Remembering the fallen: For some people memorial day is every day

The following was originally published Memorial Day Weekend, 2014.

Five years ago Greg Saroyan wrote just an amazing article in USA Today. The title is stunning in its simplicity. He called it “For some people memorial day is every day.” Let me, if you will, read just a portion of that article. And then tell you about two friends who lost their lives in Iraq.

He writes,

For grieving families the gathering place is section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery which has become a memorial to the sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan. More  than 400 US troops killed in those countries are buried in section in 60, several hundred yards from Pres. John F. Kennedy’s grave.

…  from a distance section 60 resembles much of Arlington cemetery where 300,000 are interred beneath but a closer look reveals greater splashes of color were families keep replenishing graveside flower  arrangements

Mementoes, many from children or former comrades, are tucked next to headstones: construction-paper memorial cards in a child’s scrawl, medals and military insignia, teddy bears and stuffed Easter bunnies.

There is also a constant outpouring of grief, from those who shed quiet tears to the inconsolable. A father lies prostrate on his son’s grave; a mother sits in a thunderous downpour seemingly unaware her lawn chair is sinking into the softening earth.

“When you’re there, I feel like I’m totally focused on my own grief. And then each of the moms, they would just come up and kind of touch you on the shoulder. You turn around and they look into your eyes and tell you they’re sorry,” says Regina “Gina” Barnhurst.

One Christmas Eve, Leesa Philippon was among the first to pierce that veil of sorrow and gently pull Barnhurst into the club of grieving families.

“Gina was kneeling at her son’s site writing and had lit candles,” Philippon recalls. “I jumped out of the car, and I walked close to her, called her name and then immediately hugged her and introduced myself. She was so alone and in deep pain.”

 

I knew Leesa’s son, a Marine who is interned in Arlington. His name is Lcpl. Lawrence Philippon. A graduate of Conard High School, Larry chose the US Marines over college. His parents tell me 9-11 affected him greatly. For him it became a mission, even before he enlisted.

Larry was already an honored member of the United States Marines, a member of the color guard at Ronald Reagan’s funeral. Larry did not have to go to Iraq but like so many others he badgered the Marines until they let him go. Lisa Philippon remembers the day he left for Iraq. She said she did a flashback to the day she waved goodbye to him as he left for his first day in kindergarten.. Lisa  and Ray were never to see their son again, killed in action while hunting AQ house to house in Iraq. Today he is buried in Arlington Cemetery. Today I mourn the death of a great American hero Lance Cpl. Lawrence Philippon.

360 miles north of Larry’s resting place is the grave site  of another great American hero, Sgt. Felix Delgreco Junior. Felix grew up in Simsbury, played Little League (I know because I coached his team), went on to excel in high school and could probably have gone to any college he wanted. In Simsbury he was known as a brainiac. But, he too felt a calling that grew every day in his heart. Rejected by the Army for being, well a little too heavy, Felix trained night and day to get in shape so that the Army could never say no. When the Army finally accepted him, little did they know they were taking on a man would become one of their greatest soldiers.

He served with distinction in Bosnia and like Larry he too did not have to go to Iraq. But he volunteered and here’s why. In a letter he wrote just before his death to his parents, he told them he wasn’t sure if there were weapons of mass destruction … and didn’t care. What did matter were the children of Iraq. What mattered to him was that they would have the same opportunity he had to grow up free, to excel, to become whatever they wanted. This is what drove Sgt. del Greco.

Felix lost his life in Iraq when his convoy was ambushed and he took upon himself to grab the gun in the Humvee turret to protect his brothers. He died a hero.

This is the way America has been since its founding. Both my Dad, a Lieutenant on the USS Missouri BB63 (shown here as a newly minted Ensign), and and my step Dad, a lieutenant and Marine pilot, served together at Okinawa. Both survived, but their service left an indelible mark on their hearts. When my father passed, he asked before his death that his headstone simply read Lt AP Vicevich USN (active duty from 1942-1946, although he remained in the USNR for sometime after that).It is more than a calling … it is part of who you are.

I could quote George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Gen. Eisenhower, or my dad’s favorite, Gen. Douglas MacArthur. All good and necessary. But for me all you need to know is that since 1776 each service member felt that same calling in their heart. To defend and protect the Republic. To make us safe and in the process preserve for future generations the freedom the justice that is the American way.

May God rest their souls. May we never forget.

 

Maricopa County voter FAQ page edited to approve Sharpies

On Oct. 17 and Oct. 21, the Maricopa County Recorder’s office – who is responsible for managing and maintaining all public records in the county – specifically stated permanent markers “may result in a false read by our ballot tabulation machines.”

From the Recorder’s website on Oct. 21, with my emphasis added.

13. Do I need a special pen to mark my ballot?
A standard black or blue ballpoint pen is sufficient. Do not use red ink or permanent marker. This may result in a false read by our ballot tabulation machines.

The website was changed either on Monday, Nov. 2, or sometime between Oct. 21 and Nov. 2 to read the following.

Voters at home may use ballpoint pen in black or blue ink or a sharpie. Vote Centers use fine tip sharpies as they have the fastest drying ink, therefore preventing smudges when put through the Vote Center tabulation equipment. This is one of the upgrades of our new equipment and new ballots. Do not use red or red-adjacent ink.

The videos you’re seeing online are a direct result of the incompetence of the Recorder’s office, making a significant change to guidelines immediately prior to the election. Voters showed up with their own pens – it is COVID times after all – and some were instructed not to use their pens and use fine tipped sharpies instead.

So let’s be clear. Voters who read the FAQs and got information about voting on or possibly after Oct. 21 were specifically told not to use permanent markers as their vote might not be counted correctly. Then they show up on election day and are handed permanent markers, and in some cases told not to use their own pen.

On the day of the election they had every right to be concerned.

Let me be the first to call it … Sharpiegate.

Since the Internet’s Wayback Machine does have the ability to remove cached views they have on their servers, I’ve taken screenshots of the page from Oct. 17, Oct. 21 and Nov. 2.

The URL to view is here – https://recorder.maricopa.gov/site/faq.aspx

Wayback Machine Cached Pages

Sharpiegate Screenshots

Review: Stalked by Socialism, Jana Kandlova

Editor’s note: This book review by Don Pesci was originally posted on his Red Notes from a Blue State blog on July 12, 2020. It is re-posted here with permission.

Jana Kandlova, author of Stalked by Socialism, has written a necessary book that raises the question: Are we here in the United States attempting to crawl back into the shed skin of totalitarian socialism?

History, which proceeds in baby steps, has taught us that the road to totalitarianism is paved with emotionally attractive socialist intentions, but there is a vast qualitative difference between intent and accomplished ends. That is the lesson bitterly learned by those in Western Europe who first were overrun by Nazism and later lived for decades under communism. All the important, autocratic totalitarians of the 20th century, among the bloodiest and most spiritually racked centuries in world history – fascists Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, communists Joseph Stalin, “breaker of nations,” and Chairman Mao of China — were socialists before they became totalitarians.

The Road To Serfdom, first published in 1944, Friedrick Hayek writes, was offered “as a warning to English socialists” when Hayek was teaching in London. The precursor to socialism, Hayek warned, is “planning on a national scale,” which must of necessity be both arbitrary and anti-democratic. And those who naively believe that democratic forms alone are a bulwark against anti-democratic socialism have misread the times: “There is no justification for the belief that, so long as power is conferred by democratic procedure, it cannot be arbitrary; it is not the source, but the limitation of power which prevents it being arbitrary. Democratic control may prevent power from becoming arbitrary, but it does not do so by its mere existence. If democracy resolves on a task which necessarily involves the use of power which cannot be guided by fixed rules, it must become arbitrary power.”

In the pre-and-post-World War II era, Hayek and other unheeded 20th century Cassandras – one thinks of Robert Conquest, George Orwell, Arthur Koestler, Whittaker Chambers and many other writers of distinction – sounded loud, clanging warning bells commonly disregarded by policy makers and the tribunes of the people who, burrowing into the moment, rarely had a clear view of the near future.

Like so many post-World-War-Two survivors of iron-fisted totalitarianism, Kandelora is an escapee and an immigrant to the United States. Her memoir of her years under the jackboot of socialist totalitarianism provides us with a view from inside the communist leviathan. And the subtitle of her book, “An Escapee From Communism Shows How We’re Sliding Into Socialism,” is a timely warning to the United States, a palace of security and comfort to the offscourings of a socialist inspired communism now prowling the byways of the nation that welcomed her and others like her, still lifting the torch of liberty beside the golden door and offering to the dispossessed a refuge against the often arbitrary rule of “men like gods.”

Kandelova recounts her years in communist occupied Czechoslovakia in the first three chapters of her book, a captivating, painfully written but easily read personal reminiscence. Here we meet her brave grandparents and parents. Her mother describes in a single line the made-in-Russia, communist planned economy of Czechoslovakia, intermittently free after World War I and during the short-lived Prague Spring, before Russian tanks arrived in the country to suppress an organic revolution.

“We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us,” her mother, a true Czech used to say.

Uncomfortable with socialist serfdom, Czechs in whom the fire of liberty had not yet been entirely snuffed out well knew that communist tyranny is the perfection of socialism, its logical endpoint. But the totalitarian mechanism, perfected in Russia and imported everywhere during the Stalin years throughout a war-racked Eastern Europe, was nothing if not an inhuman machine of spiritual destruction. The universal “equality” heralded by academic socialists very quickly became an instrument of oppression. The planned state can only be implanted in countries through intimidation, terror and remorseless force. The omnipotent and omnipresent state portrayed by Orwell must crush organic freedom, because liberty, natural to humans, is unalterably opposed to mechanized force.

Kandlova arrived in the United States when she was 18 years old. As had so many other immigrants fleeing the oppressions of the Old Word, she was delivered from the iron jaws of socialist communism by an inborn resistance to tyranny — that and the kind of serendipity in which Christians sometimes detect the moving finger of God.

It began when she and her younger sister Eva “got into collecting anything we could find that was Western: empty tennis ball cans, chewing gum wrappers, even empty Coke cans. All of these had once held products that weren’t available to us… It was all just stuff that belonged in the trash can, but back then, these things represented the U.S. to me, which was sounding better and better all the time.” The “dreary, hyper-controlled environment” of liberty-deprived Czechoslovakia had turned Kandlova into “a dreamer.” She had already been exposed to intimations of liberty by listening to The Voice of America. Her father, an ingenious technician, had built himself a ham radio and, through this media, the wider world was presented to Kandlova’s all too human imagination.

And then, of course, there was David, a friend whose family had attempted twice, unsuccessfully, to escape communist Czechoslovakia. Reprisals were quickly visited upon David’s family. A dozen years after their attempts to escape had been frustrated, “his family tried it again, this time going from Czechoslovakia to Italy, then attempting to immigrate to Australia (but being refused) and finally going to the U.S., where they settled in Hartford, Connecticut.

Having only seen David twice — the two had a pen-pal relationship — David invited Kandlova to visit him in Connecticut. It had been astonishing easy for 18 year-old Kandlova to get her Visa in order. “I guess the officials thought,” Kandlova writes, “a young girl like me, traveling alone, was sure to come back… I was scared to death to make this huge, irreversible move and told just about everyone I knew that I was going, hoping someone would stop me. The one person I didn’t tell was my father, who definitely would have put a stop to it but never got the chance because he was on a business trip when I left. My new, free, independent life was suddenly within my grasp.”

It is the burden of Stalked by Socialism to trace in great detail the ruinous socialist path, rejected by Eastern Europe after the shedding of much blood, sweat and tears, that has now gained a foothold in the United States, a Westernized socialism re-presented to a new generation of Americans as a native grown liberation movement.

Part two of Stalked by Socialism, “Reflections on Liberty and Liberty Lost,” twelve short chapters, is devoted to an examination of the modern day menace as seen through the eyes of a European socialist ex-serf who’s been there, seen that.

Through a lucid analysis of the modern iteration of “socialism with a human face,” Kandlova emerges as her mother’s child, a master of concision – “We pretend to work, they pretend to pays us.” If the note sounded throughout is that of a wise, cautioning, contrarian libertarian, it is because libertarianism is the best defense against socialist tyranny, especially that smiling tyranny slipped under the door of a free market system by socialists with knives in their brains.

In chapter fourteen, “The Freedom Spectrum: Trending towards Red,” Kandlora asks, “How can you determine where we currently land on the freedom-verses-socialism spectrum?… Here’s an easy, three-step way to gauge it: 1) The more money you’re required to give to the government, 2) the more enforced contact you have with the government, and 3) the more your everyday behavior is dictated by the government, the higher the level of socialism in your society and the less freedom you have.”

Stalked by Socialism places Kandlova in the same theatre of resistance once occupied by the Cassandras mentioned early in this review. Here is an escapee who, to deploy a phrase used by André Malraux of Whittaker Chambers in 1952, has not “come back from hell with empty hands.”

The pandemic clock chimes three: “We’re not in Kansas anymore”

To quote an historical figure who will be nameless here: “There are decades when nothing happens; and then there are weeks when decades happen.” As many of us can sense, we may well be in such times. Two months ago we were governed with our consent (mostly). We had life, liberty and were pursuing happiness each in our own special way. We then entered an unprecedented national societal lockdown and told, for own safety, not to venture out. We complied – because literally there was no place to go. As time wore on, a trip to the supermarket became the highlight of the week.

We were told, “just a month longer.” We grew mighty restless. We materialized at our state capitals to petition our petulant rulers with our justified grievances. We were scoffed at, ridiculed, lectured, humored…anything to disperse us for the moment. As we returned to voluntary confinement, our “non-essential” businesses atrophied by the day. And then there were murmurs of a coming lifting of the insufferable pall. Yes, there will be a reopening, but our rulers warned – “not so fast…there will be rules…there will be a new normal.” Again, that term we have come to despise. It’s code for changes decreed under cover of a crisis. We’ll take plain normal, thank you.

And they weren’t kidding. Home Depot can open, but if you open your hair salon you’re going to jail. You can push your child in her stroller on the sidewalk, but if you push her on a swing in a park you’re taking a ride in a squad car. You must be masked in public, and if you don’t wear it properly in the New York subway you’ll be body slammed on the platform by six transit police. You’re now welcome at your local restaurant but only if you eat outside. You can have a drink, but only with a meal. If you’d like one at the bar, you may not – but you may get one to go. And if you’re dining in Washington state, Governor Inslee will have your name and cell number recorded just in case there’s virus lurking and you must be tracked down. What could be a more naturally social distancing setting than a beach (and Coronavirus hates sun and heat). But if you head to one of Long Island’s endless beaches and decide to stop and pitch a blanket, Governor Cuomo will have you summoned. And don’t even think of going in the water. If you do, NYC mayor de Blasio will have you removed, and you may ruin it for everyone, as he has threatened to fence off the water at Coney Island – just because he can.

Yes they’re jailing us for cutting hair, but they’re releasing criminals from prison “for their own safety” onto the public streets. You can go to church but only online – cause they’re handing out $500 fines for attending services in your car in the church parking lot. You can run a NASCAR race – but only if there’s no one watching in the stands. Illegals in California are now invited to apply for pandemic relief checks. Both legal immigrants and illegals can enter the U.S. with no bio-testing, but it’s said our rulers are rumbling about requiring immunity tests for citizens to come out in public. Of course this entire piece could be filled with such examples causing us mental backflips. But as Ayn Rand was fond of saying, “there are no contradictions – check your premises.” So, if most all of these measures seem insidiously confounding on their face, is there an organizing theme?

Any illumination requires we see past the immediate paranoia and widespread concern generated by the chaotic development of the Pandemic. Though the national cues were taken from the Coronavirus Task Force, the actions which have impacted our lives and communities have largely emanated from the governors’ offices. And while their motivations and justifications surely vary, tactically they involve heightened control and surveillance of the citizenry. The initial lockdowns descended upon us swiftly in mid-March. With the expectation they would be short-lived we played along “just to be safe” and to keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. But we were quickly bait-and-switched with a barrage of case, hospitalization and fatality data, into another thirty to forty five days of lockdown, lest we open too soon and risk the Son of Coronavirus in the fall!

The financial catastrophe envisioned in the first tick of our pandemic clock was now becoming real for small business owners, but state control rendered them unable to take action. While we were effectively under house arrest, our TVs blared at us from all channels that “we’re all in this together.” No we aren’t – the people who are incessantly telling us this, all have jobs. We’re told to clang pots and pans daily at 7pm to thank the healthcare workers and we’re shown pictures of people doing exactly that on the evening news. They’re testing our patience and testing our limits. To many of us it all feels like a psy-op. And just when there seemed to be a new state-capital protest each day, our rulers finally released some steam from the national pressure cooker, as limited reopening activities commenced state by state. But many businesses are mandated to function under the most ludicrous and financially debilitating regulations.

One only has to look back over the past few decades to see that government power, extended during a crisis, is never, ever fully returned to the people. Our Constitutional rights are consistently ratcheted away from us, and this episode promises to be the worst case of our lifetimes. The Pandemic has now been politicized and we can see distinct differences in the approaches of red vs. blue states.

In the blue states, generally home to the big cities teaming with knowledge workers, the governors are taking a hard line and are slow to reopen. “Stay at home, don’t be selfish, consider the health and safety of others” rolls so easily off the tongue of someone comfortably working from home, but still expecting their supermarkets to remain open and stocked. These people may never have faced real life risks before. Why should those who don’t daily face real risk have so much control over the rest of us who do? The unconnected workers and small “non-essential” business owners who are out of work and have so much more at stake, feel like they’re being incinerated by capricious government decrees, and those who issue them. Red state people know safety cannot be assured – we flattened the curve, now let’s get on with it.

Blue state governors are generally in worse financial shape, and have traveled to the White House seeking federal bailouts under cover of the pandemic. They are slow to open, worsening their financial condition, perhaps to bolster their case for a federal bailout, or perhaps to further weaken the economy to impair Trump’s prospects. Here in Connecticut, Governor Lamont has laid off his responsibility to the Reopen CT Advisory Group, a bevy of some 48 members, meeting in private. They announced a three phase reopening orchestration which stretches into the last days of July, and concocted a grid of metrics by which they can easily move the goal posts should they see fit. We small business people formed the “Council of Non-Essential Businesses” and just filed a FOIA request with the governor’s office to obtain access to his Advisory Group’s deliberations. It may be denied and we’ll have to sue. That’s what it’ll take to regain our rights. Over in the UK, when asked last week what he’s learned during this ordeal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson noted, “I’ve learned it is much easier to take people’s rights away than to give them back.” Ain’t that the truth!

In selected U.S. cities they’ve put drones in the air to monitor social distancing, and some have the capability to measure the relative body temperatures of the people under observation. Others have speaker systems ready to bark orders from the sky should we stray from proscribed behavior. Then there’s the steady hectoring that there’s not enough testing and tracing – now coupled with murmuring about a soon to be released phone app to do exactly that. Soon we won’t be able to leave our homes without a test and a phone with the tracking app in our pockets – don’t doubt it.

Yes, as our pandemic clock strikes three the theme is control and its coercive cousin – surveillance. They are on the march and must be met. No, we’re not in Kansas anymore – don’t know where we are exactly – could be at the dawn of the seventh crisis.

The Pandemic Clock Strikes 2: “Let My People Go”

As our metaphorical pandemic clock strikes two it seems the oxygen breathing people of the country have caught a whiff of overkill in the air.  Boat owners in Michigan are told sailboats are approved on the lake, while motor boats are not.  Vermonters are told books and seeds are “non-essential” items and may not be purchased, even while sitting right there on the shelves.  Walmart is told to close certain aisles within open stores.  Fencing off an outdoor skateboard park in California is insufficient to compel compliance – bulldozers were hired to plow sand over the skateboard runs.  Kids daring to skateboard are a menace to society’s health. And in Raleigh, NC, protestors to the lockdown were met by police advising them “protesting is a non-essential activity”, and arrested and fined for assembling at a safe distance.

Some of the most concerning totalitarian theatre came on Easter Sunday.  Christians in Mississippi assembling in their cars for a service in the church parking lot were met with $500 fines for endangering the community – as they say, you can’t make it up.  Give a collectivist governor some discretion and he’ll have you in cuffs for saying your prayers.  And just so everything’s perfectly clear, churches and synagogues are “non-essential”, while liquor stores, lottery sellers and abortion clinics remain open.  Yep, every closet tin-pot dictator who made governor has been in full stride the past couple weeks.

Half the country would buy most anything these little dictators are pedaling as long as it’s packaged in a “health and safety” wrapper.  The other half of the country, the critical thinking types, aren’t surprised a bit.  We know, respect and value our Constitutional form of a government of laws, not men.  The diffusion of power is the greatest guarantor of liberty, and the entire nation is currently enduring a dangerous illustration of the timelessness and proof of that maxim.  Let’s hope we don’t have to arm-wrestle our way back to our normal, and not some new normal we’re utterly sick of hearing about.

Connecticut finally joined at least a dozen other states, and got into gear on the protest front.  I took my place in the caravan of some 100 plus horn-honking cars circling the Capital and Governor’s residence in Hartford.  We gridlocked the area for over an hour, along with many lining the streets with creative signs – it seemed like a tea party redux!  Naturally, the press reported the event as a couple dozen cars and was sure to put on the screen some admirable, bedraggled healthcare worker bearing witness to the fact the Wuhan Virus is real.  We know it’s real and we know it’s serious.  But the justification provided for the state lockdowns was to suppress the curve of the contagion and avoid overwhelming the nation’s healthcare system.  It was not to lock us up until there was a cure or until no new people became infected or died.

The protests are occurring because both the federal and state governments deployed their inherent and predictable blunt instrument solutions, i.e. locking down some 40 states and idling most all small businesses in the process.  It clearly was overdone, needlessly shutting businesses that could have stayed open with modifications to mitigate the impact of the Virus.  That reality has become abundantly clear to the segment of society most impacted by the government’s draconian response.  In no way did the economic carnage have to be this severe.  People are going to continue to die from this pandemic, but that fact must be balanced with the need for people to maintain their livelihoods.

That balance was surely on the President’s mind in February when he was trying to evaluate the information presented by the CDC and NIH.  After a month of being lied to by the Chinese, Fauci and Birx suddenly became alarmed as more accurate data began surfacing.  Since the mishandled SARS outbreak in 2003 they had been highly concerned that the Chinese would lose control of a virus outbreak – it was their nightmare scenario.  They believed it was being realized before their eyes, and presented Trump with some version of Hobson’s Choice between risking the lives of 330 million Americans or virtually shutting down the country.  He was captured by the “data”, and sure to face withering political criticism if he dare adopt a middle road solution – he relented to the draconian measures.

The very quickly apparent and unsurprising result is that small businesses and the families that run them were being virtually incinerated before our eyes.  Most Americans would be surprised to know that 99% of U.S. employers are small businesses.  There are 30 million small businesses employing some 57 million Americans or more.  Current polling indicates 54% of all small businesses are closing temporarily, 11% say they will close permanently within one month, and 24% say they will close permanently within two months.  Now THAT is a bleak reality that should send a chill down the spine of anyone who actually contemplates those numbers, and the magnitude and ripple effects of it all, with open eyes.

The first $350 billion federal tranche of small business loans and grants was vacuumed up within days, and too much of it went to investment and legal firms who are aces at quickly completing forms and applications, while auto mechanics struggled with the apps in their repair shops.  And of course, again it is the bankers who are the gatekeepers of the money…deja vu all over again.  But there just isn’t enough relief money to save these millions of businesses if this overkill of a lockdown goes on much longer.

A national breakpoint is approaching fast.  Nationally, the Administration has targeted April 30th as the decision point when it will advise whether to begin reopening the economy.  The governors appear to have the discretion to initiate action.  Let’s hope we get underway.  Here in Connecticut, as well as NY and the adjoining states, that decision point is May 15th.  Anyone in touch with social media can sense there’s a growing feeling among average people that we have been “played” buy our rulers with this draconian shutdown – our free republic seeks to be free again.  If wiser heads do not prevail at month end, I wouldn’t be surprised if the American people decide themselves that it’s time to get on with life again as we know and cherish it, and proceed to reopen our country without further instruction.

Special Olympics DOE funding – Political grandstanding targets DeVos

The reporting on this subject is absolutely horrendous. One article headline reads ‘I still can’t understand why you would go after disabled children!’

Politicians love to grandstand. In the age of Trump, quite a few elected officials have gone off the deep end with their soundbites and statements. Betsy DeVos, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education is a favorite target of the left. It’s not unusual to see comments on websites and social media calling her an evil witch, heartless and sub-human. Some flatly state she should be in prison.

But this post is not about DeVos. It’s about the absurd claims made by statist Democrats who blow things totally out of proportion with outrageous soundbites, and the media who are complicit through their total lack of intellectual honesty.

First, let me start with a disclaimer. I think the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) should be shuttered tomorrow*. Totally close it down. I realize that will not happen, but am willing to ensure the process gets started by eliminating special earmarks to start. That is what the proposed budget does. Many of the earmark cuts – 29 programs totaling $6.7 billion – are for programs that show little or no evidence of meeting objectives, or programs more appropriately supported through local, state and private funds.

If you look at the proposed budget, you can get into the details. You’ll note no news sites – at least that I could find – provided a link to the proposal. Specifically referring to the Special Olympics program grant award, the proposal states…

Such activities are better supported with other Federal, State, local, or private funds.

I agree, but how much money are we talking about here? What does the $17.6 million cut actually represent? For that, you’ll need to do a bit of research. (By the way, a note to Rolling Stone … no, it’s not 10 percent of the organization’s budget, you purposefully ignored all of the state organizations so you’re WAY too high.)

Let’s ask why most of the news articles about DeVos, the DOE and the Special Olympics dive into what percentage of funding the DOE provided to the organization in the past. Few – and certainly not one politician who “grilled” or “blasted” DeVos – asked about it. I started the research the media should be doing to inform the public. I did not determine the percentage since it would take too much time to collect the data.

From what I can gather this morning, Special Olympics in the USA is made up of at least 50 individual 501(c)3 non-profits, plus the home organization based in DC. Some states have multiple organizations filing returns independently. Our donations to this great organization are tax deductible. Contributing our time is the fun and rewarding part.

On the revenue side in 2017, the main organization took in $116 million, while providing $28 million in grants and assistance to what I assume would be the state organizations. Salaries and benefits at the main organization in 2017 totaled $23 million. The Special Olympics national organization earned $5.7 million in investment income, not included in the $116 million. This is from their Form 990, Returns of Organization Exempt from Income Tax for 2017.

I took a look at the publicly disclosed Form 990 for just eight state Special Olympic organizations. Line 8 on the form lists contributions and grants received. The numbers do not represent the total revenue, as they do not include program service revenue, investment income, or “other” income. These were the most recent 990s I could find for each of the states listed, some were 2016, some were 2017.

  • Connecticut – $5.1 million
  • Arizona – $5.2 million
  • Massachusetts – $5.3 million
  • Rhode Island – $1.6 million
  • New York – $6.8 million
  • California – $8.6 million
  • Texas – $6.7 million
  • Florida – $9.6 million

So the total for contributions and grants just for the eight states I researched is about $50 million. Do you think my information is important for this story? Does it provide additional insight? Did you learn something?

Politicians don’t care about insight, and have no interest in getting the full story to you. They would much rather have you only receive the information and soundbites they want you to hear. They grandstand knowing the media will support their narrative. It’s journalistic malpractice.

It’s better to get lines like “I still can’t understand why you would go after disabled children in your budget,” [Barbara] Lee [D-Calif.] said Tuesday. She continued, “You zero that out. It’s appalling.”

What makes it worse is the interviews with Special Olympians who think this means the end of the program…

One WaPost article headline?

‘I’m praying for the Special Olympics’: A special-needs athlete responds to Betsy DeVos

The author continued with sentences like this…

But on Tuesday, his athletic fate suddenly seemed to slip further from his control.

And here is a Twitter comment from a representative implying the end, by using the phrase “seeing their support taken away.”

In @BetsyDeVosED’s budget, there are major cuts to programs like the Special Olympics. Sec. DeVos didn’t know the number of kids who would be hurt by that cut, so I made sure she now knows that 272,000 kids are seeing their support taken away.

Plus you’ve got the Washington Post’s Twitter feed stating…

Five Trump trips to Mar-a-Lago would cover Betsy Devos’s proposed Special Olympics cuts

Is that even news? That’s a political hit and nothing more. Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, is worth well more than $100 billion. Just one of Bezo’s New Glenn rockets costs $2.5 billion.

Why not tweet…

Just one of Bezo’s rockets could cover the proposed US DOE Special Olympics cuts for 125 years

This entire spectacle is just that. Do your research. Don’t trust what politicians say and remember most of the media is part of – if not absolutely running – the establishment left.

* We already have Departments of Education at the school, local, regional and state levels. This is why – in my opinion – the entire department is redundant. I wrote about shuttering of the federal DOE back in January 2012 and December 2011. Read those posts for additional insight.

Stefanowski and the payday loan business

A post in the Washington Times this morning concerning Connecticut’s Republican candidate for governor Bob Stefanowski’s previous business ventures caught my eye. I wrote about payday loans previously about eight years ago, so I thought I would revisit the subject.

Stefanowski led DFC Global Corp. in Pennsylvania for a couple of years during 2014 and 2016. DFC Global provides financial services – short term loans and other services – to “unbanked and under-banked” consumers. When pundits refer to “payday loans” it’s in-part reference to unsecured short-term consumer loans. These are the type of loans your local bank is normally not interested in providing.

No matter what you hear from the pundits, the short-term, unsecured loan market is regulated by the federal government and individual states where they are legal. The other important aspect is there is a demand for loans less than $250 for days or a couple of weeks.

There are many who will heavily criticize Stefanowski for “taking advantage of poor people.” Others will point out payday loan outfits provide a needed service to a community not being served by traditional financial institutions.

In Connecticut, payday loans are pretty much illegal. The state legislature ensured that by capping the interest rate at 12 percent. If you need $200 to cover your car payment for the next week until you get paid – hence the term payday loan – you’re totally out of luck. There is not a financial institution in the state who will help you. The risk is way to great for a return for a profit of about 53 cents. ($200 at 12 percent for about one week.)

I took a look at the website for a large payday loan outfit in Florida. It took me about three minutes to locate their finance charge schedule. The first think you’ll notice is the annual percentage rates … they are between 286 and 521 percent. If you have moral objections to these interest rates, that’s fine. But I’ll ask you to take a closer look.

In Florida, the amount financed can be as little as $50, and up to $500. If you need $300, you’ll owe $335 in two weeks. (That’s a 304 percent interest rate.) You’ll need to meet certain qualifications and present some required items to get the loan, but you’ll get the money you need. The loan term is between 10 and 31 days. Again, these are short-term loans.

As I mentioned, I wrote about payday loans almost eight years ago. I’ll use the numbers above for another example.

… let’s say you have to make a $300 car payment today, but you will not have the money to pay the debt until your next paycheck coming in two weeks. We’ll lay out two options for you.

Option 1: An offer of a $300 loan – due in two weeks – that you will have to pay a $35 to get. (Total cost $335)

Option 2: Car most likely repossessed within the next 14 days.

What would you do? If you morally object to the $35 interest charge, what would your advice be to that person? Be honest with the answer. If you morally object to the rate paid, would you be willing to invest in a company offering financial services to underserved customers at an interest rate you find morally acceptable? What would that rate be?

Below is the video I included in my previous post for reference. Some information may be out-of-date.

Note the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 – passed and signed four years prior to Stefanowski running DFC Global – gave the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau the power to oversee financial products and services, including payday loans. (They really did not start implementation until 2012.) President Obama promised he would limit payday loan rates to 36 percent. Although some sources say he kept his promise, those same sources note…

It’s worth noting that the 36 percent interest cap, something Obama specifically cited in this promise, is not included in the new agency’s purview.

Nice how the “fact finders” lie is it not?

Final comment. There has been plenty of discussion and articles concerning the Trump administration’s proposed changes to the federal act passed in 2010. Sorry, but I just do not have time to dive into any of that.

No ambiguity: Trump has authority to suspend entry of aliens

The president has a tremendous amount of power – confirmed by the Constitution and the Supreme Court – concerning the entry into the United States of all aliens. The law is clear. No ambiguity at all.

Code § 1182(f)
Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.

Of course, none of the blow-hard media “expert” journalists from the main stream media even acknowledge this law actually exists. They do say the president “has a lot of authority” or something like that, but then they say other parts of the Constitution may “temper” the power he has.

No, there is nothing that tempers 1182(f), nothing.

From the National Review, with my emphasis.

Writing for the Supreme Court in 1948 (in Chicago & Southern Air Lines v. Waterman), Justice Robert Jackson — FDR’s former attorney general and the chief prosecutor at Nuremburg — explained that decisions involving foreign policy, including alien threats to national security, are “political, not judicial” in nature.

NR refers directly to Jackson’s decision, which in part reads…

Such decisions are wholly confided by our Constitution to the political departments of the government, Executive and Legislative. They are delicate, complex, and involve large elements of prophecy. They are and should be undertaken only by those directly responsible to the people whose welfare they advance or imperil. They are decisions of a kind for which the Judiciary has neither aptitude, facilities nor responsibility and have long been held to belong in the domain of political power not subject to judicial intrusion or inquiry.

Breaking Defense: Trump’s Generals – Mattis & Flynn & Kelly

In a three-part series, James Kitfield from Breaking Defense provides brief overviews of the experienced military men that will, or may be working for President-elect Trump in leadership positions.

Among the many anxieties inspired by the rise of Trump, one of the most profound is his fondness for generals. Does naming so many retired military men to top positions undermine the principal of civilian control? How might their shared experiences in our post-9/11 conflicts shape the way they govern? This week, award-winning defense reporter James Kitfield takes us in depth with profiles of Jim Mattis, John Kelly, and Mike Flynn. Today, Kitfield starts the series with a look at Trump’s generals as a group. Besides Trump, what do they all have in common? The answer is one word: war.

Trump’s Generals: How Wartime Service Shaped Mattis, Kelly, & Flynn

Trump’s Generals, Part 2: Jim Mattis vs. Iran

Trump’s Generals, Part 3: Mike Flynn vs. Al-Qaeda

“I don’t understand … he’s an abhorrent person”

I recently commented on a Facebook post referencing Harry Reid saying “Fear is entirely rational” after a campaign of “bigotry and hate.” I simply said “they still don’t get it.”

A friend responded to my comment.

I guess what I don’t get is when people keep telling me to “get over it” and move on. In any past election in my life I was able to do that but this one is different. I understand the reasons peeps voted for T for political reasons some of which I agree with but I just find him to be an abhorrent person. I especially can’t understand how people who wanted to draw and quarter Bill C for being morally bankrupt now turned around and over looked what a pig T is and actually vote for him. And please don’t tell me I’ve been brainwashed by the liberal media against him. I heard with my own ears the hateful things he said.

We obviously can’t point to “one thing” to help understand why folks voted for Trump. A significant part of the equation was Democrats who stayed home or voted for Trump. Trump will end up with about the same number of votes McCain and Romney received, but Clinton ended up with 10 million and 5 million (respectively) fewer votes than Obama.

But I’ll stick to one thought for now: He fought back.

Liberals have been talking down to me for a couple of decades now, but I really started noticing when I started writing for this conservative website. Here are just some of the hateful things that have been said to me, about me, and other conservatives for decades. Strong language coming…

  • I’m a racist because I want our border secured and I want to limit legal immigration in defense of our American culture and ideals.
  • I’m racist since I absolutely do not agree there is “endemic” racism problem in law enforcement.
  • I’m racist since I think the current laws in place should be enforced.
  • I’m a racist homophobe since I think it’s absolutely insane to demand a practicing faithful Christian bake a cake, and have them pay $100k in fines because they are “bigots” if they say no to baking a cake.
  • I hate children because I think the federal Department of Education should be shuttered immediately.
  • I’m delusional since I don’t believe in anthropogenic climate change. I think the climate HAS been changing for millions of years and will continue to do so. To think we can stop global climate change is complete vanity, and when I say that, I’m labeled as someone who wants to destroy the planet.
  • I’m outright insane due to my gun rights stand, and I’m OK with kids getting killed because I think an “assault weapon” ban is absurd.
  • I must be “compensating” for something since I quietly carry a gun to protect myself and my family.
  • There must be something wrong with me because I own evil inanimate objects such as guns, gun magazines, rifles and hollow-point ammunition. Therefore, I must register with the government and be “monitored.” If I fail to register, I’m a criminal.
  • When I say the minimum wage should be zero, I’m a racist and hate poor people trying to raise a family. I’m not allowed to calmly explain why, since the protesting crowd is now yelling at me.
  • People claim I have violent tendencies since I believe in what the TEA Party stands for. When something bad happens, liberals and the media immediately claim it was probably a TEA Party member.
  • When I point out there is no such thing as a “gun show loophole,” I’m an uneducated idiot.
  • When I say it’s terribly sad and heartbreaking more black babies were terminated in NYC than born in 2012 and 2013, I’m a racist AND a misogynist asshole.
  • When I point out conservatives in Washington are not trying to block women from healthcare services or getting the pill, I’m an idiot and anti-woman.
  • When I think the federal government should get completely out of the health care business, I hate women, children and the poor.
  • I’m a racist since I think you should prove you are a citizen when you vote.
  • When I explain human rights exist simultaneously between people and human rights are limited to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – not healthcare, education, food, housing, cell phones or broadband Internet – I’m a woman-hating, racist asshole.
  • When I say Roe v. Wade was a bad legal decision, heads explode and people start yelling at me before I can explain why.

The criticism, distain and outright hate towards my conservative beliefs continue. I could go on-and-on.

Every single one of these statements – and many more – have been either made to me in person, in an online comment, or sent to me in an email during my time writing more than 2,000 conservative blog posts. Thankfully, I’ve received no death threats, but I know of authors who have. I’ve seen them. Law enforcement dealt with them.

The attacks on some of my friends – who happen to be black conservatives – have been outright brutal. I’ve been present when a protester yelled at them …”you’re a traitor to your race.”

The verbal and written attacks – along with all the “they are stupid” jokes – on Sarah Palin, Palin’s family, George W. Bush, Bush’s family, Mitt Romney, Mia Love, Rand Paul, Alan West, Scott Walker, Clarence Thomas among many others have been BRUTAL for years.

Although Trump was not my chosen candidate, Trump fought back. He gave it out just the same the left have been dishing it out for decades. No national GOP candidate has fought back before. (Well, maybe Reagan.) It was all about “what can we do to get them to accept us.”

Well, Trump got through to folks who were done being bullied by the left.

At this point, I’m more than willing to give Trump a chance. I’ll continue to explain why Constitutional conservatism will work when given the opportunity. I’ll work to direct Trump on conservative policy if he’ll listen. I’ll disagree with him and point out where I think he is wrong just as I did during Bush 43’s term.