8th Grader dies of overdose – Media silent

b6fc9d2c155111e3931722000a1fc67c_6The other day, an 8th grader at Niguel Hills Middle School in Laguna Niguel, CA died of a drug overdose. The cause of Branden Stock’s death was Vicodin, one of the most commonly prescribed drugs.

The only media report of his death was on Channel 5 News. His school and the district said nothing at all beyond their confines. He died at home alone. Imagine finding your child or your best friend cold and lifeless and there’s nothing you can do. His friends held a memorial service at Salt Creek Beach, where I spent many days in the water surfing like Branden was said to have loved to.

The death of a child is the most painful thing a parent goes through. No one should have to endure this burden. And yet his parents will carry this sadness for their entire lives. His friends will remember for a while and then more rarely and maybe a few will remember to pray for his soul sometimes over the course of their lives.

That the death barely made the news is indicative of the problem. Drug abuse begins in 6th-8th grade now. Kids are experimenting and going through new emotions and have left the cocoon of grade school. And the availability has never been greater. The taboos are gone. “Everyone is doing it.” I heard the same thing when I was a kid. And here we are 40 years later and we’re still getting it wrong.

And it’s not just public schools. It’s everywhere. Catholic schools, prep schools. If you go to the parking lot of Gelson’s in Newport Beach you can usually score within minutes. The Port Streets in Newport are considered one of the last bastions of the Ozzie & Harriet lifestyle and the drugs and alcohol usage by kids is pervasive. Laguna Niguel and every town in Orange County are the same.

Prescription drugs are the new battlefield. Vicodin, Codeine, Oxycontin, Zanax, Opana, Percocet, and Valium are all being abused at record levels. Between dirty doctors, pill shopping, and stealing from mom & dad’s medicine cabinet it is an epidemic. That people can even obtain some of these drugs like Opana, which is prescribed for very limited applications, indicates how awry the system is. And it is hitting 12 & 13 year olds, those who haven’t got a clue, the worst.

And after they can’t find the prescription drugs or can’t afford them, heroin lurks in the background ready to offer a brown haze from which there is little chance of escape. $80 for an Oxycontin or $6 for a bindle of Afghan white or black tar? This is the reality on the street here in the OC.

The Orange County Register did an article a few weeks back on heroin abuse in our high schools. The number of OC kids trying heroin has doubled since 2006. And once heroin has you it is a monkey on your back that is very difficult to remove.

And a lot of people just don’t want to know. Two girls were caught recently smoking heroin in a bathroom at Laguna Beach High School. “The girls caught smoking was an “isolated incident,” Laguna Beach High Principal Joanne Culverhouse said.”

30 years ago when I lived in Dana Point, Laguna Beach High School had one of the worst drug problems in the county. Nothing changes much, it seems. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

In San Clemente, the community has bonded together through CURE, which links the church, counselors, schools, parents, other stakeholders and the kids. We need such programs in every city. Every loss of a child is one too many.

Education is vital and we need to get to the heart of the matter and educate parents and children about the consequences of bad choices. We have the resources. But first we must recognize the problem honestly and without blinkers.

Drug abuse and self medication are the scourges of our times. Between addiction and mental health issues we have responded in a woeful manner. We must open our eyes and our hearts to this plague.

 

 

The Deafening Silence on Leftist Corruption

The headlines have been full of the arrests of Democratic politicians on charges ranging from bribery to corruption to gun running and yet the opinion pages have been silent.

In 2006, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made the Republican “culture of corruption” a major campaign issue. The daughter of one of the most corrupt politicians in Maryland history, Thomas D’Allesandro, she hammered the Republicans for their support of legislation she and her allies deemed corrupt. It worked.

Then, in January of 2007, immediately after her election as Speaker of the House  the minimum wage was increased from $5.15 to $7.25. Pelosi had American Samoa exempted from the increase so that Del Monte Corporation would not have to pay the higher wage. Del Monte is based in her congressional district and at the time her husband held $17 million in shares in the company.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is famous for the influence she has peddled for her husband, Richard Blum. A few years ago she engineered a land swap that landed her husband’s company Pentagon held land that mining experts call perhaps one of the largest gold formations in the world in exchange for worthless rangeland in northern California. This is also the same man entrusted with the famous “Train to Nowhere” multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

So the recent arrests and convictions of a number of California politicians who happen to all be Democrats might come as a bit of a shock after such transparently obvious self dealing. Let’s look at the list, shall we?

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner – False Imprisonment & Battery

San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew – Extortion & Perjury

State Senator Leland Yee – Arms Trafficking, Money Laundering, Murder for Hire, Drug Dealing, Bribery, Corruption and being a member of a Chinese Tong.

State Senator Ron Calderon – Bribery & Corruption

State Senator Rod Wright – Voter Fraud & Perjury

All of these politicians are on the far Left of the political spectrum. They are the ones who regularly accuse their political opponents of corruption, greed, racism and base motives. But time and again it seems that the ones who cry “Injustice” the loudest are in fact the most unjust.

Yee is one of the most vocal opponents of Second Amendment rights in America and yet he was caught on tape discussing the sale of automatic weapons and shoulder mounted rockets to terrorists in the Philippines, where U.S. Special Forces have been working side by side with the Philippine Army fighting those same terrorists.

Calderon was even more of a crook. Michael Drobot, who owned Pacific Hospital in Long Beach, bilked the state and federal governments of over $500 million in a sophisticated medical equipment scam. The same type of scam that our president promised to stamp out when selling Obamacare. Calderon facilitated Drobot’s  corrupt empire that included crooked doctors, medical equipment companies, and hospital personnel.

But the corruption of the left goes far beyond California. It is especially strong in Illinois; in New York and in a number of other blue states. In New York it even includes some of the Republican leadership.

On a national level the Obama Administration is open for business. The green energy scandals cost the taxpayers over $1 Trillion and much of the stimulus bill was parceled out for projects of very dubious utility. The GM and Chrysler bailouts benefited primarily the unions.

Crony capitalism is everywhere one chooses to gaze and yet the media is virtually silent. It even includes some Republicans and yet the thought leaders have chosen to ignore the problem because it does not fit the narrative. Just as the Nomenklatura pillaged the Soviet Union with their special privileges and dachas today’s Leftist politicians are carving their own “fair share” at the expense of the people.

In his 40 year career as a professional politician, Willie Brown was able to avoid indictment despite a highly flamboyant lifestyle and several investigations. He was admired by many for his style but he was dogged by corruption and favoritism charges throughout his career. Today, there are a thousand Willie Browns and Leland Yees and Ron Calderons and Dianne Feinsteins and Nancy Pelosis.

Now, indictments are coming fast and furious. You would think there is an opportunity for a Pulitzer, even.

And yet the same grifters in the press, in academia, the unions and the special interest groups are silent. For they too are part of the gravy train. Spout the proper slogans and steal all that you can that’s not nailed down and some of what is.

When I was a kid California was known as a “clean government” state. Starting back in the 1890′s the Populist Party was a disorganized amalgam of small businesspeople, workers, farmers, and political leaders. Activists such as Theodore Roosevelt rose in opposition to the “Reckless Decade” of the 1890′s.The clean government movement was founded to stamp out the rampant political corruption in many states. California was seen as a leader in good government. Now it is a banana republic as are so many of the “blue” states.

The map speaks for itself. From the wars on charter schools in Chicago and New York and Washington to the checkbook legislation in Washington our politicians are sitting behind the cash register and don’t give change.

We are in a new Reckless Decade where the oligarchs and the crony capitalists have been allowed to pillage. And because the disease is overwhelmingly on the Left today the country suffers. Our faith in justice is corrupted, and this is a very dangerous thing for our republic.

 

The Eternal Spotlessness of Obama’s Mind

This afternoon our president provided further evidence of his refusal to recognize objective reality and substitute it with his own. When asked if Mitt Romney was right about the threat Russia poses to the United States he misrepresented the actions of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and stated that a nuclear threat to Manhattan was our greatest threat. He also misrepresented the nature of the Russian state as a regional power. Which region does the president want to pick?

As Russia holds thousands of nuclear warheads and China’s military is growing at its fastest rate in history and countries such as Iran and Syria and Iraq and Pakistan and Afghanistan are thumbing their noses at the United States, our presidents actions and statements are deeply disconcerting.

Russia has fleets in the Pacific, Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Black  Seas and can project power globally. China has also been flexing its muscles. Both countries are clearly global, not regional powers. Russia has worked against our interests in the Middle East, in Africa, and in Latin America.

Mr. Obama drew a line in the sand in Syria that has been ignored globally. He is perhaps the most hated man in Egypt today. Hamid Karzai, who depends on American support for his survival, has openly thumbed his nose at Mr. Obama and his envoys.

The president has squandered thousands of American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan and trillions of dollars with absolutely nothing to show for it. He has damaged our relationships with our allies throughout the world with his feckless policies and reckless spy programs.

And he has remained virtually silent in addressing the concerns of the American people with his actions. From his massive domestic spying program to being caught unaware of Russia’s coup in Crimea the president has faced almost no scrutiny for a lapdog press.

I was in Washington several years ago and had the chance to visit then Senator Obama’s office. I was amazed that it was almost pristine. No books, no memorabilia, no signs of what I had seen in 100 Congressional office over the years. It was sterile and disconcerting. For such a smart guy I was amazed at the lack of books.

Then, reports began to filter out of the insularity of the Obama White House. That the president did not engage with almost any of the members of Congress, including his own side. That the White House was an echo chamber for Obama’s ideology. That there was an “us versus them” attitude.

Then came the political control and use of the bureaucracy and its use against the president’s political opponents. Then came the czars and legislation through regulation.

And still there were few questions. And then came the stonewalling and use of secret e mail accounts and identities by senior government officials to communicate privately on public matters.

Bob Woodward has repeatedly described the insularity and extreme politicization of the White House staff. Bob Gates described the immaturity and insularity of the White House staff during his tenure under President Obama.

Even Dana Milbank, a strong Obama supporter quoted the Wall Street Journal about the administration’s distance from reality:

“In one account of what even administration officials acknowledge is a debacle, The Wall Street Journal reported that Obama’s policy advisers were aware long ago that the president’s promise that “if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it” wouldn’t hold up. “White House policy advisers objected to the breadth of Mr. Obama’s ‘keep your plan’ promise,” the Journal reported, citing a former senior administration official. “They were overruled by political aides, the former official said. The White House said it was unaware of the objections.”

The presidential press secretary, Jay Carney has resorted to the most tortured logic in defending the president’s actions, resorting to lies time and again whether on the Benghazi debacle, Obamacare, or any of 100 other subjects. This is, unfortunately, an objective truth which cannot be denied. Repeatedly we have been told that the president was unaware of any of the scandals surrounding him.

So which is it? President Chauncey Gardener or a single-minded politician who doesn’t care about the truth? We know of Obama’s devotion to the tenets of Alinsky and of his friendship with Bill Ayers now. The president has pushed harder and further left than any of his predecessors.

So how are we to analyze his latest remarks? Is it as delusional thinking or a calculated political desire to harm American interests. His expansions of spying on our citizenry and our allies portray a desire to be the all-knowing OZ, but to what end?

He knows nothing but he knows everything. He operates in a vacuum, we are told. Long ago my father told me to watch what someone does, not what they say.

Judging by his actions, our president is perhaps the greatest deceiver in history. he has honed saying one thing and doing another to the sharpness of a sushi knife. So it is not really a vacuous foolish president we have but a knave of the highest order.

 

Addiction is a disease

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The papers are still trying to figure out what happened to Philip Seymour Hoffman. One of the most engaging actors of our day died with a needle still sticking in his vein sitting on the can in his apartment. It was a “hot shot” and now his family is stricken with the loss of a father and lover and his friends are devastated.

The costs of addiction are terrible. I know. I have seen the needle and the damage done. A family member is struggling with recovery and it ebbs and flows. My wife and I pray on this every day and night.

There are many kinds of addictions. Prescription drugs are the worst at the moment. There is a pipeline from “Pain Management” centers to the pharmacies who are the new dealers. Oxycontin? Vicodin? Zanax? Opama? Percocet? Morphine? Valium?  Add Meth to the list as well. Ecstasy has had its toll as have many other drugs.

National Review’s Kevin D Williamson describes the Oxycontin Express, a bus route that runs from Florida to Kentucky and West Virginia bringing prescription drugs to the “Pillbillies”. It’s a short hop from Oxycontin and Opana to heroin. Oxycontin is expensive. Heroin is cheaper and more available and more pure than it has ever been. Philip Seymour Hoffman is an example but here in Orange County where I live, we lose 1 to 2 young people per week to narcotics. The toll from alcohol addiction shows up in the hospitals and police statistics. The toll from these addictions and others such as sex or gambling addiction show up in divorce rates and broken families and repetitive behavior from generation to generation.

The world is facing a crisis of addiction. In Iran, in Afghanistan and in the West and even in China.

20% of our population is susceptible to addiction according to the statistics. The National Institute on Drug Abuse data indicates that 50% of addicts have experienced childhood trauma. Close to 90% of young addicts start with pot and alcohol. If one wishes to add in adult trauma, the numbers increase even more. Veterans returning home with PTSD reach for a bottle or a joint or something more and once they are hooked, the monkey is well and truly on their back same as with all other addicts.

It doesn’t want to let go. It is there for the duration. Alcoholics Anonymous has pointed this out since 1935. A gentleman named Rowland H. visited Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychoanalyst, who told him that the case was hopeless from a medical treatment perspective. Jung directed Rowland H. to the Oxford Group, who were dedicated to recreating the spirit of the first Christians. They were founded on the Four Steps and the Four Standards, the predecessor to every 12 step program today.

Addiction is powerlessness. It is physical and it is spiritual and it is biochemical and neurological. You cannot run from it just as you cannot run if you are infected with HIV. In fact, the recovery rate from HIV is better than that of some addictions. Addiction is not a choice.

Addicts are often filling a psychic or spiritual hole. They are often damaged goods long before that first toke or sip or pill at a party. Others become addicted in more traditional forms. An athlete is injured and begins to use painkillers. A veteran does the same. Slowly the drug hijacks the body and the soul. I have met all of these types. They are our children and neighbors and co workers and friends and even go to the same churches and schools and jobs. There are functional and non functional addicts, but in the end they are all non functional since they usually die long before they should have.

The drugs themselves are ruthless. Heroin, cocaine, and meth can all grab a soul in just a few days. And then Satan owns their soul until they can crawl back to normalcy. Addicts often believe they can handle it at the outset; that they are in control. But the statistics say otherwise.

The illness of addiction is often linked to our dysfunctional mental health system and is certainly wrapped up in our penal system. Over 50% of the prisoners in the Federal system are there for drug offenses. According to the National Institute of Mental Health over 50% of all prisoners in our penal system have mental health issues. What is the overlap? 30%? 50%? More?

Fr. Don Calloway is a Catholic Priest. He wasn’t always. He was an addict when he was young. He was in rehabilitation and the doctors, the best in the field, told him that he had a 3% chance of recovery. He was stunned. He said to himself “They are telling me that I have a 3% chance of recovery? With all of the best minds and years and years of experience they say only 3% of opiate addicts will recover? They’re doing it wrong!”

We, as a society, are doing it wrong. As a society we do not wish to credit faith and moral guidance as key elements of recovery and yet time and again these have proven to be the keys. It is a constant process. It is not easy. But just as a HIV infected patient or a diabetic can keep death at bay, so can addicts. Addicts also have a disease of the soul. All of the symptoms and the root causes must be addressed.

But we have to begin to view the problem from a new perspective. With compassion and empathy and respect. Just as the Catholic faith teaches to condemn the sin, not the sinner we must begin to do the same. The addiction must be viewed separately from the person.

Treatment, sober living and living with relapses are all a part of recovery. Continual reinforcement is necessary, even years later. Perhaps especially years later as in the case of Mr. Hoffman. Mental health related issues are one of the scourges of our times. But we can do better. The solutions are there if we wish to seek them out. Neuropsychology, Neurology, Metrology and other sciences are pushing the boundaries back on our understanding of the brain. We have always known the source for the understanding of the soul.

We can do this. But first we must rethink our strategies of dealing with this scourge.

The UN goes to war with the Catholic Church

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The headlines in the press all over the world are screaming about the UN’s condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church for child abuse by a small number of priests of a faith that encompasses 1.2 Billion adherents around the world.

The members of the committee of 18 experts include representatives from Saudi Arabia (vice-chair), Egypt, Bahrain (vice -chair), Tunisia, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, The Russian Federation, Norway (chair) among others. In fact, one could hardly ask for a more hostile Commission.

You can get the flavor of the attacks here, here, and here. They include:

UN accuses Vatican of adopting policies that allowed priests to rape children

Daily Telegraph

U.N. panel blasts Vatican handling of clergy sex abuse, church teachings on gays, abortion

Washington Post

U.N. Panel Assails Vatican Over Sexual Abuse by Priests

New York Times

The headlines capture a broad condemnation of the Church’s perceived failings, including its stances on gay marriage, birth control, and abortion. Little of this made the headlines. But if you dig deeper and read the report some of the gems include:

“The Committee recommends that the Holy See undertake a comprehensive
review of its normative framework, in particular Canon Law, with a view to ensuring
its full compliance with the Convention.”

How very statist.

“The Committee welcomes the information provided by the Holy See during the
interactive dialogue that it has initiated a review of its legislation with a view to
withdrawing the discriminatory expression “illegitimate children” which can still be found in Canon Law, in particular Canon 1139. While also noting as positive the progressive statement delivered in July 2013 by Pope Francis, the Committee is concerned about the Holy See’s past statements and declarations on homosexuality which contribute to the social stigmatization of and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents and children raised by same-sex couples.”

The Committee willfully and categorically misstates the Church’s position.

“The Committee recommends that the Holy See bring all its laws and regulations, as well as its policies and practices, in conformity with article 2 of the Convention and promptly abolish the discriminatory classification of children born out-of-wedlock as illegitimate children. The Committee also urges the Holy See to make full use of its moral authority to condemn all forms of harassment, discrimination or violence against children based on their sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of their parents and to support efforts at international level for the decriminalisation of homosexuality.”

The Committee wishes to reinvent the law and the language.

“Amend both Canon Law and Vatican City State laws to explicitly prohibit all corporal punishment of children, including within the family”

Spanking? Really? It worked in my case.

“The Committee also regrets that the Holy See did not provide precise information on the measures taken to promote equality between girls and boys and to remove gender stereotypes from Catholic schools textbooks.”

Hmmmm….same size fits all? I think the facts speak for themselves.

“The Committee is concerned that the Holy See restrictively interprets children’s
right to express their views in all matters affecting them, as well as their rights to freedom of expression, association and religion.”

Children are children and it is integral to teach them in all matters, including faith and morals. Freedom of expression in a child can range from tantrums to acting out to inappropriate behavior. Let’s ask the Saudi, Bahraini, and Malaysian delegates how they interpret this.

“The Committee strongly urges the Holy See to cooperate in studies to determine the root causes of the practice of anonymous abandonment of babies and expeditiously strengthen and promote alternatives, taking into full account the right of children to know their biological parents and siblings, as enshrined in article 7 of the Convention.

The Catholic Church’s commitment to life is centered on the protection and care of children, wherever they are. In India, where Mother Teresa care for thousands of babies born into other faiths. The Church takes in the abandoned, the halt, and the lame and yet the UN Commission has the effrontery to challenge this mission, which has been abnegated by the state in so many countries?

The Committee also urges the Holy See to contribute to addressing the abandonment of babies by providing family planning, reproductive health, as well as adequate counseling and social support, to prevent unplanned pregnancies as well as assistance to families in need, while introducing the possibility of confidential births at hospitals as a measure of last resort to prevent abandonment and/or death of a child.”

“The Committee urges the Holy See to adopt a policy for the deinstitutionalization of children placed in Catholic Church-run institutions and for the reunification with their families, where possible. The Committee also recommends that the Holy See take all necessary measures to ensure as a matter of priority that children under the age of three are not placed in institutions.

“The Committee urges the Holy See to review its position on abortion which
places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls and to amend Canon 1398 relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted.”

“The Committee is seriously concerned about the negative consequences of the Holy
See’s position and practices of denying adolescents’ access to contraception, as well as to sexual and reproductive health and information.”

“Assess the serious implications of its position on adolescents’ enjoyment
of the highest attainable standard of health and overcome all the barriers and taboos
surrounding adolescent sexuality that hinder their access to sexual and reproductive
information, including on family planning and contraceptives, the dangers of early
pregnancy, the prevention of HIV/AIDS and the prevention and treatment of sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs)”

“Guarantee the best interests of pregnant teenagers and ensure that the
views of the pregnant adolescent always be heard and respected in the field of
reproductive health.”

These last demands by the UN Commission go against the core teachings of Christianity.

The Church’s teachings are believed by Catholics to be the Word of God. The Church is centered upon the imperfection of man and on the redemption of sin through faith and good works. The Roman Catholic Church established the world’s first hospitals and orphanages and considers caring for the world’s poor, regardless of faith as a central mission. As the UN Commissioners met in Geneva, one of the world’s most elegant and expensive cities Catholics all over the world were carrying out this mission. In a world that sees more dark clouds every day the Church has been a ray of hope.

We believe that our Bible is the Word of God and that we must follow its tenets. Central to these beliefs is the Right to Life.

The United Nations has most decidedly advanced a statist, anti-life agenda in this document.The report is a contradiction in itself. It is deeply in error. This is unsurprising considering the composition of the Human Rights Council. It includes a number of countries where Sharia Law rules and women are supremely oppressed. In the Russian Republic the Orthodox Church is the state religion and religious freedom for other faiths, especially Roman Catholics, is forbidden. In many of the member states on the Committee Christianity is suppressed and persecuted.

At the same time the diseases of the libertine Left permeate the report. Anything goes and everything is allowed.

It is deeply ironic that in this country those same Leftists who almost uniformly condemn the Church are silent in the face of Woody Allen’s  crimes.

And while the Church is deeply imperfect, to question its fundamental teachings is a grave offense.

When will we read of a report on the enslavement and stoning of women in Islamic countries? Or the Abrahamic code of punishment of Sharia? Are these not greater offenses? Or will we see a report on the damage done by the casual taking and ending of life through abortion and euthanasia?

Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church in particular have become easy targets for the failings of men. Lost is the message that faith should lift humanity to a more responsible and moral life. Much of the report’s condemnation concerns practices that ended many years ago. Where is there a recognition of this?

The clouds of darkness are gathering. Again I think of Yeat’s Second Coming:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The United Nations, the supposed guarantor of religions freedom, has spoken. And now its position is clarified. It is at war with Western Values.

Overtaken 2

Last night I spent the evening with a bunch of speed freaks, junkies, pillheads, and other addicts.Or at least they were at one time as many of them will tell you.  And no one was getting high. And the message was one of love and hope. It was the premiere of the movie Overtaken 2, a 28 minute film about how addicts have recovered and are recovering from their addiction.

It is both cautionary and hopeful. There is hope. There is a community of recovery. But that community is fragile, underfunded, and facing some very high hurdles. Recovery isn’t easy but there is a deep well of support and love and acceptance.

One of the subjects of both Overtaken and Overtaken 2 has been arrested over 130 times. She has been clean for several years and has built a loving family. Another was an MD in the Inland Empire who began to partake of his own prescriptions and was ready to end it all in the depths of despair. He has now been clean for over 25 years. Cheerleaders, athletes, just plain normal adults and kids, everyone is susceptible. 20% of our population is at risk of addiction. And in a culture of permissiveness, many become addicted.

Here in Orange County, one of the wealthiest and most beautiful places on earth the problem is hidden behind gated communities and the tinted windows of expensive cars and denial. One to two young people die here every week of overdoses. One drug court commissioner works on over 80 cases of juvenile and young adult drug arrests per day. There are both adult and juvenile drug courts at five different Orange County Justice Centers. These numbers don’t include the criminal court system. The people in Drug Court are the lucky ones.

The introduction to drugs in Southern California’s suburbs starts as early as 5th Grade, it seems. Pot is around for those who want it, and the subjects of Overtaken 2 are clear that this is where it started for them. Marijuana may not lead to hard drug usage in many, but in some it is the first step off a very high cliff.

The film is direct. It uses the voices of its subjects, all of them empathetic characters, to show that there is recovery and there is hope if one is willing to accept change and get back on the horse when they fall off. The film doesn’t preach. It doesn’t have to. The stories are powerful enough. And underneath is the message of faith and love and acceptance. In oneself, in ones friends, and in sobriety instead of addiction, and in speaking with so many of them afterwards, in God.

These are our children, our brothers and sisters, our friends. Addiction is a terrible thing. It is the monster that takes over the soul. It is a beast that takes control and does evil things as any of these people will tell you. But it is separate from the individual and it is the soul of that individual that can and does survive as is so well depicted.

The production values are excellent despite a shoestring budget as are the sound and editing. Overtaken 2 is an excellent extension of the message of its predecessor and should be valued even more for its message of hope and love.

Overtaken is mandatory viewing in drug courts in 18 states. Overtaken 2 should be as well.

Bridgegate versus Benghazi – A Story of a Press Corps worthy of Pravda

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The truth is, Pravda is more honest today, but I am referring to the Pravda of the bad old days of the Soviet Union, when it was the laughingstock of the country.

The media had created a maelstrom with the Bridgegate scandal. Editorial writers are weighing in all over the country on the fate of Governor Christie. And yet compared to the real scandals of the nation this sensationalism is an anthill. Our press is doing the equivalent of what Pravda and Izvestia did to Stalin’s enemies when he liquidated them.

Just this morning, the State Department confirmed that Sufian bin Qumu, a former Guantanamo detainee, was one of the planners’ of the attack in Benghazi and that Al Q’aeda was behind it. The president of Libya told us this on December 13, 2012 and the New York Times said so on the 11th based upon US government sources. On September 26th, 2012 The Daily Beast outlined the case emphatically.

So we have a Gitmo detainee who should obviously not have been released and confirmation of what the press initially published. We have a President who knowingly lied. We have a SecState who knowingly lied. We have a UN ambassador who is now the National Security Advisor who knowingly lied.

All of them blamed an obscure video. Hillary even filmed an apology to the Pakistani people for the video that was aired in the country, God knows why.

4 Americans died in a premeditated attack by terrorists.

Robert Gates account, it was “low level” White House staffers who were trying to give the orders to the military, which never came. Remember, the President claimed that he went up to the White House personal quarters at 5:30 after speaking with Panetta  and did not come down until the next morning. In the middle of a crisis. The victims of Benghazi fought for hours afterwards and help never came. The US Ambassador’s body was dragged through the streets.

Hillary then stood before Congress and shouted ” The fact is; we had four dead Americans! Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?” This was over one year after the attack when the facts had established without a doubt. Crickets.

The White House is still hiding witnesses and punishing those who testified before Congress. The FBI case, which was announced shortly after the attack was a farce.

All of these facts have been established. The trail of crumbs is clear. There has been great malfeasance at the very top of our government. But somehow, it’s all about a 4 day lane closure 24/7. 20 to 30 times the coverage of Benghazi and growing by the day.

Our press and media being in the tank has reached a new low. Joe Stalin would be proud.

The budget negotiations – We’ve seen this movie before

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We are about to enter week three of the shutdown in which despite the name 87% of the federal government is in operation as “indispensable’. Payments to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for close to half a billion dollars and to a supplier of mechanical bulls for $40,000 were made and the spectacle of World War II veterans in their late 80′s and 90′s being turned away at the World War Two Memorial made Fox News but few other networks.

The president has hunkered down at 1600 Pennsylvania to emerge occasionally to state the he will be happy to negotiate as long as Congress gives him 100% of what he has demanded.

This movie is getting old quickly, though. We have seen it before. In 2011, when there was a dire prediction of disaster, Bob Woodward was the fly on the wall as the President careened towards disaster.

Members of Congress from both sides described the President as arrogant and incompetent in “The Price of Politics”. As one political blog called it at the time, “The Price of Politics is a stark recollection of the collapse of cooperation in government during Barack Obama’s first — and potentially only — presidential term from the inside out.”

The president survived that debacle and was re-elected only to have his administration riven with scandal after scandal. I am sure there are many in the Administration deeply grateful that Fast & Furious, the IRS Scandal, the DoJ/AP Scandal, and the Benghazi Scandal have been driven off of the front pages.

The shut down is a Godsend to Obama. He can remain intransigent and claim to hold the high ground on Obamacare and demonize the Republicans and the Tea Party all the while staving off accountability for his ever-growing record of incompetence, extralegal activities, and malice.

Woodward was very instructive. The President’s arrogance was legend, whether it was one day after promising shortly after his election telling House Minority Whip Eric Cantor “Elections have consequences, and I won”  the day after pledging a bipartisan administration or as The New Republic describes:

“The most vivid scene takes place in February of 2009, as Congress is laboring to ward off an economic collapse. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker, is hunkered down in her office with Harry Reid, her Senate counterpart, to negotiate a stimulus bill that can pass both chambers. This is no easy task. The bill must be modest enough to survive a Republican filibuster, but ambitious enough to satisfy Pelosi’s liberal caucus. But, then, these are veteran legislators—born deal-makers at that. They get to work with all the seriousness you’d expect.

At which point the president calls in via speaker phone and starts droning on about “unity of action” and “unity of purpose” (Woodward’s paraphrasing). It’s the kind of blather that can wow a stadium full of college students but means nothing in the power corridors of Washington. Pelosi and Reid thank the president coldly, and yet he doesn’t take the hint. Finally, Pelosi reaches over and hits the mute button. “They could hear Obama, but now he couldn’t hear them,” Woodward writes. “The president continued speaking, his disembodied voice filling the room, and the two leaders got back to the hard numbers.”

Very harsh indeed. The President’s frosty relations with both sides of the aisle are well documented. And today it is doubtful we will have a Boswell like Woodward to document the process. After the publication of his book he was vilified and attacked by the President’s minions. I don’t think he has been allowed back in on this one.

The White House staff have repeatedly been described as an unruly, callow political machine akin to a herd of cats. And now that the “A” listers in the administration have left the building, the cats are a tad more out of their league and unruly. Obama has always been a more successful campaigner than president and governs accordingly.

And yet the vitriol has been directed overwhelmingly against the opposition with the assistance of a supine media that simply takes the president’s dictation. The President’s press conference the other day was an especially low point where no questions that might discomfit a most vulnerable president were asked. Perhaps, like Cristina Kirchner, he is allocating newsprint. Or perhaps the media are simply fellow travelers.

The stories of the incompetence of the Obama Administration during the 2011 budget negotiations are legend. The Republicans have their own share of the burden to bear. It always takes two sides to negotiate.

From Woodward’s description it was wrestlemania with actors jumping in and out of the ring and the Sequester as the primary product. A sequester suggested by the President and never intended to have been executed. It was a stop-gap intended to allow more time for real structural improvements. And here we are at the cliff again.

But today the stakes are even higher. The Sequester has had barely any effect on our economy. Today we face a shutdown of which the primary images are of National Parks and Monuments closed to spite the public.

The debt ceiling is once again the central flash point. The President has refused to address our out of control debt nor his health care fiasco. Every day that now goes by without an agreement is squarely on his shoulders. In the meantime I expect the President to revert to the same “No Pasaran” tactics he has used time and again.

We have seen the movie before, but like many Hollywood movies these days, there alternative endings on the Director’s Cut DVD,. In this case almost none of them good for the American People.

 

 

The Administration of Diminished Expectations

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When Barack Obama was elected he campaigned on the message of hope. Today we live in an era of hopelessness for the first time in our country’s history. Unemployment and underemployment are at all time highs. Many have simply left the work force.

Our national reputation is in tatters. Our energy policy is insane. Our national debt is twice what it was just 6 years ago and now our Senate leaders want to remove any cap or control of  it. We are on the path of fiscal insanity. Our Treasury issues debt and the Fed buys it and the primary reason that the economy has recovered to the minimal extent that is the unceasing pumping of more and more debased money into the global financial system. The markets expectations of a cessation of QE is global disaster.

Our education system continues its accelerated deterioration. Race relations are at their lowest level since the early 1960′s.

And all the while, our President and his Administration have sought to avoid blame and manage expectations lower and lower and lower. This is the same Administration that has accrued more power to itself than any since Nixon’s Imperial Presidency. In fact, the new push to eliminate the debt ceiling would disembowel Congress’ power of the purse strings and with that what little power Congress seems to have retained.

He has left the global economic field to the Chinese, who are exercising soft power around the globe, and to the Russians, who have taken great joy in opposing our government in every way possible and rubbing our noses in it.

On the environment he has allowed the EPA to arrogate ever more power in its Luddite policies against conventional energy. The price of gasoline has doubled from the $1.80/gallon level to $4.00/gallon and this suits our president just fine. he has obstructed coal and oil and nuclear power and even natural gas, the cleanest option.

The president’s primary contribution seems to be leading from behind. Whether it is his Shakespearean inner conflicts on the Surge in Afghanistan or his verbal gymnastics on Syria or his lies and silence on Benghazi and the IRS scandal and the NSA scandal.

The “most transparent” administration in history is the most opaque. And as the president arrogates power, he has also instituted internal witch hunts and assaults on the press which resemble Stalinist Russia more that the world’s leading democracy.

His signature health care policy is being shown to be a disaster every day it continues. Access to care will be diminished at ever higher costs.

And yet the president seems to wear a Teflon cloak and goes unchallenged. We are at a schwerpunkt, as the Germans call it; a crisis, and the president is sitting utterly idle within the White House with nothing at all on his schedule. Don’t you consider this tolerable strange?

The propaganda machine blames the Tea Party as if it was a mass movement of Luddite nihilists and yet when facing one of our greatest crises there is little balance, or even proper analysis of the root causes of the problems at hand. Such is a world of diminished expectations.

Promise them little and then underdeliver is the order of the day.

Wagging the Dog – Obama Style

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Ever since he got back from vacation, the President has created a global crisis with his plan to punish Syria for the use of chemical weapons. The Europeans are alarmed. The Russians have threatened to intervene. The Iranians are threatening retaliation. And Congress is up in arms in one of the most confusing and incomprehensible tempests in a teapot in many years.The credibility and integrity of the united States is said to be on the line.

Don’t get me wrong. The consequences could be dire. Escalation. World War. Spiking oil prices and financial confusion. But the root of it all is a threat by the President to launch a very limited strike or series of strikes to punish the Assad regime for the tactical use of chemical weapons.Weapons the Assad has used time and again. But this time, according to our president, it’s different.

And in the meantime the most scandal ridden administration in the past 40 years is getting a free ride. Everything else has been driven from the front pages except the football scores. And Benghazi, coming up on its first anniversary with the key questions still unanswered.

The IRS scandal has been driven to the sidelines. And the AP/ Fox news scandal, where the Department of Justice was secretly wiretapping reporters e-mail, has also fallen off the radar.

The Administration feels that it has carte blanche to do whatever they please whether it is to blatantly lie to the people or use the tools of government against its opposition or to conduct witch hunts violating the First Amendment. They feel that they are above the law.

Now the president is trying to deflect blame for his failed policies in Egypt, Afghanistan and elsewhere onto Congress, our allies and anyone else he can find so that he can escape responsibility for his disastrous actions. He has put the prestige of our country on the line in a no-win game.

The sycophant press has lined up behind him and his own partisans are twisting into pretzels in their attempts to rationalize his bizarre gambit.

We are witnessing a man who will put the best interests of his nation behind his own statist agenda, but we should not be surprised after the last 5 years. Every step of the way his policies have accrued ever more increasing power to the state as he rewards his cronies and punishes his enemies.

He seems destined to fail in his Syria gambit, but we must hold him accountable for all of his major transgressions. it will take years to undo the damage that he has done both internationally and domestically.

In 2008 he promised change. We have seen how disastrous that promise has become.