Maine Writer

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Egyptian Zen Revisited and Renewed Street Violence in Cairo: Leadership Needed

Renewed Egyptian street demonstrations in Cairo are horrible deja vu images, reflective of those broadcast in February 2011, when I wrote my blog "Egyptian Zen", now revisited.

Egyptian Zen from Februay 11, 2011 

Egypt's brave people showed extraordinary resilience during their facebook revolution, rising up against 30 years of governmental tyranny. Therefore, I hope the Egyptians will kindly accept my Zen advice knowing it is offered with extreme admiration. Zen Buddhism is not my specialty, but having watched the movie Charlie Wilson's War recently, the character played by the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman tells a story worth repeating here. His character warns Congressman Wilson about the Zen of winning a war. 

I'm adapting the story to Egypt and it goes like this: "A young Egyptian boy gets a pony for his birthday. His village is so happy, they say 'isn't this good?'. But, the father says, 'We'll see'. So, later, the boy badly damages his leg when he falls off the pony. The village people say, 'this is not a good thing'. But the father says 'We'll see'. Then, Egypt goes to war with Israel in 1972, but the boy cannot serve because of his injured leg, so the village says 'this is a good thing'. But the father says, "We'll see". At the end of the story, the outcome of Charlie Wilson's War was not what he intended when he began his Congressional deal making. His victory was short lived. .....Moral of the story being ...."we'll see".

In other words, although the Egyptian people are justifiably exalted about their recent revolution to overturn a dictator, the unintended consequences and benefits are yet to be determined. To coin a sometimes overused cliche: "Freedom is Not Free". There may be a price yet to be paid for the people's victory....

Now, fast forward to June 2013:

Huge protests across Egypt calling for the resignation of President Mohammed Morsi have continued through the night, with sporadic outbreaks of violence.

In the capital, Cairo, tens of thousands of people have been massed in Tahrir Square and outside the presidential palace. They have vowed to stay on until Mr Morsi steps down.

At least one person was killed in clashes at Cairo's headquarters of the governing Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Four others died in clashes elsewhere.

Millions of protesters across the country accuse the country's first Islamist president of failing to tackle economic and security problems since taking power a year ago.

Cairo's Tahrir Square on Sunday saw the biggest demonstration since the 2011 revolution which ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Applying the concept of "we'll see" Egyptian Zen, what we now see is how the Arab Spring, which is the media term for the revolutionary wave of demonstrations that swept through the Middle East, has proven to be a Pandora's Box of troubles for affected nations.  Trusted leadership is needed.

When people revolt against tyranny, they need to have leaders in place to capture the momentum of their revolution.  We can look to South Africa's now gravely ill Nelson Mandela as an example.  India's Mahatma Gandi (1869-1948) was another.  Even Cuba's dictator Fidel Castro was inspired to seize the momentum of his people's revolution against the corrupt President Batista, who was overthrown.

Egyptians, Syrians and other Middle East countries struggling with their Pandora's Box of issues, unleashed by the Arab Spring, have yet to embrace an inspired leader who can move them forward.

Therefore, these Arab Spring nations will remain in a perpetual state of "Egyptian Zen" until they can see their way forward.  

There seems no end to the street violence and revolution now flooding through the Middle East like a tsunami.  

Inspired leadership is urgent.  Egypt needs leaders like the strong and iconic Pharaohs.  Otherwise, the nation where the roots of Western Civilization began, risks being absorbed by a massive dust storm and the Arab Spring will be as arid as the Sahara Desert.  

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Speaker John Boehner Leadership Alert! Senate Votes in Favor by Wide Margin for Immigration Reform

Fourteen Republicans voted to support the Senate immigration reform bill and the vote received a wide margin of approval. House Speaker John Boehner should immediately demonstrate leadership and support the same positive outcome in the U.S. House.

Senator Rand Paul, who wants to run for U.S. President and once said he would support immigration reform including a path to citizenship for those already living and working illegally in the U.S., voted against the bill. 

Senator Paul said he wanted to determine if the U.S. border was secure before supporting the immigration reform bill.  Paul reneged on his intention to support the reform because his amendment to determine the security that he felt was necessary didn't pass.  This  incomprehensible rationale from Senator Paul was, in my mind, the same kind of convoluted  "I was for it before I was against it" double speak that Senator John Kerry spoke during his Presidential bid.  This immigration "no" vote should certainly be included in the sound bites when Paul attempts to launch his own 2016, Presidential run. 

Senator Paul, you were in favor of immigration reform before you were against it?  

Here is a list of the Republicans who supported the immigration reform bill from the Mother Jones website. Also, the complete list follows: 

After two weeks of debate on the floor and the addition of beefed-up border security measures backed by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.), the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill on Thursday by a 68-32 vote. The bill, which House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has repeatedly said he won't bring for a vote in the House, would offer a path to citizenship for the nation's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants after the border measures are implemented.

Here's how all 100 senators voted (no Democrats voted against the bill):

Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)
Jeff Chiesa (R-N.J.)
Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)
Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
John Hoeven (R-N.D.)
Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)
John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Mark Begich (D-Alaska)
Michael Bennett (D-Colo.)
Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)
Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)
Ben Cardin (D-Md.)
Carper Thomas (D-Del.)
Bob Casey (D-Pa.)
Christopher Coons (D-Del.)
Mo Cowan (D-Mass.)
Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)
Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Al Franken (D-Minn.)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)
Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)
Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)
Tim Johnson (D-S.D.)
Timothy Kaine (D-Va.)
Angus King (I-Maine)
Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
Mary Landrieu (D-La.)
Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Carl Levin (D-Mich.)
Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)
Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)
Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.)
Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.)
Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)
Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
John Reed (D-R.I.)
Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)
Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)
Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)
Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
Mark Udall (D-Colo.)
Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
Mark Warner (D-Va.)
Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)

John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
John Boozman (R-Ark.)
Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
Dan Coats (R-Ind.)
Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)
John Cornyn (R-Texas)
Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.)
Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)
Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.)
Mike Johanns (R-Neb.)
Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)
Mike Lee (R-Utah)
Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
Jerry Moran (R-Kansas)
Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
Rob Portman (R-Ohio)
James Risch (R-Idaho)
Pat Roberts (R-Kansas)
Timothy Scott (R-S.C.)
Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
John Thune (R-S.D.)
Pat Toomey (R-Penn.)
David Vitter (R-La.)
Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

It is morally wrong to oppose meaningful immigration reform, because all those who voted "no" are, themselves, descendants of immigrants.  Moreover, those who stand in the way of a path to citizenship for those already living in the U.S. illegally are imposing a cruel punishment on this group of hard working, tax paying Americans.  They deserve legal benefits and recognition of their dedication to freedom, achieved through diligence and hard work.  

Speaker of the House John Boehner must exert moral and political leadership by following the Senate example.  He has the responsibility to pass immigration reform with enthusiastic Republican support.  

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Pro Life but Anti Immigrant Hypocrites

Hundreds of people die every year while trying to illegally enter the US to find jobs and improve their socio-econimic status by working hard.  These victims are the mortality statistics of right wing policy extremists who are often self declared Christians and pro life zealots.  It's wrong to prevent these immigrants from achieving citizenship after they've risked their lives to enter the US, worked  hard and performed low skill jobs most Americans don't want to do.  

Americans need a pro-immigrant movement in the same spirit as Saint Mother Cabrini, who helped Europeans who entered the US during the waves of 19th and early 20th century immigration. 

In fact, I call on the Christian Pro-Life Advocates, the people who pay for membership in Right To Life organizations, to stand up and support these immigrants.  

Here's why this matters: When the U.S. beefed up patrols on the Mexican border, illegal immigrants took to crossing in remote areas. Many have died -- more than 450 last year. Often, they're buried unidentified in pauper's graveyards. 

"These types of death shouldn't happen," said chief deputy Benny Martinez, who tracks the deaths in a binder. Last year, he filled three. About 129 bodies were discovered -- more than double the year before.  

A project in south Texas is now trying to name the dead.  This worthwhile project will bring dignity to the people who died from largely preventable deaths, just because they wanted to find a way out of the cycle of poverty in their politically corrupt Latin American governments.  

Pro-life advocates should size the opportunity to save these immigrants from death.

Instead of wasting time funding and creating obsessive anti-abortion campaigns, the Pro-Life advocates would more good if they focused their attention on promoting the life of struggling immigrants.  Pro-life means supporting all life and that includes immigrant lives.

Pro-life advocates who support anti-immigration policies and block their path to citizenship are hypocrites.  A person cannot be pro-life while ignoring the death rate of immigrants who continue to risk their lives to become Americans.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Spy and Counterspy - What Goes Around Comes Around in Spyland and Snowden Paradox

If National Security Agency (NSA) fugitive Edward Snowden is given asylum in Russia, he will unleash a network of spies and counterspies who will seek witness protection status as a result of any impending extradition to the US.  

Snowden will remain homeless in a proverbial "no mans land", in the Moscow airport, until he decides to officially ask Russia for asylum; or, he can try to fly out of Moscow, without official status, because, certainly, Snowden's passport has been impounded. If he decides to simply leave Moscow, he will be flown back to the US where he'll face criminal prosecution.  It's a paradox.  Either situation is an embarrassment for Russia, who clearly wants information from Snowden but, afterward, would probably move him to a camp in Siberia (perhaps, a fate he deserves). 

Likewise, Snowden is an embarrassment to the US because, this one man, has been given the opportunity to disrupt international spy communications and, in the process, has ripped off the political scab of old fashioned and aggravating Cold War wounds.

This dicey Snowden controversy is terribly serious.  Anyone who underestimates just how dangerous this extradition is should take time to read spy novels by John LeCarre (the George Smiley novels) and Daniel Silva (Potrait of a Spy or The Unlikely Spy)  knowing how each fictional story is rooted in reality.  In other words, they're more fact than fiction.  There's more at stake in the Edward Snowden "man without a country" saga than a person who is a fugitive from justice.  

For Moscow to return Snowden to the US will ignite an electrical storm of international spy negotiations, the likes of which, has the potential to grow hair on Russian President Vladimir Putin's balding head and turn President Obama's brown eyes blue - but, surely, both men already know this to be dangerously true.  Media in the US and the Russian press want to know the "story behind the story"; they will want to probe to the bottom of the barrel of a bunch of spies who would like to come in out of the cold, to use a Le Carre metaphor.

Whatever happens to Snowden, if he winds up in the dismal camps of Siberia or in a Federal US prison, his "whistle blower" acting out has put at risk many spies, counterspies and the clandestine operations in which they've been involved.  And, so, this is what's fundamentally gone wrong with the daunting episode - it's got a strangely fatalistic sucking sound.  What goes around comes around in the world of international espionage. Tragically, those caught in the whirlpool of deceit will never be heard from, because they'll likely be the deadly and irreversible consequences of this NSA disaster.  


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tom Hanks Movie "The Terminal" - Snowden Is Living the Legend

Edward Snowden is a man fleeing justice in the US, but his unusual high drama international story is hardly original.

Tom Hanks movie "The Terminal" gets a respectable 7.2 stars on IMDb.  Still, this funny movie may not be comical anymore.  In fact, the fictional movie is now historic.

In the movie, an eastern immigrant finds himself stranded in JFK airport, and must take up temporary residence there.
Director: Steven Spielberg

Storyline in "The Terminal"

Viktor Navorski, a man from an Eastern European country arrives in New York. However after he left his country war broke out. Suddenly Navorski is a man without a country - or one that the U.S. cannot recognize, thus he is denied entrance to the U.S. However, he also can't be deported so he is told by the Security Manager that he has to remain in the airport until his status can be fixed. And also Navorski doesn't speak English very well, so he cannot talk to or understand anyone. But he somehow adapts and sets up residence in the airport, which makes the man who placed him there unhappy, as it seems he is in line for a promotion but Navroski's presence might complicate that. So he tries to get Navorski to leave but Navorski remains where he is. Navorski makes friends with some of the people who work in the airport and is attracted to a flight attendant he runs into whenever she comes in.      

Here is the Edward Snowden translation:  

Edward Snowden, a man on the run from the United States who is on the lamb for suspicion of being a traitor, arrives in the Moscow, Russia Sheremetyevo Airport. He is a man who is fleeing his country.  But, he can't be deported because he has no status and, officially, according to President Putin, he has not officially entered Russia.  

Edward Snowden is still inside the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday – the first official word on the fugitive's whereabouts in more than two days. Putin said Russia has nothing to do with Snowden's plans, and appeared to pour cold water on demands from Washington to hand him over to U.S. prosecutors.

"As regards handing him in - we can hand over foreign nationals only to a country with which we have an agreement about handing over criminals," Putin told reporters at a press conference in Finland. "We do not have such an agreement with the United States."

Snowden doesn't speak Russian very well, so he has difficulty understanding people in the airport. Nevertheless, Snowden manages to set up a residence in the airport.  Snowden decides to stay where he is because, like Tom Hanks, he might very well become an airport star.  (I wonder if Snowden can claim royalties for any songs, stories, movies or news documentaries sold as a result of his true life saga.)

Eventually, and it's just a matter of time, Snowden will likely find a flight attendant and other sympathizers who are attracted to him, at which time, he'll likely find a way out of his transient life.

Meanwhile, Snowden has raised the bar for homeless refugees who find themselves stranded in holding cells in international airports, because they have no immigration status.  I wonder if Snowden has started a new idea for international homeless shelters?

Snowden is living the legend told in "The  Terminal", but his story is hardly entertaining anymore.  Rather, Snowden may have contributed to a less safe world by revealing information used to track and capture terrorists.  Eventually, Snowden will be forced to return to the United States, because his terminal situation cannot be permanent.  

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Republicans Have a Fixation with the "R" Word

As a matter of fact, of the nearly dozen wrong minded politicians who used the "R" word during the 2012, elections, all were defeated except Congressman Paul Ryan, who somehow retained his Congressional seat, but still lost, nonetheless, as a Vice-Presidential candidate.  Incredulously, in spite of the horror of rape and the political consequences to those who use the word in public, Republicans can't let it go. Now, they even found a fanciful thinking women to use the word for them. It's astounding, but Republicans even found a woman to speak about rape as though it is something that can be reversed or fixed.

Rachel Maddow, the vibrantly effective news anchor on MSNBC, understands the toxic combination between those who use the "R" word and political annihilation. She calls out politicians who use this word. Yet, Republicans seem obsessed by the word.

On Monday night's show (June 24) Maddow reported about a woman in the Texas legislature who was a surrogate speaker on the subject of rape. This woman legislator gave false information to her colleagues about how a rape kit is used in a hospital emergency room. Following in line with the fanciful thinking of former Congressman Todd Akin, who told a television newscaster in Kansas that women apparently have a magical immunity to pregnancy resulting from rape, this Texas woman legislator wrongly told her colleagues that women who are raped have the ability to wash away the problem in the hospital emergency department where they're provided with rape kits to prevent pregnancy resulting from the assault. In fact, the Texas legislator who publicly stated false information about rape should be censured for telling lies.  Texas Republican Representative Jodie Laubenberg said,  "...(in) emergency rooms, we have funded what’s called rape kits that will help the woman, basically clean her out. And then hopefully that will alleviate that.”

In fact, Laubenberg couldn't have done any research, whatsoever, about what's in a rape kit.  It's a forensic evidence collection kit!
Here is a description of a rape kit:  "A sexual assault evidence collection kit, sexual assault forensic evidence (SAFE) kit, Sexual offense evidence collection (SOEC) kit or Physical Evidence Recovery Kit (PERK),[1] is a set of items used by medical personnel for gathering and preserving physical evidence following an allegation of sexual assault which can be used in rape investigation. The kit was developed by Louis R. Vitullo and was for years referred to as the Vitullo kit. It is colloquially referred to as a rape kit or rape test kit. The term applies also to the collected evidence for a specific case.[2]"  A rape kit does absolutely nothing to reverse the physiological damage caused by rape.

Following is the report from Monday night's TRMS (The Rachel Maddow Show):

"...a...minority of Democrats (in Texas) managed to get...Republican supporters on record about their explicit belief that government has the right to control women's private medical needs and their understanding about what, in practice, that means.  Thus ...Texas...Republican Representative Jodie Laubenberg, found herself making this argument... about why she opposed adding an exception (to an anti abortion bill) for women who have been raped ...Laubenberg said...."[I]n hospital emergency rooms, we have funded what’s called rape kits that will help the woman, basically clean her out. And then hopefully that will alleviate that.”

Excuse me for a digression, but why are Republicans obsessed with government intrusion into their lives when it means paying taxes or providing for public safety against gun violence, but it's somehow okay to intrude into the medical care required for a rape victim? Republicans don't want rape victims to have access to abortion because, by so doing, they will need to allow for licensing of facilities where safe abortion procedures are performed.  So, women who become pregnant as a result of rape are simply supposed to use a rape kit to reverse this assault outcome.

Republicans don't seem to understand the political consequences of using the caustic "R" word.  

Hopefully, like they did in 2012, the voters will "get" the stupidity of spreading fanciful information about rape, which is a terribly serious and criminal issue.  If I didn't know better, I'd suspect some Republicans want to undermine the seriousness of rape, so they can justify their right wing obsession with eliminating all abortions, regardless of the harm a pregnancy can bring to the woman.

Republicans who continue their fixation with the "R" word should be required to interview rape victims before they get involved in this degrading subject.  As for the purpose of rape kits, any politician who spreads false information about how forensic evidence is collected from victims should be removed from office.  

Texas Representative Laubenberg has become a surrogate for Republican men who spew misinformation about rape and, therefore, she should be at the head of the "exit" line.  

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Republican Leadership Line Up

Republican leadership has splintered into the absurd, the paradoxical, the hypocritical and the people who believe in fanciful thinking. 

If they weren't so dangerous, the line up might even be funny. 

 Unfortunately, they're a scary group; all of them must be voted off the "political island" of Congress, where they misuse their positions, to grandstand about right wing extremist causes.

Who are among this GOP line-up of of quasi leaders?

1.  Governor Mitt Romney - Believes 47 percent of Americans are fundamentally free loaders, who want the government to take care of them.  This absurd statement has no merit whatsoever.  It's an embarrassment to Romney and to people who work for a living.  Meanwhile, Romney built a mega fortune on the backs of these stereotyped free loaders, especially those who worked for his Father George Romney, Chairman of American Motors, in Detroit's automobile industry.  Without the working class, who helped build American Motors' fortune, Governor Romney's father might still be living in his birthplace, in Mexico, and Mitt might be trying to figure out how to get through the immigration wall in Arizona. This 47 percent remark was recorded, it was wrong minded and it is counter intuitive, because American workers are the most productive in the world, and Romney knows it.  American workers get more done per hour than anybody, other than the Norwegians.
Romney's 47 percent comments were hypocritical.  His wealth was created on the backs of the working class; but he marginalizes working class people who created his wealth.

2.  Congresswoman Michelle Bachman (R- Minnesota) - She's a Congresswoman who lives in the home  state of American Democratic Leaders (both Vice-Presidents) Hubert Humphrey (1911-1978) and Walter Mondale (she's quite an embarrassment to both men, I'm pretty sure).  But, beyond Bachman's ideological differences with the two statesmen, she's a woman who engages in fanciful thinking.  In other words, she makes things up.  During her failed bid to gain the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination, Bachman told the national media how she believed the HPV vaccine, an effective prevention against cervical cancer, is a cause of mental retardation.  This ridiculous conclusion is based entirely on Bachman's fanciful thinking and without any medical evidence whatsoever.  After criticizing Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) for mandating a vaccine for school girls, Rep. Michele Bachmann added some scary charges: She claimed to have met a woman whose daughter suffered mental retardation from the vaccine, that it has "very dangerous consequences" and that it puts "little children's lives at risk."  This is ridiculous fanciful thinking was created so Bachman could capture headlines, but without any merit.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky -  This man is a master of paradox. Senator Paul knows the Republican Party is entering a "death spiral" if immigration reform is left undone, but he just won't vote for it, because he doesn't want to.  Paul's reason for not voting for the bipartisan immigration bill are completely nonsensical.  “Without some congressional authority and without border security first, I can’t support the final bill,” Paul said on CNN’s “State of  The Union.”   Maybe, Senator Paul wants to spend even more money to send Congress to police the nation's borders.  Let's remember, America has two international borders, let's not discriminate by only policing one of them.  Unfortunately, Senator Paul is blind to the expensive and enormous anti-immigration border security wall, erected in Arizona, more hideous than the Berlin Wall in Germany; neither does he experience the sadness of law abiding immigrant families, who deserve a path to citizenship, so they can be free of the ominous threat of deportation.

If Republicans, like Senator Paul, don't support the bipartisan immigration reform going through the Congress, the growing number of Hispanic voters will simply stop supporting the GOP. Classic paradox, yet Paul doesn't get it.  

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican from Florida - is the most hypocritical of all, because his family are Cuban refugees; but he won't lead his party out of  its "death spiral", anti immigration positions.  Rubio has no leadership skills. If Rubio were a leader,  he'd stop the GOP anti immigration rhetoric; rather, Rubio is an ethnic puppet for Republicans to dress up and show off in public, to seemingly display how (hypocritically) supportive they are of Hispanic voters.  Cuban voters might buy it, because of loyalty to one of their own, but Hispanic voters see through Rubio's hypocrisy.  Worse, he's ambitious and hypocritical.  

Pope Francis said hypocrites must be revealed.  “Be uncompromising against this spiritual illness (hypocrites). May the Lord not let us be hypocrites. Hypocrites don’t know the meaning of forgiveness, joy and the love of God," he said in a recent post on Twitter.

Republicans have no inspired leadership. Their self appointed leaders are partisan and ambitious zealots. 

Republicans like Party Chairman Reince Priebus must rebrand the party, absent the line up of hypocrites and fanciful thinkers, who pulled the party away from American working class values and ethical immigration policies.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Republicans - Leaderless, Rudderless and Consumed by Rage

Republicans, or the Grand Old Party (now the Grumpy Old Party) were, once upon a time, a breeding ground for conservative, albeit, ethical leadership.  

House Speaker John Boehner certainly fails the leadership needed to break the party's ties with extremist T-Party zealots.

In fact, the Republican Party gained support as an ethical alternative to the Know Knowthing Party, which was really a refuge for people in the radical right wing Ku Klux Klan.  Republicans once stood for something right, but not "right wing".

Founded in the Northern states in 1854 by anti-slavery activists, modernizers, ex-Whigs, and ex-Free Soilers, the Republican Party quickly became the principal opposition to the dominant Southern Democratic Party and the briefly popular Know Nothing Party. The main cause was opposition to the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise by which slavery was kept out of Kansas. The Northern Republicans saw the expansion of slavery as a great evil. The first public meeting where the name "Republican" was suggested for a new anti-slavery party was held on March 20, 1854 in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin.

How is it, therefore, that a political movement, founded on high minded principles, has managed to turn itself inside out? 

Today's Republicans act more like the party they were founded to oppose.  They turn a blind eye to poverty rather than share the wealth of our Capitalist economy; they oppose immigration reform unless, of course, the immigrants want to live in America like they're indentured servants, rather than citizens and they would just as soon secede from the United States, rather than compromise their right wing extremist principles.  These mean spirited attributes are a description of the party the Republicans were created to oppose.  

Abraham Lincoln and Dwight David Eisenhower would not recognize today's Republican Party. They were principled party leaders.  

Lincoln, of course, made huge political sacrifices and was eventually martyred because he led the nation into the Civil War, to eliminate slavery.  

Eisenhower led the nation through a Civil Rights crisis during the integration of the schools in Little Rock Arkansas, because the segregated South continued to hold to the principle of white supremacy, ignoring the Supreme Court school integration ruling.  

Eisenhower and the Little Rock (Integration) Crisis President Eisenhower, who was vacationing in Newport, Rhode Island, arranged to meet Arkansas Governor Faubus there to discuss the tense situation in Little Rock. In their meeting, Eisenhower thought Faubus agreed to enroll African American students in the Little Rock schools, so he told Faubus that his National Guard troops could stay at Central High and enforce order. Once back in Little Rock, however, Governor Faubus withdrew the National Guard. A few days later, 9 African American students slipped into the school to enroll and a full scale riot erupted. The situation quickly ran out of control, as Governor Faubus did nothing to stop the violence. Finally, the Little Rock mayor appealed directly to President Eisenhower for help. Eisenhower acted boldly. He placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal control and sent 1,000 U.S. Army paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division to assist them in restoring order in Little Rock. The daring tactic worked and the African American students were enrolled without further violent disturbances. The Supreme Court law was upheld. Nevertheless, Eisenhower was criticized both by those who felt he had not done enough to ensure civil rights for African Americans and those who believed he had gone too far in asserting federal power over the states. History has proven Eisenhower's decision was right.  He was a Republican who was also a leader.  

This is what President Eisenhower said to the American people on September 24, 1957:

Good Evening, My Fellow Citizens: For a few minutes this evening I want to speak to you about the serious situation that has arisen in Little Rock. To make this talk I have come to the President’s office in the White House. I could have spoken from Rhode Island, where I have been staying recently, but I felt that, in speaking from the house of Lincoln, of Jackson and of Wilson, my words would better convey both the sadness I feel in the action I was compelled today to take and the firmness with which I intend to pursue this course until the orders of the Federal Court at Little Rock can be executed without unlawful interference."Mob rule cannot be allowed to override the decisions of our courts,” said President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his 1957 address on Little Rock, Arkansas.

Clearly, today's Republican party has no leaders like Lincoln and Eisenhower. As a result, Republicans are a party without direction, rudderless, flailing around like there're lost at sea, without a compass.  Extremists have taken over the GOP, like a band of pirates ransacking a ghost ship.

What's worse, Republican moderates act like hostages, rather than patriots.  They're unable to fix the party, while the situation continues to worsen.

Eleanor Clift writes in the Daily Beast how Republicans are in a Kamikase mode. In other words, they appear to be self destructing.

Similarly, like Kamikase pilots who crashed and burned, Republicans are taking the party down along with them, while creating a dangerous political impact crater.  Many right wing minded people are falling into this slippery crater. Most of them may never climb out, because they need a leader to show them the way up the slippery slope into which they've fallen.

Clift reports:  "The Republican Party...(has taken) a sharp turn to the rightconfounding more moderate voices who have been urging the party to re-brand itself after last year’s (2012) election loss. A Tea Party rally outside the US Capitol Thursday captured the defiant mood with the far right maligning the "merely right". Talk-show host (and right wing extremistGlenn Beck called the GOP “the Whig party,” with John Boehner the head Whig for appearing open to compromise. There were cries of “learn English” when Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart spoke a few words of Spanish from the podium. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, once a Tea Party favorite, didn’t attend the rally. Part of the Gang of Eight working on a bipartisan immigration bill, Rubio's name drew loud boos."

This incendiary scene described by Clift is as dangerous a rally as any Ku Klux Klan gathering, only without the shroud of hooded demons and absent the rage of fire and brimstone cross burning.  But, the intent of the Tea Party is exactly the same as a Ku Klux Klan terrorism gathering. These right wing extremists are acting like the pro-slavery, white supremacy groups the Republicans were once determined to oppose.

Where are the Republicans who once stood up for something?  Where are you?  Help Wanted:  a few decent minded, ethical, righteous and civil rights minded Republicans, paaleeze stand up and take charge of your leaderless and rudderless political party, before the zealots consume even more people into their incendiary rage. 

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kitchen Table Republicans are a Dysfunctional Family

Every family who really sits around a kitchen table knows how tough it is to solve problems, but they just do it.

Although it's become an overused political metaphor, it's worth revisiting the kitchen table concept, in the context of a dysfunctional family.  It's time to explain how the Republicans have abandoned the kitchen table. Rather, they're metaphorically sitting in broken chairs, cowering in dunce corners, because they can't resolve problems.  Sadly, the GOP (Grumpy Old Party) are simply acting out, like spoiled children. They're shirking their fiduciary duties, like political truants, when it comes to lifting the stupid federal budget sequestration, the restoration of vitally needed funding to important programs like Head Start or fixing the bridges their constituents drive on.  They'd rather sit in a dunce's corner, in a broken chair, than gather at the kitchen table to solve problems.  

Although, recently, Speaker of the House John Boehner finally met with the Congressional Hispanic caucus to discuss immigration reform, this tete-a-tete was long overdue.  Their meeting was, no doubt, motivated after Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) went on the Sunday TV talk shows to describe the Republican party as heading into a demographic death spiral if immigration reform isn't resolved by Congress. Wow! Now, there's a morbid metaphor, if I ever heard one. Let me get this right. So, it took the image of political death to bring about bipartisan discourse on immigration reform.  This crises reaction certainly sounds dysfunctional to me.  Speaker John Boehner is the head of the Congressional "family", so to speak.  He needs to speak to his family, every once in awhile, and not just to his favored partisan few.

Let's fact it, the Republicans are as dysfunctional a party as any broken chair I've ever seen.

Republicans like to bring up "kitchen table politics" when defining concepts they find fundamentally distasteful, like "deficits"  or "balancing the budget".  Nevertheless, governments can't easily get out from under deficits because, in fact, they don't really have to balance budgets.  Kitchen table problem solving isn't realistic when applied to managing governments, because the kind of people who sit around kitchen tables, like families used to do, once up on a time, don't fund international wars.  Moreover, we can't raise taxes to pay for them, either.  

But Congress can, in fact, fix the stupid federal sequester.  They have the unlimited capacity to solve problems through compromise.  All Congress needs to do, to roll back the federal sequester, or to pass immigration reform (including a path to citizenship for immigrants) and to fund infrastructure programs, thereby creating jobs....yes, all Republicans have to do, to resolve all of the above, and to.....taaaadaaaa!.....Just Do It! 

That's all they have to do, is just do it.  It's incredulously simple, but Republicans only respond, they don't lead.

Hopefully, Congressional dysfunction isn't lost on American voters. We must come out to vote, in force, in the 2014 mid term elections, so we can, once and for all, roll back the Republican extremist agenda.  They obviously didn't hear it after the 2012 election of President Obama, because they've become so wrapped up in dysfunctional relationships with right wing extremism that they simply can't fix what's wrong with them.  Let's not keep a broken political party in Congress.  It's time to vote the obstructionists like Speaker John Boehner out of office and replace him and with efficient political leaders who know how to build functional political families.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Genealogy and Immigration - Republicans and Their Own Ancestry

Before creating daunting immigration policies intended to undermine the political influence of America's newest citizens, US Republicans might consider figuring their own individual genealogical ancestry.  As individuals and as a group, they will undoubtedly find surprises in their ancestral DNA, the genetic building block of life.  Genetic discoveries should be a reality check to mitigate onerous immigration policies.

Human migrations with racial mixing has overcome eons of taboos and societal norms, now documented through DNA testing.  

In other words, immigration regulations that Republicans are debating, designed to suppress Democratic voters who might be immigrants, is a waste of time, especially considering the surprising diversity of our own origins.  

Genealogy research is becoming increasingly fascinating, as biologists determine the particular origins of certain human genetic markers in our DNA, known as the building block of life.
Although genealogy is typically traced via a series of often complicated charts, saliva testing now determines evidence of ancestral migrations going back thousands of years. 

Two prominent world leaders have fascinating genealogies atypical of their apparent racial status.  

Prince William of England is Caucasian, but he is now reported to have a genetic marker relating him to a Southeast Asian woman.  

President Barack Obama is an African American whose mother was an American Caucasian and father was a citizen of Ghana; yet, Mr. Obama's  genealogy includes an ancestor who was born in Ireland.  

England's Prince William has Asian ancestry.  

Genetic testing from Prince Williams's mother's lineage, a male cousin of Princess Diana, shows the second in line to the British throne and, therefore, future King of England, has a genetic marker from an Asian woman in India.

London (CNN) -- Britain's royal family has long been taunted for its German roots, but now a more exotic lineage can be revealed after evidence emerged indicating that Prince William is the direct descendant of an Indian woman.

The Duke of Cambridge's maternal lineage was revealed on Friday by a genetic ancestry testing company, BritainsDNA, which carried out tests on the DNA of Princess Diana's two matrilineal cousins and compared them to a global database of samples.

Genetic tests reveal that the prince's fourth great-grandmother was the daughter of Eliza Kewark and Theodore Forbes (1788-1820), a Scottish merchant who worked in Surat, north of what is now Mumbai, India.  

Kewark's mitochondrial DNA -- which is only passed on from mother to child -- was then passed down, the company says, through the couple's daughter and female descendants, one of whom, Frances Roche (1936-2004), married Earl Spencer and bore a daughter, Lady Diana Spencer, the prince's mother.

Jim Wilson, chief scientist at Britains DNA, told CNN the discovery means "William probably has a very small amount (of Indian DNA), maybe half a percent will be of South Asian heritage."

President Obama has even more than a genetic marker, as his family tree in Ireland is well researched and his ancestry is documented.

Barack Obama's Irish family tree is traced to the 17th century. Shedding light on his earliest known relatives, researchers from Trinity College Dublin and Irish Origins traced Obama's family history much further back than ever before. Obama's earliest known relative, his 6th great grandfather, was a member of a family of wealthy wig makers who included an Irish politician, Michael Kearney. (It was said that 'no man alive was equally fired with ambition'.) 

A wonderfully entertaining literary example, describing the futility of protecting ancestral purity, is in the writings of American novelist James Michner.  His novels about the American experience are entertaining and historic, while the basis of his 1948 Pulitzer Prize winning Tales of the South Pacific and, much later "Texas: A Novel" emphasized the ridiculous practice of limiting racial (eventually, therefore, political) diversity.  A reader can consume thousands of pages of Michner's novels and come away with one succinct message - ie, diversity happens!

Although genealogy is fascinating and fun, the political reality is that, who we are today, is the result of ancestors who overcame eons of taboos against racial mixing.

Logically concluding, the intention of creating daunting anti immigration policies into the United States, with the purpose of deterring migrations from South America, Latin America and Mexico, are wasted efforts. In fact, if all geo-political systems were equal, it would make sense for Americans to be migrating into the Southern Hemisphere countries.  It's almost counter intuitive to see migrations moving north, rather than south, but Latin American countries have centuries of unstable political histories.

Since economics drives a good deal of human migrations, in every direction, it's a fact that human diversity will follow.  Therefore, Republicans should find the origins of their own genetic tree before creating cruel laws to try and change human nature.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Walls in History and the Land of the Free and the Brave

Although there's plenty of "tops" lists to be found on the Internet, the idea of listing popular or infamous walls doesn't seem to capture any one's imagination.  I thought about this, especially with the personal experience of visiting the enormous Great Wall in China.  

Why aren't walls listed as popular tourist attractions?  Probably (in my humble opinion) because walls are constructed for typically nefarious purposes.  For example, there's nothing touristy about the ugly and expensive wall dividing the United States from Mexico, built with the intention of keeping illegal immigrants from crossing the border. This unsightly Arizona border wall is a stupid structure and a perfect example of how people who don't take history seriously are doomed to repeat it.

wall is by nature a barrier.  I can't think of a reason why anybody would build a wall, except to create a barrier or to segment something as separate from something else.  It's a vertical structure, usually solid, that defines and sometimes protects an area.

In New England, the colonial saying goes, "Good walls make good neighbors", which makes the concept of a wall oddly picturesque.  In reality, the use of colonial or middle ages walls were to protect one person or tribe from another.  Walls were the colonial equivalent of fences, except, of course, the rocks withstood nature's brutality, while fences corroded.  Therefore, in New England and other places, stone walls have become quaint, when their purpose was not so friendly, at all.  

But, the point is, walls have never been effective barriers. They are expensive and symbolic, but not effective.  

Europeans are still trying to figure out what to do with the remains of Adolf Hitler's Atlantic Wall, the name given to a massive coastal defensive structure built on Hitler's orders, that stretched all the way from Norway, along the Belgium and French coastline, to the Spanish border.  Remnants of the Atlantic Wall are hideous and a constant reminder of the tyrannical Third Reich.  Moreover, the extraordinary cost estimate I found on line was 1.2 million tonnes of steel and the cost in France alone was 3.7 billion Deutschmarks.

We know the Atlantic Wall did absolutely nothing to defend Germany from the Allied invasion, June 6, 1944 of Normandy.

A similar analogy can be made about the ridiculous Berlin Wall, dividing East and West Germany during the Cold War (1947-1991).
In fact, the Berlin Wall created a universal symbol of Western victory over tyranny, especially when the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49, was defeated by the Berlin airlift.  

And so on, with the Great Wall of China.  Extraordinary life was lost at the expense of the Chinese people during the building of China's Great Wall. Yet, today the wall is a congested tourist attraction and symbolic of failed protectionist policies.

So now the Land of the Free and the Brave also has an infamous "border wall", in Arizona.
This Arizona wall is sad.  Furthermore, it's just as hideous as Hitler's Atlantic Wall, the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall, combined.  Moreover, it's separating families who have loved ones on each side, plus, puts at risks thousands of lives of those who circumvent it, to reach the United States, in spite of it.

In addition to being a mean spirited social and political barrier, there's no rational logic among conservative, anti-immigration, right wing nuts, who won't spend ten dollars to fund a Medicaid program for the poor, but don't even ask what the Arizona border wall costs?

Surely, right wing extremists (the RWE-RWE's) remember their idol Ronald Reagan's clarion call about the Berlin Wall: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Today, President Reagan could be speaking to them.  

Let's imagine the ghost of President Reagan crying out, "Sarah Palin, tear down this wall!",  or "Senator Lindsey Graham, tear down this wall!" or "Speaker John Boehner, tear down this wall!".  

It's a terrible embarrassment for the Americans to build a wall dividing the two friendly countries of Mexico and the United States.  Beyond being hideous, expensive to build, and to maintain and ineffective, the wall is just plain wrong.  It's now fourth on history's list of unpopular walls, in line with The Atlantic Wall, the Berlin Wall, and the intention of The Great Wall - and Arizona's will never be a tourist attraction. 

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Supreme Court Finally Agrees - Proof of Citizenship not Required for Voter Registration

Arizona citizens voted to require proof of citizenship for voter registration, in spite of decades of voting without such evidence being required. Now the Supreme Count has, rightly, stricken down this requirement.

Let's be realistic, Arizona voters have gone to the polls without proof of citizenship, ever since 1912, when it become a state.  Meanwhile, Arizona has always had a growing number of residents and citizens who originally came from Mexico or Latin America.  What's different now is partisan politics.   

A recent law approved by Arizona's voters was intended to curtail newly immigrated Democratic voters (many were Hispanic), by intimidating them into not registering.  

Washington (CNN) -- The Supreme Court on Monday tossed out a provision in Arizona's voter registration law that required proof of citizenship. In a 7-2 majority ruling, the Supreme Court said the state's voter-approved Proposition 200 interfered with federal law designed to make voter registration easier.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a year ago, blocked the Arizona law from being enforced, while the high court decided internally whether to accept pending appeals for review. The ballot measure was passed in 2004 and has been lingering in the federal courts ever since.

In the election 2000, the Supreme Court created controversy and skepticism with the ludicrous Gore vs Bush ruling, by ignoring the popular vote and ruling to stop the ballot counting in Florida. Vice-President Gore won the popular vote in 2000, but lost the election, because Florida ballots were unable to be counted and the electoral vote was tipped for a Bush win.  

Yet, voters rights were supported in today's court ruling, demonstrating an intention to protect the fundamental DNA of democracy - the voter's right to vote.  

In fact, the Motor Voter Law, (National Voter Registration Act of 1993) that enables prospective voters to register when they obtain or renew a driver's license, will stand, at least for the foreseeable future.  Cumbersome obstructions, meant to intimidate prospective minority voters, can be monitored by voting rights activists while the Democrats can begin to register new voters.

Monday's Supreme Court ruling, striking parts of Arizona's onerous voter law, is a triumph for democracy- which is fundamentally about the right to vote.  

Strategically, Democrats might experience a breath of new political oxygen when the growing number of immigrant citizens are registered as party supporters. After all, Republicans are clearly not demonstrating support for new citizens voting rights. Therefore,  why would any new citizen want to register with a political party that doesn't support the voting rights?

Immigrants are clearly the new face of America. Nevertheless, Republicans don't want the nation's changing demographics to become voting Democrats.  Incredulously, the Republicans aren't helping to change the minds of the people who are politically victimized by proposed repressive voting laws.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) gets a broken clock ie, right twice a day, award, when he said, on the June 16th Sunday talk shows:  Republicans are in a demographic death spiral, unless the party supports immigration reform.  In my mind, immigration reform must  allow for a path to citizenship for legal immigrants, and thereby, allow voter registration, without intimidating processes to demonstrate citizenship.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Immigration Reform - Watch Republicans Shooting Themselves in the Foot

Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot with immigration reform.  They think it is important, but can't agree on a path to citizenship for hard working immigrants who contribute to our national economy.  They claim to be supporting immigration reform, but are unable to articulate a cohesive message they can all support. They just don't get how their own immigrant heritage is the reason they are Republican Americans.

“We’re in a demographic death spiral as a party,"said Senator Lindsey Graham- Republican of South Carolina.

Two Republican leaders are sending mixed messages about immigration reform.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R- FL), the architect of a comprehensive immigration bill that would legalize 11 million undocumented immigrants, refused to say on Sunday whether he supports the legislation he helped draft. He instead claimed that the measure does not have strong border enforcement provisions and would not receive bipartisan support.

In an interview on ABC’s This Week, Rubio told the guest host Jonathan Karl that public input indicated the need to create border enforcement provisions to prevent “another wave of illegal immigration in the future.”
JONATHAN KARL: You are one the primary architect authors of the bill that came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, immigration reform. I have a basic question, do you support your own bill?

RUBIO: I think it’s an excellent starting point. I think 95, 96 percent of the bill is in perfect shape and ready to go. But there are elements that need to be improved. [...]

KARL: If it stays the way it is on border security, do you vote for it?

RUBIO: I don’t want to get involved in the hypotheticals and ultimatums.

KARL: It’s a real possibility.

RUBIO: No, I don’t think it is. A bill without increased border security which everyone has now conceded needs to happen. The debate is about what that border security provision looks like. If we do that, the bill will have strong, bipartisan support. If we fail, we will keep trying. The only way to pass the immigration reform law out of the House and Senate so the President can sign it is if has real border security measures.

This emphasis on border security is a waste of money because it plainly doesn't work.  Moreover, border security to protect southern illegal crossings are negatively impacting Canadian-American relations, by causing complications in border security in places without the same problems.  In Canada-US crossings, more border security is like the proverbial, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and Canadian border crossings are not a problem needing fixing.

Illegal border crossings will only be fixed when Mexico and Latin America improves it's own economic houses and protects its citizens against corrupt governments.

Senator Lindsey Graham - Republican Senator of South Carolina:Republicans know they must be more aligned with immigrant groups but, incredulously, they just don't seem to know how to do it!  Graham is one of the Republican co-sponsors of an immigration reform bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11.1 million undocumented immigrants. He told fellow Republicans that the GOP will fail to exist if reform does not become law.  “If we don’t pass immigration reform , if we don’t get it off the table in a reasonable, practical way, it doesn’t matter who you run in 2016,” Graham warned during on appearance Sunday on NBC’s Meet The Press. “We’re in a demographic death spiral as a party, and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community, in my view, is pass comprehensive immigration reform. If you don’t do that, it really doesn’t matter who will run, in my view.”

Meanwhile, families are suffering needlessly as a result of Republican obstructionism on immigration reform. On Father’s Day, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) reminded Americans that the immigration bill making its way through Congress is paramount to millions of mixed-status families.

“I want to say it’s Father’s Day. A study just came out this week in Illinois, 56,000 children were left without a mom or a dad, some without parents in the last six years,” Gutierrez said on Sunday’s This Week. “It’s something we have to end. It’s a tragedy, what’s happening to American immigrant families. ”

If the current rate continues at roughly 1,100 undocumented immigrants deported daily, experts say 152,000 children will have a parent detained or deported. Other studies show a parent’s immigration status can impact children’s mental health, physical health, and school grades, making another case for a path to citizenship for fathers and mothers.

Hispanics won't support Rubio for GOP leadership just because he's Cuban American. Rather than just talking about reform, he must walk the walk. Yet, Rubio can't even provide leadership for his own immigration bill, even though his family are Cuban immigrants. Clearly, Rubio is shooting himself in his political foot.  If he wants to be a leader of Hispanic voters, he must shed immigration ambiguity and stand firm in support for a path to leadership for all immigrants, without regard for increasing border security.

Although Republicans are apparently proud of their strong political ties to the National Rifle Association, I don't believe this attraction is intended to cause morbidity.  

Nevertheless, Republicans who can't figure out how to save their party from the self inflicted wounds, caused by their refusal to agree on sensible immigration reform, are shooting themselves in their political feet.  By turning off Hispanic voters, they may never walk into the White House again.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ten Percent Approval Rating - Congress Fails: What Business Would Hire This Group?

Businesses seeking to sell to a government agency must usually submit to a bidding process. In other words, if a company sells widgets (or paper clips) to a government organization, the proposal, prior to signing a deal, must go through a rigorous procurement review.  This often daunting process typically includes an open bidding procedure. A company might make the world's best widgets, but if the sales proposal, required to sell them to the government, can't survive the procurement and bidding, the product will be passed over for a competing bid.

So, here's the question. Would the US Congress survive a government procurement procedure?  Of course not. 

The Columbus Press reports:  WASHINGTON — The public’s scorn for a gridlocked Congress continues to grow, with a new Gallup poll showing confidence in the legislative body falling to 10 percent, the lowest level Gallup has ever found for any institution.

Congress’ 10 percent rating in the survey was 3 percentage points lower than in a similar Gallup survey of the public’s views of major institutions conducted at the same time last year.
At this low point, (a misnomer - it's really a high "disapproval" rating), it's time our nation seeks competing bids.  

In other words, let's vote politicians out of office when they bring down the respect for government.  We must especially un-elect the likes of Speaker John Boehner, who seem to take disdainful pride in bringing down our confidence in the Congress. 

Let's immediately elect (ie "hire") people who will respond to the will of the people.

Here are some suggestions to Congress, to help improve its approval rating, before it tanks to zero (statistically speaking, a 10 percent low is very close to zero, given there's typically a margin of error of 4-5 percent).

1.  Support tax reform whereby super rich millionaires and billionaires are required to share their wealth through equitable income redistribution - ie. pay their fair share of taxes.

2.  Pass compassionate and benevolent immigration reform including providing a path to citizenship for all law abiding immigrants.  Prohibit laws requiring immigrants to live as indentured servants.  

3.  Sustain social safety net programs, especially:
  • Social Security - funded by employer and employee payroll taxes that are recovered by beneficiaries at a retirement age determined to be 62-66 or older.
  • Medicare - health insurance paid for by Social Security beneficiaries and guaranteed by the government.
  • Medicaid - income assistance and health care for poor people including migrant workers and immigrants.
  • Pell Grants - providing deserving college students with tuition assistance.
  • Food Stamps - this benefit helps all Americans because the money received by recipients goes directly back into commerce and the food purchased sustains many farm budgets.
  • Veterans Benefits - support for those who have served our national defense, and, as a result, their dedication may have exposed them to life shortening experiences (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Agent Orange, other toxin reactions, combat injuries and related disabilities).
  • Infrastructure sustainability - funding for highways, bridges, airports and public safety projects that will expand access to trade and provide opportunities to create new jobs.
  • National Wi-Fi networks - available everywhere, like electricity and clean water.  Internet commerce is essential to nearly every legitimate business; therefore, it's time for customers and businesses to have the ability to access the Internet, for free.
  • Support for health related research - Americans must keep up with other developing countries, many of them already demonstrating rapid advancements in public health for the purpose of sustaining a healthy, viable and growing workforce. 
  • Gun safety regulations - Preventable deaths by gun violence must be eliminated.  Guns really do kill people and Americans deserve protection from people who want to use guns for evil and incendiary purposes. Congress must pass sensible gun control regulations!
Surely, it doesn't seem like "rocket science" to focus the US Congress on how to improve its public opinion rating.  

Republicans are clearly responsible for this institutional disdain. Consequently, one can wonder if resistance to improving the disapproval is, somehow, weirdly strategic.  Does Congressional disapproval serve some unknown outcome, known only to the obstructionist Republicans?  One hopes not, but, who knows, for sure?

Certainly, with only a 10 percent public approval rating, the American people can't re-hire this ineffective group again. 

No business would keep this group on the payroll. In fact, any viable business would've already fired the entire bunch.  

Congress should legitimately be receiving unemployment benefits for only 6 months.  A Senator and Congressional member's annual salary is $174,000.  Surely, there are more qualified people worthy of this salary and care about will of the people, rather than obstructing progressive policies.  

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Greta Garbo Privacy Queen in a Digital Age

NPR Weekend Edition's Scott Simon provided the following excellent commentary about the changing concept of privacy.

"As a noted expert on privacy, Greta Garbo once wrote, 'I never said, I want to be alone. I only said I want to be let alone!' There is all the difference."

"Online privacy is dead. Millennials understand that, while older users have not adapted," said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future. "This demonstrates a major shift ... there's no going back."

Did ATMs Represent The Dawn of the Digital Era?

by SCOTT SIMON June 15, 2013 7:16 AM

Sometimes history stares you in the face, and you look in the wrong direction.

As a young reporter in the late 1970s, I did stories about some of the first Automatic Teller Machines as they came into use. Most of my stories bore in on the concerns that seemed most urgent back then: will people trust getting money from a machine, not a person? What if you ask the machine for $50 and it spits out $20?

Today, those worries sound as antique as wondering if the Iron Horse would put a lot of blacksmiths out of business; which I guess the automobile did.

What I did not foresee — and I don't recall that any of the truly learned persons I consulted did, either — is that the instantaneous inter-connectedness of the ATM would portend, before mobile phones and laptop computers, an age in which we scatter trails of personal information each day; even each hour.

Make a call, get some cash, check the news, buy a pair of socks, ride the subway: lights, cameras and microchips record it. You don't need to be a government security agency to discover what pills we have in our cabinet, the route we take to work, who we call, what we had for lunch, what we're buying to read, even if the book just sits on the kitchen table (or, increasingly, in digits), what size socks we wear and what color. And who our friends are.

If you post a note on a social media site to say you're rooting for the Blackhawks or Spurs, the next site you visit may have ads for their caps and T-shirts.

You might be startled to first notice that you're being tracked by retailers, and who knows who else. But if we're going to live in the real world these days, that includes the World Wide Web. It's a crime to open someone's mail, but not to follow what they say and where they go on the Internet.

Has what we mean by privacy changed in the digital age? A study by the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center conducted in April — before stories broke about the National Security Agency collecting cellphone and Internet records — found that people between 18 and 34 are markedly less bothered by the idea that their every click leaves a trace.

"Online privacy is dead. Millennials understand that, while older users have not adapted," said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future. "This demonstrates a major shift ... there's no going back."

But is that the way we'll want to live in the future — susceptible to suspicion because of what we read or who we know? As a noted expert on privacy, Greta Garbo once wrote, "I never said, 'I want to be alone.' I only said 'I want to be let alone!' There is all the difference."

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Defending the Syrian Rebels: Iran Behind the Curtain

Let's face it, Iran is the enemy complicit in the Syrian government's atrocities toward the rebels.  Likewise, Iran is certainly a long standing source of angst against America. Potentially, it's about time we confront Iran, once and for all, as their anti-American intentions have been evident since 1979, with the take over of the US Embassy in Tehran, a situation described in the Academy Award winning movie, "Argo".

Although I sadly admit to being reticent about assisting any side in
the bloody Syrian civil war, it seems like America's involvement is now inevitable.  

Human carnage of unimaginable proportions must be stopped.  

The Syrian civil war is an ongoing armed conflict between forces loyal to the Syrian Ba'ath Party government and those seeking to oust it. The conflict began on 15 March 2011, with popular demonstrations that grew nationwide and forced a humanitarian catastrophe. 

Anti-government demonstrations were part of the wider Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring. Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971, as well as the end of Ba'ath Party rule.  And the bloodshed continues.
Sadly, the anti-government rebels have endured tens of thousands of deaths and both side report enormous losses.  Civilians are bearing the brunt of the fighting.  As many as 92,000 people have died and the number is climbing, reports The New York Times. More than 5,000 deaths are reported every month.

It's entirely likely this devastating conflict will grow, yet again, when the US in openly involved.  American military aid will support the anti-government rebels, but our participation, also, will put our nation in direct confrontation with Iran. This is because Syria and Iran are strategic allies.  Fighting Syria means confronting Iran.  Moreover, due to the nuclear pressure Iran is exerting on Middle East security, it's, probably, just a matter of time until armed engagement with the US becomes a reality.  

Therefore, the US might as well engage with Iran through assistance to anti-government rebels in Syria. This tactic makes military sense because, apparently, Iran is already supporting the pro-government forces. When the US provides military assistance to the Syrian rebels, the aid can enhance our ability to keep Iran's military tactics under closer surveillance.

Defending the Syrian Rebels, in my opinion, is an American armed confrontation with Iran, whereby President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the evil intended leader who lurks behind the military curtain of Syrian President Assad's army.  

Although Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has called for military assistance to support the Syrian rebels for a long time, his clarion call has fallen flat with war weary Americans.  

Clearly, America don't have enough money to sustain another war, especially on the heels of the Iraq and Afghanistan military campaigns.  (Where's the Tea-Party on the Syrian appropriations?)

Perhaps, this confrontation with Syria is a delayed reaction to the retaliation we should have initiated against Iran, but didn't, following the 1979 hostage crisis.  Iran had absolutely no right, whatsoever, to allow a take over of our US embassy in Tehran, where Americans were held hostage for 444 days, terrorized by the threat of death by firing squad. Indeed, it's probably time to hold Iran accountable for illegally holding Americans hostage for no reason, even 44 years after the event.

Obviously, the world cannot stand by and ignore the massive genocide in Syria, regardless of who is the "real" enemy.

But, a war weary American public might be inclined to support our engagement in Syria if we are better informed about who the "real" enemy is behind the curtain.  In spite of the massive number of casualties, the real enemy to be confronted, the evil behind the curtain, is Iran.

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