Saturday, December 24, 2011

Choice Is Yours

Increasingly each day, I draw closer to believing that life is similar to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Remember? Reading page after page of treasure hunts and haunted houses, periodically reaching a series of choices from which to continue. What if life is the same? A guiding hand turning the pages of assured paths laid out, while we, the individual must choose from the choices presented to us. Predestination and freewill, combining to create something whole? Creationism and evolution, working together? I know, what madness.

Unfortunately, unlike a fictional book, you cannot cheat and return to the list of choices (because we all did!) to take a different path. In life, the path one chooses from those presented is no less than a leap of faith.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Friday, December 16, 2011

Clowns To The Left, Jokers To The Right

In previous posts, I endorsed Herman Cain for president. Cain was a true non-political outsider seeking to upset the standard corps of nominees trotted about by our two-party system. While I still have another potential conservative horse, it is not a perfect match. Thus, I have again looked beyond the usual suspects and turned to third-party nominees. I know – why even vote if I am potentially throwing it away on a long-shot third-party candidate? That is exactly the thinking that entrenched politicians from the ranks of the Democrats and Republicans want voters to have, in order to maintain the current, tired two-party system that pits only the frontrunner from each.

Time to change it up. With my classical liberalism leanings – limited government; individual liberty; free markets; freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly – many have pegged my conservatism more in line with Libertarians than Republicans. I would not disagree with that assessment. As such, Libertarian Party nominee RJ Harris is a candidate I feel best fits that idea. Again, like with Cain, check him out, and see how he fits for you.

Keep in mind that if we continue to elect the same, tired politicians while asking for change, we have only ourselves to blame. For more, see -

© 2011 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, December 1, 2011

If Only Their Pants Were On Fire

Today’s campaign managers should avoid the conventional wisdom in running a political candidate’s campaign. At least until they have been forthright with their candidate:  what skeletons are in your closet, no matter how trivial? From previous scandals involving claims of inappropriate behavior and sexual misconduct, particularly those of former President Bill Clinton, there is one lesson learned:  you do not lie about it, and you do not try to cover it up. In the modern age, no one passes the scrutiny test with so much information so readily available. As the late George Carlin observed, voters want their politicians to be honest about being full of it.

In the current scandal involving GOP candidate Herman Cain, only two possibilities exist once you eliminate that both sides are telling their version of the truth:

Scenario #1:  Herman Cain is lying.

1) What is the benefit?

Staving off the allegations to focus on his candidacy and pressing his agenda for addressing the issues facing the United States.

2) What is the drawback?

Being caught in the lie. End of campaign, end of political career.

Scenario #2:  Herman Cain’s accusers are lying.

1) What is the benefit? (Or, more aptly – who benefits?)

Herman Cain’s campaign collapses, highlighting the follow-up question of who benefits from such a scenario. Certainly, the other GOP candidates. But at this stage, why concentrate energy deceitfully attacking the character of a single candidate? Those candidates leading the polls do not need to, and those behind would only slightly gain a few percentage points. If not sabotage from party ranks, then whom does that leave? Whom does a successful, black conservative threaten?

2) What is the drawback?

Again, being caught in the lie, and possibly something more nefarious. Herman Cain’s campaign soars on the false allegations. Again, why would any GOP candidate potentially sabotage their own campaign in the attempt to do the same to another? Again, who does that leave?

The problem with the second proposition is the conspiracy. Why, at this stage, against a candidate who is one of several leading contenders? If that leaves only the first proposition, the question remains – why? Lying about events only hurts Cain in the end, while setting the record straight – either by denying the allegations in earnest, as he has, or by acknowledging the legitimacy of the allegations – moves beyond to the real issues. Either way, it is too late for whoever has set in motion an apparent web of lies.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fool For Thought

Nowadays, I typically do not use the drive-thru. For one, I drive a truck and wish not to exhaust any more fuel than necessary. Secondly, I have come to find the convenience of the drive-thru impersonal. Sometimes, taking the added time to go inside gives a person, on both sides of the counter, the human need for personal interaction.

Recently, I needed a new fuel pump installed on my truck. Using a can of starter fluid, I was able to determine that this was in fact the cause of my troubles. Cost = $2. Typically, I try to do my own repairs, mainly because I am capable enough and to save labor costs. Occasionally, as in the case of a fuel pump stupidly designed into the fuel tank, I have to use a repair shop for the work. There was a time when a mechanic – one you knew by name from years using them – could diagnose a problem just by looking at your vehicle. Now, drivers shell out hundreds of dollars for a mechanic to hook up a diagnostic computer to do it. What happened when I took my vehicle to a mechanic? Even though I had told them the specific problem, they needlessly hooked it up to a computer to determine the problem. Cost = $95.

On Thanksgiving, I decided to participate in “Black Friday.” By participate, I mean drive (thanks to the new fuel pump) to a mall, park and observe the chaos. No serious shopping for me, though I did peruse the electronics for deals. Nothing caught my eye that was so necessary for me to have camped out for days – missing my turkey dinner – or wait in line for hours. As I aimlessly meandered through the dense crowds, I overheard
an associate radio another at one store, “there’s no place to do returns for a couple of hours.” Presumably, the situation dictated that those registers be used for checking out customers, but would there really be an overabundance of them trying to return an item at midnight? Who is standing in line for hours to purchase something, only to turn around and stand in another to make a return? Guess people really do go loony on Black Friday. Or, just want more time interacting with others.

Now, it’s “Cyber Monday,” the catchy name given to the online version of frenzied consumerism. As impersonal as it may be, hidden by the veil of cyberspace, it is a day that can draw even the most anti-shopping person. For starters, unless a shared computer, finding a parking space is no problem. Second, no fuel is wasted driving store to store – averting, for a time, the necessity of a costly new fuel pump. Moreover, even with shipping costs, one can save money while checking yourself out. Without having to stand in line(s).

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A House Divided

“History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme.” Oh Mark Twain, how true your words ring. Many pundits are comparing the Obama Administration to that of former President Jimmy Carter, and for good reason:  economic woes, social unrest and political activism. All bundled together by a general malaise over the divergent path of the nation. Both periods also have witnessed Afghanistan and Iraq in the throes of uncertain transition, Israelis and Palestinians in conflict and Iran a foreign-policy nightmare. Sound familiar? And while these conditions have the appearance that 1979-’80 is recurring three decades later, it is more the variety of commonality than repetitive.

Yet, in many stark ways, it is not 1979. Even as drivers grow angry over the price of gas while continuing to drive all over creation – ostensibly to purchase the latest electronic gizmo that they absolutely MUST have – there are no lines or quotas at gas stations disrupting our daily lives. When President Carter left office, unemployment was at 7.5%, with a truly dismal jobs report on opportunities for American workers. (Again, with an unemployment rate sustained above 9%, sound familiar?) Today, unemployed protesters besiege Wall Street, however justifiably, over their role in the economic collapse, yet do nothing themselves to revive the allegedly worsening economy by filling the thousands of unfulfilled jobs purportedly taken by illegal aliens or shipped overseas. “Job creation” is nothing more than a buzz phrase used by politicians to push their economic agenda. Peruse any classifieds of any city and you will see jobs available, just not ones Americans deem suitable for achieving the self-proclaimed right-by-birth “American Dream” – a prime example of prosperity breeding indifference, and any threat, real or otherwise, to that accustomed level breeding indignation.

Frankly, I have never been a sign-making, camping-out protester, leaving it more to private and written rants. Feeling accomplished without paying the issue another thought. In high school, I once dragged my friends Pete and John to a rally sponsored by a local radio station protesting the censorship of rock lyrics – a campaign spearheaded by the Parents Music Resource Center, whose committee members included none other than former Vice-President Al Gore’s wife, Tipper. We woke up, drove down and basically stood around listening to people decry government intrusion on individualism and choice. The rally, while an enlightening experience that allowed us to lend our voice to a cause, failed to accomplish anything other than the continuance of our teenage angst against the establishment. In the end, the opposition eventually won out with warning labels on controversial music albums still seen today.

There are those individuals whose sole purpose in life is to rally against every trivial issue. As that trend escalates, there is a dangerously growing divide in this country among political ideologies, perhaps on a scale not seen since the Civil War or Civil Rights eras. With the dramatic gulf between liberals and conservatives, civility in political discourse has taken a backseat to escalating hostility and bitter, unabashed polarization. As if two nations exist, with either side no longer willing to compromise egoistic hegemony for magnanimous accord. Or acknowledging fault for missteps that have heightened rather than alleviate the socio-economic crises the country continues to face, instead choosing to politicize and demonize the other side in blame.

In placing blame, many have fallen back on tired language and stereotypical rhetoric. Surprisingly, this comes more from liberals than conservatives – even though conservatives endure the brunt of accusations for such perpetuation – who bring up these issues with no other purpose than to change the focus of discussion, marginalize the opposition and draw attention away from the real issue. Ironically, the continual mention of race, gender, disability and/or age maintains, rather than alleviates, the societal stigma that liberals are so keen on eliminating, thus preventing the extinguishment of such biases despite efforts otherwise. If we abandoned the need to mention such demographics, society would no longer associate the long-ingrained negative connotations of those terms. That, of course, is optimistic. The first three – race, gender, disability – have long histories of bias, examined in depth by numerous scholars. Age is particularly strange, though, as older members of society used to be associated with wisdom and experience; now, it is seen as a drain on resources and out-of-touch.

Many, including myself, like to blame the media continually giving voice to these deluded extremists. In certain cases, this is not an unwarranted indictment. Let’s face it, though, human bias has played a role since humanity first began recording events eons ago. Until our robot overlords begin reporting the news – and in some instances, hasn’t this already begun? – such bias will continue to be an influence. It simply comes down to filtering the irrational from the reliable. What the United States needs – what it must do – is to return to its core principles. Principles defined in our aged, yet enduring founding documents. We, the People, are exactly one year away from the next presidential election, with the hope that it can bring change that moves us from the brink rather than irrevocably pushing us over the edge. For as President Abraham Lincoln wisely, if not prophetically, stated, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” 

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, September 11, 2011

When The World Changed

Ten years have passed since September 11, 2001, and the terrorists attacks that ushered in a new era for the United States and the world. At the exact time of their occurrence, I was sleeping. A night owl by habit, and choice, I have never been a morning person. After the second plane struck the World Trade Center, my sister frantically awakened me; she, like most others, had believed the first plane nothing more than a tragic accident. When I turned on the television and an attack on the Pentagon became evident, the situation was irrefutable:  terrorists had declared war not only on western civilization, but also on the United States.

Of course, several salvos had already been aimed at the United States throughout the 1990s. The first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, perpetrated by the nephew, Ramzi Yousef, of 9/11 mastermind and al-Qaeda member Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya in 1998, perpetrated by the closely-affiliated Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda; and the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, again by al-Qaeda operatives while anchored in the Gulf of Aden, Yemen. The Clinton Administration’s response consisted of ineffectively stern warnings and the occasional missile strike against al-Qaeda as part of "Operation Infinite Reach." Targets included the Sudanese Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory, characterized as a WMD-related facility producing chemical weapons that could fall into the hands of al-Qaeda. [Of particular note, Clinton’s former Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, testified under oath to the 9/11 Commission to connections between the factory and Iraq’s chemical weapons program.]

On the face of it, al-Qaeda had been waging war against the U.S. long before 2001. We, as a nation, seemed not to understand that until tragically reminded.

News reports soon came in during the morning of September 11 about the plight of another plane, United Airlines Flight 93, and an apparent revolt engineered by its passengers. I remember crying at the news, but not tears of sorrow for yet another hijacked plane. They were of joy and patriotism. As the first response in the war against the terrorists, ordinary citizens had stood up and fought against them. No different from the defenders of Thermopylae, The Alamo or Bastogne, holding their ground against insurmountable odds. Thinking about it ten years later, a lump still develops in my throat as my eyes well-up at the thought of their heroics and ultimate sacrifice – the same felt for those citizens and emergency personnel who gave their lives at the other two sites in New York and Washington, DC. Never forgotten, forever patriots. [At least, one would think not forgotten - "First Responders Not Invited To 9/11 Ceremony In NYC."]

At the time, I was 29 years old – the same eternal age as Gotham City’s fictional superhero, Batman. I had just started graduate school. Both my parents had been born, raised and worked for a time in New York City. My paternal grandfather had a successful medical career in the city for forty years, while my maternal grandfather had worked, retired and passed away in the city. On a lesser scale than New Yorkers who experienced it first-hand, I felt an immediate confused anger to the attacks due to those connections. Like many Americans wanting to fight back, I attempted to take up the gauntlet. Having once considered attending Annapolis and pursuing a Navy career, specifically as a naval aviator, I revisited the idea by talking and applying to several recruiters. Educated and degreed, my desire was to join Naval Intelligence. Curiously, and dishearteningly, I never heard back from them. 

In the spirit of Thomas Paine and Elijah Lovejoy, I instead took to the pen in my dual roles as an editorial writer and a historian. Indeed, the pen (“ideas”) being mightier than the sword (“action”), a notion exemplified countless times throughout human history. After all, al-Qaeda itself started as an idea motivating extremists to action, culminating in the September 11 attacks. Nonetheless, possessing a pro-military attitude combined with unrelenting support for sustaining the War on Terror, I continue to believe in total war:  enemies driven into unconditional submission, and destroyed. No quarter given. For as even Mahatma Gandhi, the preeminent advocate of non-violence, stated, “It is better to be violent if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.”

Yet how do you destroy an enemy that is like a cockroach, concealed in secrecy and scurrying from place to place? (Or, in the case of Osama bin Laden, not to mention many other high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders, apparently in a not-so-hidden Pakistani compound.) You burn down the forest, preferably by unleashing the might of the U.S. military. That's how former President George W. Bush saw it, and President Obama even has recognized, reluctantly, the importance of taking the fight to the enemy. And it's worked out pretty well so far. Forests will grow back; a dead enemy stays dead.

Alas, some of these terrorists, like 9/11 masterminds Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, still draw breath at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Meantime, a decade later, the families of their victims’ continue to await justice for innocent lives never to be lived. That is why we fight, and must continue to as the world recognizes the 10th anniversary of the attacks, so that the voices of those lost - at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and on the four hijacked planes (American Airlines 11, United Airlines 175, American Airlines 77 and United Airlines 93) - are never silenced. So say we all!

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rub Some Dirt In It

There have been, and continue to be, lawsuits filed against the National Football League and equipment manufacturers over player injuries. Specifically, head injuries sustained by now-retired players that have caused all sorts of health problems. They contend that the league and manufacturers are in cahoots to hide the truth concerning these types of injuries. As a person who entertains the occasional conspiracy theory, I will not comment one way or the other the truth of those claims.

While sympathetic to the plight of injured former players, who should have their full pensions and health benefits paid by their former employer, my sympathy only goes so far. Did gladiators of ancient Rome sue the Empire over its failure to warn them about the dangers of the games and traumatic limb loss? No. For any participants of contact sports, there should be a certain understanding that injuries will occur. To think otherwise is to be naïve, if not stupid.

My grandfather and his brother played semi-pro football in the 1920s, back when they wore leather “helmets.” It was nothing more than a skull diaper, designed more for collecting your brain matter than for protection. Both had served during World War I as well, sustaining injuries from mustard gas attacks. Neither ever complained about it or gave a thought about suing someone for it, because these were their choices. (They also, allegedly, split a bottle of Wild Turkey – no chasers, no mixers – before my parents wedding, though you would not have known it.) I just guess these two stout Irishmen came from a different generation. A generation when men were men, who took a lick and kept on ticking. 

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Something Wicked This Way Cometh?

Six possible explanations for recent weather/seismic activity:

1. Nothing more than natural occurrences. Boring. (And don’t say man-made global warming is the cause. Earth has been volatile for billions of years, long before humanity came along. We as a species only wish we were important enough to be an influence. Either way…boring.)

2. The Apocalypse. Now we are talking Michael Bay action flick:  the planet consumed by and in the throes of an extinct-level event, people panicking in mass hysteria as society collapses, and utter destruction with stuff blowing up. Not to mention one lone guy in his bunker waiting for it all to calm down, so he can have some peace and quiet for a change without people annoying him every second of every day. Plus, there’s stuff blowing up. ‘Nuff said.

3. Time travel. According to Timecop, a time travel device could cause seismic disturbances. After all, you are breaking through the space-time continuum; there must be planetary/universal consequences for doing so. However, this scenario we really do not want, because it could mean someone is going back in time and potentially screwing up the timeline. Making for a bad commute to work…if you even still exist. (And yes, I quoted a Van Damme movie.)

4. Stargate program. Certainly not to mean the movie and three subsequent series spawned from it? Nothing but propaganda to disinform the public concerning the program. Classic subterfuge. Duh. The stargate is shown to cause seismic disturbances and climate anomalies when activated. This is the scenario we want, because it means traveling to other worlds and possibly gathering advanced technology. Technology that is gradually rolled out by the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Again, classic subterfuge.

5. A weather machine. For nefarious purposes, an entity – either government-sponsored or terrorist-linked – has invented a weather machine. Crazy, like something out of a superhero cartoon or James Bond novel? Perhaps. Conceivable? Absolutely, given our technological advances [see #4] and understanding of weather patterns and seismic activity. This one is kind of a cool scenario on the surface, but quickly dissolves once the realization hits that there is no superhero or James Bond to thwart them.

6. Alien invasion. This one may prove Scientology correct, or not, and the volcano-encased essences of thetans – from the Galactic Confederacy ruled by the tyrant Xenu – who seek to do harm against humanity. Or something like that. Again, a scenario we do not want, all of us non-believers (e.g. sane people) having to eat crow. Battlefield Earth? God help us…and not your “god” L. Ron.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Friday, August 12, 2011

Downplaying the Downgrade

In his press conference on Monday, President Obama was correct on one point:  our economic crisis is not from a lack of plans or policies. Realistically, it is from a lack of leadership over the past two years to implement ones that work. Standard & Poor’s specifically mandated that for the U.S. to maintain its “AAA” credit rating, spending on entitlement programs had to be cut with a demonstration that those in place could be funded. How much of this was addressed in the self-congratulatory debt bill that was passed by Congress at the 11th hour? Absolutely none of it. Simply because Democrats, more so than Republicans, were unwilling to sacrifice certain so-called “sacred cows”; instead they sacrificed the nation’s credit rating for a higher debt ceiling, which is little more than an increased spending limit.

S&P Downgrade Not Likely To End Partisan Gridlock

Congress Needs To 'Cowboy Up' To Fix The Economy

A Debt Call We Should Have Seen Coming

To hear the politicos on the left – despite having control of Congress for two years, failing to pass a budget and aware of potential economic troubles down the road if nothing were done – none of this is their fault. It’s the fault of those opposed to the agenda of the left, an agenda in which bureaucracy, entitlements and the deficit grow beyond control and stays the course to economic collapse. Again, it’s the fault of George W. Bush. That is what a society of entitlements breed:  placing responsibility on others, instead of on yourself. Rather than attack a predecessor who left office over two years ago, the current administration would be better served in highlighting its achievements to stymie existing economic woes – no matter on whose watch they occurred. Yet, that is the only viable option for the Obama Administration, because there are no highlights:  unemployment that continues to hover over 9%, after inheriting a rate under 6%; Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at a paltry 1.30%, which stood at 5% just a year ago; and a federal deficit that has grown by over $4 trillion in just two years, which only stands to go higher with the aforementioned increase to the debt ceiling.

And so, the president must fall back on the age-old mantra that the problems of today are the problems of yesterday, rather than being a leader who has led the country out of the crises.

Of course there are echoes of the past in the current economic climate, but not of recent memory. The calendar may read 2011, but it feels a lot like 1931. Used loosely, the term “feel” even seems overblown because it certainly doesn’t “look” like it:  everyone on their mobile phone playing games despite being “so busy at work” or “looking for a job”; people still driving around in their gas guzzlers while complaining about the price of gas; and going out for dinner because “there’s nothing to eat at home” or “I didn’t feel like cooking.” Not exactly The Great Depression, where you passed your unemployed time staring at the wall while bouncing a ball, standing in the soup kitchen line for scraps or actually looking for a low-paying but honest days work. There is still the sense though – that “feeling” – it could all happen again in an instant.

The question is when global markets collapse again (and they will) and global conflicts erupt again (and they will), who saves the world this time? Or, in a haze of apathy and inaction, has the world already been lost?

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Monday, August 1, 2011

Top Ten Annoying Words

This is my top ten words and phrases that, in my opinion, are thrown around and overused by those trying to sound impressive and/or intellectual:

1. Visceral
2. Synergy
3. Paradigm
4. Cerebral
5. Pontificate
6. Forward-thinking
7. Mission Critical
8. Discourse
9. Hegemony
10. Postmodern

Ex. - “There was a visceral synergy in the paradigm that made it very cerebral, to pontificate such a forward-thinking approach that is mission critical to successful discourse concerning hegemony in a postmodern world.

Sounds pompously smug, does it not? Frankly, I have no idea what I just wrote. Or even what “postmodern” is supposed to connote. (How can the modern world be in a postmodern state??? That doesn’t make any sense.) And now my brain hurts.

(That said, there is a word, newly created, that should be in your vocabulary:  "awesomer," defined as the state of being more awesome. Ex. - "Iron Man, Thor and Captain America were awesome, but The Avengers preview was awesomer." Please use this term whenever appropriate.)

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Kind of Sports Town

Let’s talk sports. Particularly baseball, but maybe hockey as well. Born and raised in St. Louis, membership in Cardinal Nation is pretty much automatic; you just have to love the “Birds on the Bat.” Frankly, I could not see myself as anything other than a fan of the Redbirds. When I was younger, there was the chance we would move to Kansas City and Milwaukee, respectively, for my dad’s work. Thankfully, that never happened. Royals? Brewers? Yuck. I love being a Cardinals fan – the great teams and players, the storied history and championships. This is the city of The Rajah, Dizzy, Ducky, The Man and Gibby. Damn the Yankees, and their Babe, Clipper, Mick, Chairman and Mr. October. (Sports certainly has its nicknames!)

I was also lucky as a kid. I had two parents – originally from New York – who were baseball fans. Dad, though growing up in the heart of New York City, became a Red Sox fan, while mom rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers in opposition to her Yankee-loving father. Of course, all three hated the cross-town Giants – a familial sentiment that still exists. As the stories go, grandpa, Yankee fan or not, always enjoyed attending a baseball game whenever his travels brought him to St. Louis. Fenway, Ebbets Field and Sportsman’s Park…now that’s old school tradition!

Starting in 1967, when the Blues joined the National Hockey League, St. Louis also became the home of Red, The Battling Plagers, Bernie, The Golden Brett and Big Mac. (There it is again, with the nicknames.) Unfortunately, my dad was a football and baseball guy. Frankly, despite being an accomplished ice skater and growing up near an “Original Six” team in the New York Rangers, I don’t think he understood hockey – at least, to the point of being able to pass any knowledge on to his children, like he could with football, baseball and even skating – and thus never developed an interest in it. Consequently, I turned to hockey on my own in my early teen years.

Depending on the month and/or post-season situation, a St. Louisan can attend a baseball game in the afternoon and a hockey game later in the evening. What other cities can provide that kind of sports entertainment? A few, but your main choice of poison is New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago or Boston. Or boast of legendary broadcasters like the late Jack Buck and the late Dan Kelly, who at one point in their careers did play-by-play for both teams. The mere mention of the name Buck or Kelly conjures only one of two things:  Cardinals baseball or Blues hockey.

Thanks, but I’ll stay in St. Louis – it’s my kind of sports town.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Monday, July 18, 2011

Taxing The Taxed With Proper Representation

The British colonies, as the United States was called prior to independence, fought for "taxation with representation." Guess what, we won the right...and for the last two centuries into the third we have since debated exactly how much everyone should pay. There is little argument that everyone - from the lower to the upper class - should pay taxes in support of our "great experiment" in democracy and capitalism; it's a matter of what constitutes a fair share, flatly across the board. (See what I did there? Fair Tax/Flat tax. Never mind.) Until the politicians in Washington heed the calls for change, American taxpayers will continue to suffer from the hardships of the current tax system and the bankrupt economy.

"Pro-Con:  Should The United States Adopt A Flat Tax" (Kansas City Star)

"How The Debt Tussle Can Help Move Toward A Flat Tax," by Thomas Miller (The American Magazine)

"Would Adopting A Flat Tax Benefit The United States:  Yes," by Peter Rush (Deseret News)

"Entitlement Reform And Tax Structuring," by Robert Bennett, former U.S. Senator (Deseret News)

"I'd Replace The Income Tax With The Fair Tax," by Herman Cain (The Daily Caller)

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's Your Money, And You Should Keep It Now

The economic landscape has changed drastically since the 1930s. At the time, there were few options, let alone the means, for saving for the future and retirement, especially for the lower class; that is no longer true in today’s virtual world of 24/7 internet trading and investment. Implemented at the height of The Great Depression, Social Security's original purpose was as a “social insurance” program for senior citizens facing poverty caused by the likes of retirement, unemployment and spousal disability or loss. Though amended over the years to include more people, qualifications and benefits, the concept is still the same today.

Since the first payout in 1937, total benefits paid have risen from $35 million in 1940 (adjusted for inflation, equivalent to roughly $538 million) to $702 billion in 2010. The money comes from the individual workers and employers who pay into the system in the form of payroll taxes, an increasingly-shrinking funding base due to current economic conditions and early retirees – a key argument in the dispute over the future of the program, seen as reaching its zenith as it goes bankrupt.

Payroll Taxes, Costs & Benefits Paid By Employers (

Social Security:  More Going Out Than Coming In (CNN Money)

2010 Social Security Trustees Report Continues to Show Urgency of Reform (The Heritage Foundation)

How can the government fix the situation? Easy – eliminate Social Security. Return what has already been collected from workers and employers to fund the program, and allow them to keep what would be collected to invest in private savings and business. Almost like a stimulus plan. A stimulus that would not cost the government – because, unlike income taxes, it’s not their money in the first place – while decreasing the federal deficit and stabilizing the economy through new investments. 

After all, it’s no longer the 1930s.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Friday, July 1, 2011

Since Days Gone By

My 20th high school reunion is in a few weeks. Surreal not only from feeling so far removed from that period, but because I do not feel that old. I also know how much I and the world in general has changed since even the 10th reunion. Nowadays, I think in terms of “pre-” and “post-”:  ten years ago, it was a pre-9/11 world; today, and probably forever, it is a post-9/11 one. (Presumably, a similar mindset will come to pass after December 21, 2012, in a pre- and post-apocalyptic world, but that’s for a later discussion.)

Though an enjoyable evening reconnecting with old classmates, I admittedly was at a crossroads at the ten year reunion. A defining juncture in that I had ended any intentions of pursuing a teaching career, and had only just entered graduate school and barely commenced a writing career. In essence, despite the paths that were open to me rather than closed, I was in a state of limbo about my life. Having continued on that path and accomplished much over the last ten years – becoming a published journalist, historian and writer – oddly I am feeling the same a decade later. In a different, post-9/11 way though; not so naïve or optimistic, more chagrined and disillusioned.

Again though, I do not feel all that changed. After all, I am still me. Perhaps more grown and experienced, as opposed to more mature and responsible, yet at times regressing back. My smug, almost pseudo, intellectualism alone a pretense for the dictates of my age and educational achievements, in the attempt to allay doubt as to my faculties only because I believe myself to be smarter than I was ten or twenty years ago. I still do stupid things though, only at a more sophisticated level of stupidity because, rather than in spite, of my self-alleged superior development both intellectually and socially.

The real question bothering me I think, more so than at the ten year, is whether there still exists a sense of commonality, and perhaps even a familiarity, with former classmates of yesterday who have now become the parents, educators and business leaders of today? As I fit into none of those categories, yes and no; it all sounds impressively mature and responsible. Absolutely, I still cherish the friendships that have endured, and have been reconnected, over the past twenty years. Just seems that it already has been a complex journey since days gone by, and an extensive path ahead yet to traverse – without any clear indication how or when that occurred.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Repeating History

Deplorable. That is the only way to describe the latest on history education in the United States.

History-Test Scores Show Scant Progress (Wall Street Journal)

Having excelled from elementary school all the way through earning two degrees in the subject, and having considered teaching high school history at one point, it is often disheartening to cross paths with people who possess not even a basic familiarity. From my dad’s own interest, I inherited a fondness for history. Together, the two of us would dissect movies based on historical events, encyclopedias – hard-bound, printed versions, in the way back time before Wikipedia – in hand to check and correct them. (Thus, explaining why friends, and occasionally family, are contemptuously reluctant to ever watch such movies with me.) Throughout my formal education I was always inspired by my teachers and professors, drawn to the individuals, events and lessons of the past. Taught to think critically in interpreting the topics, issues and themes in a logical and objective manner – a point that could be applied to other subjects as well.

Teacher Is Taught A Tough Lesson (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

In failing to properly teach an understanding and appreciation of the past, we are losing the future. A future in which critical thinking and rational objectivity cannot exist. How could it, when those same qualities barely register today? Click over to YouTube, or any similar website, and see what I mean – few winners, a whole lot of losers. Unfortunately, not simply just as a desperate subconscious group plea to garner views and be justifiably mocked; at some point, genes play a role.

Critical Thinking:

Not So Much:

The future is not lost though. Not yet. As the Roman orator Cicero stated, “History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.” If future generations fail to embrace such sentiment concerning the past, they will, as Winston Churchill warned, be doomed to repeat it.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Monday, June 13, 2011

Must Be The New Math

How does a company decrease cost and increase efficiency without sacrificing jobs? For starters, reduce and consolidate your products. As example, which are many, Colgate-Palmolive sells Palmolive dish soap in several sizes; they also sell a 50 ounce refill, obviously for refilling the other sizes. Here's the kicker:  the larger 50 ounce cost less than the others, yet functions similarly and just as easily. With a convenient handle even. Why not get rid of all other sizes and simply sell the 50 ounce? Perhaps increase its price a bit to compensate. Not only would such a move decrease the cost of shipping (packaging, trucking, etc) the various sized products to stores, it would make the manufacturing more efficient. None of which would sacrifice a single job; everyone involved – from the employee overseeing production, the trucker transporting it and the worker at another company who produced the packaging – would still be needed in their current roles.

After all, Henry Ford’s business model for manufacturing the Model T didn’t have aesthetics in mind; it was about increased efficiency and lower costs. He was even ahead of his time as a “green” company, recycling unused materials into the development of Ford Charcoal, better known today as Kingsford. Would seem the development of "clean" coal technology, a goal since the 1980s, goes hand-in-hand with re-embracing Ford's other business ideas. Ideas from an era when “Made In America” wasn’t a hyperbolic punch line.

I digress...

Merger With Continental Costing 1,500 United Jobs In Houston (Houston Chronicle)

1,300 More Jobs Coming To Chicago On Wings Of United Airlines Merger (Chicago Tribune)

Certainly, there can be bipartisan agreement that this is not the definition of job creation. By my public school math, the United-Continental merger actually will result in a net loss of 200 jobs; the "new" jobs are simply relocation of existent ones.

Unemployment Benefits Little Changed For 2nd Straight Week As Economy Generates Less Hiring (Washington Post)

President Obama’s Phony Accounting On The Auto Industry Bailout (Washington Post)

Editorial: Obama's Job-Killing Jobs Council (Investors Business Daily)

If such trends continue, unemployment will reach 100% and the country will be insolvent in no time. Enjoy your work week…that is, if you’re one of the lucky ones (i.e. suckers) with a job.
©2011 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reaping Toil Sowed

Growing up, kids are, or at least were, taught that good behavior and deeds result in reward. The opposite was true of bad behavior and deeds, resulting in punishment. Has that reward/punishment system gone to the wayside in a post self-esteem culture, where everyone is a winner? Or is it just the ones with enough influence?

Over the last decade, I, like millions of average citizens, diligently established an admirable credit history and a decent, above-average credit score. What has been the reward? Nothing, except being a number to Wall Street. Beholden to their idea of what makes, and who receives, a rewarding life – with compounded interest, of course. Never a late payment? Enjoy an increased annual percentage rate! Pay off the balance on-time, all the time? Enjoy a continually decreased credit amount! Collapse the world economy? Enjoy billions in federal bailout money, and continue business as usual! Frankly, I am tired of it.

Credit card companies are the worst offenders, even after the economic collapse and subsequent regulations against them. They did not learn their lesson because they were not given the proper punishment. In fact, Wall Street companies – like Citi and Bank of America, two of the worst – were rewarded with billions for their bad behavior, which they have continued because, rather than in spite, of it. They know they can get away with it because they know they will not face any punishment. Just like a kid rewarded for bad behavior.

Most especially, automakers bailed out by American taxpayers should not demand tax increases that will affect American taxpayer wallets, which are still feeling the pinch, in order to sell more cars:

GM's CEO Makes A Case For Gas Tax

Atlas shrugged? More likely, doesn’t care – as long as it reaps what the toil of others has sowed.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jesus Was A Carpenter

Finished building some shelving from scratch. While feeling fulfilled and accomplishment for doing it, it was nonetheless a labor-intensive task. And that’s how, while washing the sweat and dirt away in the shower, the (true) story of Jesus revealed itself to me…

As the story goes, Jesus was a carpenter. “Was” being the operative word. One day while in the shop, no doubt working on something for a father’s day gift, he was pouring all his sweat and time into a project. Stopping to take a drink of water, he whined, “Christ, walking on water would be easier than this!” And that’s when the telephone game began. Another carpenter in the shop, hearing Jesus, passed it onto his friend, who told another friend, so forth and so forth. Until the narrative became that Jesus, who was a carpenter, became Christ, who turned water into wine and walked on water.

Blasphemous? Probably. True story? I’ll let you decide.  

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pakistan: Friend To The Enemy?

Fine. Pakistan's outrage over the U.S.'s bin Laden raid was staged. An agreement no doubt meant to allow them to save face as a sovereign nation. That, however, does not explain away either their incompetence or complicity in the global manhunt for Osama bin Laden. Undoubtedly, there was a little, i.e. a lot, of both.

Osama bin Laden Mission Agreed In Secret 10 Years Ago By US And Pakistan

Osama bin Laden Must Have Had Pakistan Support Network, Says Obama

Pakistani PM:  Failure To Locate Bin Laden Not Incompetence Or Complicity

Where Next For US-Pakistan Relations?

In related news, why does Pakistan keep exposing C.I.A. station chiefs? Allies are supposed to have each other's backs, not stabbing each other in it. Something to think about. After all, we are still prosecuting a War on Terrorism; it would be reprehensible if they turned out to be an enemy harboring terror suspects.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Complacency Has No Children

I am seriously beginning to believe that we indeed live in Bizarro world. Despite his reprehensible humanitarian record and abuses against the Catholic Church in his country, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who oddly is a Catholic, attends Pope John Paul II's beatification in Rome. Pope John Paul II must have turned over in his catacomb when the guest list was published. Meantime, N.A.T.O. has come under fire over allegations of targeting Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi during humanitarian/no-fly zone/non-intervention support operations in that country. Then there is the continual international coddling of menacing regimes like North Korea and Iran. When did the bad guys become the good guys?

There is a grain of solace:  Osama bin Laden is dead, and at the hands of the U.S. military. Chalk one up for the good guys, whose credit is due for staying the course and tracking him down.

Even with bin Laden dead, must we remain as vigilant globally as the past decade? Probably evermore so. Critics of the Bush Administration argued that by invading Iraq we were distracting from the real mission, that capturing or killing bin Laden was the end game. Yet, it was the resolve of President Bush in pursuing terrorists and those, like Saddam Hussein, who would harbor them that ushered the inevitable day of reckoning for bin Laden under President Obama’s faithful continuation of that resolution. For ten years we have taken the fight to them; and while the head of the snake is gone, the body is still present. We can, and should celebrate, but with vigilant caution – killing one villain has not, and will not, stop the others existent in the world.

Opinion: Bin Laden May Be Dead, But His Ideology Lives On

On Army Anniversary, North Korea Threat To Destroy US

Syria, Iran, and Losing a Strategic Opportunity

Where do we go from here? In the board game Risk, the only true way to win is by sweeping across the board and annihilating your opponents; fall short in Asia, and the person who has stockpiled a gazillion pieces in Australia will sweep back across and annihilate you. The real world is no different. We either sweep the globe of enemies to freedom and peace now, or we get swept by them later. Because while victory has many fathers and defeat is an orphan, complacency has no children.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Birther Be Wary

Now that President Obama has released his birth certificate in long form, can we now move beyond the controversy over his place of birth? Not a chance. Like any conspiracy, even when faithfully debunked, it will persist forever in the annals of U.S. history. Is he a foreign-born, and thereby an illegally-elected, president? Do his sympathies lay with a foreign nation? Is he a foreign agent positioned as part of a foreign plot to overthrow the United States? And so forth.

Obama Releases Long-form Birth Certificate (USA Today)

Obama's McCain Resolution Demands 'American' Parents (World News Daily)

Was Young Obama Indonesian Citizen (World News Daily)

The Birther Movement:  Immune To Facts? (CNN)

This recent controversy/conspiracy goes beyond the current president though. The concern, while legitimate, should not be whether President Obama was foreign born or at one point held foreign citizenship. There is the broader issue of presidential candidates’ birth certificates not being released publicly in the first place when running for the office. After all, American citizens – whose birth certificates must be presented in certain instances for even the mundane – essentially are electing the foremost citizen of the nation in the president. Should it not be a requirement that their “natural-born” citizenship, and that of every federal officeholder, is publicly verified before holding such a key position of power and authority?

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Atlas of Sherwood

Is there a Robin Hood somewhere out there? Perhaps a modern-day Internet highwayman stealing from the digital Sheriffs, giving to the less-fortunate residents of digital Sherwood. Hacking financial institutions in order to pay people's bills rather than stealing from them. That is one hacker I would be willing to give my passwords and account information.

Do not misinterpret, as I believe in free market capitalism. The problem is the selfish hubris of corporations and politicians, at every level, that makes it ever harder to defend it. Outrageous fees for services (what is the cost to them for me to print on my printer using my ink and paper???), prices on products skyrocketing with no end in sight and legislation that burdens more than aids. Simply to garner more profits and taxes for them from us.

What is the alternative though? Feudalism, communism and socialism are no answers, their evils well-documented by history. Capitalism has done and created great, unimaginable wonders for humanity. Yet, it too has its evils, economic hardships as devastating to lives and livelihoods as any war. To quote Ferris Bueller – “Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself.” 

Is there an –ism still to develop that can progress humanity beyond such a dichotomy? A product always has a specific shelf life, as capitalism itself dictates, particularly if another comes along to corner the market.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Finally A War For Oil?

I am a proponent of what the United States & N.A.T.O. are doing in Libya, but wasn't this simply supposed to be a humanitarian mission to setup a no-fly zone to protect civilians? One where we were not taking sides or getting involved in an apparent non-war civil war? The establishment of this no-fly zone seems wholly different from ones of the past, Kosovo and Iraq during the 1990s instantly springing to mind. The U.S. and N.A.T.O. have become little more than air support – an essential component in any modern military action – in obvious support of and benefit to the opposition forces, bombing strategic installations of government forces separate from the requisites of establishing a no-fly zone.

Obama Backs Libyan Political Pressure To Oust Gaddafi

Now we are going to arm rebels, who coalition forces admittedly know nothing about???

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan faced Congressional investigation over the Iran-Contra affair, in which the administration faced allegations of illegally funneling arms to Iran – who at the time was involved in a six-year old conflict with Iraq and under a U.N. arms embargo – and funding Nicaraguan Contras from those arm sales in violation of U.S. law. Flash forward to 2002, when President George W. Bush was accused of illegally involving the U.S. in the internal struggles of Iraq as part of the broader "War on Terrorism." Now, the Obama Administration appears poised to do both – send arms to rebels, and involve the U.S. in an internal conflict. Openly, and still without Congressional consultation or approval. Guess one must have a short memory as a politician.

Like a majority of people, I am simply confused as to what exactly is the mission in Libya and the apparent hypocritical disconnect in undertaking it. Why only Libya? Why not other places whose governments are slaughtering their people? Is this precedent for future interventions, or a blind eye to those situations? In 1990, President George H.W. Bush formed a coalition against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, touted by opponents as an alleged “war for oil” conflict due to that country’s oil production. In 2002, his son, the aforementioned George W., led another coalition against Iraq, and again opponents labeled it a “war for oil” conflict. As evidenced by history, neither affected the oil industry such nomenclature would dictate; examining gas prices throughout both, quite the opposite in fact. Now, the U.S. finds itself involved in Libya whose primary export is oil, which begs the question – is third time the charm?

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ignoring Only Makes It Fester

In March 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved covert action against the Castro regime in Cuba, with the stated primary objective to "bring about the replacement of the Castro regime with one more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S. in such a manner to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention." In April 1961, President John F. Kennedy then approved Operation Zapata – more infamously known as the Bay of Pigs invasion plans – in order to carry out that objective. Regrettably, the Kennedy Administration, in a half-hearted attempt to both lead and maintain anonymity in its role, failed to provide adequate – and pledged – support in personnel, supplies and logistics. Accordingly, the invasion failed miserably.

The Bay of Pigs invasion is a lesson of history that has haunted every administration since. It would seem, however, that the current administration is not heeding the lessons of such half-hearted attempts at regime change, particularly as concerns Libya. In fact, vacillating statements concerning the role and objectives of the U.S. in dealing with Libya and the Qaddafi regime makes the U.S. and its president look impotent, and only serves to strengthen a third world dictator. A dictator who has ruled for 42 years, and is a well-documented advocate, harborer and sponsor of terrorists. Administration officials – including the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – have directly called for the removal of Qaddafi, citing it as U.S. policy, and then contradicted, and thus weakened, that position by advocating the limited objectives of the so-called humanitarian-only mission of the international coalition arrayed against Libya. There is no way to reconcile and interpret such dynamically opposed pronouncements, other than to see them as yet another administration beset by a practically non-existent foreign policy rooted in timidity and indecisiveness.

Rather than doing nothing or, worse, leaving it to the international community, i.e. the Useless Nations, to (mis)handle international crises, many are open to the United States being the policeman of the world. Like the motto of the U.S. Navy says, “as a force for good.” Others do not agree, advocating a U.S.-first foreign policy that leaves it to international diplomacy, i.e. the Useless Nations, and that does not embroil the nation in the conflicts of other countries. A Neville “peace in our time” Chamberlain attitude, it was the same before both World Wars, before the first Gulf War and even, by some advocates, as the ashes of the World Trade Center still smoldered. Such opposition to U.S.-led military interventions – unilateral or otherwise – is not a modern phenomenon, going as far back as the Barbary Wars – ironically, a series of conflicts off the coasts of North Africa, involving current embattled states Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. Indeed, Mr. Twain, history sure does like to rhyme. As the world has become a global one, opposition has only intensified on an international scale both home and abroad in the wars of modern day.

Yet, if we fail to help those hard-pressed in advancing egalitarianism or do not offer assistance to those who attempt to do so, we are nothing more than accomplices in the global suicide caused by oppression and despotism. It was true for Afghanistan, true for Iraq and it is true for the likes of Libya. And it is true for any future hotspot that becomes a focal point in casting off the yoke suppressing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That much is certain, and indeed – through toil, blood and sacrifice – has always been the destiny of the United States since its inception to aid those seeking similar ideals. As President Kennedy stated in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Fifty years later, are we, as a nation, no longer willing to honor that call? Are we once again going to put on blinders to the threats of the world, just as we did after both World Wars, after the first Gulf War and even as we continue to prosecute the War on Terrorism?

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, March 17, 2011

That Crazily Karmic Synching Feeling

Typically, I am a logical skeptic. Yet, in two previous posts (“Coincidence, Synchronicity, Karmic or Crazy?” & “What Would Jack Shephard Do?”), I noted a weird, if not crazy, phenomenon repeatedly occurring to me. It centered around sporadically, if not consistently, seeing the numbers “222” and “343,” usually on a clock in the form of “2:22” or “3:43.” [For further info, check out, or] Frankly, it was driving me nuts, along with other peripheral coincidences explained in the aforementioned blogs.

I may have found an explanation. As an experiment, I fiddled with the ideas found in Numerology. Breaking the numbers down to their basic, I correlated them to their numerological representation. If I haven’t lost you yet or you haven’t phoned the psychiatric hospital to see if a patient is missing, this is what I came up  with:

Taken as a whole:

222 (2 + 2 + 2 = 6)

343 (3 + 4 + 3 = 10 = 1 + 0 = 1)

61 (6 + 1 = 7)

In numerology, 6 = Responsibility; 1 = Individual; 7 = Thought & Consciousness

Divided into parts:

2:22 (2 = 2; 2 + 2 = 4)

3:43 (3 = 3; 4 + 3 = 7)

2437 (2 + 4 + 3 + 7 = 16 = 1 + 6 = 7)

In numerology, 2 = Balance & Union; 4 = Creation; 3 = Communication & Neutrality; 7 = Thought & Consciousness

Is it coincidence that George Washington was born on February 22 (2/22), and thanks to his perseverance and leadership that the United States came into existence under the newly adopted Constitution in 1789 – 222 years ago? Further, that 343 New York firefighters lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, and that there are 343 commandments related to the Temple of King Solomon - the last known location in the historical record for the Ark of the Covenant - and for worship therein? Of note, the Temple is laid out in a pattern similar in design to the Kabalistic “Tree of Life.” In relation to this, the Mayans’ Long Count Calendar is predicted to “end” on December 21, 2012. Interpreted as either a new beginning in human consciousness or the biblical “end of days,” it is to coincide with an alignment of the Sun, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy and the outer universe that will form, as described by the Mayans, a cosmic “Tree of Life” with the Sun at its heart.

Crytalinks – December 12, 2012

So The Maya’s Were Right After All

Last Wave of the Mayan Calendar

Now, if I still haven’t lost you and you haven’t even thought about the phone, this is my interpretation:  individual balance and unity through communication and neutrality leads to the creation of responsibility in thought and consciousness. More concise, thoughts are aligned with the truth, and “as a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Bhagavad Gita, 2:22) Could this be the approaching destiny of humanity? A unity of consciousness that sees the casting off of the old world for a new enlightened one? 

Again, I ask...coincidence, synchronicity, karmic or crazy? 

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Proper Punishment = Balanced Budget

Excuse me if my math is wrong; I did attend, proudly, public school. The justice system in the United States is pathetic in terms of actual justice. From the ordinary citizen to law enforcement, this is not a revelation. John Q. Nobody serves a mandatory maximum sentence – commonly without the possibility of parole – for felony possession of a few grams of recreational-use marijuana, while child murderers and cop killers plea bargain lighter sentences and walk free after a few years thanks to “good behavior.” How is it that the crime of murder, especially those confessed and unremorsed, do not carry an automatic death penalty?

With Eye Toward Savings, Assembly Takes Up Prison Terms

Life Without Parole For Shepard; Jury Decides Against Death Sentence In Killing Of Officer

Father of Murdered 5-Year-Old Says He'll Make Sure Killer Suffers Same Fate

Across the nation, local and state governments are in the midst of budget crises, as the federal government attempts to prevent a shutdown thanks to its own financial woes. Want to balance these budgets? First, stop spending taxpayer money on incarcerated murderers guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, and do to them what they did to their victims. Such scum deserves neither to live nor benefit from society’s moral goodwill. In this way, we can literally kill two birds with one stone:  balance the budget and thin the population of those who forfeited their lives the second they took another’s.

A balanced budget is what taxpayers want; justice is what society demands. Frankly, the argument that a sentence of “life in prison” is cheaper than a one-time execution has never seemed economically sound. Must be the new math. Before the 20th century, there was no such thing as the national deficit. At least, people did not concern themselves with it. Justice was also swift, and unremitting for the most heinous. Probably because rope and bullets are cheap. As Charlie Sheen might say, sounds like a winning proposition.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Friday, February 25, 2011

Presidential Pardon

Even though I am conservative, I have never understood the love affair with Ronald Reagan. Yes, he came across at times as a humble man who loved his country. But the greatest? Debatable, especially if one lived during his days in the White House or have read accounts of his administration. Recently, I finally got around to reading historian Michael Beschloss' Presidential Courage, languishing on my bookshelf for a few years now, which chronicles major issues and decisions presidents since Washington have had to face. The final chapters discuss Reagan, an objective and critical analysis of his administration in dealing with the Soviet Union and the “end” of the Cold War. Certain points Beschloss raise are indeed frightening, including indicators that Reagan indeed suffered from the onset of Alzheimer's while still in office.       

Americans Say Reagan Is the Greatest U.S. President (Gallup)

Embarrassed Republicans Admit They've Been Thinking Of Eisenhower Whole Time They've Been Praising Reagan (The Onion)

Of course, the overall point is that it is a stressful and, at times, pitiless job being president. As Beschloss’ title suggests, it takes courage. Currently, 44 men have held the distinction; a plethora of others have declined even running for the position. As our second president, John Adams, said, “No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.” His own son, John Quincy Adams, preferred a return to Congress than to seek the presidency again – a sentiment Lyndon Johnson also hailed when he became president.

Who is the greatest president? I have my favorites, and I am glad to see that all five make Gallup's poll. In no particular order:

      1. George Washington
      2. Abraham Lincoln
      3. Theodore Roosevelt
      4. Dwight D. Eisenhower
      5. George W. Bush

Why these five? All leaders who withstood pressures from the opposition concerning their policies, and all maligned during their presidencies. Yet, three (Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt) overlook the Dakotas from atop Mount Rushmore in tribute of their greatness. Two (Eisenhower, Bush) were considered aloof and affable during their presidencies, yet one (Eisenhower) has since been vindicated by history as a not-so-aloof effective leader during multiple crises. Undoubtedly, it will not be long before the tide of history turns for the other, whose due credit for influencing current events in formerly oppressed regions has been eschewed by mainstream media and revisionists solely in favor of the current administration. The fact that love ‘em-or-hate ‘em George W. Bush comes in at #10 on Gallup's poll – out of 44, and higher than his more admired, and latest Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, dad George H.W. Bush – seems at least an indicator.

©2011 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Famous Dead Person!

A weird phenomenon, celebrating the birthday of a person who long-ago passed away. This is especially true of celebrities and historical figures, succumbing to the mortal coil years, decades and even centuries ago. It is understandable wanting to commemorate through remembrance the life lived, but is it necessary to expound upon the abstract of “had they lived…”? To ponder about this or that in terms of such seems ridiculous, and for one reason:  the individual in question is dead.

Take Jules Verne, and what would be his 183rd birthday this year. Some have entertained the idea that had he lived to see 2011, the prolific writer of science fiction would notice many of the incredible creations of his imagination having come to fruition. That’s fine, speculating on the merging of fiction and reality. What would be even more fantastical though is Verne reaching his 183rd birthday, and living to see 2011! Frankly, it takes away from Verne’s foresight in his time that has seen the development of those ideas in our time. Had Leonardo da Vinci lived to the 20th century, he would have seen many of his inventions as well; he also would be over 500 years old. That though is why men like da Vinci and Verne are recognized as visionaries, because they never saw the fruits of their imaginations in their own time. Instead, generations have passed the torch as a natural progression of human existence to make it happen.

In the case of some, rather than celebrate their birth we reflect on their death. This seems more natural, if not more reasonable. Remembering how they were, rather than how they might have been had they lived. When was John Lennon born? Off the top of my head I have no clue, but I can tell you he died December 8, 1980. Forever 40 years old. (I looked it up.) Had he lived, he might have been a Justin Bieber fan; we will never know though, because a deranged stalker murdered him before the pop sensation was even born. The same is true of many others whose death overshadows their birth in remembrance – John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King instantly springing to mind, as well as the 27 Club. Shortened lives whose impact is recognized more in their passing than in their beginning. We cannot know what might be had they lived.

Definitely, the world would be a different one had any deceased person lived to celebrate more birthdays. The truth is every birthday reached also reminds that we are all one year closer to the greatest equalizer. If you care to celebrate thereafter…just make sure you get me something nice. After all, it’s the thought that counts.

As for George Washington…happy birthday Mr. President, 279 years old today had you lived!

©2011 Steve Sagarra