Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sequestration – A Meaning Within a Definition

Sequestration… the first things I think of when I hear the word sequestration is isolating a jury for deliberations. The other thing that came to mind was deep sea drilling for oil and gas. So then I thought, exactly how does sequestration apply to the federal budget? If I listen to the talking heads on either side of the political spectrum all I can get from them is the big ticket budgets that will be impacted by this sequestration… and what a disaster it will be for this country and our economy. So, in my inquisitive style, I set off on a journey of understanding. The following is what I found and, in my mind, what I think it all means.

                Marriam-Webster defines sequestration (noun) as a legal writ authorizing a sheriff or commissioner to take into custody the property of a defendant who is in contempt until the orders of a court are complied with. The secondary definition given is even more interesting… Sequestration (noun) – A deposit whereby a neutral depository agrees to hold property in litigation and to restore it to the party to who it is adjudged to belong. Read this definition and understand and recognize what it is saying and what it means to you. Now, the Congressional Research Service defines sequestration as "In general, sequestration entails the permanent cancellation of budgetary resources by a uniform percentage. Moreover, this uniform percentage reduction is applied to all programs, projects, and activities within a budget account. However, the current sequestration procedures, as in previous iterations of such procedures, provide for exemptions and special rules. That is, certain programs and activities are exempt from sequestration, and certain other programs are governed by special rules regarding the application of a sequester.”(

So here I sit, dumbfounded, in front of my computer. The Marriam-Webster identifies that the root of their definition dates back to the 15th century.  The Congressional Research Services’ definition, the best I can tell, only dates back to 1985 as part of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of that same year. Ok… let’s see if I understand… the legislative and executive branches here act as the “commissioner who takes into custody the property of a “defendant”…”? Further, once the sequester kicks in, Congress or the Federal Government is the “neutral depository” that will hold our property, or taxes dollars, and are required to restore that property to who it is adjudged to belong? In my feeble mind, I think I understand what the accepted definition of sequestration means. However, because the citizenry of the United States cannot be left to try to understand these complex things on our own, the Federal Government re-defines sequestration as it applies to the federal budget. In perfect style, the Federal Government has taken something pretty simple and managed to make it into something so confusing that most Federal Courts cannot likely agree what this definition really means.

One man’s opinion on sequestration is this… I think it should happen. Before I get the rhetoric thrown back in my face, let’s be clear on why I feel this will ultimately be good for the country. But first let me be clear on this point… my position is born not of listening to the liberal press’s pontifications or any right-wing talking-points. I tend to look at the facts, or do my best to get to some semblance of truth to help formulate a position. I also live by the creed “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”, and this approach tends to make me more honest and realistic when assessing problems and/or issue. But I digress… The last 5+ years should be a wake-up call for the country.  We have adopted policies during both the Bush and Obama Administrations that have weaken the very foundations of our financial systems. Obama’s reckless spending, aided by a mixed House and Senate is leading us down a path of financial ruin not just as a nation, but as individual citizens. As an individual who could potentially benefit from tax increases on more wealthy Americans, I oppose the measure. Common sense kicks in and it tells me that raising taxes on ANYONE at this stage is bad for everyone! The answer in not to spend ourselves out of recession. Ask Japan how that approach served them?

Look, I favor a strong defense personally, but the military industrial complex is bloated, wasteful, and downright inefficient. The cuts that will go into effect as part of the sequestration are actually pretty timely. Sure, it is going to hurt for a little while, but we will survive. Think of it the same way we do our own household budgets. You might think it sucks giving up cable television because you cannot afford it, but over time, you may actually grow not to miss it at all, maybe rediscover music, and spend more time talking to your family members? You see, Congress and the President want us all to believe that they are making the right decisions for us. I think we all know that is questionable at best. The spending on both the Federal and State levels is disastrously out of control. There is no motivation or commitment to control spending. Government sees the only viable option is to raise taxes. This is a counter-intuitive approach and is grounds alone to send these folks back to civilian life so that they may have even an ever so slight taste of the pain we are all going through.

I want to circle back to one last point as it relates to the Marriam-Webster definition of sequestration. Again, Sequestration (noun) – A deposit whereby a neutral depository agrees to hold property in litigation and to restore it to the party to who it is adjudged to belong. This begs the question, if these cuts go into effect, what should be done with the proceeds of these spending cuts? To me, it is very simple… deficit reduction or tax cuts. Congress and the President need to restore this property back to the party who it SHOULD BE adjudged to belong, which are the American people. I’m going to throw out a suggestion since many families are starting to plan their summer vacations… take that money, or money from tax returns, and pay down your personal debt. I am not saying don’t go on vacation; just go to Lake George instead of Myrtle Beach or Disney World. Conceptually, Congress and the President need to do the same thing. President Obama, pay for your last vacation before you plan for your next vacation!

So, I will tell you that tomorrow night when the clock strikes 12 midnight, don’t be worried that sequestration is in motion… be thankful! The Federal Government needs to look at the problem for what it is and not run around looking for someone to blame, whether it be the past administration, their colleagues, or wealthy people. This will be the first step in the direction of correction. We will realize that, although it hurts, we will be better for it later. Don’t let the talking heads on the radio and television scare you… we will survive because we have to and because we are America, and that’s what we do! Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What Is The Music Of Your Life?

I need to confess… when I picked this topic, I thought it would be an easy one to write on. Then I sat down and realized that music was very important to me and out of respect and reverence, I needed to take my time and do this topic its justice. Albert Einstein summed it up well when he stated, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” I picked this topic to be a bit less serious and entertaining topic than my previous subject… but quickly realized what I always knew in my heart and mind… Music has been the one constant in my life and acts as the catalyst of my memories and brings them to life.
            I will share something that my wife and kids knows only too well… no matter what I am doing, work, play, eating or sleeping, I have music playing (and usually very loud) all of the time.  I wish I could point to a reason or an event as why this is the case, but I cannot. I do not come from a particularly musical family. I mean, I grew up in a house where the radio was always on, and my older brothers and sisters had varying tastes in music that contributed to my eclectic taste. I did take trumpet lessons for about a month when I was in fourth grade, but that never materialized. I am fortunate enough to have musically talented daughters who love music. Although my wife is a pure “80’s child” when it comes to music, she too is a lover of music. I have used music to help teach history lessons as a teacher for a short time in Troy High School. I have used music as a means to help raise money for those in need. So as you can see, music is that common link to all things important in my life, but allow Plato to summarize what I am trying to say in its proper perspective, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”
            So, allow me to give you a flavor for the kind of music that I enjoy. It starts with the great classical composer, Gregorian Chants sung in Latin, 1950’s crooners, 1960’s British Invasion, 1970’s pop, jazz fusion like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago, 1980’s MTV age music, some rap music, and finally some country music. Again this is just a taste of the type of music I enjoy. Through my brothers (thanks Tom and Don), I developed an appreciation for bands and singers such as Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, B.B. King, Chicago, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Crosby Stills & Nash, and Led Zeppelin. My personal music library even includes such greats as Frank Sinatra, The Bee Gees, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Rod Stewart. It is funny, but when we get into these types of discussions on Facebook and other social media, people get pretty emotional about their musical tastes. I know one person for sure (NV) that I will be volleying back and forth with after he reads this post.
            Now, to the heart of the matter… What makes a great song? Is it the lyrics, is it the rhythm or the beat, is the type or genre, or is it a combination of all of these things? Of course, I have an opinion and my opinion is… drumroll please… I am a lyrics guy mostly. Although you should never underestimate a stiff beat or a killer hook… the lyrics are the thing that usually attracts me to certain artist. I am in a constant state of utter amazement of the creative lyrics that many of these artists write. For me, it really starts with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Individually or collaboratively, the lyrics that these geniuses have etched on paper continue to define modern music as we know it. Another great songwriter that I know many of you will take issue with me on is Phil Collins. Many of you only hear to the songs played on the radio, but the artistry of words that this man can call his are nothing short of amazing. I’m not asking you to agree, but if you have a chance to listen to some of his lesser known songs, you may not skewer me too bad. Hannah Harrington in her book Saving June said that “It's just nice, I guess. Knowing that someone else can put into words what I feel. That there are people who have been through things worse than I have, and they come out on the other side okay. Not only that, but they made some kind of twisted, fucked-up sense of the completely senseless. They made it mean something. These songs tell me I'm not alone. If you look at it at that way, music... music can see you through anything.”
            I would be remiss if I failed to mention other great song writers such as Carole King, Bernie Taupin, David Crosby, Barry Manilow (that’s right), Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, Peter Cetera, Freddy Mercury, Daryl Hall, Jim Croce, John Denver, Bob Dylan, Lionel Ritchie, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Paul Simon, Bono, Stevie Wonder, Jim Morrison, and so many more that I didn’t mention but are no less significant. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard one of these artist's/writer’s songs and wished I had written it myself. I wish my mind could only grasp the kind of talent that these people possess(ed). If you are not feeling what I am telling you… look at the lyrics to Let It Be (Paul McCartney) or Woman (John Lennon). And since I threw most of you into a loop with the mention of Phil Collins, listen to the lyrics of little known songs like You Know What I Mean (Face Value) or We Said Hello Goodbye (No Jacket Required). There are so many songs by Phil Collins/Genesis that I could list, but I urge you to explore on your own if you are so inclined.
            For those of you that are attracted to the funky groove, hard hitting base, or wailing guitar, there is no shortage of songs that make you tap your foot or bang your head. I am not a fan of Heavy Metal Rock but one of sickest songs that I have ever heard is from the short-lived band Living Colour… Cult of Personality. That is one of those songs that just hit you right in your core… for me anyways. Other great songs that fit this bill are The Chain (Fleetwood Mac), 25 or 6 to 4 (Chicago), almost any Santana song, Sultans of Swing (Dire Straits), White Room (Clapton & Cream), Lucretia McEvil (Blood, Sweat and Tears), Bad to the Bone (George Thorogood) and so so so many more.
            So, I hope this post took you down memory lane, if only for one fleeting moment. Music is to be cherished. I found that it is not appropriate to criticize other’s taste in music because that is like questioning their lives or their heritage. There are many that will read this that would never have the guts to say they like Barry Manilow or the Bee Gees… and you don’t have to. In the silence of your home, it’s you, the music and the memories that count, not what people think of your taste in music. I also want to issue you a challenge… next time you are in your car at a traffic light and you hear a John Denver tune that you really like… don’t roll up your window and turn the radio down so the person next to you can’t hear it… I challenge you to crank the music up, crank the window down and let that person next to you and the whole world know that you “Thank God you’re a Country Boy!” I will leave you with this final thought as eloquently stated by Johann Wolfgang van Goethe, “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” Happy Reading!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Legislating Morality – Abortion and Stem Cell Research/Use

I will attempt to take on another hot-button topic while not committing blogging suicide here. As always though, I start with a brief disclaimer. I, personally, do not believe in abortion as an acceptable means to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. However, my position does not make me anti-abortion. Allow me to explain this seeming contradiction. I believe that human beings and the society in which we live dictate or establish acceptable behaviors. Whether we like it or not, or for whatever reason this option has become socially acceptable, it is a person’s right to decide what they can do with and to their bodies. Although I see abortion as an act of murder for which there are laws in this country that deal with that crime, “society” has deemed it acceptable to take an unborn child’s life. Abortion is the law of the land, but it does not mean you have to participate in its practice. Therefore, I do not agree with abortion, but recognize that it is the law of the land, and more importantly, a choice that should be left up to an individual without the need for legislation.

                I think that this issue is important because many tend to judge people and their moral standing based on which side of this issue they stand. Like most Americans, my position on abortion, stem cell research and use does not define me or who I am. My position here should not be judged as Conservative, Liberal, Evangelical, or uninformed. Take my opinion for what it is… apply your own critical analysis on the topic with my words above and develop your own informed position on these topics.

                Before we get down to the nitty gritty, I would first like to comment on the concept of “legislating morality”. The whole concept of legislating morality really befuddles me. To reiterate the point I made above, I do not judge an elected official on his or her position on moral issues. But, the thing that always makes me shake my head is the actions taken when it comes to moral legislation. Let’s take this one step further… United States Senators and Congress members will talk out of one side of their mouths about moral issues as if they were the moral authority all while their actions reflect the total absence of any personal moral compass. In other words, we should not be subjected to such hypocritical actions and votes on the floor of Congress by a body of people whose moral compass generally points to those positions that garner the most money or influence.

Now, back to the topic of abortion… I do believe that the act of abortion is wrong. However, society has decided that abortion is not only acceptable but a right. Roe v. Wade (January 22, 1973) established via Supreme Court decree that abortion is a fundamental right under the United States Constitution, thereby subjecting all laws attempting to restrict this right to strict scrutiny. Again, this right was established via court fiat. This is an act of moral legislation, although not specifically passed by Congress. I understand and support the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion. The reason I can support this ruling with a clear conscious is because I believe in God. I believe that God has given every one of us the gift of free will. I believe that God enlightens us as humans to choose that which is right and just. If you individually judge that abortion is acceptable not just socially, but morally, you should have the ability to receive this treatment. Having made this and other moralistic decisions in your life, I believe that when you have your day of judgment in front of God, you will answer for all of your decisions and actions on earth. Either way, we do not need to rely on an act of legislation or a court decision to validate what we all know is a moral question.

Another area of moral legislation that I don’t quite grasp is that of stem cell research and use. Stem cells are biological cells found in all multicellular organisms that can divide (through mitosis) and differentiate into diverse specialized cell types and can self-renew to produce more stem cells. In adult organisms, stem cells and progenitor cells act as a repair system for the body, replenishing adult tissues. In a developing embryo, stem cells can differentiate into all the specialized cells (these are called pluripotent cells), but also maintain the normal turnover of regenerative organs, such as blood, skin, or intestinal tissues (Wikipedia So, what does all that scientific mumbo jumbo mean? What it means is that the cures for many known and unknown diseases lie in the potential to be uncovered and gained through stem cell research and transplant. The political “right” has tied stem cell research to the abortion question. Again, staking a political position tied to a moral belief. Let’s be clear on this issue and draw the proper distinctions before we attach the “moral’ stigma to it.

I will state for a third time in this blog that I am personally against abortion. However, abortions are legal and happen in this country every day, unfortunately. I feel that if there is an opportunity to turn something as horrible as abortion into something positive, like the use of embryonic stem cells, we should consider the opportunity. I know my position here is a bit confusing. I cannot/will not validate a person’s decision to have an abortion. I will also premise my next statement by saying that I am a very strong supporter of organ donation and transplantation, as it gave me an extra 22+ years with my brother Don. Let’s use the cells of these aborted babies to advance or save another human beings life. This may be the only way that we can honor a life that will never live. The reality is stem cell research is not the driver behind decisions to have an abortion. Medical scientists continue to develop amazing medical advances through the research and use of embryonic stem cells. I think, under the circumstances, the government should not restrict the use of embryonic stem cells for this research and use based on a moralistic position alone. The technology is there to use these cells in a responsible way, and this advancement will potentially improve or give life to another human being. In my view, this is not much different than organ transplants or blood transfusions with the exception of where these cells are harvested.

In closing, I would say that if I could save or improve one life through a tragedy like an abortion, it is the right thing to do. I have a child with special needs, had a brother that lived to have a family as the result of a heart transplant. I have also seen many friends and family members suffer and die at the hands of cancer and heart disease. God not only gives us a choice, he also gives us opportunities. Let’s leave politics out of such questions. If there needs to be some regulation over certain areas, that is something we can consider, but don’t let politics take away an opportunity to improve a life. I believe that the doctors and scientists along with politicians in this country have an obligation to share with us those medical breakthroughs without having to maintain a political or special interest scorecard. Just one man’s opinion… Happy Reading!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How Do I Judge Success?

Before I go into the details on how I judge success I would like to say that I am my own worst critic… and this is a good thing! Writing this particular blog post is a bit of a journey of self-discovery. Pulling my thoughts together here was both painful and therapeutic at the same time. I only hope that this post, as well as the other before and those yet to come, leave you with something positive.
So… success… I will try to start by establishing a baseline or perspective of what success is. Is success reaching a clear established goal? Is success where you or your organization rate versus your peers? Or, is success tied to happiness? Success is certainly not only linked to these general concepts. I will talk in general terms first, and then relate all this back to my personal view of success for myself. I think you will see that this topic is more subjective than objective.
                The On-Line Business Dictionary ( has a very “institutional” definition of success. The finer points of the definition touch upon time, parameters, goals, objectives, and tasks. Webster’s Dictionary defines success as “the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence”. On Yahoo Answers personal contributors use such words as live, choice, freedom, be yourself, achievement, dreams, fame, friends, honesty, security, and happiness. Perhaps the most famous and widely-acclaimed definition of success was penned by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who stated:
 “The definition of success — To laugh much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affections of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm, and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived — this is to have succeeded.”
                I felt it was important to point out these different points of view and to make this critical point… Success is not found in how others define you, but is found in how you define yourself!
                On a personal level, I do not see myself as successful. I have had successes in my life, most importantly being my family. I do not or cannot define my life as a success for many reasons, chief being that I fear that if I do see my life as successful, then satisfaction and contentment slips in. These are two of the biggest things I fear in my life! One of the downfalls of success, if attained, is not having all of the people that helped you reach success there to share it. Of course, I have my beautiful and loving wife and kids to share individual successes with, but when I do have “success” I often find myself thinking about the people I cannot share that success with. I understand that this is not necessarily the healthiest approach to life, but when life doesn’t follow the script we have laid out for ourselves, we find our ways to cope.
                The way I view success in others, whether it be an individual, group, or entity can be summed up with one word, “integrity”. I have witnessed many people reach “success” under somewhat suspicious circumstances. What good is success if you took shortcuts to get there and cannot look at yourself in the mirror each morning? I think that is worse than failure. Second place? Hell, last place is more acceptable if I can say that I did it the right way, with integrity.  That is how I view success externally. Don’t tell me about your successes… let your actions do all the talking!
                So, as we set our next goal or face our next challenge, my personal advice is to accept the challenge with integrity and with as much sincerity and vigor as possible. Don’t let anyone define success for you, and always be your greatest and most vocal critic. Enjoy individual success, but never rest on your laurels. Keep pushing and try not to let so abject “success” be your driving force, and use self-reflection as a tool often. Don’t let life pass you by while admiring your own success. Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

When Will We Stop Blaming Politicians and Take Responsibility?

Between the local and national news, print and social media, we are constantly bombarded with opinions on our country's politicians. These opinions range between judgement on specific legislation, general support of certain causes or special interests, and on a very personal level. I cannot help but say that some of these opinions are warranted. After all, when an individual makes the conscious decision to enter the public arena, they need to expect and embrace the dissent that is sure to follow.

I think it is fair to say that the general public has become jaded as to the motivations of individuals who enter politics. If we were to take a scientific poll and ask people why we think people (in general) enter politics I would bet that "to help the general public" would rank behind such options as "personal financial gain", "gain influence" or "ego". If my assumption is at least reasonable, than why would anyone ever vote for anyone?

This is where we need to use some self-reflection. We can talk about special interests and lobbyists buying influence and we can point to a biased media... pick your excuse. Have you ever thought that the electorate, or you and me, have the ultimate say if we would only consistently participate in the elective process? All we have to do is look at the voting trends from last years elections  to understand why certain politicians have gained the power they have.

In the 2012 elections, all 435 House seats were contested. There were 42 incumbents who retired, leaving 393 seats to be contested by incumbents.

-  13 incumbents were defeated in the primary elections.
-  22 incumbents were defeated in the general election, 10 Democrats and 12 Republicans.

That makes for 358 incumbents reelected of the 393 who were running (or 35 House incumbent losses, depending on how you want to look at it), making a reelection rate for 2012 of 91%. This is about 2% lower than the historical average since 1954. 

In the 2012 elections, 33 U.S. Senate seats were contested. Ten of these were open seats due to incumbent retirements. That leaves 23 seats that an incumbent contested. One incumbent was defeated in the primaries: Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana. One incumbent lost the general election: Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts. All other incumbents were reelected. 

That makes 21 of 23 incumbents reelected to the Senate in the 2012 election, (or 2 incumbent Senate losses, depending on your perspective), making for a 2012 Senate reelection rate of 91%. This is slightly higher than historical standards (where the average is right around 85% for the Senate), but not out of the ordinary.

By my quick tabulations, New York State Election Results:

NYS Assembly

127 incumbent members were re-elected
2 incumbent members lost
21 member were elected to open seats

NYS Senate

53 incumbent members were re-elected
1 incumbent members lost
8 member were elected to open seats

I could go into the details about the political careers of politicians like Joe Bruno, Michael McNulty, Ron Canesterari, Henery Zwack and Steve Dworsky... but that is not my point. We, the electorate, continue to put these people back in power. As each year and each successive election passes, we create future generations of supporters who blindly support certain politicians and/or parties only because these were our parents choices. Yet we disagree with something an elected official does and heap the blame on them or their party only to re-elect them the very next election.

Allow me to kick aside my soapbox for a moment and issue a challenge to anyone who reads this blog... listen, think, apply critical analysis and then judge. Voice your approval or disapproval, but don't forget about it when the next election cycle rolls around. The incumbent politician does not fear the general public... they have proven this by and large by their behaviors and actions while in office. Politicians fear the media (negative press) and lobbyists. You want to see an incumbent politician jump, give him or her some negative press or send your contributions to his or her opponent.

The statistics above say everything that needs to be said. The one statistic that I didn't show  but is the saddest of all is overall voter turnout. It is an outright embarrassment as a nation to see the number of voters seems to shrink every year.Why do you ask? Apathy, lack of a real alternative? Neither are an excuse. I always enjoy the Wednesday after the election when people who didn't vote have the nerve to state their opinion on the outcome of the elections. That, to me, is the height of hypocrisy. the one thing we have that isn't bought and sold by MOST politicians or special interests in your vote. Why do you think so many politician risk their careers to steal votes? I believe if more people took a personal interest in their privilege and obligation to vote, I believe voter fraud situations will virtually disappear.

I am a stronger advocate of a multi-party system now than I have ever been in my life. It is the biggest farce in politics to believe or to say that the Independence Party is independent! The same can be said for the Conservative, Liberal, Green and Working Families Parties as well. One of the biggest turnoffs of any alternate party affiliation is its direct ties to either of the major parties. I believe that the time is right for a rise of a true political revolution. The Tea Party, philosophy aside, has fired a shot over the bow of the two-party system nationally, but additional, more independent parties are needed to see a real impact.

So, what is the alternative? Short term, I believe we need to show politicians that incumbency is not a free ticket. It is time we send career politicians back out into the "real world" wrought with regular work hours, barely affordable medical insurance, a reliance on a up and down stock market for their retirement, and a future of social security and medicare reliance. You see, entrenched politicians are insulated from the "real world" and the ONLY way to reacquaint them with the "real world" it you return them back to it.

Term limits are not the answer either because if we held elected officials responsible for their actions (or non-action), we would limit their time in office through the ballot box. So, next time you feel the need to attack an elected official for their actions, use that energy to participate in the process and send them packing. Remember, any politician's future rests in the vote of their constituents, in other words, you and me. Every movement starts somewhere. It may be an event, a group of people, or an individual that lights that fire... but it needs a spark! What side of history will you be on? Are you a spectator or are you a participant? Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Gun Debate and Where I Stand

I was going to wait to address this topic but now seems as good a time as any. This piece will be based both in fact and opinion. I looked up information on the Internet and did my best to verify secondary sources. I am an avid reader and believer in the Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers had the foresight to look down the line, into the future, and understood the need to address limits on the Federal Government and that the states, in their individual sovereignty, not disregard the Constitution when crafting its own laws.

The 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as set forth in the U.S. Bill of Rights provides for and clearly protects the rights of people to keep and bear arms. The United States Supreme Court has ruled on numerous occasions that an individual's right to possess and carry firearms in fact is a right under the 2nd Amendment. Let's look at two relatively recent Supreme Court cases to further establish this right.

In 2008 the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision addressing the longstanding argument made against an individual's right to possess and carry firearms as a non-member of a state's militia. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 US, 570 (2008), the Court ruled that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia (states National Guard) and to use that firearm for traditional lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

In 2010 the case of McDonald v. Chicago, 561 US, 3025 (2010), citing District of Columbia v. Heller, defined what the term "state militia" meant in the 2nd Amendment. Numerous other cases were also cited in this decision, and outlined that a "state militia" is made up of able-bodied citizenry who would report for service to their state and were expected to provided their own arms. It is important to note, however, although both decisions cited above upheld an individual's right to possess and carry firearms, they also upheld individual state's rights to make laws addressing the lawful ownership and possession of a firearm.

All that being said, and as promised, I will give my opinion on the matter. This caveat first... I am not a Constitutional Attorney or Scholar. I am a fairly educated American who served in the United States Marine Corps. I am a believer in traditional values but also recognizes and believes in progress. I will not repeat right-wing conspiracy theories here, nor will I give credence to any of the left-wing's "scholarly interpretations" of what our Founding Father's meant when they wrote these founding documents. You see, I think the Founding Fathers left behind volumes of literature that clearly delineates what they intended their words to mean. Clearly there was dissent between the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist during the drafting and subsequent passage of the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights... but they were able to reach a consensus. Something that is painfully obvious our politicians cannot do today!

I believe that history is our guide for the future. Not withstanding all the supporting literature written by the Founding Fathers during that time, we should also look at the unstable history of Europe and the great civilizations over the Milenas for guidance. The adage "those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it" is not just an adage in my eyes... it has been proven through the wrinkled pages of time. It is simple concept to me that the Federal Government does not have the right to take away the individual right to own firearms. Literature, laws, and times should not have the ability to change that. Further, states cannot unfairly abridge these rights that were first granted by the Federal Government. What states like New York, Illinois and the District of Columbia have done to limit these right are criminal and a direct violation of our rights!

I will save my opinion on the situation in Connecticut for a later post. I will leave you with this though first... when will we address the real route of this issue... the way our society sees and deals with mental health issues. What New York is doing doing now is a knee-jerk reaction to a truly tragic situation. The President of the United States, in the same vein as New York, is attempting to address the means of this situation, and not the ends. The means beings the guns... the means could have been a car driven at high speeds through a school yard, or a firebomb in a school cafeteria, or poison in the school lunches. And of course, the ends being the clear demonstration by a troubled youth of mental health issues that were not properly addressed. I do not blame only the school in this instance, but they certainly share in the responsibility. Again, I will address this issue in more depth in the future... until then, Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Words of Wisdom

I will dedicate this topic to a great friend that not so recently took his act down south.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation at work or home or in one of your other lives (organizations) where you attempt to explain something to your audience and they just don't seem to get it? In your mind the answer is just so simple... you think the answer is as obvious as the time on the clock. But, the time on the clock is different in New York than it is in California. In other words, not everybody sees what we see or, more importantly, thinks the way we think.

I have found that this concept is critical to successful and healthy life. I think back to my life since I turned 18 years old. My perspectives on many things changed since those formative years. My attention and interests were pretty typical for a young adult who was about to enter the "real world". I knew I had much to learn, but had unconsciously arrived to a point in my thought that entrenched me in a perspective that I accepted as "truth".

I entered the United States Marine Corps at 20 years old. During my time in the Marine Corps my perspectives changed and, to a degree, intensified. The military, and specifically the Marine Corps, tend to do this to people. I also had the good fortune to have a strong and opinionated family whose sometimes opposing views provided a safe landscape to examine my views. My wife of 17+ years was also an important part of my "re-education" while still in my early 20's. Factor in my diverse and vast (and expensive) education, I thought I finally had life all figured out. Key concept here is THOUGHT!

Too late in my life I was introduced to the concept of "not everyone thinks the way I do" in a common-sense, congestible form. I have to thank TR, who is the person I dedicate this first blog post to for that. I have to say that this lesson is perhaps the most important and painful life lesson I've learned. It has made me a more compassionate and well-rounded person. I feel this approach has made me a better son, husband, father, brother, friend, employee, and advocate for others.

Please understand that this perspective is not something that you arrive at and the work is done. Quite to the contrary... this is a daily struggle, a struggle that I continue to embrace because I know the positive affects this thinking has had on my life. So, put the shoe on the other foot once in a while and see how it feels... you may be surprised how it feels. You may realize that the shoe fits better than you thought it would.

On a broader note, I want to thank everyone in my life, past and present, who helped to make me into the responsible person that I have become. (you'll have to take my word for it here :-)) I am not naive enough to believe that I have gotten this far in 41 years on my own. However, I do not discount the time, effort, and commitment on my own part.

I don't enter the blogging community with any pre-conceived notions or expectations. Some will read this blog, other will not. As long as you read, I will post. I believe I have a few nuggets of knowledge to share, but they are only my perspectives and my perspectives and $1 will barely buy you a Coke. Feel free to hit me back and questions my thoughts... and shoot them full of holes. I will even listen to direct attacks of me... but only ask that you limits your barbs to me. That said, Happy Reading!!!

Matt Washock