Tuesday, December 31, 2013

‘Merica: Down But Not Out

There is nothing wrong with America that the faith, love of freedom, intelligence and energy of her citizens cannot cure.” -President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Like too many times before, the United States finds itself at a crossroads as the calendar turns another year older. Politicians adjourn for the holidays to their lordly manors, plush vacations and taxpayer-funded benefits, patting themselves on their backsides for their “hard work” and “problem solving,” while average Americans strive to maintain their hard work hindered by the political bureaucracy that allegedly will solve the country’s ills. In the meantime, industry, manufacturing and overall entrepreneurial ingenuity is stifled under the counterweights of over-regulation and increased tax burdens in conjunction with fair-trade equalization and relaxed restrictions for global competitors. Illegal immigrants invade the country with temerity and practically given the proverbial golden goose by the government, while legal, and law-abiding, citizens are forced to comply with inane laws and mandates or face consequences from that very same entity. Billions of dollars are spent on national security and preventive measures, only to be astounded in wonderment at breaches that easily could have been prevented if not drowning in the useless, unnecessary and non-essential. An underpaid, and at times disrespected, military stands watch defending and protecting against enemies that are cajoled and bargained with – while longstanding allies are thrown to the wolves – rather than dealt a crushing and ultimate defeat.

Such examples betray domestic and foreign policy as nothing short of schizophrenic and fly-by-night based on the whims of both the elected and unelected autocrats in Washington. Hyperbole aside, it is an odiously scandalous and exceedingly intolerable situation that must have certain recourse if not abject consequences.

Yet, we can look to the past to see that the U.S.A. has been down before, but it has never been out. The War of 1812 (1812-15) would have seen the fledgling nation as a footnote to history, a short-lived experiment of republicanism. Then came the greatest schism the country has faced so far:  the American Civil War (1861-1865), a conflict that strained the ties of union and re-forged them stronger in blood. The death of two serving presidents, William Harrison and Franklin Roosevelt, assassinations of four – Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John Kennedy – and resignation of another, Richard Nixon, have tested the principles and resoluteness of our democracy to maintain stability and continuity. During the 1930s, the Great Depression witnessed the country on the verge of political and socio-economic upheaval that would have rivaled any revolution before it. Even when the road of desperation seemed neverending, hope – measurable hope, not rhetorical drivel – has always existed.

No more was this evident than in 1980, marked as another crossroads in the annals of American history; specifically, the “Miracle on Ice” hockey game versus the Soviet Union. A true hero is one who is humble about the impact of their contribution, and/or one who may never know that their ultimate sacrifice meant something greater. They stand on the cusp of history, without much concern over its contemplation at the time. Their belief in the cause sustains them, without knowing whether the outcome will be in their favor. The country, and the world in general, had faced a terrible recession throughout the 1970s. Had the U.S.A. lost that game, beleaguered Americans simply would have chalked it up to a bunch of amateur college kids losing to a dominant Soviet team…and continued to slump along in their lives. Instead, it awakened yet again a restless spirit that was down but not out. To quote General George S. Patton, “Anyone in any walk of life who is content with mediocrity is untrue to himself and to American tradition."

Have we lost the edge though, are we too far down the rabbit hole this time? If history is any lesson for the future, American patience may always be tested but the resolve in the face of adversity and apparent doom never should be questioned in the years yet to come.

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Friday, November 22, 2013

50 Years Later: November 22, 1963

Which theory is more plausible:  a lone gunman, hateful of and intent upon killing the president, coincidentally works in a building along a serendipitously planned parade route, or a conspiracy that could pin the assassination on him? In the midst of the Cold War, U.S. President John F. Kennedy had many enemies:  the Soviet Union, a continual threat since the Truman Administration, and its sphere of influence; communists at home and abroad; disgruntled, and staunchly anti-communist, elements within the CIA, military, etc; and the Mafia. The latter is the most interesting, because it is mainly a domestic issue – and Attorney General Robert Kennedy was infuriating mafiosos, who, allegedly, had “aided” in the election of his brother, by cracking down on their activities. Eliminating the U.S. Attorney General would have been problematic given the focus on them; on the other hand, a president, as shown, has many enemies both domestic and foreign. The CIA, military, etc, wanted their war against communism, which President Kennedy was seen as being weak against ever since the failed Bay of Pigs, while the Mafia wanted Attorney General Kennedy dealt with and rendered powerless.

One had the plan and resources, the other had the manpower; all were used to keeping secrets. Only thing needed was a staunch communist to take the fall.

Meanwhile, Lee Harvey Oswald was known as a self-avowed Marxist opposed to the Kennedy Administration’s anti-communist policies as documented by his own activities and that of the FBI investigating them. Oswald, and by extension his eventual killer Jack Ruby, did not even need to be party to any broader conspiracy – creating a perfect “patsy,” as Oswald himself claimed, who truly knew nothing, with the added bonus of being eliminated by someone with no knowledge as well. (Actually, Ruby, who did have some mob connections, very well may have blown any cover-up by killing Oswald on his own, thus inadvertently, if not unintentionally, exposing the assassination to conspiratorial scrutiny.) Strangely, though, the more people believe in a conspiracy, and the more others vehemently deny such, the more the conspiracy becomes evermore muddled in ambiguity.

Thus, both a mix of calculated scheme and fortuitous circumstance created an ideal cover-up that seemingly continues to keep the truth at bay even today.

There also are the details of the assassination itself. Of course, everyone knows, or at least should know, about the “magic bullet”; however, Oswald’s actions would seem the tricky part. In the narrative fed by official accounts, his portrayal is that of a calculating sociopath with delusions of grandeur working – either in concert or independently – for the communist cause. A person who coolly fires three shots in a matter of seconds, using a questionable rifle to boot, to kill the president of the United States because of those beliefs. Then, after the assassination, he acts panicky and paranoid…with nary an escape plan. No plans to seek asylum in Cuba, or maybe return to the Soviet Union, as a cause célèbre, or at the very least to immediately leave Dallas? He had not even packed an overnight bag. Instead, Oswald decides, as if on the fly, to return to his boarding house in a rush, grab a pistol (why didn’t he have it with him earlier in case of a standoff with police?), shoot a Dallas police officer (if it was in fact him), mill about downtown storefronts and hide in a movie theater where he is eventually apprehended.

As such, the before and after narratives do not mesh.

Even more, the apprehension of Oswald has to be the most masterful piece of detective work in the history of law enforcement. Even by today’s standards, with our surveillance cameras, 24/7 news, mobile phones, social media, etc, it must rank at the top. Within minutes of the assassination, they were able to determine the shooter’s position – thanks to the supposedly calculating assassin fortunately leaving behind the weapon and bullet casings – and quickly spread a description of him. Numerous eyewitness accounts help in the determination as well, despite expert opinion that such accounts are typically useless especially in a time of chaos. Other accounts either are ignored or suppressed ostensibly to focus on a pre-arranged narrative the conspirators attempt to peddle to the public through the media – propagandist tactics no doubt learned from the Nazis during World War II, a conflict only 18 years removed and still fresh in memory. In essence, it is an incredible orgy of evidence against an alleged lone gunman implausibly gathered in a short time.

How? Because Oswald was already on the radar; the conspirators simply had to control the necessary flow of information about him.

Whichever theory one subscribes to, not since President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination – at the hands of a conspirator, mind you – had a national tragedy so galvanized the United States. For the majority, on both sides of the political aisle, it commenced the descent of national morale from one of hope to that of disbelief. Only for those on the extreme partisan fringes did the president’s death carry an encouraging implication:  for those on the left, who believed Kennedy had not championed the liberal agenda enough, they could press harder in the name of a martyred leader; for those on the right, who believed he had betrayed the country by instituting his liberal policies, they could press the need for ideological change. Either way, there persists the “what if” of a mythic second Camelot lost that tragic afternoon in Dallas, Texas, 50 years ago today…either at the hands of a lone gunman or those of conspirators.

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Apology Not Accepted

There is a growing epidemic in this country:  the public apology. Typically, it comes on the heels of wholly inappropriate public statements or actions by a public figure. As a society, we must stop accepting these apologies from people who should have known better beforehand. As George Costanza would say, “You can stuff your sorries in a sack!”

Of course, people have the natural right to their opinion with the varied protections – in particular, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – afforded free speech. Yet, modern society has come to an unspoken agreement that there are certain things that are wrong to think or say. Things deemed racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., or just outright rude and unsavory. Therefore, people must be held responsible for deplorable and offensive behavior, or we will continue the downward spiral into a depraved and disrespectful society.

While love may be never having to say you’re sorry, a polite society is one that never has anything to be sorry about in the first place. But, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard would say, “A line must be drawn here! This far, no further!”

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Justice Served, Thy Revenue Collected

“If it were not for injustice, men would not know justice,” wrote the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Everyone can agree that drunk driving is bad and indeed should be prosecuted to the extent of the law. With good reason, police in recent years have more frequently stepped up enforcement efforts; particularly, they are increasingly utilizing regular sobriety checkpoints to curb, if not stop, it. (Notwithstanding the warning system cottage industry that has sprung up in response on social media…letting you know which of your friends who follow such pages are the concerned drunks.) Yet, there is more going on at these checkpoints than just getting drunk drivers off the roads, with nary a protest of motive, or even constitutionality, by drivers cited for other less severe infractions like seatbelt violations. Yes, driving is a privilege, but even privileges have rules of conduct established by the law.

The revenue generated by these non-DUI/DWI infractions can be a windfall for municipalities, especially in times of fiscal crisis. Nevertheless, if it truly is about public safety rather than revenue generation, why institute a fine at all? Why not an old-school warning? Alternatively, give the collected fines to charities or victims’ advocacy groups. No, instead these fines go straight into the municipalities’ coffers – clear evidence that it is indeed about revenue generation. Many states also are exploring adding a "black box" to every vehicle for collecting mileage taxes. Yes, a mileage tax. Drivers taxed to use their vehicles – sales taxes, property taxes, gas taxes, etc. – not to mention registration fees, then subjectively fined for alleged improper use. Where does it end?

There is also the ongoing debate about red light and speed cameras (on top of so-called “traffic flow” ones). Specifically, their true purpose. Are they indeed just another revenue generator as many opponents contend, or are they truly meant as the safety measures that politicians and law enforcement tout them to be? What happens when the ordinances establishing them are ruled to be in violation of the law, or the cameras themselves outright violate it? What happens with the fines already collected? Does the company or municipality refund them, or does that too stay in the coffers? Since proponents maintain that these are not revenue tools, it certainly should not bankrupt either entity to give back the money. Otherwise, these cameras would seem to be exactly what opponents say they are – an (illegal) revenue generator.

In all of this, there exist the more critical issues of privacy as well as the right of protection against unreasonable searches. Throughout history, totalitarians have used checkpoints and monitoring systems as a means for the bureaucratic invasion of citizens’ lives. A chance for government officials to ask for proper documentation, i.e. license and proof of insurance, and spy on any circumspect habits deemed inappropriate for the greater good. All in the name of public safety. While the uniforms may have changed over time, the motive still has not. And it is not a case of approaching that future; we are already there.

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Legalize & Regulate, Don't Prosecute

Recently, I watched a half-hour police show dedicated to the “scourge” that is marijuana. Let me be as frank as possible:  arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people for pot possession is stupid. For decades, such efforts have wasted law enforcement resources that could focus on and be utilized in combating more serious crimes. Like domestic violence, rape and murder.

After 20 Years in Prison, Missouri Man Serving Life Without Parole for Marijuana Asks Governor for Clemency 

There are many myths about smoking pot, mostly perpetrated by those nauseatingly goody two-shoes who have never done it. They blindly believe what they have been told by other uninformed people or what they naively think they know from stereotypical sources. For starters, unlike with (legalized) alcohol or illegal drugs like heroin, there is no such thing as a “pot addict.” It doesn’t exist, made up to capitalize on the propaganda of fear. [See Reefer Madness] While some stoners may adhere to the mantra “wake and bake,” there is no sensation like that of a daily fix seen in typical addicts. When I was in high school, a friend’s parents sent them to rehab for their drinking and pot smoking; a month later they left rehab a graduate of heavier drugs, and still drank excessively. They no longer smoked pot though, which I guess was a win.

This leads to the second myth, which is that marijuana is a gateway drug. It isn’t. How do I know? Because I know many people, including myself, who smoked pot in their younger days; the only place it led to was a fast food joint or a grocery store’s chips and bakery aisles. Out of the handful, not a single person moved into heavier drug use because of pot smoking. Not one, and presently all…ALL…are, and have been, productive and successful in their chosen lives and careers. Even in the above example, my friend’s pot smoking isn’t what led to their heavier drug use as much as did their unnecessary, and unsuccessful, stint in rehab. As for condemning marijuana – a naturally growing plant, mind you – as an outlawed drug of choice, the only gateway it has led to are the ever increasing, and scarier, epidemics of synthetic drugs like meth. Well done.

Another reason for legalization and regulation, which may be the most rational argument, is limited government. This may seem counterintuitive, but it isn’t. While there are laws against excessive blood alcohol content and drunk driving, individuals are allowed to drink as they please on any given day – even though alcohol consumption can be directly linked to fatalities caused by the likes of drunk driving, heart disease and cirrhosis, as well as contributing to a high percentage of domestic violence, rape and murder. Only when a person’s alcohol use becomes a disruptive or criminal issue, does the government – law enforcement, legal system – step in. Counter to this, under probable cause alone, the government can intrude on an individual’s personal marijuana use no matter the amount or place of consumption – including your privately owned house, where, again, there’s a high percentage that your pot smoking will be fatal and disruptive only to the refrigerator and cupboard.

As I am not a doctor, I cannot ascribe to the benefits of smoking pot other than what has been documented by those in the profession:  patients with cancer, HIV and other diseases, unable to eat due to nausea and harsh medical treatments, regaining their much-needed appetites and those with debilitating pain able to ease their suffering. It is beyond time for the United States, as many individual states already have, to re-examine its marijuana laws on a national level; if anything else, with the constant threat of fiscal insolvency, doesn’t it make sense to generate tax dollars from a new, and potentially prosperous, stream of revenue? Or will it be too much competition for the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical lobbyists’ dollars that line the pockets of their political and corporate sponsors in D.C. and on Wall Street in order to maintain the status quo? 

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Friday, October 18, 2013

Random Thoughts

It's amazing how people become and are friends, demonstrating the nuances and peculiarities of our inherent social nature. Everyone has their circles too, each with stories and each telling the same stories as everyone else's circles. This being the case, why then can't we all get along better? Do circles inherently fear the infiltration of other circles, despite the similarities?

Things that rekindle my anger upon reflection:

  • Don Denkinger & Game 6 of the 1985 World Series.
  • Jethro Tull winning a Grammy over Metallica for "Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental" in 1989.
  • Walnut Grove being blown up & St. Elsewhere being made up.
  • Scott Stevens "compensatory" trade from the St. Louis Blues to the New Jersey Devils in 1991.
  • Re-election of Barack Obama. (Didn't fool me the first time. Twice? The Who have a song about not being fooled again.)

Cinnamon is everywhere & in everything, especially during the autumn/winter seasons. I hate Cinnamon - the smell, the taste. Yuck. It reminds me of bad, stale incense, if there is such a difference. (You know...like the cheap stuff you buy as a college student on a budget looking to mask your dorm room pot smoking. Hypothetically speaking.)

What is with people interrupting & getting ahead of a story by interjecting their assumptions before a person is finished telling it? It's annoying, & these people need to be stopped.

When did a trip to the eye doctor become such a hassling terror? We've gone from simply reading an eye chart to having our eyeballs bombarded with probing lights, stress tests & "dilation" fluids...that prevent the ability to see anything ALL DAY. I just want to renew my prescription, not feel like aliens have probed me.

It would be refreshing if people were as fired up about real issues as much as they are about absolute nonsense. Then again, it would be relieving if others would chill & calm down with their nonsense when discussing real issues.

If you can't drive it, don't buy it. This is especially true in parking lots, where the concept of dimensions, depth & distance seem lost on some people as they painfully creep in & out of parking spaces.

Scientists recently stated that the Earth would leave the Sun's "habitable zone" in about 1.75 billion years. If you've kept up on current events the last century or so, seems humanity left the habitable zone a long time ago.

It's not that I think I'm better than most people & the rules don't apply to me; it's that I know I'm better than most people & the rules don't apply to me.

Realize the providence that guides our choices, even if you don't believe. Or don't want to believe. Yet, every choice we make is in fact a leap of faith, the confidence that we have chosen wisely...& that itself can be divine.

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Friday, October 4, 2013

Our Revels Now Have Ended?

When discussions on the American Revolution occur in the modern era, there generally is a falsely rosy assumption that all colonists backed it. Forgotten, glossed over or outright omitted in the narrative are those colonists, known as Loyalists, who remained steadfastly dedicated to King George III and the British Empire. Despite the lack of acknowledgement, they encompassed a fair portion of the population throughout the thirteen American colonies. As the Obama Administration, as well as the Harry Reid/Nancy Pelosi cabal, attempts to steer the country toward a socialized, more European-style one, the question has to be asked:  have the Loyalists returned, and are they winning? Some even have called for the establishment of a modern-day American monarchy, and still others who believe our form of republicanism, and the Constitution itself, antiquated if not an abomination.

Certainly, the Founding Fathers would barely recognize, if at all, our current governmental structure. Undoubtedly, a majority would abhor the authority and power of the centralized government that has occurred just within the last few decades. There is a reason it is called the United STATES of America – because it is a republic of States (plural) and citizens, theoretically, united in common cause, to whom the federal level, theoretically, is to answer. Not vice versa. As Ayn Rand stated, “Either we believe that the State exists to serve the individual or that the individual exists to serve the state.” Thankfully, there are a few modern rebel patriots – Rand Paul, Ted Cruz – emulating these forebears of limited government thought attempting to reign in the continual onslaught of federal overreach and bureaucracy. Not to mention endeavoring to thwart those who wish to dismantle the vision of “American exceptionalism” first set forth by our founders.

With the growing, and seemingly uncompromising, divide that exists between today’s left and right ideologies, we are on the cusp of a new revolution toward either the profound or the catastrophic. Categorically, we must do more to ensure the former, and everything possible to prevent the latter.

Not just for the United States, but for the world.

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dexter Series Finale

Tonight, another series I have watched since the first episode ends. Unlike LOST, there seems a better consensus among viewers that it will end terribly. As in bad. As in terribly bad. As in “not much hope since Season Five, Seasons Six and Seven were horrible and Season Eight has been up but mostly down” bad. Certainly, awful dialogue, character stupidity and idiotic plotholes in the latest episodes leading up to this series finale definitely heighten the anticipation of disappointment. Oddly, if not sadly, from a series that was so masterful at storytelling and character development in its first few seasons.

That said, here are ways Dexter should, but probably will not, end:

#1 – “The ‘Happy’ Ending

Dexter doesn’t leave Miami in order to continue his “work” as an anti-hero serial killer. Thanks to the events of this season, though – which not so subtly have pointed to this outcome – he no longer feels the overall desire to kill as before, having found balance with his “Dark Passenger.” Hannah McKay either ends up captured or leaving Miami without him, and the Miami Metro police continue being aloof and inept as ever before. The End.

#2 – “The Expected Ending

Dexter finally is caught as the “Bay Harbor Butcher.” Hannah, still angry with Dexter for turning her in to authorities last season, is caught, but turns evidence against Dexter as the BHB to save herself. [Yet, with the ineptitude of the detectives who have investigated him who either stopped (Quinn) or ended up dead (Doakes; LaGuerta), this is not likely.] Debra, discovering Dexter has been charged as the BHB thanks to Hannah, leaves the hospital (from being shot the previous episode), kills her and disposes of her body a la Dexter…continuing his “work.” [See #3]

#3 – “The Twist Ending

Dexter, and maybe Hannah, ends up on the table of another serial killer, possibly another disciple of Dr. Evelyn Vogel who also follows “The Code” – and who has been hunting Dexter for his serial killing from day one! Dexter either is killed or ends up killing said fellow disciple, deciding to stay in Miami because he still has “work” to do. [See #1]

#4 – “The Wild Things Ending

Hannah and Jacob Elway have been working together in a long con for the reward money for her capture. She screws over Dexter, meeting up with Elway in Argentina. At some point, Hannah and Niki Walters (Masuka’s “daughter”) – who is in on the con as well – have a steamy sex scene in a pool. Miami Metro police, as usual, yet again are dumbfounded in their aloof ineptitude at solving any of it.

#5 – “The Scooby-Doo Ending

Niki Walters, Astor Bennett, Cody Bennett, Harrison Morgan and Harrison’s stuffed dog toy (the bloodied one Dexter said had been “lost”) cruise Miami in Dexter’s SUV, solving the entire series. Turns out, it was “Old Man” Deputy Chief Tom Matthews who really was doing all the serial killing in disguise…and he would have gotten away with it too if not for those meddling kids!

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, September 15, 2013

In Every Revolution

The United States was, is and can continue to be a great nation. The issue, however, is not the measure of past, current or future greatness, but the ability to perform at a level of greatness at any given time. That problem stems from leadership, and the current administration, as well as the subsequent growing bureaucracy from it, is no less a prime example of that failure; it is not much different as regards the other two branches of government either. Partly because voters have elected, and continue to re-elect, weak and ineffective individuals into positions for which they are not and never were innately suited or properly vetted. In essence, “We, the People…” are to blame for this failure in leadership by not holding accountable and taking to task the individuals chosen to lead us.

In any human endeavor, there will always be disagreement over the direction to take, the path to do so and the people needed to do it. Again, this is not the problem; in discourse, disagreement is good if only for alternative viewpoints. If you can muster a coherent sentence and a valid argument for your stance, whether agreeable or not, from that cauliflower-like mush called a brain, you will be fine. However, if you open your pie-encrusted blowhole to say how much you love pie right before casting a vote, please stay home in the obliviousness called your pathetic, unnecessary existence. Voter IDs? Honestly, that does not go far enough; we need to bring back education tests. (Whoa…before you go screaming and ranting about racism and Jim Crow, just keep your piehole shut.) It would be simple:  you go to your election place, they show you a clear piece of plastic and ask what color is it. If your answer is anything other than a variation of “there is no color,” you do not get to vote…because, people, “CLEAR” ISN’T A @#$% COLOR! Even colorblind people could pass the test! (Obviously, the test needs tweaking for actual blind people.) With the likes of “People of Walmart” et al, how can it be any other way though??? My head aches thinking about – or heaven forbid, have to interact with – some of “my fellow Americans.” I say let the immigrants in, legal or otherwise…the gene pool could use some freshening!

As much as the situation is our fault, it is our responsibility to correct it. How do we do it? Change in leadership, not to mention the aforementioned citizenry makeup, would be a start; more so, a change in focus back to the principles and ideals that have worked toward greatness, casting off that which has distracted and deterred. For all their disagreements, even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson could agree that the Tree of Liberty needs the constant attention of vigilant patriots against the forces whose sole purpose is to tear it down. They saw it as every citizen’s duty, either through civic service or in ultimate sacrifice. It is simply a matter of finding once again the right elements and factors, even if at first they may not seem a good mixture.

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Justice In An Unjust World

As the jury deliberates on the fate of George Zimmerman, accused of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, let us face facts. From testimony offered throughout the trial, the prosecution attempted to paint Zimmerman as a paranoid creeper wannabe as the defense mounted an attack against the second-degree murder charge on the legal basis of self-defense in performance of his neighborhood watch duties. On the other hand, Martin came across as an archetypical pot-smoking teenager – who may or may not have been a “f*ckin’ punk” with attitude – but someone who did not deserve to be senselessly killed simply for appearing suspicious and/or racially profiled. Some observers have looked to male gender roles in present-day society as a catalyst for the behavior of both perpetrator and victim – in a case that neither description is necessarily clear as to whom it fits. Whatever the root cause or your stance on the case – whether Martin deserves justice for his needless alleged murder or if Zimmerman deserves vindication for his critical, if questionable, actions in the face of an alleged hostile threat – no one will be satisfied with the verdict. Undoubtedly, riots will ensue from a Zimmerman acquittal.

And therein lies the rub; rioting because one disagrees with a verdict is not civil justice, but rather just uncivil.

Let us face another fact too:  any rioting will be erroneously racially motivated. Another crime wrongfully committed in the name of social justice because a so-called “white Hispanic” was acquitted for the wrongful death of a black teen. To be clear, as someone who is part Hispanic, George Zimmerman is not a “white Hispanic”; he is simply Hispanic, a growing minority of the U.S. population and one increasingly coveted by politicians in recent years. When the media began portraying Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic,” the stage was set for escalating “black vs. white” racial tensions that never should have been developed, or better yet exploited, in the first place. The case and subsequent trial always should have been about a man, who happens to be Hispanic, who shot and killed a teen, who happened to be black. End of that part of the story. Yet, the media from the beginning played up and sensationalized the racial aspects of the case, because without it there apparently is nothing noteworthy about minority-on-minority violence in the greater national debate.

How can there be any justice when bias – from the media, from the judge, even from viewers – takes away the supreme guarantee of “innocent until proven guilty” and convicts a person for their alleged crime before any verdict is reached? The world and our legal systems can be an unjust one, where criminals go free on a technicality and innocent citizens go to jail for months, years or even decades. We should not be so carefree on either outcome in this case as well, because it is not as black and white as most would make it. What matters is that justice is served – for either Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman – by the blind collective rule of law and not by a biased collective social conscious.

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Friday, June 7, 2013

From Righteous To Reprehensible

On March 5, 1773, British troops killed five American colonists in what became known as the Boston Massacre. With the American colonies already inflamed by injustices served upon them by the British crown, the event would be a leading catalyst of the American Revolution two years later. On May 4, 1970, National Guard units fired into a crowd of anti-war protesters at Kent State University, resulting in the deaths of four students. Even for staunch supporters of the Vietnam War, the event triggered a shift in public opinion in the ensuing national outrage. On September 11, 2012, Islamist terrorists storming the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi, Libya, killed four Americans including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. In the aftermath, officials called the attack a localized protest and erroneously, perhaps deceptively, blamed an obscure YouTube video. How is it that the deaths of fellow citizens have changed the mindset from forthright rebellion to indifferent obfuscation?

Who knew what, and when? Who did this, and who did that? What was the agenda of the personnel at the diplomatic mission, especially that of Ambassador Stevens, and of those in Washington? Who, and for what reason, altered the talking points concerning the timeline of events over the ensuing days, weeks and months? As some fanciful, yet strangely compelling, conspiracy theories have speculated, were the four – Stevens, Foreign Service officer Sean Smith and former U.S. Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods – expendable political pawns in an international ploy, and subsequent cover-up, engineered from the darkest corners of the White House prior to the November 2012 elections? These and many other questions are still unanswered; the hopeful truth, as of yet forthcoming nine months after the attack, will be either enlightening or troubling, or both. Even if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believes that “what difference does it make” is a proper response in testimony to the facts, all of it matters.

The issue goes beyond such inquiry and conspiracy though. Thus far, administration officials have offered only token responses, confounding finger pointing and jocular indignation, even under direct testimony. Some, like former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice questionably promoted to National Security Advisor, unbelievably have been rewarded for their “service” (loyalty?), or, in the case of Clinton, have quietly retired – while not a single person has been held accountable, including the known terrorists who stormed the U.S. compound and killed the four Americans. From the president on down, why has it been so difficult for the administration to provide an appropriate and suitably comprehensive response to these concerns? On the campaign trail in 2008, candidate Barack Obama made speeches attacking a Bush administration many still contend – on both sides of the partisan divide – deceived and lied the United States into a war in Iraq. Obama pledged and guaranteed that his administration would be transparently different, a message continued and maintained throughout the 2012 re-election campaign against presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.

With each new revelation concerning the Benghazi attack, seems now that those were empty promises. More likely, they were lies from the start, compounded by subsequent scandalous, if not unconstitutional and impeachable, activities that include political targeting and illegal surveillance of media and citizens alike by the government. Possibly directed from the White House. What difference does the death of a few Americans in a volatile, far away country make? When administration officials, from the president on down, are indifferently, almost callously, remiss and hard-pressed to set the record straight – not to mention bring the still unpunished terrorists to justice – it makes a revealing difference.

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Monday, May 27, 2013

Remember Us

There comes a time when people must stand up for what they believe. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” As ever before the United States, and the free world in general, finds itself in a seemingly endless struggle – in fact, one ever since our founding – against those who wish to destroy its principles and ideals. Not only abroad, but domestic as well. It is a fight against tyranny and terrorization alike that have no other purpose than to that end. There can be only one outcome against these enemies of republicanism, egalitarianism and civilization itself:  their swift and utter annihilation. Do not give in to those who wish to retreat and submit before them, for there can be no such capitulation. If you believe in the sacrifice such an endeavor entails, prepare for glory for you shall be remembered through the annals of time.

If you be free men and women, remember Thermopylae, remember the Alamo, remember Bastogne – those who knew their fate, yet fought for a better tomorrow. If you be true patriots, stand and fight for freedom, for liberty and for victory!

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What Difference Does It Make

To shed focus on Benghazigate, the Obama Administration has trotted out its tired standby of not taking responsibility and blaming everyone but themselves for current affairs. Namely, its predecessor and, specifically, former President George W. Bush – four years after he left office – using Iraq as example. Let's compare. One president and his administration used their judgment and multiple, vetted intelligence sources to send the American military into Iraq to oust a ruthless dictator who had been, and continued to be, a threat since the 1980s. Democrats and liberals prefer to cite the body count and financial cost of the conflict rather than the overall goal of a stabilized Iraq, and Middle East, in the broader War on Terror. Whether that outcome is still viable has yet to be weighed by history

Meantime, another president and his administration rushed to judgment blaming an obscure YouTube video despite multiple intelligence sources, including those on the ground under threat at the time, that Benghazi was a terrorist attack by Islamist extremists on the anniversary of 9/11. As a result, four Americans – one a U.S. ambassador – died pleading with administration officials for military intervention. In the aftermath, administration officials have spent months absconding from and contradicting the facts – either from official testimony or eyewitness accounts – concerning the incident. Democrats and liberals prefer to cite the ever-changing narrative and talking points rather than face the implications of a failed foreign policy. 

Great leadership is taking little more than your share of blame and little less share of credit. Clearly, President Obama and his minions think it's the opposite. 

There indeed is a difference. 

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You Spelled Tyranny Wrong

A consistent flurry of unsettling intrigue has whirled around the Obama Administration – some of which is first-term carryover – that would make disgraced late President Richard Nixon blush. For leftist pundits, it is deemed un-American to question most of it. Yet, it is the apathy and hypocrisy of the left, especially in the media, toward the current administration’s questionable, perhaps even unconstitutional, activities and motives that is becoming un-American. The lack of any outcry, once so inexorably directed at previous administrations under similar conditions, only highlights the bias. Taken as a whole, it is becoming increasingly unnerving the blind eye turned where questions persist without any transparency or concrete answers.

Throughout history, many leaders have begun with great intentions and promised many things to the betterment of their society. Many have fallen prey to the corruption of power, or worse to the malevolence of their own nature. Despite foresight and diligence, the United States has not been, and is not, immune to this phenomenon. Past presidents have tested the innate checks and balance system of our republic, pushing the boundaries of their authority in relation to the legislative and judicial branches. Not to mention to that of and for the people. Should we, as President Obama so mindlessly advised, really “reject the voices that warn of government tyranny”? If we do, who then watches the watchers? Only those who willingly continue to ask questions, in appreciation of principles and values under threat from forces that would circumvent and oppress them.

For as French revolutionary Robespierre stated, “The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.” Executed on July 28, 1794, for tyrannies against the French people during his “Reign of Terror,” he would know all about it. 

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Friday, March 29, 2013

Gay Marriage Debate

Bill O'Reilly was correct - the Bible is touted too often in opposing gay marriage. Not everyone believes in religion, though, and the Supreme Court is not weighing belief. To me, religion is a constant fallback argument for those who have nothing more substantial for the debate. Have belief, but do not make it the centerpiece. You cannot sway an argument with a person who is staunchly anti-religious using religion. You will lose; trust me, I'm agnostic. Facts win an argument. If you want to say gay marriage will raise national debt or something, then fine say it. But touting religion to people who do not believe cannot work.

The fact is that marriage is a bond between two people, not a contract with the government. When you take religion out of the debate, the argument opposing gay marriage falls flat.

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Importance of Being Earnestly Filibustered

Over the course of 13 hours, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) – with support from the likes of Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and John Barrasso (R-WY) – demonstrated the job of our elected officials. At the core, the filibuster concerned the nomination of John Brennan as Director of the CIA and domestic drone attacks on American citizens on U.S. soil. As some apparently failed to grasp in their denouncements and rebukes – including Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – it was about so much more. It was about the principles and values contained not only in the U.S. Constitution, but also in the American experience and culture. It was about the survival of both, and our ability to maintain them equally in the times of despair as in the times of prosperity.

In the end, personal decorum, to put it mildly, rather than any faltering enthusiasm brought the proceedings to a close. In light of the recent Senate vote confirming Brennan as Director, was Paul’s action worth it? In short, yes. It showed that some politicians are still willing to honor and uphold their duty to protect the past, present and future of the American people and the republic. No matter how long it may take.

Vote breakdown confirming Brennan:

YEA (63): Democrat - 49 Republican - 13 Independent - 1
NAY (34): Democrat - 2 Republican - 31 Independent - 1
NO VOTE (3): Democrat - 2 Republican - 1

Surprise YEA:  Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

(Source:  www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=113&session=1&vote=00032#position)

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Consumer Confidence in Available Products

For years I searched for a body wash (or soap in general) that did not irritate my skin. Not too long ago, I came across Dove Men Sensitive Clean Body and Face Wash. It was great…and by “was,” I mean Dove recently discontinued it based on, so they say, consumer demand. Frankly, I do not understand how this could be as I often had trouble finding it in stock. Either consumer demand was not the problem, or they had issues with their marketing, product placement and/or distribution.

Concerning the prospect of its discontinuance, this was Dove’s congenial response to my inquiry:

Thank you for contacting us regarding Dove Men Sensitive Clean Body and Face Wash.
The product you have contacted us about has been discontinued. Our company's goal is to provide consumers with a variety of products to meet their needs and preferences. As you may know, marketing is a complex function, and many business factors are taken into consideration before discontinuing a product. It truly saddens us when we must discontinue a product. However, consumer demand is a major factor. When the level of demand is insufficient to ensure that consumers receive high quality products at an affordable price, the product will likely be discontinued. We apologize that this product is no longer available and we are sending you a complimentary coupon which we hope you will use to enjoy one of the other fine products we offer. We will forward your comments to the appropriate staff.

Due to this situation, I, like Elaine in the Seinfeld episode, “The Sponge,” must attempt to stockpile and hoard body wash before it can no longer be found. In my case, showering will be deemed body wash worthy on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, there is a bigger issue here. Product lines have become so diversified that they have saturated and overstrained the market in pursuit of the bottom line. Take a sampling of the soap, shampoo and lotion aisle, and good luck finding good-ol’ “soap,” “shampoo” and “lotion.” The need for “sensitive skin” formulas (most of which are just the essential basics) for many of these products highlights the downside of this modern trend:  a once simple daily necessity, buried in damaging ingredients forced upon consumers. The fact that entire aisles are dedicated to them is another; is there little wonder in the need for warehouse grocery chains? Though a few still survive, the “mom-and-pop” stores of yesteryear could no longer exist for the mere lack of shelf space.

If anyone needs a complimentary coupon, I will have no need for it.

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Obamacare's Individual Mandate & You

Passed in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) established the level of health care coverage an individual needs to have in order to meet the “minimum essential coverage.” This is the so-called, and controversial, individual mandate, with Health Insurance Exchanges making certain that people have the proper coverage as set by the law. Perhaps an oversimplification, but the HIE are designed basically as the government's insurance brokers. The legislation left it up to individual states to establish them, which several states, like Missouri, rejected because it would cost millions to the states (i.e., taxpayers) and preferring to leave it to the free-market and private insurance. As pointed out numerous times, there is no funding for the HIE in the legislation at the federal level and, given current economic conditions, the federal government does not have the financing to establish them.

As some have argued, legislative rejection by certain states, including Missouri, is simply token because if the federal government did have the money federal law trumps state law. This, of course, in and of itself – federal vs. states’ rights – is another argument; 152 years ago, the United States erupted into a Civil War over the issue. The fact that one meets the minimum coverage requirement exempts them from the euphemistically-named “shared responsibility payment” (i.e., the individual mandate tax/penalty…but we're not calling it that, even though both terms have been applied and interchanged by politicians and the Supreme Court). The fact that states like Missouri passed legislation rejecting establishing HIE theoretically exempts all residents of those states – no matter if they have coverage or not, or whether it's token or not – because there's no enforcement of the mandate at the federal level both legally and monetarily.

Yes, the Internal Revenue Service – tasked with collecting the “shared responsibility payment” – will seek payment by way of your federal tax return, but you can refuse to pay without penalty. And there’s the rub. Though “assessed and collected in the same manner as an assessable penalty,” the IRS’ Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Public Hearing addressing the individual mandate expressly states, “taxpayer may not be subject to criminal prosecution or penalty failing to pay.” (p. 16) As the Supreme Court even stated in its majority ruling upholding Obamacare, citizens cannot be taxed or penalized for non-participation in commerce. For many, there is no doubt a sentiment that the government can collect it the same time they pry the Second Amendment and guns from their cold, dead hands. Of course, there are numerous exemptions to the mandate, including:  “individual is neither a citizen or national of the United States nor an alien lawfully present in the United States”; “individual is incarcerated”; “individual is exempt for a month that...has in effect a religious conscience exemption certification”; and “a taxpayer may claim any of these exemptions on the taxpayer's Federal income tax return for the taxable year.”

Addressing requirements for meeting the minimum essential coverage, one in particular should raise the ire of subjected citizens:  “an individual who resides abroad for an entire calendar year is treated as having minimum essential coverage for each month of that calendar year regardless of whether the individual has health coverage of any type.” (p. 15) Much like drone strikes, the same principles that apply to the average American citizen apparently do not for those living overseas; how many will start looking elsewhere to live? Conceivably, we even could see an increase in children put up for adoption, as “a taxpayer who is entitled to claim a child as a dependent…places the child for adoption during the year, the taxpayer is not liable for a shared responsibility payment attributable to the child for the months after the adoption.” (p. 17)  How many dire and negligent parents do you think would willingly divest themselves of a child in order to avoid paying? If you’re questioning that statement and shaking your head no, congratulations to you on having a very positive, albeit naïve, opinion of humanity.

For all the nonsense, there is one minor silver lining:  “These regulations are proposed to apply for months beginning after December 31, 2013.” (p. 37) Huzzah!

Read the full IRS notice - www.irs.gov/PUP/newsroom/REG-148500-12%20FR.pdf

©2013 Steve Sagarra

Monday, January 21, 2013

Identifying Americanism

Ever since its humble beginnings in 1787, the year the Constitution was adopted, the United States has been in search of its identity. History, as told by the victors, begins that story a decade earlier with 13 colonies on the eastern coast of North America and moving westward; “Manifest Destiny” was in fact a term given to this search. As a nation of immigrants and given the ever changing demographics of today, the U.S. is in a constant flux concerning its “American” identity. While it is in the best interest of the United States to allow current and future generations – legal, naturalized or otherwise – the same opportunity given those before them to become “Americans,” it is essential that we continue defining and shaping the “new America” of the 21st century provided by that opportunity.

This country, once the backwater step-child of world affairs, has shed more blood and tears in its “short” history as the lone beacon of hope against those who would extinguish the free world’s light. Despite efforts both passive and proactive against them, there still exist those whose sole mission is our destruction. And no matter what blinders one chooses to wear, our house is in disarray from forces – political, social, but most especially economic – that threaten its very core. Hipster doofuses in skinny jeans, reality celebtards on television and idiotic megalomaniacs in Washington, D.C. – is there little surprise in the situation?

A society will always need a leader, but it is up to “We, the People” to maintain vigilance against the manipulative despotism that can take hold by such blind ignorance. As far too many nations have learned the hard way throughout history, a leader’s self-adulation in the myth of their own greatness is the altar of sacrifice upon which virtue and freedom bleeds. And as a reckoning approaches, apathy and disillusion is not a viable option for the degenerations, oppressions and outright abominations attempting to tear asunder and undermine our principles. From the soldier to the General, from the sailor to the Admiral, it is time once more, perhaps now more than ever, to uphold a sworn duty to protect and defend this nation against its mortal enemies not only abroad but also domestic, so that it does not perish from the Earth.

Particularly, it is up to the American citizen – present and, hopefully, future – to pledge fealty to liberty and justice in support of this undertaking, for there is no greater cause than that of free men and women who would willingly give their life before yielding to the shackles of tyranny. Ever more, it is up to us to honor those men and women who voluntarily gave up their lives never knowing their sacrifice to the success of such a cause.

It is either our destiny as Americans, or it will be our demise.

©2013 Steve Sagarra