Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Health Care Insurance History

When it comes to questions about the history of health care insurance, it’s always helpful to have an expert in the family. Not a doctor, nurse, or insurance agent (I know quite a few of the latter, though). No, the most helpful person is a member of the Greatest Generation - in this case, Mom. Who better to ask about how we got into this mess than someone who remembers the days before health care insurance (and whose father’s half-cousin helped institute Social Security…).

The mania for health care insurance began at the start of World War II and even before. Great Britain was asking America for help in manufacturing arms and munitions. Bullets, guns, tanks, jeeps, rifles. As American men were being prepared to ship out to war, there were fewer workers to produce the necessary armament. Churchill wondered at America’s hesitance in entering the war. From the perspective of manufacturing, had America sent soldiers sooner, she would have been sending soldiers with no guns.

As our GIs went off to battle Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito, everyone else was enlisted in manufacturing. Factories were doing everything they could to attract workers. One of the carrots happened to be health care insurance. Initially, companies offered hospitalization and catastrophic illness and that was it. Well, that should have been it.

In order to entice more workers and satisfy unions, companies started piling on the benes. They started covering doctor’s office visits, prescriptions, vaccinations. Your company could be counted on the take care of you from cradle to grave.

By the Sixties, the Liberals wanted a piece of the action. If companies could attract workers with health care benefits, why couldn’t the Liberals attract voters with the same benefits. That’s when Medicaid and Medicare were born. If your company couldn’t cover the grave end of your life, the government would. Who knew then that the Liberals were planning the demise of Capitalism? Older adults from the Roosevelt Era knew, but this was the Sixties, and the motto was “Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30.”

Neither companies nor the government could underwrite everyone for everything from cradle to grave. Most companies executives are pretty short-sighted though (Liberal bureaucrats even more so) and were content to let it be the problem of some executive in the future.

Now the piper wants to be paid and there’s nothing to pay him with. Social Security is a bust. There’s nothing in the Social Security vault but IOUs. Medicaid was, mercifully, dispatched but we still have Medicare and an onerous financial burden it is, to go hand in hand with the Social Security pyramid scheme (our family ancestor knew that it was really only meant to be temporary).

We bloggers are not professional historians, it is true. We’re not considered professional writers, either (pardon me, but until the end of next month, I really am a professional writer. I get paid to write - for an insurance company, no less). But it would be nice if some professional pundit would take it upon him or herself to instruct Americans on the history of health care insurance and how we got tangled into this Gordian knot.

We would really like to know just why we can't return to the simple, good ole days of catastrophic illness and hospitalization insurance.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Looking for the Next Mohammed Atta

Perusing this week’s headlines, it’s obvious we’re back to a pre-9/11 mentality here in America. The Bergen Record has reported that the intelligence unit of the N.Y.P.D. conducted undercover operations in mosques in Newark, Paterson, and other cities, and had undercover at agents stationed at Rutgers University in Newark and New Brunswick.

Although organizations like CAIR and the ACLU are looking to sue the N.Y.P.D. for violation of American Muslim’s civil rights, the N.Y.P.D’s actions were, in fact, perfectly legal. According to the newspaper’s report, former N.J. Governor Richard Codey signed executive orders in 2005 giving the N.Y.D. legal authority to operate in New Jersey in limited circumstances with having to notify state or local authorities.

Former Gov. Thomas Kean, a member of the 9/11 Commission, accused the N.Y.P.D. of going on a “fishing expedition.” “You have to have reasonable grounds and suspicion to spy on people. We don’t like that in this country unless there is a good reason.”

Such as Iran’s recent threats to plow up synagogues and buildings in New York City, for which New York was placed on high alert. The Bergen Record admitted that “while it’s customary for out-of-area investigators to notify local authorities of their presence, it is not required.”

While Muslim organizations and civil liberties groups are upset, and Gov. Christie is worried about all those Muslim voters, particularly in south Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City, the Passaic County prosecutors office is less circumspect. Passaic County inadvertently played host to Mohammed Atta and other terrorists while he was preparing to carry out the 9/11 attacks. The prospect of yet another Mohammed Atta taking up residence in a New Jersey hotel, traveling up and down Rt. 23, visiting William Paterson University’s library, and being noticed by half the population of that area, yet unable to do anything about him, is unsettling to the Passaic County authorities.

Having the N.Y.P.D. come in and scope out the next Mohammed Atta relieves Passaic County of the onerous task and the attending unpopularity among Liberals and Moderates, criticism by the Media, and potential lawsuits by organizations with a vested interested in protecting their terrorist-oriented clientele.

Modest shopkeepers and the rarefied atmosphere of Liberal colleges provide a decent, sanctified cover for terrorists bent on murder and mayhem. From the outside, colleges look very innocent, whose purpose is higher education. A tour of any college’s student center tells a different story. Their bulletin boards are filled with invitations to meetings by the most notorious, anti-freedom organizations.

Some of us actually saw Mohammed Atta in his daily travels. Witnesses saw him at diners and gas stations. There was no mistaking him and once he’d committed the act of destroying one of the Twin Towers and his picture was published, there was no doubt he was the same man. Recognition came too late, though, for those were injured or perished in the Towers, the Pentagon and out in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Laughably, the Bergen Record attributed to Salim Patel, a founding member of Rutger’s Muslim Alumni Association, which is starting an online petition against the N.Y.P.D.s‘ surveillance, and the Passaic Board of Education, that universities should be “safe” for Muslim students.

The North Carolina school which Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was “safe” enough apparently. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were not safe enough. Some experts say all the fireproofing in the world would not have protected it from the heat of the ensuing fire which engulfed the North Tower after Mohammed Atta plowed a 737 jet through it. The fire was ignited at the North Carolina college and left to smolder until it exploded on September 11, 2001.

The N.Y.P.D. need make no apologies for sniffing out these future “arsonists” nor make any apologies for not informing authorities in the thoroughly untrustworthy state of New Jersey, which is far more concerned with the civil rights of Muslim terrorists, guaranteed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964/65, than the right to life guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Sign of the Tea Party

A few nights ago, having returned from his weekender to Europe and Greece, Glenn Beck lamented the fact that the Tea Party has no unifying symbol.  He said that local organizers were asking, in essence, “Who’s in charge?”  Who do we contact to join the club?

There are several organizations in contention for the privilege of being the clearinghouse organization.  Tea Party Patriots is one.  They may also have been the bunch that destroyed the online network that local Tea Parties were using to communicate with one another.  However, FreedomWorks has come forward to be that new connection and hopefully more trustworthy.  They’re one of Glenn Beck’s sponsors and they’re as good as any good group at helping get groups together.

Let us take a look at how the original Tea Party organized in Boston in December, 1773.  Their membership came from various rebellious, and often violent, groups in Boston which met as clubs in taverns, such as The Green Dragon.  Samuel Adams was the rabble-rouser who got them all together to throw the tea over the sides of the British ships.

They signed on to do the job, but they signed on in secrecy and anonymity.  No one would ever know their names, although of course, all of Boston knew their names.  They dressed up in various disguises.  Some historians hold that they dressed up as Indians; others, that they simply smeared soot, grease or lampblack on their faces and wore dark, ragged clothing.

A crowd was gathered up to create a disturbance in the streets to distract the British while they went on board the ships.  The Dartmouth, the Beaver and the Eleanor contained between them 342 chests of tea worth 18,000 English pounds.  The warning had gone out to all the seaports to not allow the ships to unload their cargo.  By law, the ships could not leave Boston harbor unless they did, or received permission from the governor.  The stage was set.

While Sam Adams was the organizer, Paul Revere was in the thick of things.  The raid was successful.  Benjamin Franklin and Congress were outraged.  Franklin felt freedom would come in the natural course of time.  The growing population of the Colonies would settle the matter.  Washington, while deploring the destruction of the tea and advising that reparations be made to the East India Company for their loss, he also welcomed the act as a decisive step towards eventual freedom.

Two centuries later, the Americans who came together for the Tea Parties, particular the April 15th Tea Party, were not rabble rousers.  Mostly, they were quiet suburbanites who had spent the last 40 years watching the rabble rousers stage violent demonstrations, increase the size of government, raise their property taxes to reward unionized teachers and other civil servants, destroy the banks, and give homes to people who couldn’t afford them.

The first Tea Parties, at the call of Rick Santelli on MSNBC, were worrisome affairs.  Those early Tea Partiers looked like rabble-rousers, running around aimlessly, shouting and waving their home-made signs.  Americans still at home liked the idea of taking a stand against a leviathan government from their own town squares.  They loved the signs; that was something they could do.  If only the rallies could be more organized.

First impressions die hard, and those images were the ones the Media froze before the nation’s eyes.  By the time April 15th arrived, Tea Parties had already been branded lunatics.  Organizing organizations came out of the woodwork to advise the Tea Parties.  Our local tea party in Morristown was a do-it-yourself group – a thousand do-it-yourselfers showed up at one organizing meetings.  Morristown had its act together.  It had an agenda, booths, speakers, and even a rough security plan to deal with problems.

Not surprisingly for a community group, they had some inner conflict.  Those issues were settled, though, and Morristown is going strong.  So is the North Jersey Regional Tea Party.  The members of both groups wanted to go beyond just holding signs at rallies, which was fair enough.  North Jersey is on the trail of Agenda 21.  Go, North Jersey!  More about Agenda 21 and the town of Pompton Lakes tomorrow.

There was some organization at the national level, but those nationalists found the going not all that easy.  Their meetings allowed leaders to connect and network.  When you get right down to it, it’s still about and will always be about the grassroots.  The work begins at home. 

Those international groups are to be admired for their spirit.  Seems everyone wants to be American.  That is, they want to embrace freedom and battle the foes of freedom.  You start by taking on your local politicians.   Gather your friends and family.  Then make friends with groups in other towns.  You can take some lessons from the territorial groups in New Jersey (some good, some bad).  Garden State tea parties are extremely territorial and jealous of one another.  There is some unification on the state level, but only among the leaders.

That territorialism may not do much for unifying a national tea party but it motivates the local members.  That fierce independence and rugged individualism means they abhor, above all other other things, collectivism.  The Tea Parties are okay with being friends, and even being united in cause, but they don’t want to be told what to do.  North Jersey doesn’t want to do rallies and that’s that (!).

If a group like FreedomWorks wants to help, let them create a forum through which Tea Parties all around the world can communicate with one another.  That’s how the New Jersey tea parties got started, through the Internet.  As the Garden Staters were discussing their plans, they found would-be Tea Partiers from other states joining in on the conversation, wondering how they could organize rallies and get in on the action.  (Wyoming Tea Partiers gently scolded the New Jerseyans for complaining about a 45 minute ride to Newark.  We told them if they ever saw Newark, they know why we didn’t want to hold a Tea Party there).

Create a forum for Tea Partiers from around the globe to network and they will come.

Glenn mentioned a unifying symbol.  Since there’s no national Tea Party organizational chart, no membership, no dues, making such a decision would be pretty difficult.  Someone can come up with a design and the groups will either accept it or they won’t.
Only a few symbols come to mind, and they’re all rather detailed for promotional purposes.  The teapot, the teacup, the teabag (and its banal associations), or some picture of the original Tea Party.  My suggestion would be a home-made looking sign that says, “The Tea Party”, like the signs that originally attracted ordinary Americans to the cause.  One designer makes it, copyrights it, and allows groups to sell it as “Tea” shirts, bumper stickers and so forth.  Someone has created a Tea Party bumper sticker, with a patriot on it, which is pretty neat.  So neat, in fact, that every time I go to the supermarket, some furious Liberal yanks it off.  Other designers have used the Liberty Bell.  Paul Revere, a silversmith, was known for the church bells he cast.

(That leads one to an idea regarding churches and religions under attack:  have a bell-ringing day.)

In the meantime, the international Tea Parties can go to FreedomWorks or Tea Party Patriots to get in touch with their American counterparts.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Devil is in the Details

If there’s any name that gets Liberals, Progressives, Atheists and the Mainstream Media in more of a tizzy than the name of Jesus, it’s the name of Satan.  He Who Shall Not Be Named has a lot of prenomens.

Beelzebub.  Belial.  Eblis.  Azazel.  Ahriman.  Angra.  Mainyu.  Mephistopheles.  Mephisto. Shaitan.  Sammael.  Asmodeus.   Abaddon.  Apollyon.  Lilith (Adam’s first wife).  Aesham.  Pisacha.  Putana.  Ravana.  Set.  Typhon.  Loki.  Nemesis.

Then there are the derogatory, slang terms.  Worried about the derogatory terms for certain minorities.  They are singular compared to the pejoratives for the Devil (most of them involving the word “Old”):

Lucfier.  .Old Clootie.  Old Bendy.  Old Gooseberry.  Old Harry.  Old Horny.  Old Ned.  Old Nick.  Old Poker.  Old Scratch.  The Common Enemy.  The Demon.  The Deuce.  The Devil Incarnate.  The Dickens.  The Evil One.  The Evil Spirit.  The Father of Lies.  The Fiend.  The Foul Fiend.  The Old Enemy.  The Old Gentleman.  The Old Serpent.  The Prince of the Devils.  The Prince of the Power of the Air.  The Prince of This World.  The Serpent.  The Tempter.  The Wicked One.

He had some predecessors in pagan religions:  Set.  Typhon.  Loki.  Baba Yaga.  Daeva.  Rakshasa.  Dybbuk.  Shedy.  Gyrie.  Even the word “genius” is an old word for a demon.

The Media, including the Drudge Report, is taking presidential candidate Rick Santorum to task for mentioning the Devil in a 2008 speech to students at Ave Maria University, a Catholic institution. 

According to the Drudge Report, “Satan has his sights on the United States of America!" Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has declared.

“Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition.”

Finally, Drudge gets around to reporting when the speech occurred:  “The former senator from Pennsylvania warned in 2008 how politics and government are falling to Satan.

“This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country - the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age?  He attacks all of us and he attacks all of our institutions.”

According to Drudge, Santorum made the “provocative” comments to students at Ave Maria University in Florida.

Yes, very provocative, daring to talk to theological students about Satan.  The Devil doesn’t take kindly to having his name bandied about, especially by fundamental Christians who are candidates for president.  He must have tweeted Drudge about the speech.  Only Old Nick’s (not to be confused with St. Nick) followers are allowed to mention his name.

In this politically correct, non-judgmental age, no politician worth their salt would mention either Jesus or the Devil in their campaign speeches.  Not if you want to get elected, campaign consultants would warn, wagging their fingers at erring candidates.  Mentioning such “relative” terms as good and evil in our pluralistic, relativistic society is certain political death.

The speech was made in 2008 and Santorum, now that he is a front-runner, has learned to weigh his words more carefully and not get trapped into moralistic arguments.  When he was in the back of the pack, he could afford to speak his mind.  Heretofore, he will keep to the Tea Party agenda of the economy, energy, foreign policy, and limited government.  Any speaker who strayed from those topics during the Tea Party rallies was sure to be yanked off the podium.

Since it’s early in the campaign – the primaries aren’t even over yet – Santorum will be forgiven his transgressions and earnestly warned to sin no more.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Social Hypocrisy

John Podhoretz and other pundits are shaking their heads sadly at the notion that Rick Santorum might take the GOP nomination after all.  He may win the nomination, but he will lose the presidential race, they intone.

“The chief problem with Santorum,” Podhoretz writes, “isn’t his views on contraception or homosexuality or what he might have said about Obama’s religion.   The presumption that Santorum’s social conservatism will hurt him with voters is a media fantasy; the president before Barack Obama won 62 million votes in 2004 running as just such a conservative, and the country hasn’t transformed itself in the years since.

“All this suggests that Santorum is animated and motivated by an unpleasantly bleak outlook on the morals and manners of the country he now says he wishes to lead.

Like many culture warriors, he is disappointed by America and its failings, which — as his controversial views on the morality of birth control demonstrate — he believes stem from an excess of self-indulgence and the elevation of sexual appetite over self-restraint.
There is no way that a man who expresses such a dark view of the American national character can win the presidency.   Remember: This entire process is a job interview in which the candidates are trying to get hired by the electorate. Insulting the electorate and accusing it of spiritual weakness and sinfulness are not the ways to get yourself the job of president.”

No one asked the electorate back in 1973 whether abortion was right or not; it was decided by a Liberal judge.  In 1962, no one asked the people whether they wanted prayers banned in public schools; again, the matter was decided by a Liberal court.  No one decided whether the birth control pill was such a good idea; it was invented, and after some legal and bureaucratic wranglings, prescriptions were approved – for married women.  In the 1970s, it was judged that the Pill should be available to all women.

If the Progressives sneer at us for battling on social issues, they can remember that they were the ones who gave us those social issues.  They may well preen themselves for having the youth vote.  Thanks to the Media, the Vietnam War was painted as a debacle, thereby increasing the demand for a lowering of the voting age to 18.  Now the Liberals have a greater base of ignorant voters, barely out of high school, who are easily plied with drugs, alcohol, and the promise of better grades if they adopt the Progressive mantra.

“A man isn’t worth anything until he’s 40,” went the famous line in Hello, Dolly!.  “Until then, we just pay him to make mistakes.”

The under-30 set is particularly susceptible to group-think and collectivism.  Their high school and college years still cling to them – as well as the effects of drugs and alcohol in which they over-indulged.  The juvenilization of America – programming children to remain children by removing their more assertive tendencies, as dog trainers do – has made a shambles of our federate republic.

“Insulting the electorate”?  Telling slugheaded youngsters that abortion is immoral insults their intelligence does it?  In such cases, there can’t be much intelligence to insult.  Telling them that doing drugs is wrong offends them, as Whitney Houston’s gold-painted hearse navigates the streets of Newark to avoid her fans, does it?  Stating that marriage is a privilege for one man and one adult man and woman is a discriminatory statement in their ears, is it?

Where was the fear of insulting the electorate back in the Sixties and Seventies, when we lost a war we could have won, watched as an elite panel of judges decided on the value of a life, and shuddered as dangerous drugs were decriminalized, reducing future generations to mind-numbed idiots?  And let us not forget the laws, thanks to Barney Frank, that allowed terrorists to wander about our country with impunity and created banks that gave away free loans and mortgages, at the taxpayers’ expense.

But let us not offend the Moderates, the little dears, whose ears must be stinging right about now.  They might put their pert little noses up in the air and stomp off in a huff.  No; Podheretz is right when he implies that elections are not won on the truth.  It would be much nicer if Santorum ended his speeches on a more upbeat note.

He will promise to restore the American family – the nuclear family, with its male husband and female wife, and children – to its proper place at the center of American life.  He will encourage them – encourage, not command – to return to their faith.  American taxpayers will not be forced to underwrite others’ behavior.  He will pay respect to civil rights to a certain extent – with civil unions, homosexuals have all the rights they need.  He will however, pay greater respect to the freedom of religion, and not pass laws that violates the conscience of religious clergy and religious organizations.  He will protect the privilege Americans have of being Americans by vigorously guarding our borders against illegal immigrants whose obvious transgression makes the unsuitable candidates for naturalization.

He will take the step of being negative, yes, indeed, about drugs and encourage stronger laws against both users and sellers.

Finally, he will be even more negative in promoting the U.S. Constitution and its negative liberties.  He will champion the positive liberties of the people over the negative liberties of government.

If young people don’t like it, maybe they need to take a time-out.   The Liberals are confident that their young voters won’t like it, according to Podhoretz and others and that the GOP is gambling on Conservative sentiment, as though the race for the Presidency were a high school popularity contest.  They don’t want us to take away their lollipots.  They want the opportunity to prove how noble they are through their tolerance of homosexuality (which is none of anyone’s business, by the way) up to and including overturning the sacrament (to some) of marriage.

The induction of Liberal clergy, the invention of the Pill and its concurrent result, cohabitation, and the growing sentiment of the “sanctitiy” of gay marriage, and the increase in divorces, have helped lead to the abandonment of churches.  Young people have always been notoriously secular.  They eagerly to seek to sow their wild oats and prove their independence, if not their maturity.  This is the rocky foundation upon which the future of the nation depends.  There was a reason why young people weren’t considered adults until they were 21.

Certainly, it’s poor salesmanship to present a dark future.  That certainly didn’t stop Obama from getting elected, however; that was his whole mantra, denouncing what was actually a good economy, though menaced by the housing crisis, and promising hope and change.  If Santorum or any other Conservative candidate suggests turning back to America’s original values, that we are now on a bad course, that hardly should be surprising, if not very welcome news to the very voters who chose this course we’re presently on.

What is the alternative the Moderates suggest?  To put on rose-colored glasses and pretend that everything is fine?  They don’t have a problem with Romney firing away at Obama’s fiscal castastrophe; just with targeting the social entitlement programs that caused the disaster.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the bottom line.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Naming Presidential Names

Naming Presidential Names

Today’s President’s Day.  Rather than playing favorites and celebrating a great president like, say George Washington, whose birthday is February, Congress passed legislation in 1968, to simplify yearly calendars and give federal employees some fixed 3-day weekends. The act started in 1971, shifting the observation of Washington's Birthday to the third Monday in February instead of on the 22nd. And although this holiday is still officially known as Washington's Birthday, it has become popularly known as Presidents' Day.

Once, on a holiday trip in Amish Country while taking a tour in an Amish wagon, the farmer had a 10 year old boy sit up front next to him in the driver’s seat.  He asked the boy if he could name all the presidents (to that time).  The boy couldn’t get past Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and the current president, with a huge gap in between.  Whereupon the farmer, with his 8th grade education, proceeded to rattle off all their names.

“Don’t they teach you that in your public school?” the farmer asked the boy.  The boy shrugged; the adults in the back of the wagon cringed, admitting that they couldn’t name all of them, either.  Not many people beyond my mother are able to name them all, in proper order.

So here’s the trick my parents taught me about memorizing long lists:  it’s all about the grouping.  You link groups of presidents by what they have in common.

What our first five presidents have in common is that they were our first five presidents.  You can count them on one hand.

1.      George Washington – Our first, and best, president.
2.      John Adams – He became the nation’s first vice-president, taking office as the runner-up.  A defender of the British soldiers during the Boston Massacre, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, he was elected President in 1797, but signed the unpopular Aliens and Sedition Act.
3.      Thomas Jefferson – Author of the Declaration of Independence.  He was a proponent of westward expansion, was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Most people don’t get beyond the first three.  It just so happens the next two are named James and their last names start with “M” and those names are in alphabetical order:

4.      James Madison  - Author of the U.S. Constitution, and co-author with John Jay, of The Federalist Papers, which explained the Constitution.  He helped found the Democratic-Republican Party which eventually became the Democratic Party.  He oversaw the War of 1812 and demilitarized the U.S.-Canadian border
5.      James Monroe – Monroe opposed ratifying the U.S. Constitution because it did not contain a Bill of Rights.  He supported the anti-slavery position that led to the Missouri Compromise.  His most significant contribution was the Monroe Doctrine, which opposed European intervention in the Western Hempisphere and encouraged American colonization all the way to the West Coast.

The next grouping are presidents of “firsts” of one sort or another. 

6.      John Quincy Adams – he was the son of the second president; in other words, the first son of a president to become president
7.      Andrew Jackson – He was the first president to have a slogan:  “Let the people rule.”
8.      Martin Van Buren – Van Buren was the first president to be born in the United States of America (as opposed to being born in the English colonies).
9.      William Henry Harrison – Harrison had the misfortune to be the first president to die in office.  He was sworn in on a cold stormy day and gave a long inaugural address without wearing a hat.  He served precisely one month:  31 days.
10.  John Tyler – Tyler became the first president to succeed a deceased president, and without having been elected to office.  He was Harrison’s running mate but his name did not appear on the ballot.
11.  James Knox Polk – Knox was the first “dark horse” candidate for president when the Democratic National Convention became deadlocked and nominated him for president because he favored annexing Texas.  You could almost call him the X president.  And, while Fort Knox was named for him, in a prudent move, he fought Mexico for California, where gold was discovered in the 1850s.
12.  Zachary Taylor – To differentiate him from his predecessor, Tyler, just think of the Z in his first name.  Zachary was a “first” of sorts in that he was the next president to die in office.  He is remembered for, among other things, never having voted.
13.  Millard Fillmore – Taylor’s successor, Fillmore enjoys the notoriety of having been the first president to be forgotten.  He favored the Compromise of 1850 and signed the Fugitive Slave law.  Not particularly popular, he did not win a second term and was relegated to the ash heap of history.
14.  Franklin Pierce – Pierce enjoys the honor of being the next “forgettable” president.  He was most remember for the Gadsden purchase on what is now the southern border of Arizona and New Mexico.  The purchase was named for the American ambassador who signed the treaty, James Gadsden ( no relation to the Gadsden flag – the first flag the Marines carried into battle).  See?  We’ve already forgotten all about pierce.
15.  James Buchanan – Buchanan would be another forgettable except that he was last president before the Civil War.  Because he didn’t deal decisively with the issues of slavery and secessionism, it was left to his successor.

The next group contains our “Civil War” presidents:

16.  Abraham Lincoln – We all know about Honest Abe.  We even remember his presidential number.  One of the more trivial facts is that he has a distant relation to Paul Revere.  Many of Lincoln’s ancestors were lawyers and judges.  Turns out, it was in the genes, afterall.  Lincoln, of course, holds the distinction of being the first president to be assassinated.
17.  Andrew Johnson – The next of the Civil War presidents, Johnson granted amnesty to all the secessionist states as long as they ratified the 13th amendment.  Those states added anti-Negro provisions and Congress restored military control over the Southern states.  Johnson removed the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, without notifying, and he subsequently became the first president to be impeached.  He was acquitted by one vote.
18.  Ulysses S. Grant – Yes, the famous Civil War general was our 18th president.  The “S” actually stands for “Simpson” his mother’s maiden name, but his real name was Hiram Ulysses Grant.  When he entered West Point his name was written down as Ulysses S. Grant and he eventually adopted it.

The next group are our “city” presidents.  Well, New Jerseyans at least will recognize the citiies.

19.   Rutherford Birchard Hayes – Garden Staters will remember Hayes by his first name, Rutherford.  East Rutherford is the better-known city because it’s the home of the New York Giants.  But take heart, Delaware and Ohio, because Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio.
20.  James Abram Garfield – Garfield is another New Jersey city, although our 20th president was born in Orange, Ohio.  Garfield is just up the road from Rutherford.  Garfield is among the unfortunate group of presidents to be assassinated.
21.  Chester Alan Arthur – This Vermont-born president succeeded Garfield.  His name is a familiar town name not just in New Jersey but many East Coast states.
22.  Grover Cleveland – Ohio and New Jersey seemed to be in a competition for presidents.  Ohio produced them and New Jersey named towns after them.  However, Grover Cleveland was born Stephen Grover Cleveland in Caldwell, N.J.
23.  Benjamin Harrison – Yet another New Jersey-Ohio connection, Harrison was born in North Bend, Ohio, and New Jersey has a city named Harrison, a suburb of Newark.  Harrison was the great-grandson of Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Harrison and grandson of President William Henry Harrison.
24.  Grover Cleveland – Again.  Cleveland was the only president to serve two, non-consecutive terms.

Next, come the “Mountain” presidents.

25.  William McKinley – McKinley was assassinated by anarchist Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y., on Sept. 14, 1901.  After his death, the largest mountain in North America was named after him, although political correction returned the mountain’s name to its native roots.
26.  Theodore Roosevelt – Roosevelt was climbing a mountain in New York state, Mount Marcy (that state’s highest peak) when he learned he was president.  A courier was sent climbing up the mountain to give him the news.
27.  William Howard Taft – Our largest president, built like a mountain, had to have a special bathtub built for him.  Taft was the only citizen to serve both as President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The three of the next four presidents are easy to remember due to their alliterative names:

28.   Woodrow Wilson – Wilson is remembered for his progressive reforms.  He created the Federal Reserve System (boo!), delivered the Fourteen Points speech to Congress (No. 4 Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety and No. 6 The evacuation of Russian territory and a welcome for its government to the society of nations.
29.  Warren Gamaliel Harding – Well, Harding’s name isn’t alliterative, but his first name begins with a “W” like Wilson’s. He’s the president the school in A Christmas Story is named after.   Harding was best known for the Teapot Dome Scandal, when his Secretary of the Interior, Albert B. Fall accepted bribes in the leasing of government-owned oil reserves to private companies.  However this Teapot Dome President would otherwise have been popular with modern Tea Partiers because he voted for anti-strike legislation, women’s suffrage, and stressed the repeal of excess profits and high income taxes.  Harding was also another president to die in office. 
30.   Calvin Coolidge – Silent Cal’s full name was John Calvin Coolidge.  He was known for his brevity, and that encompassed abbreviating the size of government.  As governor of Massachussetts he was celebrated for his anti-union stance, stating that public servants had no right to strike.  He was considered a rising star among Conservatives.  He gave no  notable speeches, but his brief replies were legendary.  One story has it that at a party a a guest seated next to him at a dinner said,  "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you." His famous reply: “You lose.”
31.  Herbert Hoover – Herbert Clark Hoover is generally blamed for the Great Depression of the 1930s, but actually what he was held responsible for was the suffering when he refused to establish any federal bureaucracies to run federal assistance programs.  He didn’t oppose assistance programs; in fact, he created some.  Hoover was just unwilling to make them permanent.

We come to the more Modern presidents; that is to say, people are still alive who remember them.

32.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt – The cousin of Teddy, FDR, as he became known, served the longest term – 12 years.  He is famous (or infamous) for creating many government programs, particularly Social Security.  He increased the size of the government tremendously while negotiating America’s way through the Great Depression and World War II.  His programs, far from alleviating the Great Depression, prolonged it, and only the request by Great Britain for war products and America’s subsequent involvement in the war brought American industry back to health.  Roosevelt, who was paralyzed with polio, was yet another president to die in office.
33.  Harry S. Truman – Those too young to remember Roosevelt’s successor can think of Truman as a “True Man”, that is to say, he was a champion of the common man.  He brought the War with Japan to end by making the decision to drop the first atomic bomb.  Still he was a Liberal Democrat and increased the size of government.
34.  Dwight David Eisenhower – The commander of the European Forces in World War II and famous for the Normandy Invasion, Eisenhower’s slogan was “We Like Ike” (his nickname).  Americans liked Ike enough to re-elect him to office.  Although America went through a minor recession during his administration, America generally enjoyed a period of general peace (he negotiated the truce in the Korean War) and prosperity in the 1950s.
35.  John Fitzgerald Kennedy – Kennedy was young, handsome and wealthy, with a beautiful wife and children.  The second of nine children, he was destined (by his father) for the presidency when his older brother was killed in World War II.  The Bay of Pigs, a misguided and undermanned attempt to overthrow Castro in Cuba, marred his early administration, but was revived by his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Kennedy was a Democrat but a fiscal Conservative.  He was assassinated in Dallas, Texas in November 1963, joining the line of assassinated presidents.
36.  Lyndon Baines Johnson – Kennedy’s successor, Johnson, was responsible for the next step in Progressivism, outlining his plan for The Great Society, which included lowering the standards for immigration and creating a permanent welfare system.  Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but his build-up of the Vietnam War cost him the 1968 election.
37.  Richard Milhous Nixon – Nixon was by all accounts a popular president when he was first elected – and re-elected.  He championed the “Silent Majority” of decent Americans whose values were being trodden on by activists in the Sixties and brought the unpopular Vietnam War to an end.  He opened up trade with China and took America off the Gold Standard, both considered questionable moves but hailed by the Media.  Nixon became the first president to resign when he covered up a break-in of the Democrat National Headquarters by covert agents seeking proof of foreign contributions (which are illegal) to the Democrat Party.  He resigned in August, 1973.
38.  Gerald R. Ford – Ford succeeded Nixon in office.  He made the controversial move of pardoning the former president for any federal crimes he might have committed as president.  Ford, a former football star, was ridiculed by the media as a bumbling president, but he vetoed 48 Democrat bills in order to fight high inflation.
39.  James Earl Carter – A student of nuclear physics, Carter was a peanut farmer from Georgia.  He was weak on foreign policy and his mutability encouraged Iranian terrorists to hold American embassy members hostage until his defeat by Ronald Reagan in 1980.
40.  Ronald Wilson Reagan – Reagan was to Conservatives what George Washington was to the founding country.  A former actor and former Democrat, Reagan advocated pride in America and supported the free market system.  He forged a bipartisan coalition in Congress that led to large-scale tax cuts, reduction in government, and a build-up in national defense.  In 1981, he was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt.  Reagan survived to go onto a second term and renown among Conservatives.
41.  George Herbert Walker Bush – More moderate than the man he served as Vice President, H.W. was blamed for a savings and loan crisis created by the Carter-era Community Reinvestment Act.  He knew Americans wanted a moratorium on taxes, and with a pledge from Democrats not to raise taxes, he made the promise only to be forced to break it.  Bush oversaw the Persian Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein tried to invade Kuwait and threatened to invade Saudi Arabia.
42.  William Jefferson Clinton – Clinton boasts of broadening his appeal to Americans as the reason for his election.  However, the GOP was divided by the entry of independent Ross Perot into the race, who took advantage of the widening gap between Moderates and Conservatives.  During his administration, for the first time in 40 years, Congress was governed by Republicans.  Clinton’s attempts to establish universal health care failed.  Despite numerous, salacious scandals, Clinton was re-elected to a second term.
43.  George Walker Bush – The son of George H.W. Bush, Bush, the son, will be known for his role in guiding America after the September 11th attacks in 2001.  He pursued an unpopular war in the Middle East and took a moderate approach to the economy.  He was narrowly elected to a second term.  His last act was to pass the unpopular TARP act, bailing out failed banks and businesses after the economic collapse of September 2008.
44.  Barack Hussein Obama – America’s first black President, Obama has promised to transform America.  He is recorded as being in favoring of dispatching the U.S. Constitution and redistributing America’s wealth.  He oversaw the passage of the health care act and various Stimulus Packages which helped create public-private companies.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pot Luck While Driving

According to an article in Time magazine, “People who drive within three hours of smoking marijuana are at nearly twice the risk of being in an accident that leads to serious injury or death, compared with sober drivers, according to anew review of the research.

“For the new review, published in BMJ, Canadian researches pooled the results of nine well-designed, high-quality studies that included nearly 50,000 drivers involved in crashes in multiple countries. They found that recent marijuana use was associated with a 92 percent increased risk of fatal or near-fatal accidents. The better quality of the study, the more likely it was to show an increase in marijuana-related risk.”

However, the writer was quick to point out that the risk for minor collisions was not raised significantly, speculating that stoned drivers are more aware and cautious, although she admits their reflexes are affected. She refers back to earlier studies to help BMJ’s research.

“Prior research on the risks of stoned driving has been mixed, with about half of the studies finding that marijuana raises the chance of crashing and the rest showing either no effect or a slight decrease in risk. Driving simulation studies with experienced marijuana users suggests that when people have consumed high doses of the drug, there’s an increased risk of accident, but that, unlike alcohol, users are aware of their impairment and tend to drive more cautiously, rather than with greater recklessness.”

A biweekly local newspaper runs a section called “Police Blotter.” In today’s Police Blotter, every single incident was directly related to drugs, including a “significant” number of drivers using marijuana. One car was pulled over for speeding. The patrolman noted the strong smell of marijuana. The driver was well-behaved; he immediately turned over all his paraphernalia to the officer. In the next incident, the driver of a BMW was pulled over for not keeping to the right on a two-lane road. Examining the car, the patrolman found drug paraphernalia pertaining to heroin. Next, a car was stopped after crossing the double-yellow line on a busy road. “Allegedly”, heroin and cocaine bags were strewn all over the car. In another incident, a driver was stopped for having a cracked windshield. Again, this officer noted a strong odor of marijuana. He searched the car and found drug paraphernalia. Finally, the top story of the blotter involved a bizarre case of domestic violence, with the owner of a house accusing his tenant of eating food he wasn’t supposed to be eating. He then threatened the tenant with a gun. The tenant called police, who found him in possession of crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia.

My next-door neighbor was the victim of a teenaged driver stoned on pot. She has 32 broken bones and a plate in her head where her skull was fractured. The victim was a pedestrian. None of these drug users was on “medical marijuana”. Medical marijuana is reported to be a pill that contains none of the hallucinogenic effects of pot and other drugs. No impairment is involved, at least according to its advocates.

That is not the case with traditional marijuana. If there was no altered state of consciousness, the drug would have no attraction for its users. Of course it affects them. What does it matter to the victim of a head-on collision whether the driver was speeding or driving carefully on the other side of the road? The driver of the car with the cracked windshield displayed no obvious signs of impairment in his driving. Was that due to the allegedly harmless effects of marijuana or providence in the form of an observant police officer doing his duty? The girl laid claim to ownership of the paraphernalia and she was arrested and issued a motor vehicle summons, rather than the driver of the car, who was not charged at all.

The writer herself crosses the editorial double-yellow line to extemporize on the evils of drinking while driving rather driving under the influence of pot. All this on the weekend that singer Whitney Houston was mourned at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. Her movie co-star blamed her drug use on insecurity about her talents as an actress and even as a singer, which runs counter to her own assertions that she was a party girl and made no apologies for it. As she paid the ultimate price for such a mistake, we will let her rest in peace. But there will be no peace, no negotiations, no compromises in the War on Drugs.

Houston’s family was correct insist on holding her funeral in a proper church rather than a stadium. However, it does seem ironic that her fans - locals in the Newark neighborhood of the church - were kept quite a distance away from the funeral activities, as though the fans were responsibile for her demise, while finely dressed Hollywood elites, the very pillars of the Hollywood party culture, paraded into the church where they were given places of honor.

To the Baptist church’s credit, the cameras were focused on the altar where Houston’s body lay, and not on the plumage in the pews. An “everybody does it” attitude pervades Hollywood. Those who survive simply count themselves lucky. Those who don’t - like Houston - are forgiven for their mistakes.

Yes, we all hope to be forgiven for our mistakes. But one wonders which mistake they forgive her for? For doing the drugs at all? Or for not being more judicious, careful, and “lucky”? Gov. Christie has taken a lot of flack - in stride - for lowering state flags to half-mast in her honor. Though it was a kindly gesture, it also sends an unmistakable message to young people that they can continue gambling with theirs and others’ lives, and if they do reach stardom and then “blow it”, ruining their careers and ending their lives, they will still be remembered with affection and nothing will be said to put a blot on the revered, recreational use of party drugs.

It wasn’t the drugs; it was Whitney’s weakness for them. So forgive her for her weaknesses (indeed) and party on.