|August 27, 2012||The Agitator #39||1 comments|
|August 20, 2012||The Agitator #38||5 comments|
|August 13, 2012||The Agitator #37||no comments|
|August 06, 2012||The Agitator #36||3 comments|
|July 30, 2012||The Agitator #35||5 comments|
|July 23, 2012||The Agitator #34||12 comments|
|July 16, 2012||The Agitator #33||1 comments|
|July 09, 2012||The Agitator #32||2 comments|
|July 02, 2012||The Agitator||4 comments|
|June 25, 2012||4 comments|
The subject of patriotism, who is a real American or what makes someone a real American, has been much more topical since 911 and the two wars that followed. For some this is a push button issue that can get one’s back up in a New York minute, which is very fast. There have been times in our country’s history when people have been more divided than currently, but that’s not to say that we aren’t divided right now. With unemployment high, the GDP down, the middle class shrinking, tax inequity becoming more manifest, and a nasty presidential election coming up, people have very different ideas about who we are as Americans and where they would like to see the next president take our country.
My own ideas about patriotism start with the notion that displaying the American flag and sporting a “Support Our Troops” bumper sticker, and proclamations of love of country, by themselves, mean very little. All that does is remind me of the passage in the Book of James which says that faith without works is dead. I think just about all Americans can agree on what we want for our country, things like a strong defense, full employment with good jobs that have upward mobility, a growing economy, excellent schools, safe streets and neighborhoods, low crime, good highways, a fair tax system, available and quality healthcare, and more. The differences that Americans have is how to get to the end zone where these things are accomplished. It wasn’t until the war in Iraq that I cared about my generation’s participation in the military during Vietnam. When I saw all the politicians that supported that war, politicians that were gung ho about our participation in Vietnam but never suited up, I changed my whole viewpoint on the topic. Romney is only one example among many who took advantage of several deferments to avoid service while at the same time he marched in favor of the war. When asked during the 2008 campaign about whether his sons have served in the military, Romney responded that one of the ways they were serving their country was by supporting his presidential campaign.
I have come around to the belief that there are different ways to demonstrate patriotism. Serving in the military is one of them. Some kind of civilian service to our nation for a couple of years as an alternative to the military, would be another. There are a lot of very worthwhile projects and needs that could use the talents of our young men and women, and not only would our country benefit, they too would benefit from the experience. I also believe that patriotism includes the unbridled willingness to pay for the costs of war to ensure that our fighters have the very best equipment that money can buy. I believe that patriotism demands that we willingly pay whatever tax hikes it would take to care for the lifetime care of our wounded veterans so that they receive the best medical treatment for the rest of their lives. It is unconscionable that many organizations that treat severely injured veterans have to raise the money through private sources. All Americans that call themselves patriots should be willing to pony up and not rely on charity. It is a disingenuous argument to suggest that we should not have a tax hike to pay for our wars and our wounded until we cut other spending. Our elected officials can cut spending if they decided (I’m not getting into who’s at fault here), but in the meanwhile they can show real patriotism and do the right thing.
For the first time ever it appears that Super Pac money will exceed the contributions that each candidate will directly receive directly into their campaigns. This is the result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. There are those who believe that somehow this private money from sources that don’t have to be revealed is a counter balance to the mainstream media, perceived by some as the liberal media or “lamestream” media. I wonder if you tally up all the listeners to conservative talk radio---Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, Dennis Prager, Glen Beck, Laura Ingraham, Michael Gallagher, Dennis Miller---and many more---would they somehow offset the numbers that get their news from the mainstream media? And remember, these are very partisan talkmeisters who push their agenda openly with no ambiguity. Since Air America is long gone there are only a handful of liberal talk shows that mostly can be found on satellite radio, and which contain relatively small listening audiences. Citizens United didn’t level the playing field in the political arena; it tilted it and overturned a long history of banning these kinds of contributions that our state representatives thought fostered corruption of the election process. And when those without any money tried to unite and get attention that couldn’t be had without money, the Occupy Wall Street movement was condemned because of the handful of extremists that latched onto the movement and gave it a bad name.
Mitt Romney denounced the Bush TARP program that saved the auto industry and countless jobs, but was okay with the Wall Street bailouts. Then Paul Ryan blamed Obama for the 2008 closing of a GM plant in his district even though it was Bush who occupied the White House at the time. Ryan was okay with TARP as long as it protected an industry that encompassed voters that could reelect him. Yet this same guy hates government spending unless it’s for defense, talks about the need for the marketplace to work without government interference, unless of course it affects his political future. We haven’t heard the Romney-Ryan plan yet to pay for the staggering costs of our seriously wounded veterans that will need care for the next sixty to seventy years. And that doesn’t take into account future wars and veterans costs.
Romney complains that Obama has defamed him with allegations concerning his role at Bain Capital, and he takes a very strong defense posture at releasing his tax returns beyond two years. Romney has even demanded apologies from Obama, which seems really odd for someone who presumably needs a thick skin to be president, and who should know how to fight back if he’s going to be dealing with some of the worst bullies in the world, both domestic and foreign. But the same Romney, when asked if he thought Obama was an American citizen answered with the glibness he learned at Harvard Law School, that he had no reason to think Obama wasn’t. That response is a long way from John McCain who responded to a woman that accused Obama of being a Muslim. McCain answered directly, firmly, and left no doubt that he was sincere. Perhaps the difference between Romney and McCain is that McCain learned something about leadership when served this country in uniform, while Romney took advantage of whatever deferments he could get during Vietnam and talking tough at the same time in support of the war. Maybe it’s about time for Romney to let the American people see his Selective Service records to learn what his priorities were to avoid service during the time of the draft.
Much has been said and a lot of arguments made for and against Mitt Romney to disclose his tax returns for more than two years. I have absolutely no reason to believe that Romney has committed tax fraud. In fact, I believe that he has almost certainly complied to the letter with our tax laws. Count me on the side of disclosure, though, because the issue isn’t about breaking the law. Anyone running for public office gives up an awful lot of privacy, and the higher up the office, the less privacy a candidate has. A presidential candidate pretty much has no personal privacy left in his life by the time his opponents and the media gets through raking over every last detail from birth to the present. How much detail is relevant is a separate debate.
Disclosing tax returns, in my opinion, is a very relevant issue for the voters. Tax returns can reveal where and how a person made his money, how many tax credits and deductions the candidate took, what esoteric tax laws allowed the candidate to avoid paying taxes, and other information. And this is where the returns become important. The voters should know what tax loopholes were available, in this instance, to a candidate that made millions of dollars but only paid fourteen percent in taxes in 2010. This is a matter of public policy that should be debated. I think most Republican and Democratic voters agree that we need tax reform in a major way. But most major legislative changes occur only when there is either a crisis or strong movement. Perhaps Romney was fortunate enough not to have paid any taxes for a period of years---legally. Shouldn’t the American people know that? Maybe many voters would be outraged, and maybe not. But if there is outrage it can be expressed to our elected representatives and serve as the impetus for tax reform.
Some may argue that Romney paid far more of his income to charity, a good thing, which allowed him to take a sizable tax deduction. What is troubling about that is that rather than pay taxes that fund a myriad of costs that benefit all Americans, to include the armed forces, he gets to choose where his money goes and puts nothing into the national pot. There is not a single tax paying American that supports all the government spending. Many wouldn’t have given a dime to pay for the Iraq war. Others wouldn’t choose to fund various welfare programs. But only those at the very top of the income ladder have options.
I want to stress that I support making money and achieving a high level of prosperity. I also want to be clear again that I honestly believe that Romney has complied with all tax laws. I just would like for all voters and tax payers to know from a presidential candidate’s tax returns what laws were applied to minimize or avoid paying taxes so that this can become a public policy issue to be debated and argued in the media and the deliberative bodies of the Congress. Recall that there was very little controversy over the draft in the 1950s and early 1960s. When the Vietnam war heated up that all changed. And that ultimately resulted in the public debate that led the Congress to eliminate the draft and turn to a volunteer military.
Last month the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Stolen Valor Act (SVA) in a six to three decision. Chief Justice Roberts was in the majority. The SVA was a worthwhile attempt to deal with the phonies who falsely claim military service and medals. It is amazing how many fakes are out there that suffer from what I call Ego Deficit Disorder (EDD). Over the years I have met any number of individuals who were self-proclaimed war heroes. Since I am more familiar with the Vietnam era, it is easier to spot them. The first question I ask someone that has given me a feeling that their service might be bogus is which corps they were assigned to in Vietnam. All Vietnam veterans can instantly answer this simple inquiry. When the “veteran” stumbles with his own questions such as “what do you mean by that”, “I served all over”, or one of my favorites, “it’s classified”, that’s a clue that they guy is a fraud. Further probing usually results in an abrupt end to the conversation along the lines of having too many bad memories, changing the subject, or that they can’t talk about it. Another common denominator is that they will never ask if you had Vietnam service or anything about it if they know that you did.
I received a number of calls from friends and associates who were troubled by the Supreme Court’s decision. I replied that I believe the high court made the right call that protects not just those that might be offended by the imposters, but all Americans. If the First Amendment is to mean anything all speech has to be protected with the very few exceptions that the Court has recognized over decades, such as disclosing military/ship movements in time of war, and shouting fire in a crowded theater---just two obvious examples. Protecting just popular speech is no protection at all; it is unpopular speech that needs to be protected. Sure, people might be offended, but who gets to decide what is offensive and should be banned? I prefer not to live in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Communist China, and other totalitarian states where irritating the wrong person can land you in jail. The dissemination of ideas, good or bad, in a democracy is one of our greatest strengths.
All of that said, it is important to know that it is one thing to boast about military service and medals that are mythical; it is another to do it on an employment application where veterans points might be awarded, on a form for some kind of government benefits, or anywhere else that could result in financial gain of some sort or a job promotion. Federal law bans the intentional making of false statements for such purposes, and there are state law counterparts. It would also be a crime to falsely claim to be a police officer if the person pretended to act under the color of law to exert his authority.
It is worth the price to live in a free society to put up with braggadocios and fakes that are looking for no more than attention. Otherwise we would have a line drawing problem about what should be prosecuted. The support employee that served behind the lines in a war zone but exaggerates his service to include front line combat is just one example. How about the numbers out there that claim to have played college or major league sports? It may not equate with military service fakery, but there still will be people offended by it. I say that the Walter Mittys that seek no more than ego gratification and to impress the people next to them in a bar should be laughed at for what they are, or perhaps they deserve our sympathy for being pathetic individuals. But the Court was right in recognizing that in our great country we don’t put people in jail for it.
Tammy Duckworth lost both legs and use of one arm in Iraq when the helicopter she piloted was shot down. She retired as an army lieutenant colonel and later served with distinction in the Veterans Administration. Duckworth is currently running as a Democrat for congress in the Chicago area. Her opponent is the incumbent freshman Republican, Joe Walsh. Walsh has a long record of running for public office and never won any of them until two years ago. This is a hotly contested seat and Walsh, while having no military experience of his own, has demonstrated that he can be very combative.
Last week he derided Duckworth for always talking about her military service. He added that that was all she talked about. Walsh went on to point out that John McCain was always humble about his military service and refused to talk about it. I liked McCain and thought that he would have been a better president than George Bush. One of the more prominent considerations in reaching that conclusion was his honorable naval service and having survived the brutality of being a POW. Knowing those things and being reminded of it helped to reinforce in my mind that McCain was a tough guy, a leader, and someone who made service to his country a priority. He and Duckworth both volunteered for pilot training, which is very rigorous, knowing that they would likely see combat. And what did Joe Walsh give back to the country that allowed him achieve what he has? I wonder if Walsh would have made the same statement about Ulysses S. Grant’s and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s military records and accomplishments. By any measure their records of military service would have been very relevant factors in a presidential or any other race for public office. Even as a young boy when Ike ran for president I knew that he was a war hero. It sent him to the White House.
But what is really interesting is that Walsh is angry with Duckworh for what she is touting about herself, not for what she has said about him. And she has some pretty good feed material. Walsh had a condo foreclosed, he owed back taxes to the IRS, he was a deadbeat dad owing child support to his first wife, and was a defendant in a lawsuit over a claim of money that he owed. What Walsh’s defenses are is not important to the point that Duckworth could be spending a lot more of her time pounding him about his alleged shortcomings to contradict Walsh’s position on the importance of individual responsibility.
Each day I get any number of emails talking about the “lame stream” or “liberal” media not reporting this or that. I also get emails that ask why Obama didn’t blast someone in his own party for an untoward remark. And now is a good time to ask where Romney’s voice has been, where the “Doctor of Truth”, Rush Limbaugh’s voice, and many other prominent conservative politicians and radio talk show hosts have been to defend Tammy Duckworth or to reprimand Joe Walsh? Retired Lt. Col. and freshman Congressman Allen West has also been noticeably quiet despite not having a penchant for taking a back seat to controversy. I leave myself open to each of them and many more that they did speak up and I just didn’t hear or read about it, but for now only the voice of silence is what I have heard. And that’s pretty sorry.
Two years ago Rush Limbaugh declared to his listening audience that if Obamacare was upheld by the Supreme Court, he would leave the country for Costa Rica. To that I say goodbye, good luck, and good riddance---although I’m not sure if Costa Rica might not have some kind of government run health insurance. I’m also not sure if Limbaugh isn’t self-insured, considering his vast wealth. Now, this is a man who has truly succeeded in the land of opportunity despite having a limited education and other limitations. What he doesn’t lack for, though, are strong opinions and a large followings. Just ask Congressman Phil Gingrey who a few years ago went up against El Rushbo before he groveled at his feet to beg forgiveness for some “unfortunate” remarks. Fortunately for Gingrey, the Doctor of Truth “graciously” accepted Gingrey’s apology.
The scare talk surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) reminds me of Newt Gingrich when he predicted a depression if President Clinton’s tax increase were to pass. We all know how that turned out. Mitt Romney continues to blast ACA while trying to ignore the fact that it was modeled on Romney Care in Massachusetts. The other day a defender of Romney and his health care solution as governor said that there was a big difference between the two programs. The defender argued that ACA is a single payer plan and Romney’s was not. Actually, this uninformed gentleman couldn’t have been more incorrect. And standing next to him was another Romney defender who is on Medicare. I asked him how he liked his single payer plan, and he sheepishly admitted that he liked it a lot. Oh, let’s not forget that it was Newt who only a few years ago proposed mandatory health insurance for all Americans.
The rhetoric against Chief Justice John Roberts says a lot. So many of his new critics only like the rule of law when the rules are somehow interpreted in their favor. Congressman Gingrey said in a radio interview last week when asked if he would like to have a beer with the chief, that he would prefer to pour one over his head. Nice talk from an elected representative. But Limbaugh and Gingrey have some things in common. In particular, neither ever gave anything back to America for what America provided them. (I don’t count Limbaugh’s contributions to charities. To be able to give as he can is a gift in itself---to him.) Do you think Limbaugh would be where he is in Somalia, Russia, China, and most other countries? Gingrey got a tax supported education at Georgia Tech that was practically free back then. Afterwards, with draft deferments in hand he attended the Medical College of Georgia, another tax supported institution that allowed him to practice medicine and achieve financial and professional success. But when the war tocsin of Vietnam sounded, Dr. Gingrey didn’t volunteer to give back and offer his service to the military that desperately needed doctors. And Limbaugh also took advantage of deferments and some unspecified medical exemption to avoid military service. Try to ask him about it on his show as some have and watch how sensitive he is to it.
The ACA can be debated forever, but for now it has been affirmed. In time the bugs will be worked out, and I suspect that more Americans will find that there is more good than bad about it.
Immigration reform is probably not going to occur in the foreseeable future. It has been a push button topic for years, and both political parties seem to be dug into uncompromising positions. Recently, Obama fanned the flames when he issued an executive order allowing a certain class of young illegals to stay in the country, finish school, and meet other criteria. The airwaves exploded with invective.
I am not offering an opinion on Obama’s decision or any suggestions for a meaningful immigration bill that would satisfy most Americans. It was some of the commentary from the reactionary talk show hosts that got my attention. Several said that they thought it would be okay to allow illegals a path to U.S. citizenship if they served honorably in the armed forces of our country. I find this very troubling. Admittedly, when it comes to military service my views are probably out of sync with current thinking. I believe that it was a mistake to go to a voluntary military. All Americans who are mentally and physically sound, and otherwise qualified, should have skin in the game and provide some public or military service for a couple of years. Educational and other benefits could be offered in different amounts and scales depending on which route the individual chose to take. What doesn’t make sense to me is for the United States to have a military service that resembles the French Foreign Legion. To outsource our military to illegal aliens is wrong. We could probably fill all branches with enough foreigners if we advertised worldwide, and no American would have to ever wear the uniform again. But is this right? Shouldn’t we as Americans be willing to defend our property, our way of life? What does it say for us as a nation if we call on others to do what we should do for ourselves? I think it is also interesting that the MDJ recently editorialized that the illegals that Obama granted waivers will be taking jobs away from Americans. Yet it seems that there are plenty of jobs for them in the military.
To be clear, I am not talking about resident aliens that are in the United States lawfully and on track to become U.S. citizens once they meet all the criteria and qualifications. They have a stake in our country and may want to suit up. To that I say, welcome aboard. (I also salute and praise those who served and died in Iraq and Afghanistan who were not documented but sought a way to becoming full fledged Americans.) But I find it disturbing that a number of the talk show hosts were of age to be drafted or volunteer during the Vietnam era, the same ones who never hesitate to give advice to presidents about going to war, turned their backs on service when the war tocsin sounded. Perhaps that’s why they have no problem with granting illegals citizenship in return for some of their blood; perhaps this somehow assuages their consciences.