The Patriot Is a Scarce Man

“In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated, and scorned. When his cause succeeds however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” ~ Mark Twain

by David T. Bruce

dissent_fb_picYou know, I don’t often speak out in regards to what are often perceived as social injustices, but this seems like a proper time to do so, maybe because I feel so passionately about the direction I see our country taking in regards to foreign and domestic policies.

I served my country. I was a member of our military forces, and I served with pride and distinction. I served more than others, less than some, and I do not pretend to have sacrificed of myself in the same way that those in combat have. But I do feel that I have perspective.

I do not regret having served during a time when I believed that the causes that we were fighting for were just. But we are not always right. And I don’t think what we are right now. Our country is run largely by career politicians who do not give two shits about you, me, or the world we live in. We have a citizenry being brainwashed to believe that simply because we protest, we are not patriotic. We are led to believe that because we choose to protest our government, we are damning its citizens and our troops.

Personally, I have a great deal of respect for those who choose to defend our country. But I have a great deal of disrespect for a government who turns a blind eye to the fallout associated with sending our troops into conflict for causes that are essentially self-serving, without a means to defend themselves, and without a support system in place when they return home.

I have a great deal of disrespect for local, state, and federal governments who fail to see the injustices served upon citizens of our country simply because of their skin color or their choice of religion. When did it become okay for rogue officers to take the law into their own hands? When did it become okay to openly and passionately discriminate against an entire race because of the actions of a relatively small percentage of radicals? Or has it always been this way in the United States?

Do we truly believe that when calling out the behavior of one, we are condemning an entire lot? As a society, I suspect many are comfortable with the idea of deporting an entire population of Muslims because of the actions of a few. Yet we bristle when one officer is condemned, for fear of bringing shame to an entire force. It is for the sake of the majority that we must single out the one.

Frankly, I’m ashamed. And I’m angry. I’m also proud that one man recently decided to protest these injustices by protesting at least the symbol of what our country is supposed to stand for. Our soldiers serve to give everyone the right to peacefully protest in the manner that suits them, not one that suits the majority or one that the majority finds least offensive. No one has the right to tell us when and where and how we choose to protest our government. And don’t you dare tell me that I am less of a patriot because I dare to stand up to a government that is slowly but ever so surely becoming corrupt.

The historian and playwright, Howard Zinn, (who served during the second world war) said that “there is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” Many innocent people are dying and the shame belongs to each of us. Perhaps that is why I feel I must speak out.

When It Comes to Gun Control, We Have an Accountability Problem in the U.S.

by David T. Bruce

guncontrolThe argument of gun control – either too much or the lack thereof – has taken center stage once again in the societal and political arenas, as a result of the murders near the University of California, Santa Barbara. The debate remains predictable and heated. Victims want additional gun control or at least the enforcement of gun control measures. Gun advocates argue that we do not have a gun problem in the United States; we have a people problem. Three of the victims in Santa Barbara were murdered with a knife, so gun advocates argue that we don’t have a knife problem; we have a people problem. When people are injured or killed due to the poor choices of a driver, we don’t have a vehicle problem; we have a people problem.

But is it really that simple? Do we turn a blind eye to tragedy merely to maintain a lifestyle we have become accustomed to, clinging to an ideal that has outlived its usefulness?

The first line of defense for those that advocate for the proliferation of firearms is the Second Amendment, which maintains that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The prefacing text that suggests the necessity of “a well regulated militia” is often overlooked. We could certainly launch an argument that, other than our armed services, including the National Guard, a militia is not in place in our country, and that if there is one, it is certainly not well regulated. Yet the NRA continues to advance the sentiment of this “right” that has little bearing on today’s society.

With each murder or accidental death resulting from the use of firearms, the NRA launches a barrage of theories and pointed arguments that demonizes everyone and everything except guns. The notion that we have the “right” to bear arms wherever and whenever we please is taking on a new dimension, as recently demonstrated by the actions of Open Carry Texas members. Indeed, while this is suggestive of a “people problem,” the problem manifests itself as a direct result of guns. Would these same people become as incensed about losing the right to carry knives (also, considered “arms” by the way)?

And for those who argue that we don’t have laws prohibiting knives, such legislation is not out of the realm of possibility. In addition to the variety of firearms prohibited in the United Kingdom, knives are likewise legislated. Many of us might find this inconceivable. But if indeed we do have a “people problem” in the United States, then it stands to reason that certain temptations should be legislated.

Automobiles are, in fact, legislated or controlled. Before you purchase a car, a license is required. Prior to receiving your license, you must past a written test and a driving test. Prior to testing, you must complete a driving course. Prior to taking the course, you must obtain a learner’s permit. Of course, these requirements vary from state to state, but the point is that you cannot go to a dealership and buy a car without some proof that you have a minimal understanding of what it takes to operate a motor vehicle. You can’t even test drive a car without filling out paperwork and providing the dealership with a copy of your license – a license you must obtain prior to having the right to drive. Such oversights and controls do not exist for firearms.

In most (if not all) states, bar owners and bartenders may be held liable for serving a person who is intoxicated. They may also be liable for accidents or injuries that occur outside of the establishment as a result of intoxication. Does this eliminate drunk driving? Does this mean that a vehicle could not potentially kill someone? Of course not, but the issue is addressed and someone is being held accountable. Such is not the case for gun owners and gun dealers. Any effort to hold gun dealers accountable has been effectively derailed by the NRA.

And in terms of gun control, we not only have a people problem, we have an accountability problem. Very few people are being held accountable by local or federal governments. Ironically, those who hold strongest to their “right” to bear arms often claim that they fear that the government is duplicitous, trying to take away our rights.

Our government is certainly not above reproach. Our elected representatives – all of them, of every party – are certainly suspect to a menagerie of shady dealings, legislating as a means to line their pockets and serve their own needs, hence the close-knit relationship our government has with the NRA. That being the case, if our government were indeed hell-bent on creating a police state in this country, there is little any of us could do. And besides, who would vote for them then? Edward Snowden has shown us that we have much more to worry about in regards to our government and our rights in general than the repealing of the Second Amendment.

Every citizen has the right to live without fear of being shot because someone thought they were in danger or because someone was irresponsible with their gun. And I don’t care if the perpetrator is a hardened criminal or my next door neighbor! Does it matter who discharges the weapon?

 

On the Contrary, Congress Isn’t Worth What They’re Being Paid!

by David T. Bruce

United States Representative Jim Moran recently bemoaned that the members of Congress are underpaid. His argument is that the current annual salary of $174,000 is insufficient to maintain a decent lifestyle in Washington D.C. (Finally, the working classes of America may have something in common with their representatives.) Yet, government data shows that the typical household in Washington earns in excess of $60,000, which is more than any other metropolitan area in the country. Given that, we can safely argue that our nation’s representatives seem to be doing relatively well then compared to the majority of the nation. As well, the impact of serving as a representative has not been overlooked by the government.

greed

 

The Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) is provided to each representative. This one-time allowance is intended to offset personal and official expenses that occur as a result of fulfilling his or her obligations. This is in addition to the salary and benefits provided to the politician.

The average MRA is $1,446,009

Representative Moran further received campaign contributions in excess of $424,000 for the 2014 election campaign cycle. This figure does not factor in fundraising events on his behalf. Someone should also point out to Moran that approximately half of all congressional members are millionaires.

Serving the United States as a representative or a senator is intended to be a privilege, not a right of birth or a benefit of being independently wealthy.

For a man who works 115 days a year on the average, $174,000 is not too bad. That averages out to approximately $189 an hour, assuming an 8-hour work day. I would like to volunteer for an opportunity to do that job. But I can’t afford to play, because in our government, you have to have money to make money.

The government by the people no longer exists. Jim Moran’s statement further illustrates how tearfully, shamefully out of touch our elected representatives are with their constituency.

Just Say No to Government Bullies

by David T. Bruce

Schools across the United States have adopted anti-bullying programs, and many school districts have reported varying degrees of success in minimizing bullying in their schools. Virtually all of us have been witness to, victims of or perpetrators of bullying. And even if all schools have not found success implementing programs that curb bullying, at least awareness about bullying has been raised across the nation. For those students who may look or behave differently than their peers, there is support. This is a good thing.

However . . .

erIf a student happens to be gay or lesbian (or even perceived as such), that student is still more likely to be bullied than another student, with almost two thirds of students expressing concern for their safety in school as a result of their sexual orientation. And three fourths of teens in the LGBT community have acknowledged being bullied as a result of their sexual orientation, with little or no intervention from teachers or school districts. And while the verbal and physical bullying cited in these reports is most obvious, perhaps the most prevalent bullying is of an indirect nature.

Indirect bullying – a more covert type of bullying that often goes unseen and includes excluding people from social groups – not only prevails in our schools but in our society as well, and if we are going to eradicate bullying in our schools, we have to eliminate bullying in our society as well, starting with our government leaders.

A civil rights battle is currently being waged throughout the United States, as state governments wrestle with the social, ethical and religious implications associated with allowing LGBT couples to wed. While some government leaders have opted to bring down the barriers that prevent couples marrying regardless of sexual orientation, others choose to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples, thereby excluding them from a particular social group. To be blunt: this is bullying.

Most recently Utah Governor Gary Herbert has announced that he will not recognize same-sex marriages recently married in the state, even thought the U.S. Constitution affords gay couples equal protection under the law. This is not the example we should be setting for those students whom we are telling that bullying is unacceptable. How can we hope that bullying will be eliminated from schools and that students will grow to see the worth in all people, while a governor indirectly bullies a group of people because they do not fit his social, ethical and religious schema? There are enough bullies on the playground. We don’t need them in our government.

Perhaps the U.S. Can Save the World by Starting at Home

by David and Shadra Bruce

So, the issue, then, is that the Syrian government allegedly used chemical weapons against its citizens. President Obama has been quoted as saying that the use of such weapons would cross a “red line”, prompting intervention by the United States. But does it make sense for our government, or any government, to respond by taking more lives?

And seriously: The Bush vs. Obama debate is old. Who knew what and when is irrelevant. Both men allegedly had America’s best interests at heart at one time or another, and the only interests that they or our government have demonstrated is that of corporate and offshore interests. Both Bush and Obama are cut from the same cloth, and instead of renewing this debate every time a domestic or global incident occurs, it may make more sense to address the larger issue.

foreign-aid-definition-wileyGranted, a government killing its own citizens with chemical weapons is a crime. But how is killing additional people more acceptable? The true crime is that millions of people will find themselves displaced while governments engage in a global pissing contest. The true crime is that millions of dollars will be spent on killing more people (just to make a point) while simultaneously sentencing people in America to death for lack of food, shelter and health care. The money spent on global conflicts could be spent on taking care of the poor and elderly in America. This is not about Bush or Obama. This is about a government as corrupt (if not more so) as the one we broke ties with over 200 years ago.

We have spent over $4 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead of spending money on killing more people, what if we used this money on providing aid to Syrian refugees? What if we used a fraction of that money to affect repairs in the countries we have scarred with our search for phantom WMDs and war criminals? A more aggressive stance in terms of sanctioning governments who fund Syria may prove more affective, less deadly and less costly.

We do not need any more wars. We need to take care of the people here at home. We need to focus on strengthening the economy. We need to focus on our veterans and saving lives, not putting more soldiers in harm’s way. We need to make sure every American has access to healthcare. We need to address poverty and the growing gap between the poor and the rich. We need to humble ourselves enough to realize that we are not the country that can save the whole world any more. War – any kind of military action – is not the answer in Syria or anywhere else in the world.

Haven’t we had enough of the political and military grandstanding?

 

The FDA and Monsanto Think We Haven’t Got a Brain

 
They say you’re stupid
That you’re too young to vote
They say you’ll swallow anything
That they shove down your throat
~ Danny Elfman

by David T. Bruce

Monsanto, Evil Seed Of Corporate Greed SignThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) supposedly is charged with “protecting and promoting your health.” This analysis highlights a variety of instances in which the FDA has failed to prioritize the interests of American citizens. The FDA has failed to take proactive and timely measures to ban BPA as well as other harmful chemicals that are used as additives in consumer products.

Yet another report documented instances of questionable FDA practices. This report shows that “the FDA allowed [Basic Food Flavors Inc.] to ‘recondition’ [177] salmonella-tainted products by heat-treating the foods. The foods were then redistributed and sold.”

The most recent debate regarding our food supply and the level of oversight provided by the FDA involves the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). World wide, the majority of people have voiced concerns about foods that have GMOs, demanding that foods consisting of GMOs be labeled as such.

Oddly enough, music is labeled because there is the perception of risk. Music is labeled because it was determined that listeners had a right to know the content of what was inside. Congress has determined that it is not necessary, however, to offer the same courtesy to Americans who want to know what is in their food.

In various European countries, public outcries against Monsanto have proven effective. Austria, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg and Poland have banned the cultivation of genetically modified crops in their countries. “GMO food, broadly rejected by consumers, are practically unsalable.” People have simply stopped buying those products.

Yes, modifying our diet is an option; however, many Americans do not have the financial resources to shop the outer aisles or the organic sections of grocery stores. Many are forced into the aisles where the food is priced affordably (yet insidiously enough, the packaged or processed food costs more per pound than fresh food) and are adulterated with a variety of fillers as well as GMOs. And contrary to what the FDA would have us believe, they do not have our best interests at heart.

A conflict of interest is defined as “a conflict between the private interests and the official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust.” With not less than 18 people working for the United States Government also appointed to or working for Monsanto at one time or another (and another), we can safely argue that a conflict of interest exists that is not favorable to the American consumer.

Monsanto posted on its official website that collusion theories relating to these agencies, including the FDA, “ignore the simple truth that people regularly change jobs to find positions that match their experience, skills and interests.”  Please. You cannot negotiate for the interests of the people when your interests hang in the balance. The simple truth is that as humans, each of us will do what is in our own best interests. No one is altruistic, and we would be fools to believe otherwise.

Americans need to trust in themselves and their gut instincts (no pun intended). The FDA has not earned our trust, and they have demonstrated their proclivity for incompetence and gross negligence when it comes to policing the food industry and ensuring the safety of the food supply in America. And it is a given that the vast majority of large corporations in America, in tandem with our government, are only concerned with the bottom line and maintaining their standard of living, our health be damned.

As citizens, we must carefully scrutinize the efforts and motivations of the FDA and insist on reform. As for Monsanto, their motivations are embarrassingly obvious, and we need to send a resounding message to them – with our voices and our dollars – that we see through their façade. Yes, we can bite the hand that feeds us.

Learn more about GMOs; educate yourself and take care of yourself. The FDA certainly will not.

 

 

 

We Can Think of 535 Ways to Cut Government Spending

by David T. Bruce

House Speaker Boehner tells us that it is “time to focus on the real problem here in Washington and that is spending.” We couldn’t agree more, Mr. Boehner. How we disagree, however, as do a great many Americans, is how spending should be reduced.

education_deathThis sequester will force federal job cuts in the hundreds of thousands, affecting civilians and military alike. Education in America will further erode, as children will be cut from Head Start programs and teachers and aides will lose their jobs. The mentally ill, the disabled and the elderly will also be impacted, as funds for health and food services will be eliminated or reduced. Are these truly the people and services that are a priority in terms of cutting the federal deficit?

Those most affected are those that are already reeling from an economy that has never quite recovered from the Great Recession, except in the eyes (and the coffers) of those who work on Wall Street. Those most affected are those who already have little or nothing, who have been literally dealt a poor hand.

Doug Bandow, a contributor to Forbes.com, illustrated a variety of ways that our government is wasting money:

 “The Department of State used $306,000 to bring European college students to America to learn civic activism” (we need an exchange program for this one).

“Columbia University collected $606,000 for a study of online dating” (perverts).

“The federal government cut a check for $550,000 to underwrite a documentary on the impact of rock and roll on the collapse of communism” (hell, if that worked, I can think of another government at whom we could sling our guitars).

“A federal grant for $765,828 went to [. . .] bring an International House of Pancakes franchise to Washington, D.C.” (this requires no punch line).

Instead of wasting millions of dollars (which quickly adds up to billions) on discretionary and frivolous spending, why don’t you try balancing the budget (we call it penny pinching in the real world) without passing the buck(s) to the rest of us, asking us to pay for your ill-considered spending?

Instead of pointing fingers at one another, ask yourself what good you have done recently for your constituents and for your country that didn’t somehow benefit you. Instead of chiding or punishing the poorest of Americans (by eliminating support programs) who you believe have made poor decisions that have lead them to fiscal ruin, clean up your own act and demand the same from government employees who are sending billions of dollars in improper payments and overpayments out the door.

We cannot be the only ones sick and tired of the endless bickering that occurs on Capitol Hill. The only time our representatives take a break from throwing stones at one another is when they need time to rebuild their forts, preparing for yet another election year. While our elected representatives engage in yet another pissing contest, the working men and women whom they are elected to serve (those fortunate enough to still have jobs, that is), further struggle to make ends meet in the land of the American nightmare that is politics as usual.

Corporate Greed Fuels Resistance to Minimum Wage Hike

by David T. Bruce

Many analysts and columnists are insisting that the economy is getting better. The state of the economy is a relative condition, however, as over 12 million Americans remain unemployed, with long-term unemployed men and women accounting for 38 percent of that number. At any rate, this perceived economic recovery has prompted President Obama to offer up an increase in the federal minimum wage over the next two years.

minwageThe arguments against raising the minimum wage are predictable, as they are consistent. Business owners contend that an increase in the minimum wage would force them to pass that cost on to the consumer. As well, the costs associated with paying employees more would limit the number of employees that they could hire, thereby further impacting the unemployment rate. This may be the case, certainly for small business owners who are trying to earn a living, but for those larger corporations that are doing well, these arguments amount to pure greed.

The current minimum wage of $7.25 amounts to $15,080 a year; this places a family of two below the poverty level. This is recovery? To pay rent in 1960, a person would have to work 71 hours at minimum wage ($1); a person would have to work 109 hours at the current minimum wage, to afford rent. This is recovery?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (unaffectionatly referred to as Obamacare by dissenters) compels business owners employing over 50 people to provide those employees with healthcare benefits. Companies such as Wendy’s (in Omaha, Nebraska), Papa John’s and Walmart are systematically structuring their workforce to avoid providing benefits. This is greed. And the bottom line of the argument against increasing the federal minimum wage is greed.

Business owners regularly raise prices to keep pace with inflation. Local utilities and governments do likewise. When will big businesses and governments realize that at some point, prices will be raised so much that they will lose money? The federal government does understand this, as government employees have historically received a cost-of-living allowance to help offset inflation.

The unemployed and underemployed Americans cannot give what they do not have. At some point, everyone will suffer. There is plenty of evidence to support that an increase in minimum wage would be a good thing, and the numbers demonstrate that big businesses continues to prosper while the middle class deteriorates. Every time you read or hear that the economy is improving, you can bet that Wall Street is doing very well, while the rest of us are worse off than we were yesterday.