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Tips for Genealogical Research

I have been doing the genealogy thing for many years now and I have learned some lessons along the way.  I have made mistakes and had to start over on some lines twice or three times.  If you have ever watched an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are” or “Finding Your Roots“, you know how easy they make this research look.  They don’t show you the hours or days it took to find and verify the information gathered for these celebrities.  Good genealogical research takes time.  You cannot rush through it and expect to have good, solid family tree.  Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations of what we can find.  You cannot rely solely on online research.  Sure, there are billions of records available online, BUT there are gaps and some data needed isn’t available yet.  Many municipalities are hiring people just to scan documents into their computer system to make those available online.  Here are some tips for getting started:

  1.  I think the first tip I can give you is to avoid using the family trees of others posted or shared online.  I cannot tell you how much I have learned by making that mistake.  These family trees should be the last thing you consider because many have errors and by accepting the family tree information to your own may lead you down a rabbit hole that you should not go down.  You’ll waste hours, even days of research time on bad information.
  2. Next, do not rely solely on ancestry.com for your research.  Yes, ancestry.com is the gold standard, BUT they are not the only site out there.  Each of these sites use different algorithms in their search engines.  If you’ve butted your head against the wall on one site, you may be able to find what you are looking for on another. Ancestry.com has done a phenomenal job of marketing themselves, especially including their tv show.  (Which I watch from beginning to end each season, same with “Finding Your Roots”.)  However, these other lesser known websites are extremely useful.  Family Tree Magazine has a book available which lists 101 of the best websites.  Fam Tree Mag 2016 best website photo
  3. Do not expect to find everything you need for your family tree for FREE.  It will not happen.  As I stated in my last tip, you need to make use of multiple sites in order to get the broadest search.  You will need to subscribe to a few.  You will want to carefully consider which subscriptions you need and want, and that depends upon what your goals are.  If you are trying to find where in Ireland you gggrandfather came from, you are going to need at least the World Explorer plan at ancestry.com.  If, however, you are only concerned with locating ancestors here in the United States, you wouldn’t need to shell out that kind of money.  It will be easy to spend into the mid and upper hundreds of dollars on memberships, so just carefully consider what you need and how much you’re spending, especially if you haven’t gotten results.
  4. Next, you need to purchase family tree software to keep your data.  Don’t rely solely on building your tree online.  It is a great thing to do and it is useful, but once you find your data and verify its accuracy, then save that to your computer.  If you change subscriptions (going from World down to US on ancestry), you’ll lose access to the records you found on World, so saving them to your computer makes certain you can find those records again.  Many of the software programs available have the option of connecting with ancestry websites so that you can download and update your computer files as you make changes or add additional documents to your online family tree.  Two good examples are Legacy and RootsMagic.
  5. Don’t just focus on immediate family connections (parents and grandparents).  What I mean is you shouldn’t just include information from records for your immediate family members.  Expand and include the children of your aunts and uncles, too.  The reason to do this is that many times finding the answers that you are looking for may not be on the record of an immediate family member, BUT it may be on a cousin, aunt or uncle.  This also opens you up to connecting with a distant cousin who may know something about what you are looking for.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to these cousins.  I can tell you that those connections are rewarding in many, many ways.
  6.  Next, I recommend learning the history of the states from which your family comes.  If you didn’t grow up in that state, you won’t have the knowledge of that state’s history which may give you clues to the life of your ancestors.  It isn’t just about creating a family tree full of names; it is about the life stories of your ancestors and finding that similarity that explains your own characteristics.  I can tell you from my own experience that nature has far more to do with who we are than we give it credit.  Each state has a culture and a history that has, in some way, affected the lives of our ancestors.
  7. Be ready to write letters or drive to places to obtain records.  As I said, you cannot gather all of your information online because it simply hasn’t been added yet.  You may need to go to the county where your ancestor lived and search.  It would be a good thing to make a list of the various places where you will be looking and find contact information for their libraries,  courthouses, genealogical/historical libraries, genealogical societies, etc. so that when you go there you will know what you are looking for and where to find it.  There also may be fees involved so call before you go and make sure you are aware of what records or copies will cost you.  Birth and death records will always cost money, but call ahead to verify what forms of payment they accept.  Obviously, if you live too far away to go there, you will need to write a letter, enclose payment, and I enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the record to be mailed back to me.  I find that sometimes this speeds up the process.
  8. Keep an open mind.  Why do I say this?  There a couple of reasons.  First, as an adoptee researching my biological family, I had very little information when I started, but I had been given some stories about my ancestral past by some of my biological family.  Just like with copying a family tree from another’s family tree is bad news, so can be believing family lore.  Be open to the fact that what has been handed down may not be at all accurate.  We all know how gossip can get all discombobulated as it spreads, so do family stories.  Those stories may have gotten embellished over the generations.  I doubt that there is family in this country that doesn’t claim some Native American genes.  However, many times these claims are unfounded or the Native American connection is farther back in history than we have been led to believe.  So, just go into your research with an open mind and understand that everything you’ve believed may not be true.
  9. In that same vein, if you take a DNA test understand that it may come out far differently than you expected.  Don’t get upset, just set goals in your research to discover why it came out differently.  Additionally, don’t just jump on the DNA bandwagon because everyone else is and the advertising makes it look better than it is.  Understanding the results of a DNA test can be difficult. I am still trying to learn.  If your ancestors all come from Great Britain, you may not really need to take a DNA test.  As with using other websites to search for your ancestors, there are multiple DNA testing labs, too.  If you know for sure that you have an ancestor from Eastern Europe, but that didn’t show up in one test, you may want to take a DNA test from another lab.  Ancestry, 23andme, and MyHeritage all offer DNA tests.
  10. Don’t rule out getting professional help.  Don’t just assume that you cannot afford it.  Professional genealogists work hard to hone their skills and they know the ins and outs of how to research and where to find records.  Most have very reasonable fees, but you have to know what it is that you are looking for and be able to convey that to the genealogist.  Most of us want to give you what you are looking for; but if you cannot communicate that, you may just be spinning your wheels and ours.  Once you have hired a pro, stick with them.  Don’t go behind their backs and second guess what they will or won’t be able to provide and have several pros all trying to find the exact same information.  It is an insult to the pros.  That also goes back to having an open mind.  If you have unrealistic expectations, you probably won’t be happy with what the pro comes up with.  Professional genealogists work hard to know their craft and you must understand that, while you may be online doing searches and locating documents, there is far more that goes into that title than searching the world-wide web!  Professionals attend seminars, participate in webcasts, read books, and spend hundreds of hours getting to know better and more efficient ways to do this research to get the best results.  If you are considering hiring a pro, go to the National Genealogical Society, the Association of Professional Genealogists, or ProGenealogists.com to search for one in your area.  You can also consult with a more localized genealogical society if there is one in your area.  Most states have at least one genealogical society.  Most genealogists base their hourly rate on their education, training, skill, experience, and credentials and what the market will bear. Rates may be as low as $20.00 per hour, but could be over $100.00 per hour. The average rate charged by most competent genealogists ranges from $35.00 to $60.00 per hour.

I hope that these tips are useful in your search for your ancestors.  It is a worthwhile task.  Finding these stories of our ancestors lives is a gift that we can pass on to our family.

Deanne

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Start with what you know

Many people tell me, “I don’t know anything about my family. I wouldn’t know where to start.”  It is a common condition that families don’t always share information about their families. Families today are much more transient than in the past. Because of this children don’t always have the opportunity to spend quality time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I didn’t grow up near my extended family, but when we were together, I asked lots of questions about the past. Because of being adopted at an older age, I had an insatiable need to fit in, to belong.  You would think that I would have learned much about my adopted family. Yes and no. My father’s family was an open book. My grandmother, Lena, loved that I wanted to know, so she would get out family photos and we would talk for hours. On the other hand, my mother’s family was closed up. My grandmother, Iris, was open to some discussion of her family, but it didn’t go beyond her immediate family.  My grandfathers, M.R. And Don, weren’t excited to sit down and talk about their childhoods.  M.R.’s parents had divorced when he was a young boy and his mother was bitter.  No doubt he didn’t see his Dad that much and his mother’s bitterness made talking about the past uncomfortable.  My granddaddy Don just wasn’t much of a talker to begin with.  His father, too, died when he was young. His family struggled to make ends meet.  His mother, Ida, tried running the farm as best she could with two young and growing boys.  There wasn’t much help from other family for her. 

Even though it didn’t seem like I had much to go own for my mother’s side, my father’s side was poured into me. My Dad’s grandfather had written down his family genealogy back to the original Young who came from Bristol, England.  My Dad’s sisters made sure everyone got a copy of that book.  I was thrilled! His sisters also went on a genealogy vacation one year traveling along the roads of their mother’s family’s past.  They made everyone copies of what they were able to find out. There was one terrific piece of evidence on my mother’s side.  Her grandmother, lovingly called Mom Olson, had filled in the genealogy pages of her baby book.  Mom Olson was a first generation American.  Her father and mother, the Swansons, as well as the Olsons were immigrants from Sweden. The names of the towns in Sweden where they were born was written in the book.  Thanks to Google Earth, I have been able to find those villages and tour around.  How cool is that?!

So where do you start on your quest for your family history, start with what you know.  Write it down in a notebook.  Ty to recount the stories you’ve heard, names, places, etc.  Keep in mind that you will probably discover that some of what you’ve been told isn’t true, but accept it.  Learn from it.  There probably isn’t a family in the South who hasn’t been told that they have Ntive American in their blood.  Many are sadly disappointed when DNA tests prove that’s either untrue, or too far back to find.  It’s ok.  You may find another relative who is far more interesting.  The key is to take what you know and work from there being open to whatever or whoever you discover.

Why should you do it? That is simple, too. We are who we come from.  You only have to watch a few episodes of Who Do You Think You Are to know that we often resemble those of the past.   We need to know about those who have influenced our lives, so that we can pass that on to our children and grandchildren.  That gift helps them to feel a part of something larger than themselves.  It helps to create a deeper family bond.

It is my goal to help people with putting their family histories on paper.  If you are interested, let’s talk. Email me your contact information deanne_rhoades@americanrhoades.com.

Deanne

Commonality

One thing we always hear from political pundits, friends, neighbors, etc is that, “we need to find common ground” to make a difference.  Some days after reading the headlines and strolling through the stories online, reading comments from friends, I feel like there is just no way to find common ground; we are just too far apart on how we see America, what we believe the American dream to be, and how to achieve that dream.  It usually makes me so upset, I throw up my hands and walk away.  Other days, like today, I sit down and type up a blog!  Ha, Ha.

I was just reading a story about a man I follow online, who I admire and believe to be extremely intelligent about global politics–Sebastian Gorka.  While I have only seen a few references to allegations of antisemitism in the Trump Administration, I have tended to disregard them because I have not heard President Trump say anything remotely antisemitic, he seems to be a staunch supporter of Israel, and his daughter did convert to Judaism to marry her husband and raise their children.  Today, however, I see a story that some of this antisemitism is directed at Dr. Gorka. I was dumb founded.  In everything I have ever heard or read about Dr. Gorka, he has never been antisemitic.  Here is the link to the story so that you can read it for yourself.

https://pjmedia.com/blog/in-hungary-sebastian-gorka-fought-and-tried-to-undermine-the-anti-semitism-of-the-far-right/

This seems to be another hatchet job from the far left in an attempt to discredit and to vilify Dr. Gorka.  So, I sat back shaking my head and here are my thoughts.  You can share yours with me.  I am so tired of the political posturing between these two parties.  They are like to children fighting to be first in line to go to recess.  You know what I mean?  They are pushing and shoving each other, both claiming to have gotten there first and claiming the other one is wrong and did something mean, like shoving or punching or pinching the other one.  After a while, the teacher will finally say, “Look, if you can’t behave when it is time to go outside, we just won’t go.”  Well, what are the American people supposed to do when we want to say, “we just won’t go”?

I am so tired of this tit for tat backstabbing that goes on because, like in Dr. Gorka’s case, a good person who has only fought his whole life for the rights of his fellow-man for self-determination and freedom is personally destroyed just so others can maintain their power and control.  Dr. Gorka and his family are the immediate victims, but the American people are as well because we seem to be powerless to pull ourselves out of this insanity and tell these folks, “No! We aren’t going to the playground, do you hear us?”  It seems that the same folks that vote, always vote; the same people who don’t vote, never vote, so we are locked into this unending cycle of electoral insanity.

In this first month of his administration, President Trump’s opposition has been full force in their effort to discredit, vilify, mutilate and mame every person involved in this Administration regardless of whether they are actually guilty of anything.  Some of it has been completely fabricated, as in Dr. Gorka’s case.  Both sides of the aisle are guilty of opposing legislation solely because it was proposed by the opposing side.  How stupid is that?  If the legislation is good, you vote for it.  If the legislation is bad, then make proposals to make it work or start over.  Why do we have to play these childish games?  Why get in front of a camera and lie about how bad a bill is when you know it isn’t true just because you weren’t the one who authored it, or lie about how wonderful a piece of legislation is when you know it was written specifically to fail, OR God forbid, tell the American people who you don’t even know what the bill says, you have to pass it to know what’s in it?

I don’t even want to listen to the news anymore or hear anything come out of the mouths of these people because I do not believe any of them any more.  I am praying for the best from them and I hope I will be pleasantly surprised, but I am NOT holding my breath!

Before I leave, I am attaching a link here to Dr. Gorka’s biography.  I want you to read for yourselves his background.  The lesson is that you have to do your own research, you have to read everything you can get your hands on about what is going on, and you have to vote every single time.

http://www.iwp.edu/faculty/detail/sebastian-gorka

Good day and God bless.

Deanne

 

 

A Recipe For Success

Imagine if there only salt and no pepper in the world. No garlic. No oregano. No thyme. Food would have no taste and would bring little enjoyment. The same can be said for differing people and opinions. The thing is that with really good food there is balance. Somehow, we have to have balance, where no one group or opinion takes precedence over the other to the detriment of the others. It takes a careful craftsman; a chef of impeccable taste and knowledge. For me this chef and craftsman can only be God. We must trust him to balance it. We must pray for that and we must have faith that HE knows how best to do it and that HE is in control. It is not an easy task. I am not master of it for sure, but I am trying to make a concerted effort now to pray every day for our leaders and our nation.

I hope that you will join with me this year to make praying for President Trump and Vice-President Pence a regular part of your prayer life.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

May God bless you and your family and may God bless the United States of America!

Deanne

Betcha Didn’t Know This!

Some little known facts about our leadership in Washington:

1.  Whenever lawmakers decide to show up for a flight, they are guaranteed free parking at the two Washington-area airports, according to a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. At Reagan National, 89 spaces out of 8,000 are reserved for members of Congress, diplomats and Supreme Court justices; at Dulles International, 97 of 25,000 are set aside.

2. The families of current members of Congress who die typically receive a full year’s salary as compensation. Survivors of Representatives are entitled to an additional sum. That amounts to at least $174,000 for rank and file legislators, and more for those in leadership positions.  It’s not unusual for death benefits to be paid to the relatives of people who die while working for the government; what’s surprising is the scope of the benefits for lawmakers. By comparison, the families of members of the armed forces killed on the battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan are only entitled to $100,000 for their loss.

3.  No legislator – living or dead – has been paid a higher salary by the taxpayer than Speaker Boehner and now Speaker Paul Ryan.  While in office, the Ohio Republican was paid the top annual salary in Congress: $223,500. His Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D – Nev., and other congressional leaders are paid much less, $193,400 per year.  The House speaker’s taxpayer-funded perks don’t stop when he leaves office. Like all members of Congress who have held office for at least five years (Boehner has been in the House since 1991), he is entitled to a generous pension.  But Boehner gets an additional benefit: Up to $1 million per year for up to five years after he leaves the office  to “facilitate the administration, settlement and conclusion of matters pertaining to or arising out of” his tenure as speaker of the House, according to a little known law.  This provision has allowed former Speaker Denny Hastert, R – Ill., to rack up more than $997,000 during the course of three years to document materials related to his time in office. The current salary (2011-2012) for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year.

4.  The 1983 amendments to the Social Security Act required federal employees first hired after 1983 to participate in Social Security. These amendments also required all Members of Congress to participate in Social Security as of January 1, 1984, regardless of when they first entered Congress.  As it is for all other federal employees, congressional retirement is funded through taxes and the participants’ contributions. Members of Congress under FERS contribute 1.3 percent of their salary into the FERS retirement plan and pay 6.2 percent of their salary in Social Security taxes.

Almost half of the members of Congress are millionaires and the median net worth is $913,000. According to the Washington Post, the median net worth in 2009 of a House representative was more than 2.5 times more than it was in 1984 — $725,00 vs. $280,000 — adjusted for inflation.  See chart below of the richest in Congress.

4. The President earns $400,000.00 per year along with a $50,000.00 expense allowance. The salary of the vice president is currently (for 2011) $230,700.00. Under the Former Presidents Act, each former president is paid a lifetime, taxable pension that is equal to the annual rate of basic pay for the head of an executive federal department — $199,700 in 2011 — the same annual salary paid to secretaries of the Cabinet agencies.  Each former president and vice president may also take advantage of funds allocated by Congress to help facilitate their transition to private life. These funds are used to provide suitable office space, staff compensation, communications services, and printing and postage associated with the transition. As an example, Congress authorized a total of $1.5 million for the transition expenses of outgoing president George H.W. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle.

The Secret Service provides lifetime protection for former presidents who entered office before January 1, 1997, and for their spouses. Surviving spouses of former presidents receive protection until remarriage. Legislation enacted in 1984 allows former Presidents or their dependents to decline Secret Service protection.  Former Presidents and their spouses, widows, and minor children are entitled to treatment in military hospitals. Health care costs are billed to the individual at a rate established by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Former Presidents and their dependents may also enroll in private health plans at their own expense.

According to a report in the New York Post, President Obama’s White House employed 454 people with an annual cost of $37,121,463.  The administration can point to the fact that there are 15 fewer people on the payroll this year, representing a savings of $1.7 million dollars a year. (For the record, Czars are excluded from this list.)  But, within those numbers are some very interesting facts worth mentioning:

Obama’s 454 employees beats George W. Bush’s 447.

Obama’s crew also costs taxpayers $4 million dollars per year MORE than Bush’s, 13% more.

Also among the current White House staffers, 21 of them are earning the maximum allowed of $172,200 (very close to what Senators and Congressmen earn)

Almost one in three makes $100k.

Michelle Obama has 16 paid staff which cost the American taxpayers $1,256,700.

Laura Bush had 10 paid staff which cost the American taxpayers $764,900.

A difference of $491,800.

First lady Michelle Obama’s ski trip to Aspen, Colorado on President’s Day  weekend with her two daughters cost taxpayers at least $83,182.99, Judicial Watch reported, part of almost $1 million of taxpayer money that Mrs. Obama has spent on three trips alone.  A trip to Spain in 2010 by Michelle Obama, family, and staff cost taxpayers  $467,585 and a trip by the First Lady and family to South Africa and Botswana last year cost $424,142 for the flight and crew alone, according to Judicial Watch.  Maliah and Sasha Obama were listed on the manifest as “Senior Advisers”!

Name Minimum Net Worth Average Maximum Net Worth
Darrell Issa (R-Calif) $195,400,035 $448,125,017 $700,850,000
Michael McCaul (R-Texas) $258,618,051 $380,411,527 $502,205,003
Jane Harman (D-Calif) $160,085,503 $326,844,751 $493,604,000
John Kerry (D-Mass) $181,469,521 $231,722,794 $281,976,067
Mark Warner (D-Va) $76,372,212 $192,730,605 $309,088,999
Herb Kohl (D-Wis) $88,228,026 $173,538,010 $258,847,994
Jared Polis (D-Colo) $57,944,127 $143,218,562 $228,492,998
Vernon Buchanan (R-Fla) $-50,724,701 $136,152,641 $323,029,983
Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) $5,946,075 $101,123,032 $196,299,990
Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa) $61,632,019 $99,057,011 $136,482,003

Why BLM is Missing the Mark on Non-Violence

The rise of the militant movement known as “Black Lives Matters” is an important one because it is so different from the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, and today is a good day to look at that movement in light of the birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who I hold in utmost respect and honor.  We should all aspire to have the heart of kindness and courage that Dr. King had.  First, it is important to note here that Time Magazine, in a story titled “Black Lives Matter is Not a Civil Rights Movement” written in December 2015, claims that Black Lives Matter is a Human Rights Movement.  The basis of the argument is that they are fighting for, “the full recognition of our rights as citizens; and it is a battle for full civil, social, political, legal, economic and cultural rights as enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights“; yet, in their continuing explanation of the movement, they limit the scope to “…a struggle for the human rights and dignity of black (emphasis added) people in the U.S., which is tied to black (emphasis added) peoples’ struggle for human rights across the globe.  I would debate, however, that given the behavior of the BLM movement and the hatred which they seem so willing to heap upon those that they dislike, their movement does not include all of humanity; it includes only those they choose to include because, after all, white, heterosexual people are humans too.

I heard an interview with a young, black person a few months back and what bothered me so much is the disregard for what achievements Dr. King made in our country.  It is unrealistic and unfair not to acknowledge the progress that has been made in humanity since the 1960s.  Sure, it isn’t enough, but it is something to build upon and I fully believe that Dr. King would see it in this way.  Those who were closest to him should be willing to acknowledge this progress, but it seems that it has proven more profitable for them to disregard it and, perhaps, undo some of that progress in order to keep their “business” of anti-racism going.

Additionally, this young man flippantly disregarded the significant benefits of a non-violent approach used by Dr. King.  When I was in graduate school at the American University in Washington, D.C., I made it a point to  study peace and non-violence.  At the time, as a scholar of the USSR I wanted to know if there was anything about this which could benefit our relationship with the former Soviet Union (they had just fallen at the time I was in school).  I am a believer in non-proliferation of nuclear weapons because of the horrific consequences of using those weapons and because of where we find ourselves today…non-state agents of hate (terrorists) with access to these weapons with support of nuclear nations.

The young man claimed that all of the non-violent action of the Civil Rights Era were a waste; that it had really not accomplished anything because look where we are.  Not a very good argument.  He was alluding to the violence from Ferguson, Baltimore, etc.  I would argue with him that those are not acceptable references because these black men were not shot because of some limitation or oversight of the Civil Rights Era.  These men were shot because they were committing crimes.  Dr. King never said that committing crime was okay because they’re just white folks and they deserve it anyway.  What he said was, “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”  Protesters of this movement have not protested an illegal law; they couldn’t.  The men who were killed were guilty of the crimes…murder, attempted murder, robbery, etc that were not unjust.  As well, in a few of these violent instances, too, the rioters were paid to riot, which also disqualifies this from inclusion.  The fact of the matter is, this young man and BLM doesn’t know if non-violence would work because they haven’t tried it and, I suspect, they know little to nothing about how to accomplish it.

The reason non-violence works is because it attracts supporters, even those who would seem to be outside the mainstream group and those supporters tend to be more loyal.  Gandhi realized this when he led his group to make salt from saltwater in protest against the British monopoly on salt manufacture.  At the time, there was only a small portion of the Indian population who were opposed to British rule, so Ghandi had to do something which would highlight the issue and bring in many more supporters of his cause, Indian Independence.

“He (Gandhi) announced the campaign with an open letter to Lord Irwin, the Viceroy, in which he politely but assertively requested acquiescence to his reasonable demands for making salt, and described the civil disobedience that would follow otherwise. Polite dialogue with the opponent was a key part of Gandhi’s method. He considered the opponent to be a partner in his quest for ‘truth.’ At a pragmatic level, this approach put Irwin in an awkward situation. If he acquiesced to Gandhi’s demands, he would appear weak and open the way for further demands. But if he came down on Gandhi too heavily, he would appear to be unreasonable and unjust and thus increase the level of opposition (Dalton, 1993).” (http://www.belfercenter.org/publication/why-civil-resistance-works-strategic-logic-nonviolent-conflict)

Gandhi’s belief was that however violent the opposition, he would have to that much more non-violent.What this allows for is an interpretation of the opposition, by the public as cruel.  It changes the people’s perceptions of the victimizer, in this case the British government.  The BLM young man could only see non-violence as a bunch of black folks sitting on the ground, but it is so much more than that.  If you think back to Selma, the police and the Alabama government looks so much more horrible because the protestors did nothing.  Everyone, then, who watched at home knew with no question that they had done nothing to provoke the attack.  More often than not, this brings great shame upon the victimizer.  But, when we see people rioting, looting stores, stomping on people in the road and those types of violence, it simply alienates everyone except the participant.

Consider how differently the situation in Ferguson, Missouri would have been if the protestors had just sat down in the road and not allowed anyone in or out of the police station.  The same in Baltimore, if they had just sat down outside the DA’s office and demanded a fair review of the case.  I encourage all the supporters of the BLM to reconsider their position on non-violence; to study it more closely; and to seek out the knowledgeable about peaceful resistance.  I will close with a quote from Henry David Thoreau who said, “If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth–certainly the machine will wear out… but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

Take time today to talk with your children about the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Deanne

The Unlegacy

First published December 27, 2017 in the Toronto Sun After grinding America into the dirt, stabbing Israel in the back (and front), and ceding world influence to Russia, President Barack Obama bragged he would have been a better candidate than Hillary. And his royal highness brayed he could have beaten President-elect Donald J. Trump. Looks…

via Obama’s legacy a nightmare — Conservative Black Chick

Politics of the Well Crafted Lie

If we can all agree on one thing in the United States, I believe it would be that at one point or another every politician lies.  It may be intentional; it may not.  I further believe that this “disease” as it were is not isolated to the modern politician.  We have a habit as humans to remember people in a higher regard, sometimes, than they actually deserve.  For instance, President Thomas Jefferson, for a great number of people, is held in high regard for his writing of the Declaration of Independence and the model for which that set for this nation.  However, many forget that while Jefferson was president he was almost impeached over the Louisiana Purchase because it was an illegal transaction.  For another example, Benjamin Franklin is beloved, but he was a deadbeat father and philanderer.

When I was in my last academic year, I went to Washington, D.C. to do an internship with our local congressman.  At the time, I would describe myself as a Democrat, as was this congressman.  Georgia was still in that time period when most politicians still running as Democrats, but in office they typically voted more along Republican/conservative lines.  I thought that I was sophisticated in my knowledge of politics; but within the next year, I was to learn quite differently.

To put this in perspective, this was the summer of 1989 and much was going on in Washington that summer.  First was the House banking scandal, which I can tell you my congressman was deeply involved in.  As I recall he was in the top 10 of congressman with bounced checks.  I cashed some of those checks!!! Second, was the Senate mailroom scandal in which senators were abusing their franking privilege.  Neither of these broke the news until after I had returned to school to finish my last semester.  However, I will tell you that the first time I was sent to the House bank to cash one of those illicit checks, I did question it.  It was pooh-pooh away as a normal routine.  It was Friday and he needed money to travel home and a check would be deposited on the following Monday was what I was told.  I shook my head and went on to the bank, but thinking about how I would go to jail for doing the same.

I believe that there are few reasons for why politicians lie.  First, though, we need to review two important political concepts which deal with models of representation.  These are important because how a politician views himself often explains his/her behavior.  First is the concept of a delegate.  A delegate is someone who is elected to represent a constituency and is to represent the attitudes, beliefs, desires, needs of that constituency.  For instance, if a district is 90% farms, then a delegate is going to vote for those bills which benefit the farmer.  It would be to his detriment to vote in any other way.  On the other hand, there is the concept of the trustee.  Most of us (voters) understand that there are many issues that we know little or nothing about and that we don’t have time to research adequately enough to make informed decisions and to pass along our opinions to our representation in Washington.  These might be issues like nuclear power, defense weapons systems, or medical research.  In these instances, our representatives look at themselves as trustees rather than delegates because they do have access to research and information in order to make informed decisions as to what would be in our best interest.  The line between where a delegate ends and a trustee begins, however, can be and often is subjective.

One of the foremost reasons I believe politicians will lie is because they believe they are smarter than we are.  This is that blurred line.  Even in the situation where the constituency may be quite able to understand and relate their understanding and belief of an issue (for example, educational issues), often a politician will still believe that he/she knows more, has more data, and is more equipped to make a decision than we are.

Another reason is that they need to cover up a mistake they’ve made and so they craft the lie to make the error meaningless or, in the least, not as significant as it actually is.  For example, Ronald Reagan repeatedly told the American people that arms had not been traded with Iran to fund the Contras in Nicaragua, when he knew that they had.  Most recently, Hillary Clinton crafted her words specifically and strategically always saying that she did nothing wrong regarding her emails, but the issue at hand was not her emails but her private email server.  She also crafted her words to say that “everyone in Washington” knew about her email.  This wasn’t so much a lie as it was putting President Obama on notice because he had received emails containing classified information from her private email server and did nothing which made him complicit.  This was basically her way of saying, “Hey buddy, if I go down, so will you” because they both broke the law.

There is also another reason for a well crafted political lie that you might not think of right away.  We want to be lied to because we don’t want to hear the truth.  Sounds absurd, right?  I think most often this relates to economics.  We always want to hear that the candidate is going to fix what’s wrong, put more money in our pockets, and life will be grand.  Remember, George HW Bush’s, “READ MY LIPS, NO NEW TAXES”?  Those are words no politician should ever say because you just don’t know what is going to happen and why put that out there?  We often expect way more from a politician than is possible, which often puts them in the position to lie.  We will have to see, but President Trump may have dug himself a few holes on this one!

The atmosphere that exists in Washington creates an air of self-deception and promotes manipulation.  When I attended graduate school in Washington at The American University and during the time that I interned, I was amazed at how manipulative, self-centered, and deceptive people were.  In the congressman’s office, it seemed that staffers spent more time on the phones networking around D.C.  looking for their next step up.  The more “prestigious” job; the better paying job.  The same was true in school.  Students weren’t as interested in you as a friend as they were in who you might be “connected” to and how you might be able to help them get ahead.  Whatever it took to make that “ideal” connection was what they were after.  Quite frankly, I am surprised that there isn’t a course in the School of International Service or the Department of Political Science called “The Well Crafted Lie”.

Hannah Arendt wrote a book just after the Pentagon Papers were released in 1971 called, “Lying in Politics”.  I will end with a quote from her.

“Truthfulness has never been counted among the political virtues, and lies have always been regarded as justifiable tools in political dealings. Whoever reflects on these matters can only be surprised by how little attention has been paid, in our tradition of philosophical and political thought, to their significance, on the one hand for the nature of action and, on the other, for the nature of our ability to deny in thought and word whatever happens to be the case. This active, aggressive capability is clearly different from our passive susceptibility to falling prey to error, illusion, the distortions of memory, and to whatever else can be blamed on the failings of our sensual and mental apparatus.” (https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/06/15/lying-in-politics-hannah-arendt/)

May we seek to be more active in politics and demand better from those we elect!

Deanne

Politics of Intelligence

There is nothing in this world that is immune from politics.  Political posturing even exists between spouses and siblings.  There are some industries, social organizations, and governmental agencies, however, that should make all attempts to keep politics out of their day-to-day activities as possible.  One example to which I think most would agree is that of the Department of Education.  I believe that most would agree that politicians should stay out of educational decision-making because, as history has proven, politicians are awful at it.  They cause far more problems than they resolve.  It also a matter of keeping political indoctrination (either conservative OR liberal) is not the job of educators, but of parents.  Tailoring curriculums towards one political group versus another is undesirable and, quite frankly, a disservice to our children.

Another example, and an important to which most Americans are unfamiliar, is in the area of Intelligence.  This includes intelligence collected by the CIA as well as the DOD and private contractors.  There are so many groups, public and private, involved in the intelligence business, it would blow the minds of Americans.  While the president, as Commander In Chief, sets the priorities for intelligence collection.  This allows these groups to determine how to prioritize their various intelligence assets.  As a side note, I hear someone say the other day on the news that no other country in the world has the quality intelligence industry as the United States.  I had to laugh.  It was a laughable comment because much of what we know, especially about human intelligence, was learned from the British. Having been a part of the intelligence community, we have had a renown intelligence industry up to this point.  In the past 8 years, under Obama, it has been severely weakened.

In his 2014 budget, President Obama cut 8% from the intelligence agencies’ budgets.  At that time, Director of National Intelligence said such cuts could put out nation at risk.  “The capability we cut out today, you won’t know about that, you won’t notice it,” he said. “The public won’t notice it. You’ll notice it only when we have a failure.” (Newsmax, April 10,2013)  The most damage, in my opinion, is in the drastic reduction of our human intelligence capabilities.  Clapper added in the article that these same types of cuts in the 1990s left the nation weak and unprepared when 9-11 happened.  We are in that same position today.

The other issue with having politics mired into intelligence activities is when intelligence agents and analysts are forced to compromise their activities at the whim of political actors, like that of the Commander In Chief.  You may recall an article from the New York Times on September 15, 2015, wherein they reported that “A group of intelligence analysts have provided investigators with documents they say show that senior military officers manipulated the conclusions of reports on the war against the Islamic State, according to several government officials, as lawmakers from both parties voiced growing anger that they may have received a distorted picture about the military campaign’s progress.”  The only reason that these military officers would have ever done this is because they were ordered to do so because it fit the narrative that the CIC wanted to put out to the American people to keep his legacy in place.  Such manipulation are extremely dangerous, most especially to the troops on the ground, but also the American people at home because it presents a false sense of security which does not in actuality exist.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you that I worked directly with Central Command (CENTCOM) when I was a Counterintelligence Agent assigned to the 205th Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.  I worked with them on a weekly basis.  Anyone assigned at this level is a top-notch soldier and highly qualified at their job.  I wrote regular analysis reports myself and I can tell you how important it was to me that those reports were the very best quality reports I could put my name on.  Not one analyst is going to sign their name to a report that they believe could be wrong.  It isn’t going to intentionally happen because every one of us knows that, if an error should occur, that could mean death to a soldier or to an intelligence asset.  None of us would ever want that on our conscience.  No one!

A whistleblower at CENTCOM made the report that ” intelligence analysts were being pressured to show a false and more positive view of our fight against ISIS and to downplay the threat of ISIS in military reports” (http://aclj.org/national-security/cooking-the-books-on-isis-the-military-intelligence-controversy).  Congress opened an investigation into the matter and found that the intelligence analysts were bullied into making alterations to their reports.  When they refused, the reports were changed before being submitted up the chain of command.  During interviews, analysts reported that their leadership was “risk-averse and unwilling to accept uncertainty in intelligence analysis—which by its very nature deals in probabilities and contingencies rather than certainties.” (http://aclj.org/national-security/cooking-the-books-on-isis-the-military-intelligence-controversy)

Now knowing that President Obama has severely reduced our intelligence capabilities and he has bullied them into lying about what we know about the status of our enemy’s operations, how can we trust that President Obama is not lying to us about Russian hacking.  Not one time has he offered to the American people evidence of this purported hacking.  We keep hearing that it exists, but it has yet to be presented.  This hacking only became a real issue after Hillary Clinton lost the election.  Prior to that President Obama said in a press conference on October 18, 2016, “there is no evidence that election rigging has ever happened or could happen.” ( http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/10/18/obama_to_trump_stop_whining_about_a_rigged_election.html)  Apparently now that has all changed and the evil, manacle Russians have managed to do it through hacking, though not of our election systems, but of Hillary Clinton’s illegal private server and her and her campaign manager’s, John Podesta, emails.  This is their claim.

Here’s the thing.  We are treading on some very thin ice where Russia is concerned.  All of this negativity against our adversary is not good.  Sure, we don’t like them, but we have to work with them.  Putin is an extremely dangerous person.  His goal, first and foremost, is to re-establish the USSR, maybe not under that name, but that is his bottom line goal.  If he can gain more territory and more power than his predecessors, then that will be all the better.  He is getting some thrill from seeing us squirm about this hacking business, but he does not take to unjustified threats or actions, like throwing out diplomats and sanctions.  Since every nation on this planet hacks into the computer system of every other nation on this planet, he sees hacking as fair game.  Just part of a daily routine in the intelligence business.  If he’s able to get in, then you’re at fault for not protecting your stuff.  Pretty much the same way we feel about it.  If we keep up this hollering over this hacking issue, which in the greater scheme of things is nothing compared to what they could have exposed (they hacked a PRIVATE/ILLEGAL server of a political candidate not an election system and the DNC a private company, not public), then they might wish to expose something which might be much more damaging to us in retaliation for these sanctions. Intelligence which might actually lead to death.  I don’t think any of us would want that.  We do not need to play politics with our intelligence.

Americans be informed. Be vocal. Vote!

Deanne Rhoades

 

When means don’t meet the ends

Recently, my totally awesome husband was laid off from his job.  It is the first time in almost 30 years that he is without a job.  We find ourselves readjusting our lives and reconsidering expenditures.  Things are a bit tough right now.  I work in a commission only job, and the past 2 months have been brutally slow for me.  In fact, 2016 in general has not been as I thought it would be.  This got me to thinking about the budget of our country and how PE Trump might go about making changes in order to improve our lives.

I don’t know about most of you, but when money disappears most people cut spending.  Our country has a serious spending problem, as well as a priority problem.  The first thing my husband and I did was to cut off our satellite television service.  Directv was costing us $130 per month for the service and equipment.  In the case of the country, cutting spending is exceptionally difficult because once funds have been budgeted, most agencies have no incentive to cut costs.  The goal is to keep every penny budgeted.  Even when dollars are freed up, most will spend those dollars anyway so that they are not lost in the next budget.  I remember when I was on active duty, the new fiscal year began each October.  In August or September units look at their budget expenditures to see where they might still have money.  Once those funds are found, the unit will go about spending on just about anything to keep from losing that allocation.

What bugs me the most are earmarks.  I was disappointed to hear that Republicans have attempted to bring back earmarks (I wasn’t aware they had ever ended, as Consumers Against Government Waste has still been publishing their “Pig” book which lists the biggest offenders to pork barrel spending.)  A “pork” project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures.  These are the types of projects you hear about that include  studies like combating Goth Culture ($273,000 spent since 2002) or the construction of a bridge in Alaska that leads nowhere ($3 million).

How does Congress come up with these expenditures? Most often these projects are promised during election season in order to garner votes.  Congress people are then obligated to get those projects funded and, so, they sneak them into appropriations bills where they virtually go unnoticed, except by CAGW.  Where do we find the most earmarks? CAGW’s website shows the following chart:

2016-earmark-breakdown

As most know, the US is almost $20 trillion in debt, which is over $61,000 per person.  Consider these statistics regarding poverty, homelessness and hunger in the U.S. as provided by Feeding America for 2015:

    • 43.1 million people (13.5 percent) were in poverty.24.4 million (12.4 percent) of people ages 18-64 were in poverty.
    • 14.5 million (19.7 percent) children under the age of 18 were in poverty.
    • 4.2 million (8.8 percent) seniors 65 and older were in poverty.
    • 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.
    • 13 percent of households (15.8 million households) were food insecure.
    • 5 percent of households (6.3 million households) experienced very low food security.
    • Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 17 percent compared to 11 percent.
    • Households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (17%), especially households with children headed by single women (30%) or single men (22%), Black non-Hispanic households (22%) and Hispanic households (19%).

According to National Alliance to end Homelessness, “In January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. Of that number, 206,286 were people in families, and. 358,422 were individuals. About 15 percent of the homeless population – 83,170 – are considered “chronically homeless” individuals.”

With these statistics in mind, we should all know that the sole purpose of a government is to protect the rights of individuals and to provide security–protection of persons and property.  The government, then, would not be doing its duty by allowing extreme poverty, homelessness and hunger to exist on a continuing basis.  For the majority of our citizens, we have no problem allowing our tax dollars to be spent on providing services for these people and/or families.  However, it is the government’s responsibility to work towards a solution to eradicate the problem altogether. Government can do this by stimulating growth in private business and through providing opportunities for job training so that people can go back to work.  Cutting taxes on corporations also helps.  Corporations in and of themselves do not pay taxes; they add the cost of taxes to the cost to produce their product, which increases what consumers pay.  In other words, the consumer pays the taxes, not the corporation.  Therefore, when corporate taxes are lowered, prices go down, consumers spend less on what they buy and have more disposable income to purchase wanted (rather than only necessary) products–things like cars, homes, bigger ticket items.  This increased spending generates more revenue for the corporation which it can then use to expand, thus creating more jobs.  It also increases tax revenue.

For a family who has to cut back due to a job loss, we stop spending on the extras–the things we can do without.  Why should the same not be true of our government?  According to CAGW, “Since 1991, Congress has approved 110,442 earmarks costing taxpayers $323.1 billion.”  Can you imagine how many people could be fed and housed with this money?  In 2005 alone, the U.S. spent $2 trillion on space exploration.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t explore space, I simply contend that we should feed, clothe and house our poor before we spend money on programs such as this.  I would rather the U.S. be known as first a nation with 100% literacy, no hunger, low poverty, and no homelessness than simply the world’s greatest superpower.

Another way to raise money to feed, clothe and house our poor is to look within the government for program duplication.  When President Obama came to office in 2008, he promised to thoroughly review all agency programs and to do away with duplication.  To date, he consolidated approximately or eliminated 136 programs; however, there is more work to be done.  According to a USAToday article in 2014, “the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, identifies 26 new areas where federal government programs are fragmented, duplicative, overlapping or just inefficient. Add that to the 162 areas identified in past reports, and Congress has a road map for saving tens of billions of dollars a year.”  They also note that, “It’s impossible to account for how much money is wasted through duplication, in part because the government doesn’t keep track of which programs each agency is responsible for.”  This fact is disturbing.  Congress has oversight responsibility for this and should make a concerted effort to identify every program operated by each agency, dollars spent on each said program, and to identify what elements of each program may be ineffective, unnecessary, or duplicated by other agencies.

“One of the most troubling things in GAO’s report is the number of agencies that have no idea just how much taxpayer money they are spending on their programs,” said House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. He’s sponsored legislation, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, that would require the government to better track spending data from Congress to an agency to its ultimate recipient. The bill passed the House 388-1 last year and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.

I would also include that there are entire agencies that could be, if not should be, completely eliminated.  The Constitution provides that any power not specifically enumerated within is left to the States.  Education should be one of those.  Until the Carter Administration, the responsibility to conducting the education program was left to the state.  There was a small part of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare prior to 1979 which supported the state’s programs and conducted research.  In October 1979 President Carter signed into law the Department of Education Organization Act.  It was a highly controversial law which raised the department to a cabinet level position.  Many Republicans considered the law as unconstitutional and as a federal power grab away from the states.  According to the U.S. Department of Education website, in 1980 the total budget of this department was $14 million.  Today, in 2015 the total budget was $87 million! Reversing President Carter’s power grab and returning education back to the states could save millions, thus providing more money to be freed up to feed, clothe and house the U.S’s poor.

Additionally, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 was completely unnecessary.  Created in response to 9-11, President Bush’s thought was to assist in the communication between law enforcement agencies to prevent another such event.  A noble cause, but protection and defense of our nation is the sole responsibility of the Department of Defense.  Rather than creating an entirely separate agency, President Bush could have asked the Secretary of Defense to establish subordinate unit within DOD to handle a program to improve and streamline communication between DOD, CIA, DIA. FBI and state law enforcement, to manage border security, customs and emergency management.  All of which provide protection to the nation.  To this end, the budgetary needs most likely would be considerably less than establishing and managing an entirely new agency.  To date, the budget for DHS is $41.2 billion.

We The People have given the federal government a fiduciary responsibility to ethically and morally handle the funds of the people.  That is an important concept.  The People are required to pay their taxes on time and to properly calculate and determine the right amount of taxes owed.  Our tax system is cumbersome and because of that, most utilize CPAs to assist in those calculations.  According to the IRS, there is over $300 billion in unpaid taxes. Moreover, fraud, waste and abuse of government funds and services continues to plague us.  According to the Washington Times in  March 2015, “The spending issues, ranging from Medicare and Medicaid mismanagement to transportation programs to weapon systems acquisitions, cost taxpayers $125 billion in improper payments in 2014 alone, as highlighted in a new report from the Government Accountability Office.”  Think back to my active duty experience and spending allocated dollars in the last two months of a budget year.

Consider if we simply halved the budgets of these two agencies and combined them to increase our budget for feeding, clothing, and housing our poor.  This would come to $20,643,500,000.00.  If we also included half of last years pork barrel spending, we would add an additional $2.5 billion to our total.  There is no doubt that our government can and should do a better job on spending.  Moreover, if we include just half of the outstanding taxes and total lost to fraud, waste and abuse, our total then rises to $255,643,500.00!  If we take this total and divide it by the number of people living in poverty, we get $6,931.40 per person!  Wow what a difference this would make. This is more than what the average American earns in a month.  But, to make these types of changes and cuts takes courage and strength of character to stick to one’s goals for this nation.  Will PE Trump follow through on his promises?  We will have to wait and see.

Food for thought today!

Liberty

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