Taking Back America?

April 13, 2015

Republicans, whether running for the presidency or in Congress, have hit upon a slogan that will likely endure through the 2016 elections. The GOP wants to” take back America.” Now I get the fact that much of this lingo means that the Republicans want to replace liberalism, secularism, progressivism, Obamaism, and Clintonism, and of course socialism with conservative principles and leadership.

But when Republicans talk about ” taking back America” I think the American public deserve more than vague platitudes and phony promises to get rid of the IRS and send illegal immigrants ( all 12 million of them) back to Mexico. I guess I have some questions as to what ” taking back America” means from a policy perspective.

So, in no order of importance here are some questions as to what the Republicans need to answer about ” taking back America”:

Do the Republicans mean that we would return to a time when nearly 50 million Americans had no health insurance?

Do the Republicans mean that we would cut the taxes of millionaires and major corporations even though they have stashed over $ 20 trillion offshore and receive generous subsidies from the government?

Do the Republicans mean that we would deepen income inequality and let the poor and the middle class drown in debt and poverty?

Do the Republicans mean that we would return to Teddy Roosevelt’s desire to become” policeman to the world” and bomb our adversaries and invade foreign lands?

Do the Republicans mean that African-Americans and Hispanics would be stripped of basic civil and political rights in order to keep the soon to be white minority in control?

Now I suspect that ” taking back America” really is code for stopping gay marriage, taking down Jefferson’s walls of separation between church, and state, weakening the morally corrupt media and Hollywood, and ending any attempts to further legalize weed. Certainly the GOP has a constitutional right to voice their concerns over these hot button issues, but let’s face it, gay marriage is here to stay, the younger generation is overwhelmingly secular if not agnostic, the media and Hollywood are deeply entrenched in our culture and booze rather than weed is the real threat to health and safety.

So my only request of the Republicans is that when they promise to ” take back America” they address the five questions posed above. I personally would not want to go back to the America of one hundred years ago.


Religious Freedom, Discrimination and Profit

April 7, 2015

When major corporations like Wal-Mart, Eli Lilly, Apple and others tell conservative governors to accent anti-discrimination in their laws rather than religious freedom, it is clear that the capitalist marketplace has given a huge boost to the gay rights/ gay marriage community.

Certainly there are millions of religious-minded Americans who believe that the gay lifestyle is a biblical abomination. But there also millions of gays ( and their supporters) who are consumers, employees and activists who have had little difficulty in convincing Fortune 500 corporations that discrimination ( couched in the language of religious freedom) is just bad for business. In a nutshell the message from many corporations is ” stop the hate, so we can make a profit.”

What happened in Indiana, Arkansas and likely other states is that corporate executives want to move on in this gay rights debate and are simply tired of the culture wars emanating from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. I am not very good at prognostication but I would bet Vegas money that the Supreme Court validates gay marriage in June, further driving a nail in the coffin of the proponents of the gay culture war.

It was pretty clear from the beginning that the religious freedom bills were more about giving small business owners the legal grounds to deny services to gays. But what governors like Mike Pence in Indiana and Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas did not anticipate is that big business trumps small business and profit is always more important than religion. We pride ourselves as a nation of faith, but we are really a nation of money, and as this nation becomes more secular the faith community is losing out to profit.

I happened to hear a talk by former Congressman Barney Frank, who was the first member of Congress to come out of the closet. Frank, is a liberals liberal and obviously has an ax to grind when it comes to gay rights. But he made a solid point when he said that in ten years or so the issue of gay rights will go the way of anti-Semitism as two examples of discriminatory barriers being broken down in this country against minorities.

Time will only tell if this is a turning point in gay rights and gay marriage in the United States, but one thing is now clear – corporate profit has dealt a blow to the gay culture war.


Boston 2024- Not a Fair Fight

March 26, 2015

Now that John Fish of Suffolk Construction, the brains and brawn behind the Boston 2024 Olympics in Boston, has been forced into a referendum by grassroots opposition and fiscal watchdogs, the keys to the future of the Games are who gets to write the language of the popular vote, how much money will be spent on television advertising, and how will the political establishment (along with every group of vested interests) try to manage popular opinion?

Normally the lawyers in the office of the Secretary of State would control the language in the referendum, but that does not mean that there will be intense lobbying by Fish and his high priced consulting team to influence the end product. The language could be so obtuse and complex that voters will get lost, even though the official handout will give both sides of the argument. It would seem that the vote language should be crystal clear Рlet the Games move forward without a nickel of taxpayer money. But some smart lawyers and PR flacks might be able to turn the language around in ways that create opportunities for taxpayer handouts.  This referendum language phase of the fight will be the most critical stage of the democratic process.

Then it is on to television, radio, the Internet and social media. Fish and his group have gobs of money ( as witnessed by the willingness to pay former Governor Deval Patrick $ 7500 a day for saying to anyone who will listen that Boston is a world class city). On the other side of the argument the grassroots groups and fiscal watchdogs have zero dollars and will have to use their shoe leather and Twitter to get out the message. As many others have remarked already, we are on our way to casinos in large part because of the advertising money that bought time on the local television channels. Look to be overwhelmed by commercials that show Boston transformed into a world class city with no mention of cost or debt.

Finally, while the Governor and legislative leaders are currently skeptical about the cost issue and taxpayers holding the bag, these guys and gals often get swept up in the frenzy of showing off the Commonwealth, having their picture taken with world class athletes, being interviewed by reporters from every corner of the planet, and of course getting a ton of free meals and drinks in those courtesy tents. Not to be too cynical, but you just can’t trust what these guys and gals say when the chips are down and a the state is caught up in referendum politics.

So be careful, be very careful as we head to a 2016 referendum on the 2024 Olympics, And remember there is no such thing as an iron clad promise or a debt free Games. Somehow, someway, we will pay.


End Times

February 26, 2015

If you really want to be scared, take a gander at the recent issue of The Atlantic and the article by Graeme Wood ” What ISIS Really Wants and How to Stop It.” Wood has caused quite a storm among liberals and the Muslim community because he states emphatically that the doctrine and practices of ISIS are indeed Islamic, ” Very Islamic.”

Wood delves deeply into the beliefs of the Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and finds that the beheading, crucifixion, slavery and mass murder of those who are deemed apostates, Muslims and non-Muslims, are deeply embedded in the writings of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers. The establishment of a caliphate in Syria and Iraq is part of their apocalyptic vision as their forces will battle the armies of the west and then destroy them; it is then that they will wait for the end of times. There is even a place where all this end of times will occur, the Syrian town of Dabiq, which is mentioned by Muhammad in his writings.

While Wood readily admits that ISIS has attracted a weird bunch of psychopaths and delusional religious fanatics, he emphasizes that the leadership of the caliphate is applying the most harsh version of Islamic law and cannot be viewed as acting devoid of religious beliefs. Of course the vast majority of Muslims do not hold to the values and vision of ISIS and its apocalyptic doctrine, but to say as President Obama and others have said that ISIS is not Islamic is a misreading of their beliefs.

What is really scary, other than the fact that ISIS is well led, well armed and adept at social media propaganda, is that they are in a real sense a death cult that is following to the letter the dogma of Muhammad. They are ready to die and the killing of apostates is normal operating procedure. There is thus no interest in working toward a diplomatic solution or abiding by international agreements or implementing a cease-fire. In fact the goal of ISIS is to spread the caliphate throughout the Middle East and wait for the war with the west that will usher in the end times.

Wood agrees with President Obama that it would be a huge mistake to put thousands of US boots on the ground and take on the Islamist fighters head on; that is exactly what they want as a way to fulfill their apocalyptic vision. The best strategy is to contain them and let the caliphate die off from a lack of fanatical energy and the disillusionment of the fighters as time will eventually weaken a state that is not expanding and attracting more support.

The take away from the Wood article is that not only is ISIS Islamic, but also that it holds beliefs most in the Muslim world  reject( which is why ISIS fighters have no problem killing so-called Muslim apostates). It may be politically convenient for some to get involved in word games about what to call ISIS but the key is to understand what their end game is and what they are willing to do in order to bring about the apocalypse. Religious fanatics eventually destroy themselves from within rather than through a modern day crusade. This will be a long war against ISIS but like the containment policies of the Cold War, eventually a warped ideology will implode from within.


Measles, Libertarians and the Internet

February 4, 2015

The national debate over measles vaccinations has become more than a matter of health and safety. What should have been a simple decision by parents to inoculate their children with the vaccine has become wrapped up with irresponsible libertarian notions of freedom, near religious belief in the “truth” contained in celebrity Internet postings, and a growing refusal by many Americans to trust government to protect and advance the common good.

Unfortunately, this country is going to see more and more of this toxic mix of “Live Free of Die”, Jenny McCarthy’s and Oprah’s phony medical advice and the innate evil of government programs and policies. We now live in a time when political narcissism has run rampant, professional advice is ignored and the revered concept of E Pluribus Unum holds little meaning.

Why anyone would think that unfettered freedom carries with it no responsibility,that television and movie starlets have all the answers to the world’s problems, and that government officials are part of some dark, underground conspiracy needs to check into a facility to have their common sense examined.

It is safe to say that this country will never return to the days when people talked with their doctor about medical issues, freedom was always balanced with order, and government worked to make the entire country stronger, safer and prosperous. There is no doubt that America and Americans face a dangerous range of threats both internal and external, but the measles controversy just added another one – the false notion that personal freedom to solve personal problems by surfing the Net or listening to some charlatan libertarian or ignoring the warnings of government experts has taken hold. Should this false notion continue, we as a nation are in far more trouble than we may think.


A Few Questions

January 16, 2015

Every once and awhile my brain is bombarded by a load of questions about the world we live in. I don’t have a ready answer for many of these questions and too often I just conclude that they are so off the wall that they should be ignored as irrelevant. So as we move through the cold of winter here are the questions that maybe you can help me with or at least tell me to ignore:

1. Why is it that the Obama administration insists on using the term “violent extremism” rather than “Islamic terrorism”?

2.Why is it that the new Republican Congress addresses the concerns of Wall Street as a top priority rather than help the middle class get back on its feet?

3. Where is Hillary Clinton?

4. Why are towns and cities areound Seattle banning Wisconsin cheese before the big NFC championship game on Sunday?

5. Why is it that most of the films up for an Academy Award this year have never been seen by most Americans?

6.Why does this country of great wealth have millions homeless and even more millions hungry?

7. If 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history, why aren’t we doing something about this?

8. Why is humorist Jon Stewart of the Daily Show one of the most trusted “journalists” on television?

9. If Pope Francis says he will not judge gays, why should we judge them?

10. Is there any upside to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

And the most important question I have:

Why can’t we all get along?

Please help me answering these pressing questions


Tone Deaf

January 12, 2015

President Obama probably made the decision on his own, but there should have been someone in his foreign policy team to tell him to get on a plane and march with the million people in Paris. This latest example of being tone deaf is almost as bad as playing golf when a US citizen is beheaded by ISIS. Where is the common sense in terms of creating a positive public perception about the United States and anti-terrorism?


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