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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

We are in the midst of a terrible rampant disease in our country today.  That became evident to thousands of people who were simply watching the morning news broadcast in Roanoke VA yesterday morning.  WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward, were doing a “live” interview with Vicki Gardner, an official of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Suddenly shots rang out.  Both Alison Parker and Adam Ward were killed, and Vicki Gardner was seriously wounded on camera by a disgruntled, former employee of the station named Vester Flanagan.  It turns out that when Flanagan arrived at the scene, he saw that the camera was pointed away from Parker.  He patiently waited until it was on her again before opening fire.

This tragic case is going to be talked about for quite a while.  Both gun control advocates and the NRA are going to have a huge fight again.  But, you can expect that nothing will be done about gun control, again.  The news media has already blown this up.  Fox News asked why this isn’t a “hate crime” since the shooter was black and the victims were white.

Donald Trump said that this wasn’t a “gun problem” it was a “mental health” problem.  He is all in favor of keeping guns out of the hands of mentally ill people, but doesn’t say how that is to happen.  The President is calling, again, for gun control legislation.

I have already made my view clear about how much I want to see meaningful gun control legislation that helps keep guns out of the hands of people like this.  This writing is not about that.  It is more about the disease of violence that has gripped our nation.

Did you know that this country averages at least one “mass killing” per day?  The definition of “mass killing” usually means that more than two people are killed in one crime.  Think about that for just one minute.  We average at least one “mass killing” every single day!

There has been a lot of talk about crime, especially over at Fox News.  We hear about black-on-black crime.  We hear about hate crimes and mass killings like the one in Charleston, SC.  We hear about police abuse, mostly against black citizens, but not always.  We hear about police officers being killed.  We hear about serial killers.  The list goes on and on.

Everywhere you look, you can read or hear about violent crime taking place somewhere.  This has definitely become a disease.  But, what has provoked Americans to react in such violent ways?  What could possibly be the root cause of all of this violence?

The answers to those questions vary depending upon whom you talk to.  Liberals usually say it is because we have too loose gun laws.  Conservatives say we don’t have enough people with guns to protect themselves.  Some blame race.  Some blame religion.  Some blame sexual-orientation.  Some blame poverty.

The national debate about violence is being drowned out by the loud mouths on all sides of the issue.  I believe the primary root cause of all of this mass violence is simply hate.  I don’t make that accusation lightly.  But, I believe that hate has become so rampant in our society that mass violence cannot help but follow.

You don’t have to look far to see all of the signs of hate today.  The birthright citizenship issue is based on hate.  The deportation of undocumented immigrants, especially since it is intended to target one group of people, is based on hate.  The idea being spread by too many people that all Muslims are terrorists is based on hate.

County Clerks refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone because they don’t want to issue them to gay couples is based on hate.  The idea that you can justify discrimination against any group of people using “religious belief” is based on hate.

Unfortunately, hate is all around us.  Unfortunately, it is being flamed by politicians and news outlets.  Any time a politician targets any group of people as being those “others” that is whipping up the flames of hate.  Every time a news outlet or talk radio host puts labels on groups of people to show how they are causing all of your problems, that is whipping up the flames of hate.

We are living in a society where so-called conservative politicians keep talking about “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps” all the while blaming certain groups for all of America’s ills.  That is not “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps” that is playing a blame game.

D’Souza, who I consider to be mentally ill, said after the shooting “I hope the President shows pity for the victims, and not the gay black guy who killed them.”  That is stirring the flames of hate.  We always hear about liberals trying to raise the “race card.”  Yet, it is the so-called conservative media that keeps bringing it up whenever something like this happens.

It is very clear that we have a real hate issue in our country.  I lived through the civil rights era.  I witnessed the pure hate against anyone who wasn’t white.  I also understand that hatred wasn’t just against people of color.  It was against anyone not classified at the time as a “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant” or WASP.

The hatred was mostly against Blacks but included Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and any other group that wasn’t a WASP.  Religion was used as justification for that hatred.  Religion was justification to keep those “others” down.  Violence against those “others” was justified in the Bible.

Today, we are hearing the same rhetoric.  Today we are seeing the same hatred for those “others.”  Those “others” may have different names, but it is the same rhetoric and the same hate.  So-called conservatives say we should follow the Constitution.  Yet, they claim you can ignore the Constitution if you have a “religious belief” against it.  That isn’t patriotism, that is treason.

In the meantime, thousands of our fellow citizens are dying by violence.  Thousands of our fellow citizens are murdered, raped, brutalized, beaten, or abused simply they are different.  And what do our politicians do?  They blame the victims.  What do their talking heads do?  They blame the victims.  What do we as a society do?  We turn away and pretend it didn’t happen.

Hate has permeated our society so much, that we simply believe that there is nothing we can do about it.  Hate has been with mankind since we first stood upright and walked.  So, how can we stop it?  In other words, we seek excuses and not solutions.

Sorry, but it is our fault as a people that we are surrounded by so much hate and violence.  If we as a people do not stand up and say STOP IT, it will continue.  The problem is, if you look at history, dictatorships begin with hate.  Fascism begins with hate.

It may seem amusing to many people that certain politicians want to use the “blame game” to gain votes.  But, every time they use that game, it stirs the flames of hate.  It becomes justification for violence against any group of people who are “different.”  If you want proof, simply look at what Trump said when asked if he condemned some of his “followers” attacking a homeless person in New York.  He simply said, I am paraphrasing here, “well some of my followers are passionate.”

Trump is not alone in the field either.  I have used the term “so-called conservatives” earlier because these politicians and talking heads are NOT conservatives.  To call them such is an insult to the real conservatives in our country.  I don’t agree with conservatives and their policies, but we have had conservatives who were not filled with hate, and we still do.

No, these people are simply hate mongers.  They want control.  As a result, they are willing to allow street violence as long as it gets them votes.  We suffer a tragic disease called “violence.”  One of its biggest root causes is hate.  If we don’t stop listening to, and silence the hate mongers, we are all doomed to more violence.  That is how you destroy a society and establish a dictatorship.

We as a people can still stop this disease if you are willing to step up and do something positive.  Otherwise, we lose and our society will become a footnote in history.

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We have seen the stock take a bit of a tumble over the last three trading days.  Today, it seems to be balancing off a bit and there is hope the “panic” won’t hit.  But, there are no promises on that front either.  The Stock Market is probably the most fickle thing there is.  It is almost hard to believe we are at its mercy.

Experts are giving a whole lot of reasons for the sudden downturn last week.  There is the Chinese Market which has been sinking for a while.  There is the strength of the U.S. dollar compared to others.  There is the “threat” as some call it, that the Fed will raise interest rates.

So, we have a number of things that are affecting the market in negative ways.  There are those who claim we are on the verge of a total world-wide economic collapse.  Those are mostly the people who sell gold and other precious metals.  And of course, these downturns suddenly spike the price of those medals.

However, I saw a quote from a “Wall Street Expert” who has a slightly different view of what is going on.  It is just one more theory of why we have seen this “correction” as Wall Street likes to call them.  His view was put simply:  “We have too much stuff, and people don’t have enough money to buy it.”

He was referring to the lower than expected profits a lot of companies are projecting.  Meaning, they are making products, but people aren’t buying them because those people don’t have enough money.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan ran for President on the mistaken principle of “trickle-down economics.”  It was eventually called “supply side economics” because “trickle-down” didn’t sound too appeasing to the working class.

In the “supply side” economics of St. Reagan, if you make enough products, the people will buy them.  If regulations were removed and the so-called “free market” was allowed to run amuck, the economy would improve.  Add tax cuts for the wealthy to the mix, and everything would be smooth sailing.  Because, according to Reagan, those rich, greedy, bastards would re-invest their tax savings in companies.

It didn’t work.  His “voodoo economics” as other experts called it resulted in a bloated federal deficit, lost jobs, and a huge recession.  Seems those rich guys did not invest their “tax savings” into companies.  As a result, there was no significant expansion of manufacturing in the U.S.  It was all shipped overseas.

Since then, the Republican Party has stuck with this failed economic plan.  They insist that if we just let it go a little longer, it will prove to be the right course.  The last 35 years of failure shouldn’t be looked at, because they are right.

Another huge factor in Reagan’s “supply side” economics was a bitter attack on the working people of the country.  The Republicans waged open warfare against unions, and they still are, in order to keep labor from gaining any gains in income.  The Republicans have said over-and-over that “companies should determine wages and not the government.”  Of course that is in reference to the minimum wage which is below the poverty line today.

Over the last 40 years, the income of the working class people in America has stagnated.  It has gotten so bad, that in terms of real buying power, you make less today than your fathers did in 1968.  On the other hand, the earnings for the top 1% of this country has grown by over 500%.

Republicans are always crying that wage increases cost jobs.  The fact is just the opposite.  Higher wages means people have more disposable income, meaning they will spend more money on products, thus increasing demand and thereby increasing job growth to meet the demand.

In areas of the country where the minimum wage was increased, there is far more job growth than in areas that refused to raise the minimum wage.  That is especially visible in areas where one part raised the minimum wage and another did not.  The part with the higher minimum wage is experiencing better growth than the other part.

Hell, even people like the Koch Brothers are expressing concern over the growing income inequality in this country.  If the greedy like them are worried, maybe our politicians should be worried as well.  But, the Republicans are still anti-worker.  They don’t like the idea that you earn a livable wage for an honest day’s work.  They don’t like the idea that you should receive overtime for working overtime.  As Bush said: “The way to grow the economy is for Americans to work more.”  He never said you should be paid more for that extra work.

We have been experiencing a growth in our economy.  The problem is that people are still not buying as much as they did before the melt-down in 2008.  The biggest reason they are not spending as much is because they don’t have as much money to spend as they did.  Their income is decreasing while the wealthiest’s income is growing.

There are a lot of reasons that Wall Street took a hit last week.  There are a lot of reasons why it will take hits in the future.  The only question that remains is how big of a hit will it take?  And, if that hit is so big it will ruin the economy again?

We live in a global market.  What happens in places like China and Europe have a direct effect on us.  However, I believe it is possible to lessen that impact as long as we have a strong internal economy.  The only way to have a strong internal economy is to have a population that can afford to live in it.  Which means something needs to be done about income levels for the working people in this country.

As that expert said:   “We have too much stuff, and people don’t have enough money to buy it.”  Since capitalism is supposed to be based on “supply and demand,” that one sentence makes perfect sense.

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The Republican Party is always talking about state’s rights.  They claim that each state should be able to decide issues on their own.  The two most famous ones are abortion and same-sex marriage.    According to the Republicans only the states should be allowed to decide on these issues.

We have a bunch of other “states rights” issues as well.  Most Republican states have passed some form of Voter ID laws which are intended to suppress the vote.  Yet, according to them, that is okay because only states should be able to decide who should be able to vote and how.

Republicans are now looking to help decide who can run for president.  As you may know, the national party does not set the guidelines for how and whom can be on a ballot in a particular state.  National elections are ruled by each state.  But, this year there seems to be a problem with our democracy.

The Republican Party establishment is terrified that Donald Trump might actually win the primaries.  They have been looking for ways to stop The Donald.  Their problem is that Trump is still leading in the polls.  Worse still, he is leading by a wide margin and is dragging the party further and further to the right.

This has the party establishment scared shitless.  They don’t know what to do to stop the insanity from drowning their party.  Because of Trump, we are seeing almost all of the candidates, including Jeb Bush, making some very ridiculous statements.  The other day, in order to get Latinos to love him, Bush said the term “anchor babies” is not intended towards Mexicans, no it is intended towards Asians.  It is kind of “Pick your medicine.”  Either Mexicans hate you, or Asians hate you.  Bush has decided that since there are far more Mexicans voting than Asians, Asians are the better target.

We have the “wall” discussions.  Anti-Abortion rantings.  Same-sex tears.  Religious belief legalizing discrimination.  And, all of it being raised by candidates who want to be more like Trump than Trump.

So, using their “state’s rights” as cover, Republican Party committees in North Carolina and Virginia have decided they will put an end to Trump once and for all.  Both states are talking about their rules for being eligible to get on the state’s primary ballots.   But, the interesting thing is that these new rules have nothing to do with getting enough signatures, or where you are in the polls.  That is even used to get to the adult table during the debates.

No, their primary rule change would make you ineligible to get on the state’s primary ballot if your do not “pledge” to support the Republican Nominee if you lose the primary.  That’s right.  If you do not pledge to throw your full support to the winner of the primaries, you cannot get on the ballot in Virginia and North Carolina, if the rules are changed.

This is specifically targeting Trump.  Even during the debates, he refused to rule out a Third Party run if he does not get the Republican nomination.  That has pissed off a lot of people on the Republican side.

As it turns out, not only do states want to decide who can vote in the elections, they now want to decide who can even appear on the ballot.  Not based on “traditional” rules, but on “new and made up” rules.  If they don’t like you, you can be sure they will change the rules so you can’t appear on their ballot.

This is called “pick your candidate” Republican style.  Unfortunately, it goes way beyond just who is allowed on the ballot.  It is a prime indicator of just how Republicans desire to govern.  If they don’t like something or someone, just change the rules to suit your desires.  That is not how democracy is supposed to work.

It is not how the Constitution says we are to run our country.  But, I have never accused the current Republican Party of being in favor of the law of the land or the Constitution.  This tinkering with the rules on getting on the ballot with superfluous nonsense is a perfect example of a flawed party.  It is a perfect example of why Republicans should not hold office at any level.

How can we trust a party that randomly changes their own rules in order to shut up people they don’t like.  Both states claim they are looking at changing their rules “independently.”  But, I will wager that more Republican states who hate Trump will be happy to follow along.

I don’t like Trump either.  But, to arbitrarily change the rules to eliminate someone just because you don’t like him, is bad behavior at best.  It is fascism at worst.  Problem is the Republican Party doesn’t care about appearances.  As these proposed rule changes prove, they only care about controlling the people.  You can best control the people when you control the process of who they can vote for or against.

 

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Is it possible that one major sorts league finally got the domestic violence issue correct?  Domestic violence and sexual abuse have been common headlines in sports for the past few years.  These cases involve professional athletes, college athletes, and even high school athletes.   The problem is only made worse by the “blame the victim” culture that seems to surround, not only sports, but society as a whole.  It just might be possible that one sports league has found a way to break that horrible cycle and actually “help” those involved in these types of cases.

When the NFL found themselves embroiled in a mess over the Ray Rice case last year, the MLB stated it would come up with a “comprehensive plan” to address the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault.  Last week, they announced their plan to the world.  This plan did take a year to be put together, but it was jointly done between MLB and the Players Association.

The significance of this announcement is that both sides worked together to make it happen.  That is really something.  The MLB and its relations with the Players Association was the most fractious relationship for decades.  The Union didn’t trust the Owners, and the Owners didn’t trust the Union.  They really hated each other.

However, peace has broken out between the two groups.  When the NFL found itself in its quagmire over domestic violence with the Ray Rice case as well as others, MLB and their Players Union didn’t want to get sucked into that same quagmire.

The resulting “comprehensive plan” should be looked at by all other sports leagues as a model to follow.  Here is a breakdown of this plan:

  • At the heart of the plan there will be a seven-person Joint Policy Board, composed of two members each from MLB and the players’ union, along with three experts in the field of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. One of the board’s expert members will submit a treatment plan to the full board for approval and oversee the player’s compliance with the plan.
  • A player’s treatment plan could include submitting to psychological evaluations, counseling sessions, court compliance, relocating from a home shared with his partner, limiting interactions with his partner, relinquishing of weapons and other “reasonable directives” to ensure safety of victims. Concurrently, the commissioner’s office will investigate any allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse and can place the player on seven-day administrative league during the investigation, subject to appeal.
  • Discipline will come at the commissioner’s discretion, and the policy does not include suggested guidelines for length of suspension; rather, it allows Manfred to “issue the discipline he believes is appropriate in light of the severity of the conduct.  The Commissioner’s authority to discipline is not dependent on whether the player is convicted or pleads guilty to a crime.”  Players can appeal their discipline and have that hearing held by an independent arbitrator.
  • They will establish a 24-hour, confidential help line for players and their families, with bilingual experts available.

It must be noted that this plan is not just about punishment.  It includes a treatment plan as well.  The objective here isn’t just to punish a player, but to help that player change bad behavior.  That is something that is woefully missing from other leagues and their plans.

The fact that three members of the Joint Policy Board are experts in the field of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse is extremely encouraging.  That means people with knowledge of all of the ramifications for everyone involved in domestic abuse can be fully understood.

Some will criticize that there are no “set limits of suspension” in these cases.  I don’t have a problem with that.  Each case should be evaluated on its own.  Punishment should be appropriate to the severity of the case.  The fact that both sides agreed that any appeals will be heard by an independent arbitrator takes away all of the finger-pointing we now see in the NFL.

When Commissioner Rob Manfred and Union Chief Tony Clark released details of the agreement, they said it aims to: “reflect the gravity and the sensitivities of these significant societal issues.  We believe that these efforts will foster not only an approach of education and prevention but also a united stance against these matters throughout our sport and our communities.”

“Players are husbands, fathers, sons and boyfriends,” said players’ association executive director Tony Clark in a statement. “And as such want to set an example that makes clear that there is no place for domestic abuse in our society.

“We are hopeful that this new comprehensive, collectively-bargained policy will deter future violence, promote victim safety, and serve as a step toward a better understanding of the causes and consequences of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.”

I don’t know what you think about MLB.  But, this is a perfect example of how two sides can sit down and come up with a comprehensive plan that takes into consideration the victims of domestic violence.  It shows that organizations can come up with plans that help everyone and not just have knee-jerk reactions to headlines.

MLB and the Players Association should be applauded for their actions on this matter.  They seem to “get it” on this matter.

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Sometimes, I struggle with what to write about.  I look at the campaign going on and wonder how people can swallow many things being said by our candidates.  Then, I remembered about all of those conspiracy theories that are rampant in our society.  I came to the conclusion that today’s campaign is more about selling snake oil or using conspiracy theories to get votes than actually coming up with policies.

So, today I decided I would make an attempt to wrap them all together.  As everyone knows, there are hundreds of conspiracy theories around.  But, the one I find most interesting is the ones about ET.

There are theories about how the government is hiding ETs in some underground military base, or how ET is helping the U.S. discover new technologies, or even how ancient man was too stupid to build the pyramids and that ET actually built them for us.

To show what I mean, let’s look at the last one and see how it works.  The Ancient Alien theory is somewhat intriguing.  The basis for this theory is that we believe that our ancestors were basically stupid people.  They were unable to comprehend mathematics or science or figure out how to create new tools.  According to the Ancient Alien, also called Ancient Astronaut theory, ET had to come to earth and help our ancestors raise themselves from their stupidity.

The reason for this “help” isn’t quite clear.  Did ET help us because they wanted to see mankind grow into something much better?  Did they help us because they wanted to be treated as gods?  Which is one of the biggest theories from the Ancient Alien people.  See, we only invented gods because our ancestors couldn’t understand that they were really seeing humanoids coming to us from space.  As a result our ancestors created a whole litany of deists to explain what they were witnessing.

If it weren’t for those ETs, we would never have been able to build the pyramids.  The Easter Island statues would never have been built.  We would have no religion in the world.  It is all because ET came to our rescue that everything we have today exists.

One theory even claims that aliens came to earth and they caused the extinction of the dinosaurs so mammals could evolve.  According to the theory, ET killed all of the dinosaurs with their space ships.

Yes, I find all of this as nonsense.  I find the Ancient Alien theory simply snake oil that people are selling to make a buck.  More power to them.  I came to my conclusion after listening to these people talk about their theories as being fact.  Nothing sells better than making a fantasy sound like it has been proven.

It really doesn’t matter what you are trying to sell.  The real goal is to make it sound as if it is all real, proven fact.  Even though there isn’t any evidence nor any fact to build your theory on.  This is true today in other areas as well.  I have written before that I believe that people have gotten lazy when deciding their vote.  I don’t believe that people do enough research to find the true facts on issues.

This isn’t really anything new.  It has been going on for years.  However, with the mass media outlets we have today, along with the internet, it is much easier for snake oil panderers to ply their trade.  This goes across the spectrum of issues.

Televangelists have been bilking the public for billions of dollars with their TV shows offering “divine guidance” to the public.  I believe you know you are dealing with a snake oil salesman when they constantly ask for “your donations so we can keep up the good work.”

We have the idiots at Infowars stirring up problems with their conspiracy theory that Operation Jade Helm is really a rehearsal for a government takeover of “conservative” states.  There are the 9/11 theorists that believe our government was the real power behind the terrorist attacks.

Of course there are, as mentioned above, the UFO theories.  Then there is the Bigfoot theories.  Everyone seems to love a good conspiracy theory.

Politicians use conspiracy theory tactics all of the time, too.  The “makers” and the “takers” are part of conspiracy theories.  So are the “teachers unions are to blame for everything wrong with our public schools.”  There are so many conspiracy theories floating around it is hard to keep track.

I don’t even have a problem with conspiracy theories per se.  However, when politicians use these conspiracy theories to support their platforms, then they have gone beyond politics and into snake oil salesmen.

Look, every theory isn’t necessarily all that far-fetched.  Is there life on other planets in the universe?  I would say probably.  Is there intelligent life on other planets?  I would say probably.  But, the idea of them actually visiting us I find difficult to believe.

The sheer distances they would have to travel makes it very unlikely.  Especially knowing what we do about physics.  I realize we don’t know everything, but until some new breakthrough comes along that proves you can break the universal speed limit of the speed of light, I will hold to my beliefs.

That is true for most things in life.  We each have our own beliefs.  Whether it is about ET, Bigfoot, religion, or any other topic, we will believe what we want.  Only proof and real statistics can show us we are wrong.  That is if we are willing to admit the proof is real.

But, when it comes to governing our country, we must be willing to listen to both sides of the argument and then decide what we believe.  Governing is more about the good of everyone versus the good of me.  It is about understanding that every person has their own beliefs.  It is about finding a common ground for the betterment of everyone.  That is possible if we keep open minds and be willing to compromise.

Which is why it is so very important that people stop listening to politicians 20 second sound bites as their proof.  Without paying attention to what people who wish to lead our country say, and following it up with your own research, the snake oil salesmen will win.  When the snake oil salesmen win, we all lose.

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The Republican Party is supposed to be the party that believes in the sanctity of the Constitution of the United States of America.  They are always spouting off about what is legal and what is not legal according to the Constitution.  We have had this conversation before, but the most recent comments from the Republican Party demands we look at what they are really talking about again.

This whole mess sprung up again because Donald Trump came up with a brilliant “immigration” plan.  First, he will build a wall all along the border with Mexico.  Naturally, in order for this wall to be effective, we will need placements on it for guards and/or soldiers to stop those Mexicans from illegally crossing the border.  He hasn’t yet said if we should “shoot to kill” anyone who tries to cross his border wall like they did in Berlin.

Second, he wants to triple the size of the Border Patrol to enforce his stringent “security” measures.  It would take at least tripling the number of border patrol agents to meet his goals.  That would cost well over several hundreds of millions of dollars to pay just for the agents.

Third, he says all undocumented immigrants will be deported.  But, being the famous “family guy” that he is, he won’t break up families.  No, he will deport any children with their parents, even if they were born in the U.S. and are citizens.  It is estimated that the cost of doing this is well into the Billions of Dollars.

Fourth, he will repeal the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.  Or, at least the first part of that amendment which states that: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”  He even went on to say that the Fourteenth Amendment is “unconstitutional” and should be repealed.

Just about everyone in the Republican Field has jumped on the “birthright” bandwagon.  Marco Rubio is the lone dissenter on this issue.  But that may be because if the Fourteenth Amendment is repealed, he is ineligible to run for President.  Marco Rubio was born to Cuban aliens who were allowed to live in the U.S.  However, neither of his parents were “naturalized” until four years after Marco was born.  Meaning he was not born to “naturalized” parents.  As a result, his birth in the U.S. would not guaranty his citizenship and therefore make him ineligible to run for President.

The funny part of this is Bobby Jindal falls into the same category.  His parents were in the U.S. on visas.  It is unsure if they were on “student visas” or “work visas” but they were not citizens when Bobby was born.  That would make him ineligible to run for President as well.  Yet, Jindal is in favor of repealing the Fourteenth Amendment.  Although he doesn’t want people like his parents included in that repeal.

Additionally, if you were to take a close look at cases like Citizens United, you will find that the Fourteenth Amendment had a helping hand in creating “personhood” for corporations.  Way back in 1886 in a Supreme Court case reviewing how railroads could be taxed, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, the headnotes recorded that Chief Justice Morrison Waite asserted during arguments that “we are all of the opinion” that the Fourteenth Amendment “applies to these corporations.”

There have been other cases that have upheld that decision.  It is one of the primary precedents that the current Supreme Court used to rule in expanding the Fourteenth Amendments rights for corporations into the First Amendment rights.  So, maybe if the Fourteenth Amendment was repealed, there would be a great argument to overturn Citizens United as well.

There are some on the Republican side that even want to curtail “legal” immigration.  One pundit says that would be the greatest thing for the “American worker.”  He claims that in 1970, 1 in 21 people in the U.S. were “legal” immigrants.  Today he claims that number is 1 in 7.  That all sounds very politically correct.  Yet, he also fails to mention that the “free trade” agreements we entered into have cost us millions of jobs because it allowed U.S. owned corporations to ship our jobs overseas.  The American worker has been hurt by these free trade agreements far more than by immigrants.

But, if you think all of this is funny or doesn’t affect you, you better think again.  We have been a nation of immigrants  from the time the first “settlers” set foot on its ground.  Even if you consider citizenship beginning after the Revolutionary War, that means the vast majority of our “citizens” were born to immigrants who came here from somewhere else.

I wrote once before, my grandfather never became a U.S. Citizen.  My grandmother was a citizen, so the “birthright” clause doesn’t affect me personally.  But it could have.  How many of you have parents or grandparents or great grandparents who were not citizens at the time they gave birth?  According to the Republican Party, if you do, you are not “really” a citizen of the U.S.  You are an “anchor baby.”

We do need major reforms to our immigration system.  However, we need to have honest open discussions of the real problems.  We cannot continue to use “dog whistle” arguments just to get votes.  Are we really supposed to become the East Germany of the western hemisphere and build walls on our borders?  Are we really supposed to do what Dr. Carson says and use drone strikes on our own lands to stop illegal immigration?

As usual, the Republican Party loves the Constitution of the United States.  Well, should we say the Republican Party really loves “parts” of the Constitution of the United States.  Any of the parts that deal with minority rights, women rights, immigration, taxes, or anything that puts people ahead of corporations, well they don’t “love” them so much.

They are always calling the President a “socialist” or a “communist.”  But if he were a “communist” he would be all in favor of taking away our liberties in favor of state rights.  That is what communism is all about.  The state and its corporations are all that matters.  At least that was the Leninist and Stalinist versions of communism.

Just to make sure that the people surrendered to the state, they made immigration and emigration almost impossible.  They even built walls to make sure people couldn’t get out.  That is essentially what the current crop of Republican Party Candidates are calling for us to do.  Wouldn’t that make them the “communists?”

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We have had many discussions about guns and the right to own guns.  We have talked about irresponsible people who wish to walk around carrying their guns in the open.  They don’t care if they scare anyone or not.  They simply want their gun with them all of the time.

We have also had discussions about who should be allowed to own guns.  It’s mostly clear that over 70 percent of the American people do not want people who were convicted of crimes to own guns.  It is also clear that over 70 percent of people don’t want people with a mental illness to own guns.  Hell, even the NRA agrees with those two items.

But, the NRA and gun advocates do not want universal background checks that would help stop the purchase of guns by either criminals or people with mental illnesses.  So, how can a seller of guns know if he is selling his weapon to one of these to groups?  He can’t.

The so-called “Open Carry” nuts say they are just law-abiding citizens exercising their right to carry their guns in the open.  They claim that your unease about seeing a bunch of people wielding guns is your problem and it won’t stop them from carrying guns.

I could go on with a whole bunch of statistics about guns and gun violence.  I could mention the crazy person at a “Muslim-free Gun Range” who dropped his weapon and accidentally shot himself.  But I am sure you already read about him.  No, instead I am going to write about gun violence in places you may not expect to find it.

One of the best kept secrets by the gun advocates is that our National Parks are prime areas where people love to shoot their guns.  They don’t even care if they are at an approved shooting range or not.  They simply just go around and shoot their guns.

Steve Acerson is a lover of ancient rocks.  He loves to wander the Utah’s backcountry searching for images of hunters and rams carved on boulders and canyon walls.  One morning, he came across prehistoric petroglyphs.  Unfortunately,  he was also finding signs of a younger civilization: Shotgun shells. Bullets. Shredded juniper trees. Exploded cans of spray paint.

Someone had gone there and just shot up the petroglyphs.  As a matter of fact, they shot up pretty much everything around the area.  Yes, these petroglyphs are protected, but there aren’t enough law enforcement people in our National Parks to enforce those laws.  As a result, this kind of thing happens all of the time.

Additionally, people are finding shot up couches and cars deep in forests.  Hikers are constantly reporting how they are pinned down by gunfire where a hiking or biking trail crosses a makeshift target range.

But it gets even worse.  Over the Fourth of July weekend in Pike National Forest in Colorado, a 60-year-old camper preparing to make s’mores with his grandchildren was killed when a stray bullet arced into his campsite. The camper, Glenn Martin, said “ow,” his daughter said, and when his family ran to help him, there was a hole in his shirt and blood pouring from his mouth.

People who live in the area basically claim that the park is becoming a “war zone.”  Hikers and cyclists are forced to blow whistles and yell out so they don’t get shot.  Yet, many report bullets whistling over their heads.  Paul Magnuson, who owns a cycle shop in Woodland Park, Colo. said:  “Every time in the woods, you feared for your life.  It was absolutely, completely out of hand.”

This is not confined to just the west either.  These types of incidents are happening from the Pine Forests of North Carolina to the Pacific Northwest.  The favorite “targets” are these ancient petroglyphs.  Officials in the Croatan National Forest in North Carolina issued an emergency halt to target shooting after receiving hundreds of complaints.

In New Mexico homeowners near a national forest are fighting hard against the renewal of a gun range in the park.  They say they are tired of all the gun shots they have to put up with everyday.  There was even a report of a stay bullet hitting a bedpost in a house that sits near a National Park.

The Forest Service recorded 1,712 shooting incidents across the country last year, up about 10 percent from a decade ago.  The logs also show some very risky actions by shooters.  There are lots of reports of shootings from moving vehicles.  Guns being discharged in camping grounds.  Even using “exploding” targets.

But, when federal agencies have proposed closing areas to shooting, the National Rifle Association and other shooting groups have objected, urging members to write letters and attend meetings to keep the land open to guns.  The NRA says “Just the same as there should be areas on public lands for people to go mountain biking or mountain climbing, there should be areas for shooters.”

But that brings up another point.  Mountain biking or mountain climbing are not dangerous to other people.  They may be risky to the participant, especially mountain climbing, but they aren’t going to kill someone with a stray rope.  Shooters have already killed people with stray bullets.

In the case of Mr. Martin who was killed, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has asked people who were in the area that day to allow their weapons to be tested, to see if they unknowingly fired the fatal shot. So far, investigators have tested five rifles, with none of them found to be the weapon in question.

However, Mr. Martin’s daughter said they had complained about hearing gunshots when they arrived at the campsite, but they said forest officials reassured them the shooters were firing in the other direction.  “You keep on asking why,” she said. “One hundred ninety million acres of forest, and it has to hit Daddy?”

If you are a gun advocate, you may be asking “what does this all have to do with owning a gun?”  Well, it brings us back to the question of “who should be allowed to own a gun?”  A lot of people often wonder why you need to take a test to get a driver’s license and not take a test to own a gun.  That is a fair question.

Gun advocates will tell you that driving is a “privilege” and gun ownership is a “right.”  That may true.  But both a car and a gun can kill people.  It doesn’t even have to be on purpose either.  Accidental deaths in America by car accident has increased recently.  Accidental deaths by gun accidents are a daily occurrence, too.

So, why not make gun owners take safety classes and pass a “shooting” test to get a license to own and fire their gun?  It hasn’t happened yet.  As a matter of fact, some states are looking to pass legislation where people can carry concealed weapons without a permit.  I believe Kansas already passed such legislation.

Yes, I agree that the Second Amendment gives us the right to use and bear arms.  However, it does not give carte-blanche to doing so without proper training.  The Second Amendment says we have such a right because it is necessary to maintain “a well-regulated militia.”  That one word “regulated” is the key to this question.  In order to be “regulated” militiamen must be properly trained in the use of their firearms.  Therefore, it can also be said that private owners must also be properly trained in the use of their firearms.  You can’t even get out of boot camp without qualifying with your weapons.

Without a change to the laws, like adding universal background checks and proper safety training and testing of gun owners ability to handle the weapon, we will continue to see these very dangerous people threatening our safety with their reckless use of guns.

The NRA does not want you to know what damage these idiots are causing.  Or, how dangerous it is for you to simply take a family hike in one of our National Parks.  If you knew about it, you might just want to call your congressman and have something done about our reckless gun laws.  The NRA and their advocates definitely do not want you to do that!

 

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