Rights and Responsabilities

As Americans, we love to make appeals to rights. Both the left and right usually center their arguments around rights- the left harps on having rights to welfare, marriage, abortion, etc., while the right harps on economics rights, religious rights, gun rights, etc. In large part, it is encouraging that there is a general agreement in this country that freedom is good, even if some people seem to have a warped view of what it means to be free (hint: it’s the people who advocate legislating away our liberties in the name of “improving” society).

What gets less attention though, is that that with freedom comes responsibilities.

Both sides are guilty of overlooking this. The left says people have a right to social welfare. Under our laws, they are right. If a person qualifies, they have a right to collect benefits. But what the left often forgets is that people collecting welfare have a responsibility to use the money wisely and to not use any more than is needed. Basically, don’t milk the system. Americans are more than willing to help those who truly need it, but this charity must not be abused. This is why work requirements for welfare are a good idea. They (at least in theory) insure that those receiving aid engage in productive behavior. Some on the left argue that making people work for their money is basically slavery, but if that is true we need another Lincoln because we have a lot of slaves that need freeing.

The right is often just as guilty of forgetting about the responsibilities that come with rights. While many conservatives are good people, often Christians who wish to live a moral life, the recent rhetoric of the right often is unsettling. Talk of makers vs. takers is harsh, and not everyone on public assistance is a lazy cheat. Paul Ryan recently talked about this issue of rhetoric and is now trying to avoid it in his new mission to help the poor using conservative principals of small government and free markets. The point here is that if conservatives wish to live in a free country with a small burden of government, we must be willing to step up to the plate and help those in need through civil society. Even Glenn Beck agrees with this point, saying that if we don’t want government to try and help the needy, we as free citizens must do it through charities and the “little platoons” of a voluntary civil society. God knows we do a better job than government anyway.

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Regaining Confidence in America

America today finds itself in a bit of a slump. Historians can show that Americans have lived in much tougher times than these (think Civil War, World Wars, Great Depression, stagflation), but a concerned citizen can’t shake the feeling that America just doesn’t seem to be what it used to be.

A feeling of malaise seems to have crept back into our country. Our economy isn’t terrible, but it isn’t good either. Larry Summers says we are in state of so called “secular stagnation”, which means there is not enough capital investment in our economy and labor markets are weak. Basically, we are under-achieving.

In the political sphere things are just as bad, if not worse. Gridlock in Washington has become the new normal. No one reasonably expects major issues like tax reform, immigration or privacy to be addressed any time soon. Liberals don’t even acknowledge conservatives as having valid ideas for consideration, Harry Reid refuses to let the Senate vote on bills coming from the House and the President just doesn’t seem to care anymore. I’m not one to criticize Presidents for golfing- they all do it (except Teddy Roosevelt, who preferred boxing)- but it doesn’t take a PR expert to realize that a speech concerning a growing, genocidal, extremist terrorist group that even Al-Qaeda said was crazy, shouldn’t be directly followed by hitting the links.

Despite our current situation, we as Americans should not lose hope. For me, confidence in our country comes from different places.

Recently, I have had the pleasure of talking to some people from other countries. They are not necessarily immigrants, but they have spent long periods in America for reasons other than vacation. One of these people have a cousin that just moved here from Italy in order to start a business and send money back home. Despite their European style welfare state that college professors say we should emulate, the Italian economy is horrific so this man did what thousands did at the start of the 20th century and came to America. Lets see if he ends up staying for good, just like they did.

Others I have talked to are not from Europe. Some are wealthy and some are not. I particularly like talking to the ones that are well off in their own county. One girl was from China, but is attending university in Boston. Her parents want her to return to Shanghai and work for the government- a very prestigious career. The girl, however, wants to stay in America. It may be a cliche, but she loved the air of freedom (even though she was in Massachusetts, one of our less free states). She liked writing and saying what she wanted without punishment and actually being able to use Facebook and Twitter. Freedoms not had in her country.

There are still others I have talked to from different parts of the world that I need not give more details on. They are often people who could probably choose other countries to go to, but end up loving America. They talk of a “feel” in this country that just feels right. It would probably take a book to explain this “feel”, but I think I know what they are talking about.

It is the knowledge expressed in The Battle Cry of Freedom, that “Although he may be poor, not a man shall be a slave”.

It is what Lee Greenwood means when he sings “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”

It is embodied in our most sacred civil creed, that “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

I believe these thing are what draw people to America, and they are what we as citizens used to take pride in. But today we find ourselves in a situation without pride, without a sense of what it means to be an American. Our politicians have lost all trust of the public and have no honor, seeking to enrich themselves through corrupt means all while claiming that their actions are “for the common good”. This is a predictable consequence of big government, and can only be remedied by limiting the power of the state, just as our founders expected us to do. If we keep allowing our government to expand and infringe on our liberties in the name of “doing good”, we will lose the very thing that used to make our proud, and brings people to our shores: freedom.

Hypocrisy From Some Anti-Gun Folks

Tragedy has again struck Chicago this holiday weekend, with CNN reporting 11 deaths and dozens of shootings in the city known for gun violence. Chicago’s police superintendent has called for stricter gun laws to help solve the problem.

Surprisingly, I agree with him.

He is not calling for more restrictions (as far as I know) on legal gun owners, but rather is pointing out that people who commit crimes with guns are punished more by their gang than by the justice system. One man taken in this weekend for a gun crime has had 21 arrests before and is wanted in connection with a murder.

After 21 arrests, why is this man on the streets? I am against needlessly locking people up in order to be “hard on crime,” but when someone has repeatedly proven to be a danger to the community, they need to be put in jail for a long time so that they can no longer cause harm.

What is maddening is that some of the anti-gun crowd insists they want to “protect our children,” by imposing tougher laws on law-abiding gun owners in case they become criminals, yet the same crowd doesn’t seem to want to punish the ones who have proven to be real criminals many times over.

It almost makes you wonder if a lot of the anti-gun crowd is more concerned with scoring political points and sticking it to the NRA than they are with making our communities safer. Locking up those who commit violent gun crimes should be a policy everyone supports, regardless of their views on guns.

The Last Guns in Massachusetts

In the Senate chamber of the Massachusetts State House hangs two guns. One American, one British, both from the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Both arms are displayed to create the aura that either could have been the one to fire the “shot heard ’round the world” that started the American Revolution. 

I find their display to be quite Ironic.

Massachusetts is about to pass a bill further tightening their already suffocating gun laws. In the Bay State all gun owners need a “firearm identification card” (FID). Currently, cards for long arms are issued on a shall-issue basis, but the proposed bill would make FIDs for long arms be issued on a “may-issue” basis. This means that the local police can arbitrarily decide someone is unfit to own a gun and prevent them from legally attaining one. Usually this particularly high hurdle for gun owners is reserved for handguns.

It’s ironic that as Senators vote (probably approvingly) for this bill, they will be looking up in admiration at a gun that helped found this country. A gun owned by a private citizen, a farmer probably, used for hunting, protecting his family, and apparently freedom-fighting. Not even under the British, whom Bostonians decried as tyrannical back in 1775, did a citizen need the approval of a local magistrate to buy a rifle. Yet today, in the State that prides itself for sparking the flame of liberty, that flame is being slowly extinguished. 

A further irony is that the very Senators that sit in the chamber and brag about being in the presence of an original rifle of the revolution probably don’t even believe there is a basis for the individual’s right to bear arms. They don’t get that the revolution never could have happened if there was no private gun ownership. Had the colonists only had access to arms through militia officially organized by the government (in this case the British crown), they would never have been able to revolt.

 

Massachusetts brags that it is the birth, and resting, place If Massachusetts keeps going down the path of limiting freedom, they should dig up the graves of our founding fathers and move them someplace else.

Andrew Cuomo Doesn’t Pay His Taxes

If I could choose one politician to lose his election in November, it would be Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. I don’t feel like writing the book length rant it would take for me to fully state my contempt for him, but basically he cares about nothing except his political career (which he is delusional enough to think has a future), and he doesn’t even try to hide this ugly fact. He also doesn’t like to pay the high taxes that he subjects everyone else in New York to paying.

The New York Times reports that Cuomo did not get permits when he remodeled his home and was never reassessed for tax purposes and therefore he has not been paying as much tax as he should. Just add him to the list of liberals who call for higher taxes and then exempt themselves from having to pay more. I dream of the day when liberals finally admit that their politicians are as greedy as the “evil” republicans. At least the republicans want lower taxes on everyone, not just themselves.

P.S. I know property taxes are at the local level and therefore not Cuomo’s responsibility as governor, but New York is still one the most heavily taxed states all around and a lot of that blame falls on Cuomo.

P.P.S. Cuomo also supports gun confiscation. His comment here was likely a trial balloon. He didn’t propose it officially in law because that wold hurt him politically (that’s all he cares about remember), but by saying the comment he revealed that confiscation is likely his preferred choice of gun control.

Could Iraq’s Instability be Good for America?

Much discussion has centered on the current situation in Iraq where Islamist militants from the group ISIS have gained control of large swaths of the country. Some say their success defeating a seemingly pathetic and unmotivated Iraqi army proves that Obama pulled out of Iraq too early. The problem with this claim is that the people who make it never explain when WOULD have been the proper time to pull out. Reports from Iraq reveal that the Iraqi military seems to flee at the first sign of conflict. Even the “stay in Iraq forever” pages of the Wall Street Journal reports that “Iraqi soldiers who are supposed to protect Baghdad are dressing in civilian clothes beneath their military uniforms in case they have to flee.” With the Iraqis unwilling to defend their own country from militants, it appears that if we want to keep Iraq a peaceful pro-west country, we would have to keep a permanent force there. This may have been what we did in Europe, Japan and Korea, but there were not insurgencies in these countries.

The situation in Iraq points to a glaring hole in the logic of neoconservatives. There are right that announcing a deadline for withdrawal only tells the enemy militants how long they have to wait us out, but the fact is that so long as we plan on leaving at some point in the future, militants know they only have to wait until that point. Unless we are willing to sacrifice American lives in the Middle East for decades more to come, insurgencies will always know they can wait us out. That is just the nature of an insurgency.

I do think that there is some “good” coming out of this situation, even if it comes from unfortunate human suffering. No one should want to see people die, but perhaps the seemingly likely future civil war in Iraq won’t be so bad for the USA. In Syria, for instance, Islamists and other enemies of ours seem content on killing each other instead of killing us. I rarely ever quote Sarah Palin, but she made a crude but interesting point when she said of Syria to “Let Allah sort it out.” One argument for the Iraq and Afghan wars was that we can fight em’ over there or fight em’ over here. The events unfolding today can have that same effect as fighting them over there, except we don’t have to do any fighting ourselves. Let them waste their lives and resources on each other.

Some claim that after such a civil war a “terrorist” state will emerge. First off, if it is a state, it is not a terrorist organization. We didn’t call Nazi Germany a terrorist organization simply because they attacked us. Terrorist is a political word. Secondly, so what if one emerges? We deal with lots of countries that hate us just fine. I don’t remember Iranian attacks on America. And if the new Islamic state did attack in any way, we would know exactly where to attack. The challenge all of these years has been fighting an insurgency that refuses to fight in the field. But if the insurgents formed a regular old nation state, it would be much easier to know where to drop the bombs.

Whatever happens in the next few weeks, lets just all remain calm and rational and not jump to any pro or anti-war conclusions. At this point the only thing we know for certain is that Obama has been lying when he tells us terrorism is on the run.

Reasons to Watch the USA at the World Cup

Soccer may not be America’s sport, but even the most hardcore American football fans must admit that the World Cup is a big deal. Other than the olympics, it is the only worldwide sporting event that people actually care about. It is without doubt the biggest sporting event in the world. That is why I don’t believe you can call yourself a patriot if you don’t cheer on the USA in Brazil this summer. 

People on the left and right both bemoan a lack of national institution that bind all americans together. We used to have the military draft, but Vietnam showed that conscription could divide us just as easily as it could unite us. I think the US soccer team is a perfect institution to fill this void. Here are a few reasons:

1) It is apolitical. No Republicans and Democrats here.

2) The team is multi-ethnic, multi-racial etc. What’s more American than diversity?

3) We are underdogs. Lets face it, USA isn’t a favorite to win the World Cup. But we weren’t a favorite to beat the British either. Americans love underdogs.

4) We are getting better at soccer. No longer are we an international embarrassment on the pitch.

5) Being a USA fan is a ton of fun. Look around the stadium at matches and you will see the “American Outlaws” having a great time.

6) If we manage to become better than the Europeans at soccer, we will finally be better than them at pretty much everything. 

7) Clint Dempsey is a man’s man’s man.

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With these things in mind, go out and cheer on the USA this summer. It will be a great way to unify the nation before the 2014 elections tear us apart.