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Freedom is a joint effort.

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 01-21-2014 | in Government, Ethics, Race, Critical Thinking, Freedom,

The video of Dr. Martin Luther King's August 28, 1963, "I Have a Dream" speech did not capture the most important element that day. It did capture and recreate King's passionate and vivid summary of America's fearsome terrorism of racial oppression. However, it could not capture and recreate for new generations the perspective from which we Americans with dark-brown skin color viewed the events of that day. Mostly, we responded to it from the bulwark of self-images of dignity, reason, and morality that shielded our humanity from contamination by America's racist culture of brutal emotional and physical terrorism.

Without doubt, King was one of the world's most effective advocates for freedom achieved by nonviolence. Nevertheless, beliefs that a few compelling leaders are responsible for freedom is a big obstacle to gaining and preserving it. This belief makes people complacent to the duty of everyone in society to defend all encroachments on freedom. It is noteworthy that Americans of all skin colors attended that grand march for freedom on Washington D.C. August 28, 1963.

Just as people wrongly credit King for all successes of the Modern Civil Rights Movement, he and most Americans wrongly credit President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation for freeing American slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation says in part:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free;"

Some slave states did not rebel against the Union. Therefore, the proclamation did not free nearly a million people enslaved within States that remained loyal to the Union. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution approved by the States in 1865 banned slavery everywhere in the nation.

I do not make this observation to lessen the importance President Lincoln's contribution to ending slavery and promoting freedom. Neither do I want to expand it. I am sure freeing four millions slaves by his proclamation-however effective only where the Union Army prevailed- was an impetus for States later improving the 13th Amendment. However, within the idea of presidential wartime authority to end slavery in enemy lands to hinder its war effort lurks the specter of support for presidential to enslave some of his people to strengthen his war effort. I am skeptical of the security of any freedom asserted on the authority on one person or government official.

Often, I hear the fearful lament, "We "black" people received our freedom from the 14th Amendment that government can revoke, but "white" people have freedom by birth and are safe from having it revoked." This is the type fear people endure from ignorance and why they should know the true source of their freedoms.

Section 1 of the 14th Amendment says, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the States where they reside." Therefore, all Americans receive citizenship the same way, and retain freedom by the truths stated in the Declaration of Independence of rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness." However, culture and not the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution decides freedom.

Culture decides how society interprets and enforces laws. Therefore, neither laws nor constitutional mandates have meaning in an immoral culture without integrity. A few years after the States approved the 14th Amendment; the U.S. Supreme Court supported the prevailing cultural idea of different races that should remain separate, but equal. This Court decision created the foundation for laws of racial segregation. This decision is one example how culture decided the meaning of laws, no matter the Constitution clearly names natural born and naturalized as the only legitimate categories government may use to decide citizens' rights. Probably, the name Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would not be an international symbol of freedom and nonviolence except for the Court's lack of morals that promoted cultural ideas of race over constitutional protections.

Ironically, many descendants of the Freedmen promoted ideas of an African American race and culture. Confused about the true principles of freedom, they advanced the culture of race based on skin color similar to the loathsome cultural practices of 19th and early 20th century. They were not alone. Other Americans declared separate Asian, white-European, and Latino ethnicities. Consciously aware of it or not, all of them support previous ideas of innate race difference that Americans of my generation discredited in the twentieth century civil rights movement for freedom.

Congress raids Military Pensions

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 01-03-2014 | in Government, Ethics, Critical Thinking, Economics,

Congress raiding of military veterans' pensions brings shame to America. A 2014 federal budget provision subtracts one percentage point of the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for pensions of military retirees younger than 62 years old. Reportedly, the COLA penalty will save the government about six billion dollars in spending over ten years. Therefore, Congress flouts our nation's moral and contractual duty to military retirees for a small $600 million a year cut in spending.

Inflation reduces the buying power of the dollar and forces consumers to spend more to buy the same amount of goods and services. The annual COLA adds more dollars to military pensions by a rate estimated to equal buying power lost to inflation. Therefore, the annual COLA only restores the pension's original buying power without adding net monetary gain. Without the COLA, military and other retirees suffer a reduced standard of living from inflation.

The Military Officers Association of America estimated the one-percent COLA penalty cost more than $83,000 in lost income over 20 years for the typical enlisted member retiring at 40, and a loss of $124,000 for a typical retired officer. Congress levies federal income tax on military pensions from the first day of retirement no matter the retiree's age. It has a similar contractual and moral duty to protect all military retirees' pensions equally from inflation.

U.S. Code Title 29 / Chapter 14 / Section 623 says, "It shall be unlawful for an employer-(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's age."

The Federal Government is the employer of U.S. Armed service members and retirement pay is part of their compensation. Therefore, Code Section 623 prohibits the Department of Defense from reducing the value of younger retirees' pension based only on age. I understand Congress passed the original age-discrimination law to protect older workers from discrimination. Nevertheless, Section 623 clearly makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual regarding compensation based on age.

"Despite more than a decade of warfare following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, only about 0.5% of the American population has been on active military duty at any given time," according to the Pew Research Center survey. Only 15 percent of enlisted personnel will ultimately be eligible for retirement, according to the Congressional Research Service. Now Congress imposes a special pension tax on the pensions of military retirees younger than 62.

Supposedly, equal opportunity in America rewards hardworking, education-seeking people with security and upward mobility. Career members of America's armed forces displayed all those qualities while also protecting the nation. Therefore, thoughtful people must question why Congress selected military retirees for discrimination. The answer is easy. They are an identifiable minority group without wealth or power that Congress can target for blame without fear of public protest.

Some people argue that military pensions are overly generous and Congress needs to change them. They say that retirees' pensions drain money from current defense personnel and equipment needs. This is a poorly reasoned conclusion that blames retirees for Department of Defense officials' mismanagement of funds.

Armed forces members worked long hours without overtime pay during their military careers especially during deployments. They earned retirement pay each year of service. Department of Defense civilian managers had the duty to set aside money from budgets of those years to meet accruing pension obligations. Instead, they spent it as interest free loans. Now that past debt reflects in the 2014 federal budget that Congress deceitfully asserts is new spending for military pensions. However, Congress is conspicuously silent about the bonus government receives by paying zero pension credit to the 85 percent of people that served in military without qualifying for 20-year pensions.

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