed firearms dealer were in the state of New Jersey. He is actually in Maryland and in the same county where I currently reside.

Perhaps these so-called “smart guns” are not for you. In certain applications I doubt if they would be right for many.

On that same notion, however, I’m not going to carry a semi-automatic rifle back home out in nature merely on the chance I encounter a cottonmouth. My old .22 revolver has an uncanny knack which has prevented both me and the people with whom I have been with from getting struck.

It’s amazing how I could pop a striking cottonmouth in the head with a single snap shot while a misidentified chicken snake concealed by brush at closer range could avoid 4 shots before slithering to a location where I saw the eyes and determined not poisonous as it slithered off into the woods.

Despite its effectiveness when used, I wouldn’t try shooting a deer with that pistol.

If one thinks about it, at a target range, that smart gun might be a great choice of weapon. It depends upon the user and the application.

Why though is it acceptable to people who claim to be gun rights or 2nd Amendment advocates to threaten someone wishing to sell or to use that type of gun? How is that not a double standard?

Likewise, why is it not infringement of rights as interpreted by gun rights and 2nd Amendment advocates for Congress to ban plastic guns?

I have heard many who advocate 2nd Amendment rights argue the problems with the detection of such weapons, but isn’t that a similar version to those who argue for regulations on other types of guns? Some argue the weapons are impractical and ineffective. No offense, but any type of gun in the hands of many people is totally ineffective. They can talk. They can hit still targets. In that split second, under fire, how accurate will they be? How many have been there? I have, and I would not wish the situation upon anyone. I know for a fact what I did because it happened. It was real. Still, that is no guarantee of any future event.

It’s a clue though, some say because you have lived the experience, envisioned, or perhaps trained. No it is not. I did not have this experience once but twice as a civilian. Neither was the same. The only similarities were that lead flew.

Seriously, look at today’s version of Second Amendment rights rationality. Then tell me why Joe needs to be prevented from purchasing and using a smart gun if he wants, but Joe having to have background check and possibly being required to earn some safe handling practices certification evil?

Oh we are going back to that automobile comparison in logic.  Well, I can drive my truck but it isn’t legal for me to drive an 18 wheeler. Now I know that I wouldn’t know how to handle an 18 wheeler, so I don’t plan on trying unless I get some training.  Still if it is OK to have extra criteria for legal driving of different vehicles, why is it not for different and perhaps more powerful weapons?

Oh I know. I do agree with your argument that criminals do not follow laws, and this only inconveniences the law abiding.

Honestly, I do not consider myself inconvenienced. I know, however, that if everyone obeys the speed limit, the traffic lights, and uses common sense at a 4 way stop that I will get to my destination faster and with less hassle than if others do not. If I fail to obey those laws, those limitations, I’m infringing upon the ability of others to travel the same road.

If you want to keep asserting that cars are deadly weapons just like guns, shouldn’t the restrictions then be for all or none because both are tools. Each by themselves is not deadly, but if used in a particular fashion each can inflict such force. Doesn’t some middle ground need to exist to prevent one’s exercise of freedoms from infringing upon the freedoms of another? If it doesn’t why the uproar when other groups simply receive the same rights and recognitions you enjoy?

Does anyone else see the hypocrisy of our partisan based arguments?

As John Donne continued in Meditation XVII:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

For me that is civilization. That is advancement. That is being human.

A life matters wherever and however it is lost. Who or whom should not matter for we are all impacted. Have we forgotten that as a country? Do we not care as people? Do we really believe that life is only important when we have a personal connection or when the events melt nicely into our personal and often partisan narrative?

When I hear people publicly and loudly proclaim their patriotism or their spiritual beliefs, I often see them as individuals who in asserting their feelings are also demeaning any with opposing outlooks. On the other hand, as I look more closely I still see someone assisting another in the shadows and hiding from the spotlight because they do simply because the same translation applies. The bell tolling may be for another but it is also for them.

Why does our partisanship rely upon the diminishing of others? Isn’t the hypocrisy eroding the very foundation upon which we exist?

Veterans Health Care and Why Vets are Being Ignored

Partisan politics results in an overabundance of the major export of the southern region of a bull facing north. That’s one of my many ways of explaining BS.

Consider all of the questions concerning VA hospitals and just the basic treatment of Americans who chose to volunteer for service in our military. Their reasons for making that decision may differ. No disrespect intended toward any veteran, but I consider individuals who volunteer as firefighters, first responders, and other efforts which are too numerous to list with the intent to help others, strengthen, and protect the United States of America all in the highest regard. All of these people are making sacrifices for the benefits of others, and I believe it is safe to state that many of these individuals could have better financial returns and perhaps more stable or calmer personal lives if they went into other professions or chose other ways to volunteer or if they focused on themselves more than their fellow individuals.

What I’m saying is that individuals who choose to put their life on the line or to sacrifice personal comforts for the benefit of others are people who deserve respect, consideration, and fair treatment in return.

At this time, I cannot give an informed opinion about Secretary Eric Shinseki and his efforts heading Veterans Affairs. My readings and conversations have not gathered enough information for me to either criticize or commend.

I have read a number of reports from various VA health facilities, and some of the information is appalling. On a firsthand perspective, I’ve seen service at such facilities that I rate as excellent and other services that I rate as lacking. I have never been personally connected to a life and death situation in a Veteran Health facility, but regardless of current standards anything can be improved. I do not doubt that problems exist. Some of these have been in media reports and others have not been shown the light of day.

At this stage, I’d argue that the focus needs to be on fixing the known problems and digging down to discover other problems and weaknesses which can be addressed to make health care services at the facilities efficient and of the highest possible quality. Do that first and then investigate and deal with the who, the how, and the why of how many individuals are not receiving the care and treatment they deserve.

The partisan political aspect in these “investigations” sickens me. Once again, it appears the Congressional focus is on scapegoats and gaining political points versus actually fixing the problems. Liberals this and Conservatives that types of rhetoric among Democrats, Republicans, and Tea Party individuals seem to dominate most discussions on the Floors of either Chamber and in the media.

I think that enough problems exist that there is enough blame for everyone regardless of label. Senators Cruz, Rubio, and Paul love to blow hot air just as Senators Reid and McConnell in their positions of Majority and Minority leaders.

Look at some actual Floor activity on the Senate. Seriously, how easy is it to forget because the 113th Congress has done so little in either Senate or House?

Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats which are the majority party. At one time and perhaps still today, Senator Sanders has described himself as a socialist. On several occasions, the GOP has referred to Sanders as an ineffective extremist. Just search using your search engine of choice. I’m only linking one example since I used the Internet Archive for an earlier project. Many describe the Senator as the most liberal of individuals on the Hill.

Well go to Thomas and search legislation put forth by Senator Sanders this Congress.

How many submitted by Sanders have been to provide better healthcare and other services to Veterans?  The majority of approximately 100 that he has introduced have been about Veterans and services to assist them.

Now you may or may not agree with the particular bills submitted by Senator Sanders. Read some though, and then look at their fates. Many are sitting in the Committee on Veterans’ Affair. One example would be S. 825 the “Homeless Veterans Prevention Act of 2013’’ which proceeded to hearings but is still gathering dust.

Another is S. 1950 ‘‘Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014’’ which found a filibuster from the minority party.

In other words, why are all these Senators shocked that many Veterans are not receiving at minimum adequate healthcare? Why is Senator Cruz up running his mouth about the necessity for all these investigations and cover ups coming from the White House? Why is the “conservative” press treating all of this as “breaking news?” Apparently neither give a rat’s rear end about the Veterans if photo ops aren’t going to happen or if it might endanger tax breaks for NASCAR tracks, racehorses, or vacation homes to fund health care for Veterans.

Could it be that the Senate, both the majority and minority parties, made the decision to not make any decisions that might influence future election cycles?

Actually, I’m not a huge fan of Senator Sanders. Like most I agree with some of his positions and disagree with others. On specific topics, I might be among his greatest advocates, his harshest critics, or just lukewarm to the point where I would discuss anything else just to stay awake.

For those people so obsessed with partisan politics, labels, and the other party is the enemy mentality, it really doesn’t fit the rhetoric that the most liberal, a socialist even, United States Senator has been one of most resonating voices in trying to help United States Veterans get the health care they deserve.

Meanwhile the proclaimed “patriots” make noise, pat the Vets on the back, but filibuster and fail to propose their own legislation to provide better access to healthcare.

Few things are simple, and telling you what you want to hear might make one popular, but it certainly ain’t doing a blasted thing to fix the problems which will only get bigger.

Are We Tired of Michael Sam Stories?

Call me whatever, but I’m tired of reading about Michael Sam being happy about being drafted by the St. Louis Rams and the ESPN coverage of the kiss. As an individual who believes in the Christian faith, a football fan, a Who Dat Saints supporter from the time I would only be knee high to a grasshopper when standing on top of one of those crawfish mounds out in the yard, and someone with enough book learning to be labeled as professor, this episode might just open doors which we fail to comprehend.

What’s next? Seriously, we might have coverage of individuals who have been convicted of crimes being built up by the commentators. They might show celebrations of athletes selected who committed assault and battery, sexual crimes including rape, illegal drug usage and trafficking, and even murder.

Do we really want to live in that type of society? We have been so fortunate that past and current professional athletes are all such “perfect” people that we would welcome them always into our homes, at night, and into the rooms of our loved ones. Yep!!!!

If every professional athlete presented themselves in the manner of, let’s say Drew Brees of current players and Warrick Dunn of retired NFL players. There are others, but those are two individuals of my generation who I respect for how they present themselves both on and off the field. If I were asked to name a professional athlete trying to bring something positive from a tragic situation, I would state the name Steve Gleason.

Those men represent what I would argue as examples of what kids should strive to become off the field. I thought it was cute how Drew held his little boy following the Super Bowl. Some of the reactions by kids to Warrick’s works have been heartwarming. The tapes that Steve made for his child before his ALS worsened are inspirational.

Personally I hope to one day live in a world where someone like Michael Sam is not news just for what already occurred. I would like to see him regarded as an individual who worked hard to succeed in his pursuits. In my opinion, he should be nothing more and nothing less at this point.

The sad reality, however, is that because some in society label his lifestyle as evil it is news. Agree or disagree with his feelings, doesn’t he have the right to be who he is?  For some reason, we all times think we are both judge and jury.  Should our feelings change merely because we are either but not both judge and jury?

Some argue that he should keep his private life private. To me everyone’s private life should be private. Why should he or anyone have to disguise who they are? What is different from Sam than other players drafted who kissed their Mom, their wife, their girlfriend, or anyone else?  To me I see little, if any, difference.

Would there be a public outcry about a man who served time for sexual assault and manslaughter kissing his current girlfriend but not his previous 2 girlfriends with whom he fathered children?  Probably not, and that to me is a sad point about society.

This will sound strange but even with people I regard as friends, I really don’t care to watch any of the married women I know kiss their husbands. I don’t want to watch the guys I know kiss their wives. In a few of those cases, I actually kissed some of my friends wives before they became the wife of my friend or anyone else, and I still have no interest in watching them kiss anyone. Actually many of these women are even prettier today than way back at the time I wanted to kiss them, and I still don’t care to see them kissing me or anyone else.

In the case of Michael Sam, all that should matter to NFL fans is his potential to play in the NFL.

Now his combine stats were not impressive for his position, and I can understand why an SEC Defensive Player of the year would not be a high draft pick with those numbers. Still not everything can be based on numbers. Who he chooses to kiss or not to kiss does not matter to me. It’s his life.

As a football fan, I would focus on this part of his draft profile:

Plays hard — gives great effort and competes every down. Good on-field intensity and demeanor. Attacks the edges aggressively and motor runs hot. Outstanding weight-room strength — can squat a small house. Very durable.”

If you wanted a child to emulate on field performance, could you desire anything more than those first 2 sentences? “Plays hard — gives great effort and competes every down. Good on-field intensity and demeanor.”

I hope that one day we get to a stage where an individual such as Michael Sam is looked at by society as a whole based on what he can and cannot do in his profession.

I would hope that an individual would be liked or disliked based on whether they are a part of the community and give back to that community. In other words, do they edify others through their interactions with you and others?

We haven’t reached that stage, so Michael Sam needs to be on the news. He’s an individual. He’s a football player who had success in the SEC. He seems to be an articulate and sincere individual. I think he deserves to be himself, and he is not forcing his choices on me. In my opinion, I should not force my choices on him. Chances are that I and the people I consider friends are more likely to have more in common with Michael Sam and to become friends with Michael Sam than they are with a person who is a crook, thief, or phony.

If people have a problem with that, consider this argument I read from a self labeled “conservative,” “American values,” and “Christian” website.

“When homosexuals gain certain ‘rights’, we lose our rights in the process.”

I guess that means that as long as “we” have the advantage or the privilege, it really doesn’t matter about “you.”

Do we really want to live in that type of society?

It’s sorta like Sarah Palin’s waterboarding speech, and I’m not even referring to the baptism aspects. Have you ever considered who gets to determine who the terrorist is? Chances are it might be someone other than you.

Why isn’t someone else entitled to the same rights we have and why is it OK for us to judge them, but not OK for them to judge us?

That’s why I hope that one day Michael Sam is not a news story simply from celebrating and being happy about being drafted.

About LAB Louisiana Boy

After 200+ posts, an about page is finally being written. Actually this blog is nothing compared to the original intent in that it grew well beyond expectations. Seriously it reminds me of Seinfeld in that it is a blog about nothing in particular, but it there are things that anyone can like or dislike and possibly some can relate.

LAB is merely the Louisiana state abbreviation with the B added for boy. It also reminds me of one of the dog’s my Dad got well after I had moved from under his roof. Most likely someone abandoned her on the highway near his place, and she made it into his backyard. Visits to all the surrounding neighbors and fliers placed on light poles, on bulletin boards in towns, and found notices in the Hammond, Livingston Parish, and Baton Rouge newspapers resulted in a few people stopping by but nobody claiming her. He eventually named her Penny which was a name my maternal grandmother used for the majority of dogs I remember she and my grandfather having. Penny appeared during the day on the night of my grandmother’s wake. Dad was at the church when I pulled into his place after driving down from north MS where I was working on my doctorate. He left a note on his table about the dog just in case someone came looking for her. A mixed breed, she had many features of a yellow lab and was one of the friendliest and most playful puppies I ever saw. She never lost that friendly nature in the 15+ years she lived with my Dad in Livingston Parish.

Officially I’m a Professor of History with my research areas being the New South and US Political History. I’ve taught at both research universities and community colleges with administrative positions tossed in as well. In addition to the academics, I’ve worked as a legislative analyst, political consultant, lobbyist, and at all levels in specific campaigns. Those campaigns have been for candidates running as Democrats and as Republicans. The common element amongst my candidates is that I truly felt that each individual was the best person for the position. Many times my candidate and I disagreed on a number of issues or ways to get things done once in office, but we were sincere about our respective positions and shared the same long term goals of what would best help the constituents and make the area stronger. In voting, I cast my ballot for individual and never along some party line.

As a graduate student and new faculty member, my professors and colleagues once they got more familiar with me often referred to me as the boy from Louisiana. It’s because while I’m often in the world of pressed shirts, neck ties, and polished shoes: an ensemble that I used to call Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, I’m that barefooted guy in cutoff britches out in the fields of Livingston Parish who likes to take things apart, put them back together, and fix things whether it requires duct tape and WD 40, specialized tools, or just a “I gotta git-r-dun any way, any how” type of approach.

I was reared in the Hungarian Settlement between the villages of Albany and Springfield in Livingston Parish Louisiana. I attended the local Albany schools grades K to 12 with the only exception being the junior high years at Albany Springfield Junior High since both incorporated areas combined resources for the 7th and 8th grades. You can learn more about the history of the area here and here.

My maternal Grandfather and his twin brother had been born in the United States, but his family had been born in Hungary before coming to the US. My maternal Grandmother was born in Hungary and came to the US as a child and later became a US citizen.

Terminology I learned as a child influences me today in my profession with the concept of hyphenated Americans. My Grandfather considered himself 100 percent American. He had Hungarian parents and had been reared in Hungarian traditions, but he and his peers like him referred to themselves as Americans with Hungarian ancestry or parentage. On the other hand, my Grandmother and her peers referred to themselves as Hungarian-Americans in that they had been citizens of different countries. Even today I can’t tell anyone if these were actual arguments or just friendly ribbing amongst people of their generation, but the number of times I heard people like my Grandmother say that she had to take a test to become an American citizen while my Grandfather was just lucky to have been born here is perhaps higher than I can count. In classrooms I sometimes need to explain to students that I only use “hyphenated” when there are multiple countries of citizenship and otherwise use ancestry in terms of US politics or US history.

My Dad is not Hungarian, and his European ancestry roots back into France and Germany with some Native American Indian on his mother’s side. I’ve never traced his side’s genealogical roots to the stage where I can pinpoint the time frame of their US settlement because it definitely predates the Civil War and may go back to European colonization.

My paternal Grandmother died when I was a toddler, and my paternal Grandfather passed during my early elementary school days so the majority of my Grandparent generation exposure is from the maternal Hungarian side.

The common element between Grandfathers is that both were hard working individuals. My paternal Grandfather served in the military and later worked as a welder. My maternal Grandfather built the water system in the area which he sold before my birth. He spent his “retirement” days farming just as his parents had done.

My maternal Grandfather had no formal education, and his reading and writing skills in both Hungarian and English were rudimentary at best. Even with that lack of schooling, however, my Grandfather might be the most intelligent individual I have ever known even though today I often work with individuals who earned PhDs and professional degrees from Ivy League schools like Harvard and other institutions such as Duke and Johns Hopkins. I’m not exaggerating when I say that you could read my Grandfather anything and months later he could recite it back verbatim or explain it accurately in a different manner. He built many labor saving devices for his plumbing work and for use on the farm. Professors from LSU were frequent visitors to the place where they worked with my Grandfather on developing new varieties of strawberries and blackberries and disease control methods. Elected officials from local, Parish, and state level frequented the place to get my Grandfather’s opinion on a number of issues. Grandpa was a quiet man, but when he spoke people listened.

Also listening whether it was out in the field, in the hothouses, or usually sitting on an oak tree block alongside the Southeast corner of the old strawberry packing shed was the youngest grandchild, me. The things I recall, the lessons I learned, helped mold me into who I am today.

My Grandfather and his friends never had the opportunity for formal schooling, so they encouraged me. They also quizzed me daily because even without the book learning each man was highly intelligent and accomplished in their own rights. Neither my Grandparents and their friends nor my parents forced me to study, but they made it clear that school provided more opportunities for the future. Just as important, I learned that book learning was only a branch on a large tree called education.

My Dad did receive his high school diploma and even earned a few technical college credits in drafting in order to continue playing baseball just a little bit longer. Like his Dad, my Dad worked as a welder and aviation mechanic. About the time of my birth, however, he started looking for a career which had more stability and easier on the body physically. He saw an advertisement in the classified section of the newspaper for manager trainees at K&B drugstores and decided to give it a try. I believe that my Mom even had to tie Dad’s necktie for the interview since he did know how being that he had only worn a tie on a couple of occasions.

He received an opportunity and eventually worked his way up the ladder to being one of the top producing store managers in the company. He succeeded not through any book learning, but from working hard and common sense. Dad treated everyone fairly and honestly and expected that type of treatment in return. The salesmen from the various companies respected that as they knew that Dad did not play favorites and the competing companies knew that they had to perform to get their products to move. In Dad’s stores Pepsi might have a huge product display near the entrance one week with Coca Cola products limited to end caps and the shelves. The following week, however, would find the Coca Cola products featured near the store entrance. The soft drink and beer distributors built some rather unique product displays which featured arrays of point of sale materials. His K&B stores typically sold more products than the grocery store anchors of the shopping centers or the Walmarts and K-marts in town.

Combine the upbringing of the packing shed lessons, lessons learned in the K&B stores, time of the rivers and Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain with my Dad and peers, and some excellent public school teachers, and you have the foundation for a well rounded education which continued with superb undergraduate and later graduate professors. Today, everyone and everything seems to teach me something.

  • Now add in becoming a caregiver while in elementary school for my Mom who began suffering from a long term condition which resulted in dozens of surgeries and physical pain to levels which I cannot comprehend before her death just after I graduated from high school;
  • Plus my Dad who controlled diabetes with diet and exercise for approximately 20 years before requiring insulin shots and today is legally blind from the repercussions of diabetes which I often call the human equivalent of crown rot;
  • Getting married to a California born Political Scientist who specializes in Comparative Politics and International Relations who earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Northern schools;
  • Her undergoing a major surgery and being hospitalized for weeks just a few months after our marriage; and
  • My undergoing my own unique health experience starting suddenly when I felt like a plane had hit the building where I was delivering a lecture about the Progressive Movement of the late 18th and early 19th century to a small class.

A plane had not hit the building, but I was unable to regain my sense of balance. Multiple MDs in Georgia, where we were working at the time, delivered multiple diagnoses ranging from stroke to diabetes to something is wrong and ultimately the “your symptoms are impossible so you are faking” conclusion.

Fortunately, my wife and I had already planned on leaving GA because even though I was about to receive tenure and she would the following year, neither of us could see spending our lives in that area. We both had multiple interviews lined up in different locations throughout the country. One of her first interviews was in Maryland not far from Washington DC, and with the uncertainty of my health we decided to move for her job offer.

Fate is interesting because almost immediately upon our arrival, I had become bedridden. The local doctors suggested multiple ear disorders but vestibular rehabilitation therapy only made things worse. For over 1 year, I could not stand without assistance and crawled along the floor with my wife’s cats, who adopted me after our marriage, escorting me when I just had to try and move. The nausea and amount of vomiting each day, every day, was unreal.

It was my wife’s research which led me to Johns Hopkins for an examination by an MD/PhD, Charley Della Santina, which ruled out all the inner and middle ear diagnoses. His test results and conclusions led to his referring me to another MD/PhD, Majid Fotuhi, a neurologist. Majid confirmed a vestibular system disruption most likely rooted in genetic factors and elevated through a perfect storm of events by not strokes but a variety of atypical migraines and affiliated conditions.

He started me on a treatment plan which still continues. I haven’t recovered fully yet, but eventually I will be better both physically and mentally than I have been at any point in my life.

Having to relearn how to walk in your 30s is not something I ever anticipated. I’d say that I’m out and about today at approximately 75 percent of normal activity for most. I write for most because for me I’d estimate that I’m doing maybe 50 percent of what I will soon be undertaking as a part of my normal life.

Many of the simple things that I unknowingly took for granted, I now cherish. I honestly don’t think I took my upbringing for granted, but I certainly understand more of what my Grandfather, his twin brother, and their peers tried to teach me. I’m more appreciative of many things.

Needless to say I have the greatest wife in the world as she stuck with me and would not let me give up. She really can’t help it because her parents are of that same make. I also have friends from the past and some who first met me when I could not walk who are the greatest. Former students who have since earned professional degrees, graduate degrees, and have embarked on highly successful careers have blessed me by becoming friends.

I thought this blog would be a place to proof some polished articles. Believe it or not most of what I write professionally is succinct yet still meticulously cited.

Instead LAB Louisianaboy has a host of topics plus a lot of lagniappe. Most are typed straight from the keyboard or spoken out into Dragon software. I reflect which can be wise. I opine which may ruffle feathers. With the punditry, however, I do try to link or provide additional source material as references to my feelings whether one agrees or disagrees.

Honestly, I should take each topic on this blog and make separate blogs. For now, however, I’m just thinking of the blog as part of my getting brain and body back functioning together at the same speed.

LAB Louisianaboy is really a blog about nothing, but within that nothing more than a few people have informed me that they discovered some tidbit or nugget which they used along their respective paths.

That’s what teaching is about. It’s not about indoctrinating. It’s being a lantern or a light to provide a glimpse of just what is out in the dark. It’s introducing tools, illustrating possibilities, and peaking interests to use existing tools, discover others available, and develop ones unimaginable to others.

It’s fascinating how different things can appear just by a change in perspective. Is one better than the other? If that’s true then that means that another can be better than the one you see as the best.

I’m just thinking that today is the first day of the rest of my life. Today I need to work on a foundation that I can build upon tomorrow or leave as a base upon which others may build if I am no longer here.

Welcome and thanks for reading another rough draft here and anything else you choose.

Take care…