On John Conyers

May 19, 2014

One of the truly decent men serving in Congress is John Conyers. The recent flap about not gathering enough valid signatures to place his name on the ballot is not a reflection on his lack of popular support. Rather it is due to a law (that is probably unconstitutional) requiring those gathering signatures to be registered voters, and the incompetence/corruption of the signature gathering industry in the Detroit area.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life in politics that all politicians, good and bad, are at the mercy of people who earn their living from getting people elected. In Detroit, it means dealing with two or three political pimps who sell signatures, and access to nursing homes and churches – the holy grail of absentee ballots.

John Conyers has shown good judgment, consistent principles and even acts of courage that have subjected him to constant attacks from the right wing. So you can understand the glee and mocking going on now in the Beltway, not because of another principled stand he has taken against the prevailing political winds.

Congressman Conyers is the subject of ridicule because a few native Detroiters cared less about protecting the best Representative ever elected from Michigan, than they did making a few extra bucks (has it really been that lean since your man Kwame went down?). Let’s hope it marks the end of the careers of a few well known political “consultants” and not the end of a truly great political career.


Am I Becoming A Republican?

May 19, 2014

In a memorable passage from Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” he was confessing to a friend that he had lost his faith. The friend responded “Does that mean you have become a Protestant then?” to which he responded “I said I had lost my faith, not my mind.”

Lately I have been feeling pretty disappointed in the Obama administration – well, not lately. In fact, like many of my fellow progressives I have been disappointed with the inaction for a long time. It’s just that the past week was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

The news that the VA in Phoenix (and apparently many other cities) have been covering up delays in the treatment of veterans, resulting in numerous deaths, has been intolerable. Although the Veteran’s Administration has long been the most entrenched bureaucracy in the government, his response has been notably characteristic in its weakness. The bottom line is that Obama has not been effective in this regard. Consider the following “scandals” and his response:

• An Attorney General who has failed to prosecute any Wall Strett bankers for the massive crime wave that nearly crashed the economy.

• A DEA Chief who considers marijuana no different from crack cocaine and prioritizes medical marijuana growers over heroin dealers.

• An EPA Chief who has granted more fracking, mountain top mining, and oil drilling permits than eight years under George W. Bush.

• A Chief of the National Transportation and Safety Board who has failed to force recalls of unsafe products even after hundreds of documented deaths.

• A Health and Human Services Chief who nearly single-handedly sabotaged “Obamacare.”

• A Treasury Chief who has refused to investigate banking scandals involving laundering of money from drug cartels and terrorists.

• The continuing inaction on Syria, even with numerous episodes of chemical attacks.

• The NSA illegal spying on American citizens.

• Cutting benefits for veterans, and a callous lack of concern for the epidemic of suicides among veterans (more returning vets have died from suicide than have died in combat in Afghanistan).

• Drone killings of American citizens without any due process.

• Expansion of secret special operations killings on a scale that dwarfs W’s.

• The unprecedented prosecution of government whistle-blowers.

• The lack of any credible response to Russian aggression in the Crimea and Ukraine.

• Allowing the evisceration of the social safety net.

• More deportation of primarily Latin Americans than the previous 12 years.

Those are not Benghazi type fake scandals, those are real scandals reflecting not only a lack of good judgment but also a lack of willingness to hold anyone accountable. No, I haven’t lost my mind and became a Republican. I have just lost faith.


May 8, 2014

Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman made news recently when he admitted that the Glass-Steagall Act should have never been repealed by the Clinton Administration. The Glass-Steagall Act was passed during the Great Depression to prevent another stock market crash and Depression, and it worked for decades.

Clinton Administration members, notably Secretary of Treasury Robert Rubin, urged the deregulation of Wall Street. Rubin, formerly of Goldman Sachs, successfully led the charge and the rest, as we say, is history. (Rubin went on to head CitiGroup which was formed after the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and has been bailed out by tax payers three times since then). That history includes the near collapse of the world economy, numerous bailouts of banks at tax-payer expense, flash crashes and the present state of what many people admit is a thoroughly corrupt financial system.

You and I have spent thousands of our own dollars (tax dollars) to bail out Wall St. banks guilty of fraud while their CEOs were not only not prosecuted, they received an average of $900 million in bonuses after the bail outs!

If you think that the corruption in banking only affects your tax bill, think again. Numerous banks, including American banks, have been found guilty of laundering money for drug cartels and terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda. That affects our security. The deregulation of Wall Street is also responsible for destruction of the American middle class, and income disparities that make the American Dream a virtual impossibility for all but the already rich 1%. For example, dozens of banks were found guilty of fixing interest rates for loans (the Libor scandal), something that directly affects you.

Lately there have been a few headlines about billion dollar fines of banks found guilty of laundering TRILLIONS of dollars for drug and terrorist organizations, but not one banker has been prosecuted. For example, HSBC has been found guilty of illegal money laundering repeatedly, yet not one executive has even faced criminal charges.

When I was younger I used to poke fun at the conspiracy theories on big banks and international bankers, but I have to say based on the facts that the corruption of banking is undeniable and a direct threat to our collective lives. I hope that all of you will join me in writing your Congresspersons and demand criminal investigations of Wall St. executives.





May 8, 2014

It used to be that the onset of spring was marked by certain rituals such as Opening Day, and changes consistent with warmth such as green grass and blossoms on the fruit trees. Baseball is here in the “D,” but seeing a night game now is more akin to being at a hockey game.

It has been a long, cold winter here in Michigan.

This makes the recent report from Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change all the more interesting to me. Any reasonably intelligent human being (or about 40% of Americans) has known for years that climate change has been occurring and it’s due to human activity.

The latest report reaffirms the consensus among world scientists, but also pointed out that the disastrous effects of climate change are already being felt. This is important because climate change doubters have lately resorted to denying the effects of climate change rather than the reality. In effect, they say “so what? It will be hundreds of years before it makes a difference.” Wrong again right wing.

In Michigan, the winters will be longer and winter storms more brutal. The delay in ground warming will cause farmers to plant much later, resulting in lower yields. Fruit trees will continue to blossom earlier, and be vulnerable to late frosts, such as what happened two years ago.

Heat waves will cause hundreds of deaths in big cities. While most of the Southwest will continue to experience the worst drought in over a century, we will experience a wetter climate with more violent storms, including tornadoes and flash floods. In other words, the disastrous economic effects are already starting, but are only a fraction of what will happen if we don’t do something soon.

Consider what you can do personally to reduce your energy consumption and to put a fire underneath our government representatives to act now.