The 25 Issues That Shape American Politics

October 16, 2017

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The Generals

October 10, 2017

This country has been fortunate to have distinguished military leaders as presidents, cabinet officials and heads of our national security system. These men have often brought a patriotic spirit, a commitment to public life, organizational skills and personal discipline to their positions in our government. From George Washington to Dwight Eisenhower to George H. W. Bush military training and wartime service shaped their leadership and decision-making capabilities.

Today during the Trump administration the military men that serve as his closest advisers are being called upon to function in a manner that requires a different type of leadership style and decision-making skill. Generals Kelly, Mattis and McMaster are basically charged with reining in an impulsive, petty, juvenile and grudge-holding chief executive.

The more we hear about the Trump generals it appears that they are the last line of defense against chaos and gross miscalculation. When the generals first signed up for service in the White House they didn’t think that they would be responsible for saving the country from a completely unqualified leader of the free world. Of course no one forced them to accept their jobs, but they likely saw the new president as a change agent who was committed to “Making American Great.”

But months into their jobs, it is clear that Kelly, Mattis and McMaster have come to realize they have an enormous responsibility to “Make America Safe.” Whether it is North Korea, Iran, Russia, or any other international hot spot that gets the president to start a new tweet storm, the generals have become the voices of reason and caution. Although at this time there is no definitive proof of “quiet collusion” among the generals, I suspect that there are midnight calls among the three on how to “Keep America Safe” and convince Trump from taking this country into the abyss. Already there are signs that the generals’ have decided that frequent policy reviews, delay in decision-making, control of Oval Office access, and some much needed staff house cleaning are the best means of avoiding chaos and gross miscalculation.

What will be interesting and at the same time dangerous is what happens if we enter impeachment mode or the Republican leadership decides that it is time to use the 25th Amendment and push Trump out of office. How will the generals respond to the political processes in place or will they take the lead in actually pushing their boss out the door?  If the Republicans continue to accept the status quo with the hope that the child president will change, will the generals do the dirty work? We have never really had a Latin American style palace coup in this country, but if the chaos and miscalculation continues and the president takes us into the abyss, will the generals move from advisers to a military junta? Keep your eye on the generals.

 


USVI. and P.R.

September 22, 2017

My wife and I and our daughters have been to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico many times, always to enjoy the beautiful beaches, those delicious Pina Coladas and most importantly the wonderfully warm people. It looks like we will not be returning to these US territories any time soon- Irma and Maria have destroyed the American paradise.

Like typical American tourists we often spent our time at the centers of sun-bathing, dining and of course shopping. But in walking around St. Thomas, St. John and San Juan we made a point of going off the beaten path to walk around the neighborhoods that are less frequently visited.

What we saw in those walks is the stark economic reality of these islands. Our Caribbean possessions are more than tourist paradises, they are home to thousands of people who are just making a go of it. Cinder block shacks with tin roofs on dirt roads are commonplace, men and women sitting around idly because they can’t find a job,and kids begging for dollars in front of a J. Crew outlet are proof that all is not well on the islands.

Watching the reporting from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico confirm that it will take years to rebuild the islands. But because so much of these dots on the map are dependent on the tourist trade, the poverty endured by the people will only deepen. The spirit to make the USVI and Puerto Rico a tourist destination again is present among the people, but it will easily dissipate as aid falls off, unemployment skyrockets and international attention turns elsewhere. Already some of the interviews of hurricane victims bemoan the fact that the Americans only care about these possessions during the tourist season and view the people as put on the islands to care for their vacation needs.

It is truly sad to see the devastation of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico – two truly magical places on the planet. One can only hope that our government and the private sector do not forget these paradises and the wonderful people who live there, after all they are Americans like us.

 


Jesus and Joel

September 5, 2017

Ever since Pastor Joel Osteen of the Lakewood mega-church in Houston gave lame excuses for not opening the doors to flood victims ( the church was flooded and later the city never asked him) the Twitter universe has been up in an uproar. Osteen later did open up the doors but the critics continued their verbal onslaught.

Amidst all the fury over Osteen’s $10 million dollar mansion, his custom suits and his net worth estimated at $ 56 million, most of the Twitter attacks focused on his so-called gospel of prosperity, a bastardization of the real Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John that chronicled the life of Jesus and his message.

A close reading of Osteen’s message in his books and televised sermons show little reference to Jesus and the early Christians. That’s not by accident. Osteen and many of his evangelical preachers do not want to talk about Jesus who befriended the poor, who lambasted the arrogant rich, who asked his followers to give up everything and follow him, and who gave comfort to the tax collector, the prostitute, the sick, and the dying.

The evangelical movement and its front line pastors like Osteen, Falwell, Swaggert and Graham are really not followers of Christ, but enormously rich charlatans who promise a better life with more money if people would just give them their hard earned cash. The Jesus who lives a life of poverty and throws the money changers out of the temple does not fit in with the gospel of prosperity that claims to be Christian but is just the scam of false prophets.

Being a true follower of Jesus is really hard as it is based on sacrifice, support for the downtrodden and the outcast, and a denial of wealth, which is why being a true Christian is not a terribly attractive religious lifestyle. If Pastor Osteen and the other charlatans want to promote the gospel of prosperity that is their right, and if their followers want to help these guys live in the lap of luxury, that is their right as well.  But to call themselves Christians is the ultimate lie. Jesus would have come to the aid of the homeless in Houston and he would have told his followers to do the same. No lame excuses.

If anything good can come out of the Houston catastrophe maybe it will be a clearer understanding of how a real Christian behaves, not one whose net worth is $ 56 million and who lives in a $ 10 million mansion. Instead of trying to pry money out of his followers, Joel Osteen should read the real Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and acquaint himself with Jesus, the champion of the poor and the neglected.


A Few Simple Suggestions for the Democrats

July 9, 2017

It is no secret that the Democratic Party is lost in the woods and desperate to find a way out. Losing the special elections in Kansas, Montana and Georgia showed clearly that voters are not willing to get on the Democratic bandwagon, despite their disappointment and disillusionment with President Trump and the Congressional Republicans.

It is clear that there is a massive fissure in place between establishment Democrats and the so-called Progressive wing of the party on how to win elections and perhaps capture the House and Senate in 2018. This fissure makes victory in the mid-term elections a pipe dream.

So what to do? Finding the right strategy is no easy walk in the park as Democrats analyze what went wrong in the presidential election and in the special elections. But for what its worth here are my suggestions on how Democratic Party candidates for election in 2018 and in the presidential election should present themselves and their policy prescriptions to the American electorate.

  1. Go to church on Sunday. Enough of this embrace of secularism as the religion of tomorrow. Voters in the heartland still go to church and prefer candidates who at least appear to be religious. Democratic candidates need not be fire and brimstone churchgoers but they can at least get up on Sunday and be seen with the congregation.
  2. Stop the love affair with Hollywood. The movie, music and media billionaires will still give their money to liberal causes, but why go out of the way to be linked with pop stars who are seen by many voters as morally corrupt. Better to be seen with girl scouts and boy scouts than Katy Perry.
  3. Listen to seniors and play to their interests and concerns. Sure the youth movement is the future of the party, but young people are unreliable voters, where seniors drag themselves out of their homes to cast their ballot. Medicare, Social Security, retirement income and taxes should be at the forefront of a Democratic campaign strategy.
  4. Talk to voters not talk down to voters. Voters in 2016 said that they perceive the Democrats as elitist snobs who have all the answers and want to convert the masses to their point of view.  That tactic is a dead end street and designed to bring on defeat. Democratic candidates need to spend time talking to Mr. and Mrs. America on Main Street not the high rollers in the suburbs.
  5. Finally recruit candidates who have a military career, own a business, work with their hands, show a net worth of six figures, not seven or eight figures, have a solid marriage, and most of all can tell a life story of lifting themselves up because of hard work and dedication to the community they live in.

Of course my strategy suggestions are just as difficult to implement as any put forward by Party leaders and Progressive agents of change. But they are rather simple and straight forward and most of all speak to all those voters who rejected the Party in 2016 and maybe in 2018. Maybe the answer for a Democratic revival is simple and not complicated, just a willingness to listen to all the people, not just a selected few.


President Trump – Day 139

June 7, 2017

Well here we are at day 139 of the Trump presidency and to paraphrase Betty Davis, “fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” And I might add a ” bumpy day and afternoon as well.” Unless you are completely apolitical, apathetic and an alien from another planet far, far away it is impossible to go through 24 hours without someone or some entity offering their opinion, their support or their anger regarding the 45th President of the United States.

So at Day 139 let me add my humble two cents worth about the Trump Presidency:

  1. Trump remains as he always was a businessman, not a politician, government official or for that matter a leader of the country and the free world. It is becoming increasing clear that Trump is in this for the national and international connections that will advance his family business and payback his financial backers, i.e. Russia. Sure he can be described as ” unconventional’ but only “unconventional” in that he is not in office to ” preserve and protect” the Constitution or to unify the country. His presidency is a business deal, plain and simple.
  2. For those naive liberals who pray nightly for impeachment or the implementation of the 25th Amendment, dream on. The Republicans in the House and Senate are determined to put up with the 6th grade tweets, the staff chaos, the ill-advised sleights to key allies and the almost daily examples that their guy is not ready for prime time because they believe he can weather the storm and sign legislation on health care, taxes, banking and regulation. It may be a deal with the devil but there is no evidence that the GOP is ready to abandon the President.
  3. Get ready for the long haul. Should a smoking gun about obstruction of justice or ties to Russia prove legitimate, the process of dealing with the alleged charges will take months if not years to reach some sort of conclusion. The Democrats may win back some seats in the House and Senate but probably not enough to change the political landscape. Right now there is no evidence that Republican leaders will march into the Oval Office and demand that Trump return to Florida or New York and resume his real estate business, and of course Trump is stubborn and arrogant enough to show them the door.
  4. The Resistance Movement is kind of petering out. Yes there are demonstrations and late night hosts are pumping up their ratings and giving new meaning to sarcasm and satire. But we are a long way away from a peoples’ rebellion as most of what Trump does has little impact on the everyday lives of most Americans. Being an embarrassment, a clown, and a fool is to many Americans what politicians have become in this country – Trump is no different, just worse.
  5. The real danger of Trump is to our democracy, the chipping away of freedom of the press, civil rights, voting integrity, protections for dissent, toleration of differences and the quiet acceptance of bigotry and hate. The refusal of Americans to see this threat to democracy is the most disheartening characteristic of the national political culture in the last 139 days. Core American values have taken a back seat to attacks on political correctness and vacant claims of making America great again. Lady Liberty’s torch has lost its flame.

The next 139 days of the Trump presidency will likely be critical to his future, and that of the Republican Party, American democracy and the soul of our great republic. It is important for every American to pay attention and realize that what happens in the next 139 days does impact their lives. I only hope that God does bless America.


Pulaski

May 14, 2017

IMG_1668As the great- grandson of Polish immigrants who arrived on our shores in the early 1900’s it is natural for me to think of my heritage from that starting point. I often express my thanks for their courage and foresight to start a new life in this country, leaving everything behind. But in my expressions of gratitude I sometimes forget that they were not the only ones to leave Poland and make their mark on this country.

Last week my wife Carol and one of daughters, Laura, went to Boston’s Polish Fest to soak up the Polish-American culture, along with delicious pierogis and kielbasa. As we sat and ate and drank a few Polish beers we noticed a statue behind us of General Casimir Pulaski. I of course have been well-schooled in the heroics of Washington, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, John Paul Jones, and Nathan Hale, but I had paid little attention to the Polish connection to our war of independence.

At the base of the statue the inscription lists the enormous contributions of Pulaski  to the war effort- organizer and commander of the first American cavalry, instrumental in saving American forces at Brandywine, Pennsylvania, key participant in the battles of Egg Harbor, New Jersey and Charleston, South Carolina, and bravely succumbing to injuries in the battle of Savannah, Georgia.

Although not his war, Pulaski left his native country to fight for freedom and independence and like his countryman, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, who helped build many military fortifications, including West Point, was instrumental in winning the war against the British.  Thankfully, Pulaski has not been forgotten as towns, roads and bridges all around this country are named after him. They are a fitting tribute to the heroism of someone who gave his life for an ideal.

In today’s United States we too often forget ideals, grand principles, and governing values and get caught up in defining this nation in terms of wealth, power and success. General Pulaski’s heroism should remind us that freedom and independence are not just words but require deeds and yes, sacrifices. I thank my great grandparents for their deeds and sacrifices, but now I can also thank Casimir Pulaski.