Monday, December 28, 2015

Do Yourself a Huge Favor In The New Year

'Oooo No! I bet there will be people
in 21st century America who think
going  to private SS accounts
won't hurt anyone either!
Tell your congressman and senator you will not vote for them until and unless they vote to improve your Social Security benefits by a factor of 10.

Or more.

Howzat you say?
'Are you now completely out of your fiscally-responsible mind? Have you gone over to the Dark Side and are now advocating a rapid rise in Social Security benefits without raising taxes to pay for it? we can hear long-term readers say.
Nope. We are not advocating for more direct benefits and higher payroll taxes to take care of all the golden geezers in their retirement days, which now includes all of the dreamy-eyed Baby Boomers who started out wanting to 'change the world' in the flower-powered '60s and such.

In some ways, they have made some change for the positive. In many ways, namely leaving tremendous debt for our children and grandchildren to pay, the Baby Boomers have been like locusts: consume everything in sight no matter what the cost will be.

Take a look at this clear-as-a-bell analysis of Social Security benefits from Jeremy Siegel, professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, properly titled 'My Sorry Social Security Benefits'

We think if every reader of this one article would tell 10 of your friends to read it and then have 10 of their friends read it and so on, building political pressure based on common sense will start to turn the tide towards modern financial management of your assets and away from the bankrupting politics behind Social Security for the past 80+ years.

After all, it is your money, you know. Not the government's money to give to you scot-free. Every single dollar of the money now being paid into the Social Security system is deducted from your paycheck every tax payment period and then matched by your employer dollar-for-dollar to pay for current SS benefits paid out to current SS recipients.

Not 1 dollar goes into a private retirement account on Wall Street or in some bank account located in the mountains of West Virginia that has your name on it to build wealth through the miracle of compound interest and dividends over a very long time, such as your working career of say 45 years.

In the case of self-employed people, the SS contribution is doubled right out of, yes, you guessed it, your pocket which goes directly to current retirees, not a private account with your name on it as described above.

Let's look at how Professor Siegel clearly points out how every person, both rich and poor; African- Latino-, Asian- or white- American gets the shaft when it comes to getting substandard returns from the current SS system as configured:
'Last month I turned 70 and, thanks to my earnings, became entitled to Social Security’s maximum benefit, currently $3,500 a month, or $42,000 a year. And so, if I live to 90, I will receive $840,000 worth of (inflation-adjusted) benefits.
Over the past 50 years, according to the Social Security Administration, the combined taxes paid into the system by me and my employers equaled $329,640.
This sounds like a good deal—the benefits I would collect over the next 20 years are more than twice what I put in. But the benefits are only about one-third the $2.27 million I would have accumulated had the taxes instead been invested, over time, in a stock index fund.
Moreover, the benefits I would collect are even less than the $1.28 million I would have accumulated if my “contributions,” as Social Security taxes are euphemistically called, had been placed in U.S. Treasury bonds.'
It is almost as bad in Medicare:
Over the past half century, my Medicare taxes exceeded $1 million, more than three times my Social Security taxes. That’s because since 1994 there has been no cap on the income subject to Medicare taxes. I have calculated that these taxes, invested in Treasury bonds, would now have accumulated to almost $1.75 million.
I do not know the most expensive health-care coverage that I could buy at my age, but the so-called “Cadillac” coverage, upon which the government will apply a stiff surtax, is $10,200 a year. Even if I purchased super-premium, all-inclusive medical coverage that cost $20,000 or even $30,000 a year, I will never begin to make back the money that I paid the government to take care of my medical needs.
Professor Siegel wrote this from the perspective of an affluent senior who might live to age 90. But the magnitude of benefits anyone could accrue from private accounts over meager current SS benefits paid out holds true for every income-level, every race, every gender in America.

And the real kick in the rear end? ANYONE who passes away before the official retirement age today of 66 in SS has nothing to pass on to his/her spouse/partner or family or heirs as would be the case with private accounts.

The real tragedy in today's SS system is that an African-American male father, a cohort that has the lowest longevity rates of all Americans, could pass away at age 65 years, 11 months and 30 days and never receive $1 of SS benefits after 45 years of hard work and contributing (through forced payroll taxation) to the SS Trust (sic) Fund. Nor would he have a handsome nest-egg of several hundred thousand dollars to pass on to their heirs even if he had received the minimum wage for his entire work lives.

Professor Siegel points out that the federal government 'makes out like a bandit' with wealthy people by not having to pay them the true market rate of return for all of their paid SS taxes over the years.

Perhaps it is time to start calling people who 'believe' in the current SS structure and system as the modern-day equivalent of the 'Flat Earth Society' who long ago believed that western sailors would fall off the edge of the earth if they sailed to the Orient going west instead of east.

The common sense of shifting to a private account for everyone in America is so over-powering and compelling that standing up for the current system without any changes at all is just about as absurd as assuming the earth is flat nowadays.

Do something great for yourself and your children in the new year. Start telling all your friends to contact your elected representatives and senators in Washington and demand they take up legislative action to fix Social Security and Medicare once and for all by following Professor Siegel's sound financial advice.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

''The Federal Government Will Be Just A Massive Health Care Plan That Pays Bond Interest by 2025!'

'Break Open When Elected!'
No matter who is the next President of the United States, he/she is going to have one whale of a problem right off the bat to solve if he/she wants to get anything else done during their 4/8 years in the White House from 2017 to either 2021 or 2025.

'The Size of Federal Entitlements Crowding Out Everything Else!'

They are not going to want to hear that on their first day when their staff comes in and says: 'Uh, President Trump, you know all those tax cuts you want to make to help the economy explode and create millions of new can't do them without making the national debt explode even more than it did under President Obama!'

Or for President Hillary Clinton: 'Uh, President Clinton, you know all those programs you want to pass making college almost free for everyone and all the other things you promised on the campaign trail, well, can't do those without making the national debt explode even more than it did under President Obama!'

The truth of the matter is that we have painted ourselves into not the proverbial corner but the actual corner of fiscal insanity. No President short of Superman or Hercules cleaning out the Augean Stables is going to be able to unwind the trajectory of our national debt until and unless he/she does 1 thing to fix it all, which we discuss later.

Take a look at the following charts below, both gleaned from data in CBO documents and projections. Notice in the first one a little dotted red line that goes right across the middle of the chart. That is the historical average of the percentage of GDP that typically comes in as revenue in all forms of federal taxes: income, payroll, estate, capital gains and dividend taxes.

Take a look at what happens along about 2021, 2022 and 2023. The blue graph denoting 'all other federal spending' starts to diminish until it completely vanishes at 2025 under that red dotted line.

You know what that means?

What that means is that nothing except Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, Obamacare and Net Interest on the national debt can be or will be paid by revenue paid to the federal government by taxpayers. All Entitlements Plus Net Interest.

EVERYTHING ELSE will have to be paid for by more borrowing from overseas or domestic sources. 100% of it. Including defense. Including transportation. Including environmental protection.

Everything. Every round of ammunition, every R&D dollar spent at the NIH to cure cancer, every dollar spent on environmental protection or research will come from money we will be forced to raise overseas or beg for in some fashion or manner.

Even President Obama's own commission came to this unsettling conclusion in 2010, even though he has done next to nothing to do anything about it:

"By 2025 (federal) revenue will be able to finance only interest payments, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security," the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform stated in its final report.  "Every other federal government activity -- from national defense and homeland security to transportation and energy -- will have to be paid for with borrowed money."

Take a look at the second chart below. You will see the disproportionate growth entitlement programs have had on chewing up bigger shares of the federal budget since 1980 when the rapid rate of inflation in overall medical health care costs drove up the costs of Medicaid and Medicare faster than the rest of the budget.

And this is even without interest rates being anywhere close to what they could have been had we had any sort of normal recovery and economic growth from the Great Recession of 2008! Interest rates have effectively been near or at zero when adjusted for inflation. Historically, interest rates of 5% would not have seemed 'extraordinarily high' in the past.

With a national debt approaching $20 trillion by the time President Obama leaves office, after more than doubling the national debt accumulated under President Bush 43 from 2001-2009, 'normal' interest rates of 'only' 5%/year would cost the federal government $1 trillion in net annual interest payments to bondholders who expect to be paid on time and in full. Per year. Each year. In the national federal budget.

Where would that come from when we are already spending 100% of all tax revenues from all sources on entitlements alone? The tooth fairy?

So, as much fun as it is to watch the current campaign primary drama unfold before our very eyes, keep in mind that we are going to be electing someone to sit in the Oval Office in the White House starting on January 21, 2017 to figure out what to do on this, perhaps our most serious current political threat mainly because it is so invisible, hard to understand and confusing in the first place to most people.

What is that 'One Thing' the next POTUS has to do to make things (relatively) right again for 315 million people by then? 

Our next President is going to have to be able to work with Congress and the Senate from Day One, meaning compromise their brains out to get a deal done in some fashion that first gets our annual budgets to balance so we don't have to keep adding to the national debt each year and make our interest payments only that much higher when 'normal' interest rates return to the scene.

And then, they are going to have to agree to some compromise deal that keeps them balanced for a very long time.

And then, they are going to have to figure out a way to start paying down this debt, either through direct payments as was done from 1998-2001, the last time we had balanced budgets in America, or ...just let inflation take care of it by making future dollars worth less and thereby pay back the current debt with those depreciated dollars.

Maybe 'President Donald Trump' can restructure the $20 trillion bonds we will owe in 2017 much as he did with many of bank loans he negotiated down to 1 cent on the dollar when he took some of his properties into bankruptcy. That $20 trillion in national debt might be knocked down to $200 billion just like that overnight!

Inflation is, sadly, the time-honored way most governments have 'paid off' (sic) their national debt over time. Britain just made their last debt payment to the United States for loans incurred to help prosecute World War II so you can just imagine how much the pound had depreciated since 1945 in terms of buying power.

So, no matter who you 'want' to win the Presidency, and no matter who you think might do the best job advancing your interests and politics, keep in mind that whoever it is from either side is going to be severely handicapped at delivering any of their promises simply because of one thing:

We did not do the job of balancing the budget and keeping entitlements in line over the past 30 years.

So good luck! Hope you vote for the right candidate who can pull this off! 

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

What Would We Do About 'Radical Hare Krishna Terrorists'?

'Hare Krishna Comin' To Get You...
Gonna knock you right on the head'*
Sometimes, to get a particular political point across, resorting to the theatre of the (absolute) absurd might help to reveal the root of the problem faced and perhaps, once the problem is soberly faced, a policy or solution can be formulated to win.

So let's wonder out loud how America or any civilized western country should or would respond to a threat posed by another disaffected and deluded sect of a religion who have gone off the rails against peace and resorted to violence:

The Hare Krishnas.

Some of the most peaceful people the world has ever known, the Hare Krishnas, although they used to be pretty annoying at any airport you used to walk through before they were banned from hanging out there.

(See? Even with peaceful believers such as the Hare Krishnas, government took action to 'protect' innocent citizens from being accosted by strangers who said they were just 'exercising their right to freely speak and freely worship'. 'Freedom of speech' and 'freedom of religion' in America doesn't mean you have to listen to them or worship with them if you don't want to, plain and simple as that)

Let's start by assuming that for some reason, a group of disaffected Hare Krishna believers start to blame the United States and its Judeo-Christian, Puritan, free enterprise capitalist culture and history for all the world's problems as well as theirs.

Somehow, in their reading of the Hindu religious text, the Bhagavad Gita, they find obscure lines or quatrains that seem to indicate that they should engage in violent warfare against the infidels who are not believers. They come to the conclusion that instead of 'loving' other people into the faith and giving them flowers at the airports and giving them a positive reason to join with them, the best thing to do is to kill them and rid the earth of scum like them forever.

Let's call this disaffected disgruntled violent sect the 'Hairy Krushers' (HK for short) since that is a catchy phrase the news media could use with abandon to help further the cause by publicizing each and every action widely.

The HKers start issuing press releases and making videos calling 'America The Great Satan' and blaming us for all the harm and damage the world has ever known. They make it pretty to clear to anyone who is paying any attention that they intend to strike and do harm to American citizens soon and often.

'We declare war on The United States of America! We will fight to our deaths to win!' they say on their videos made for wide distribution on the internet.

Other peace-loving Hare Krishna leaders say they have badly misinterpreted the Bhagavad Gita. However, since they are a peace-loving sort, they have no intention of engaging in any sort of opposition against the belligerent Hare Krishnas in any way, shape, fashion or form.

'You'll have to do it if you want to get rid of them, not us!' the Hare Krishna leaders tell the US Secretary of State at the time. 'Besides, they are so violent and dangerous that we fear for our lives that they are going to come after us and slaughter us for being infidels to the 'true' faith as well! They really scare us!'

Despite hundreds of gun laws in (pick your state or city), these disaffected Hare Krishnas, steal some semi-automatic weapons or have a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend in the sect who gives them an arsenal of guns as a way to renounce his own wayward ways and asks them to dispose of them properly for him.

They don't.

Instead, since they are already in the United States and don't have to worry about passing through customs with valid passports and visa, they make plans to murder as many innocent people as possible so they pick out 3 of the most vulnerable places to attack simultaneously: a senior citizens center, a mental institution with disabled children and adults and, in a place that will surely directly affect millions of Americans who love animals, a large veterinarian clinic during an adoption day for rescued pit bulls who have been saved from Michael Vick's farm.

Despite multiple warnings by the HKers and despite electronic surveillance and monitoring of the HKers for months, the HKers go ahead with their threat of violence and pull off a mass murder in one day unlike any the world has seen since Mithradates of Pontus killed 80,000+ Roman citizens in 88 BC. **

What do we do now?

There are those who would espouse doing basically nothing. 'Until they actually commit an atrocity, we have to respect their privacy, freedom or speech and religious beliefs no matter how much we disagree with them. We must respect our sacred American values' say some well-meaning civil libertarians.

The relatives and friends of those slaughtered victims would disagree in all respects most likely.

There are those like Donald Trump who may say: 'Round up very Hare Krishna in America and ship them out of the country Send them back to whatever country they came from!' even though Hare Krishnas are all over the world nowadays.

Neither of these extremes seem to make much sense to us. One is totally naive and devoid of any consideration of the real-world and how bad people act. James Madison said it best in Federalist 51:
'If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions'
Even Hare Krishnas are no 'angels', are they?

Perhaps the most over-arching American 'value' that gets overlooked when many civil libertarians start talking about 1st Amendment freedoms guaranteed to all of us is the 'value' we place on living in peace free from being mass-murdered in our homes, workplace or houses of worship in the first place. Reasonable people can see and hear and watch what violent jihadists are doing today and come to the reasonable conclusion that these people really want to kill and injure as many Americans as they can.

It stands to reason that we should be able to take any precaution or pre-emptive actions, with reasonable cause of course, to protect the lives of 310 million citizens from a few hundred or thousand terrorists dedicated to killing us, isn't it?

The second approach as enunciated by Mr. Trump is misguided because it presumes that everyone of a particular faith is guilty, if for no other reason than by association through a common faith. If that were true, then every antebellum Christian believer in the North would have been held responsible for the actions of the Southern plantation owners who believed slavery was scriptural, even though the abolitionist movement started in the Northern Christian churches which led to the bloody conflict that eventually ended slavery in 1865.

What are some practical things we could do?

For one thing, we can take action against suspects who have clearly announced their intention to do harm to Americans since there clearly is a 'probable cause' to assume they are about to do violence.

The Socialist French government, post-Paris Attacks, has taken swift, deliberate and definitive action to clear out the nests of Islamist terrorists in France. They 'have raided 2,235 homes and buildings, taken 232 people into custody, and seized 334 weapons – 34 of which were war-grade - since the brutal attacks on 13 November that saw 130 people killed in the French capital' (per The Independent)

They have also shut down 3 mosques that were suspected of being hives of terrorist activity and planning. When places of worship become bunkers to conduct war, the line between 'freedom of religion' and 'becoming a danger to society' has been breached and must be dealt with as France has done.

If Bernie Sanders has come out and said he approves of the way the French Socialists have dealt with this threat, we haven't see it yet.

The other thing that can be done is to see the moderate, modern Muslim community and religious and civic leaders come out in public to renounce Islamist terrorism in a forceful way. Hossein Askari, Economist, Professor of Business and International Affairs at GW University and a writer on Middle East Economies and Islamic economics and finance, has written a piece for the Huffington Post 'Muslims--Take Back Your Religion that essentially asks peaceful Muslims to do whatever it takes to refute and renounce the violence perpetrated by others in the name of Islam.

As crazy as it sounds to even imagine the Hare Krishnas spawning a violent streak among some of its followers, it is a helpful exercise nonetheless because it takes the current political tension out of the debate and focuses on the issues that matter: the safety of the American people from domestic and foreign attack.

When every elected official in The White House, Congress or the US Senate takes the following oath of office, they are not just 'defending and protecting' the US Constitution from foreign and domestic attacks, they are taking the oath to protect us as US citizens. We should all remember that.

'I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.'

* with apologies to John Lennon.
Lyrics to 'Instant Karma'
Instant Karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you're gonna be dead
What in the world you thinking of
Laughing in the face of love
What on earth you tryin' to do
It's up to you, yeah you

Instant Karma's gonna get you
Gonna look you right in the face
Better get yourself together darlin'
Join the human race
How in the world you gonna see
Laughin' at fools like me
Who in the hell d'you think you are
A super star
Well, right you are

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well we all shine on
Ev'ryone come on

Instant Karma's gonna get you
Gonna knock you off your feet
Better recognize your brothers
Ev'ryone you meet
Why in the world are we here
Surely not to live in pain and fear
Why on earth are you there
When you're ev'rywhere
Come and get your share

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah we all shine on
Come on and on and on on on
Yeah yeah, alright, uh huh, ah

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah we all shine on
On and on and on on and on

Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Yeah we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun

** go get 'The Poison King' by Adrienne Mayor and read about how King Mithradates basically invented asymmetrical guerrilla warfare and was the biggest pain to the Roman Empire for decades 

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

'We Will Not Re-issue Visas Or Issue New Visas'

'You say we can't invalidate visas for
Iranian citizens? Since when?
Can you imagine what an executive order from a 'President Donald Trump' would look like regarding expulsion of a class of people deemed to be 'dangerous to our national security'?

It might read something like this:

(20 January 2017, 1:30 pm soon after the Inauguration on the West Front of The US Capitol. No parade, just right to work in the Oval Office for 'President Trump')

'President Trump' orders 50,000 Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi students in the US to report to immigration office with the view to deporting those in violation of their visas'

'President Trump' also orders the Secretary of Treasury [State] and the Attorney General to invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States, effective today.

'We will not reissue visas, nor will we issue new visas, except for compelling and proven humanitarian reasons or where the national interest of our own country requires' says 'President Trump'.

'This directive will be interpreted very strictly' says the new President.

Sounds pretty harsh, doesn't it?

Well, guess what?

That is precisely what President Jimmy Carter did in 1979 and 1980 following the capture of 50 American hostages in the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran, none of whom would be released until 30 minutes before the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan on January 20, 1981.

The quotes above are taken directly from official records and accounts of President Carter's executive orders that sought to 'get tough' with the Iranian government as well as to protect the national security of this country and our citizens.

Here's the chronology of the events leading up to and including the capture of the American hostages and the subsequent actions all the way through their release in January, 1981.

Here is the complete statement by President Carter on April 7, 1980 announcing the sanctions against Iran including the suspension and invalidation of all new and old visas for Iranian citizens traveling to the United States.

In both, all you have to do is remove 'President Trump' from the hypothetical case mentioned above and substitute 'President Jimmy Carter' and you have a real-life, living breathing historical account of something that happened under a Democratic President not too long ago, 35 years almost.

Does that make you feel any better or any worse about America and the way past Presidents have chosen to try to defend our borders and make things safer for you and me and our parents and grandparents?

Let's face it: Donald Trump's broad-based statement that every Muslim should be considered a threat to this nation is wrong and wrong-headed. We coached a lot of Muslim kids in Northern Virginia in a variety of sports and got to know their parents and their siblings. One mother wore her hajib to every lacrosse game and said her son was going to be the 'greatest lacrosse player ever from Turkey....mainly because no one in Turkey had ever heard, seen or played lacrosse before!'

The vast majority of Muslims in America are just like the vast majority of Christians, Jews and atheists: good hard-working people who basically want a chance to provide a better life for their family and themselves and want the freedom to do so with a minimum of interference from anyone or any government.

However, just as President Carter saw in 1979, there are some Muslims who see western civilization as 'The Great Satan' and they want to rid the world of us infidels and will take any means necessary to achieve those ends. The 1993 World Trade Center bombings, 9/11, the USS Cole..the list of Islamist terror attacks on the US and Western Europe and other civilized nations just never seems to ever end, does it?

President Carter saw the existential threat to America when Iran took those 50 American citizens hostage and held them for 444 days against their will for really no other reason than the fact that they were American citizens. He took executive action to forcefully, or as forcefully as he could at the time, show the world that the United States wouldn't tolerate such acts of hostility without repercussions.

President Carter's actions are facts of history. There is no denying them or trying to equivocate them away in any fashion. He took action against the Iranians, many of whom were just innocent college students in America trying to get an education.

50,000 of those college students were ordered to a deportation center where many of them were deported for violating or over-staying their visa. Roughly 7000 students were forced to leave the US immediately. A total of 15,000 Iranians were ultimately deported from the US.

President Carter invoked the McCarran-Walter Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 to justify his actions. Here are the disqualifying factors that would prohibit any alien from gaining access to the US:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this Act, the following classes of aliens shall be ineligible to receive visas and shall be excluded from admission into the United States:
(1) Aliens who are feeble-minded;
(2) Aliens who are insane;
(3) Aliens who have had one or more attacks of insanity;
(4) Aliens afflicted with psychopathic personality, epilepsy, or a mental defect;
(5) Aliens who are narcotic drug addicts or chronic alcoholics;
(6) Aliens who are afflicted with tuberculosis in any form, or with leprosy, or any dangerous contagious disease;
(7) Aliens not comprehended within any of the foregoing classes who are certified by the examining surgeon as having a physical defect, disease, or disability, when determined by the consular or immigration officer to be of such a nature that it may affect the ability of the alien to earn a living, unless the alien affirmatively establishes that he will not have to earn a living;
(8) Aliens who are paupers, professional beggars, or vagrants;
(9) Aliens who have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense), or aliens who admit having committed such a crime, or aliens who admit committing acts which constitute the essential elements of such a crime; except that aliens who have committed only one such crime while under the age of eighteen years may be granted a visa and admitted if the crime was committed more than five years prior to the date of the application for a visa or other documentation, and more than five years prior to date of application for admission to the United States, unless the crime resulted confinement in a prison or correctional institution, in which case such alien must have been released from such confinement more than five years prior to the date of the application for a visa or other documentation, and for admission, to the United States;
(10) Aliens who have been convicted of two or more offenses (other than purely political offenses), regardless of whether the conviction was in a single trial or whether the offenses arose from a single scheme of misconduct and regardless of whether the offenses involved moral turpitude, for which the aggregate sentences to confinement actually imposed were five years or more;
(11) Aliens who are polygamists or who practice polygamy or advocate the practice of polygamy;
(12) Aliens who are prostitutes or who have engaged in prostitution, or aliens coming to the United States solely, principally, or incidentally to engage in prostitution; aliens who directly or indirectly procure or attempt to procure, or who have procured or attempted to procure or to import, prostitutes or persons for the purpose of prostitution or for any other immoral purpose; and aliens who are or have been supported by, or receive or have received, in whole or in part, the proceeds of prostitution or aliens coming to the United States to engage in any other unlawful commercialized vice, whether or not related to prostitution;
(13) Aliens coming to the United States to engage in any immoral sexual act;
(14) Aliens seeking to enter the United States for the purpose of performing skilled or unskilled labor, if the Secretary of Labor has determined and certified to the Secretary of State and to the Attorney General that (A) sufficient workers in the United States who are able, willing, and qualified are available at the time (of application for a visa and for admission to the United States) and place (to which the alien is destined) to perform such skilled or unskilled labor, or (B) the employment of such aliens will adversely affect the wages and working conditions of the workers in the United States similarly employed. The exclusion of aliens under this paragraph shall apply only to the following classes: (i) those aliens described in the non-preference category of section 203 (a) (4), (ii) those aliens described in section 101 (a) (27) (C), (27) (D), or (27) (E) (other than the parents, spouses, or children of United States citizens or of aliens lawfully admitted to the United State for permanent residence), unless their services are determined by the Attorney General to be needed urgently in the United States because of the high education, technical training, specialized experience, or exceptional ability of such immigrants and to be substantially beneficial prospectively to the national economy, cultural interest or welfare of the United States;
(15) Aliens who, in the opinion of the consular officer at the time of application for a visa, or in the opinion of the Attorney General at the time of application for admission, are likely at any time to become public charges;
(16) Aliens who have been excluded from admission and deported and who again seek admission within one year from the date of such deportation, unless prior to their re-embarkation at a place outside the United States or their attempt to be admitted from foreign contiguous territory the Attorney General has consented to their reapplying for admission;
(17) Aliens who have been arrested and deported, or who have fallen into distress and have been removed pursuant to this or any prior act, or who have been removed as alien enemies, or who have been removed at Government expense in lieu of deportation pursuant to section 242 (b), unless prior to their embarkation or reembarkation at a place outside the United States or their attempt to be admitted from foreign contiguous territory the Attorney General has consented to their applying or reapplying for admission;
(18) Aliens who are stowaways;
(19) Any alien who seeks to procure, or has sought to procure, or has procured a visa or other documentation, or seeks to enter the United States, by fraud, or by willfully misrepresenting a material fact;

Somewhere in there must be some understanding that anyone who seeks to gain access to the United States, whether they be Muslim, Christian, Jewish or atheist or whatever, in order to do physical harm and commit atrocious acts of murder and mayhem like these Islamist terrorists are intent on doing today as we witnessed in San Bernardino (and saw from afar in Paris, France) must be discovered, deported or imprisoned BEFORE they can do such harm.

What good does it do after the fact to tell the survivors of the victims of such horrific terror: 'Oh, well, you know, we have been tracking these folks for awhile but we couldn't take action because we wanted to make sure that we followed due process and made 100% sure they were going to kill someone before we could charge them with a crime'

What sort of 'American value' is that?

This is not your normal everyday America nowadays. We are at a state of war with these Islamist terrorists whether we like to admit it or not simply because they have stated they are at a state of war or jihad against us. We can't just ignore that fact and keep whistling happy tunes all day long like we are in some la-la land, can we?

That is at the crux of this important issue right now. Saying that 'America has to respect our values' also includes one of the most important duties our elected officials have in Washington for us as citizens and that is placing a high 'value' on the peace and security of this nation so we can all live free and happy lives without worrying about when a terrorist is going to blow us up or shoot us in a mall one day.

President Obama has failed that test. His nationally televised speech last Sunday might as well have been to announce another hashtag Twitter campaign saying #WeSupportSanBernardinoAndParisBut DontExpectUsToDoAnythingToPreventOtherAttacksFromHappening or something like that.

It would have been just as impactful.

Maybe the news media should read and try to understand history before making broad pronouncements on television that we can't do what presidents have done before.

Even just 35 years ago as was the case with President Jimmy Carter.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Understanding the Nexus of Faith, Religion And Islamist Terrorism

What are we dealing with really when it comes to so many mass murders such as the one we just witnessed in San Bernardino, California?

Is it all fundamentalist Islamic terrorism? Or is it a combination of racial hatred such as we saw in Charleston, SC along with psychotic killers who show up around the country and just murder people because of their mental illness? Or is it a case of too many guns in America, period?

Sadly, there have been 351 mass murders in America this year in 336 days as of the San Bernardino massacre according to Wonkblog in the Washington Post:

That is not too unusual, again, sadly for America. In 2013, by comparison, 363 mass murders happened during the entire year.

Clearly, not all of these mass shootings in America today, or for any of our recent history, are related to Islamist terrorism. If that had been so, we would have had full-scale, all-out warfare in in the streets of America long ago.

However, there is clearly a definitive strand of mass murders in America stemming from direct Islamist terrorism influence from ISIS and Al Qaeda beginning with 9/11 and now seeping into all areas of the nation. Some can now be traced to direct recruitment of American citizens by ISIS or Al Qaeda and possible training and indoctrination overseas before returning to America. Others are more likely copy-cat acts of terrorism inspired by ISIS and the allure of feeling like they are joining a worldwide jihad against western civilization for whatever reason they choose to say they are against western civilization.

We have a friend who is working in the counter-terrorism effort against ISIS in the social media field and he tells us that they are very sophisticated in their recruitment and marketing efforts through Twitter and other social platforms such as Telegram with enhanced encryption on-line.

The magnitude of the problem seems overwhelming, doesn't it? Such magnitudes of difficulty of solving the problem begets seemingly simple solutions such as 'Pass 100% Gun Control!' that become political bromides and bumper stickers but are quickly overwhelmed by the simple facts of there being 270 million firearms in the US today under a Constitution that has the Second Amendment freedom to bear arms.

Asking the owners of 270 million firearms to voluntarily donate their firearms to the US federal government under a strict gun control measure just because a President asks them to do so would be like asking the American owners of roughly 254 million automobiles and trucks to trade them in for bicycles because more deaths occur each year on the nation's highways, roughly 33,000, versus the 32,000 who die every year by guns in either a homicide of suicide.

It is just not gonna happen. Plus to assume that any of these Islamist terrorists, or any crazed mass murderer for that matter, is either going to turn in their weapons, register them or not steal one from someone else to inflict harm on others when they decide to do so is quite simply naive.

So what are we to do?

We have long been advocates of more and better direct access to mental health treatment for disturbed people who are exhibiting signs of mental illness. In the 1980s, when many mental health hospitals were closed around the country for various reasons, many of the laws that allowed family members to have fellow family members admitted to institutions before they did harm to themselves or others were repealed or rewritten to make such admittances more difficult due to individual privacy concerns.

That can still be addressed by this President and the US Congress and Senate. Tomorrow if they choose to do so.

But these Islamist terrorist-inspired or directed attacks on innocent people are an entirely different matter. They can't all be attributed to 'mental illness' inasmuch as they are clearly defining their own actions by the jihadist literature found in their homes, the internet chat rooms and conversations they leave behind.

These terrorist attacks are a means of war. If we can't or won't recognize that an enemy has declared war on us, how can we ever take the actions necessary to combat and ultimately defeat them?

Here's a very interesting and long article that you should read in its entirety over this weekend: 'What ISIS Really Wants' by Graeme Wood for The Atlantic magazine.

He writes:
'(P)retending that (ISIS) isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.
There is a deeply religious apocalyptic endgame to the ISIS strategy that involves the 'end-times' and the return of The Messiah very much like in the Christian New Testament in Revelation and the Jewish/Christian tradition in the Old Testament readings of Daniel and other minor prophets.

All of which ISIS fully intends to trigger. Not avoid.

The comparison to the Old and New Testaments stands to reason since the Koran and Islam is an off-shoot of the Old Testament to begin with, starting with Ishmael being banished from the tribe of Israel by his father Abraham and who wound up being viewed by Muslims as the ancestor to the Prophet Muhammad.

All those Sunday school mornings learning about Genesis and Daniel and Jesus, you never imagined it would come in handy one day trying to understand the motives of killer terrorists such as ISIS on a grand international geo-political foreign policy and American military defense strategic viewpoint such as today in 2015, did you?

Well, it did and it does today.

We are not sure exactly what it will take to defeat ISIS today or else we would have led with that opinion. We do recall that President Abraham Lincoln at the start of the American Civil War took extraordinary measures including the suspension of habeas corpus when Washington DC was virtually surrounded by rebels on the Virginia and the Maryland front. He took Baltimore by force in order to insure that Maryland would not secede with the Confederacy and put federal Union troops there to protect the harbor and not allow a further envelopment of the nation's capital during that time of declared war against the Union.

Presidents have taken unusual and extraordinary steps in the past when it came to protecting and defending the US Constitution such as they interpreted the threat at the time.

However, we do know that until and unless this President, President Obama, decides to lead us in what it will take to defeat this common enemy as we know it now to clearly be, he will have failed to fulfill the fundamental duty of a US president which is to help keep us safe from all harm, from foreign and domestic threats alike.

All Americans, whether we are conservative or liberal or moderate, or of any color, age, gender or socio-economic class want to feel like we are safe to do whatever we please each and every day, don't we? We always look to a George Washington or an Abraham Lincoln or a Ronald Reagan to be our Father Figure when we are attacked or there is a dark looming existential threat to us be it from Germany under Hitler or Japan under the Emperor.

We don't look to our President to cast off our collective fears by calling these ISIS killers 'the JV team' of Al Qaeda (they are not) or that 'this (San Bernardino massacre) could have been another case of 'workplace violence'.

How insulting to our collective intelligence is that? 

'Workplace violence'? 

The President might have well said this was caused by alien spacecraft whizzing past Earth as they laser-beamed Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik's brains which caused them to shoot these innocent people at a Christmas party in a day care center for adults and children with developmental disabilities. That would have made as much sense as his assertion that, yet again, he thought some atrocity was just another case of 'workplace violence' which used to be called 'going postal' before the US Postal Service must have figured out how to control such shootings, somewhat at least.

Today, that existential threat is ISIS. And Al Qaeda. They are waging war against the United States of America and all of western civilization in a Islamist-inspired wave of terror to achieve their political, economic and yes, religious apocalyptic end-time goals as the Graeme Wood article explains in exquisite detail.

We can't ignore that fact any longer, Mr. President. It is time to call this what it is and to act with force and deliberation to quarantine and isolate any possible threat to the American public from any suspects who are lurking about to do further harm, damage and death to innocent American citizens.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

'Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor...(But You Still Have to Go Through Ellis Island)'

If you listen enough to some people, you would think that the United States of America has forever been a nation of porous borders, lenient immigration policies and a virtual open door to the huddled masses of the world yearning to be free as now inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

It hasn't. Our history of enacting and enforcing immigration laws and processes has been pretty consistent throughout our history with the notable exception of the past 25 years when our immigration control system has been overrun by omission and commission under the Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama Administrations

Did you know that the 6th largest segment of our 11 million+ illegal immigrant population today is from India? Illegal immigrants from Mexico make up close to 60% of this population but illegal immigrants from The Philippines, Korea, China and Vietnam also make up substantial segments of our current illegal immigrant population in America.

Ever since the 1880's, America has been confronted with the question of how many immigrants this country was going to legally admit each and every year and for what reason.

Millions of Irish emigrated from Ireland in the wake of the devastating potato famine from 1845-1849 with over 1 million coming to America alone. (One of them was our great-great?-grandmother Maggie O'Quinn who signed over 7 years of her life to come over as an indentured servant)

Millions of other Europeans from Germany, Italy, France and England have come through legal channels since then.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese immigrants were processed through the West Coast immigration offices.

Just through Ellis Island alone, 12 million people were processed and allowed legal immigrant status in the US from 1892-1954. Millions more were not granted legal status for some reason or another and were deported back to their home country.

Not every person who has tried to come to the United States has been accepted over our history, you know. The immigration laws have been enforced throughout most of our history with the illegal immigration from Mexico and Latin America in the 1990's and early 21st century being one of the largest exceptions to that rule.

Asylum and refugee status are different than regular immigration laws but they are no less important when it comes to screening potential new immigrants to America. Especially today when we know that there are jihadists associated with ISIS and Al Qaeda who would like nothing more than to somehow slip into America and pull off a Paris-style attack and kill hundreds or thousands of innocent people.

With that in mind, we thought we would go back in history to see when millions of people came through Ellis Island in New York and other processing centers around the nation, including San Francisco during the late 19th century and see exactly how they processed immigrants coming to the US.

Were the 'good old days' any better than today when it came to how the US processed legal immigrants over 100 years ago? Were the standards then more harsh or more lenient than today? Did Emma Lazarus write her poem about the 'huddled masses yearning to be free' and America just opened its doors, economy and security to anyone who could get here by foot, by boat or by plane and automatically gave them citizenship no questions asked?

Judge for yourself by reading from the archives below a 1905 account of our immigration system then written and published in the Popular Science magazine. One interesting thing to note is how the immigration laws at the time held the carriers of the immigrants responsible for the pre-screening process such that if they were rejected once they got to New York, the private carriers and steamship companies had to pay for their return back to their home country.

We will offer some more thoughts on the immigration issue later but wanted to remind everyone, especially in the face of the pending Syrian refugee issue, that our immigration and homeland security system have very important jobs to do to not only offer sanctuary for the widows and orphans of the ISIS war and any other around the globe, but to make sure that anyone who is allowed to come into this country is not going to be a mortal threat to anyone already here.

'Immigration Archives - How Immigrants Are Inspected at Ellis Island circa 1903

By Dr. Allan McLaughlin, U. S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service.

Inspection of our immigrants may be said to begin in Europe. The immigrant usually buys his steamship ticket in his native town from an agent or sub-agent of the steamship company. The agents of the best steamship lines are held responsible by the company, for the passengers they book for America, and if they ship one of the excluded classes they are likely to lose their agency. This makes the agent examine the applicants for tickets, and probably quite a large number of defectives are refused passage by agents of the first-class lines. These defectives then usually try some less particular and smaller lines and take chances of escaping inspection at the Canadian or Mexican borders.

The next scrutiny to which the immigrant is subjected is that of the steamship authorities at the port of embarkation. This was formerly a perfunctory examination, and is so still, as far as some lines are concerned, but first-class lines, notably the English and German, examine the immigrants carefully and with due regard for our laws.

The strict enforcement of our laws, and especially the imposition of one hundred dollars fine for bringing to our ports any ease of a contagious character, have occasioned some improvement in the inspection made by ships' doctors at European ports. At the port of embarkation the immigrants' names are recorded upon lists or manifests, each list containing about thirty names. After each name the steamship officials are required by law to record answers to a certain number of queries relating to the immigrant.

1903 Passenger Manifests

Section 12 of the act of 1903 provides that the manifests shall state, in answer to the questions at the top of the manifest sheet:

  1. The full name, age and sex ;
  2. whether married or single;
  3. the calling or occupation;
  4. whether able to read or write;
  5. the nationality;
  6. the race;
  7. the last residence;
  8. the seaport of landing in the United States;
  9. the final destination, if any, beyond the port of landing;
  10. whether having a ticket through to such final destination;
  11. whether the alien has paid his own passage, or whether it has been paid by any other person or by any corporation, society, municipality, or government, and if so, by whom;
  12. whether in possession of thirty dollars, and if less, how much;
  13. whether going to join a relative or friend and if so, what relative or friend, and his name and complete address;
  14. whether ever before in the United States, and if so, when and where;
  15. whether ever in prison or almshouse or an institution or hospital for the care and treatment of the insane or supported by charity;
  16. whether a polygamist;
  17. whether an anarchist;
  18. whether coming by reason of any offer, solicitation, promise or agreement, expressed or implied, to perform labor in the United States, and
  19. what is the alien's condition of health, mental and physical, and whether deformed or crippled, and if so, for how long and from what cause.
  20. The master or first officer and the ship's surgeon are required by the same law to make oath before an immigration officer at the port of arrival that the lists manifests are to the best of their knowledge and belief true, and that none of the aliens belongs to any of the excluded classes.

Alien Identification Cards

Each alien is furnished with a card, with his name, the number of the list on which his name appears and his number on that list. The cards of minor children are given to the head of the family. These cards are valuable and necessary for identification, and facilitate inspection at the port of arrival.

Conditions on Steamships

The condition of the steerage quarters of a modern steamship depends largely upon the age of the ship and the degree of overcrowding. The steerage of a first-class ship of recent construction will afford accommodations equal to those accorded second cabin passengers on less progressive lines.

First-class lines are careful also to prevent overcrowding. On some of the smaller and older ships the accommodations are limited, and overcrowding is permitted. But it is safe to say that the worst steerage accommodations to be found on any ship entering New York harbor to-day are infinitely better than the best afforded by the sailing vessels or old 'side wheelers' of the past.

Inspectors Boarding of Ocean Liners

On entering New York harbor the ocean liners are boarded by the state quarantine authorities, and the immigrants inspected for quarantinable disease, such as cholera, small-pox, typhus fever, yellow fever or plague. Then the immigrant inspectors and a medical officer of the Public Health and Marine Hospital Service board the vessel and examine the cabin passengers, paying particular attention to the second cabin.

This cabin inspection is very necessary, and, before its institution, the second class cabin was the route most often employed by persons who found it necessary to evade the law. After the completion of the cabin inspection the ship's surgeon reports any cases of sickness among the aliens in the ship's hospital. The medical inspector examines these cases and later arranges for their transfer, if deemed advisable, from the ship to the immigrant hospital. The immigrants are then taken from the ship upon barges to the immigrant station, Ellis Island.

Medical Examination at Ellis Island

The medical examination at Ellis Island is conducted according to a system which is the result of many years of development. The doctors work in pairs, and divide the inspection between them. The immigrants, coming in single file, are examined for certain defects by the first doctor. who detains each one long enough to keep a space of ten to fifteen feet between the immigrants.

The second doctor, placed about thirty feet from the first, disregards that part of the examination entrusted to his colleague and confines his examination to such defects as are not looked for by the first doctor. The file of immigrants makes a right-angle turn just as it reaches the second doctor and this enables the examiner to observe the side and back of the passenger in the shortest time possible.

The examiners follow a routine in this examination, and the scrutiny begins at the approaching passenger's feet, before he comes within fifteen feet of the examiner. The examiner's scrutiny beginning at the feet travels upward, and the eyes are the last to be inspected. In this way, lameness, deformity, defective eyesight (through efforts to adjust his vision, after making the turn, to a new course) are detected.

The gait and general appearance suggest health or disease to the practiced eye, and aliens who do not appear normal are turned aside, with those who are palpably defective, and more thoroughly examined later.

The medical examiners must ever be on the alert for deception. The nonchalant individual with an overcoat on his arm is probably concealing an artificial arm; the child strapped to its mother's back, and who appears old enough to walk alone, may be unable to walk because of infantile paralysis; a case of favus may be so skillfully prepared for inspection that close scrutiny is required to detect the evidences of recent cleansing, and a bad case of trachoma may show no external evidence and be detected only upon inverting the eyelid.

After the last alien in line has passed the doctor, the suspected ones turned aside are thoroughly examined, idiots and those suffering with a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease are certified and sent to the board of special inquiry. Cases not deemed fit to travel are sent to the hospital, and cases with some disability likely to make them a public charge are certified accordingly and also sent to the board of special inquiry.

Minor defects, such as anemia, loss of an eye, loss of a finger, poor physique, low stature, etc., are recorded on the alien's card and he is allowed to go to the registry clerk and immigrant inspector in charge of the manifest, who takes the defect into consideration as contributory evidence, and may or may not send him to the board.

Grouping of Immigrants

After passing the doctors, the immigrants are grouped, according to the number of their manifest sheet, into lines of thirty or less. At the head of each line is a registry clerk, or interpreter, and an immigration inspector. The clerk, or interpreter, interrogates each alien, and finds his name, and verifies the answers on the manifest sheet before him, and if, in the opinion of the immigrant inspector, the immigrant is not clearly and beyond doubt entitled to land, he is held for the consideration of the board of special inquiry.

Board of Special Inquiry

A board of special inquiry according to the law of 1903 `consists of three members selected from such of the immigrant officials in the service as the commissioner general of immigration, with the approval of the secretary of commerce and labor, shall designate as qualified to serve on such boards.'

"The decision of any two members of a board shall prevail and be final, but either the alien or any dissenting member of said board may appeal through the commissioner of immigration at the port of arrival, and the commissioner general of immigration to the secretary of commerce and labor, whose decision shall then be final, and the taking of such appeal shall operate to stay any action in regard to the final disposal of the alien, whose case is so appealed, until receipt by the commissioner of immigration at the port of arrival, of such decision."

To this `board of special inquiry' are sent the aliens certified by the medical officers as suffering from loathsome or dangerous contagious disease, idiocy, epilepsy and insanity.

Deportation for Unfit Immigrants

In cases so certified the law is mandatory, and the medical certificate is equivalent to exclusion, the board simply applying the legal process necessary for deportation. Aliens certified by the medical officers as suffering from disability, likely to make them public charges, are also held for examination before the hoard of special inquiry.

The board in these cases takes into consideration the medical certificate and such evidence as may be adduced by the alien or his friends which, in the opinion of the board, would offset the physical disability. In these cases the hoard has full discretionary powers, and in a great majority of instances the alien is admitted.

Those certified as defective by the doctors group themselves naturally into four classes, and the following table indicates the disposition of such cases by the boards of special inquiry at New York during a fairly representative month:

Disposition of Immigrants Certified at Ellis Island, New York

Month of October, 1903

Reconciliation of CasesClass I
(Dangerous Contagious)
Class II
(Insanity and Idiocy)
Class III
Class IV
(Likely to Become A Public Charge)
Cases pending beginning of month100030
Cases certified during month8311393
Total to be accounted for9311423
Cases deported611130
Cases landed400349
Cases pending close of month280044

Immigrants not detained for the board of special inquiry have their money changed into United States currency, and buy their railroad tickets, under the supervision of government officers. If they are destined to points beyond New York City, government supervision is maintained until they are taken to one of the great railroad terminals and placed upon the waiting train.

These precautions are taken to protect the immigrants front the boarding house runners' and other con men who lie in wait for them at the Battery. Aliens detained as not clearly entitled to land are brought before the board, and, if the evidence is complete, either deported or discharged.

When the evidence is incomplete, the immigrant is detained pending the verification of his story, or the arrival of his relatives or friends. All cases are disposed of as rapidly as possible, and immigrants are detained the minimum amount of time required for procuring and carefully considering the evidence in the case. Those ordered deported are returned to the ship as soon as possible after the decision is rendered, providing no appeal is made.

Organizations and Representatives Meeting Immigrants

Missionaries and representatives of various religious denominations and societies have offices upon Ellis Island and render valuable assistance to the immigrant. They provide temporary shelter and protection for discharged aliens, and direct them to legitimate employers of labor. In this way they relieve the government of caring for many temporarily detained aliens, especially young women traveling alone. 'They write letters and send telegrams to the friends of the detained immigrants, and assist them in many other ways.


The fine adjustment of details and perfection of system which enable the federal officers at Ellis Island to examine, under our laws, thousands of aliens each day must be seen to be fully appreciated. Nor is this careful and strict execution of our laws limited to Ellis Island.

The writer has roughly described the inspection at New York, because it is our largest port of entry, but the same attention to detail and strict enforcement of laws and regulations can be said to exist at all our ports, and an investigation, by any one interested, will reveal the fact that not only are the laws for our protection strictly enforced, but their enforcement is marked by humane and kindly treatment of the Alien.'

Source: The Popular Science Monthly, February 1905, Volume 66, Pages 357-361.

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