Maine Writer

Its about people and issues I care about.

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Location: Topsham, MAINE, United States

My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

John McCain Was Wrong on the Iraq War - He Must Admit This

Senator John McCain certainly turned harsh on his friend and political party colleague when he inappropriately drilled Senator Hagel during confirmation hearings for the Secretary of Defense position with the US Senate. 

Although the two men were once friends, Senator McCain certainly parted ways with his former friend. I doubt their friendship survives today's brutal hearing questioning. Yet, there was no need for Senator McCain to turn hypocritically against his colleague and friend.

Clearly, Senator McCain is sounding more and more like an angry old man rather than a statesman, former war hero and and presidential candidate.

Senator McCain's dagger questions to Hagel were inappropriate for two reasons:

1.  Senator John McCain sounded jealous of his (former) friend, Senator Hagel, who may well be confirmed as the Secretary of Defense, a high level executive cabinet position.  

2.  When it comes to whether or not Senator Hagel is qualified to be the Secretary of Defense, we must be reminded about who Senator McCain selected to be his Vice Presidential running mate during his lost 2008 presidential election bid.  Senator McCain selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, a decision that would have put her "one heart beat away" from the presidency.  By all analysis, Governor Palin was no way ready to be Vice-President of the United States.  Senator Hagel is certainly more qualified to be Secretary of Defense than Governor Palin was to be Vice President of the United States.  

Although Senator Hagel seemed stunned by the intensity of Senator McCain's questions, he practiced restraint in his response.  In fact, he was honestly forthcoming when he said, "I'm on the record on many issues (ie,votes), but no one individual vote, no one individual quote, no one individual statement defines me,"  Hagel said in his opening statement at his first day of confirmation hearing for secretary of defense.

Senator McCain is as obsessed with the Iraq War as he has been on the tragic Benghazi Consulate Attack where Ambassador Stevens was killed.  Senator Hagel parted ways with  Senator McCain on the invasion of Iraq and the value of the "surge" to help win the peace in the war dismantled country.  

Unfortunately, Senator McCain was wrong to defend the Iraq War, because there was never evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the premise for the US invasion of a sovereign nation.  In the Benghazi moralities, caused by a terrorist attack on the consulate, Senator McCain clearly made a political decision to use the tragedy to discredit Senator Hillary Clinton and President Obama. There was little anyone could do to save Ambassador Stevens, because he was in harms way the second he took leave of the Syrian Embassy to travel to the consulate in Benghazi.  Senator McCain lost his friend Ambassador Stevens in the attack. Nevertheless, he does no favor to his martyred colleague by continuing to undermine the administration, as Secretary of State Clinton is clearly mourning this tragedy.  It turns out, the Secretary was on the defensive for several potential terrorist attacks on American embassies on the same day, September 11, 2012, as the mortal Benghazi attack.  Senator McCain should not obsess on these issues where there is no resolution resulting from his outrage.  

Senator McCain doesn't value his friend Senator Hagel, or he would be have been more professional than angry during today's hearing interrogation.  

In my opinion, Senator McCain can drill Senator Hagel "until the cows come home" (as they tend to do in Hagel's Nebraska), but it won't cleanse his own poor judgement in supporting the illegal Iraq War. Moreover,  he can't change his poor judgement in picking the unqualified Governor Palin as his Vice-President running mate.  Finally, Senator McCain can't bring his friend Ambassador Stevens back to life by discrediting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  

Rather than behave like a jealous and angry old man when television cameras are focused on him, Senator McCain should tell Americans how wrong he has been on the Iraq War. Rather than criticize Senator Hagel, it is Senator McCain who should admit to being terribly sorry for the many thousands of lives lost as a result of the illegal invasion of Iraq, under false pretenses.  

Perhaps Senator McCain is fearful of what else Senator Hagel will learn about the illegal invasion of Iraq when, hopefully, he is confirmed by a majority vote of the Senate to be Secretary of Defense.  It's hard to understand why Senator McCain has turned on his former friend and colleague, but jealousy and fear are two ugly and vengeful character traits.  

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thank You Shout Out to Brave Gabrielle Giffords

PHOTO: Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly

 Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously injured in the mass shooting that killed six people in Tucson, Ariz. two years ago, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington with husband Mark Kelly, Jan. 30, 2013, for a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Giffords joins a list of high profile victims and gun control advocates who unsuccessfully tried to convince the US Congress to take action against the National Rifle Association and pass controls on murderous assault weapons.

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords struggled with her speech when she said "too many children- too many children....", including one 9 year old girl who was among those murdered in the assault where she was seriously wounded, assaulted by a mentally ill man in Arizona. 

Gifford's brave testimony was emotionally riveting. 

Gifford and her husband  Kelly join a growing group of innocent people who are forever impacted by firearms.

All gun related deaths and disabilities are preventable, because they are caused by guns.  Without guns, these incidents can't happen.

But will Giffords' or anybody else's testimony change a majority of minds?  Nearly everyone who opposes passing sensible gun control finds they're politically abandoned or faced with primary elections where they're defeated by money from the National Rifle Association.

Moreover, even the efforts of James Brady, seriously wounded in the assassination attempt wounding of President Ronald Reagan, has had little impact on gun violence.

In 1993, the Brady Bill was named for Ronald Reagan's press secretary, James Brady, who was seriously wounded in the assassination attempt on Reagan in March 1981. At least one University of Virginia  researcher says the Brady Bill hasn't reduced gun violence, mostly because the US Supreme Court stuck down a chunk of it. 

Doesn't it seem strange that Republicans obstruct any attempts to reinstate provisions in the Brady Bill, when the law was named for a hero who helped to save Republican Ronald Regan's life by taking a bullet?

Meanwhile, gun related tragedy continues to unfold. In an almost unbelievable Chicago incident, another young teenage girl was gunned down. She happened to be in the wrong place seeking refuge from some violent weather when she was murdered. 

In a totally unbelievable tragedy, a beautiful teenager who had marched as a majorette in President Obama's inaugural parade was among the list of child victims of gun violence.

"...too many children....too many children....", said Giffords to the Senate today.

Giffords' Congressional testimony was haltingly eloquent and precise, as she explained how difficult it is for her to speak in public since recovering from her head wound.

She said, "Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important," she told the panel chaired by Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt.
"Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous, Americans are counting on you. Thank you," Giffords said before being helped out of the hearing room.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama, who has made gun control a priority, was looking forward to seeing Giffords and Kelly at the White House.

Congressional hearing were a showdown on guns, featuring two powerful but conflicting forces in the gun control movement. Giffords' husband, Kelly, also testified, but so did Wayne LaPierre, the fiery executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association. Kelly was convincing, but LaPierre looked like a deer stunned by the headlights. 

In spite of all the nation's gun tragedies, today's Senate hearings on gun and ammunition control were the first time these arguments have been debated before Congress, in the 21st century!  

"We must be courageous....", said Giffords.  I hope our US Congress are as courageous in creating sensible gun controls as she has been since recovering from her assault.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Immigration Reform - Republicans Learn to Count

Senator John McCain had a golden opportunity to speak like a statesman rather than a politician when he was asked about the renewed interest in immigration reform coming from the Republican obstructionists.  In the past, Republicans have been opposed to avenues whereby American immigrants are provided a path to citizenship.  Now that Republicans lost the 2012 Latino vote, they're looking to court this growing influential voting block.

Senator McCain was asked what's different about immigration reform now? Why this time?

(CNN) – A bipartisan group of senators expressed confidence Monday in their proposal for major immigration reform. But after the last big congressional push failed in 2007, many are asking why it would work this time around.
"Elections. Elections," Republican Sen. John McCain said Monday in a press conference, when CNN's Dana Bash asked what was behind the optimism. "The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens and we realize that there are many issues on which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens but this is a preeminent issue with those citizens."

McCain could have said, "We embrace our nation's immigrant history and it's time all Americans welcome those who have made great sacrifices to live and work in our country."

Instead, McCain said the newly enlightened bipartisan spirit on immigration reform is directly related to "votes".  Hispanic voters have finally taught Republican arithmetic!  Indeed, the candidates with the most votes win elections and Hispanics are providing a growing number of ballots in this sum of all the voters who vote.

But, will the Republican political sea turn on immigration reform work in attracting Hispanic voters to their party?  I doubt it.  After all, it's simply rude to invite Hispanics to the voting population and court them as numbers while, at the same time, continue treating them as second class citizens. It's like inviting guests to dinner just to fill empty seats at the table. 

Americans should be embarrassed by the way we've treated immigrants, especially because every one of us are descendants of people who took great risks to populate and defend this country.  Immigrants who are seeking a better way of life should not live in fear of deportation when they're law abiding citizens who are working hard employees at labor jobs. 

For the time being, Hispanic voters finally taught Republicans how to accept the outcome of the 2012 election.  Without Hispanic votes, future candidates will have a very difficult time winning national elections.  Thank you to Hispanic voters for finally teaching Republicans how to count votes.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Beware Republican Voter Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering the electorate: why would anybody risk this devious under handed political tactic, in the state where Washington and Jefferson lived?

Virginia Republicans are proposing to change the way in which the state counts its electoral college votes in a manner that would weaken the influence of urban voters, which, of course, is the area of their state where the most people live!  

In other words, Virginia Republicans want to control the outcome of Virginia elections in a way that would marginalize the essential vote count.  This is happening in the state where patriots George Washington and Thomas Jefferson lived and died! 

George Washington led the American Revolutionary colonials who fought against "taxation without representation" and Thomas Jefferson penned the words, "We the people..." in the Declaration of Independence.

Virginia Republicans who support this gerrymandering have indeed lost their political souls. They need to take a US History class.

Gerrymandering is defined:  dividing a state, county, etc., into election districts so as to give one political party a majority in many districts while concentrating the voting strength of the other party into as few districts as possible.

If Republicans are able to get away with this slight of political hand, ie, gerrymander elections, then the entire premise for the American Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence would be rendered irrelevant.  In fact, gerrymandered elections should be declared illegal in our US Constitution.  Some brave Virginian legislator should stand in the footsteps of the state's patriots like Patrick Henry who preached "give me liberty...." and call for a Constitutional Amendment to outlaw gerrymandering. 

Americans should eliminate the cumbersome Electoral College and require that every voter who casts a ballot is counted. Most important, a Constitutional Amendment should require, once and for all, that the candidate with the most votes wins elections.  

Let's stand by our democratic elections, rather than usurp the very ideology our forefathers brilliantly created.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Health Care In America - Republicans Ignore Data

When Republicans continue calling for a repeal of health care reform, aka "Obamacare", they continue to ignore facts about how unhealthy it is to be an American.

Robert Samuelson writes in The Washington Post about how an exhaustive report compares America's health with that of people in 16 other advanced countries.

Not surprisingly, when American health is ranked with other developed countries, it turns out we're near the bottom, from life expectancy at birth to frequency of early death before age 50 years. It's not surprising because of the freedom Americans have to participate in unhealthy lifestyles, including the exposure we are all at risk for by people who buy and use guns.  Freedom and autonomy are intrinsic to American culture, but the choices we make are distinctly unhealthy and even fatal.

Homicides put Americans at risk for shorter life expectancy. Among males under 50, there are comparatively more homicides (often gun related).  High rates of diabetes are driven by bad diet choices.  Increasing morbidity from diabetes leads to more incidence of heart disease.

Republican obstruction against contraception for the poor and Planned Parenthood shows up in the American teenage pregnancy rate. American girls 15-19 years old become pregnant at 3.5 times the average rate of other advanced countries, producing children who are doomed to poverty and contribute to the cycle of poor health care.

Remarkably, even the well to do suffer from less than optimal health.  Stress related diseases are the by- product of the nation's relentlessly competitive spirit.

Americans falsely assume we're blessed with a healthy population. In fact, we're not as healthy as at least 16 other developed nations.

Republicans continue to ignore the right of all Americans to have access to quality and affordable health care. Health insurance companies generate profit margins by not providing universal coverage.  Nevertheless, Republicans want to repeal the health care reform law passed by President Obama whereby profitable insurance companies can, now, no longer discriminate against beneficiaries with preexisting conditions or screen out benefits for children with chronic illnesses.

Although the Congress and Senate enjoy tax payer paid health insurance benefits, the Republicans would rather deny all Americans access to quality and affordable health care than support resources to expand wellness care and health benefits to everyone.

It's time Republicans smarten up and read the data about how America's health care doesn't compare favorably with 16 other countries.  Republicans who support extending the Medicare eligibility age to 67, and who call for repeal of health care reform (Obamacare), should try living without their tax payer benefits for 6 months.  It's likely the Republicans won't ignore health care data if they are among those in the unhealthy statistical analysis.

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Senate Filibuster Proof 60 Votes - Democrats Must Get Those Votes

Liberal Democrats are upset with Senate President Harry Reid who didn't force a push back on the abuse of the Filibuster. They want Reid to keep on fighting.

Although requiring 60 votes to pass substantial national legislation is a daunting political task, the fact is, it's time for Democrats to throw the obstructionist Republicans out of the Senate and claim those votes for Progressive legislation.  In other words, by keeping the 60 vote super majority filibuster proof Senate rule, the Democrats could win those votes,  thus removing the obstructionist Republicans, by defeating them in the 2014 election. 

There must be a political strategy behind why Senate President Reid caved when he could have pushed for meaningful filibuster reform, thus angering liberal Democrats.  Nevertheless, rather than continuing the filibuster anger, the recourse is for Democrats to defeat the obstructionists who abuse this Senate rule. Democrats need to find some high profile candidates to run in strategic elections to create a 60 vote filibuster majority. 

Can Democrats really pull off a 60 vote Senate majority?  There was a 60 vote majority in place, briefly, when President Obama was able to pass the important Health Care Reform law, recently ruled to be Constitutional by the US Supreme Court. 

So, Democrats can win 60 Senate seats by running smart campaigns.  A segue came from Governor Bobby Jindal who says, the GOP must stop being stupid.   Logically, Jindal is saying Democrats are the smart party.

Democrats won the 2012 election by running smart campaigns, despite being outspent by super-rich-super-Political Action Committees.  Nevertheless, unfortunately, the political victory is not yet complete.  We must win a 60 vote Democratic filibuster proof majority in the US Senate in the 2014 election.  Let's begin by claiming Georgia Republican Senator Saxby's seat in in 2014, who announced he is not running.  That's 56 seats.  Four more to go.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Senator Rand Paul Gave an Incoherent Interview with Secretary Hillary Clinton

Republicans looked delusional as they took advantage of television cameras focused on Hillary Clinton, when they created an acrimonious encounter with the Secretary about her Benghazi testimony to Congress.  Obviously, Republicans weren't taking the advice of highly paid public relations consultants when they deliberately confronted a highly popular Secretary of State and former First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Republicans demonstrated their ego during the Senate committee hearings. They behaved like angry men, desperate to demonstrate their political might.

Thankfully, Secretary Clinton didn't lower herself to these made for television attacks.

Senator Rand Paul - Republican from KY, clearly over reached during his ruthlessly incoherent interrogation of Secretary Clinton, looking especially stupid when he invented an unsubstantiated question that didn't correlate with his committee rants.  Senator Paul went verbally ballistic about how the Benghazi attack left him exasperated about how the information was revealed, angry and determined to find out the truth about what happened when Ambassador Stevens was killed in a Benghazi terrorist attack on the consulate. Yet, Senator Paul didn't follow his incoherent ranting with a reasonable question.  Instead, Paul asked Secretary Clinton an inconsistent question about gun running to Turkey. His question was a tangential query about a situation that no one except for delusional Fox News followers created.

Republican Senators who brutally criticized Secretary Clinton on television were speaking to the right wing voters in the 2016 and beyond election.  But, hot winded Republican Senators were also addressing a dwindling circle of zealots who respond to rhetoric rather than truth.  The Right Wing Rand Paul spoke to Secretary Clinton like he was the Wizard of Oz,  shrouded by the protection of his desk, looking down as though she was a menial public servant.  At the end of Senator Paul's chaotic discourse, he didn't reveal any new information about the death of Ambassador Stevens or the attack on the Benghazi consulate. He wasted Secretary Clinton's valuable time before the committee and made himself look like a braggart, focused only on himself, rather than the Benghazi attack.

Although Senator Paul said he wanted answers about what happened in Benghazi, his question to Secretary Clinton had nothing to do with the attack on the consulate! His question was, in fact, inchoherent.

Republican Senators, like Rand Paul, who thrive on creating television sound bites rather than demonstrate leadership, must all be voted out of office.  They're no more effective than an invisible Wizard of Oz.

It's time Senator Rand Paul is relieved of his Senatorial duties by being voted out of office. He's clearly more interested in creating political noise and intimidating Secretary Clinton than in being a responsible US Senator and statesman, who seeks truth and information about what happened in Benghazi.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Budgets and Politics- Congressman Ryan's Duck Call

Now Congressman Paul Ryan is again harping about passing a government budget. There's little fiscal responsibility in Ryan's austerity clarion call. Rather, his argument is more political than financial. Yet, Ryan's common sense argument, in support of a government budget, ie, "every home has a budget and so should government", is postured to, primarily, put his name in the political headlines.

Ryan's call for Congress to pass a budget is like the duck hunter with a call horn. A duck horn is an appealing call to other ducks until they find themselves in the danger zone, within the hunter's rifle range.

This political saber rattling about passing a budget is like giving politicians like Ryan a "duck call". Ryan and Republicans fully realize that passing a budget will put Democrats on notice to make social program cuts. Republicans can't be trusted to compromise on a budget. Instead, they want to bully Democrats to vote for politically unpopular cuts to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Veterans benefits. Following any proposed budget vote on Ryan's political decoy, I predict that Republicans will blame the ensuring cuts on the Democrats in the 2014 election.

Of course, Americans deserve to see Congress pass a budget, but the process should include revenues, as well as reasonable austerity measures.  Ryan isn't as interested in a budget as he is in making political noise. His budget is like using a duck call to beacon Democrats, so they might be tricked into voting for cuts to safety net programs.  Under Ryan's budget math, middle class Americans would suffer and programs for the poor would be nearly decimated, while the rich and super rich would not be asked to contribute any additional revenues.

This call for a one sided "cut programs" budget, is purely about politics.  It's a duck call, and those who hear it should fly in an opposite direction - toward the voters, who can un-elect politicians like Congressman Paul Ryan.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lincoln the Movie - An American Story We Continue to Experience

Americans must always remember the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), because, as the cliche warns, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.  Viewing Steven Spielberg's movie "Lincoln" is a brilliant history lesson and worth viewing multiple times.

Abraham Lincoln was an unlikely leader who forced the vision he believed in - to remove slavery from American society.  Although Lincoln accomplished his goal with the difficult passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, his accomplishment came with tremendous strife, political turmoil and, eventually, mortal sacrifice.  Untold in the story of Lincoln is a motivational historic character named Thaddeus Stevens, (played by Tommy Lee Jones in the movie "Lincoln") a Congressman from Pennsylvania's 9th District, who likely had an intimate common law relationship with a bi-racial woman named Lydia Hamilton Smith.

Americans were struggling with a political war within the Civil War during the years 1860-65, when the Union Army fought to preserve the nation against the secessionist Confederate States. This was a painfully divisive time in our country's history, when tens of thousands of people died to defend two polarizing points of view about our nation's future. Were we to be a divided nation or a United States?

In the movie Lincoln, this parallel political strife was realistically described, portraying the divisive time when the US Congress was gridlocked about passing of the nation's  Thirteenth Amendment, against the backdrop of the brutal bloodshed  of the American Civil War.  Daniel Day Lewis brilliantly played the character of President Abraham Lincoln.  Sally Field played the President's emotionally labile wife Mary Todd Lincoln

Day-Lewis portrayed the political and vision driven Lincoln, a president determined to remove slavery from American society, regardless of the lethal consequences he witnessed among Union and Confederate armies and, eventually, leading to his murder.

It was a stunning portrayal of Lincoln's political war within a Civil War. Nevertheless, during Lincoln's second inauguration address, he reached out to heal the nation, in spite of the sacrifices shared by both sides during the war. This is what he said:

Fellow Countrymen: (March 4, 1865)

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bin, up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

It's possible that nothing would have saved Lincoln from his destiny.  He was a victim of his times while framed by the historical events he faced. Yet, his vision and leadership never faltered because he passionately believed slavery to be morally wrong, regardless of the consequences that abolishing it caused.

Nevertheless, as movie viewers re-live the difficult political decisions debated during the Civil War, we're both embarrassed by Congressional inability to embrace a pro-equality amendment in 1865, while, at the same time, reminded how our political processes haven't progressed beyond gridlock, in spite of the issues.  A French cliche to describes this dilemma as "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

Teaching American history with the movie "Lincoln" will likely become standard curricula. Yet, the real test will be evident if our nation learns something from watching Daniel Day Lewis's and Spielberg's realistic portrayal of our nation's tainted past.  

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Monday, January 21, 2013

A Patriotic and Progressive Inauguration Address

"American opportunities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that the world without boundaries demands, the youth, the drive, diversity and openness, of endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention."  President Barack Obama, inauguration address January 21, 2013.

My favorite lines from today's 2nd inauguration address by President Obama focused on what it means to be a patriotic and inclusive society. 

What is Patriotism?  "...our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity..." President Obama

Although Republicans claim "God and Country" as a patriotic logo, their political party created an extremist agenda opposing immigration, universal coverage for health care, cuts to social programs like Medicare and Social Security (even though Americans contribute to these plans) and income re-distribution.

This is what President Obama said about "God and Country" Patriotism: 

"My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, (but) not party."

Moreover, Republican patriotism also includes support for national security supported by generous allocations for defense spending. 

On the other hand, Democrats claim patriotism as "One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for All", creating a Progressive foundation for the politics of inclusion. Democrats see patriotism as being, pro-immigration, supporting universal health care including Medicare and Medicaid, and income re-distribution by taxing the rich and super rich at a rate higher than the middle class. Democrats are supportive of investments in national security, but not by providing back door subsidies to rich defense contractors at the expense of cuts to safety net social programs.  

President Obama said this about Progressive American Patriotism:  

"We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work, when the wages of honest labor will liberate families from the brink of hardship."

"We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal not just in the eyes of God but also in our own."
"A nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American, that is what this moment requires." 
"We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit."

"For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative."

"We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

"Being true to our founding (patriotic) documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness."

"Progress does not compel us to settle century’s long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time."

"But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream.  My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride. They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope. You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time, not only with the votes we cast, but the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideas."

President Barack H. Obama gave a long awaited Progressive Patriotic inauguration speech today. 

For this blogger who watched on black and white TV while President John F. Kennedy spoke about "passing the torch" to a new generation, today's inauguration speech invoked this image as a progressive moment. President Kennedy's "torch" metaphor is now a beacon for those who believe in patriotism as meaning inclusiveness, compassion and support for citizens to live freely in our land of opportunity.

Congratulations to Progressive Patriots- President Barack H. Obama and Vice-President Joseph Biden.  

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Congressional Hyperpartisanship - No Way to Manage a Country

Ordinary, middle class people, solve problems every day. 

Those of us who must solve problems for our daily survival simply can't fathom how it is that Congress is quagmired in hyperpartisanship, when our nation needs cooperative problem solving.

Suppose stock portfolio managers handled our investments the way our US Congress runs our nation's budget?  We'd fire financial portfolio managers if they put our investment money in harms way.  That's exactly why obstructionists in the US Congress should be fired. Indeed, by not resolving big issues and obstructing budget initiatives, the obstructionists, led by Republicans, are putting the stock portfiolios of those who invest our money in harms way, by not resolving our nation's budget problems. Our stock market, the S&P, the Blue Chips and Nasdaq would benefit from a national budget resolution.  It would be a win-win situation, if Republicans cooperated.  Even Republican portfolio investments would benefit!
But, instead, Republicans demand unreasonable concessions from the hard earned safety net programs Americans invest in, namely, Medicare and Social Security, before they will facilitate a budget. 

Republicans who obstruct fiscal progress are hurting middle class people by assaulting the safety net programs we're invested in, including our faith in the US financial systems, considered sacred to GOP self help beliefs.  In other words, if Republicans facilitated, rather than obstructed, policies to balance the US budget, the country could see economic growth. In this growth, Medicare and Social Security could become secure in the process, because Congress could ask Americans to invest more into these programs to establish solvency.  Nevertheless, Republicans won't facilitate to move our nation forward because, frankly, they appear to ahve lost sight of what it's like to among the middle class.

One conservative writer went back to his roots to experience how ordianary people resolve problems.

Rod Dreher write, "Inauguration 2013: Alienation, Obama and the 'other America'", about his return to his small town in Louisiana to get in touch with how his family engages in problem solving.

Dreher lives 1,000 miles - and a world away - from the partisan politics that have paralysed Washington DC in recent years.

After living in big US cities for several years, the writer and editor for the American Conservative magazine moved back with his wife and children to the small Louisiana town where his family had lived for five generations.

In St Francisville, his family sought - and found - the support that comes from living in a tight-knit community. The desire of local people to come together, to talk and solve problems, he says, is in stark contrast to the behaviour of politicians at the national level.

Dreher says America is making the same mistakes that led to the end of the Roman Empire, meaning, the capital is too far removed from the real needs of the people in the provinces, who feel ever more alienated from their rulers.

In a personal essay, he describes to British Broacdasting (BBC) what makes a community strong. He sends a message to President Obama and Republicans in Congress: stop fighting, compromise, and act together for the good of the American people.

President Obama's relection was a decisive victory. There can be no misunderstanding or ambiguity about the outcome of the 2012 election.  In a Democracy, the candidate with the most votes wins and the nation is supposed to fall in line behind the winner.  To act otherwise is no way to manage any organization, town, government or our nation.  

Many Republican lawmkers left Washington DC as a silent snub to President Obama's relection, embarrassed, no doubt, by their boisterous claims, early on, about a "one term presidency".  Although they can get out of town, they cannot hide their obstructive ways from the American people.  

If Republicans won't work with President Obama to move our nation forward, save Medicare, and Social Security, balance the budget and  stimulate confidence in our financial systems, then they must be voted out of office.  Hyperpartisanship, that leads to obstructionism, is no way to manage a country.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Martin Luther King - Are Conservatives Looking for a "Brand"?

Conservatives likely cringe when they're generalized as "white-upper-middle-class".  Nevertheless, it's incredulous to read about a think tank of conservatives who are claiming Martin Luther King was one of "them". Ahhhhh, I don't think so!

As the nation celebrates MLK (King's) national holiday on Monday (President Obama's inauguration day), a new battle has erupted over his legacy, reports  

Some conservatives say it's time they reclaim King's legacy, whose message of self-help, patriotism and becoming a "colorblind" nation was "fundamentally conservative", they say.  But, the people who marched with King during America's Civil Rights struggles and who studied his work say the notion of him being conservative is "absurd".  These conservatives, who want to claim King today, were among those who  once opposed his message of social and racial equality.

"He was against all policies based on race," says Peter Schramm, a conservative historian. "The basis of his attack on segregation was 'judge us by the content of our character, not by the color of our skin.' That's a profound moral argument."  

Indeed, Schramm is theoretically correct, but where do conservatives "walk the walk", on this point. They don't

Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of a trilogy on King, says some conservatives are invoking a phantom version of King, to avoid dealing with contemporary racial issues.

I agree with Branch.  Conservatives trying to claim MLK are reinventing history.  King stood down conservatives during his short lifetime.

Although Martin Luther King isn't here to defend his legacy, it's highly probable he would not align with a political movement that supports unbridled gun ownership, since his premature death was the result of a tragic gun assassination.

Moreover, King would support voters rights. He would most certainly oppose the marginalization of minority groups who want to register to vote.

Let's remember, Martin Luther King was "Reverand", a minister before becoming a social activist.  As a clergyman, King surely would advocate for the Christian teachings of providing social services to the poor, elderly, frail, disabled, unemployed, homeless and those who need access to health care.  Paying for these programs requires a fair system of income redistribution, ie "taxation".  

Martin Luther King would probably support liberal immigration policies.  

Although King spoke eloquently about his "dream" for America to become a colorblind society, his vision was based on all people being treated as equals, based upon their achievements, rather than the color of their skin. Conservatives don't generally support creating a level playing field to all socio-economic groups.

Conservatives who look to "adopt" Martin Luther King might get away with it, if they also adopt his vision in the "I Have a Dream" speech of August 28, 1963"

"In a sense we have come (here)... to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

"Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds'. But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy." (This certainly doesn't sound like conservative talk to me. Rather, King speaks of social justice.)

These words are as clear today as when King gave his inspirational speech in Washington DC.  Conservatives who claim to adopt King, must also stand behind his words, by proclaming them with the same inspirational enthusiasm as when they were first delivered.  I suspect they can't do it. It's too much for them to act in a play they don't want to see re-produced.  They can't rebrand themselves, nor revise history.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Conservatives must support what Martin Luther King stood up and died for, rather than just adopt his message to create a particular image for themselves.  Conservatives should stand for social and racial equality as moral principles, and forget about using King's image as a political brand.  It won't work.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Physicians and the Obama Administration are Allies on Gun Data

In Florida, organized medicine is so far winning the free speech argument about gun violence.

As part of his new initiative against gun violence, President Barack Obama announced an executive action to protect the right of clinicians to talk to their patients about gun safety.

How many of us can recall, when we were very young, prowling around our parents home to find secret treasurers?  I sure do.  In those day, however, we never worried about finding guns.  Now, clinicians can ask parents if guns are hidden in the home.
The President's executive action, one of 23 unveiled at a White House event, states that the administration will issue guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), contrary to what some believe, does not prohibit or regulate communication about firearms between clinicians and patients.

In doing so, the president jumped squarely into a fray between organized medicine and the National Rifle Association (NRA).

This executive action provides broad support for physicians who have taken the state of Florida to court over a 2011 law that prohibits them from asking patients if they own a gun. Florida lawmakers and the NRA view such a question as a threat to the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Organized medicine counters that the question is only a prelude — when the answer is affirmative — to discussing safe gun storage and other practices, lest a 4-year-old discover a loaded pistol in a desk drawer.

Obama is siding with the physicians. "Doctors and other healthcare providers...need to be able to ask about firearms in their patients' homes and safe storage of those firearms," the administration said in the press release, "especially if their patients show signs of certain mental illnesses, or if they have a young child or mentally ill family members at home."

The administration noted that "medical groups continue to fight against state laws attempting to ban doctors from asking these questions."

Medical Societies Applaud Obama's Stance on Gun Question
In the Florida lawsuit, organized medicine is winning the fight for free medical speech about guns, at least, so far.

State chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American College of Physicians (ACP), along with several individual physicians, sued the state of Florida in a federal district court in Miami to overturn what they called a gag law on gun questions. US District Judge Marcia Cooke struck down the law as unconstitutional, saying it had nothing to do with the Second Amendment but everything to do with the First Amendment and its guarantee of free speech.

Now, inquiries about gun ownership are allowed if a physician believes they are relevant to the health or safety of the patient or others. However, Judge Cooke agreed with the plaintiffs that this exception is too vaguely worded to offer any assurance to clinicians that they could pose the gun question and not risk getting in trouble with the state medical board.
Physicians and clinicians are well positioned to warn a parent...that a teenager who shows symptoms of depression or impulsivity could harm himself or others if given access to a firearm," the medical societies wrote.

Although the National Rifle Association is hypervigilant about protecting Second Amendment Rights for Americans to bear arms, they're blaze about protecting the rights of innocent people from preventable gun violence.  It's time the NRA aligns itself with the American people rather than their own zealous ideology.

Physicians and clinicians can finally excercise our freedom of speech, especially while assessing the safety of children who are exposed to guns in the home.  Just like asking about immunization, allergies to medicines and diet, clinicians can now assess children for risk of preventable death by guns.  Finally.  Let's hope this executive action will prevent many gun violence deaths.  

Unfortunately, we'll never be able to count the lives of children saved, but we can now feel like there's something we can do to prevent the spiraling number of preventable gun violence deaths.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Five Reasons to Vote Republicans Out of Office

House Republican will caucus to srategize about the imminent budget negotiations, but they are really contriving for a fight.

At their annual three-day retreat, House Republicans are strategizing about how to address upcoming budget fights with Senate Democrats and President Obama.

Our country can't continue to support this back door strategizing for the purpose of obstructing, rather than facilitating, efficient government.  Instead of wasting tax payer money, paid to the Congress who engage in obstructionist strategic planning sessions, the voters should, instead, vote them out of office.  

Republicans violate the public's trust by ignoring the Democratic processes they are elected to support.

Here are five reasons to vote Republicans out of office:

1.  Public safety - lawmakers have the responsibility to protect the public from harm, but Republicans will do nothing to support the protection of children from preventable deaths by gun violence, because they prefer second amendment rights to protecting human life.

2.  Health Care - Republicans consistently create barriers to affordable and quality health care by calling for increasing the Medicare  beneficiary age, by supporting efforts to revoke the Patient Affordable Care Act of 2010 (aka Health Care Reform) and eliminating programs to help the poor, especially Medicaid.  

3.  Fiscal Responsibility -  Our US Constitution is clear about the nation not being permitted to default on our debt. Nevertheless, Republicans want to violate this law by putting conditions on extending the debt ceiling.  In obstructing the lifting of the debt ceiling, the Republicans are in violation of the Constitution.

4.  Obstructing voting rights - Republicans want to control who votes by creating daunting voter identification laws before a person can exercises this fundamental Democratic right.  In fact, the GOP proposed voter identification laws to target minority groups who find administrative processes to be overwhelming and they are often fearful of accessing their right to vote. In other words, Republicans want to intimidate minority voters.

5.  Anti-immigration policies-  In spite of the fundamental and indisputable fact that all Americans are ancestors of immigrants, Native Americans notwithstanding, the Republicans still call for expelling undocumented immigrants and make legal immigration a longer than necessary process.  

American voters need a Congress who facilitates programs to care for our citizens, who support the US Constitution and the Democratic processes supported by majority rules elections.

As Republicans caucus behind closed doors and scheme about their next political "fight", they should also be discussing how to earn a living when voters elect them out of office.   


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Another Dire Republican Lable - GOP ie "Guns Over People"

In the process of becoming an extremist special interest group in support of unbridled gun ownership, the National Rifle Association has exerted undue influence over predominantly Republican politicians, to the extent that they're creating another negative label for the GOP. 

While GOP is supposed to stand for "Grand Old Party", the NRA influence is changing the acronym to mean "Guns Over People".

When did the National Rifle Association become an extremist special interest group? At one time, the NRA was an advocate for responsible gun ownership. Today, the group appears to challenge every attempt at common sense gun ownership.
In 1934, the NRA established a political wing, called the Legislative Affairs Division. In 1968, its leaders testified before Congress during passage of the National Firearms Act: the first major example of federal gun control legislation. The NRA was supportive of the act, and of the 1968 Gun Control Act, which between them created a licensing and tax system for the private ownership of firearms.

But everything changed at the NRA's annual meeting in 1977 in Cinncinnati OH. In Cincinnati, a Texas marksman named Harlon Carter headed a group of dissident hard-liners, passionate about their Second Amendment rights, who took control of the organisation from its more traditional leaders.

Ever since this takeover, the NRA has put guns over people. Second Amendment rights to bear arms are more important than the public health of innocent people, who die preventable deaths by gun violence. In their crusade to protect gun rights, the NRA has influenced the GOP to join their crusade, to put guns over people.

The NRA even cruelly crossed the ethical line by including disgusting veiled threats about President Obama's family in a relentless quest to convince lawmakers and right wing zealots to protect guns over people. In a negative advocacy ad, the NRA claim is made that the President and his daughters have the protection of gun carrying armed guards, so ordinary people should have access to the same.  In this convoluted reasoning, the NRA ignores the cause of gun violence. Without guns, there would be no need for armed guards in any situation. This correlation between guns and violence are abhorrent to the NRA because it threatens Second Amendment Rights. In putting guns over people, the NRA supports Second Amendment rights, regardless of how the public health is negatively impacted by those who abuse this privilege by hoarding arsenals of guns and assault weapons.

Today, President Obama signed a series of executive actions to exert some common sense controls over gun and ammunition ownership.  Signing the orders was a brave act, but I doubt anyone expected the NRA to put the President's family at risk.  

In anticipation of the difficulties expected against passing an assault weapons ban by Congress, because of the NRA influence, the President has called on all Americans to demand a plan to pressure legislators to curb gun violence.  

Americans must repel the unreasonable Second Amendment arguments made by paranoid zealots and demand an end to the public health hazards caused by gun violence.  

Republicans are already lacking cohesive leadership, but now the label of "guns over people" could become the party brand.  It's impossible to see Republicans changing their party position on right wing extremist issues, but individuals are breaking away.  General Colin Powell raised serious questions about the "Dark Vein" in the Republican Party.  Others, like former Congressman Joe Scarborough, now host of  MSNBC's "Morning Joe" says he's changing his opinion about unbridled Second Amendment Rights.  Scarborough even says the GOP will loose the House of Representatives unless the party passes gun control legislation.

As more Republicans put "guns over people", they will loose the confidence of Americans who cannot abide the growing tide of national gun violence, just because the NRA supports a paranoid opinion about Second Amendment Rights.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Webster Provision is Well Placed in New York Gun Control Law

New York Gun Control Law Also Makes it Criminal to Use Guns Against First Reponders- called the "Webster Provision".  Nevertheless, there are already 1 million assault weapons already in the hands of gun owners.....unbelievable.

This law is an important public safety provision because heroic First Responders certainly can't risk being "set up" by criminals, when they are trained to save lives.

In advance of President Barack Obama's report to the nation on a plan for implementing gun control, especially about the sale of assault weapons and ammunition, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, signed an aggressive state reform today. This law helps build momentum in advance of the President's announcements expected tomorrow.  Although gun control laws are long overdue in this nation, thousands are killed while hoarders build arsenals, the implementation of reforms comes with risk.  Politicians are more fearful of criticism from the National Rifle Association than they are of voters!  Therefore, many Republicans cave to the special interests of the gun lobby.

Finally, after years of trying, New York became the first state to dramatically stiffen its gun laws, after last month's horrific school shooting of children in Newtown CT, by passing a tough assault weapons ban and provisions to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill who make threats.

"This is a scourge on society," Cuomo said Monday night, six days after making gun control a centerpiece of his State of the State address. The bipartisan effort was fueled by the Newtown tragedy that took the lives of 20 first graders and six educators. "At what point do you say, 'No more innocent loss of life'?"

The measure, passed the Assembly 104-43, and also calls for restrictions on ammunition and the sale of guns.

"This is not about taking anyone's rights away," said Sen. Jeffrey Klein, a Bronx Democrat, when the bill passed the Senate late Monday night. "It's about a safe society ... today we are setting the mark for the rest of the county to do what's right."

Under current state law, assault weapons are defined by having two "military rifle" features such as folding stock, muzzle flash suppressor or bayonet mount. The proposal reduces that to one feature and includes the popular pistol grip.

Private sales of assault weapons to someone other than an immediate family will be subject to a background check through a dealer. New Yorkers also would be barred from buying assault weapons over the Internet, and failing to safely store a weapon could lead to a misdemeanor charge.

Ammunition magazines will be restricted to seven bullets, from the current 10, and current owners of higher-capacity magazines will have a year to sell them out of state. An owner caught at home with eight or more bullets in a magazine will face a misdemeanor charge.

Another provision places requirements on therapists, psychologists, registered nurses and licensed social workers who believe a mental health patient made a credible threat to use a gun illegally. They would be required to report such a threat to a mental health director, who would have to notify the state. Any registered handguns — or registered assault weapons purchased before the ban — could be taken from the patient.

Moreover, this law also increases sentences for gun crimes including the shooting of a first responder that Cuomo called the "Webster provision." Last month in Webster, two firefighters were killed after responding to a fire set by the shooter, who eventually killed himself. 

The measure passed the Senate 43-18 on the strength of support from Democrats, many of whom previously sponsored bills that were once blocked by Republicans.

The governor confirmed the proposal, previously worked out in closed session, also mandate a police registry of assault weapons, grandfathering in the estimated 1 million assault weapons already in private hands.

It was agreed upon exactly a month since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

"It is well-balanced, it protects the Second Amendment," said Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Long Island.

Cuomo said he wanted quick action to avoid a run on assault weapons and ammunition.

Assemblyman Steve Katz said legislators were being "bullied." He said the bill is "solely for the governor's egotistical, misguided notion." (It doesn't seem, to me, to be misguided and egotistical to want to prevent more deaths by gun violence.)

Republicans argued the bill wouldn't stop mass shootings or other gun crimes but instead turns law-abiding into potential criminals.

Republican Assemblyman James Tedisco said the bill was dangerous because it would give people a "false sense of well-being."

"You're using innocent children killed by a mad man for a political agenda," said Tedisco. "You're actually making people less safe." 

But, Maine Writer responds, the Republican Assemblyman Tedisco obviously didn't have family members involved in the horrific tragic murder of innocent children in Newtown, CT.

American voters must demand public safety provisions from the Congress. Political leaders have a moral obligation to follow Governor Cuomo's brave leadership, to protect innocent people from preventable deaths by gun violence. These provisions are long overdue, albeit absolutely necessary. If germs were the cause of thousands of preventable deaths, we'd be dealing with a public health crises. "Guns" are the "germs" we must eradicate to prevent gun violence.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Republicans and the Government Debt Ceiling - American People at Risk Again

Republicans have abdicated their responsibility as political leaders and their ability to be American statesmen- meaning, they're no longer capable to manage our government. Let's stop paying them!

After experiencing a decisive 2012 election defeat, with a majority of voters going for Democratic candidates, and following a grueling negotiation over the "fiscal cliff", where taxes were finally raised on American millionaires and billionaires, Republicans, nevertheless, want to hold our economy hostage to yet another uncessary fiscal fight.  Right Wing Republicans insist they won't pay bills they incurred, by refusing to increase the nation's debt ceiling. In other words, while our US Congress approves all appropriations, they don't want to pay those bills because the Republicans see this moment as a political opportunity to create more fiscal angst for average Americans.  

Republicans are holding average Americans hostage because they want to cut the cost of government, regardless of who gets harmed. If Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling, the government can't pay bills owed to Social Security beneficiaries and government salaries, plus numerous other bills already encumbered by Congress.  

When Republicans overeach in their goal to cut government, they're raising the ire of average and middle class Americans who earned the benefits and salaries the GOP claim to want to cut. Their obstructionist behavior will be addressed in 2014, when we have another chance to replace them in the ballot box.

Clearly, Republicans have lost their moral compass.  By refusing to show political leadership, by balking at compromising in fiscal negotiations, they put middle class people in positions of economic uncertainty, while they continue collecting government salaries and generous tax payer paid benefits.

It's time Republican lawmakers face uncertainty about their own salaries while they continue holding the US economy hostage, just because "they can". 

Republicans in Congress should not receive a salary while they hold everybody else's economy hostage, just to force their extremist austerity agenda.

Let's lower the Republicans debt ceiling by cutting their salaries until they demonstrate leadership and political statesmenship.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

General Colin Powell- Boldly and Bravely Telling Republicans the "Dark" Truth

Former Secretary Of State Colin Powell delivered some harsh words for the GOP as a whole on Sunday. 

When General Powell appeared on January 13, Meet the Press, he used the opportunity to tell Republican the bold truth. Their political party is without a moral compass.

Powell noted that there is a "dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party."

"What do I mean by that?," he explained. "What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities."

Powell specifically pointed to October 2012 comments by former Alaska Gov. and Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin who rebuked President Obama about the terrorist attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Syria.

"When I see a former governor say that the president is 'shuckin' and jivin' -- that's a racial-era slave term," Powell said, referring to Palin's words on Obama's response. 

(Note:  Dear readers, we can only imagine the response if President Obams used such racially charged vocabulary.)

Powell added that Republicans are preoccupied with their political candidate-selection process, losing sight of the party's overall message.

"You've got to think first about what's the party actually going to represent," Powell said. "If it's just going to represent the far right wing of the political spectrum, I think the party is in difficulty. I'm a moderate, but I'm still a Republican."

Colin Powell's loyalty to the Republican party is commendable, especially given the racial slurs, thrown like radio active confetti against Barack Obama, our nation's first African American President, by GOP right wing extremists.  Right wing political virulence continues in full force post Obama's decisive election 2012 victory. Many Republicans, wearing flag lapel pins, appear to be ignorant of the Democractic process and accepting of the candidate who received the most votes. Social media feeds indicate that many Republicans ignore the results of the 2012 election, because it didn't go the "right wing" way.  General Powell's GOP party loyalty is a testimony to his patriotism, indicating he knows how a Democratic nation requires politically diverse viewpoints.

Nevertheless, Democracy can't tolerate political extremism, whereby intolerance and racism are clouded in patriotic euphamisms a like "we want our nation back".  It's anti-democratic for any one group to claim supremecy outside of decisions made by voters.

General Powell boldly told the dark truth:  

"My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those (racist) people," he said...." -- not all of them, but most of them -- who still base their positions on race. Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists, and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin, and that's despicable."

General Powell has spoken! Indeed, Republicans should be grateful for his leadership, his candor and follow his good advice.  

If Republicans are to regain the credibility of reasonable and common sense voting Americans, they must rid themselves of right wing extremists and shed the concrete thinkers who tether the GOP to Tea-Party hyperpartisans. 

Republican must face down the this "dark" right wing extremism and follow the leadership light, behind General Colin Powell.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Haiti Continues to Suffer

Fixing Haiti should be a world humanitarian priority but local Haitians must be part of the country's solution. 

Although natural disasters have a tremendous impact on people and the environment, it's a mystery as to why Haiti has been unable to recover, three years after experiencing a devastating earthquake

"Something is not working," Haiti's President Michel Martelly said, calling for everyone involved to reassess the recovery initiative.

Certainly Haiti received many million in world disaster aid and the support of high profile world dignitary visits, who brought attention to the crucial human needs.

But, President Martelly has said international aid to help Haiti recover from a devastating earthquake three years ago is not working.

In a speech to mark the anniversary, Mr Martelly said the government had directly received only one third of the aid pledged.

Aid donors needed to co-operate more closely with the Haitian government, he added.

Some 200,000 people died in the earthquake, the authorities said.

More than 300,000 Haitians remain in temporary shelter with poor sanitation.

"Where has the money given to Haiti after the earthquake gone?" asked the president.

"Most of the aid was used by non-governmental agencies for emergency operations, not for the reconstruction of Haiti."

Now, a Cholera epidemic is compounding recovery efforts.  Some feel the Cholera was brought into Haiti by United Nations workers from Nepal, who allowed human waste to pollute the water.

After half a century without a single case of cholera, the Haitian Institute for Justice and Democracy says a country already ravaged by a massive earthquake, intractable poverty and waves of political instability has now seen five percent of the population contract cholera, and more than 6,000 people die from it, because of the reckless actions of peacekeepers from Nepal.

Obviously, money pouring into Haiti has had minimal impact on improving the country's dire humanitarian situation. Massive human suffering is outlasting the impact of the earthquake.

Although the continuous spiral of suffering is baffling, the Haitian president should certainly do more than call for a solution.  Rather, he should lead a solution.  Outside influence in Haiti seems to have caused even more harm by bringing Cholera into the country.  Therefore, it's time for the Haitian people to take charge of their situation and create a plan for recovery, using resources provided by  numerous international aid organizations.  Of course, Haiti is a nation racked by corruption, so national efforts must be monitored to support the intended use of resources.  

Nevertheless, future resources to help Haiti must include putting the people of this nation in charge of their own destiny. Haitian aid must include providing populous leaders with the encouragement they need to build national pride and improve the human condition for Haitian people.  And do it soon, very soon.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Gun Nuts - A Chaotic Approach to the Second Amendment

"Gun Nuts" are a group of zealots who use the Constitutional Second Amendment to project paranoid fear of government. 

They believe their right to own guns, to protect themselves against a non-existent threat, is more important than shielding the public from the harm caused by those who abuse Second Amendment rights.  Zealots deliberately stir a frenzy of mistrust against the conscientious people who simply want to protect the public from the weekly massacres of innocents. 

Nevertheless, almost every week, the world is subjected to images of American gun violence. 

Our nightly news covers too many massacres, because Second Amendment gun nuts believe they have a right to own any kind of a gun.  

I recall the 1960s old black and white TV nightly news projected tragic killings and body counts from the Viet Nam.War. Watching those brutal visuals during the dinner hour overwhelmed Americans and caused our nation to turn against the Viet Nam War.  

Therefore, it's a mystery why Second Amendment zealots continue to project their unwarranted fear of being denied any guns, when Americans are subject to the violent consequence of unbridled weapon ownership.  Unfortunately, Americans may be desensitized to violence. Perhaps we're no longer able to respond appropriately to the calls for gun regulation. 

Otherwise, if visuals still have an impact,  Americans should be as outraged by gun violence as we were as a nation against the Viet Nam War.  Congressional action in support of an assault weapons ban should be a bipartisan "slam dunk", because the public safety is at risk, while zealots continue to amass arsenals of deadly weapons.

Gun nuts, who believe their rights to own murderous weapons are more important then protecting innocent lives, are projecting a Schizophrenic attitude toward gun regulation.  We simply can't permit unbridled chaotic thinking about this public health gun problem.  Indeed, public access to assault weapons can't be tolerated while, at the same time, we continue mourning the growing litany of innocent victims of gun violence. 

Rhetoric in support of Second Amendment rights has reached a paranoid crescendo with gun nuts going viral on social media to muckrake as much fear as possible against any regulation of deadly assault weapons.  Perhaps these gun nut zealots should be subject to a mental health screening as a pre-requisite to keeping the arsenals they already own.  Call them obsessive about guns, say they are paranoid or observe them as gun hoarders.  However these gun nuts are categorized, the summary of their behavior is certainly not rational.  Their schizophrenic approach to gun regulation must be treated like a viable mental illness.  

Gun Nuts must be subject to reality checks, which includes frank reminders about the consequences of their obsession, and treated with enforceable common sense regulations to curtail the compulsion to own guns.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Political Parties Waning - Independents Rising

While political parties are mired in ideology leading to gridlock, the percent of non-partisan voters is on the rise, says political innovator Jackie Salit.  

I enjoyed the opportunity to interview Ms. Salit today, while we shared our opinions about how to move our nation's political system out of entrenched "politics as usual". We discussed the efforts of Independents Rising, a movement dedicated to creating an election process untethered from partisan loyalties.  

Independents Rising acknowledges the growing numbers of Independent voters who are influential in determining the outcomes of elections. Nevertheless, the individual candidates, who represent the Independent voters, must overcome obstructive political processes, not to mention access to campaign money, before they can run for elected positions.  There's only a handful of Independent elected officials serving in government.

But, it's important to acknowledge the growing number of Independent voters by supporting candidates who represent the opinions of the general population.

As some political leaders in Washington DC refuse to compromise, just because "they can", it's time these concrete thinking partisans are replaced with people elected to share creative ideas about how government should care for our citizens.  

Salit is the President of, the country’s leading strategy and organizing center for independents, with chapters in 40 states. Since 2005 she has hosted a bi-annual national conference for independents.  

A focus of Independent Voting is to build grass roots coalitions whereby states, like California, support a "top two" primary election.  In other words, to level the political playing field, the "top two" opens opportunities to candidates to run in primaries where voters can cross party lines.  In the general election, the top two candidates voted for in the primary will run against each other in the general election.  Indeed, this voter selection process will select Democrats, Republicans and Independents, but they'll be chosen by all the primary voters, rather than just by the political base of each major party.  One purpose of the "top two" process is to level the political playing field by opening up opportunities for more Independent candidates to run for elected offices.

Salit is dedicated to building coalitions of voters for the purpose of re-creating old political institutions and political categories, because the ineffective partisans are quickly becoming irrelevant—and even repugnant—to many Americans. 

Although Independent voters are growing in influence in general elections, they are not exerting their leverage with political partisans who elect candidates in primaries. It's certainly time to change this tired two party system, especially when a growing number of voters are, either, not enrolled or registered as Independent.

I look forward to following Ms. Salit's work and learning more about her grass roots efforts to build coalitions to organize a top two primary process in more elections.  


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Common Sense Politics- Yes or No Referenda

When voters are asked to choose on a particular ballot measure, they're offered only two options. The options are either "Yes" or "No".  One choice only and ambiguity is never allowed.

Yet, many partisan politicians would rather create a "none of the above" vote, rather than provide common sense votes on issues we elect them to decide.  

Recently, however, two high profile state governors finally faced down nonsensical political opposition.  Governor Cuomo of New York State spoke eloquently against gun violence while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie openly criticized leaders of his own Republican party leadership in Washington DC because they ignored his state's urgent need for emergency federal aid.

Cuomo said: "No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer, End the madness now!"  These words are in the face of zealous supporters of the Second Amendment, who support gun owners rights, without regard for any measures to protect the public health from assault weapons massacres.

A disaster relief bill to provide emergency funds to devastated New Jersey victims of Hurricane Sandy was left on the table when Speaker of the House John Boehner left Washington DC after the fiscal cliff deal was voted. Although Governor Christie called Boehner, four calls were not returned.  

Christie didn't put up with this rude arrogance.  Rather, during the Governor's annual state of the state address in Trenton, NJ, Christie said Boehner and his Republican caucus bore sole responsibility and 'blame" for continued suffering of Hurricane Sandy victims.

Americans respond positively to frank spoken politicians when they are speaking in support of the people.  Unfortunately, many politiicians are fearful of speaking truth to the power. They ingratiate themselves with inflluential lobbyiests or powerful political leaders. 

Many politicians oppose gun control regulations because industry lobbyists offer generous contributions to politicians who vote in support of unbridled Second Amendment rights.

Yet, it shouldn't take extraordinary situations like tragic gun massacres, or a category four hurricane hitting New Jersey to empower political leaders to call for common sense political solutions to urgent human needs involving public health and safety.

Woefully lacking are the "Yes" and "No" common sense politics in our nation's widening partisan divide. 

Although Americans elect political leaders who best represent local or regional opinions and points of view, the responsibilities of statesmanship requires those elected to exhibit common sense in the face of growing public cynicism of government gridlock. 

We need more referenda style politicians who understand how to promulgate common sense politics.

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