Sunday, November 16, 2014

Election Apathy

In the land of the free and the home of the brave, 36.4 percent of eligible voters exercised their constitutional right to choose their leaders. That was the lowest percentage of voters to go to the polls since 1942.

Here we are surrounded by I-Phones, I-Pads, Chrome Books, instant access to the internet, television news programs: Face the Nation, Meet the Press, a plethora of news networks: NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, Fox News, C-SPAN, all telling us how important the mid-term election is and a little more than one-third of the voters responded. How sad.

For months I was making phone calls, along with scores of other party faithful, urging members of my party to vote on election day. Members of the opposite party were doing the same and only 36.4 percent heeded the call.

I was taking voter registration applications to the schools where I substitute teach registering seniors and giving them a pep talk on why voting was important, why it's a right forged in the blood of those who gave their lives in the Ardennes forest or at Chosin Reservoir or Ia Drang Valley. Why some of their fathers left home for places like Basrah, Baghdad, Kandahar and Kabul.

According to the New York Times at least 60 percent of voters in Iraq defied bombs and threats of violence to cast a ballot this year. In 2005, 76 percent went to the polls. In 2010 62 percent.

In Afghanistan, despite threats from the Taliban, almost 60 percent voted. In 2004, 83 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot for president.

Both parties courted the young voter aged 18 to 24. For the most part, they weren't listening. According to the Christian Science Monitor three in five millennials, young people in that age range, agreed that politicians were seen to be motivated by selfish reasons. The cynicism persisted across party lines.

Harvard University conducted a poll in November 2013 and since then young voters' trust in President Obama "to do the right thing" fell from 39 percent to 32 percent. Confidence in the military dropped from 54 percent to 47 percent and faith in the Supreme Court bottomed out at 36 percent from 40 percent.

Despite the commercials, advertisements, flyers, handouts, personal visits, there were still voters whose first look at the candidates was when they closed the curtain and looked at the voting machine. Then they based their choice on the placement of a name or the sound of a name and pressed the button. Others merely pushed the "R" or "D" button casting their vote for the qualified candidates as well as those who shouldn't be within 50 miles of political office. Then they got their "I Voted" sticker and, with head held high, left the building. We're letting the minority dictate to the majority because the majority abrogates their responsibility to participate in American democracy.

Until such time Americans become more politically active and aware our elected officials will continue to thumb their noses at term limits which the majority of Americans want. They will continue to meddle with social security and Medicare, because neither one applies to them, and they will continue their extreme partisan policies to the detriment of 300 million other Americans.

We, the people, have the capacity to make the changes to move this country forward. All it takes is the knowledge of what a candidate will do for you as opposed to what he'll do to you. To make that distinction, everyone who's eligible must research each candidate and then make an intelligent choice at the polls.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Simple economics

I don't think Americans know the principle of Supply and Demand.

I just returned from grocery shopping or as I put it, the monthly rip-off.

Prices have skyrocketed, choices have decreased and the world goes on oblivious to simple economics.

If there's a high demand and supply is low, prices will be high.

If demand is low and supply is high, prices come down.

If a product is too expensive and we buy a less expensive alternative, the price of the original product usually is reduced. It's either sell at a lower price or see the product rot on the shelves producing no income for the manufacturer.

How many times have we seen a product reduced in price nearing its expiration date just to clear the shelves?

Choices seem to be disappearing too. The BI-LO deli is filled with high priced meats from one or two brands. The same with Food Lion and Wal-Mart. It's hard to find Sara Lee and/or Butterball brand meats, a less expensive yet healthy alternative. BI-LO's sales at the deli have significantly declined since the switch to the expensive brands but that obviously hasn't registered with the people who make the decisions at corporate.

The bottom line is this: If a product is too expensive find an alternative. If everyone did that the price of these products will come down to common sense levels. Let the food rot. Let furniture and appliances sit on the showroom floor. If we don't buy when the price is high they will eventually come down to affordable levels.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Terrorism Incorporated

The United States State Department has declared 58 organizations world-wide as terrorist groups.

They include: Hamas, Hizballah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Shining Path, Al-Qa'ida, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, al-Shabaab, al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Army of Islam and Boko Haram.

Since September 11, 2001 only 31 of the 158 countries in the world have escaped a terror incident. One hundred twenty seven countries have been victims of a deadly attack by one of the 58 terrorist groups operating today.

The world seems to think this is an American problem.

Spain, England, France, Italy, Yemen, the Philippines, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Morocco, Bali,Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan have all felt the effects of car bombs, suicide bombers, individual assassins and yet, they seem to think it's an American problem.

Boko Haram kidnaps children indiscriminately in Nigeria and sells them into slavery or abuses them sexually. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has demanded that citizens convert to Islam or die. They behead children and place their heads on stakes. They corral the men, line them up in open ditches and systematically execute them with a bullet to the head. It reminds one what the Germans did to the Jews in WWII, and yet, it's an American problem.

The world sees what's happening and, for the most part, are turning a blind eye and ignoring the threat.

If ISIS successfully sets up an Islamic state it will be able to carry out its policy of genocide and world-wide terror with impunity.

It's time for the rest of the world to realize terror is not an American problem, it's a world-wide problem and it will take the active intervention and participation of every country to eradicate the radical elements and religious fanatics who are destabilizing normal life.

It's time for a world-wide military force comprised of soldiers from every civilized country which can be mobilized quickly to counter and eliminate any threat from these terrorist groups.

The time to act is now before these groups are so ensconced in their enclaves it will be impossible, or certainly extremely difficult, to destroy them.

So, King Felipe VI, David Cameron, Francois Hollande, Georgio Napolitano, Mohammed Basindawa, Benigno Aquino, Uhuru Kenyatta, King Abdullah, Vladimir Putin, King Mohammed VI, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mamnoon Hussain, Haider al-Abadi and Hamid Karzai, what are you waiting for?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Held hostage in space

The United States of America, once the leader in space technology and exploration is now relegated to hiring the Russians to put our astronauts into space at a cost of $71 million each. Now, years after the end of the Cold War the Russians may no longer permit U.S. astronauts access to its space vehicles which have been used to send people to the International Space Station. The dispute centers around the tensions between the two powers over Ukraine. It's a shame the U.S. has to depend on the Russians.

Visionary scientists pursuing a dream and some extremely courageous men and women who risked their lives made the American space program one of continuous accomplishments and unprecedented scientific research.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established October 1, 1958. Our entry into space began with the selection of seven test pilots: Walter M. "Wally" Schirra, Jr.; Donald K. "Deke" Slayton; John H. Glenn, Jr.; M. Scott Carpenter; Alan B. Shephard, Jr., Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom and L. Gordon Cooper, Jr.,who would become the Project Mercury astronauts. May 5, 1961 Alan Shepard flew a suborbital mission to the fringe of space, 116 miles high. On May 25,1961, president Kennedy challenged us to put a man on the moon.

On Feb. 20, 1962 John Glenn orbited the earth three times followed on May 24, 1962 by Scott Carpenter.

While America was being thrilled by the exploits of the astronauts, NASA was also working on sending satellites into space. On Dec. 14, 1962 Mariner 2 flew past Venus and entered solar orbit.

With the completion of the Mercury program focus turned to the two-man Gemini project. The first flight on March 23, 1965 found Gus Grissom and John Young orbiting the Earth three times on Gemini 3. Three months later, on June 3, Ed White became the first American astronaut to accomplish a "spacewalk," leaving the Gemini 4 spacecraft.

Other tests and challenges continued. Gemini 6 and 7 rendezvousing in space, long term orbiting as a prelude to a moon trip, the 3-man Apollo program leading to a descent to the Lunar surface of Apollo 11 and an American, Neil Armstrong, stepping upon the moon's dusty crust. Six other moon missions followed with one, Apollo 13, almost ending in disaster.

Then came the space shuttles and, with Russia and other countries, the building of the International Space Station about 200 miles above the Earth. Finally, the end of the space shuttles and nothing to replace them.

Now we're dependent upon Russia for trips to the ISS. Russia, the country we were battling during the Cold War for space supremacy.

Sure, we've continued to send satellites and probes to other planets and asteroids, one of which has actually left our solar system but there has been no more American manned exploration of space and that's a shame. It's time for Congress to restore and increase funding for future manned missions to the stars so man can truly go where no one has gone before.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What are they thinking?

I read an article in "The State" newspaper a few months ago which said the S.C. Department of Transportation planned to cut down all the trees from the median strip along 30 miles of Interstate 26 from I-95 to Summerville, near Charleston.

The reason? There were 1934 crashes along that stretch between 2007 and 2011 which resulted in over 700 injuries and 44 deaths. I had questions so I met with Tony Shepherd, Director of Traffic Engineering at SCDOT.

Shepherd gave me a copy of the report his department put together and he explained that when a vehicle hits a tree there's no "give," as there would be with a cable system which now exists on most highways, I-26 included. I left the meeting seeing his point of view but I still had some questions.

On January 21 a community meeting was held in Summerville to discuss the situation and receive input from residents in the area. I drove there to make my pitch.

Leaving the emotional aspect to others I asked, "of those 44 fatalities, do you know how many were wearing safety belts?" My rationale depended on air bags deploying but if someone inside the vehicle wasn't buckled up they would still be thrown through the windshield which might result in a fatality. I didn't expect an answer because I don't think the question was ever asked.

I then referred to the printed report which showed the primary cause of the crashes being distracted drivers or drivers who fell asleep. My assertion was the DOT could remove all trees from Charleston to Virginia and it wouldn't effect distracted driving or drivers who nodded off. "There's no cause and effect," I said. "People are not falling asleep because of the trees."

If the highway department found out why people were falling asleep on the highway or were being distracted it would solve all the problems. In the court of public opinion and fact, the trees along the highways are innocent.

There IS a problem with our interstates, all of them. President Dwight Eisenhower created the interstate highway system as a matter of national defense. If needed, military materiel had to get from one place to another quickly and the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line and most of these interstates run straight as an arrow.

Therein lies the problem of distracted driving and drivers falling asleep. The ride on any interstate is boring. There's miles and miles of highway with nothing but billboards to break up the monotony.

A concerted effort needs to be made to make travel safer and it begins with addressing the boredom.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Something's fishy in Washington

I'm getting a little queasy about privacy issues and the government's role in protecting me.

When I receive a privacy notice from the doctor, stock broker, credit card company or the mom & pop on the corner it goes into the same file, file 13, the trash can. There is no privacy today. Too many people know too much about too many and it's not a good thing.

It's not a new problem. I was a working TV reporter when President Gerald Ford came to Columbia in 1976 to dedicate the law school at the University of South Carolina. I asked him then if he could do something to better protect our privacy. He told me he would try when he returned to the White House. Unfortunately, even the leader of the Free World couldn't do anything about it.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 the government has initiated programs which tend to limit the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

Recently protesters in Wisconsin were arrested for singing anti-government songs critical of Governor Scott Walker. Most cities have installed cameras at intersections which they claim aids in the capture of criminals. However, it also reminds me of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" where "Big Brother" is constantly watching the citizens to ensure peace and tranquility.

We've learned that government is monitoring our phone calls, our social media, our supposedly free press, using domestic drones to spy on citizens and a host of other questionable actions, all in the name of security.

Republican Representative Charles Dent of Pennsylvania and Senator Joseph Lieberman, Independent from Connecticut introduced legislation, the Enemy Expatriation Act, which would allow the government to strip any American of their citizenship if they engage or support hostilities against the United States. The definition of "hostilities" was ill-defined and enforcement of the law would not have to go through the courts to ensure the right person was targeted. The bill died the day it was born, October 12, 2011 and referred to committee.

Herman Goering, Commander of the Nazi Luftwaffe summed it up best. He said, "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

There are those who are willing to give up some rights to ensure their safety. I'm not one of them. I've read "Brave New World" and I don't want to live in that kind of world. One of our founding fathers felt the same way.

Benjamin Franklin said, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Missed posts

Somewhere down the line a glitch happened and a lot of these posts from 2010 and 2011 were placed in the "draft" file where they didn't get published. I've taken them out of the "draft" file and re-published them. So, now everything should be back to normal, whatever that means, and you can now read all the gibberish and ramblings for the past two years. Enjoy...or not.