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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Radical Terrorist Ban or Selective Entry? Trump's "Good" and "Bad" List


According to statistics by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute, not a single American was killed on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015 by citizens from any of the countries on President Trump's recent Muslim ban.

President Trump has signed an executive order that effectively bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for at least 90 days. The executive order, signed at the Pentagon, suspends the issuing of U.S. visas or travel permits to people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

When President Trump was running for election, he called for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States, barring followers of the world’s fastest-growing religion because he considers the faith rooted in hatred and violence.

Now, Trump signed the order and pledged to "keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America." He continued to say the order will help “insure we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas.”

This order has caused confusion as people are being detained at airports in the country. The administration evidently did not issue guidance to airports and airlines on how to implement the executive order. "Nobody has any idea what is going on," a senior Homeland Security official told NBC News.

(Eoghan Macguire, Ali Gostanian and Erik Ortiz. “Trump Travel Restrictions Leave Refugees Stranded: Reports.” NBC News. January 28, 2017.)

In his brief remarks while signing the executive order on January 28, Trump maintained the order isn't a "Muslim ban." He said, “It’s working out very nicely. We’re going to have a strict ban, and we’re going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years.”
Trump claimed before signing the order that the “new vetting measures” will make it much harder for terrorists to enter the country.

“We don’t want them here,” he said. “We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.” 

(Doug Stanglin and Alan Gomez. “Trump says immigration ban working 'nicely’ as protests, detainments hit airports.” USA TODAY. January 28, 2017.)

However …

Some Muslim countries were spared from the order's blacklist, even though they have deep-seated ties to terrorism. And, guess what? President Trump doesn't hold any business interests in any of the countries on the list, but holds major stakes in several of those excluded from it, records show.

(Chris Sommerfeldt. “President Trump's Muslim ban excludes countries linked to his sprawling business empire.” New York Daily News. January 28, 2017.)

Cato reported that nearly 3,000 Americans were killed by citizens from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey in the same time period — with the bulk of those killed being victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Trump’s huge business empire – an empire of which he still holds ownership – holds multi-million dollar licensing and development deals in all of those countries. Of course, this ownership has raised potential conflict of interest concerns and questions over what actually went into the decision process behind the executive order.

(Doug Stanglin and Alan Gomez. “Trump says immigration ban working 'nicely’ as protests, detainments hit airports.” USA TODAY. January 28, 2017.)

Please read the entire detailed report of the holdings and terrorist acts here:

Looking Through Alternate Truths

The legality of Trump's order will not be clear until it's argued in federal court – probably very soon. It appears he wants to prioritize the immigration of persecuted Christians over Muslims. This is an additional problem because nothing in our law justifies banning or elevating an entire religion. And, of course nothing justifies banning an entire nationality. One problem is evident – Trump will have to answer how he can say that all of Syria is detrimental. Here comes a wave of litigation.

Who can deny that President Trump's delineation of friends and foes is suspect? Is America now a country that protects his contributors at the expense of others that he, not the government, judges unworthy? After all, he supports his comments and judgments with alternate facts, and he appears devoted to himself, above all. Perhaps the president wants only those here who support him and his followers.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017 -- Crime Cripples Scioto


2017 – the new year has just begun and a continual flood of bad news washes over the area. It seems that every day we awaken to news of a deadly assault, a missing person, an overdose, a drug bust, or a shooting. Headlines tell us about drug busts, robberies, abuses against children, sexual crimes, and abductions. These crimes threaten all who live in our small, rural communities. Lately, the dangers make us question the quality of life we all share.

I remember when our county was simply better. Of course, Scioto has always suffered from its share of criminal activity. We have continually dealt with a segment of lawless individuals who have posed serious threats to our well-being. However, crooks now regularly forage and pillage without any restraint or concern for public safety. They are the horrible products of an addictive sickness that has infected the area, a sickness that puts all of us in present danger.

These days a mere handful of change can elicit a break-in, a physical attack, or a shooting. The need for a fix transforms residents of all ages into thugs – monstrous creatures who destroy their families, their friends, their neighbors, and eventually themselves. They are out of control because they ingest and inject poisons that eradicate their judgment and their sense of moral responsibility. They spend their time chasing a dragon that in its lascivious intoxication ravishes their brains.

Drug abuse inevitably invites involvement with the criminal element. Drugs offer escape and pleasure at a cost. The use of drugs leads many abusers to carry out use-related crimes – offenses they commit because of the effects drugs have on their thought processes and behavior.

Although no one intends to become hooked on powerful drugs, even experimentation and occasional use of some substances can lead to dependency and addiction. Life for an addict becomes a nightmare of seeking immediate gratification. Their brain chemistry becomes altered to perpetuate additional use. As addicts find themselves needing higher and higher doses to achieve a high, they require more money for their fix.

Most addicts soon find that they are unable to hold regular jobs, so they seek money from other means to fund their increasing dependency. Many begin to commit economic-related crimes to fund their habits. These addicts routinely turn to robbery and prostitution for income.

And, of course, other addicts commit system-related crimes: Crimes that result from the structure of the drug system. They include production, manufacture, transportation, and sale of drugs, as well as violence related to the production or sale of drugs, such as turf wars.

Who is at most risk for becoming a drug criminal? Lifestyle choices, environmental factors, as well as genetic determinants factor into who will abuse drugs as well as who will commit crime. Drug abusers typically experience various cognitive variables such as poor decision making, high risk taking, and lack of self control. Some of these drug users experience feelings of invincibility, which can become particularly pronounced with abuse. As drugs take over their lives, these addicts eventually become oblivious to the consequences of committing crimes, even serious offenses.

No one can argue that the depressed environment greatly contributed to Scioto County becoming the epicenter of the prescription drug abuse epidemic. Yet, in a “chicken-or-the-egg” debate, it is unclear just how much the criminal element contributed to substance abuse and how much substance abuse contributed to the criminal element. With greedy doctors in ten pill mills writing prescription after prescription for addictive opioids and dealers from all over the country using this supply, it is no wonder we are still in a cycle of drug activity and related crime.

I, like most area residents, hate the seemingly never-ending situation. I abhor drug dealers and drug-influenced crime. Whether use-related, economic-related, or system-related, this illegal activity negatively affects the quality of life for all of us here. It damages our loved ones and leaves scores of innocent victims in its wake. I realize there is a complex interaction of negative elements at play.

We look back at a past when our area was in its heyday. How we long for those old times. Then, we realize that those days will never come back. So, we dream of a better existence – a county revived with economic stimulus and proud, industrious residents. Yet, in truth, we doubt that such a restoration is possible. Terminal depression and a diseased population drain the confidence of those on every road and street of the county. And, of course, hedonism, ignorance, mental illness, and lack of moral character erode the will power of those struggling mightily to get by.

Perhaps my view is too pessimistic. But … I'm sick of the crime. I'm tired of the addiction. I'm upset that despite the best efforts of so many our area is suffering so much. We live in a beautiful physical environment with a relatively low cost of living populated by so many wonderful residents. Why must health concerns and drug crimes plague us?

Sociologists and criminologists have a field day explaining all the negative influences that contribute to drug abuse and addiction. God knows we have them here in spades. But, it's time to stop giving excuses for consuming drugs and understand that substances weaken character which, in turn, weakens will power and judgment, which in turn, leads to criminal behavior. Until the need for instant gratification and the widespread acceptance of using drugs like meth, prescription opioids, and heroin are negated, we will see our county riddled by criminals.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What Is Liberty? The Positive and Negative Promise of Independence


With liberty and justice for all”

These words from the Pledge of Allegiance affirm the golden promise of the republic. Liberty – it is the same word bequeathed to the mighty woman in New York Harbor, the Mother of Exiles who lifts her lamp of freedom for the homeless and the tempest tossed of the world. The statue and the word represent an ideal concept of free choice rooted in the guaranteed rights and privileges of Americans.

Yet, what is this most precious gift of independence? What is the distinct meaning of the word that represents the core of social, political, and economic rights and privileges in the United States? What is liberty?

As inhabitants of a country founded on democratic principles, all Americans champion the concept of something commonly known as “liberty” and uphold its virtue akin to freedom, but it is safe to say that the majority of "freedom-loving" Americans don't actually understand the meaning of liberty at all. Their homage to the concept is little more than a general understanding and lip service to a rather vague notion.

While holding the concept of liberty so precious, Americans often mistakenly believe personal privileges afforded by their citizenship are simply unfettered, fundamental rights of human nature. And, they consider any intrusion of personal belief as an attack upon these precious gifts. Thus, they often perceive any limitation by a government or any other power as injurious to their American birthright. However, the practicality of applying liberty to a society is much more complicated.

Defining American Liberty

To better understand liberty, one may consider its “negative” and “positive” qualilties. This idea was proposed by Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), Russian-British social theorist and philosopher, in the essay “Two Concepts of Liberty” in 1958.

(Isaiah Berlin. "Two Concepts of Liberty." In Isaiah Berlin Four Essays on Liberty. 1969.)


(a) Negative – “freedom from” and the absence of external limits

"I am slave to no man."

Negative liberty is the freedom from interference by other people. It is primarily concerned with freedom from external restraints or obstacles. One possesses negative liberty if he is not enslaved by external forces and has equal access to a society's resources. No law has restricted the exercise of these liberties. Negative liberty is an “opportunity” concept.

According to Berlin,"Liberty in the negative sense involves an answer to the question: 'What is the area within which the subject – a person or group of persons – is or should be left to do or be what he is able to do or be, without interference by other persons.'"

(b) Positive – “capacity to” and the absence of internal limits

"I am my own master."

Positive liberty is the possession of the capacity to act upon one's free will. The concepts of structure and agency are central to the concept of positive liberty because in order to be free, people should be free from inhibitions of the social structure in carrying out their free will. It is primarily concerned with the possession of sociological agency, and it is enhanced by the ability of citizens to participate in government and have their voices, interests, and concerns recognized and acted upon.

Positive liberty is an "exercise-concept": possessing it might mean that one is not internally constrained; one must be able to act according to his highest self according to reason. In this sense, positive liberty is the possession of the capacity to act upon one's free will in such a way as to take control of one's life and realize one's fundamental purposes.

Aaron Ross Powell, Cato Institute research fellow and founder and editor of, offers this useful explanation to distinguish negative liberty from positive liberty ...

Let’s look at an example. Jack’s living in New York. He’d like go to California to visit family. Under a negative conception of liberty, Jack is free to go to California if nobody is actively preventing him from doing so. Thus his negative freedom would be violated if his neighbor locked Jack in the basement, or if someone stole his car.

But what if Jack’s so poor that he can’t afford a car or a plane ticket? What if Jack is sick and so not physically up to the trip? In these instances, no person prevents Jack from going to California, so Jack’s negative liberty remains intact. Yet he lacks the capacity to fulfill his desire and so, from a positive liberty standpoint, he is unfree.

Within the context of political philosophy – within the context of what the state is permitted to do and what it ought to do – a government protects Jack’s negative liberty by preventing the neighbor from locking Jack up and preventing the thief from stealing Jack’s car. If the state is unable to prevent these specific acts, it may punish the perpetrators, thus (we hope) reducing the likelihood of other, similar liberties violations. In addition to – or instead of – punishing violations, the state might force the violator to compensate Jack, striving to make him whole.

On the other hand, a state tasked with directly promoting Jack’s positive liberty might tax its citizens in order to buy Jack the car he couldn’t otherwise afford. Or it might use that revenue to pay for the medical care Jack needs to get back on his feet so he can travel. A positive liberty focused state would take active steps to assure Jack isn’t just free to pursue his desires, but also has the resources to attain them.”

(Aaron Ross Powell. “What Are Negative and Positive Liberty? And Why Does It Matter?” December 20, 2012.)

No wonder few people understand liberty. It involves a critical relationship of internal and external elements. Like most beautiful and enduring works, liberty is formed from a pure, simplistic idea with a very complex design.

While negative liberty is based on opportunity, positive liberty is based on exercise. If opportunity is lacking, liberty suffers and if the free will stagnates, liberty dies.

So, liberty is not absolute in that it lives through “give and take.” The individual finds his liberty in an American society free of enslaving obstacles yet dependent upon his own actions. So, personal liberty in America involves a dual reliance – a reliance upon society and a reliance upon the self. The true libertarian recognizes liberty and obligation. 
From a positive perspective, negative liberty can be meaningless. If a person is constrained by poverty or ignorance, he is still free in the negative sense. However, that person is enslaved in the bounds of societal inequality. What good is choice if choice is not there? A just society must allow citizens to become “their own masters.” The “freedom from” external interferences must be balanced with the “capacity to” take control.

Oh, how these two concepts of liberty would compliment each other if only people employed both good conscience and excellent judgment. These things would justify the belief that no one should tell a person what to think or to do while also accepting the precepts of moral obligations. How sad liberty is frequently mistaken for reckless abandon. In truth, it must be carefully measured in the hands of educated and responsible citizens if it is to be preserved.

Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.” 

Alexander Hamilton