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Posts Tagged ‘Veterans’

While Washington burns and the pols fiddle around, it’s time to pay attention to a few other deficits that have remained unnoticed in the media furor over Boehner, Barack, and Big Bucks.

Civility

There was a time in this country when American politicians were civil to one another. They’d go to work, argue, and then repair to the nearest pub for some congenial elbow bending. Not now. Congressmen feel free to shout, “You lie,” to the president while he is giving his constitutionally-mandated State of the Union Address.

This open breach of respect is only one example of a strain of behavior that has infected the American public to a degree unknown in previous eras. Fueled in large part by the anonymity afforded by the internet, it isn’t unusual to find the vilest comments in response to blogs, newspaper articles, and television reports. Hate merchants become millionaires by screaming their odious messages 24-hours a day over radio and television. Hate sells, which I find to be the most disgusting element in our disappearing ability to communicate coherently in a civil manner. Is it any wonder the Congress has entirely lost its ability to function as the Constitution intended?

Compassion

We seem to have lost a sense of empathy for those among us who are less fortunate through no fault of their own. Children always come to mind when I think about helping others. Every year in this country there are roughly 3,000,000 reported cases of child abuse. Millions of children in this, the richest country on earth, go to sleep hungry. This is a disgusting state of affairs.

Our treatment of the elderly and the infirm is no better than our disdain for the welfare of our children.  There is a move underway to reduce or eliminate social security, Medicare, and Medicaid, whose primary beneficiaries are the elderly. Imagine a million seniors suddenly without the means to buy groceries, pay rent, and afford medical care. We seem to forget that those receiving social security checks aren’t banking those funds for a rainy day. They are spending the money immediately on the basic necessities of life.

Also at the top of the scale of disgust is our treatment of veterans, Americans who have put their lives on the line for the draft-dodging elites among us and who as a result now suffer excruciating physical and emotional damage. Some in congress want to reduce the minor amounts of funding now available for veterans’ care and rehabilitation. How cheap, how low, can American elites go in the treatment of the very individuals who have protected their way of life?

Cooperation

Contrary to the American myth of the rugged individualist, cooperation is the social mechanism through which we develop great ideas, initiate powerful governing concepts, and accomplish great tasks. George Washington didn’t win the Revolutionary War single-handedly. Abraham Lincoln did not free the slaves all alone. The Greatest Generation did not act individually when they slogged through foot deep mud across France and Germany. They did not run around like chickens with their heads cut off as they hopped from Pacific island to Pacific island toward Japan.  Imagine the chaos if everyone had said “It’s my way or the highway.”

Causes

The clearest sign that we’ve lost the ability to sustain the greatness of prior generations and achieve greatness on our own is the chaotic inability of governments at all levels in this country to function as governing bodies rather than as ideologically programmed lock-step un-dead hordes. Ideology today is the bane of our existence. It allows no room for dissent or for the accommodation that is necessary in a democratic political system. The two-party system isn’t much better, but it at least it recognized an essential need for accommodation.

Can We Recover

Yes, but change requires courage, determination, and common-sense. Thinking men and women must come together in a concerted effort to dislodge the ideological and monied interests that have taken control of our once-sacrosanct representative democracy.

We need to abandon the one-dollar-one-vote philosophy of the current Supreme Court and return to the one-person-one vote practice that formed the basis of our democracy before corporations became people.

Most of all, we need to realize that we are all in this together. Adam Smith once postulated that when one prospers all prosper. We need to believe that when one suffers, we all suffer. We need to become a unified society rather than an atomistic bunch of anonymous rugged individuals. Perhaps John Donne expressed it most succinctly.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee—John Donne

I am convinced that a renewed recognition of our unity would cause the mess in Washington to disappear in a puff of smoke            

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The South Carolina Democratic Party is in the middle of a conniption fit. Alvin Greene, a man completely unknown to the Democratic establishment, won the recent Democratic primary against Vic Rawl, the party’s preferred candidate. Now, unless the Democrats can figure out how to remove Greene, he will be the party’s candidate against South Carolina’s incumbent Republican Senator Jim DeMint in the general election in November.

So far, the Dems have been unsuccessful in determining how Greene not only found his way onto the primary ticket but also won with 59% of the votes. That is a victory even well-known and popular politicians would call a landslide.

Led primarily by Representative Jim Clymer, the third raking House Democrat, the South Carolina Democratic establishment has waged a campaign to tarnish Greene and diminish his stunning upset. Among other accounts, Clymer has accused the Republican Party of “planting” Greene on the Democratic ticket, but that doesn’t explain Greene’s 59 percent unless the plant was followed by an organized turnout of Republicans voters in the Democratic primary. That’s possible. South Carolina has an open primary system, meaning “a registered voter can vote in any party primary regardless of his own party affiliation.” (Wikipedia)

Others have suggested irregularities in the voting machines used by the State of South Carolina, strongly intimating that the machines were defective or had been tampered with to skew election results. South Carolina’s Elections Commission staunchly denied the allegations and has stated that it will not impound the machines pending an investigation as requested by Vic Rawls, Greene’s losing opponent.

The Democratic establishment has also attacked Greene personally. Some Democrats question his mental capacity, arguing that he seems lethargic and uninformed. Others note that although Greene received an honorable discharge from the U.S. military, the discharge was “involuntary.”

Questions have also been raised about the source of a $10,400 filing fee Greene needed to have his name placed on the Democratic ballot. The implication of these questions is meant to imply an impropriety that would disqualify Greene and permit Rawl to become the candidate. Given the state of campaign funding today, the source of those funds will probably turn out to be irrelevant unless he acquired the money by robbery or some other patently felonious means.

Perhaps somewhat relevant, Greene was arrested in November and charged with showing obscene internet photos to a University of South Carolina co-ed, a felony.” However, he hasn’t been indicted yet and consequently he hasn’t entered a plea. Still, this speaks to moral and ethical character, an attribute largely absent without leave among both Democrats and Republicans recently.

One of more specious explanations for Greene’s win is the placement of his name on the ballot. Academics have long theorized that voters will arbitrarily check a name at the top of the list when they have no interest in an election yet wish to demonstrate their civic involvement for reasons only they know. Politicians often have a habit of co-opting academic theories and “paradigms” for expediency’s sake.

The most interesting aspect of Greene’s win isn’t the win itself but the reaction to it. Why are South Carolina’s Democrats going berserk? If we don’t know by now, we should. A win by an unknown is a threat to the established power system. If Greene’s win stands, he will be viewed as a danger to old power relationships as well as a model for others who may wish to challenge the old guard in other primaries. When power is challenged, it will strike quickly and viciously. The Greene incident and the Democratic reaction to it is a classic example of power dared at great risk.

Postscript

A highly unusual aspect to the hullabaloo is a series of polls showing that the Republican candidate, Jim DeMint, has an almost insurmountable lead over any Democratic candidate whose name appears on the general election ballot. The situation may change between now and November but that’s iffy. Even if Greene is eventually certified as the Democratic candidate and garners a few sympathy votes, DeMint is nonetheless expected to win the general election.

Given the virtual certainty that DeMint will become South Carolina’s next Senator, the wonder is that Rawl would wish to appear on the Democratic ticket. He might be putting up a fight against Greene merely to protect his credentials as a fighter worthy of future political bouts, or he may sincerely believe he can overtake DeMint’s lead and triumph on Election Day.

The latest development is a request by Rawls to the Democratic Party’s 92-member Executive Committee asking it to declare Greene’s win invalid. Whether or not the committee will rule in Rawl’s favor remains to be seen, but one factor that may influence a decision is precedent. There’s never been a new primary in the history of South Carolina politics.

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Here’s a salute to my veteran buddies on Veteran’s Day 2007.

Five Official United States Air Force Liquor Inspectors on the job in Tokyo, Japan.

Bottom row, left to right: Junior from Tennessee; James, called Jessee; Jack from Harlan County, Kentucky.

Top row standing, left to right: me; Tiny from Wisconsin.

Every month, Tiny would receive a big block of cheese from his family. He’d fill a couple of pitchers of beer, cut up the cheese, and let it soak a few days. Then he’d pour us a few glasses. Wisconsin cheese is mighty good.

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