Thursday, January 30, 2020

It's Not Working for Us

The most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'

When California's Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) went into effect on January 1, many independent contractors were not even aware of it. But they quickly learned the hard facts--they were not entitled to earn their own living anymore in the state's thriving "gig economy."

Uber and Lyft drivers got the most publicity, but thousands of self-employed Californians are now required by law to report to an "employer." The vastly diverse group of independent workers includes musicians, translators, dancers, and writers. It's a perfect example of authoritarian government trampling the individual's Constitutional right to "the pursuit of happiness."

The reaction from independent workers has been swift. This week they marched on the state capitol in a "Rally to Repeal AB5." Truckers have already received an injunction from a federal judge. State Senator Brian Jones has injected another ray of hope with the introduction of a "Right to Earn a Living Act" with the goal of overturning this atrocious law. 

Yes, you read that right. California now needs a law to protect a person's right to earn a living. As Vladimir Lenin so aptly noted, "the goal of socialism is communism." California is veering uncomfortably close to such extreme ideology with the implementation of AB5.

As is true of most leftists, California's politicians will keep pushing big government takeovers of the private sector until forcibly stopped. Let's hope the creative and successful self-employed contractors, entrepreneurs, and freelancers of California can stand firm and see the repeal of AB5 through to completion.

We're Americans, raised to believe that we live in a "free country." If that concept remains true, we should still have the right to tell our government, "No."

Monday, January 27, 2020

Our Common End

The paths of glory lead but to the grave. 

~Thomas Gray

At sad  times such as these, after the tragic helicopter crash that killed nine people including basketball great Kobe Bryant and his young daughter, it becomes clear that one of our biggest challenges in life is to remember that we are mortal.

Death is no respecter of age, fortune, fame, talent, education, health, achievement, or any other aspect of human existence. One day, each of us will die. There is no alternative. Yet so many interviews with grief-stricken friends, fans, and fellow athletes about Bryant's untimely death carry some variation on the disbelieving refrain, "It can't be."

Oh yes. It can be.

Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

~ John Donne

Sunday, January 19, 2020

World War I, Remembered

A scene from the first half: 1917
I don't often go to the theatre to see movies anymore. Considering the prices these days, there isn't much playing that's worth the expense of a trip to the multiplex. But based on word-of-mouth and reviews I've read, I decided to make the investment for the World War I story, 1917. It was time and money well spent.

The film is visually captivating from the start. The viewer follows two soldiers throughout their dangerous mission of carrying an urgent message to another commander, across enemy territory, to halt a planned offense. The advancing 1,600 troops would unknowingly charge into a trap; among them is one of the messenger's brother.

The movie is filmed brilliantly as two takes; there are no scenes flashing to other parts of the plot. The two soldiers are the plot, and as the camera follows their perilous journey in one long motion, the suspense builds almost unbearably. About halfway through the film, there is a pivotal moment that opens into the second take. From that point on, viewers travel the race against time to its dramatic conclusion in another unbroken length of film.

War movies are not for everyone. If they are of good quality, I like to watch them. You can observe the very best attributes and the very worst deficiencies of humanity in a well-made war film. In war, the deepest evil and the greatest good in people is on full display. 1917 runs the gamut and leaves the viewer feeling drained and thoughtful. Watching courage and dedication persevere in such horrific circumstances has the power to remind us all what heights of virtue might lie within.

Saturday, January 11, 2020


I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
~ 2 Timothy 4:7

There were five brothers, and they left this world in age order.

My father was the second brother. The eldest died young, as a firefighter in the line of duty. There were four brothers then for many years, geographically far flung but close in spirit. They had lost their father, also a firefighter, as young boys. Although their reunions were rare, the bonds of love and shared sorrow among these brothers were deep. Despite the tragedies in their lives, they were far from doleful; in fact, they were all quite fun-loving and filled with good humor. Each of them was smart, handsome, well educated, and blessed with strong faith.

All of these brothers had their struggles, particularly against alcohol and nicotine. Some of them were more successful than others in battling their demons. Yet they were all good men who endured.

Thirty years after the tragic accident that took his older brother, my father followed him in death. He was 70 years old. Then, a decade later, Uncle Kieran died at age 78. Five years ago, Uncle Joe passed away at age 90. Last night, the youngest brother, my Uncle Frank, died at age 93.

Joe and Frank had been aged ten and eight, respectively, when their fireman father died in the line of duty; such a grievous loss leaves a lifetime mark. I spoke with Uncle Frank after Joe, his only surviving brother, had died. Frank was 88 years old at the time, and he told me "Now I'm really an orphan; they've all left me."

"But Uncle Frank, someone needs to turn out the lights and close the door," I said. "Just think, they'll all be waiting for you." He chuckled at that, sounding so much like my father that tears stung my eyes.

Last night, the lights dimmed and the door shut as an entire family stepped into history. I'm listening to echoes from my early childhood of rich baritones tossing quick-witted jokes and laughing heartily around my grandmother's dining room table. I can hear the smart slap of playing cards being dealt, the tinny clink of coins, see the golden flash of beer glasses and the silver curls of cigarette smoke. The joy these brothers found in each other's company was obvious, even to a little girl.

My Uncle Frank, left fatherless at age eight, has gone home to both of his parents and all of his brothers. He is an orphan no more.

Friday, January 03, 2020

It's About Time

As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained on Fox News today, There will be no "pallets of cash" going to placate Iranian mullahs under the Trump administration. Pompeo also mentioned that it's time for Obama officials to "get off the stage." Oh, yes.

Whatever happens next, Iran must understand it's dealing with a very different leader in Washington D.C. now. The first drone strike illustrated that fact quite clearly; the second strike underscores it.

Iranians are celebrating and thanking President Trump online. Don't take my word for it; visit #TnxPOTUS4soleimani on Twitter. You'll see quite an outpouring of gratitude to our president.

It's about time.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

New Year, Old News

We are two days into our brand new year, traditionally considered a time for fresh starts and clean slates. Were you perhaps hoping for a more honest and forthright news media? Sadly, I think we can expect only more of the same agenda "journalism" we suffered through last year.

Take the presidential campaign--please. I find it interesting that fundraising numbers for Democratic presidential candidates are being widely touted in print and television media. During the final quarter of 2019, Pete Buttigieg raised $24.7 million; Bernie Sanders raised $35 million in the same time period. "Quid Pro Joe" Biden raised $22.7 million.

These are undoubtedly impressive numbers. They are well worth publicizing. Curiously, though, there has been hardly a whisper on the airwaves of the $46 million raised in the fourth quarter by none other than President Donald Trump. Another fun fact: the president already has $100 million in the bank for his campaign. While all this reality is begrudgingly acknowledged in print, it's hard to find a television news anchor willing to state those facts and to do so without choking.

In spite of relentless hatred and sustained opposition, the list of Trump's accomplishments since his election to the presidency is long and comprehensive. Yes, his tweets are annoying, but most Americans who are reaping the economic benefits of the past three years are willing to tune them out and focus on his achievements. Trump is results-oriented, and he is delivering. Despite the naysayers who predicted economic Armageddon with Trump as president, the national economy is roaring, the stock market is soaring, jobs are plentiful, taxes are lower, government regulations are fewer. Barring an unforeseen catastrophe, I agree with Victor Davis Hanson that the president will be reelected.

Of course, outside events can change any scenario quickly; but I, for one, am not looking for trouble during the brightest moment this country has enjoyed in half a century.