Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Book is Out

The greatly anticipated compilation of the best of the blog, "Corporations are People?" is finally available on Amazon world wide. On Amazon USA.
On Amazon UK
On Amazon Spain.
On Amazon France.
On Amazon Germany.
On Amazon Italy.
On Amazon Japan.

This book is a collection of articles which appeared on my blog, "Corporations are People?" starting the day after 9/11, 2011. Think of it as a kind of diary chronicling the 2012 Presidential election. The choice of the title "Corporations are People?" for the blog represents the tenor of our first experience with an election where massive amounts of money from corporate interests were allowed thanks to the Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United. The essays are varied and although mostly related to the campaign, they also provide a backdrop to the period that was between 9/11, 2011 and the election in November, 2012.

At its peak, the blog was receiving over 5,000 hits an hour and was read in 51 countries, so it seems that making the articles available makes sense due to its popularity. 

The book title, "Apocalypse Averted" addresses the claim by many that re-electing Barack Obama would result in a collapse of civilization as foretold by the Bible and the Mayans. Since no such calamity came about it seemed fair to claim that the Apocalypse had been averted, at least for the foreseeable future. 

In its 286 pages there is something for everyone. The style is provocative without being insulting. There are no punches pulled; no censorship. There is plenty of commentary to talk about. Some of it will make you smile. Some of it will make you angry. Some of it will make you sad or happy depending on your point of view. But you will come away with new perspectives, new insights, and it will sharpen your wits regardless of which side you sit on.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Women in Combat

Spc. Jennie Baez provides security for fellow soldiers during an
operation in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq on September 27, 2008
It is an amazing coincidence that the same day Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was being grilled by some of the Lilliputians who make up the Foreign Policy committees in the US Congress, the military quietly announced that women will now serve in combat.
The serving in combat rule is finally a formal recognition that women have been serving in combat for quite some time -- just not getting credit for it. Just ask Congresswoman and veteran Tammy Duckworth how she lost her two legs. It wasn't sipping tea with the ladies. She was flying an attack Black Hawk helicopter and was shot down. If that wasn't combat, then I don't know what is.
Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth
The prohibition of women in combat was a sham policy, much like the infamous “don't ask, don't tell” policy aimed at gay military personnel. Everybody knew gays were serving but the sensibilities of bigots were apparently paramount so good soldiers were subject to dismissal if perchance one of them admitted his or her homosexuality in public. Mind you, this policy was not about behavior – it was simply about who you were and saying who you were was just not acceptable. Kind of like admitting you were a Republican getting you fired from your job. I wonder what perspicacious pundits like Sean Hannity would think of that.
But the subject at hand is women in combat and even though they have been in combat for some time this new rule will finally allow women to seek job promotions just like the men, based on merit and not be relegated to some fictitious category that really never existed in practice. Men can no longer have their cake and eat it too. 

 Just ask Congresswoman and 
veteran Tammy Duckworth how she 
lost her two legs. It wasn't 
sipping tea with the ladies. 

Women henceforth will no longer be prevented from advancement in the military based on their gender, but now can rise based on their qualifications and performance. You see, advancement to higher ranks in the military is very dependent on combat duty. That is why there are almost no women with a rank above one star general. In order to get into the upper reaches of command a soldier has to have combat experience so the rule excluding women from combat was a neat trick to prevent female officers from ever reaching top command positions.
Four star General  Anne E. Dunwoody
One such glaring anomaly is 4 star general Anne E. Dunwoody who is the exception that breaks the rule. General Dunwoody has a long family history of U.S. military service – going back five generations. She grew up in a military household, the daughter of Elizabeth (died 2006, age 81) and Harold H. Dunwoody (born c. 1918 in Englewood, Florida). Her great-grandfather, Brigadier General Henry Harrison Chase Dunwoody an 1862 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, was the Chief Signal Officer in Cuba from 1898 to 1901. Her father retired from the U.S. Army as a Brigadier General in 1973. Brigadier General Dunwoody is a highly decorated veteran of  World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He was badly wounded in France during World War II and earned the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery while serving as a battalion commander in the Korean War. As a Brigadier General, he commanded the 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) during the Vietnam War. Her brother, Harold H. "Buck" Dunwoody, Jr. is a 1970 West Point  graduate. Her older sister, Susan Schoeck, was the third woman in the Army to become a helicopter pilot. Her niece, Jennifer Schoeck, is a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. She is married to Colonel Craig Brotchie, USAF (Retired). General Dunwood is clearly part of the military "family" and therefore is an exception. Hardly any female officer can match her military “pedigree” and therefore she does not serve as an example to other female officers. In spite of her rank and obvious part of the military elite she was still relegated to playing a support role. Not that her achievement is insignificant, but a man of her rank and stature would have considerable more command authority.
No single rule will ever eliminate a culture of prejudice but the formal legal obstacles have finally been eliminated for female soldiers. President Truman desegregated the military in 1948, allowing black soldiers the opportunity to serve alongside the others but only relatively recently have we seen, in Colin Powell, a four star general able to reach the pinnacle of command based on his personal achievement and without the benefit of being part of the military “family”. It certainly took time, but Powell finally did it. Others are sure to follow. How long will it be before we see other female four star generals? Especially ones with serious combat command authority. Only time will tell.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The New American Political Terrorists

They don't go around shooting people. They don't wear suicide vests. They don't bomb anybody.
But they are more dangerous than Al-Qaeda ever was.
That famous terrorist organization has been able to kill thousands of innocent people. Not just on 9/11, but all over the world. They have killed, maimed, and terrorized people in multiple countries. Governments have correctly put them on wanted lists and are actively pursuing them. The assassination of Osama Bin Laden was a necessary military operation widely praised as a victory against terrorists.
But we have a special type of terrorist who is capable of inflicting more damage, and is much more reckless than the average Islamic extremist. For lack of a better term, we can call them political terrorists and they reside in the US House of Representatives.
Representative Louie Gohmert from Texas is a prime example
of the 
fanatical wing of the Republican Party.
Miriam-Webster defines terrorism as: The systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. What is noteworthy in this definition is the lack of violence, guns, bombs and other military type implements of destruction. What is key is the use of terror, or fear as means to coerce. That is why kidnapping, hostage-taking and other non-lethal ways to extort are part of the terrorist toolkit.
We currently have, in the Republican Party, a sizable group of politicians who are willing to jeopardize their own country, and even the entire world, to get their way. This type of behavior used to be the stuff of James Bond movies where an arch-villain was willing to endanger the entire planet to get a personal benefit.
It has become fashionable for people to blame Speaker of the House John Boehner for a lack of leadership and an inability to work with the President. This is the same charge leveled at president Obama when people alleged that the President was unable or unwilling to work with the Congress. The answer for both of them is that one cannot (must not) negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages more acts of terrorism.
Senator Mitch McConnell steps up to the plate and
shows that there are still reasonable Republicans
Another characteristic of terrorists is their apparent inability to learn anything productive. The ultras who refused to work with the President on health care reform essentially got it shoved down their throats for their trouble. They had an opportunity to work constructively with the President but preferred instead to be obstructionists. And the lesson they apparently learned from that was to become even more intransigent, even more belligerent. For example, Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party darling and a leader of the ultras, not content to be humiliated in her doomed quest for the presidency, announced proudly yesterday that she filed the first bill of the new 113th Congress. She is proposing to repeal “Obamacare,” a bill less likely to pass through Congress and be signed into law than the repeal of the Star Spangled Banner as our national anthem.
As the great sage, Yogi Berra, was prone to say, this March it will be “Déjà vu all over again.” For some reason, the conservative claque of the Republican Party has convinced itself and a large portion of the public that the debt ceiling is a negotiable item. They call it leverage. That is like calling bank customers leverage if you are a bank robber. Yes, bank customers can be leverage, but only if you are willing to kill them to get what you want. The consequences of exercising this type of leverage is morally reprehensible, not to mention catastrophic. The debt ceiling, contrary to what these political terrorists allege, is not a license for more government spending – it is simply the government paying its bills. It is nothing short of extortion for the Congress to threaten not paying its bills. The consequence of America not paying its bills is catastrophic, not only domestically, but with dire consequences for the entire world economy. So calling people who would threaten to not pay America's bills political terrorists is not an exaggeration.
Speaker John Boehner breaks with the "Hastert Rule"
There are clearly items which need to be addressed. Government spending is indeed out of control. Much negotiation will be necessary to bring government spending down. Everything should be open for discussion and real solutions should be discussed and implemented, but holding the good faith and credit of the United States hostage is not the way to achieve a lessening of the debt. It is a sign of people incapable or unwilling to negotiate in good faith. Terrorism as a political tactic is a sign of weakness, not strength. It is practiced by people who are unable to play by the rules, who do not believe in democracy. It is borne of desperation, suitable for totalitarian regimes.
There are ultra-conservative people, many of them in the Tea Party, who allege they are living under a totalitarian regime. Ironically, this posture is a ploy by which they capture votes in a democratic system. Then, when elected, they adopt undemocratic tactics in order to pursue their anti-government agenda, their real goal put forth under the guise of concern with the national debt.

...holding the good faith and credit of the 
United States hostage is not the way to 
achieve a lessening of the debt. 

Their main accomplishment so far is the downgrading of America's credit rating due to the last debt ceiling fight, a feat that could very well be repeated in March. It is inconceivable that America would default on paying its debts, but the mere fact that this is even a remote possibility is sufficient to get the ratings agencies nervous and the ironic net result would be that we would end up increasing our debt, not lowering it.
Vice President Joe Biden shows why
President Obama picked him as his running mate.
However, there is some hope on the horizon. The last “fiscal cliff bill” may show us the way to the future. A future of real bipartisanship. Senator Mitch McConnell, finally freed from his number one priority of making President Obama a “one-term president," got down to business and forged a bipartisan consensus with Vice-President Joe Biden and Majority Leader Harry Reid and sailed a compromise bill through the Senate on a 89-8 vote, proof that the Senate can work on a bipartisan basis. The Senate vote was so overwhelming that the House had no choice but to pass the same bill with no amendments. Speaker Boehner even broke the “Hastert Rule,” the idiotic tenet that former Speaker Hastert promoted that bills could not be put to a vote unless a majority of the majority was in favor. In this case, it was the Democrats who made the difference and only 85 Republicans were needed to get the job done. Even the pathetic “No Tax” Grover Norquist endorsed the bill by twisting himself into a logical pretzel, pretending that at least the taxes on 98% of Americans did not go up, thereby simply agreeing with President Obama's consistent position since his first election.
While the pundit class is whining away, predicting more and more gridlock, the gridlock mold has been broken with this vote, rendering the political terrorists temporarily irrelevant.

For the sake of the country they should only stay that way.

Monday, December 17, 2012

“We can’t tolerate this anymore.”

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Second Amendment of the US Constitution
Parents grieving after the Sandy Hook shooting
Gun advocates in the US like to talk about “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” but are usually reticent to speak about the “well regulated” part. Not to mention the historical context of the amendment which was born out the the necessity of providing for national security in a time when the country did not have an adequate military or even adequate law enforcement. Citizen militias organized at the local level were needed to keep the peace. To say this amendment is anachronistic is a vast understatement as is using it as cover to justify the unrestricted proliferation of military grade weapons.
Nobody is suggesting that law-abiding hunters should be curtailed, a red herring the NRA uses to justify the distribution of assault weapons that have no bearing on hunting. The issue of easy access to assault weaponry has nothing to do with permit-based, legal hunting.
Legal guns
But the problem of mass shootings does not end with gun proliferation. One of the glaring lessons of this latest mass murder of children in Connecticut is the inadequate mental health system we have in America. When the legal term, “not guilty due to mental defect” is used more as a loophole to get a murderer off, rather than to identify people who suffer a mental disease and thereby to provide adequate diagnosis and care, something is very wrong. The courts are not the best venues for mental health triage. Surely we can do better.
Improvised memorial for the Sandy Hook victims
Then there are those who will blame video games and even Hollywood for violent behavior, but there is little evidence to back this up. For example, Japanese youths are even bigger violent video games fanatics than American youths and yet Japanese gun violence is a tiny fraction of that in the US. If we are serious about fixing problems, we need to make adequate diagnoses. Nobody has yet died from a video game or watching a movie.
America's gun culture goes back to the very formation of our country when citizens were required to play a major role in national defense. Also, the conquest of the Wild West played a crucial role in the continued development of America's gun culture. America's infatuation with guns did not start with Hollywood. Hollywood is merely a reflection of the gun culture, not the cause of it.
Elisha Green, Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill Cody, Texas Jack, Eugene Overton
Adolescent boys around the globe don't have much of a problem distinguishing simulated gun play from the real thing as is true of most American youths. The principal problem with gun proliferation is not with the young people. It is with the parents and grandparents. Almost all young people's access to guns, especially the really lethal types, comes from their families. The unspeakable events of last Friday in Connecticut when kids aged 6 and 7 were gunned down in cold blood were the result of weapons purchased by the gunman's mother, who herself in a sad irony was murdered by her son using her own weapons.
Adolescent boys around the globe don't have 
much of a problem distinguishing 
simulated gun play from the real thing 
as is true of most American youths.

While it is true that guns are not the only issue, they are what makes massacres possible. We would do well to follow the lead of the President and finally come to grips with this phenomenon. This is not the time for partisan politics. The President cannot solve this problem by himself. We are not North Korea. Legitimate gun owners need to be protected, but legitimacy needs to be defined and common sense regulation needs to be enacted. All the major actors need to come to the table to look for real solutions and not settle for political band-aids.
We also have to face the inadequacy of our mental health system. Mental health support should be required in any healthcare scheme, whether private or public. We shouldn't have to bury babies slaughtered by military grade weapons at the hands of people who have slipped through the mental health system cracks.
We can't tolerate this anymore.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Obvious Choice for State

John Kerry? Chuck Hagel? Tom Friedman has even suggested current Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Normally, I support Friedman, but this latest idea of his is just lame.
John Kerry is a good choice, of course, but his selection has been politically poisoned by the full throated endorsement by his Republican colleagues. Obama shouldn't pave the way for Scott Brown to sneak in the back door of the Senate after being soundly thrashed by Elizabeth Warren, a staunch Obama ally. Chuck Hagel has cursory knowledge of foreign affairs as he was a committee member of the senate committee of that name. But as a international expert he is somewhat of a lightweight, and Obama cannot afford a person in that job who is just moderately qualified.
Susan Rice was immensely qualified for the job, but was shamelessly the butt of a smear campaign by the tag team of John McCain and Lindsey Graham who are itching for a return of Scott Brown to fill John Kerry's empty senate seat if he were to be nominated. Susan Rice would have been a good choice but would have been saddled by petty politics so she wisely bowed out of contention. A truly sad day for American public service. McCain and Graham will have to live with the shame of their actions.
Senator Richard Lugar
But the best revenge is to beat those two scoundrels at their own game. Obama should rise to the occasion and nominate the best person for the job. A Republican Senator who would sail through the confirmation process, and of whom McCain and Graham would not dare disapprove. The obvious choice is retired Senator Richard Lugar from Indiana. Lugar is a genuine heavyweight when it comes to international relations. He was a leader for years as part of the Senate's Foreign Relations, especially in the critical area of disarmament, most notably being a powerful proponent of nuclear non-proliferation. He was also instrumental in the education of the young Senator Barack Obama whom he took under his wing.
Senator Lugar on one of his trips with Senator Obama
Senator Lugar has been a leader in reducing the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. In 1991, he forged a bipartisan partnership with then-Senate Armed Services Chairman, Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), to destroy these weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union. To date, the Nunn-Lugar program has deactivated more than 7,500 nuclear warheads that were once aimed at the United States.
I cannot think of a better way for the President to show his political dexterity than to nominate a first class Republican for the job. A Republican unceremoniously dumped from the Senate by a buffoon named Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party favorite who then lost Lugar's seat to a Democrat as his campaign crumbled in disgrace.
Richard Lugar deserves better. He has been a giant in the Senate who has worked tirelessly for world peace and a principled Republican who would find himself at ease in a Democratic administration. What I don't understand is why he is barely mentioned in the press. Richard Lugar not only deserves the job, but would be an enormous asset to the Obama administration and an enormous boost to our country's prestige around the world.
Obvious, indeed.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Desperate Search for Scandal

Richard Nixon had Watergate. Jimmy Carter had the hostage crisis. Ronald Reagan had Iran/Contra. Bill Clinton had Monica. George W. Bush had bogus WMD. Barack Obama has Benghazi?
President Barack Obama
It seems that presidents are required to have scandals. From Harding's Tea Pot Dome scandal to Garfield’s Star Route scandal, it seems that almost every president needs some sort of scandal for the history books. And Barack Obama stubbornly resists anything remotely scandalous whether in his personal or public life. Apparently that just does not sit well with the Obama haters. I say Obama haters because there is a distinction between Obama opponents, people who disagree with his policies, his political ideas, and those who just hate the man for who and where he is. I am not talking about racism, although racism does play a role for some people. This level of visceral hate was directed at Bill Clinton and George Bush as well and there was no racism involved with those two.
American presidents create emotional reactions in people, both positive and negative. Witness the outpouring of grief when Kennedy was assassinated. The country was in shock and the outpouring of sorrow was genuine even among people who did not vote for him. Americans traditionally have a strong emotional relationship with their president and it expresses itself in the myriad of human emotions from the most positive to the most negative.

Barack Obama stubbornly resists 
anything remotely scandalous 
whether in his personal or public life. 

The Obama-haters have been trying unsuccessfully to create scandals out of whole cloth, from the laughable question of his citizenship, to his religion, even though the Constitution strictly prohibits a religious litmus test for holding high office. The irony, of course, is that perpetrators of these faux scandals presume to be staunch followers of the Constitution.
The relentless pursuit of scandal to pin on the Obama presidency continues unabated, however. The latest attempt emanates from the naked political opportunism of Mitt Romney who, knowing he was behind in the polls, tried a game changer when the tragic loss of our diplomatic personnel occurred in Libya. Romney saw fit to criticize President Obama the very same day of the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, before any facts were in. And then, in an ironic twist, Romney turned around and accused the President and his UN Ambassador of speaking out of turn. One has to give Romney credit for having failed to turn Benghazi into a game changing scandal and faced with his poor presentation of the issue in the debate, he quickly moved on and dropped the matter.
Still, the quest for scandal has a life of its own. Just as there are still people pushing the debunked myth of the President's birth place there are those who desperately are trying to turn a tragedy in a dangerous place into a scandal, rather than waiting for the results of the investigation about what went wrong and how to improve our security for diplomats serving in harm's way.
UN Ambassador Susan Rice
Even more preposterous is to point the finger of blame at UN Ambassador Susan Rice, who had no involvement in the tragedy other than to repeat the official talking points provided to her by the intelligence community. The attacks on Rice are particularly heinous and are only promulgated because the President has indicated that she is under consideration for the position of Secretary of State. What is particularly incredulous is that the small group of Senators who are attacking Rice are also promoting John Kerry for the job. Remarkably, they want us to believe their actions are all independent. They are redefining the concept of chutzpah by having the gall, as Republicans, to pick a Secretary of State for a Democratic president. Is it just me or is something profoundly wrong with this picture?
I feel almost sorry for those Republicans who feel the need to concoct a scandal for this President. He just refuses to cooperate. He has a Hallmark Card family and has proven to be incorruptible. Even though the economy is not in great shape, he won re-election because the majority of the public has been able to see through the fog and conclude that their President is basically a decent man, trying to do a good job for them in spite of all the obstacles put in front of him. Republicans sound increasingly desperate and, instead of working constructively with the President, are still trying to spin yarns in an attempt to weaken the one they think is impeding their agenda.
Haven’t they learned anything from the election?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Larry the cable guy's immortal words, “Git 'er done!” seem like the only rational statement regarding Congress' urgent need to prevent people making under $250,000 from getting an automatic tax hike by the end of this year.
Larry the Cable Guy
What's the holdup? Do Republicans really want the humiliation of voting in January against a bill lowering taxes on 98% of Americans? Because that is what will undoubtedly happen if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire on December 31. Surely, it is less traumatic for everyone if we can avoid an across the board tax increase, even if we might backpedal later.
Both Democrats and Republicans actually agree on preventing tax hikes for 98% of us, so it does make sense to start with what both liberals and conservatives agree on. There are plenty of other details that need to be worked out, since tackling the country’s fiscal problems is immensely complex.
However, can we start with the easy and obvious?
Even Larry the Cable Guy gets this. I would be shocked to find out that Larry wouldn't support this simple task. Republicans keep telling us that the markets are looking for certainty. It seems that House Republicans, by not supporting a bill to prevent tax hikes on the middle class, are creating uncertainty just before the critical holiday season when the economy is most vulnerable and are thereby hurting not only ordinary people but the business community as well. Why the business community is not screaming foul is beyond me. I wonder where the Chamber of Commerce is on this. It should not be shy about expressing an opinion on this critical issue while facing a rocky holiday shopping season for their members.
Having apparently learned little from the election, Republicans still seem to be willing to hold the majority of Americans hostage in order to protect their rich benefactors. And they wonder why they are having a hard time winning national elections! At least Mitt Romney only insulted 47% of Americans. Congressional Republicans are insulting 98% of us and they expect this will help them win future elections? How is holding this number of people hostage leverage, since we all agree on the same thing?