The Government Shutdown

I have so many thoughts about the federal government shutdown.  I emphasize federal government, because as we all know, most services are delivered locally.  In most major cities, services like food stamps, medicare, medicaid and social security aren’t affected by the shutdown.  Yes, there is a potential economic effect for street vendors selling hot dogs, since the extremely bloated federal workforce has been placed on furlough and therefore aren’t out buying lunch.  But generally, I think the impact won’t really make a difference. In fact, I believe most people will understand that the majority of these employees aren’t needed at all.  So, unless you need a new Passport urgently, or you’re one of the illegal aliens that Professor Obama has recently unilaterally decided can stay in the country, the federal government shutdown really is a big yawn.

I found it appalling that a White House official was quoted in the Wall Street Journal today as saying the administration doesn’t care how long the shutdown lasts, because they are winning.  This so perfectly exemplifies the attitude of the Chicago thugs that currently occupy the White House.  And by the way, that is not my term.  That’s an exact quote that was used by an African American civil rights leader that I used to work with, who has his roots trace back to Martin Luther King, Jr.  It’s somewhat poetic, however, that the same socialist thugs who are doing everything possible to grow government at any cost, are now gloating at shutting down the government.  This clearly is not a contest to be won or lost.  It makes a mockery of our government and its 200+ year reputation of consensus by the people.  I accept the fact that Obamacare has become the law of the land and has been upheld by the Supreme Court.  I don’t know if its good or bad, because I have not been able to log onto the site since it opened.  I also accept that Congress creates the budget.  That, too, is the law.  The Professor may not like that, but it is the law.  Like so many other things – ineptitude in Syria; playing into the Iranian President’s roadshow; no sound policy on the economy, housing, environmental issues or foreign policy – the thug at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has no clue how to lead us out of this mess or the upcoming debt ceiling debate. Instead, he would rather bully 80 and 90 year old WW II veterans, or close the cemetery in Normandy France.  Nuts!

Now lets turn to congress.  First off, I once again am comforted that I am no longer a New York City or State resident.  Representative Peter King, and my former Staten Island Representative Michael Grimm, ought to be ashamed of themselves.  They are cowards, and have demonstrated to me that they don’t care about the long term consequences of Obamacare and the financial mess it will cause, nor do they care that we are being incremented towards socialism by the Professor – they only worry about what they perceive will get them re-elected.  Perhaps this is what Grimm’s illegal Israeli backers want, but I seriously don’t think he’s in touch with his Staten Island constituents.  He should be run out of office.

And how about Harry Reed?  The liberals who support Reed think it’s great that he’s a former boxer and a tough guy.  What they don’t seem to realize is that most boxers can’t speak a grammatically correct sentence, yet alone lead something.  And most boxers who what been punched in the head a few thousand times usually can’t think a rational thought either.  He’s not the majority leader because he’s smart. He’s there because he has seniority.  Do we really feel comfortable that a brain dead boxer from Nevada with a population of 2.75 million people (less than one percent of the United States population), and a thug from Chicago are shutting our government down and setting the direction for the country?  I for one am not.  I fully support Ted Cruz and the other congressional leaders who are holding their ground on sound, time tested American policies that will get our country back on it’s feet.

© October 4, 2013 James Stuckey

Attacks on Christian Churches

It is deeply troublesome to me that a pattern of attacks on Christian Churches has developed in predominantly Middle Eastern and African nations by radical Islamists.  The most recent occurred in Pakistan this weekend.  While the story received front page play in the New York Times and other news outlets, there has barely been a word uttered by Professor Obama, Congressional leaders, or the United Nations.  Why is it that attacks on Christians are reported on, but not repudiated?  No person in any country should be attacked or discriminated against because of his or her religious belief.  While I joyously acknowledge that I am a Catholic, and believe that it is the one true faith, I completely respect other’s right to believe as they choose, or not to believe.  And while I am always happy to tell people why I believe my faith is the one true faith, and why I believe in Jesus Christ, I also recognize that an individual’s belief is between that person and God.

When Christ walked the earth, he did not force people to believe in him through violence. He repudiated aggression.  He led people to believe, to be humble, and to love others as they love God and themselves.  If Christ, as God, did not force people to believe, I certainly don’t think I can.  Similarly, I do not think radical Islamists can force other’s to believe by acts of violence, death, and/or destroying holy places of worship.  I truly believe that there needs to be a movement by all faiths to protect all faiths.  Time has shown that violence only deepens one’s conviction.  While we have a separation of Church and State in this country, this should not stop our political leaders from speaking out against atrocities.

© September 22, 2013 James Stuckey

New Photos for Sale at James Philip Paul Photography, LLC™

Take a look at http://jamesphilippaul.com for new prints on photo paper for sale.  Included are:

San Gimignano

San Gimignano

Smoky Water Pacific Coast Highway

Smoky Water Pacific Coast Highway

Yellow Rose

Yellow Rose

Burano

Burano

Rainbow

Rainbow

Fishing Boats in Pelluhue

Fishing Boats in Pelluhue

There You Go Again, Professor Obama

I am not in favor of bombing Syria.  It will do no good whatsoever.  As I noted in my blog post on Egypt a few weeks ago (http://jamesstuckeyblog.com/2013/08/16/the-violence-in-egypt/), the Arab world is dominated by extremists, fundamentalists and dictators.  The good honest and moderate people of Syria, like most of the Arab nations, are caught in the middle of these fanatics.  I personally believe that bombing Syria will do no good whatsoever.  Even if Bashar al-Assad, the insane Syrian President, is removed, he will only be replaced by an extremist group who will continue butchering people.  They would exterminate those loyal to him.  And many of those perspective exterminees probably weren’t loyal at all; they were just too afraid to speak out.  The cycle of violence would just continue.  I am appalled that al-Assad used chemical weapons on his own people.  He is the blood brother to Hitler, Idi Amin, and Stalin.  He is the modern day example that pure evil is alive and well in this world today.

I believe in just wars.  St. Thomas Aquinas wrote extensively on this subject.  But, I don’t believe turning Syria over from one dictator to the next falls within Aquinas’ definition of “just”.  If we were to topple al-Assad, and work with the world community to institute a true democracy, I could easily get behind the effort.  However, this is clearly not what’s being contemplated.  Professor Obama has once again demonstrated that he is not a leader, and his approach to this crisis has been both ineffective and humiliating.  The executives he has surrounded himself with in his second term are even worse than those of the first.

The first rule of negotiating is that you never put a final position on the table unless you will act on it; if you do, and you don’t act, the negotiation becomes a dictation.  The other side knows that you have nowhere to go, and they begin to dictate terms to you.  This is what has happened to Professor Obama with his “red line”“in Syria.  If he were going to act, he should have done so the very first time al-Assad tested him.  He didn’t, and al-Assad continually gassed his own people until the most recent outrage killed hundreds of sleeping children as well.  Now the professor “wants to act.”  But unlike George Bush who was able to build an international coalition (even though he was supposedly despised on the world stage), and get Congressional approval prior to invading Iraq, Obama (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize) finds himself all alone.  And this is not the loneliness that leaders often feel when the “buck stops” with them, it is the loneliness that comes from stupidity and the fact that he is completely not trusted by other world leaders.  The professor claims that he is punting his decision to Congress because he may need them for other votes related to the mid-east, healthcare or the budget for the remainder of his term.  This too is folly.  If I were a Congressman I would now feel like I own him.  He has displayed that his threats are toothless, and that he is incapable of making a tough decision.

His handling of the Arab Spring was a joke.  His recent inaction with Egypt was embarrassing.  Russia’s President Putin has made him look like a school boy.  His economic and housing policies are nothing more than a shell game.

Not since Jimmy Carter’s failures in Iran has America’s defense and foreign policies been so weak and devoid of purpose and intelligence.  And to add insult to injury, even Carter has come out in opposition to professor Obama’s desire to launch missiles on Syria.

I am deeply worried about what the next three and a half years will bring with a President who is a joke on the world stage; has instituted a healthcare program that will potentially bankrupt the nation; has set race relations backwards; has no viable economic policy; and, thinks that the only way to solve any problem is to give bus tour speeches.

© September 2, 2013 James Stuckey

What is Your Gift?

Like most people I have wondered not just how life began, but why it began.  There currently are, and have been, billions of people on this planet.  Do they all have a purpose? Do they all question why they exist?  Does a person who lives in poverty and enslavement under a brutal dictator question his or her purpose.  Do doctors and scientists who are probing new boundaries still contemplate the mystery of it all?

Smoky-Water © 2013 James Stuckey

Smoky-Water
© 2013 James Stuckey

From a young age, I have always believed in the Christian faith and have never doubted my belief in Jesus Christ.  As a practicing Catholic, I still do not.  But merely believing doesn’t mean understanding what you’re to do with that faith as a believer.  This mystery is what caused me to study psychology both as an undergrad and graduate student.  It’s what motivated me do complete a second Masters Degree, twenty-five years after my first, in Sacred Scripture.  It’s was caused me to go on a self imposed retreat in at the Pecos Monastery in New Mexico after my father died.  It’s what inspires me even today to read great thinkers from Aristotle to St. John of the Cross.

I recently had dinner with an incredibly nice man in his forties who is undergoing radiation treatment after having his cancerous prostate removed.  I was in awe of his attitude and courage.  It was a wonderful and fun dinner, and I hope to have many more with him.  He is a true inspiration.  After dinner, I began to think once again about what the purpose of it all is, and how I fit into the “grand scheme.”  I had forgotten how this question nagged at me after my third and forth heart procedures.

Rainbow © 2013 James Stuckey

Rainbow
© 2013 James Stuckey

I knew my father’s side had terrible genes.  I had lost uncles and cousins in their forties and fifties to coronary artery disease.  It didn’t surprise me, therefore, that I had to have four stents implanted in all three of my major arteries when I was 54.  My family was understandably worried, but I was calm.  I made jokes in the pre-op and recovery rooms to try to put them at ease.  Somehow I was certain that all would be ok.  I believed that if the surgery failed, I would move on to a greater place and be with God. And if I was wrong, and there was no God, I wouldn’t know.  Three years later, when I had my third and fourth procedures I felt the same way; but, after my recovery, as I started to settle into a more permanent retirement, I began to wonder if I was still in a position to contribute?  Could I make a difference? Did I have a gift?  How could I determine what it was and would I be able to share it?  Throughout my business career, I was blessed to be in a position to help create jobs, redevelop inner cities, and to teach others how to rebuild after catastrophes.  What now?

I write this, because I really don’t know the answer.  Like so many of my friends and family members I continue the search –  which perhaps is the answer.  I love reading 1 Corinthians 12-14, which discusses the gifts of the Spirit (see below), and makes it clear that whatever our particular gift is contributes to the whole.  Paul, a brilliant disciple who wrote this letter to the Corinthians within a mere twenty-five years after Christ’s death and resurrection, beautifully articulates the many gifts of the Spirit.  I can’t possibly say this better than him, so I have posted below excerpts from these chapters, which I urge you to read slowly and contemplatively.

1 Corinthians, Chapters 12-14 (from the New Jerusalem Bible, emphases added):

Chapter 12 . . . .” 4 There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit;

5 there are many different ways of serving, but it is always the same Lord.

6 There are many different forms of activity, but in everybody it is the same God who is at work in them all.

7 The particular manifestation of the Spirit granted to each one is to be used for the general good.

8 To one is given from the Spirit the gift of utterance expressing wisdom; to another the gift of utterance expressing knowledge, in accordance with the same Spirit;

9 to another, faith, from the same Spirit; and to another, the gifts of healing, through this one Spirit;

10 to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the power of distinguishing spirits; to one, the gift of different tongues and to another, the interpretation of tongues.

11 But at work in all these is one and the same Spirit, distributing them at will to each individual. . . . 30 Do all have the gifts of healing? Do all of them speak in tongues and all interpret them?

31 Set your mind on the higher gifts. And now I am going to put before you the best way of all. . . .  (Chapter 13) . . . .1 Though I command languages both human and angelic — if I speak without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a

cymbal clashing.

 2 And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains — if I am without love, I am nothing.

3 Though I should give away to the poor all that I possess, and even give up my body to be burned — if I am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

4 Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited,

5 it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.

6 Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.

7 It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.

8 Love never comes to an end. But if there are prophecies, they will be done away with; if tongues, they will fall silent; and if knowledge, it will be done away with.

9 For we know only imperfectly, and we prophesy imperfectly;

10 but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will be done away with.

11 When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways.

12 Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.

13 As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love . . . . (Chapter 14) . . . . 1 Make love your aim; but be eager, too, for spiritual gifts, and especially for prophesying. . . . ”

© August 27, 2013  James Stuckey

Why Do We Need A Full Time New York City Council?

I recently read that a number of New York City Council Members are seeking to pass local legislation that would add 10₵ for every plastic and/or paper bag one uses to take things home from supermarkets.  Brad Landers, whose life experience before becoming a Councilman consisted of teaching urban studies, was leading the charge.  I can’t begin to tell you how incredibly dumb this idea is; it’s clearly the product of too many elected officials with too much time on their hands. They believe this will help clean up the environment, but it’s really just a hidden tax like all those surcharges on your telephone, cable and wireless bills.  Now I ask you, how many people go to the supermarket, load up their carts with perishable and non-perishable items, and then carry them home by hand? Very few.  Just think, six cans of soda – one bag; a few rolls of toilette paper – one bag. Twenty bags, four additional dollars.  Are they nuts?

This got me thinking about why New York City needs a full time City Council.  There are 51 Council Members and 35  Council Committees.  They spend over $600 million a year on discretionary and “member items”.  This doesn’t include their salaries and benefits, or those of their staffs.  However, what’s worse are the dumb laws they pass.  Think about this. There are full time legislatures on the federal, state and city level, and they all pass laws all the time.  Some laws are clearly necessary, like making murder a crime. I think that one has been passed already.  How many laws do we need?  Doesn’t every law essentially state that you “can’t” do something.  And, doesn’t every law result in volumes of implementing rules and regulations?  Do we really need three full time Legislatures thinking all the time about new things that we can’t do?  How many things can we possibly not do? And who creates all of these new laws?  Why lawyers, of course.  And who is exempt from most of these laws?  Usually, the legislators who passed them.  Doesn’t it make you feel good that while UPS is taking 17,000 of their workers’ spouses off their health insurance plans because of Obamacare, Congress has voted to exempt itself from the new healthcare mandates?  Why?  Because they can.

So why do we need a full time City Council?  Why can’t there be a part time Council?  Why can’t they meet three months a year, and have a process that that would allow them to be called into session for emergencies?  Given that New York has a Comptroller, the courts and other oversight bodies, they certainly don’t add much in this area.  Let’s be candid, most Council Members don’t understand the majority of things they preside over.  The vast majority are political hacks that never had to make a real living.  They feed off the public trough, and then disperse $600 + million in discretionary funds back to their district favorites.  So why can’t they do that part time?  New York, like most cities in the United States, needs to make some tough decisions going forward.  Cutting spending, overhead, and unnecessary laws, rules and regulations are essential to the city’s long term health and survival.  This can’t possibly be accomplished with crony Council Members who fill up their days thinking up silly laws to help them “look good” to a select handful of “constituents.”