Wednesday, December 31, 2014

No Singing the Blues This Season

As of now, the St. Louis Blues sit fourth in the Western Conference, but they are a pedestrian .500 team in their last ten games. David Backes is everything you want in a captain, and he can, and should, lead them to a Stanley Cup; he is Barclay Plager, Brian Sutter and Dallas Drake rolled into one. Drafted by the Blues in 2003, he inspires and motivates on and off the ice, plasters opponents to the boards and defends his teammates. Oh yeah, and he will even score on you from time to time. He gives high praise for excellence to others and is critical of poor play, especially his own. Not necessarily having to be the best player on the team, that is what a captain is supposed to do. Consisting of Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alex Steen or the occasional Paul Stastny, he forms part of what I like to call the “BOSS” line. Because this is the one against which other opponents justify their paycheck. To be honest, though, my favorite line has to be Maxim Lapierre, Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves. Talk about plastering opponents to the boards. This line in its pure form is pure beauty to watch as they lay down crushing checks and bruising hits. Switching out for Steve Ott only brings more experience in the endeavor. And oh yeah, they just might even score on you from time to time.

What can be said about Vladimir “Tank” Tarasenko that has not already been exhausted? He is a breath of fresh air, and perhaps the key element missing in years:  a ridiculously dominating goal scorer that can make defenders and goalies alike reconsider playing professional hockey. Better than Brett Hull? Go ahead, place that bet – and I love the Golden Brett! With Jori Lehtera, or Stastny, and Jaden Schwartz, alongside Tarasenko (as the “STL” line), just sit back and enjoy the combined international cooperation this line can bring that makes the United Nations envious. Then there's Patrik Berglund. Oh, Bergie, Bergie, Bergie. You are either frustrating or exciting. Talk about a nice guy deserving better, most particularly from himself. Something he readily acknowledges. A Blues draft pick in 2006 with a recently renewed three-year contract, he is playing either for an extended stay or for another team to take notice. Whichever the case, it would be nice for his cup to runneth over before reaching that bridge. Paired with the likes of Dmitirij Jaskin, Magnus Paajarvi (recently placed on waivers) and Joakim Lindstrom, it could be nothing less than Swede…with a little Russian moxie thrown in for good measure.

Despite twelve years, and a Calder Trophy win, spent solely on the Blues' blueline, Barret Jackman gets a lot of grief from disillusioned fans. What does he give in return? Consistency and toughness. Same as Jay Bouwmeester. By all measure, the majority of the defense is still young, but that is no excuse. Alex Pietrangelo has several years under his skates and plays like the veteran he is; yet, he is still learning to be the quarterback of what could be an as-yet-explosive offense and power play a la Al MacInnis or Chris Pronger, while minimizing the miscues. Kevin Shattenkirk is another in that same vein, given to pinching in for the ever-ready offensive spark. Chris Butler is the local boy, while Ian Cole and Carl Gunnarsson are the out-of-towners looking to make an impact. For the most part, they have yet to hit their stride as a potential shutdown defense that would be a relief to the young Jake Allen and the stoic Marty Brodeur. It certainly would give comfort to an ailing Brian Elliot upon his recent return to action.

So, as they approach the new year and second half of the season, is this the team poised for a run at Lord Stanley? With some minor tweaks – rather than the usual mid-season overhaul of years past – and prospects like Ty Rattie, Yannick Veilleux and Petteri Lindbohm, bet on it.

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Random Christmas Thoughts

‘Tis the season…for many to hold to religious ideals not necessarily so stridently adhered to the other 364 days (or counting Easter, 363), and belief in a jolly old fat man bearing gifts for the nice but not the naughty passed down to a new generation. Unless, of course, you were able to stomp, trample and fight your way to huge savings on Black Friday deals! Just as Jesus (and Santa) would do, right? [*MATERIALISTIC PROMOTION ALERT* Know an avid reader? Still need a gift or stocking stuffer? Check out my books -]
It’s that time of the year to gather together and enjoy festive foods. Which means holiday trays and platters – the same ones left behind and reused from last year’s party. Don’t deny it; in a manner of speaking, whether holiday or not, we all do this sort of "re-gifting." And probably with the same fruitcake on it…from the same fruitcake who brought it to last year’s party.

What is a wish list other than not-so-subtly polite suggestions of gifts that you prefer others buy, rather than them getting you something crappy. Again. "It’s the thought that counts" doesn’t hold up to modern sensibilities, especially when it comes to getting the correct gift not the appreciated one. Therefore, we rush out to spend money we really don’t have on presents for people really not deserving of them. All because it’s on their wish list.

Is there an extended cut or sequel to It’s A Wonderful Life where Mr. Potter is visited by the ghosts of Christmases? Doesn’t seem fair that George Bailey – mind you, completely innocent of events about to unfold – has to agonize and examine his life because of Potter’s unscrupulousness – mind you, no thanks to Uncle Billy’s forgetfulness – without some sort of Scrooge-esque absolution for Potter as well.

They’re called Christmas cards. Not Christmas pictures, and certainly not Christmas newsletters. Yep, the dreaded seasonal newsletter. Listen, we’re all very impressed with your yearly accomplishments…not to mention making the rest of us look like procrastinators, slackers and non-caring friends who didn’t know about half the things outlined in your newsletter.

Darren McGavin is the dad in A Christmas Story; Gavin MacLeod is Captain Stubing in The Love Boat. When I was younger, this was the Dermot Mulroney/Dylan McDermott name twister mix-up of its day for me.

If you remove all the words from "Deck the Halls," you’re left only with lines of Fa la la la la la la la la. It’s the essay-filler "very, very, very" of Christmas songs.

Although typically only one or (rarely) two verses ever are heard when sung, there actually are four verses in the song "Jingle Bells." Moreover, it was written as a Thanksgiving/winter-themed song titled "One Horse Open Sleigh," attributed to John Pierpont in 1857. The song only became popular thereafter during Christmas due to the chorus’ titular "jingle bells" refrain – ironically, a reference to the type of signal used by sleigh riders at blind intersections (like a modern automobile horn) than any type of holiday bell.

What if instead of traveling around Christmas Eve to deliver presents, Santa Claus never leaves the North Pole by using teleportation/wormhole technology to do the job? Certainly, it would make the task easier, and, even more, would explain how he secretly enters billions of homes in a limited time. Maybe, he simply goes out in the sleigh with all the reindeer for marketing/public relations and for a little festive fun.

Each year, the variously varied variances in the diverse decorations displayed alike throughout the nation’s nascent and niche neighborhoods are amazing, astonishing and astounding. It demonstrates how similar and united we are, and can be, in our differences, and vice versa. 

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Monday, November 17, 2014

Full-Time Competitive Free Old Man Happy Face

Frankly, like many Americans, I’m exhausted from exhausting all my avenues. For 15 years, I have been a writer. With degrees in history from the University of Missouri, I have contributed to several encyclopedic projects, scholarly journals and websites; as a former opinion columnist/editorial writer, I have written on topics ranging from socio-economic issues, local and national politics and international relations, and have reported on the political scene throughout the St. Louis region. Additionally, my short story fiction and poetry has appeared in various online and print magazines; this year, [*PROMOTION ALERT*] I self-published my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life, and a novella, Judgment Bound. Yes, I am bragging about my achievements as a writer because I take pride in them. Just as a good death is its own reward, so too creativity is only as valuable as the personal worth attached to it; in essence, I have gone broke gaining riches in artistic fulfillment. I’m okay with that, but its own reward doesn’t exactly pay the bills.

Over the years, I also have held a colorful variety of jobs – dishwasher, delivery driver, substitute teacher, archeology technician and bartender. While I haven’t experienced its full brunt, I can sympathize with the under- and unemployed as a “full-time” freelancer. Far too often, I come across so-called “competitive” rates that are more expectant of “free” work than freelance. My resume/credentials are on a multitude of freelance/employment board websites, with innumerable applications/proposals sent to potential clients; against my nature, I am regularly active in networking efforts on both professional and social levels. As such, I have committed to every piece of advice about getting out there. Yet, there is very little movement from any in the form of steady work, even from the most promising; many other freelancers face the same situation. While I have resources tied up in certain ventures (like my aforementioned books), generally these too have not been a steady stream and typically not accessible when needed.
That may sound like I am complaining – which I am, because it’s inherent for me to do so both genetically and professionally – but as I said, though, it’s more that I’m exhausted. For probably only the second time in my life, I’m a blank canvass devoid of ideas, plans or solutions of my next step. Uncharacteristically as well, I have no contingency ideas, plans or solutions from which to draw. Because, I have exhausted those too.

In another life years ago, I worked at a country club as a bartender for four years, and more recently managed/bartended at a music venue for seven – the latter of which came to an abrupt end both from burnout and upper-management incompetence and unprofessionalism, to put it nicely, that I was unwilling to continue tolerating or ignoring. You know, standing up for my principles et al…while those to whom I was making a statement continued in their positions. Overall, since age 16, I have 25 years of experience in the bar/restaurant/entertainment industries; as such, thought has been given to returning to bartending but do I really want to? Similar to when I was pursuing a teaching degree in yet another life long ago, the answer I keep coming back to is no. As a curmudgeonly “old man” – suited perfectly and contentedly for home-based, solitary freelance work – I am finding it ever more difficult to put on the requisite “happy face” for people in general.

I’m exhausted from it.

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rooting For the Home Team

There is a continual debate about people who root for multiple teams in the same sport. I am one of those people – especially in football and hockey – because I don’t believe in blind brand allegiance simply because a team is the favored or home one. Born and raised in St. Louis as I have previously outlined, it was all about Cardinals football (now the Arizona Cardinals) and Cardinals baseball; not too much later, Blues hockey came into the fold for me as well. Therefore, my loyalty always has been, and will be, with these three home teams. Nevertheless, from an early age, I became a Dallas Cowboys and New York Rangers fan as well. (When it comes to the baseball Cardinals, there is no favored alternative.) To be honest, we usually rooted for the Landry-coached, Staubach-quarterbacked “America’s Team” over the characteristically dismal home team when the Cowboys came to town; as for the Rangers, they simply became my default Eastern Conference team when the Blues either were not playing or not in the playoffs.

Then the football Cardinals moved from St. Louis to Tempe, Arizona, before the 1988 season. It was a stake to the heart.

In 1983, my dad and I, as we typically did, were watching Sunday football. There was a young quarterback out of Stanford playing for the Denver Broncos; his name was John Elway. My dad said to watch him, because he prophetically believed that one day he would be a great quarterback. Three years later, I was a full-blown fan of the Denver Broncos – ironic, given that the Dallas Cowboys, for whom I rooted, had beaten them 35-10 in Super Bowl XII. Therefore, as far as football, I have rooted for three teams since the mid-1980s, the situation dictating the extent of it – with the Broncos, especially, and Cowboys taking precedence. The true test will be if the two ever meet again in the championship game, but my loyalty assuredly would lean toward Denver.

When college called, I had in mind three main choices:  University of Missouri (“Mizzou”), University of Alabama and the United States Naval Academy. The Naval Academy, as a potential means to serve in the U.S. Navy as a naval aviator, was a stretch from the start given personal circumstances (not to mention my dogmatic attitude toward authority), and soon fell by the wayside. Once accepted to Missouri, as that was my favored choice for personal reasons, Alabama came off the table. (To read about this and other subjects, purchase a copy of my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life.) Yet, despite being a proud and loyal Mizzou alumnus, I still root for both Alabama and Navy football, again with the situation dictating the extent of it. In this case, like the Blues and baseball Cardinals, there would be no contest for split loyalties – Blues, Cardinals and Mizzou 100%!

Similarly, I was born American, but my family roots are Irish, German and Spanish/Cuban. Thus, while my loyalty will always hold steadfastly and unwaveringly firm for the United States, I have an affinity for Ireland, Germany, Spain and Cuba. Is it wrong to like, and equally hate on, countries not of my birth except in lineage in comparable fashion as the good ol’ U.S.A.? Even in politics, my loyalties can cut across the spectrum. I consider myself conservatarian, which is a mix of conservative and libertarian ideas. To this end, it mildly irritates me when those of us similar in ideology are generalized as “Republican”; though I may typically caucus, as they say, with Republicans, as an independent I always avoid adherence to any particular party platform and vote as such.

So, it’s okay to cheer for the home team…even if, technically, they aren’t the only “home” team.

©2104 Steve Sagarra

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lame Duck Is Served

It is exactly two years until the next presidential election. By all measure, President Obama, his administration, leadership and policies were repudiated in the mid-terms this past Tuesday. The wave of conservative victory was nothing less than a vote of non-confidence in his “governing” (or, more aptly, incessant campaigning and vacationing) and disapproval for the direction of the country. However some leftist pundits, and the president himself, wish to spin it, this was a historically devastating shellacking from a livid electorate. We will not have to wait long before the mainstream media – for so long its best champion in propagandizing its rhetoric – begins distancing itself from the administration as well. While there are still a few clinging to hope and change, it is not hyperbole to state that for many the thrill is gone. (And remember when it was considered racism to disagree with the president? Clearly, that only applies to right-wingers given the hypocritical backlash toward Republicans like Tim Scott and Mia Love.)

As a handful of analysts have pointed out, the political shift is owed to the thrice-pronounced-dead Tea Party. In spite of mainstream Republicans perverse efforts to discredit and renounce these party insurgents, they are the ones who kept conservative ideas afloat in the battle against progressivism over these past six years. All but written off only a few years ago, they have handed Speaker of the House John Boehner and prospective Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – unless an (unlikely) audible is called in deference to another candidate, like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul – overwhelming Republican control of Congress not seen in 85 years. Now, it is time for these two to deliver on the promises and desires expressed by voters at the ballot box. There can be the expected gloating and boasting, but complacency in standing high on political smugness and gluttony is ill-advised; for Republicans, it is time to go to work in right-wing leaning countermeasures and resolute determinism.

For some while, I have held a belief that Speaker Boehner was playing the long game. He knew he held only a slim majority in the House; what would have been the benefit or point in futilely pushing against the administration and Democrat-controlled Senate in that situation? Now, he has the opportunity to raise the stakes, call the president’s bluff and reveal his hand. Given the frenzied atmosphere before the election over the various scandals facing the administration, is impeachment realistically back on the table with the emboldening gains? Or, is the country better served by bipartisanism in mitigating and healing the wounds inflicted by the administration’s actions (and, in some cases, non-action) during its tenure? In either approach, it would seem best to abandon the ideologically frivolous and unproductive – without compromising the principles that led to the landslide victory – in order to concentrate on and address the most important matters and concerns facing the country.

According to a majority of pollsters, this means fiscal stewardship and accountability to reign in uncontrolled spending, spiraling deficits and dismal economic forecasts, with healthcare (i.e. Obamacare repeal), immigration reform and national security high on the agenda. In essence, the call to arms for a return to conservatism – limited government, individual liberty, free markets – was answered; it is time for that gauntlet to be picked up and the pledge for which it stands, in McConnell’s own words, be delivered to those who threw it down.

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Creating A Culture of Non-Consequences

It disgusts me when the media and football commentators talk about Michael Vick's “tough time” in jail; what about the dogs he murdered and tortured? Frankly, he should still be in jail. From the perspective of some defenders of his time served, every ex-con who has served their time and never re-offended should be allowed to "just do their job." But a lot of the time they can't even get a job, or at least a decent one, because that goes with them on every job application. So, while average ex-cons are shafted, Vick continues to make millions playing football. And that's the message the NFL is sending out:  “hey if you commit a crime but have talent, we'll overlook your crime!” Every dog I've ever had was thought of as equal in importance, love, protection, etc, same as a sibling, child, friend, etc; when it comes to people, I seriously have to weigh how far I'm willing to do that. Plus, as I’ve previously stated, I prefer dogs to most people. I mean…HAVE YOU MET PEOPLE???!!

Reminder: Michael Vick's Dogs Were Shot, Electrocuted, Hanged and Beaten to Death

Texas Animal Abuser Sentenced To Six Years In Prison For Brutal Killing of Dog

The Texas case is one of many examples, and used to illustrate that this guy went into a (presumably impulsive) rage, beat and drowned his dog and, rightfully, received a six year sentence; yet, Vick willfully and knowingly ran a murder/torture ring, but only received 23 months. Then the media and commentators puff him up as some sort of repentant angel deserving of a multi-million dollar contract to continue playing in the NFL because he has talent, rather than him, in my opinion, deserving of nothing less than shoveling dog excrement in the lowest bowels of hell. In general, it's a microcosm of the entire problem with disparities and inequities in our justice system and society as a whole (which is an entirely other argument for another time, thank you). This has contributed to increasing numbers of entitled malcontents of all ages indifferent to consequences of their actions, because of the examples they see in their “role models.” And not just in the Vick case, or even just in football; in all other cases, both past and pending, where players committed a heinous crime but basically were given a pass for such transgressions because of their status and value, the insinuation has been reinforced.

No matter those who try to deny it, millions of kids, male and female, look up to athletes as their role model. I grew up admiring Roger Staubach, who graduated as a top student-athlete at the U.S. Naval Academy – winning the Heisman Trophy in 1963 – served honorably in the U.S. Navy and quarterbacked the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories. Although it did not pan out, he had inspired me in my teen years to a desire to attend the academy and join the Navy as well. Pretty terrible role model. Fortunately, I grew up in a family of sports enthusiasts, but also had other inspirations from which to draw as well.* For some kids, though, sports and athletes are all they have to rely on for role models given any myriad of reasons, because, for the most part, it is one of the first activities to which many kids are exposed at an early age. Whether a fan or not of sports, one must appreciate that influence; it would be wise to make it a positive one, especially in illustrating the consequences of inappropriate behavior and poor choices.

*To read about this & other subjects, purchase a copy of my personal narrative, Echoes From An Unexamined Life

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Friday, October 10, 2014

Americans Burn With Hate...For America

Here we go again, where mob rule acts as judge and jury in another police officer involved shooting before all facts are known and vetted. Will protests and incivility become the norm for now on with every officer-involved shooting? Some people are bad, and some police actually are just doing their job protecting the rest of us from them. Yet, there are those who want to misplace blame and not take responsibility for their own community woes. This is not justice or civility; it is idiocy. And burning the American flag while seeking and speaking of both??? Sorry protesters, but you have lost all empathy and validity.

America haters should try burning the flag of a totalitarian country or terrorist group – they would find their freedom, bravado or life not lasting very long. You do not gain respect or credibility calling for rights, while simultaneously destroying symbols representative of that idea of liberty. Frankly, I never have understood the argument advocating the freedom to burn the flag; why would you destroy something representative of that freedom other than for disdain of that idea? Like terrorists who love burning the American flag because it represents everything they despise, America haters similarly truly do not believe in those ideals. I have loved many things in my life – women, animals, food – but I have never thought, “You know what? I should burn this to show my love and gratitude.”

President Obama came into office under the auspice of “hope and change”; he was going to unite and remake the United States, not to mention the world, in his image and ideology. Instead, he has made the country more divisive, more hostile and less patriotic, while both it and the world continue to burn and crumble around his failures as a leader. Between the continuous global apology tour, retreat from our enemies and a general insincerity toward national security – not to mention the innumerable scandals and executive overreach that would make Richard Nixon both applaud and blush – we have seen damaging change and less hope over the past six years. Perhaps that indeed was his plan all along. Is it little wonder then that the American flag is burned and the ideals for which it stands trampled on the streets of America under such a presidency?

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Historical Perspective: Between Education and Catastrophe

"History will be kind to me for I intend to write it." -Sir Winston Churchill

Context is a particularly important factor to understanding in both the study of history and in the relationship between past and present. In general, this is practically non-existent in a majority of today's media, leading to misunderstanding and outright falsities about current events. Numerous circumstances facing the world today can be traced back years, and even decades or centuries; yet, there is a tendency to gloss over or omit these facts in modern news formats. This is true for both positive and negative aspects, with hindsight eschewing the historical perspective in favor of more modern aesthetics and sensibilities.

Throughout history, those who wished to assert control and remain in power have attempted to manipulate, if not obliterate, the historical record in their favor. The customs, ideas and knowledge to be found therein nothing less than dangerous to such totalitarian regimes. During the Second World War, the Nazis were notorious in their stealing and destruction of culturally significant artifacts in order to establish that history started and ended with the institution of a mythical, and thankfully failed, "1000 Year Reich." At the same time, Allied forces took great pains to preserve and restore what had been looted and destroyed by the Nazis – by and large the first time in history that a conquering force committed itself to such a selfless act. Truly, to the victors not only go the spoils but also the narrative of history. (Evermore even after the fact, as seen in the pervading conflict between traditional versus revisionist debate in the annals of time.)

Politicians especially are well versed in rewriting history for their own political benefit. In the 1990s, the Clinton Administration failed to recognize that the United States was at war with al Qaeda despite numerous incidents that eventually led to the shocking attacks on September 11, 2001. Even more, Clinton fell short in addressing the continuing threat posed by Saddam Hussein, despite U.S. and United Nations policies that warranted and facilitated his removal from power over Iraq's disregard toward treaty obligations and the dismantling of its weapons programs. But, it was all Bush's fault. Now, the Obama Administration is using the same obtuse vision of history in its reckless foreign policy, from the mocking "1980s are calling" campaign to the asinine "underestimation" blame game concerning the Islamic State – notwithstanding years of renewed Russian provocation and a war on terrorism that has been ongoing for over a decade. Even longer on both accounts given the proper context.

Francis Bacon suggested, correctly, that knowledge is power; but more forthright, power truly lies in the dissemination of it. As the late historian Oscar Handlin stated in his landmark work, Truth In History:  "Where there is no evidence, there is no history...[but] no abstraction, no general interpretation, no wish or preference can challenge chronology's dominion, unless among those peoples who, lacking a sense of time, lack also a sense of history...all the uses of history depend upon the integrity of the record, without which there could be no counting of time, no reading of words, no perception of context, no utility of the subject. No concern could be deeper than assaults upon the record, upon the very idea of a record." With 24/7 "news" media increasingly becoming a propaganda tool to prop up agendas and narratives, historical perspective and context can, and must, play a greater role for an educated and engaged citizenry. Otherwise, those who exploit such a lack of knowledge will continually be placed in power over them. 

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Adversity, and the Travails of Modernity

As a red-blooded American of the US of A, I am a fan of football. American football. Good old-fashioned gridiron brutality (that is, until rule changes against such things in the name of safety; the "No Fun League," as they say.). In that tradition, I have been involved in the stressful frustrating entertaining side business of fantasy football for many years. And a funny thing happened this past Sunday night - ESPN's fantasy website crashed in the midst of a contested game between the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts. As such, social media blew up about the matter with helpful angry suggestions toward the sports media icon. I myself was in a close game against my opponent, keeping a watchful eye on both scores of the real and fantasy game, but found it only inconvenient that I could no longer access my fantasy team.

To read numerous comments by others (and a few by my fellow fantasy brethren) on social media, though, one would have thought the apocalypse had occurred. I mean, how are we supposed to watch, and moreover enjoy, a game by only watching the game?!! What is this...the "dark ages" of the 20th century? No, this is the 21st century by God or the heavens fall!

And this is how I know that no matter what barbarism tries to take hold in the world, the modern world will not allow it. It will, and it must, stamp out whatever menace arises from whatever corner of the globe that threatens it. ESPN's server was down for less than an hour, and a revolt almost ensued (albeit, only online most likely); what do you think would happen if forces opposed to such modernity attempted to permanently take it away? There would be full-fledged revolution (no less, from basements and mancaves across America) the likes of which has never been seen!

Russia and China may rekindle Cold War hostilities, Iran and North Korea may pose nuclear threats and Islamic extremists may slaughter us...but good luck inconveniencing our modern convenience. Only then shall it be a call to arms! As Hollywood's versions of Wyatt Earp or William Wallace might proclaim, "You called down the thunder! You may take our lives, but you'll never take our MTV!" (Or something...who should I start at running back this week?)

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Monday, August 18, 2014

Disseminating Mistrust & Confusion: Ferguson, Media and the Police State

We can’t act unjust in the name of justice. We can’t act uncivil, and then cry for civility
-Pastor F. Willis Johnson Jr.

Ferguson, MO – Call goes out about an alleged robbery at either a local gas station, QuikTrip, or a local convenience store, Ferguson Market and Liquor. Ferguson police respond. Officer Darren Wilson, a six-year law enforcement veteran, encounters teenager Michael Brown walking down a street with a friend, allegedly confronting them about blocking traffic. Ultimately, an altercation ensues between Wilson and Brown that results in the fatal shooting of the latter. From varied accounts, he is shot multiple times about 35 feet away from the police officer’s vehicle and may have been either running away, surrendering or acting belligerent at the time. Both peaceful protests and violent riots erupt from the citizenry, some of whom may or may not live in the area; personal property and several businesses are destroyed, vandalized and looted, including the QuikTrip. Local police composed of Ferguson, St. Louis County and surrounding municipalities respond with a heavily armed tactical assault that includes armored vehicles, police dogs, rubber bullets and tear gas. Numerous protesters and rioters are arrested for unlawful assembly and varied misdemeanor crimes. Several media personalities and local politicians are caught in the crossfire, harassed and rounded up as well. Police continue with their heavily armed response.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon intercedes, replacing local command and authority of the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments with the Missouri Highway Patrol and Captain Ron Johnson. Miraculously, the situation immediately calms from Johnson's cool and straighforward demeanor, with protests continuing peacefully under the watchful eye of more restrained law enforcement tactics. Despite the turn of events, the longstanding – some would say too longstanding – St. Louis County Prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, is the most vocal opponent of the governor’s alleged overreach, objecting on questionable legal and jurisdictional grounds. Facts leading up to the confrontation between Wilson and Brown also begin to trickle out from the police and into the media, painting a different perspective on both the incident and the teenager himself:  alleged to be a prime suspect in the convenience store robbery and assault – and possibly in a separate incident involving the QuikTrip that now lays burnt to the ground thanks to vandals, “snitches get stitches” engraved with paint on its side. By that narrative, a veteran police officer performing his sworn duty apparently had apprehended the suspect that evolved into an altercation that – despite reports of Brown being unarmed – necessitated the use of deadly force.

Hyperbole aside, police officers have an unenviable job facing violent threats on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the situation has been worsening for years around the nation as criminals have become more heavily armed and crimes more callously brutal. To maintain parity, it has caused an increased militarization of police departments that look more commando unit than public servant – the rioters, looters and vandals destroying their own community singlehandedly reinforcing the idea for such necessity. In such a world, police can find it difficult or outright dangerous to release information in a timely manner concerning on-going investigations. In a similar vein, media in a 24/7 news world competitively vie for a scoop and information that can set them apart from all the other outlets. As such, false storylines and inappropriate disclosures can, and will, be reported, with little remedy in countering them after the fact. Such a mix of law enforcement reluctance and media demands can at times do nothing less than disseminate mistrust and confusion, and muddle questions over justice and guilt.

Then, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson re-ignited the powder keg. In a press conference, he states that Officer Wilson was not aware of Brown's alleged involvement in the aforementioned robbery (or robberies) before their confrontation. Although pertinent information, it does nothing other than lead straight back to square one and renewed anger, protesting, rioting, vandalism and looting for an already devastated community - prompting Governor Nixon to most recently deploy the Missouri National Guard to bolster security efforts in quelling the chaos. Military upon militarization. Even more though, it further calls into question the justification for a police officer to fatally shoot rather than subdue an unarmed kid in the first place – whether a physical threat or not, its relevancy a side note – approached at the time for allegedly doing nothing more than walking down the street and blocking traffic. A topic that has been overshadowed for days by lawlessness that has spun out of control, while a heartbroken family and community still await answers.

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Monday, August 4, 2014

Retreat Is Not An Option

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
-Article II, Section 1, U.S. Constitution

Recently, President Obama has spoken of “economic patriotism” to entice and hold responsible businesses in job and market creation. Ironic, as his administration’s own fiscal and economic policies – particularly overregulation and corporate taxation – have not been very patriotic, especially in terms of fiscal responsibility and economic growth. In fact, they have been more hindrance and a heavy burden for a still-ailing and vulnerable economy almost six years into his presidency. While the president likes to tout a rosy picture based more on wisps of hope than facts in his incessant campaign speeches, unemployment, household debt, national deficit and the overall economic outlook are abysmal. Or, is he simply talking about the golf courses he keeps in business as the nation, and world, disintegrates around them? As such, there has been little incentive under his myopic “leadership” for businesses to maintain and confine activities to the United States in a competitive globalized economy.

Let’s talk about patriotism in general, though. No doubt, there is a humanitarian crisis occurring on the U.S. southern border. Yet, it is a manufactured one due, again, to the president’s porous immigration and homeland security policies that, despite Democrats’ delusional proclamations, have failed to secure the border. How patriotic is it to request and spend taxpayer money – and once again advance the fallacious idea of amnesty for illegals – for non-citizens in order to address a politically self-inflicted crisis, while American citizens and veterans continue to suffer hardships with no recompense from their own government? From mandates to executive decisions, how patriotic is it to keep instituting contemptuous policies that maintain that burden and reflect nothing but a general disregard for those same Americans, our inherent values and the rule of law?

Yet, without even detailing the administration’s numerous growing scandals it wishes ignored, these are only but a few examples as far as homegrown issues. There are the broader, global issues as well.

Whether the Obama Administration wants to admit it or not – and they won’t, preferring, again, to spin a fantasy worldview betrayed by facts – the U.S. is still a nation at war on multiple fronts old and new. No matter the amount of rose-colored rhetoric they wish to use as whitewash – or the boorishly tiresome and erroneous predecessor “blame game” – there are those in the world who want nothing less than the destruction of this nation and everything for which it stands. How patriotic is it not to secure our borders against that potential, and persistent, threat? How patriotic is it to abandon allies, like Israel, relentlessly fighting on the frontlines against those very same threats to our mutual existence, by insisting on essentially one-sided negotiations in the face of such barbarism? In every circumstance, unfortunately, lessons always are learned in hindsight – and, typically, by a time when it is too late.

Have we already heard the chimes at midnight though? Or, is it the signal bell for steadfast determination and unfettered patriotism to the cause against the current administration’s executive overreach and failed – upon occasion, outright unconstitutional – policies both domestic and foreign? As Abraham Lincoln stated in his Cooper Union, NY, speech on February 27, 1860:  “Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Friday, July 18, 2014

Violating the Constitution: Impeachment in American History

The Founding Fathers wished to establish a strong central government, yet limit the capacity for the abuse of power. Their goal was to separate power among the branches of government and avoid partisanship in critical issues, particularly in matters such as impeachment. Borrowed from their English forebears, the impeachment process is a tool for the removal of public officials from power as a part of the “checks and balances” system of federalist government. It ensures both continuity and accountability of office holders as a check against those attempting to sway the balance in their favor.

Framing the Process

Under Article II, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment. If the House passes articles of impeachment, responsibility to try the charges and remove those guilty then passes to the Senate. The Senate must concur with a two-thirds majority for a conviction of guilt. The process applies only to the Executive and Judicial branches; Article I, Section 5, of the Constitution outlines the procedure for removing members of Congress. While punishment is restricted to removal and disqualification from holding office, removed office holders can face civil or criminal trial for crimes they committed while in office. Article II, Section 4, reads:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The ambiguity of the latter part has perplexed legal scholars and political analysts since inception. Interpretation includes crimes that threaten national security, as well as non-criminal actions derided solely for their political unpopularity. The issue centers on what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors.” With impeachment not a criminal proceeding, as it is strictly a means for the removal of officeholders, there is debate whether one must be guilty of a criminal offense for its occurrence. Many argue that such a broad interpretive context politicizes the process, despite the attempt by the Founders to do otherwise. In Federalist Paper no. 65, Alexander Hamilton expressed the sentiment thusly in 1788:

The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”

The flexibility of “high crimes and misdemeanors” has had mixed results over the course of U.S. history, as what constitutes an indictment of wrongdoing has been re-interpreted to correlate with circumstances of the time. However, the majority agree that any violation or abuse of the public trust injurious to society as a whole is an impeachable offense.

Famous Cases

In 1797, the House voted to impeach Senator William Blount despite his earlier expulsion from the Senate. However, the Senate dropped the charges against him, citing his removal from office as due punishment. It set the precedent with regard to the limitations of action Congress could take against its members. Blount was the first ever expelled from the Senate under the Constitution. Nevertheless, the majority of impeachment proceedings have involved judges. The most famous – Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase in 1804 – involved charges of political bias. Defenders argued that Chase’s actions, while extreme and immodest, were not impeachable. Many regard his acquittal by the Senate in 1805 as preserving the independence of the judicial branch.

In the history of the United States, four Presidents – John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and William Clinton – have faced impeachment. The resolution against Tyler in 1843 never passed the House, while Nixon resigned in 1974 before a near guaranteed impeachment and conviction by the full Congress. The only two ever impeached by the House – Johnson in 1868 and Clinton in 1998 – were eventually acquitted by the Senate following bitter partisan trials. President Gerald Ford, who succeeded Nixon upon his resignation, later issued a controversial pardon for any offenses Nixon may have committed while in office. At the time, many criticized it as a politically motivated bargain struck between the two; scholars and historians have since concluded that it promptly restored the integrity of the Presidency during a critical period in U.S. history.

Given the current administration’s numerous scandals over the past 5 ½ years that have been more the rule than the exception – and that thus far outweigh those of its four predecessors combined – could another sitting president face the same fate? With falling poll numbers and failing policies plaguing President Obama and Democrats in general, the prospect exists should Republicans gain control over the full Congress – and has the leadership and votes in place to pursue it – following the mid-term election in November.

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Friday, July 4, 2014

Denying Access to a Singular Belief

On a lazy Sunday night while flipping channels on the television, I came across The Matrix on a basic cable channel. Watching for a bit, I noticed a line of dialogue had been changed from “my own personal JESUS CHRIST” to “my own personal JUVENILE DELINQUENT.” When did “Jesus Christ” become censorable wording? Why must politically correct sensitivity favor those bothered by such words without consideration to those who hold them in reverence? As the United States has gradually transformed into a more secular society away from its religious roots, it increasingly seems to be losing its tolerance for them as well.

Then, the Supreme Court decision on the Hobby Lobby case sent liberals into delusional hysterics. From the beginning – at least, for anyone who truly believes in the U.S. Constitution – the one and only reaction to the case should have been that religious freedom had to be tested and, ultimately, upheld in the first place. As stated in their argument, Hobby Lobby – despite conflicting with the owner’s religious beliefs – already provided 16 of the 20 federally mandated contraceptive methods because it would violate those same beliefs not to provide such health-related benefits. The four they objected to are, in their opinion, non-health related for use more as birth control (i.e. an “aborticide”) than anything else, and, thus, opposed on religious grounds. In its certiorari petition to the court, the Obama Administration even suggested as such in citing the FDA concerning intrauterine devices (IUD), Plan B and ella that “may prevent the [fertilized] egg from attaching (implanting) in the womb (uterus)” – thereby ending the life of the unborn at conception in opposition to religious beliefs held by Hobby Lobby’s owners.

Whether you agree with that argument or not, religious freedom nevertheless has been a fundamental right of Americans as guaranteed in the Constitution since the founding of the United States. Is it a contentious precedent for business entities in terms of the “separation of church and state” – simply meant as no establishment of a state religion, rather than no religion in governing – as some contend? Perhaps, but millions of Americans still conduct their lives based around their religious beliefs; that fact cannot be easily trumped in favor of acquiescence to values that conflict with them. Doubly, it is hypocritical to single out and condemn one company for making a business decision based on moral grounds while praising numerous others for the same simply because the latter aligns with personal ideology.

Furthermore, employer-based health insurance never has been a guaranteed entitlement in the first place. Rather, it always has been an incentive benefit designed to attract employees. Forcing employers additionally to provide what employees believe they are entitled to – especially something that violates particular beliefs – eschews the generosity of what already is given freely to them. And not all companies are equal in that generosity even still today. Therein lays the rub. Despite the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), universal still does not equate to complete healthcare coverage. In fact, the ACA is anything but affordable, universal or complete; in many instances, access to healthcare has been made worse and more expensive in terms of rates and deductibles for fewer services than in the pre-Obamacare era. This is particularly true concerning the “you can keep your doctor” lie, as many insurance plans continue to dump doctors from their rolls to comply with mandates of the law.

As it is, the massive overhaul of the entire private healthcare industry has failed to address, tweak and fix the flaws of the old system while creating new ones in their wake. The Hobby Lobby case never would have occurred if not for Obamacare and its penalty-laden mandated healthcare coverages forced upon employers – which, as successfully argued, in part violate the religious beliefs of the company's owners. As alternatively proposed, a system tailored around individual choice and personal responsibility should have been, and still can be, implemented. Most notably is the example of the Health Savings Account (HSA), in which employees are free to use for whatever purpose whether to pay insurance premiums or doctor visits and employers would be mandated to pay into unconditionally. Under such a system, employees would have more choice in their healthcare decisions in choosing their own private insurance – with whatever desired or needed coverages, including mandated requirements for pre-existing conditions, contraceptives and prescription drugs – while essentially maintaining employer-based insurance coverage upon which employers would have no say.

It is distressing, if not poignant, that in the midst of this controversy, in which Christians have been attacked with
liberal exaggerations and outright lies concerning women’s health rights, President Obama hailed intolerant and repressively anti-women Islam on the occasion of Ramadan. Think there is a “war on women” in the U.S., as alleged by those on the left who ironically inflict and exploit it? Try protesting healthcare access and contraceptive coverage under sharia law, let alone obtaining it. Although agnostic and by no means religious by any measure myself, all of this should be troubling, and a wake up call, to anyone endowed with an ounce of common sense – clearly lacking in liberals who attacked SCOTUSblog, an independent blog that covers the Supreme Court, on social media for the Hobby Lobby decision as opposed to the actual U.S. Supreme Court – and tired of the “tolerance” hypocrisy continuously displayed by the liberal agenda. 

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sacrificing Horatius Triumphant

To every man upon this earth death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods.”

In recent days, pictures from various news outlets and on social media have shown the atrocities committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). These include several of children who had been beheaded. Let me state that again…BEHEADED CHILDREN. If that description alone does not churn your stomach, you are no better than the monsters who did it. Perhaps worse. Even al-Qaeda – which carried out the worst terrorist act in modern history with the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001 – called them “too extreme” when cutting ties with them. Although the “blame Bush” crowd has tried, this is not the time for such nonsense or even accurate; if anything, blame President Obama for withdrawing troops and support from Iraq before ensuring its security, and failing to follow General George S. Patton’s standing orders of constant advance against the enemy. There is little doubt that a comparable situation could occur in Afghanistan, especially with Taliban and al-Qaeda resurgence.

My Spanish ancestors fought similar Islamic fundamentalists centuries ago, and they were as fanatical then as now. They are not “misunderstood”; they hate and seek to destroy non-Islamists and Western society as a whole. Theirs too is a real war on women, where it is considered rights of men to brutalize, mutilate, rape and put to death women for not obeying their husband, family and societal rules that dictate behavior. The only way to confront such evil is to annihilate them before they can annihilate you – something we have failed to do with the Taliban, al-Qaeda and innumerable terrorist sponsors and organizations around the world. If you disagree with that strategy, thank the architects of the United States that we live in a country that allows it; if that does not satisfy, then continue living with rose-colored blinders securely in place while screaming about pseudo oppression and self-righteous entitlement…but think of those beheaded children whose voices have forever been silenced. Where is the call to arms for them?

The United States may not have been born of perfection, but we have come a long way in two centuries. If we are no longer willing to sacrifice for the good of so many, who will? The Useless Nations? Russia, China or Iran? (Seriously…IRAN???!! They are as much a contributor to the world’s problems rather than a solution.) Maybe the hipster doofus in a penis thong and fedora spouting end-of-the-world climate change nonsense unless we have a meaningful dialogue about redistribution while living under the protective umbrella of innovative capitalism! Despite our domestic differences, international infamy and exaggerations of demise, the United States is still the world’s last, and only, beacon of hope. At least, we were once not that long time ago, holding the bridge against fearful odds.

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Friday, June 13, 2014

Motorists Assist Revenue

As many cities and municipalities across the nation, including the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County, continue to confront budget challenges – no doubt due to their own fiscal waste and mismanagement – critics frequently cite traffic citations as a means from which they illicitly generate revenue in order to close the gaps. Politicians and police persistently counter those claims that any citations are in the name of “public safety,” the revenue generated from them negligible and secondary to any other concerns.

When visiting the City of St. Louis, three main options, all fee-based, exist for parking: garage, lot or metered. Garage and lot parking can cost anywhere from a dollar an hour to $20 per visit. As for metered parking, the Parking Commission, a division of the Treasurer department, oversees approximately 10,000 parking meters whose operation and cost depends on the day of the week. Monday through Saturday parking meters are in operation from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., with the exception of “multispace” meters that are in effect 24-hours a day; on Sundays and certain city holidays, all metered parking is free. Currently, the city is field testing new meters that will allow the use of cash, credit cards and even your mobile phone to pay for parking. With the number of violations in the hundreds of thousands each year, parking fees combined with fines that range from $10 to $100 create a steady revenue source for the city.

Compiled from information provided by the Parking Violations Bureau (P.V.B.), the City of St. Louis municipal court system and alleged violators themselves, data shows an inordinate number of vehicles ticketed despite parked legally at the time. The majority, but not all, were parked at meters on weekends during free periods; yet, they have been cited for a variety of alleged violations of city ordinances that include fire lane violations, parking near a mailbox and general prohibited parking. According to alleged violators, the qualifying justification for issuing the ticket was not a factor present at the time; categorically, the fine schedule and appeal procedure is as puzzling, if not more, to these violators as the infractions for which they have been cited. As outlined by the P.V.B., a parking ticket must be paid within 15 days of issuance to avoid additional fees; if the ticket is not suspended or payment is not received within those 15 days, the fine increases by 100% the original amount; after 45 days, the fine increases 300% of the original amount. Despite being in the process of appealing the citation, a number of those ticketed have had their fines double and triple between the date of issuance and a scheduled appeal hearing. Some see it as an unfair practice with only one purpose:  revenue generation, through a means city officials know that most will just pay.

Now, the use of red light and speed cameras has raised questions in both the city and county. Are these simply for public safety, or further means to raise revenue thinly justified by it as critics contend? Like the city, a handful of municipalities in the county currently face legal challenges over their red light cameras; a similar battle has been taking place across the state in Kansas City. While the courts continue to debate their constitutionality – the most recent concerning the city’s red light cameras – several members of the Missouri General Assembly have introduced legislation not only to regulate but also to outright ban the use of either. Co-sponsored by Representatives Bryan Spencer (R-Wentzville), Ron Hicks (R-St. Peters) and Michael Frame (D-Eureka), House Bill 1533 would prohibit automated traffic enforcement systems; similarly, House Bill 1557 and Senate Bill 746, would exempt from the license point system any violations resulting from such systems. More intriguing, Senate Bill 540, introduced by Senator Joseph Keaveny (D-St. Louis), seeks to raise the fine for seat belt violations from $10 to $50. There is no indication whether the increase would go toward a seat belt safety education fund, or simply into municipal coffers as a non-moving violation that many motorists simply would pay rather than dispute in court. All would take effect starting August 28, 2014; presently, none are scheduled for hearing or on the respective legislature calendar.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Days of Future Past: A Study In Time Travel

WARNING:  Do not read this unless you either have seen the latest X-Men movie or do not care to be spoiled. There will be spoilers contained herein; there might also be headache-inducing discussion of time-travel concepts as presented in various media. You have been warned…so have at thee! (Wait…that’s an Avenger, not an X-Men.)

Seems there is confusion concerning the timeline based on the events that occur in X-Men:  Days of Future Past. In my opinion, I felt the movie did an impressive job of shoring up some of the continuity issues encountered in the previous trilogy and spinoffs, while maintaining certain nods to them moving forward. As someone who has watched and read countless movies, television shows, science-fiction and non-fiction books, etc, I consider myself somewhat of an amateur time-travel expert (i.e. self-anointed). Thus, allow me to make sense of the matter with my own analysis/theories:

Let’s just get this one out of the way…X-Men Origins:  Wolverine has been ignored and is not canonical to the X-Men cinematic universe, and was disavowed almost immediately after its widely-panned release. At the very least, it is not a part of either the previous or current movie series. This minimizes one (minor) issue between it, X-Men 2 and DoFP:  William Stryker’s age in each time period. (This also would mean Deadpool is alive and kicking, without being a mutant-Frankenstein stuffed doll…roll sequel reboot for his character!)


In my opinion, this probably is the source for most of the confusion:  how time-travel works – at least, for someone’s “conscious” – in the X-Men cinematic universe is explained at the very beginning of the film. (I will allow that many people may have missed it, as it was stated rather quickly without extensive discussion.) Wolverine’s mind is sent back in time to his younger self; anything that he does as his younger self will affect the future. If you’ve ever seen the series Quantum Leap or the movies Somewhere In Time, The Butterfly Effect or Timecop, it’s the same fluidity concept of time:  events changed in the past warp and refigure events of the future, and whether someone’s physical or mental essence is sent back in time – like Bishop, who mind jumps back a few hours to warn the others when Sentinels arrive – they don’t create a new timeline but rather simply change the current one in the past. AGAIN, NO ALTERNATIVE TIMELINE IS CREATED. I mean, it’s in the title…THE FUTURE LIES IN THE PAST! There was also the assertion that if Wolverine succeeded in changing the timeline, his mind would return to his “present” self and only he would remember both the events of the dystopian and changed future (albeit, with some necessary memory updating à la Butterfly Effect or Timecop). If he failed to change the timeline, his mind would simply return to the dystopian future.

The Star Trek franchise – mind you, my all-time favorite – is notorious for using the alternate timeline concept quite frequently, which I feel is the reason for the confusion. Although there are multitudes of theories on time-travel, this is the concept most people are familiar with because it has been used in countless movies and television shows. The reason for this is that it presents the least paradoxical situation encountered with a singular timeline concept:  if you go back in time and kill your own grandfather before you are born, how can you go back in time and kill your own grandfather? [See Back to the Future] Theoretically, you can’t because you’re not killing your own grandfather; you’re killing the grandfather of an alternate version of you, who now will never be born or never existed in that alternate timeline in the first place. Theoretically as well, even if you again travel back in time in order to undo the change(s) to the timeline, yet another alternate timeline is actually created that, yes, is, and will be, similar to the timeline from which you originally came but it is not, and will never be, the original timeline. The original timeline either continues on without you or it blinks out of existence the moment you travel back in time – not to mention that the original you is now a person out of sync from any timeline, as this new alternate “original” timeline will already have an alternate you…who, by and large, is you. There’s no way for you to get back to the original timeline. [Think Prime Spock and Alternate Spock in the reboot Star Trek; even if Prime Spock were to again travel back in time to stop Nero at the point he first appeared in the past, yet another Alternate Spock – in every way similar to Prime Spock – would be created with Prime Spock now stuck in that alternate “original” timeline rather than returning to the original timeline. Star Trek: First Contact glosses over this idea when they return to the future; theoretically, they wouldn’t be returning to “their” future.]

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Weary Nation Seeks Normalcy

Calls for renewed isolationism in reaction to war, a resurgence of nativism and a turning away from government activism – is this a foreshadowing of the U.S. presidential election in 2016? Or lessons from 1920? These were three pillars that eventual winner, Warren G. Harding, ran on as part of his “Return to Normalcy” campaign in the aftermath of World War I and in opposition to Woodrow Wilson's ideologically progressive administration. No doubt, it seems eerily juxtaposed to the present political atmosphere created foremost by more than a decade of war against terrorism and the exasperating policies of the current administration.

Due to scandals that rocked his administration [Teapot Dome], Harding typically is voted to the bottom rungs of presidential rankings. It should be noted, though, that his administration accomplished a modicum of normalcy in the early 1920s, which witnessed fiscal accountability and economic prosperity, more favorable labor laws and the advancement of women's enfranchisement, particularly in voting rights and the political sphere in general. More than any policy of his predecessor ever accomplished over the course of two terms in office. Given unemployment numbers and overall bleak economic conditions the last few years, the negative effects the “affordable” healthcare law is wreaking on the job market and the continual clash over alleged disenfranchising election laws (i.e. voter IDs) meant to stem fraud and ensure the integrity of the electoral process, does it not seem we again walk along a precipice seeking normalcy from an administration run amuck [Solyndra; Fast & Furious; Benghazi; IRS]?

Then there is the contentious debate over immigration reform and border security, issues that every generation has faced in determining the ethnic makeup of the nation. Yes, as every pundit reminds, the United States is a nation of colonizers, immigrants, refugees, émigrés, etc, from other countries; yet, as history shows, it has always been a welcoming skeptic as well, restricting those deemed contradictory to American culture and society. And while it is wise not to erode liberties in exchange for a false sense of security against certain groups, it is likewise necessary not to give up security to certain groups that potentially could be the downfall of those liberties. This has been a longstanding argument between upholding law-abiding sovereignty versus a misguided open-arms policy that would negatively affect the stability of national cohesion and identity. Whichever path is taken, it is certain not to end any time soon.

With the U.S. pulling out from Iraq and Afghanistan, there also is a renewed call once again for isolationism – naturally, within the context of a globally-connected world quite different from a century ago. For some, the U.S. appears in retreat from supporting allies and engaging enemies alike; for others, the U.S. should continue this policy and further cut defense spending. However, the history of 1920s isolationism and military downsizing is the lesson of a decade later that witnessed the rise of both Germany and Japan in the absence of U.S. influence and strength. What happens when Iran or North Korea decides it is time to flex their muscle, or, as already has happened, a resurgent Russia? We would yet again face the same consequences that befell the world 80 years ago – perhaps made even more dire with the proliferation of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction, particularly concerning rogue regimes and terrorist entities.

The wheel has rotated fully to another defining moment, and a weary nation once again seeks normalcy from chaotic uncertainty.

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Monday, March 31, 2014

Common Cause Against Compliance

It has been found that the best way to ensure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.” - Benjamin Disraeli

As prime minister at the height of the British Empire's power and glory in the 1870s, Disraeli knew what it took to govern with imperial vigor. Government, at all levels, is not composed of leaders, but rulers dictating over the led. Any person who believes the government is naively blind, and even more forthrightly stupid to trust them. But if you would willingly give up individual and natural rights in compliance with coercively mandatory measures, you are nothing less than an accomplice in the downfall of liberty. People are wanting, needing, and what do government officials do? Betray their duties to the people who elect them, or feel no such obligation in cases of appointment by decree.

Therefore, I believe it is past time that every American – born, naturalized or otherwise loyal in citizenship and allegiance – as well as all global rebel patriots re-dedicate themselves to the immortal words set forth by our Founding Fathers in the penultimate founding document, The Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security...

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The consent of the governed is being overrun by the destructive means of the governing, and the abuses and usurpations must come to an end before it is too late. Like Disraeli, these bureaucratic overseers understand that indoctrination is best begun early in order to achieve obedience that has the appearance of consent; is it little wonder the recurrent application of education “reforms” – from pre-K to secondary – toward that end? While resistance may be futile, compliance, brought about by a certain degree of lassitude, is nothing short of defeat. As President Calvin Coolidge stated, “freedom is not only bought with a great price; it is maintained by unremitting effort.

©2014 Steve Sagarra

Monday, March 24, 2014

Military-Inspired Inventions That Are Now Commonplace

Many of the daily items we utilize today were not intended for civilian use. In light of continual tensions in hotspots around the world…that will probably eventually lead to World War III (hey – minus Smokey & the Bandit III, The Matrix Revolutions & The Dark Knight Rises – who doesn’t love a trilogy??!)…here are ten modern items for which we can thank the military:

Canned Food

In 1795, the French government, concerned about the limiting availability of large quantities of food during military campaigns, offered a cash award to inventors for an efficiently cheap method of food preservation. Over the next 15 years, Nicolas Appert, a Parisian confectioner, experimented with various techniques using glass bottles; in 1810, he was awarded the prize for a process similar to pasteurization known as “appertisation,” in which the bottles were tightly sealed with a vise and placed in boiling water to cook the contents. As Appert's model became more widespread, Peter Durand, a British merchant and inventor, patented an improved process utilizing tin canisters later that same year. In 1812, Durand sold the patent to British industrialists John Hall and Bryan Donkin, who began producing canned food for the British army; six years later, Durand re-patented his invention in the United States. By 1822, canned food became a recognizable domestic staple in Britain, France and the U.S., and a fundamental necessity in conflicts from the (original) Crimean War to the Second World War.

Microwave Oven

Working for the Raytheon Corporation after World War II, Dr. Percy Spencer accidentally discovered the practical application of microwave radiation as a by-product from his research on radar technology. Noting that a candy bar in his pocket melted when exposed to the radiation, he was spurred to conduct further experiments on a way to rapidly cook food. Called the “Radarange,” Tappan, under a patent-license with Raytheon, began manufacturing units designed for home use starting in 1955. However, it would take another twelve years to develop a commercially viable countertop oven, introduced by the Amana Corporation, a Raytheon subsidiary, in 1967.


Created by DuPont's Wallace Carothers, nylon was an anticipatory invention during the 1930s intended as a synthetic replacement for scarce Asian silk due to the impending Second World War. It was introduced commercially in a nylon-bristled toothbrush in 1938, followed more notably two years later as women’s stockings. During the war, it was used extensively in the production of parachutes, as well as other military equipment like tires and protective gear. From rope to dress shirts, nylon's application in modern society is now an inescapable reality.

Cargo Pants

A modern fashion trend, cargo pants (and the variation of shorts) were originally created for military use in the late 1930s. Designed for use by British military personnel, particularly paratroopers, the large-pocketed pants made it easier to carry military equipment like portable communication devices and extra ammunition. Unlike nylon stockings, which were an immediate hit on the fashion scene in the 1940s, it would take another sixty years for cargo pants to go from functional to fashionable.


In 1953, Norm Larsen, founder of the Rocket Chemical Company, invented this handy lubricant as a water displacement ("WD") and corrosion inhibitor for the Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. Allegedly, it was his 40th attempt to perfect the formula, which is a trade secret; to avoid full disclosure of its ingredients, it has never been patented. Based in San Diego, California, Larsen’s invention became commercially available in the city’s hardware stores five years later.

Duct Tape

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Overzealous Policing & Prosecution

Part I:  Traffic Stop

Just after midnight on October 29, 2013, I traveled down Ross Avenue in a corridor of unincorporated west St. Louis County, Missouri, between Maryland Heights and Creve Coeur. I was only minutes from my residence, to which I was returning home after purchasing gas at a gas station on Lackland Avenue, off Page Avenue, in Maryland Heights; as I had done numerous times before, it was a round-trip of less than ten minutes not including the fill-up. After coming to a complete stop at the posted stop sign at the intersection of Ross Avenue and Merrick Drive, I proceeded on as usual down Ross Avenue toward Olive Boulevard. There was no one else on the road. Immediately, a St. Louis County police officer, who had not been travelling behind me nor was present at the intersection, approached with their emergency lights on. I was confused and disoriented by the sudden appearance of the police car, apparently entering the roadway from one of two subdivision entrances that comprised part of the intersection. At first thinking the police officer needed to get around me, I steered to the edge of the narrow roadway as best I could in order to give them room; realizing this was not the case, I turned onto the next available side street just past the intersection – less than a minute from my residence – with the police officer pulling in behind.

After some heated discussion concerning the matter, given my familiarity of and longstanding residence in the area, the police officer, Jasmine Schmidt, proceeded to cite me for allegedly failing to make a “complete stop at stop sign on stop line.” According to the citation, it was a violation of St. Louis County Ordinance 1206.030, “Intersections Where Stop Required,” which states, “Traffic on the highways or roadways in Schedule VI of this code shall stop before entering the intersection of the named highway or roadway described in Schedule VI.” Legal experts, particularly police officers who have discussed the matter with me, informally call this a “fishing expedition” citation used as a means to cite motorists for other, usually more serious, offenses. They suggested that Officer Schmidt clearly believed I was doing something else illegal, possibly drunk driving given the hour; when that proved false, she manufactured another, less serious traffic violation. When handing me the citation, she even noted on it the place and manner in which I could conveniently pay the fine. This immediately called into question another motive:  revenue generation.

In the preceding months, the typically docile and family-oriented suburban area had seen a noticeable increase in police presence. When asked about this circumstance in comparison to more crime-ridden sectors of the 2nd Precinct (Central County) – and in relation to the City of St. Louis’ recent “hot spot” patrolling – Captain Guy Means, the precinct commander, made no comment. Inquiries made to several other precincts, as well as to both former Police Chief Tom Fitch and the recently installed Jon Belmar, received a similar response. Then, on the evening of November 25, I was visiting a friend’s house in another subdivision off Ross Avenue not too far from my residence and the intersection in question. While on their patio, I noticed someone with a flashlight near my vehicle parked on the street; it was another St. Louis County police officer, allegedly “investigating” a “suspicious” car – despite the fact that my friend has no immediate neighbors, or at the very least ones who would have made such a call to the police. Coincidentally, this incident occurred after I started making inquiries to the police department and the municipal court in my capacity as a journalist.

I later learned that Officer Schmidt was only a few months out of the police academy, and that a similar looking vehicle as mine was connected to a string of burglaries in the area a few months earlier. No doubt, she, as a rookie cop, believed she had a potentially career-making collar; when that proved false, she clearly manufactured the alleged violation to cover her error – and certainly to maintain a healthy revenue-generating citation record. [In relation to this, yet another St. Louis County police officer later made a suspicious drive by in my neighborhood on March 10, slowing as they passed by my parked vehicle. As I was outside at the time, they pulled away when everything obviously checked out.]

Part II:  Court Appearance