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Big government at the cost of freedom

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Freedom is the underlying principle that our nation was founded upon. It is what defines us as citizens of the United States of America, and is clearly spelled out in our country’s founding documents – the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Under those documents we are free from tyranny, free to choose a religion, free to not choose a religion, free to pursue life and happiness, free to openly disagree with and protest our government officials, and we are even free to defend ourselves from a corrupt government with violence if necessary. Sadly these freedoms are slowly disappearing from our nation, and they aren’t being taken – they are being surrendered – by us, the People. Consider the following.

You are at the mall, and you find some guy with his hand in your pocket in an attempt to pull out your wallet. This is how the conversation goes.

You: “Whoa! What are you doing?”

Guy: “I am just going to safeguard your wallet for you. There are a lot of pick-pockets in this mall, and I don’t want you to become a victim. Don’t worry. I will go wherever you go, keeping your wallet safe with me.”

You: “Oh, Ok. Thank God someone is looking out for me – wait! Why are you taking out that $1 bill?”

Guy: “I’m thirsty. If I am going to walk with you all day I need something to drink.”

You: “Yeah, I suppose that’s fair. While we are headed to the food court I could use something to eat – wait! What is that $20 bill for?”

Guy: “I gotta eat too. Did you forget that I am looking after the money? I can leave.”

You: “No, no. Don’t do that.”

*You walk to the food counter*

You: “I would like the Reuben sandw-“

Guy: “You will have the salad.”

You: “What!? Why?”

Guy: “A Reuben? Seriously?”

You: “Fine. Can I at least get a cookie?”

You’re an adult. It’s your own money and you just asked permission to buy a cookie with it.

The reality is the Guy represents our government, and the wallet is healthcare, retirement, education, parenting, marriage, etc. Our government can’t seem to keep its hands out of our own pockets in an attempt to gain more and more control, and the confused electorate in our nation keeps handing over our God-given rights to a corrupt, power-hungry political system all in the name of security.

Consider Social Security. We pay into the system our entire working lives. It is our money, we work for it, and we let the government take it only to tell us when we can use it. Control of our own retirement was surrendered. It was birthed out of complex issues, which makes unraveling it even more complex, therefore the alternative option requires much greater sacrifice now than it would have without Social Security. That alternative option being you invest your own money, however and with whoever you choose, at the rate you choose, and use it as you choose – you decide, not the government. Currently, our government allows us to receive Social Security benefits between ages 62 and 67. Any earlier age would require seeking permission through our Federal legislature. Furthermore, there is a growing deficit within this program which significantly threatens its continuity, ironically putting our social security in danger.

In spite of this glaring case-study we are now actively engaged in political battle over government control of healthcare. Several years ago, we surrendered our right to choose health insurance coverage, and the government gave us everything we should have expected – higher premiums and lower levels of care. However, I do find comfort in knowing that if I become pregnant (I’m a guy) I am covered because it is built into my insurance premium as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Fortunately, things could be much worse, for now. At least we aren’t the UK.

Not only does the United Kingdom have a single-payer healthcare system, effectively stripping its citizens of even more decision making power (a.k.a. – freedom) than here in the US, it also regularly intrudes on parents’ sovereignty as decision makers for their children. Combine those two issues and you get the Charlie Gard debacle – a truly despicable case involving a terminally ill infant with experimental treatment as his only chance at life. At least experimental treatment is an option though, right? Sorry, but that is not correct. UK courts decided not to allow the parents to transport the child to the US for such treatment, and ordered that he remain in the UK where no treatment is available. He was effectively sentenced to death, supposedly sparing him from further discomfort. His parents asked for permission, and were denied.

And for all of you social justice warriors out there (look away fellow evangelicals), we shouldn’t have to obtain the government’s permission to get married either. Heterosexual or not, why do we need a license to commit to a person we love for the rest of our lives? But if a certificate of marriage is important to you, and it should be, churches and other private organizations would be just as capable of issuing such certificates, sans government permission.

These are all clear examples of overreach by over-sized governments, and the correlation should be obvious – the bigger and more powerful the government the less freedom its citizens enjoy. The founding fathers of our nation did not determine that our freedoms were elective. Rather they knew our freedoms are God-given and endowed by our creator – and if creation isn’t your thing then they are endowed by your own human existence – which is why they went to such great lengths to preserve those freedoms in writing when our country was formed.

Don’t get me wrong. We need the government as an entity. We need it to maintain law and order by protecting the freedoms of its people, and punishing those who subvert them. We also need government to provide national security. But every time you advocate for the government to intervene or control social and personal issues you voluntarily surrender your own freedom for it to do so. Furthermore, private organizations and the free-market are far more powerful tools, and are far better suited to tackle those issues.

We are intelligent, full-grown adults capable of making decisions for ourselves. We don’t need big-brother government telling us how to live our lives any more than we need a chaperone at the mall. Our government is out of control, but it is not too late. We are the People. We elect our officials. We engage in political discussion. We can all be activists working to shrink our government to the size it was originally intended to be. The simple fact is government has no business meddling with certain issues, and you shouldn’t want it to.

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News

Argentina: Submarine missing a year found deep in Atlantic

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Argentina Submarine missing a year found deep in Atlantic

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s navy announced early Saturday that searchers found the missing submarine ARA San Juan deep in the Atlantic a year after it disappeared with 44 crewmen aboard.

The vessel was detected 800 meters (2,625 feet) deep in waters off the Valdes Peninsula in Argentine Patagonia, the statement said.

The navy said a “positive identification” had been made by a remote-operated submersible from the American ship Ocean Infinity, which was hired for the latest search for the missing vessel.

The discovery was announced just two days after families of the missing sailors held a commemoration one year after the sub disappeared on Nov. 15, 2017.

On Thursday, on the anniversary of the disappearance, President Mauricio Macri said the families of the submariners should not feel alone and delivered an “absolute and non-negotiable commitment” to find “the truth.”

Macri promised a full investigation after the submarine was lost. Federal police raided naval bases and other buildings last January as part of the probe, soon after the government dismissed the head of the navy.

The San Juan was returning to its base in the coastal city of Mar del Plata when contact was lost.

Argentina gave up hope of finding survivors after an intense search aided by 18 countries, but the navy has continued searching for the vessel.

The German-built diesel-electric TR-1700 class submarine was commissioned in the mid-1980s and was most recently refitted between 2008 and 2014. During the $12 million retrofitting, the vessel was cut in half and had its engines and batteries replaced. Experts said refits can be difficult because they involve integrating systems produced by different manufacturers, and even the tiniest mistake during the cutting phase can put the safety of the ship and crew at risk.

The navy said previously the captain reported on Nov. 15 that water entered the snorkel and caused one of the sub’s batteries to short-circuit. The captain later communicated that it had been contained.

Some hours later, an explosion was detected near the time and place where the San Juan was last heard from. The navy said the blast could have been caused by a “concentration of hydrogen” triggered by the battery problem reported by the captain.

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News

Fire deaths rise to 71 ahead of Trump’s California visit

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Fire deaths rise to 71 ahead of Trumps California visit

CHICO, Calif. (AP) — With the confirmed death toll at 71 and the list of unaccounted for people more than 1,000, authorities in Northern California on Friday searched for those who perished and those who survived the fiercest of wildfires ahead of a planned visit by President Donald Trump.

The president on Saturday is expected to get a look at the grief and damage caused by the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century, and he could face resentment from locals for blaming the inferno on poor forest management in California.

In an interview taped Friday and scheduled for broadcast on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump said he was surprised to see images of firefighters removing dried brush near a fire, adding, “This should have been all raked out.”

Deputies found eight more bodies Friday, bringing the death toll to 71.

The number of people unaccounted for grew from 631 on Thursday night to more than 1,000 on Friday, but Sheriff Kory Honea said the list was dynamic and could easily contain duplicate names and unreliable spellings of names.

He said the roster probably includes some who fled the blaze and do not realize they’ve been reported missing.

“We are still receiving calls, we’re still reviewing emails,” Honea said Friday.

Some on the list have been confirmed as dead by family and friends on social media. Others have been located and are safe, but authorities haven’t gotten around to marking them as found.

Tamara Conry said she should never have been on the list.

“My husband and I are not missing and never were!” Conry wrote Thursday night on Facebook. “We have no family looking for us. … I called and left a message to take our names off.”

Authorities compiled the list by going back to listen to all the dispatch calls they received since the fire started, to make sure they didn’t miss anyone.

In last year’s catastrophic wildfires in California wine country, Sonoma County authorities at one point listed more than 2,000 people as missing. But they slowly whittled down the number. In the end, 44 people died in several counties.

The wildfire this time all but razed the town of Paradise, population 27,000, and heavily damaged the outlying communities of Magalia and Concow on Nov. 8, destroying 9,700 houses and 144 apartment buildings, authorities said.

Firefighters were gaining ground against the blaze, which blackened 222 square miles (575 square kilometers). It was 45 percent contained and posed no immediate threat to populated areas. Crews managed to stop it from spreading toward Oroville, population 19,000.

A search and rescue dog searches for human remains at the Camp Fire, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (AP Photo/John Locher)

This patch of California, a former Gold Rush region in the Sierra Nevada foothills, is to some extent Trump country, with Trump beating Hillary Clinton in Butte County by 4 percentage points in 2016.

But some survivors resent that Trump took to Twitter two days after the disaster to blame the wildfires on poor forest mismanagement. He threatened to withhold federal payments from California.

“If you insult people, then you go visit them, how do you think you’re going to be accepted? You’re not going to have a parade,” Maggie Crowder of Magalia said Thursday outside an informal shelter at a Walmart parking lot in Chico.

But Stacy Lazzarino, who voted for Trump, said it would be good for the president to see the devastation up close: “I think by maybe seeing it he’s going to be like ‘Oh, my goodness,’ and it might start opening people’s eyes.”

In his Fox News interview on the eve of his visit, the president repeated his criticism. Asked if he thought climate change contributed to the fires, he said, “Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management.”

Nick Shawkey, a captain with the state fire agency, said the president’s tweet blaming poor forest management was based on a “misunderstanding.” The federal government manages 46 percent of land in California.

“The thing he’s tweeting about is his property,” Shawkey said.

California’s outgoing and incoming governors said they would join Trump on Saturday.

Democrats Gov. Jerry Brown and governor-elect Gavin Newsom said they welcomed the president’s visit and “now is a time to pull together for the people of California.” Brown and Newsom have been vocal critics of Trump.

There were also worries the presidential visit would be disruptive.

“It’s already a zoo here and I don’t care who the president is. He needs to wait because the traffic’s already horrendous,” said Charlotte Harkness, whose home in Paradise burned down. “He could just tweet something nice — three words: ‘I am sorry,’ and that’s fine.”

More than 450 searchers continued looking for human remains in the ashes.

Around 52,000 people have been driven out and have gone to shelters, motels and the homes of friends and relatives. With winter coming on, many are seeking answers on what assistance will be provided.

At the Chico Mall where the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others set up an assistance center, 68-year-old Richard Wilson sought information about lodging. His wife is nearly bedridden from lupus and fibromyalgia.

“We’re having to stay at a Marriott, which is like $100 a night, and we’re running out of money,” Wilson said as he stood outside in rubber sandals and no socks — the only footwear he had when he fled the flames that destroyed his home.

In Southern California , meanwhile, more residents were being allowed back in their homes near Los Angeles after a blaze torched an area the size of Denver and destroyed more than 600 homes and other structures. The blaze was 69 percent contained, authorities said.

At least three deaths were reported.

Schools across a large swath of the state were closed because of smoke, and San Francisco’s world-famous open-air cable cars were pulled off the streets.

___

Associated Press reporters Janie Har and Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco contributed to this report.

___

This story has been corrected to show that Crowder spoke by Walmart and that Wilson spoke at an assistance center.

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Foreign Affairs

The Saudi predicament requires radical changes in our foreign affairs positions

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Saudi predicament requires radical changes in our foreign affairs positions

The United States is at a foreign affairs crossroads. One of our most important allies in the most important region in the world is being led by a man that U.S. intelligence (and pretty much everybody else) believes ordered the murder of a journalist living in our nation and writing for one of its biggest news outlets. How can we reconcile between what’s right and what’s smart?

Further evidence was leaked today that Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month. The CIA concluded this based on multiple pieces of circumstantial evidence, including phone calls intercepted between Khashoggi and Mohammed’s brother assuring Khashoggi’s safety if he went to the Saudi consulate where was murdered.

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-concludes-saudi-crown-prince-ordered-jamal-khashoggis-assassination/2018/11/16/98c89fe6-e9b2-11e8-a939-9469f1166f9d_story.html?utm_term=.718b2d26599cThe CIA’s conclusion about Mohammed’s role was also based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom. “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions.

Among the intelligence assembled by the CIA is an audio recording from a listening device that the Turks placed inside the Saudi consulate, according to the people familiar with the matter. The Turks gave the CIA a copy of that audio, and the agency’s director, Gina Haspel, has listened to it.

This is much more complicated than deciding whether or not to punish Mohammed. The stakes are unfathomably high, including balance of power in the Middle East, a potential oil crisis that could cripple the world economy, and the future of a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians.

Unfortunately, what’s right and what’s smart are diametrically opposed in this situation.

What’s right?

Every ounce of evidence points to the near-certainty that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. He was a permanent residence of the United States who lived in Virginia and worked at the Washington Post. While not a citizen, he lawfully earned the right to fall under our nation’s protections.

The right thing to do is to condemn the Crown Prince, even if that will irreversibly damage our relationship with Saudi Arabia.

What’s smart?

Based on the current geopolitical status quo, Saudi Arabia is our best proxy to keep Iran in check in the Middle East. They are also the reason the dollar is still the world’s reserve currency despite efforts by Russia, China, and other nations to change that. This status allows the dollar to maintain artificial stability. There are many factors in play that could cripple the dollar if Saudi Arabia and OPEC started dealing in other currencies, bur national debt alone would be enough to catastrophically collapse our entire economy if the world had the means to turn its collective back on us.

Saudi Arabia and the so-called “petrodollar” is the force that maintains the illusion of stability.

The arms we sell Saudi Arabia account for a substantial chunk of revenue and jobs in the United States, but more importantly it gives them the technological edge they need over Iran. If the Saudis turn to Russia or China, our influence over the region would diminish greatly.

The smart thing to do is to sweep this under the rug. Throw symbolic punishment at some sacrificial Saudi lambs and move on.

Time for change

There is no way to do what’s right and still do what’s smart, so it would seem the White House has to pick between the two.

Perhaps they don’t. Perhaps there’s a third option.

Even if we do the “right” thing by condemning Saudi Arabia Mohammed, ties will not deteriorate immediately. There will be a wind down during which time the Saudis will be looking for other partners and the Americans will be trying to salvage the relationship.

What if we didn’t? What if we acknowledged for the first time that Saudi Arabia is more than just the country that murdered Khashoggi. Their human rights record is atrocious. They have directly or indirectly harmed the United States for years, including a significant role in terrorist attacks. They spread Wahhabism across the world. If you haven’t heard much about Wahhabism, it’s because the radical Islamic sect that drives the House of Saud is protected from media scrutiny. See Network, which only partially satirizes the influence the Saudis have on U.S. media.

Saudi Arabia is a horrible ally. They’re necessary because we’ve made them necessary, but if we drastically cut budgets and spending, the economic ramifications of a break with them would be mitigated. It’s time to make deals with nations that do not smile at us in public and subvert us in private. Nations that do not like us, including Brazil and Venezuela, could be brought under our wing to replace Saudi Arabia on the oil front. It’s unimaginable now, but we live in fast-moving times.

Also, build the Keystone XL pipeline.

As for stability in the Middle East, it’s time we go all-in with Israel. They are the only true democracy and the one nation in the Middle East we can count on to not stab us in the back. They are capable of being the check against Iran. Abandon all talks of a two-state solution, work with Israel as our primary proxy in the Middle East, and make Saudi Arabia turn to others for support.

All of this sounds dangerous because, well, it is. The dominoes that will fall when we take drastic measures against Saudi Arabia will be painful. But there’s one thing to consider before balking at this. We may be heading in this direction already. The difference is it wouldn’t be us initiating (and therefore prepared for) these changes. Saudi Arabia has been quietly seeking a better deal for decades. They haven’t found it yet, but someday they will. When that happens, they’ll pull the rug out from under us.

We should be the ones pulling the rug. If we’re not, the permanent repercussions will be devastating.

Radical change in our foreign affairs stance is long overdue. Saudi Arabia is the worst kind of ally to rely upon, not just because of Khashoggi but because of everything else they’ve done. None of this seems feasible now, but it may be the only path forward.

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