Taking the Pulse of America: A Vanguard Baby Boomer Examines the American Scene

Taking the Pulse of America: A Vanguard Baby Boomer Examines the American Scene

by Martin Street

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Overview

For many Americans, hearing the words, "United States of America" brings stirring emotions. It is the concept of e pluribus unum-"out of many, one"-that summarizes the sense of national unity that Americans feel, and one that author Martin Street seeks to convey in Taking the Pulse of America.

This compendium of 110 essays offers a snapshot of American life today. Street offers opinions and suggestions for many of the most contentious issues of our time. From hot button issues like abortion, illegal immigration, and waterboarding to the justice system, education reform, and government affairs, Street doesn't mince words.

Often, Street's commentary is just as contentious as his subjects. Even so, he provides an honest, authentic voice to these conversations that have become part of our national lexicon. Whether he discusses unions, our throwaway society, or professional athletes, Street gives his straightforward, often politically incorrect opinions.

A call to action for Americans to restore the United States of America to her former glory, Taking the Pulse of America is essential reading for every citizen.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469737041
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/30/2012
Pages: 420
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.93(d)

Read an Excerpt

Taking the Pulse of AMERICA

A Vanguard Baby Boomer examines the American Scene
By MARTIN STREET

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Martin Street
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4697-3704-1


Chapter One

Abortion

There is precious little middle ground on the abortion issue. You may find yourself taking sides on this topic. You might also find some ideas here that you have not considered.

The abortion issue seems to be settled law, since the landmark Roe v. Wade case of January 22, 1973, though you wouldn't know it to watch the campaign commercials. Any candidate opposing or seeking to limit legal abortion is pilloried by his opponents and sometimes by others, as if the successful candidate could or would single handedly overturn Roe v. Wade.

This section on abortion is not intended to offend the millions of Americans who have searched their consciences and come out strongly in favor for or against legal abortions.

Although I would classify myself as pro-choice, I feel that the main "choice" should be whether to have unprotected sex in the the first place.

The Presbyterian Church, of which I am a member, has stated that abortion sometimes is the best choice of difficult options. I tend to agree.

The current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, feels that abortions should be safe, legal, and rare. I share her opinion on this issue. However, after reading some statistics from Planned Parenthood and the National Center for Health Statistics, I do not believe that an abortion is a "rare" occurrence in America today. Several million American women will have an abortion sometime in their lifetimes. Roughly 1.6 million abortions are performed in the United States each year, and 93 percent of them occur because the child is unwanted or inconvenient. About 1 percent occur due to rape or incest and 6 percent due to health problems with the mother or child.

About six million women in the United States become pregnant every year, and I read that about half of these pregnancies are unintended. My parents told me that I was conceived by "accident"—as was our youngest son. He and I were the third born children to families planning only two children. However, I believe that each child born is a blessing in some way.

One of the reasons people disagree about the abortion issue is that no one seems to agree about when life begins in the womb. The Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling allows virtually unlimited abortions during the first three months of pregnancy, which gives one an idea of how the justice system feels about this issue.

There is much information available on pregnancy rates for teenagers and women in their early twenties, and a lot of statistics about abortion rates among various income groups, in which trimester abortions were performed. I consider these statistics to be only of passing interest. Each abortion involves a very personal decision on the part of the parties involved—a decision that can affect them for the rest of their lives. And the psychological effect that an abortion has on the woman having one cannot be overstated. It seems to me that raising a child is a lifelong commitment and is certainly not for everybody. Raising an unwanted child is that much more difficult, as is the decision to put a child up for adoption. These are painful, gut-wrenching decisions not to be taken lightly by anyone.

I think the abortion issue is settled law and extremely unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. With this in mind, perhaps the politicians can stay out of the matter and let us decide for ourselves what is best.

Press Political Bias

Do you think that the American press is truly neutral in its reporting? I don't, and here is why:

One thing we tend to forget in America is just how much power the media has. If this were not so, advertisers would not spend millions of dollars each year to get their messages on TV, radio, and in print.

In theory, news media are supposed to report the news without bias and let the public draw their own conclusions. In practice, however, reporters have a great deal to say about what news is covered. And just watch the media interview a public figure. Watch a former news celebrity like Katie Couric, for example, interview Barack Obama and then Sarah Palin, and listen for the tone of the questions: Are they formulated to make the interviewee look good or bad? Are they "tough" or "easy?" What is the frequency and timing of the interruptions? Is the person interviewed given ample opportunity to elaborate on his/her answers and fully explain his/her positions? Is the person treated respectfully? Are there "gotcha" questions which make the person commit to a position he/she may be forced to defend later?

Then compare typically "friendly" media interviews of Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, or Nancy Pelosi with the interviews you could expect the media to conduct with Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, or Rush Limbaugh. Could these last three expect fair, neutral questions asked in a friendly, professional manner? Or would the press be looking for a "hatchet-job" interview similar to the one some feel that Katie Couric did on Sarah Palin?

The latest study by the Pew Research Center found the national media to be 34 percent liberal and 7 percent conservative.

Do the liberal views of journalists affect coverage? Is there really liberal bias? The answers are, of course, "yes" to both questions. If you doubt this, read the editorial section of the Investor's Business Daily and then the coverage of the same issues in Newsweek magazine. They will probably be as different as night and day.

Surveys of journalists' self-reported voting habits show them backing the Democratic candidate in every presidential election over the last forty-six years.

Gallup polls have consistently found that three times as many of the American public see the media as "too liberal" as see a media that is "too conservative." And an American Journalism Review survey found that nearly two-thirds of the public disagreed with the statement "The news media try to report the news without bias." And 42 percent of adults disagreed strongly.

The most centrist outlets proved to the the PBS Evening News Hour with Jim Lehrer, CNN's News Night with Aaron Brown and ABC's Good Morning America. ABC's World News Tonight and NBC's Nightly News were found to be left of center.

With the evidence of liberal dominance so overwhelming, a leading press critic is now calling for more ideological diversity in the media. Tom Rosenstiel, who helped design the Pew Poll and who runs the Project for Excellence in Journalism, says it's necessary not to think just of diversity that makes newsrooms "look like America," but also to create a press corps that "thinks like America."

Experts believe that our press is not only left leaning now, but is likely to either remain so or to become even more liberal in the coming years. Part of the reason for this is the continuing media effort to hire more minorities and young single women. Many of these folks are segments of the population with the most liberal views.

American adults who want balanced reporting should get their news from a variety of sources rather than just one. We should be skeptical of media figures injecting many of their own opinions rather than just providing balanced, factual reports. We all should have a sense of our own truths rather than letting others form our opinions for us.

"Fragile Families" in America Today

The family is the backbone of American Society, yet both the traditional family and marriage are less common today. Let's see why.

One only has to go back a couple of generations to see basic differences in past family structure and ours today. Although the life expectancies of our grandparents and great-grandparents were considerably lower, their marriages seem to have been much more stable—divorces were rare indeed. So were babies born out of wedlock—this situation was viewed by most as scandalous and shameful. Some of this attitude was due to the teachings of the church. And church attendance one hundred years ago was the norm—the church played a significant role in most people's lives.

How things have changed over the years! The National Center for Health Statistics reports the following percentage of births to unmarried women in America:

1960–5.3% 1970–10.7% 1980–18.4% 1990–28.0% 2000–33.2% 2009–41.0%

An obvious consequence of births to unmarried women is single-parent families. One out of every two children today in the United States will live in a single-parent family at some time before they reach age eighteen. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2002 about twenty million children lived in a household with only one parent.

Single-parent families face special challenges, with income limitations one of the most serious. In 2002, twice as many single-parent families earned less than thirty thousand dollars per year than two-parent families. Health insurance coverage may also be lacking. Also, children in single-parent households are at risk for the following:

* Lower levels of educational achievement

* Twice as likely to drop out of school

* More likely to become teen parents

* More conflict with their parents

* Less adult supervision

* More likely to become truants

* More drug and alcohol abuse

* More high-risk sexual behavior

* More likely to join a gang

* Twice as likely to go to jail

* Four times more likely to need counseling for emotional and behavioral problems

* More likely to participate in violent crime

* More likely to commit suicide

* Twice as likely to get divorced in adulthood

It is widely recognized, both in the United States and elsewhere, that it is in the child's best interest that both parents be involved. And the argument is sometimes made that the child's biological father is often free to play a role in the child's life, even if he and the child's mother were unmarried at the time the child was born. But studies show that by the time the child is five, most of the fathers are gone. In one study, over 60 percent of the fathers either did not visit their children at all, no matter what the children's ages, or had no contact with them for over a year.

Interestingly, in South Korea where social disapproval of unmarried mothers is strong, only 1.6 percent of births in 2007 were to unmarried women.

Single-parent families in the United States are not a new phenomenon. In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a Labor Department official and later a prominent senator, sounded the alarm when unmarried births in the black community were nearing 24 percent. (The rate among white mothers was about 3 percent then.) But his report on the subject ignited a furor among liberals and civil rights leaders who charged him with racism—among other things. There is nothing like a charge of racism to stop a reasonable discussion in its tracks. And this problem nearly a half century later still does not get the attention that it deserves.

I would submit that strong family units are one of the foundations upon which our country is built. And it is apparent that single-parent families are inherently much weaker than the traditional family with mother and father together in the home. It also is apparent that males who father children, and then leave the mother to care for them, are setting a precedent of irresponsibility that may continue throughout their lives. These same men may father other children as well—leaving other mothers in the same predicament—creating broken families, financial problems, and kids who are forced to grow up without a male role model in the home. Women who engage in unprotected sex outside of marriage are obviously also part of this problem.

Who suffers for these violations of moral law and of the institution and laws of marriage? We all do. American society as a whole is weakened as our families are weakened. Our tradition of two-parent families which made our country strong is being cast aside as immorality runs rampant and unwed births soar. And this immorality seems to be tolerated, and sometimes even subtly encouraged by the American media. Since the church continues to condemn sex outside of marriage, the choice of many young people is simple—we'll just ignore church teachings and not attend. And their children may do the same, perpetuating the problem.

Folks, this situation is not "okay" and the rising tide of unwed mothers should be condemned-not condoned. Please revisit the statistics presented above regarding children in single-parent families. Many of them point to troubled kids who get into trouble, presenting problems for themselves, their families, their communities, and society at large.

Nearly half of American fathers younger than forty-five say they have at least one child who was born out of wedlock. And the share of fathers not living with their children has doubled in recent years.

Parents' roles are changing as traditional family households fall to historic lows.

Even some animal species mate for lives, so the adult male and female are present to rear their offspring. Why should the human race be any different? Why are so many Americans so self-centered and immoral? Why this pervasive disrespect of marriage as the basis for starting a family? In 2009, for the first time, the proportion of never-married Americans from ages twenty-five through thirty-four exceeded those who had been married.

There are no easy answers to reverse these trends. A good start, however, is to take steps to identify the father in all births and force him to take financial responsibility for his baby. No couple should be having children that they are financially unable to care for. And it is in all of our interests—including our leaders, teachers, the media, and others—to support the institution of marriage as previous generations of Americans have done.

Pornography and Prostitution in America This is a report on one of the dark sides of American life—a look at the scope and consequences of pornography and prostitution in our country.

The USA in the twenty-first century has a largely unreported and seldom discussed problem—that of porn and prostitution—that seems to be more tolerated than ever, often with tragic results. As smut leaves the back alleys and slums and is transmitted into our hotel rooms and living rooms, mainstream America becomes part of this large and growing problem.

A CBS News 60 Minutes report of September 5, 2004 included a visit to the annual convention of adult entertainment companies that takes place in Las Vegas each year. This convention attracts more than two hundred companies. Fans come from all over the country, stand in line for hours, and pay forty dollars to get into what is essentially an X-rated trade show. The CBS investigation and interviews drew many disturbing conclusions.

Business in the pornographic industry totals about ten billion dollars each year and has never been better. The past twenty-five years have seen widespread acceptance of sexually explicit material. Americans now spend as much on adult entertainment as they spend attending professional sporting events, buying music, or going out to the movies. Mainstream American companies like General Motors, Marriott, and Time Warner now make millions of dollars selling erotica to America.

In 2004 there were about eight hundred million rentals of adult videotapes and DVDs in video stores across the country. The three leading adult entertainment companies in 2004 were VCA, Vivid Video, and Wicked Pictures.

The pornography industry employs over twelve thousand people in California alone. It has considerable economic clout and has a trade publication, marketing and legal seminars, and even its own lobbyist. Reputable companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange are involved, often indirectly, in the adult entertainment business.

In 2002, Comcast Cable Company pulled in fifty million dollars from adult programming. All the top cable operators—including Echo Star, Direct TV, Time Warner, and Cablevision—distribute sexually explicit material to their subscribers. The big hotel chains like Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Sheraton, and Holiday Inn offer adult films on in-room pay-per-view television systems—and they are purchased by a whopping 50 percent of their guests. And because there is a social stigma attached to adult entertainment, a premium can be charged for it.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Taking the Pulse of AMERICA by MARTIN STREET Copyright © 2012 by Martin Street. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Introducing Martin Street....................xi
America the Great....................xiii
Abortion....................3
Press Political Bias....................6
"Fragile Families" in America Today....................9
Pornography and Prostitution in America....................14
Affirmative Action....................19
Diversity....................23
Race Relations Today....................26
Homosexuality....................30
Waterboarding and Interrogation....................33
Street Gangs....................36
Bullying....................41
Priest-Child Molestations....................45
Extra-Marital Affairs....................49
Wrap Rage....................53
Flag Burning....................56
Illegal Immigrants....................58
Teaching....................65
American Education in the Twenty-First Century....................70
High School Dropout Rates....................75
"No Child Left Behind" and "Race to the Top"....................82
College Trends....................87
United States Justice System....................95
Jury Selection....................99
Lawyers....................102
Prisons....................104
Prisoner Tax Returns-It's a Crime....................109
Controlling Our Health Care Cost Explosion....................115
Medical Malpractice Lawsuits....................120
Doctors and Medical Practitioners....................124
American Nurses....................129
Medical Bills....................132
Modern Medicine....................135
Overweight and Obese in America....................137
Nursing Homes....................140
End of Life Issues....................144
Computers and High Tech Systems....................151
Electronic Communications Overload....................156
Computer Hackers and Viruses....................159
Kid's Electronic Toys....................162
Video Games....................166
U.S. Congress-Performance and Public Opinion....................171
Our National Debt Crisis....................177
Political Campaigns....................181
Can We Americans Pass Our Own Citizenship Test?....................185
Foreign Aid....................188
NASA....................192
American Customer Service in the Twenty-First Century....................197
Quality....................203
Salaries in the United States....................207
What Americans Buy And Why....................212
Made in America....................215
Unions....................219
Guarantees-Warranties....................224
Home Party Sales....................227
The Junk Mail Monster....................230
How to Complain Effectively....................234
Auto Purchases....................237
National "Do Not Call" List....................240
Employment Ads....................242
Bosses....................243
Firing in the Business World....................245
Neighbors....................249
Americans' Pet Peeves and Gripes....................252
American Conversation....................255
The Decline of the American Downtown....................258
Television....................260
Commercials....................262
Prices and Saving Money....................264
Courtesy....................267
Hungry in America....................272
Friendships....................274
Hotels....................276
The Entitlement to Privacy....................281
Honesty....................284
Courage....................287
Trust....................290
Home Security....................294
At-Risk Behavior....................296
Alcohol....................298
Smoking....................301
Gambling....................304
The Police....................309
Homeless in America....................311
Driving....................315
Awards....................320
Music....................322
Home....................325
Our Throwaway Society and the Decline of the Repairman....................327
Scavenging....................331
American Natural Disaster Relief....................334
Buffets....................339
Hunting....................341
Auto Service....................343
Holidays....................347
Men in the Kitchen and a Real Man's Diet....................351
Road Construction....................353
Animal Shelters....................355
Exercise Equipment....................358
Churches....................361
Living the American Dream....................367
Land Costs Throughout the U.S....................371
Federal Taxes....................373
Military Costs and Deployment Decisions....................379
Military Review....................383
The Viet Nam War....................387
Military Procurement Requests....................389
Professional Athletes....................393
Boxing....................396
In Conclusion....................401

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