Senator McCain’s War
We shouldn’t criticize Russia, knowing we took Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico by a vote of the people.
The saber-rattling Senator McCain is bent on leading us into another war we cannot win. What he espouses as “the right and decent thing to do”, by sending
long-term military assistance to Ukraine in the name of democracy is ludicrous. Some weeks ago he showed up in Ukraine, uninvited, saying he was just
looking around. Then we learned a small Marine recon team or CIA mercenaries were dropped into Ukraine, and Congress said it would sent Ukraine some aid,
which it hadn’t asked for. Several weeks later McCain alleges they did. Hogwash. This tactic of going somewhere uninvited and saying we will send you some
aid if you asked for it is so old. Americans know better. This is how we got pulled into Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars – none of which we won. We won
some battles, but not a war. We only made more enemies, not friends. If Ukraine did ask, the answer should have been NO. (In 1968, Russia invaded
Czechoslovakia, first with plain-clothed men, followed by tanks and uniformed troops. Czechoslovakia requested our help, which was declined. No war took
place, we didn’t lose any lives, and no dollars were spent. The Czechs eventually engineered the Velvet Revolution, freeing themselves from the communist
For weeks Secretary of State Kerry has been baiting and taunting President Putin, repeatedly saying Russia is violating international law with their
actions in Crimea and Ukraine, which is totally false. Article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter states “all members shall refrain. . .from the threat or
use of force against the territorial or political independence of any state. .l .” President Putin never threatened Crimea or Ukraine, nor did he use force
against either. The people of Crimea held a referendum and voted for which government they wanted to live under. They did it the democratic way. If it was
acceptable for us to claim Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico by way of the will of the people, how can we say it is wrong for Russia to reclaim land that has
been theirs for hundreds of years?
Article 33 of the UN Charter states “parties to any dispute. . .shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliatory
arbitration, judicial settlement. . .other peaceful means. . .” Nowhere does it provide for sending military assistance, as Senator McCain proposed, and
has subsequently happened. A few historical cases bear mentioning:
- We supported Fidel Castro when he overthrew Batista in Cuba, only to have Castro align with Soviet Russia;
- We built Iran’s military into one of the largest in the Middle East. Today Iran is our greatest enemy; and,
- We supported and armed Egypt. Today, Egypt is neither friend nor ally.
Since WWII, our wars last longer and cost more in lives lost and maimed, and billions upon billions of dollars are spent and given to other countries with
no benefit to the American people.
Historically, during the medieval ages, Crimea became known as Kievan Rus. The people were, and are, mostly Russian. Their language is Old East Slavic,
better known as Old Russian. In 1783, Crimea was annexed by Russia as the Ottoman Empire started to crumble, and when what is now Ukraine became known as
New Russia. In 1954 Premier Khrushchev inexplicably gave Crimea to Ukraine as Ukraine had merged with Russia in 1922. In 1991 Crimea separated from
Ukraine, and became recognized as a separate Republic within the borders of Ukraine. Last month they voted to again become a part of Russia.
Men fight and women negotiate.
How do we now try to extricate ourselves from Ukraine? The male party leaders in Congress have become so polarized, Congress is dysfunctional, frozen, and
completely incapable and unwilling to do their job. A few years ago they caused our international credit rating to be lowered. Just a month ago they threw
up their hands and said they could not put a budget together to run our country. Their rating among the American people is the lowest in the history our
country. And yet, they continue to fight amongst themselves saying “it’s the other party, or the president, that won’t work with us.” More hogwash. Each
party only wants it their way or they won’t play ball. Fortunately for us, when we were about to limp ahead without a budget, a small group of women in
Congress, from each party, got together and, in a matter of days, put together a budget that sailed through both houses and was signed by the president.
Intentions of Congress that won’t work.
Senator McCain and the male leaders in Congress need to forget politics and focus on what is best for American. First, the American people have suffered
enough wars, and we don’t have the military strength to get involved in Ukraine’s internal affairs. Congress is currently intending to reduce our military
strength to help balance the budget. They’ve done this after every war since WWII, only to send us into another country where we don’t belong, under armed
and under equipped. When our military came home from Afghanistan, the longest was in the history of our country, Congress gave them the lowest pay raise in
50 years, and floated a bill to reduce military retirement COLAs by 1% starting in 2016. The harm done to morale, enlistment incentives and desire to make
the military a career for these brave, courageous young American men and women, are incalculable. BAD IDEA (While our military strength shrinks, others
grow. Russia’s army is more than twice the size of ours, and China’s – a Russian ally – total armed forces are more than double ours and growing rapidly. A
few years ago Admiral Mullen, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, returned from China telling Congress we should be concerned as to why Chia is
growing their military. His warning fell on deaf ears.
Congress wants to retain small contingents of our military in Eastern Europe countries, including Afghanistan, and continue to give them millions, if not
billions of dollars in unrequested aid. First, Afghanistan doesn’t want us there, and second, we would be setting our troops up to be overrun by Taliban. (Remember the Marine Barracks bombing in Lebanon in 1983?) They were forced to occupy a fixed location. If and when the Taliban do attack,
and killed our troops in those outposts, we’ll send more troops back in. It amounts to using our troops as bait. This is a terrible, terrible BAD IDEA
Recently we placed sanctions one certain Russians and suggested Europe should stop buying oil from Russia. BAD IDEA. That would only hurt Europeans, who
would have to go to other countries in search of oil, possibly having to pay more. As for Russia, they already have a better buyer. China wants all the oil
Russia will sell them. As for the United States, isn’t it interesting we continue to buy oil from Iran? Sanctions and embargos don’t work. Example – The
Cuba embargo hurts our economy more every year than Cuba’s. And it’s been in place for over 50 years. BAD IDEA
Worst of all –
promoting democracy is not for all people. We’re still experimenting with it, and it’s not working too well for many of us. There are countries and
municipalities ruled by Kings, Sultans, and monarchs whose citizens’ love and worship their heads of state, having no desire to adopt democracy. The vast
majority of people in socialist countries, such as Canada, China, Czech Republic and others, enjoy prosperous, peaceful and happy ways of life, and are not
interested in becoming democracies. People I’ve met in over 100 countries, laugh at our Congress and how we shamefully stick our noses in other countries
internal affairs, and know their systems work better for their people than ours. The soundest government today, which appears to be growing around the
glove, is a blending of democracy, socialism, and capitalism. Only time, in the way of passing generations of people, will tell.
Good solutions that will work.
Let the United Nations work with Ukraine and Russia to resolve the dispute. That’s the job of the United Nations, not the United States.
Congress needs to stop spending billions upon billions of dollars in Ukraine and other countries, and start spending those dollars providing a better way
of life for Americans:
- Close our military bases located in other countries and bring our military personnel back to the States. Since our modern military can be deployed, by air and sea, to anywhere in the world in days if not hours, they no longer need to be stationed outside the U.S., spending billions of dollars overseasinstead of in the U.S. (Other countries don’t do this, why should we?) We have empty barracks and towns with empty houses sufficient to house all our troops and their families. And if not, what a boom that would be to our economy to have to bui8ld additional housing for these great Americans;
- Close our borders with sufficient guards and systems, which would create more jobs, income and tax revenues. We are one of very few countries with such porous borders. National guards could also be used to support border patrols. Instead of Congress just kicking the problem down the road, pass the immigration plan proposed by President Obama. Sure there are those who would object because of personal reasons, but that’s true of any law. It will provide a path to citizenship for those living in the shadows, require those who want to immigrate to wait in line just as our parents, grandparents and other family members have done for over 200 years, require those who broke the law to be punished, will cause those who are not law abiding residents to be deported, and allow all residents to live normal peaceful and prosperous lives. Last, it would provide additional tax revenue to help balance the budget; and,
- Seize this opportunity to not be at w3ar around the glove, and focus on improving our American way of life by:
- Creating a flat-tax system, which Congress has acknowledged for decades to be far better and fairer to all than our current system;
- b. Decriminalize the use and sale of what are now illegal drugs. Remember how prohibition didn’t work, causing crime and the cost of fighting it to skyrocket? We legalized alcohol (a drug), crime dropped, people were happy, and millions of dollars started to pour into our coffers;
- Accept the Affordable Health Care system. It is far better than what we have had, and other countries that have it like it. If there are parts that need changing, as is the case with most laws and programs, do so. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.
All of these4 measures will increase our revenues substantially. Since the men in Congress, specifically party leaders, intend to sit on their hands and do
nothing for the remainder of 2014, recognizing they have passed fewer bills than any Congress in history, we need to rid ourselves of them, before Occupy
movements become violent, as they have in other countries. If any good business had employees who refused to do their job, or just sat at their desk and
said “present”, they would be summarily fired. The male party leaders should acknowledge they cannot do their job, and resign or retire. If they are
running for reelection in the coming elections, they should be voted out and replaced with women who can and will do the job. Women will be far, far less
inclined to send our young men and women into war, and they will negotiate and work together to find solutions to our problems, and provide better lives
for all Americans. We are, after all, a family of people. All of our family needs to be care for.
America’s worst enemy is not Al Qaeda, rather it is the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Speaker Boehner, who can’t lead; not even members of his own party. Instead of presiding over the House, he delegates such duties to a civil servant as he spews trite sophomoric soundbites to the press while walking the halls of Congress, apparently going nowhere. He says he speaks for the American people on issues such as Obamacare. But we know that’s not true. The clear majority of Americans voted twice for President Obama and Obamacare. The only people Boehner really speaks for is a small minority of Americans and a small number of his own party in the House. Yet they want to call the shots and rule over the majority of Americans. That’s anarchy. We have a democracy where the majority rules. This small element of the great Republican Party is holding our nation hostage claiming they want to make a “statement.” Statement? They were elected to Congress to write new laws and to propose changes to existing laws and send them to the Senate for approval. No where in their job description does it say they are supposed to “make a statement”. Their current statement borders on treason as it jeopardizes the safety and continuing success of our country. When they disagree with an existing law they should not be attempting to through the baby out with the bathwater.
At times they refer to the Second Amendment to the Constitution as being sacrosanct. Do they forget the Second Amendment is, in fact, a change to our original Constitution, and that we have made 21 changes to our Constitution without ever suggesting throwing out the Constitution and writing a new one?
Bringing our government to a screeching halt has only inflicted serious economic harm to our nation and our people, in a time when we are just climbing out of a deep recession.
SHAME ON YOU SPEAKER BOEHNER, AND THOSE MEMBERS OF YOUR PARTY, for raining pain down on us by shutting down our government as you brazenly continue to pay yourselves for not working, while the rest of us start doing without. God help us if you continue to serve in office much longer.
Florida republican senator Marco Rubio thinks he’s a viable candidate for president in 2016 because he’s of Cuban heritage, and his handlers believe he will garner Hispanic votes. Wrong. The vast majority of Hispanics are democrats, and they won’t vote for Rubio because they do not particularly like Cubans who tend to present themselves as superior to other Hispanics. It may be that Central and South American and Caribbean Hispanics came mostly from Spain, whereas most Cubans were slaves from Nigeria brought to work the sugar cane and tobacco plantations. Only a few Spanish males came to serve as overseers of the plantations, and they fathered children with female slaves. According to the University of Miami Institute for Cuban and Cuban/American Studies in 2011, 62% of the Cuban population is Black. As for Miamians of Cuban dissent, a fair number don’t like Rubio because he lied when he claimed his parents immigrated with the Miami Cubans after Fidel Castro took over in 1959, when his parents actually came to the U.S. three years earlier.
Why he continues to refer to himself as a Cuban/American is beyond comprehension. He was born in the U.S. and is simply an American, just like the rest of us. As for the “woe is me” verbiage about how his parents arrived here, does he not know all of our ancestors emigrated from mostly European countries for the past 200 years with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a small suitcase or kit? They left behind homes and families in search of a better life. We are all proud of our heritage, but there are no Czech/Americans, French/Americans, Italian/Americans or any other. We are just plain Americans, regardless of where we or our ancestors came from, and we’re damn proud of it.
By his own admission, Rubio is running around the country and other countries trying to “learn what’s going on”. Is that presidential material? As a senator, his lack of knowledge about what’s going on in the United States and the world is appalling. Recently he went to the Middle East and spoke with several heads of state about Syria, Israel and Iran. He could have found out all he needed to know about the current situation just by reading a newspaper. And when he returned he didn’t say one word about what we should do there that any American on the street doesn’t already know. His comments were pure meaningless sound bites and rubbish. These boondoggles by politicians get their pictures and words in the news, but they don’t learn squat. If he wanted to learn something about our conflict with Iran, he should study the Middle East as General Patton studied North Africa before he went there and took on General Rommel. Patton read books about the land, the people and culture, such as Rommel’s Infantry Attacks. Rubio ought to read such books as David Crist’s The Twilight War, detailing the secret history of America’s thirty-year conflict with Iran since the Shah fell. One needs to look to the past to better see the future. Iran is an example of a nation where we bought their oil, built their military into one of the finest in the world, and then saw them become an enemy.
For over a year, Rubio has claimed he was writing an immigration bill. First, the job of writing legislative bills resides first with the House of Representatives. Second, he knows nothing about our immigration problem. Three times he has said he was changing his bill because he spoke with someone. He got press talking about his bill, but he never produced one. Recently he said he was a member of an eight senator bi-partisan group that has crafted an immigration bill, saying “President Obama’s plan is dead in the water.” When the average American reads the two bills, they contain essentially the same elements. This is yet another example of his talking but not saying anything. If he was so involved with the immigration issue, why didn’t Senators McCain and Graham invite Rubio to join them when they met privately with the president, on this issue, earlier this week?
Priceless words and lies
It is amusing when Senator Rubio speaks down to us telling us things he thinks we don’t know, i.e., “we will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons” and “we live in a global economy whether we know it or not.” Such double-talk is insulting. We all know those facts. The senator needs to go back to school and study American and World History. Recently Comedy Central Stephen Colbert’s take on Rubio’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address was right on, “Don’t worry Rubio, no one noticed you gave a speech.”
The Tampa Bay Times newspaper has a team of reporters, editors and others who produce the Pulitzer Prize winning column PolitiFact, that measures statements by public figures on a Truth-O-Meter compared to the factual truth. The meter runs from a “pants on fire” lie to “true”. Some of Senator Rubio’s more famous lies are:
“The path to ObamaCare becoming law all started with Charlie Crist supporting President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus.” PANTS ON FIRE LIE. Former Florida Governor republican Crist was not instrumental in getting Congress to vote on the law.
“The only people in this town that have voted to cut Medicare spending are the people who voted in favor of ObamaCare. That’s a fact.” MOSTLY FALSE. Some people, not all.
“I never voted for a tax increase. Never.” FALSE. He voted for several tax increases while a member of the Florida legislature.
Regarding the health care law he said, “adds up to $800 billion of taxes on the American people. It does not discriminate between rich and poor.” FALSE. The law treats people of varying incomes differently.
The sooner Senator Rubio fades into the sunset, the better for America. As for the Republican Party (I’m an independent), they have several strong individuals who could garner many Hispanic votes: New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, the first Hispanic female governor, who was born in Texas of Mexican parents; and former New Mexico Governor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, born in California of a Mexican mother and half-Mexican father. Both refer to themselves simply as Americans without mention of their heritage.
Congress created this conundrum when they enacted the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. These were good legislation for Americans, except Congress just “kicked the can down the road” as they are so often want to do, scheduling the tax relief to expire in 2010 and 2011 respectively. That made it someone else’s problem. Then they extended the acts to expire December 31, 2012. Now its our problem.
It is now time for this Congress (better known as the DO NOTHING Congress) to act. Yet they, mostly Speaker Boehner, just stand there postulating and pointing fingers at each other and the President, saying we Americans have to tighten our belt. Instead of the more wealthy Americans paying more (what ever happened to the Flat Tax we all liked?), they expect us to accept less in the way of benefits we have paid into most of our lives, i.e., social security, medicare, unemployment, etc. Why? Because we spent too much fighting other peoples’ war and fueling our economy to kick start us out of a recession.
It’s basic budgeting – we need sufficient revenue to pay our bills. We have been through the ups and downs of surpluses and shortages and survived. Like it or not we live on credit. Suggesting our children and grandchildren will have to pay our debts is just political hyperbole Congress has been spewing since the end of World War II. Why is Congress incapable of balancing their budget?
Speaker Boehner needs to stop playing politics and start doing his job by having the entire House put together a bipartisan bill that represents what the majority of the American people asked for (not what he and only a portion of the Republican members of Congress want) – a bill that will pass the Senate and one the President will sign. I recall a group of college students were put in a room a year or so ago to solve our current problems. They were of different political parties, races, and demographics. In a matter of hours their solutions satisfied all parties. Congress could learn from them.
Right now a significant portion of our debt is the result of 21 years fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do War Bonds come to mind? I started buying them in school in 1941. As I periodically cash those bonds the interest goes to me, an American, instead of China or Japan.
The crisis is over. A renaissance has begun. Carole and I just returned from an exciting, most enjoyable and educational week inCubawith the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We had a license from the Treasury Department. We visited the cities ofHavana,CienfuegosandTrinidad(founded in 1514), and traveled hundreds of miles throughout the country.
In this former gateway to the Caribbean andCentral America, they are applying the Chinese version of recovery, blending capitalism and communism. Private enterprise is flourishing as citizens can now own and operate private businesses in addition to their day job. They can also buy and sell property. People are no longer required to be members of the Communist Party, including our wonderful, informative and honest guide, Alicia Perez Viera, and the lecturers with whom we met. Those old car relics have been restored with new interiors, beautiful paint jobs, and turned into privately owned and operated taxis. Paladars (restaurants in one’s home) and B&Bs are opening not just in large cities, but in small towns now frequented by Cubans and foreigners, full of art, crafts and souvenir shops galore. Over 200,000 tourists descended onCubalast year, and over 300 thousand are expected this year. The hotels, restaurants and bars are full every day and night with foreigners and Cubans listening to mostly American music. Chefs are trained in the World Congress Institute (not part of the government), which is part of the 92 country International Association of Culinary. EachHavanaevening finds hundreds of Cubans sitting and socializing on 7 kilometers of the Malecon seawall commonly referred to as the world’s longest sofa. The museums, opera houses and concert halls are spectacular.
Building restoration is everywhere. The Central Government builds very nice temporary apartment buildings for people to move to while their homes are being restored, and then they are moved back into their beautiful old house. The program started in Old Havana where those hundreds of year’s old beautiful European architecture houses and buildings were crumbling from the ocean’s waters and salt air. Architects were sent toEuropeto learn how to restore historic structures to their former splendor. 1/3 of Old Havana is already done, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Often one will see one house has been restored and the house next to it is still falling in on itself. Some of the homes have been restored by the owners themselves, using funds sent from families in theUnited States, mainlyMiami. The historic restoration program is run by the City Historian Office, bolstered by UNESCO World Heritage recognition. The work is guided by International Letters detailing the rules and regulations for compliance with historic preservation, and funded 61% by the Central Government, 2% from countries such asCanada,GermanyandFrance, and 37% from a tax on the businesses benefiting from tourism. The more profit the businesses realize, the faster the renovation work can progress. It has already reached out to cities and towns miles fromHavana.
Cubaplaces a great importance on education with 100% literacy (English is spoken everywhere), made possible by free schooling at all levels, including colleges and trade schools. One of the world’s best universal healthcare systems starts with vaccinations soon after birth to help keep citizens healthy, requiring less care in their later years. In remote small villages high in the mountains where there is but one school-aged child, the child is given a solar-powered computer and there is a teacher and doctor in residence.
There is much yet to be done, but the poor living conditions for some are no different than what I grew up in during the Great Depression, and whatCzechoslovakia(the country of my origin) experienced before the Velvet Revolution. Food rationing is similar to what we had during WW II. The one major deterrent to the renaissance is the American embargo. Initially it put thousands of Cubans out of work in the sugar cane fields, because we stopped buying 80% of their crop. For 50 years the only people hurt by the embargo have been the Cuban people who refer to us Americans as a “lovely enemy”. How gracious is that. There has never been an American embargo anywhere in the world that has been successful, and only the people of the subject nation(s) have suffered.
Looking back onCuba’s history, the original inhabitants were some 250 thousand Taino people (Columbuscalled them Indians and the Spanish conqueror, Diego Velasquez, called them savages). During the 1500s Spain was thought to have killed all the Tainos (recent DNA indicates some Cubans have Taino DNA), and started replenishing the island population with a few hundred Spanish colonists, and thousands upon thousands of black slaves from West Africa (mainly Nigeria – bringing the Santeria religion with them; the Santeria priest we met said Santeria is part of Catholicism). The Spanish became the landowners and used the black slaves to work their sugar cane, tobacco and coffee fields. By 1860, the number of slaves had swollen to 370 thousand, making them the predominant race on the island, as it remains so today. The last slave ship arrived in 1866 and slavery was abolished in 1886. In 2011 the Mariel boatlift saw 125 thousand, or a little over 1% ofCuba’s population, allowed to leave for theUnited States. A 1991 Congressional report reveals 25%, or 31 thousand boat people were identified as undesirables with criminal records or recently released from Cuban prisons.
If you want to help this once great nation return to its glory days, go and enjoy their hospitality and friendship. They are some of the warmest and friendliest people in the world. Crime is almost nonexistent because private citizens are not allowed to have guns, which makes you feel safe anywhere on the island. Part of the money you spend there (prices are low) is being plowed right back into restoration, as mentioned above. Foreign investments are flourishing, while American businesses are locked out by the embargo. If you are of Cuban heritage, rather than turning your back on Cuba because you don’t like the guy who was president 50 years ago, there is no better way to help the people of your national origin than to go and reunite or become acquainted with those of your heritage.
Last, we did see Pope Benedict pass by our hotel in his popemobile and exchanged waves. Carole has pictures of our visit if you are interested.
Dick Hrebik, mustang Major, USMC Ret
Award winning author of THE WARRIOR AMONG US and CORPS VET
Since our country was first formed in 1776, America was largely a country of immigrants from the four corners of the globe, but predominantly of European descent. Like my grandparents, they came with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a small suitcase or kit, leaving behind their families, homes and country to become Americans. They wove their way into cities and towns across the country, integrated themselves into our culture, studied in different schools, learned our English language, and ultimately took their places in every conceivable type of work from shoe repair to banking. And since that very first day, until recent years, we have proudly called ourselves AMERICANS. Yes, Americans, period. That’s who and what we are. It’s our nationality on our passports, without indication of which country we or our ancestors came from. This same point was emphatically made recently by Brigitte Gabriel, who was born in Lebanon. She is the founder and current President of ACT (American Congress for Truth).
The first diminishing of our name arrived with the Cuban boatlifts from Mariel Harbor, Cuba in 1980. They left the great country of Cuba seeking political asylum, in search of freedom, and a better way of life. What was different and still different today, they and their children and grandchildren, many born in the United States, refer to themselves as Cuban or Cuban American. One can’t be both. It is a confusion of national origin with nationality. We Americans are all proud of the country where we or our ancestors came from, but we are now simply and correctly identified as Americans.
Since 1980, there has been a growing number of Americans believing they to should recognize their national origin as their nationality (example, Chinese or Japanese American), none more so than the term African American being substituted for one’s nationality and even race. Some years back a TV magazine show asked a group of well-educated middle-class Black Americans if they preferred being referred to as African Americans. To a person they said no. In the 1960s the federal government changed the racial identifications of Caucasian to White and Negro to Black. Incidentally, in Spanish and Portuguese, Negro means Black. But then in the 1980s the term African American crept into our language. The intent is to identify one has having coming from, or having ancestry from Sub Saharan Africa, which is mostly Black. But there are sizeable populations of Europeans, Asians and Whites who are citizens of Sub Saharan countries living there for generations. Recognizing those facts, African American does not solely identify Black Americans.
Latin, Hispanic, Asian and Arab are all capitalized. So if White and Black are the new Caucasian and Negro, they to should be capitalized. The Census Bureau, our dictionaries and schools should soon rectify the incorrect teachings of the above information.
Redistricting is the Gerrymandering by which Congress manipulates the voting system enabling the legislators to further enhance their chances of making a career out of their elected position.
Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution requires a census be taken every 10 years to determine the number of members in the House of Representatives to represent the population according to the states where they live. The first census was taken in 1790, and it is believed representation has been based on census ever since. Except, that is, when Congress started Gerrymandering the system to their benefit in 1812. The term comes from then Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. The State legislators redrew the districts to favor Governor Gerry, ensuring his reelection.
NUMBER OF REPRESENTATIVES
The drawing of districts is accomplished by each state, and there are a variety of ways it is accomplished. Until 1967, some states had single-member districts, and some had multi-member districts to ensure citizens of each major party were adequately represented. But in 1967, Congress further protected their party representation by passing a law requiring congressional districts be single-member. Gerrymandering and redistricting has spread like wildfire ever since. When a population grows in any area, the legislators find out how the majority of citizens in the district voted and play monopoly with the districts, moving lines and trading areas so they can capture the most votes in their individual districts and remain in office.
Demand Congress stop Gerrymandering and redistricting. Right now each state is entitled to a fixed number of representatives according to population. It should not matter where they live, so there is no real need to split a state into districts. If a state, such as California, has 53 representatives, then the voters of California should be allowed to vote for all 53 house seats, because all 53 have the responsibility to represent all the people of the state, not just a few who live in a certain neighborhood. This system would allow voters to have control over who their representatives are, and would preclude the legislators from rigging the game in their favor. Such a system would also void the Electoral College (which was almost done in 1968). We are the only country in the world, save maybe two, with such a complex system that denies its people the right to choose their own president. Congress should remember, we are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
WAR ON DRUGS
In 1971, President Nixon declared War on Drugs authorizing use of government initiatives to prohibit the introduction of drugs, e.g. marijuana and cocaine, into the United States, including assistance with foreign military intervention. In 2010 the program cost over 15 billion dollars. Hundreds of millions go to Colombia each year to combat drug traffickers such as FARC. In 2008 the Merida Initiative with Mexico poured 1.4 billion into Mexico over 3 years, to combat drug trafficking, where drug related killings and violence occur almost daily.
CONGRESS HAS FAILED US FOR 40 YEARS
Earlier this year the Global Commission on Drug Policy said the global war on drugs has failed. 50 years after the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was held, arrests and incarcerations of drug offenders are staggering. In 1986 the RAND Corporation said the “use of the armed forces . . . would have little or no effect on cocaine traffic”. In 2008, 1.5 million drug arrests were made, of which 500,000 were imprisoned. A poll of Americans showed 3 of 4 say the War on Drugs has failed. It has, in fact, produced more crime, caused dangers to invade residential communities, and overtaxed our courts and prison systems. Yet Congress sits on its hands and does nothing.
The Netherlands approach to the problem has caused “junkies” to disappear from the sidewalks, through heroin-assisted treatment. Addicts are able to go to work every day and lead productive lives, harm to users has been reduced through controlled usage, and drug related crimes have diminished significantly. The model has been so successful, that several European governments are looking to use The Netherlands model in their countries.
During alcohol prohibition from 1920 to 1933, the use of alcohol did not diminish. Bootlegged booze from Canada was big business. Alcohol is, of course, a drug, and Americans weren’t about to give it up. It didn’t take but 13 years for Congress to realize the mistake and passed the 21st Amendment to the Constitution on December 5, 1933. Laws have since been put in place to “control” the abuse of alcohol, and provide treatment for those who become addicted and/or ill from such abuse.
Today we are faced with a serious budget deficit which cannot be resolved in one fell swoop, but rather a number of initiatives which will take years to bear fruit. In 2008 a study showed legalizing drugs would inject 76.8 billion dollars a year into our economy. YES, EVERY YEAR. 44.1 billion would come from savings in law enforcement, and 32.7 billion in tax revenue. There is no down side to such a move. Mexican President Calderon even suggested legalizing narcotics would reduce crime. We know it would make life safer in the streets of the United States, Mexico and other Central and South American countries. We should “look to the past to better see the future”. Control of drug use can be handled the same as we do alcohol. Example: whether you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol, or marijuana or cocaine makes no difference, it is illegal to drive under the influence.
Congress should get off their duff, legalize the use of marijuana and cocaine and institute a control program similar to that of The Netherlands. Now if the Republicans and Democrats in Congress can find a way to disagree on this budget reduction initiative, they are dumber than they appear to be now with their head in the sand partisan politics.
As a nation, we are falling behind other countries in the education of our children. In many countries children are denied education due to wars, famine and pandemics. But we are free of such elements within our borders. What is our excuse for not caring for our children who will one day lead us and compete in the international marketplace?
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN OTHER COUNTRIES?
To name just two examples of where other nations place education of their children as a top priority, I mention China and Chile. In China, children start competing for an opportunity to go to secondary and higher educational institutions in the first grade. And if they get into college, it is free. Chile has a billion dollar program to pay for graduate studies in the United States, with the understanding the students will return to Chile to live and work, thereby benefiting themselves and their country.
A recent study showed what was most important to educating children was to provide stability in their lives, security, and affirmation and acceptance, all found in schools. Following those elements, children need time together with their family and friends, and involvement in their communities.
A 40-year study by the University of Washington shows improving the education of child bearing age women reduces the mortality rate of children. In developing countries, when the average years of schooling for women 15 – 44 increased from 2.2 to 7.2 years, the child mortality rate dropped from 16 million to 7.8 million. An estimated 51% of the reduction was due to increased education of the women. Globally, the education of women 25 and older has increased from 4.7 years to 8.3 years. A better educated mother translates to better educated children.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE UNITED STATES?
At the national and state levels our efforts to educate our children are dictated by “how much is it going to cost?” When our governments feel a need to reduce costs (at all cost), they reduce the funds available for education and public safety (police and fire departments). Why do they not understand these are benefits of living in our great country that should never take second place to any budget line item?
Compared to the world, here is where we rank when it comes to educating our children:
|Percent of GDP spent on education
(Cuba is #1, spending 3 times what we do)
|Compulsory level of schooling||7th|
|Grade 12 proficiency in mathematics||14th|
|Grade 12 proficiency in science||15th|
|Grade 12 literacy||15th|
|Primary teachers salary||5th|
How is it students can reach the 12th grade who can’t read and don’t do well in other subjects? The answer is because our school systems no longer hold back a student who is failing because “they don’t have the funds for repeats”. Schools are pushing students through, and in some cases even altering test scores, so students will pass and the teachers won’t lose their jobs. Recently, several states said they will ignore the requirements of the No Child Left Behind law because “they’re unrealistic.” One might ask why they can’t have 100% proficiency in reading and math by 2014, nine years after the law was passed. In any other profession, you meet the goals set by your boss or they find someone else to do the job.
High schools need to prepare students for college through college prep courses and other major studies instead of telling the students “you can wait to take those courses at the community college because it is nearer to home and the cheapest.” Such advice limits the student in maturing and achieving their goals. This is also the time when students need counseling to identify which are the better colleges/universities they should strive to qualify for admittance, based on the profession or major they have chosen. As parents and teachers we need to help our children to receive the very best education possible and not hold them back. They are our future.
Federal and state budgets need to spend more on education, and stop saying we can’t afford it. If we have to raise taxes to better educate our children, then that is a priority. Some poorer nations spend two to three times the percentage of their GDP as we do. When Congress and state governments provide the funds, then we can and need to increase primary level teachers’ salaries to attract more of the better teachers in the country. Some teachers are just babysitters willing to accept the low paying jobs. As in any profession, the more you pay the better professional you get for the job.
There are private entities that have seen the need and taken up the cause to start the process of better educating our children as soon as they are of school age. One such initiative is that of David Lawrence, Jr., the former publisher of THE MIAMI HERALD. 11 years ago he became President of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation in South Florida, and dedicated the rest of his life to helping better educate our young children to prepare them for life in an ever-changing and more difficult world. Recently Dave founded and became the Chair of the Children’s Movement of Florida. Through his tireless efforts, the Movement has expanded into most counties in Florida, and is poised to become a national program. There is no greater cause than to educate our children for the good of our country and generations to come.
Every four years our political parties hold debates with the top candidates seeking their party’s nomination to run for President. It is an opportunity for each candidate to introduce themselves to their party members, describing who they are and what their qualifications are for the job. The job, in this case, is the party nominee, not the Presidency. That is a later debate which they may or may not participate in.
Unfortunately it was American politics as usual. Salad dressing, but no meat and potatoes. Employers (in this case members of the Republican Party) and sales people know you sell yourself by showcasing one’s attributes, experience, and what they bring to the table. But not what’s personally wrong with the other candidates. We got no debate on the issues. Instead we got trite sound bites like “anyone of us here can beat Obama”. Which we know means nothing more than “anyone of us here can lose to Obama”. When the moderator tried to get them to comment on each other, they often sidestepped the question and misdirected their answer like a magician. We Americans deserve better. We have heard this type of political rhetoric for too many years. Mentioning what they’re going to do when they are President is really jumping the gun. It’s like a boxer saying who he’s going to fight next when he’s the world’s champion, before the title fight. Expressing their opinion of President Obama is also off point. They’re there to debate each other.
If our political parties are going to hold such debates where the American public can listen and watch, the candidates need to agree to the following to make the debates worth our time. 1. Answer all questions put to them by the moderator. After all, we want to hear what they think about the issues. 2. Identify specific issues to address of import to us, recognizing the hard time element constraints. 3. Not waste time talking about anyone or anything not on the agenda. Failing in such agreements wastes our time and we walk away from the debate knowing nothing more about the candidates than their names.