Left or Right?

During basic training in the military, we did a lot of marching shouting out jody calls to help us keep our cadence count as we were moving as a unit.  One of the chants was:  “Sound off 1-2, Sound off 3-4.  Sound off 1-2-3-4, 1-2 – 3-4.”  We also wanted to make certain that we were all marching on the same foot, so we would say: “To your left, your right, your left. To your left, your right, your left.  If you had a wife and 15 kids, you would have left; you would have left, you would have left, right now.”

I did my basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi, during the summer months.  We used to kid each other about holding a pebble in your right hand, so you would always remember which direction was right, just in case the heat fried your brain.  But it was interesting that we always wanted to know which side was right and not left.  Right was the important side, while left was just the other side.

As I got older, I found out that I was ambidextrous and could play tennis both right and left handed.  This came in handy when I had tennis elbow in my right arm, since I just simply switched hands.  My opponents said they didn’t even notice that I switched sides.  That either means that I was so bad right handed that they didn’t notice when I switched hands, or that they were paying me a nice compliment.

So, I grew up not really favoring the right or left side.  Even in politics, I always looked for the best candidate.  Before I could vote, I remember liking Adlai Stevenson, a Democrat, because I thought he was a very thoughtful politician.  Even then, I knew that he was an anomaly in politics.  I liked Ronald Reagan, a Republican, because he knew how to delegate and he accepted the blame for failures of his people.  After Papa Bush, I did not have any favorite presidents, either Republican or Democrat, but I liked what I read about President Truman, a Democrat.

As a moderate, I really prefer the middle, but as our society becomes more polarized, it has become increasingly difficult to remain in the center.  Both left and right wing extremists make you feel incompetent if you do not choose a side.

It is interesting that the Bible does take sides.  Jesus told his followers to fish out of the right side of the boat.  He also said that the goats, not entering heaven, would be on the left side, and the sheep, entering heaven, would be on the right.  Ecclesiastes 10:2 states, “A wise man’s heart is at his right hand, but a fool’s heart at his left.”

It is important to remember that Jesus preached temperance and moderation, but there are times when you have to choose a side.  And the Bible is telling you that the right, meaning correct, side is naturally right.  Jesus taught us to honor the poor and love your neighbor, which sounds very similar to left wing comments.

But there is a difference.  Jesus meant it, while socialist leaders do not.  The truth is that both left and right wing leaders are most interested in promoting their own interests.  It would be wonderful if Jesus were running for President.  I trust him and would vote for him.  However, there is no politician running for office, who even remotely resembles Jesus.  Politicians all have evil intent and motives.

So, when is the right side the right choice?  It is the extreme position that you must take when there is no more room in the middle.  When Jesus reached the end of his days on earth, he knocked over the money-changers table and took more extreme positions to make his points more effectively.  And not much is more extreme than being tortured and crucified.  All this was done to save mankind.  When all the bridges crossing the middle are destroyed, you must remain on the right and wait for the end of days, which will include torture and death at the hand of the left.

America’s Two-Party System

The Founding Fathers had two opposite magnetic poles that attracted American citizens.  One was a group led by Alexander Hamilton, George Washington’s secretary of the treasury, who believed that the common man should not control the government.  Hamilton argued that a president for life would be the best course of action, similar to the crown in England.  He thought that mob rule would take over if left to the common man.  The followers of Hamilton were called Federalists (federal rights).

Thomas Jefferson, George Washington’s secretary of state, led the other side, which believed that the people could rule themselves and that the Federalists would promote a dictatorship by taking away powers from the people and the states, giving them to the federal government.  Jefferson wanted a nation of farmers who needed few laws governing them.  The followers of Jefferson were called Republicans (citizens’ and states’ rights).

But these two parties agreed on two important items:  (1) they wanted to do the right thing and (2) they wanted to serve the public.  They just disagreed on how best to do that.  Interestingly, the presidents during this “Founding Fathers” period of time were very independent, and did not follow their party line in all cases.  They did what they believed was best for their country even if they didn’t get reelected.

The evolution of the two-party system has swapped names around so that it is a bit confusing.  The Hamilton Federalists later became Republicans, and the Jefferson Republicans later became Democrats.  However, today the old Republicans are the new Democrats, and the old Democrats are now new Republicans.  It will make it easier if I differentiate the parties with a reference to their ideology at that particular time.  For example, the Hamilton Federalists would be designated by (federal rights) while the Jefferson Republicans would be categorized as (citizens’ and states’ rights).

But because of the maverick spirit of the early presidents, it was never crystal clear about party alignments.  George Washington, the first president, was a very successful independent president by setting a middle course for our young country and never affiliating with any party.  John Adams, the second president of the United States was a Federalist (federal rights), but he lost favor with that party when he went with his conscience and not the edicts of the party.  He was successful though because he avoided a war with France that could have destroyed our young, fragile nation.  Even though Thomas Jefferson, the third president, represented the Republicans, he still followed his conscience.  He was also successful by purchasing the Louisiana Territory.  James Madison, the fourth president, also a Republican, did what he thought was right during his two terms, but he got wrapped up in the War of 1812, which drove the federal debt up for the first time since the Revolutionary War.  He still was a success by winning the war.  James Monroe, the fifth president, also a Republican, created the “Era of Good Feeling” with his expansion of territory and decrease in spending.  Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe all only ran for two terms, believing that it was improper in our democracy for them to stay any longer.  The first five presidents were both independent and successful.

John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, was independent like his father.  Even though he was elected also as a Federalist (federal rights), he voted for what he believed to be right and not what the party wanted.  This guaranteed one term for both men.  But John Quincy Adams was not as successful as his father.  He was a cold and distant person and had no abilities to compromise.

Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, was elected as a Democratic Republican (citizens’ and states’ rights) over the new National Republican party (federal rights).  Jackson’s party eventually became just the Democratic party, while the Republican party became the Whig party.  Even though Jackson believed in states’ rights, he drew the line with South Carolina declaring that it would not comply with a federal tariff.  Jackson was ready to send in federal troops to enforce the federal law.  It was interesting that many of the early presidents were independent enough to ignore the ideologies of their party lines and stand up for what they thought was right.  Jackson certainly fit this mold.  He vetoed more bills from Congress than any president up to his time, but Jackson was very successful.  The federal debt “flat lined” through Jackson’s administration and over the next thirty years.  It wasn’t until 1860 that the federal debt started climbing, building up to the Civil War.

Martin Van Buren, the eighth president, a Democrat, tried to do the right thing, but he was blindsided by a deep depression caused by land speculation and liberal borrowing of money.  Van Buren was unsuccessful as a president, but it wasn’t really his fault.  American citizens couldn’t blame themselves, so they blamed Van Buren.  William Henry Harrison, the ninth president, was elected as a Whig (federal rights), but he lived only for a few months and obtained no success during that short period.  His vice-president, John Tyler, also a Whig, assumed the presidency.  Tyler stood his ground and supported states’ rights even though his party did not.  Tyler also was a single term president because of his independent positions, but he was unsuccessful because both parties hated him.

James Polk was elected the eleventh president as a Democrat (citizens’ and states’ rights).  Even though he was involved in a war with Mexico, it was one of the few wars that did not dramatically increase the federal debt.  In the peace treaty, America obtained California, Nevada, and part of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.  Polk was a very successful president.

Millard Fillmore, the thirteen president, assumed this office as a Whig (federal rights) after his predecessor, Zachary Taylor, died suddenly after contracting an illness on July 4th, a year after he was elected on the Whig ticket.  Taylor wasn’t president long enough to be successful, but Fillmore was a success.  Even though Fillmore was from a party that supported a strong federal government and that was against slavery, he was independent and followed what he believed.  He was a big influence on the Compromise of 1850, which made California a free state and enacted the Fugitive Slave Act allowing slave owners to recapture slaves who escaped to free states.  Fillmore was the last Whig president as that party disintegrated after the compromise.  Fillmore also was the last successful independent president until Abraham Lincoln.

Franklin Pierce, a northerner, was elected as the fourteenth president, as a Democrat (citizens’ and states’ rights).  Pierce was one of the first presidents who followed his party line and not his conscience.  He started a string of presidents who followed a strict party policy.  Pierce followed his party and promoted the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed the citizens in those territories to decide whether it wanted slavery or not.  This was the tinder box that set a fire that led to the Civil War because it allowed extremists to operate and take over in those territories.

James Buchanan, the fifteenth president, was also a Democrat (citizens’ and states’ rights).  He did not take a strong stand on much anything.  With two weak presidents in a row, the extremists within America took over and ran us headlong into war.  Buchanan did not want to make anybody angry, especially his party, so he avoided confrontation.  But the country needed a strong, independent leader to avoid the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president, was elected as a Republican (federal rights and anti-slavery).  Lincoln was a much more capable president than Pierce and Buchanan, but he did not have much experience, so he was polarized by his party into denouncing both states’ rights and slavery.  If he had been more experienced and followed his own beliefs, he would have selected only one issue – slavery.  Slavery was on its way out anyway and clearly was against America’s principle of a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.  If Lincoln had ignored the states’ rights issue, he, at a minimum, would have shortened the Civil War and may have avoided it altogether.  Lincoln also gave in to his party when they proposed military leaders like Erwin McDowell, who was a political staff officer who should never have led the Union soldiers in the First Battle of Manassas.  Other political appointments of officers led to the early years of losses to the Confederates on the battlefield.  After General Ulysses Grant, who was not political, was given command of the Union army, things turned around.  As Lincoln gained experience, he exercised his executive power more than other presidents had done in the past.  He finally recognized the legitimate reason for the Civil War and delivered the Emancipation Proclamation speech after the Battle of Gettysburg on September 22, 1862.  Lincoln had many good qualities that helped him get through a very difficult period for our country, but his inexperience hurt him in his early years of his presidency.  He became a successful independent president after September 22, 1862.  There was a hiatus in independent successful presidents until Theodore Roosevelt in 1901.

Of the first sixteen presidents, nine were successful independent presidents:  Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, Madison, Jackson, Polk, Fillmore, and Lincoln.

The Reconstruction period paraded a series of Republican (federal rights and big business) presidents who were controlled by Congress.  Andrew Johnson and Rutherford Hays should be given credit during this period for attempting to do what they thought was right, but Congress and big business were just too powerful, and these presidents were not successful in their efforts.  Johnson, the seventeenth president, was impeached by Congress when he attempted to do what he thought was right.  Hayes, the nineteenth president, tried to clean up politics, but Congress and big businesses had too much power as America rolled into becoming an industrialized nation.  Ulysses Grant (eighteenth president), James Garfield (twentieth president), and Chester Arthur (the twenty-first president) were all weak presidents who conceded to their parties and Congress, leading to widespread corruption within the government.  The Republicans became more of a party supporting big business and drifted away from promoting federal rights.

Grover Cleveland, the twenty-second and twenty-fourth president, was elected as a Democrat (citizens’ and states’ rights), who was going to bring a change along with an honest government.  He also brought a change to the Democratic party, which became less focused on states’ rights and more centered on laborers and small businessmen.  Cleveland made his decisions based on what he thought was right and not what his party dictated or what was popular.  However, he wasn’t successful.  That’s why he lost to Benjamin Harrison, the twenty-third president, on the Republican (big business) ticket.  But Harrison, who supported high tariffs and big business, lost the following election to Cleveland as farmers, labor, and small businessmen voted for the Democrat (small business).  The pendulum continued to swing back and forth between the two parties as William McKinley, a Republican, was elected after Cleveland’s second term.  All these presidents, as a general rule, followed their party line.

It wasn’t until the colorful twenty-sixth president, Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican (big business), was vaulted into the presidency after McKinley was shot and killed, that successful independence returned to the presidency.  Roosevelt recognized a new division within America, not between federal and states’ rights, but between the rich and the poor.  Even though he was a Republican, he set out on his own to protect the small businesses and workers.  Roosevelt was the first president to successfully follow his own set of values since Millard Fillmore, about a 50-year hiatus.  Roosevelt busted up many of the big business trusts.  He also saved the natural resources in America by establishing national parks and forests.  This highly popular president easily won a second term.

William Taft, the twenty-seventh president, also a Republican, attempted to follow-up on many of Roosevelt’s programs, but he was not as aggressive as his predecessor.  Although competent, Roosevelt was a tough act to follow, and Taft looked weak by comparison.  He was a party man, too complacent to be labeled as an independent.

We continued the swing back and forth between parties as Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat (citizens’ and states’ rights), was elected as the twenty-eighth president.  Wilson championed the rights of the people, following the party position.  Wilson was in power during WWI when the federal debt escalated to about what it was during the Civil War.  After Wilson, Warren Harding, a Republican (big business), became the twenty-ninth president.  He was a loyal Republican who voted the party line.  He died in office and Calvin Coolidge, another Republican (big business), kept things going for big business.  Coolidge said, “And the business of government was to keep out of business.”  Herbert Hoover, a Republican (big business), was the thirty-first president.  Hoover inherited the Great Depression, but he still did not want to interfere with businesses through government regulation.

Franklin Roosevelt, the thirty-second president, a distant cousin to Teddy Roosevelt, was a Democrat (citizens’ and states’ rights).  Roosevelt really was an independent and kept to himself for the most part.  He was the architect for an expansive and expensive federal government.  The Democrat party suddenly looked a lot like the old Federalist, Whig, and Republican parties that championed federal rights.  He became the leader of a Democratic party that now represented the people through the federal government (big government).  He created new federal departments and spent money at a rate never seen before in our country.  He modified his party’s platform to use the full power of the federal government to champion the rights of Americans and small businesses.  He created a larger federal government to get America back on its feet.  The change was perhaps one of emphasis.  The emphasis was on a larger government.  He was elected for a fourth term, more terms than any other president, as a Democrat (big government) but he died in office.

Harry Truman, also a Democrat (big government), became the thirty-third president with the shadow of Franklin Roosevelt over him.  Truman, like both Roosevelt’s, was his own man.  Even though Truman had some shady political ties in Missouri, he stepped up and made the tough decisions, such as dropping the first atomic bomb.  There was no passing the buck with Truman because as he said, “The buck stops here.”  He was from Independence, Missouri, and he was truly independent.  During the Korean War, he took on a very popular General McArthur, but Truman did not back away from making the difficult decisions, and he was generally right.  Even though Truman was able to decrease the rate of federal spending, he still incurred heavy expenses in WWII and the Korean War and our government continued to grow.

Dwight Eisenhower was elected the thirty-fourth president because he was a likeable war hero.  His slogan was, “I like Ike.”  He was a Republican, but his party’s philosophy didn’t look that much different from the Democrat (big government) beliefs.  He pretty much followed the party line and was not considered to be a strong president.  However, he was able to continue a decrease in federal spending even with continued growth in the government building interstate roads and other projects.

John Kennedy was the next independent president after Truman.  He also was a Democrat (big government) elected as the thirty-fifth president based on his personal charm and wealth.  He attracted smart independent advisors, and he was willing to go against the military, corporate, and political powers.  The Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile Crisis were both headaches for his administration.  Kennedy was assassinated, but we still do not know why.

Lyndon Johnson, the thirty-sixth president, returned to the Democratic party (big government) mantra.  Johnson started a group of presidents, whether Democrat or Republican, who followed their party line of increasing the size of the federal government, carrying right up to the present.  The Democrats might argue for increased taxes, and the Republicans might decrease taxes, but otherwise the two parties contributed to a higher federal deficit.  Johnson, unlike Kennedy, embraced big government, big business, and big military.  Richard Nixon, the thirty-seventh president, was a Republican, but it was difficult distinguishing him from Johnson except that Nixon got caught.  After his resignation, a very honest president, Gerald Ford, took his place, but Ford ran into an inflationary recession and didn’t have time to make his mark on the presidency.  Jimmy Carter, the thirty-ninth president, was an inexperienced Democrat who struggled to find his identity and the Democrat party fared no better.  Nixon, Ford, and Carter were able to maintain a reasonable federal budget, but the next president, Ronald Reagan, started the elevator rising to the giant federal debt that we have today.  He didn’t initiate this with the growth of federal government as much as he did with tax decreases.  The reduced taxes increased the debt.

Ronald Reagan, the fortieth president, finally defined and designed the new Republican party.  Reagan was the pioneer leader of this Republican party (business/small government), modifying its big business role to embrace less federal government.  The Republicans became a party that wanted to make the government smaller, making businesses less regulated and less taxed.  Now, the lines were clearly drawn between Republicans (business/small government/less taxes) and Democrats (unions/large government/more taxes).  Since Reagan actually formulated the new Republican party, he did not deviate from what the party line.  He was independent in that he created what he believed in.  And because of his firm ideological beliefs, he was able to dismantle the Soviet Union.  However, the costs for the federal government were increasing under both parties now.

George H.W. Bush, the forty-first president, continued following the Republican ideological philosophy.  Bush was one of our best war presidents.  During the First Gulf War, he formed a coalition of nations to remove Hussein from Kuwait.  Bush announced the objective and turned over the strategy and tactics of war to the military and let them do their job.  It is a lost art called “delegation” that few presidents ever learned.  William Clinton became the forty-second president as a Democrat, still pursuing what was best for a larger government.  Clinton was lucky to see a decrease in the federal budget because of the boost in the economy, giving the government more tax revenue and better profits on its investments. George W. Bush was the forty-third president, following the Republican movement to minimize government and reduce regulations on businesses.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sent our federal debt spiraling up into the stratosphere.  Bush understood neither the power of coalitions nor international law like his father did, so America lost some of its moral luster.

Barrack Obama, the forty-fourth president, was perhaps the biggest Democratic champion for a larger government.  We have seen our federal debt go over $16 trillion and watch as Standard & Poor’s downgraded our country’s credit rating from AAA to AA+.  With our debt increasing over $1 trillion each year, we are reaching a fiscal tipping point.

In summary, the first five presidents from George Washington to James Madison carried an aura of successful independence about them that may have carried over from being the “Founding Fathers.”  Jackson, Polk, Fillmore, and Lincoln were the next four successful independent presidents, but this combination wasn’t seen again until Teddy Roosevelt came crashing onto the scene.  Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan were the last presidents who exercised successful independent spirits.  I believe that Lincoln fit in the category of independent successful presidents after September 22, 1862, when he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Also in my opinion, Reagan did what he thought was right as another successful independent, which matched the new party line that he had created.

In effect, I argue that there were only 14 out of 44 presidents who were successful at doing the right thing for their country even at the risk of not getting reelected.  The most successful presidents were independent, but still knew how to build coalitions.  The least successful presidents were those who just simply followed the party line or who refused to compromise or work with anybody.  I think we could use another independent president, but if we have already reached the tipping point, I don’t know if they could be successful.

Moderates in the World Need to Unite

A “moderate” is described in Webster’s Dictionary as “within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme.”  It can also be defined as “of average quality or quantity; mediocre.”[1]

Moderation could be “average,” which has bad connotations, but this is not the definition that I am referencing.  It is the moderate who avoids excessive or extreme positions that is the role model for all.  A business or political leader is aggressive, assertive, and sometimes even zealous.  These are good qualities in many societies, especially in a capitalistic system.  However, moderation, which is opposed to extreme or radical views or measures, should be the goal of all societies in order to promote external peace and order.  But, other benefits of moderation include internal peace and a longer life.

Hopefully, the moderates still represent the majority of people in the world today.  At least, moderates seem to be in control for now.  “Moderation in all that you do,” should be your marching order for the rest of your life.  The problem with excessive behavior by individuals, groups, or civilizations is that it leads to other excessive behavior.  For every action, there is an equal, but opposite, reaction.  This means that for every excessive action, there will be an equal, but opposite, excessive reaction.  It may not occur immediately, but, eventually, it will happen.  And this creates a process of polarization, which erodes the moderation within a society.  Follow the golden rule of Jesus and the golden mean or Aristotle.

The majority of people in the world are moderate until provoked or polarized into an excessive position.  It really is not the nature of Homo sapiens to be excessive since it would have gotten prehistoric man into a great deal of trouble with the more aggressive animals.  The gene pool included moderation in forming Homo sapiens, a species that emphasized personal well being, the family, and staying out of harm’s way.  Since Homo sapiens do not have a hard shell or sharp teeth or claws, they had to survive by using their brain.  They did that by playing the odds and taking a more moderate, conservative approach to life.  Man did not have the protections necessary in order to be a great risk taker.  This is probably one reason why Homo sapiens survived, and Neanderthal man did not.  A tiger, lion, or wolf pack could take man down if he strayed too far from his comfort zone.

Polarization is a process that pulls and tugs at the middle, tearing it into two opposite poles like a magnet.  As an example, we see America very divided today similar to the way it was divided in the 1860′s.  Americans are not happy with Democrats or Republicans right now.  A Republican disappoints the voters, then Americans will predictably rush to a Democrat who promises change, leading the country into an endless circle of excessive responses.

The moderate voters, whether Republican or Democrat, rarely have a candidate who represents them.  Why is that?  One reason is because typically only extremists run for President.  Only somebody with a huge ego or with extreme ambition would be willing to take on the job.  Another reason is that a moderate in politics cannot be successful since the special interest groups and minorities are extremists who do not support a moderate candidate.

Our society has become polarized by the two major political parties.  The moderates disappear quickly with this scenario.  The Democrats represent the left or liberal extreme who champion the poor and minorities, while the Republicans represent the right or conservative extreme who are representatives for business and military.  But who represents the middle-class, moderate American?

Polarization can also occur between different religions.  Catholics and Protestants have had their days of fighting, especially in Ireland.  The Jews have been persecuted for years, but today they are known for their ability to retaliate, so their enemies are more discriminating in their attacks.  Extremism in religion comes from the Old Testament.  When Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists attack Israeli soldiers, the Israelis punish them with like kind action, an eye for eye.  Religions have not been free of extremist approaches:  witch trials, Crusades, religious persecutions, and terrorist bombings.

Even the religions have internal polarization.  The Shiite and Sunni Muslims fight constantly over small differences in their religion.  So, let’s examine some good examples when things turned out for the better.  The religious problems in Ireland were resolved, for the most part, after the boundary between Northern and Southern Ireland was erased.  The same happened in Europe and the United States.  The moderates regained control in those regions also because it was good business.  Excessive behavior is expensive and very destructive.

Extremism generally involves two opposite sides, but the real opposite is moderation.  Both left and right wing extremists consider moderates fair game to woo to their side.  If the moderate refuses to budge, then both extremists consider the moderate the enemy.  For example, in Iraq if a moderate family tries to avoid Sunni and Shiite pressures to be on one side or the other, the family is in jeopardy of being killed by either Sunni or Shiite.  The middle ground soon is gone.

There were many times in our history when moderation went out the window:  the French Revolution and the Civil War are just two examples.  During these times, moderation vanished as everybody was drawn to one side or the other.  You would have found it very difficult to sit on the fence during these periods.

Extremism can be seen even in family lives.  It can be as simple as a child sticking his tongue out at Uncle Bob, and then Dad responding with inappropriate punishment to the child and perhaps Uncle Bob, as well.  I am not saying that you should never punish your children.  This is another extreme.  But I am saying that you should take a moderate approach to your punishment, making it fair and consistent.  A hand raised in anger does not meet out appropriate punishment.

The recent killing of innocent school children in Connecticut probably will be analyzed for years and never will be completely understood.  However, there are some important lessons from this nightmare.  When a society starts its descent into a chaotic environment, members of that society will take extreme actions, some of which will make no sense.  As America loses its focus on religion and moral structure, we will see more of these extreme reactions.  As America’s youth spends more of its time using social media, rather than socializing face-to-face, you will see our society becoming less stable and less human.

The excesses in our lives take their toll on us physically and mentally.  Stress comes from aggressive behavior either practiced by you, by others against you, or both.  It is important to stay balanced throughout life, not straying too far to either extreme side.  Stress cannot only change our personality, but it also can impact our health.  The tempering of our emotions can prevent health problems over the course of our lives.

So what has happened?  We have great confidence in ourselves.  We can destroy our competitors, enemies, other animals, or whatever is in our way.  We are kings and queens of the world.  We love to look in the mirror, and we like what we see.

We also have become overpopulated in our world.  This overpopulation created friction among our species.  If you don’t believe that, just compare how people act in the city of New York with Dry Ridge, Kentucky.  But even Dry Ridge is starting to experience growth and some friction.

Decisive moderation is the best approach to avoid excesses.  Decisive moderation means that you are not excessive about anything except being moderate.  An example would be if somebody came up to you and said, “Let’s go skydiving.”  Since this seems to be an excessive activity, you might say, “I don’t want to.”  But your friend says, “Oh, come on.  It’ll be fun.”  And you respond, “No, I don’t think so; it sounds a bit dangerous.”  But your friend doesn’t give up.  “Come on.  How do you know it’s dangerous if you’ve never tried it.”  You answer, “I don’t have to jump out of a plane to know it’s dangerous.”

A decisive moderate is a person who refuses to take these risks no matter how much pressure is applied by another person.  This moderate never took illegal drugs and never went over twenty miles over the speed limit.  Decisive moderation is a good thing.  There are times when I wished the world were filled with decisive moderates.  This moderate will never give in to the emotional arguments that are designed to pull you to one excessive side or the other.

Initially, you may have to emphasize “decisive moderation” and fight fire with fire in order to get terrorism under control.  For example, the extremist terrorist cells may have to be countered with moderate Muslim counter-terrorist cells.  In America, we could form anti-terrorist cells, as well, consisting of federal and state law enforcement officials with an Assistant U.S. Attorney on call for these cells when they need legal assistance and guidance.  These cells would have full autonomy delegated to them, no different than the terrorist cells.[2]

But, we should always keep the big picture, moderation, in mind.  Once the moderates have eliminated the terrorist cells, we should disband the anti-terrorist cells.  To continue with these excessive responses would be excessive in quantity and would be inconsistent with the goal of moderation.  We should leave this future work to the moderate Muslims.

Further, the global economy is a perfect background for coalition building to defeat the terrorists.  Countries who want to reap the benefits from being a part of the global economy will join forces to prevent terrorism, which is harmful to this economy.

One of the greatest mysteries in life is transformation. There are many transformations… we are all familiar with our own from childhood into adulthood and from life to death.  But we should start with one less familiar to us… from azurite to malachite or from blue to green.

I am an amateur geologist… if you don’t believe me, look at all my books in the bookcase.  I have “Roadside Geology” books for most of the states or sections of the United States.  I have books on physical and structural geology.  I have field guides to rocks and minerals.  And I spent a lot of time examining the rocks and minerals in the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

The mineral pyrite also called “fool’s gold” is easily mistaken for native gold.[3]  Since gold is a very valuable mineral, it draws men from all over the world who will gamble their very existence on finding the mother lode.  In order to find it, moderates must use a built-in moral compass.  Extremists are easily satisfied with pyrite, which is easy to find without using any compass at all.

Extremists in the world can be transformed into taking a more moderate approach to life through negotiation.  Agreements and accords are reached through negotiation.  Negotiation can lead to compromises and concessions that reach a middle ground somewhere between two extreme positions.  Negotiation offers a means to reach compromises between extreme groups.

If we assume that the majority of Muslims are moderates, which is probably true, then we might encourage our political leaders to take the opportunity to work with them to form a peace pact to manage the Middle East, the ‘Stans, and Africa.  This opportunity might disappear if a civil war kicks off or if a war erupts between Israel and Arab countries.  Now is the best time to make this effort.

However, there is absolutely no guarantee that it will be successful, but there also is no guarantee that it will fail.  As long as there is any chance at all, it is worth the effort.  It would be similar to what President Carter did with Egypt and Israel in the 1970’s.  He brought the moderate leaders together.

Carl Von Clausewitz, a war strategist from Prussia, described war as a political instrument to achieve the political objective of a state.[4]  President George H.W. Bush announced that the political objective in Desert Storm was to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait and he allowed the military to do its job, which it did with great efficiency.  Many Americans criticized President Bush for not going into Baghdad at that time, but it would have been a violation of international law since it was outside the scope of our announced political objective.  This is a great example of how presidents should handle wars and act as the Commander in Chief.

The international laws are important not only for the Commander in Chief but all within our government, military and civilian, to follow for several reasons:  (1) with globalization tugging at America’s crown as the surviving superpower, America needs to be a part of the globalization process, working closer with the international community, including closely following international laws; (2) the basis for international law is found in principles of warfare taken from the Old Testament and espoused by religious leaders, so that violations of these old laws go against the grain of civilized society; (3) one of the practical reasons for following this law is that it makes it easier and less costly during rehabilitation and reconstruction of the invaded country;  (4) over the years, experts have learned that failures to follow the law do not offer any benefits to the violators, rather instead, they only usher in detriments; and (5) the contemporary world does not like America with its wealth, power, and its arrogant hegemony, so it is important that America play by the moderate rules of international law, avoiding extreme positions that fuel enemy extremists.

America has an open window of opportunity to provide global stability by following international law and leading the moderates in the world with a calm-assertive approach to fighting the terrorists.  This does not mean a passive approach.  The terrorists will just run over a passive opponent.  But it does mean avoiding extreme approaches that do not have good results anyway.

For example, our federal government has targeted terrorists for assassination.  This does not have any appearance of following the laws of humanity, a core international law, since it is a murder for hire.  Even if politicians argue that they have the right to kill terrorists as a right to self defense, it sends the wrong message to the world.

And what will this accomplish?  Typically, if you kill one terrorist or terrorist leader, ten more will pop up in their place.  It is not reasonable or intelligent to take this action, even if attorneys find the action legally sufficient.  I would always provide legal advice, letting my client know that even though an action that they were considering might be legal, it was also stupid.

Arbitrary and extreme practices of the United States will isolate it from the rest of the world and could impact our economy, especially if we are using our resources by ourselves to put out fires within the world.  A much better approach is to form coalitions and get consensus and support from other countries.  America cannot afford to be a cowboy in today’s world.  The stakes are much higher with weapons of mass destruction in the hands of fanatical groups that will not hesitate to use them, ignoring international laws.  We must abide by the international laws so that we can attract all the moderates in the world to join us in our war against the terrorists, for it is truly their war too.

Forming coalitions is a lost art in America.  President George H.W. Bush did a great job of bringing countries together to remove Iraq from Kuwait.  He even had two Arab countries joining with the 41 other countries to remove Hussein.  Coalition building is what is necessary in today’s excessive environment.  For example, the Election of 2012 showed how a candidate, who is on the ropes, can work with different ethnic groups to get out the votes in order to win an election.  The Republicans did not understand this simple approach to winning.  And forming coalitions is critical in everything we do today.

The reason why it is critical for America to throw in with the moderates of the world is that they are the best weapons against the extremism of terrorism.  It is through the moderate Muslims that we have the best chance to create stability in the Middle East and to neutralize the fanatics.  Right now, the moderates are in the majority, but if we continue our course, we will alienate and polarize them, so they will join the fundamentalist side of the Islamic faith.  The moderate Muslims currently have the opportunity to educate, infiltrate, and annihilate the extremists within their own religion.

What would happen if the young terrorists realized that there were no virgins waiting for them after they died?  What would happen if the terrorists realized that their families would get no money for their martyrdom?  What if terrorists realized that the Koran and Mohammad did not support their activities?  What if moderate Muslims infiltrated the terrorist cells and neutralized them?  Could moderate cells eliminate extreme cells?

The dual powers in the Cold War did not pull the trigger because each knew the consequences and took a reasonable approach of détente.  But America cannot count on a reasonable approach from the terrorists, and you cannot negotiate with them, so where does that leave you?  President George H. Bush, who did not form coalitions like his father, decided to arbitrarily smash and kill.  This was not the right direction for our country.  His invasion of Afghanistan was a reasonable initial approach when he had the backing of the world community.  It was similar to a policeman’s “hot pursuit” into a different jurisdiction.  But his next invasion overstepped the bounds of reason.  And it upset the balance of power in the Middle East, leaving Iran with the ability to obtain nuclear capability and to support terrorism.

Since you cannot negotiate with terrorists, you negotiate with the moderates in the Middle East and Muslims throughout the world to promote peace and stability.  That is something that will unify the majority.  In order to reach the bargaining table, we have to come with clean hands.  In other words, we have to be moderate in all that we do.  Talk is cheap.  We need to find moderate leaders with moderate national security policies, following up with action that is a mirror-image of these policies.  There is a hunger within many of the Middle East countries, including Israel, to stop the bleeding and the pain.  It is time to take advantage of this and form coalitions with moderates within the world.

The terrorists are much more afraid of moderates unifying than all the invasions and assassinations that Bush could orchestrate within twenty years.  This is why they killed Sadat.  The terrorists assassinate moderate leaders before they ever worry about extremist leaders, because they fully appreciate the damage that moderates could do to their cause.  Extremist leaders, in more cases than not, actually help their cause, since extremists begat extremists.  In other words, opposite positions will polarize moderates and pull them into an extreme position.

The new world will not see dual super powers again.  The next nuclear proliferation problem will be between fanatical groups and regionalized conflicts throughout the world using weapons of mass destruction.  That is why the moderates in America and the world better come together while they can.  That opportunity will disappear after the first nuclear weapon is detonated… which will probably be either in the United States or Israel.

Today, nineteen fanatics can have a major impact on America.  There is no practical way to protect ourselves from such an enemy, but we have a history of operating in a reactive mode, throwing our money at the last mode of attack, rather than being proactive and outthinking the enemy.

It is important to know your enemy.  Our politicians have not done their homework.  We must first understand the motives and passions of our enemies and attack that foundation rather than individuals who appear on our radar scope.  The War against Terrorism is not a regular land war where we have our soldiers lined up in a battle against their soldiers and where you do gain advantages by killing the enemy.  We must strike, instead, at the heart of the terrorist movement, their fundamental base.  And we must strike them from within.  Again, moderate Muslims can do this if you gain their trust and enlist their support.

 



[1] George Webster, Webster’s Dictionary (NY:

[2] Supra, Chapter 4, How can we Wage a War against Terrorism?

[3] Charles W. Chesterman, The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals

      (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1978), p. 375.

[4] Carl Von Clausewitz, On War,1968, p. 75.

What is the Cost of Obamacare?

The Cincinnati Enquirer’s front-page article on August 10th entitled “Who pays health care law’s tax hikes?” asks a great question.  Unfortunately, neither Democrats nor Republicans have answered this question.

Perhaps, it’s because Americans can’t handle the truth.  Or perhaps, it’s because the answer is hidden so deep within the hundreds of pages of complex legislation that nobody really knows the answer.  Or perhaps, nobody really cares until they feel the actual sting.

Quite frankly, I’m amazed that legislation of this magnitude was passed without anybody, especially politicians, having a better understanding of the potential fiscal and physical consequences.  Clearly, somebody is going to pay for the health care law.  And it certainly will cost more than just tax increases.

Obamacare is expected to cost $1.68 trillion of new spending in its first decade, according to Charles Krauthammer’s research.  Who is going to pay this cost for Obamacare?  And what about the increased deductibles that hospitals will charge those on Medicare?  And what about the loss of medical services because physicians will not accept those on Medicare?  How do you measure those costs?

Well, I wouldn’t have any problem with this answer:  We all are going to pay.  How much is it going to cost?  We don’t know, yet, but it’s going to hurt everybody.

Ruling on Obamacare May Not Be What it Seems

Chief Justice’s John G. Roberts surprised many liberals and conservatives alike when he upheld the centerpiece for Obamacare as constitutional under the taxing power of Congress.  But I was surprised only by Roberts’ method of permitting the insurance mandate.  The law was carefully crafted as a penalty, not a tax.  But the ruling may not be what it seems.  It actually may hurt the reelection chances for Obama and Democrats.

What?  Am I finally ready to check into the old-folks home?  Is it early dementia setting in?  How can Roberts’ upholding the health care law’s individual insurance mandate hurt the president in his campaign?  Well, think about it.  I believe Justice Roberts, a conservative who was appointed by President George G. Bush, gave his decision a lot of thought.  If the Supreme Court had struck down this law as unconstitutional, Obama would avoid the train-wreck that awaits him and could then blame the Republicans for voters not receiving health coverage.  Also, Obama must now face the wrath of voters who have been told by the Supreme Court that the “penalty” is actually a tax.  Wow!  That’s almost like calling Obama a liar.

As it stands, the Republicans now have a strong rallying cry, reminiscent of “Remember the Alamo.”  It’s “Repeal Obamacare.”  If the Republican strategists were planning the Supreme Court decision, it could not have been much better.

I don’t like the precedent of giving the government even more power than it already has under the taxing authority.  I believe that a penalty is very different from a tax.  I know the expression, “If it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”  However, this health care requirement to purchase insurance or pay a penalty doesn’t sound like a tax to me.  It sounds pretty much like a penalty.  I suppose that we can now be happy that all fines for crimes can now be considered taxes.

America Needs Part-Time Politicians

Our founding fathers were part-time politicians, who returned to their day jobs after serving their country.  These were patriots who believed in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  They served the needs of American citizens.  They asked what they could do for their country, not what their country could do for them.

Today’s politicians, both Democrat and Republican, are full-time professional bureaucrats who serve only themselves.  It’s all about them and their political careers.  It’s nothing about America and Americans.  They are politicians of a party, by a party, and for a party.  The party is just a means for them to obtain political power and gains.  They don’t care about you.  They only care about themselves.

Our founding fathers believed in something higher than themselves.  Our current politicians believe in nothing higher than themselves.  Several years ago, I was in the Capitol with some of our friends visiting us in D.C..  Several Congressmen walked by with their noses stuck up.  They wanted nothing to do with the common people.  I can remember a time when Congressmen at least pretended that they cared about the citizens.

I saw in the news the other day that many Americans do not believe it matters who wins the next presidential election.  The economy would be about the same either way.  That’s another way of saying that Americans do not believe in the two-party system anymore.  They can vote a Democrat in for “change,” and then vote a Republican in for “change.”  But there never really is “change,” because politicians from both parties are the same.  They are only interested in serving themselves and not their constituents.

One way to bring politicians down to earth is to remove their incentives to become professional politicians.  Only permit one term.  Eliminate campaign contributions entirely.  Eliminate their ability to accept any compensation from third parties for any reason.  Enforce bribery laws.  Take away their retirement and health-benefit packages.

After taking away their benefits and rewards, the professional politicians will dry up and leave the political arena, hopefully leaving good part-time politicians who want to do something for their country and their countrymen.

America’s Real Federal Deficit

It shouldn’t surprise Americans that their government has not told them the whole truth about our federal deficit.  However, the “USA Today” on May 24, 2012, unveiled a more accurate accounting telling us how deep we are in debt… and it’s about four times deeper than we were told.

According to our executive and legislative branches, our federal budget deficit was $1.3 trillion in 2011.  The actual amount was $5 trillion after counting liabilities for Social Security, Medicare, and other federal retirement programs.  There is no logic in ignoring these large amounts except that it shows that we are deeper in the hole than we thought.  It is interesting that federal law requires companies to report retirement commitments in their financial statements, but the federal government exempts itself from this requirement.

This deficit would equal to $42,054 per household.  The last Census indicated that the median income per household was $49,445, leaving us all a whopping $7,391 to pay for our house, car, groceries, gasoline, utilities, health care costs, and other household expenses.

And don’t blame the Democrats or Republicans.  This is a “twofer” special where both parties share the blame.  Over the years, it hasn’t mattered which party ran Congress or the White House.  Both parties used the same accounting system to avoid counting the retirement benefits.

In case you planned on buying a home or car in the future, you should know that each household in the United States owes $561,254 of the federal debt.  I wonder if we can file for bankruptcy.

No Federal Oversight or Consequences

If you let your children run free without any oversight or allowed them to do anything they wanted without consequences, what would happen?  So, is the federal government any different?  Have federal managers and employees become delinquents and criminals without any moral restraint?

The latest scandals within the federal government involve the General Services Administration’s $800,000 training conference in Sin City and the Secret Service agents getting caught soliciting prostitutes in Columbia.  Both these incidents are examples of inappropriate behavior that evidence lack of oversight and consequences within the federal government.

I worked in the federal government for the last four decades, and I have seen the moral fiber of the government degeneraate.  These incidents, unfortunately, are not unique.  I know personally that this conduct is rampant throughout the federal government.

I know of senior executive service (SES) managers who drive luxury convertibles on personal exotic vacations at the government’s expense.  Since there is no oversight, nobody is holding them accountable.  I also am aware of thousands of “boondoggles” that are paid for by taxpayers.  I also am aware of unbelievable fraud, waste, and abuse in the federal government that goes on every minute of every day because there are no consequences.

Billions of dollars are spent each year on overlapping and duplicating government programs.  There also are billions of taxpayer dollars squandered on wasteful and fraudulent programs.  Who is minding the store?  In many cases, nobody.

Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma admitted that Congress is “numb to stupidity and waste.”  There are so many Bridges to Nowhere that Congress doesn’t even pay attention to them anymore.  Oversight is boring and hard work.  Congressmen are more interested in getting programs with pork that generate votes for them or that interest lobbyists .  Congressional oversight has a very low priority.  It is so low that in many cases, it doesn’t exist.

And both parties are to blame.  Both Democrats and Republicans fail equally and miserably.  They point the fingers at each other.  So the voters believe that the last party was the culprit when, in reality, the next politician they vote for will be no different.  Investigators and agents tell me that the tea party Congressmen have turned out to be no different.

Most Americans have no idea how bad it has become in the federal government.  The federal managers and leaders are so arrogant today that they openly commit fraud against the taxpayers.  I have heard them say that they don’t care what their employees do as long as they don’t make waves and draw attention to them.  They have lost touch with both American citizens and reality.

All this is a recipe for failure of our system.  In my opinion, the entire federal government should be fired for fraud and incompetence.  It would be interesting if we eliminated the federal government and then relied entirely on state and local government if things would be better.  If there is no federal oversight or consequences, then try no federal government.  I bet we wouldn’t even miss it.

 

Can You Handle the Truth?

One of the more memorable lines from the movie, “A Few Good Men,” was delivered by Jack Nicholson:  “You can’t handle the truth.”

This seems to apply to Americans today.  I can remember a time when the news media prided itself in reporting the facts and letting citizens apply the facts to draw their own conclusions.  Currently, the media is centered around politicians (both Republicans and Democrats), providing editorial comments to the public.  You don’t get many facts, but you get many opinions based on partisan politics.  If the media is not giving us the truth, then that is committing fraud on the American public.

Is it because we can’t handle the truth?  Or is it because the media and politicians don’t want you to know the truth?  The media is losing touch with American
citizens.  My book, “A Warrior for All Times – Col. John Boyd,” which is coming out later this year, discusses an innovative way of thinking that could bring the media back to reality and just reporting the facts.

I majored in Journalism at the University of Kentucky in the late ’60′s and recall a class on how to brainwash the public.  Today I think you could major in “Brainwashing” rather than Journalism.  For example, the federal government only counts people who are unemployed and looking for a job, not those who have given up on the job search.  Now when I was a reporter and later an editor, I always dug deeper.  If the government did not give me the truth or, in this case, the actual number of unemployed, I would report that the government was not providing the true number.  Then I would dig deeper to find the correct number.

I believe that the media either believes that you can’t handle the truth or they don’t want you to know the truth.  Either way, the media has sunk to even lower depths.

Unbalanced Powers

Our Founding Fathers designed a wonderful government whose powers were balanced.  The three branches of our government were given powers to watch each other so that one branch did not assume too much power and take control.  Currently, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches are more concerned about partisan politics than balancing powers.

My new book, “A Warrior for All Times – Col. John Boyd,” examines Boyd’s innovative thinking that could help America’s federal government today, which is unbalanced and wobbling off course.

On April 2, 2012, President Obama warned the Supreme Court that a rejection of his healthcare reform law would be an act of “judicial activism” that Republicans claim to oppose.

First of all, the Supreme Court is supposed to examine laws based on whether they are constitutional or not.  President Obama indicated that it would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step if the Supreme Court overturned a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.  This is a scary statement.  Either our president has not read the Constitution or he is practicing politics.  Since I’m quite certain that the president is more than familiar with the Constitution, he is playing his political card.

The Constitution established the Supreme Court to do just what the president said they couldn’t do.  The Justices examine laws passed by Congress to determine if the law is constitutional.  It is not unprecedented at all for the Supreme Court to declare that a bill is unconstitutional.

Second of all, the Supreme Court is never supposed to base their determinations on partisan politics.  When the president mentioned the Republican party in his comment, he was implying that the Supreme Court was following a Republican mandate.  Implicit is his argument that the Republican judges are attempting to overturn a Democrat program.

And maybe the president has a point here.  Partisan politics is like a cancer in our government that has paralyzed our system for decades.  It would be interesting if we gave Republicans and Democrats both a three-month vacation and substituted hard-working Americans to do their jobs for that period of time.  I bet some good decisions would be made during that time frame.  What do you think?