Friday, December 31, 2010

Protecting Capitalism

In reading a review of a recent book by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson on the subject of why the rich are getting richer, I note some interesting statistics. “In the past 40 years the average income of the top 5% of wage earners went up, while on the average everyone else’s income went down.” In other words there’s been a shift of wealth from those who do the work to those who are at the top end of the economic scale. To clarify the picture, the share of total income going to the top 1% of Americans has increased from 8% in 1960 to more than 20% today. Our economic system has caused a tremendous concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people to the detriment of the majority of people in America.

I am a capitalist. I believe in the capitalist system, that it works best to benefit a majority of the people. However, what I see happening given the statistics presented, is that our system of free markets is slowly eroding to the place where it will eventually be destroyed. It has come to my attention that our markets are no longer free. Some members of society have access to insider information while most of us who have small investments do not have that benefit. When the financially elite are free to raid the market, it is no longer a free market which is essential to a healthy capitalist based economy.

When one business entity is able to restrict others from entering the market, capitalism is weakened. For example, when Microsoft requires purchasers of its products to pledge not to use their competitors’ products, we no longer have a free market or true capitalism. When managers of investment banks make risky bets with other people’s money and get multimillion dollar bonuses even if their business fails, we no longer have a true capitalist system. In response the government tries to regulate and protect the ordinary investors from being victims of fraudulent behavior on the part of the bankers. The business community squeals in agony at such regulation.

Without question too much government regulation weakens our capitalist system. However, if government regulation seems oppressive just wait till you are caught in the clutches of corporate policy. There is no due process or free elections to throw the bums out when you’re dealing with an American corporation.

From my perspective, our capitalist system, which includes free and open markets, is the most beneficial to most of the people and is the reason why America is the most productive nation in the world. That is soon to disappear if left in the hands of corporate moguls who are bent on enriching themselves regardless of the effect on the rest of the nation. The one most important goal for our government in the new year is to find a method of protecting capitalism from the destructive behaviors of corporate America. If that can be achieved much of the rest of the nation’s needs will fall into place.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Reason for the Season

From my perspective, the tradition of Christmas celebration is an important aspect of American culture. However, Christians should remember that the reason for this season is to commemorate the birth of Christ who is the founder of our religion. I would suggest that we, His followers should give careful consideration to his teachings about how to react to other people. Reading the three chapters in the book of Matthew which document His famous Sermon on the Mount, one can hardly find justification for an in-your-face response to those who are nonbelievers and object to public observance of the religious holiday. There are specific instructions about turning the “other cheek,” loving our enemies, and even praying for those who treat us poorly.

Further, the depiction of the judgment day given in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s tome should be instructive to Christian believers. Here Christ identifies the things which are most important in terms of behavioral norms for the Christian. All of them have to do with how we treat other people, especially those who are at the lower end of the social scale. “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto Me,” is the standard to be applied on that fateful day. Some conservatives decry this as “social gospel,” and so it may be. However, any true Christian believer would be well advised to integrate this gospel in their daily lives.

Now, I’m not talking about anything related to politics or the Church, or any other organization. What I am suggesting is that true believers treat others as the Christ of Christmas has suggested. This is an individual mandate, more than one that’s to be carried out by the government or some other organization. It is the reason for this season that in celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ we would be brought back to his basic teachings while He was here on earth. The world would be a much better place if more people would follow the tenets of Christianity as taught by Jesus.

Here is wishing a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the readers of this blog.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Stockman Repudiates Reaganomics

In 1980 I made a feeble attempt to enter national politics when I was candidate for United States Congress in Michigan’s fourth Congressional District. My opponent, David Stockman, was very popular, well-financed, and had a national reputation as a congressman. It was a losing battle but I had a lot of fun and met a lot of interesting people. Stockman overwhelmed me in the election and soon afterwards was chosen by President Reagan to be his budget director. Stockman assisted in the development of the doctrine of Reaganomics. At the time I thought it was just voodoo economics as George Bush had claimed.

Imagine then my interest last night when Stockman was interviewed on national television. When asked about Reaganomics he surprised me by stating frankly, “it didn’t work.” When asked about the current situation especially regarding the Bush tax cuts Stockman said, “they should all be repealed.” “But,” asked the interviewer, “don’t tax cuts generate more revenue?” “No they don’t!” Stockman replied. That’s partly what’s responsible for getting us in the mess we’re in right now, he indicated.

So, there you have it. One of the architects of Reaganomics has repudiated the work of his own hands. He’s no flaming liberal, just a commonsense conservative. From my perspective, the conservatives who are attempting to impose their will in Washington should pay attention to what David Stockman has to say.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Sad Commentary

A recent item in The Week magazine captivated my attention. It is a direct quote taken from the Wall Street Journal and written by Scott Adams. From my perspective, it provides a sad commentary on the state of American business.

“The primary purpose of management is to kill any hope that staying in your current job will work out for you. Bad management is how imagination gets wings. The economy needs workers who are fed up, desperate, and willing to quit their jobs for something better. You can’t do something great until first you quit something that isn’t. The last thing this world needs is a bunch of dopey-happy workers who can’t stop humming and grinning. The economy needs hamster -brained sociopaths in management to drive down the opportunity cost of entrepreneurship. Luckily, we are blessed with an ample supply.”

Sad to think that the Wall Street Journal expressed the opinion that bad management abounds throughout our country. America take note!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Republican Agenda for America

It has been interesting to watch the resurgent Republican Party plot a strategy for flexing their newfound political muscle. They will soon take over the House of Representatives in Congress and increase their strength in the Senate. What will they do with all this power? Will they focus on addressing the fiscal problems that plague our American democracy or will they fritter away their energies on gaining retribution on their Democratic enemies?

Unfortunately, one of the Republican leaders remarked recently that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one term president.” Is that the purpose which will direct Republican strategy in the coming months? Is that what will benefit America most? Is President Obama the great Satan who must be removed at all costs?

Hopefully the new members brought to Congress, particularly those from the Tea Party wing of the Republican party, can stick to their principles. During the campaign they seemed to be well centered on financial issues and if they can just keep that sense of focus as they move on to Washington the country will greatly benefit.

From my perspective, our best hope is that the new Republicans in Congress will grasp control of their party and focus it on solving the problems of our nation rather than on defeating Obama. They need to put together a plan to immediately address the deficit spending that has plagued our nation for some 30 years now. We have to get control of that bad habit or we will see a financial collapse in this country which will make the great depression of the last century look like a Sunday school picnic.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sarah Palin’s Alaska

I watched the first episode of the eight part series about Alaska being carried on The Learning Channel. It is billed as something of a travel log, showcasing the wonders of nature in our largest state. However, if the first episode is any indication, it is misnamed. It should be titled Alaska’s Sarah Palin. It features more of Sarah and her family than it does of the state she loves so much.

There are scenes of Sarah Palin with her children both together and individually; Sarah trying to keep her daughter’s boyfriend from visiting the upstairs bedroom; Sarah taking the family fishing; Sarah flying in a float plane; Sarah walking on a dangerous glacier; and Sarah climbing a steep rock in the mountains and courageously overcoming her fear of heights to conquer that obstacle.

Though the producers claim it is nonpolitical in nature, there is a scene with Sarah having a discussion with husband Todd regarding the negative effect of taxes on business. There are also several shots of their next-door neighbor, a would-be biographer who she claims moved there to spy on them. The whole family reacts with disgust at his intrusion on their private life. Their protests of innocence aside, the producers have put together what from my perspective, is the slickest political infomercial I have ever seen. The film series probably should be seen by the American public as the opening volley in the 2012 presidential nominating process for the Republican Party. The next two years should be very interesting for us political junkies.

More Reflections on the Election

In further reflection on the recent election, I was much impressed with Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate in the last election. From my perspective, Mrs. Palin has shown evidence of tremendous maturity as a savvy politician. Please note: I do not use the word politician in a pejorative sense. America needs effective politicians as their leaders.

I must note that I do not support Palin’s political position on most issues. I am, however, fascinated with the growth she has made as a public speaker and in her ability to maneuver through the minefield of American politics. She put her considerable reputation on line during the midterm election campaign. She was not afraid to support relatively unknown candidates even though they had little hope of winning. She had enough winners among her picks so that she earned bragging rights in the world of politics.

It will be interesting now to see how Mrs. Palin maneuvers in preparation for the 2012 presidential race. A lot of important Republicans owe her political support. In the common vernacular, she has amassed considerable political capital. While her star may fade before the nominating convention, she has to be seen as a dominant force in the Republican party at this point in time. I do not see any other Republican that has given evidence of the political skill she has developed in the short time she has been active in American politics.

My prediction is that Sarah Palin will run for president in the Republican primaries in 2012 and be a strong competitor in the nominating process. All the other Republicans who plan to cash in on a weakened democratic President had better take notice.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reflections on the Election

In reflecting on the recent midterm election, I’ve given some thought to the work President Obama did in behalf of fellow Democrats who were facing the wrath of voters. In many respects the election was a commentary by the American people on the Obama presidency. From my perspective, I was very disappointed in his campaign message. He wasted a golden opportunity to speak to the American people in defense of his political program. Instead of railing against his Republican opposition (there is plenty to rail against) Obama should have made a positive statement regarding the struggling American economy and what is needed to get it back on track. He also should have pointed out the necessity for the actions he has taken in the past 18 months.

Without question Obama inherited a mess, but that’s old news hardly worth mentioning now. He could have praised President Bush for the actions he took in bailing out the banks and the automobile industry and pointed out the necessity of continuing those programs. No one, not even the most rabid Republican, would want the banking system to collapse. Unfortunately, Obama spent his time attacking his opponents instead of pointing out the necessity for the actions he took. Former President George Bush, in a recent promotional interview regarding his new book, made a much better defense of his own actions in response to the faltering economy. Obama could learn a lesson in practical politics from a study of that interview.

Monday, November 1, 2010

An Election Prediction

I write this just a few hours before the polls open for the 2010 midterm election. It looks like it will be a Republican sweep. President Obama and his fellow Democrats have not done a good job of justifying the actions they’ve taken in the past two years. Many of the things they did were absolutely essential to save the country from an economic crash. Had the Democrats not pushed through the bailouts, the American banking system as we know it would have disappeared. The same is true of the automobile industry. It’s hard to imagine why anybody really would have wanted General Motors and Chrysler to go bankrupt. But, Republicans and especially the Tea Party group have painted the Democratic action as a socialist takeover of the government. They seem to have convinced the majority of the public.

So, here is my prediction: Republicans will gain at least 50 seats in the House of Representatives. If they gain anything less than 40 seats it will be a great victory for the Democrats. In the Senate I suspect that they will gain at least 6 seats and possibly even more. In just a few hours we will know if my predictions are correct or not.

Friday, October 22, 2010

No Raise in Social Security

Recent news is that Social Security recipients will not get a cost-of-living raise come January. That’s two years in a row that there has been no pay increase for us retired people. The reaction has been immediate and strongly negative. Even my conservative friends who are on Social Security feel they are entitled to a raise in pay. What I would like to remind them is that our country is broke and deeply in debt. We older people elected politicians who put us in that condition so, from my perspective, it’s time for us to bear some of the burden of their folly.

Yes, I know that a lot of social security recipients are barely scraping along financially. Times are hard and not getting a raise, even a small one, is a big disappointment. But, we are just going to have to tighten our belts. It is time for President Obama and all the other politicians both Republican and Democrat to call on the American people for a time of sacrifice. We can’t expect to get America’s fiscal house in order if we don’t make such a sacrifice. The only way to balance the budget is for all Americans, rich and poor alike, to be willing to support the government as it moves into a period of austerity

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Candidate Poses in Nazi Uniform

Rich Iott, Republican congressional candidate in state of Ohio recently stirred up a media storm when pictures of him posing in a Nazi military uniform were discovered. He was immediately labeled as having Nazi sympathies. However, the truth is the picture was taken as part of a historical re-enactment of World War II events. It seems that Iott is somewhat of a history buff and enjoys participation in re-enactment events.

From my perspective, a congressional candidate who has a sense of history should be seen in a positive light. I wish more of our politicians understood a bit about the history of this world. They might have a much broader perspective as they deal with policy implications for the nation. Unfortunately, such a thing does not sell like a full-blown scandal does. And, we must never forget that the media is mostly about making a profit.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christine O’Donnell Dabbled in Witchcraft

In the state of Delaware, Tea Party Republican candidate for the Senate, Christine O’Donnell, made the news by her admission that in the early years of her life she had dabbled in witchcraft. The media descended into a howl that still echoes around the country. From my perspective, what O’Donnell did in her youth should have little if any bearing on her campaign for public office. While I disagree with O’Donnell on several political issues, I certainly think it is unfortunate she is being judged for something she messed around with many years ago. Most people would not want to be held responsible for things they did as teenagers. Politicians should be no exception.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Paladino on Gay Pride

New York gubernatorial candidate and Tea Party favorite on the Republican ticket, Carl Paladino, recently stirred up quite a storm with his remarks criticizing his Democratic opponent for attending a gay pride parade. Immediately he was blasted for being anti-gay. However, his subsequent statements have shown that, while he does not support gay marriage in his state, neither does he support discrimination or persecution of homosexual people. However, the media frenzy that followed his first statement seems to obscure the fact that he has a fairly moderate stance on the issue.

From my perspective Paladino has a defensible position on the matter of gay marriage. I have never understood the basis for gay pride. If, as a majority of the gay community insists, sexual preference is something one is born with not an acquired characteristic, what’s to be proud of? Is there any special accomplishment in what you are born with? Why the necessity to publicly flaunt what I consider to be a very private matter? Paladino’s position of opposing gay marriage and at the same time opposing persecution of or discrimination against gay people is well within the mainstream of American thought.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Response to Cal Thomas

A recent commentary by Cal Thomas was titled “Government schools are the shame of this nation.” Thomas takes one situation of poorly performing schools and then paints all public schools in the country with the same brush. It is true that many of our inner-city schools struggle to provide a good education for the children whom they serve. However, Thomas and most other antagonists of public education tend to ignore the societal problems which are so prevalent in the inner cities. These problems have a huge impact on the children who attend school. America will not be able to reform public education until it confronts those issues.

I found it interesting that Thomas held up as an example of good schooling the Sidwell Friends School where President Obama has enrolled his children. Certainly that school provides a high-quality education. However, one wonders why it costs $30,000 a year to educate children who have passed the rigid entrance requirements necessary to gain admission at Sidwell? In Michigan, our public schools have less than a fourth of that amount to carry out their educational responsibility. The public schools, by contrast to Sidwell, must accept all children not just the ones who already score high on standardized tests.

If it takes such a huge amount of money to educate educationally advantaged children, think what is necessary to give an education of equal quality to disadvantaged children! From my perspective, Cal Thomas should consider the disparity in expenditures so evident in his example before he condemns the public schools so broadly.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Pledge IV

What a disappointment The Pledge is. Republican leaders had a golden opportunity to provide leadership for real change in the American political process. What they have given us is the same old worn out stuff which panders to the masses while doing obeisance to special interests. There are some real changes that need to be made in our American system of governance. However, from my perspective, The Pledge largely fails to deliver them.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Pledge III

In its Pledge to America, Republicans promise to deregulate business. That was tried just a few years ago and gave us such wondrous things as mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps which led to the near collapse of American financial institutions. In response, George Bush initiated a bailout of the major corporations and Obama wisely followed his lead. Thus, the nation was saved from an economic collapse that would have made the great depression of the last century look like a Sunday school picnic.

From my perspective, government should not institute an inordinate amount of regulation on business. The free market system works best when it is free from overly vigorous restraint. However, it also works best when the market players restrain themselves from the temptation to engage in fraud and manipulation that is destructive of people who trust their surplus funds to them for investment purposes. In recent times American business has not been able to restrain itself. Rather our business leaders have sacrificed themselves on the altar of filthy lucre. Mammon is indeed the deity of choice for the accumulators of wealth in America. Thus, the need for some degree of regulation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Pledge II

The Republican Party’s Pledge to America promises to put the federal government on a path to a balanced budget. They promise to cut taxes and deregulate business while in another section they propose to increase spending on defense, the war, and national security. Republicans made a similar promise some 30 years ago. Seen at its basic structure, such a plan would decrease income, increase spending and promise to balance the budget all at the same time. When that was first proposed George Bush the elder called it “voodoo economics.” From my perspective, it still is voodoo economics. When implemented, this plan resulted in a tremendous increase in the federal deficit.

George Bush the younger tried the same plan, cutting income and increasing spending. The result was the same: massive increases in the federal deficit. And, the scary thing is Republican leadership pledges to do it again. It is frightening to conceive that the leaders of our nation, after examining the historical record, would try the same failed scheme. But, I think they are very smart people. Maybe they really do know it’s an unworkable plan and are just using it as a political ploy to gain votes. That, from my perspective, is even more frightening.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Pledge I

Last week the Republican Party released its much awaited list of campaign promises. Titling it “A Pledge to America” it laid out a political agenda for actions they will take when they achieve congressional power in the midterm election just a month from now. In some parts of The Pledge they give specific actions they plan to take while, in other parts they speak in vague generalities giving broad philosophical views. The Pledge is really nothing new. Party leaders stayed with the tried-and-true message of conserving traditional Republican values of the past. I was hoping for something new, especially in economic policy. With the burgeoning debt, caused by runaway spending at the same time as we have decreased income at the federal level, we will soon face a major crisis if change is not made. Unfortunately the Republicans have no better plan than the Democrats do.

The Pledge contains some things that, from my perspective, would be beneficial to the political process in the United States. They pledge to reform Congress and to restore people’s trust in that institution. They will make sure that every congressperson has time to read legislation before it is voted on. They also promise open and bipartisan debate. Most important in my view is the pledge to keep proposed legislation simple and straightforward rather than having it be a conglomerate of competing ideas which makes any legislation more complicated than most of us can understand. Republicans failed to deliver on these things a few years ago when they had complete power over all three branches of the federal government. Hopefully they learned the error of their ways and this time they will get it right.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Recession is Over

The report from a group of economists that the recession is over – in fact has been over for a year now – brought a rude confrontation with reality. It doesn’t feel like the recession is over as millions of people are still out of work. Reaction around the country was quite strong. Who do these people think they are making such a pronouncement when the facts tend to show otherwise! But, then reality sets in. The economic term “recession” has a technical definition that goes something like this: two consecutive quarters of decrease in the gross domestic product (GDP).

Of course, it is a little more complicated than that, but that’s the reality of the thing. For over a year we have had increases in the GDP and even though those increases have been very small, it means that technically the recession is over. Americans have been under the illusion of continued prosperity and economic growth for many years. Coming to grips with the reality of a jobless recovery is a harsh experience indeed. From my perspective, reality really isn’t much fun in this case. There will be no quick return to widespread prosperity.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sarah Palin as a Politician

I am very impressed by how well Sarah Palin is maturing as a politician. (And, I use the word politician in a positive rather than a pejorative sense.) When she first hit the political scene she seemed like a country bumpkin. However, now she is much more sophisticated and has made a number of wise political moves. From my perspective, Sarah Palin is the candidate to beat in the 2012 Republican primaries.

The Tea Party, particularly with the celebrity of Sarah Palin providing a catalyst for its functioning, has had notable success in several primary elections around the country. Palin has built a solid core of supporters all across America which will give her a distinct advantage going into the presidential primary election season.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Obama’s Anti-Colonial Worldview

President Obama seems to struggle to maintain public credibility these days. His enemies seem to have the upper hand particularly when it comes to managing the news cycle. The latest accusation against him I find very interesting. None other than Newt Gingrich, himself a potential presidential candidate, has accused him of having a “Kenyan anti-colonial worldview.” Evidently Obama’s father, who was a native of Kenya, had a tremendous influence on him during his first two years of life. I view this as a frivolous charge.

From my perspective, I hope Obama does have an anti-colonial worldview. Anyone who has bothered to read the Declaration of Independence would note that our fair Republic was born in opposition to the colonial power of the British Empire. Newt Gingrich, who is a trained historian, should know this. His doctoral dissertation was a study of colonial power in Africa. Why he has brought this silly accusation against Obama is a mystery to me and should call into question his fitness for the presidency.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Justice American-Style

Paris Hilton was arrested recently for cocaine possession. She compounded her sin by lying to the police officers that the purse which held the cocaine was not hers. If she was a migrant worker or a kid from the inner cities she would be doing a good stretch in the state penitentiary. But none of that for dear little Paris. She got merely a slap on the wrist, probation and a fine. And of course several hours of community service which will give her plenty of photo opportunities to enhance her career.

From my perspective, it is a real shame that there is not more evenhandedness in American justice. Why should a spoiled little rich kid get radically different treatment than anyone else?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gambling in the Stock Market

Americans are fascinated with making money. In 1884 a European magazine commented on this national characteristic:

“The English, however speculative, fear poverty. The Frenchman shoots himself to avoid it. The American with a million (dollars) speculates to win ten, and if he takes losses takes a clerkship with equanimity. This freedom from sordidness is commendable, but it makes a nation of the most degenerate gamesters in the world.”

Even though this was written 125 years ago, it still seems to describe the American spirit about making money off the stock market. It may explain what has driven us into the economic downturn we are experiencing today.

One of the seven deadly sins of the ancient world was wealth without work. From my perspective, that still applies in modern times. Maybe our society should reject the desire for a quick dollar and go back to work. We’ve had enough of gambling in the market.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blame the Democrats

It is all the rage these days to blame President Obama and the Democrats for the monstrous debt that has been accumulated by our government. The fact is that the Republicans had total control of all three branches of the United States government for six full years (2001-2007). During that time we had the largest growth in national debt, increase in the size and intrusiveness of government, and diminishment of constitutional liberties in the entire history of our great Republic. Now, you cannot blame that on the Democrats as they were totally out of political control.

Think of that, all three branches of government under the control of the Republican party and they did the exact opposite of what they claim to stand for. Where was the party of small government and fiscal responsibility during that six-year time frame? What was left of the weak and ineffective Democratic Party meekly went along with whatever the dominant Republicans demanded. If you want to blame the Democrats for anything it is for not standing up to the out-of-control big-spending, big-debt, big-government Republicans.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Exit Iraq

The good news is that our combat troops have left Iraq hopefully never to return. The bad news is we still have 50,000 troops left in that beleaguered nation to “train” the Iraqi army. Hopefully they will not be thrust into any combat situation.

So, what did we gain for the trillion dollars spent, four thousand lives lost, and the many more thousands of young men and women returning home maimed and crushed in body and spirit? About the only tangible thing we have accomplished is the overthrow of a dictator and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iraq. Was it worth it? Only time will tell. From my perspective, history will not deal kindly with that American military adventure in the Middle East.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shocking Disclosures about the War

News reports indicate that 90,000 documents classified as secret by the United States government have been made available to the public through a website WikiLeaks. These documents relate to the war in Afghanistan and supposedly reveal what is really happening over there. They paint quite a different picture than we get from the regular media. It seems that people actually get killed as a result of our armed intervention in that far-away country. Imagine that! War results in people getting killed. This is supposed to be a shocking revelation about what is going on. From my perspective, it is to be expected that people get killed in war. Our men and women in the armed services are trained to kill and given the equipment to do so. It should not be a surprise to the American people, but that is what happens when we send our troops into war.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Newt Gingrich Rides Again

Recent news reports indicate that former Congressman Newt Gingrich is considering a run for the presidency 2012. He would be an interesting contrast to Sarah Palin, who is the darling of the Tea Party movement. Sarah has lived a life of strong family values while Newt was committing adultery even as he lead the impeachment effort against Bill Clinton for his adulterous behavior. Both of them have written books, but Gingrich actually reads books. Sarah Palin constantly attacks the “elitists” in America, while Newt is a genuine elitist. (He has a Ph.D. in modern European history) From my perspective, the primary election season will be a spectacle to behold when these two meet in debate.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Must Read for Conservatives

An editorial in a recent issue of The Economist magazine (June 12, 2010) decried the weakness of conservative politicians in America. In the lead article entitled “What’s wrong with America’s right” a stunning quote is found. “America desperately needs a strong opposition. So it is sad to report that the American right is in a mess: fratricidal, increasingly extreme on many issues and woefully short of ideas, let alone solutions.” And, this in a magazine which is unapologetic in its support of conservative political philosophy.

The Republican party in America has justifiably earned its reputation as “the party of no.” It is so fixated on seeing that Obama fail in his presidency that it has forgotten to play its legitimate role as an opposition party. It has no alternative suggestions for dealing with the problems that face America other than to oppose whatever Obama suggests. This is unfortunate, as The Economist points out, because democracy is at its best when there is a vibrant debate in the public forum regarding the proper role of government. Republicans, who champion the conservative cause in the United States, do not seem to have a coherent set of ideas about how to govern. From my perspective, the sooner they get their act together and propose a specific course of action the better served America will be.

To date conservative thought leaders have settled for stringing together a series of sound bites and platitudes. America deserves better. The Economist article is a must read for conservatives in America if they want to be taken seriously.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Simple Solution for Gaza

A major international problem was highlighted with the recent enforcement of the Israeli blockade placed around the Gaza Strip. The purpose for it was to keep weapons from being brought into Gaza which has a tendency to shoot things at the Israelis, most notoriously rockets which land indiscriminately among the population. It turns out that one of the ships included a number of people who had combat on their minds rather than peaceful protest like most of those who were attempting to breach the blockade. The resulting fracas gave Israel bad press throughout the international community.

I realize that the situation between Israel and its Palestinian population is a very complicated one. However, if the residents of Gaza want to have a free flow of goods into their isolated little strip of real estate, there is a simple solution. From my perspective, all they need to do is stop shooting rockets at the Israelis. Then the state of Israel might think more kindly towards letting them import food, medicine, and other needed goods.

Yes, I realize that the Palestinians have not been treated well. I am aware of the history of that part of the world and know that 100 years ago there were very few Jewish people in residence there. I know that it was not the Palestinians who were responsible for the Holocaust. I also know that they were promised a free and independent nation by the British in return for their support of the Allies in World War I. However, the fact is that the Israelis conquered the land and have a certain amount of rights in dictating how things run there. Palestinians are well advised to make their peace with the Israeli victors. From my perspective, that simple solution is workable and would bring much benefit to both sides.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Save Your Energy

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico gets worse and worse as the days go on. There seems to be no solution to the problem. Everything that the BP Corporation attempts to do does not work. They fail again and again to stop the flow of oil. In response, President Obama has expressed a great deal of anger. Commentators around the country have followed his example. Anger reigns supreme.

From my perspective, the President and everyone else should save their energy. There is no need to be angry about something that cannot be fixed. Whenever there is human endeavor there is a chance of failure. Whenever there is a mechanical device there is the possibility that it will have a flaw. That is just a fundamental fact of life and there is no sense getting all charged up over it. So, if you are angry over the oil spill, I suggest you save your energy. Get angry over things that can be fixed not over things that cannot be fixed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

No Time to Waffle

The Tea Party is taking American politics by storm. Among the exciting leaders is Rand Paul, who captured the Republican senatorial nomination for the state of Kentucky. He immediately got attention with his remarks that the civil rights legislation of the 1960s was probably not constitutional. The federal government has no business telling private business that they can’t discriminate on the basis of race, he indicated.

The furor, as you might imagine, was immediate. In response, the usually self-assured Dr. Paul waffled. He backed off his original statements saying that he opposed discrimination. Eventually the good Doctor declared that he would have voted for the civil rights law.

From my perspective, Dr. Paul needs to stand up for his principles. If he truly believes that it is appropriate for private organizations to discriminate on the basis of race, he should say so. We do not need any more politicians who waffle on such important issues. The Tea Party movement promised to give us more genuine politicians. So far, Dr. Paul has not lived up to that billing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Imagine That

Way back in March angry Tea Party members surrounded Congress persons screaming insults while talking about revolution and taking their country back. Imagine that these people were all Black rather than the Whites who make up the tea party membership. What would’ve been the reaction by conservative Americans if an angry crowd of African Americans had threatened to take their country back from the White Congress persons!

Or even imagine that in states that allow open carry weapons several large Black man walked into a Starbucks with revolvers holstered on their side. What would be the reaction? Just let your imagination run wild on this one.

(In the interest of full disclosure, the ideas presented here were borrowed from an editorial in the May 7, 2010 edition of The Week. It is not original with me.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Ultimate Conspiracy

I have some friends who are deeply conservative in their political outlook. They are convinced that there is a vast conspiracy to destroy the American way of life. They sincerely believe that President Obama is a part of that conspiracy. Conspiracy theories have been around as long as recorded history so they are nothing new. The amazing thing is that well-educated people actually believe them.

A good example of how easily duped people are can be found at This will lead you to the Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division which documents the dangers of this ubiquitous chemical. I urge readers to access that site and enjoy a trip through the ultimate conspiracy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Confederate History Month

The governor of Virginia recently revived a long-standing tradition of celebrating the Confederate heritage of the state by declaring April to be Confederate history month. The purpose is to revive memories of the brave men who fought for the cause of the Confederacy in their state. What angered many people was his failure to mention the role of slavery as a basis for the civil war.

From my perspective, neither the state of Virginia, nor any other state, should be proud of their involvement in that tragic event. It is popular these days to downplay the role of slavery and to identify other issues that might have been the basis of the rebellion. States rights is one that comes to mind. However, there is no question that the right of the white population to maintain the system of slavery was a central focus of the Confederate cause.

Confederate vice president, Alexander Stephens, identified the prime concept behind the Confederacy in his famous Cornerstone Speech. “Jefferson’s ideas were fundamentally wrong,” He stated. “They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error.” Stevens further stated, “our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

From my perspective, Southern politicians of whatever party would be well advised to abandon the cause of the Confederacy and move into the conceptual strength of the 21st-century. The idea of racial superiority has no place in modern America

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Admitting Wrongdoing

The Catholic Church is in a world of hurt these days because of the continuing accusations of wrongdoing by members of its clergy. Every week seems to bring new allegations of child abuse on the part of Catholic priests and charges of official cover-up by the church hierarchy. Even the Pope has come under scrutiny for actions he took or failed to take prior to his elevation to the Holy See.

Most recently the Pope’s own pastor claimed the church was the victim of misuse by the media and compared the lot of Catholic leaders to that of the Jews as they were persecuted during much of history. Jewish leaders have predictably responded with a great deal of anger.

From my perspective, there is no need to bash the Catholic Church. Institutions tend to automatically protect themselves from outside scrutiny when accusations are levied against them. What the church is doing is quite normal even if not defensible.

What is needed is for the Catholic hierarchy to come clean on this issue and admit their wrongdoing. They need to get up front about what really did happen in their own ranks, make restitution to the victims of clerical abuse, and take steps to make sure it does not happen again. Anything less is detrimental to the church and to the society which it intends to serve. Unfortunately the Pope has failed to lead the way on this matter and has only himself to blame for the continuing accusations and bad press the church receives. Faithful Catholics deserve better from their leaders.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Obama's Taunt

People who subscribe to the conservative political philosophy have gone berserk over the recently enacted health care reform. “It’s the end of the world,” they say, “Armageddon, a dark day for America. He (Obama) is trying to destroy the nation.” And those are some of the nicer things they are saying about the situation.

Obama recently responded to these cries of anguish in a speech to an Iowa audience. “After I signed the bill,” he said, “I looked outside and didn’t see any asteroids falling on the earth.” He continued to joke about predictions of Armageddon, the last great battle in the history of the world. Republican response has been predictable. “It is just wrong that the president would taunt us and make fun of us,” whined one caller to C-SPAN’s popular Washington Journal.

From my perspective, those who engage in such inflammatory language by comparing the health care reform to “Armageddon” deserved to be taunted. If you engage in such hyperbole you are inviting your opponents to consider you as a joke. So, live with it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Social Justice

In a recent tirade Glen Beck, spokesperson for political conservatives in America, treated us to a major rant against social justice. He specifically targeted religious institutions which support the concept as a part of their religious teachings. “I beg you look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church website,” he said. “If you find it, run as fast as you can.” And to make it more specific he declared, “if you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish.”

As if to second Glen Beck’s statement against social justice, Mary Matalin a major political strategist for the Republican Party, relied on the words of Jesus. In an interview on the Cobert Report she claimed that Jesus taught “teach them how to fish, don’t give them fish to eat.” And further she stated, “Jesus said if you don’t work you don’t eat.” I have searched the Scriptures and could not find where Jesus said any such thing.

If this is the official position of the Republican Party, I suggest that a delegation of Christian theologians visit Republican headquarters to give them a lesson on proper biblical exegesis. From my perspective, they have totally distorted the message of the Messiah which borders on blasphemy. A dangerous situation indeed!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Where Was Dad?

A Massachusetts gun club recently pleaded guilty in the case where an eight-year-old boy fatally shot himself with a Uzi machine gun last October. His father had brought him to the gun club as a special treat. He was assured that a qualified assistant would supervise the boy as he enjoyed the pleasure of machine-gunning a target. The father stood nearby and watched in horror as the boy shot himself in the head when he couldn’t handle the recoil from the high-powered weapon.

It’s an interesting commentary on contemporary life in America that everybody involved has been charged with liability in the case except the father. From my perspective, he bears a majority of the blame for the tragic accident. Where was he when this took place? While he was standing a few feet away you’ve got to wonder where his head was.

I make this comment not from an opposition to children learning how to use guns, but from a matter of just plain common sense. My father taught me how to use a gun shortly after my 12th birthday. But he certainly didn’t place a machine gun in my hand. Rather he gave me a single shot bolt action 22 caliber rifle and then carefully instructed and guided me in its use. Too bad the boy in Massachusetts didn’t have a father as sensible as mine.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Joke is on Glen

Recently, former Congressman Eric Massa, who resigned his position because of charges of improper behavior with his staff members, was interviewed on the Glenn Beck show. Beck, who is a mainstay of the Fox News network, is well-known for his intense dislike of all things related to the Democratic Party and especially President Obama. Beck pleaded with Massa to reveal some scandal regarding his relationship with the White House. Massa was unable to do so. In fact he repeatedly admitted his own improper behavior. By the end of his program Beck was notably disturbed and apologized for not being able to bring his readers new reasons to hate Obama.

From my perspective, the joke is on Glen Beck. It demonstrates once again the total lack of balance on the Fox network and intellectual dishonesty of Glen Beck, the right wing news broadcaster. Too bad the Republican Party does not have enough courage to repudiate him as a spokesperson for their cause. Unfortunately, many Americans believe everything Beck says to be absolute truth. So, ultimately the joke is on them.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sarah's Joke

Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska and darling of conservative Republicans, appeared on the Jay Leno show this week. After an interview with Leno she did a brief stint as a stand up comedian. I was impressed that her delivery of the cute little joke she told.

More interesting, from my perspective, was the preliminary interview where Sarah and Jay engaged in easy-going banter. When asked about her continual confrontation with the mainstream media she pointed out that the media had a hard time separating the facts of the story from the reporter's biased opinion. "That is why I signed up with Fox," she said. That's the only media outlet that has a fair, and objective reporting of the news, she indicated.

The audience immediately burst into laughter. Obviously they thought she was telling a joke and only realized later that she was dead serious. Anyone who is watched even a small amount of Fox news can attest to the fact that there news anchors are unrepentantly biased in favor of conservative Republicans. In response to an accusation that he found only bad things to say about president Obama, one anchor recently stated, "I will say something good about Obama when he resigned!"

There is nothing fair or objective about the Fox news Channel and the fact that Sarah Palin has not s noticed that indicates something about the status of her intellectual capacity. Yet, she is taking conservative wing of the Republican Party by storm!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


It was interesting to watch the recent healthcare summit. Both Democrats and Republicans tended to play towards the audience rather than do serious talk about health care policy. It must be frustrating for President Obama to be so close to having the system reformed and not be able to get it to finalization. He is almost there.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are almost to the point of achieving their main goal: making Obama fail. If they can hold on just a little longer maybe he will give up and then they can claim victory. Unfortunately, the nation suffers as a result of both sides entrenched stance. From my perspective, it will take the political skills of a Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan to achieve any reform of our broken health care system.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A New Pledge of Allegiance

The Supreme Court shocked the American political system last week with its ruling giving new rights to corporations. According to the Supremes, corporations have the same constitutional rights as individuals do. Therefore, there can be no restrictions on their free speech rights under the First Amendment.

The result of this decision sweeps away 100 years of jurisprudence and American tradition. It allows corporations to spend an unlimited amount of money in election campaigns. They are free to buy access to the halls of power in our fair Republic without any restriction. I suggest the following change in our nations Pledge of Allegiance:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United Corporations of America and to the conglomerate for which it stands, one oligarchy, under the almighty dollar, with liberty and bonuses for all CEOs."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Conservative Response to Earthquake in Haiti

Just a few days ago the island nation of Haiti was devastated by an earthquake. Thousands of buildings collapsed; tens of thousands of people are dead. America responded as usual to these kinds of tragedies by immediately rushing to help the beleaguered people of the impoverished nation. President Obama made a public call for Americans to contribute much-needed money to the relief effort. Americans are a generous people and will rise to this occasion as needed.

However, all is not well in our fair Republic, for none other than conservative leader and radio personality Rush Limbaugh condemned Obama's call for help and implied that people should not contribute. "We have already given through our incomes taxes," he stated. He also implied that any money donated in response to Obama's call would be siphoned off for political use and never get to the needy people of Haiti.

Not to be outdone, conservative Christian leader Pat Robertson made an emphatic statement that the Haitian people had made a "deal with the devil" when they rose up to throw off the shackles of colonial rule. The result has been a history of suffering and devastation.

One wonders how much lower conservative leaders can sink. Now is the time when the Haitian people need words of comfort not condemnation. Do conservatives have any compassion whatsoever? It is far past time for conservative leaders of the Republican Party to disavow the hatred spewed out by these outspoken men on a continual basis. They do no good for the Republican Party nor are they good for America.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Connecting the Dots

America is all in a frenzy because of the near tragedy on Christmas day when a Nigerian youth attempted to blow up an airplane landing in Detroit. Our security forces should have apprehended him prior to getting on the plane,President Obama declared. We had plenty of information, we just didn't connect the dots.

From my perspective, the reason we didn't connect the dots is that there are just too many dots to connect. With 1 million people on the watch list it is impossible before the fact to identify the ones who really are the bad guys. Now, because of the security frenzy, even more people will be put on the list making more security dots to connect. America's desire for perfect safety in every aspect of life is probably not reasonable.