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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Our Lack of Morals Chains Us to a Negative Destiny

“What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny.

"One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us. We can alter the chemistry provided we have the courage to dissect the elements.”

― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934    

It is actually frightening to realize our freedom involves personal responsibility. We cannot say, "We had no choice," and simply relieve ourselves from responsibility of everything we have done and have not done. Dealing with ever-increasing responsibility is vital to enacting needed change. George Bernard Shaw once said: “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”  

I am often amused at the comments of those with spirited ideas who simply embrace freedom and liberty without considering the requirement of active membership in a responsible society. Braying about their Constitutional rights and displaying symbols like flags, declarations, and historical characters, those who dwell on these things are superficial, and, quite frankly, limited to private thoughts and emotions not their own, but given to them by society.

"Bondage to the past" is dangerous and threatens important, needed change. As Nin says, we should, instead, look back and "dissect the elements" of the past in order to "alter the chemistry." Our future involves building a new character, one bettered by our examination of what has come before. We cannot be content with living like parasites -- merely existing upon the thinking of others.

Changing old practices is difficult. It requires great thought. Foremost, the consideration requires us to distinguish the difference between unavoidable mistakes that hamper human endeavors and serious violations that enslave us. Brave, open minds in search of the truth are capable of this exercise, and we who wish to learn must practice diligently to hone our skills of discernment.

Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged, stated ...

“Learn to distinguish the difference between errors of knowledge and breaches of morality. An error of knowledge is not a moral flaw, provided you are willing to correct it; only a mystic would judge human beings by the standard of an impossible, automatic omniscience.

"But a breach of morality is the conscious choice of an action you know to be evil, or a willful evasion of knowledge, a suspension of sight and of thought. That which you do not know, is not a moral charge against you; but that which you refuse to know, is an account of infamy growing in your soul. Make every allowance for errors of knowledge; do not forgive or accept any break of morality.”
To err is human is the old saying. Yet, while both ethics and morals involve "right" and "wrong" conduct, they are different principles. Ethics refer to rules provided by an external source, such as codes of conduct in our workplaces or principles in religions. Morals refer to an individual’s own principles regarding right and wrong.

Here is an example of a clashes between ethics and morals at the workplace where company ethics can play against personal morality. Corporate greed that blurs its own ethical lines coupled with unreasonable demands on time can lead us to choose between a stressful, demanding and consuming work ethic and family obligations seen as moral obligations to spouse and children. Conversely, we could lose our jobs because of poor personal morals, employee theft being a common reason for dismissal.

So, our ethical considerations stem from concerns to an external social system while our moral considerations are those internal values that define our character. And, as ethics are dependent on others for definition and can vary between contexts, morals are usually consistent, although they can change if our beliefs change.

Morality transcends our cultural norms. Immanuel Kant said that moral judgments are binding on all human beings no matter what kind of society in which they live. Dr. Yitzchok Block, Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University and professor emeritus at The University of Western Ontario in London, Canada says ...  

"Many people are inclined to say that the only thing that can justify the categorical element of moral judgments is the fact that G-d commanded them. However, being commanded by G-d is not a necessary and sufficient condition for something being a categorical, moral judgment.

"What then is the justification of a moral judgment? This is a difficult question to answer, but I believe it is connected with the idea that we were made in the image of G-d, and therefore contain innate elements of natural goodness which is part and parcel of the soul and life of every human being, and is expressed in the two basic moral senses of justice and compassion."

(Dr. Yitzchok Block. "What is Morality?"

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mercy For Weeping Souls

Have Mercy On Me, My Soul 
 BY Khalil Gibran

Why are you weeping, my Soul?
Knowest thou my weakness?
Thy tears strike sharp and injure,
For I know not my wrong.
Until when shalt thou cry?
I have naught but human words to interpret your dreams,
Your desires, and your instructions.

Look upon me, my Soul;
I have consumed my full life heeding your teachings.
Think of how I suffer!
I have exhausted my life following you.

My heart was glorying upon the throne,
But is now yoked in slavery;
My patience was a companion,
But now contends against me;
My youth was my hope,
But now reprimands my neglect.

Why, my Soul, are you all-demanding?
I have denied myself pleasure
And deserted the joy of life
Following the course which you impelled me to pursue.
Be just to me,
Or call Death to unshackle me,
For justice is your glory.

Have mercy on me, my Soul.
You have laden me with Love until I cannot carry my burden.
You and Love are inseparable might;
Substance and I are inseparable weakness.
Will e'er the struggle cease between the strong and the weak?

Have mercy on me, my Soul.
You have shown me Fortune beyond my grasp.
You and Fortune abide on the mountain top;
Misery and I are abandoned together in the pit of the valley.
Will e'er the mountain and the valley unite?

Have mercy on me, my Soul.
You have shown me Beauty,
But then concealed her.
You and Beauty live in the light;
Ignorance and I are bound together in the dark.
Will e'er the light invade darkness?

Your delight comes with the Ending,
And you revel now in anticipation;
But this body suffers with the life
While in life.
This, my Soul, is perplexing.

You are hastening toward Eternity,
But this body goes slowly toward perishment.
You do not wait for him,
And he cannot go quickly.
This, my Soul, is sadness.

You ascend high, though heaven's attraction,
But this body falls by earth's gravity.
You do not console him,
And he does not appreciate you.
This, my Soul, is misery.

You are rich in wisdom,
But this body is poor in understanding.
You do not compromise,
And he does not obey.
This, my Soul, is extreme suffering.

In the silence of the night you visit The Beloved
And enjoy the sweetness of His presence.
This body ever remains,
The bitter victim of hope and separation.
This, my Soul, is agonizing torture.
Have mercy on me, my Soul!

Khalil Gibran (1883 – 1931) was a Lebanese artist, poet, and writer. As a young man he immigrated with his family to the United States, where he studied art and began his literary career, writing in both English and Arabic. In the Arab world, Gibran is regarded as a literary and political rebel. His romantic style was at the heart of a renaissance in modern Arabic literature.

Gibran is chiefly known in the English-speaking world for his 1923 book The Prophet, an early example of inspirational fiction including a series of philosophical essays written in poetic English prose. He is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Laozi.

Many of Gibran's writings deal with Christianity, especially on the topic of spiritual love. But his mysticism is a convergence of several different influences: Christianity, Islam, Sufism, Judaism and theosophy. He wrote: "You are my brother and I love you. I love you when you prostrate yourself in your mosque, and kneel in your church and pray in your synagogue. You and I are sons of one faith—the Spirit."

(Alexandre Najjar. Kahlil Gibran, A Biography. 2008)

Weeping souls abound today. Everywhere, suffering people caught in circumstances that consume their happy existence cry out for help. How often do they look within to consider the necessary contact with their own immortal souls -- an internal dialogue that must take place on universal levels of consciousness and compassion?

In Hindu philosophy, the antahkarana (Sanskrit: the inner cause) refers to the totality of two levels of mind, namely the buddhi, the intellect or higher mind, and the manas, the middle levels of mind which exist as or include the mental body. Antahkarana, the path, or bridge, between higher and middle minds, serves as a medium of communication between the two. It is built by the aspiring person in mental matter in the effort to attain wisdom.

The verses of Gibran's "Have Mercy On Me, My Soul" echo the need for self-enlightenment to comprehend critical understandings of life. As examples of the theosophical identity and meaning of the poem, here a few sentences from the classical work The Voice of the Silence, translated and annotated by H.P. Blavatsky. 

Among many similar passages, The Voice of the Silence says:

1) “The Self of Matter and the SELF of Spirit can never meet. One of the twain must disappear; there is no place for both.” (Fragment I, p. 13)

2) “The ladder by which the candidate [to wisdom] ascends is formed of rungs of suffering and pain; these can be silenced only by the voice of virtue.” (Fragment I, p. 16)

3) “If thou would’st reap sweet peace and rest, Disciple, sow with the seeds of merit the fields of future harvests. Accept the woes of birth.” (Fragment II, p. 34)

Indeed, the human soul is an "all-demanding" entity of our human nature. Who of us does not feel the needs of the spirit, and the suffering inherent in our lives, suffering that sometimes feels too much to bear? Even the love, fortune, and beauty we encounter seems to fade as we age and accumulate fragilities of body and mind. Gibran writes ...

"My patience was a companion,
But now contends against me;
My youth was my hope,
But now reprimands my neglect...

"Substance and I are inseparable weakness.
Will e'er the struggle cease between the strong and the weak?"

In the speaker's dialogue with the soul, he reveals the knowledge that eternal delight comes with "the Ending," a new life that draws anticipation and revelation from the soul. The "unshackled" soul is victorious in death.

How are we -- with our suffering bodies bound by gravity and our perplexing, uncompromising souls "hastening toward eternity" -- supposed to exist in the dark valleys we often find ourselves dwelling? Gibran contends ...

"In the silence of the night you (the soul) visit The Beloved
And enjoy the sweetness of His presence.
This body ever remains,
The bitter victim of hope and separation.
This, my Soul, is agonizing torture.
Have mercy on me, my Soul!"

The poet draws his theme in the title of the work: "Have mercy on me, my Soul." Enjoying the pleasures and experiencing the suffering -- both inevitable peaks and depressions of life -- require God's mercy upon our souls. Those who do not look within and find meaningful communication and understanding of their own souls deny the gift of God. It is the soul that speaks with the Almighty and communicates our real reason for existence.

The wisdom we surely acquire, no matter how great its bounty, is weak and useless without Soul Power. Whether we call it antahkarana or soul searching, we must realize the soul, not the body, lives on and requires strengthening exercise. Our journey on earth is whole only if we feed the spirit even when we suffer pain.

Those with weeping souls who continually insist on finding material comfort or carnal pleasures to escape the pain do not comprehend that the mercies they bestow upon our souls, not the rewards they heap upon their physical selves, allow them to persist and, eventually, to grow in unison with God's purpose. Is it any wonder all love, beauty, and fortune mean nothing without a strong, virtuous soul?

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul?"

The King James Bible, Mark 8:36.

Instead of blaming others and finding temporary, fragile shelter in substances and in relationships  without lasting spiritual foundations, weeping souls must look within to sow seeds for future harvests. There, within each of us, is the power of mercy and the lasting love offered by God. I believe we will never fully comprehend our souls in this life, but unless we look towards them and seek clemency and strength, we will lead a hollow existence until both our body and our spirit fully expire.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Roofing Buildings Tumbing Down -- The Martings "Portsmouth Town Center"

It's time for a Martings update once again. Or, should I be politically correct and use the official euphemism for the property, the Portsmouth Town Center? Well, anyway, the property owned by the taxpayers of our fair city has a leaking roof, and now raindrops are falling on heads in adjacent businesses.

City Manager Allen proposes a temporary repair to correct the leak to the tune of $5,500 coming from the Capital Improvement Program (Although some surely must question any repair to the property being a justified capital "improvement.").

Not a great sum you say? But who can guarantee that such disrepair is not the sign of much more expense to come? Remember also that the city wants to pass an income tax increase in November, which begs the questions: "What can we and what should we pay to insure better expenditures?"

It is reported that fixing the leaking roof is the result of a call to the city from Ken Rase in regards to the roof at the Marting’s building that is leaking into the adjoining Capital One Bank building owned by Rase. Allen said, upon inspection it is noted that the roof is currently in need of repair. He said the Engineering Department has obtained a proposal from Freeland Contracting.

(Frank Lewis. "City manager adjusts CIP." Portsmouth Daily Times. April 10, 2015)

I assume this is the local company for Freeland home improvement from Minford, Ohio. But, according to the BBB, this company "appears to be out of business"? shows but one building permit issued to the company from December 2000 in Columbus, Ohio.

Also, I don't believe this figure of $5,500 includes submitting plans for the repair and obtaining the strictly required building contract from the City Engineer's office. I've no idea how much expense this will add to the project. Also, no mention of liability for the leak onto the bank property is reported. I assume the city carries insurance on the Martings Town Center edifice. Deductible? Law suit? Oh, boy!

Although I knew of their very close proximity, I was unaware Capital One and Martings shared a roof. What further damages could occur to the bank considering the decaying condition of the city owned monument to neglected real estate? I assumer the roof is flat -- and we all know that is a recipe for continuing leaks and damage to both structures.

This entire scenario reminds me of the large fallen tree that has been sitting on the property at Kinney's Lane and Scioto Trail for so long. I noted just yesterday that the ugly eyesore still sits unattended. I have no idea who owns the property and the insurance that should be paying to clean up the mess, so I don't know who should be responsible for the cleanup, but just a hundred or so feet away is the signage adorned with the corporate clubs and associations proudly represented in Portsmouth. The irony is apparent. The fallen down and in need of repair is duly noted.

My disgust over the Martings ... Town Center ... stems from the fact that we citizens of Portsmouth own this property and realize much, much more money is needed to maintain and/or to utilize the buildings. And, for City Council to say they didn't know this from the very start when they acquired the property for an inflated sum would be lying. Boondoggles have long longevity.

Waste has to stop some time. Nostalgia for old, thriving department stores is a beautiful thing, but nonetheless, such revelry is a figment conjured in fantasy aided by aging imaginations. If old bricks and mortar meant continued progress, Portsmouth would likely be the gem of Northern Appalachia.

Here is a thought: If the image of a vacant lot in the middle of downtown Portsmouth frightens us, then perhaps the reason for our fear is our own neglect for mismanagement and lack of action. The hole a demolished property would make on Chillicothe Street may be a physical reality of a hole that already exists in our old hearts. Our Dreamland and our Martings Department Store and our New Frontier are all but fading memories. Perhaps we should stop grieving, stop attempting repairs, and pursue a brand-new, promising reality with new construction being the key to better lasting ideas.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Are You Against Heroin Even Though Pro-Legalization of Pot?

One thing the vast majority of pro-legalization of marijuana supporters and anti-legalization advocates agree upon is the need to stop the heroin trade and greatly reduce the number of people addicted to the deadly substance. As opiate overdoses soar and death tolls mount, I believe no responsible person should support the use of heroin because that stand achieves no iota of positivity. I trust that the public agrees.

In addition, while many contend harsh prison penalties currently imposed on drug offenders are unjustified, even pro-legalization people generally hold, that under some circumstances, society is morally justified in punishing persons who produce and distribute heroin.

Dr. Peter de Marneffe, co-author of The Legalization of Drugs: For & Against, has been a visiting fellow at the Princeton University Center for Human Values, the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and a visiting assistant professor at Stanford University.

De Marneffe is strongly against heroin. He explains what he terms the "burdens principle" against heroin and its damaging effects.

According to the burdens principle, "the government violates a person's moral rights in adopting a policy that limits her liberty if and only if in adopting this policy the government imposes a burden on her that is substantially worse than the worst burden anyone would bear in the absence of this policy."

Using this principle, de Marneffe claims that burdens on drug vendors or users may be justified by the prevention of harms to a particular individual or individuals. As he puts it:
"What I claim in favor of heroin prohibition is that the reasons of at least one person to prefer her situation in a prohibition environment outweigh everyone else's reasons to prefer his or her situation in a legalization environment, assuming that the penalties are gradual and proportionate and other relevant conditions are met." (p. 161) 
(Douglas Husak and Peter de Marneffe. The Legalization of Drugs: For & Against.
Cambridge University Press. 2005)

It is the later harm to the ambition and motivation of young people that, according to de Marneffe, justifies criminalizing heroin production and sale. As he puts it:
"… the risk of lost opportunities that some individuals would bear as the result of heroin legalization justifies the risks of criminal liability and other burdens that heroin prohibition imposes on other individuals. The legalization of heroin would create a social environment -- call it the legalization environment -- in which some children would be at a substantially higher risk of irresponsible heroin abuse by their parents and in which some adolescents would be at a substantially higher risk of self-destructive heroin abuse."  (p. 124)
(Douglas Husak and Peter de Marneffe. The Legalization of Drugs: For & Against.
Cambridge University Press. 2005)

This analysis by Peter de Marneffe is strong ammunition against those involved in the heroin trade, but there is a major mind-scrambler to those who may logically argue that the "burdens principle" delineates substances that truly harm future generations from less harmful drugs and the way we incarcerate illegal drug offenders.

Dr. Douglas Husak, professor of philosophy at Rutgers, points out that one-fourth of all pack-a-day smokers lose ten to fifteen years of their lives but no one would entertain the idea of incarcerating smokers to further their health interests or in order to prevent non-smokers from beginning.

"Even if one were to accept that illicit drugs were more harmful or exacted greater social costs than tobacco and alcohol (and empirical studies do not generally support this thesis), that difference proves insufficient to justify imprisoning producers, distributors or especially users of illicit drugs." 

(Douglas Husak and Peter de Marneffe. The Legalization of Drugs: For & Against.
Cambridge University Press. 2005)

Husak accepts that drug use poses health risks but contends that the risks are not greater than others that are socially accepted such as smoking and drinking. He claims even if they were greater, imprisonment does not reduce, but compounds the health risks for prisoners.   

Husak finds punishing adolescent users a peculiar way to protect them. He thinks punishing one drug-using adolescent in order to prevent a non-using adolescent from using drugs is ineffective and also violates justice. He contends ...

"Punishing adult users so that youth do not begin using drugs and do not suffer from neglect -- which is de Marneffe's position -- is not likely to prevent adolescents from becoming drug users, and even if it did, one would have to show that the harm prevented to the youth justifies imprisoning adults. Husak contends that punishing adults or youth, far from protecting youth, puts them at greater risk."

(Douglas Husak and Peter de Marneffe. The Legalization of Drugs: For & Against.
Cambridge University Press. 2005)

Do we achieve morality with imprisonment? Husak says drinking alcohol or smoking are not considered immoral activities, which, in themselves, require imprisonment, but they present significant health risks ... perhaps as great or greater than those of illicit drugs.

Do we prevent other crimes by imprisonment? Husak, conceding a connection between drug use and crime, turns the argument upside-down, showing how punishment increases rather than decreases crime. 

"For one, criminalization of drugs forces the drug industry to settle disputes extra-legally. 

" Secondly, drug decriminalization would likely lower drug costs thereby reducing economic crimes. 

"Thirdly, to those who contend that illicit drugs may increase violence and aggression Husak responds that:
a) empirical evidence does not support marijuana or heroin as causes of violence, and
b) empirical evidence does support alcohol, which is decriminalized, as leading to violence.

Husak concludes ... 

"If we propose to ban those drugs that are implicated in criminal behavior, no drug would be a better candidate for criminalization than alcohol." (p. 70) 

(Douglas Husak and Peter de Marneffe. The Legalization of Drugs: For & Against.
Cambridge University Press. 2005)

Finally, Husak says punishing drug users likely increases crime rates since those imprisoned for drug use are released with greater tendencies and skills for future criminal activity.

I think that Husak and De Marneffe both pose very important arguments -- ideas that we must consider to stop the heroin epidemic currently sweeping our country. I agree with Husak that imprisonment without rehabilitation does not work. That is sorely evident.

I find the important distinction for imprisoning drug offenders is the difference between "using" heroin and "producing and distributing" heroin. Spreading the addiction by producing or distributing heroin is synonomous to promoting irresponsibly a poison that is known to be lethally infectious. I have no sympathy for pushers or dealers: I detest their greed and accumulated wealth.

Of course, what complicates this criminal liability is the fact that most users "distribute" heroin to afford their own costly habits. How can society punish those thugs most responsible for the heinous criminal damage to others, especially for the deadly harm to innocent young users, while incorporating needed changes to rehabilitate successfully those who abuse opiates?  

To me, effectively administering both punishment and promise requires a strong, swift sword wielded by an intelligent, up-to-date, clinically informed legislature, legal system, and enforcement community. Authorities must have the ability to surgically remove the cancerous heroin distribution system so entrenched in the United States by imprisoning them with stiff penalties. At the same time, they must increase rehab and intervention instead of lockup to those hopelessly suffering opiate addiction.

Never can we arrest and prosecute our way out of this heroin crisis, nor can we responsibly decriminalize heroin and live with the bloody consequences of completely ignoring the burdens principle. We are in the middle of a costly conflict that thrives on greed and on misery. Solutions, while expensive, are not beyond possibility ... if we are open to change and if we take action.

Please, I encourage all pro-legalization of marijuana supporters to turn your attention to helping others with less sympathy for your cause and join together with them to help stop heroin. This incessant argument of rights and of freedoms is so trivial when bodies poisoned by heroin pile up in every neighborhood in our country.

Every day that the majority sits on the fence while passively watching the carnage and occasionally commenting, "Oh, how sad," new heroin disciples become addicted to replace the deceased. This is not about philosophical arguments and American liberties and immoral "dopers": it is about greed destroying the lives of innocent Americans. We must pressure our government to take new, major steps to stop this Substance-induced Terrorism.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Waste Money and Drug Test Welfare Recipients

So, here they go again -- around and around the same old mulberry bush chasing some imaginary, diabolical weasel. People seem to believe what they want to believe based on prejudices formed from rumors and hearsay. Damn the facts! Skip the research and full steam ahead!

Once again, large numbers of the American middle class seek to blame the poor for the woes of the nation. In a rush to scapegoat "those lazy welfare bums," they drink the political Kool-Aid that unfairly adds to an ever-growing stigma against the less fortunate and sincerely believe hordes of welfare applicants are on drugs.

"Six months after the rollout of a controversial law
to drug-test people applying for public benefits,
just 37 out of more than 16,000 welfare applicants failed drug tests."

(Anita Wadhwani. "Drug testing of welfare applicants yields few positives."
The Tennessean. February 08, 2015)
Though Republican lawmakers in nearly every state have proposed drug tests for recipients of government benefits in recent years, Tennessee is one of only 12 states that have followed through with a testing program. The fact is very few poor people seeking benefits actually turned out to have dirty urine.

"These latest reports that less than one quarter of one percent of Tennessee TANF applicants tested positive for drugs underscore that such testing is a waste of taxpayer money," said Hedy Weinberg, director of Tennessee's ACLU chapter.

Other states that have implemented welfare drug testing regimens haven't uncovered high levels of drug abuse either.

For example, only 2 percent of Florida's TANF applicants flunked tests in 2011.

(Arthur Delaney. "This Week In Making Poor People Pee."
The Huffington Post. August 07, 2014)

In the case of Florida, Governor Rick Scott (R) spent nearly $400,000 in taxpayer dollars defending his various drug testing schemes. The Florida government started making welfare applicants take tests to prove they weren't on drugs in 2011, only to have both programs quickly halted by federal courts on constitutional grounds.

From July through October in Florida -- the four months when testing took place -- 2.6 percent of the state’s cash assistance applicants failed the drug test, or 108 of 4,086, according to the figures from the state obtained by the Southern Center for Human Rights. The most common reason for failure was marijuana use.

(Lizette Alvarez. "No Savings Are Found From Welfare Drug Tests."
The New York Times. April 17, 2012)

But, no matter the lack of evidence this drug testing is beneficial -- either from a health standpoint or from a financial standpoint -- an additional dozen states have already started considering similar legislation this year. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) says that legislatures are looking at proposals to drug test welfare applicants in Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

Most drug testing proposals target Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the federal program most closely associated with the word "welfare." Federal law gives states some leeway to screen TANF applicants for drug usage.

However, states are not permitted to make testing a condition of eligibility for unemployment insurance or food stamps, which, like TANF, are federal programs administered locally by states. Food stamps, which benefit 46 million Americans, have a much larger reach than TANF, which serves 3.4 million.

Backers of the drug test laws generally base their case on anecdotes from employers who say job applicants frequently fail drug tests. They also argue that even if the drug testing costs more than it saves, preventing taxpayer dollars from supporting drug abuse is a worthy expense.

The truth is that administering the blame plays into the welfare stigma and is really all about scoring political points on the backs of the poor. Scores of politicians play the "welfare card" to gain public approval. Many voters who are eager to affirm liability for governmental waste treat recipients like suspected criminals without any evidence.

Instead of looking toward the top for injustice and wasteful spending, angry Americans who work hard for their money assume they can't get ahead because of welfare waste. They choose to look down upon the poor, who are easy targets for their ire. Throw in a little political slight of hand, and bing, bam, boom -- welfare = BAD!

Emily Badger of The Washington Post, recently reminded America of the politics of blaming the poor ...

"Many, many Americans who do receive these other kinds of government benefits — farm subsidies, student loans, mortgage tax breaks — don't recognize that, like the poor, they get something from government, too. That's because government gives money directly to poor people, but it gives benefits to the rest of us in ways that allow us to tell ourselves that we get nothing from government at all."

(Emily Badger. "The double-standard of making the poor prove they’re worthy of government benefits." The Washington Post. April 07, 2015)

Political scientist Suzanne Mettler has called this effect the "submerged state." Food stamps and welfare checks are incredibly visible government benefits. The mortgage interest deduction, Medicare benefits and tuition tax breaks are not — they're submerged.

Badger explains ...

"Mettler's research has shown that a remarkable number of people who don't think they get anything from government in fact benefit from one of these programs. This explains why we get election-season soundbites from confused voters who want policymakers to 'keep your government hands off my Medicare!' This is also what enables politicians to gin up indignation among small-government supporters who don't realize they rely on government themselves."

Drug test people on welfare? No American is less of a person because of a lack of money. No poor person in the United States of America should be subjected to submitting to different standards of judgmental equality because of poverty. Hating those needy people on welfare manifests itself in many unwarranted ways. Those who feed false beliefs strengthen the stigma against the poor.

Welfare reform in recent years has made the program’s regulations tighter than ever. In fact, people are seeing it here. In 2012, Ohio was one of three states still scrambling to meet the requirements of a federal law that requires states to get at least half of adults currently on welfare into work – or face $135 million in penalties, and to meet regulations, Ohio's welfare rolls dropped dramatically.

We should better enforce regulations already in place that have adequate provisions to deny benefits.

Besides, people should consider that failing a drug test has already put many in the welfare line without hope of securing another decent job. The ill-conceived "cure" for stopping financial woes can debilitate an income forever. A more appropriate form of revised legislation might follow the lead of Pennsylvania, where instead of revoking benefits, substance abuse treatment options are offered as an alternative.

The bureaucracy of state-administered drug testing of welfare recipients hurts the most vulnerable -- the unfortunate and their unfortunate families. The trend? Scapegoat the poor while the filthy rich enjoy the spoils. I can hear them now ... "Cry 'Havoc!', and let slip the dogs of war."

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Springfield Missouri Votes to Permit LGBT Discrimination

In the United States, the cradle of equality, the majority in a democracy enacts laws intended to protect the freedom of the masses. It is amazing how a nation dedicated to liberty and justice for all under a loving God can find discrimination a viable alternative to complete acceptance. It has happened in Springfield, Missouri.

Last year, Springfield City Council extended the city's non-discrimination ordinance to prevent LGBT community from being discriminated against in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations.

Yet, on April 7, 2015, voters narrowly repealed Springfield's ordinance that provides non-discrimination protections to the LGBT community by a margin of 51.43 percent to 48.57 percent.

It seems evident to most that the vote has exposed Springfield as an unwelcoming city. But, to the contrary, Calvin Morrow, the spokesman for the Christian "Yes on Question 1 Committee," claims that assertion is untrue. He says, “So we’re really dealing with a situation where the net effect is that the church and Christian people are under siege by something that has not happened since the Jim Crow laws of the 1960s.”

What? To me, it is astounding how certain religious leaders claim to speak for God. In this case, the good Mr. Morrow and his cohorts believe that the Lord has deemed a house or an apartment should not be rented to folks afflicted with the "sinful gay disease." Morrow sponsors bigotry and injustice.

Surely, landlords will face civil rights violations.

Nonetheless, Morrow says he is very excited for Springfield, and he feels the next step will be about healing. Yes, I spelled that correctly. I'm sure many of you thought the next step for the gay community is "heeling," as in "being unrightfully oppressed under the boot of self-ordained religious judges."

“One thing we are careful not to do is we are not gloating -- because we were all damaged on both sides.  And my heart goes out to the LGBT community and we are probably going to be looking for ways to unite and connect."

(Theresa Bettman. "Springfield Voters Repeal Question One By Narrow Margin."
KSMU Ozarks Public Radio. April 07, 2015)

Many business owners in Springfield had supported non-discrimination protections. For example, James Martin, owner of Gilardi’s Ristorante, said the upcoming election would allow Springfield to “step into the 21st Century” and to vote against discrimination. Martin explained ...

“Because discrimination does not happen with a fire hose or dogs does not mean it’s not wrong. There’s a point at which we will stand up and look in the mirror and say ‘We did stand up for something today.’”

Martin's hopes were extinguished by the April election returns. And, this "mirror" was deliberately shattered by those claiming to be working in tandem with God, the Almighty.

In a democracy, the majority rules. But, perhaps, in 2015, it is time to open the Good Book, discover the New Testament, and access the damage of those who might twist the words within ...

"A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."
King James Bible, John 13:34

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

King James Bible, Matthew 5:10

An Open Letter To Young Buckeyes About Heroin

April 8, 2015

Dear Young Buckeye,

Heroin is a highly addictive drug which endangers your life. As you likely already know, it is a substance derived from morphine that is usually injected; however, it can also be snorted or smoked. Foolhardy people take heroin to escape problems, to relieve anxiety and depression, and simply to become chemically intoxicated.

You must realize buying, possessing, and using this illegal substance is against the law. If you are arrested for a heroin-related crime, you may find your conviction prevents you from achieving your future dreams -- getting employment, going to college, joining the armed forces, even making friends and acquaintances of your choosing.

Young people like yourself are at a particularly great risk from this deadly substance. If you choose to experiment with this opiate drug, you will develop a tolerance, and soon, you will find you have to use more heroin to achieve the same "high," or intensity of pleasure you crave. Many people report a psychological addiction after the first use, especially when a needle is used in injecting heroin.

Buying heroin is "a pig in a poke" -- you never know the actual strength or purity and, therefore, purchasing the product puts you at a constant risk of drug overdose. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the heroin on the streets today is 80-90 percent purer and much cheaper than the heroin of the 1970s. The fact is people are getting addicted more easily by using less.

Many accidental overdoses have occurred when a batch of particularly pure heroin is released onto the streets, overwhelming the built-up tolerances of regular users. You can die with one dose of potent heroin even though you believe you can control the safe administration of your drug.

In order to increase the potency of their product, dealers even lace heroin with other dangerous drugs like Fentanyl, a narcotic that can be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl was actually developed to ease extreme pain for patients in the final stages of diseases such as bone cancer. It, itself, is a very dangerous, addictive substance.

A recent surge in overdose deaths from Fentanyl-laced heroin forced the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue a nationwide alert. Please understand the importance of avoiding this unintentional poisoning: Fentanyl-laced heroin caused an epidemic of overdoses between 2005 and 2007, when more than 1,000 people in Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia died.

Injecting heroin also puts you at risk for two other serious problems: the transmission of HIV and other diseases (especially Hepatitis B & C) through sharing needles, and the dangers of injecting crap under your skin.

As you abuse heroin, you will also suffer scarred and/or collapsed veins, bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves, abscesses and other soft-tissue infections, and liver or kidney disease.

Using this drug regularly can also cause lung-related health issues like pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Pregnant women who use heroin are at a higher risk for miscarriage, as well as delivering a premature baby. Once the baby is born, the infant is at a higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The terrible effects of your heroin use will affect every phase of your normal lifestyle -- even something as simple as eating. Constipation caused by a combination of poor eating habits and the effects of the drug on the bowels can lead to hemorrhoids. You will also likely suffer from malnutrition because you are never hungry while you are addicted. And, as you know, being malnourished means you are less able to fight off viral infections and illnesses.

Every time you use heroin, you are risking an overdose and these other health consequences. Not only is using the drug dangerous to your health, but once the substance makes you drowsy and listless in the second stage of the experience, you are vulnerable to being robbed, physically assaulted, or sexually assaulted.

Please, never use heroin -- not even once. Instead of beginning this vice, if you feel vulnerable, see a professional counselor or a trained health care person for help. Despite what you may believe, you are an important young person who deserves love and attention. Even if you have used heroin and you feel hopelessly addicted to the substance, get assistance immediately. Help is available.

One last thought -- having fun and gaining new, exciting freedoms are important parts of growing up; however, taking risks that will lead to a life of abuse is immature and irresponsible. Heed the wise words of addicts who warn of the three possible outcomes of heroin addiction: "Your addiction will lead you to rehab, to prison, or to a very early grave."

Your Loved Ones and Your True Friends