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Bizarro World: No friend to democracy or freedom

02 Money on fireAccording to its Wikipedia page, the Bizarro World “is a fictional planet appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. ... In popular culture, ‘Bizarro World’ has come to mean a situation or setting which is weirdly inverted or opposite to expectations.” Many Americans may feel like we are living in a “weirdly inverted or opposite” world.

If you are over 30 years old, you were probably brought up believing our nation was built on hard work and free enterprise. In America, we are free to work hard, study hard and express ourselves in totally uninhibited dimensions. These freedoms bring forth amazing, innovative entrepreneurial ideas and accomplishments —  ideas that give birth to more creative ideas and ventures that create opportunities and jobs that provide wages for families to exist, experience and enjoy America’s unique way of life. In turn, we have more ideas, more opportunities, more jobs and more wealth. And, the more wealth that accumulates the more opportunities for investment. These notions add up to be an abridged definition of capitalism with a capital C.

However, lately, many people in our country have been introduced to an opposing ideology: democratic socialism. Welcome to Bizarro World! It makes no difference what race you are or what your political stances are. Democratic socialism is an ideology that threatens our freedom, deteriorates morality, and just generally negatively affects our nation indiscriminately.
Along with this ideology comes ignoring our own laws. Illegal activities become legal. Good is perceived as being evil. For example, police and law enforcement once looked upon as guardians of humanity are now perceived as the enemy and have become targets of random hostility.  Immigration Customs Enforcement once honored for their valor in keeping Americans safe from outside threats are now chastised, ridiculed and harassed for doing their jobs. In spite of federal law, sanctuary cities are becoming prolific. In Bizarro World fashion, these cities can actually protect and harbor criminals whose mission is to rob, harm and terrorize innocent Americans regardless of race, religion or political affiliation. In Bizarro World, crime goes unpunished, prisoners get to vote, and victims’ voices are silenced or ignored.

 It’s our government allowing this to happen and it’s our apathy that allows the government to continue the lying and mocking of our Constitution. And, while all this governmental dysfunction is going on unabated, much of the media has become a willing partner in creating and disseminating fake news, keeping Americans ignorant and uninformed.

Most Americans have no idea this new political ideology has been created: democratic socialism.

There is nothing democratic about socialism. This unorthodox ideology has radiated directly from Bizarro World for several reasons. Firstly, socialism is anti-capitalist. Secondly, socialism has never succeeded anywhere in the world. Thirdly, the biggest anti-capitalist, pro-socialist advocates are rich, very well-to-do millionaires. It’s easy for them to tout free health care, free college, free this, free that when never offering up a plan on how they are going to pay for these entitlements.

America was built on capitalism and a free enterprise way of life. As a result we have become the greatest nation in the world. We have succeeded where other countries have failed and continue to fail. Why would anyone think a made-up ideology like democratic socialism would work in America? It is my hope that people come to their senses and realize Bizarro World is not the real world. There is no such thing as democratic socialism; however, communism is real. In the real world, hard work, truth, mercy and goodness have always triumphed. That’s the American way!

Thanks for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

Taking back our minds

11 praying girlI saw an astounding bit of research recently from the book “Get Out Of Your Head” by Jennie Allen, which stated an estimated 60-80% of visits to primary care physicians have a stress-related component, and 75-98% of mental, physical and behavioral illness comes from one's thought life. Psychologists, doctors and scientists have made more discoveries about the brain in the last 20 years than ever before, confirming that mental, physical and behavioral health are all intricately connected in our bodies. 

I'm personally convinced that if we could do one thing and one thing only, many of our health problems would resolve themselves:

Take every thought captive to Christ. 

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I think taking every thought captive could cure cancer, but I do think it could make a huge difference in improving health overall.

In that same book, Allen also writes, “The greatest spiritual battle of our generation is being fought between our ears.” I can get on board with that. Most, if not all, of the most prevalent issues today, like body image, jealousy brought on by social media, pressure to be successful, thoughts of not being enough, anger, bitterness, materialism, etc. start in the mind. If we can't shuffle through the 30,000 thoughts we have in a day and find the ones that are healthy, which I imagine are few and far between for most of us, it's no wonder things like depression, anxiety, bullying, violence and suicide plague our society. If we can't control our emotions, we can't control our thoughts. If we can't control our thoughts, we can't control our decisions. If we can't control our decisions, we can't control our behavior. If we can't control our behavior, someone, whether it's ourselves or others, will get hurt. It all starts in the mind.

I truly believe the Bible proves itself true time and time again, especially when it comes to taking control of our own thoughts. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

Not only do we know the majority of health problems today exist or are exacerbated by something going on in our minds, but we also know that the brain is constantly changing, whether or not we want it to. What we focus on becomes our reality. Every new thought we allow to take root in us grows and transforms our lives, whether positively or negatively. It changes how we live, what we think of other people, what we think about the world and our place in it and what we think about God. 

The good news? We actually do have a choice. Our emotions do not have to dictate our lives. We can change our thought patterns. We can rewrite our minds. I personally believe it starts in the Bible. God wants you to have the fruits of his spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Start in his word, and be transformed by the renewing of your mind. It truly does start there.

America is at war within

04 N0809P39008CColumn Gist: Within America’s borders, war is raging. We are beyond civil reconciliation. Each citizen of this great country must decide how to respond.

Finishing a series of columns last year, I ended in April with one titled “Critical thinking on today’s issues: A change in focus and strategy.” In that column, I explained my plan to work across political and ideological lines to encourage fact-based critical thinking regarding the challenging and divisive issues that we face. I hoped to do this civilly and productively. With tremendous disappointment and pure sadness, even mental anguish, I have concluded that what I intended to do on a large scale is impossible in America’s current political climate. America is at war within and, until there is a winner in that war, I expect that we will continue muddling along toward self-destruction. The question for each of us is which side we will choose, or will we choose a side at all? At the bottom line, a choice must be made.

Final recognition of our internal war status came to me by way of following the impeachment process regarding President Donald Trump. In my estimation, from the beginning, that process was without reasonable foundation, totally unfair to the president and conducted by Democrats solely in an attempt to disqualify him for the 2020 election; that failing, their effort intended to lessen support for him in that election.

 The basis for the House starting an impeachment inquiry was Democrats’ allegation that, in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump solicited foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The interference foundation was that Trump requested an investigation of former vice president, Joe Biden, a possible election opponent. In addition, Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate claims that some Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

 It was revealed that within hours of the phone call, millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine was put on hold. The Democratic claim was that the aid was delayed pending a public statement by the Ukrainian president saying a Biden investigation would be conducted. They also said an Oval Office meeting with President Zelensky was conditioned on him making the investigation announcement. Trump released a transcript of his phone conversation. It confirmed his request for investigations of Biden and possible Ukrainian 2016 election interference. The entire move to impeachment was started by a whistleblower complaint from a still-anonymous complainant. 

Tactics employed during the impeachment inquiry by the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Congressman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., first signaled this state of internal war. The vast majority of the committee’s hearing was conducted in secrecy. The president was not allowed representation, which included not being allowed to cross-examine witnesses. Republican members of the committee were not allowed to call witnesses. Despite the closed-door arrangement, information that might be detrimental to the president was leaked to the media. This committee heard much less public testimony. However, Republicans still had no witnesses and the president was not allowed representation or cross-examination of witnesses.

 After a rushed process in the House of Representatives, two articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate for trial. They were Obstruction of Congress and Abuse of Power. The obstruction article was because Trump called on subpoenaed administration officials not to testify before Schiff’s intelligence committee that was conducting the House inquiry. In the Senate trial, Trump’s attorneys explained that the president took that position because the subpoenas were not legitimate. They argued that the Constitution gives the House of Representatives sole authority for conducting an impeachment inquiry and this process was started without a vote of the full House; Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, D-Calif., simply announced the inquiry and it was underway. A vote of the House was not taken until weeks later. Therefore, the subpoenas were determined by the White House to be illegitimate.

The president’s attorneys also contended that when two branches of government disagree on a matter such as this, there would be attempts to settle the differences through negotiations. That failing, given that Congress and the executive branch, which is headed by the president, are coequal, the matter would be presented to the judicial branch (judges) for resolution. In charging obstruction of Congress, House Democrats disregarded this appropriate process. If Trump were found guilty of this article, every president from now on would be in danger of the same charge. This article was a nonstarter.

As I understand it, on abuse of power, Trump would have had to take an action that totally and clearly was for his personal benefit. A monetary bribe received would be an example. One of his attorneys, Alan Dershowitz, explained this well. The Democrats’ argument that Trump should be impeached and removed from office for taking an action helpful for the American people— but that might also benefit him politically — sets an unacceptable and dangerous precedent.

I am comfortable saying all politicians consider how any given governing decision will affect their political future. If this is not the case, why do politicians give attention to polls? In the end, the hope is that these decisions are based far more on what is good for America than on what is good for the politician. I understood Dershowitz to say that if the Democrats’ argument against Trump is accepted, politicians are to give no thought to political impact on them when making governing decisions. Accept this argument and every politician would be in jeopardy.

With this personal gain piece in consideration, I did not see anything in the Democrats’ argument that showed Trump was substantially motivated by personal benefit. The Trump position was that he was seeking to ensure our aid money was not going to a country, with a history of corruption, where corruption was not being seriously addressed by the new president (Zelensky). Further, the president was bothered that America was providing substantial support to Ukraine while other countries were doing little or nothing. Witnesses, called by the Democrats, confirmed that the president had these concerns.

Given that Biden’s son, Hunter, was put on the Burisma — a Ukrainian oil company — board and paid over $50,000 per month (some reports say $83,000) when he had no oil experience, and only attended a few events that might have been board-related, there was reason for suspicion. Then Joe Biden goes in and gets the prosecutor fired who is investigating Burisma for corruption. He does this by threatening to withhold monetary aid. Several witnesses, called by Schiff’s committee during the inquiry, stated that they had concerns regarding Hunter Biden being on the Burisma board. I have seen no indication that anybody investigated this matter. Trump calls for an investigation, and he is impeached. The argument is that he called for the investigation because Biden entered the 2020 presidential race and Trump wanted to use the investigation against him. It seems to me that having Biden become president without addressing this situation would be irresponsible. The president had good reason to investigate in the interest of the American people.

Beyond all of this, Ukraine received the aid on time and their president met with Trump while never starting an investigation or announcing that one would be started. The Ukrainians did not know the aid was on hold until seeing it in an article weeks after the phone call. 

Thankfully, the Senate acquitted Trump. However, consider this definition of war from Encyclopedia Britannica: “… in the popular sense, a conflict between political groups involving hostilities of considerable duration and magnitude.” I contend that what Democrats did in this impeachment process, as summarized above, and is even more horrendous when examined in detail, fits the definition of war. Even more disturbing, this kind of conduct has been their practice from the day Trump announced his candidacy for president. 

This is war within America. In my column referenced in this article’s opening, I noted that I had changed my voter registration from Republican to unaffiliated. I have, as much as I dread having to do so, accepted that we are at war, and I have to choose a side. I have chosen by changing my affiliation back to Republican. Every American better choose and choose wisely. Sitting on the sideline is not an option. The future of our nation is at stake.

Been in a car wreck? What are your rights?

05 michael jin ipHlSSaC3vk unsplash 1 In my last article for Up & Coming Weekly in the Jan. 8 issue, I wrote about auto insurance coverage and what I would recommend you have to protect yourself in case you are in a car wreck. I explained the difference between liability, uninsured and underinsured coverages. Beyond having adequate auto insurance coverage to protect yourself, the next step is knowing your rights following a car wreck that wasn’t your fault. 

So back to my prior example of the wreck on the way to the grocery store when the other driver ran a red light and hit you. You are recovering from your injuries, and an insurance adjuster calls or comes by your hospital room or your home and wants to talk to you. You’re on pain medication and the adjuster is asking you details about the wreck. They want to make a recorded statement. They want you to sign a paper to let them get your medical records. They tell you they can get this thing settled up quickly for you. They may even venture to tell you that you probably don’t need a lawyer.

Most of us would wonder at this point whether or not we have to talk to this insurance adjuster. No, you do not. Many of us would start to worry if we have some pressing time deadline and whether or not we have to talk to them right away. No, you do not. Maybe some of us would also question if we have to sign that medical authorization that the adjuster sent us or handed us along with a pen so they can get our medical records. No, you do not. Then there are those of us who would ask ourselves if we should contact a lawyer. Absolutely. Why? Because a lawyer can explain what your rights are, how all of this insurance works and what the insurance company is obligated to do. A lawyer can guide you through the complexity of the mess you’re in and potentially fight for you for the best outcome possible under the circumstances of your case. That insurance adjuster for that guy/gal who hit you has no obligation to you and their main priority is to pay the least amount of money possible on your claim and get it closed. Your lawyer’s obligation — and priority — is you.

 If you have been in a car wreck that was not your fault, think about getting a consultation with a personal injury lawyer so you will know your rights and have your questions answered. At least then you should have enough information to safely determine if you can handle the claim on your own or if you need the help of a lawyer to work through it. 

When you have been in a car wreck, it can turn life upside-down as you try to recover physically and economically. Making quick decisions, without all of the necessary information and some solid legal guidance, could result in much greater costs, which you may not realize until it is too late.

You’ve come a long way, baby ... Well, sort of

03 womenwearwhite 32503590144Americans who watched the president’s State of the Union address earlier this month saw a sea of women in glowing white garments. Democratic women legislators from Speaker Nancy Pelosi down to freshman members donned white dresses, suits and more in solidarity for the ongoing fight for women’s rights. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which explicitly gave women the right to vote. Women have voted for a century now, often in greater numbers than our fathers, brothers and husbands. The women in white were joyously celebrating how far we have come and looking toward how far we have to go. A century of women’s suffrage constitutes less than half of the United States’ existence, and much of our nation’s history for women has felt like two steps forward and one step back.

The North Carolina Museum of History has put together a women’s history timeline, and here are some of the events specific to women in or from the Tar Heel state. Read it and see it for the mixed bag it is.

Creation myths from Native American tribes before there was either North Carolina or the United States identify women in various roles different from but as important as men’s roles.

In 1587, Virginia Dare became the first English child born in the New World in the Roanoke Colony. Her fate is unknown.

In 1774, in Edenton, 51 “patriotic ladies” gather to announce they are swearing off East Indian tea as long as it is taxed by the British. The Edenton Tea Party occurred less than a year after the Boston Tea Party and is one of the first political actions by women in what becomes the United States.

In 1809, North Carolina native Dolley Madison becomes our country’s fourth first lady. She is known for shaping the role of first lady, for saving a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington when the British set the newly constructed White House ablaze and for serving a delicious new dessert, ice cream.

In 1813, Harriet Jacobs is born in Edenton to enslaved parents. Badly treated as property, Harriet lives secretly for seven years in her grandmother’s attic, escapes to New York, buys her children’s freedom and publishes “Incidents in The Life of a Slave Girl” in 1861.

In 1826, The General Council of the Cherokee Nation bucks tradition and drafts a constitution that excludes women from holding office.

 In 1840, Mary Jane Patterson is born in Raleigh and becomes the first African-American woman to receive a college degree.

In 1859, Clinton resident Abigail Carter invents a pair of sturdy overalls for her railroad engineer husband. Other railroad men want them as well, and she becomes the first overall manufacturer in the nation.

In 1868, during post-Civil War Reconstruction, the North Carolina General Assembly adopts a new Constitution allowing women to own property and businesses, to work for our own wages, to sue in court, to make wills and to make contracts without our husbands’ consent.

In 1878, Tabitha Ann Holton passes the North Carolina bar exam and becomes the first woman lawyer in the South.In 1891, the General Assembly charters the State Normal and Industrial College as the first state-supported institution for women’s higher education. Today that school is known as the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.In 1893, the legislature allows women to cash checks and withdraw money from personal accounts without their husbands’ permission.

In 1913, North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice and women’s rights supporter compares the treatment of women to slavery. In 1925, Anna Julia Heywood Cooper becomes the fourth African-American woman to earn a Ph.D., hers from the Sorbonne in France. Cooper was born enslaved in Raleigh in 1858 and publishes “A Voice from the South” in 1892.

In 1937, North Carolina begins a birth control program, funding maternal and infant health programs and licensing midwives.

In 1943, more than a decade before Rosa Parks, 16-year-old Doris Lyon refuses to go to the back of a Durham bus. She is arrested, found guilty and fined $5.

In 1971, the North Carolina General Assembly ratifies the 19th Amendment, 51 years after it took effect.In 1977, the General Assembly declines to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

In 1992, Eva Clayton becomes the first African-American woman elected to Congress from North Carolina.

In 1996, Elaine Marshall becomes North Carolina’s first woman Secretary of State.

In 2006, Fayetteville’s own Patricia Timmons Goodson becomes the first African-American woman on the North Carolina Supreme Court and in 2008, Beverly Perdue becomes our first woman Governor. Two steps forward, one step back.It all makes me want to wear white every day. We are not there yet.

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