Dubya, Libya and Nobel

March 31, 2011

Do you ever wonder how the Nobel Peace Prize Committee feels about President Obama’s Prize now that he has involved us in a third war? Maybe they feel slightly ambivalent or embarrassed, but they shouldn’t be surprised.  To Obama’s credit, in the case of Libya he is doing exactly as he enunciated in his Nobel acceptance speech. In that speech he stated that there is a case to be made for the use of military force to prevent genocide. He said that the United States should lead, but never act alone and without the consent of the international community via the United Nations.

However, the lofty ideals of Nobel Peace Prize speeches are apparently lost in the vulgar specifics of political expedience and its selective application. There is no doubt that the political and military leadership of the United States prevented a major catastrophe in Libya. The consequences of genocide with the resultant destabilization of the fragile gains made in Tunisia and Egypt would have been global in consequence. It was a virtuoso performance for any President or world leader. For the first time in our lifetime, the US is bombing an Arab country with the permission of the world (including the Arab League) and with the gratitude of the people living in the country being bombed!

However, the thinly disguised military campaign has called into question the real motivation to act. How does one justify deploying AC-130 Gunships and A-10 Thunderbolts on a “Humanitarian” mission? Those weapons are designed specifically to do only one thing to humans, and that is decidedly not humanitarian in nature. What President Obama is doing is regime change with the wink of an eye and assurances to dictators who remain on our side (e.g. Dubai, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia). That doesn’t bode too well for Democracy movements elsewhere.

Say what you will about the utter incompetence of Dubya and his method of “regime change”, but at least he was honest about it.

Firearms Refresher Course: A Sane Answer to the NRA.

March 29, 2011

1.       NRA: An armed man is a Citizen. An unarmed man is a subject.

Answer: A citizen is a man who holds rights and fulfills responsibilities; a man who holds a gun is nothing more than that: a man who holds a gun.

2.       NRA: What part of “shall not be infringed” do you not understand?

Answer: What part of “well REGULATED” do you not understand?

3.       NRA: 64,999,987 gun owners killed no one yesterday.

Answer: 60% of murders and 30% of accidental deaths were gun related yesterday.

4.       NRA: The American Revolution would never have happened with gun control.

Answer: Wrong. The American Revolution would have never happened without courageous men who persuaded others with their ideas, not their guns.

5.       NRA: You only have rights you are willing to fight for.

Answer: The rights we have were earned by Americans fighting for them with courage and moral force, not the false power of lethal force.

The Debt We Owe

March 18, 2011

One of the truly great honors and pleasure I have is to represent Veteran’s, especially disabled veterans in discrimination cases. Americans who serve in the Armed Forces today bear a greater burden than any generation before them. They have suffered through more deployments than any other American generation. A Marine or soldier who enlisted in 2001 on average, will have served over 7 years in a combat zone – longer than WWII. In one deployment in Afghanistan a pilot and crew of a Rescue Helicopter will fly more combat missions than any pilot during the entire duration of WWII!

While deployed in combat zones in Afghanistan and/or Iraq any member of the armed services knows his/her spouse and child(ren) will be faced will financial hardships in addition to the emotional stress of wondering if their loved one will be killed or wounded.  Banks and other mortgage lenders make no provision or exception for late payments due to fouled paperwork of bureaucratic delays. (Bank of America was recently found guilty of illegally foreclosing on Service members).

When wounded and disabled veterans return to the workplace they often are subject to discrimination, which boggles my mind to consider it even exists. This makes it all the more gratifying when I can help a veteran or their family gets justice. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for their sacrifices, and I appreciate the honor of representing them.

Eve of Destruction

March 18, 2011

Viewing the scenes of destruction in Japan and the unfolding nuclear disaster reminded me of the old 60’s classic by Barry McGuire “Eve of Destruction”. This past month GOP Congressmen passed resolutions blocking any reference to the science of global warming, blocked funding for natural disaster warnings and preparedness and, blocked funding for green energy alternatives.  This is the same month when we can view scenes of a country not destroyed by a 9.0 earthquake but by the force of a Tsunami and in the midst of a nuclear disaster.

No reputable scientist denies the reality of global climate change, and the disaster wrought in the near future by the melting ice caps and Greenland glaciers. Imagine a world with oceans a foot higher – the destructive force of much more intense storms let alone Tsunamis. You won’t have to imagine long as the most recent data from studies of the polar icecaps prove that they are melting at a much faster rate than previously measured. In the next FEW YEARS it is likely that the entire North Pole Ice Cap will melt completely. Fresh water altering the salinity of the oceans even slightly will have catastrophic effects on ocean life form from fish to plants. Yet even as we see a clear increase in the severity and frequency of storms worldwide oil companies continue to call the shots in Congress.

Commercial media continues to act as shills for the oil and nuclear power industries as I listen to pundit after pundit repeat the lie that “every energy source has inherent dangers to the environment.” Really? Wind and solar power pose as grave a danger to the environment as coal, oil and nuclear?

Oh, and while we are it… as the song says “the Eastern world – it is explodin’… violence flarin’, bullets laodin’…”


March 14, 2011

“Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost” -Ronald Reagan

Although Ronald Reagan, patron saint of the far right, was speaking about the unions in Poland and the attempts by the Communists to break those unions, He went on to talk about the universal right to belong a free union and have the right to collective bargaining. This shows me how close we have become to becoming another totalitarian country in the past few years.

Instead of Communists or Fascists, we have a few billionaires and multinational corporations who have a willing accomplice in the GOP. This is not an economic struggle to rein in deficits. This is an attack on the rights of all Americans and as Ronald Reagan later said in the same speech… we are only 1 generation away from the same enslavement if we allow these rights to be taken from us.

The most significant factor in the development of an American middle class was the union movement, and the most significant factor in the decline of the American middle class is the decline of union membership. The budget in Wisconsin (and in other States) was busted when the GOP enacted huge tax breaks for their corporate masters, not because teachers were being overpaid. The same Republicans who argued that multi-million dollar bonuses for executives of Wall St. firm bailed out with tax dollars are warranted to recruit the best and brightest, also argue that good health insurance and retirement programs for teachers, police and firemen are unaffordable.

Many experts argue that the present turmoil in the Middle East is simply a reaction of those societies to economic injustice. That same injustice is being perpetrated on Americans today.

The Supreme Court… in Bizarro World

March 3, 2011

Just when we think we have the US Supreme Court Justices figured out, they pull us into Bizarro World… where everything and everyone behaves exactly the opposite. I am referring, of course, to the ruling of the US Supreme Court, and the dissent of Justice Antonin Scalia in the Michigan v Bryant case.

In civil cases, Justice Scalia routinely rules against the victims of Corporations and Government, often inventing Constitutional provisions that he routinely denies exists for individuals; the same Justice Scalia who recently opined that there are no Constitutional protections for women against discrimination.  In criminal cases, however, he has routinely sided with white collar criminals and the unrestricted abuse of power by the Government.  Maybe its the case that Justice Scalia has no sympathy or tolerance for victims of any sort. Until now.

The Supreme Court recently ruled on a case brought by a Michigan petitioner in a criminal trial. The issue in the case was that the police, on arriving at the scene of a shooting, come across a person dying. Five officers in succession question the dying man and ask him who shot him. The man identifies one Richard Bryant as the shooter and then died.

During the criminal trial the judge allowed the statement of the dying man into evidence and the man was convicted primarily on the basis of that statement. The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the right of anyone accused of a crime to confront their accuser(s). The accusers MUST be put under oath and be subject to examination. Until now.

In another startling denial of a Constitutional Right that has existed for hundreds of years, the Court ruled the statement could be allowed into evidence even though the accused could never be allowed the opportunity to question the accuser. What if the man who was shot was guessing? What if he was mistaken? What if he was delirious or confused? There are dozens of common sense reasons (and one former Constitutional right) why the statement should never be allowed in a trial. If Mr. Bryant was to be convicted it should have been on the basis of evidence he could try to refute.

However, the Supreme Court ruled that because the police claimed that they were worried that a murderer was loose, they wanted the information and acquired it “innocently”. Fair enough, but they should be required to gather other evidence and the trial should only include evidence that can be admitted under the rules. In virtually every murder there is a murderer loose and in virtually every crime there is a criminal loose. If the Government is allowed to use evidence in a trial that can never be subject to cross exams then they will be able to arrest and convict anyone they wish. All the Government has to say is “the person is dead… we can’t find the accuser… etc.”

What is less important, but just as remarkable, is the fact that some of the more reasonable Justices ruled to undermine a long established right and Justice Scalia was one of the dissenters on this travesty (Justice Ginsberg was the other). Bizarro. One portion of Scalia’s dissent is worth repeating: “For all I know, Bryant has received his just deserts. But he surely has not received them pursuant to the procedures that our Constitution requires. And what has been taken away from him has been taken away from us all.”

Tea Party on the Miller St. Overpass

March 2, 2011

When Walter Reuther and his fellow Union Organizers were brutally beaten by Corporate thugs on the Miller St. Overpass entrance to the Rouge Plant, the scene was captured with pictures which then became an iconic symbol of the struggle for the rights of workers to collectively bargain. That was 1937, and from those early battles for rights through the 1960s, the union movement was the primary reason for the growth of the American middle-class. The decline of union membership since the 1970s has also produced a similar decline in the middle-class. This is one reason why I believe that the battle in Wisconsin, now being televised non-stop,  to protect collective bargaining rights, is really a corporate-led attack on the middle-class itself.

In the 1930s, Corporate America attacked the union movement by hiring armed thugs to attack organizers. Now Corporate America is attacking the middle class by hiring political thugs such as Wisconsin Governor Walker and GOP legislatures. The stakes are the same. In the 1930s the union movement survived by a thread and one could argue that the same is true in 2011. Multibillionaires have funded the campaigns of judges and legislatures across the country, successfully exploiting the anger of middle-class Americans who rightly feel that their way of life is threatened. Tea Party members have been led to focus their fear and anger on Government, when the real threat to their rights and to their way of living is coming from the very billionaires who are funding them!

How else can you explain why the Tea Party has supported Gov. Walker’s attack on citizen rights? I thought that their whole mantra was protecting liberty against big government? The real agenda in Wisconsin was revealed by the “prank call” discussion of Gov. Walker with the fake billionaire donor. After discussing tactics (which included hiring “troublemakers” to create violent confrontations at the demonstrations) they agreed that Wisconsin was the “first domino” leading to the destruction of unions across the country. Even after this revealing call, Tea Party members, Republicans and even some Democrats still side with the same people who are attacking their own liberties and standard of living.

Instead of collaborating with the real enemies of liberty, these libertarians, Tea Party members – whatever they want to be called – should be demonstrating with the unions.

Budgets, Deficits and Karma

March 1, 2011

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”


This quote from Dr. King’s speech against the Viet Nam War has been on my mind constantly since President Obama sent his budget proposals to Congress last week. One expects the budget proposals of the GOP to lack common sense or a sense of compassion, but it is disappointing to have this President propose such an immoral budget. Budgets are moral documents. They reflect our priorities and values, they are a statement on our goals and ideals as much as on our pragmatic concerns.

This government, the President as well as Congress, is guilty of pretending to address our budget problems by punishing the most vulnerable in our society: the poor, children and the infirm. Their proposals are ineffective (they will not significantly reduce the deficit) and immoral. To increase the Defense budget that is already bloated with waste by tens of billions of dollars while reducing the pittance allotted to the poor to pay for heating fuel and food for impoverished and sick children is a sign of moral illness and of cowardice. To give away hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall St. criminals or to corrupt governments, such as Afghanistan, and then deny a few millions of dollars to care for vulnerable Americans is a sign of spiritual death.

I believe that the American people would be willing to sacrifice some benefits from Social Security and Medicare, if the sacrifice was shared by defense contractors and the 400 families that possess 50% of America’s wealth – and if they had a the leadership from men and women in government with some moral compass. American society is ready for a spiritual revival. Not the kind of false spirituality of politicians like those in Arizona who recently passed a bill to ban “Karma” (although I can understand their concern, given their record of mean-spirited and oppressive laws). I mean a real revival of the spirit of compassion and cooperation that led to our very existence as a Nation.

Who in government now reflects those spiritual values and has the courage to propose real solutions without causing the suffering of our most vulnerable neighbors?