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Many conservatives, especially the more conservative and extremists among conservatives, like to think of themselves as lone wolves.  They decry the “nanny state” and proudly state that they can stand on their own feet.  Often they claim that they do not need government or society or civilization since they know how to survive on their own.

So, I thought it might be enlightening to find out about lone wolves in real life, and then see if that sheds light on the more extreme claims of these conservatives.

A lone wolf in the American mythos is a noble beast, strong and capable of forging without others. However, the reality of the lone wolf is substantially different than the myth – just as is these conservatives’ claims.

Wolves are pack animals, social animals. It is part of how they survive. A lone wolf is typically one that is pushed out by the dominant wolves of the pack. Usually they are young, just reaching sexual maturity between 1 and 2 years of age. Often they are the runts, the sick ones.  Sometimes they are older wolves who can no longer fend with the pack and keep up with it.

Either way, this is not usually some noble decision on the part of the individual wolf, but a role forced upon it.  Not quite the image these conservatives have in mind.

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Further, these lone wolves usually have a hard time surviving without the help and protection of the pack. They typically forage for hundreds of miles trying to avoid the other wolf packs’ territory, or try to haunt the edges of those boundaries. They limit their howling so as not to attract the attention of the wolf packs.

Again, not quite the image these conservatives have in mind.

Lone wolves have more difficulties in finding and getting food, especially the larger game that the pack usually attacks together, a pack that is no longer his or hers. They have to move carefully for fear of attack. And, they have a harder time finding a mate. And, even when they do, isolated from the pack as they are, their lives are usually shorter and harder.

Which is why, sometimes, these lone wolves manage to find themselves a new pack to become a part of.

I find this difference between the myth and the reality of the lone wolf of interest because it so closely parallels the failure in thinking of these conservatives who espouse this ideal.  This idea that they can do it alone and stand tall and brave, and do not need government nor society nor civilization.

Of course, doing so involves driving off in a vehicle whose reliability and safety has been created by government and built by a factory, which involves a civilization.  That’s not even considering the gasoline used to fuel the vehicle, made by companies subsidized by government and whose interests are protected by government.  And the business that creates this gas does so through technology, much of which was created by government funded science, and all of it dependent up on civilization.

So, no driving off in the sunset then for these people if they truly wish to stand on their own.

And no walking on the roads or sidewalks since they too are the work of governments both large and small.

No groceries either, no food whose safety is protected by government agencies, and who had a role in the farmers growing of the food and the safe transport of their efforts to grocery stores across the US.  Hunt and fish and grow your own lone wolf.  Even in the depths of winter.

Oh, the gun that you are using – give it up. It was produced by factories, as was the gunpowder used in the bullets, and the bullets themselves.  Factories are civilization.  The ability of factories to safely produce this product is the courtesy of government. As is the safe transportation of all goods across state lines and from overseas to here.  Take up knapping if you really want to stand on your own without the help of society or civilization.

Oh again,, and speaking of safety, give up thinking you are a fierce lone wolf who can take on all people with the thirty or forty guns strapped to your waist and back and the dozen of knives strapped to your legs. Since you are now a lone wolf society no longer protects you and your family. Neither law enforcement nor the judicial system.

Yes, you may well be able take out a few. But consider this, once the word goes out that even if the police were standing next to you, they would do nothing to stop them from attacking, from raping, from robbing you and yours. No court will find them guilty, no jail time short or long for them.  Anyone can do anything to you and your family with no consequences to them from society and government, cause, you are, after all, the Lone Wolf.

And we haven’t even discussed medicine, and doctors.

Now this lovely myth no longer sounds so lovely.

The reality is that our species survived due to two things – our high intelligence, and our high socialization. Without either our species fails. We can argue about the best way to create a society, but to think that we can survive and thrive on our own without society is ignorant at best. And when used to promote policies, it a dangerous ignorance impacting all of society and our survival.

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On Friday President Obama delivered a speech at Hiroshima Japan.   For a couple of weeks before this visit I had seen news items from some of my more extreme conservative friends about how President Obama had either already apologized (interesting that they were not informed enough to even know that President Obama had not gone to Japan yet) or was going to apologize for the US dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R), flanked by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, delivers a speech as the atomic bomb dome is background  after they laid wreaths to a cenotaph at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

On Friday, President Obama delivered his speech.  And contrary to the claims of these conservatives, he did not apologize for Truman’s decision to drop the bomb.   From a New York Times article

 

“People in Asian countries that were brutalized by imperial Japan had warned that a presidential apology would be inappropriate. President Obama not only did not apologize, he made clear that Japan, despite a highly advanced culture, was to blame for the war, which “grew out of the same base instinct for domination, for conquest, that had caused conflicts amongst the simplest tribes.”

 

Having seen the reactions of these conservatives before President Obama had made his speech I was curious to see how they would react to the fact that he did not apologize for the United States dropping the bomb on Hiroshima.  I wish I could say that I was surprised, but sadly I was not.  They ignored reality and instead stated that President Obama was apologizing for dropping the bomb.

 

Since they have written several articles on this subject and are a favorite “news” source for the extreme conservatives I will use an article from Breitbart as an example of such conservatives thinking.  From Breitbart, “Obama Dishonors Memorial Day at Hiroshima

 

“At Hiroshima, Obama was silent on the question of American sacrifice, American valor, and American virtue, but eloquent on the issue of American guilt.

What Obama did NOT do in his speech in Japan was to praise America’s fallen warriors, the men and women whose bravery and sacrifice saved the world from nuclear war over the 71 years since that first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.”

 

This quote is the gist, the heart of all the radical conservatives’ denunciation of President Obama’s Hiroshima speech – he did not laud American virtue and praise our fallen warriors.  He did not expound on the wonders of the United States.

 

However, that is what Memorial Day is for.  This was not Memorial Day and the purpose of this speech was different.  Its purpose?  From an interview President Obama had with the Japanese news organization NHK World,

 

“My purpose is not to simply revisit the past, but to affirm that innocent people die in a war, on all sides, that we should do everything we can to try to promote peace and dialogue around the world, that we should continue to strive for a world without nuclear weapons”

 

……

 

“…that I do not expect to provide a very long speech but rather, I think, some very humble reflections about my views on how we can forge a better peace around the world, and how we can use the model of relations between the United States and Japan as an example of how we can move forward.”

 

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His purpose was not to dwell on the past but to use it as a way to reflect on how we can create a better world.

 

So, what did President Obama say in his speech?  Here is a link to the entire speech.   You will find no apology in it.  You will find no remonstration against the decisions made by our nation then.  Not even indirectly.

 

“Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.

Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.”

 

This is no apology.  It is a statement of fact.  A “terrible force” was unleashed.  One that showed humanity had grown in knowledge to such an extent that humanity could now “destroy itself”.  This speech used the fact that in all wars innocents die to urge us to now grow in wisdom as we have in knowledge.  And then used the example of Japan and the United States to illustrate how that wisdom can happen.

 

“Some day, the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.

And since that fateful day, we have made choices that give us hope. The United States and Japan have forged not only an alliance but a friendship that has won far more for our people than we could ever claim through war. The nations of Europe built a union that replaced battlefields with bonds of commerce and democracy. Oppressed people and nations won liberation. An international community established institutions and treaties that work to avoid war and aspire to restrict and roll back and ultimately eliminate the existence of nuclear weapons.”

 

But read President Obama’s speech yourself and see with your own eyes and create your own understanding based on what he actually said and not what others say.  I will say that unlike the radical conservatives here  in the United States, the Japanese people see no apology.  That fact alone should give the conservatives pause since how can there be an apology to someone if that person does not see it as such?

 

Now before going over why these conservatives argue with a devil of their own making, I would like to point out two pieces of irony here in their strident criticism of this speech.

 

The first is that in his speech President Obama prominently and favorably talked about our Declaration of Independence.

 

“My own nation’s story began with simple words: All men are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Realizing that ideal has never been easy, even within our own borders, even among our own citizens. But staying true to that story is worth the effort. It is an ideal to be strived for, an ideal that extends across continents and across oceans. The irreducible worth of every person, the insistence that every life is precious, the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family — that is the story that we all must tell.”

 

 

The other piece of irony here is that these conservatives are so concerned with how President Obama has dishonored us, even to the point of calling on Congress to censure him, that they have totally overlooked the fact that he honored the memories of 12 American pilots who were being held captive in Hiroshima when the bomb dropped.

 

He not only mentioned these pilots in his speech, he embraced a Japanese survivor of Hiroshima, Shigeaki Mori who was 8 years old when Hiroshima went up in atomic fire.  The reason for the embrace?  Shigeaki has spent decades not only researching the fates of these American prisoners of war but rescued their memories.  Had he not done this research today we would still not know what happened to them.  Part of a good memorial is knowing the fates of those who died – how and when.  It is why the Vietnam War is still so fresh for so many who still do not know the fates of their loved ones.  It is why President Obama embraced Shigeaki.

 

Now we come to the question of why are these conservatives are creating and then believing in these delusions?  The answer is why I titled this blog “A Memorial Day Observation”.

 

Part of the reason why they are doing this may be a genuine inability to understand what President Obama said.  They are concerned only with looking back and justifying every action the United States has done.  They are focused tightly upon the honor of the United States, with making sure that our national pride is unhurt and unharmed that they interpret all things according to that measure, even things that have no bearing on that issue.  They want to ensure the world knows that the others are at fault and we are the virtuous ones in all ways and all actions.

 

Which may be one reason why this speech so confuses them – it looks forward. It uses the past, dropping the bomb on Hiroshima, as a jumping off point to look forward.  It looks to what can be done to prevent such decisions from ever having to be made ever again, from people having to suffer that devastation again.  The fact that statements explicitly stating that Japan started the war, that they committed brutal acts against not only soldiers but civilians,  and that our bombing of them saved American troops  were not needed nor the subject of this speech seems to be beyond their ability to comprehend.  The fact that President Obama used Hiroshima for something other than rubbing the Japanese faces into this muck and elevating our own stature by strutting has caused  them to overlook the fact that President Obama did NOT apologize for the United States dropping the bomb.

 

They are stuck in the past and so cannot comprehend an honest look at what could be.  All such views, to their mind, must first denigrate our opponents and laud our greatness.  They are rather like a two bit wrestler in this.

 

Of course, this is only part of the reason why these conservatives do this.   The other part is that they are so blinded by their hatred of President Obama, so bent by their bigotry, and so blinkered by their ideology that they can no longer recognize what is true or false about what President Obama did, does, and will do.  All such actions must be broken down, twisted, and bent into something that will pass the filters of their hatred, bigotry, and ideology.  Even at the expense of truth and reality.

 

And this leads me to my Memorial Day Observation.

 

Our soldiers have died to protect our freedoms – our freedom of religion, of speech, of association and all the others.  They died to protect such freedoms for all Americans, whether wise or foolish, whether ignorant or informed, whether hateful or empathetic.

 

But, while they died to protect the freedom of all, wouldn’t it be a better memorial to the sacrifice they made to have your view of the world be realistic, rational, and concerned with the well- being of all?  Wouldn’t it be a better memorial to their sacrifice for us to be working towards creating a world in which no one would have to make such a sacrifice ever again?

 

And that was what President Obama’s speech was about.

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Soon after the vicious and brutal murder of nine blacks at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by Dylann Roof I started to hear conservative commentators commenting on how different the reaction of the Charleston community to this killing of blacks by a white than that of Ferguson; about how the Charleston community, both black and white, pulled together in unity while that of Ferguson erupted in violence.

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The clear inference (one often made explicit by some conservative commentators) was that there really is no underlying race problem in America and that those who say that there is are race baiters intent upon stirring up racial conflict and hatred for their own personal and/or political benefit. The reality, according to these commentators, is that our society and its institutions are largely free of racial bias. That, contrary to the stated experiences of many millions of blacks, that our police departments are enforcing laws and reacting to citizens without regards to their color, that our justice system dispenses justice to black and whites alike largely without regards to color, that our educational system treats all students alike regardless of color, and that job opportunities for black and white are such that skin color plays no role the vast majority of times. In other words, that our society has achieved racial equality.

I call this Kum Ba Yah bullshit.

The danger of conservative’s kum ba yah bullshit is that It puts the responsibility for all change firmly on the backs of blacks. They are responsible for creating better families, for better educating their children, for better following the law and the police, for doing better on finding jobs. They are responsible for their culture and it is the black culture that is the problem. Blacks, according to this “logic” just need to work and try harder. No need for whites to change anything.

Now, in a discussion on this with a conservative a few weeks ago, he used a baseball analogy to try to bring home his point. He said that my position was akin to defeatism, that if we tell blacks that they cannot do it, that their problems are the result of institutional racism and unconscious biases and prejudices instead of them, then we are like the coach of a team telling his team that they are losers. And that by so doing that team, and blacks, do lose.

I applauded his analogy. And I agree, blacks do need to work hard at changing things, at trying to achieve goals and change their culture. However, I pointed out that a better analogy would be that of two teams playing a game of baseball. One team has the standard three outs in order to get hits. The other team though only has two outs before they are retired. No matter how good the coaching, no matter how much that team works at it, no matter how motivated they are, they are going to lose most of the time. Not because of talent or ability, not because of motivation and persistence, but because the rules of the game are rigged against them. And until those rules are changed to be fair and just no matter who is playing the game then members of that team are, justifiably, going to feel anger, are going to feel frustrated. So much so that they may take out their anger on the other team or on the umpires of the game. Or even those of the spectators watching the game.

Yes, the black community needs to continue to work hard to improve their culture and lot, but at the same time they are operating under a handicap even more severe than that of a baseball team playing with only two outs in hand. They are operating within a society that still has institutional racism as part of its fabric and in which largely unconscious biases and prejudices still hold sway in determining the actions of those in power. What makes it worse, so many do not even acknowledge that such problems exist and deny them totally.ferguson-riots-lin_3116889k

Black culture. That is the favorite response of the conservative when asked what is at the root of the disparities in education, economic status, and justice between whites and blacks. And to an extent they are right. However, they never ask the more important question of how black culture was formed and what maintains it today. Instead, they seem to see black culture as something of a virgin birth or as something coming fully formed from the foam.

Conservatives ignore the fact that black culture was formed from the brutality that was slavery, modified by them chains of Jim Crow laws and lynchings, formed by government policies and industry actions, and reinforced by the media.

Black culture was formed by the broken families of the slave era, by the repression of the Jim Crow laws and actions of the KKK and others. It was formed by practices such as redlining which from 1934 – 1962 kept blacks form getting any of the 120 billion dollars handed out by the government for home loans which thus forced segregation by forcing blacks into living in ghettos. This has the ripple effect in that blacks, unlike the whites who received these loans, did not have property they could pass own to their children and use as a basis for creating wealth for themselves and their family.

Or consider the effect this had on education. Schools are funded by property taxes. Since the vast majority of blacks could not afford to live in good homes and could not get the loans to attain good homes, they did not have the tax base to create good schools. Combine this with the segregation effects and you have the basis for the educational disparities we see today. All of which then lead to less opportunities for getting better jobs.

And that is just one example of what is called institutional racism. Another is how blacks are portrayed in the media – tv, radio, newspapers, magazines. White skin and standards are held up as beautiful, blacks are not. Blacks are shown as criminals much more often than they are in real life, and whites much less than they are in real life.

Such practices as these and more effect all areas of society – medicine, justice, and family. They are what helped form black culture. And without efforts on the parts of whites to acknowledge this and change it, then blacks can only go go far, can only do so much. Individuals can overcome it – after all there are great people of all races, but most people of all races are average, and it is those people who are going to continue to suffer the most from this unresolved racism.
And then there is the very real effects of unconscious bias within our society. It affects whose resume will result in a call for an interview and whose will not, it affects how police and judges and jury react and dispense justice., it effects teachers and educators expectations.

The only way true racial justice and equality is going to be achieved is if all or most whites will recognize this problem. Many already do. However, this is a blind spot of most conservatives. They refuse to see this and thus make huge mistakes in judgements and in recommendations on what needs to be done. Mistakes that not only do nothing to solve the problems, but often actually make the problem worse.

For example, comparing Ferguson with Charleston. Yes, in both cases a white person killed a black person or people. However, that is as far as the comparison goes. In Ferguson, a white police officer and member of a police force that was found to be engaged in racist practices, shot and killed an unarmed black man. In Charleston nine blacks were killed by a lone racist gunman who belonged to no government organization or private one apparently. That lack of government affiliation makes a huge difference. Ferguson experienced riots not because a white had killed a black person, but because a white representative of a government agency which had been engaged in racist practices killed an unarmed black person. Charleston did not erupt into violent protests because the gunman was working on his own and did not represent a government with power over the black community.

A clear and easily seen difference. And yet, one that so many conservatives seem to be blind to.

Just as they seem to be blind to the problems inherent in the government flying the Confederate battle flag. Conservatives article-2249806-168FF9A7000005DC-246_634x423insist on defending this as just an exhibition of pride in their heritage. Pride in a heritage that included the attempted dissolution of the United States in order to protect their right to treat people as property, of no more worth than a hog or a cabinet. Yes, many like to phrase this in terms of state’s rights, but it was the state’s right to allow whites to own blacks to do with as they wish. It was a state right to refuse freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly to those who advocated for abolition; to confiscate abolitionist literature and burn it, to break the presses of those publications advocating for the abolition of slavery, it was the fining, imprisonment, flogging, and tar and feathering of those who advocated for treating blacks as free people.

Those are the heritage that conservatives want to remember and honor? Yes, many brave and good men fought and died for the south. But so too did good and brave men die fighting for Nazi Germany. I wonder, if the conservatives would make the same argument for those who would honor the Nazi flag.

And finally, one last area of racial blindness conservatives seem to suffer from. Today, a podcast came out, an interview with President Obama by Marc Maron in which President Obama used the word “nigger”. Conservatives are jumping all over President Obama’s use of this word. However, just as in their comparison of Ferguson with Charleston, and defense of the Confederate flag, their blindness to context and meaning is apparent. Here is the full quote:

obama2010“The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We’re not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination… Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”

And this actually does a good job of summing up the problem with most conservatives. They believe that since we have made the use of nigger in public a thing to be ashamed of, since we have gotten rid of most of the overt discrimination that discrimination does not exist at all. And that is foolish of them. As President Obama said, “societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior”. In fact, I would amend that statement to say even as recently as the 1960s and 1970s this overt racism was still prevalent. And that past still lingers and impacts us today.

And this is something most conservatives do not see. They point to the very real gains that have been made in civil rights since the 1960s and declare victory. However, it is not. That was only the start of the victory. It is as if General Eisenhower had declared victory the day after the D Day invasion of Normandy and stopped all further actions since victory had been achieved. Blindness.

The greater struggle is with us now, the struggle to deal with those aspects of racism that are not so easily seen by those not on the receiving end of it. Change the institutional racism that still exists and make clear the hidden biases and prejudices that effect our decisions and then victory will be achieved. . And the first step that is needed to deal with this is to acknowledge that it exists.

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It says something about the nature of our times and of politics that the one policy of Obama’s that should be getting the greatest scrutiny and flack is his increasingly proliferate use of drones in the “War on Terror”.

It also says something about the nature of our times and of politics that the next policy that really deserves a great deal more attention is the trims and cuts and shortcuts around our liberties done in the name of security from terrorists.  Obama is not as bad as Bush on this, but they still occur.  And there is still too much secrecy involved.

Yet while these have indeed been mentioned and  Obama’s feet held to a wet match on these issues,th_dc7ad1d3-288d-4d3b-b7a9-956f6a5fd2d1_zps1b54e059 the ones that have gotten the press today and that are generating the most heat today are nothing more than an example of a very small fire generating huge amounts of political smoke – mostly on the conservative side of the fence since they see these as the “gotcha’ to get the President.

Let me take the two current incidents and explain why there is more smoke than fire.

Benghazi

You would think that with the death of four of our people, including our ambassador to Libya, this attack would be the focus of the current hearings.  However, it is not.  Instead our politicians are dwelling on how the administration initially reported these attacks.

I have seen very, very little new information presented.  And to me, this has the appearance of political fighting between two different government organizations rather than a White House cover up.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/an-alternative-explanation-for-the-benghazi-talking-points-bureaucratic-knife-fight/2013/05/10/22a8df5c-b98d-11e2-b94c-b684dda07add_blog.html

 

However, disregard this possibility, disregard the possibility that it was the result of confusion and information fog; instead let us pretend that the White House really did change the talking points with the intent to deceive Congress and the public.   Obama’s administration should get slapped for it, and, given that they have already been slapped for their sloppy handling of this reporting, this has already occurred.  To continue to do so is redundant and serves no purpose other than purely partisan politics.

No laws were broken.  No people died as a result of this.  No money was lost due to this.   All of the actions causing this have been investigated, responsibility assigned, and actions taken.  All of the most important items have been taken care of and are not in question right now.  Instead, now it is about the most unimportant issue of all of the Benghazi issues.  And it is being given a semblance of importance only through positing a worst case scenario and doing a chicken little dance.  It is a 1% substance and 99% political smoke issue.

 

IRS

Now, this one has much more meat to it.   It is a real and important issue.  In fact, if President Obama is linked to this, if he gave the order or hinted that the IRS should go over the Tea Party groups then I think a discussion about possible impeachment is in order.

But man o man, the Republicans and conservatives are off and riding this for all its worth.  However they seem to have forgotten to bring along the horse to ride on.  President Obama has not been linked to this; there is not a hint of such a linkage at this time.  To me, it seems to be a bit premature to talk about impeaching Obama when there has been no evidence whatsoever showing him responsible for the IRS issue.

I keep hearing that this is worse than Watergate or just like Watergate.  Usually they reference the fact that one of the proposed articles of impeachment against Nixon was that he used the IRS to attack his political opponents and enemies.   However, that was only one of a total of 14 different charges.   Obama has yet to fall as low as Nixon.  Not even close.   Especially since he has not been linked.

From what I know right now, the biggest issue is not that they put these conservative groups through the wringer, but that they did not do the same to the liberal groups.  Given the changes in 2010 to groups and campaign donations, increased scrutiny was definitely warranted.  Given that conservatives were the largest block taking advantage of this, investigating them is also warranted.  What was not warranted, and for which the IRS should be and is getting blasted, is that they did not scrutinize the liberal groups the same way.

Now, just for fun, let me point out that every one of the conservative and Tea Party groups that were put under the microscope did get their tax exemption. Not even one of them were denied it.

 

History

Just for a bit more fun, I thought I would take a moment to go through some scandals involving the administrations of previous Presidents followed by ones involving the IRS.   In regards to Presidents I am not going to go over scandals involving their appointments.  Every president has had them.  Instead I am looking at policy scandals.

President W. Bush

–           No weapons of mass destruction,

–          Iraq did not support the terrorist group responsible for 9/11,

–          “Lawyergate’:  the dismissal of lawyers who were prosecuting Republicans instead of Democrats; during Congressional Hearings several senior Justice Department Officials refused to testify citing executive privilege and then resigned.

–          White House e mail – The Bush administration used the web servers of the Republican National Committee to send out millions of e mails which were then deleted and destroyed, probably in violation of both the Presidential Records Act and the Hatch Act.   Over 80 officials made use of these servers, including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.  Of these officials, e mails from 51 could not be found again.  Congressional investigations of other scandals requested millions of e mails that no longer existed.

–          Plame affair in which the name of a CIA operative was leaked for political reasons.

–          The administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Thomas Scully, withheld information from Congress about the projected cost of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act.  He threatened to fire Medicare’s chief actuary if he provided the information to Congress.

–          NSA warrantless surveillance – President Bush implemented a program to listen in to domestic phone conversations by American citizens without getting a warrant through the FISA court.

–          Many more can be listed, but I still have several other Presidents to get to.

President Clinton

–          Monica Lewinsky – was impeached for perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying under oath.  He was acquitted by the Senate but cited for contempt of court.  Clinton had his license to practice law in Arkansas suspended for five years and was barred from practicing law before the Supreme Court.

President H. W. Bush

–          During his election campaign repeatedly denied knowing anything about Iran Contra.  However his dairy of that time stated that he was the only one who fully knew the details.   He refused to disclose this to investigators.

–          After being elected Bush pardoned to the five convicted government officials and also Casper Weinberger, whose trial had not yet begun.  By doing so he shut down the ongoing Iran Contra investigation.

President Ronald Reagan    

–          Iran Contra:   A plan to sell missiles to Iran in return for them releasing the hostages.  The money would then be used to fund the Contra rebels in their attempt to bring down the Nicaraguan government, something expressly forbidden by the Boland Amendment. Reagan initially went on TV and declared that there was no “arms for hostages”  deal.  He later had to go on TV and admit that there was. 

–          Sewergate:  funds from the EPA were selectively used for projects to benefit politicians favorable to Reagan’s administration. 

–          Inslaw affair:  top officials of Reagan’s Justice Department were involved in software piracy from Islaw Inc, forcing it into bankruptcy.  Both Attorney General Edwin Meese and his successor Dick Thornburgh were found to have blocked the investigation into this issue.   Their successor as Attorney General also refused to investigate. 

President Jimmy Carter

–          How nice, no policy scandals.

President Gerald Ford

–          Nixon Pardon; prevented Nixon from being tried by Congress and impeached.

richard-nixon-vsignPresident Richard Nixon

–          Watergate:  there were others, but enough said.

 

 

President Lyndon Johnson, President John Kennedy, President Dwight Eisenhower

–          No major policy scandals.

And let me end the President section here, on a happy note.

At first it seems as if more and more scandals are happening today.  However, despite appearances, I do not think that most modern politicians are any less ethical than their predecessors. Instead of the nature of the men who are elected as President having changed, it is our culture, society and government that have changed.

I believe that the political fighting between the two parties has become more intense and vicious, that our modern media is both more pervasive in our society and is not as inclined to hide and overlook issues, and that our modern government is larger, more complex, and involved in more aspects of society and the world than it once was.  It is these changes that have led to an increase in policy scandals.   I will say that looking through things, scandals involving political appointments seem to be consistently high regardless of era and time.   I guess this just shows that a good man is always hard to find.

 IRS Scandals

This will not be a long look, but instead more of a quick breeze through, as this blog is getting longer than what I had intended…. again.  In fact, let me just provide a link to a Time article about IRS and its history of scandal, with a few quotes from that article.

“By traditions, he [Obama] presumably meant the nation’s laws, which for decades have held that the federal government cannot target specific groups or individuals for tax enforcement without cause. But the IRS has a long history of disregarding this tradition.

For much of the post-war period, the agency has failed to meet its mission of neutrality, bowing to political pressure and resisting repeated attempts at internal reforms. On multiple occasions, it has become embroiled in scandal due to exactly the sort of behavior that senior IRS officials now admit occurred between 2010 and 2012.”

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Some of the most egregious abuses of the last 50 years were undertaken at the behest of the FBI, sometimes under the cover of a secret domestic counterintelligence program called COINTELPRO. In May 1968, a memo was sent to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. “The New Left on many occasions viciously and scurrilously attacked the Director and the Bureau,” the FBI memo read, according to the Church Committee report, a 1976 Senate investigation on U.S. intelligence abuses. The next day, Hoover authorized a new program to “expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize” groups and individuals on the left, in part by employing the IRS as a weapon in the secret federal campaign.

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Questions have also been raised about whether the agency targets its audits to avoid complicating the lives of Presidents and key members of Congress. A 2001 empirical study of IRS audits published in the Economics and Politics journal found a clear pattern in audits between 1992 and 1997: “Other things being the same,” the authors wrote, “the percentage of tax returns audited by the IRS is markedly lower in states that are important to the sitting president’s re-election aspirations. We also find that the IRS is responsive to its oversight committees.”

 

Parting thought

Given the size of our modern government, its intricate and varied nature, along with the growth of the media and of confrontational politics, it is almost inevitable that every modern Presidential administration will have at least one if not more scandals.  The real measuring of a President in regards to scandals is not whether any occurred during his term in office, but rather, how directly was he involved in creating the scandal and what actions did he take to correct the problem after it was brought to light.

Using these more rational criteria, President Obama is still doing well.  At least in regards to Benghazi and the IRS.  Now, in regards to the drone program……

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Today I was listening to one of the ever prevalent conservative radio talk shows.  The host had a guest who was outlining all the reasons why allowing gay marriage was a bad idea.  Most of his arguments I had heard before ad nauseam.  However there was one that he was developing that I had heard others only mention fleetingly before.

His argument was one of arrogance; how dare we believe ourselves to be smart and wise enough to overthrow the basic foundation of marriage.  The speaker developed this argument by pointing out that the scholars, thinkers, and wise men in the over 3000 year old history of Judaism and the 2000 year old history of Christianity all supported marriage as being between a man and women.  Even the Enlightenment thinkers never questioned that basic foundation.  Given that all of these great thinkers, some of the greatest in human history, all never questioned the foundation of marriage as being between a man and woman, all of whom believed that marriage was between a man and woman – given all of this, how dare we think we are so much better, so much wiser, know so much more so as to overthrow all of this wisdom so casually!

He dismissed the argument that this expansion of marriages is similar to the one that recognized racially mixed marriages by stating that the Bible had already recognized such marriages as evidenced by Moses’ marriage to an Ethiopian woman.  Of course, he ignores the change from polygamy to monogamy; which, by the way, was not formally done in Judaism until about 1000 AD.

gay_parents

While there are several problems with his argument, I would like to just focus on two, the second of which I believe also sheds an interesting light on the thinking of so many of those who oppose equal rights for homosexuals.

The first problem is that the institution of marriage has already gone through its most profound change, and the change has been accepted almost without fuss or bother in our society.  No, I am not talking about the change from polygamy to monogamy.  Nor the acceptance of mixed race marriage.  Instead I am talking about the purpose of marriage, about why people get married.

Through most of human history marriage has not been about the commitment of two people in love; rather it has been about creating a benefit for the family.  Marriage in the past was done with an eye to how to improve the status or protect the family.  It was done to seal a relationship or to create a system of mutual obligations or to improve status and finances.  This is the chief reason why marriages were usually arranged, it was not an affair of two individuals but of two families.   Love was a nice benefit if you could get it, but it was not the reason for marriage.

Today though, marriage is about a loving commitment between two individuals.  If the families get something out of it, well that is nice, but it is not about the bride’s and groom’s family.  It is about them as a couple.

To my mind, this is a difference between marriage now and marriage then that dwarfs that of what gender the participants in the marriage ceremony are.  It is a difference about why marriage happens.

The other problem with his argument concerns his labeling our willingness to change the traditional definition of marriage over the wisdom of great thinkers in the past as arrogant.  What a static and extremely limiting view of knowledge and wisdom he has!

If it is arrogant for us to question the wisdom of 2000 years of great thinkers then does that mean that the Germ Theory of Disease, that the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Theory, that Evolutionary Theory and Plate Tectonic Theory are all arrogant fantasies of the modern mind?  Is it arrogant to disagree with and say that Aristotle was wrong?  That Galileo and Newton were wrong?  That Darwin and Einstein were wrong?  Is all of science an arrogant illusion of the modern mind?

Many might say, yeah, but that’s different, that’s science.  We expect science to change.  Not the social realities and moralities that have guided our societies and governments for thousands of years.

Really?

If so, then what about slavery?  What about our arrogant notion that humans should be treated as human and not property?  Is that equally arrogant since it goes against the wisdom of thousands of years of great minds?

If so, then what about our modern arrogant notions that women can hold property, inherit, vote, hold public office, and work outside the home?   Is that equally arrogant since it goes against the wisdom of thousands of years of great minds?

All human knowledge, all human institutions and social thinking and philosophy, all human morality and moral codes have changed and differ from what great minds once promoted.  Just as theirs did from those who lived before them.

Each generation stands on the shoulders of the one before them.   This means that no matter how great the intellect, no matter how great the mind, the reasoning, the knowledge that their view will be more limited than ours on many issues.  Knowledge is cumulative, not static.

And that is what I find of interest here.  To most of those arguing against gay marriage, as for those who argued against women’s rights, against abolition and so forth knowledge is a static affair.  Morality and our knowledge of it has already been settled and now must only be obeyed.  It is unchanging and eternal.  It is a thing of stone instead of a living and growing humanity.

Such a view is totally at odds with reality.  A look at the history of moral thought shows this.  But they choose to ignore history and the major shifts in ideas about slavery and civil rights, in what are women’s roles and rights within a society, in the denouncing of anti-Semitism instead of its promotion, in the rise of democracies with its accompanying ideals of human rights, and on and on and on.

It seems as if those who put forth this argument would rather wear blindfolds while standing on the shoulders of giants and so ignore a priceless inheritance.  For myself, I think we would do better to enjoy and treasure the view and use it to guide us, even if, as it inevitably will, it involves changing treasured institutions and beliefs;  just as I hope our children will do when it is their turn to stand on our shoulders.

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I was listening to a conservative radio talk show and heard the host state that he had travelled to several different countries throughout his life.  He said that if liberals had ever done the same – travelled extensively and visited other countries; got to learn how they live and think, how their government works, what sort of society they have – then liberals would no longer be liberal and would, instead, become conservative.  He stated that travel forces the blinders that liberals wear to come off and for them to see the real world. 

REALLY!!??!!

For myself I have travelled to Canada, Mexico, England, and Ireland and am still very much a liberal.  However perhaps I have not travelled extensively enough to destroy my blinders. 

How about our current president – President Obama?  As a private citizen, as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and as President he has traveled to Indonesia, Kenya, England, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Canada, France, Czech Republic, Turkey, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia, Italy, Vatican City, Ghana, Trinidad, Denmark, Singapore, China, South Korea, Norway, Denmark, Afghanistan, India, Brazil, Ireland, El Salvador, Poland, Australia, and Columbia.    

Now that I think about it, I wonder how many countries Hillary Clinton has visited.

Don’t these people ever do a reality check?

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Today I listened to a couple of conservative talk shows on the radio discussing women.  It is apparent that today’s women have these men thoroughly puzzled. 

On one show the host was mentioning the huge gap among women who support Democrats and those who support Republicans.  Something like around 14% more women support Democrats than support Republicans. 

This host was wondering why women so overwhelmingly seem to feel that the government should be giving them something while men just want government to leave them alone.  He was nice though and did say that not all women felt this way, but it seemed that most did.                                 

  

Good to know that there are some (just a few mind you) women who are not gold diggers.  

The other host was asking the question of “Does America Hate Its Women?”   To illustrate what he meant he went over the fact that the Army has opened up more combat positions for women.  He then read part of a report of how sexual violence and harassment towards women in the military has increased over the years, especially in front line units. 

After reading part of the report the radio host asked, very plaintatively, why do we keep sending our women into these dangerous situations when we and they know they are going to be groped, harassed, and possibly raped?    

It never seemed to cross his mind that this expansion of a woman’s role in combat has been at the insistence of many military women.  Even more importantly it never seemed to cross his mind that the problem might lie with the men and not the women in this case and that perhaps the men need some intensive training and discipline in this regards. 

I know that when the armed forces were integrated it took a long time to bring it about and there are still some issues flaring up now and again – so should this mean we shouldn’t integrate units or that we hate blacks or whites or Hispanics or whoever? 

What is really funny is that he inadvertently hit upon the real solution himself by stating that he would never do any of these acts against women under any circumstances.   It did not seem to occur to him that this same restraint should be expected of all men in the military. 

 

Due to the danger from their fellow Americans this is the only helmet women should be allowed to wear.

 

If the Republicans and the conservatives keep on with this that gender  gap is not ever going to decrease.  In fact, it may even increase further. 

Here’s to the ignorance of conservatives and Republicans – may they not become enlightened until after the election.

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