Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

In a perfect world the Sunday morning talk shows would provide some measure of clarity in an otherwise confusing and conflicted world. Clearly, it isn’t a perfect world, and just how imperfect it is was on display this morning on Meet the Press. The subject was the fiscal cliff and deficit reduction.

For example, Tom Brokaw said it is ridiculous that he should get the same Medicare benefit as his less-wealthy brother. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Maybe there should be a means test where only those who need Medicare should get it. That way Medicare would be turned into a welfare program that the Right could whittle away at by adjusting the means threshold. Good idea, Tom. How about controlling run-away medical costs, instead? That might work.

Mr. Brokaw also suggested that the maybe Social Security retirement age could be increased to 67 now, and maybe even 70 in a few years. Uh-oh, this is a back breaker…literally.  Some workers, particularly those at the lowest end of the wage scale such as laborers and farm workers, spend their lives doing work that takes a terrible toll on their bodies. Are we going to ask them to work even longer before they can retire? Riding a desk is one thing, as the people in Washington do. Day-after-day physical wear and tear is something else, again. Or, how about this? There are fewer and fewer jobs to go around, now. The effect of asking people to work additional years before retirement would actually increase the labor pool, which would increase unemployment, while driving wages down even more.  Sorry to be picking on you, Mr. Brokaw, but your ideas suck.

David Brooks offered that the Republicans were going to take most of the blame if we go over the cliff, but he was critical of the president for not getting more involved in the negotiations. So, let’s see. Brooks wants the president, who ran on a clearly defined platform of how he wanted to cut the deficit, to bring the Republican caucus around to agreeing to a more conciliatory plan than he actually campaigned on, which the Republican Majority Leader John Boehner was unable to sell to his own party. Really, Mr. Brooks? You want the president to bloody himself on a fool’s errand? As a Republican flack I can understand why that would work for you, but it doesn’t work for the president or the Democats. And let’s not forget that a sizable percentage of Mr. Boehner’s caucus believes that the president stole the election in the first place (Birtherism 2.0), which would tend to harden the positions of the right-wing nut jobs who control the Republican Party.

Finally, there’s the constant banter about how important it is to get control over entitlements. This makes my blood boil. The people need Social Security, Medicare/Obamacare and Medicaid and Obama’s win makes it clear that the people don’t what Washington messing around with these programs. Moreover, the people did not create the economic mess we are in; the banks and Wall Street created it and, in the process of doing so, the inequality gap got larger, unemployment and poverty increased, more families need food stamps, wages declined and the rich got richer. And now the people’s social safety net needs to be reined in to reduce the deficit? Really? What about corporate entitlements? Defense Department entitlements. Tax dodges for the wealthy? Endless colonial wars?

WTF! It least it’s Sunday and there’s football to watch.

Several years ago, while walking through the airport in Rome, I was startled to see how many heavily armed soldiers there were to protect me and the other travelers. I didn’t feel more safe. I felt that maybe Rome wasn’t a place I wanted to be.

That’s the same way I would feel if schools had armed guards. Maybe America isn’t where I want to be.

We must find a way to put the gun genie back in the bottle. The crazies can’t be allowed to continue winning this insane debate about guns.

English: The Seal of the United States Federal...

Today I read in the Huffington Post that the “FBI Investigated ‘Occupy’ As Possible ‘Terrorism’ Threat.” I guess the reason was that the FBI figured that economic inequality, the rallying cry of the Occupy movement, had the potential to disrupt the social order, and that the constitutionally protected right of the people to assemble and demonstrate peaceably has limits.

Now, suppose for a moment that the Occupy Movement did to the economy and to families what the banks and Wall Street firms pulled off when they knowingly sold toxic assets all over the world.  What do you think would have happened to the leaders of the Occupy Movement? Guantanamo comes to mind. Then why the hell aren’t those who actually sold those toxic assets and actually brought the world’s financial system to its damned knees treated like the terrorists they are? Of course I know the answer to that question: Over-the-top greed isn’t bad, but demonstrating against it is.

There is an overarching message in this; the people’s interests don’t matter nearly as much as the interests of those who make money off the peoples’ blood, sweat and tears. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

He doesn’t believe in evolution, but when it comes to social Darwinism, well, that’s another matter. Social forces can have their way with the poor and disadvantaged; however Rick, along with his like-minded zealots, won’t lose any sleep over it because these social casualties simply weren’t fit for survival.

What guys like Rick don’t understand, though, is that a mutation will develop such that these poor, disadvantaged folk will evolve into very pissed off and vengeful people with long memories.

You see, Rick, it’s just evolution.

Union Beach, NJ, Saturday, November 24, 2012. To many people in New Jersey and New York hurricane Sandy is a bad memory. To those living in Union Beach, New Jersey, a working class community on Raritan Bay, it’s an ever-present nightmare, one that I experienced first-hand as a volunteer helping homeowners to clean up the mess they call home.

When I arrived in Union Beach on Saturday morning I was astonished to see how many volunteers where there to help. And I was told that it’s the same every weekend. Whether they were men, women, teens or seniors, they came ready to work and to go home dirty.

This is my work-group. It was assembled by a progressive advocacy organization called BlueWaveNj, which is headquartered in Montclair. See below for contact information.

To volunteer for Sandy clean-up call (201) 247-4668 or email

I was also astonished to see how much work still needs to get done. First floors are a shambles and debris is piled everywhere. In the two houses my group worked on we removed water damaged sheetrock, still-soaked insulation, hardwood floors, paneling and a couple of unusable toilets.

This is the first of two houses our group worked on.

Piles of debris such as this litter many of the streets of Union Beach.

While helping one homeowner get a new boiler out of his car, he pointed to a 20-odd ft. boat sitting on blocks in his back yard. He said that storm surge water lifted that boat to the height of an upper story window where he was able to hang on to it as it slammed against his house. Without doubt there are many stories like that in this ravaged town, but the overarching story is that lots of people who used to feel secure about where they live don’t feel like that any longer. Sandy is a bad memory that just won’t go away.

FEMA is on the case.

Food tents serve hot food to both volunteers and homeowners.

Enough said…

Left ForumI confess to being on somewhat of a high. Not that kind of a high. Rather, the kind that results from a blast of emotional and intellectual stimulation, which was delivered at Left Forum, a 2 ½ day conference of left-wingers hosted by Pace University in NYC. For conferees, there’s a whole lot there for everyone: there are more than 400 sessions and more than 1400 speakers!

Here is what makes Left Forum so very special; at a time when selfishness and greed have achieved favored-attribute status, Left Forum is all about other people…the poor, the marginalized, the incarcerated, the voiceless, the unrepresented, the under and un-educated, the hopeless…those for whom the American Dream might well be nothing more than a reason to think that tomorrow will be just a little bit better than today.

If you believe that your success will trickle down to this “other” America, Left Forum isn’t for you. If, on the other hand, you believe that your own success will be enriched by the welfare of others, Left Forum will resonate to your very core.

Cornel West, a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual and professor at Princeton University, captured the essence of Left Forum and, in fact, all of left-wing politics, when he rhetorically asked, “Who would want to live in a world where we do not have righteous indignation for the misfortune of others?”

If you need motivation to make America a better place for everyone, righteous indignation will do quite nicely.

More on Left Forum can be found on Borderless News and Views.

Česky: Oficiální portrét amerického prezidenta...

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There’s a wonderful blog post on Nomadic Politics entitled The 11 Reasons Why Ronald Reagan is Un-Electable in 2012.” It puts into stark perspective the pervasive insanity that characterizes Republican politics.

I’ve thought often about how out of step Reagan would be with the current state of the Republican Party. Yet, they tip their hats to him all the time, even though he would be seen as a moderate, today .

Well, moderate or not, Reagan set the stage for the greatest aggregation of wealth at the top in the world’s history. He also unleashed the culture war, which has driven a wedge between the parties such that compromise is impossible. He did it to consolidate political power, the unintended consequence of which has been complete political dysfunction.

The Left never, never contrived to destroy the Right, yet the Right says it wants to destroy, for all time, the “liberal scourge afflicting America.” Really? Well, it’s not the Left’s job to put this distructive and dysfunctional genie back in the bottle; the Republicans took it out, they can put it back. Until they do, they can go to hell.

Federally-supported gun violence intervention ...

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While watching the news on TV a few days ago, I saw the pained faces of two mothers who had recently lost youngsters to gang violence in Newark.  What a terrible tragedy!  They spoke about wanting to motivate other moms to stand with them against those who have such little regard for human life.

I think the time has come for mothers to use the enormous political power they could have in a world that has gone mad.  Inspired by their mother’s love, they should organize against the gun lobby that assures a steady supply of guns to the street…or any testosterone-fueled special interest group that all too easily trades precious lives for business objectives.

Frankly, this world needs a hell of a lot more estrogen than it is getting and it can only come from one place.

English: Helen Keller. Français : Helen Keller.

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While listening to the Ed Schultz show on radio, I heard an exchange with a listener who identified himself as a conservative. He offered that participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement should, as he did, take steps to improve their own lives and not blame others for their problems. That kind of talk infuriates me, because it’s an easy way for Republicans to avoid taking a hard look at issues that broadly affect millions upon millions of Americans.

Well, as fate would have it, later that afternoon I came across some words written by Helen Keller, a person who knows a thing or two about overcoming life’s obstacles. She wrote:

“I had once believed that we were all masters of our fate–that we could mold our lives into any form we pleased… I had overcome deafness and blindness sufficiently to be happy, and I supposed that anyone could come out victorious if he threw himself valiantly into life’s struggle. But as I went more and more about the country I learned that I had spoken with assurance on a subject I knew little about… I learned that the power to rise in the world is not within the reach of everyone.”  

Helen Keller became an avowed socialist and fawning apologist for the nascent Soviet Union…an unpopular position to be sure…but it does not diminish the implicit humanity and compassion in her words. She understood the influence of circumstance and, more importantly, she  felt no joy at the misfortune of others.

I confess to being ideologically driven; I find little that I am willing to compromise with those whose selfishness and greed overwhelms any sense of compassion and caring. But, more importantly, I am deeply saddened that my country’s fundamental immorality is on display for the rest of the world to see. America and Americans should be better than this.

Marketing Liberalism

Posted: February 13, 2012 in Miscellaneous
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In response to your request for ideas…

Most people don’t understand the political meaning of the word “liberal.” Over the decades the Republicans have succeeded in connecting it to “tax and spend,” and they have done so with nary a fight. It is as though we are ashamed of being liberals. It is, obviously, up to us the redefine. To do otherwise is the allow the other side to continue doing it.

I recommend that a task force of liberal thinkers and communicators be assembled, its charge being to define “liberalism” for the 21st century, and to do so while being mindful of liberalism’s rich and glorious past. Liberals, after all, lifted the world out of depression, defeated fascism, and championed the cause of civil rights (a job far from done). And it will be liberals who husband our precious resources, clean up our environment, put more Americans to work, feed the millions who go to bed hungry every night, advance energy independence, provide health care to those least able to afford it, use military power more wisely, and educate our children…all our children.

And, most importantly, we need to connect our liberal mission with the same transcendent morality that gave direction to our founding fathers, one firmly rooted in the humanist tradition and directly descendent from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Under this mantle, America can, once again, become the world’s beacon of democracy as we lead by example, humbly, with the vision of a better life for all.