Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The self-righteous left



Here is the medicine I, and others of my ilk, will have to swallow. We, who lean to the left are a bunch of self-righteous do-gooders. And that’s okay, as long as we acknowledge it.

The other day I wrote a column on the Arrogance of the Right. And, believe me, they are. Then I began to see people sprouting up all over taking on Chick fil-a. The company’s owner, a devout Christian is firmly against same-sex marriage, among other things. And he and his company have been lambasted in the media by people who have called him vile names and threatened to keep him out of certain cities.

And that too is okay, except for the cities getting involved. I have already written on that. It is not their business. It starts to violate the First Amendment when a governmental body exercises the editorial power of free speech. Not a good thing for either side.

But as I watched the arguments grow, I realized the left gave no room for debate. (To be sure, the right never does, but the whole point of the left is we are supposed to. That is part of being liberal. To be open to other views. To discuss and to think. We don’t have to accept them, but we do have to acknowledge them.)

So let us – those of us who stand left of center – raise our hands and say, “We are self-righteous. We admit it and we’ll work on it.” To be sure, waging a boycott on a Chicken Man is no big deal. He deserves it. But we have to also allow for him to hold to his beliefs. He has that right. In the arguments that flow out of a society that is dancing around many hot topics, let us never lose sight that in America, the other guy is entitled to his beliefs, so long as they do not cross the law endangering others.

It is tough. Hard to stomach at times. I even cringe when the ACLU defends Nazis when they fight to uphold their constitutional rights to meet, to parade and to be down right obnoxious. But the ACLU understands that if you take those rights away from the Skinheads, the Nazis, the Klu Klux Klan and others, you also run the risk of taking it away from you and me.

Sleep on that. It will have you tossing and turning, I promise you.

This democracy thing is not easy. It is not Sarah Plain and Glenn Beck black and white. It never is and it never was and out founding fathers knew that. Remember, over a third of the people in the colonies supported King George. They knew consensus is hard to build. But protecting the right to build it, protecting the right to air ideas about building it– the very core of our freedoms – that is crucial to our democratic way of life.

Go ahead throw verbal rocks. You have that right. (As long as they are verbal. You have the right to hold any idea in your head and to express it with free speech…nothing guarantees you the right to throw real rocks.) Throw your verbal assaults at people you disagree with – but allow them – for you must in our system – the right to shout back at you with their own ideas. Call it give and take.

Or call it America.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mit doesn't get it.


Yesterday, in response to a Facebook entry, I wrote the following:

            Now, he (Mitt Romney) wants us to move our embassy to Jerusalem. Every other country has settled with the Israeli suggestions on Tel Aviv. Why? Because Jerusalem is supposed to be neutral for the three world's religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It was hard fought and a long time coming and cost a lot of lives, but about ten years ago they came to that consensuses. But Mitt is so mighty and powerful he wants to break that understanding and do something that would piss off the two sides and lead to trouble all over again. ARROGANCE. Read my blog from July 27th. This is the most arrogant son of a bitch we've had running for office in 100 years. You put Mitt in the top office in the free world and we are going up shit creek without a paddle. He's that dangerous.

I made two glaring mistakes in that paragraph:

  One, there are obviously far more than three religions.

  Two: I should have capitalized the last three words. They are that important.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

A game of chicken


I am going to weight in on the Chick-fil-a controversy.

One: They have a right to believe anything they want and to express that belief.  I believe it is protected in the Constitution of the United States.

Two:  Those who disagree with them have the right to believe anything they want and to express themselves accordingly and that, too is protected by the Constitution of the United States.

Three: I believe that other organizations such as Facebook et al, who have pulled the plug on Chick-fil-a for their stand have the right to do that, just as the advertisers on shows like Rush Limbaugh’s have the right to pull their advertising from his hate mongering messages. But those who wish to stay and advertise there with him, have that right, too.

So, where does that leave us?

If you so desperately disapprove of a company’s stance on something, then by all means do not support that company. If you find their corporate creed and their political action donations offensive, then you should vote your conscious and withdraw support from their products. But remember, they have the right to hold those beliefs. Right or wrong, so long as they do it lawfully.

You want to shut down Rush? Go after his advertisers. You want to shut down the bigoted Chick fil-a, quit buying their delicious sandwiches. (If you don’t, try putting the slaw on the sandwich-ummm good.) But remember, this works both ways. So you have to be willing to have your ideals and ideas boycotted at some future date by those who disagree with you.

Think of it as quid pro quo for karma.

I’m not sure who makes a chicken sandwich as good as the guys from Atlanta. I guess nobody. So a lot of you are going to have to look around and find a replacement sandwich, which fills the bill, as they say. Or you are going to have to say, I don’t mind crossing the lines and eating at a company who promotes hatred, bigotry and backward thinning in the name of religious freedom. (By the way, be careful, there are a lot of them. You might go hungry and under clothed for some time.) But that is America. They have a right to do what they do and you have a right not to buy their products if you do not want to.

That being said, I do believe mayors and city councils and others who would prohibit a tax-paying corporation from coming into their communities are wrong. It basically is saying, you have to think and believe just as we do, or you can’t do business here. That, too, is wrong. And dangerous. Why?

Besides being un-American, it can easily be turned around against you and your movement. Say you stand against Capital Punishment. And let’s say you run a series of very successful shops. You use the money you make to campaign against the killing of prisoners by the state. (Okay, I’m with you, I’ll buy your products.) But now Houston and San Antonio and Dallas and Pittsburgh and God knows where else decide that they believe in Capital Punishment and will not allow your business to open in their cities. Oops!

You are being singled out because of your beliefs. You are being persecuted because of what you hold to be a moral right. You are being denied the right to run a business because of a political stance. Wrong.

Turn about is only fair. Even if the beliefs are wrong. And that’s why this whole business of public institutions getting into the fray is wrong. Facebook is not a public institution. It is a business. They have the right to express an opinion and to run their anti Chick-fil-a message and procedures just as you do. It is their money and their game.

But Chicago, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Boston, and other municipalities are walking a fine line by entering this argument. Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, who I rarely agree with on anything, said, “You can’t have a test for what the owners’ personal views are before you decide to give a permit to do something in the city…You really don’t want to ask political beliefs or religious beliefs before you issue a permit. That’s just not government’s job.” It doesn’t feel American either.

I agree with His Honor this time. I think it is not in the best interest of our country to so engage our public institutions. What’s next? Congress entering the fight? State legislatures? I hope not.

My argument is not whether gays and lesbians should or should not have marital rights in our country. That is for another column on another day. My argument is that the discourse and the actions of that discourse should be carried out with the understanding that both sides have rights. And what is good for the goose shall sometimes come back and work quite well for the gander.




Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fishing for voters...with the wrong bait



Fishing.

There is a theory among anglers that to catch a fish you have to think like a fish. That means you have to present a lure that reminds the fish of what lunch should look like. It should be moved just so, so the fish will think it is moving just like lunch should move. It should wiggle just so, start and stop just so and in the end, make the fish very, very hungry for lunch.

But even that sometimes doesn’t work. Sometimes the fish doesn't want what you are offering.

Sometimes you need to drop a couple of sticks of dynamite into the pond and blow the suckers right out of the water.

That’s what the Citizen’s United fall out is doing to the 2012 election. On both sides (although the right seems to have more dynamite than the left.) the Super PACS explode massive amounts of TNT underwater the the independent fish come floating to the surface dazed and confused. The idea then, is that the GOP candidates will scoop them up into their nets and waltz away with the election.

But wait. Something is happening. It is not working.

The fish are catching on.  They are swimming away from the big loud bangs and getting into deeper and safer water and ignoring the hoopla.

Two recent polls show that the GOP is losing ground. Too much mud and too little facts. Too much hate and no programs of their own. Too much noise and not enough listening. Too much chest beating and not enough cooperation. And when they do speak, they seem to put their feet into their mouths – this is true from the top candidate on down to the local boys.  (“Mitt the Twitt.”  God love the Brits. They tell it like it is.)

I have a theory as to why all of tis is happening to the GOP.

They are not very smart people. They believe in all the conspiracy theories and all the “we’re going straight to hell in hand basket if so and so is elected” propaganda. Whoa  to us. God will turn his back on us if we elect a Democrat. And then there is Palin and her Arab- hunting, Islamic -hating undercover agents telling her that the government has been infiltrated with spies far more deadly than any soviet-era spy could ever be. Can you say McCarthy? Can you say idiot. Can you say Glen Beck?

If America is one thing it is a pond of pretty smart fish.  Not all. Some are slow and stupid, but they will get eaten fairly soon. When given the opportunity the bright ones will bite a lure from time-to-time that is not tasty, but usually in four years they spit it back. But let the whole pond explode from the idiots and the big money and the Super PACS and watch as the fish will flee to somewhere else.

In some ways I laugh at the Kocks and the Roves of the world. Spend your billions. Spend your tens of billions. You are just turning off the voters – some are even ones you had before you started.  Keep the crap flying. It is working. For us. Not for you.

Oh yeah, one other thing…just try and touch my Affordable health care. Watch what comes out of the pond after your ass.




Friday, July 27, 2012

Right To be Arrogant.


Arrogance.

It finally came to me. That is what the Right, especially their poster boy Mitt Romney, have in abundance. Arrogance.

It is the ability to look at the world and say only our way. To look at a situation and say we have the solution and nobody else does. To step into the firefight and suggest that regardless of the circumstance that only their ideas will work.

Kind of reminds me of East Texas Baptist when I was growing up. You either accepted our theology, or you were on the wrong side. Period. And we had the Bible backing our position. (Even though certain controversial topics from that good book were omitted in their teachings.)

Today the Right is the same. It has the same self-assure arrogance that only it can save the world. Only the Right can bring America the success it once knew. (The Right somehow forgets that in 8 years under Bush/Chaney it went from on top of the world to bankruptcy…but they don’t preach that from their pulpits.) And when you remind them of this fact they resort to, “Oh trying to run on history are we?” No. Just trying not to repeat it again.

Arrogance.

It starts with the media moguls and their talk-show hosts and it spreads down the food chain from billionaires to millionaires to old white people, to people who have no front teeth and didn’t finish junior high school. But boy do they have the answers.

Then the Poster Boy goes to Great Britain for the beginning of his world tour to showcase his eloquent diplomacy skills (I am sure some handler said, “He’s rich and they will love him overseas. He’s like a king, like a rich monarch already. He will wow them with his charm…) and immediately Mitt puts his foot into his big old mouth by saying that the London Games are a shamble.

The Prime Minister answers that the little Island nation that Romney criticized is about to put on a spectacular show in one of the world’s most hustling and bustling cities. Not in some out of the way scrubville place like Salt Lake City.

Slam.

Let’s check the score. Prime Minister gets 6 points and Mitt is a -3.

We’re not playing political golf here, so Romney just fell far behind. But worse, he showed he is not ready for prime time world stage yet. In fact, the English Press said that Sarah Palin was smarter. Ouch.

Score now…England 25…Mitt -5. It is looking bad.

And it all started with Mitt being arrogant. Thinking he was above it all. Thinking because he had staged an Olympic games in the mountains of Utah he could pass judgment on a nation who is supposed to be one of our allies. Throw a zinger or two at them. Why not. He’s a rich, callous American with little sense about world politics and patriotic feelings. (God help us if he makes a speech at the Wailing Wall.)

This guy is not ready for the prime time. He is not ready to be resident. In fact, He is not even ready to go back to Bain Capital. (The rules on Wall Street have changes so, that it is doubtful that Mitt could lead them anywhere but straight down.) Just send him home. And let him take all those self-righteous arrogant Right Wingers with him.

He, nor they, have all the answers. Especially not the shallow, simple answers they espouse all the time. The world is a complex and difficult place to steer a nation such as ours through. President Obama has seen how hard it is. And you do not do it standing on the foredeck thumbing your nose at other countries. You don’t even do it at home trying go it alone. You need to build a coalition with those on the other side. Obama tried, but the Arrogant Right will not even stop to negotiate. “Our way or the Highway.” That’s what Obama got.

Arrogance.

Oh yeah, I love the part about Mitt not wanting America to become a second tier, unimportant power like England and Europe. Way to build up our allies, Mitt old boy. Really good show, dick head. Mitt, keep sending all our jobs off shore and that is exactly what this land of the free will become.

Arrogance.

Let’s keep it out of the seat of power. Let’s put thoughtful people there who can communicate and who can listen. Who can learn to work together.

Mitt is not in that club. And he can’t buy his way in.






Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Miss OJ and Nancy Kerrigan!


You know, TV has a way of ruining everything. 

I mean I am already tired of the Olympics and they haven’t even started yet. I am tired of the presidential race and we still have 100 days to go. I am tired of Penn State. Tired of the Catholic Church. Tired of Wall Street cheaters walking free.

And I am really tired of this red-headed clown who shot all those people in Colorado. I don’t want to see him anymore. I don’t want to hear about him anymore. I really don’t give a damn what his mother has to say.

But TV latches onto a story and it will not let it go.  Do you remember a few years ago when Nancy Kerrigan had her knees bashed in by the other little tart of an ice skater. They were on the news forever. Remember what bounced them off the evening news?  OJ’s white Bronco chase through L.A. Then we had OJ for at least ten years.

News should be that. New.  Not the same story over and over and over and over again.

But give the media a chance to drain every drop of blood from the turnip and they will. And my favorite is when the local stations add in their local color. “The connection between the teen shooter in Norway and the Dallas Ft Worth area. Next right after this message from McDonalds.”  And you know what the connection was?  We sell guns like the kind he used to kill all those campers. BFD! Why channels 8, 4 and 5 and whoever else is out there interviewed every gunshop owner on either side of the Trinity and got the same answer. “Yeah, we sell those guns right here in Texas.”

Or my favorite. I was living in LA when a volcano came up through the ground in some Central American dictatorship. There was satellite video and overhead video and some poor dumbass stringer traipsed out there and shot footage a the lava came right at him. But the news readers in LA had to give it a local spin, as if the death of 400 brown skinned neighbors to our south wasn’t bad enough. “In a field less that a hundred miles from the summer home of actor Gary Busey… a volcano erupted…”  I swear to God…the local connection was a washed-up, has-been alcoholic actor lived in a summer home about an hour and a half from the scene of the destruction. Really?

To be fair, I think Busey lived closer to the epicenter than that, but the point is, who cares?  And why is that even part of the story. And did the LA stations have a follow up the next night about the human tragedy amidst the fires and lava rivers flowing through that tiny country? Nope. There was a scandal in the fast food sellers at Dodger Stadium.  And the news media wanted answers from the mayor and his auditors.

From volcanoes to hot dogs. 24 hours. It makes a difference. And I wouldn’t mind that if they did that with every story. I understand you have to stay on top of some stories. But know the difference. No when it is news and when it is fluff.  And don’t keep giving us more and more fluff.

Somebody wanted to know why NBC’s Today Show was having such poor ratings. I’ll tell you. Too much fluff.  Stuff that doesn’t really make a difference. How to melt chocolate for little Johnny’s birthday cake isn’t nearly as vital as chasing the crooks who are stealing your money on Wall Street and getting away with it. But guess what we get? Chocolate man.

And we keep getting it.  Why?  Because the marketing executives field research and focus groups and the little old ladies sitting in those focus groups don’t want to hear about crime and drugs and taxes and the cure to deficit. They want Chocolate Man.

The TV is on in my studio as I type this. The Olympics are almost here., the promo says with a great deal of exuberance and fan fare. There is even a jingle. And I can’t wait for them to be over. Cowboy summer camp is about to start. I can’t wait for the Super Bowl to be here and gone.

Ah oh, they’ve got the Colorado shooter’s aunt on at ten. More fluff. Not news. Maybe we could get her doing a song and dance number with Chocolate Man.






What Kentucky Could Teach Penn State.

The following is reprint from the New York Times. I decided that it said something so valuable in the wake of the news from Penn State that it needed to be shared. Hope the NYT doesn't come after me, but I am giving them all the credit. all I did was cut and paste.

What Kentucky Can Teach Penn State

There was no sugarcoating the situation when Rick Pitino met with C. M. Newton to be presented with a unique but perilous coaching opportunity. But unlike Bill O’Brien, who signed on to replace Joe Paterno at Penn State, Pitino knew exactly what he was getting himself into.
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press
Rick Pitino at an NCAA game in March.
Interviews, insight and analysis from The Times on the competition and culture of college football.
Newton, Kentucky’s new athletic director, visited Pitino in 1989 at his home in Bedford, N.Y., to lay out what the first two years would look like if Pitino quit the Knicks to help resurrect a defamed college basketball program that had narrowly avoided the N.C.A.A.’s so-called death penalty for major recruiting violations and academic fraud.
“C. M. said, ‘We’ve been hit really hard,’ ” Pitino said. “No TV, no postseason tournaments, no players. We had eight kids — and they basically were the guys who didn’t play, who grew up in Kentucky and always dreamed of playing there.”
Stars or not, what do you tell those who awoke to a scorched earth and must pay for the sins of the departed? How do you keep emotional and impressionable young men in your tattered tent when they are free to flee and experts are already assuring them their team will be enshrouded in competitive darkness?
You begin, perhaps, by trying to convince them that a community’s restoration of principles and pride might actually be worth more in the grand scheme of things than the pursuit of a trophy. Or, as in the current case of Penn State, a hypothetical trip to the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl.
“We did lose a couple of players, but the guys that stayed, we told them, ‘You’re going to be able to really do something really different here,’ ” Pitino said from his current perch in Louisville. “ ‘Every night you play, you’re going to be in what feels like a tournament game.’ And that I think is what Bill O’Brien can tell his players: every game is going to be your bowl game.”
Whether Penn State should be playing football next season on television, or at all, is another debatable matter but not the reality for O’Brien and his players any more than the guilty-as-charged evil of Jerry Sandusky and the alleged negligence of Paterno are their responsibility.
“You feel sorry for yourself and you say: Why are we being punished?” said Deron Feldhaus, one of the players who carried on with Pitino. “But my dad had played at Kentucky. I had also been redshirted my freshman year so I would have had to sit out a year had we transferred. And I also knew that by my senior year we would have a chance to play in the tournament again, so all of us in that class put a lot on that.”
O’Brien could be cutting and pasting to field a team next season but will no doubt be pitching a similar plan by next year to potential recruits: redshirt a year, help lead us back to bowl prominence by the time you’re a junior. The forecasts of a decade or more of football misery at Penn State may be overstating the case in a college sports culture that is primarily defined by continuous change.
With the understanding that basketball requires fewer players to form a competitive team, Pitino did not experience so much as a losing season at Kentucky, going 14-14 in 1989-90 with a core of the aforementioned in-state players — Feldhaus, Richie Farmer and John Pelphrey — and Sean Woods, a point guard from Indianapolis.
But more than the ability of that team to tread water, Feldhaus recalled the sense of appreciation and relief over the mere opportunity to carry on.
“The games weren’t on TV that first year, so everyone wanted to come out,” he said in a telephone interview. “And the crowds, I don’t know, they just seemed louder that season than they’d ever been.”
Without touching on transgressions, Pitino noted the emotional similarities to his and O’Brien’s first-year circumstances, if only because Kentucky basketball is every bit the state passion that Penn State football has been to a large part of Pennsylvania.
“I remember the Sports Illustrated cover with a kid in uniform with his back to the reader and the headline, ‘Kentucky’s Shame,’ ” Pitino said. “That was pretty much how everyone there felt, kind of humiliated.”
Do students and alumni fuel the bonfires of impropriety with their unbridled passion? Are sports too ingrained in the university psyche? We can argue all that and lecture the masses on how we are long overdue on scaling it all back.
But let’s be honest: running parallel to the coverage of the Penn State nightmare has been the collective news media crusade for a football tournament that would only bring more television money into the pool, escalate the arms race in the hysterical quest to be No. 1 and further empower the coaches who wind up in control of the institutional hedge fund of ethics.
During Pitino’s long career, his celebrity fortunes have soared to the top and on one occasion scraped the bottom, but when asked to rank his most gratifying experiences, he cited two that were inextricably tied to personal feelings and overachievement: his upstart Providence team reaching the 1987 Final Four soon after the death of a young son and his first Kentucky teams that pushed up from where there was no place else to go.
In his second season at Kentucky, upgraded with a new recruiting class, Pitino coached a team that went 22-6 but still could not play in the N.C.A.A. tournament. In Year 3, Kentucky made the East Regional final, losing to Duke on Christian Laettner’s buzzer beater in one of sport’s most memorable games.
More than that, Pitino said he relished the ceremonial satisfaction of watching the jerseys of that team’s four seniors — Feldhaus, Pelphrey, Farmer and Woods — soon after raised to the rafters at Rupp Arena.
“When I first got to Kentucky I was an outsider, and I didn’t understand how deep the wounds were and what it meant to those people,” he said. “I had tears in my eyes watching those jerseys go up there, and I think that’s when I finally got it.”
Those seniors — known in Kentucky as the Unforgettables — helped peeled away for a short time the layers of ostentation that have bloated big-time college sports. At Penn State, there is no choice but to get smaller and think smaller. Given the somewhat grotesque feeding frenzy the N.C.A.A. has sanctioned, players have every right to leave to play for a national title or simply on a team not staggered by scandal.
There are no guarantees anywhere, but those who stay may discover there are rewards to downscaling they never would have imagined.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Health Care Just Got Even More Affrodable


In today’s Dallas Morning News, (Wednesday, July 25, 2012) the top lead story on the front page says that “Health law will shrink deficit, budget office says”.

Now wait a minute. After all the hoopla from Perry, Dewhurst and Cruz in Texas alone, and from Mitt on the national campaign trail, not to mention every billionaire’s Super PAC along with the so-called Tea Party that the first thing they want to do is kill Obamacare, because it is ruining America; the fact is the act is going to lower the deficit. That is something of a major story. (Even though the on-line version of the paper failed to carry it. Must be run by Young Republicans.)

So let’s get this all laid out nice and easy so my GOP friends, who can’t seem to follow logic can at least follow this. 

With fewer non-complying, indigent patients – uninsured people – (freeloaders in your terms) the Act will lower taxes needed to cover their care and that will cut federal cost by $84-billion. (Hell, that almost as much as Mitt has hidden off shore…sorry that was a cheap shot…we all know he has more than that hidden.)

This audit was run by the non-partisan budget office especially challenged by Congress (Controlled by the right wing of the GOP) to find the real cost of the Affordable health Care Act. (Obamacare.) By the way, the same office warned us in 2005 that carrying on two overseas wars with no taxes to support them would lead to dire consequences. They were right. Can you say recession?  Apparently the W could not, or if he could, the Dickster wouldn’t let him in public.

Why am I harping on this today? Because this election is about sound bites. Both sides taking cheap shots at one another. But an audit done by people who over and over find the skunk in the woodpile on our behalf, have said, “hey this thing is going to save us a butt-load of cash.”

It is time we listen to the auditors and not to Rush and Hannity and all the other right-wing pundits. After all, the real reason they are against the Act has nothing to do with the math behind it. They are against it because of the man behind it.

And that is very petty.









Monday, July 23, 2012

America in Black and White

I posted this on my Facebook wall but several friends said I should make it my Tuesday blog...a bit early, since many people aren't on Facebook and follow me here.
American...in black and white.

An actual encounter today at the lunch counter:

I was seated at Wild About Harry’s today in Dallas (If you don’t know it, it is the best ice cream in the solar system and the hot dogs are good, too.) when two men next to me got into a discussion about Obamacare. They both rather loudly proclaimed it was the government’s duty (The meant Congress) to wipe it away. It was about to ruin America. I decided to ask how?

They sat and looked at me like I had two heads.

How is Obamacare about to ruin America? I asked it again.

“Well, ah…hum…ah…”

“Once more. You said Obamacare is about to ruin America. How?”

The younger of the two (that made him about forty-five) said “It just is.”

“Because it is going to keep people from getting life-saving care?” I asked.

“Oh no. Not that.” The older man was about seventy. they could have been father and son.

“Because it is going to allow people who have pre-existing conditions to get insurance and can’t be turned away?”

The elder one said, “No. That’s a good thing.”

“Is it that prescription drug costs will come down?”

“No. I suppose that is okay as well. Yes. When you think about it that is good.”

“Well, maybe then it is going to ruin America because now you and I don’t have to pay so much in local tax to treat indigent users in local hospital ER rooms for things they could go to a regular doctor with?”

The younger one, “No. No that’s a good thing. A very good thing.”

"Is it the mandatory coverage?”

The older guy spoke up here. “Nope. I actually understand that. Everyone has to be covered for it to be fair. Supreme Court opened my eyes to that one. At first I thought it was kind of like communism, but now I see it is just like car insurance. Everyone has to be covered for it to be fair.

“So, guys, I’m not getting it. Less cost, more people covered, cheaper insurance for us all and even the dead beats have to get covered. And people who have been sick can’t be denied coverage and kids coming out of college can get coverage without going into the poor house. It all sounds good. So how is this ruining America?”

They looked at each other and said, “Obama is ruining America. That’s how.”

“If this were Romney’s insurance plan…say like the one in Massachusetts… would you be in favor of it?’

Older guy. “You bet.”

“You know this is almost his exact plan. And it was devised by the Heritage Foundation, which the Kock Brothers support. A very conservative think tank.”

Young guy. “It’s still Obama’s plan.”

“So, he is the problem?”

“Yeah.” The both said that together.

“Okay. Why? You just told me his healthcare plan was basically okay. You told me that if it were Romney’s, you’d support it in a heartbeat. But because it came from the Obama administration, you are against it. Right?”

The both nodded.

“Why?”

The older guy. “He’s ruining America.”

And so were back to the beginning. Only now we know that they really don’t dislike Obamacare. They just hate Obama’s guts. They were white and rich and live in Highland Park and they don’t want their nest egg taxed more than the 12-15% it is. (I pay close to 30% for the sake of being transparent–open and fair in this column).

I then looked at the two and asked, thinking I knew how they would weasel out of the questions –“If President Obama were white, would you like him?”

The younger one shocked me. “If he were white he’d be seen as a good leader. I’d say he would have done a very good job considering what he inherited from George.” (Note “George”…they probably know the W personally.) But he’s not. We don’t need one of his kind in the White House.”

America…there is your problem. There is your 2012 election.

The ice cream is good at Wild About Harry’s. The conversation was civil and open. It just made me see we really are still two societies split by race. In some ways it is still 1964. Only now, for a shot time, we have universal health insurance.
 
 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Maybe the Death penalty isn’t what Penn State deserves.



Michael Rosenberg makes a case in Sports Illustrated for Penn State not getting the death penalty over the child sex scandal on their campus. The first piece to his argument is that that the entire scandal was in the hands of a very few people.

Like SMU’s wasn’t?

At least the Pony’s didn’t rape anybody. No, what the did was show very poor institutional judgment in allowing Bobby Cox and his band of thugs to run a football program on a college campus with illegal players. All that happened at Penn State was Joe Pa allowed a sex scandal to go on for over a decade and turned his back along with the back of the institution away from his top assistant coach while he defiled young men time and time and time again. Yes Joe pa helped turn the attention of the administration away from the problem and told them it was no big deal. Look away, look away. Oh yeah, and give me a bigger contract. Look away.

I don’t know, but I’d rather see a few inner city kids paid to play a bit of football for the U than I would seeing the same U condone and allow child rape to happen continually on the campus for a decade.

Give Penn State the death penalty and do it now.  If the NCAA drags its feet on this it should be ashamed.

Or…

Let Penn State play football and every penny, every nickel every dollar the program takes in for the next thirty years goes to the victims and their families. Every last cent. And let them be audited ever year by the NCAA and if they are caught cheating, shut the whole damn school down, not just the athletic department.

If Americans aren’t morally outraged over this, then God save America. We turned our backs on the Catholic Church and their little sexual escapades with choir boys and alter boys and said, well, hell they are just priests.  The Pope paid a bunch of folks off and it was over. Let us pray…and please tithe we need the cash.

But Joe Pa and his gang…now that is true religion…and it went sour. Now that institution should pay and pay big.

Every cent made from football for the next 30 years goes to a trust fund for victims of sexual abuse and child sexual crimes. After thirty years, Penn State can be allowed to make a profit, if anyone cares by then. Its glory will be gone, along with its programs. And this way, we didn’t have to have the death penalty – just a huge tax for an institution harboring evil within its walls.

Rosenberg goes on to say that if we allow the NCAA to give Penn State the DP, then anytime an athlete fails a drug test and the coach looks away and that athlete kills someone in a car under the influence, they should step in. (Hey, if the U knows about it and does nothing about it, I agree with that. So, Michael, why have a governing body looking out for people who play the sports, if the governing body isn't going to stand up to rogue institutions like SMU was and Penn Sate was? What's good for the goose is also good for the gander.)

Penn State you are on paid probation for 30 years. Clock starts now.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Guns, guns, guns.



It took less than two hours after the breaking news awakened us on Friday morning about the massacre at a theater in Colorado, for one nut to send me a message that said to stop this kind of slaughter of human life, every American should pack heat. Should be forced by law to pack heat.

For full disclosure, I am a Second Amendment rights advocate. People should be allowed to own guns. No question. Period. But to carry them around like Jessie James is ridiculous, stupid and defies logic. I interviewed several of my buddies on the local police force and to the man (and one woman) they all said, “NO” to arming citizens on the street. One even went so far as to say that giving the general public open license to carry guns around would be tantamount of starting the next big war.

The “I’ve ben in office too long” governor of Texas, Rick Perry, had suggested after a student shooting, that all students should be required to carry handguns for protection on college campuses. He was serious, too. Can you image that?  I can. It would be a drunken blood bath. Carnage 101.

Look, the crime in Aurora, Colorado is horrible. Whether you are a gun owner or not, it is an insult to the civility which Americans try to prescribe for their daily lives. The peace and tranquility we so desperately want, the safety for our families and friends we try and envelope around us, will not be aided by crackpots calling for more guns on people and more guns on the streets.

The opposite will happen. It’s like saying to stop HIV we need more unprotected sex.

What this country does need is an awakening to the fact that serious sick people are getting their hands on guns. What can we do about that? I don’t have an answer this morning, but I promise you I will be thinking about it. And if you are a member of the NRA, I would suggest you get your organization thinking about it as well. Because every time there is one of these huge shootings, the Second Amendment gets weakened ever so slightly and soon, I fear, the legs beneath its support will come crashing down.

The best way to halt the erosion of support for gun ownership protection is to find a way to keep the nutcases from owning guns. It is going to take some real open and honest looking at the problem.

What it doesn’t need is loud-mouth crazies calling for everyone to arm themselves on America’s streets.



















Stalemate in Washington


Two unrelated items that will let you see what is wrong with the GOP.

One, the Senate blocked a jobs/tax bill that would have given business a 20% tax break for bringing jobs back to U.S. soil. 20%! Voted it down. It wasn’t along party lines. Several GOP Senators voted for the President’s proposal and one even said afterwords "We’re going to pay hell for this." He’s right about that.

Second item. GOP-led House of Representatives voted for a $606 Billion military-spending bill. That’s $2 billion more than the White House asked for. That’s $2 Billion more than the Pentagon asked for. That covers defense programs Dick Chaney lobbied for. How many Americans could have used a $ 2Billion decrease in taxes, or coverage in healthcare or funds placed into the system to help support job growth?

Now you read these and you have to wonder whose side Washington is on?  Congress sure doesn’t get it. The Tea Party has raised all kinds of ruckus for lowering taxes and reducing spending. Here are two bills that, in their original states would have done both, and yet it was the Republican block of votes that stopped them.

Why?

It is a way to get at the President. Stop a jobs bill and no jobs can happen from it. When economic reporting shows a slow down in new jobs, you can take a punch or two at the President’s financial policies not working.

You wonder why we have a stalemate in Washington. We have idiots in Congress. And most of them (not all) sit on the right hand side of aisle.

If you had offered American businesses  a 20% Tax Credit under the Bush administration, on top of the tax cuts they already had received, the Chamber of Commerce would have paid to have a giant W carved on Mount Rushmore. But put a black, democrat in the White House and all hell breaks loose. “Do anything to slow down his policies from working. Discredit him at every turn.” That is the mantra in the Republican controlled Congress. But people are starting to see through this. In a recent Pew Poll, Americans survey said by a 67% majority that most of the blame in the faltering economy now belongs to Congress. Not Obama. Read that again. Over 6 in 10 Americans think congress is the culprit in not solving our economic woes and are standing in the way of the president and his policies. (The number is growing, by the way. The last survey had it at an even 50-50 split.)

I keep getting messages from my right-wing buddies saying, “Fear the government. Fear it.” They are absolutely correct. Fear the extreme right-wing Congress because it is going to ruin the American system.

The most dangerous movement against America is not from outside our shores, it is from the Tea Party. It is vindictive and ignorant. Two very bad traits to have in one political movement.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Africa may never be the same


Today my younger daughter departs for Africa. I am so proud of her. She is breaking out of her shell in ways I never dreamed I’d see.  But that is what parenting is about. Watching your children grow up to be who they truly are; and not who we insist they be.

Meredith is going on a mission trip to take care of orphans in Zambia. Most of these kids have been orphaned because of AIDS and HIV. Let me run over a little math for you. The country has a population of about 13,000,000. Half of those are under the age of 21 and half of those are orphaned. That comes out to be about 3,250,000 orphans. Or roughly one quarter of the country’s population with no parents. To say it is a massive problem is a gross understatement.

Meredith and her crew will not solve the problem in the ten days they are there. The next crew that follows them and the next and the next will not either. But they will help. And that is vitally important. From the mundane of sharing pencils and paper for schooling, to the ridiculously simple – delivering shoes for bare feet – the work goes on. Year round.

To me, I can think back to a few years ago when Meredith didn’t want to get off the sofa in the summer. Cartoons were on. Now she is traveling the world helping those far less fortunate than herself. But she does it at home, too. She works with inner city kids at an urban high school in central Texas. A school with a high number of unmarried mothers in their teens – a high number of students doing dangerous drugs. A school with a huge drop-out rate. A school that has seen more than its share of suicides. She works there to deliver something – hope. She works there to deliver a message, don’t give up on yourself. Life is vital. Live it. Even when it hurts, live it.

That is a message of love when it comes from one who is there with you week after week.  And she has been. In Africa, she will not get that. She will come in and then leave. But others will follow and the chain will, as the song says, be unbroken.

Yes, today my daughter travels halfway around the world to do what she has been doing in her own backyard. Caring for kids not her color or even her religion. Just caring.

I am proud of her. I wish her God’s speed. And I remind her, you are making a difference. And that is the most important thing a person can do with their life.

Right on, Meredith. Right on.




Monday, July 16, 2012

The good. The bad. And the winners.


(AP) TOULOUSE, France - Tour de France riders have already battled crashes, flares, and fans or dogs straying into their roads. Now, some ne'er-do-well dumped tacks on the road, and if the aim was to disrupt cycling's big race, it worked.
But as cyclists often do in the face of difficulty, they kept going.
Bradley Wiggins of Britain, the Queen Bee of the pack because he is wearing the yellow jersey, drew plaudits for at least slowing its pace and waiting for defending champ Cadel Evans in Sunday's Stage 14.
Tour officials estimated that around 30 competitors in the main pack blew flats near the day's steepest climb, the Mur de Peguere, as Luis Leon Sanchez led a breakaway far ahead of the trouble to win the stage. One rider crashed as a result of the tacks.

It is Tour de France time. And that always brings out the weird stories.

And what a story! Tacks in the road during the world’s most famous bike race. Tacks! Who would do such a thing?

But the real news buried in the story was that Bradley Wiggins held up the leaders in the peloton to wait on last year’s champion, Cadel Evans. That is true sportsmanship. Unlike Alberto Contador, who year before last, ran off and left his only challenger, Andy Schleck, with a broken chain on the side of a mountain. Contador was and is a sad case of super ego gone bad. Forget that he was a doper. Forget he had to give up the yellow jersey to Schleck for cheating. He was and is not a sportsman. Not when you compared his actions to the acts of Wiggins, who effectively kept a major competitor and rival in the hunt for the yellow jersey – as is the accepted custom of the cycling sport.  It was a most selfless act. You don’t witness that much any longer in professional sports. One of the last big time champions I saw do it was Lance Armstrong, who held back the entire race waiting for fallen competitors to have a chance to catch up.

Money – winning – and the money that comes with winning– as well as the sponsorship and the money it brings, have all but killed sportsmanship in sports. Sounds like money is the root of these evils.

There was a story of a girl in Ohio named Megan Vogel who helped a competitor across the finish line after the competitor collapsed from exhaustion in a long-distance race at a state finals track meet this past spring. Megan had already one the 1600-meter race and was trying for the 3200-meter win, as she saw the other runner fall. She stopped, helped her up and they crossed the line 14th and 15th; Megan, letting her fallen rival cross ahead of her. Nobody is interviewing the winner of the race. I am not writing about her. I am writing about somebody who did something right in sports.  For a change. No dancing in the end zone. No spiking the ball.  No backflips or burnouts. Just quietly doing what is right.

Just like Bradley Wiggins, who may well win the Tour de France – but again, he may not. But he is by far and away a better competitor than Contador of Spain will ever be with or without the yellow jersey. Because he did what was right. Alberto Contador and his handlers hid behind the excuse that the waiting on a competitor is not written down in the rules. No. And neither is being a gentleman. As Jim Clarke of Scotland said after losing the Indy 500 on a technicality he could have challenged, “Gentlemen do not protest.” Sportsman are supposed to do certain things. Like being big sports.

I wish there were more of these stories in sports. But the winner take all mentality has changed the soul of the games –all games. And I am not sure that soul is a very healthy one at that anymore.

As for the person who threw the tacks on the road’s surface, my you have one hundred punctures in your tires for the next ten years.



Obama stepped over the line


I have been working on a new web site. Well, not me myself…but a designer who seems to know a whole lot more about the world of social media and electrons than I ever will. But the process has shown me that we are in the midst of an ever-increasing dilution of our privacy. And this worries me.

Beside the fact that I have to keep up with a a trillion id’s and passwords for accounts that don’t make much sense to me, each of those accounts wants some vital information about my life. And when taken in total, it is a real load of information. By aggregate, it is not so much. But lose a password or have a site cracked and your whole world could start to fall apart.

There was an article in the newspaper the other day about a woman in Seattle who had her Facebook, Twitter and some other social site compromised, which led the hackers to her bank account. Talk about Sleepless in Seattle! That would keep me wide awake. Lucky for her the bank’s security and fraud division caught the activity before it had gone too far.  It seems the hackers were high-schoolers, tired of their video and computer games and decided to have some fun on the web.  Fun? How does about fifteen years of hard labor sound like fun, huh kids?  And that is what the DA in King County is trying to get. And I am all for him getting it, too.

This world in which we live forces us to register and enter all kinds of stuff about ourselves, just to get basic service. And if it can’t be protected, (a la, BankAmerica,  Facebook, Chase and Visa) then there is a huge lack of trust on the part of the public. And if that trust continues to be eroded, then suddenly the web’s functionality may be called into question.

Now add on top of this, the President’s signing into law the emergency power of taking over the Internet by Homeland Security in the case of “National emergency” and you have the making of a great, big horrific scandal. It will happen.  It will come out that at some time the law enforcement agencies of this country went in and got information they should not have using this horrible law. It is one thing to have teenage hackers or Belarus hackers staking my accounts, but to give Homeland Security the means to take control of the entire system is a frightening thing. If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he would no doubt be shouting from the highest pinnacle he could find that this is exactly why the first ten amendments were passed to begin with: to keep the government out of the business of invading our privacy.

To be sure, they have not crashed the web– not brought it down– and as far as we know not invaded your information. But this law is only three days old. Not long as statutes and law go. So this is my warning. It will happen. They will say it was a mistake. Or they will claim some kind of national emergency. Not the Obama administration and perhaps not the one which follows his. But someday soon, there will be a bureaucrat who slips up and starts a collection process of people making certain acts on the web. It will get discovered and the department behind the break in liberty and security will stand up and point to this new law and say, “Says we can. We did. So there.”

Many of you, who read this column every day, know that I am a supporter of President Obama. But mainly because I so dislike what the Republicans stand for right now and am so averse to the candidate that they have given us. Had the GOP not been so far to the extreme right and had their candidate not been a flip-flop artist, this action by Obama, along with resigning the Patriot Act, is enough to make me move away from the Democratic ticket. 

It is that foul smelling in my political nostrils.

I would have sent this out sooner, but I lost my password. I hate technology when it becomes such a rotten playground.