Thursday, April 30, 2015


“This is not new…and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new. It is a situation that we have been dealing with for decades.”

President Barak Obama

The president is right of course. The clashes between the police and the public that we are witnessing in Baltimore are only the latest in a series of similar incidents that have plagued our society for decades. And as we have done for so many years, we talk about the police brutality and the violence as if by addressing these issues we can solve the problem. While these conversations are relevant they miss the far larger point. Police brutality, lawlessness and violence are not the cause of unrest. They are the result of an inherent problem woven deep into the fabric of our society.

Imagine if you had to take 3, 4 or 5 different buses to reach a dead end job that didn’t pay you enough to feed your family. Imagine if you had to send your children to a school that due to underfunding and poor teachers you knew was not preparing your child to build a better life than you had. Imagine if the gentrification of your neighborhood resulted in not the raising of the value of your property but its elimination to make way for a new ballpark or convention center or entertainment district. Then imagine if you found yourself profiled not just for the color of your skin but because you and your family were considered “less than” by society. How would you feel?

What we are witnessing in Baltimore and Ferguson and thousands of cities across this country is what despair looks like. It is what happens when people, regardless of race, see no hope…no way out. We can weed out the bad cops and require police officers to attend sensitivity training classes. We can incarcerate the looters and the arsonists and ramp up the social safety net programs. None of this will begin to solve the problem.

There is an undervalued segment in our society that is being ignored. Only by helping them value themselves can we lift them out of that despair. Only by helping them to respect themselves can we help them to respect the rule of law. There is only one way to do that and it is spelled J-O-B-S.

There will always be rogue cops who exploit their authority. There will always be looters and arsonists and thugs who want to foment violence. The only way to reduce them to the minority they are is to raise up the quality of life of the communities. The only way to do that is through good paying meaningful jobs. Only by helping individuals to earn their way out of despair can we uplift these communities and quell the violence and bigotry.

To those who would politicize this issue for political gain, as Ted Cruz did yesterday, I would suggest that they remain silent less their words illuminate their ignorance. This is not a conservative issue. Reducing taxes on the wealthy and expecting the benefits to trickle down to the masses doesn’t work. Nor is this a progressive issue. Adding another social safety net program doesn’t work either. You have to find a way to give people an opportunity to help themselves. The only way to do that is by providing them with the opportunity to work at good paying jobs. Private industry can’t do it by itself. The problem is too big. It is up to the government to find a solution.

Since the death of Freddie Gray we have heard one politician after another speak out against the violence in Baltimore. But yet not one has announced that he/she is sponsoring a comprehensive jobs bill that will put people to work. Not one has done his/her job by offering the only long range solution to the problem.

If we are serious about wanting to eliminate the brutality and blight and violence that plagues so many of our communities then we have to find a way to help people help themselves.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Supreme Court Weighs In

Over the next 48 hours the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on two landmark cases that will ultimately alter the very fabric of our society.

Today the Court will entertain the debate over whether same sex marriages should be legal under federal law and whether a legal union in one state should be recognized in all states. At present 37 states have legalized same sex marriages. 70% of the American population reside in those states. Recent polls show that 58% of Americans believe that same sex marriages should be made legal across the country.

Tomorrow the Court will hear oral arguments over the states’ use of lethal injection to execute prisoners. State penal institutions are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the three drugs necessary to administer the lethal injection protocols. Many pharmaceutical manufacturing companies opposed to the death penalty have ceased manufacturing the drugs. Several state corrections agencies have attempted to purchase non-FDA approved drugs from foreign countries. Oklahoma has considered manufacturing the drugs by creating its own state run pharmacy. Add the four horrifically botched executions in 2014 and you can easily understand why the Court has decided to weigh in.

But first up…same sex marriage.

The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank and self-proclaimed defender of individual liberties against the evils of big government. The Foundation does not believe that the Supreme Court should have agreed to hear this case stating: “The Supreme Court has no better insight into the repercussions of same sex marriage than the individual states.” That may well be true. But as the self-proclaimed defender of the Constitution the Foundation should be well aware that in this country the Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter in those instances where the states cannot agree. Evidently in the eyes of the Heritage Foundation the defense individual liberties only applies to heterosexuals. Member of the LGBT community need not apply.

It’s going to be a very interesting couple of days.

Monday, April 27, 2015

What's "Faith" Got To Do With It?

A host of GOP hopefuls descended upon Iowa this past weekend for the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s 2015 Spring Kickoff. This was an opportunity for the candidates to trot out their faith based bona fides in hopes of wooing the party’s evangelical base. Since 60% of Iowans consider themselves “evangelicals” the candidates were literally preaching to the choir.

Video clips from the event caught the speakers recounting their journeys toward faith. We heard testimonials on how God affected their lives along with faith based commentary on contraception, abortion and same sex marriage. It should be noted that come 2016 we will witness the eventual nominee walking back these comments in order to appeal to a more moderate general election audience. But that is then and this is now…and the only thing that matters at this event is persuading the faithful that one is deserving of a win in the Iowa Caucuses.

Personally I don’t understand how one’s religious beliefs serve as a qualifier to hold the most powerful position in the world. I for one am a practicing Catholic. I’m pretty well versed in the tenants of my faith. I am also not remotely qualified to hold the office of President of the United States.

I don’t really care if our president chooses to pray to heaven on Sundays or Mecca five times a day or not at all. What I do care about is that he or she has a plan for a robust economy and the steel of spine necessary to keep us safe.

I would never propose to question the depth of an individual’s faith or the reasoning behind it. History tells us that faith tends to evolve over time. Recently we have seen public figures who have been firm in their faith based beliefs change course. Senator Rob Portman, the irascible Dick Cheney and President Obama have all “evolved” on the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. Was their change of heart a matter of faith or political opportunism? That’s not for me to say.

What I will say is this…the unfortunate truth of our politics is that the only alter that politicians consistently kneel before is the one housed at Wall Street.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Halting Drone Attacks May Make Some Feel Better But It Won't Stop the Carnage

The tragic accidental deaths of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto as a result of a CIA ordered drone strike has sparked an emotional debate over the use of unmanned drones in the war against terror. If you can work your way through the beating of breast and the gnashing of teeth you find an element that questions the humanity of “using robots to target and assassinate suspected terrorist operatives.” Frankly I find the entire conversation stunningly superficial and devoid of reality.

First of all it should be noted that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda and other like terrorist groups that would cause harm to American citizens and our allies. Let me say that in my opinion it is an endless war that we cannot win. The rise of ISIS and a host of other extremist groups from the ashes of Osama bin Laden’s former organization proves the point. But nonetheless we are at war. And even though less than 1% of all Americans have a vested interest in the events occurring throughout the Middle East this war wages on with horrific consequences for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Thousands of innocent lives have been lost in this decade’s long battle but it seems that only when innocent Americans are caught in the cross fire do those otherwise occupied take notice.

I have deep sympathy for the families who lost loved ones in this attack. But with all due respect, the Middle East is a war zone. It is no place for western civilians, particularly Americans who are routinely targeted and kidnapped and/or killed by terrorist operatives. Journalists, humanitarian aid workers and others who chose to risk their lives in these dangerous environs have our respect. But they do so at their own risk. The United States government has gone to heroic efforts to rescue those have fallen captive to our enemies. But the government cannot be held responsible for the lives of those who knowingly put themselves in harm’s way.

The American people have made it clear that they have no appetite for another ground war in the Middle East. Boots on the ground is a nonstarter. The Obama administration has listened and chosen to make use of unmanned drones as a means to eliminate enemy combatants without risking the lives of military personnel. A drone is a weapon. It is piloted by military personnel housed in the safety of a bunker in Nevada. It is no different than a multi-million dollar fighter jet piloted by an experienced aviator or a guided missile fired from a submarine or battleship miles off shore. It is a weapon designed to kill the enemy. That’s what happens in war. People die.

The Obama administration has been conducting fighter bombing missions against ISIS targets for months. I can assure you that even though these “precision” attacks are designed to destroy enemy combatants and their strongholds innocent lives have been lost. But these attacks offer a sanitized method of war that the American people seem willing to accept. The resulting collateral damage raise barely an eyebrow. But let an unmanned drone cause the same inadvertent, horrific result and visions of the Terminator give rise to questioning our humanity. Killing the enemy with jets and bombs is accepted. Killing the enemy with drones offends ones sensibilities. The distinction is ludicrous.

War is horrible and messy. Innocent people die. Stopping the drone attacks won’t stop the carnage. Only stopping the war can do that.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Things I wonder about...

I wonder why LGBT citizens are required to pay the same taxes as straight citizens since they are not afforded the same rights, privileges and protections.

I wonder why in spite of administration regulations to the contrary, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was permitted to store her work and personal emails on a personal server in her home.

I wonder why private citizen Hillary Clinton was permitted with impunity to scrub the hard drive on that personal server of emails that are the subject of a congressional subpoena.

I wonder why independent investigative reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post and Newsweek are all wrong to question why oligarchs from several foreign countries who donated hundreds of millions to the Clinton Global Foundation, including millions in personal appearance fees to Bill Clinton, profited from State Department authorizations while Mrs. Clinton served as secretary.

I wonder why the Clintons did not disclose those donations given that they promised the Obama Administration full disclosure.

I wonder what those deleted emails would have to say about the matter.

I wonder why any criticism of the Clintons is waved off as a right wing conspiracy.

I wonder why given all the Clinton scandals that we are sure to endure over the next 19 months someone from within the Democratic Party isn’t challenging her.

I wonder how Ted Cruz was ever elected to the United States Senate.

I wonder why Speaker Boehner is so bad at his job.

I wonder why the greatest nation in the world is ok with an education system that is failing its children.

I wonder why the greatest nation in the world is ok with an infrastructure that more closely resembles a third world country than a world power.

I wonder why, in the greatest nation in the world, an American citizen can go to work every day at a full time job and still be forced to live in poverty.

I wonder why the abortion language in a human trafficking bill trumps the confirmation of our nation’s highest law enforcement officer.

I wonder why our president is not allowed to decide for himself who serves on his cabinet.

I wonder why so many Americans hate President Obama because he is black.

I wonder why given all the people in this country living in poverty, including 16 million children, we throw away one third of all the food we produce.

I wonder why banks that were once so big they crashed our economy are now bigger than ever.

I wonder why congress is so interested in the nuclear agreement with Iran but disinterested in approving an ongoing war against ISIS.

I wonder why we think a nuclear agreement with Iran will hold up given that in the middle of these sensitive negotiations Iran is shipping weapons to radical extremists in Yemen.

I wonder why we are fighting with Iran in Syria but against Iran in Yemen.

I wonder why we allowed Putin to secure ownership of 20% of our uranium production.

I wonder why unemployment benefits are considered a handout but paying farmers subsidies not to grow stuff is good business.

I wonder why raising taxes on the top 1% is considered a distribution of wealth but paying tax payer subsidies to big oil conglomerates is not.

I wonder why congress approved a trade agreement with the Pacific Rim countries without knowing all the details.

These are just some of the things I wonder about.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

GOP Getting In Its Own Way

Rumor has it that Mitch McConnell may allow a confirmation vote on Loretta Lynch this week.

You remember Loretta Lynch. She is President Obama’s supremely qualified nominee for Attorney General who has been languishing on the sidelines while McConnell plays politics with her career. The president nominated Lynch last November and she has been awaiting confirmation twice as long as the last seven nominees COMBINED.

What’s the hold up? It’s not about her qualifications. No one has questioned her bona fides for the position. Even Obama hater Rudy Giuliani endorsed her.
McConnell has decided to use her appointment as a bargaining chip to resolve a human trafficking bill that contains some language about federal funds paying for abortions.

That’s it. Resolve the bill…get Lynch approved.

No wonder people hate politics.

No matter how you look at it this political stunt it makes no sense.

There is no one in the Obama administration that Republicans despise more than current Attorney General Eric Holder. They see him as ideolog disdainful of all things GOP. Holder wants out. But he’s not leaving until his replacement is confirmed. The longer Republicans delay Lynch’s appointment the longer they are stuck with Holder.

And then there is the 2016 elections to consider. If Republicans have any hope of seeing the inside of the White House other than an invited guest they are going to have to find a way to attract black and women voters. Nothing endears you to black and women voters like leaving a highly qualified black woman nominee twisting in the wind for no reason other than pure political spite.

Once again the Grand Old Party is proving to be its own worst enemy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

19 Months...19 Hopefuls...and Hillary

We are nineteen months away from the 2016 elections. Coincidentally 19 Republican hopefuls made their way to New Hampshire this weekend in hopes of convincing Granite State voters that they should be anointed the most powerful person in the world.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is here touting his record as head of the cheese state. Unfortunately his rendition of the actual events bears little resemblance to the truth.
Mike Huckabee is here. He warned potential military recruits that they should wait until President Obama leaves office before joining because: “the president hates Christians.”

Chris Christie has accredited himself well in a series of town hall meetings. He likes to brag about his experiences as a “Red” governor in a very “Blue” state. Somehow he manages to gloss over the fact that the New Jersey economy is in the tank, unemployment is skyrocketing and his stewardship of the Garden State has resulted in a series of crippling credit downgrades.

Ted Cruz showed up. He wants to reform the tax code to a flat tax and get rid of the IRS. But who will collect the flat tax? Of course he still wants to “repeal every last word of Obamacare.” Funny how he and his family just signed up for it. You would have thought that after encouraging others to go without insurance rather than sign up for the president’s socialist experiment he would have led by example and followed the same path. Do as I say…

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has thrown his hat into the ring. Rubio is the fresh faced new comer whose claim to fame is that he flip flops on issues more than the daily catch off his favorite Miami Beach. He likes to portray Secretary Clinton’s campaign as something out of the stone ages. Unfortunately his comments have a tendency to highlight the shortcomings of his good friend Jeb Bush.

Jeb of course is here as well. He has yet to formerly announce although he is making all the right noises. It is hard to see his campaign gaining any traction unless he can win at least one of the first three primaries. He is far too moderate for Iowa. And it’s hard to see him pulling off a victory in South Carolina. That leaves New Hampshire. If he can’t pull off a win here then the leading money bundler may be finished before he gets started.

On the Democratic side of course there is Hillary and…Hillary. Unless of course you count former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. That’s O’Malley jumping up and down behind the last row of reporters desperately seeking attention. Recent national polls show the governor with 1% of the vote. Clearly the Democratic nomination is Hillary’s to win unless she continues down her favored path of self-destruction. Her campaign roll out hit the ground with all the pizazz of a bag of flour hitting concrete. She eschewed her private plane in favor of a mini-van and began a road trip through the primary states in search of “everyday Americans.” She showed up in Ohio at a local Chipotle wearing sunglasses and made no effort to engage the other patrons. At a scheduled event her mini-van blew by senior citizens waiting to greet her at the front door; choosing instead a more secluded rear entrance. Her much publicized round table meeting was populated with carefully vetted politicos certain not to make any embarrassing waves. You would think that a former First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State would be capable of handling herself in an open forum. Apparently not.

19 months. 19 Republican hopefuls…and Hillary. The best and the brightest…

Friday, April 3, 2015

GOP Out Of Touch

Watching the Republicans stumble through the last few weeks gives one pause to wonder how one of the major political parties in our country could be so out of touch with the majority of the electorate. The party has become so paralyzed by the far right leanings of its base that it has forfeited any reasonable sense of compromise. There is no escaping the inconvertible fact that the party is incapable of governing.

The train wreck surrounding Indiana’s Religious Reform Law is a case in point. At a time when the LGBT community has a higher approval rating than most minorities you have to wonder what was going through the minds of the Indiana State legislature to bring such a bill to the floor. Don’t these people watch cable news? So eager were Republicans to appeal to their evangelical base that they could not wait to get in front of the cameras and tell the world what a great day it was for religious freedom. Nationally, all but two of the presumptive presidential candidates weighed in with a full throated support of the law.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the party. So eager to appease the evangelicals, Republicans took for granted the faction that pays their bills. Long known as the party of Wall Street, the banks and corporate America, Republicans had neglected “the one that brung em”…the business community. Hell hath no fury like a corporation in danger of losing its customers. The business community responded with a vengeance. Apple, Wal-Mart, Eli Lilly, Anthem, the NCAA and a host of other corporate giants rose up in opposition to the law. Watching Republicans scramble to un-ring the bell would have been funny were it not so sad. Jeb Bush was before the law before he was against it.

The result was a “fix” from the legislature that amended the law. It also sent a very clear message that religious freedom may be important to the Party but it pales when pitted against commerce and campaign contributions. And by reversing a law that should never have been enacted in the first place, Republicans managed to alienate the very evangelical community they were trying to appease.

Over the past six months the Republican Party has managed to offend the business community, evangelicals, the LBGT community, Latinos, and blacks. Among all of these groups are women, a demographic that Republicans are desperate to win. Add in patriots and independents who are deeply offended by the GOPs very public efforts to undermine and embarrass the president regarding his negotiations with Iran...

Note to Republicans! This is not a winning strategy. The country is rapidly changing and you are living in an alternate universe. You have a choice. You can either alter your strategy to connect to the changing times…

…or you can continue to lose the popular vote as you have in five of the last six national elections.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

This & That

CLINTON – Do you remember that personal server that Hillary Clinton kept in her home? The one that she decided to use to store all of her personal and official emails while serving as Secretary of State? A decision that she made unilaterally even though it violated regulations issued by her boss…the President of the United States. Well it turns out that she erased the hard drive. Yup…wiped it clean at the end of last year. I don’t recall her providing that little nugget of information when she gave her recent press conference…the presser that was supposed to provide full disclosure and clarity. She said that she had released all of her work emails to the state department. She said that the server would remain private. She led us to believe that what remained on the server was not work related and therefore personal and private in nature. She asked us to take her word. Certainly she is entitled to her personal privacy.
The committee investigating Benghazi is not satisfied. They want to see the emails for themselves. Political witch hunt? Probably! Nonetheless, Hillary won’t comply. But this time privacy isn’t the issue. She says she can’t reply because she wiped the hard drive…last year…before the full disclosure press conference. This is what the Clinton’s do. There may not be anything to see here but the Clinton’s always manage to behave in such a way that it makes you question their veracity.

If Hillary Clinton decides to run, her biggest opponent will not be the Republican challenger. It will be Hillary Clinton and the exhaustion that washes over people when Hillary acts like Hillary.

LUFTHANSA – We now know from Lufthansa’s internal emails that the suicidal co-pilot that intentionally crashed the commercial airliner into the French Alps suffered from severe depression. In 2009 Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz informed Lufthansa’s flight school that experienced severe depression. Investigators have learned that Lubitz had been treated for suicidal tendencies years ago and recently had been declared “unable to fly.” Lufthansa executives made a brief public appearance and expressed their condolences to the families of the victims. But they refused to answer any questions. I suspect that given the hundreds of millions in lawsuits that are certain to be filed; Lufthansa’s attorney’s advised the executives to remain tight lipped. Still I can’t help but think that a little compassionate clarity would go a long way toward improving an image that is rapidly deteriorating. Stonewalling projects a callousness that is certain to be noticed by a jury pool that is closely following these events.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM – Bowing to corporate pressure and public outrage over its tone deaf Religious Freedom law; the Indiana legislature is trying to cobble together a legislative “fix” to calm the masses. Governor Mike Pence defended the law but said he wants a bill on his desk by week’s end “making it clear that the law does not allow businesses the right to deny services to anyone.” On the Sunday the governor refused to answer whether under the new law a florist could legally refuse to serve a gay couple; preferring to cloak himself in partisan talking points. On Tuesday the governor was more forthcoming: This law does not give anyone the right to discriminate. But I can appreciate that that has become the perception.”

DON”T THEY HAVE CABLE IN ARKANSAS? – Displaying either a robust set of brass ones or view of reality with which I am unfamiliar…the Arkansas state legislature ignored the backlash in Indiana and passed its own Religious Freedom law on Tuesday. Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson had stated previously that he would sign the bill into law. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, wasted no time responding. “Today’s passage of HB1228 threatens to undermine the inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold” said Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon. Wal-Mart is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas. Governor Hutchinson will have to weigh the consequences of appeasing his base versus the tens of thousands of jobs large wheelbarrows of money that Wal-Mart delivers to his state.

Alas, this is what happens when ideologies bred in a windowless room are exposed to the sunlight of reality.