Making fun of the president is now a deportable offense. Peter Bywaters is a white Englishman. He’s not even at the top of Trump’s priorities. He still got deported.
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.
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.
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
The 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
by David T. Bruce
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 if 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
Traveling from Bath, New York to Seaside, Oregon and back again, exploring many points on the map in between, our family had the opportunity to discover the diversity of the United States. The spectacular shifting landscape was a constant reminder that Americans enjoy a variety of terrain: prairie, grassland, mountains and coastline. As we made our way to our destination points, my wife and I frequently prompted our children to set aside their music and their reading, directing their attention to the passing scenery. While Yellowstone National Park’s geysers and hot springs, Mount Rushmore, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis are alluring and obvious tourist attractions, the uncluttered, panoramic scenery that is America is equally stunning.
Our primary motivation for launching this partial tour of the United States was to visit friends and family from whom we have been separated for several years. However, the variety of people we met and the communities we passed by or visited along the way were as notable as the landscapes and the monuments of the country. Most of the people we encountered were friendly, making us feel welcome in their communities. There were also a small number of people who were quick to judge us because of where we were from, treating us rather offensively.
Part of what I tried to understand is that a bias preceded us based upon where we lived: New York State. At the same time, the oftentimes pervasive judgments hurt. We were trying to make friends across the country. We were trying to share a part of ourselves in the hopes that others would do likewise. Apparently, the social and political gaps that exist in our country are wide enough that bridging them is tricky.
In addition to those preconceptions we encountered, separating one community and one state from the next were billboards and other assorted signs that pronounced (or denounced) a particular faith, political party or leader. These public notices were not offensive, but they were suggestive in their proclamation that deviating from the given belief structure was inadvisable, or at least something to be kept hush-hush.
Coming into an election year, it occurred to me why we as a nation are so divided at the polls. What was evident from one part of the country to the next was the impression that each state or community was an island onto itself. Pride in ones self and in ones community is certainly commendable. I think we all have pride in where our respective families and cultures are rooted demographically and historically. The danger lies in cultivating a social environment rooted in self-importance.
Our nation has become one in which it is not enough to have the right to live as we want to live. We have become a nation in which many of us seek to stifle virtually any word, image or idea that is remotely opposing to a given vision of what may be defined as the truth. Political correctness has somehow become an expectation. Voicing new ideas or contrasting opinions has become at least something considered unethical, if not immoral or deviant.
I would like to think that our family has left those we met with a warm feeling and a positive impression of people that call New York State their home. We certainly enjoyed visiting the home states of others, finding that we have more in common than not with people across the country. Perhaps this election year, we may all benefit by focusing on those commonalities, without placing emphasis on what makes us different. We as a people are becoming too divided, and we are being diminished as a result.
by Shadra L. Bruce
When I wake up each morning, I am blind until I grope for my glasses and get them on my face. Then everything sharpens into focus. In much the same manner, the way we look at the world around us is skewed by the lenses we wear to see it. If our lenses are colored with personal history, religion, or indoctrinated culture, it is impossible to see things clearly…we see them through thick lenses that skew reality.
None of us can be perfectly free from the skew of our personal lenses; we all have prejudice or bias. I have a very personal bias that I have a difficult time overcoming regarding Mormons. Personal experience has colored my perception; my father’s family is Mormon, but my father is not. He was at certain points in life quite vocal about his rejection of the faith, and my mother even more so.
Then we moved to Idaho.
For those who believe Utah is the Mormon capital of the world, I truly believe that Idaho (at least in the 1980s when I was in school) was worse. The first question I was asked as a new and frightened 5th-grader at the elementary school I was enrolled in was, “What Ward are you in?”
I didn’t know what a Ward was, which of course made it clear that I was not Mormon. Being non-Mormon in Idaho in the ’80s was in many ways a hellish experience. Non-Mormons were often ostracized, not just by the students but by the Mormon teachers and counselors. We were a tiny minority.
My experience going to school in a predominantly Mormon society has colored my perspective. It’s a lens I have a difficult time shedding, even though many of my own Mormon family members have shown that it is not always that way. My uncle and my grandma are devout Mormons. My uncle has served as a Bishop and as a youth leader. He is strong in his faith, yet he never judges me or my family for our different beliefs; he welcomes us into his home; he treats my children with love.
Does my experience with Mormons color my view of Mitt Romney? I’m sure it does, and probably unfairly so. I wish I could peel off that particular lens to have a clearer view of the man and his potential as a leader. I am working to do that, and recognize in hindsight the many Mormon kids I went to school with who were nothing but kind and friendly.
But I also realize that the color of Obama’s skin has created a lens through which many see him as well, and I wish that they, too, could remove that lens and see him without it.
Our country, it seems, is confined by the lenses through which we see the world. None of us have been willing to look with open and clear eyes at the issues, recognize the need for compromise, and do what is best for the country as a whole. Whether liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, Christian or Muslim, or something else entirely, we all need to take a step back, remove our respective lenses and see the commonality among us. Regardless of our individual paradigms, we are all parents who care about our kids, kids who love our parents, sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles, and above all HUMAN BEINGS.
Disney has been warning us for decades: “It’s a SMALL world.” And the only way we’re going to get along in it is by making the choice to be not just tolerant of our differences but to embrace the diversity that makes all of us stronger.
by David T. Bruce
Advertising 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.
Especially if you are 50 or older, make less than $506,600 per year, or female.
by Shadra Bruce
The Republican Party and Tea Party have declared an all-out war on Americans. In fact, it’s a bit ironic but most of their intended policies, legislation, and tax proposals would harm their own constituents as much as it would harm those who don’t swallow what they’re trying to peddle.
The three main attacks of their war are: Medicare, Taxes, and Healthcare, otherwise known as the war against the elderly, the poor, and women. Great way to protect their patriarchal, rich-man, corporations-are-people society, but bad for America.
The War Against Senior Citizens
As if it weren’t enough that Wisconsin is attempting to disenfranchise older voters and Missouri is trying to force the aged population to pay more taxes to provide additional cuts to corporations, but the Republican/Tea Party in general has targeted senior citizens – the same group who overwhelmingly voted them into power in 2010. First, Republicans voted down the $250 to adjust for no cost of living increase. Then, they started after Medicare – you know, that “entitlement” program that Republicans detest but that working Americans paid into for 20-30 years, making false claims about the cost of the program and the savings provided under Obama’s healthcare plan. Their newest goal is to increase the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 and, in bed with for-profit insurance companies who would benefit from the plan, privatize the program.
The War Against the Poor
Cain, Perry, and other Republican hopefuls are all touting their flat tax plan. But according the Tax Policy Center, the biggest losers of a flat tax plan are the poor. Once again, the burden would be squarely placed on the backs of the poorest, hardest working Americans, while the rich would – you guessed it – get richer.
“Under the flat tax, low-income households would lose because they now pay no income tax and are eligible for a refundable EITC of up to $3,370. Although the flat tax is more progressive than a VAT, it is more regressive than the current system. A flat tax would provide huge gains for high-income households, both because their marginal tax rate would fall and because they consume relatively less of their income than do low-income households. As a result, if a flat tax were to raise as much revenue as the current one, the tax burden for the middle class would have to rise.”
The War Against Women
I’m not quite sure where to begin with this one. From attempting to defund Planned Parenthood to passing “personhood” laws that take away a woman’s choice by imposing a view that women are simply storage tanks for men’s babies to simply targeting women’s healthcare with outdated ideas and laws, the Republican Party and Tea Party have created a war against women that makes me wonder how any woman could choose to remain involved in the party.
While I’ve always been liberal, believing that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – not just the elite and corporations – I’ve never leaned so far left as I do today. I’m not a Democrat; I’m an uber liberal progressive (often referred to by those scared by their absorption of Fox News as the word of their God as a pinko commie insert expletives here). I lean further and further left by the desire to balance the pendulum that is trying so hard to swing so far to the right that the America I love will soon resemble countries we more closely associate with being targets of our special brand of democratic intervention.
If you are older than 50, make less than $506,600 per year, or female you should be thinking long and hard about who you want to represent you in Congress in 2012. Because the only “people” being represented by the Republican Party have the last name Inc.
Only in America Can 1% Be The Majority
by David T. Bruce
A small group of students are responsible for launching a campaign against the practices of Wall Street and the United States government, the fiscally brutal corporate tag-team that has launched their own campaign against the poorest Americans. In an Associated Press article, the events of the past two weeks surrounding the Wall Street Protests have been summarized, giving voice to the hundreds of citizens who are taking the time to exercise their power of speech during a time when millions of Americans feel powerless to do anything else. While the Republicans and Democrats continue pointing fingers at each other and the President (regardless of who holds the office), our federal government as a whole is demonstrating to an increasing number of American citizens that their health and welfare, their life and liberty, and their happiness mean nothing.
While 14 percent of Americans are relying on the food stamp program to feed themselves, the Republican Party is proposing for the 2012 budget plan that this program should be curtailed and restructured much in the same was as they are proposing to restructure the Medicaid program. Subsidies would be eliminated, replaced by federal grants. Capitol Hill has been relentless in their less-than-bipartisan efforts to shave billions of dollars from the deficit by cutting back on “entitlement” programs from the Americans who need assistance the most.
I am not writing of the small group of Americans who indeed enjoy taking something for nothing. I am writing of the Americans who have worked hard to build a life and raise a family and now find themselves without a job, without a home, and without money for food and healthcare – primarily because of a system that favored corporate greed and Wall Street corruption that led to a broken economy. It is appalling that the government is cutting back on programs that these people paid taxes to help support while continuing to support tax breaks and loopholes for corporations and big oil. I am writing of the Americans that are trying to get ahead and improve their lives but are trapped in a system that almost forces people to make less or go hungry, as food prices continue to rise.
While the Associated Press suggests that a clear objective is not apparent, the rallying cry is clear enough: “Occupy Wall Street is [a] leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.”
This objective seems clear enough.
It is blatantly clear that the 1% does not get it – or does not want to. The objective does not need to be detailed or obtuse. The plan does not need to have a laundry list of stake holders and varied implementation strategies. The United States Constitution is the governing plan for this country, and our current government officials have spent at least the past few decades manipulating and twisting the words of the Constitution to satisfy their (im)moral, corporate, and personal agendas.
We have a right to speak out against such corruption, and the protestors on Wall Street are doing just that. We must speak out with words, with votes, and with dollars that work in support of Americans, not for a political party.
We may not be at Liberty Square with the protestors right now, but we stand firmly with them in every way, as members of the 99% who will no longer tolerate the disintegration of America over the greed, hypocrisy, and the corruption of Wall Street, Congress, and corporations.
Every year, our government asks that we donate $3 to the Presidential election campaign. The instructions for the 1040 form specifically state that “the fund reduces candidates’ dependence on large contributions from individuals and groups.”
Candidates do not just depend on these contributions. They thrive on them, and the companies and groups that make these large contributions thrive on the support that their candidate gives to their cause.
Our federal government, led by either party, has done little or nothing for us over the past few decades – and little or nothing to change what is broken within the system. What little they have done has been to further their own interests and that of the major companies that have been filling and continue to fill the coffers of our elected representatives.
If any taxpayer is at all compelled to check the box that allows candidates to have any more money, please give the money to Occupy Wall Street or similar movements. Give $3 to a homeless person. Help feed a neighbor. Those people are the Americans that are fighting for the rights of all Americans, and they do so without massive contributions or media attention.
Take heed, Wall Street. Someday – perhaps soon – American citizens will have nothing left to lose and will gleefully sit by and watch while your economic empire crumbles.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.“ – Declaration of Independence
by David and Shadra Bruce
As we approach the date that marks ten years since the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, we are frequently reminded of the events surrounding the attacks. The images that were dispatched on news stations for days and weeks afterward are once again being reposted and replayed on news stations and across the Internet. We are reminded once again of that which many of us in all likelihood have tried to forget or have at least tucked away safely in the recesses of our unconsciousness. Yet if anything contributes to future attacks on our country, it is this casual ability to escape reality that dooms us to imminent tragedy.
We can help ourselves prevent another similar disaster by remembering that the world in which we live is one that is not just a single vision but a blend of many diverse opinions and visions of what life means. Embracing all of these visions may not be the answer, but making an attempt to accept them might be the only way to truly heal from – and prevent a recurrence of – the events of September 11, 2001. This does not at all imply that we must forgive and forget, but in order to truly heal from within, we must let go of hate for the benefit of ourselves as individuals. Remembering does not mean we must revenge.
We heal inside and benefit from the understanding that extremism – in the name of any faith – corrupts the foundation and the chief intent of a belief structure. Instead of waging war against other cultures and other faiths, determining by force who is right and who is wrong, we can opt to wage a war of peace that allows for the possibility that all of us may be right, that each of our visions demonstrates a measure of truth.
We do not profess to personally know what the truth is, if indeed there is one truth. Nor can we begin to imagine the horror of the events portrayed on the television, when compared with the horror which was truly experienced by those that survived the attacks. We have felt the fear and the anger that most (if not all) Americans felt at the time of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. We will not pretend to put ourselves in their shoes. Few of us will realize or even imagine what they suffered through to survive.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have become a platform for others in their bid for political office. Yet the events of 9/11 and those victims and survivors of that tragedy are not the foundation for political gain. These events are not indicative of what any one official did or did not do to prevent the attacks or to facilitate recovery. The tragedy of 9/11 is symbolic of our perception of the world and our place in the global community.
While we mourn the dead, we must also take the time to cherish the living and to recognize the impact these events had on those who did not perish in the attacks. So much time and energy is forfeited for those who are lost to us. We as a people are not altruistic. We do not grieve for their loss; we grieve for our own. Some of us grieve because we were witness to the tragedy and must repeatedly relive the horrific events in our consciousness.
The story of Artie Van Why represents the tragedy that survivors endure as a result of the attacks of 9/11/2001. Those who lost their lives are free; those that survived remain victims of terror. Perhaps we can better serve the memory of those people who lost their lives by saving those who lived through the tragedy. Perhaps we can help heal ourselves in this way, allowing the anger and sorrow to find expression in positive ways.
Rather than pay tribute to those who have lost their lives by seeking vengeance and taking yet more lives, we can pay tribute to those that lost their lives in the attacks of 9/11 by changing how we live today, by realizing the importance of living for today and for our future, as opposed to living in yesterday.
We tend to do that when we mourn: live in yesterday. Absolutely, we must remember those we have lost; we should not sacrifice today, however, in that remembrance, for sacrifice has already been made.
We cannot defeat terrorism with war and counter-terrorism, with anger and vengeance, with politics and gesturing. We must learn to look ahead with wisdom while cherishing the memories of the souls who have passed away and have moved on. We must seek peaceful coexistence and acceptance. Only in this way can we defeat terrorism.
For those that did not survive the attacks on 9/11, may they rest in peace;
for those that did survive, may we all find a way to live in peace.