ELECTORAL PSYCHOSIS: OR THE HILLARUMP-TRILLARY SYNDROME

May 25, 2016

I came across an op-ed piece in our local newspaper recently by Eliot Cohen. His commentary boiled down to a call for a third-party candidate. He termed Hillary Clinton “easily the lesser evil” and posited that a third-party candidate would send her a message to “govern from the center.”

A bit later in the week I had a brief political sidebar with a patient (this seems to arise more often these days), and he expressed disgust with the current polarization and voiced a similar wish for more cooperation and a move to the center.

Now, I’ve been persistently perplexed by the rise to the top of two deeply flawed candidates who share at least one thing in common: They have the highest unfavorable ratings of the pack. So what would possess the American public to ostensibly rally around their least favored candidates? The call for a move to the center gelled a theory I’d been harboring.

But first, getting back to the patient, I inquired if he were $100,000 in debt, would he reduce his spending to neutral, “governing from the center,” as it were, or would he tighten his belt in an effort to climb the uphill road to fiscal recovery?

For decades now progressive Democrats and Republicans have doubled down on unprecedented “grow and spend” policies that have become so entrenched that much of the electorate cannot imagine a viable alternative. Many have adopted a similar personal fiscal policy, planning little for the future while enjoying the moment. The lines for $5 and $6 dollar Starbucks’ beverages grow even while we hear of increasing joblessness and a shrinking economy. The illusion of the status quo is buttressed by a growing welfare state supported by unprecedented borrowing, printing, and their associated campaign promises.

But the odd bird of an election we’re witnessing reflects an unease that’s starting to ripple across a growing segment of the country: a realization that things are not working. For many, the solution has taken the shape of a call for an outsider; someone who will do something—anything—differently. For some this “savior” takes the form of a blustering, fist-shaking, non-politician who talks a lot about “winning,” with populist catch-phrases in search of elusive policies and substance. For others, it’s the siren call of wealth redistribution, the indomitable phoenix of socialism and its comrade “social justice,” once again rising from the ashes even as the world watches its demise again…and again. And yet others crave a return to the only normal they can fathom after decades of intransigence, just a few more years of comforting printing and spending, and things will eventually work themselves out. This, even if the promises come from someone they don’t really trust…and who might be indicted. Finally, a growing but stunted group made an aborted attempt to place a voice that spoke to the only solution that makes sense: Shrinking government, reducing spending, stopping crony capitalism, and growing the private sector economy. But this messenger was tainted ideologically. Those on the left are conditioned to see this this viewpoint as espoused by narrow-minded bigots who love only corporate fat cats, and many in the center were put off by exhortations weighed down by right-to-life and other perceived religious undertones.

When faced with the knowledge that something must be done and the one obvious solution you’ve been told is evil, cognitive dissonance occurs, and the paradox creates…the Hillarump-Trillary Syndrome. Side effects include mini-riots at campaign stops and spending an inordinate amount of media time distracting oneself with the pros and cons of a minute fraction of the public’s right to choose which bathrooms they may enter.

A third party candidate? Americans have always been an exceptionally innovative people. Given time, I’m certain we can come up with a someone we like even less.

BOSS TRUMP

December 14, 2015

We have a new Teflon Don. The resilience of John Gotti may be responsible for the coining of the nickname, but the old mob boss is now a whisper in history to the shout that’s known as Donald Trump. And arguably, Trump is the more deadly.

 

Few people, myself included, anticipated the staying power of the new Teflon Don. I’d assumed that his refreshing bluntness (read: bah, humbug to political correctness), his financial independence immunizing him to the demands of special interests, and his outsider status burnished by an astute business knowledge often lacking in career politicians, would fuel an ascent that would, however, fizzle in weeks to months–just as Republican candidate after candidate rose and fell in succession during the prior presidential election. A barrage of self-launched anti-Trump missiles would inevitably bring the campaign crashing back to Earth. Well, like so many others, I was wrong.

 

His most recent missile, supporting a moratorium on all Muslims entering the U.S. has, if anything, increased his poll numbers. My assumption that 75% of the conservative and right-of-center independents were just biding their time, waiting for another candidate to gain enough traction, may still be correct, but may now be only 70%–and falling.

 

I hate political correctness. I hate arrogant Washington insiders with about as much understanding of economics as Stalin. I hate the ineffective prosecuting of the terrorist threat and ineffectual protection of our borders. But I never thought anger would so cloud the sensorium of the electorate as to believe that a man with bull-in-a-china-shop diplomacy skills should serve as the international face of the U.S. And I don’t care if he gets Mexico to pay for the wall (although that would be a nice perk). But the true danger is making him the face of the Republican Party.

 

Now, I consider myself a conservative but only grudgingly associate with the GOP, which more often than not is as embarrassing as the Democrat Party. However, we remain a two-party system and the only alternative is Hillary. Trump’s antics give fuel to the specious arguments that conservatives are all racist, bigoted shills for the wealthy. While Trump will have no impact on the entrenched beliefs of the far left, my fear is that he’ll dramatically influence the undecided independents and the low-information crowd that arguably decide the election to move to Hillary’s camp, and cause many conservatives to stay home on election day. And this would spell disaster for our country and possibly set back conservatism for decades. No wonder the liberal media can’t get enough of him (they gave him more coverage this past week than the San Bernadino terrorist attack).

 

I still think it likely that Trump will implode, but I’m becoming less certain of that outcome with each passing week.

 

After all, he is the Teflon Don.

 

KNOW THINE ENEMY

November 30, 2015

Continuing along the lines of my last rant, it has become clearer to me that fighting a shadow enemy is not just foolish, but incompatible with long-term survival. To fight it, you must first ferret it out.

It’s a fact that the vast majority of Muslims have been nonviolent. As previously discussed, it is not possible to know what is in the hearts and minds of these noncombatants, how many are sympathetic to the Islamists’ cause, and how many are outraged. There is no question that parts of the Koran and the Hadith, the writings of Muhammad, encourage jihad and the slaying of nonbelievers, even women and children, in the service of Islam. There is also no question that the writings encourage the practice of Islam both spiritually and as a way of life, and prescribe sharia law as the means of fulfilling this. The question as to whether a moderate practitioner of the religion who rejects violent jihad, and even sharia law, is a “true” Muslim, I will leave for the Muslim community to sort out with the Islamists. That being said, much of the confusion paralyzing the West is born precisely from this issue: Is lambasting as extremist the Muslim religion as a whole fair because a fraction of them are vicious, murdering scum?

We have a long-standing history of religious tolerance in this country—in fact, its roots trace back to the Pilgrims’ flight from religious persecution. We’re so sensitive about the issue of “separation of Church and State” that we even forget that the phrase isn’t even in the Constitution, which simply prohibits the government from adopting an official state religion. So prohibiting worship under the name of Islam is abhorrent to our culture, and our natures.

Therefore, to establish a framework for combating our enemies, it is important first to make a distinction between a moderate Muslim, assuming such a thing exists in the absence of acceptance of sharia law, and an Islamist, who embraces sharia and the establishment of a caliphate, with its attendant atrocities. The Islamist uses the same term, Allah, to describe the God he worships, but the confusion this engenders evaporates once we recognize Islamism is nothing more than a Satanic cult couched in the terminology of religion. Their Allah is Satan, their practices are Satanic, and those that “worship” in its name deserve no protection under the guise of freedom of religion.

So, in practical terms, how do we separate the Muslims from the Islamists? As we’ve established, we will not proscribe the practice of a particular religion. We can, however, prohibit the teaching and practice of sharia. We do not allow sharia law to operate in this country. Teaching it might be argued by some to be protected free speech. I disagree. We do not permit hate speech or seditious speech (nor allow one to call out “fire!” in a crowded theater, to cite the hackneyed example). I contend we cannot permit the dissemination of sharia by word or action in our land. Further, I would contend that Muslims be required to sign a contract that they neither support nor condone the teaching or practice of sharia, at the cost of imprisonment or deportation. (I recognize many will be aghast that I’m singling out a group for such a requirement, but I contend that we are in a state of war that requires extraordinary measures.) Clearly, if legal sanctions were in place, many would lie to avoid them. But perhaps some of the most devout Islamists would refuse, and, at worst, the change in tactics would provide us with the tools to seek out and deal with the enemy in a way our current approach cannot.

Things must change in the service of freedom and survival, and they must happen now, or they certainly will later, when our enemies are stronger. We are currently on the same well-worn path with the Islamists we trod with the Nazis in an earlier generation, and there is only one major difference between the two: The Nazis tried to hide their atrocities from the world, while the Islamists celebrate them. Satanism, it appears, is more extreme than Fascism.

Those that choose to interpret my words as bigotry, open your eyes. Read some of the offending parts Koran and the Hadith, pay attention to what is happening in the world … and pray, regardless of your religion, or lack of it.

Because God will always win over Satan unless we turn our backs on Him.

IRONY: OBAMA = BUSH

November 23, 2015

The ghastly events in Paris have caused me, like many others, to return to the questions of how? and why? that aren’t ever quenched by our intellectual musings on cultism and brainwashing, or even the concepts of good and evil. So my mind returns to proximate causes, and the one that comes first to mind is George Bush’s decision to remove Saddam Hussein, creating the power vacuum that has shaped events over the past decade. What motivated him? My opinion was that he had a misguided view of the values of the people of the region. Having suckled so long on the milk of freedom, hard won by generations past, Bush assumed, as did I, that given the chance, everyone would embrace liberty. All we needed to do was remove a dictator’s yoke and the people would rise up and seize the day. He didn’t fathom that sectarian hatred, and love of sharia law, the antithesis of freedom, could possibly be more powerful. In that way, he is like our current president. Obama talks of Islam as if they share our values, ignoring the evidence placed, blatantly, before us. I’ve read of recent polls in the U.S. indicating that half of American—American!—Muslims subscribe to sharia over constitutional law and as many as a quarter would condone force to institute it. Does anyone truly believe the global prevalence of these beliefs would be lower?

To those of you harboring the notion that my words are the ramblings of a hateful bigot, I put this to you: Where are the protests? Not the hordes of Muslim citizens decrying our besmirching of their religion. Rather, the hordes of devout Muslims angrily protesting the Islamist murderers’ hijacking of the “religion of peace”? Where are the placards proclaiming, “You do not represent Islam!” and “We reject sharia law!”? The signs proclaiming unity with the Constitution and its crown jewels, freedom of speech and religion? Where is the Islamic reformation? As the violence worsens the voices seem to become more distant. No longer is fear of retribution an acceptable excuse. We are in the foothills of World War III and our inability to distinguish Muslim from Islamist will result in continued, unprecedented violence.

During World War II this resulted in the infamous Japanese internment camps. While I’m proud to be a citizen in a country that has exercised restraint in our dealings with Muslim Americans, I cannot help but feel that the fear of repeating injustice to innocents has hamstrung our efforts to fight the enemy hidden within the Muslim community. I suspect that only a negligible number of spies were ensconced in the loyal Japanese-American public in the 1940s, but paranoia runs deep during wartime. Unfortunately, there is evidence to suggest that a larger proportion of the Muslim community subscribes to, or will be converted to Islamism than most of us thought possible, and an even larger segment, while not willing to engage in violence, will secretly support them. The situation in much worse in Europe where there are many borders and large established Muslim communities, some described as “no-go zones” for the authorities, such as in France.

Speaking of borders, the recent events have stoked my anger even hotter that we’ve chosen not to protect ours.

But that’s a rant for another time.

SHAMELESS PLUG

August 4, 2014

I finally bit the bullet this past week and epublished “Close Encounter” on Amazon. (The book conversion was almost as challenging as writing it.) Even if a sci-fi thriller isn’t your cup of tea you can sample it and ogle the great job my younger daughter did with the cover.

Dr. Dan Chamberlain’s life takes a detour when he’s asked to perform a medical exam on a paranoid schizophrenic committed to a New York City hospital psychiatric ward. Kara Reesha claims to be a microbiologist from Korlon, “class H planet in the Jorlii Galaxy,” sidelined while trying to save the world from a lethal epidemic. Meanwhile, the unwitting disease vector, escaped felon Erol Tabor, is seeking to highjack the international economy. Framed as bioterrorists, Dan and Kara must work to prevent a plague and stop Tabor while eluding both the FBI and Tabor’s agents. Dan’s emotional entanglement with Kara proves to be a mixed blessing as clues to her secret past come to light. The ensuing battle between love and fear will spell the difference between success and global catastrophe.

http://www.amazon.com/Close-Encounter-David-Puro-ebook/dp/B00M7R0B8U/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406655008&sr=1-1&keywords=close+encounter+puro

My interest in writing science fiction spans decades. After winning a journalism award for a college essay I developed a lifelong love of writing. I’ve written dozens and published two short stories, “Predator,” a flash fiction piece which appeared first in the small-circulation anthology Peeks and Valleys and was reprinted in Hancock College’s literary journal, MindPrints; and “In the Mind of the Beholder,” a reworked chapter from his initial foray into full-length fiction, appearing first in the ezine Aoiffe’s Kiss, then earning a second life in the print anthology Wondrous Web Worlds No 7 as a best-of-month favorite. I’ve completed four novels in the genres of science and speculative fiction, with Close Encounter being the first released for publication in ebook format on Amazon.com.

You can also visit www.davidpuro.com, a work in progress.

DERANGED

August 4, 2014

You’re a radical.

I’m a radical.

We used to be normal, but we’ve been labeled. There are only two sides: violent, bigoted, militaristic conservatives, friend of CEOs and Big Business, and liberal/progressive unwashed, tie-died communist progressive liberals who want no borders and more taxes from the rich.

The Bush Derangement Syndrome has become the Obama Derangement Syndrome. Bush was a dumb cowboy who dragged us into a war for oil on a specious pretext to benefit his wealthy friends. Obama wants to destroy the country, erase the borders, and make us the Europe of the West.

It’s time we put a stop to it. When we talk in hyperbole, we can’t talk at all. We’ve allowed the far right and the far left to distract us for too long.

No, I’m not going to become progressive. The ideology has become foreign to me. But I don’t believe Barack Obama is itching to destroy America. I believe he’s walking down a road that he believes is best for our country (or perhaps the world), that will ultimately hasten America’s downfall if we don’t reverse course. I believe he’s obsessively political due to his Chicago machine roots and has a narcissistic, arrogant streak. But he’s not Satan. He loves his wife and family and succumbs easily to a misguided charity for the “downtrodden.”

George Bush the younger was not Satan, either. I believe he is best characterized as a naïve idealist. He used the pretext of WMDs in Iraq (which he and the left at the time believed to be a real threat) as an excuse to nation build, with the ingenuous belief that everyone, given the chance, would risk their lives in the name of freedom, as our ancestors did and our brave warriors continue to do today. He believed another democracy besides Israel the in the cauldron that is the Middle East would be a game changer and establish his legacy. Events appear to have proven him very wrong.

We need to move away from stereotypes, see the true radicals for who they are, and start talking. There is a common ground. For instance, many on the left are economically conservative and socially liberal (yes, there is a Tea Party side to many mainstream liberals). We need to reexamine the principles upon which the country was founded and start strengthening them. We need to quarantine the race-mongers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. We need to take hotbed issues that divide us and keep us from solving problems, like abortion and gay marriage, off the national agenda and return them to the states. And we need to stop overspending and leaving trillions of dollars in debt for our children and generations to come.

Radical thoughts, I know.

THE RIGHT TO BE UNCIVIL

April 8, 2014

A few months ago a dinner discussion with a friend triggered a reference to Barry Goldwater, the late senator and presidential contender who lost to Lyndon Johnson in 1964. I was 12 at the time and apolitical but recall him being portrayed as a racist by the New York media. My friend, who is neither stupid nor racist, shocked me with the comment that he agreed with Goldwater’s vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The fact that Goldwater’s dissent had nothing to do with racism is beside the point. My friend’s argument distilled to the libertarian belief that the government shouldn’t be legislating against people’s prejudices of any kind, no matter how appalling. Coincidentally, this discussion occurred at a time when I’d been thinking quite a bit about the evils of racism. Also coincidentally, I was in the process of reading a book by Lawrence Hill, Someone Knows My Name. This historical novel reconstructed in distressingly graphic detail the slave trade of the late 18th century, chronicling the life of one extraordinary black woman.

At dinner, after vehemently denying the validity of my friend’s argument, I got to thinking why a reasonable, intelligent person would even debate the issue. And I realized it merited some thoughtful analysis.

We discriminate all the time: what clothes we wear, what food we eat, the colors we paint our walls … with whom we chose to eat dinner. People often use the terms discrimination and prejudice interchangeably. Discrimination is nothing more than choosing according to one’s preferences. Prejudice, on the other hand, involves prejudging a person, thing or idea based on criteria that may or may not be valid. Things become more complicated when the actions are applied to race, religion and sexual preference.

In some ways the third category is the thorniest. In September of last year, a photographer lost her court battle after refusing to take a job at a gay wedding. In a separate incident, a baker closed his doors after being targeted legally by a lesbian couple for refusing to sell them a wedding cake. In both cases, the accused cited moral opposition and their right to free expression.

To prevent injustice, our laws have delineated certain protected groups that are excluded from our right to discriminate, regardless of whether this is motivated by prejudice. My friend believes that the marketplace should be allowed to mete out the consequences. For instance, businesses that engage in racial discrimination would have less patronage and might be driven from the marketplace by censure. In a perfect world, this argument might have validity (although I would argue that in a perfect world racial discrimination wouldn’t exist). His argument fails to take into account the concept of tyranny of the majority.

Our Founding Fathers feared this enough (otherwise known as “mob rule”) to make this country a democratic republic, not a democracy. If we were to remove the prohibition on racial discrimination, what protection would a minority have against local majorities recreating the Jim Crow laws of the early part of the twentieth century?

With the deinstitutionalization of racism over the last few decades (which is not equivalent to its absolute abolition) one might argue that there is now a substantial economic cost to racial discrimination and segregation that might validate my friend’s argument. We must not forget, however, that this economic incentive to “do good” was not operative in the relatively recent past, when these detestable practices were not only permitted, but condoned and even encouraged in some parts of the nation. It’s conceivable that pockets of like-minded bigotry could coalesce to create regional monopolies that would, in essence, impede market corrections, forcing the subjugated minorities to flee to locations distant enough to uproot them. The reprehensible nature and the consequences of this behavior, in my opinion, make it a moral imperative to act more quickly than market forces can to correct it; we need laws to preempt it. Freedom to discriminate is, in a sense, like freedom of speech. Yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater is as taboo as the freedom to subjugate.

Libertarianism without limits turns liberty into anarchy.

IMAGINE

March 31, 2014

Forty-three years ago the words of John Lennon’s famous opus greeted us from the speakers of our transistor radios and turntables, vinyl discs spinning at 33 or 45 revolutions per minute, oblivious to their eventual reincarnation on little silver digital platters and magnetic discs whirling at 7200 rpms, or codified on tiny silicone chips. They were, and remain, a plea from a young, idealistic mind, and appeal today to the innocent child in all of us. And they should, like the movies Shrek and Toy Story. They only become dangerous if you believe them.

“Imagine” constructs a (supposed) utopia without heaven or hell, “nothing to kill or die for and no religion….” People living in peace. No possessions, greed or hunger—“a brotherhood of man.” The sentiment comes from a good place, but, like all fairy tales, has a dark side.

By inventing a mythical human nature, it creates a world that, if implemented literally, would destroy the very souls it wants to help. By denigrating religion, it fails to understand the fundamentals of what religion is—a human tool. Just as a gun can be used for good or evil intent, so can religion. In the Middle Ages, Christianity committed atrocities in God’s name, and today the Islamists have hijacked the religion of billions of Muslims and done the same. If the evil that coexists with the nobility in the human spirit just vanished (imagine—it’s easy if you try), then perhaps there would be no need for religion. (No need for faith in God is a larger, more complex issue, however.)

Nothing to kill for may be laudable, but nothing worth dying for … well, that might be a recipe for an empty existence. In Lennon’s utopia there’s no need for countries. In our world, nothing could be farther from the truth. I shudder to think what our planet would be like if the American experiment in freedom, starting to erode at the edges in my lifetime, had failed.

So continue to imagine an existence without greed, without evil, “a brotherhood of man.” But don’t for an instant let your fantasies convince you that we have no need of a strong country—one grounded in principles of human liberty with as fervent a belief in the God that teaches us to “do unto others” as those that want to destroy us believe in a power that tells them to kill anyone who deigns to choose freedom over subjugation.

Don’t be a dreamer.

A TAXING SUBJECT

January 27, 2014

Some say taxes are our civic responsibility. Some say it’s institutionalized theft. Both are right.

Our obligation to the governments extends to the limits of the services they provide to us. This includes public defense (military, police, intelligence), infrastructure development and maintenance (roads, bridges), security (borders, passports and the like) and safety (regulating air, water, food production, etc.). You may be able to find a few other niches  such as education (which I believe should be at the lower levels of government), but the idea is to pay for what public services are needed for the public welfare and a reasonably ordered existence.

More recently in our history, the governments have increasingly taken on the responsibility of providing for those least able to help themselves, on the surface a laudable goal. In the past, this was termed charity, and the institutions that provided it were, from the bottom up, family and friends, secular and religious community organizations, and local, county/state and federal governments. With the greater institutionalization of charity, it began to move further and further away from the recipient and, I posit, becomes less and less “charity” at all. Charity, by definition, comes from the heart, not at the end of a shotgun barrel.

The liberal view, which hinges on the tenets of larger government and more structured “giving” (necessarily requiring “taking”) implies a belief that, of their own volition, people would not provide enough for the needy. One might conclude that, therefore, the progressive ideology is linked to a more pessimistic assessment to human nature, but that is beyond the scope of the present discussion. More pertinent is one of the fundamental differences between conservatives and progressives: where the line is drawn. In other words, determining the definitions of “enough” and “needy.”

So where should the safety net be placed? Those on the left like to characterize the right’s reluctance to redistribute wealth with callousness, minimizing the well-documented unintended consequences of overdoing welfare that has historically caused empires to implode. They cite the maldistribution of wealth inherent in a capitalist economy, emphasizing the widely publicized malfeasance and distortion of the free market by private entities that will always be present, to bolter their arguments. Corruption of the system by the government through crony capitalism often gets less play on both sides of the divide.

The bottom line, for me, is that the further you stray from the social structure closest to those in need, the greater the risk of corruption and incompetence and funds being disbursed inappropriately. And the larger the group we define as needy, the more we rob the population of the incentive to produce and the incentive to give.

The next time congress convenes to legislate the newest tax hike it behooves them to remember one fundamental imperative:  Taxing hardens the heart; charity enriches it.

DOC-IN-A-BOX

December 9, 2013

A small study, unlikely to garner much media attention, may be one of the first salvos in the war against medical waste.

Recently published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, the trial studied the impact a web-based computer program might have on decision-making in the emergency room. About 500 patients presenting with chest pain or a sensation of shortness of breath, something doctors call dyspnea, were randomized to an active group that had a computer gauge their medical risk and prescribe the necessary testing. The doctors in the control group decided in the usual fashion, without computer help. The investigators found that the program lowered the patients’ radiation exposure (i.e., fewer tests) without a significant difference in the rate of return to the emergency department for care or occurrence of adverse events.

Watching the geometric progression of technological evolution, it seems inevitable that someday the line will be crossed where computers become more accurate diagnosticians than people. Whether you believe that day is 25 years away, 50, or 100, is irrelevant. The importance of this study lies in the fact that, properly applied, even present-day computer programs have the potential to cut waste (and increase patient safety).

Whatever your view of Obamacare, it is evident that universal coverage and no exclusions for pre-existing conditions are good things. It is also evident that good things come at a cost. The only immediate way to get a good thing at no cost is by removing fraud and waste. Having practiced in the medical field for decades, my impression is that there’s probably a lot more waste than fraud. Figures of 20-30% of our medical care dollars have been bandied about, which jives with my admittedly subjective impression.

Eventually, the march of technology and knowledge will lower costs in other ways, by allowing more effective treatments and perhaps even curing chronic illnesses that, at present, we can only effectively manage to the point of bankrupting the health care system. In the meantime, it behooves us to put a lot more effort into studies like the one above, the primordial germ of artificial intelligence, that will ultimately make my job obsolete.

Someday, perhaps sooner than we think, the only “doc-in-the-box” you’ll ever need will be attached to a touchscreen with circuits linked to what is now known as the “cloud.”


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