Reflections on Reflections

February, 2016

reflectionsThe first issue of Reflections Newsletter was September, 2009. This was the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency. He was supported by a Democratic House and Senate.

Let’s go down Memory Lane and review some of the highs and lows from 2009 – 2015. But first, I want to thank our readers for your comments and suggestions over the years. Your feedback has been critical to the success of Reflections.

Communications

The Skills of Communication was the subject of the first issue. From issue one; “When we think of communication we think of speaking and writing. However, there is another side of communications and that is listening.”

Has our government been listening to the people these last six years? The answer is NO! They have “cement ears” when it comes to listening to “we the people.” Their agenda is driven by special interests. The peoples’ anger is displayed in our current political campaign. “Throw the bums out” is an overwhelming sentiment.

Energy

Great progress has been achieved on the energy front. We have moved from an energy dependent to an energy independent nation, in spite of Washington and state governments fighting fracking.

Natural gas and gasoline prices have dropped. Switching from coal to natural gas to generate electricity has had a positive impact on “clean air.” A word of caution…coal still produces over 40% of our electrical power. We still need it.

Even with all the progress in wind and solar technology, they still only provide 2 to 3% of our power needs.

Obamacare

This has been a disaster!!! Our President told us, “you can keep your doctor and health plan, and your costs will go down.” Just the opposite has happened.

Republicans shout their opposition to Obamacare but they still don’t have a plan to replace it.

Immigration

This is still a major problem. The government refuses to close the borders while over 200 U.S. cities provide sanctuary, refusing to arrest illegal residents.

We have laws that governments should enforce. They can’t pick and choose. Washington’s job is to close the borders, prevent illegal immigration and enforce the visa program.

America is not anti-immigrant. We permit roughly a
million people a year to enter our country…legally!

Deficit

Our national debt has soared to $19 trillion and climbing. Annual deficits continue unabated: $161 billion in 2007, $1.416 trillion in 2009. This is madness!!!

Regulations

Government agencies continue to spew out new regulations like a Midwest hail storm. They ignore the costs and impact on our daily lives.

Americans are tired of state and federal bureaucrats telling us what we can eat and drink, what kind of toilets we must buy and what kind of light bulbs we must use.

The EPA and other government agencies will come into your private property and tell you what you can or cannot do with it. If you fail to follow the latest government mandate, you will be fined and/or sent to jail. Ignorance of these rapidly changing regulations is no excuse.

Summary

We need new rational leadership in Washington that listens to the people. All of our challenges are solvable. We want less “hot air” from our leaders and more action. We implore Washington to do the right things NOW!!!

As we look to the future I am reminded of President Ronald Reagan’s comments in 1985: “My fellow citizens, our Nation is poised for greatness. We must do what we know is right and do it with all our might. Let history say of us, “These were golden years—when the American Revolution was reborn, when freedom gained new life, when America reached for her best.”

America is a great country. Let’s keep it that way!

“Trust” in Government

January, 2016

trustDo Americans trust their government? Only 20% of Americans do. That’s down from nearly 80% in 1964.

There are many reasons for this steep decline, however many Americans fear our government due to seemingly endless regulations and their assault on our liberties.

HOW SAD!!

Civil Forfeiture

One example is a legal tool that empowers law enforcement authorities to seize cars, money, homes and any other type of property that is suspected to have been derived from, or used to facilitate, criminal activity.

Congress ramped up this program in the 1980s to fight organized crime and drug gangs by targeting their ill-gotten gains. Federal law enforcement agencies were authorized to retain forfeiture proceeds to finance their operations and to disburse forfeiture funds to state and local law enforcement authorities that partnered with the federal government.

Federal Program Circumvents State Laws

Under the so-called “equitable sharing” program, a state or local agency can seize your property under state law, transfer it to federal authorities for forfeiture under federal law, and then receive up to 80% of the proceeds. Federal authorities keep the remainder.

This tidy arrangement enables police departments and sheriffs to generate forfeiture revenue even if their state legislature has banned or otherwise restricted the practice. And since most forfeiture cases are never challenged owing to the high cost of hiring an attorney, the revenue local agencies can expect to generate is substantial.

Financial Incentive for Police

Between 1989 and 2010, U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture cases. By 2014, that number had ballooned to roughly $4.5 billion for the year…more than all the reported burglary losses that year, according to the FBI. This means that the police are now taking more assets than the criminals.

Bloomberg News has reported that Stop-and-Seize authority is turning the police into self-funding gangs. They are simply confiscating money and they don’t have to prove you did anything wrong. Prosecutors are now instructing police on how to confiscate money within the grey area of the law.

New Mexico

Eight months ago, the New Mexico legislature unanimously passed a measure to abolish civil forfeiture in the state. Under the new law, agencies can only forfeit property if someone who is alleged to have used or derived the property in connection with a crime is, in fact, convicted of that crime.

Refusing to Reform

Albuquerque, it seems, did not get the message. Despite the new state law, the city continues to target vehicles for seizure and forfeiture if the driver of the car is arrested (but not necessarily convicted, as state law now requires) for driving while intoxicated.

Each year the city seizes approximately 1,000 vehicles and brings in roughly $1 million in forfeiture proceeds, which are used primarily to pay the salaries of the police and prosecutors who run the program.

Good News

As of December, 2015 the Justice Department is halting a controversial program that allows law enforcement to keep most the proceeds of cash and property they seize from Americans under federal law, sometimes without charging anyone with a crime.

Trust

Congress must stop—once and for all—the asset forfeiture program. States must be refrained from turning their police forces into “collection agencies” for cities or states.

Government must start acting on the citizens’ behalf and quit treating us like a “piggy bank.”

America is a great country. Government must earn our trust by doing the right things!

A Holiday Reminder — Be Kind!!!

December, 2015

shamrock_santa_hatEverywhere we look we are bombarded with bad news:

  • Explosions, gun fire and death in Paris.
  • Another financial crisis.
  • Crime in our cities.

But, while we have problems we must also work to solve them.

Far too many struggle with hunger and homelessness, but good people across the country work to feed them so no one starves to death.

We have the finest health-care system in the world, but we must improve accessibility and how to pay for it.

Thousands of jobs remain open. The problem is finding skilled workers to fill them.

Every challenge we face can be solved with the right leadership. Let’s make a commitment to solve our common problems, and be thankful for the many good things we do have.

Years ago, I devoted an issue of “Reflections” to Be Kind!! I think it’s time to revisit this theme.

In America we are such a busy nation…24/7 work schedules…cell phones and text messages….car pools…rushing from one place to the next. We don’t take the time to enjoy life and “smell the roses.” We take our most important relationships for granted.

I believe we should pause for a moment and reflect upon the many blessings in our life. Therefore, I suggest we designate December as:

BE KIND MONTH!

America and the world could use some extra kindness. Let’s commit ourselves to making this wonderful world an even better place for all of us.

  • Take the time to say “thank you.”
  • Tell your spouse how much you love him or her, and how you appreciate all they do for you.
  • Let your children know how proud you are of their many accomplishments.
  • At work, take a few extra moments to say “Good morning. Have a nice day.”, and really mean it!
  • Let your associates, clients, vendors and service providers know that you appreciate what they do.

We are not talking about insincere flattery here. That isn’t kindness; that’s manipulation.

Always, but especially during Be Kind Month, let’s make a promise to use every opportunity to express our thanks and appreciation. It will add fullness to your life and enrich others. Remember, everyone you meet is facing some kind of challenge.

There’s an old Irish saying that sums it all up…

A Kind Word Never Broke a Tooth!

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

BE KIND!