Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What did he say?

“The opposition (to Obamacare) was really either political or ideological…I don’t think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people’s lives…(Repealing Obamacare) that’s not gonna’ happen.”

“Kentucky Kynect is a website. It was paid for by a $200 and some odd million dollar grant from the federal government. The website can continue. That’s fine. I think its fine to have a website. But in my view, the best interest of the country would be achieved by pulling our Obamacare root and branch…Now regard to Kynect, it’s a state exchange. They can continue it if they like to. They’ll have to pay for it because the grant will be over. And with regard to the Medicaid expansion, that’s a state decision. The states can decide whether to expand Medicaid or not. In our state, the governor decided to expand Medicaid.”

If you follow this space you know that I have often expressed my disdain for the hypocrisy that raises its ugly head whenever right wing ideology crosses paths with reality. The subject today is the Affordable Care Act. Quoted above are the responses from two prominent Republicans forced to justify their efforts to repeal a law that is benefitting millions of Americans.

The first quote comes from Ohio Governor John Kasich. Ohio has historically been a key swing state in national elections. As governor of such an important state, Kasich has a strong voice within the Republican Party. He is in fact entertaining thoughts of running for the White House in 2016. Kasich has frequently stated that the ACA should be repealed. He backed up his rhetoric by refusing to accept the federal funds to expand Medicaid and open up an Ohio insurance exchange. Yet here we have him admitting that the opposition to the ACA is nothing more than politics and that the law is in fact improving people’s lives???

The second quote comes from the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. The response was to a question posed to him during his debate with Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergran- Grimes. McConnell has served as the Republican’s lead attack dog in their efforts to repeal Obamacare. As such McConnell has been asked by the debate moderator to explain what happens to the 500,000 Kentuckians who have found insurance coverage under the state’s popular Kynect Insurance Exchange if he is successful in repealing the ACA. His answer is nonsensical. He says that if the law is repealed the state can decide to whether or not to leave the Kynect website in place. He says that the state can decide whether they want to continue with the expansion of Medicaid. That’s simply not true. If the ACA is repealed, the funding for the website, the Medicaid expansion and the Kynect Insurance Exchange all go away…leaving 500,000 Kentuckians uninsured. Pressed again to explain what happens to the 500,000 Kentuckians previously covered under the exchange McConnell said: “They’re not going to be covered anyway.” In other words they weren’t covered before the ACA and they’re not covered if the law is repealed. What’s the big deal? When asked what he would offer as a replacement for the ACA McConnell said: “To replace Obamacare would require a step-by-step approach developed in a co-operative way with Members in a committee led process.” Translation…there is no plan.

The confluence of right wing ideology and reality...always an interesting phenomenon.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ebola Politics

A recent “Politico” poll shows that 64% of Americans believe that the country is “out of control.”

That sounds about right.

How else do you explain an atmosphere where an Ebola crisis can be turned into a divisive partisan issue?

As you know Congress is in recess until after the mid-terms so that members can spend their time saving their jobs. But several conservative lawmakers have come out of hiding to take political advantage of the fear that is spreading throughout the country.

Their message is simple…and according to polls, effective: “If you fear Ebola vote Republican.” The key talking points focus on the administration’s miss-handling of the crisis, the travel ban and the president’s appointment of a Ron Klain as “Ebola Czar.”

The first point on the Republican agenda is to lay blame. Ebola has reached our shores and the American medical community is neither prepared nor competent to handle the outbreak. Naturally this is the Obama administration’s fault. Never mind that the Republican led House has slashed funding for research, facilities, equipment and supplies that are now woefully inadequate to respond to the crisis.

Next on the list is the travel ban. Republicans are critical of the administration for not imposing a travel ban on flights originating from the African countries that are at the center of the epidemic. Stop those most likely from carrying the virus from reaching our shores. That sounds logical. 67% of Americans agree. Except that every medical expert interviewed has said that a travel ban will not effectively keep the virus from coming to America. In fact medical experts say that it will make it more difficult to identify those who carrying the virus.

The consensus within the medical community is that the key to stopping the spread of Ebola lies in eradicating the disease in Africa. The key to accomplishing that goal is to get enough workers, supplies and equipment into Africa to successfully combat the disease. Experts say that by restricting the ability of aid workers to travel you will diminish the results. Aid workers who would willingly travel to those areas will reconsider out of concerns of not being allowed to return home. Fewer aid workers means that the flow of supplies and equipment into the area is will be hampered. Leaving travel lanes open allows you to better identify, test, treat and quarantine those that may be traveling with the virus. If you impose a travel ban these people will find other ways of entering the country undetected; spreading the virus as they go.

Finally there is the objection to the president’s appointment of Ron Klain as Ebola Czar. Klain’s responsibility will be to co-ordinate the efforts of the numerous government agencies working on the Ebola crisis. Klain is a political operative with no medical experience. He is a member of Obama inner circle in whom the president has a great deal of trust. Certainly the choice of a non-medical political friend is questionable. Perhaps the president would have been better served finding a non-partisan medical expert that could appeal to both sides of the aisle. That said the best person to co-ordinate the fight against Ebola would be the Surgeon General.

The problem is we don’t have one.

Republicans have blocked the president’s nominee for the post, Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, for over a year. Why…because the NRA does not approve of Dr. Murthy’s views on gun control. Dr. Murthy has expressed his support of a ban on assault weapons and limitations on ammunition; all taboo in the eyes of the NRA. The NRA has threatened to “score” the vote on his confirmation. Translation…anyone voting to support Dr. Murthy’s nomination will feel the wrath of the all powerful NRA come election time. Sixteen month later we are still waiting.

This all boils down to a simple political message: Ebola is scary. The Democrat president is incapable of handling it. Vote Republican. The message is as effective as it is disingenuous.

And it appears that it will play a key role in the outcome of this year’s elections.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

It's Time For Straight Talk

Sometimes I think we Americans live in a bubble. We go from day to day wrapped up in our own little social media world, oblivious to events happening outside our own sphere of influence. We seem to think the rights, protections and freedoms that we Americans inherit at birth make us somehow immune to the horrors that face those unfortunate souls that are not “US.”

Consequently we are stunned when the proverbial sh-t hits the fan. “How could this possibly happen?” It’s why we are dumbstruck when we see and American journalist beheaded or an American tourist thrown into jail for proselytizing. We assume that our American passports will grant us fair and equal treatment and we believe that the oceans on our borders will keep us safe from all the evil in the world. It is that bubble that has caught us apparently unprepared for the virus that has found its way to our shores.

The more we learn about the circumstances surrounding the three confirmed cases of Ebola in Dallas the more worrisome it gets. We now know that 76 health care workers treated the initial Ebola patient; Thomas Eric Duncan. We now know that many of those health care workers were not wearing protective clothing because the clothing was not available due to budgetary constraints. We know that they were not kept in isolation but were being “monitored” by the CDC and the hospital staff. We know that “monitored” means that they were asked to check their temperature regularly and be aware of any symptoms of the virus. We know they were permitted to come and go as they pleased, use mass transit and even leave the county. We know that when one of the care gives contracted a low grade fever she called the CDC, identified herself as one of the monitored care givers, and asked if she could take her scheduled flight from Cleveland to her home in Dallas. The official statement from the CDC was that “she was NOT told that she should NOT board her flight.” We know that the passengers on that plane along with the people she came in contact with in Cleveland are now being “monitored.” We know that the CDC and the hospital in Dallas where the all three patients work or were treated have admitted that they made serious mistakes in handling these cases.

What we don’t know is how many more Ebola cases are out there.

The Ebola outbreak in Africa has been front page news for weeks. Yet for some reason we seem to be caught unawares of the possibility that the virus could find its way to our shores. The CDC has been telling us for weeks that it’s no big deal. I heard one prominent health care administrator tell a cable news anchor that: “The real threat to Americans is ISIS not Ebola.” Ebola wasn’t a big deal in our little bubble; just another something happening someplace else.

Now that the Ebola virus is here all hell is breaking loose. “How can this be happening?”

This morning I watched former Bush 43 senior staffer Nicole Wallace and Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski engage in a shreakfest over the events in Dallas. Wallace wondered aloud how we could be so unprepared given that 20 years ago the movie “Outbreak” detailed in living color the events happening in Dallas today. Perhaps basing one’s domestic policy on feature films was commonplace in the Bush administration!

Mitt Romney weighed in. As you might expect he blamed the whole thing on the president. Romney criticized the president for not securing our borders and demanded that the president order airports to refuse flights from Ebola infected areas in Africa. So to all those American businessmen, military personnel and aid workers currently operating in Africa…you aren’t coming home. Sorry about your luck!

The nonsense goes on and on and on. It makes my teeth hurt.

The truth of the matter is this is serious. The government needs to stop sugar coating things to avoid a panic and tell the American people the truth. Because the only thing that can stop the spread of this virus is the cooperation of the masses. And in order to do that they need information…not Pablum. They need to understand the seriousness of the disease, how it spreads, the symptoms that signal infection and what to do and not do if infection occurs. This information needs to be disseminated over and over and over again…from multiple sources…until the threat is removed.

Remember we Americans live in a bubble. Most Americans probably don’t know that a threat exits. It will take more than a sound bite or a few words crawling across the bottom of the “Walking Dead” to get our attention.

It all starts with the Obama administration. The president needs to formulate a plan to educate the public. Straight talk and education are the key; backed by adequate resources in the places needed.

It is not Obama’s fault that the virus has reached our shores. But it most certainly will be on him if the virus is not held in check.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

This & That!

EBOLA – There is news this morning that yet another Dallas health care worker has tested positive for the Ebola virus. The yet unidentified nurse is the second health care worker to have contracted the disease while treating Thomas Eric Duncan.
CDC Director Thomas Frieden lamented not having sent a more robust rapid response team to the Dallas hospital immediately upon learning of the first Ebola case. “That might have prevented this infection,” Frieden said. Frieden promised that in the future the CDC will send a rapid response team to any hospital in the nation that diagnoses another Ebola patient.
Since news of the Ebola outbreak in Africa first broke Director Frieden has been dismissing any concerns of the CDC’s ability to prevent and/or contain a similar outbreak here in the US. “We know how to do this,” Frieden repeated flippantly. Apparently not!

FOLLOW THE MONEY - Political polls may tell you that a particular race is too close to call…anybody’s game to win. But if you want to know how party officials really feel about their candidate’s chances all you have to do is follow the money.
With the mid-term elections just days away party officials are making crucial decisions about where their advertising bucks can have the most impact. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has spent over $2 million advertising dollars to help Democratic hopeful Alison Lundergan- Grimes unseat incumbent Mitch McConnell. Yesterday the DSCC pulled their ads; essential conceding the race to McConnell. That’s too bad. Lundergan-Grimes had been giving Senate Minority Leader McConnell a real run for his money. Recent polls had her trailing McConnell by only two points; well within the margin of error. But in their one and only debate Lundergan-Grimes stumbled a bit when she refused to disclose who she had voted for in the last presidential election on the basis of her constitutional right to privacy. She had the chance to right herself the next day but chose instead to double down on her response. Apparently that was enough for the DSCC which decided its funds were better spent elsewhere.
Mitch McConnell is the poster boy for everything that is wrong in Washington. His hypocrisy is palpable. For 30 years he has preached small government politics while reeling in billions in federal pork for his state. As Senate Minority Leader his highly publicized efforts to stop Barak Obama’s agenda has been instrumental in bringing progress and economic growth in this country to a standstill. If ever there were a politician that should NOT be returned to Washington it is Mitch McConnell. Lundergan-Grimes ran a good race. She just couldn’t push that message over the finish line.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pope Francis Is A Rock Star!

“(Gay people) “have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community”… (Gay couples) “Provide each other mutual aid to the point of sacrifice and precious support in the life of the partners…”

“Divorced people who have not remarried should be invited to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their state. The local community and pastors have to accompany these people with solicitude, particularly when there are children involved or they find themselves in a serious situation of poverty.”

“In the same way the situation of the divorced who have remarried demands a careful discernment and an accompaniment full of respect avoiding any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against.”

“A new sensitivity in today’s pastoral consists in grasping the positive reality of civil weddings, and having pointed out our differences, of cohabitation. It is necessary that in the ecclesial proposal, while clearly presenting the ideal, we also indicate the constructive elements in those situations that do not yet or no longer correspond to that ideal…Pastoral accompaniment should always start with these positive aspects.”

Holy Roman Catholic Church - Synod 14 – Eleventh General Assembly

When I read these words I could feel a broad smile spread across my face. For with these words the Catholic Church entered the 21st century.

For so long the church of my youth preached that if you were gay, lesbian, transgender, married in a civil ceremony, divorced, divorced and remarried outside the church or cohabitating, you were living in sin…somehow “less than” in the eyes of God. With these words you will no longer be judged by the church you hold so dear. For the first time in my life, my church is following the words of Christ…that we are all sinners and as sinners who are we to judge? Inclusion over exclusion…compassion trumps hate.

Who would have ever dreamed that the Roman Catholic Church would move to the left of the Republican Party?

Yes, this 12 page report is not a final document but rather a work in progress. It will no doubt be debated and edited many times over the next several days. The Church will hold true to its belief in the sanctity of marriage between a man a woman that marriage is preferable to cohabitation and that marriage is absolute. But what we see here is a willingness to accept those who have chosen another path and welcome them into the community. Make no mistake; the release of this document to the public signifies that there is a major sea change taking place in the Vatican.

And the reason for this more inclusive shift is Pope Francis.

Since his election to the papacy by the College of Cardinals, Pope Francis has demonstrated by word and deed that the status quo would no longer be accepted. From shunning the lavish papal apartments favored by his predecessors for more humble living quarters to eliminating much of the ceremonial pomp and circumstance of the office, to riding the shuttle bus back and forth to work with the rest of the conclave; Pope Francis has demonstrated the humility, compassion and inclusiveness that Christ taught us.

I knew that something big was about to happen when I heard Pope Francis' unbelievable response to a reporter's question on the gay community. Pope Francis was recently asked if he approved of homosexuality. The Vicar of Christ answered: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?...Tell me, when God looks at a gay person,does he endorse the exostence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person."
With those few words Pope Francis forever changed the direction and tone of the Catholic Church.

This past Easter the Catholic Church canonized Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. Election to sainthood is the highest honor bestowed by the Church. They will go down in church history as two of the most influential Pontiffs of our time. But they can’t hold a blessed candle to Francis. In his short time in office Pope Francis has done more in word and deed to open the doors of my Church to all who wish to enter than all of his predecessors combined.

Pope Francis is a rock star!

I’m smiling! And hundreds of millions of Catholics are smiling right along with me.

Monday, October 13, 2014

It Didn't Take Long!

The big story this weekend was news that a second individual here in the US had been infected with the Ebola virus.

The unidentified individual was one of 19 health care providers tending to Thomas Eric Duncan. Mr. Duncan, the first Ebola victim here in the US, contracted the virus in West Africa. He passed away last Wednesday at the Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

The circumstances surrounding the health care worker are particularly noteworthy because it marks the first known case on Ebola transmitted within the US.

It didn’t take long.

Once reports of the second Ebola infection began to surface it didn’t take long for political opportunists to weigh in. Most of the political commentary centered on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Some called for a “more aggressive approach.” Others wondered aloud if the CDC “was doing enough.” And of course there were the political conspiracy theorists who want to know “what aren’t they telling us.”

A few politicos went so far as to find a link between the Ebola virus and their pet political obsessions. For example, Mike Huckabee found a way to tie Ebola to illegal immigrants. Mr. Huckabee found a live camera and proceeded to inform anyone who would listen that: “we are in danger of an Ebola epidemic because illegal immigrants infected with the virus are pouring across our southern borders…they’re just walking right in.”

Naturally, this is all the result of the failed policies of the Obama administration.

If you can get past the inflammatory rhetoric there are a number of worthwhile observations to be made.

It is interesting that the folks screaming the loudest for more secure borders, turning away flights from Africa and a more aggressive approach from the CDC are the very same folks who want to “shrink government down to where you can drown it in a bathtub.” The folks who criticize the CDC for not having all the answers are the same folks who routinely cut funding for the research that provides the very answers they seek.

The next time you hear a politician or pundit advocate for reduced funding for research and development; remember these past few days. This is what happens when ideology runs head long into reality.

One more observation…

The news that the Ebola virus has reached our shores is indeed scary. Those who hold positions of power and those who aspire to same should be educating the public and urging folks to remain calm. Those who light their hair on fire and engage in fear mongering for political advantage are not worthy of our support.

Friday, October 10, 2014

It's Cheating!

Yesterday was a very good day if you believe that we should be making it easier…not harder…for all legal citizens to exercise their right to vote.

In the great state of Texas a federal judge struck down the state’s new voter I’d law. The judge called the new law an “unconstitutional poll tax.”

In Wisconsin the Supreme Court weighed in; blocking the Republican state legislature from implementing a law that required voters to present photo identification.

Ever since Barak Obama became our first African American president the Republican Party has engaged in a series of blatantly discriminatory measures designed to prevent such an outcome from ever happening again.

Republicans understand that over 93% of black and minority voters vote Democrat. Since they have no interest in policy issues that are important to this demographic the only way to beat these groups at the polls is to water down their representation and make it harder for them to cast their votes. From redistricting, to stringent voter I’d laws, to reducing early voting hours; the Republican Party has done everything it can to reduce the voting power of these minority groups. The goal is to make voting so difficult to vote that these groups will stay home.

Republicans will tell you that their efforts are designed to address the tsunami of voter fraud that is sweeping the country. That’s a lie. There is not one scintilla of evidence to prove their point. In fact studies throughout the country have proven that incidents of voter fraud are “inconsequential and have had no affect on the outcomes.”

Redrawing voting districts to combine black precincts and thereby lower black representation has nothing to do with voter fraud. Neither does reducing early voting hours in predominantly black districts while white districts remain unchanged.

Let’s just call this what it is. It is a discriminatory, racist, bigoted effort to cheat.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Barak Obama...Fiscal Conservative!

If you follow this space you know that I have a problem with “fiscal conservatism” and those who claim that title. Fiscal conservatism is a myth. It doesn’t exist.

Fiscal conservatives like to talk about reigning in the size of government, cutting spending and reducing the debt and deficits that “endanger our economic security and mortgage our children’s future.” Yet when they ascend to power they implement policies like: unfunded wars, tax cuts without offsets and special interest subsidies; that raise the very debt and deficits they claim to abhor. History tells us that the country’s debt and deficits increase under “fiscally conservative” Republican administrations and decrease under the “reckless spending “Democrats. You can look it up!

President Obama is the latest target of those who don the mantle of fiscally conservative hypocrite.

In the run up to the mid-terms, conservatives have spent tens of millions on attack ads trying to tie local Democrat candidates to “the failed policies of the Obama administration.” “A vote for Democrat candidate XXX is a vote to continue Obama’s reckless spending policies; policies that threaten our children’s future.” (Cue melodramatic music of impending doom.) The ads may be effective on those who don’t know the facts; but their premise is patently false.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is a non-partisan organization charged with determining the economic impact of government policies and referendums. Both Democrats and Republicans ask the CBO to score their legislative efforts. Hosanna’s can be heard from the mountain tops whenever the CBO scores one in their favor.

Yesterday the CBO released a report that says that federal governments’ budget deficit has fallen to $465 billion dollars. To put that number into perspective…President Obama inherited a $1.4 trillion dollar budget deficit from fiscal conservative George W. Bush.

During his six years in office President Obama’s policies have steadily reduced the deficit to the point that it now registers below the 40 year average. According to the CBO, since taking office President Obama’s "reskless free spending" policies have in fact cut our national budget deficit by two thirds.

So when conservatives say that a vote for a local Democrat candidate is a vote to continue Obama’s economic policies…

Barak Obama…fiscal conservative!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Half Right

Do same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry and receive all the legal protections and benefits as their heterosexual counterparts?

The Supreme Court had the opportunity to rule on this important issue. It passed.

By refusing to rule on the matter the Court let stand lower court decisions striking down same-sex marriage in five states: Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Utah. That brings to 30 the number of states where same sex marriages are legal. The number will in all probability increase to 35 relatively quickly. Same sex marriage bans are expected to be overturned in short order in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Arizona.

As you might imagine the LGBT community views yesterdays “non Ruling” as a major victory. I do not share their opinion.

I cannot say with certainty why the Court refused to rule on this matter. Perhaps they saw the sea change occurring in the lower courts and decided to let nature take its course. I personally feel that this conservative Court wanted no part of this decision. So rather than weigh in once and for all on this important issue, they took a pass. By shirking their duty, the Court effectively allowed discrimination against LGBT citizens to continue in 20 states.

If you travel to Washington D.C. you will have the opportunity to view a number of documents that we claim to hold in high regard: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Each of these documents in its own right espouses that as citizens of this country we are all equal and as such entitled to equal rights and protections. Members of the LGBT community are by birth citizens of this country. Like their straight counterparts they are required to pay their taxes and abide by the rules of law. Why then would they not be entitled to the same rights, protections and benefits as their straight counterparts? Why are they treated as somehow “less than.”

The Supreme Court was presented with the opportunity to correct this wrong…to confirm that which stands as the very cornerstone of our democracy…that we are all equal under the law. Through their silence they got it half right. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t have the courage to see it through.

In this country ALL men are created equal.

Not “SOME“…ALL”!

Perhaps one day we will come to fully embrace the concept.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hiding In Plain Sight

The USATODAY editorial board has penned an interesting article on the heretofore unknown affects of big money in politics.

In a few short weeks voters will head to the polls to choose the individuals they want to lead the country over the next several years. According to USATODAY voters in many states will cast their votes without the benefit of watching the candidates engage in a live debate. Historically congressional and gubernatorial races featured at least one face to face debate between the candidates. Not anymore!


Citizens United.

In 2010 the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission effectively allowed corporations, trade associations, non-profit organizations and well heeled bundlers to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into political campaigns. The money is most often used to produce slick radio and television ads that are typically geared toward attacking one’s opponent as opposed to articulating one’s vision and qualifications. Why risk embarrassing yourself in front of a live audience when you can bombard your opponent with half truths and innuendoes from the safety and comfort of your living room?

And it’s not just live debates that are that are going the way of the dinosaur.

Political operatives have understood that they can get their message out to far more voters by way of television and radio than they ever could out on the stump. Now, armed with bucket loads of cash, they can make that happen. Shaking hands and kissing babies is still an integral part of our politics. But it is far more effective economically and far safer politically to run the ads and hide behind the curtain.

I understand that the quality of the political debates that we have witnessed recently does not quite reach the level of Lincoln v. Douglas. I still cringe at the thought of the clown show put on by the Republicans as they winnowed their cast of cartoon characters down to Mitt Romney. But debates give us the only opportunity we have to see the candidates react under pressure without the benefit of retakes and edits.

Elections are no longer about pressing the flesh and expressing ones views. Today fund raising trumps governing because edgy attack ads supersede policy, vision and character.

I have said many times before that the Citizen United ruling would prove to be one of the most damaging decisions in the history of the Supreme Court.

Current events serve witness to that assertion.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Longing For Superman!

I am really bothered by the recent reports surrounding the Secret Service.

I have always thought of Secret Service agents as “Supermen.” Dark and mysterious in their aviators and ear buds…too cool for school but in a good way…dedicating their lives to stepping in front of a bullet. Anyone who is willing to lay down their life for their fellow man has my utmost respect. They exemplified all of the qualities that we see in ourselves as a country: strong, brave, selfless and honorable. Somehow I felt safer knowing they were there.

Now that image has been tarnished…the institution’s vulnerabilities laid bare for all to see. Somehow I feel less safe…much like the way I felt on 9/11.

Does the name Clint Hill mean anything to you?

On November 22, 1963 Clint Hill was part of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s Secret Service detail on the day JFK was assassinated. When Hill heard the first shot he rushed for the convertible carrying the president and his wife. Hill is the agent that we see in the famous Zapruder leaping onto the back of the president’s convertible as it accelerates away from Dealey Plaza. We see the terrified First Lady reach out to Hill as he crawls across the trunk of the speeding car toward her. Hill reaches the couple, forces the First Lady onto the floor and then covers both of them with his own body to shield them from further harm. Hill said he could tell immediately that the president was dead. Now 81 years of age, Hill still feels remorse. You see Hill still believes that had he been a little quicker to react he might have been able to block the fatal shot with his body.

Drunken parties and hotel rooms full of hookers were the first signs of chinks in the armor. Then we learned of shots fired on the White House only to be discovered by accident days later. Now we are told that contractors with guns ride along with the president in elevators. And most concerning of all…a man is able to hop the White House security fence, sprint across the vast lawn, enter the White House through the unlocked front door and make his way into the recesses of the mansion before he is apprehended by an OFF DUTY officer.

These transgressions send a terrible message; not only to the country but to our enemies as well. It says that we are distracted and vulnerable. If you can breach the most secure home in the world…you can breach anything.

They need to fix this! Accepting the resignation of Director Julia Pierson is a good start. But that is not enough. There needs to be a cultural sea change within the institution; a general house cleaning of all those who do not share Clint Hill’s vision of the Service.

The image and the professional standing of the Secret Service must be restored to its' "Superman" stature. Not only for the safety of the First Family, but for the sake of the country.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Perpetual War

While most of the country was focusing their attention on White House intruders and George Clooney’s nuptials, a very important event was occurring in Afghanistan.

Yesterday the Obama administration signed a residual forces agreement with the newly elected Afghan government. The agreement authorizes the United States to maintain roughly 10,000 military personnel in Afghanistan “into 2014 and beyond.”

Allow me to translate. The United States military will maintain “boots on the ground” in Afghanistan…indefinitely.

This is a stunning development from a president who promised to pull the country back from “an endless war footing.” Now we have this same president agreeing to maintain that “war footing” in perpetuity.

Even more surprising to me than the agreement is the lack of reaction from the electorate, the media and especially from congress.

As I said most of the country is wondering how an intruder can be running around loose in supposedly the most secure home in the country. And then there are all the pictures of George in his Armani tux and his beautiful bride in her designer dress. It’s all about the dress. Throughout the years of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan there has always been a sort of disconnect between the 1% who serve in the military and the 99% who do not. It took the grisly beheading of two American journalists to grab the country’s attention to the fact that we are at war. So I guess it isn’t surprising that events occurring in Kabul are not on the country’s radar.

The media didn’t pay much attention either. One would think that an open ended military commitment would spark some debate among the chattering class. But the news was not even mentioned in most of the major media outlets.

And then there is congress. For the past six years members of this august group have expressed their outrage over what they view as this “imperialist” president’s abuse of his executive authority. They even filed a suit against him for having the audacity to extend by one year the corporate deadline for complying with the ACA. Now we have this president agreeing to maintain military forces in Afghanistan for as long as the sun sets in the west. We expect this congress to be outraged. Surely they will call for a congressional hearing at the very least or impeachment at the extreme. After all they have subjected us to nonsensical oratories of Green Eggs and Ham over far less. Yet this perpetual military agreement brings only silence.

Given the current state of affairs in the region and the civil unrest that has raged there for centuries; I believe that the president has set us on a course of perpetual military conflict.

It is hard to understand how such an important historical event could generate such a tepid response.