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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thank you Police Chief Edward A. Flynn - A Game Changer with Senator Lindsey Graham

Senator Lindsey Graham (R) from South Carolina never thought he'd make such passionate national news when he received brilliant push back from Milwaukee's brave Police Chief Edward Flynn, during a public hearing on the need for gun regulations.  

If I were a South Carolina voter, the condescending attitude of Senator Graham towards a passionate guest, trying to protect the public from gun violence, would convince me to vote him out of office.

Chief Flynn certainly put Senator Graham in his place!


Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn is getting widespread praise for his animated response to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) yesterday (Feb 27) at a hearing on a bill that would ban assault weapons. Flynn deserves national support for his passion. During the hearing, Graham parroted the National Rifle Association (NRA) line about prosecuting those who lie on gun background check forms,  when Flynn called him out on it!  Flynn held his ground, insisting that prosecutors didn't have time to go after people who lied on the forms. That's just "chasing paper" he said. What's needed is that these people are stopped from purchasing guns. Going after them for lying on the forms would be a waste of resources, he said. Red herring exposed!

A blogger named Citizen Dave writes, "Extremists....about guns like (Senator) Lindsey Graham have had the field to themselves for far too long. American need others like Chief Flynn to fight back with....passion".  

A YouTube video link of this exchange is worth watching:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4flKp_NbQEU

Police Chiefs dislike dealing with media (having worked as Executive Director of emergency medical services for 6 years taught me how skeptical Police Chiefs are of making any news), so the spontaneity of Flynn's response to Senator Graham was particularly compelling.  This exchange was certainly unanticipated and I'm reasonably certain Senator Graham would give anything to recall the entire incident.  It was an embarrassing example of news you don't want to see about yourself on the morning talk shows. Frankly, Senator Graham appeared rude and inept during the exchange with a respected public servant.

But, condescending behavior provided another good reason to remove Senator Graham from the United States Senate, because he used his authority to intimidate Chief Graham, rather than listening to what the man came to say.

It's certsainly time for Senator Graham to apologize to Chief Flynn, but, hopefully this has already happened.  

More important, Senator Graham should see this exchange as a game changer for himself.  Senator Graham should take his exchange as a signal to  stop his support for NRA rhetoric and show some respect towards those working to protect the public from harm.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Five Suggestions to the Cardinals: Pope Benedict XVI - Auf Wiedersehen Gott segne Sie

As Pope Benedict leaves the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, good wishes are deserved, in German:  Auf Wiedersehen Gott segne Sie (Good bye and God Bless You).

But, the challenging work ahead is in the diverse hands of the Cardinals of the Church, who were largely (as Cardinal Dolan expressed) caught by surprise by the Pope's historic abdication or resignation, to become a living Pope Emeritus. 

Although the Cardinals are not accustomed to accepting advice, especially from women, I humbly offer five priorities they must consider.  My advice is driven by a deep regard for the Cardinals who will need all the help they can get to protect the future of the Roman Catholic Church, at this precarious time.  As Pope Benedict so eloquently stated in his farewell address, there have been times during the recent turmoil within the Church when God was sleeping.  Although the Cardinals know they must completely eliminate the sexual scandals within the church, the future really depends on evangelizing and spreading the Gospels.  

So, let's wake God up, with these five points of advice.  Cardinals must select a Church leader who is willing to prioritize the needs of the Church over the traditions of the Vatican hierarchy. 

Following is my list:

1.  Married Clergy:  Select a leader who supports married clergy- St. Peter was married and there's no reason why his 21st century successor should uphold an antiquated man made law that's preventing many faithful men from ordination to the Catholic clergy.  Moreover, many sects of Catholicism allow married clergy, including the Eastern Rite.  

St. Matthew writes about how Jesus cured St. Peter's mother in law - so, it's confirmed, the first Pope was married! (Matthew 8:14)

2.  Latin:  Mass is a priority, but the regressive Latin Mass is not.  Rather than allow conservative factions in the church to dictate about the language of the Mass, the priority should be to bring the Sacrament of the Eucharist to as many people as possible.  Speaking Latin prayers in the Mass is absolutely fine, but Roman Catholics should not be separated from the Eucharist based on how Latin is included in the Mass, versus English or any other language.  Select a new Pope who can rise above conservative Latin Mass regressive.

3. Women:  St. Mary Magdalene was a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Therefore, the new Pope must be open to supporting women who desire to pursue ordination as Deacons, authorized to administer certain sacraments and minister to the faithful.

4.  Laity control - Roman Catholics support churches and parochial schools. Nevertheless, the Bishops decide what parishes live and which schools will survive.  There was a time when Roman Catholic Churches were not always formal structures, but communities of believers.  Roman Catholic Bishops should support, rather than obstruct, faithful people who want to protect religious institutions. Rather than closing churches and schools, the new Pope must support Bishops who will work to retain churches and schools rather than closing them.  Laity must have much more control over management of parishes and schools. Sacraments are the exclusionary role of the clergy and deacons, but management should be delegated totally to the faithful laity.

5.  Politics and women's rights-  Out new Pope must stop the clergy from being involved with political candidates or parties based upon abortion, at the exclusion of all other human conditions, especially in the United States. Sociologists will correlate abortion with women who are desperate, either because of their poor socioeconomic situation or because the pregnancy may have been forced.  Therefore, the new Pope must support women's rights and the root causes of abortion, and reign in clergy who obsess about abortion as a sin.  As every Catechism explains, a sin includes the intention of the sinner, as well as the act itself. The new Pope must take a bigger view about women's rights, if the spiritual priority of evangelizing will be successful, because women are the teachers of the faith.  Women rights and health care must be understood and supported by our new Pope.

These suggestion are not rocket science and they're certainly not my original ideas. Nevertheless, the new Pope will be successful if he takes my blog advice.  Although my presumption is haughty, I know these five attributes are vitally needed in our new Pope,so I pray this blog somehow finds him. 

Of course, to Pope Benedict, "Auf Wiedersehen Gott segne Sie".

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Let's Support Sequestration if it Means Republican Are Booted Out of Office

A dire but  avoidable economic disaster will occur beginning on March 1st, when cuts to defense and programs to help middle class people will be cut, just because the Republicans in Congress don't want to compromise on revenue (taxes).  

Maybe, Republicans who aren't doing anything to stop this crises will actually bring about their own political demise.  It's a manufactured crises that could cement and sink the end of Republican Congressional leadership (one can hope).

Sequestration is another in a short litany of manufactured economic crises, but it can become the straw that finally breaks the  back of obstructionist Republicans in Congress, who just won't accept the outcome of the 2012 election.  President Obama won, but they won't accept the outcome of the democratic process. Instead of using what political influence they have to support a majority agenda, they intend to create misery for the middle class who voted for the president.

Nevertheless, if Republicans allow sequestration to move forward, the voters must respond and vote every one of them out of office.  

Virginia is one state where sequestration will have a terrible economic impact, because the state's defense jobs are heavily cut in the sequestration.  Virginia's economy is as dependent on defense contracts and government money as the elderly are on Social Security and Medicare.  It's easy to see that Virginia's economy will go into Depression if this sequestration moves forward.  Northern Virginia is the home to thousands of government workers who commute to Washington DC; even more dependent is the southeastern part of the state, saturated with the US Navy in Norfolk, Oceana, Little Creek, Newport News, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach, plus the ancillary jobs associated with these major defense installations.

Where is Congressman Eric Cantor? Constituents in his home state stand to loose economic security, they're at risk of loosing thousands of jobs, while he's part of the leadership of the opposition to prevent the sequestration!

Virginia's Republican Governor is concerned.  Governor Bob McDonnell is against this sequestration.  He's a Republican who calls for the Congress to get something done to avoid the sequester. 

Virginia's Republican Congressman Scott Rigell even attended President Obama's anti sequestration rally in Newport News, Virginia. This was a huge statement by Rigell and in "your face" to fellow Republican Congressman Eric "can't get it done" Cantor.

Of course, a simple vote can eliminate this sequester. Incredulously, Republicans have some weird self destructive impulse by wanting this mess to happen.  This convoluted logic can't be lost on Virginia voters who will certainly remember to vote the Republicans out of office when their economic security is threatened.

Meanwhile, all Americans will suffer the economic consequences of the avoidable sequester on March 1st, because Republicans continue acting out, like spoiled children, about their loss of the White House during the 2012 election.  

Therefore, we American voters must vote every Republican obstructionist out of office, as soon as possible. We need progressive rather than obstructionist political leaders. We must vote for political leaders who care about the people they represent, rather than blindly following their failed ideology.

Unfortunately, since the "move them all out" election isn't until 2014, we can only pray that sequestration will serve at least one positive purpose, in spite of its negative economic impact.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Roman Catholic Cardinals and Selecting St. Peter's Successor in the 21st Century Church

It's an awesome responsibility to select the successor of St. Peter the Apostle in Rome, the man who will next lead the world's Roman Catholics, as our Pope.  Some Cardinals of the church only participate once in their lifetime to select one of their own to lead the world's Roman Catholics. But, the last time the largely same group of Cardinals met in conclave, about 8 years ago, they didn't have much of a challenge.  Cardinal Ratzinger was obviously prepared and ready to step into the position as Pope Benedict VXI, so there really wasn't much point in challenging him.  If another Cardinal were selected, other than Cardinal Ratzinger, the new guy would just have to  put  up with the respected leader of the  important Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, anyway, so might just as well make him the boss, so to speak. 

Pope Benedict is a visually appealing Pope.  He looks the part and, no doubt, he's a very devout man.  Nevertheless, he seemed to come up short on the humility scale, or, at least, that's how I saw him, until he decided to resign.  His nearly unprecedented resignation in the Church's 2,000 year history indicates a man keenly aware of his mortality and shows me a passion to live up to the life of prayer and meditation he seems to thrive upon.  Perhaps, by resigning, he could turn out to be the very best, or most sensible, Pope, in the history of Roman Catholicism, depending, on what happens next.

If Pope Benedict's resignation leads to a popularity contest among the Cardinals for his successor, then his bold act of humility will have been in vain. People will justifiably say, "he shouldn't have done it".

Therefore, this is an opportunity for the Cardinals to finally exert unified change within the Church and elect someone who will lead, unite, evangelize and teach us how to be better Christians. 

But most of all, Roman Catholics need a Pope who will allow for the ordination of more priests.

It's essential for the Cardinals to elect a Pope who will make his number one priority for all Catholics to have more priests to minister to us.  Rather than protect the tradition of celebrate clergy (we're finding more evidence they haven't been so celebrate, anyway) and keeping the religious women of the world away from even becoming ordained deacons, the Church is preventing Roman Catholics from evangelizing, even among our faithful selves.  We need priests! There's absolutely and virtually no reason for this shortage except for the obstinate Roman Catholic hierarchy who, for no good reason, is obstructing the ordinations of more married clergy and, at the very least, women deacons.

There are precedents for both of these in Church history.  First of all, there's been a centuries old debate about whether or not St. Peter was married.  It's really hard to believe he was a single man, so unusual for his time.  Additionally, St. Mary Magdelene was as  much of an apostle as the rest of the men selected by Jesus to spread his faith around the world.   

Moreover, in the Eastern Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, priests have married and supported families for centuries!  

All the Cardinals must put their egos aside and look the future for what the church needs.  

Selecting Pope Benedict's successor is the most challenging process the Catholic Cardinals will ever be engaged in.  Of course, most of them have practice and experience, because many were together 8 years ago, to elect Cardinal Ratzinger. This time, the Cardinals must get the right man, for the right time, for the right job. Our access to the Sacraments depends on their humility in finding a highly moral man, who will rise above tradition, and bring the clergy we desperately need to our patiently waiting faithful.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hollywood Oscar Night - And Spotlight on President Jimmy Carter Shines Bright

President James "Jimmy" Carter, was the 39th leader of our nation, but his legacy is forever linked to his thwarted re-election to the White House in 1980, caused by the Iranian hostage crises.  Many  unfairly portrayed Carter as being ineffective during this crises, but "Argo" the movie helps to set the real history straight.

As the nation's oldest living past president, Carter may have survived long enough to fulfill the proverbial "what goes around comes around" in history.  Tonight's annually anticipated Academy Awards, or the "Oscars", will highlight the film "Argo", and may turn a spotlight to Jimmy Carter's valiant efforts to save the hostages lives - and, indeed, all of them did come home.  "Argo" the movie is a "goes around" proverbial validation of President Carter's challenging times.  Historians can't really blame President Carter for the entire Iranian crises, but he was determined to bring those hostages home, unharmed, regardless of who caused the problems in the first place.  According to events explained in "Argo", the Iranian events leading up the crises resulted from years of a dictator Shah, who received safe haven in the USA during his end of life illness. This humanitarian act led to the turmoil that reigned terror over our nation, causing violence in Iran, while captured American embassy hostages lived in daily threat of execution.

But, 6 Americans who worked in the Tehran embassy immigration managed to escape into the chaotic streets, when the other employees were seized and terrorized

President Carter's popularity during this international crises eroded badly as a result of the precarious state of the hostages. While the focus was justifiably on their fate, the other, less told story, was about 6 who managed, by a miracle, to escape and take refuge in the sympathetic Canadian Ambassador's home, in Tehran.

Now, Ben Affleck's film "Argo", about the historic humanitarian rescue of the 6, finally sheds a realistic spotlight back on Carter's administration, providing a more balanced view of the President's overwhelming challenges during 1979-80, during the 444 day reign of terror.  In a turn around of history for President Carter, during his lifetime, "Argo" might win the Oscar for best film of the year, in spite of fantastic competition from productions like the spectacular Spielberg's "Lincoln" (because of an amazingly accurate, eerily retrospective doppelganger, performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as our 16th martyred President.)

Regardless of what film finally receives the Oscar, "Argo" is, nevertheless, a well deserved and appropriate gift to those who lived through this tumultuous hostage history. For those who felt President Carter deserved more credit for bringing all the Iranian hostages home alive, including the 6 whose stories are portrayed in Ben Affleck's now classic historic film, we appreciate living long enough, with President Carter and his wife Roslyn,  to know the entire Iranian Hostage incident will be available on film for future generations to study and appreciate.

As a result, Carter will be discussed as being a leader during this crises, rather than "labeled" wrongly as a "weakened" President. In fact,  President Carter deserves an Oscar for leading our nation through this terror, with dignity.

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Compassion Fatigue - Dr. Pete Linnerooth Obituary


What could have saved Dr. Linnerooth?
(Another- preventable - casualty of Iraq War.)

Dr. Pete Linnerooth (1970-2013)

MANKATO, Minn. (KMSP) - Peter Linnerooth, a U.S. Army psychologist, took his own life on Jan. 2 in Mankato. 

Although the 42-year-old Bronze Star recipient is credited with helping hundreds of soldiers cope with post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues, but he may have been the victim of "compassion fatigue",  meaning, in lay terms, an underlying post traumatic stress disorder whereby a person is stoic or seemingly unconcerned about the emotional state of others.

In other words, he burned out and there was, apparently, no where he could turn when he needed "care for the caregiver".

As an Army psychologist, Linnerooth faced the challenge of preventing soldier suicides during their tour of duty, as well as two more years helping veterans in California and Nevada. 

But after five years in the Army, including 12 violent months at the height of the Iraq troop surge, Linnerooth returned to Minnesota suffering PTS himself.

Linnerooth was published in a 2011 edition of the American Psychologist, as the lead author of an article on professional burnout among military psychologists.

Along with Dr. Linnerooth's suicide, the Pentagon revealed, on the day he was buried, that a RECORD 349 MILITARY SUICIDES were reported in 2012, in Iraq.  The Associated Press reports that this record exceeded 295 American combat deaths in Afghanistan in 2012.  There were 301 military suicides reported in 2011.

The Army had the highest number of suicides among active-duty troops in 2012, with 182, but the Marines had the largest percentage increase -- up 50 percent to 48. The Air Force recorded 59 suicides and the Navy had 60.

Obviously, real people with families are the faces behind the numbers of deaths.  Cold statistics bandage a much bigger problem. Children are deeply impacted, for the rest of their lives,  after loosing  parents, especially by suicide.  Also, spouses experience the grief of wondering if anything could have been done to prevent these untimely deaths.  

But, to loose a highly trained clinician like Dr. Linerooth is tragic and costly.  Not only is his young death a monetary loss to the military (a good deal of his specialized training was likely paid by the Pentagon), but, the collateral emotional damage can't be measured. Typically, the people he saved from suicide will likely engage in a renewed grief about their own survival chances.  It's like, "Oh my God, if Dr. Linnerooth can't make it, what are my chances of staying well?"

This is what Mark Thompson writes in Time Magazine about Dr. Linnerooth, former Army psychologist, in the January 28, 2013, special report, on page 20, of the Briefing section:  

"They buried one time Army captain Pete Linnerooth on Jan. 14, at Minneapolis' Fort Snelling National Cemetery.  You won't find him listed among the US troops lost in Iraq since 2003.  Yet, the war killed Linnerooth, as surely as if he'd been hit by a sniper's bullet.  Then again, there's no roster of the lives the Army psychologist saved during his year there, either. Nor, sadly, the hundreds of haunted minds he patched back together, before his own failed him."

Thompson goes on, "Few people have better understood the perverse alchemy that can turn the rush and glory of combat into a darkening cloud of anxiety and depression.  Linnerooth watched as the military's suicide rate escalated to nearly one per day in 2012.  But, he also warned colleagues and reporters that even mental-health professionals are vulnerable.  When he shot himself at home in Mankato, Minn., on Jan. 2nd, he became the first Army psychologist deployed in the post 9/11 wars known too die by suicide."

One contributing factor to his death may have been "compassion fatigue", said Brock McNabb, who served alongside Linnerooth.  "Pete struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression after his deployment to Iraq," said another Army comrade.  After his five years in the Army, the Veterans Administration grated him 100 percent disability for his post traumatic stress.

Sergeant Rob Kumpf was among Dr. Linnerooth's veteran clients, who expressed grief over the loss of the man he called "Doc". "We do nothing t help people like Pete, who give their all to help those of us suffering," he said in Thompson's article.  "I hope he finds the peace in heaven that he could never find here on earth.  Rest in Peace, sir," he said.
 
Although the War in Iraq will not include the name of those who took their lives by suicide, these victims are as much a part of the statistics as if they were killed by a road side bomb.  In the absence of the Iraq War, we can assume that a vast majority of these preventable suicide deaths would not have happened.

History will, undoubtedly, be justifiably a very harsh judge of the second Iraq War, begun on 2003, where the premise for invasion was Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). But, these threats never existed.  The suicide death of Dr. Pete Linnerooth and the 349 other lost lives to suicide are among the statistics that won't be among the fatalities reported in the Iraq War, but, hopefully, the reality of this kind of collateral damage will bring much more awareness to the untended collateral damage of any, God forbid, future wars.

Meanwhile, the Veterans Administration and the Pentagon support interventions to mitigate the growing number of suicides:

CALL FOR ANNUAL PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress) SCREENING

Of the 2.6 million U.S. military service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, it's estimated 13 percent to 20 percent have symptoms of PTS. And barely half of those diagnosed with PTS actually get treatment, often because many soldiers worry it could jeopardize their careers.

Those numbers led to a recommendation for the Institute that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan undergo annual screening for post-traumatic stress disorder and that federal agencies conduct more research to determine how well the various treatments for PTS are working.

READ MORE:  Panel calls for annual PTS screening of returning soldiers
http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/story/19020533/nih-ptsd-screenng-for-returning-soldiers


U of M researchers find possible key to treating, understanding PTS
http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/story/17628282/u-of-m-researchers-find-possible-key-to-treating-understanding-ptsd

Read more: Peter Linnerooth helped hundreds of soldiers cope with PTS - KMSP-TV http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/story/20581691/peter-linnerooth-army-psychologist-ptsd#ixzz2LjsFt5fY

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gun Violence is Caused by Guns - Victims Must Call for Action


It's completely unbelievable, but many people won't accept the root cause of gun violence. 

Gun violence deniers are blindly led by advocates for the National Rifle Association, who claim that tragedies like Aurora, and Columbine, in Colorado, Tuscon, in Arizona, Newtown, in Connecticut, Virginia Tech University and, sadly, many other places, are somehow not related to guns. They say the preventable deaths are caused by mental illness.  Incredulously, deniers won't acknowledge the role of guns in "gun violence". These NRA advocates are especially blind to regulations to reduce unbridled access to murderous assault weapons, which have no other purpose than to kill people.

Let's imagine we're in a time machine launched, like a comet, into the 22nd century.  How can we explain to these future people that their 20th century ancestors couldn't correlate guns with death?  It's analogous to how the modern descendants of the 17th and 18th century slave owners feel, today, about their ancestors, who fell victim to believing the Negro was property, rather than human.  It's disconcerting to discover slave owners in a family's tree, especially when it's pretty well known how plantation owners were frequently the father of many children born on their properties.  Modern families don't like to discuss ancestors who may have owned slaves.  In our time machine, the society we find at the end of the mythical journey will ask how we allowed so many thousands of innocent people to be murdered by guns, when the cause of these deaths was preventable.  

Yet, when Senator John McCain was confronted in a town hall meeting by an Aurora Colorado victim, the mother of a person killed in the crazed attack, he took the position of protecting the assault weapons, while the audience cheered.  How cruel.  There's no way of explaining Senator McCain's callous response to our 22nd century time travel hosts.  Even worse, there's no justice in the way the audience staged their support for Senator McCain's response.  These deniers of cause and effect are insensitive to say the least and in total denial about the long term consequences of their steadfast support for guns.  They're making a bad situation even worse.  Eventually, these gun violence deniers will wake up to the reality of their wrong mindedness.  As Senator McCain said, in his insensitive town hall response to the Aurora victim's mother, "let's give it to you straight". Okay, here it is:  those who do nothing to deter gun violence, but blindly support unmitigated second amendment rights, are as responsible for the next deadly incident as if they bought the deadly weapons themselves.  It's like a special category of manslaughter.  

A simple solution to ending gun violence is to take action to reduce the numbers of guns in circulation.  Even if the horse is already out of the barn on access to guns (so many are already in circulation) the solution to preventing more deaths is to reduce the ease of future availability, to protect children not yet born. Think about explaining to our 22nd century hosts how something was eventually done to prevent their families from enduring the terror of gun violence in our society.

It's sad to say, but Americans who call for common sense gun regulations need to hear more from those who are the tragic victims of gun violence  Although it's emotionally painful to hear these stories relived, and worse for the victims, it's essential to listen to them over the clutter of fear messages perpetrated by advocates of the NRA.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

House Speaker John Boehner Writes Op-Ed But Won't Solve Sequester


John Boehner: Wall Street Journal prints whining opinion by John Boehner, includes lies but no leadership nor solutions.



"The President Is Raging Against a Budget Crisis He Created - Obama invented the 'sequester' in the summer of 2011 to avoid facing up to America's spending problem," writes Boehner.

I'm really worried about how Speaker Boehner can fabricate information and get published in the Wall Street Journal.  Obviously, the Wall Street Journal won't publish my blog, because I'm challenging the Speaker's misinformation, but the proverb holds that a lie travels halfway around the world (via the WSJ) before truth can pull its pants on.

Boehner writes, "But President Obama was determined not to face another debt-limit increase before his re-election campaign. Having just blown up one deal, the president scuttled this bipartisan, bicameral agreement. His solution? A sequester."

Poor Pinocchio. He's just a perfect cliche to point out the above false statement.  In fact, Speaker Boehner was thrilled to get the Sequester into the Budget Control Act of 2011 and now he acts like he's "shocked! shocked!" about the President supporting it?  

Pinocchio alert! 

I'm no expert on the Budget Control Act, but I'd be "shocked! shocked!" if the president's position on the fiscal austerity law didn't include revenue.  President Obama is willing to support a balanced approach to reducing the nation's deficit.  Speaker Boehner knows this to be the truth, but refuses to accept the balanced approach as a compromise position and, thereby, avoid the looming March 1st Sequester. 

Truth is this:  Boehner wanted the Sequester in the Budget Control Act. He's telling the Wall Street Journal a lie by claiming this provision was supported by President Obama, when Republicans are preventing revenue from being included in the solution.

It's time to cut House Speaker John Boehner and eliminate the Sequester altogether.  Hopefully, Americans are waking up to the realities of how Republicans want to govern. It's incredible to see how Republican prefer bullying rather than leading and promoting austerity without regard for seeking revenue to balance the budget.

Sequester is unnecessary and so is Speaker Boehner's job.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Somebody Must Cut the Sequester Before Cutting Middle Class Economic Investment

Congressional Republicans show mixed-up priorities as they obsessively look (OMG- again!) to further reduce middle class safety net programs, as the March 1st Sequester looms, causing preventable but serious job killing spending cuts. 

These obsessed fiscal cutters, led by Congressman Eric Cantor and supported by House Speaker John Boehner, tell us they believe the politics of austerity is somehow better for our economy than the return on investment if President Obama's stimulus initiatives (like building roads and bridges) are adopted.

Sequester cuts to defense contracts on March 1st, will be immediate. Consequently, the sequester will negatively impact on middle class jobs, especially in union shops, like Bath Iron Works, in Maine, where defense contracts are awarded to build destroyers.  Republicans are playing political roulette with  our nation's national security by holding firm to their obsession with austerity, just because they can. 

This inaction on the sequester is another slap in the face to the middle class voters who elected President Obama. Republican Congressmen and women who took February vacation this week, rather than working on a solution to the Sequester deadline, are behaving irresponsibly. Rather than cut programs, Americans should cut these Congressional salaries by the amount of tax payer money they each receive, for every hour they aren't working.

Even more common sense would prevail if Congress cut the Sequester entirely. Instead of cutting programs that will damage our nation's economic recovery, like job supporting defense contracts, the Congress should look to fund our national priorities to include (a) jobs related to defense and developing national infrastructure (b) middle class safety net programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Veterans benefits, and (c) national, and domestic safety and security.


Americans who voted for President Obama must continue to remind Congressional Republicans about the outcome of the 2012 election, by using our right to petition our government. Congress must be told, again, to cut the Sequester and save our nation from yet another - yes, another (!) - manufactured fiscal crises.  

Otherwise, the November 2014 election is a Sequester the Congressional Republicans can really fear.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Guns - Second Amendment Rights Can Cause Rather than Appease Fear


Although Second Amendment Rights were created by America's Founding Father's to help protect people from harm, this privilege is now causing more fear than reassurance.  People are buying guns like never before because many fear others who own them.  This paranoia is out of control and there are likely more guns in American circulation than there are people to protect.

But, many paranoid Second Amendment fundamentalists are ordinary people who steadfastly believe they have a right to own as many guns as they can afford, whether they ever use them (or intend to use them) or not.    Stephen King described these good minded individuals in his excellent essay, "Guns" where he magnificently (albeit with harshly realistic current events) describes how guns are wrongly perceived  as necessary by right wing extremists. 

King writes:
"Most Americans who insist upon their rights to own as many guns (and of as many types) as they want, see themselves as independent folks who stand on their own two feet; they may send food or cloths to the victims of a natural disaster but they sure-God don't want charity themselves. They are, by and large, decent people who want to help their neighbors, do volunteer work in the community and would not hesitate to stop and help a neighbor broke down on the side of the road.  They are more apt to vote for increasing law enforcement funds than school improvement funds, reasoning (and not without some logic) that keeping kids safe is more important that getting them new desks. They have no problem with drug and alcohol recovery centers...as long as they are in somebody else's neighborhood. They can weep for the dead children and bereft parents of Sandy Hook, then wipe their eyes and write their congressmen and women about the importance of preserving the right to bear arms."

Constitutional Second Amendment rights, allowing Americans to own and bear arms, are often politicized while current events report life and death drama about those who deliberately abuse this privilege.  

Right wing advocates for this Constitutional privilege deliberately create paranoia about government taking away the right to bear arms.  They're stocking up on guns and ammunition, thereby stirring undue fear in the public, creating anxiety among law abiding citizens who can't understand why some people need so many of them. After all, one human being can only use one gun at a time. Owning an outrageous number of guns doesn't protect a person from attack any more rigorously than one gun aimed at a threat.

Paranoia about the unreasonable need for guns is fueled by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Rather than call for common sense solutions to curb the fear and muck raking about gun ownership, the NRA calls for people to own more arsenals of guns and ammunition, if they choose.  Yet, it turns out, this stubborn entrenchment may have more to do with conflict of interest of the Association's Board members than with protecting people or Constitutional Rights.  When the leadership of the NRA is disclosed, it turns out there are Board members who have a financial conflict of interest with their positions. In fact, policies that foster gun ownership improve the profits of those who sell guns.  Some influential people who run the NRA also own gun manufacturing businesses.  (Check link - http://www.meetthenra.org/)

Obviously, change in NRA advocacy for unlimited gun ownership won't happen soon, regardless of how unbridled gun ownership impacts on innocent people, especially, if regulatory practices negatively impact sales and profits.

Sadly, reforming America's Second Amendment doesn't seem likely, but that doesn't mean reasonable people should stop trying to do the right thing. Brave people must call for reform, even when they're grieving over the loss of a loved one or are, themselves, recovering from gun violence.

Reasonable people can join with those who Stephen King identifies as independent folks who protect guns but cry when others are harmed.  We can join with them, as well as with those who are harmed by gun violence and those fearful of facing harm.  It's time we work together to solve the problem of gun violence rather than create even more fear.  Second Amendment Rights are not intended to create fear.  Nevertheless, and unfortunately, fear is now driving both sides of this issue.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Sequestration - a Big Word Means "National Economic Emergency"

"The American people have worked too hard for too long, rebuilding from one crisis to see their elected officials cause another." President Barack Obama State of the Union February 12, 2013

What is "sequestration"? Well, having looked it up, the best way to explain it is in plainly dire words.  Apparently, the use of sequestration is like radical surgery to stop the spread of a lethal disease.  In fact, it's so serious that the prospect of sequestration has thus come to seem so catastrophic that Congress has so far been unwilling to allow it to happen.  What it means is that  a plethora of budget cuts will automatically happen just because no one has the political will to act responsibly to stop them.  Everyone agrees about the consequences of allowing the March 1, sequestration to happen.  It's called "recession", ie job losses and stock market consequences. 

Therefore, I have a dire suggestion equal to the urgency of a Congress unable to respond to sequestration.  My recommendation is for President Obama to declare a national economic emergency and simply block the sequestration from moving forward.

Meanwhile, Americans must finish the job begun with the 2012 election. In 2014, voters must eliminate all Republicans from power by voting them out of office.  This means Republican Eric Cantor, Republican Paul Ryan, Republican Kevin McCarthy must be voted out of office along with Republican John Boehner.  Moreover, Democrats must take control of the House of the Representative and retain a majority in the US Senate.  Polishing off of the 2012 election, where the Democrats out voted Republicans, depends on the momentum continuing into the mid term election.

Obviously, Americans can't wait until the mid term election to rid ourselves of right wing extremism. Therefore, in the meantime, President Obama must respond to the urgency of sequestration by declaring a national economic emergency.  

He simply can't let it happen and American voters will support his efforts to take urgent action.  

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Eric Cantor Needs a Leadership Camp

United States Congressmen and Women are two year wonders.  Few people can remember a Congressman's name, even when they're holding office.  Once they leave office, they're as memorable as invisible ink.

Which is exactly why Congressman Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, needs to attend leadership camp.  As of now, Cantor's name generates negative political feelings for two reasons: (a) he's a Congressman participating in a governing organization with a 13 percent public approval rating, and (b) he's a wanna-be political leader who hasn't shown any positive leadership attributes. Yet, he sure knows how to stir up political noise.  Cantor knows how to whine about cutting the deficit, but shows no freshness about how his ideas are any better than failed past policies that simply drive down the standard of living for middle class Americans.  Cutting Medicare, for example, impacts on the quality of medical care for all Americans, reduces the number of jobs in health related industries and reneges on a promise to Social Security beneficiaries who expect their benefits when they reach 65 years of age.  Nevertheless, Cantor rails on how Medicare must be included in any deficit reducing initiative along with a menu of other progressive programs to support middle class and poor Americans. These deficit obsessions are not helping his political career. 

In the recently aired PBS Frontline documentary, "Cliffhanger", Congressman Cantor is portrayed as one of three young guns who can't seem to focus on a political target without shooting themselves in their feet.  Cantor, along with Congressman Paul Ryan and Congressman Kevin McCarthy, have made it their political obsession to undermine all progressive politics.  In so doing, they entirely miss the point on how to be leaders.  Rather than be confrontational and obstructionists, they should learn how to facilitate and bargain.  In learning how to be political leaders, rather than opportunists, who simply cause problems, Cantor and his aggressive colleagues should cloister themselves in a camp where they can study how to be constructive statesmen.

Following are my three leadership goals for Congressman Cantor and his ambitious colleagues:

1.  Leadership by example is always preferable to a display of aggressive ambition.  In other words, Congressman Cantor should call for cuts to his own salary and benefits before obsessing about entitlements that negatively impact on other people's quality of life.  

2.  Leadership by consensus is always preferable to forcing your own opinion on others.  In other words, Congressman Cantor should support House Speaker John Boehner rather than appear as though he wants to take him out to the wood shed if, in his opinion, he thinks the Leader misbehaves.  Congressman Cantor will never become Speaker of the House of Representatives if he continues to look as though he wants his political boss's job.

3.  Leadership with popular support carries a lot of clout, especially when circumstances or political winds take a proverbial sea turn.  Although Congressman Cantor was re-elected by his 7th district Virginia voters in 2012, a majority of Americans don't find him or his policies appealing.  Otherwise, the House of Representatives would have gained, rather than lost, seats in the 2012 election and President Obama would have been held to one term as Leader of the Free World.

If I were a counselor in the Eric Cantor leadership camp, I'd run movies about the lives of Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mother Theresa, Abraham Lincoln, Rev. Billy Graham, Hillary Clinton and Mahatma Gandhi, to name a few charismatic people, who will be held up as role models. Congressman Cantor would "pass" leadership camp if he identifies how each of them led by example, consensus and with popular support, especially during times of personal and political crises.

Meanwhile, Frontline's harsh documentary has cast a shadow on Congressman Cantor's future because he willingly allowed his ambition be aggressively characterized as one of three "young guns".  Not good karma for a man obsessed with having his own political way, regardless of how his opinions impacts others.  "Young gun" is too ambitious and harsh.  He'd have been better characterized as a "young change broker" (the gun image is increasingly unpopular).

But, leadership camp may not be worth the time and money. After all, will we remember Congressman Cantor's name when he's no longer in politics?  "For everything there is a season", is a poetic Old Testament Ecclesiastes reading. Surely, Congressman Cantor should take the time to read it.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Presidential Leadership - Communication from the Heart

President Obama finally gave a State of the Union message, one in which he believed, and it showed. 

In one of the best State of the Union speeches in recent memory, President Obama communicated his passion for progressive leadership with conviction, during last night's highly rated annual report to Congress. 

American people polled by CNN gave his post speech high marks, even giving as high as 70 percent approval to his call to action in support for the victims of gun violence.  "They deserve a vote", was his emotional clarion call, which received thunderous applause from Democrats and many of the victims themselves, who were evident, seated throughout the House gallery.

In contrast, the official Republican rebuttal to the President's speech, by politically promising Senator Marco Rubio, was unconvincing.  Rather than explaining how Republicans have alternatives to the President's progressive agenda, Senator Rubio used apologetic arguments (he believes in Medicare - but he wants to cut benefits and services!) and melodrama (his family was poor, too)  to garner sympathy for his point of view.  In other words, if Senator Rubio has aspirations about becoming a future President, he needs a lot of practice giving important speeches.  It was painfully obvious that  Senator Rubio did not take much time to rehearse his rebuttal speech and he even interrupted himself by gobbling a distracting gulp of water in the middle of an important segment. In fact, Senator Rubio's speech will go down as one of the worst presentations ever for an important televised speech, because his memorable moment was visibly flawed by the water incident.

President Obama's speech was brilliantly uplifting:  "Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report. After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home. After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over 6 million new jobs. We buy more American cars than we have in five years and less foreign oil than we have in 20. Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before."

Unfortunately, two Supreme Court justices were absent during the rousing speech.  Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas snubbed the event.  Perhaps they have the clout to be arrogant, but their absence is even more evidence of Governor Jindal of Louisiana's description of Republicans being "stupid".  

President Obama's leadership was firmly communicated to the American people last evening. Indeed, it was like his speech was the first one, rather than the 5th, he's given to Congress and the American people.  

Although a menu of progressive issues were supported in the President's speech, the biggest take away is that he finally found wind for his political sails. As a matter of fact, President Obama's leadership is taking the wind out of Republican rhetoric.

It's time the Republicans are all sailed right out of office.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

State of the Union - President Obama's Leadership Moment

President Obama's fifth State of the Union address tomorrow, Tuesday February 12th, will be more like his first leadership moment than any prior speech before Congress.  

In the past, Congressional Republicans have been as cool to the President as having an unwanted in-law for dinner. It was obvious how the four previous State of the Union lukewarm welcomes were based upon the false assumption of President Obama being a "one term president".  (Rep. Michele Bachmann was never been held accountable for her now debunked rhetoric.)

In my opinion, President Obama should address the Congress for a 5th time, with a renewed authority and commanding point of view. He has the will of the majority of American voters at his back and he must use this clout wisely.

As one of the majority of voters who helped to elect President Obama to a second term, these are my "two cents" worth of 3 points of advice for his annual SOTU (State of the Union) address:

1.  "Give forward"- Remember, it was Middle Class America who gave wind to the President's re-election; therefore, the future of the Democratic party depends on retaining this important voting group. Provide us, in the Middle Class, with confidence that the 2012 campaign was not only an election victory but a sea turn away from the politics of greed and in support of fair economic revenue sharing.

2. "Call to Action" -  President Obama should summon the majority of voters who elected him, to continue the job of choosing political leaders who care about the United States of America more than they are beholding to powerful lobbyists.  "We the People" means all the people. It's not "We Few People" or "We Rich People" but all the people.  Americans can't go from one election to another without realizing how our voices must be heard in between decisive dates on a calendar.  We must continue to support the need to carry President Obama's promise to protect the Middle Class by communicating our intention to elect leaders based on their representation of the best intentions of all the people.  In other words, we want to elect leaders who care about reducing gun violence in America, believe that health care is a right rather than a privilege and support Social Security as a safety net against poverty for beneficiaries who live to retirement age. 

3. "United We Stand" - It's time for President Obama to remind the Congressional Republican how a State Senator from Illinois became leader of the free world in less than 10 years.  This rocket launched career was made possible because President Obama soaked up the political spotlight with his 2004 Democratic Convention speech, when he identified our nation's biggest vulnerability.  He woke up Americans during this speech, given from his heart rather than driven by political ambition. We're not red states and blue states, but a United States of America, as he proclaimed in that riveting speech. Indeed, the Republicans must be reminded about this unifying basis for our strong democracy and start acting like leaders rather than partisan puppets.  

At the end of the President's 5th Leadership SOTU, we should feel like it's his first time speaking with the authority of a leader who affirms the will of those who elected him, because he is one of us.  

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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Republicans: We're Ready for Our Close Up Mr.DeMille


Eric Cantor can't simply  wish to make the Republicans into "better people" with empty words. As Dana Milbank writes, Cantor can't just put a "happy face" on Republicans. To me, Cantor's "new GOP face" is merely an old face with too much make-up.

Milbank writes: 'Republicans have ...a felicitous new strategy for reviving their party from its depressed state: (All) they need (to do) is think happy thoughts. At a (January) retreat for Republican leaders, former House speaker Newt Gingrich told them to 'learn to be a happy party' and a 'cheerful' one, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said they should be a party 'that smiles'. "

This reminds me of the classic last scene in the hit Andrew Lloyd Webber musical-opera "Sunset Boulevard".
In the musical, the aging former silent movie star Norma Desmond (a theatrical proxy for Gloria Swanson) falls into a delusional state. She's totally out of touch with her "has been" status when she closes the play with the line, "Alright Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up".
Audiences realize, of course, the futility of the aging star, who will never regain her former magnetism. Likewise, putting a new image on the Republican Party will not improve their "has been" old fashioned opinions about nearly everything impacting on middle class Americans.

It should concern us that America's Congressional leaders need coaching, like amateur actors, being told when to "smile" and "be nice" so they can improve the Republican Party's image. This veneer can't mask the GOPs tired policies.  

Rather than act like an aging actress yearning for her youth, they must do more than smile when speaking about immigration reform.  Rather than smile, they must vote in support of progressive immigration policies.  Instead of being nice about social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, they must write laws to prioritize the funding for these programs. In fact, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are humanitarian safety nets paid for with special dedicated and general payroll taxes.  Defense spending is an entitlement for rich contractors, but, yet, they receive tax breaks to spend our money, while poor people are labeled as "47 percenters".

If the GOP means to balance our nation's budget by cutting "entitlements", let them begin by voting to cut their own salaries as well as the numbers of staff people they have on Congressional payrolls.

There's no way Republicans can refresh their tired image by smiling.  They must find a leader who can replace their fading image with a new spotlight on protecting Americans from the ravishes of right wing extremism.  Republican Party icon  President Eisenhower warned Americans to beware of the Military Industrial Complex.   Republicans should study their roots as a political party.  Furthermore, Republicans must rewrite their party's values, consistent with progressive policies and freshen their political positions, before calling for a new public close up.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

There's no Mystery About the Honorable Hillary Clinton

People who continue to speculate about whether of not America's foremost female statesman will run for President of the United States must be horrible players of the popular Clue board game. 

I believe Hillary Clinton has several "charms" in her "intent to run" campaign envelope.  A new Hillary website is now launched, she's done virtually nothing to dissuade speculators about her political future.  Rather than become a temporary political recluse, there's a newly published portrait of her glowing face without the therapeutic corrective eyeglasses she's worn since experiencing a recent concussion.

In spite of her very public life, Mrs. Clinton is a remarkably private person.  She has no reason to launch an updated website unless she wants to remain in the limelight.  After all, being a former Secretary of State carries no particular status, so why a website? In fact, Mrs. Clinton has more clout as a former First Lady (FLOTUS) than as a former Secretary of State. 

Hillary Clinton has lived in the limelight since she was the First Lady of Arkansas. There's very little chance she can stand idly in the side lines when her life has been on the front lines of modern history- including the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Most important, Mrs. Clinton realizes how her decision to run for President prevents other Democratic candidates from jumping into the political ring.  Likewise, her probable candidacy keeps many Republicans from becoming too "presidentially" ambitious.

All the above notwithstanding, the number one "charm" in Mrs. Clinton's presidential envelope is her gender. Eventually, America will elect a woman president and Mrs. Clinton is the best qualified for the job.  Her international respect and political skills give her the inside track to being the first female in our history to officially hold the office.  Therefore, there's no reason for her to step aside, thus allowing some other woman, who will likely be less qualified than she is, to win this historic limelight.

Those who writ clueless blogs or engage in predication about whether or not Mrs. Clinton will run for President are cluttering cyberspace and social media with electronic noise. 

Mrs. Clinton will run for President in 2016, presuming her health holds up and the world order continues to call for her leadership. Otherwise, if she intended not to run for the highest office in the world, she would simply disappear into political shadows, write a book or two and speak at charity events.

There's no mystery about Mrs. Clinton's intentions. She has already given us many clues and I, for one,would be honored to help her win the election.

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Saturday, February 02, 2013

A Call to Action by Religious Groups to End Gun Violence

Harry Belefonte is respected for his eloquence in music and when speaking on behalf of humanitarian issues.  He raised especially important social commentary at an awards event in Los Angeles CA, on February 1st, when he received the Spingarn Award, which honors outstanding achievement by an African Americans from the NAACP.

Rather than give a laudatory and predictable acceptance speech, Belefonte took the occasion to give an opinion about guns.



Belefonte (born March 1, 1927) is an American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist

Belafonte, widely respected for his humanitarian activism, used the awards platform to raise awareness about why the church (he used the noun generically) takes no position on gun control.

“The group most devastated by America’s obsession with the gun is African-Americans. Although making comparisons can be dangerous, there are times when they must be noted. America has the largest prison population in the world. Of the over 2 million men, women and children who make up the incarcerated, the overwhelming majority is Black. They are the most unemployed, the most caught in the unjust systems of justice, and in the gun game, we are the most hunted. The river of blood that washes the streets of our nation flows mostly from the bodies of our Black children. Yet as the great debate emerges on the question of the gun, White America discusses the constitutional issue of ownership, while no one speaks of the consequences of our racial carnage. The question is ‘where is the raised voice of Black America? Why are we mute? Where are our leaders, our legislators? Where is the Church?”


Bravo Mr. Belefonte!

In fact, religious Right to Life enthusiasts should be more inclusive in their advocacy for the rights of unborn babies by including calling for the elimination of gun violence. As dedicated supporters of life, the group says nothing about the people who take the lives of the innocent because of gun violence.

Historically, wars are rarely vilified by religious groups. Truth be told, the root of many wars starts with religious conflict.

Nevertheless, religious groups who forces with Right to Life, for the purpose of preventing the deaths of unborn children, should step up their moral campaign to include protecting the early and preventable deaths of children who are victims of gun violence.

Right to Life groups abhor abortion as an assault on the unborn.  Likewise, gun violence is  an assault on innocent American children.  Children should not be raised in fear of being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time because of unbridled support for Second Amendment rights.

Americans who support common sense restraints on Second Amendment rights should demand a Call to Action against gun violence by all churches, including Right to Life.  

Harry Belefonte deserves even more awards for his position against gun violence.













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Friday, February 01, 2013

Defense Secretary Must Care for the Nation's Armed Forces

Although Defense Secretary nominee Senator Hagel was relentlessly drilled by the confirmation committee of his peers, the questions he was asked neglected to focus on the job he is seeking. A Defense Secretary doesn't take positions on Israel, or on reinventing the reasons for past wars (ethical, or justified or not). Rather, the position Senator Hagel seeks puts him in charge of the US military and defense systems. This includes the well being of American military personnel. 

Right now, the well being of America's military is being harmed by the high rate of suicides.

Reuters reports the most extensive study yet by the U.S. government on suicide among military veterans shows more veterans are killing themselves than previously thought, with 22 deaths a day - or one every 65 minutes, on average.  A Defense Secretary must fix this tragedy.  Military personnel need access to immediate crisis care when there is any hint of suicide.  There must be a quality initiative in place to intervene in areas where clusters of suicide are high. Most important, the goal of these efforts must be to reduce these rates to zero.

A study released by the Department of Veterans Affairs covered suicides from 1999 to 2010 and compared with a previous, less precise VA estimate that there were roughly 18 veteran deaths a day in the United States.

When Senator Hagel is, hopefully, approved as Defense Secretary by the US Senate, his job at the Pentagon will be to improve the military from a traditional to a technically smarter force.  In so doing, he must direct military leaders to protect the investment Americans make in our defense personnel by taking care of their physical, mental and socioeconomic well being.  

Hagel's job is to care for America's armed forces, beginning with eliminating the suicide rate among our military personnel.

Filling the shoes of past Secretaries of Defense, like William Cohen or Robert Gates will certainly be challenging for Hagel.  Nevertheless, his qualifications to lead the military should have nothing to do with what he said in the past about Israel or even his opinion about the illegal war in Iraq.  Rather, Hagel should have been asked drilling questions about how he will upgrade America's military in light of defense draw downs.  But, instead, many Senators just wanted to hear themselves talk on television.

For his part, Hagel should have re-directed the Senator's tangential questions to frame his own understanding of the difficulties impending in the lead Pentagon job.

Senator Hagel's competencies at the Pentagon will certainly be a work in progress, but the future Secretary's positions on Israel or Iraq won't be considerations in his future job evaluations.

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