Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Religious beliefs take a beating in today’s politically correct world

Issues of religious freedom have been in the news a good bit lately. Primarily, these news events occur when someone finds their religious beliefs in conflict with another person’s secular desire. A baker or a florist who regularly sells their wares to gay/lesbian customers declines to bake a cake or make floral arrangements for their wedding because their religious beliefs do not approve homosexual marriage. Despite the fact that there are many, or if not many, at least some alternatives to those bakers or florists, those who refused to provide services were persecuted and some driven out of business by the uproar the offended gay/lesbian couples instigated because these people held to their religious beliefs.

More recently, a county clerk in Kentucky refused to sign marriage licenses of gay/lesbian couples after a court ruled that treating gay/lesbian couples differently than heterosexual couples is discrimination, and therefore illegal. A judge jailed the clerk for refusing to act, despite the commonly observed practice by judges of using the least radical punishment for such problems first, and then proceeding to more stringent punishment and ultimately jail as the last resort.

This last episode is a much different situation than those previously mentioned, as it involves a government employee refusing to do her sworn duty. But the attention it received and the way the judge handled the clerk does illustrate the size of the schism between people following their religious beliefs and social preferences or legal mandates.

If there were options other than punishing these Americans for following their religious beliefs, why were bakers, florists, and others who have had similar misfortunes singled out for what may rightly be termed persecution. This point is particularly relevant in a nation in which the first right among four specifically enumerated rights in the first of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights is the free exercise of religion?

It is also relevant to note the degree to which these events attract media coverage, which highlights how unpopular traditional religious practices have become to the media and many Americans in the 21st century.

Combine a media mindset apparently hostile to religious practices with a tendency to try to tear down Republican presidential candidates and you find Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson being given rough treatment after saying that a Muslim shouldn’t be President of the United States. "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that," he said a while back on NBC's "Meet the Press."

A bit later in the interview, he said, when asked about a Muslim running for Congress, that it would depend upon the individual in question. "Congress is a different story, but it depends on who that Muslim is and what their policies are, just like it depends on what anybody else is," Dr. Carson said. "If there's somebody who is of any faith but they say things and their life has been consistent with things that will elevate this nation and make it possible for everybody to succeed and bring peace and harmony, then I'm with them."

Host Chuck Todd also asked him whether a president's faith should matter to voters. "I guess it depends on what that faith is," he said. "If it's inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, no problem." Asked whether he thinks Islam is consistent with the Constitution, Carson said: "No, I don't – I do not."

Clearly, Dr. Carson believes that anyone subjugating their religious beliefs, whatever religious beliefs they may hold, to the requirements of our Constitution is the key element.

He appeared on ABC News’ “This Week” last Sunday where reporter Martha Raddatz grilled him on that same statement, either ignorant of his other comments further defining his view on the issue, or unwilling to acknowledge them. Here is part of that interview:

Raddatz: “I want to go back to your controversial comments on the possibility of a Muslim president. The question seemed quite clear. The question was: Should a president’s faith matter? You said, I guess it depends on what that faith is. The question was: So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution, and you said no, I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that. 

Do you stand by that now?”

Carson: “Well, first of all, you know, what I said is on a transcript and it’s there for anybody.”

Raddatz: “I’m reading the transcript, Dr. Carson, that’s exactly what you said.”

Carson: “No – read the paragraph before that where I said anybody, doesn’t matter what their religious background, if they accept American values and principles and are willing to subjugate their religious beliefs to our Constitution. I have no problem with them.

Why do you guys always leave that part out, I wonder?”

Political correctness – or opposing unpopular things in favor of popular things – is the order of the day, in life and in the media.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Finding the way to Democrat and Republican nominees for president

We are currently knee-deep in political primary season, as the two major political parties and voters analyze and reduce the list of hopeful candidates to the eventual nominees. Most will probably agree that this particular cycle is a bit unusual, as one side has a candidate who expected a coronation, but instead sees her numbers falling dramatically in the face of a strong challenge, and a long list of candidates on the other side is being dominated not by an experienced familiar face, but by an outspoken and blunt outsider to the political process.

Businessman Donald Trump continues to lead the large Republican pack, defying the predictions of many political pundits who said he was a flash in the pan, and the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finds self-described “democratic socialist” and political independent Sen. Bernie Sanders nipping at her heels among Democrats.

Mr. Trump’s shoot from the lip style is heavy on bluster and self-confidence, but light on substance. Mrs. Clinton relies on comments in defense of her indefensible use of a private email server that are truly silly. "Looking back,” she said, “it would have been probably, you know, smarter to have used two devices" for her emails, as if you can’t access more than one email account on any “device,” and ignoring the server issue altogether.

And then there is Bernie Sanders. The Vermont independent is proposing an array of socialist programs, the cost of which that would likely be the largest spending program in American history, dwarfing the gargantuan spending spree of Barack Obama., who pushed the national debt up by more than $5 trillion in his less-than seven years in office, a debt that now totals more than $18 trillion. That enormous number has been growing for many years, and is something that neither Democrats nor Republicans in the White House and Congress have treated as a serious problem for far too long.

Sen. Sanders proposes to spend another $18 trillion over 10 years, including an estimated $15 trillion for a government-run single-payer health-care program covering every American, as well as more money to rebuild roads and bridges, make college tuition free, and expand Social Security. That ought to strike fear into everyone, and it has done just that even for many Democrats.

It will come as no surprise that the preferred way of financing this absurd plan is raising taxes, perhaps including a hike in payroll taxes on employers and workers. These tax increases, Sen. Sanders believes, will bring in only $6.5 trillion over the 10-year period, if it all goes as he plans. Maybe he doesn’t realize that when you raise taxes on an activity, you get less of it, and therefore less in tax collections than might be assumed.

Liberal Democrats and other socialist-leaning folks love giveaways like free tuition and healthcare, and seem either immune to, or not to care about, the negative impact on society so long as it helps them in the next election. But there are important negatives in this plan that threaten America’s future.

The marriage rate has plummeted since 1980 and out-of-wedlock childbirth has soared, weakening the most dependable stabilizer of society in history, the traditional family, consisting of a mother, a father and their children. A 2013 report noted that fewer than half of American households now contain a traditional nuclear family; that 40 percent of children are now born into households without a father; and non-married cohabitation is seven times higher than it was in 1970. Another report showed that 40.7 percent of all children born in 2012 were out-of-wedlock births.

The liberal/socialist tendency to support dependency actually encourages these dangerous behaviors by subsidizing non-familial living conditions, such as increasing welfare payments for having additional children, and cutting support payments in some cases when unmarried women get married and bring a man into the home. The message: Don’t get married; you will lose subsidies if you do.

The more people that live off the government, the fewer people will be working and funding the government and its destructive subsidies through tax payments. The system is simply economically unsustainable at the level Sen. Sanders proposes, and even at the current level damages the individual self-reliance that built and sustains the American idea.

So, Bernie Sanders expects this foolhardy plan to propel him to the Democrat nomination and to eventual victory over whichever of the Republicans survives this crazy primary process.

For socialists/liberals, more is never enough. Their problem is that, as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously said, “at some point you run out of other people’s money,” the mother’s milk of socialism. They are handcuffed by what economist Dr. Thomas Sowell calls “stage-one thinking,” which involves grabbing onto an idea to solve a problem without projecting its consequences a few steps down the road. Failure generally ensues.

At this point Democrats must choose between the proudly socialist Sanders and the somewhat less socialistic Clinton. The Republicans have a broad and deep field, some who have proven they know how to run a government, create jobs, cut taxes, and grow their state’s economy. That mindset is what we need now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What, exactly, is the real goal of the Iran nuclear agreement?

“Senate Democrats voted to uphold the hard-fought nuclear accord with Iran on Thursday, overcoming ferocious GOP opposition and delivering President Barack Obama a legacy-making victory on his top foreign policy priority.” So read the opening paragraph of the Associated Press story last Friday, identifying the Obama legacy as one product of the deal on Iranian nuclear aspirations.

A presidential legacy has been an elusive goal for Mr. Obama, as previous efforts have dramatically fallen by the wayside. He is succeeding in killing the coal industry in the name of environmental improvement, but the improvement is virtually non-existent, while economic harm and lost jobs dwarf any noticeable environmental improvement.

Certainly, no one will consider the Fast and Furious gun-running debacle that led to the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent or the incompetent handling of the Benghazi, Libya situation that resulted in the murders of four Americans, including our Ambassador to Libya, as the stuff of which a legacy is made.

And, the supposed jewel in the crown, the Affordable Care Act, which is affectionately known as Obamacare, is as bad as it is good, or worse.

One remaining possibility is to fashion an historic agreement to reign in the efforts of Iran, the world’s greatest supporter of global terrorism, to acquire nuclear weapons. A multi-national agreement – a treaty – led by the United States, bringing nations together to stop the rogue nation’s nuclear advances and save Israel and perhaps the U.S. from potential nuclear catastrophe.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines a treaty as “an agreement between two or more independent states,” meaning two or more nations, and Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution states: “He [the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur…”

But there’s a problem. The agreement that these nations created has stark weaknesses that have produced strong, principled opposition.

But credit Mr. Obama for recognizing those weaknesses and developing a strategy to minimize their effect on getting the deal approved: rather than submit the treaty as a treaty, he managed to maneuver it around so that it is merely an “agreement” that doesn’t require Senate approval.

But make no mistake: this agreement IS a treaty. And so is the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 13 other nations, that Mr. Obama also prefers to pass off as a mere “agreement.”

However, if the treaty clause of the Constitution means anything it must be applied to those two agreements because they are not simple agreements about an ambassador or similar routine matter; they will affect the nation for decades to come, long after Mr. Obama has gone on his way.

The Senate’s role is outlined on the Website as follows, in part: “As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist no. 75, ‘the operation of treaties as laws, plead strongly for the participation of the whole or a portion of the legislative body in the office of making them.’ The constitutional requirement that the Senate approve a treaty with a two-thirds vote means that successful treaties must gain support that overcomes partisan division.”

Given the importance of the Iran agreement and the TPP, trying to call them something other than treaties so as to circumvent Constitutionally required Senate approval tells us a lot about the weaknesses of the Iran deal. And it says plenty about Barack Obama, who works hard to avoid the constitutional separation of powers for his own benefit.

Virginia’s 9th District Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith issued a statement last week that reads in part: “The President’s deeply flawed and misguided deal with Iran is a serious security matter not only for the United States, but also for our allies in the Middle East. I believe we must use all tools possible to stop this deal in its tracks and avoid placing our citizens and allies at greater risk.”

Further opposition came from three Senators from the president’s own party, who have vastly more experience than he does in foreign policy – Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Ben Carden, of Maryland, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey –  who decided to oppose the Iran agreement. However, enough Senate Democrats like the agreement to defeat the Senate effort to stop it, which consisted of passing a resolution of disapproval, which Mr. Obama could veto. Democrats have enough votes to prevent over-riding the veto, however.

The deal includes lifting sanctions on $140 billion or so of locked-up Iranian funds, prevents American inspectors from participating in any inspections of Iranian facilities, provides for Iran to conduct all inspections at the Parchin nuclear bomb trigger development site, and provides for a 24-day delay in some inspection demands. And last weekend Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has previously said that Israel would not survive another 25 years and has pledged “Death to America,” urged radicals to launch lone wolf attacks against Americans.

What could possible go wrong?

This agreement may get Barack Obama the legacy he seeks, but will ultimately maintain the significant risk the U.S. and its allies face from a nuclear Iran. Is that a legacy worth having?

Friday, September 11, 2015

2,996 Tribute to 9-11 Victims

Editors Note: What follows originated in 2006, and is repeated in 2015.

2,996 is a tribute to the victims of 9/11. 

On September 11, 2006, 2,996 volunteer bloggers joined together for a tribute to the victims of 9/11. Each person payed tribute to a single victim.We honor them by remembering their lives, and not by remembering their murderers.

So reads the introductory material on the 2996 Web page. I was assigned James Arthur Greenleaf, Jr. I was the 1357th blogger to sign up for the 2,996 Tribute project.

The name of each 9-11 victim was been assigned to a blogger.

This project was a very moving one for me. In searching for information on Jim Greenleaf’s life, I was deeply touched by who this young man was. 

James Arthur Greenleaf, Jr., age 32, native of Waterford, Conn. Mr. Greenleaf was a foreign exchange trader at Carr Futures and died at the World Trade Center. He was a resident of New York, N.Y. Mr. Greenleaf was a 1991 graduate of Connecticut College, he was the son of Mr. And Mrs. James Greenleaf, Sr., and the former husband of Susan Cascio, a 1992 graduate of Connecticut College.

The following was posted by Mr. Greenleaf’s mother on 

April 6, 2002 

My Dearest Jim, 

Almost 7 months have passed and not a day goes by that I don't think about you. Some days I pretend that I just haven't seen you in long time and that you will be visiting soon. I know that it will be a long time till we see each other again, but it does help on the bad days.

Just this week Dad and I received 2 letters from old friends of yours recalling some great times that they spent with you and they wanted us to know what an impact you had on their lives. One letter we received said that she had children of her own and just hoped that some day they might grow up to be the kind of person that she remembers you as being. What a 
wonderful tribute to the fine man that you were. You touched so many people and I'm sure that you had no idea of how others thought of you. 

I know that I kissed you and told you how much I loved you every time I had the opportunity to, but I wanted to say it to you today again.

I love you so much,


Peter, Bryn and I talk about you all the time and remember all the wonderful times we spent together. 
(Patricia Greenleaf, Waterford, CT) 

Quilt graphic thanks to Kim at United in Memory

The James A. Greenleaf, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established to honor and remember a dear family member and friend who lost his life as a result of the catastrophe which occurred in New York City in 2001. The fund will be used to provide financial assistance to students attending St. Bernard High School.

Dave McBride also hopes to help others by honoring the memory of his long-time friend with the 5th Annual 5K River Run For The Fund. The race, which takes place this Saturday, May 13th at Ocean Beach Park in New London, is part of the Greenleaf Memorial Foundation, which also incorporates an annual Golf Tournament and a Memorial Dinner. McBride and James Greenleaf were best friends since high school, graduating from St. Bernard in 1987.

Sadly, Greenleaf lost his life because of the terrorist acts that occurred as he was working in New York City on the morning of September 11th, 2001. In a tribute to Greenleaf, his family and friends created the James A. Greenleaf, Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund, Inc., with proceeds used to award full book scholarships for 8th grade students to attend St. Bernard High School. The organization received approximately 30-40 scholarship applications annually, which require a formal essay and teacher recommendations that are reviewed by the Foundation’s Board of Directors. The fund also hopes to increase its scholarship offerings either to St Bernard students or other local students who will be attending college.

 Leave a message in honor of James Arthur Greenleaf Jr.

From: Lisa LaGalia Date: 11/19/2004 Message: Hi babe it me. Still not better without you. Can't you take me there where you are. We should be together
From: Maureen Griffin Balsbaugh Date: 08/29/2005 Message: At every one of your events. We know you are there in spirit....laughing.

This comment was left just a few days ago:

Thank you for posting information on Jim Greenleaf. We went to high school together. During the three years, we played football and ran track together. We ate many lunches together. 

With my return to the US in 2007, I have been able to attend the annual golf outing twice. The outpouring of help given by friends of Jimmy is very inspiring. His scholarship is helping many children attend St. Bernard H.S.

Thank you for the great site.

PS As an aside, we lost another high school friend that day, Eric Evans. He was in one of the towers when they fell. Both gone but not forgotten.

Jim Greenleaf, rest in peace.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Americans believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction

    A year ago a poll by The Wall Street Journal and NBC found that 71 percent of Americans are pessimistic about the nation’s long-term prospects; we are on the wrong track, they believe, and they direct their blame at the elected leaders in Washington. Sixty percent think the country is in a state of decline.
    A couple of months later a Politico poll showed that half believe we are on the wrong track, while only about 20 percent thought we are on the right track. And 64 percent believe the country is “out of control.”
    This discontent runs so deep that 57 percent of those in the Journal/NBC poll said something upset them enough to carry a protest sign for one day, including 61 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans.
    Their national government has grown in size and cost. The 2010 Census lists federal civilian employment at 2.8 million, 2 percent of total employment, and one federal employee for every 117 people. In 2014, Cost of Government Day fell on July 6.  Working people had to work 186 days out of the year just to meet all costs imposed by government. In FY2014 the federal government spent $3.5 trillion, $484 billion more than it took in.
    The degree of power the federal government exercises over its citizens has grown to ridiculous levels. So extensive has government intrusiveness become that it now decides the kinds of light bulbs we can use and regulates the toilets we can buy, and is about to exert control over outdoor cooking grills and people who heat their homes by burning wood. It attempted to gain the power to come onto your property and take control of part or all of it if areas there collect a sufficient amount of rainwater.
    Government incompetence, long a subject of ridicule, is at an all-time high. Among recent failures:
** The bright idea to allow guns to flow to Mexican drug cartels, resulting in the death of Border Patrol Agent Bryan Terry.
** Failure to respond to requests for additional security led to the murder of our Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three more Americans in Benghazi.
** The IRS went to war against politically conservative organizations that had applied for tax-exempt status.
** The Veterans Administration’s disgraceful treatment of American military veterans is so awful that Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson suggested doing away with the agency and putting the Department of Defense in charge of veterans’ healthcare.
** President Barack Obama thinks that climate change is a greater threat and more important than crime-ridden inner cities, terrorism, or a nuclear Iran, and supports measures that will cost millions of dollars and thousands of jobs, all for a fraction of a percent improvement in the environment, if that.
    The business environment in the U.S. has become such that American companies find it more beneficial to move operations out of the country than to keep them here; all the while some in government condemn those businesses as “greedy” and “unpatriotic.”
    With the campaign season for the 2016 presidential election well underway, the Republican field of 17 candidates is led not by existing office holders in Congress or statehouses, but by three non-politicians who have never held elective office before: Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. As of last Wednesday, the combined approval percentages for those three totaled 56 percent of all 17 candidates. This unusual circumstance has occurred despite the fact that several of the other candidates have achieved significant success as governors, which is a good indicator that they could effectively run the federal government. Others have been strong conservatives in Congress. This underscores the idea that people are disgusted with government and those who are involved in it at both the federal and state levels.
    Government grows in size, cost and power because those in government want it to, and those who put people in power have not elected people who want to constrain government growth. Yes, it is true that people who are elected because they advocated smaller, less expensive, more efficient government, and conservative values frequently fail to follow their campaign promises, as we see from observing the actions of the current Republican-controlled Congress.
    We should not count on the rising generation for much help to correct this situation. Pew Research in March of last year reported that this group votes heavily Democrat and supports an activist government.
    “As a general and logical matter, younger people’s dearth of life experiences and their quixotic idealism make them especially vulnerable to simplistic appeals and emotional manipulation for utopia’s grandiosity and social causes, which are proclaimed achievable only through top-down governmental designs and social engineering,” so writes author and legal scholar Mark Levin in his great new book Plunder and Deceit.
    He notes, “the relentless indoctrination and radicalization of younger people … from kindergarten through twelfth grade to higher education in colleges and universities” as why the rising generation does not have an appreciation for American traditions and values.
    Therefore, the challenging job of restoring America falls to their parents’ generation, who must elect people who truly value America’s traditions.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Virginia on-air murders are opportunity for gun control demagoguery

Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has again demonstrated the poor judgment for which she has recently become so well known with her efforts to be the first to jump on the gun control bandwagon following the on-air murders of two WDBJ-TV journalists and the wounding of a person being interviewed. After a brief expression of shock and sympathy, she then said, “We must act to stop gun violence, and we cannot wait any longer.”

What most of us see as a tragedy Mrs. Clinton used as a campaign opportunity, strictly adhering to former Obama White House Chief of Staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s advice, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Her statement “We must act to stop gun violence” contains one wrong word: “gun.” Missing the point, like so many demagogues and people-control enthusiasts on the left, she would like nothing more than a nation where there are no firearms in the hands of citizens.

The truth is that an idiot or a maniac like the one at Smith Mountain Lake last week, or the vicious savages who commit violent acts, will kill or assault with or without a gun, and a determined person who wants a gun badly enough will find a way to get one.

The gay black former employee of WDBJ and other news departments had significant behavioral problems that caused him to lose his job in Roanoke and then blame everyone else for his problems. He filed unfounded charges against the TV station after being counseled for shortcomings on the job, losing that job and having to be escorted from the building.

He didn’t have a gun problem; he had a head problem. We now know he had problems with previous employers, residents of his apartment building and a local restaurant, displaying mental instability in each circumstance. That, Mrs. Clinton, is what you should care about, instead of knee-jerking to the wrong conclusion.

A new piece of information that is highly inconvenient for Mrs. Clinton and the gun control fanatics is that on August 26 Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman Thomas Faison confirmed that the Virginia gunman legally bought his gun weeks ago and that “he apparently passed a background check” to get the gun. What happened to the much vaunted background check process put in place to control gun sales?

Matching Mrs. Clinton’s failure to focus correctly on the real issue is President Barack Obama, who commented after the shooting: “What we know is that the number of people who die from gun-related incidents around this country dwarfs any deaths that happen through terrorism.” Perhaps he forgot about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, the jihadist Army doctor who killed 13 people at his clinic at Ft. Hood, TX, and the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City, OK, that killed 168 people.

Mr. Obama yet again demonstrated that how he reacts to a shooting situation depends upon who shot whom. In Ferguson, MO when a white police officer shot and killed a black criminal who attacked him, the president blamed the police officer, not the criminal. But in this instance, a black man shot and killed two innocent white people, and he blamed the gun, not the shooter.

Folks like Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama see additional and more restrictive laws that affect law-abiding citizens as the solution to shooting deaths, without any apparent recognition of other factors that are at least as important as guns and usually, as in this case, more important.

Given that the laws we have didn’t work, what additional law would have prevented this murderous act, and still comport with the unequivocal right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment?

Surprisingly, The Washington Times reported Friday that the White House conceded that new gun regulations probably wouldn’t have prevented this shooting. “White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it appears that a proposal championed by President Obama to require background checks on purchases at gun shows ‘would not have applied in this particular case.’”

Perhaps those on the left might want to look at their efforts to create victims at every turn and to make victimhood an excuse for people to do pretty much anything they want. The Smith Mountain Lake murderer apparently believed his fellow workers at two or more TV stations where he had worked disliked him because he was a black man, or because he was a homosexual. Apparently, he viewed even the counseling by management about his job performance as racist or homophobic, not legitimate job improvement counseling.

Society’s problems won’t be solved by using tragedies to advance political agendas, as Mrs. Clinton did with this horrible, inexplicable murder. We can only solve them by focusing on the actual problems. Guns are only a problem when people who have violent intent deliberately use them illegally to commit violence. We will not reduce those incidents by restricting the ability of law-abiding people to protect themselves and their families, or to use firearms for other legal purposes.