Tuesday, November 10, 2020

To the Shores of Tripoli

They have existed for 245 years; born of the Continental Congress before the country was founded and while the Colonies were subjects of the British Crown.  Although they fought in the Revolution, their most famous engagement was during this Country’s first declared war; a war against Islamic Extremists, known as the Pirates of the Barbary Coast.  Everyone who has heard their hymn knows oft “the shores of Tripoli;” but the battle referred to was not in Tripoli, it was in Derna- a fortified town down the coast.  

They fought on the beaches and in the jungles of Wake, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Guam and Iwo Jima- along with many other arils and rocks in the Pacific , only to return to a country with a President and Secretary of Defense  who believed them unnecessary, wanted them disbanded and cut their budgets severely. While underfunded and under equipped, they were sent ashore in Korea, and proved again to the Congress just how vital to this country they are.

They are known for being the first in, and the last out.   They stand post in very US Embassy around the world.  And every time an Embassy has been attacked, they are the last line of defense.  

They are, the few, the proud, the United States Marines.  

In 2001, while living in Japan, I was honored with an invitation to the Independence Day party and welcome for the new Ambassador at the United States Embassy Tokyo.  I never expected I would “feel” different when I stepped through the gate, and a young Marine welcomed me to the United States of America.    In every country I have traveled too, regardless of the political situation, I have always known that now matter what happened,  if I could make it to the Embassy, I would be in the presence of US Marines.  

In August 2009, I was accorded a tremendous honor.  I attended graduation ceremonies at Marine Corp Recruiting Depot, San Diego.  From that day forward, I have been able to proudly say, “I raised a United States Marine.”

Happy Marine Corp Birthday, to all Marines, past and present, wherever you may be.  

From the Navy Hymn (Eternal Father, Strong to Save):

Eternal Father, grant, we pray,
To all Marines, both night and day,
The courage, honor, strength and skill
Their land to serve, Thy law fulfill;
Be Thou the Shield forevermore
From ev'ry peril to the Corps.
Amen.





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Sunday, November 8, 2020

Obituary for The Trump Presidency

It appears now that we have a President Elect and when the Electoral College meets in December, the final vote will be “official.”  It is now probably safe to accept that former Vice President Biden will be inaugurated on January 20, 2021. (I say probably because any number of things could potentially happen, even though the probability is quite low).

So what happened and why?  I certainly have opinions, and they are just that- opinions.  But, I will attempt to explain the logic behind my opinions and present any facts that support my opinion as well.  

There is no way one can call the Trump Presidency an unparalleled success.   I would argue there were only a few successes.  The biggest success that can be attributed to the Trump Administration is in relation to Israel.   After eight years with a President who said Israel should give up Jerusalem (May 20, 2011 speech is one instance) by calling for a return to pre-1967 borders (borders prior to the Six Day War), US-Israeli relations took a hit.  Now, the US is building an Embassy in Jerusalem (western half) and in effect the US has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  At the same time, additional Arab States have recognized Israel.  That is, at least, a significant change in the Middle East.  The fact of the United States recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and having the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan normalize relations, must be considered a success - especially when one considers that the last time an Arab Nation officially recognized Israel was Egypt in 1979.  That success may have been pushed through and quarterbacked by Jared Kushner, but it was a Trump Presidency which made it possible.  

President Trump also appointed three Justices to the US Supreme Court.   With that said, only one vacancy was from retirement, and therefore was replaced by choice of the retiring Justice.  

President Trump also lowered taxes both on corporations, which does keep prices from rising - when corporate taxes increase, prices of goods increase- and individuals. 

But the border wall to stop illegal immigration, which was to be paid for by Mexico, certainly did not happen.   We also have tariffs and retaliatory tariffs on various products and materials- which only increase prices. 

I cannot blame the President for the fact that COVID-19 exists.   I also do not believe that any President can stop the disease - unless the President single handedly develops a vaccine. Disease has existed for as long as man has existed.   We will continue to have diseases and pandemics regardless of who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Diseases do not care what party one belongs to or how much money one has.   Diseases do not respect international borders.

I am of the opinion and belief that President Trump lost this election due to his own personality and attitudes.   Lest we forget, a significant number of registered Republicans did not support the 2016 Trump nomination.   The “Never Trump” movement was not insignificant. The number of Republicans who opposed President Trump increased as time went on.  

President Trump was ill suited to the Presidency, where working with people and not just ordering them to do what you want is essential.  There were several cabinet members who simply could not work with the White House.  

The fact remains that President Trump lost the White House; President-Elect Biden did not “win” it. (Yes, President-Elect Biden got the most votes, I am not questioning election results). One need only look at the outcome of the House and Senate elections (this far) to see that a large number of voters chose to vote for someone other than President Trump while voting for GOP candidates on the rest of the ticket.   With the exception of the White House, the 2020 elections were incredibly good for Republicans in down ticket races.   President-Elect Biden may have won the Presidency, but he had no coat-tails.  It can be stated that President-Elect Biden may have won the vote- but he has yet to win the country. 

Perhaps, the last four years will serve as a cautionary tale- only time will tell.  

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Executive Action and the Biden Administration

From an unnamed source in the Biden Transition team - "I expect [executive action] to be freely used in a Biden administration at this point, if the Senate becomes a roadblock."

Now how about that.  Is the former candidate CLAIMING to be all about Democracy wanting to set up a dictatorship? That’s what “one man rule” is called.   If the Senate doesn’t do what the President wants - he will do it anyway by Executive Action.  That is what has been said.  

Except, I don’t seem to find those two words together in the Constitution.  

What I DO find - SEPARATION OF POWERS and CHECKS AND BALANCES.   

The Senate is a CHECK on the House, the Courts and on the Executive.    

It is the LEGISLATIVE BRANCH that is supposed to pass laws- NOT THE EXECUTIVE.   

The fact remains, the Rank and File GOP helped give this election to President-Elect Biden.   There was an enormous amount of “Trump Exhaustion”.  Biden won because Republicans voted against Trump - they did NOT necessarily vote FOR President-Elect Biden.   

We have a constitution that is set up on the concept that the branches of government are separate, equal and can block the actions of the other branches.   That is the entire point of what the Founders envisioned.   They WANTED obstruction.  Obstruction in Government is GOOD.   It ensures that only those laws that all parties find at least tolerable and constitutional are passed (or that is the theory). Obstruction must be tempered and used rationally; not on every single item that is proposed.    Compromise is what is required.   Unfortunately, we have a tendency to see obstruction for the sake of politics as opposed to obstruction based on policy... which is absolutely need.  

Before President-Elect Biden gets carried away, he needs to take a LONG, hard look at how he can achieve consensus, rather than cramming an agenda down the throats of America.  

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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

On SCOTUS, BIDEN-HARRIS Are Completely Wrong

There is one phrase I hear over and over and over again during every election cycle, that I absolutely hate because it is 100% wrong.  That phrase is “We live in a Democracy.”    We do not.   This country has never been a Democracy.   We live in a Republic.  It is because we live in a Republic that we have a House and Senate, and because we live in a Republic, the votes of the middle of the country actually make a difference in a Presidential Election, and the President is not just elected by a plurality on the East and West Coasts.  

Recently, the Biden-Harris statement on Appeals Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Bench has been "We live in a Democracy, and the PEOPLE deserve their say" when it comes to the  Supreme Court (or words to that effect).  This answer could not be more wrong.

(In the interest of full disclosure, at this time, I have NOT decided which of the MANY candidates I will cast my ballot for.    I will likely NOT vote for former Vice President Biden and Senator Harris.  Anyone who has read the articles on this site over the last few years, will note I have not written in favor of President Trump- at least not often.  I have, however, found Jo Jorgenson to be an interesting candidate, but I remain undecided).

As a Republic, we vote for only certain persons at the Federal level.  Our US House Representatives and our Senators.  Voting for Senators is actually not what the Founding Fathers intended.   State Governments selected their Senators- not the people.  In point of fact, the Constitution has only stated that Senators are to be elected by popular vote since 1913 and the ratification of the 17th Amendment- or in other words, 107 years- less than half of our country's history.  We do NOT elect a President.  We elect slates of electors who will vote for a President and Vice President.   If they fail to elect a President, the House of Representatives elects a President and Vice President.   Again, this ensures that every state has an impact on the election- not just the plurality of the East and West Coasts.

The Court however, is supposed to be above politics.  Justices are appointed for life, by a President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate.   The PEOPLE, have NO SAY in the appointment of Justices to the Supreme Court- as it should be.  This was the INTENT of the Founding Fathers and has been accepted for the entire history of this country.  The PEOPLE having a say on the Supreme Court would politicize the Court, and would destroy the integrity of the Court in its role as unbiased arbiter of the Constitution.  If the Court were dependent upon the "will of the people" through election, Brown v Board of Education, may not have been decided.   The Miranda (Miranda v Arizona) warning may not exist, and hundreds of other cases may not have been heard or decided, if Justices had to rely on "public opinion" to be elected, or to stay in office.   

The closest we are able to come to influencing the Court, is the election of a President and the election of our own Senators from our state.   But even this action has limited impact on The Court.   No one can predict the death or the retirement of a Justice.    The death of Justice Scalia was not expected.   Perhaps one could have predicted the deaths of Chief Justice Rehnquist or perhaps Justice Ginsberg, but one can not make those predictions years out. A President may only appoint one Justice in a presidency.  Appointing three in a single term is unusual.

The Constitution dictates that the President makes appointments to the Court.   The Constitution dictates that the Senate "advise and consent."   The appointment by President Obama of  Judge Merrick Garland fulfilled the Constitutional requirement to make the appointment.  The Senate majority did not provide consent to the appointment- as was the right of the Senate.  There is no Constitutional requirement for the Senate to hold hearings on any appointment.  The hearing is procedural, not a Constitutional requirement.   The fact is, the Senate chose not to "consent" to the appointment  This was within the scope of the duties of the Senate.   Whether this was a popular decision, or whether this decision was what the minority in the Senate wanted, the fact remains, it did fulfil the Constitutional requirements.

The appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court is also within the scope of the Constitution.   To those who say she is going to rule in any predictable manner on any specific issue will very likely be in for a surprise.   The scope of Judge Barrett's prior rulings in the Court of Appeals are based upon precedent and interpretation of precedent as provided by the Supreme Court.  This does not mean that the Judge, once appointed to the Supreme Court, will vote the same way, when it is they who are deciding what the precedent will be.    We have seen this with Chief Justice Roberts and recently with both Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.   I am sure we will also find that predicting Justice Barrett, will be equally as difficult.    One should never try to predict what the Court will do.











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Saturday, October 3, 2020

In Memory of Eric Chamberlain

A couple of years ago, I decided to try a new format on this site. I invited an author form “the Left side of the Aisle” to write a counter point to articles that were posted from the right.   There were several articles that went out - on China, and on other topics.   The author was a friend of mine dating back to grade school, Mr Eric Chamberlain.   

This morning I received word Eric has gone to be with his Creator.  

I never have been able to remember if Eric and I would argue politics as kids.   The world was different then.  There was a clear cut enemy in the Soviet Union.  President Reagan was in the White House from our Sixth Grade year on.  Mostly I remember the pranks we would pull and the trouble we would get into and the fun we had together. 

Our educational paths diverged after our Freshman Year of High School. We lost touch with each other.   However, thanks to the advent of the internet and the development of Facebook we were able to reconnect as adults. 

Eric and I sometimes had different views politically.  But we’re always able to maintain a civil and even friendly discourse as we tossed opinions around.  Although we would disagree, we shared a mutual respect.  

Eric was 51.  He was taken from this world too soon, and we have lost a Great Person, with a Wonderful Spirit who was able to articulate his views with compassion and grace.  This site and our readers have lost a valued author and I have lost a friend.   

Eric A Chamberlain

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Saturday, August 8, 2020

On Executive Orders for COVID Relief

Today, President Trump signed Executive Orders that provided for extra unemployment benefits and to put a hold on certain payroll taxes through the end of the year.   It is an interesting gesture, but that is not really something to “write home about,” nor is it something I am going to write about here.   I am on record as being critical of the Obama Administration on “Executive Action” used to bypass the Congress.  This administration appears to be doing the same thing and I still do not think “Executive Action” to get around Congress is appropriate.  

HOWEVER, there is a much larger issue here that should make every American angry.   The President signed these Executive Orders because Congress is NOT DOING ITS JOB.  

The economy is in chaos. The unemployment insurance increase provided in earlier COVID Relief bills has expired. COVID cases continue to rise and in some respects, if not all, the country is worse off NOW than it was back in March.    

Our Federal Representatives and Senators of BOTH parties along with the White House,  have decided that reaching a compromise on COVID Relief is TOO HARD to do right now. They are indicating they are just giving up. Blaming the other party, the other house, or the other branch of government is now the order of the day.  

Our Federal Representatives and Senators of BOTH parties along with the White House, are SO CONCERNED about the state of the country, the economy and The People,  they have decided that NOW is the time to play political games with the financial well-being of those unemployed due to COVID,  those who have lost weeks or months of pay and who are financially devastated, and those who the lowest paid wage earners.  

Our Federal Representatives and Senators of BOTH parties along with the White House, have decided that instead of everyone staying in Washington, burning the midnight oil and hammering out a solution and compromise, that it is more important to give up, head home, and get on the campaign trail.  

Make no mistake,  the reason there may not be another COVID relief package is because our Senators, Representatives,  and the White House are more concerned about saving their own jobs and getting re-elected, than they are about We The People.  

Over the next few months we will hear over and over and over again how concerned those running for office are.  We will hear how their primary goal is to support hard working Americans.  We will see hundreds of campaign commercials that say, “We did our best to try to get out another COVID Relief package,  but the other party's people stopped us.”  We will hear over and over and over again, the lies that work best in focus groups and polling.  Unfortunately, these lies will probably work  

The TRUTH is that those running for election and re-election are only concerned about one thing - winning their race. 

Isn’t it about time for We The People to stand up and with one voice tell those running on both sides, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! YOU ANSWER TO US. WE DO NOT ANSWER TO YOU!”  

Unless and until We The People finally express our fury and our will in the ballot box, this Republic will fail.  

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Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Borders of Tyranny

I can honestly say I have not been truly stunned until today- at least not stunned where politics are concerned.  

That a President of three United States would even HINT that elections should be suspended or postponed is beyond belief.   Forget the polls.  Forget party loyalty.   Forget party politics.   There is nothing as unbelievable as a President suggesting this country should not hold a Presidential Election.  

The President shared this idea on Twitter:
“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history, It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”
We do not KNOW this election will be “inaccurate and fraudulent.”  Anything said now is pure speculation and conjecture.  Although the President of the United States may be the most powerful person in the world, the Presidency does no bestow the ability to see the future when one takes the Oath of Office.  

We have a Constitution.  We have checks and balances.   The greatest of the checks and balances is the electoral process.  It is through that process that We the People express our will and desire.   By suggesting the 2020 Election should be postponed, this President may find the Electorate less than tolerant.  He  risks losing in a landslide greater than the 49 State sweep that crushed Walter Mondale in 1984.  

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Monday, June 29, 2020

A Bolt from the Blue- How a Pandemic, Economy and a Closing Mall Brought Thousands Together

Lightning Strike (August 2015 by Matt Carden)

Sometimes it is hard to see a silver lining in the storm clouds that surround us.  Other times the clouds bring more than just a Silver Lining.  Every so often, the dark and menacing storm clouds of life bring lightning; a bolt from the blue that  that flashes through the darkness that appears to surround and engulf; a concentration of energy that tears the darkness asunder and becomes a beacon to for all to see.  

Few could imagine a confluence of events- which began on a global stage- that would give rise to a nearly spontaneous gathering and reunion of thousands, who attended dozens of different local high schools from the late 1970’s to the early 1990’s.  The December 2019 outbreak of SARS-COVID-19 in Asia spread across the planet, eventually reaching Arizona in March of 2020.  April and May saw “Stay Home” orders in Arizona; a closure of the State, the likes of which few, of any, had experienced in their lifetimes.   Despite the relaxation of the “Stay Home” orders, social distancing protocols bring significant changes to the operation of indoor mall spaces. With COVID-19 continuing to spread, shoppers do not seem eager to return to to the habits and practices of retail before the pandemic.  “Survival of the fittest” can easily be witnessed in retail world. This Darwinian process is brutal and effective.  Strong businesses who can adapt will survive.  Business that is struggling, whether financial, managerial or just from bad luck, will quickly die. 

And so it was, on June 19, 2020, a letter from the General Manager announced that Metrocenter, a mall in northern Phoenix; once the model for indoor malls nationwide; once the set for a movie that help launch the career of at least one major Hollywood star; once the place for you, your friends and your car to see and be seen on weekend nights as you were “cruising Metro”- a pastime and right of passage for over a generation of the youth of the Valley of the Sun;  would close its doors forever.   

Thus would end our tale; until someone said, “maybe we could cruise Metro one last time...” And there in, as the Bard would say, lies the rub.  

This story really begins in the early 1970’s.
Construction began on what would become Metrocenter at the southwest corner of Interstate-17 and Peoria.  When construction started, Metrocenter was not even inside the Phoenix city limits. The land was unincorporated Maricopa County.  Metrocenter opened in October 1973.  This mall was not only the largest in Arizona, this mall was the first multilevel indoor mall in the United States with an unheard of five anchor tenants.  Metrocenter soon became the place to shop.   The original anchors were Sears, Rhodes, Diamonds (later Dillard’s), The Broadway, and Goldwaters.   

By the time the 1980’s arrived America became a country ready to spend money. The Phoenix Metropolitan Area’s economy was booming.   Several defense contractors were located in the Phoenix area; these included Motorola, Honeywell, Sperry and many others.  With President Reagan’s defense increases in the 1980’s, the Phoenix economy saw benefits.  Perhaps there is no better symbol of the 1980’s, than the Mall.  Soon, Metrocenter was not just the place to shop, Metrocenter became the place to see and be seen as well.  

Even Hollywood knew there was “something” about Metrocenter.  In 1989 Metrocenter itself played the part of “The San Dimas Mall,” with co-stars Keanu Reeves and  Alex Winter in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

No one can give the date of the first night there was cruising at Metrocenter.  Cruising has always been a true “grassroots” activity of teenagers.   Metrocenter seemed built for cruising.  A long, oval outer road, Metrocenter Parkway, circles the mall and its parking lots.  One could park at the edges of the parking lot and be just a few feet from the parkway.  By the early 1980’s, thousands of cars would drive Metrocenter Parkway, often never being able to exceed fifteen miles an hour due to the traffic.  Business on the outside of the Parkway, especially places like Peter Piper Pizza or Golf ‘N Stuff, were grateful for the teens and their money- as long as it was going for Pizza and video games.  Other retailers were less than happy, saying customers could not reach their businesses due to traffic.   The conflict between cruising and business did not stay at Metrocenter.  The conflict found its way to Phoenix City Hall.  For High School students across the Valley of the Sun, this was a case of “the adults” dictating in a hypocritical manner.  After all, those that were complaining, or sitting on the City Council had once “Cruised Central” (Central Avenue runs through the middle of downtown Phoenix).  The City Council wanted to protect business.  

In 1985,  the Phoenix City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting cruising at Metrocenter. 

From the Arizona Republic Jun 7, 1985: An anti-cruising ordinance takes effect at Metro center today, but city officials are crossing their fingers and hoping they won't have to enforce...

The cruising did not stop, and the ordinance was enforced.  Over the years, other steps were taken.
Anti-Cruising Sign
Finally, on weekends, roads-blocks  were set up around Metrocenter and traffic patterns changed. The Phoenix Metro area grew and grew and grew.  Eventuality,  urban sprawl as much as any other factor, killed cruising at Metrocenter.  That same growth and sprawl, along with other factors such as the local economy, killed Metrocenter as well.  

By 2019 one could argue that Metrocenter stood only from the will of the building itself.  Although WalMart now occupied the space originally held by The Broadway, and although there have been many ideas for revitalizing Metrocenter suggested over the years, for those of us who remember Metrocenter in the 1980’s, the days of of the Grand Old Mall were gone.  The death notice came in the form of a letter from Metrocenter management dated June 19, 2020. The letter announced that due to COVID, the economy and other factors, Metrocenter would close forever June 30, 2020.  

The day after the letter announcing the closure of Metrocenter, Tracy Smith, a 1986 Graduate of Thunderbird High School in Phoenix, created a Facebook Group to see if any of her friends would want to “Cruise Metro One Last Time.”   Little did Tracy know that her small Facebook Group would go from one member to over 14,500 members between June 20 and June 29.   Suddenly, a small grassroots movement became an explosion of enthusiasm.   

Thousands gathered at Metrocenter on Saturday, June 27, 2020 for the Last Saturday Night Cruise.  Metrocenter Parkway saw traffic unlike any it had seen since the height of Cruising Metro in the 1980’s. There was loud music, loud cars, and thousands of people gathering with friends they had not seen in years and making new friends along the way.  There was a police presence and even Phoenix’ Finest seemed to have a good time as well.  This crowd was gathered for fun and to relive the happy days of youth, and it showed.

Fortunately, there is one more Cruising Night still to come.  Even with new COVID restrictions, on Tuesday, June 30 at 6  o’clock p.m.,  thousands will gather one last time.  The participants are encouraged to wear masks; encouraged to maintain social distance; encouraged to drive around the mall (cruising is by default an activity that allows for social distancing); but mostly they are encouraged to have fun.  

It has not been unusual over the Second Quarter of 2020 to see groups of hundreds and sometimes thousands gather publicly- but most of these have been to protest; some of these protests have turned to riots and violence.  Protesting COVID restrictions, protesting discrimination, protesting against the police have filled newspapers and seem to run constantly on our television screens.  Rarely over the last few months have we seen “good news.”  A huge crowd gathering for fun seems unusual to say the least.  That thousands would gather to relive their younger days because a global pandemic caused economic downturn and a local mall to close, is not an idea that even a fiction writer would invent.  

One Last Cruise has become more than just a drive around a circular parkway.   The One Last Cruise has become an example of the reasons to have faith and hope.  Despite the turmoil; despite the political conflict; and despite the negative images that seem to constantly assail the senses, individuals can come together to celebrate life.  One can even argue that it is because of a pandemic that people are joining together for this celebration and remembrance of days gone by.  

In the middle of the darkest night many have ever experienced; in the middle of a storm of disasters, the likes of which most alive today have ever seen; a bolt from the blue has turned night today.  No matter what else is happening in the world; despite disease and disaster; despite riots and chaos; people WILL come together to share happy memories and celebrate life.  One Last Cruise has proved there is good still in the world and reasons to have faith and hope.  

Let it never be forgotten, that at the moment when the news was its darkest, we gathered in a parking lot and on a circular drive, to celebrate the past and express faith and hope in a future yet to come.  



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