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Monday, June 22, 2015
Order In The Court
 It seems that hardly a day goes by that we don’t learn of some aspect of our laws that is determined by the court(s), as opposed to being established by the various legislatures around the country. 

Why is that?

Is it because we are not able to agree on anything?  Or perhaps it’s because issues have become so complex that it’s necessary to have a third party, such as the courts, sort them out for us?

One issue that made headlines is a federal court decision that California’s Proposition 8, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional – because it violates the constitutional rights of gay people.  Judge Vaughn R. Walker noted, “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license…Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.”

Apparently over 50% of California’s voters thought differently at the time Proposition 8 was passed in 2008, but the federal court stepped in to tell them that they were wrong.

However, this is just one of many legislative actions that now find their way into the courts to be resolved.

The ink was hardly dry on Obama’s health care bill before it was being challenged in the courts on a variety of grounds.  One was in the state of Missouri, which took the position that Obamacare is unconstitutional because it requires American citizens to buy health insurance.  The state’s claim is that this is an overly broad interpretation of

the “Commerce Clause” in the U.S. Constitution.

Another issue that will ultimately be decided by the courts is the dispute over Arizona’s SB 1070, which the Obama administration claims is discriminatory. Many states have been lining up on both sides of the issue, and Department of Justice immediately entered the fray by filing an action in the federal courts.

It also looks as though the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is the basis of the so-called “anchor babies” may be challenged in the federal courts.  The legal issue involved is based on the presumption that anyone who is born in the United States automatically becomes an American citizen.

Ann Coulter noted, “In fact, this alleged right derives only from a footnote slyly slipped into a Supreme Court opinion by Justice Brennan in 1982…The 14th Amendment was added after the Civil War in order to overrule the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, which had held that black slaves were not citizens of the United States. The precise purpose of the amendment was to stop sleazy Southern states from denying citizenship rights to newly freed slaves -- many of whom had roots in this country longer than a lot of white people.”

Other issues we are seeing decided by the courts include the right of eminent domain. Government over-reach in taking such actions as exercising the right of eminent domain was exemplified by the Kelo case, in which the city took private property for the benefit of a private developer for the sole reason that a proposed project would generate significantly increased tax revenues for the city.

There are many more examples of the growing power of our courts, too numerous to detail in this short commentary, but the result of all the litigation over the meaning or intent of legislators and/or government officials is placing ever more of the decision making in this country in the hands of the courts. 

Of the three branches of our government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial, it would appear that the courts have been steadily assuming increased authority over much of the decision making that our Constitution contemplated would be made by the other two branches.  If this is allowed to continue, we may eventually find ourselves in the position of being “ruled” by the nation’s judges, many of whom are not elected and therefore are not accountable to the people, and it is almost impossible to remove those judges who are appointed for life.

It would seem that many of the judges in our courts are now beginning to believe that they know what it best for the American people, but they are wrong.  If we do not recognize this threat to our liberties, we may ultimately find ourselves ruled by our courts.  The fix is relatively easy, if our legislators are willing to do it.  Congress has

the authority to act and must do so before they completely surrender the power that is vested in them.

© 2013-15 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved

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Monday, June 22, 2015
It’s Not Nice To Fool Mother Nature
We live in a wondrous age of medical technology that our ancestors surely would have thought magic. 

Routine medical treatments that are taken for granted today most certainly would have been considered witchcraft or miracles in an earlier time. 

To me, many of them still seem that way. 

Consider some examples that are now not only commonplace but have become routine: cataract surgery, heart bypass surgery, angioplasty and artery stents, hip and joint replacements, antibiotics, organ transplants, in vitro fertilization, surrogate birth, arthroscopic surgery, CAT scans and MRIs.

The list seems endless. 

Americans tend to take it all in stride, accepting and embracing each startling new medical breakthrough that comes along as if it is simply part of our birthright.  

A while back, I was struck by another application of technology in medicine, the development of a tiny camera, so small that the patient can swallow it.  As it travels through the body, it sends the data it gathers to a hard drive that is worn on the patient’s belt.  The camera takes two pictures every second. There are no tubes and no wires. 

One important use of this amazing technology is to locate the source of internal bleeding.  The camera makes it possible to pinpoint the exact location of trouble in just a few hours, thus enabling surgeons to operate in precisely the right location without having to look for it.  This miracle of technology is called “capsule endoscopy.”

An obvious benefit of our many astonishing advances in medical technology is the longevity we enjoy in this country today.  As recently as the early 1900s, the average lifespan for Americans was only about forty-four years.  A hundred years later, for babies being born today, it is around eighty.  A remarkable accomplishment by any standard.

But, there is a much larger question involved in all of this: Does anything go?  Is everything new beneficial simply by definition, no matter what it is or does?  How are we to know which technological advances in medicine are truly desirable?  Or ethical?  Or moral?  And, who will make such choices on our behalf? 

The popular TV commercial that used to say, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature,” may have been telling us something.  Just how far do we really want to carry medical technology? 

Will the six million dollar man actually become a reality?  Cyborgs?  What about genetic engineering?  Cloning to replace a lost child?  Using other species as a source of replacement organs? 

Pig or chimpanzee hearts, for example.  Do we really have the moral right to use other animals this way? 

How about cloning humans for the purpose of harvesting the parts?   Does anyone worry about the possibility of unintended consequences?  What if the result turns out to be something no one anticipates or wants, such as severe deformities?  Is another form of Thalidomide baby, or worse, somewhere in our future again?

I am reminded of the movie, “Soylent Green (1973),” which was based on the proposition that, due to overpopulation, food in the world of the future will become so scarce that the government resorts to feeding people with a green cracker-like product that is supposedly made of soy beans or plankton, but in fact is made by recycling humans.  It’s a horrifying idea to contemplate, and I still remember how shocked I was at the time I saw the film, as you probably are reading this. 

Yet, given the pace at which modern technology is advancing, the rate of worldwide population growth and the situational ethics that exist today, can we completely rule out the possibility that something like this could happen in the future?

Just because we can do something does not necessarily mean we should.  The mere fact that it can be done does not make it right.  Or does it?

As we move further into the new millennium, advanced technology will force us to confront ever more dramatic choices about health care, ethics and morality.

The first face transplant in France is a good example: In 1994 a nine-year-old girl’s face was “ripped off when her hair was caught in a thresher.” 

The headline on a June 13 YAHOO article, “Surgeon promising first human head transplant makes US pitch,” really got my attention.  The notion of such an operation is beyond my comprehension and raises a number of bizarre issues.  I’ll leave it to you to “fill in the blanks” for yourself.

Are we really equipped to make every life and death decision that may be made possible by advanced medical technology but that may be considered unethical, immoral or just plain playing God?

Where do we go from here?

© 2015 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved

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Monday, June 22, 2015
About Marriage
Marriage is defined as “a relationship between or among individuals, usually recognized by civil authority and/or bound by the religious beliefs of the participants” (Wikipedia).         

It has generally been thought to be a relationship of one male and one female, the primary purpose of which is to produce and rear children. 

That’s the model that has traditionally been adopted by Western societies, although historically many other societies have allowed some form of polygamy.

Wikipedia also tells us, “In one form or another, marriage is found in virtually every society.  The very oldest records that refer to it speak of it as an established custom.  

Despite attempts by anthropologists to trace its origin . . . evidence is lacking.”

With the advancement of gay rights and the drive to legalize same-sex marriage, Western societies, where marriage has generally been defined as a monogamous union, may well be evolving into cultures in which the definition of marriage will be expanded beyond the traditional joining of one man and one woman to include same-sex couples.

This year, National Public Radio (npr.org) covered the issue of same-sex marriage extensively with a number of reports, some of which were headlined as follows:

Gay Marriage Issue Looms over Colorado Race (Oct 15, 2006)

Mass Judge: Out-of-State Gay Couple Can Marry (Sep 29,2006

Gay-Marriage Advocates Regroup After Latest Defeat (Aug 2, 2006)

High Court Rulings and the Future of Gay Marriage (July 18, 2006)

New York, Georgia Courts Disallow Gay Marriage (July 6, 2006)

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that gay couples must be accorded the same rights as heterosexual couples and that the state legislature has six months to either grant gays the right to marry, or come up with another civil-union type system.

In addition, the California General Assembly became the first state legislature to approve same-sex marriages.

Those who oppose such unions on religious or moral grounds are often called “bigots.”  But, it seems to me that bigotry is in the eye of the beholder.

A “bigot” is defined (by Wikipedia) as “a prejudiced person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles or identities differing from their own.”  The word is commonly used to denigrate those who are unwilling to change their opinion(s) even when faced (presumably) with evidence that they are incorrect.

My own view is that the word “bigot” has become an epithet that is used to attack people who disagree with a particular point of view, belief or value. However, to paraphrase Forrest Gump, a bigot is as a bigot does.

Is any person who does not agree with you (or me) a “bigot”? 

I think not.

It seems to me that what’s missing in the definition is the element of prejudice, that is, bigots are prejudiced against another, or others, for a variety of reasons, i.e., race, ethnic background, religious beliefs, education (or lack thereof), social or economic status, moral values, or almost any aspect of their ideas, attitudes or principles.

But, those who so easily label others as bigots are often guilty of the same conduct, that is, they themselves are bigoted against anyone who is unwilling to accept their particular point of view.  As I said earlier, “a bigot is as a bigot does.”

 The painful truth is that everyone is bigoted to some degree about some things, which is to say that they have strong opinions about certain matters and are unlikely to change them, even in the face of what others may consider proof positive that they are wrong.  It’s inescapable.  But, if we did not have opinions, we would be nothing more than walking marshmallows.

So, where does that take us in the matter of marriage?

Well, for one thing, the education establishment has endorsed homosexuality as a “lifestyle” and is promoting a variety of school programs and activities

that are designed to teach children that homosexuality is not only acceptable, but that it is a matter of equal rights and fairness to “educate” children, some as young as the third or fourth grades, about the benefits of the “gay lifestyle.”

Parents who are not paying close attention to what’s happening in the schools are likely to wake up one day and find that their children have been taught things they strongly oppose.

Linda Harvey, president of Mission America, writing for CSNNews.com, noted that the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Health Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and the American Association of School Administrators have all signed on to the concept of teaching students about homosexuality.  She further observed, “…the National School Boards featured a glowing article in a recent newsletter about the great benefits of ‘gay’ clubs in schools.”

Some 2,000 homosexual clubs have already been established in American schools.  Groups like the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) have articulated a goal of establishing “clubs in as many elementary schools as possible using the rationale that these students, who they imply were probably born this way, need ‘support systems’ to avoid harassment and discrimination.”

Can gay and lesbian dolls in toy stores, children’s books and school teaching materials be far behind?  Gay personalities and characters that are featured

in media, movie and TV stories have already become commonplace.

Those parents, grandparents and citizens in general who overtly resist the effort to normalize gay relationships will no doubt be labeled as “bigots.”  But, are they?  Or are those who are pushing the “gay lifestyle” bigots for being unwilling to accept the reality that most parents want to be the judge of what their children should be taught about things that are considered to be a personal matter of religious belief, ethics and morality?  Which brings us back to the issue of same-sex marriage.

The drive by gays for equal treatment under the law has already led to civil union that extend most if not all the same rights and privileges to same-sex couples, even if a Constitutional amendment is adopted that defines “marriage” as one man and one woman.

Most of the issues in same-sex couple relationships, such as hospital visitation and health care rights, inheritance, property rights (including division of assets in dissolutions), spousal and child support, etc. have been resolved.

About the only thing I can see that will be different is the fact that same-sex marriages are not being religiously sanctified, although some form of marriage ceremony is being conducted  by gay or sympathetic clergy.

As for bearing and rearing children, that’s also already happening, either by means of In Vitro Fertilization (in the case of women), surrogate birth or adoption.

 Where we go from here, no one knows for sure, but it’s easy to predict that we will see more intense and aggressive efforts in Western societies to force the acceptance of the “gay lifestyle” and same-sex marriage on the population in general.

© 2015 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved

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Thursday, May 21, 2015
There Oughta Be A Law
It’s amazing to me how often we read or hear stories about the number of laws that Americans are required to obey. When you take into account all the federal, state and local laws that are on the books, it adds up to tens of thousands. The latest example of the sheer volume of laws that the public must observe was the 2011 year-end report in the media that, effective January 1, 2012, some 40,000 new laws will be added to the sheer volume of laws we are expected to obey. So, what are we to do? It’s easy to say “Obey them,” but who can possibly know them all. Not ever the brightest, most well informed attorney can possibly know every law. How often do we hear the lament, “There oughta be a law,” about some perceived wrong or societal need? But, one of the major problems in America today is that there are too many laws and too much regulation. One assault on common sense occurred in California (surprise, surprise), where a state legislator proposed a law that would have made it illegal for parents to spank (read discipline) children age three and younger. There are many notable examples of legislators who either have no sense or somehow lose it in the exalted halls of government. For instance, Kentucky law mandates that people must bathe once a year. Not to pick on Kentucky, but like most states, they have a number of crazy laws: Throwing eggs at a public speaker is punishable by up to one year in jail; it is illegal to dye or color a baby chick, duckling or rabbit unless six or more are for sale at the same time; or if a horse dies in front of a residence, the owner (of the horse, that is) must remove the dead animal within 12 hours. If it is not done, then it becomes the homeowner’s responsibility. That may have made sense in the 1800s, but it hardly seems necessary today. One city had an ordinance that required the sheriff to shoot dogs whose owners did not pay a local tax on their animals. Consider the number of jurisdictions with boards, councils or commissions that legislate and the number of laws they adopt annually. There are over 3,000 counties in the U.S., ranging in size from 41.6 square miles (Arlington, VA) to 141,398 square miles (North Slope Borough, Alaska), along with almost 19,500 municipalities, in addition to the 50 states. That adds up to some 22,500 entities in addition to the Federal government, all putting laws on the books, presumably to correct problems or to influence or regulate behavior, that is, make people do things the legislators want. In California, the legislature adds upwards of 5,000 laws to the state’s code books every year. In the inimitable words of Will Rogers, “Congress met. I was afraid they would,” can probably be said to apply to all legislative bodies. Obviously, a certain amount of this is necessary. For example, local ordinances for such purposes as regulating traffic, land use, or taxation. In addition, advances in technology bring new problems and with them the need for new laws. The rapid development of computers and the Internet have brought new opportunities for mischief with them, such as Internet fraud and identity theft. And bio technology is presenting society with moral and ethical challenges that never would have occurred to earlier generations. Who knew? However, America has more lawyers than the rest of the world combined, and our society is suffering the consequences. Lawyers are hired guns. They will argue any side of any issue, and they write the laws and interpret them. In addition, peoples’ wants are insatiable. They never seem to be able get enough of whatever it is they think will satisfy them. Sometimes it’s strictly for personal advantage, sometimes for the greater good, or so they seem to believe. Environmental activism or unbridled business practices are good examples. Whatever the reason, legislators respond to special interest groups that want to impose their particular need or desire on the rest of society, and this results in thousands of new laws and regulations to implement them. “For the people in government, rather than the people who pester it, Washington is an early-rising, hard-working city. It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.” (P. J. O’Rourke (b. 1947), U.S. journalist. Parliament of Whores, “The Winners Go to Washington, D.C.” - 1991). Furthermore, we can be prosecuted for breaking laws we don’t even know exist. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” has always been a traditional mantra, but it has been reported that Americans are now subject to over five million laws. How can anyone possibly know and obey them all? And, they keep piling up. Every legislative body, municipal, county, state and Federal, is constantly making new laws, and nothing ever seems to be taken off the books. So, if ignorance of the law is really no excuse, then we are all charged with specific knowledge of the millions of laws that regulate us. That’s impossible and is undoubtedly one of the reasons why many Americans have grown increasingly cynical about the law and justice in this country. And, if five million laws are not enough, there are also hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of rules that are superimposed on top of them – by OSHA, EPA, IRS, HUD, EEOC and a host of other alphabet soup agencies. The Internal Revenue Code is a perfect example. The plethora of tax laws and regulations that have been adopted by Congress and the IRS require over 72,000 pages to codify. No one, not even the most brilliant CPA or tax attorney, knows or understands all these laws and rules. They can’t even agree on what various provisions may mean, yet it is possible to be prosecuted for fraud for violating them. Legal precedent has also added to the burden of excessive control and regulation that are strangling our society. Hundreds of thousands of court cases are used to interpret the laws and comprise entire libraries of additional rules we are expected to abide by in our daily lives. The sheer weight and complexity of all this breeds contempt for the law, evasion and deliberate lawbreaking. Ronald Reagan is credited with having said, “I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandment’s would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress?” How much longer can we continue to function under this burden before the system ultimately grinds to a halt? Will it end only when America finally goes the way of the Roman Empire? There ought to be a law against the sort of fiscal ignorance and irresponsibility we are witnessing just about everywhere we look in government today. © 2015 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
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Thursday, May 21, 2015
Nothing Has Changed, Who Are The Minorities?
With all the talk about minorities in this country and the heat that is so often generated by the topic, have you ever thought about where you fit? Are you a member of some minority group and, if so, how has it affected your life, your beliefs and values, your perceptions of others, your friends and associates, your job or profession, your expectations and, of course, your day to day activities. Even if you have never thought of yourself as a member of a minority group, chances are, when you examine the details of your personal circumstances, you will find that you are. Consider just some of the many and varied categories that can determine your status: Ethnic: Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Indian, East Indian, African, etc. Race: White, Black, Asian, other Gender: Male, female, gay Religion: Christianity (about 33% of the world’s population, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Oriental Orthodoxy, Latter-day Saint, Seventh Day Adventist, Nestorianism, etc.), Islam (about 20% of the world’s population, Sunni and Shia), Hinduism (13%), Chinese fold religion (6.3%), or Buddhism (5.9%). Atheist and other non-believers are about 14% of the world’s population. Other religions, such as Sikhism, Judaism, Baha’i, Janism, Shinto and others, each represent about one-half-of-one percent of the world’s population. There are many more types and categories of religions and religious beliefs, but this illustrates the multitude of those that most people generally follow. In the United States, we seem to have elevated the issue of minorities to a major, if not THE primary consideration in a wide variety of choices. Decisions, such as college entrance and employment criteria, employee relations, customer relations, housing, business associations, friendships, pretty much every aspect of American life. Our laws have become such a labyrinth of complex considerations that we are forced to navigate in making decisions about hiring, firing and disciplining employees, making public statements, and membership in service clubs and other groups, among others. All decision making, personal, public and business, must be processed through a minefield of potentially risky options, with the consequences of making a poor or incorrect decision ranging from loss of one’s position or status to being sued or public approbation. The New York Times reported in an August 14, 2008 article, “William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, said that by the 2028 presidential election, racial and ethnic minorities will constitute a majority of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 for the first time…When the first census was conducted in 1790, about 64 percent of the people counted were white… By 1900, about 9 in 10 Americans were non-Hispanic white, most of European ancestry.” What happens when whites are in the minority? Will they then qualify for favored treatment under our laws? Will they be given preferential treatment in college admissions, employment, housing and other matters? Should they? Looking at population projections for Texas, demographer Steve Murdock concludes: "It's basically over for Anglos." Two of every three Texas children are now non-Anglo and the trend line will become even more pronounced in the future, said Murdock, former U.S. Census Bureau director and now director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University. Today's Texas population can be divided into two groups, he said. One is an old and aging Anglo and the other is young and minority. Between 2000 and 2040, the state's public school enrollment will see a 15 percent decline in Anglo children while Hispanic children will make up a 213 percent increase, he said. Murdock also noted, “The state's future looks bleak assuming the current trend line does not change because education and income levels for Hispanics lag considerably behind Anglos... Unless the trend line changes, 30 percent of the state's labor force will not have even a high school diploma by 2040,” he said. “And the average household income will be about $6,500 lower than it was in 2000. That figure is not inflation adjusted so it will be worse than what it sounds…It's a terrible situation that you are in. I am worried," Murdock said. America.gov noted in August 2008, “By 2050, minorities – those who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or mixed race – will account for 54 percent of the U.S. population…” And, U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that about 10 percent of the nation’s 3,000 plus counties have already reached the point where they are over 50 percent minority population. Almost everything in American life is influenced by minority status and, up to now, the primary characteristic of majority-minority status has been based on race, which has been dominated by whites, who have outnumbered all other groups. But, what happens when the current minority becomes the majority? This is already the situation in California, which has been heavily impacted by the influx of Hispanics from south of the border. Furthermore, population projections indicate that by the year 2023 the majority of all American children under the age of 18 will be so-called minorities, and by 2039 minorities will comprise the majority of all working-age Americans. Will we ultimately reach the point where a white minority demands the same legal advantages and benefits that have been woven into the fabric of our society in the effort to level the playing field and make amends for past wrongs? © 2015 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved NOTE: This commentary was originally written in March, 2011, and it’s worth noting, I think, that nothing has changed.
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Friday, March 20, 2015
Opinion: They aren't homeless, they're sick
By Thomas Widroe
March 1, 2015

The media has it all wrong and so do we when it comes to understanding what's called the homeless problem — not only here in Santa Barbara but all over the country. Yahoo recently ran a story praising celebrity and former Playboy Playmate Kendra Wilkinson for giving some money to a homeless man as she was entering a convenience store. It's not that the blond bombshell's act of charity wasn't kind, but rather that it ignores the real problem of severe mental illness: drug addiction and alcoholism.

The vast majority of those we see on State Street occupying benches, sidewalks and elevators with their bodies, shopping carts and blankets aren't only homeless. They are very sick and suffering from debilitating psychological syndromes or patterns. Homelessness is just one of many symptoms associated with their affliction and/or addictions. In fact, were they given homes in which to live, the vast majority would abandon those homes and return to the street. That's the result of depression, disparity, bipolar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia and more. Associated addictions include alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and others. The dangerous combination of hard drugs, alcohol and severe mental disorder creates a state of mind in which the individual can't think straight, suffers hallucinations and delusions, demonstrates bizarre behavior, urinates and defecates in public, and even worse may be potentially prone to, or the victim of, violence and/or suicide.

Instead of providing health care and medical treatment to these people, various cities across the nation enable their squalid, regressed condition. In Seattle, advocates crow that the city is building the nation's largest tent city. Here in Santa Barbara, we tolerate the mess while business and tourism suffer the cost of many millions of dollars in lost revenue. Our public square is held hostage by those with no regard for the needs of community at large.

The good news is that the problem can be solved. The mentally ill on the street require the care of a physician who can treat them effectively through a regimen of psychotherapy and medication until they are able to return to society as functioning individuals. Law enforcement already has the authority to assist those in need of care by moving them into treatment facilities when they are deemed a danger to self, a danger to others or gravely disabled.

At Santa Barbara City Watch, we reject the status quo. In the coming weeks and months, we will work closely with various community organizations, elected officials, law enforcement, and the professional mental health care community to develop a plan that really works. This means that when the police bring the gravely disabled in off the street, rather than jailing them for a few hours and turning them loose, they will instead receive a mandatory minimum of 72 hours in an acute treatment facility with the strong possibility of another 14 days of care thereafter.

The end result of these efforts is that those who come to want help will receive treatment. Those who do not want treatment will most likely leave Santa Barbara to live in other enabling communities like Seattle. This kind of tough love and community responsibility gives real hope to the sick and an opportunity for the rest of us to reclaim our public spaces for everyone.

However, the change won't start until we stop patting ourselves on the back for giving a few loose coins to a person who's falling apart before our very eyes.

Tom Widroe is managing director of City Watch. A UCSB graduate, he has been active in Santa Barbara County business and public policy for over 25 years.

The author is managing director of City Watch.
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Monday, March 9, 2015
Who Are The Minorities?
With all the talk about minorities in this country and the heat that is so often generated by the topic, have you ever thought about where you fit? Are you a member of some minority group
and, if so, how has it affected your life, your beliefs and values, your perceptions of others, your friends and associates, your job or profession, your expectations and, of course, your day
to day activities.
 
Even if you have never thought of yourself as a member of a minority group, chances are, when you examine the details of your personal circumstances, you will find that you are. Consider
just some of the many and varied categories that can determine your status:
 
Ethnic: Asian, Hispanic, Native American, Indian, East Indian, African, etc.
Race: White, Black, Asian, other
Gender: Male, female, gay
Religion: Christianity (about 33% of the world’s population, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Oriental Orthodoxy, Latter-day Saint, Seventh Day Adventist, Nestorianism, etc.), Islam (about 20% of the world’s population, Sunni and Shia), Hinduism (13%), Chinese fold religion (6.3%), or Buddhism (5.9%). Atheist and other non-believers are
about 14% of the world’s population. Other religions, such as Sikhism, Judaism, Baha’i, Janism, Shinto and others, each represent about one-half-of-one percent of the world’s population. 
There are many more types and categories of religions and religious beliefs, but this illustrates the multitude of those that most people generally follow.
 
In the United States, we seem to have elevated the issue of minorities to a major, if not THE primary consideration in a wide variety of choices. Decisions, such as college entrance and
employment criteria, employee relations, customer relations, housing, business associations, friendships, pretty much every aspect of American life.
 
 Our laws have become such a labyrinth of complex considerations that we are forced to navigate in making decisions about hiring, firing and disciplining employees, making public statements,
and membership in service clubs and other groups, among others. All decision making, personal, public and business, must be processed through a minefield of potentially risky options, with
the consequences of making a poor or incorrect decision ranging from loss of one’s position or status to being sued or public approbation.
 
The New York Times reported in an August 14, 2008 article, “William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, said that by the 2028 presidential election, racial and ethnic
minorities will constitute a majority of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 for the first time…When the first census was conducted in 1790, about 64 percent of the people counted were
white…By 1900, about 9 in 10 Americans were non-Hispanic white, most of European ancestry.”
 
What happens when whites are in the minority? Will they then qualify for favored treatment under our laws? Will they be given preferential treatment in college admissions, employment,
housing and other matters? Should they?
 
Looking at population projections for Texas, demographer Steve Murdock concludes: "It's basically over for Anglos."
 
Two of every three Texas children are now non-Anglo and the trend line will become even more pronounced in the future, said Murdock, former U.S. Census Bureau director and now
director of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University.
 
Today's Texas population can be divided into two groups, he said. One is an old and aging Anglo and the other is young and minority. Between 2000 and 2040, the state's public school
enrollment will see a 15 percent decline in Anglo children while Hispanic children will make up a 213 percent increase, he said.
 
Murdock also noted, “The state's future looks bleak assuming the current trend line does not change because education and income levels for Hispanics lag considerably behind Anglos...
Unless the trend line changes, 30 percent of the state's labor force will not have even a high school diploma by 2040,” he said. “And the average household income will be about $6,500
lower than it was in 2000. That figure is not inflation adjusted so it will be worse than what it sounds…It's a terrible situation that you are in. I am worried," Murdock said.
 
America.gov noted in August 2008, “By 2050, minorities – those who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or mixed race –
will account for 54 percent of the U.S. population…” And, U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that about 10 percent of the nation’s 3,000 plus counties have already reached the point
where they are over 50 percent minority population.
 
Almost everything in American life is influenced by minority status and, up to now, the primary characteristic of majority-minority status has been based on race, which has been dominated
by whites, who have outnumbered all other groups. But, what happens when the current minority becomes the majority? This is already the situation in California, which has been heavily
impacted by the influx of Hispanics from south of the border. Furthermore, population projections indicate that by the year 2023 the majority of all American children under the age of 18
will be so-called minorities, and by 2039 minorities will comprise the majority of all working-age Americans.
 
Will we ultimately reach the point where a white minority demands the same legal advantages and benefits that have been woven into the fabric of our society in the effort to level the playing
field and make amends for past wrongs?
 
© 2015 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
 
NOTE: This commentary was originally written in March, 2011, and it’s worth noting, I think, that nothing has changed.
Posted at 18:11 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)



Monday, March 9, 2015
Comparing Leaders
Obama: Before matriculating at Harvard, he was a community organizer in Chicago. He worked as a civil rights attorney (in Chicago) and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years. From 1997 to 2004 he served in the Illinois state Senate. In 2003, he became chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, when Democrats regained control of the Illinois state Senate. In January 2005, Obama became a U.S. Senator and was the only Senate member of the Congressional Black Caucus.   He also held positions on the Senate Committees for Foreign Relations, Environment and Public Works and Veterans’ Affairs, and accepted additional assignments with Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and also became Chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on European Affairs. He was elected President in 2008, and shortly after winning the election, he was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people.” The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced the award on October 9, 2009, citing Obama's promotion of nuclear nonproliferation and a "new climate" in international relations, especially in reaching out to the Muslim world.
Who is the more formidable and effective leader, Barack Obama or Benjamin Netanyahu?
We had an opportunity to compare them through the prism of speeches they both gave to the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) convention in Washington in 2012.
 
Considering the ongoing disagreement between the leaders of the United States and Israel over the issue of if and when to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, I thought it might be instructive to look at the backgrounds of the leaders of the two nations, President Obama and Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu.
 
Age:
Obama is 53, was born in Hawaii. His mother was born in Wichita, Kansas, and was of mostly English ancestry. His father, Barack Obama, Sr., was from Kenya.
 
Netanyahu is 65, and was born in Tel Aviv. His father was born in Warsaw, Poland, and was a professor. His family lived in the U.S., in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia), where he attended the Cheltenham High School. (He is said to speak American English with a Philadelphia accent.)
 
Education: 
Obama is a graduate of Columbia University (in New York) and Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review. In 1979, he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles and transferred to Columbia University in New York, where he majored in political science with emphasis on international relations, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree (B.A.) in 1983. In 1988, he entered Harvard Law School, was an editor of the Harvard Law Review and subsequently became president of the Law Review.
 
Netanyahu attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a B.S. degree in Architecture in 1975, and an M.S. degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He subsequently attended Harvard University, where he studied political science.
 
Military Service:
Obama: None
 
Netanyahu enlisted in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and was involved in numerous combat missions, including the rescue of hijacked Sabena Flight 571 (in May 1972), where he was wounded by “friendly” fire. He trained as a combat soldier and participated in cross-border raids during the War of Attrition. In 1973, he fought in the Yom Kippur War, participated in Israeli Special Forces raids along the Suez Canal and led a commando team deep into Syrian territory. He left the IDF after six years of service with the rank of Captain.
 
Experience:
 
.
 
Netanyahu: After graduating college in 1977, he returned to Israel, and for a brief period worked as the chief marketing officer for a furniture company. Between 1978 and 1980 he formed the Jonathan Netanyahu anti-Terror Institute, a non-governmental organization that studied terrorism, which conducted a number of international conferences about the subject. During this period, he made his first connections with several Israeli politicians, including Minister Moshe Arens, who appointed him as his Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., where he served from 1982 to 1984, when he became the Israeli ambassador to the United States. From 1984 to 1988 he served as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.
 
In a 2005 poll by an Israeli news website, Netanyahu was voted the 18th greatest Israeli of all time. In 2010, the British magazine, New Statesman, reported that Netanyahu was 11th on the list of “The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures.
 
Prior to the Israeli elections in 1988, Netanyahu returned to Israel and was appointed a deputy to the then foreign minister Moshe Arens, and later David Levy.
 
In 1993, Netanyahu became the leader of the Likud party, and was elected Prime Minister in 1999, to become the first Prime Minister who was born in the State of Israel. He was defeated by Ehud Barak in 1999 and temporarily retired from politics. 
 
As Prime Minister, Netanyahu emphasized a policy of “three no(s)’: no withdrawal from the Golan Heights, no discussion of the case of Jerusalem, no negotiations under any preconditions.
 
In 1997 and again in 1999, he was investigated by the Israeli police who recommended that he be indicted on corruption charges for influence-peddling and for obtaining free services from a government contractor.
 
In 2002, Netanyahu was appointed Foreign Minister. He also served as Finance Minister from 2003 to 2005, and as Prime Minister from 2009 to the present.
 
Obama has consistently shown a lack of understanding about Israel’s situation in the Middle East, starting with the demand shortly after his election as President that Israel should return to the 1967 borders that existed before the Six-Day War, which would have effectively cut the country in two. Netanyahu swiftly rejected President Obama’s demand as militarily “indefensible.”
 
More recently, Netanyahu advocated that Israel should not allow the U.S. to make the call about if and/or when the Israelis should attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. 
 
Obama has previously displayed contempt for Netanyahu, openly insulting him on various occasions: When Netanyahu visited Obama at the White House in March of 2010 to discuss the Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem, Obama abruptly left him standing in a meeting room and announced that he (Obama) was going to the residential wing to “have dinner with Michelle and the girls.” On another occasion, Netanyahu was invited to the White House at a late hour and ushered in through a back door, without media coverage or a press conference. The Administration’s spokesperson challenged Netanyahu’s statement at AIPAC that “Jerusalem is not a settlement.”
 
Obama attempted to dissuade Netanyahu from accepting the invitation of the Speaker of the House to address a joint session of Congress on March 3, and more than 50 Democrats refused to attend.  
 
Notwithstanding the absence of those 50 Democrats, my sense is that both Netanyahu and Israel have strong support from a great many of our legislators in Washington, along with a substantial portion of the American population.
 
The essence of Netanyahu’s message (as reported by Howard Galganov) was:
1) “That the Iranians cannot be trusted”
2) “That Iran, with or without the bomb is a country that poses a global threat,” and
3) “Without making direct mention, the current President of the United States and his entire inner-circle are amateurs at best, and enemies from within at worst.”
 
Considering that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and central to America’s influence in that part of the world, it seems to me that Obama should show greater respect for the leader of our most important ally in the region.

© 2015 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved

 
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Why Bother To Get Married?
Over the last 50 years I have watched the institution of marriage in America evolve to the point that I no longer recognize it and often wonder what our society has gained by the changes.
 
Fifty years ago, the idea of couples living together without benefit of marriage was not just frowned upon, it was actively opposed by most people and our institutions, and children born “out of wedlock” were often denigrated through no fault of their own.
 
As the years passed and the inevitable change in societal mores changed, the institution of marriage seems to have evolved to the point that today couples living together is not only “normal” but it’s common for them to have children.
 
A contestant on the Wheel of Fortune game show identified himself was a stay-at-home father, who had three children - and had been living with the mother for fifteen years. However, he made it quite clear that he had no intention of getting married.
 
My question is, “Why?”
 
What is there about not getting married and raising children that is the right thing to do?
Does a man who is living with a woman and children he has fathered think he is still a good catch in case he changes his mind and decides to move on?
 
Perhaps it’s the last man on earth syndrome, but whatever the reason, my sense is that it’s a very immature attitude.
 
A Washington Post article headlined, “Married couples at a record low,” noted that “the proportion of adults who are married has plunged to record lows as more people decide to live together…”Only 51% of adults 18 and over are married today…according to a Pew Research Center analysis…” The percentage of adults who are married has declined from 72% in 1960.
 
Today we see a constant parade of celebrities on T.V. who proudly proclaim that they have children, sometimes three of four, who have been living with the father or mother for many years, and the parents have no intention of getting married.
 
Famed actress Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins lived together for 23 years and had two sons before deciding to part. Did not being married make it easier to deal with property or other issues? I doubt it.
 
Another personality, Kim Kardashian, typifies the unabashed sexual exhibitionism that frequently graces the T.V. screen and the Internet these days, gaining notoriety and financial rewards for outlandish behavior.
 
Given the longevity of Americans today, which is about 79 years for men and 81 for women, perhaps it makes sense for people to have more than one spouse as they age – for a variety of reasons, such declining health or death. 
 
However, even that does not account for the societal change in values that has brought us to the point that almost anything goes in personal relationships, including polygamy, same-sex partners, and unmarried couples openly living together.
 
In the past, many such relationships were maintained on the QT, but the inevitable march of time has also brought openness, to the point that today there seems to be no limit to public discussion of one’s status in the media.
 
Some people see this as a sign of progress, others as an unwelcome decline in morality, or as an unwelcome form of exhibitionism.
 
Wherever you come down on this issue, there is no doubt that the institution of marriage has changed over the years. It is no longer considered sacrosanct by a large percentage of the population, and I’m not at all sure that’s a good thing.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Observations About Israel 1
Start with the fact that I am Jewish. However, before you discount my comments as just another biased expression of unqualified support for Israel, you might find that my experience as a largely secular American Jew may provide some insight into the issues involved in the continuing struggle between Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah.
 
First, some background. Personal, that is: I was born in 1928, of an American Jewish couple, whose parents came to this country from Russia in the 1800s. My parents did not practice Judaism, they both had only a sixth-grade education, and moved from New York to California in the 1920s, where I was born and raised. I have two siblings: a brother (deceased), who was 4-1/2 years my senior, and a sister (also deceased), who was seven years older than I. We grew up in somewhat limited circumstances during the Depression, and in typical middle class conditions after WWII, and we are (were) all college grads, with professional educations in teaching, engineering, and accounting respectively.
 
Religion was not a part of our upbringing. Both my parents spoke Yiddish, and my mother spoke a little Russian, but there was no formal religious training. Our family settled in Los Angeles, which had a large Jewish population. I can’t say that I experienced a great deal of overtly hostile prejudice as I was growing up, although I certainly did encounter my share in my business life.
 
I graduated high school in 1946, at the time the world was in the midst of trying to resolve the situation with the Jews in the Middle East, who were attempting to create a homeland for their people. I remember many heated discussions among the Jewish students at the time about partitioning what was then part of the British Protectorate in the Middle East, to carve out the nation of Israel in the desert. But, my involvement was largely peripheral. I didn’t pay a lot of attention and wasn’t particularly interested, and I hardly noticed when the nation of Israel was finally created by the UN in 1948.
 
Fast forward 67 years: Today, I am a staunch supporter of Israel.
 
So what happened?
 
On the way to arriving at my current perspective about the Jews and Israel, as I gained experience and learned more, I was influenced by some of the basic realities about the world we live in:
 
The fact that a Jew is largely secular and does not practice Judaism does not change the reality that the world in general considers almost everyone with Jewish ancestry to be a Jew, no matter how “Jewish” or secular they may be. Hitler and the Holocaust demonstrated that quite vividly. People may be only “half” or “one-quarter” or “one-eighth” Jewish, but when push comes to shove, they are invariably “Jewish”.
 
The Jews are convenient scapegoats for the transgressions or ambitions of others. How many times have you heard the claim that Jewish bankers control the world, that all Jews are rich, that they always take advantage of others (“I Jewed him down” is a common expression), that they are “Christ Killers,” that they kill Muslim children and use their blood to bake bread, that they secretly plot to control various countries, etc., etc., ad nauseum.
 
Whatever it takes for various leaders to demagogue the Jews and divert the attention of others from their own despicable behavior.
 
All that’s necessary is a mix of an uninformed population, poverty and religious fanaticism to create a foundation for the endless stream of lies and distortions that are employed to make the Jews the scapegoats for everything that’s wrong with the world and the oppression of others, especially the Palestinians.
 
Many, probably most, American Jews are not religious in the formal sense. However, although they may not practice Judaism and may have intermarried, many, perhaps most, still consider themselves Jewish. I am in that category. Dennis Prager has written an excellent series of articles on Townhall.com, “Explaining Jews,” which I highly recommend for those who would like to learn more about the subject.
 
When I was in high school in the 1940s, and even years later, at the time I was practicing public accounting in the late ‘60s, Jews were still not allowed to stay in many American hotels or resorts, they were not accepted for membership in most country clubs, many companies would not hire them, including major accounting and law firms, they were not accepted by many of the most prestigious universities, and they could not buy homes in many “restricted” neighborhoods, along with suffering a host of other indignities in American society at large. In many respects, it was not much different from the prejudice against African-Americans that has plagued our society for generations and continues to this day.
 
The response of American Jews was to form their own businesses, law and accounting firms, open their own country clubs, establish their own university (Brandeis), etc., thereby in some ways further defining their separation from American Society in many respects.
 
As the years passed, I learned something about the history of the Jews and the repression and persecution they have suffered since Biblical times, how they always managed to adapt and survive, how their many accomplishments have improved the world.
 
I learned that they face seemingly insurmountable odds, that there are only about five million Jews in Israel, along with about one million Arabs, and that there are a total of only about 13 million Jews in the world today (including Israel) vs 350 million Arabs in 22 states who want to exterminate them.
 
I learned how the Jews have taken the desolate, barren desert land they were given and turned it into a modern, productive, democratic state, with the highest standard of living in the Middle East.
 
I also learned that prejudice and bigotry take many forms, often hiding behind a façade of seemingly being unbiased, but that the potential is always present with some people, sometimes without their even realizing it themselves. I can remember sitting in business meetings and having certain clients openly brag to their associates about how shrewd they were to have hired a “smart Jew,” without ever considering how insulting that might sound. Obviously, they thought it was a compliment. They were proud of their own good sense and judgment to have me on retainer, and I always let it pass.
 
In the final analysis, it doesn’t really matter who’s right in the Israel-Palestine-Hamas-Hezbollah situation, because neither side will ever convince the other. The parties to the conflict make similar claims:
·        They were on the land first, therefore it belongs to them.
·        The other side are “occupiers” or “squatters.”
·        The other side is guilty of extreme tactics, killing women and children indiscriminately, and much worse.
·        The other side is responsible for the repression and extreme poverty of the Palestinian and other Arab societies.
 
The Arabs blame the Jews and the Jews blame Arab leaders for keeping their own people poverty stricken so they could continue to divert attention from themselves by fanning the flames of hatred against the Jews.
 
Unfortunately, in my mind, one fact overrides all others: The Palestinians, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran all unambiguously avow that Israel must be wiped off the map and the Jews driven into the sea. And, they are aided and abetted by most other Arab-Muslim states to a greater or lesser degree: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, United Arab Emirates, etc., often speaking one way to the world in English while saying the opposite in Arabic to their own people. No matter how much they try to cover up or talk around their openly declared goal of destroying Israel and the Jews, their real intent never changes.
 
It has been going on this way for 67 years, and I expect it will continue until long after I am gone.
 
Finally, it is an article of Muslim faith that the Jews and all people of other religious beliefs must be converted to Islam or be exterminated, a reality that neither the Jews nor the Christians throughout the world dare ignore.
 
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