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?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the Right to Bear Arms Automatic?

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

by David T. Bruce

guncontrolThe Second Amendment to the United States Constitution supports the necessity of a disciplined and prepared military force as a means to protect and defend each state. To that end, the Constitution provides that people will have the right to keep and bear arms.

This right has become a mantra for firearm enthusiasts; this right has become a refrain is boisterously sounded as a defense for owning assault weapons. Our federal government has been largely elusive in terms of how our society should manage the sale of guns and the expectations of gun owners. As of the end of 2012, there are “no federal laws banning semi-automatic assault weapons, military-style .50 caliber rifles, handguns, or large capacity ammunition magazines, which can increase the potential lethality of a given firearm.”  As well, Congress has allowed assault weapon prohibitions to expire.

Our representatives continue to dodge the issue while American citizens continue to dodge bullets.

The issue of gun control cannot hinge on the Second Amendment. Each year, our love affair with guns earns firearm manufacturers over $1 billion and costs our society over 30,000 lives. In 2010 the CDC estimated that 30 homicides were committed per day with guns, and while this number is on the decline and varies based on the statistics used, this cannot be considered tolerable.

The word “change” is thrown about on both sides of the political aisle, and we are told that change is inevitable at home and in the workplace.

Rules change as we grow up. We cannot effectively throw a temper tantrum to get our way. Rules that once applied when we were two years old do not hold true when we are twenty years old; the same can be said for our nation as it grows up. The rules set down by the authors of the Constitution reflected the world in which they lived. They did not – nor could they – conceive of the world in which we live today.

Is it not possible that “arms” may refer to bows and arrows, knives and spears, as well as muskets?

Is it reasonable to expect that each of us has the right to own a semi-automatic or automatic weapon?

Do we put our own lives and the lives of our families and neighbors at risk by clinging to this expectation?

Many people argue as to why the Second Amendment was drafted and worded the way it was. Unfortunately, none of us were there, and it seems that the best way to interpret the intent of this particular right is to apply it to modern times.

Can we, in good conscience, argue that the founding fathers of our nation could foresee the availability and proliferation of modern weaponry?

Do we need arms for reasons other than providing food for our families and protecting our homes?

I am not suggesting that our rights should be taken away; I am suggesting that there are some rights that we do not have to begin with.

Preserving our rights is paramount, and any discussion related to reinterpreting, modifying or amending our amendments guarantees to raise eyebrows and cause frustrations on all sides of the issue. By lumping all guns together under one amendment, however, we invite disaster.

Forget statistics; look at the facts.

We do not need semi-automatic and automatic weapons in our homes and in our neighborhoods.

We need a well regulated militia; we do not need mercenaries.

We have the right to keep and bear arms; we do not have the right to define “arms” as we see fit.

The Second Amendment is not at risk; human lives are.

For a variety of interpretations and a broader perspective about the Second Amendment debate, take time to read this interesting examination and analysis of the Second Amendment, authored by Professor Eugene Volokh.

Image source: WorldMeets.Us

Advertising May Work for Politicians but Politicians Aren’t Working for Us

by David T. Bruce

ethical-revolutionist-political-adsAdvertising works. Companies that want to remain relevant and profitable know this. They rely on the power of advertising. Large sums of money are invested to bring products to the attention of consumers; the level of advertising dollars spent purchasing mere seconds of time during a Super Bowl broadcast is phenomenal. As consumers, we are often impulse buyers.

We want to have what we believe are the finest and the most modern products, and we are quick to believe advertising claims and react to advertising campaigns by forking over cash for the latest must-haves.

The recent success of the Roku streaming player can be directly attributed to advertising. Sales of Roku players increased 25% in those markets in which the advertising campaign was launched. Radio and billboard advertising resulted in three times as much profit than the previous year. Advertising works.

As a quick-service (fast-food) restaurant manager, I witnessed the power of advertising. Radio and television ad campaigns regularly increased new product sales and overall sales. The ebb and flow of customer visits to the restaurant paralleled the beginning and ending of ad campaigns. Advertising works.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker crushed recall efforts that would have removed him from office. There is justifiable evidence illustrating that a considerable amount of out-of-state funding gave Walker the advantage over Barrett, as a result of “wall-to-wall television ads,” afforded by the significant flood of campaign funds. Advertising works.

Companies and politicians alike inundate consumers with media campaigns that suffocate, if not remove, the competition. That is their job.

As consumers, we have a job too.

Our job as consumers is to educate ourselves, check the facts and demand accountability. We do not have to accept what is put before us simply because one person or group has more money to promote their product or politics and squash the competition.

The golden arches of McDonald’s restaurant are said to be more familiar to the global consumer than the Christian cross. McDonald’s is undeniably a powerful force in the food industry; however, this does not mean that their product is necessarily good for the consumer. Even as they promote healthy choices, personal evidence suggests that what is perceived by the consumer is not reality.

Our family decided to grab lunch at a McDonald’s restaurant during one of our museum day-trips. In the effort to make a healthy choice, my wife and I ordered grilled chicken sandwiches with no mayonnaise. We had to wait several minutes for fresh chicken to be available, but because this can mean fresher product, we were patient. The chicken that was ultimately served to us, however, appeared undercooked and mushy. When we shared our concern with the manager, we were told that the chicken was consistent with what was ordinarily served and that the consistency was a result of the chicken being cooked in butter. The notion that a product advertised as healthy was handled in such a way that the end result was anything but healthy.

Recent figures show that Republican candidate for President Mitt Romney raised $17 million more in May than did President Obama. The Republican National Committee Chairman has been quoted as saying: “Our strong fundraising is a sign that Americans are tired of President Obama’s broken promises and want a change of direction in the White House.”

On the contrary, the strong fundraising and associated strength in advertising is a sign that the American consumer in general is characteristically buying what the Republican party is selling, simply because their coffers are potentially fuller than those of the competition.

American consumers are American voters. We must be sure that the advertised product from either Party represents reality. We must be sure that we make a healthy choice, and we must be sure that the choice we make has no hidden fillers or fats. Mitt Romney is not the better choice simply because he has more money to spread his message of hope or change from one coastline to the other.

Money and rhetoric are not substance. The proof is in the reality of the advertising claims. Mr. Romney may be the better choice. Roku may be a fabulous streaming player. A grilled chicken may have been the better choice. But these claims are not reality simply because their promoters have seemingly unlimited funds to spread their message.

It is just as likely that they are spreading something else, and voters as consumers must take the time to educate themselves and become conscious of what product our elected officials are selling and whether or not what they have to offer our nation is good for us.

American Healthcare Held Hostage

by David T. Bruce

insurance_claim_formNeither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party as a whole gives a damn about the healthcare needs of the citizenry of the United States.  Other nations are criticized for their socialized medical healthcare plans.  England’s National Health Service and Canadian Health Care are two forms of socialized medicine that provide healthcare to all citizens, not just to those that can afford care or afford coverage.  While the systems certainly have their share of flaws and frustrations, the mentality suggests that a government body should logically and morally care for its citizens.

In the United States, many of the elderly cannot afford the privatized healthcare coverage offered to them, let alone can they afford a new heart.  Likewise, American citizens who are born disabled or find themselves disabled are unlikely to have sufficient coverage.  Like the elderly, their income level in general is not enough to afford them access to the level of healthcare required to meet their needs.  Furthermore, the economic instability that still prevails in the United States (regardless of the Wall Street or political spin to the contrary) increases the ranks of the underinsured or uninsured.  Gallup polls point out the state of healthcare in the United States as of 2011, illustrating that over 17 percent of Americans over age 18 do not have health insurance.

The majority of Americans are not asking for handouts; the majority of Americans are not resting on their laurels or sitting on their behinds, avoiding work in order to obtain free medical care.  The majority of Americans are victims of the power struggle that is running rampant in this country between the two major opposing political parties, who use large business companies as their chess pieces of highest rank.  We are merely pawns – very weak and very disposable.  For fear of losing power, our elected officials use their own form of domestic terrorism to make each of us fearful of our neighbors, engendering within each of us the fear that something we have earned will be taken away.

Both the Obama Administration and the Republican Party are missing the point.  Both sides are wrong.  We should not have to force Americans to buy health insurance.  Health insurance should not be for-profit, benefiting health insurance companies more than those receiving benefits.  The relationship between these two entities – the federal government and the health insurance companies – is not difficult to perceive.

The insurance companies lobby on Capitol Hill to benefit from the election of an official who will support the continued financial success of insurance companies.  That is what “for profit” means, and they are indeed very profitable.  These elected officials then seek to mandate that insurance companies benefit from the support for which they have lobbied.  Here we have a conflict of interest.

What should be of interest to all Americans is this: we either care about our citizens or we do not.  England and Canada may not have the best insurance programs, but they do at least give the impression that the wealth of a human being is not attached to their age or ability.  Given the rhetoric spewed from all branches of our federal government and the health insurance companies, the message is that healthcare for all Americans is not a priority.  The message is that if you are too old, too disabled, too poor, or too sick, you are on your own.