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The Purpose of Government

Many years ago, a conservative friend decided he needed to challenge me. So he asked me one of those popular conservative questions at the time: what does the government do for you? This conversation took place over 30 years ago.

This was an era when conservatives said they would “like to shrink the size of government,” though they never said how small they wanted it to be. In 1986 Ronald Reagan had said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help’.” And in 2001 anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said he didn’t want “to abolish government”; he just wanted “to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

So, back to the original question. My friend argued that the government doesn’t do much for the average American. Yes, the government maintains the roads. We get clean water to drink. The government maintains our sewage system, which decreases disease. Finally, the government protects us with our military. In his conservative mind, that’s all the government was good for. But, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, it’s important to note that our government does much more.

We began hearing about a disturbance off the African coast that could develop into a hurricane in mid-September. We knew this because of a sophisticated network of satellites that orbit the earth and give reams of data to the team of meteorologists at the National Weather Service. These meteorologists and other scientists, working for our government, use sophisticated modeling to track and predict the path of this tropical disturbance. This data is then given to the smiling faces on CBS or the Weather Channel.

As the disturbance turned into a tropical depression and a hurricane, we could follow all this in real time. The cyclone slammed into Cuba on Sept. 26-27. We constantly got detailed, sophisticated information as the National Weather Service flew airplanes into this raging hurricane to learn more about it. Twenty-four to 36 hours before landfall, we knew the storm was going to hit the western coast of Florida, somewhere around Fort Myers, as it turned away from the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. We also knew, a day ahead of time, that this was going to be a major hurricane—and sure enough, it hit Florida as a Category 4, with 155-mph winds (at 157 mph a storm becomes Category 5).

By |2022-11-06T14:04:20-04:00November 6th, 2022|Domestic Issues|0 Comments

So Many Problems

I wrote this for the Urban News.

When I was an intern, one of my fellow interns would summarize a busy night of medical admissions with a simple phrase: “So many problems.” Unfortunately, this was during morning report when we were supposed to receive a detailed summary of the patients who had been admitted overnight. This would allow me and the rest of the medical team to carefully plan how we would take care of the newly admitted patients. The “so many problems” line gave us nothing. We had to scramble and figure out what was going on with these newly admitted patients and then formulate a plan for how we would take care of them. We have a similar problem in the United States these days. We have allowed Congress to kick problems down the road without resolution for decades. No one seems to be held accountable.

Gun Violence

More than 20 years ago, two high school seniors walked into the Columbine HS library in Littleton, Colorado with a variety of pistols, sawed-off shotguns, pipe bombs, and other explosives. They killed 10 students and one teacher before committing suicide.

America cried out for action. We needed some meaningful legislation. We could have limited high-capacity magazines. A girlfriend of one of the gunmen was over 18 and she had bought some of the weapons. Allowing someone to buy a weapon which is later used in a mass murder seems to be a loophole crying out for simple action. Congress could easily write a law which holds the person who bought the firearm responsible for any crimes committed with that firearm, but nothing was really done.

We hear the same tired old arguments that put the rights of gunowners ahead of the rights of the victims. Current data from the Center for Disease Control states the number one cause of death or injury for children under the age of 16 is firearms. Yet, we still have weak gun control laws. And when there is a strong one, like the 109-year-old legislation in New York that required anyone to show a good reason for carrying a firearm in public, the current Supreme Court majority will strike it down.

If you are in a public space, you should be on the lookout for some crazy man with a gun. This means if you are at church, at the mall, at a parade, or anywhere in the United States, you need to be on guard. This is just a sad fact of life right now in the US.

The recently passed Safer Communities Act is a nice start but it doesn’t come close to protecting us from random gun violence. It does not ban assault weapons. Why a civilian needs an assault weapon is beyond my understanding. The 2nd Amendment does NOT say that Americans can and should have any weapon they chose. Nor does the Safer Communities legislation enact red flag laws (These are laws that temporarily remove guns from people who are an immediate threat to themselves or others.) The act does not hold Americans who purchase guns accountable for the violence that their guns create. This is a must. My right not to be shot, killed or injured by some crazed lunatic outweighs any Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Finally, arming teachers to protect our school children may be the dumbest idea since Wiley E. Coyote decided to capture the Road Runner. Why? Because if we quickly review mass shootings, we find that well-trained police officers, who handle guns every day, fire and miss their targets frequently. Now, inject an armed teacher who is NOT as familiar with guns as a police officer into the confusing mix of a mass shooting. I see very little good that can come out of this situation. I see teachers becoming scapegoats as angry parents are wondering why the teacher didn’t save their child.

By |2022-10-08T20:27:05-04:00October 8th, 2022|Healthcare, Mass Shooting|0 Comments

Coup d’état

Approximately 20 years ago, the Bush administration tried to convince Americans that Saddam Hussein and Iraq were imminent threats to the American mainland. We heard that Iraq was stockpiling nuclear weapons. They had obtained special aluminum canisters that could only be used for nuclear weapons.

It turned out that this wasn’t true. The canisters were used for their medium-range conventional missiles.

We heard tales of mobile biological labs. We also heard that Saddam Hussein had been secretly meeting with al-Qaeda and helping to train the terrorists. Bush Administration officials told us that Iraq was buying “yellowcake uranium” for nuclear weapons.

None of these tall tales were true, either. The media was spoon-fed “scoop” after “scoop” by the Bush Administration, and the media bought it. They then, in turn, breathlessly shoveled this nonsense at the American people for us to feed on and to fear.

There was almost no critical analysis; what analysis there was was buried on page 26.

Now, we have January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The New York Times and the Washington Post seemed to struggle to figure out how to cover this event. Nor was CNN much help. What exactly was it? How did the president play into the event? Why didn’t the president—watching the chaos live on TV, like the rest of us—do anything for hours?

We never got adequate answers to any of these questions. So, the mainstream media just quit talking about the attack. The final narrative was that it was a spontaneous event that got out of control.

Where was the investigative reporting? This is why we pay a subscription to the Times or the Post. Right? We want them to dig into stories. I wanted a narrative of what happened. Instead, it seemed that everyone followed Fox News’s zombie interpretation of events. “The riot was spontaneous.” “Trump was just using political rhetoric at the Ellipse.” “He wasn’t calling for violence.”

The end. Now, let’s move on to something else.

Coup d’état

But fortunately, it wasn’t the end.

Over the last four weeks, we have learned a lot from the House of Representatives bipartisan January 6 committee. The events of January 6 were NOT spontaneous. Instead, Trump and his allies had a several-pronged approach to keep Trump in power.

The first prong was the direct assault on the Capitol. The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers were agitators and disruptors. They worked on what they thought were Trump’s direct orders.

Because of their paramilitary background, they were perfect for the job. They understood confrontation. They scoped out the Capitol. They probed for weak spots. They embraced fighting, pushing, and shoving. They physically removed barriers for the crowd to be able to move forward.

Second prong

The second prong was an attempt to influence the states. Trump and his allies worked tirelessly to overturn the election. Trump personally called leaders in Arizona, Michigan, and Georgia. He pressured state and local officials on multiple fronts.

There was direct pressure on Georgia: “I just want to find 11,780 votes.” He wanted the leader of the Arizona House to call a special session, which the leader did not have the power to do by himself, and declare that there was fraud and throw out the electors and replace them with Trump electors. This option is not in the US Constitution or the Arizona state Constitution. John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University School of Law (which forced him to resign from the law school a week after Jan. 6), dreamed up this fake elector scheme out of thin air. (See Moore v. Harper, page XX, for more on this fake elector scheme.)

He convinced Arizona Senate President Karen Fann to waste millions of dollars in taxpayer money for a phony “audit,” which increased Joe Biden’s margin of victory in the state.

Third prong

Finally, there was consistent pressure on Vice President Pence to throw out the actual electors at the Electoral College. According to Trump and Eastman, Pence had this power. I’m not sure where they read that the Vice President has the ability to single-handedly overturn an election because he wants to.

Pence stood his ground for reasons only known to him and his God. If one person consistently rolled over for the president, it was Pence, so why he stood his ground this time is unclear.

Pence is no hero. After Pence saw the lawlessness of January 6, and after he learned that Trump had egged on the terrorists to find Pence and kill him, several cabinet members came to Pence to see if he agreed that Trump was unfit to complete his term. Using the 25th Amendment, Trump could have and should have been removed from office. Pence declined. Again, we do not know why.

By |2022-09-15T09:23:45-04:00September 15th, 2022|Civil Rights, Domestic Issues|0 Comments
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