Political Shutdown Games

I am not normally political. This post will be an exception because I am an American and I am concerned.

Please allow me to frame the issues involved with “the wall” in its actual terms. Despite what the media is saying, this is not about Democrat vs. Republican. In short, the executive branch of our government is threatening to declare a national emergency since the legislative branch will not authorize the seizure of private American property for a federal works project nor will fund it. The executive branch has already shut down the federal government. It is currently threatening to extend this government shut down for however long it takes for the legislative branch to cave.

Let us break this down. 

First of all, the framework of our government is based on checks and balances. Power is divided into three branches: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. The Legislative branch controls the purse strings of government and creates laws. The Executive branch carries out those laws. The Judicial branch tells us whether the laws are constitutional or not. Each branch was designed to be able to balance the other branches.

Why? As shown by our original rebellion, Americans didn’t want a King or a Dictator when we were setting up our government. We were not particularly thrilled with a House of Lords telling us what we could or could not do either.

In this case, the executive branch wants to:
(1) take governmental cash; 
(2) create its own law; 
(3) take away private property from American citizens; 
(4) create its own federal works project. 

At least three of these functions fall within the power/ responsibility of the legislative branch. So, what is the problem? This is one of the most naked power grabs by the executive branch over the others in recent history. Once that power is exercised, it is going to be difficult or impossible to regain any balance again. The executive branch was never meant to have that much power (see our country’s previous concerns about Kings and Dictators). Is this constitutional? Very doubtful. Should all Americans be concerned? That is a question for you to answer yourself.¬†

Second, a “National Emergency” is generally declared under these general conditions:¬†
(1) Natural disasters including hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes to name a few; 
(2) Public health emergencies such as significant outbreaks of infectious diseases;
(3) Military attacks; 
(4) Civil insurrection;
(5) Any unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy.

Now the first 4 aren’t applicable. The last category was meant to be short-term only. It was designed to be reviewed by the legislative branch every year after it‚Äôs enacted (because again; the check and balance is fundamental to how we operate).

So, what is the problem here? If national emergencies can be declared by the executive branch for non-emergency purposes which vest power in one branch of the government why would that branch ever let go of that power again?

Third, the seizure of private property (known as ‚Äúeminent domain‚ÄĚ, a body of law which says the government cannot just take your home without due process). You are joking, right? No. The US/Mexican border is 1,933 miles long. It runs through 4 states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas). Only 33% of that land is actually owned or managed by the Federal Government. A sizable percentage of that land is owned by the Indian nations. It is land preserved for those tribes by treaty and land given under treaty is not land owned by the United States. These tribes already have a lot of reasons to be angry at the Federal Government. This would be pouring additional gas on an open flame.

The other 64% of that land is privately owned. 

How much land would have to be taken? The amount of land that the Federal Government would have to take would likely run 1,237 miles long to 12,371 miles deep (assuming a 1 to 10-mile DMZ from the border into the United States). Even if we could only take 100 to 500 ft of land in densely populated areas, that is a lot of private property that is going to be seized by the Federal government. 

The land necessary for this project would also run through some highly populated areas in the US such as San Diego, Calexico, Nogales, El Paso, and Laredo. There will be a lot of Americans who are going to have their homes and businesses taken by the federal government. Which will also mean a lot of lawsuits.

In terms of the federal works project, these types of works include hospitals, bridges, highways, walls and dams. These projects may be funded by local, state, or federal appropriations. If they are federal, they are funded by the legislative branch of our government (the same branch that our executive branch is currently trying to take power from). Is the seizure of power constitutional? Not likely given the separation of powers discussed above.

Finally, these considerations do not take into account the sheer cost, human and monetary, that will be involved. The Department of Homeland Security estimates the current cost at $21 billion for construction alone (not counting costs of maintenance or costs associated with increased military/federal patrolling). 

Ask yourself a simple question. When was the last time that you saw a governmental project brought in under time and under budget? Does anyone remember the ‚Äúbig dig‚ÄĚ in Boston, Mass? The actual costs are likely to be much higher. This estimated cost also does not include compensating folks for taking their land or the associated impact upon their businesses.¬†

The Federal budget deficit grew to $779 billion dollars in 2018 according to the Treasury Department. How are we, as a country, going to fund this project? How are we, as a country, going to deal with the additional debt? Unlike private businesses, our country cannot declare bankruptcy. 

This is not about Democrat vs. Republican. It is not about who has the best zingers measured in 10 second sound bites. It is about our country. The core of this issue deals with the profound and immense changes the outcome will have on the structure of our nation. This is the way that we, as a country, should be framing these issues. Please think about it.

Mature Decision Making‚Äč

I recently read about a 16-year-old person soon to be graduating from high school ‚Äď and Harvard University. It had me thinking about maturity, development, and the method in which we as adults defines an individual as capable of making adult decisions?

Some would argue that a 16-year-old person graduating from a prestigious university is an exception to the rule and in fairness a rare event. However rare events are measured by people using loose fact-finding data to justify an answer. If any 16-year-old person anywhere in the world didn‚Äôt graduate from high school early or be enrolled in a college does that make them less of a gifted individual allowable to make his/her own adult choices? The quick answer would be a resounding “No” by most. It seems that the exception rule is based upon privilege with an acknowledgment by others in power or control. A measurable formula is when others suggest gifted and talented acts by potential candidates, but they are not selected or overlooked in the rare process to seek mature and gifted students. It is strange that America has a vastly large magnet or gifted-talented educational programs, but the identity of allowing adult decisions and seeking qualified candidates are decided from ungifted or unqualified individuals. Instead, we continually drop the pursuit of maturity and gifted people through the cracks of our politized educational system using a formula of standardized tests that most people find boring and not engaging. These identifiers are our main selection process in the discovery of the future Stephen Hawking? No wonder its difficult to find maturity or raise the bar because of how we developed the bar or challenge.

Another maturity example that differs is that the Army of the United Kingdom allows military enlistment beginning at age 16 compared to the U.S. Army enlistment at age 18. The drinking age in the UK is 18 while all of the United States is 21. The age of consent in the UK is 16 while Americans have a mish-mash of consent ages usually beginning at age 18 but with various stipulations. A college education typically starts in the UK at age 16 while American colleges roughly range at 18 or just after high school. Does this suggest that American culture is lagging in maturity and development behind other industrialized nations?

Additionally, does it indicate that our system of the age of suffrage it out of date or lacking useful data? If you take notice that the UK enjoys a safe maturity level of age 16 across the board. Perhaps this is why that nation doesn’t have significant incarceration, sex registry, or costly educational system? It does beg to question American methods and practices if we can look outward for a moment.

The question about maturity and development is highly questionable because American culture takes excellent value in placing a numeric value on all individuals rather than exploring scientific data or the exploration of the exceptional rule. It seems as if the UK has done its fact-finding and created a uniformed and easy to understand practice all while embracing trust and maturity of its youth. This is not to suggest that we should begin immediately lowing ages to “keep up with the Joneses” per se. What I am suggesting is that we became a bit more uniformed and aligned with other industrialized nations especially in a globalized society filled with internet, apps, and shared educational values with regards to sciences, maths, and culture. Otherwise, if we fail to discuss the educational and maturity benefits of shifting the goal post of developmental maturity programs, then we will become as complacent as our poorly designed Great Depression educational school calendars that we continue to use today.

Where Is My Copy Of The Gay Agenda?

During the 1990’s I remember when gay equality was for many in the LGBT community was an in-depth secretive discussion. In fact, there was still the onset fear of being openly identified as gay or lesbian that many gay dance clubs or establishments wouldn’t open its doors until after 11PM. Many gay men wouldn’t show up until later knowing that heterosexuals were safely tucked away in their beds. Gay men would reverse park their cars to shield license plates being easily identified, and military base decals were obscured with tape or cardboard to hide from military police. After an evening of dancing and entertainment between gay members would suddenly end when Donna Summer’s hit “, Last Dance” was played. It marked the bar was closing, and the end of gay-themed fun would quickly resort back toward heterosexually-based demeanors and acting abilities of a straight-laced society.

The days of the gay bar seem long gone or appear to become mainstream leaving many in the LGBT community without an identity to call its own. When President Trump signed FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act), you might as well shot the heart out of the gay community. This is not to imply that gay men are prostitutes. Instead, it suggests that gay men used many adult-themed personal websites to meet one another.  Gay men, having few remaining outlets to seek other gay men, utilize, or used to access Backpage, Craigslist, or other hookup sites for dating, random sex or companionship. It has been the iconic staple for the gay community along when print ads would list men seeking men columns. Basically, it was the only outlet that allowed consenting adults to engage in not only sexual activity but a way for gay men to meet other gay men. However, male escorts and other sex workers were scattered in between the websites blending in with ads and conservatives sought a chance to forever close access to one part of the gay community. Overnight, Backpage, Craigslist, and countless other gay sites went dark due to government intervention due in part to FOSTA.

I used to laugh at the notion back in the 90’s when conservative lawmakers would make noise about “The Gay Agenda.” Strange that I never got my copy, but all the conservative lawmakers did? Despite the passage of gay marriage and specific LGBT equalities I always felt that the conservative agenda is to turn back the clock in the gay community. FOSTA, religious freedoms by the U.S. Supreme Court, repeal of transgendered in the military, the sex offender registry used as a weapon for allegations 30 years old or older, rollback of adoption laws, and countless other should be enough proof that anti-LGBT legislation is coming and shifting gay cultures. States with conservative lawmakers are rushing bills through committee quickly. While the nation is focused on Trump’s twitter feed legislation is blindsiding many LGBT Americans.

Personally, what two consenting adults do in the privacy of his/her bedroom is no business of mine. Other nations continue to engage in legalized prostitution or apps without government oversight, but they too are experiencing influence from not conservatives, but liberals that fought for pro-sex laws. Liberals in the German legislature seek to end legalized prostitution referring to #metoo influences and other fear-based and unfounded tactics. German conservatives surprisingly are against criminalizing or making sex worker registration more difficult. German conservatives cite that creating additional bureaucratic measures may begin pushing sex workers in the shadows similar to failed American sex culture. At least the Germans appear to be on the right strategy. Other nations don’t seem to be glued to mobile phone apps for gay hookups or dating, but it is a resource most accepted by the LGBT community. Its public policies and attitudes are far more accepting of the LGBT communities than the United States. In fact, many gay clubs continue to operate robustly allowing a healthy mixture of LGBT allies or the curious to enter its realm thanks primarily in part of sites such as Craigslist, Backpage, and other former websites affected by FOSTA.

Gay bars and gay dance clubs in America are closing based on an aging gay population leaving many young gay/bi men without places to call its own. It appears that neighborhood gyms are the newest substitute in gay meetings and hookups. Gay men are resorting to phone apps such as Tinder, Surge, Jack’d, Grindr, Scruff, and others. While that may appear okay to some, it provides a scary territory to LGBT members because of safety concerns.  However, when will these apps be affected by FOSTA and be taken offline leaving fewer choices? The conservative anti-gay agenda seems entirely clear to rid of LBGT communities, web access, bars, clubs, and apps once again isolating human beings from equal access. If the LGBT community isn’t careful, it may end up playing Semisonic’s “Closing Time” for any gay-themed establishment well before the end of the Trump-Pence presidency.

We Created Discrimination‚Äč

Many believe that prejudice is influenced or taught in the home. I suspect that could be a plausible argument. However, I tend to think that forms of discrimination are formed from particular events. I would cite such facts such as soldiers being deployed to Iraq and engaging with faction groups posing as soldiers. It could also be argued that military leadership paints a portrait of Muslim culture or middle easterners as radicals. We commonly hear and see this rhetoric often by soldiers displaying “morale” patches or scribbled helmet sayings similar to the days of “Commie Killer” adorned on cold war helmets.

But why are Americans suddenly anti-Latino or anti-Mexican? Immigrants typically embrace jobs that American youth won’t take or apply. Is it that unfair prejudice is actually our malice and bitterness is that they are employable while most American youth won’t take a moment to apply? It reminds me of the days where migrant workers filled American farmlands picking anything from cotton to yams far less in wages, benefits, and protections than the typical American worker. Generations beforehand worked side by side to pass on time treasured traditions ensuring that families would hopefully pass on to future generations. Eventually, those generations abandoned the hard and heat sweltering work. This the era of migrants to fill the slack left by younger generations to seek higher education or other employment means. It was American farmers that opened the floodgates to welcome anyone that would take jobs ranging from farms, manufacturing, production lines, janitorial, cooking, and other low paying or low skill jobs. Today we see job construction sites filled with not faces of the typical white or afro-American worker. Instead, we see construction sites all over America with a diverse mix of Hispanic and foreign workers. What I don’t understand is companies and individuals insist on hiring Latino workers while at the same time treat them as potential criminals or quasi-servants. It is as if the middle and low class of Americans have somewhat created the underclass of society that will work but ridicules that class for taking all the jobs available in the first place? It doesn’t make sense, but we use immigration law to argue about the legality of something Americans skirted the law in the first place.

When any form of leadership creates a dialog that a particular group of people is criminally prone with no facts to support it, then perception becomes a reality. Influences such as hate-filled speech lead to discrimination. With that being said, Latinos as a whole in America have been falsely criminalized. There are those that oppose such language but appear to be falling on deaf ears or silenced by the power of government influence. Folks, a lot can happen in four years during a Presidential cycle. But what has transpired over the past year has the recipe of leading from political divisions towards a severe civil war where the firestarter could come from the Latino community – and legitimately so. I certainly do not wish or want any forms of fighting. But individuals within society have a right to protect their integrity and stability that they refrain from becoming labeled or wrongly classified. When certain politicians decide to take it upon themselves to invoke religious scripture, then society may experience repercussions like no other they have witnessed.

A suggestion to return to some form of normalcy is for Americans to accept responsibilities that they habitually cut corners by outsourcing, allowing immigrants, don’t enforce hiring practices, and skirt issues to get ahead. It is somewhat strikingly similar where Americans would foolishly recommend that if African Americans were not happy with America that they could go back to Africa. Such exaggeration is not only stupid but a magnification of how and where discrimination and bigotry originates.

Every so many decades Americans disdain for other cultures publically airs its own forms of prejudice. Such recent events are when Japan during the 1970’s gas crisis began importing cars to the United States. 1980 were when China started to import cheaper manufactured goods. 1990 were when people from India began infiltrating customer service and high tech job markets. 2000 when suddenly Mexicans that had been here in the millions were decidedly a threat to Caucasian populations. Perhaps we should take a moment and remember that the melting pot doesn’t belong to any race, religion, creed, sex, or identity. Just because you discover it doesn’t make it exclusively yours. We are a society elected by people supposedly of laws. But when we create laws to enforce upon a particular class of people, then we are no longer a democracy.

Liberty is Fleeting

I am one of the few soldiers that actually patrolled the Iron Curtain between East and West Germany during the Cold War.  During that period I witnessed a divide between freedom and controlled environments. What separated two ideologies was a death strip filled with land mines, razor wire, metal spike crosswalks, and East German border guards that would shoot first and ask questions later. As an American soldier, I was proud that I didn’t live in a nation that habitually lied to its people, denied freedoms, embraced a one-party system, and would jail its citizens based merely on suspicion.

 

Fast forward today, and for some reason, I feel that I am in the middle of lousy reality dream. When I hear the President wants to build a wall along the border I can only think about how we spent decades, at the cost of lives, to tear down a wall.  Police are arresting people based on suspicion without evidence similar to how the Stazi arrested East Germans. Shootings or the use of tasers by law enforcement are often and highly questionable. Listening to our elected leadership habitually presenting false or misleading information all while dismissing the press is a bit disturbing and sounds like the days of Erich Honecker. It is as if we as a nation are told we have inalienable rights only to become the revised version of East Germany and the Soviet Union all over again. The recent United Nations withdrawal from the Human Rights Council should be a wakeup call that our seat of influence to the world has become an observation post where we have no real voice or teeth to promote freedom.

 

There was a time in my life where I could quickly recognize military uniforms and present a level of absolute respect and honor. Today, I witness police emulating military styled clothing closely resembling military uniforms adorned with ribbons, awards, and rank that were usually privilege and expressly used by the military. Overnight we have transformed our police departments into Soviet styled organizations and dressed police officers in military garb because it looks cool or intimidating. It is a stark reminder of civil service versus military service and how the two should instinctively be different visibly from one another. If police persist in wearing military uniforms and camouflage, then perhaps I should invoke my third amendment right of consent. Afterall, if the police want to dress up like military soldiers, then it is high time that this nation pushes back and hold those accountable that tarnish the uniform mixed with its stolen valor by using our third amendment right. The last time I looked, there were specific laws against the militarization of the police and adulteration of the standard police duty uniform.

 

Public buildings once the highlight of tours and open society have been quickly militarized with body scan devices, authenticated access points, and anti-ram bollards that have been institutionalized by a post 9/11 society. Former President Bush suggested that we continue to go about our business, but stay vigilant. The fear-based society of politicians and conspiracy theorist with no formidable data began the terror machine of identifying everyone as a threat. It started to develop registries and checkpoints such as no-fly, offender, terror watch lists, REAL Identification and so forth. These actions are no different than how the Soviet Union and communist countries continue to monitor and control its citizens today. ¬†Specific controls are reminiscent of how Soviets and communist-based neighbors grew suspicious of one another by not becoming vigilant but turning into self-imposed informants. No facts are needed. Just a self-induced form of hysteria that something could happen is all to create a recipe of additional and unwarranted controls. ¬†Lessons learned from history that showed Soviets and East Germans were taught to believe anything said by western media was false. The stigmatic message was that western news was manufactured to be a threat towards communist democracy; at least from their viewpoint. However, capitalism has a strange way today of acting similar to what communists claimed decades ago. Interesting that the Berlin Wall was meant to keep invading forces of the west out. Ironic that no westerners were ever shot for crossing into the east. Moreover, when the Berlin and Iron Curtain fell that unification efforts didn’t put nations into debt. In fact, it created a robust economic powerhouse where America is discovering difficulty in keeping up with the Germans.

 

As a soldier, I was taught and reminded of freedoms all around us both visible and invisible. I am told each time I see the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, that it embraces the embodiment of freedom from all forms of oppression. An interesting fact is a broken chain that lies Liberty’s feet. It reminds us that we are not prisoners of our beliefs or pursuits. Liberty became an icon of freedom and of the United States and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad that all are welcome. But with an impending wall on our border, immigrant children separated from families, using religion as a precursor towards public policy, or prison populations higher than most national census seem perhaps fitting that we return the Statue of Liberty to France. Apparently, we are losing our vision, integrity, and accessibility with regards to freedom and how this nation was created.

 

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
– Gen. George C. Patton

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