Saturday, September 24, 2011

Remembering 9/11

I was tying my tie in the hotel room where I was staying in Salt Lake City getting ready to go to work and the TV was on. I heard the announcer say that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and they thought it was a commercial aircraft. My family and I had lived in Monmouth County New Jersey for ten years and whenever we had company from around the country we would always follow the same routine. We would get a suite in Manhattan and spend the day sightseeing, have dinner at either Tavern on the Green or Windows on the World at the top of the North Tower, go to the theater and ride a carriage through Central Park before going to Sardis on 44th street for a nightcap. Turning up the volume and sitting down on the edge of the bed I watched as the second plane slammed into the South Tower and along with everyone else realized that it was a terrorist attack and at once was struck by the loss of life and the savagery of anyone who would commit such a perverted and insane act. It was a physical reaction that is hard to describe but it was accompanied by tears of both sorrow and rage and an absolute inability to turn off the TV or even look away. I sat there and watched as the towers collapsed and the crowds ran through the streets seeking safety. It was a chilling and earth shattering experience and it also created a fear of what else might be coming. We had friends in the New York and New Jersey area and friends and family in Washington DC that we were scared for based on not only what had happened but what might possibly be coming in the days ahead. It was obviously a game changer and would result in a response that was necessary but would cost more lives very probably. So many things go through your mind. You think about the times you took friends and family up in those towers and the pride and joy of being a New Yorker for a day. Thoughts about the people in the towers just going through their day and doing the ordinary everyday things that made up their normal routines and added sustenance and substance to their lives. The tragedy was a result of human evil and hate and madness that is just hard to understand. The victims were all completely innocent of any violence, aggression or harm against the perpetrators. They were just ordinary people doing ordinary things and they did not deserve the violence that was visited on them. I still get choked up when I go back to that morning and all of the same chaotic and emotional feelings are just as powerful as they were that morning. What happened did not change me in any fundamental way. I still have the same political beliefs, values and principles that I try to live by with varying degrees of success and failure. Our intrusion into Iraq was wrong in my opinion and it took way to long, cost too much and it was completely inexcusable that it took ten years to get Bin Laden. I think the poor and middle class get the short end of the stick in this country and that we are fumbling the ball in terms of managing our economy, our climate and our preparation for the future. None of those beliefs changes the fact that I love this country, its history and people; especially the people because without them all the United States represents is a beautiful land with a lot of unrealized potential. I hope and pray that at some point we will as a people realize that we are squandering that potential in great measure and return to the ethics, morality, work ethic and accountability that enabled us to build this country in the first place. Democracy is hard work as is progress, economic growth and living life in general. We have in some measure lost focus on the future and I believe that 9/11 exacerbated that loss of focus by causing us to react way out of proportion to the events of that day as tragic and reprehensible as they were. Instead of going after the people responsible with everything at our disposal we used it as an excuse to wage a war that destabilized the entire Middle East, strengthened Iran’s hand and increased their influence and emptied our coffers creating the national debt problem we have now. Our focus at the time should have been on finding and killing as many Al Qaida leaders including Bin Laden in as short a time as possible until their organization was totally decimated. What we did do only increased the number of extremists willing to engage us around the world but particularly in the Middle East. Our political leadership is being held hostage by the financial interests that determine their futures in office, legislative agendas and comfort level in retirement. As a result we have a totally dysfunctional government that is unresponsive to the people and unwilling and unable to focus on the many serious challenges this country faces. Over the next fifteen to twenty years these challenges will demand our attention in ways that will not be easily ignored. Environmental concerns like availability of water, drought, and food supply and climate change cannot be solved in the current political climate and in some parts of the world will lead to war, genocide and worse if allowed to fester without resolution. Our infrastructure, children’s education, seniors’ health care, economic stability and a host of other serious problems need and deserve the undivided attention of our elected representatives with an eye towards concrete solutions fashioned in a non-partisan manner for the benefit of all. This current climate where the efficacy of any solution is secondary to the political cost associated with it will only lead us all over a cliff that will make 9/11 seem like a family picnic. 9/11 was a terrible and heart wrenching occurrence in the history of this country but what we are doing to ourselves since then is even worse and we need to snap out of our partisan mind sets and return to a mind set of we are all in this together and we can overcome anything together.

Friday, July 22, 2011

It's Time for Some Changes...

There are only two long term solutions to the partisan gridlock paralyzing the government. One is meaningful campaign finance reform and the other is term limits. Under our current campaign finance laws politicians are not only allowed but actually forced to accept bribes in exchange for their vote and influence. Their first thought after obtaining elected office is about raising the funds necessary to get reelected and perpetuate their prestige, position, power and influence. They become hostages of the special interest and ideologues’ from both sides of the aisle who control the purse strings that lead to incumbency.

What we need is a system that does not incentivize greed, corruption and avarice through the selling of one’s soul to the devil for the purpose of self-enrichment. You cannot accept vast amounts of money from anyone or any entity without incurring strong and binding obligations to favor their positions regardless of their probity, logic and value to the country. The current system and laws just don’t work in favor of “we the people” and never will as long as the driving force behind all legislative action is money and not ideas, principals and values based on what’s best for the country.

The legal fiction that corporations are people with constitutional rights should not extend to the ability to subvert the electoral process through the use of legalized bribery. Their right to free speech should not include an unfettered ability to purchase access, influence and votes contrary to the best interest of the country as a whole. Their petitions to the government should be limited to the empiric proofs, logical arguments and pleadings they can present in public meetings. We would not countenance such behavior in any other political or business forum and the congress and senate should not be an exception that proves the rule.

The implementation of term limits will in my opinion guide us back toward a paradigm where we are served by citizen legislators as opposed to professional politicians more interested in the power, prestige and self-aggrandizement that attaches to perpetual incumbency. Public service should be just that, a service to the public and nothing more. Public financing of political campaigns, open primaries and term limits would ensure a constant turn over and infusion of fresh ideas and perspectives. There would be more citizen’s motivated to participate in public service via the pursuit of elected office.

Limiting terms in office would also reduce the incentive to engage in less than pure motives and instead focus people’s efforts on creating a sound legacy of participation in the political process. If you know as a senator you are limited to two terms or as a congressman you are limited to three terms your motivation changes from pursuing incumbency to leaving a legacy of good works behind when you return to private life. Even if your goal is continued public service the motivation remains the same.

There are entirely too many members of both parties currently afflicted with ideological intransigence based on political naiveté, paranoia, prejudice and unwillingness to see the other side’s positions as valid. We cannot tolerate a situation where our politicians consider each other enemies instead of colleagues. This country as well as the entire world faces some daunting long term challenges that require study, solutions and bipartisan solidarity. We will not be able to effectively shape our future if we cannot even agree on what the problems are because of the influence of money and the fear of losing the next election.

The best definition of insanity I have ever heard is to keep on doing what you have always done and go on expecting better results. As a wise man once said that dog won’t hunt. It is time to change the rules of the game and remind the players who they play for and why. We have always had and will always have the quality of government we deserve based on our own participation in, commitment to and demands made of that government. This situation will not fix itself. It will require drastic changes and the determination of the electorate to restore even a modicum of functionality to Capitol Hill. Sitting around complaining will accomplish nothing. I urge all Americans who are tired of the perpetual impasse and gridlock on the hill to get involved and write and call your representatives to demand the implementation of these two changes to our constitution in order to end partisan gridlock, the influence of money and the pursuit of incumbency.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What must they think?

We are without a doubt as a species the most self absorbed, selfish, narcissistic, greedy and obtuse collection of similar life forms on the planet. Every other species on the planet works together within their environment on the collective survival, welfare and general good of the entire species. Sure there are some predator prey relationships between differing species and some intra species cannibalism but you never find them fouling their own nest, killing indiscriminately, over using their resources or partaking in genocide. The other species on this planet could survive in relative harmony with both the planet and each other if not for extraordinary cataclysmic events or our presence as the dominate species. They do not war on each other or ignore the honest results of whatever intellectual capacity they have for understanding their long term survival. They have no lust for monetary gain or power over other members of their community. In short they live in harmony with each other and the planet even though they supposedly have less intelligence than we do and the fact that they are living in a very hierarchal food chain that requires the taking of life for nourishment.

Imagine if you will what an unbiased outside observer of this planet must think of the quality of stewardship we have exercised over this plant and its environment and natural resources. Additionally what must such an observer think of our level of morality or potential for development into a species capable of self actualization or our collective level of intellectual and altruistic advancement. In the case of an advanced alien life form analyzing our fitness for inclusion in any kind of inter-galactic community they would likely be interested in our potential for scientific achievement capable of launching us into that community and the potential we show for bringing our greed, avarice, homicidal tendencies, and other less altruistic qualities with us. They might also look at things from the perspective of how to best put the planet to its highest and best use. It would not be very hard to conceive of an advanced civilization that would consider us of no more worth than we consider those other life forms we cohabitate this planet with. If we were capable of interplanetary travel but morally no more advanced than we are right now would we treat a less advanced civilization any better than we do each other? Should we expect better in return than we are capable of giving another less able?

What if the observer was the self same Christian god so many of us purport to believe in? Would he have any reason to believe that we will fulfill his wish that we love each other as we are supposed to love him? It is interesting to note that in our own religious beliefs we prognosticate the failure of mankind to live up to god’s expectations, requirements and wishes relative to our behavior and growth as a living representation of his power and love for us. We even prophetically see the end of the world as a partial retribution for our sins and a temporary triumph of evil on this planet due to our inability to follow god’s commandments which are all relative to developing our more altruistic natures and learning to love each other as we are supposed to love him. Supposedly he has already destroyed all life on this planet with the exception of the one good man he could find and a representative sample of breeding stock from among the other less advanced species. Of course this fresh start for our species has apparently not worked out as planned since we still have the book of revelations to look forward to which indicates we are incapable of learning our lesson and putting love for each other first among our thoughts and priorities.

Having considered the aliens and god we are left with only our children to contemplate as observers of our behavior and unlike a god or an alien they will not have the advantage of a real time observation point or the power to exercise any influence over what they observe. Unfortunately for them their observations will be of what we have wrought and the results of our actions that they will have little if any ability to ameliorate or modify. They will get what we leave them in terms of the quality of the environment, the quantity and quality of natural resources and the capacity to love each other. Their altruistic abilities and level of concern for each other and the planet will mirror our parenting, teaching, and example. Regardless though of their advancement or lack of it as human beings what will they think of us if we leave them a planet riddled with high radiation hot spots, depleted natural resources, polluted seas and diminished capacity to feed the population? If their inheritance includes ongoing wars, interracial conflict and continuing episodes of genocide what must we think of ourselves as parents and stewards of this planet and our children’s future? Is it really necessary for the sake of short term gain or stock market performance to ignore the reality of climate change and the damage we are doing to the planet? Can we really justify on a balance sheet making no real attempt to develop eco friendly alternative forms of energy or taking the poisons out of our food sources and the environment?

In my mind these are all questions relevant to our survival and the quality of life we leave our future progeny. The answers we give will create the world and environment we pass down to our children, our grand children and so on and so on. The aliens may never show up and god could certainly be forgiven for just giving up and leaving us to our own devices but our children will live with the consequences of our choices and actions or lack of them. They will look back and wonder at our foresight, compassion and love for them or they will wonder at best how could we have been so stupid in the face of incontrovertible and empiric proofs that our choices would ruin their inheritance. Many say “but I am too busy just trying to survive, or get ahead, or take care of my family, or get rich and I just don’t have time to even think about the future or my responsibility to it much less do anything about it” and they are right in that just doing any of those things can be all consuming. That does not change the fact that we do in fact have a responsibility to the future and to fulfill that responsibility requires that we be up on the issues of the present that will have an impact on that future.

That responsibility and our children’s perception of how we helped shape it also requires more than a modicum of political activism and engagement in the process of developing the answers to those questions and many more just as important. That responsibility brings with it an onerous and burdensome weight under which we have to labor if we are to be able someday to hold our heads high and proclaim we did the best we could for you and the rest is up to you. It is the price of being the captain of your own ship and the master of your soul and the consequences of abandoning it are too grim to contemplate. I can imagine no shame so deep, no despair so dark and no guilt as oppressive as that of knowing that you let your children down along with your children’s, children’s children. This planet can be one of our most precious gifts to our progeny or it can be the prison within which they live a miserable and mean existence and the choice is up to us.

Regardless of how big we think this planet is it really does have a finite amount of space and resources with which to sustain our lives and those who will come after us. It is very much like a life boat or raft upon a sea of vacuum with limited survival supplies of food, water and shelter. We are all aboard for good or evil, rough seas or fair and there is no other means of survival short of our ultimate destination. To make it we must conserve our supplies, treat each other with respect and compassion and keep the boat in good repair. It is an apt analogy even if you are used to thinking of the earth as an unlimited resource that can take all the punishment we can dish out because it in fact is not. There is ample proof of the deleterious affects our lack of respect for the planet has already had and the inevitable consequences of our continued disrespect will bring about. There is no need to try and cover all of that ground here but a recitation of the main issues might be though provoking for some, eye opening for others and a reason for pause to all to contemplate the harsh reality of our lack of good stewardship. Everyone is somewhat cognizant of environmental pollution and its effects on our air quality, water quality and soil quality but there are other issues and conundrums just as great we should all be considering how to handle.

There are things like ocean deoxygenation, global warming and dimming, sea level rise, ocean acidification, shutdown of thermohaline circulation, species extinction, pollinator declines or extinctions, eutrophication, genetic pollution, pesticide drift, plasticulture, desertification, nuclear issues and the list goes on and on. We don’t all have to be experts on these issues but we do have to demand that our leaders and politicians take them seriously and make decisions in accordance with what’s best for the planet and our long term survivability as opposed to short term personal gain for them. If we turn away from these issues and trust someone else to study them and make the necessary decisions we assume a terrible responsibility for the ultimate outcome of those decisions. To allow our politicians to pass resolutions that discount all environmental issues and their long term consequences in favor of short term corporate profits is unconscionable. I am not the sharpest pencil in the drawer vis a vie this long rambling narrative but I am smart enough to know our government in particular and most others in general are focused on short term gains of one kind or another instead of the long term consequences of failing to prioritize our responsibilities to each other and future generations honestly. I hope this all make sense and helps even a few people to focus on the real issues that we face collectively as passengers in this little life boat we are all stuck on.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Utah Republicans fire a devastating broadside at democracy while the nation’s attention is on Wisconsin.

What happened today in Wisconsin has rightly drawn national attention to the GOP’S malicious attack on the middle class and the lengths both illegal and devious to which they are willing to go to usurp the rights, protections and hard won wages and benefits of the working poor. It is however only one front in the war the American middle class is slowly awaking to. Another and potentially even more devastating broadside was fired by the heavily republican legislature and Governor Herbert of Utah this week. HB477 is a bill which completely guts the previous open government law in Utah known as the Government Records Access and Management Act.

It took less than twenty-four hours from the time it was first brought up in committee for the Utah legislature to pass the bill twenty-one to seven. The bill strips the public’s legal right to access to governmental records, communications and work product that had been guaranteed under the GRAMA act. It limits public access in a most draconian manner to all records in that it allows the individual governmental entity to determine the times and prices allowable to provide the few records that will still be available. There was a mostly bi-partisan negative reaction that even had the Mormon Church owned KSL in Salt Lake publishing an editorial in favor of rewriting the law after the governor signed it even though the original opposition to the bill had surprised him and given pause to his intent to do just that.

In an article dated March 3rd KSL reporter Con Psarras described the bill this way “The bill contains several specific changes to existing laws which would have far-reaching consequences. It would establish that all text messages, instant messages, recorded video chats, and voicemails are private, regardless of their content. It eliminates the language that describes the legislature's original intent in creating the 1991 law, which has been interpreted by the courts as a statement in support of considering the status of most records to be public first, private second. It also grants government agencies the ability to set fees to process a records request which could become substantial, if not prohibitive, or even punitive. ”

The republicans have stated that the new law is needed to prevent the news media from going on witch hunts with the express purpose of embarrassing legislators. My response to that is if you don’t do or say anything wrong you will have no reason to be embarrassed and if you do as a public employee supposedly doing the people’s business in a manner which represents their best interest we have a right to know. The type of embarrassment these legislators are trying to avoid would I assume be like that suffered when the payment of thirteen million dollars by the Utah Department of Transportation to a losing bidder on a highway project last year came to light in part because an e-mail requested by local media reveled an affair between a department employee and the bidder.

When all was said and done it had also been revealed that Governor Herbert had also been the recipient of over eighty thousand dollars in campaign contributions from the winning bidder and met twice with them in the weeks leading up to the bid award. There was another such scandal that came to light because of open government laws when the same governor Herbert received a ten thousand dollar campaign contribution from Alton Coal and met with them just before he put pressure on the approval process of the licenses and approvals they needed to start work on Utah’s first strip mine. Neither of these blatant pay for play scenarios amounted to much in Utah where a republican governor is second in influence and power only to the Prophet of the Mormon Church but under the new law no one would have even known about them.

When any government passes laws that removes the disinfectant provided by the light of day and open records laws you can be sure the infection of secrecy and things that go bump in the night will eventually not only blind lady justice to partiality but to everything done in the dark corners of the minds and hearts of those who enacted such a law. You do not propose, support and pass such laws unless you either currently have or plan someday to have something to hide from the taxpayers who pay you salary and have every right to know how and what you are doing in the performance of your duties to them as your ultimate employer.

As Utah is so far to the right that you can’t get there from here if you have any progressive tendencies at all there is not much hope that the final version of this law will look much different than the current version. It has generated more controversy than one would normally expect though and in an astonishing short amount of time. There is a public protest slated tomorrow at the capitol and it will be interesting to see if it includes more than the two hundred or so who showed up for the one protest rally held there in support of the Wisconsin protestors.

This situation is deserving of just as much dismay, notoriety and public reaction as what governor Walker and his republican posse did in Wisconsin but for that to happen it will have to be generated somewhere else and imported to Utah. If that does not happen then your state might be next and your school boards, legislatures, city and county governments and departments of whatever will blindfold you like they are doing in Utah and proceed to commence to begin to start to do whatever they want whenever they want to do it with no accountability to you or anyone else.

Monday, March 7, 2011

There is a Solution to Our Governmental Inefficiency

Every once in a while I have to come back to this tired old refrain but before I start let me suggest anyone who has not either seen on CNN or read in Time Fareed Zakaria’s piece entitled “Are America’s Best Days behind Us” in Time and “Retuning to #1” on CNN do so at their earliest opportunity. It is a succinct and realistic refutation of the political mantra about American exceptionalism one hears every politician spouting at every opportunity. The ugly fact is that we have slipped far behind many of our global neighbors some of whom many average Americans have never heard of in lots of critical categories that measure economic viability and quality of life.

For instance even though we spend more on healthcare (excluding what the government spends) than any other country we get less for it in terms of life expectancy, quality of life and quality of healthcare. In terms of infant mortality we are ranked thirtieth in the world and we are falling so fast in educational related rankings the quality of the work forces we can field are not competitive on a global scale. Additionally our government whose job it is to fix these things is not even focused on them. The house and senate are embarrassingly inefficient and paralyzed almost beyond belief as they struggle to please the special interest who have wrested control of the government from them through the legal bribery we allow them to engage in and that brings me to my main theme.

We need to fix this government if we are to ever stand any chance at recovering the status and prestige we once enjoyed by right of performance among the world’s nations let alone keep from losing ever more of our quality of life. There is no reason that the decisions of the last thirty years that have led us down the prim rose path to our current economic debacle cannot be reversed. We do not have to settle for allowing the worlds corporations to run our government and decide our fate. What we have done metaphorically speaking is leave the cash drawers open in front of our elected representatives and made thieves out of them and fools out of ourselves. We can change it though in time to turn things around if we act boldly, courageously and with expediency.

When you look at what our politicians are focused on relative to our most pressing problems it is almost enough to make one die laughing and crying at the same time. If our national debt is indeed the horrific destructive force it is represented as the solutions being suggested are of a quality to make a first grader blush. Both sides of the aisle are taking ever so gentle swipes at supposedly non-essential discreationary spending including Medicaid and education. Ron Paul even suggested dispensing with the entire department of education. That was not his best moment not that he has many to begin with. No one is seriously suggesting we reform our tax laws to get rid of the loopholes, special credits and corporate welfare that are so rife within the system they reduce the effective tax rate to god only knows what.

None of our precious leaders are looking at the small and relatively painless changes that could be made to all of our so called entitlement programs and trying to explain to the inevitable chorus of negative voices why they are necessary. In short none of them are willing to do the heavy lifting needed to put us back on track. Rather than reform our healthcare system in any real meaningful way republicans and democrats fought tooth and nail to avoid insulting the insurance companies, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies regardless of the fact that real reform would have slashed real money from the deficit. The fact is they are just not even trying to get the job done in any meaningful way and a meaningful solution to that problem calls for drastic and immediate action.

In my mind there are two parts to the solution the first being an absolute ban on corporate campaign contributions. This will be much harder to accomplish now that Citizen’s United (an oxymoron if ever I heard one) is in the can. Notwithstanding the fact that justices Thomas and Alito should have recused themselves the decision was just plain wrong and one the court could easily revisit if enough pressure was brought to bear from the citizenry. Even if it required a constitutional amendment it is the only way to shut the cash drawers. Corporations should not be considered people for tax purposes and the idea that payola is a function of their right to free speech is ludicrous on its face. I don’t care how many white papers they publish or policy pronouncements they make but I object vehemently to their being allowed to bribe my elected representatives.

The other piece of the solution is a grass roots movement to implement term limits of three terms on congressman and two on senators. For all of their vaunted heavenly inspiration this is one that the forefathers got wrong. It was vigorously debated and they decided not to include it partially because they considered public service a necessary sacrifice and did not really envision anyone wanting to be a professional politician. In their day you served a term or two and went home to the farm, cobbler shop, law practice or newspaper to resume your real life. That is exactly what they should be doing today.

The combination of meaningful financial reform and term limits will put our politicians on notice that we the people are in control of the government and holding them accountable for their performance as the employees they are. As much as they consider themselves some kind of aristocracy and above the law instead of servants to it they really are just our employees. If we remove the financial incentives attached to the job other than their salaries and make it clear that this is not a lifetime entitlement program but rather a position of service to the country we will get a much better result than we are getting now.

Our government is basically non-functional at this point and the laughing stock of the whole planet. It is our government though and our responsibility to fix it is clear enough. We will get and deserve the quality of government we settle for and right now our collective standards are just too dammed low relative to that quality. An attitude that the ship is too big, the task too gargantuan and the effort to onerous will only lead us further down the path of economic decay and a diminishing quality of life. If that is what we really want all it takes if for good men and women to do nothing.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Should Healthcare Be Provided on a State by State Basis as Romney Says?

First of all let’s get one thing straight the real conservative objection to the new healthcare law is not based on their viewing it as a costly government expansion, an intrusion into their lives or a mandate that everyone have insurance. Oh sure, some of the flock have ingested that kool-aid but the leadership knows that the law will reduce the deficit, cover another thirty-five million people and inhibit the insurance companies from treating policy holders like second class citizens. And therein is the rub. The real objection is that the insurance companies, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies do not want the negative impact on their bottom lines or the loss of control over an industry they consider their private playground.

It would be easy to turn this writing into a rant against insurance companies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies or politicians who sell their votes to assuage the special interest in whose pockets they ride around in. Anyone with any common sense already has that piece of the puzzle figured out though and it would be preaching to the choir and a waste of time. Unless of course it added to the national disgust over politicians selling their votes just enough to push us into a grassroots effort to implement real fundamental campaign finance reform and congressional term limits but that is not likely even though my hope springs eternal.

My focus instead is on Romney’s ill thought out defense he is postulating relative to the bill he designed and pushed through the Massachusetts legislature. In many respects it is an almost exact precursor to the new healthcare act. President Obama has even given Romney credit for helping to design and formulate the national bill first on a state level. He of course is not thrilled that the president singled him out for such praise because the rest of the republican presidential hopefuls have turned it against him by pointing out what they want everybody to perceive as the bills faults and Romney’s endorsement of them. He has responded with the rather weak argument that the bill was an experiment designed for local use in Massachusetts and that while he thinks it works pretty well in that state there are some things he would change about it and that he would never use it as a template for a national plan.

He then gets into a convoluted and dubious conversation about states’ rights and his opinion that healthcare should be a local problem with local solutions and no intrusion by the federal government at all. This argument makes him look and sound pathetically weak, intellectually challenged and desperate to hold the highest office in the land even if he has to look foolish in the attempt. If healthcare were ever to be a strictly local problem solved on a state by state level it would be an unmitigated disaster. What would states like Mississippi & Arkansas, West Virginia & Tennessee, South Carolina & Montana and Kentucky and Alabama do when all of their residents moved out of state because their healthcare was only equivalent to that of a turn of the century village where the doctor and the dentist were the same individual?

Those states like the ones mentioned above with very poor populations and minimal resources if left on their own to provide healthcare without any intervention (money) from the federal government would soon see a mass exodus that would start with the sick and spread from there. Then there are the states with low population counts like Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska and The Dakotas that would have the same problem in that they would not have the economic resources to provide top quality healthcare for everyone if it were managed strictly on a local basis. Even California would be unable to cope without federal assistance. So no Mr. Romney healthcare cannot be solved, provided or of high quality without the combined effort of the whole country including the federal government.

Maybe the place to start the conversation is whether we as a country see healthcare as a right or a privilege? If it is a right that imbues to all of us like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and we come to a consensus in regard to that it changes the nature of the conversation from one where all the special interest are trying to protect profit, territory and control to one of how do we as a nation ensure, codify and provide that right to every person. If after a national dialogue led by our president and politicians we decide it is a privilege the conversation also becomes easier to have in that we all know who the privileged are in this country. They are the top one percent of wage earners who get all the tax breaks. In that case healthcare will remain as it is and as justice is in this country slogans over the supreme court to the contrary, you will get the volume and quality of each that you can personally afford end of conversation, finis.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dear Mr. President,

I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that I appreciate the job you are doing and the tremendous effort and strain it must require. The office you hold while it is one you sought is not without its surprises, stresses and strains. It is probable that anyone holding the office for the first time is at times somewhat overwhelmed with the responsibility, complexity and crushing weight of all the problems we the people expect you to solve. While some presidents do a better job than others of rising to the occasion and history has a way of ameliorating those judgments it is my feeling that you have risen admirably to the challenges of the office and are the right man at the right time in our history to help heal our wounds, repair our image and move us forward.

How anyone not faced with the challenges facing you such as the complex political climate, the economic situation, the international morass and all of the daily decisions that must pursue you from moment to moment cannot offer you their prayers and support is beyond me. Regardless of political persuasion you are the president of us all and deserving of our heartfelt support regardless. In my mind the only way for America to advance and progress through the problems and opportunities we face is to stand together shoulder to shoulder behind the leaders we were fortunate to be able to elect regardless of our petty differences.

I know we did not get to where we are economically, politically, internationally or domestically in the blink of an eye and we cannot expect immediate solutions to all our problems overnight. It is also very apparent that fate can hand us new and horrifying challenges beyond our comprehension and ability to prevent but there is no one sir I would rather have at the helm today then you. I have implicit trust in your vision, judgment, character, morality and ability to lead. Changing anything so complex as the society in which we live is a formidable task when there are so many individual, corporate and special interest pulling this way and pushing that way trying every which way to obtain the end they seek regardless of the means necessary to achieve it.

I do not envy you your job and imagine anyone in your position might occasionally have second thoughts about the task and their fitness or ability to take it on. Well you sir have done a remarkable job so far and it is my prayer you get a second term to try and finish what you and we the people started together when we elected you. The way you carry yourself, represent us before the world and stand-up for the average American inspires many of us and personally makes me very proud of my president, my country and our form of government.

With all the confidence in the world in you and that you will keep fighting the good fight win, lose or draw I salute you, your office and the effort you make each and every day on behalf of the American people. May god bless you and strengthen you for the tasks at hand and protect you and your family as you labor for us to make this a better country in which to live, work, play and raise our families. Thank you again on behalf of a grateful nation and god bless.

Dan Creamer

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Art of Character Assassination

There has been an ongoing attempt by those on the right to cast aspersions on President Obama’s character, to malign his ethnicity and rewrite his personal history. Unfortunately it has been so successful that according to a widely disseminated CNN News Poll published on last August 4th forty-one percent of republicans profess to believe the president either probably or definitely was born in another country. Twenty-nine percent of independents and twenty-seven percent of all Americans believe the same thing. The conspiracy theory won’t die and now we have at least eleven states either proposing or having passed new laws regarding proof of citizenship and eligibility for holding presidential office, they include Arizona's HB2544, Connecticut's SB391, Georgia's HB37, Indiana's SB114, Maine's LD34, Missouri's HB283, Montana's HB205, Nebraska's LB654, Oklahoma's SB91, SB384 and SB540, Tennessee SB366, and Texas; HB295 and HB529. While some of these bills have died in committee or been shelved because they are rightly seen as unconstitutional the fact that they were proposed at all speaks to the prevalence, depth and reach of the misinformation campaign that has been waged against Barak Obama and his real true life biography.
One has to assume that most men and women who have risen to the rank of either their state legislature or our national legislature would be possessed of both the innate intelligence and common sense to assess the facts surrounding the president’s birth, upbringing, childhood, young adulthood, education and work history. You would like to be able to and indeed almost have to credit them with the ability to seek and know the truth if you are going to be at all comfortable with them holding the offices that they do. After all the truth is out there and readily available to any who really seek it. One would assume that our legislators on both the state and national level would have a vested interest in any presidential contender’s credentials and bona fides let alone any politically aware citizen with the smallest modicum of intelligence. So it is hard to fathom why if we take for granted both the ability and a pressing need to know the truth so many either clumsily dissemble, feign ignorance or actively support the untruthful, malicious and malevolent stories being propagated not just by your average imbecilic conspiracy theorist but also those who not only should know better but indubitably do.
Logic tells you that people lie for only a couple of reasons unless they are pathologically addicted to the telling of falsehoods. The most obvious and probably most prevalent reason people prevaricate is to get out of or avoid getting into trouble for some act or omission that if known to be true will incur what they perceive to be negative consequences. Another frequent reason for this most aberrational of behaviors is self aggrandizement or the pursuit of popularity and approval from those lied to. Since neither of those reasons would seemingly apply to those responsible for propagating a completely false history of the president’s life there must therefore be some other reason for the lies. There are only two possibilities that spring to mind. Exclusive of motivation which can be surmised but not empirically known one can assume that those who know the truth and refuse to acknowledge it must be receiving some satisfaction from their endeavors to paint the president as other than he really is. One such source of satisfaction must be the attempt to destroy his political potential and derail his chances for reelection. The other would necessarily spring from some sort of personal animas based on either a personal experience with the president or a prejudice against him for some reason which would seem to stem from his not being “one of us”. Since we can empirically dispense with any sort of personal experience the motivation must be the latter or some sort of ingrained prejudice against what is most often lied about that being his ethnic background, place of birth, political persuasion, associations, and religion and life experiences.
He has been accused of being a socialist, a communist, a Nazi, un-American, a foreigner, a Muslim, a terrorist and part of an old conspiracy to bring an Islamic president into the White House for the purpose of destroying the constitution and implementing Sharia law in the United States. He has even been accused of being the Anti-Christ of biblical prophecy who will bring about Armageddon and the end of the world as we know it. The most troubling aspect of this conspiracy of lies is that it is being spread, supported and kept alive by intelligent, educated, articulate representatives of our government and some of those who would be president themselves. The latest iteration of this is the Mike Huckabee statements and concurrence of Bill O’reilly this last week. This is just one example of literally hundreds if not thousands of instances where people of note have told and retold these lies when they certainly know them to be lies for their own nefarious purposes whatever they may be. The fact that this activity has been utilized primarily by the Republican Party from their leaders on down to the lowliest tea party member is not lost on even the most casual observer and does not serve them well in terms of the trust, respect and confidence it engenders in even the honest conservative much less the truly independent voter or democrat.
It is truly troubling that any aggregate of nationally prominent people would resort to such blatant mis-appropriation of the truth for any reason including politics or outright prejudice. It speaks volumes about what they perceive the intelligence of their constituency’s to be and also about their own morality and personal character. It points to a lessening of our national character and morality as well. It is disheartening to think we have become a nation of so naïve, apathetic, prejudiced and or ignorant individuals that our leaders think such a tactic will work and that in fact it has convinced twenty-seven percent of us that the lie is the truth because it is what we want to believe. It must negatively affect our standing in the world wide community when people who once admired us for our political achievements now see us exposed for a country that rather than have open and honest debates on the issues we face together sees one party trying to assassinate the character of our president with lies the whole world knows to be lies and a measurable percentage of our populous drinking the cool-aid.
To the extent that this program of biographical alteration is a political strategy designed along with an obvious attempt to keep the economy in decline until after the 2012 elections and beyond should President Obama win this is a truly frightening scenario we are being subjected to and one has to wonder what the ulterior motivations of those pulling the strings are. Is it really just as simple as a misguided attempt to take back the White House or when seen in combination with the rights job killing budget proposal, union busting activities, intent to destroy social programs and the ongoing export of our manufacturing base is there some more nefarious purpose afoot? One can only guess at the ultimate outcome of a clean sweep by the republicans but a world where America has no concern for the environment, no regulatory oversight of our food production, financial industry and corporate malfeasance is troubling to say the very least. The right will given the opportunity kill social security, Medicaid, un-employment insurance, food stamps, and any other social program they can get their hands on. The fact that they have been not only willing but remarkably successful in pursuing these goals by means fair and most foul should be of paramount concern to all Americans liberal or conservative.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fort Sumter, Wisconsin

Though not the very first shot fired by the republicans in their war on the middle class the attempt by Governor Walker to eradicate collective bargaining from the rights of the public employee unions in Wisconsin is like Fort Sumter in that it is the first full scale assault on the middle class. The real agenda is to destroy the unions and thereby render them ineffective as a finance source for progressive causes, freedom and liberty. I call it a full scale assault because of the wide spread support he is receiving from the right at all levels including the following.
Glen Beck called teachers useful idiots and accused the police of having thrown in with the socialist on his radio show today. Previously Beck had made the following comments and as everyone knows he thinks any American standing up for their rights is guilty of hastening the day when an Islamic Caliphate takes over in the world.
Beck: Union Members "Think That They Want What's Fair. But Who Is Moving The Chess Pieces In Wisconsin?"
Beck: Union Leaders Are "Using You Just As Political, Radicalized Islam Is Using The Average Person On The Street"
Beck: Wisconsin Protests Are "About The People Looking To Create Chaos On The Backs Of The Worker"
Beck Begs Union Members: "You've Got To Decide. ... Your Unions Are Anti-Western Way Of Life"
Glenn Becks ranting and raving does not fool most Americans who are intelligent enough to know when someone is setting them up for a fall and trying to steal their right to self-determination. His simply a tool employed by the right wing media to pull the wool over the eyes of the intellectually challenged.
Further proof of the full scale effort to defeat the unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere is evinced by the Republican Governors Association (RGA) starting a website in support of Governor Walker’s assault on the middle class. The following is a direct quote lifted from the RGA article, “Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is in the middle of what will be a defining moment for our country and the conservative movement,” said RGA Chairman Rick Perry. “It is essential that we stand with Governor Walker and show political leaders throughout the country that America is ready to take on its toughest political challenges.”
If one looks at the front page of the Republican National Committee one sees headlines screaming about the union’s ability to raise money for the Democrats and how they have to be stopped. That is what this fight is really all about but rather than stand on principal and tell the American people what the fight is all about the republicans would rather climb a tree and shout falsehoods about the budget and the deficit and out of control spending.
The one thing that republicans have going for them now that the democrats don’t is an experienced board of directors in the Koch brothers, Doug Coe and others including Robert Murdoch that bring an ability to craft a strategy that looks downstream and brings some cohesion to the party line messaging and hyperbole. Truth is not a value they hold dear so it takes a fair amount of skepticism, research and common sense to ferret out the truth or the wheat from the chaff so to speak.
Most economist agree that the slash and burn budget cutting proposed by the republicans will slow the economy and cost us around a million jobs in the next year alone. Their reaction is basically tough stuff it’s what is necessary to save us from the democrats who have brought us to this debacle in just two short years. Anyone with any common sense and a modicum of intelligence knows that that is just not true. President Bush starting with a surplus free gratis from President Clinton in eight years handed off to President Obama two wars, crippling declines in job growth, a full blown recession and an economy heading for the cliff if something was not done immediately. The fact is though that the board of directors and their crony’s behind the scenes are only interested in making ever more money and gaining ever more control of the world-wide chess board upon which they play.
If it is cheaper to build in Mexico, China, Singapore or on the moon that is where the factories and jobs are going to be. These men have no loyalty to any flag, country, constitution, people or place. They truly operate on a world-wide stage and it makes no difference to them who gets hurt, lives in poverty, is denied basic human rights or is swept off the chess board in the process of playing the game for the maximum profit and the thrill of waging almost god like power over the planet. In America the Republican Party has become their bought and paid for minions and stooges who vote as told and discourse as instructed. They have their own planet wide propaganda arm and public relations entity and they are quite good at manipulating the thought processes of hardworking people who are just trying to survive by pandering to their real and imaginary fears, creating fears where none exists and manufacturing out of whole cloth falsehoods and prevarications intended to mislead them.
The Citizens United decision has given them the ability to use their virtually unlimited funds to subvert our governmental process, support those politicians who can be bought and finance any political effort without regard to fairness, equality or ethical consideration. Make no mistake this is a war and the right has the money, votes, propaganda, will and ability to win it going away. The only thing still standing in their way is you and I. Our collective ability and willingness to dig out the truth spread it around and stand our ground is the only thing in their way. We are under assault and the cannon balls are caroming off of our rights and liberties. It is time to man the walls and drive the invader back.

Who Cares About Jobs???

Jobs, one might consider them an important and fundamental underpinning of the ability to climb up through the levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs toward self actualization. There are certain necessary tools, attributes, abilities and situational dynamics that are required to be either innate to ones being or part of one’s situation in life before one can attain such lofty philosophical and psychological heights as those pertaining to self actualization. A job certainly counts as one of the things you need at the bottom of the needs ladder when your primary concern is leaving the paternal nest and starting a life of your own. As you progress through life and take on more and more responsibility for others such as a mate and possibly even a family the quality and security of your job becomes more and more important. In your later life when the children are raised and there is a tendency to want to reduce the amount of stress in your life and maybe even pursue your definition of self actualization the job or jobs you held will determine if you are financially able to do that. The point of all the foregoing is that everybody cares about jobs; everybody that is except John Boehner and the Republican Party.
Prior to the mid-term election John (cries-a-lot) Boehner’s favorite mantras came in two basic varieties and they were both related to the importance he and his compadre’s on the right attached to the national jobs outlook. One was that every breath President Obama took was a “jobs killing” attack on the American economy. The other was his oft repeated question of the president “Mr. President where are the jobs?” It seem now though that Mr. Boehner has had a sudden change of heart and direction from the one he promised he would take us in. Having become the speaker of the house Mr. Boehner has decided that everything from a woman’s right to reproductive healthcare and deficit reduction is much more urgently important than a jobs program. In fact his current attitude on jobs is that if we lose almost a million jobs this year “so be it” he says. When Mr. Boehner made the so be it quip he was responding to a question relative to only two hundred thousand jobs. Since then it has become painfully obvious that the republicans are the ones who are trying to retard if not destroy job growth in America.
One has to question why the republicans would try to subvert the economic growth we have enjoyed over the last two years as slow and as anemic as it has been. We have turned the corner on job growth, and the president has proposed some public and private sector programs that will if implemented continue that trend and strengthen it over time. Certainly we have the immediate and pressing need to both create jobs and sustain our economic growth. The president’s proposals relative to repairing and replacing aged and crumbling infrastructure, installing high speed rail service, investing in alternative energy and creating new industries that are ecologically sound certainly contribute to that scenario. So again why would the republican’s oppose job creation and tout a spending cuts program that between now and the next election will stall the economic recovery and cost us a million jobs more or less?
As is often the case in politics the answer is in the question. They currently have no one in their stable with the personality, intelligence, track record, charisma or following to challenge President Obama in 2012 if he is successful in turning around the economy and creating jobs even if at a rate lower and slower that we would all like to see. So when you are more beholden to the special interest who finance your existence and pay for your votes than you are to your conscience and the best interest of the people who elected you and you know you are going to lose an election that is held straight up you go to Plan B. Plan B is to subvert the economy as much as is necessary to weaken the president enough that they feel they have shot at defeating him. I don’t want to even consider what they would contemplate for Plan C if B fails them. I am just thankful that the secret service is not squeamish about considering such things.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Carpe diem

Liberals should seize the day by reorganizing the Progressive Party first organized by Teddy Roosevelt in 1909. It could serve admirably as a liberal rejoinder to the Tea Party and help keep the Democratic Party from slipping even farther to the right then it already has. The Tea Party has had a definite effect in propelling the Republican Party farther to the right and created an impetus and momentum that is dragging the left with it. Had the Democrats had such a party to deal with, the healthcare bill would very likely have had a single payer option and President Obama’s first two years would have been even more productive than they were.
The recent events in the Middle East and Wisconsin have sparked a renewed interest in public demonstrations and protest not seen in this country since the Vietnam War with the exception of the Tea Party rally’s and town hall meetings inspired by President Obama’s election. The union busting agenda of Governor Walker in Wisconsin has gone a long way toward unifying the middle and working class and convincing them of the national scope of the war being waged against them by the movement conservatives. It has identified the self-styled aristocracy that is the power behind the throne in the personages of the Koch brothers and with a concerted effort on the part of real died in the wool liberals the rest such as Doug Coe, Roger Ailes, Robert Murdoch and their ilk can be exposed to the same sunshine and notoriety.
Such a party or movement would serve to keep the blue dog democrats in line or replace them with real liberals loyal to progressive principals and values. It would generate a level of enthusiasm and excitement equivalent to or greater than that which the Tea Party has generated on the right and revitalize the liberal base coming in to the 2012 elections. Given the money that the Citizen’s United case will allow movement conservatives to throw at that election it is imperative that the left take advantage of every opportunity to energize its base and strengthen its position in the minds of American voters.
Strangely enough as an offshoot of the Republican Party the platform of the Progressive Party was one sure to be comfortably familiar to today’s liberal democrat. It included national healthcare, social insurance for the elderly, disabled and unemployed, farm relief, limited injunctions relative to strikes and workers compensation. It also called for giving woman the right to vote, judicial recall and the passage of laws by initiative and referendum. One of the strongest and most controversial aspects of the platform was the oversight, regulation and restraint placed on corporation and the strict limits and disclosure of corporate campaign contributions.
In my mind it is an idea whose time has come and the liberal media and organizations including the unions and major donors and contributors would be well served to organize and support a real grass roots movement based on the Progressive Party. There are times as any smoke eater will tell you when your best option is to fight fire with fire and this is one of those times. Some on the right will remind us that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and that is OK too. Like them or not the Tea Party has strengthened the rights hand and pushed them even farther to the right as it was designed to do. In this case imitation is definitely called for.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Arrogance Unbridled

It is amazing how fast the right started moving on abortion after the mid-terms. For all the urgency touted about how quick they were going to go after creating jobs and the deficit I still have not heard one word about a jobs program and their idea of fixing the budget is more tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations and the rest is placed on the backs of what’s left of the middle class and the working poor. With lightening speed though the first thing they went after was a way to impede the healthcare many woman relied on Planned Parenthood to provide and the drafting of some of the most terrifying, draconian and mindless laws designed to redefine rape, criminalize miscarriages and setup a repeal of Roe V Wade which they can probably accomplish now that they are in charge of the Supreme Court as well as the house.
God only knows what weird psychosis and personality defects infect the minds of men intent on intruding on a decision that should be left up to the conscience of the affected woman and her higher power if she has one. I am sure it is the same type of mindset that entices them to cheat on their wives, get lost on the Appalachian Trail, hire their mistresses, cruise Craig’s List for transgender dates, pursue their pages and arrogantly assume that they have the right to legislate morality and criminalize anything they consider sins, except their own.
Men do not and cannot understand the thoughts, feelings, fears, and values that a woman brings to a decision that she well knows will stay with her the rest of her life. We do not get pregnant and are not subject to that result from attacks on our persons, unintentional indiscretions or failures of commercial birth control methods. We can’t possibly put ourselves in her shoes relative to all the considerations a woman with an unwanted pregnancy must look at and weigh nor is it our place to tell her what she can or cannot do with her body.
Rather than take such a medieval approach to this conundrum the government should strengthen and support Planned Parenthood which will help prevent some say up to six hundred thousand unwanted pregnancies a year. They should offer woman with unwanted pregnancies more options for adoptions and if a woman decides to terminate a pregnancy they should offer counseling, prayers and beyond that they should mind their own business.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Selling of the Supreme Court

It is hardly surprising but nevertheless extremely disappointing to learn that Justice Clarence Thomas and Atonin Scalia have sold out the country by refusing to recuse themselves from the Citizens’ United case due to their close association with the groups that both brought the case and benefited from their votes. Additionally, Justice Thomas’s wife was the CEO of an organization that had a vested interest in the result. Federal ethics laws would have required the justices to recuse themselves from this case for either of those two reasons and because neither situation was common knowledge at the time they saw no need take the high road.

The organization Common Cause has written to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to investigate the matter and if appropriate to petition the court to vacate the decision. It is not my intention to lay out the facts all over again and I would urge anyone interested in the story to look at the Common Cause website where the facts and supporting documentation are expertly and coherently laid out.

In theory the Supreme Court is a non-partisan and a-political branch of government whose purpose is to adjudicate the cases brought before it in terms of their constitutionality. Unlike lower courts they do not consider themselves finders of fact or arbiters of the truth. Their sole purpose is to ensure that the lower court’s rulings are in line constitutionally in order to protect the integrity of that most precious of documents. Unfortunately that theory has transmogrified into an ever more politically based institution responding to its various constituencies in a very aggressive and activist political manner.

The process of getting a nominee approved for the high court has evolved into a witch hunt centered on the candidate’s political philosophies and ignoring their judicial qualifications for the most part. Partisan bickering over their perceived judicial temperament or how they are likely to vote on various issues seems to be the only consideration. Liberals want liberal judges and conservatives want conservative judges and their constitutional knowledge and qualifications be dammed.

Over time that attitude has divided the court in a way that it is consistently described by how it leans one way or the other politically. Decisions that are decided five to four are typical of a divided court and some now think of the court more as a super legislature than a judicial bench considering legalities. This is a frightening and intolerable situation that threatens the very fabric of our constitution and the principals on which we were founded.

To be sure the sitting justices are human and prone to have predilections, prejudices’ and political beliefs that influence their views and opinions. One would hope though that through a process of conversation, argument and debate with their sole purpose being the fairest and finest finding of constitutionally appropriate applicability they would be capable of putting personal preference aside for a more judicial approach.

There is no doubt that Justices Scalia and Thomas should have recused themselves and that if they had done so the ruling would have been different, in fact it would have been four to three against. That two justices of our highest court would rule on a case where they are closely involved or benefiting financially from their involvement with either of the litigants is just unconscionable on their part and should be resolved through impeachment. Once trust is broken it is irrevocably broken especially with one so highly placed.

It would be an open invitation to those people and entities that would not hesitate to compromise a sitting Supreme Court justice either financially or through strictly ideological postulation if we let this impropriety pass unpunished. The court needs to be put on notice that if any member transgresses the ethical, moral or legal boundaries’ they are expected to observe and respect that we will quickly move to terminate their privilege and regulate them to history’s garbage dump.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Let Us Hope It Is Contagious

The Egyptian people have won a stunning victory in their spontaneous revolution and pursuit of democracy. They are to be congratulated and have every right to feel vindicated in their decision to pursue their goals through peaceful mass protest. They showed an amazing amount of courage, unity, spontaneity, grace and resolve under enormous pressure from the government to cease and desist their demonstrations. They should be held up and are a shining light for any other people wanting to throw off the yoke of a tyrannical government.
Their journey toward a free and just society imbued with the necessary and appropriate democratic reforms has just begun. There are as yet many unanswered questions involving how the Egyptian Army and Secret Police and all of the other stake holders will interact to bring about meaningful and lasting change. I am confident though that any move to short change these wonderfully courageous people will be met with another outpouring of resolve and determination to be completely free and represented by a government of their choosing.
Hopefully their example will prompt others to emulate their decision to be free and demand a democratic government that represents the will of the people. If done thoughtfully and with intelligence and grace like in Egypt such changes can be made while preserving cultural institutions like monarchies and existing bureaucracies that are functional and effective. England comes to mind as an example. The Queen does not rule but still has historical prestige and influence.
In rewriting their constitution one would hope they would copy liberally from ours which is the finest ever written and make a few modifications that would make it better and more culturally acceptable to them. In particular they should include term limits and be very careful about the laws governing campaign financing. They will probably also want to combine secular, Christian and Sharia law in setting up their judicial system to reflect what is already in place and working.
They may choose to model their new constitution more on the French example since their judicial system primarily follows the French legal system in terms of secular law. The great thing is that they have the opportunity to start from scratch and build a government based on the best of every democracy and eliminating the mistakes others have made. Term limits and campaign finance come to mind as an example.
The Egyptians have given us a thrilling eighteen days of historical achievement and have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they richly deserve the freedom they seek because they are willing to die for it. They have come together as one people to demand and take their rightful place among freedom loving peoples and nations. We should take heart that their courage and actions will inspire further revolutions and that the day when tyranny is abolished on this planet is closer now than it was before.
A planet full of free peoples wanting the same things and working together to achieve them is a utopian dream to be sure but the Egyptians just brought us one step closer. Maybe someday we will evolve to the point where our common goals will bring us together in an effort to eradicate disease, hunger, poverty and war. In moments like this one can almost imagine a planet where we work together to heal the environment, create great literature and art, solve the mysteries of the universe and live in peace.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It Is About Freedom

The current struggle being waged by the Egyptians is a wonderful example of a people finally finding the will and determination to be free. It is not as Glen (the sky is falling) Beck and others think the beginning of a fundamentalist uprising to implement Sharia Law on a global basis. It would seem to me that both sides of the aisle and the administration should have already come down on the side of the people of Egypt if only because what they are demonstrating for is closely aligned with the principals and values our nation was founded on.
Despite the fact that we have supported a dictator for thirty some years in the mistaken belief that there would never be any consequences to our turning our backs on our professed values and engaging in blackmail as a way to keep Egypt out of conflict with Israel we owe it to the Egyptian people and our own founders to support their desire for freedom and a democratic form of government. We either believe in democracy for all or we don’t really believe in it at all.
The second sentence in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the very next sentence it says governments are instituted among men to secure those rights and that they obtain their just powers from the consent of the governed. We either still believe that or we don’t. You can’t qualify those principals or change them for some one way and for others another way.
So if we really believe that “all men are created equal” there should be no discussion about whether or not we support the Egyptian people in what they are so courageously trying to do, win their freedom. In a lot of our nation building efforts around the world our government has talked about setting people free. Bush proclaimed Iraq free after he invaded it and said that even though no WMD were found the gift of freedom we gave the Iraqi people was worth the cost in lives, money and material. It is still an open question in my mind if Iraq will remain free after we pull out all combat troops and the Iraqi people become responsible for their own freedom and each other.
Freedom is not a gift you can bestow on someone who has not evolved intellectually and morally to the point where they are willing to die for it. It sounds like a cliché but freedom is not free. It requires “a willingness to pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty” to quote from the inaugural address of John F Kennedy. The Iraqis have so far not shown that they are ready for freedom but the tens of thousands of Egyptians that have lived in Tahrir Square in Cairo for the last two weeks surely have convinced me that they are.
President Obama today gave his most forceful endorsement yet to the Egyptian people and called for the Egyptian government to give meaningful and concrete answers leading to free and fair elections and democracy. There are to be sure practical considerations to consider in how we respond to this situation but not supporting these people in their quest for their god given rights is not an option that would leave us with any credibility or honor.
Should they be successful and they will be eventually their success will help to enlighten those who are denied their liberty and freedom by their repressive regimes and governments. Should the Egyptian government resort to a violent repression of the people in the streets they will only postpone the inevitable. The cauldron of freedom is boiling in Cairo and it will surely boil over if they create more martyrs and try to delay the changes the people are demanding. A civil war is not only possible it is probable if the authorities don’t agree to the righteous demands of the people.
Hopefully that won’t happen and there will be a peaceful transfer of power to a more democratic form of government willing to respond to the just demands of the governed.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The War Party

The Republican Party shall henceforth and forever more be known by myself as the War Party until they refudiate (their word not mine) their waging of class warfare on the citizenry of this country. Their current chief Cries-a-Lot will have to foreswear his warfare on the average citizen on behalf of the corporate power mongers and wealthy illuminati who are trying to transfer the cost of living in this country entirely to the proletariat.
Their primary aim even over and above ridding themselves of President Obama is to increase the inequality between themselves and the average citizen who they see as only fit to labor on their behalf for the rewards and compensation they deem appropriate. In their pursuit of personal enrichment they have and will utilize wars, police actions and nation building as a means to an end. There is no limit to the human suffering they will sanction in pursuit of riches and power.
They will if allowed destroy and eliminate all aspects of social conscience from the operation and implementation of governments under their control both state and federal. They will if we allow it dismantle Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment Compensation and the Food Stamp program. They operate from a belief in every person for him or herself and the devil take the slow, sick, infirm and aged.
They have amassed a great army of media and corporate conglomerates that fund their insidious attack on democracy and social programs designed to ameliorate the suffering of the weak, dispossessed, infirm, sickly and otherwise physically, spiritually and mentally challenged among us. They would have us return back to a time when the old and infirm or young and useless were left under a tree to make their peace with the great spirit while the tribe moved on to better ground.
Their sole motive in life is ever larger profits and self enrichment based on the theory that whoever dies with the most toys and money wins. They feel no responsibility to their fellow man and actually have nothing but distain for those who do not affirm their world view and values. Protestations on their part aside their only aim is to dismantle all governments and replace them with a board of directors of their choosing. Unfortunately given an apathetic electorate and enough time they have a very good chance of success in that endeavor.
They have over time gained a majority of activist judges on the Supreme Court with which they plan to prevent implementation of any progressive initiatives passed into law such as the recent healthcare law and further their aims and ambitions. As of this writing and since Bush v Gore the court has proven to be solidly partisan in its findings and decisions. This combined with unlimited monetary clout and media concurrence and propaganda at their disposal make them a formidable foe of the common man.
Their fear mongering war chiefs like Glen(The Sky is Falling)Beck, Rush(The Imbecile)Limbaugh and John(Crooked Tongue)Hannity along with other supposedly more journalistically inclined braves and squaws from the Fox Nation and other right wing media outlets keep up the attack with a daily barrage of fear mongering, half truths and outright prevarications that even include using the wrong film clips and other disreputable acts that assault the truth and denigrate all journalist who fail to call them on it.
They appeal to the paranoid and fundamentalist among us who believe it is their responsibility to help god bring about the biblical prophecies relative to the end of the world and the second coming. Most of these people are arrogant enough to believe that their god welcomes or needs their assistance in furthering his aims and achieving his goals.
As time and talent allow I will in the future attempt to elucidate my feelings and believes with irrefutable facts and figures proving the depth and evil tenor of what Hillary Clinton rightly called “A vast right wing conspiracy.” The truth is out there still for those with the desire to seek it and wisdom to know it when they see it, at least for now anyway.

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's a No Brainer

While driving home this evening I heard a story on NPR about military veterans with traumatic brain injuries sustained in combat being unable to receive cognitive rehabilitation therapy. It seems the pentagon has decided that the therapy is experimental, unproven and more to the point too expensive. Of course when asked directly their spokesman denies that cost is in any way a consideration. Such denials amount to the pentagon urinating on these veterans and telling them it’s raining.

With the rare exception like the world wars where we were responding to evil on a massive scale I have always felt that at best war is a failure of leadership and diplomacy and often and at worst something fought for profit, power and prestige. In America we have fallen into the habit of squandering the flower of our youth in meaningless and immoral wars fought not by the whole country but rather by the very small percentage of young people we are willing to sacrifice on the altar of depraved indifference. It is an undeniably idiotic waste of life that serves no purpose and obtains no result that could not have been achieved peacefully.

This rant however is not about the futility and stupidity of war and the immorality of those who send our children off to die uselessly. Rather it is about the debt we owe those patriots who having drunk the cool aid, placed their hand over their heart and swore to do or die for mom and apple pie. The lucky ones come home unscathed physically, mentally or emotionally. The unlucky come home in a box or with life altering wounds to their bodies or minds or both. Their lives are forever changed and the challenges they must overcome in pursuit of a normal quality of life are enormous.

Behind them on battlefields most of us will never see they have left limbs, blood and brain power. Those who are critically wounded face a life far different from the one they could have had if they had ignored the call of their country. Their lives and the lives of their families and friends are forever changed and not for the better. Simple task like eating, bathing, dressing oneself and mobility become obstacles to overcome and challenges to master.

Playing with one’s children can be limited or impossible if one can still have them. In some cases love making, bus riding and counting change are all on the other side of a hill that looks like a mountain. The normal activities of daily living that the rest of us still take for granted have for many veterans become onerous, difficult and sometimes impossible. Some even hopefully most will be embraced by their families, friends and communities. They will be cared for, advocated for and loved by their loved ones with differing degrees of success and reintegration into their former lives.

Some won’t have families to return to and some will lose loved ones who cannot deal with the new reality they face. Beyond counseling there is not much anyone can do about the effects their injuries have on their relationships. It is unconscionable though that we might stand by while they are deprived of any and all therapies, treatments and modalities of recovery and rehabilitation that might ease their pain and improve their quality of life.

They have put their lives on the line and been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of losing their lives for us. How can we not go to any limit or bear any cost necessary to restoring the highest possible quality of life to these willing heroes who have given so much in our name. Experimental or not if the proscribed therapy has a one percent chance of restoring cognitive or physical function to the least degree we owe it to these men and woman. Two wrongs do not a right make. We were wrong to send them off to war in the first place. Lets not compound that by refusing to care for their wounds now.

The Sky is Falling!

The lack of innate intelligence enjoyed by the average individual or at least not utilized even if possessed is a god send to charlatans of every ilk. I have long postulated that you cannot go broke underestimating the sheer stupidity of the average human. One only has to look at the quality and efficacy of the typical product sold on the typical infomercial. Surely individuals with even a modicum of common sense see through the false claims, exaggerations and complete nonsense used to tout these modern day versions of old fashioned snake oil.

Of particular benefit to modern day prophets of doom and masters of the art of prevarication like Glenn (the sky is falling) Beck and Rush (the imbecile) Limbaugh is the prevalence of such either intellectually deprived or lazy political neophytes either naive or paranoid enough to eat the pabulum and drink the cool aid of their dishonest discourse. There never in history has been a dearth of people possessed of stupidity so sublime that it passes for fervently held hopes and beliefs. Our species is replete with such and they are the repast of such wolves as are among us.

Back in the day your average snake oil salesperson knew better than to stay around too long and was constantly on the move from village to village and town to town. The harm they did was for the most part non-injurious to society as a whole. They took advantage of a small percentage of the population and moved on to greener pastures. While they may have occasionally been guilty of fostering off some poisonous remedy they were much more often guilty of selling some foul tasting concoction as a cure for whatever ails the unsuspecting were afflicted with. Today with the shrinking of the globe via instant communication and the increased size of the audience such is not the case.

One does not have to be mentally ill to be influenced by the likes of Beck, Limbaugh and the ultra hard core right wing corporate power mongers that stable, feed and encourage them. They live only to use innuendo, half truths and outright lies to mislead, misinform and befuddle those over whom they hold sway. People who we all love and admire are besotted with their lies and willing to hold their spewing as gospel because it feeds their fear, paranoia and belief that if it weren’t for whatever boogeyman is being battled today their present and future lives would be perfect. They are willing to swallow anything regardless of how foul tasting that holds the promise of curing their feeling of fear, futility, and incompetence.

They prey on the mentally weak, the fearful and the stupid of which there is no lack. Limbaugh is a fat, personally undisciplined, florid faced, obtuse and ignorant slob with the table manners of a goat, who has no class, education beyond high school, or ability to hold onto a woman. He is incapable of taking responsibility for any of his numerous gaffs and has the honor and honesty of a pimp. His alter ego is Beck who is just a pretty version of the same sort of immoral pseudo intellectual idiot that Limbaugh is. It is incredible to me that these two abysmal examples of conservative punditry can mold and hold such a large audience as to be economically successful but they do. Only in America could two such poorly educated, unprincipled and devious purveyors of political malarkey find the level of success and media prominence these two reprehensible prevaricators have.

Their seeming success does not speak well of the audience that hangs on every word, believes every lie and takes as gospel every pseudo idea put forth by these men who can’t keep from twisting reality, shading the truth and telling outright lies to the poor besotted people who believe in them. It does not speak well of those who know better that they are allowed to get away with it. Rather than confront their perfidy and taking them to task for every false statement the rest of the media either tries to emulate them or treats them as nothing more than a mild annoyance.

Our society is undoubtedly well able to absorb their dissemination of hate, discontent and prejudicial rhetoric without coming apart at the seams. That does not mean though that there are or never will be any consequences to their constant pattering and hate filled speech filling the airwaves. It would be interesting to know which stations the Tucson shooter had preset on his family car. Regardless of whether he ever listened to them or not a lot of people do.

I would submit that anybody who actually believes and admires these two and others of their ilk is already intellectually and or emotionally compromised. It would only take one mentally unbalanced and paranoid individual who was a fan to make us all sorry we never challenged their facts and conclusions in a way that would drive them from the air.