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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Oh, You're Smart Enough? Refusing the Difficult Task of Learning to Reason


 The higher facilities of understanding and human will are vital to decision making. The object of the intellect is truth. Through will, the brain seeks this truth with all the body's senses in order to acquire knowable reality. The will and the brain apprehend knowledge, judge it, and reason with it. Thus, the process renders things understandable and allows humans to react with greater knowledge.

Lower faculties are vegetal – such as respiration, metabolism, growth, and generation – and sentient – related to feelings of sensations. In contrast to the lower facilities, humans' higher faculties are nurtured by their unquenchable free will. This drive allows them to understand meanings and to apply those meanings to their lives. Consistently attaining and possessing greater knowledge builds intelligence and wisdom. These are the noble goals of living.

In all its services, the intellect is a faculty or power for essential knowing. It seeks truth as the eye seeks light. Self-evident truths may be acquired through intelligence while truths that are not easily self-evident must be gained through reasoning. Inasmuch as the intellect (or more precisely the intellect as reason thinks-out the moral implications of a situation and judges on a point-of-duty, it is called conscience. Therefore, conscience is a practical judgment of the intellect and does not stem from feelings or emotions. Inasmuch as the intellect retains its knowledge, it is called intellectual memory.

(“Intellect and Will - Man's Higher Faculties.”

Why make all of these distinctions between higher and lower faculties? It is my contention that we must rise above being organisms content with possessing lower faculties and base, competent intelligence. With free will and an eye toward the truth, we must dedicate ourselves to improving our reasoning powers and building superior intellectual memories. Too many today are content with basic knowledge which equates to basic understandings.

I am not speaking about setting unrealistic goals of reaching genius levels of comprehension. Instead, I am saying intelligence guided by feelings and emotions is insufficient. People who turn to their emotions are using mostly lower faculties to attempt to reason, and the results are disastrous. In their laziness and unwillingness to build reason, they detract from society. Reasoning is difficult, time-consuming, and yet so, so rewarding. Learning to reason is a duty of every good citizen.

One does not have to be a genius to build intellectual memory. All a person needs is the will to learn, an open mind, and the desire to better his or her life through academic pursuits. Understanding that intelligence is the greatest resource and that an investment of time and effort in attaining it is the most valuable use of the faculties is imperative. And, the beautiful thing is that unlimited resources are available for attaining knowledge, the greatest personal asset.

“From the smallest necessity to the highest religious abstraction, from the wheel to the skyscraper, everything we are and everything we have comes from one attribute of man - the function of his reasoning mind.”
--Ayn Rand

Building the ability to reason prevents preconceived opinions from becoming unwarranted prejudices. It also constructs brave minds that thirst for knowledge, knowledge that breaks the chains of limitations that incapacitate those who refuse to learn. The truth provided by reasoning is far superior to the truth provided by stark facts because, in reality, most important judgments require intellect and knowledge to reach sound, viable conclusions.

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”
 --Margaret Mead

Above all, improved higher faculties guarantee humans' freedom from those who seek to control their lives – freedom from those who would restrict the books we read, take the liberties we love, and make us automatons by force-feeding us propaganda and making us unthinking subjects.

Intelligent Americans should always strive to feed their “intellect as reason” in order to be able to question the world as it is and to seek new solutions. Anyone who would attempt to use emotion to stir our powers of reasoning is attempting to short-circuit our higher faculties. The way to stop this deception and control is to learn, learn, learn without ever accepting bounds of “knowing all that you need to know.”

“Here is a truth that most teachers will not tell you, even if they know it: Good training is a continual friend and a solace; it helps you now, and assures you of help in the future. 
Good education is a continual pain in the neck, and assures you always of more 
of the same.” 
 --Richard Mitchell, The Gift of Fire

Accept the pain of lifelong education. It is, indeed, a gift of “fire” that ignites the brain, the heart, and the soul. With it, your passion is unquenchable. Without it, you are merely treading water.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

A New Vision: Trump Calls America "Dumping Ground"


“We are a dumping ground for the rest of the world,” said Donald Trump, who emphasized his commitment to deporting all undocumented immigrants and building a wall on the southern border of the United States.

(Mary Jordan and Sean Sullivan. “Trump in Texas: 'We are a dumping ground for the rest of the world.'” The New York Times. September 14, 2015.)

The subject of illegal immigration has made Donald Trump a sharply polarizing figure in the 2016 White House race. His immigration plans have drawn intense criticism from Democrats and some Republicans.

After Trump's divisive comments about immigration,Vice President Joe Biden spoke to a Latino group saying that Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans were taking pages from an old playbook that always fails.

“This will pass,” Vice President Biden said. This “sick message” has been tried on America before, and we always — “always, always, always, always” — overcome it.

Yet, Trump has caused Lawrence Downes, American journalist and member of the editorial board of The New York Times, to say ...

“The Trump effect leads to a question I’ve been pondering. Is politics like physics, where adding gas to a container creates pressure and heat? If you keep pumping inflammatory speech into the public discourse, do you eventually get ignition?”

(Lawrence Downes. “The Real Danger of Donald Trump.” The New York Times. September 16, 2015.)

Downes reminds us all that “the garbage” to which Trump was referring is “the same kind of people we describe more poetically on a plaque at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.”

Statue of Liberty Inscription – “The New Colossus”

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!"
cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

—Emma Lazarus, 1883

Yes, almost all of us 21st century Americans are the offspring of immigrants who entered the United States seeking a new home, a land of freedom and justice where they could live out their plans and their dreams.

And, yes, those “huddled masses” were largely the “wretched refuse” of other teeming shores. This is a birthright we must never forget. It involves a sacred obligation -- To uplift our national diversity and to insure America will always remain open to those who seek asylum from tyranny and other life-threatening hardships. This moral imperative must never end.

Perhaps Donald Trump sees the “golden door” as a entry restricted only to those who fit his judgmental ideals. Unlike Trump, poet Emma Larazus understood that tired, poor immigrants – people of all kinds under every imaginable oppression – deserve a place in this great country. Yet, Trump's derisive cry of an American “dumping ground” diminishes all Americans. It reduces each and every one of us to a place in a trash heap. This is not my vision of America, of myself, of my loved ones, or of the millions of others in my beloved country.

Or, perhaps, Trump wishes to establish some vision of his own “storied pomp.” He certainly is quick to judge others when they conflict with his “great” plans. It is not a form of humorous sarcasm or a win against political correctness when he belittles others and seeks a hierarchy for fair treatment. Such tyranny is the very reason colonial Americans revolted against injustices and established a nation emblematic of the torch of liberty.

America is neither a dumping ground of immigrants nor an enclosure behind a wall. We all know this. Even Donald Trump knows this. So, I ask you why is Trump more concerned about his vision of greatness than he is about the truth? We are a nation composed of many different types of people with many different beliefs … but we have one common commitment that must stand alone in a world of war and strife. Emma Lazarus said it best over 130 years ago …

"Give me your tired, your
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Hillary Clinton: Her Long List of Honors and Awards of Distinction


I find it very hard to swallow the cries of degradation toward President Candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. When people call her “Lying Hillary” or “Kill-ery” for her part in the Benghazi tragedy and the e-mail fiasco, I think about her exemplary life of public service. She has been a shining example of action for positive policy and for change for so many decades. To understand Hillary Clinton, one must consider the volume of her work and not merely point to a few questionable decisions – not only is this unfair, but also it is an unjust measure of this history-making woman.

Hillary Clinton's life has been well-documented and her biography is open for anyone to peruse. I want to write a blog entry today that employs Wikipedia to invite the American public to view some of the honors and awards she has earned over her long service to the United States. I know of no woman more qualified and more deserving of being President of the U.S. than Hillary Clinton. My view is based on facts, not upon mere opinion.

The reader can either choose to ignore this entry as propaganda that supports someone undeserving of the office, or the reader can take ten minutes to read these amazing accomplishments. Quite frankly, I find it phenomenal that Hillary Clinton has been recognized for so many achievements in so many fields. Yep, the list is long, but consider her outstanding career. Will you read it? Please.

In my mind, voting for Donald Trump because you trust him more or because you think Hillary is a “bad person” is a mistake. I think Hillary Clinton is the best choice for president by far. I wonder if you will read this entire list – both supporters and Hillary haters? It just may solidify your vote. It may also allow you to appreciate the industry and value of one of the most successful women in American history.
Hillary Clinton: Honors and Awards

While First Lady of Arkansas

  • In 1983, Clinton was named Arkansas Woman of the Year by the Arkansas Democrat.
  • In 1983, Clinton was named Headliner of the Year by the Arkansas Press Association.
  • Around 1983 or 1984, Hillary and Bill Clinton were named Public Citizens of the Year by the Arkansas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
  • In 1984, Clinton was named Arkansas (Young) Mother of the Year by the Arkansas Association of American Mothers.
  • In the mid-1980s, Clinton was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
  • In 1988 and 1991, Clinton was named by National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America.

While First Lady of the United States

  • In May 1993, Clinton received an honorary doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania
  • In 1994, Clinton received the Living Legacy Award from the Women's International Center, in recognition of "her vast contributions in so many fields, especially honoring her work for women and children."
  • In 1995, the New York University Annual Survey of American Law dedicated its 52nd volume to Clinton. Each spring since 1942 the NYU Annual Survey has dedicated a volume to a preeminent attorney. On hand to honor Clinton were Former Secretary of the Treasury and United States Senator Lloyd M. Bentsen, Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, United States Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, and Unites States Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
  • In June 1995, Mount Saint Vincent University awarded Clinton an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
  • In 1997, Clinton won the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for It Takes a Village.
  • In 1997, Clinton was given the Lincoln Medal from the Ford's Theatre Society, presented annually to "individuals who, through their body of work, accomplishments or personal attributes, exemplify the lasting legacy, and mettle of character embodied by" Abraham Lincoln.
  • In May 1998, Clinton received the United Arab Emirates Health Foundation Prize for her work in health and social welfare, especially as it related to women, children, and families.
  • In April 1999, Clinton was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Children of Chernobyl Relief Fund for her support of that Ukrainian organization’s efforts regarding legacy effects of the Chernobyl accident.
  • In June 1999, Clinton received the Mother Teresa Award, the highest honor given to civilians by Albania. This was in recognition of her humanitarian efforts following the Kosovo War and worldwide.

While United States Senator from New York

  • On March 26, 2004, Clinton was presented with the inaugural Nursing Health and Humanity Award from the University of Rochester School of Nursing.
  • On August 26, 2004, Clinton was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws (LLD) by the University of Ulster.
  • On February 13, 2005, Clinton was awarded the German Media Prize 2004. "Hillary Clinton is a model politician for millions of women around the world" who "represents in an exemplary way women's rights", the jury for the prize said.
  • On February 15, 2005, Clinton was given the American Medical Women's Association's President’s Vision & Voice Award, for being an advocate for women's health and related issues.[
  • In May 2005, Clinton received an honorary doctorate from Agnes Scott College near Atlanta for being a "defender of human rights" and "a resolute defender of the rights of women and girls."
  • On July 30, 2005, Clinton was given the Reserve Officers Association's National President's Award.
  • In September 2005, Clinton initially accepted but later rejected honorary membership into Alpha Kappa Alpha due to its exclusive requirements which would prevent her from accepting honorary membership in other National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations.
  • On October 9, 2005, Clinton was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
  • In April 2006, Clinton was honored with the Remembrance Award from the Northeastern New York Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
  • On June 14, 2006, Clinton received an Energy Leadership Award from the United State's Energy Association's Energy Efficiency Forum, in recognition of her leadership on energy issues.
  • During 2007, Clinton was awarded an honorary doctorate in medicine by the University of Gothenburg for being a strong advocate for increased investment in medical research" and for "raising awareness of the increased health problems linked to obesity, poor quality food and physical inactivity."
  • Senator Clinton was named Person of the Year in 2007 by Irish America magazine.
  • For 2008, Clinton was named NY1's (cable) “New Yorker of the Year.”
  • On January 17, 2009, Senator Clinton received the Salute to Greatness Award from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

While United States Secretary of State

  • Newsweek ranked her as the 13th most powerful person on the planet, and the most powerful American woman, in its "Global Elite" for 2009.
  • In 2009, Clinton received the Global Trailblazer award from Vital Voices Global Partnership, for "her passionate commitment to promoting women's rights and securing justice for all people around the world."
  • On March 27, 2009, Clinton received the Margaret Sanger Award from the Planned Parenhood Federation of America, which the organization says "recognize[s] leadership, excellence, and outstanding contributions to the reproductive health and rights movement."
  • On May 13, 2009, Clinton received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from New York University and spoke at their 177th commencement at new Yankee Stadium.
  • On May 18, 2009, Clinton received Barnard College's highest award, the Barnard Medal of Distinction, as she spoke at their commencement.
  • On May 25, 2009, Clinton received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Yale University, from whose law school she had graduated three dozen years earlier.
  • Also on May 25, 2009, Clinton received an award from the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, for "unprecedented steps taken in the right direction on Hellenic and Orthodox issues".
  • During 2009, Clinton received the Freedom Medal, part of the Four Freedoms Awards from the Roosevelt Institute.
  • On October 5, 2010, Secretary Clinton was given the George McGovern Leadership Award by the World Food Programme, for "her commitment and visionary approach to ending global hunger."
  • On April 15, 2011, Clinton received the Walther-Rathenau-Preis in Berlin "for outstanding contributions to international understanding and cooperation.”
  • On June 2, 2011, Secretary Clinton was given the George C. Marshall Foundation Award for a career of distinguished public service, and in particular, "for her dignity and integrity of character, for her devotion to creating and perpetuating free and democratic institutions, and for promoting appropriate economic development that will allow them to flourish."
  • In March 2012, Arkansas' largest airport, in Little Rock, was renamed to Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field.
  • In April 2012, Clinton received a Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service.
  • On May 24, 2012, Clinton was given the Champions for Change Award for Leadership by the International Center for Research on Women, "in recognition of her long-standing dedication to empowering women and girls worldwide and ensuring their human rights."
  • In December 2012, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy's annual Saban Forum honored Clinton with a keynote speech introduced by an eight-minute video that featured several foreign leaders and considerable praise from Israeli leaders Benjamin Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni, Shimon Peres, and Ehud Barak.
  • In Belfast on December 8, 2012, Clinton was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Worldwide Ireland Funds, in recognition of her efforts for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland during her time as First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State.
  • On January 15, 2013, Clinton was awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor.

While private citizen

  • On February 14, 2013, two weeks after stepping down as Secretary of State, Clinton was given Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the highest Pentagon medal given to private citizens or politicians. Both Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta praised the unusually cooperative relationship the two departments had during Clinton's tenure.[
  • On May 8, 2013, Clinton was honored by the Pacific Council on International Policy with the inaugural Warren Christopher Public Service Award.
  • On July 8, 2013, the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children's Library and Learning Center was dedicated in Little Rock, having recently been named that by the Central Arkansas Library System.
  • On August 28, 2013, the British international affairs think tank Chatham House voted Clinton as the 2013 winner of the Chatham House Prize "in recognition of her personal leadership in driving a new era of US diplomatic engagement and for her particular focus on promoting education and rights for women and girls"
  • On September 10, 2013, the National Constitution Center awarded Clinton the 2013 Liberty Medal for her positions in public service and for her advocacy efforts towards more rights for women and girls worldwide.
  • On September 13, 2013, the University of St. Andrews conferred an honorary Doctor of Law degree onto her in recognition of her "roles as politician, diplomat and champion of education, human rights, democracy, civil society, and opportunities for women and girls around the world."
  • Beginning in February 2014, the annual Hillary Rodham Clinton Awards for Advancing Women in Peace and Security have been given by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, of which Clinton is the Honorary Founding Chair.
  • On May 3, 2014, Hillary Rodham Clinton received the Order of Lincoln, the highest award of the State of Illinois where she was born and raised.
  • On December 16, 2014, Clinton received a Ripple of Hope Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
  • In 2014, Clinton was named by Glamour magazine as one of "The 75 Most Important Women of the Past 75 Years."
  • On March 3, 2015, Clinton accepted the "We Are Emily" award from Emily's List.
  • On March 16, 2015, Clinton was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame.
  • On June 4, 2015, Clinton received the first Barbara Jordan Public-Private Leadership Award, named in honor of Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and given to "a deserving woman anywhere in the world who has made the highest achievement during the preceding year or years in any honorable field of human endeavor in the public or private sector."
  • On November 19, 2015, Clinton received the first Mario M. Cuomo Visionary Award.
  • In June 2016, a bust of Clinton was unveiled in the main square of the Albanian city Saranda.

Multiple instance honors

  • Clinton was named by Americans in Gallup's most admired man an woman poll as the woman around the world they most admired in 1993–94, 1997–2000, and 2002–15. The win in 2015 was her fourteenth in a row and twentieth overall. She has held the top spot in the poll longer than any other woman or man in Gallup's history of asking the most admired question.
  • Clinton has been ranked on their list of the world's most powerful people by Forbes magazine. She was listed as 5th most powerful in 2004,26th in 2005,18th in 2006, 28th in 2008, 36th in 2009, 2nd in 2011, 2nd in 2012, 5th in 2013, 6th in 2014, and 58th in 2015.
  • Clinton has been named ten times in Time magazine's “Time 100” as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Years this happened were 2004 (as part of The Clintons), 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016. In addition, in November 2010, Time named Clinton one of the 25 most powerful women of the past century.
  • Clinton has been named three times as Barbara Walters' “Most Fascinating Person” of the year (in 1993, 2003, and 2013).



  • "Clinton to NYU Class of 2009: 'This is Your Moment'". NYU Today (New York University). June 8, 2009.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

You Think Michelle Obama Shouldn't Say, "A House Built By Slaves"?


After Michelle Obama gave a tremendously inspiring speech to the Democratic National Convention Monday night (July 25, 2016), she has been met with great disbelief and even scorn for citing a little-discussed fact that dramatized her unique African-American family’s place in history. Here is the context and the quote that so many are holding up to scrutiny:

"That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves -- and I watch my daughters –- two beautiful, intelligent, black young women –- playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters –- and all our sons and daughters -– now take for granted that a woman can be President of the United States." 

Some said the First Lady's choice to mention this fact amounted to an attempt to divide the country along racial lines. I guess these people think by saying “the White House was built by slaves,” they contend Michelle Obama meant slaves, alone, did all the construction. As you can clearly see in the citation above, she did not say that.

First of all, let's establish the facts.

1. Yes, the White House had been built by slaves.

“There is little dispute among historians that slaves had a role in the building of the White House. According to the White House Historical Association’s website, planners had initially intended to import workers from Europe but had trouble recruiting any, so they 'turned to African-American — enslaved and free — to provide the bulk of labor that built the White House, the United States Capitol, and other early government buildings.'

“The association said slaves had worked at the government’s quarry in Aquia, Va., to cut the stone for the walls of the White House. The construction team included white laborers from Maryland and Virginia and immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and other parts of Europe, the association said.

“Jesse Holland, a Washington-based journalist who wrote The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House, said that most people never thought about how the president’s house and other important government buildings had been constructed, but that historians had long acknowledged the role of slaves.”

(Julie Hirschfeld Davis. “Yes, Slaves Did Help Build the White House.” The New York Times. July 26, 2016.)

“If you think about it, it would be pretty obvious: The White House is a neo-Classical mansion that was built in the South during slavery, and a majority of the mansions that were built in the South during slavery used slaves,” Mr. Holland said in an interview.

2. When she used the White House in her speech as symbolic of a noble structure and of an ideal democracy, Michelle Obama also pointed to the changes in the official residence and workplace of the President of the United States – changes in the beliefs and changes in the policies of its inhabitants. 
In 2016, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Malia and Sasha are the first Afro-American residents of the White House. The historical significance of this achievement must not be forgotten. Why?

Actually, three Southerners – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison – were most instrumental in locating the national capital, Washington, DC, in slave territory. The first capital in New York City, a free state, then moved to Philadelphia. Yet, in Philadelphia a slave-owner could only keep a slave for six months before freeing him, unless he was temporarily sent into slave territory, which was inconvenient to the owner. So the fathers set aside land around a slave town, Alexandria, Virginia, to be the capital of the new nation.

Most of the "founding fathers" were slaveholders and rich plantation owners including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Paine, John Hancock and James Madison to name a few. Plantation owning and slave owning went hand in hand. The biggest challenge the founders failed to confront was the existence of slavery on American soil.
The most radical proposal in the early days of the republic was to ship slaves and other blacks back to Africa. Jefferson, himself, believed that blacks would eventually have to be removed from the U.S. or else whites would live in perpetual dread that the slaves would rise up in rebellion. Such fears prompted a later president, James Monroe, to support the creation of the American Colonization Society (founded 1816-1817). 

(“Thomas Jefferson And Other Presidents Who Owned Slaves.” Journal of American History. October 12, 2014.)

Twelve American presidents have owned slaves and eight of them owned slaves while serving as president.

Following is the number of slaves each of the 12 slave-holding presidents owned. (CAPS indicate the president owned slaves while serving as the chief executive):
-GEORGE WASHINGTON (between 250-350 slaves)
-JAMES MADISON (more than 100)
-JAMES MONROE (about 75)
-ANDREW JACKSON (fewer than 200)
-Martin Van Buren (one)
-William Henry Harrison (eleven)
-JOHN TYLER (about 70)
-JAMES POLK (about 25)
-ZACHARY TAYLOR (fewer than 150)
-Andrew Johnson (probably eight)
-Ulysses S. Grant (probably five)
(Rob Lopresti. “Slaveholding Presidents.” White House Historical Association. Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. Grand Valley University. 2016.)

Yes, the irony of Ulysses S. Grant owning slaves must be noted. Grant actually owned a slave named William Jones, whom he freed in 1859. Between 1854 and 1859 Grant worked and lived on an 850-acre farm in Missouri, near St. Louis, that was owned by his father-in-law. Grant’s wife, Julia, also owned slaves, and during Grant’s management of the farm he worked along with one of them, a man named Dan.  

(Brooks Jackson. “Slavery at White Haven. National Park Service Web site.

I contend that First Lady Michelle Obama understands the meaning of waking up in a house that was built by slaves like no other wife and mother in the history of America. Her understanding of that house and its construction in clear. It is a house constructed by slaves.

But, even more importantly, her comprehension of American history and her understanding of an incomplete commitment of the government to liberty, freedom, and justice is accurate. Michelle Obama, like no other female, understands just how far the country has come since the days of Washington, Jefferson, Taylor, and Grant – those among the American presidents who owned slaves while living in the United States and while serving as the chief executive.

How can anyone question Mrs. Obama's judgment or call her invocation of the slaves who built the White House “playing the race card” as an attempt to divide the country? The twelve slave-holding presidents “built” the symbolic foundation for the once-prejudiced White House without even laying a brick or pounding a nail. They willingly propagated slavery in the United States of America for well over 100 years.

Now, I know this all has changed, and I understand that many would prefer to bury the significance of this wicked bondage and servitude. But, we should not cover it up. In fact, we must be sure future generations know the real chronicle of our past. We would do well to listen carefully to Michelle Obama and walk the proverbial “mile in her shoes.” In a nation that seems willing to support politics over substance, our children and grandchildren are confronted daily by those who wish to use falsehoods and half-truths to gain power, position, and prestige.

The "house" of America must be kept in order, never again to be occupied by those who would enslave others. Bondage today is concealed by a cloak of deception founded in ignorance. Our nation will never reach its lofty ideals until we realize that an evil master can and will use everything in his toolbox of dirty tricks to oppress those who remain uniformed and misinformed. People who refuse to research the facts and reach logical conclusions will be reduced to slaves, even in the land of the free. There are plenty of slave-holding leaders ready to turn back time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Benghazi Mother and Sister: "Stop Trump Blaming Hillary Clinton"


"I know for certain that Chris would not have wanted his name or memory used in that connection. I hope that there will be an 
immediate and permanent stop to this opportunistic and cynical 
use by the campaign.” 

 --Mary F. Commanday, The New York Times

Mrs. Commanday, the mother of slain U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, is calling on Donald Trump's campaign and the Republican Party to stop using her son's name and death in Benghazi as fodder for political attacks.

In addition, Dr. Anne Stevens, the sister of Ambassador Stevens and the chief of pediatric rheumatology at Seattle Children’s Hospital, believes using Chris’s death as a political point is not appropriate. She said …

"It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is underbudgeted.

“I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.

(Robin Wright. “Chris Stevens’s Family: Don’t Blame Hillary Clinton for Benghazi.”  The New Yorker. June 28, 2016.)

Dr. Stevens fondly recalled that her brother had been fascinated by the Middle East since childhood, when he dressed up as Lawrence of Arabia, with a towel and a pot atop his head. He served in the Peace Corps, in Morocco, before joining the Foreign Service, and he served twice in Libya before his final posting there, as well as in Damascus, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. 

When asked what she thought about Secretary Clinton's conduct on Benghazi, Stevens said ...

“She (Clinton) has taken full responsibility, being head of the State Department, for what occurred. She took measures to respond to the review board’s recommendations. She established programs for a better security system. But it is never going to be perfect. Part of being a diplomat is being out in the community. We all recognize that there’s a risk in serving in a dangerous environment. Chris thought that was very important, and he probably would have done it again. I don’t see any usefulness in continuing to criticize her. It is very unjust.... 

“I know he (Christopher Stevens) had a lot of respect for Secretary Clinton. He admired her ability to intensely read the issues and understand the whole picture.”

The New Yorker reported that some Republicans, including senators John McCain and Mitch McConnell, supported U.S. action to help the Libyan rebels, and that would also have meant dropping the Benghazi investigation once it became clear that there wasn’t any evidence tying Clinton directly to security failures.

South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy and his colleagues in the House preferred to use the incident to “tar Hillary Clinton in 2016, rile up the G.O.P.’s base, and help the party to raise money even when it was obvious that they didn’t have the goods.” It was mudslinging which caused John Cassidy, staff writer at The New Yorker to conclude ...

“Most ordinary Americans, after following the hearings online or watching the coverage on the evening news, will have been wondering what all the fuss was about. Setting aside the basest form of partisan politics, the answer was not very much at all.”

(John Cassidy. “Where the Benghazi Committee Went Wrong.”  
The New Yorker. October 22, 2015.) 
The truth of Benghazi is this:

FALSE: Administration officials watched the attacks unfold in real time but did nothing to intervene.

The audio feed of the attack was being monitored in real time in Washington by diplomatic security official Charlene Lamb. CBS News learned that video of the assault was recovered 20 days later from the more than 10 security cameras at the compound.
FALSE: Requests issued by U.S. personnel for military back-up during the attacks were denied.

The White House flatly denied that President Barack Obama withheld requests for help from the besieged American compound in Benghazi, Libya, as it came under on attack by suspected terrorists on September 11th. "Neither the president nor anyone in the White House denied any requests for assistance in Benghazi," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor [said].

And the CIA has denied that anyone in its chain of command rejected requests for help from the besieged Americans.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, asked why there had not been a quicker, more forceful response to the assault, complained of "Monday-morning quarterbacking." Panetta said he and top military commanders had judged it too dangerous to send troops to the eastern Libyan city without a clearer picture of events on the ground.

FALSE: The body of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens was "dragged through the street" following the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

Stevens' body was not dragged through the street, at least not in the degrading way some suggest, multiple accounts and three official reviews make clear.

"Local Libyans found the Ambassador at the Mission Facility and brought him to a local hospital. Despite attempts to revive him, Ambassador Stevens had no heartbeat and had perished from smoke inhalation."

Two other government bodies said much the same thing. An Accountability Review Board, headed by former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen and veteran diplomat Thomas Pickering, declared that Stevens was brought to the hospital by six civilians. "To the best knowledge of the Board these were ‘good Samaritans’ among the hordes of looters and bystanders," the review concluded.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – controlled by Republicans -- reported that "local Libyans found the remains of Ambassador Stevens in the main diplomatic building at the Benghazi Mission and transported him to the hospital. The Libyans apparently did not realize who the Ambassador was, but they alerted the State Department of his location by using the cell phone that was in the Ambassador’s pocket. Libyan doctors tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate Ambassador Stevens upon his arrival at the hospital."

(Jon Greenberg. “Laura Ingraham: U.S. ambassador 'was dragged through the street' in Benghazi.” May 05, 2014.)

The House Republicans final report on Benghazi contained no positive proof of Hillary Clinton's fault in the Benghazi tragedy, but the haters don't need “new” information or factual information to condemn wrongfully an opponent. They simply want to repeat the sick incantation of “Kill-ery” in hopes that a majority of the public will believe Clinton caused American officials' deaths.

Retired General Wesley K. Clark, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, praised the e-book, The Benghazi Hoax by David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt, explaining how the right-wing media turned a night of terror -- but also of valor -- into a phony scandal geared at damaging the Obama administration

Clark said, "David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt peel back layer after layer of partisan deceit to reveal the truth about Republican motives and methods in the aftermath of Benghazi - and in so doing offer a strong warning to America and our media to focus on the facts - not partisan rhetoric."

Democrats have noted, the Republican-run probes into Benghazi have gone on longer than did the inquiries into the Sept. 11, 2001, assault, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

With respect and honor to those who lost their lives, it is time people put the Benghazi controversy to rest. Ambassador Chris Stevens, information officer Sean Smith, and former navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty died in the service of their country on September 11, 2012. They gave the full measure of their devotion for freedom and liberty, not for political campaigns or partisan gain.

For her part, Hillary Clinton has admitted the tragedy occurred on her watch. We can also show reverence for the tremendous responsibility borne by an American Secretary of State, and we can refuse to condemn her for unfortunate circumstances beyond the reach of her control. I believe that regard is the duty of those in a nation that employs ambassadors of democracy serving in danger zones filled with constant risk. 

Ambassador Chris Stevens


Monday, July 25, 2016

Voices That Support Violence: Aggrandize and Blame "Those People"


The propensity of seemingly knowledgeable people to commit violent acts is appalling. Victimization of innocent people has created a present environment of fear in America – fear of terrorists, fear of criminals, and a general distrust of strangers. No doubt, victims of violence suffer tremendous physical injury and psychological distress. Bureau of Justice statistics (2014) reported , overall, 68% of victims of serious violence experienced socio-emotional problems as a result of their victimization.

"What's wrong with these people? Why is there 
so much violence in our world?"

It seems every day more and more violent tragedies sweep the nation, leaving in their wake a questioning nation asking “Why?” The roots of violence run deep and reach toward many directions. Still, although it may be impossible to determine exactly why people turn to violence to settle disputes, arguments, and simple concerns, Dr. Lisa Firestone – clinical psychologist, author, and the Director of Research and Education for the Glendon Association – has developed The Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts, a screening instrument to measure the "voices" that incite violence.

In her research, Firestone found that voices that contribute to violence include those that support social mistrust. She explains her belief …

“These paranoid, suspicious thoughts encourage people to assume a self-protective and defended posture from a perceived danger. Because the paranoia and misperception makes the threat seem real, people feel justified in acting out violence to protect themselves. The paranoia is supported by negative voices about other people being different, strange and bad. It is easier to hurt someone who is perceived as 'not like you.' These voices contribute to a person's suspicion and mistrust of the world at large. An example of these types of voices is: They are out to get you. Don't trust them.”

(Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. “The Inner Voices Behind Violent Behavior.”
Psychology Today. March 03, 2011.)

Other voices that lead to violence include the following:
  • Voices that support people feeling victimized and persecuted – supporting blame by others
  • Voices that are self-depreciating voices – supporting feelings of being unlovable
  • Voices that are self-aggrandizing – promoting a view that a person is superior to others and deserving to be treated as such
  • Voices that are overtly aggressive – encouraging taking violent action

It may be true that many risk factors for violence can't be changed, but Firestone says, “A person's thinking is a risk factor that can be. By monitoring the decrease in a person's violent thoughts during treatment, we are able to assess their improvement. Moreover, in offering violent people an understanding of the thoughts that underlie their tortured thinking, we are providing them with a means by which to take up arms against the voices that lure them into acts of violence.”

When do these voices reach a tipping point and act out with violence?

Dr. Kathryn Seifert -- an expert in the areas of violence, mental health, criminal justice and addictions – says, “Each factor of a person's life or make up can affect and be affected by another factor. When the accumulation of negative factors (such as maltreatment, chaotic neighborhoods, or psychological problems) and the absence of positive factors (such as opportunities to be successful, adults who provide encouragement, or a resilient temperament) reach a threshold, that's when violence is more likely to erupt as a means of coping with life's problems.”

(Kathryn Seifert, Ph.D. “Why Do People Resort To Violence?”  
Psychology Today. December 23, 2011.)

Violent tendencies often reveal themselves in childhood and continue to escalate as a person ages. At some point, dark forces become uncontrollable. Yet, Seifert believes that “sometimes the adjustment of a few factors such as establishing a close relationship with a supportive adult, receiving pro-social peer encouragement, or getting protection from a violent family, is what makes the difference between whether a person becomes a violent offender or a mentally-stable contributing member to society.”

I hear people complaining about social services and the money spent on programs to improve mental health and living conditions. I would much rather see taxpayer money put into expanding social programs that cut the need for large budgets for penal institutions and elaborate weaponry. We have a violence problem largely because the family unit ignores the demands of guiding children and monitoring their positive interpersonal growth. Abusive and indifferent environments breed violent individuals. We all – yes, even those with wonderful, loving, and non-violent families – must deal with this problem.

Isn't it evident that we should not victimize people, not shun those different from us, not preach that one segment of the population causes all the ills, and not encourage anyone to believe that violence is the answer to meeting violence? All good faiths and positive creeds preach equality, justice, and, above all, love. None acknowledge the acceptance of animal-like behaviors and violent actions.

However, just listen to the rhetoric of many leaders and spokespeople who actually encourage violence through their constant scapegoating and fear mongering. They do this in the name of security and protection, yet these smokescreens are nothing but excuses so that they do not have to face the real issue – cutting violence by reducing fear and distrust.

This can only be accomplished by “getting to know” our own people in an ever-changing society – all of them. Understanding differences among those with which we live and improving trust are tall orders. But once great efforts are expended, we can not only accurately expose problems but also work positively together to find solutions – solutions other than taking violent actions against each other.

If we conclude that violence is just genetic behavior, we commit the greatest injustice. We cannot afford to keep mouthing phrases like “bad guys are always going to be around” or “those people are worthless scum.” The refusal to better understand all environments that breed violence in order to effect needed change perpetrates a cycle of violence that will surely continue through countless future generations. America is only as good as its poorest ghettos and its worst hovels of rural poverty.

Voices that blame, attack, humiliate, and promote isolation may sound as if they are justified in their “Make America Great” bluster. But, the emotions these voices seek to ignite are filled with revenge, distrust, and violence. The voices that have healed our nation have used words of reason and understanding to speak out against inhumanity, not to encourage division and strife. We need leaders with such voices and such visions now in these very violent times.

"Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars... Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

--Martin Luther King, Jr.