SHAME ON GEORGIA (Posted November 18, 2008)
We have a real tragedy that is about to occur here in Georgia. A man named Troy Davis, convicted of a murder about 20 years ago, is about to be executed for that crime. The only problem is that the evidence, based solely on the testimony of nine witnesses, has just about fallen apart. Seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their testimony and one of the two remaining witnesses is now considered a suspect.
The only other problem is that the good ol’ state of Georgia and its bumbling bureaucracy can’t seem to find a basis for granting a hearing to reconsider the case, so it appears that we are just going to have to kill the guy.
I was thrilled to recently read (former FBI Director) William Session’s scathing OP/ED piece in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution on the situation. It gives me hope that, if enough national/international attention can be brought to bear on this travesty, reason will prevail. (Also weighing in on this gross miscarriage of justice: Pope Benedict, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, etc.)
Georgia’s conduct of this entire affair is disgraceful. It seems to me that, if any doubt whatsoever exists about Troy Davis’ guilt, every effort would be made to learn the truth, given that the man’s life is at stake. Apparently this is not the case in Georgia.
What is very troubling to me is that the basis for denying Mr. Davis a hearing is essentially procedural. One would think that, in this supposedly “pro-life” state, everything possible would be done to avoid the possibility of taking an innocent life. Instead, the bureaucrats have apparently decided that policy trumps the right to life.
Surely we can do better. If you want to help, send a letter to the Governor, Sonny Perdue (only in Georgia would a governor be named “Sonny”).
THE BUSH LEGACY (Posted November 17,2008)
Ronald Reagan once said that “Government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem”. George W. Bush has set out to make Mr. Reagan’s notion come true – big time.
After eight years of Mr. Bush’s stewardship, we find ourselves mired in two wars; beset by a housing/financial crisis; dealing with a health care system that is totally dysfunctional; having caused a great city — New Orleans — to rot in the aftermath of a hurricane and having allowed this nation’s infrastructure to deteriorate to the point where bridges are beginning to collapse for lack of routine maintenance.
Oh, and did I mention that we’ve run up an enormous amount of debt – doubled thus far under Mr. Bush and threatening to grow even more with annual deficits projected to hit a trillion dollars!
So George Bush not only bequeaths the nation an enormous number of seemingly intractable problems, but, given that the Federal government is broke, we have almost no means by which to solve them.
Now there’s a legacy to be proud of.
THE BAILOUT PROBLEM (Posted October 23, 2008)
John McCain calls it SOCIALISM when we redistribute wealth from the well-to-do to average Americans as Barack Obama wants to do with his tax plan; but when we reverse the process and funnel wealth from ordinary Americans to the big shots—as he wants to do with his mortgage buyout plan– it’s a-OK.
Beside the obvious contradiction, I have a real problem with the details of the bailout as currently envisioned First, there doesn’t seem be any controls of the kind that are necessary to ensure that our tax dollars are being used in the most effective way. For example, banks are apparently being allowed to continue to pay dividends to shareholders. WHY!!!!??? If there is a severe shortage of funds to permit banks to offer mortgages, why are they allowed to use what capital WE AS TAXPAYERS LOAN THEM to pay dividends????? Would it not be better to use this precious resource for loans to get the real estate part of the economy going again?
We also need to demand more control over the uses of our tax dollars; for instance, AIG should not be allowed to send a bunch of its executives on a 400 thousand dollar junket to the UK— and we should demand that they pay that money back. The same with golden parachutes for the dimwits who got us into this mess—we ought to explicitly define (and constrain) all executive compensation while these companies are receiving taxpayer support.
There needs to be some PAIN felt in the boardrooms of the companies who have created the problems we are now facing; otherwise there is no incentive to learn from the experience. Capitalism implies a winner and a loser; what makes the system work is when the losers benefit from their losing experience by understanding what they did wrong and doing things better the next time around. PAIN is what forces this to happen. We would have been far better off if we had just let these bastards sink—there would have been a lot of screaming but the system would have responded—and recovered. And we would all have been better off for the experience.
The big shots in the corporate world don’t seem to understand this so it’s time to give them a lesson in Capitalism 101. If only we had the will to teach them!
DECIDING WHO GETS TO VOTE (Posted October 22, 2008)
It seems to me that one measure of our success as a democracy ought to be a function of how many of us actually participate in that process, specifically by taking the time and opportunity to vote.
In this year’s election we are beginning to see the kinds of activities that have become all to frequent in recent elections – blatant efforts to prevent or otherwise impede people from either voting or even registering.
Following are just some of the more obvious efforts to trample on the democratic process in this country—I’ll let you, the reader, guess which party has been mostly involved in this gross abuse of the our nation’s democratic system:
In Colorado, the state attorney general moved to disqualify a large number of registration applications for the simple but utterly inane reason that they had omitted checking a box on the application, despite the fact that the answer the box was intended to elicit was made obvious by the individual’s answer to the previous question. In Ohio, the same party demanded a list of all newly-registered voters from the state, intending to compare then challenge any voter who did not show up correctly on a suspect data base—the state denied the request and was challenged in court. The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court and was finally decided in the state’s favor. In Florida, the League of Woman Voters suspended its registration efforts when the state legislature passed a law that severely complicated the League’s efforts to perform that function. Finally, the FBI undertook an investigation of the community organizing group ACORN’s efforts to register voters; this was made known to the press by an FBI employee who asked to remain anonymous despite the fact that it was against the law to comment on an on-going investigation. As with the other cases, the obvious purpose of the disclosure was to reflect poorly on ACORN and intimidate potential new voters from turning to the organization for assistance with registration.
On each of the above cases, it was the REPUBLICAN party challenging or otherwise working to deny efforts to register new voters. In all my lifetime, I have only heard of Republican efforts to PREVENT voters from registering—almost NEVER to aid and abet the process that I think we might all agree is so central to the functioning of democracy. It’s a sad record, probably indicating that the party feels it has the most to lose when LOTS of people participate in our democracy.
WHAT WOULD REAGAN DO? (Posted September 21, 2008)
Let’s see. Eight years of Republican rule in the 1980s, then a calamitous failure of our financial system followed by a massive government bailout. Fast forward to the 2000s—once again after eight years of Republican rule a calamitous failure of our financial system followed by an even more massive government bailout. Sound familiar? I hate to say it, but there seems to be a bit of a pattern here.
I hear much these days – and in these parts – about Reagan being the “greatest president in our history” – so I suppose it’s worth contemplating about what exactly the “greatest” might do in this situation.
Ronald Reagan once said, “Government is not the solution to our problems, government IS the problem”.
Would he have a solution to the current economic malaise? Nope. It should be obvious to all that the Gipper wouldn’t have a clue!
WHO SHOULD BE PRESIDENT (Posted September 17, 2008)
I have assessed the qualifications of the two candidates for president in three areas: foreign policy, the economy and domestic priorities.
Foreign Policy: After 8 years of a shoot-first-ask-questions-later foreign policy under Bush II, the last thing we need is to appoint a military guy as President. The rest of the world is waiting for us to work ourselves back into the community of nations. We cannot solve problems like terrorism and global warming alone; we need our allies, now more than ever. Bush and company have “stiffed” the rest of world for eight years – NO to the International Criminal Court, NO to the ABM, NPT and BIO-WEAPONS treaties, NO to the Geneva conventions (did you know that the German Intelligence service has refused to cooperate with the CIA because they don’t want to be associated with the policy of torture?)
When Barack Obama went to Germany recently, I saw two hundred thousand Germans EAGER to reconnect with an America that they have long loved and respected but which they no longer understand. Barack Obama can have that effect on people in nations around the world—nations we need to deal with in an increasingly globalized world.
John McCain thinks we could leave troops in Iraq for a “hundred years, as long as they are out of harm’s way”. This belies the fact that he doesn’t understand that OUR VERY PRESENCE IS WHAT IS ALIENATING MUSLIM POPULATIONS TOWARD US ALL AROUND THE WORLD. Hard to imagine why we’d put this guy in to the presidency at this time.
Economy: Bush I has promoted the notion that we can undertake all these expensive initiatives without having to pay for them. He is the FIRST president in history to go to war without raising taxes to pay for it. He has waged a multi-trillion dollar war by borrowing money from places like China; passed a trillion-dollar (having LIED about the original cost, putting it at $400 billion initially) prescription drug benefit for Medicare without knowing how he would pay for it –other than borrowing money from places like China (sound familiar???).
Barack Obama is not entirely convincing about the economy, but does seem to be moving in the right direction. He will raise taxes on upper income level earners and will end the war—and the expense—of Mr. Bush’s folly in Iraq; that should help increase revenue and reduce the deficit. McCain promises more Bushonomics—continue the Bush tax cuts and has not suggested how to pay for our continued presence in Iraq. I don’t see how he would ever be able to balance the budget as he has suggested.
No choice here—Obama all the way
Domestic priorities—see my previous blog on “OUT OF TOUCH”, where I extol Obama’s work as a community organizer and Sen. McCain’s utter lack of understanding of people’s problems at the “grass-roots” levels of our society
OUT-OF-TOUCH (Posted September 14, 2008)
There has been much discussion concerning the qualifications of each of the presidential candidates for the job of president, particularly Barack Obama.
While I would be the first to admit that his resume is a bit short on executive experience, I wonder if conventional thinking about qualifications for the nation’s highest office are entirely appropriate. So here’s how I look at the two men:
George H. W. Bush had trouble understanding the concept of a supermarket scanner; his son, “W”, seemed amazed to learn at a recent press briefing that the price of oil had gone up to $4. a gallon. “What’s that you say, the price of gas is nearing $4. a gallon? That’s very interesting – I hadn’t realized that”.
Now we have John McCain, a guy who doesn’t even know how many homes he owns. I wonder if a man like this can relate to (and solve) some of this country’s biggest problems—poverty, crime and HOMELESSNESS.
Barack Obama on the other hand has worked as a community organizer in some of Chicago’s most distressed areas. Aside from the McCain campaign’s derisive characterizations of this job, I believe this work may qualify Sen. Obama UNIQUELY for the job of President, especially if we are ever to solve any of this country’s massive social problems.
A community organizer works in impoverished communities to empower people to take control of their lives and to solve their problems THEMSELVES. As examples, organizers will encourage residents to 1) work with the police to reduce crime in their community, 2) lobby legislators to update the tax code to encourage businesses to locate in their areas, 3) encourage parents to become more involved in their children’s education and 4) work with health organizations to find ways to make health services available to poor communities.
These experiences have enabled Sen. Obama to gain a full understanding of the problems people face on a day-to-day basis in impoverished communities and he has undoubtedly learned what is needed to solve these problems – far more than McCain, Bush, Palin, etc..
Score one for the senator from Illinois!
WILL WE EVER LEARN? (Posted September 13, 2008)
So John McCain has decided to give the women of America what they have always wanted—a vice president, someone who could even become president one day. The only problem is that Sarah Palin may not be quite what American women had in mind.
It reminds me of that other great Republican intellectual, Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reagan had taken much flack in his first term for not having any blacks in his cabinet. Ol’ Dutch must have said to himself something like “OK, if they want a black, I’m going to give them a black!”
And give us a black he did. Enter one Samuel Pierce, as incompetent an individual as ever existed on planet earth, who was appointed as HUD secretary. What Sammy-boy did was promptly go to sleep while a band of idiots in the department rewrote regulations for the financial services sector of the economy, effectively de-regulating the housing market.
The result? A total collapse of the Savings-and-Loan institutions and a taxpayer-funded bailout of a bunch of criminals who should have been prosecuted instead.
Fast forward to the 21st century. The financial guru who advises the McCain campaign (of “we are a nation of whiners” fame) gets to rewrite the regulations – i.e., de-regulate– for the financial services sector (sound familiar?) and, guess what? The whole shooting match begins to collapse and we taxpayers are again being asked to bailout out the bad guys (sound familiar???).
What is mind-boggling to me is that the Republicans are all for “getting the government out of our lives” – except when they need help and it suits their financial interests.
We ought to let them crumble. Capitalism is a contest and there are winners and losers. Losers have to get smart, understand why they failed and improve to survive. That’s why capitalism works. But if we keep bailing out the losers, there is no incentive to improve.
Will we ever learn?
LABELS VERSUS SUBSTANCE (Posted September 12, 2008)
We visited some dear friends in Augusta, Georgia last week and, as usual, had some fairly intense discussions on the politics of the day.
Their views are what might be conventionally called “conservative”, and as they suggest, they are “proud” of their conservatism. We are more liberal in our views, although we do not get too terribly caught up in the application of these labels.
The problem is that the definition of these labels has undergone considerable change over the years. And here in the south particularly, the word “liberal” has been twisted to imply some very negative connotations. As an example, in a discussion one evening, Barack Obama was characterized as a LIBERAL; it was then suggested that Barack Obama “hates America”. Might it then be assumed that ALL LIBERALS HATE AMERICA???
All this tends to point out the absurdity of using labels to promote public discourse; it stifles a substantive discussion of issues by attempting to resolve complex matters into simplistic, one-word descriptions. Likewise, human beings, being the complex mechanisms they are, simply defy that kind of labeling.
We have some terrible problems to solve in this country over the next few years. Our political discourse would be enhanced dramatically and would allow us to focus on substantive solutions to these issues if we can find a way to dispense with the tendency to resort to the kind of name-calling that distorts purpose and prevents the kind of analysis that is necessary to deal with these issues.
SARAH WHERE ART THOU? (Posted September 11, 2008)
We have listened to the right-wing bloviators (initials are RL) attempting to make the case that Sarah Palin’s nomination for vice-president should be very appealing to the feminist movement because it “advances a woman to the second-highest office in the land” and thus is in keeping with the movement’s goals of expanding opportunities for women.
Right. The only problem with this logic is that it doesn’t tell the whole story. Yes, Feminism advocates for opportunities for women to move into the workplace, politics, etc. What the wackos on the right don’t say is that, in order to allow women to take advantage of these opportunities, women need to have REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM – in other words, control over their own bodies. And so the feminist movement emphasizes the critical importance of women 1)having access to information/education about contraception and 2) being allowed to make their own decisions about whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.
Sarah Palin with her extreme views on both abortion and sex education (abstinence-only!) certainly seems to be against everything the feminist movement stands for.
The tendency of the right-wing to distort issues knows no bounds.
JOHN MCCAIN’S CHOICE FOR VICE-PRESIDENT – PART 2 (Posted September 5, 2008)
The Republican party is at it again.
For the last 28 years, they have offered us a succession of lightweights as candidates for the highest office in the land. From Reagan to Bushes I & II, we have been treated to individuals who were little more than front-men, mere stand-ins, while groups of evil, sinister little men worked in the back rooms of government formulating public policies that bore little or no relationship to the needs of the American people.
Now we face the prospect of an unelected, backwoods bimbo being a heartbeat away from the presidency itself.
The cynicism of the Republicans toward the American people is mind-boggling.
JOHN MCCAIN’S CHOICE FOR VICE-PRESIDENT (Posted September 4, 2008)
I was surprised by the arrogant, condescending tone of Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech last night in Minneapolis. Of particular concern was her sneering, insulting denigration of what it means to be a community organizer, which is part of Barack Obama’s resume.
I served for 10 years on the board of directors – and as vice-president — of a non-profit organization here in Atlanta whose mission was: COMMUNITY ORGANIZING. I can think of no job that is more critical to the well-being of America’s poor than that of community organizer. I have met some of the most dedicated human beings in my lifetime while I was associated with the organization. They focus on helping America’s poor by empowering them to take control of their lives – to get an education, a good job, health care, etc. And to address a point made in a not-too-subtle way by Ms. Palin, they must make decisions—life-saving decisions – each and every day about the people they serve. They are more effective at what they do – at the grass-roots level – than any politician or group of politicians anywhere in the USA.
Aside from her very strident tone, she seems an essentially flawed candidate—another right-wing hypocrite pontificating about religion and family values yet she apparently doesn’t have enough of a relationship with her own daughter to keep her from engaging in a pre-marital sexual escapade. I have to wonder what kind of a grade she would get if we were to evaluate the effectiveness of her self-styled obsession with abstinence-only sex education as a public policy matter, given the problems of her own family. I also have the feeling that, if the offer to run as vice –president hadn’t been made, the decision of Ms. Palin’s daughter to keep the baby and marry the father might have been very different.
She also seems a tad short on policy details. With respect to oil and natural gas, she talks as if Alaska has “enough of both”, suggesting that she’s already been suckered into the conservative, big-business oriented shibboleth about growing our way out of our dependence on carbon fuels. And when she talks about “the Washington elite”, who does she mean? John McCain? Does she forget that the Republican party has been in charge for most of the last eight years? Did she intend to demean her own party?
But the most damning indictment of all comes from none other than the REPUBLICAN president of the Alaska state senate, Lyda Green, who made the following comment about Ms. Palin: “She’s not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president? Look at what she’s done to this state. What would she do to the nation?” Hardly a ringing endorsement—and from a source who, after all, is probably in the best position to know.
But I believe that, fundamentally, it is a question of the degree of cynicism she seems to bring to the campaign—and to the Federal government if the republican ticket is victorious. With all of the rancor and bad feelings that already exist in Washington, I cannot see how a person of Sarah Palin’s temperament will help to alleviate that core condition and bring the sides together long enough to solve any of America’s terrible problems.
PROBLEMS IN HIGHER EDUCATION (Posted August 7, 2008)
We hear a lot these days about the fact that American universities are not turning out enough scientists and engineers to enable us to compete with other countries in the development of technological solutions for the world’s great social ills.
Ever wonder why that is? Could it be a question of priorities? Let’s take the case of the University of Georgia.
According to recent polls, notably the current issue of Sports Illustrated, the UGA football team is expected to be the number one team in the nation — although I wonder if perhaps the polls were taken before the recent revelations that a good many of the players have either been arrested or are facing disciplinary sanctions.
In any case, media coverage is somewhat telling. I have lived in Georgia for 30 years; about the only thing I have ever heard about the university is its athletic prowess, particularly football. Not once in 30 years have I heard any discussion whatsoever about academics at Georgia.
Is this purely coincidental? I think not. People here (and the rest of the country–Georgia is NOT alone in this regard) are clearly far more interested in having a number one football team than a number one academic institution.
This just may give us a pretty good idea why we are not turning out enough scientists and engineers.
TRAGEDY IN KNOXVILLE (Posted July 28, 2008)
After reading about the tragedy in Knoxville, Tennessee, yesterday, we are left once again to ponder the usual questions: How did it happen? How can we prevent more of the same?
Just once, I’d like to see these questions debated with the NRA and its minions. It puppy-dog agent here in Georgia, the Georgia Right To-Carry group, would undoubtedly say that if more people in that church had guns, the problem would have been solved; the NRA would offer another one of its vapid, utterly irrelevant solutions, to wit, “we don’t need any more laws, just enforce the ones currently on the books”.
On the first point, it should be obvious to anyone that even if everyone in that church had a gun, the perpetrator would have shot first and two innocent human beings would STILL be dead. On the second, laws currently on the books have to do with what to do AFTER-THE-FACT, i.e., punish the offender. That would do little to either bring back the two lives lost or to comfort the families of the victims.
We need to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of certain people—criminals, kids, mental defectives. The only way to do this is to enact a comprehensive program of licensing and registration. We have a right as citizens to expect responsible use of firearms; we can’t ever prevent every tragedy like the one in Knoxville, but we can certainly make it less likely.
If only we had the will.
THE OBAMA TRIP (Posted July 27, 2008)
Having just witnessed the extensive coverage of the recent trip to Europe and the Middle East by Senator Barack Obama, we are left to ponder its significance–what did it accomplish?
I suppose he is due some credit for pulling it all off—it was a complex undertaking and both he and his team should get credit for having accomplished the feat without any major mistakes of any kind.
I was particularly struck by his appearance in Berlin, in particular his speech before the large crowd of Germans. It was not so much what he said as it was the outpouring of sentiment by so many people – thousands of them who obviously were hungry to re-connect with America after 8 long years of isolation, neglect and disrespect (Old Europe???, etc.) by Bush and company.
The sight from Berlin was stunning—I kept trying to remember when I had last seen a crowd of people in another country waving American flags and cheering an American politician—as opposed to shouts of “Yankee go home” and/or burning American flags or politicians in effigy. It was a seminal moment, although I doubt very much that it had any impact on the Bush folks.
This after all is an administration that for whatever reason has never been able to understand that we live in an increasingly interdependent world and that we need each other more than ever to deal with such problems as terrorism, global warming, energy prices, etc.
The best thing we can do for this country –and indeed the rest of the world – is to build on the sentiment and energy that was on display in Berlin last week. I don’t know if John McCain is up to the task but Mr. Obama has certainly made a critical first step in that direction.
FILLING THE LEADERSHIP VOID (Posted July 20, 2008)
President Nicolas Sarkozy hosted a meeting in Paris this past week of national leaders that could have momentous ramifications for world peace. Called the “Union for the Mediterranean”, the meeting was attended by the leaders from 43 nations with a combined population of over 800 million people. In attendance were representatives of each of the EU countries and a number of the so-called “bad guys”, Syria, Iran and other countries whose leadership we in the USA have long been reluctant to engage.
The meeting presented the attendees opportunities to discuss a great many regional as well as global issues, like Iraq, the energy crisis and global warming. One of the outcomes was a meeting between the Palestinian president, Mr. Abbas, and the Israeli prime minister, Mr. Olmert. After the session, Mr. Olmert remarked that the two sides “have never been as close to the possibility of an accord as we are today.” President Assad of Syria, spoke effusively about the opportunity the meeting presented to bridge the gap between nations, saying “This visit is, for me, a historic visit, an opening toward France and Europe.”
What is equally remarkable about the event was that there was no mention whatsoever of such names as Bush, Rice or Cheney. Nations like France, it seems, have moved on, filling the leadership role abdicated by an administration completely out of touch with the rest of the world.
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN (Posted July 15,2008)
Looks like we’re headed toward another tax-payer funded bailout of the Mortgage/home loan industry — AGAIN! We did this in the late 80′s when Bush41 was left with the S&L mess created by the de-regulation-obsessed crazies in the Reagan administration. When will we learn? We seem to go through this every time we have a Republican administration — “let the free market flow”!, “get the government out of it!” are just some of the clarion calls of the wackos on the far right. It’s interesting — they want the government out of their way until–you guessed it — they want help FROM THE GOVERNMENT to bail out their deadbeat friends in the industries that are lying, cheating and stealing all in the name of PROFIT.
I might also observe that, even under their concept of “free-market”, it’s hardly “free”. Ever heard of a lobbyist? A tariff? So it’s never “free”. And it’s well past the time that we should admit to ourselves that a certain amount of government-sponsored control over the free market process is not only a good but a necessary thing, given the tendency of human beings, frail as they are, to do anything necessary to gain an advantage over others.
And just this once, I’d like to see us consider refusing the bailout request. There would be hardship for sure — but what better way to learn the hows and whys of the failure and to understand the lessons of the experience to ensure that history will not repeat itself.
OUR CRIMINAL RECORD (Posted July 12,2008)
How much longer are we going to wait before we decide to deal with the criminality of the Bush administration?
The Senate this week passed a bill that makes many unwise changes to the FISA law, the only thing standing between us and the utter desecration of the 4thamendment to the US Constitution. Notably, the bill provides RETROACTIVE immunity to the telecom companies that allowed Mr. Bush to eavesdrop – illegally – on US citizens.
The immunity deal represents a cave-in by the Senate to the Bush administration in its efforts to cover up its blatantly illegal activities. Without immunity, the telecoms could be taken to court where all the gory details of the Bush administration’s criminality would be on display for the whole world to see.
The question is: are we going to hold him accountable or shall we just wait for the international community to do so???!!?? The noose is beginning to tighten there as well. Just this week a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross came to light detailing the results of an investigation they conducted recently of interrogation procedures being used at Guantanamo. No surprise—the report concludes that, yep, we are TORTURING in violation of BOTH US and international law. In fact, the report states that the prison staff has indicated that the methods in use were SPECIFICALLY approved by the Bush Justice Department.
So we have a choice. Either we hold Bush accountable for his criminal dealings or the international community will. Our reputation around the world would be improved immeasurably if we take the initiative.
How to deal with this situation? Impeachment should be the first step. Why? Because Bush has broken the law and failed to execute his oath of office, i.e., to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States. We impeached Bill Clinton for lying about a sexual escapade, hardly the stuff of “high crimes and misdemeanors”; violating the 4th amendment seems far more suited for impeachment.
Then we have the torture issue and the wanton slaughter of (hundreds of) thousands of Iraqis, all in violation of international law. We are in the same category as the many Serbians who are being prosecuted in the Hague for precisely the same kind of “war crimes” we ourselves are guilty of. This puts Mr. Bush – and US – in the company of such luminaries on the world stage as Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, etc., a collection of degenerates whose imprint on history is based solely on the human toll exacted by each.
We wait at our own peril. Crimes are being committed and to ignore that reality bodes ill for the future of our nation. Ignoring the Bush administration’s evil doings will only encourage future administrations to do more of the same.
For our children’s sake and for the long-term well-being of these United States, we should act NOW!
A TESTIMONIAL TO A LIFE WELL LIVED (Posted July 10, 2008)
My mother passed away on September 1, 2005. I delivered the eulogy at the funeral service we held for her at Notre Dame Church in Adams, Massachusetts that same month. I thought it worth placing here as she was in my mind a genuine hero, a true patriot who did things simply because they were right; she never asked or wanted to be recognized for all that she did, for us as family and for all whom she came in contact with. So, herewith are the words I spoke that day, a simple but heartfelt tribute to a person who meant so much to me and who I miss so very dearly:
“I should like to borrow a theme from Father Jerry’s sermon. For I come not today to mourn but to celebrate the life of Florence Desautels Rondeau – otherwise known as Ma. Not Mom or Mother, just Ma.
I might add a note of perspective at the outset as to why we should celebrate, not mourn: my daughter Renee was taken from us at the age of 29. Hers was a life cut short, hopes and dreams unfulfilled. Renee we should mourn; Ma Rondeau—a different situation altogether. Ninety-six long, wonderful years, filled with accomplishments. It is only right then that we come together today to rejoice not only in who she was but in what she achieved in her lifetime.
As I was thinking about what I might say today, I recalled the book by Tom Brokaw entitled “The Greatest Generation”. He was writing about the generation that Ma Rondeau was part of. In the book Mr. Brokaw implies that there are two groups that makeup that generation: the first group is there solely because of an accident of their birth; the second group, much larger in number, deserves its place because of the contribution they made that made it the greatest generation. Ma Rondeau was part of that second group. Here’s why.
When I think of her life, two words come to mind: she was both a pioneer and a revolutionary. She was a pioneer because, having been born at a time in America when the opportunities for women were very limited, she managed nonetheless to attain for herself and education of some consequence – she held a Massachusetts teaching certificate and ultimately earned a Master’s degree – and she pursued a career in education.
She had to put her career aspirations on hold for time when in 1936 she married a guy that I consider the world’s greatest father – my Dad, Lawrence A. (Boy) Rondeau. They were a great team – Dad Rondeau worked a lot of long, hard hours at the GE to support the family. Ma Rondeau, in today’s lexicon, was a stay-at-home Mom. She was the constant in our lives. Together they infused us with values – values that were based on their shared commitment to marriage, family and community. Values that were also based on the ethic of hard work, responsibility and perseverance. We couldn’t have had a better environment in which to grow up. I will always cherish my childhood here in the Berkshires under their tutelage — it was a sweet, wonderful period in my life and one that I will never ever forget.
Once we were old enough to be spending most of our days in school, however, Ma Rondeau had some time on her hands and decided to turn her energies and attention to the other passion in her life, teaching young children. Talk about someone who was ahead of her time – just listen: Up until then, education for everyone began at age five. It didn’t make any difference who you were or where you came from, you started school at five years of age. It was as if the feeling was that there was no learning going on in the first four years. Ma Rondeau knew otherwise. She knew that a child could learn at any age. Here’s how I found that out: One day when I was four, she sat me down and said, “next year you will be starting school and we’ve got to get you ready”. For the next 12 moths I worked and I sweat and I learned the alphabet, the numbers, a little bit of reading and writing and how to count. I don’t mind admitting that I worked harder in year 4 than I have any year since. But when I got to school that next year, I was able to hit the ground running because I WAS READY TO LEARN.
READY TO LEARN! What a novel concept! What a revolutionary idea! It is an idea that has only recently been embraced by the education community in this country. Ma Rondeau not only embraced it back then, but she decided to put that revolutionary idea into practical application when she opened a nursery school in her home here in Adams. And this was not a baby-sitting service, a holding-pen. She put those kids through a rigorous, educational, developmental experience to ensure that they too would be ready for school. And this town of Adams benefited immeasurably from having two generations of its kids equipped and ready to learn at the time they began their formal education.
And what was equally significant was the fact that her contribution was probably little noticed at the time and has undoubtedly long since been forgotten. But it didn’t make any difference to her. She wasn’t doing it for credit or for the recognition she might receive. She was doing it for only one reason: because it was right! And that was Ma Rondeau!
Now before I close, let me say just a word or two about loss. We must now face a future having lost our family foundation. And I know that most of you are aware that Elaine and I have had experience dealing with the loss of our daughter Renee these last eleven years. So here is a little advice: Elaine and I have come to believe that, although Renee is no longer with us in body, she is nevertheless with us in spirit and we sense her presence everywhere – each time we watch a beautiful sunset on Cape Cod—she’s with us; each time we behold the spectacle of a fall foliage setting in the Berkshires, she’s there; each time we walk a lonely beach in Florida as we have so often in the last eleven years, she’s with us. And so it will be with Ma Rondeau.
So fear not, my friends, for she is not gone, she is very much with us, and always will be. And we are all better off for having been touched by that wonderful person.
LET’S MAKE A DEAL (Posted June 19, 2008)
The Iraqi Foreign Minister met this week with the two presidential candidates, Messrs. Obama and McCain, to convey his views about importance of a continued American presence in that country. At the same time, the Bush administration is pushing hard to finalize a “status of forces” agreement with Iraq that will replace the existing UN manifesto, due to expire this year, under which the US military presence in Iraq is “justified”.
WONDERFUL – on ALL counts!!! I have an idea –how ‘bout let’s make a deal with those boys – make ‘em an offer they can’t (or won’t) be able to refuse. And the time is ripe, i.e., could never be better, than right now to engage in this kind of discussion.
Much as I hate to say it, and as much as I’d like to “bring our boys home—NOW!”, I don’t think it would be very practical to do so. We’ve invested so much already – in lives and expense — as a consequence of Mr. Bush’s folly, that to just pick up and leave immediately would likely leave Iraq AND the Middle East worse off than before we invaded. So I would like to suggest the following negotiation:
First and foremost, we should ask the Iraqis to PAY FOR OUR CONTINUED EFFORT ON THEIR BEHALF. Yup – I think we should insist that they use some of that oil money and pick up the tab for our continued support. This is not only good for all parties but necessary for two reasons – 1) we cannot afford this war and never have been willing to pay for it. Bush has fought the entire war by borrowing money and expecting our kids to pay for it. THAT MUST STOP IMMEDIATELY. 2)Forcing the Iraqis to pay for our presence would have the very beneficial effect of limiting the duration of our involvement. It would force the Iraqis to step up and do the kinds of things they should have been doing for years now to beef up their security and ensure their viability – things they could have been doing all along but have been able to avoid the tough choices needed simply because we were there – and for no other reason.
We should just sit down with the Iraqi administration and come up with a plan to get everything done that needs to be done – by a DATE CERTAIN – in order for the Iraqis to assume full responsibility for their well-being and thus permit us to bring our soldiers home. That’s the most PATRIOTIC way to “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS” and enable us to focus our precious resources in far more effective ways in the struggle against terrorism.
THE CHOICE FOR PRESIDENT THIS YEAR (Posted June 6, 2008)
With all the political developments of the past couple of weeks weighing heavily on my mind, I awoke today still in a dilemma about making a choice for President of the USA. The events of this day helped me immeasurably in making a decision, to wit: The price of a barrel of oil rose more than $10. (to more than $139. a barrel), the LARGEST one-day gain in history; the unemployment rate increased by 10 percent to 5.5 percent), the LARGEST gain in 22 years. As a result of all this “good” news (somebody out there is bound to spin it as such), the stock market dropped almost 400 points, LARGEST one-day drop in many a year.
Add to this the fact that we are mired in a war in Iraq that is costing untold billions (trillions?), thousands of lives (both ours and Iraqis), that does absolutely NOTHING to ensure our national security and which we have no chance whatsoever of winning; that we have almost doubled the national debt in the last 8 years; that the poverty and uninsured (health) rates have risen dramatically during this same period; and on and on…………..
Who to vote for? Tough choice, really—-NOT!
IS IT TIME TO RE-THINK MASS TRANSIT? (posted 5/25/08)
As a resident of Cobb County Georgia for 22 years, I have seen the county wrestle with traffic congestion and the resulting aggravation, pollution and expense that has resulted from our inability and/or unwillingness to develop an effective plan for the county’s transportation needs. I am certain that many other cities, towns and locales around the country are in much the same position as the availability of cheap, plentiful supplies of gasoline have warped our thinking in regard to how we plan for and develop our communities.
Twice during my time here in Cobb we have rejected referendums on approving mass transit, specifically the idea of becoming part of MARTA, the Atlanta area’s fledgling mass transit system. Interestingly, both of those initiatives were taken when the price of gasoline was less than a dollar a gallon. The result was that the two big, mostly white, suburban communities most in need of a comprehensive solution to their traffic problems, Cobb and Gwinnett Counties, have had to smother in traffic jams for years, all the while polluting the air we breathe (the Atlanta area is under a Federal court order to reduce ozone levels) and wasting incredible amounts of what has suddenly become a very precious and expensive resource, OIL.
I wonder if it might be time to ask the question again. Does 4 dollars a gallon make a difference? How about $5.?– $10.???
Mass Transit—Cobb County’s becoming part of MARTA in Atlanta’s case –may not be the whole solution but it would certainly put us on a course to deal with the inevitable: cheap gasoline is a relic of the past and communities everywhere must do a much better job of planning our development in such a way that minimizes the amount of travel involved in getting to work, play, shopping, etc.
Mass transit has to be an integral part of the solution for communities in the 21st century. Without it, we are relegating ourselves and our children to lives in a society that will be unable to grow and prosper with the rest of the world.
HOW WE ENCOURAGE THE COMMISSION OF CRIME IN AMERICA (posted 5/2/08)
As a survivor of a homicide victim and being very focused on the crime issue, I find the current publicity about the recently announced video game “Grand Theft Auto IV” to be offensive and wholly inappropriate.
The work my wife and I have done for crime prevention during the last 14 years has brought us in touch with many victims and survivors of the recent school shootings. In most of these cases it appears that the perpetrators were influenced to a considerable degree by the violent video games they played and the equally violent movies they watched. We have thus become quite concerned about the connection between the entertainment industry’s offerings and America’s burgeoning crime rate.
As reprehensible as these games and videos have been in the past, we now have Grand Theft Auto IV coming onto the scene; it takes the incitement to violence to a whole new level. The effort to publish and spread the word about it only makes the problem worse. We shouldn’t be surprised to see kids doing “copy-cat crimes” because the coverage of this product, in a perverse way, only serves to make murder seem like fun.
WHY CAN’T WE SOLVE THE PROBLEM? (POSTED 3/29/08)
At the end of the previous blog, I suggested that all we need was the WILLINGNESS to make the commitment to solve our crime problem. Are we in fact willing–or not??!!??
Let’s examine the trend, starting with the beginning of the current decade: we have an administration that has pursued a policy of what it calls “the ownership society”. A fancy term indeed, but what does it all mean? The ownership society–otherwise known to some of us as the “you’re on your own” society–theoretically aims to have people take control of their lives by, among other things, becoming property owners & thereby taking ownership of not only personal property but of one’s personal affairs. “Personal Responsibility” is one of among a great number of vapid, utterly idiotic euphemisms (among others–No Child Left Behind, Mission Accomplished, etc.) the current administration uses to play to its base by making believe it’s doing something while still “getting the government out of our lives”.
So let’s examine the effects of the “ownership society” mantra: I personally think it means that Mr. American citizen, you need to take care of yourself, because we are not particularly interested in you and do not intend to get involved in any of your problems; “Personal Responsibility” is a bit non-sensical when we consider applying the term to a child–i.e., can a two-year old ever be expected to be “personally responsible”?
It all started when that great right-wing sage, Ronald (the Gipper) Reagan, came on the scene with his strategy of “appealing to the base”. He regaled against the “welfare queens” of that period and thus began a period of “adjustments” in our welfare philosophy. And, as one might expect, there were consequences to this hideous, mean-spirited change in a fundamental American policy for social justice. As we were administering our vendetta of hate against the adults who were deemed to be abusing the system, we forgot all about the children who were involved. The result of course was that the condition of America’s children deteriorated dramatically. More & more kids turned to lives of crime out of sheer hopelessness; TWO OF THEM MURDERED MY DAUGHTER, so I guess I’m just a little bit OVER-SENSITIVE on this point.
You don’t have to take my word for the condition of America’s children. Look at the issue of INFANT-MORTALITY. Around the time “Dubya” took office we ranked 22nd among industrialized nations in rates of infant mortality. A shameful blot on the good ol’ “American Way” in & of itself, but it gets worse: by 2004 we were in 25th place and I just read this week that the number for 2007 was 28th! It’s a disgrace! We are a nation that can rightly boast of having the best & most advanced medical technology in the world and yet we decline to make it available or to use it on behalf of the most vulnerable among us.
What drives me crazy is these right-wing wackos–the ones that call themselves “pro-life”–who get all up in arms about such really BIG issues as abortion and homosexuality, yet they are purposely oblivious to the absolutely brazen, wanton loss of life that occurs each and every year with American citizens –human beings–before they reach the age of ONE-YEAR!
So my message is simple; if we ever get serious about wanting to solve the crime problem, FIX THE OBVIOUS. Take better care of America’s kids. After all, they are our future!
And by the way. it would be nice to hear the current crop of presidential wannabes say a word or two about their plans to deal with crime in these United States. It’s amazing, crime is on the increase, threatens each and every one of us, yet they have said almost nothing about it. And yet they want to lead–WOW!
CRISIS IN THE AMERICAN FAMILY (posted 3/28/08)
Had a wonderful couple of days this week with some of our dearest friends, the Rich & Nancy Parris family, up in Augusta, Georgia. We had gone up to Augusta to deliver a lecture to a criminology class in the Sociology Department at Augusta State University (ASU) where we have a scholarship support program and we customarily stay with them.
We have known the Parris’ for 30 years and treasure their friendship. Interestingly, they are people of great faith and have very conservative views on matters political. It is interesting that we, as liberals, have a great many friends who are conservative and this family is emblematic of this phenomenon. We have grown to love and respect them in spite of our differences; it just seems to us that this is how things ought to be. As to the “big picture” of things, we both want the same thing for America; we may differ on the details of how we can get there, but that’s good–no one person has a monopoly on ideas for how to solve America’s problems. Our relationship has thrived on our collective ability to “hash things out”, to learn from one another and to become better human beings from the experience.
Because we were presenting a discussion on crime prevention at ASU, our conversation with the Parris’ focused on the family. Rich & Nancy have some very strong feelings about the deterioration/decline of the American family; they decried the prevalence of single-parent families and attribute much of the crime problem (as well as many other issues) here in America to this condition. As usual. this has caused us to reflect extensively on what we discussed; while we agree wholeheartedly with the notions that “problems usually begin at home” and “parents are responsible for their children”, there are more fundamental issues at work here which need to be addressed.
In order to shed more light on this, we need to ask some key questions and then apply a bit of 21st century reality to the situation. The questions to be asked are: While we accept the notion that parents must become more responsible, WHAT HAPPENS IF THEY DON’T? What is society’s role/responsibility to make up for the deficiencies at home? And here is the reality: first, 2-parent family situations do not guarantee that children will not be abused or neglected; second, with a better than 50% divorce rate in this country, it is likely that any child born from this day forward will likely spend some part of their developmental years in a one-parent circumstance. So what should we do about that? Ignore it?? And are there things that we can do both to accommodate this new family paradigm and accomplish what we all want–to lower the crime rate and to ensure that every child in America has a shot at the American dream?
You bet we can–if only we have the will. The first thing we must do is recognize that the paradigm shift is happening whether we want it to or not. We need to redefine the whole concept of family. Yes, folks, there will continue to be one-parent families (full disclosure: our single daughter is thinking of adopting–there could be no more loving, caring parent on earth and we are thrilled at the prospect and we will support her in every way possible) just as there will be gay/lesbian families and they all deserve every last bit of love and support that this great land called America can give them. Remember, it’s the KIDS in these relationships that matter the most; so while we may be uncomfortable with their parents (a feeling that is sure to diminish over time), it seems to me that care and concern for the well-being of the kids should influence our choices to support them. After all, the kids didn’t ask to be born, so it seems to me that we have an obligation to ensure that they have a decent chance to succeed in life. And there is so much more that we can and must do to make this happen:
1. Parenting assistance programs-every person needs some help becoming a parent; 2. Early childhood education–make sure that every child is “ready to learn” at the time they begin their formal education; 3. Child abuse/neglect prevention-parenting assistance efforts have shown remarkable success in reducing abuse/neglect rates in ALL families; 4. After-school programs – to provide meaningful, alternative programming for kids during the time when they are most likely to get into trouble. 5. Interventions for troubled kids-even the worst offenders can be brought back onto the straight and narrow path.. Comprehensive community-based interventions can and do make a difference for young offenders.
So, folks, facts are facts. Much as we would like, we are undergoing a fundamental change in this country with respect to family life. We are never–NEVER–again going back to the days of OZZIE & HARRIET. Families are different today and their needs are different. True, this is creating some problems. But this is America–we solve problems–we’ve been to the Moon and back. There is no problem we can’t solve if we put our minds to it.
All we need is a WILLINGNESS to make a COMMITMENT to fix the problem.
JUST POLITICS (posted 3/24/08)
I have not as yet decided whom I will support for president in November. But I have been doing a great deal of thinking about the candidates and have the following observations:
-as usual, we are being offered a fairly sorry lot of choices and I offer herewith my assessment of each of the current crop (McCain, Obama, Clinton) of aspirants to the throne;
John McCain: I voted for him enthusiastically in the Georgia Republican primary of 2000. I respect him as a human being, as an independent thinker and for his service to our country. But in the past year he has done some things that have given me pause, to wit, his “overture” to Mr. Falwell, the very person he had previously (in 2000) branded as an “agent of intolerance”. Mr. McCain had it right in 2000. He also seems committed to sustaining our presence in Iraq, which for me is a non-starter. But the big thing is the idea of putting a military man in the presidency at a time when we badly need to repair our relations with our allies and, in fact, with the rest of the world. We have pursued a policy of “shoot first/ask questions later” for the past seven years; putting a military guy in there at this time would send the wrong message to the rest of the world, i.e., that we are not about to change our policy from one of unilateralism to a more collegial approach to solving international problems.
Barack Obama: He’s speaks well and has the potential to inspire people and incite collective action. Someday–but not now–he may be ready to lead. He has yet to convince me that he can win in the general election; he doesn’t seem to have the support in the BIG states that he would need to carry in November. Then there are issues related to his background; I have always felt that the right-wing 527s would have a field day with him (his admitted cocaine use, his middle name (Hussein), his time in Indonesia, etc)–and that was BEFORE the Pastor Wright incident). Then, too, he hasn’t convinced me that he can put together a government with the kind of people who can fix the problems we must deal with. he is just too new to the political process. His time may come, but I just don’t think he’s ready for the big dance.
Hillary: I have said for some years now that I would vote for almost any woman for president–ALMOST. But I must say that Hillary may be an exception simply because I am afflicted with “Clinton-fatigue”. Nonetheless, I must admit that she comes across as a brilliant person whose political and social philosophy I admire and respect, as I did during her husband’s tenure as President. On the issue of national security, I believe she would be the strongest candidate, for only ONE reason: Bill Clinton. The republican contention that John McCain, because of his military background, is best suited to deal with national security is BOGUS (the question of whom we would prefer to have his/her hand on the proverbial “red-button” is so antiquated and COLD-WAR-like!). We are at a point in time in our history that our security interests are very much tied to our ability to work cooperatively with our allies . Our relations with those nations have been damaged severely as a result of the “go-it-alone/gun-boat diplomacy” of the past 8 years. I believe that Bill Clinton is probably the only person in America who has the respect abroad that would be required in order to restore confidence in America on the part of other nations around the world. Hillary would do well to make more of an issue of this on the campaign trail.
GUNS, GUNS & MORE GUNS (posted 1/18/08)
Guns are in the news again and, as usual, for all the wrong reasons. My own state of Georgia just passed a law allowing employees to bring guns into employers’ parking lots and keep them in their cars while at work. All this was done over the near-unanimous objections of the business community.
Meanwhile, there’s been a week-long celebration of sorts in the state of Virginia as a consequence of Pres. Bush’ signing into law a bill providing funding to enable more states to begin reporting mental defectives who should not be allowed to buy guns. WOW! That should solve the problem, right?
This is pure fantasy—for two reasons: First, it continues our national obsession/inclination to deal with the just the superficial level of the problem. The shooter at VA Tech had a severe mental imbalance and was ignored; we desperately need to find ways to intervene with people who have mental problems—early enough to head off the kind of disaster that occurred at Tech. And deluding ourselves into thinking that had Cho’s request to buy a gun been refused would have avoided the calamity is pure nonsense. What likely would have happened is that he may have resorted to some other means—blowing up a building possibly, and with far greater devastation.
Secondly, we should at some point concede that the NRA has won the battle of gun control. They spend more money, intimidate more legislators than we do (Yes, I am 100% in favor of the toughest form of gun control possible) and all the while concede little snippets of success to us—like the upgrade to the NICS system—just to make us feel good and to make the NRA seem reasonable.
The fact is that the real problem is the secondary gun market. All this talk about background checks, closing the gun-show loophole, etc. just demonstrates to what extent we will go in this country to avoid an issue. The fact is that Cho could have gotten a gun—easily and at any time or any place with or without any of the above constraints. Even the Brady bill would show its consummate ineffectiveness—after all, the NRA let us have this one—why? Because it allows us to think we’ve accomplished something. We check backgrounds at federally-licensed dealers only. So why not go to a gun show, have a friend make a straw purchase on your behalf or just buy one from a neighbor—no background checks–EVER). Cho had plenty of options by which to acquire a weapon–thanks again to the efforts of the NRA.
The only real way to get a handle on this terrible problem of gun violence in this country is to treat guns exactly the way we do cars: YOU MUST HAVE A LICENSE TO OWN ONE AND THAT SERIAL-NUMBERED DEVICE MUST BE REGISTERED TO YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER. AND ANY TIME THE GUN CHANGES HANDS, THE TRANSFER MUST BE SUBJECTED TO A BACKGROUND CHECK , THE NEW OWNER MUST BE PROPERLY LICENSED AND THE GUN RE-REGISTERED TO THE NEW OWNER!. Think of what this would do for law enforcement and its efforts to deal with crime—the gun could be traced to the registered owner and that person would become fully liable for the crime-whether he/she did it or not. Gun owners, would certainly be more responsible about their property (guns in such an environment). To use Mr. Bush’s pet phrase, it’s all about accountability.
But whether we can ever get there or not is the fundamental question. I for one am not optimistic.
DYSFUNCTIONAL GOVERNMENT (posted 1/5/08)
Face it, America, we have a government that is broken—TOTALLY unresponsive to our needs. Just look at the current list of BIG issues and the complete lack of ability or willingness to deal with them on the part of the cretins in Washington: Healthcare, Social Security/Medicare, Immigration, Iraq, Climate, Energy, etc. And the reason nothing gets done has to do with the special interest lobby that has taken control of Washington. Just look at Healthcare: The reason nothing will ever get done is because it is not in the interest of the insurance/pharmaceutical/medical industries to make a change in the way we deliver healthcare.
To make government work and be responsive to the interests and needs of the people, we need to do two things: 1) eliminate the lobby cartel from Washington DC altogether and 2) Tighten the rules by which Federal dollars are spent, particularly on the matter of earmarks.
On the first issue, I spent most of my IBM career dealing with federal government agencies. I could not under any circumstance buy lunch for a government employee or even offer him/her a stick of gum without that person reimbursing me. The idea that a lobbyist can offer dinners, trips, vacation jaunts to the very people who control the Federal purse and who authorize the expenditure of taxpayer dollars is a disgrace! Why we don’t recognize this and change the way Washington works is beyond me.
On the second issue, earmarks should not be allowed under any circumstance. The fact is that that these expenditures are routinely put into omnibus spending bills at the last moment without any review. Lawmakers are asked to vote on spending bills without any knowledge of what they contain.
It is a VIOLATION OF THE PUBLIC TRUST that allows our tax dollars to be expended without any review or oversight. There is a formal committee review process that is in place to review, PRIORITIZE and approve any and all spending. The earmarks “habit” that we have developed simply circumvents that entire process. This is a travesty and should be OUTLAWED.