Thursday, July 30, 2009

To Serve and Protect?

At one point in my life I thought I might want to be a police officer. I liked the idea

of protecting people and fighting the bad guys and contributing something positive to society.

I also thought that instant respect came with putting on that uniform. As I grew older, I

watched the police in Berkeley and at San Francisco State in the City. The Alameda County

Sheriffs were known as the "blue meanies", and were quick with billy clubs and tear gas.

They even tear gassed a hospital. I watched the police in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama;

and of course, the "police riot" in Chicago in 1968, and my view of law enforcement changed.

They were brutes and bullies used by the powers-that-be to control society and defend the

status quo. Every time another department put an American flag on their uniforms, or on

their cars and motorcycles; I knew they had no understanding what the flag actually stood for.

Two friends of mine became San Francisco police officers. In fact, lots of friends

of mine or acquaintances, graduates of St. Ignatius, Sacred Heart, Riordan, and other city

schools, became police officers. I knew them; and while many did fit the typical stereotype,

many did not. The two friends I knew were partners. For more than a year, I would meet

them in the Tower Market parking lot around midnight, and ride with them for three or

four hours. I went in with them on calls, and I saw what their world was like. It was 7.5

hours of boredom, and maybe half an hour of fear and adrenaline. One night, they were

called to back up another unit. About four or five African-Americans were up against a wall.

My friend got out and evaluated the situation; and when he returned to the car, I asked him

what was going on. They quoted a section of the penal code that I was not familiar with.

When I asked them to explain, they said the suspects were under arrest for "...failure to bow

and scrape". I could tell my friends were embarrassed and did not like what they saw, but

they felt there was nothing they could do about it.

All of this is background or preface to a discussion over the arrest of Professor

Henry Louis Gates in his Cambridge, Massachusetts home by a Cambridge police sergeant.

It is a story that has taken on significance because of the racial overtones associated with it,

and because the President of the United States has weighed in and declared that the

Cambridge police acted "stupidly".

I have seen police officers at their best and at their worst. I covered the L.A. riots

after the Rodney King decision. Ground zero was the intersection of Florence and Normandy

in South Central Los Angeles. The police were four to a car, with shotguns sticking out of

every window. They were scared and really had no control for more than three days.

(National Guard troops had to be sent in to restore order.) In San Francisco, massive

demonstrations shut down much of the city at the start of the first Gulf War. The SFPD

engaged in running street battles with those who wanted to shut down the Federal Building

and the City in general. In Los Angeles, the black population of South Central L.A. truly

hated the L.A. cops and vice versa. In San Francisco, the "police vs. demonstrators" was

more of a game. I knew demonstrators and cops; and each had some sympathy for the other,

but had parts to play.

I don't know all the facts in the Gates case. I have listened to Gates and to the

officer involved. My unscientific analysis says they were both wrong. Cambridge police

got a call of a possible burglary in progress. Gates was locked out and forced his front door

open and got in. Someone saw him and called the police. The Sergeant showed up and saw

the forced front door, and found Gates inside. Gates says he presented ID to prove who

he was and that this was indeed his home. The Sergeant asked him to step outside. (The

Sergeant says there was a report of two men breaking in. He didn't know if there was

someone else in the house, or if Professor Gates even knew if they could still be in the

house.) Professor Gates admits he verbally challenged the officer, demanding to know if

he was being asked to step outside because he was a black man. The officer continued to

press for the Professor to step outside, and the Professor got more agitated, asking if the

officer knew who he was, and telling the Sergeant that he shouldn't mess with him. The

Sergeant eventually arrests Gates for disorderly conduct and takes him away in handcuffs.

Charges were later dropped.

Professor Gates and many other African-Americans and Latinos say this is a classic

example of racial profiling. A black man in a rich neighborhood (near Harvard) is

immediately suspect. A minority in a predominantly white neighborhood must be up to

no good. In New Jersey, a court case proved that State Police were stopping luxury cars

with African-American drivers, under the assumption that they were drug dealers, because

how else could they afford the cars. In Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and many other

American cities, studies have shown that police disproportionately stop and hold more

African-American and Latino males than they do white males. There are too many instances

of minorities being killed by police in a shootout, only to discover later that the suspect was

unarmed. None of this is new to anyone in this country. Racial profiling is real and has

tragic consequences.

However, in this case it would appear that Professor Gates is as much in the wrong

as is the police Sergeant. Being asked to step outside was not an unreasonable request; in

that the Sergeant did not know who might be in the house (a danger to both the officer and

Professor Gates), and he didn't know what Professor Gates was up to either. Men might

have to "break into their own house" because they have been locked out or thrown out in

a domestic dispute, and are "breaking" back in to do harm to their partner. Gates should

have stepped outside. He acted stupidly. For his part, it should have been clear to the

Sergeant, fairly quickly, what the situation was; and when confronted by Gates he could

have stepped outside, taken a look around to see if there were any other points of illegal

entry, and re-connected with the Professor. Even if he didn't want to do that, once he had

cuffed the Professor and then checked out the house, he should have released Gates and

never, ever should have arrested him and taken him to the police station, subjected him

to mug shots (which the public has now seen), and held him. The officers actions were

overkill; and very few police I know would have done that. Did the Sergeant get into his

feelings because of Gates' attitude and confrontational behavior? Did he arrest Gates

because he was offended when accused of being a racist? Why was Gates so upset? Was

the Sergeant's request outrageous or impermissible? Why was Gates so offended and why

did he act like such a prissy diva?

There is plenty of blame to go around on this one. That it raises the issue of profiling

and law enforcement is good because the practice still exists (most of our anti-terrorism

practices are based almost exclusively on racial profiling). Anything that gets Americans

talking about race is a good thing. We are a nation that based its' laws and practices upon

the principle of white supremacy for most of our history. The legacy of that philosophy is

still resonating in this country today (think of the swim club in Pennsylvania which kicked

the black and hispanic kids out because they "would change the nature and complexion of

the club if allowed entrance"). However, Gates was as much at fault as was the Sergeant.

Tempers flared, egos got involved; and the result was embarrassing for both of them.

Over the years, I have developed respect for police officers because I know many,

and they are good, caring people. I have respect for minorities in this nation because they

have had to fight for a respect that I have never struggled to attain. I am glad we are talking

about this; but in this particular case there appears to be no villain, only two male egos

too big for one house in Cambridge to handle. What do you think? I welcome your

comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Friday, July 24, 2009

Get Rid of the Xbox?

President Obama addressed the NAACP convention in New York on it's 100th

anniversary. He spoke about the direct connection between the civil rights movement and

his election to be President of the United States. He also talked about parents and children.

He urged parents to throw out the Xbox and encourage their children to read and study.

Parents should instill high expectations in their children, telling them that they can accomplish

anything they set their minds to achieving. Education, the President proclaimed, is the key

to success and the future of this nation.

As I listened to the President, I found myself nodding in agreement to most of

his points; but it was the Xbox comment that set me off. The comment almost seems

to cast the President as a 21st Century Luddite. As I listened to him, other voices started

to resonate in my mind's ear. There were those who didn't want children to watch television

at all. It was going to rot their brains and wreck civilization as we know it. (OK, I admit

"Dancing My Ass Off", "Jon and Kate", "Survivor", and Fox News do give some credence to

that argument, but...) Others didn't want children to watch Elvis or "Sesame Street" or

cartoons, rock videos, MTV, or Nickelodeon. Still other parents didn't want children

listening to any Rock or the Beatles or Rap music, because any one of these could lead

children down the road to perdition. Some parents and parent's groups still try to ban

books they don't want their children to read including "The Catcher In the Rye",

"Huckleberry Finn", "Slaughterhouse Five", and "Fahrenheit 451". If we shut off the TV,

take away their iPods, throw out all the video games, and control what they read; our

children will turn out like we want them to, and grow up to be productive citizens. As I

listened to all of this, all I can think about is a song about houses made out of "ticky-tacky"

and little boxes which all look the same.

I have watched more television and listened to more radio than almost anyone

I know. On Saturday mornings I turned on cartoons at 7am, and watched everything from

"Bugs Bunny" to "Yogi Bear" to "Spaceghost" until at least noon. Show's like "Mayor Art",

"Captain Satellite", "Jack's Place", "Captain Fortune", and "Marshall J" were must-see

shows in my day.

My children watched "Sesame Street", "The Electric Company", "Zoom", and numerous

Nickelodeon programs as they were growing up. (OK, I let them watch "Barney"; and that

might have been a mistake.) We bought music videos about "Ole King Cole" and all kinds of

other songs which they loved. At the same time, they would watch the news and opinion

shows with me, and I would ask them what they think. They knew what CNN was when

their contemporaries were still finding their way to "Sesame Street". When video games

appeared on the scene, they played everything fro Mario Brothers to GAME BOY to

PlayStation to Xbox. None of this ever gave me a reason to be concerned about their

intellectual development.

At the same time that they watched TV and played games, their mother would

read to them every night while they sat and ate dinner. She picked books she hoped would

interest them; and one of their favorites was "Cheaper By the Dozen". They also watched

as their mother devoured a book almost every week, and I would pour through newspapers

and magazines. We talked about politics and issues in front of them, and we took them

with us each year to the polling place when we voted. My children scoffed at the notion of

a scary movie until my wife rented "Jaws" and we watched it together. They discovered

"Narnia" and all nine volumes; and eventually were captivated by "The Lord of the Rings"

and "Harry Potter". We did not like it when our children started listening to Rap and

Hip-Hop music. I didn't like the language; while my wife didn't like the misogyny that

she heard. We could have banned it, I guess; but it would not have stopped them from

listening to it, and maybe even making it more attractive. I would listen to a song in the

car with them; and then turn off the radio to ask them if they agreed with the language or

how women were referenced to, or if they thought getting high or drunk was a good thing

for people to do.

This was not a household of few rules with parents who were trying to be "friends"

with their children. There were clear limits about behavior and actions. They were to

respect their elders and be well-behaved in public and in theaters or restaurants.

At the end of the day, despite TV and videos and Xboxes and computers, my

children and millions of others are wonderful, goal-oriented, informed, compassionate

human beings. They didn't need to be sheltered from the world; but rather have grown up

inundated by their world, and given the tools to make their way through that which is

valuable and that which is a waste of their time. (Yes, I know I come off as a proud parent

because I am; and I love them very much.)

The President's message to parents should be one which encourages all forms of

interaction with their children. Parents need to read to their children, talk to them, play

with them, go to back-to-school nights, study with them, and build their self-esteem. The

problem is not the Xbox. The problem is a society where both parents have to work to make

ends meet. Parents have to stay in jobs that they may hate, or which consume way too much

time because they need the health insurance their employer supplies. Parents have to work

on weekends, and take less and less vacation because they are afraid of losing their jobs if

they are gone too long.

As a society we have lost a quality of life that would enable parents to spend more

time with their children. We have abandoned our commitment to quality public education,

at the same time that we cut money for libraries and the arts. Arts and music programs

have been reduced along with most other extra-curricular activities that we took for granted.

The President wants the Xbox turned off and thrown out. I understand what he

meant to say, but his message needs to be clearer. A nation that produces good jobs, great

education, effective healthcare, and a public square which has music, art, books, and

assorted community activities that bring us together; is a nation in which our children will

thrive and grow up with high expectations for their lives. A nation that really cares about

children will have clean air and water. My children can watch TV, listen to the music they

wish, go to movies, and play computer and video games; but they also know they are loved

and we expect them to lead good and productive lives. If we really care about our children,

the greatest gift we can give them is hope. They need to be able to believe that their lives

will be better than the past. Without hope, our children will opt for short-term fixes and

pleasures that won't benefit them in the long run. President Obama needs to press for

an agenda of hope. A child with loving parents and hope can play an Xbox or anything else,

and will still grow up well. Isn't that what we all want for our children? What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Thoughts While Shaving...(Thanks Herb Caen)

French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown

accused oil speculators of driving up the cost of a barrel of oil. U.S. officials are thinking

of changing the rules so you can't bid on a future barrel of oil unless you are actually

intending to take delivery (no hedge funds or other speculators would be able to play).

I have already argued that oil speculation was responsible for as much as 20% of the

current cost of a barrel of oil and maybe more. I made this argument at least five years

ago. However, they need to go further. The United States and the European Union need

to attack the "vertical integration" of the oil industry. Oil companies own the product

from the moment it leaves the ground until it's pumped into your car. We need new laws

breaking off pieces of this stricture. The easiest way would be prohibiting oil companies

from owning gas stations, and allow gas station owners to buy from anyone they wish.

The competition would force the price of gas to be more realistic to the real cost of a barrel

of oil. If speculation was curbed and vertical integration broken up, the price would drop

by as much as 30% and would not go wildly up and down due to natural disasters or

political disasters.

A government report based on FBI interrogations of Saddam Hussein concluded

that Saddam lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction and fought international inspectors,

not because he was hiding something (Bush/Cheney), but rather because he was afraid of

Iran and did not want them to know that he had no such weapons (Lion of the Left, 2003).

Anyone who cared to research it would have known that after the first Gulf War, weapons

inspectors destroyed or eliminated all his stocks of weapons. They wrote reports detailing

everything they destroyed. Scott Ritter catalogued all that had been destroyed; and with

economic sanctions in place, Saddam couldn't restock. This is why both Rice and Powell

decided in early 2002 that Saddam wasn't on their radar and proved no serious threat.

If I knew this, as many others did, how did the media let Bush/Cheney get away with their

fear mongering? (Think New York Times and Judith Miller...who by the way, is reporting

for Fox News now...journalistic integrity for $200 anyone?)

The politically regressive but influential political publication, the "Hotline" is

trumpeting President Obama's "fall from grace"..."end of the honeymoon"...and "wheels

coming off the train" (OK, you get the idea) event of his favorability rating dropping from

the low 60's to 56 to 58 percent. To them this shows that he is toast, the GOP is on the rise,

healthcare and energy reform are dead, and a consumer agency to regulate Wall Street is

a non-starter. It has been pointed out that all great progressive accomplishments (Medicare,

Social Security, Voting Rights Act, Marshall Plan) passed on very close votes after a lot

of noise and struggle. President Clinton's tax increase on the rich, which ushered in eight

years of unprecedented economic growth, passed without a single Republican vote, and

with Al Gore breaking the tie. If pressure continues on Democrats to oppose any GOP

filibuster (in other words, bring these issues to the floor for an up or down vote); healthcare

reform, energy policy, re-regulation of the financial industry, and the improvement in

the quality of life in this country will pass. The key is to pressure Democrats to stop any

filibuster, and then let them vote any way they wish to on the individual bills. Everyone of

Obama's initiatives will pass if the filibuster is eliminated. What will you do to make this


Sarah Palin was elected mayor, but quit to move to a state commissioner job,

which she quit to run for governor of Alaska, which she has now quit to run for president.

So the key question no one has asked here yet should be who her vice presidential pick

would be, don't you think?

Three things California could do to make the state easier to govern:

1. Re-do Proposition 13 so that commercial property is no longer covered, raising billions

of dollars in re-assessments.

2. Eliminate the 2/3 vote requirement to pass a budget.

3. Change the initiative process by prohibiting paid signature gathering and increasing

the number of signatures needed to qualify an initiative.

The first raises much needed revenue and is still true to the spirit of Proposition 13,

which was intended to protect homeowners. The second prevents obstructionism by a

political minority (in this case, the Republicans), similar to what the Republicans do with

the filibuster in the Senate. The third would prevent people or groups from "buying" their

way onto the ballot, and returning the initiative process to it's grassroots origins.

Does anyone remember California when Jerry Brown was governor? He wouldn't

live in the Governor's mansion, tried to prohibit people from driving cars, fought Prop 13,

instituted airborne pesticide spraying of California cities, and appointed some of the worst

department heads in state history. As Chair of the California Democratic Party, he was a

political disaster, and Bill Press was considered a considerable improvement; and would

anyone in Oakland vote for him again as Mayor? Yet he is the front runner to be governor

again: Who'd a thunk it?

Seventy-two percent of Americans say they are in favor of a government option

in healthcare coverage to compete against private health insurers. How can this be even

a question in the Democrat's minds if they wish to have continued political success?

The Regressive Corporate Media (RCM) has been beating Obama about the face

and head for not being tough enough about the dictatorship in Iran. He should encourage

democracy, support the protesters, attack the Iranian government, and refuse to talk to

them in any way. At the same time, Hannity/Limbaugh, et. al. castigated him for supporting

"leftist" Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, and demanding he be re-instated because he

is the democratically elected leader of the country; and Obama is opposed to military coups

whether he agrees with the person deposed or not. (The RCM doesn't like Zelaya because

he is a buddy of Hugo Chavez.) What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.

Please send them to

Friday, July 17, 2009

Don't Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

The New York Times reported that Vice President Dick Cheney told the CIA to lie

or cover up from Congress the existence of a secret program designed to capture or kill

Al Qaeda operatives in the world. Senator Diane Feinstein confirmed the report after a

briefing she received from CIA director Leon Panetta, who has now cancelled the program.

The Wall Street Journal reports that there were funds appropriated and some training done,

but the operation was never implemented.

The merits of creating a government version of Murder Inc. can be debated at

another time. Needless to say, we would condemn anyone who created an organization

the purpose of which was to kill American officials. Oh wait, we already do condemn

Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, and Iran for doing that, don't we?

The really stunning revelation here is that the Vice President of the United States

ordered an executive agency to lie to Congress. The lying part isn't even the interesting

part. The CIA lies to Congress all the time. The interesting part is that the Vice President

ordered, and they obeyed. You remember the Vice Presidency, don't you? John Gardner

once described it being worth less than a "bucket of warm spit". The Vice President has

no executive line of authority over any branch of the government. He is powerless. The

only power he possesses is as President of the Senate, where he can break a tie vote. This

raises the question as to how Cheney could order the CIA to do anything; and why would

they obey him? This new revelation is not small potatoes. The Constitution places no

power in the Vice Presidency. He has no authority. Any authority the Vice President has

he gets through the President. He can't even attend cabinet meetings unless the President

wishes him to be in attendance. So how was Cheney able to order the CIA to lie?

The constitutional and legal questions this raises boggle the mind. Did a coup

occur and was Cheney the de facto President during the Bush years? This is an accusation

that was made by many observing this administration. It was dismissed as the rantings of

partisan enemies of Bush; but now that idea cannot be so easily waved away. Where else

was Cheney giving orders? Did Cheney order the White House counsel and the Justice

Department lawyers to write legal opinions authorizing torture? (which Cheney still defends

as legal) Did Cheney order the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys? What role did Cheney play in

the NSA decision to illegally wire tap and data mine e-mails and internet traffic? Cheney

held secret meetings with oil, gas, and coal officials prior to new Bush regulations easing

restrictions on those industries. Did Cheney order these new rules? CIA analysts said that

Cheney made numerous trips to Langley, VA to pressure them into "cooking the books"

on Iraq. Under whose authority did he do that? When President Bush was out in public,

Cheney was in a secret location totally protected. Who was really the President? These

questions could appear frivolous, except that they go to the core of our constitutional

republican form of government. Was there a power in Washington that the people didn't

know about? Could Cheney have been elected President all on his own?

We need answers to these questions. Do you understand the implications of what

this could mean to our form of government? What role did Bush play in all of this? Did

the President know? Did Bush turn the Presidency over to Cheney? President Clinton

elevated the FEMA director to a cabinet role, a decision that Cheney and his ilk disagreed

with. Did Cheney reduce FEMA's role and influence; and is that how we got "Brownie",

and is that why the federal response to Katrina was so poor? Haven't you ever wondered

how it was that the musings of the Vice President caused the CIA to task a mission to Niger,

assign Ambassador Wilson to go, and then report back to the Vice President what he found?

Then, when his findings disagreed with the Vice President's contentions about Saddam

Hussein and nuclear weapons, a Cheney protege put 18 words into the President's State

of the Union speech which were not true and that the President had to eventually disavow.

Who was President of the United States from 2001-2008? It's not a crazy question

anymore. President Obama cannot dither and tap dance anymore. The American people

need to know if their government was hijacked in a bloodless (unless you count almost

5000 dead American soldiers, 50-100 thousand wounded, and as many as one million dead

Iraqis) coup? There needs to be a thorough investigation by an independent source.

Attorney General Eric Holder is said to be leaning towards investigating "rogue" CIA

agents who may have engaged in torture. President Obama is on the record as saying that

what Holder wants to do is Holder's decision alone. That isn't enough in this case. We know

that Cheney was selectively declassifying secret documents to be leaked to reporters in

the outing of covert CIA analyst Valerie Plame Wilson. Where did he get that authority?

Was he doing it on his own? Did he have to ask for permission? What did President Bush

know, and when did he know it?

This isn't about lying over an affair with an intern (which led to an impeachment

trial). This is a possible coup. This is a possible usurpation of the Constitution on an

epic scale. This is the grandaddy of constitutional crisises that would make Watergate

look like a walk in the park. There must be a full blown investigation. No stone can be

left unturned. Bush administration officials have to be under oath; including the President,

the Vice President, Rice, Rumsfeld, Addington, Libby, Bolton, et al.

The movie "Seven Days in May" is one of my favorite movies. In it, the military

attempts a coup to remove the President because they disagree with him on foreign policy.

It is a scary movie and raises questions about the nature of democracy and elections and

power, and how it is wielded in this country. It is a work of fiction, but disturbing none

the less. Questions about Cheney are not fiction. Who was running this country? President

Obama has to announce a full scale investigation, no matter where the chips fall. The

American people have the right to know what happened, and how to prevent it from ever

happening again. It wasn't "Seven Days in May", but it might have been eight years in

Washington. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send

them to lionoftheleft

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Are You a Progressive or a Regressive?

For a long time, the terms left and right have seemed inadequate as descriptions

about where one stood on the political spectrum. Left stood for liberal and Right for

conservative. The problem is that the terms liberal and conservative also seem outdated

and do not convey what they are intended to convey. It is time to use new words or terms

so that we have some decent shorthand to quickly understand where a person stands or falls.

Words are very important. When I worked in Congress, on more than one occasion

in conversation with Democratic members of Congress, a discussion of vocabulary would

occur. They found a political landscape in which their opponents controlled the rhetorical

high ground because they controlled the vocabulary that was employed. They were

"pro-family" and they believed in "freedom and God". Economically they were a "free

market". For them it's not torture, it's "enhanced interrogation techniques"; and it's not

kidnapping, it's "rendition". Their terrorists are "freedom fighters". In response, Democrats

have always played vocabulary catch-up. On abortion they were "pro-choice", which was

nowhere near the power of calling oneself "pro-life". If they were the supporters of family,

what did that leave you? If they are for "free" markets, and you oppose them; you are stuck

with defending "less free" markets. They are "pro-family". What does that mean you are

if you oppose them? Vocabulary matters; and for too long Democrats have abandoned the

verbal field of battle by allowing themselves to be labeled with terms that are politically

difficult to maneuver around.

Left and Right and liberal and conservative are terms that no longer signify much

politically, and we need a new vocabulary. To be from the "Left" comes out of a time when

there was a real debate in this country and the world over capitalism versus communism.

To be on the Left meant you favored a role of government in controlling the economy,

owning the means of production, owning very little private property, and the needs of the

many outweighed the needs of the few. There were to be no private businesses and no

excessively rich. To be on the Right meant a belief in a weak central government and to be

a supporter of a free-market-private-enterprise economic system. Industry tolerated no

government interference, and the needs of the individual outweighed the needs of the many.

To be on the Left or liberal was to be open and entertain new ideas and embrace change;

while to be on the Right or conservative meant opposing change, defending tradition, and

holding on to the best of things. Politically, the Left supported a strong federal government

and the Right pushed state's rights.

Today, most of these terms and descriptions have been turned upside down or

simply don't exist anymore. No one in the "mainstream Left" advocates that all means of

production should be owned by the government. No one is arguing for an economic system

in which there is no private property. Can you think of a member of Congress who advocates

an end to Wall Street or the commodities market; or wants the government to take over

every aspect of American life? It was a "Lefty" like Bill Clinton who pushed and passed

NAFTA, GATT, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which deregulated broadcasting;

and greased the door to a few people owning most media and created the opportunities

for the Hannity/Limbaughs of the world.

To be on the Right was supposed to mean that you believed in small government,

and the idea that government governs best which governs least. You believed in individual

rights and were a strong advocate of civil liberties. A conservative "conserves" those things

which are the best for the country. Conservatives like Richard Nixon believed and supported

the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency because clean air and clean water were

good for everyone.

Today, these terms and definitions seem to have lost all relevance. Those on the

"Right" supported eight years of a Bush Administration that expanded government

interference and control in the private lives of Americans that is unprecedented. The "Left"

was attacked as "tax and spend liberals". The Right was supposed to be fiscally conservative.

Yet, spending under a Bush White House and Republican Congress exploded out of control.

In the first six years in office, President Bush didn't have to veto, or want to veto a single

budget, appropriation or spending bill. While fiscal policy was out of control, the "Right"

wing of the Republican Party supported government intrusion in everything from the

classroom to the bedroom. They railed against a Supreme Court decision that outlawed

sodomy laws in Texas, opposed two same-sex individuals getting married, attempted to

indict Oregon doctors who participated in voter-approved assisted dying; and of course,

wanted the government to be able to tell a woman what she can do with her womb. When

California voted to legalize medical marijuana, the Bush Justice Dept. raided pot clubs,

even ones that had obtained city licenses and approval (Oakland and Santa Cruz). When

the California Coastal Commission blocked offshore oil exploration, the Bush Administration

sued to overturn the decision. So much for states rights or new federalism. Perhaps the most

damning of all, is the fact that not a single "Right" wing political figure proposes abolishing

Social Security or Medicare, which are two of the most socialistic and government-dominated

programs in history. Add to that the scandal that is Pentagon procurement, where a few

well connected companies get most of the contracts; and the term "Right" has become


The term "Left" or liberal doesn't fare much better. Clinton's responsibility for

NAFTA, GATT, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and deregulation of the telecommunications

industry is well documented. It was also under his watch that many of the remaining

firewalls intended to protect the financial systems were eliminated. In 1999, the Glass-

Steagall Act was eliminated, opening the door to the abuses that led to a global economic

meltdown. The "Left Democrats" that believe in government regulation had totally

capitulated. In 2002, Democrats voted to give President Bush the power to go to war in

Iraq; and not once did they filibuster or stop a single war appropriation bill from passing.

They voted overwhelmingly for the Patriot Act, allowing the government unprecedented

power into our private lives; and they turned a blind eye to torture and kidnapping, and

there was the evisceration of the Fourth Amendment as the Bush Administration illegally

tapped phones, read e-mail, and tracked internet activity. When all of this was discovered,

Democrats gave the phone companies immunity from prosecution for their illegal and

immoral acts.

Perhaps worst of all, and that the terms have become meaningless; is to look at

an Obama Administration which won't release photos of tortured prisoners, won't release

White House visitor's logs, supports unlimited incarceration without a trial, and which has

an economic team made up of the very people who were architects of the financial

deregulation that led to the current financial crisis in this country. Add to that their defense

of a law banning gay marriage, and continuing "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and expanding an

unworkable war in Afghanistan, and the "Lefty" Obamas take on a decidedly different look.

So if Left and Right or liberal and conservative no longer have real meaning, what

do we do to describe where one stands on the political spectrum? I suggest the terms

"Progressive" and "Regressive". They might take some time to get used to, but I believe

they really help you define the current crop of politicians, pundits, and talking heads.

To be progressive is to philosophically be comfortable with change and moving

forward. Change is the natural state of affairs in life; but in politics, change can be a dirty

word. Progress is easy to measure but difficult to achieve. In the 20th century, those events

considered progressive: the women's suffrage movement, Social Security, the civil rights

movement, Medicare, Head Start, the G.I. Bill, gay rights, national labor standards, child

labor laws, collective bargaining legislation, anti-trust laws, and fair housing and lending

were passed with Democrat and Republican support and opposed by Republicans and

Democrats. Regressives opposed every example I have sighted. If regressives had had their

way, none of these landmark decisions or movements would have succeeded. When Bob

Dole ran against Bill Clinton in 1996, he bragged about how he and other Republicans

fought and voted against Medicare. (However, he didn't have the political testicular

fortitude to propose abolishing it now.)

It's easy to understand progress and easy to understand those who want to regress

and turn back the clock. Since Ronald Reagan, regressives have tried to turn back the clock

on workers by busting unions and packing organizations like the National Labor Relations

Board with pro-business, anti-labor appointees. They have reduced the tax burden on the

rich while increasing taxes for the middle class. When Newt Gingrich speaks of the New

Federalism, he wants to go back to the "Gilded Age" at the turn of the 19th and 20th

centuries. It was an era of a weak central government, no anti-trust laws, few taxes, and

a time when the gap between the rich and the poor was at it's height in Industrial America.

He wants to return to that time. Regressives want to turn back the clock on women's

reproductive rights and individual civil liberties. As our culture progresses towards

tolerance, they want to return government sponsored prayer to public classrooms and

have the government regulate what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms.

Progressives push to expand health care to all Americans, while Regressives fight

any attempt to change the system. Progressives cite the undeniable fact of a growing climate

crisis, while Regressives talk of offshore oil drilling, more use of coal, and more dependency

on nuclear power. Progressives oppose torture, illegal spying, and immoral wars; while

Regressives argue that the end justifies the means, even if that means going back on fifty

years of laws and agreements.

Try it for awhile, and see if the terms fit. Analyze the hottest political topics

currently facing the nation in terms of who is in favor of progress, and who wants to resist

change or turn the clock back. When you do this, things can get much clearer for you

politically. This new nomenclature would devastate the corporate media and people like

Hannity/Limbaugh, who would have to change completely how they characterize the

political debate in this country. What would they do if they didn't have left and right or

liberal and conservative to use anymore?

Words matter in politics and in life. There is a clear difference in image between

someone who is pro-life or just pro-birth. When the political debate in this country is not

between left and right or liberals vs. conservatives, but rather about whether we progress

or regress; the entire structure of both problems and solutions changes. Pick an issue and

analyze it, and it's proponents and opponents in this new light, and see what happens. You

will be amazed. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send

them to

Sunday, July 12, 2009

If You Can't Stand the Heat

The best description of what former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin did, by announcing

her resignation, was that it is a political Rorschach test for all who view it. Depending on what

you think of her, it was a brilliant move to cut her losses as she positions herself to run for

President in 2012; or she is a nut case who quit her job when the heat got too intense.

When Richard Nixon lost to Pat Brown in the 1962 California governor's race, he

famously declared the end of his political life with the now famous sign off, " won't

have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore". Journalists, pundits, and his own party

believed he was done as a politician. Instead, he arose like a phoenix, and when Lyndon

Johnson didn't run for another term and the Democratic Party was fractured; Nixon was

in a perfect position to win the Presidency in 1968. He hadn't been tarred by the disaster

which was Barry Goldwater's landslide defeat in 1964, and back he came.

Sarah Palin looked ahead, and this may be what she saw. Her popularity in the

state was dropping. She faced a veto override by a Republican controlled legislature. She

had little chance of getting much done over the next year and a half; which could be used

against her as proof that she wasn't an effective administrator. She faces numerous ethics

investigations and if she waited to announce a decision not to run again, it might look like

she was driven out of office. On top of all that, her star is high now. She may get $5-7 million

dollars to write a book. She will also claim Bill Clinton-like numbers to make speeches

($1000,000+ per speech). She will be free to spend as much time crisscrossing the country,

raising money for local Republicans and banking IOU's for support to run in 2012. There

is also the possibility that Fox News could give Sarah her own show, and thus a national

platform for her ideas and image; or someone could syndicate her for a national radio

talk show.

If you are not a Sarah Palin fan, this decision is flaky and makes little sense at all.

When John McCain picked her as his running mate, he touted her experience as governor

as one of her most attractive features. She was sold as someone who took on her own party

in Alaska to fight for a principle. She was popular, a shining example of family values, a

hockey mom and a rock-ribbed conservative Republican. She benefitted from a lack of

scrutiny by the national media, and was someone who "...could get things done in her state

and thus in the nation too". The resulting media attention definitely did not benefit her.

From her "not ready for prime time" interview with Katie Couric, to her $100,000 plus

wardrobe, to ethics questions about how she ran Alaska; these things made her a liability

for McCain. However, at the end of the day, it was McCain who was blamed for picking her

and running a poor campaign at the end. Now, Palin announces she is quitting. Why?

No one knows. Her speech was a rambling, disjointed combination of sports metaphors

and cliches. She was quitting because the media was beating her up too much. (When

Hillary Clinton complained about media coverage, Palin criticized her for whining, and

said it made women candidates look weak.) She said the media had picked on her family.

(She is the one who preaches abstinence rather than sex education for teens, and then

has a pregnant teen daughter. She creates the image of a happy couple getting married

and settling down, only to find out that was a myth too.) She said she had to quit so that

Alaska could move forward. (?) She was quitting to preserve American values. She was

the point guard of a basketball team; and as such,she knows when to pass the ball and

whom to pass it to. (Maybe not being governor anymore lets her play more pick-up games

with her political team.) In all, she appeared to give at least five different reasons for

quitting. As you parsed her speech, it seemed rambling and incoherent at times, and flaky

and ditzy at other points.

So what do all these ink blots look like to you? First and foremost, this appears

to be a decision about money. If she strikes while the iron is hot, she makes millions. Her

brand is still popular among conservatives, and that could change rapidly. That kind of

money can sustain her for four years of unemployment, as well as pay for her travel and

expenses as she attempts to stay visible and relevant on the national scene. She also quit

because things were not going well in Alaska. The old saying is that if you are going to be

run out of town, get to the front and make it look like you are leading the parade. Palin

had no guarantee she could win re-election, and a defeat would end her political career;

so she got out now rather than wait. In other words, she is willing to break her commitment

to Alaska's voters because things were getting tough and she got a better offer.

Is her bid for the White House over? Yes. She was never going to be President

before this latest stunt. What she has done is to take advantage of the times, and take

the money and run. She quit for her own personal self interest at the expense of her

constituents. She quit and she didn't look good doing it. Her political life is not over.

She will cover the nation in a book tour next year. She will be ll over Fox News and

Hannity/Limbaugh will have her as a guest constantly. She will campaign for Republicans

in the midterm election and raise money for them. Hers will be an endorsement sought

by early contenders for 2012, but she will get no closer to the White House than a visitor's

pass allows her. Between her, Mark Sanford, and John Ensign, the party of family values

is taking on some serious water. Her brand may still be popular, but she exploits it at her

own party's expense; and that doesn't seem to trouble her at all. For Democrats, her

presence on the national scene will only reinforce the clear differences in both talent

and ideas between the two parties; and that will be to their benefit. What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the city of New Haven, Connecticut, was wrong

when it threw out a promotional examination for firefighters. The city was afraid of being

sued because not a single minority scored high enough to be promoted. They were following

Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act which stated that if you give a test which has a negative effect

on a minority group, the test is de facto discriminatory. This was a bad law. This was a law

demanding equal outcomes rather than equal opportunity. No one who took that test has

claimed it was biased or inappropriate or skewed in any way. The only claim was that

minority applicants did not do well enough. Maybe for the first time in my life I sided

with Scalia and Thomas in defending the test and the promotion of the white firefighters

who passed it.

The city of Oakland, California is considering raising taxes on medical marijuana

dispensaries to raise revenue for the city. The operators of the pot clubs were the ones

who suggested raising the tax. At the same time 60 Minutes reported that Mexican drug

cartels have made 35 billion dollars from the drug trade and use the money to pay for

arms and a small army to fight the Mexican and American governments. California is

considering legalizing and taxing marijuana, which could generate more than one billion

dollars in new tax revenue. For the first time polls show 50% of people in California favor

legalization. If California legalizes marijuana, it will have a domino effect across the nation.

What would the cartels do for money if American corporations ran the drug trade? Oh,

by the way, one of the biggest opponents of legalization is the association which represents

drug enforcement officers. Do you see any conflict of interest there?

June 30th is a new national holiday in Iraq. It is National Sovereignty Day. It is

the day the U.S. troops moved out of the Iraqi cities and turned over security to Iraqi

security forces. No one has any idea whether Iraqi security forces can maintain the uneasy

peace. Almost 5000 Americans died and more than 100,000 were wounded, and as many

as 1 million Iraqis are dead to get to this day. Is there anyone wiling to argue that it was

worth it? Oh, by the way, as many as 50 oil companies are bidding to get back into the Iraqi

oil fields after having been kicked out in 1972 by Saddam Hussein. There is no agreement

in place as to how oil revenues will be shared. Was this what it was all about from the


South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, on more than one occasion, left the state

without telling anyone where he was, and failing to transfer power to the Lt. Governor.

His last disappearance was to "hike the Appalachian Trail", or rather to visit his mistress

in Argentina. This is the governor who refused federal bailout money for his state, claiming

that to accept the funds would be fiscally irresponsible. While the money would have gone

to schools and teachers, Sanford claimed it would be wrong to take it (many think this was

a ploy to build an image for a White House run). At the same time, he had traveled using

public funds on a trade mission to Argentina to see his mistress. He now says he will pay

that money back. His wife revealed that during months of marriage counseling, he asked

her a number of times if he could visit his mistress, and his wife said no (interesting marriage

counseling sessions). Now we find Republican stalwarts like Senator Lindsey Graham and

Rudy Giuliani saying Sanford should not resign if he can work out his marriage difficulties

with his wife. While I hope the Sanford's can save their marriage (in fact, I hope it is

stronger in the end than it is now), what on earth does his marriage have to do with whether

he resigns or not? Bill Clinton is still married to Hillary, and yet these same people called

for his resignation and voted to impeach him. What am I missing?

Speaking of hypocrisy and double standards, Nevada Senator John Ensign is a

member of Promise Keepers. It's an all men's Christian organization that encourages men

to be good husbands and to take the naturally dominant male role in marriage. He called

on Idaho Senator Larry Craig to resign when he was caught up in a gay sex scandal; he

called for Bill Clinton to resign after the Monica Lewinsky scandal was revealed; but since

it was revealed that he himself had an affair with a married woman who worked for him,

Senator Ensign has vowed to stay in office. Louisiana Senator David Vitter is one of Ensign's

most vigorous defenders. Is consistency still the hobgoblin of little minds?

When Senator John Kerry ran against George Bush in 2004, he was pilloried by

Bush/Cheney for voting against an $86 billion appropriation for the war in Iraq. Actually,

Kerry voted against it because it was a supplemental emergency appropriation, by-passing

the budget process. He eventually voted for the money, but was pounded relentlessly for

"not supporting the troops". Recently, the House passed a $106 billion appropriation for

the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; and the majority of the Republicans voted against it. They

didn't like the fact that it included money for the International Monetary Fund. Republicans

bristled at charges that their vote showed that they don't support our troops and put them

in harms way. What do you think Hannity/Limbaugh et. al. will do to them over that vote?

Is pragmatist a dirty word? President Obama is being described more and more

as a pragmatist. His tendency is to avoid ideology to get things done. He understands the

first lesson of politics; namely, half a loaf is better than none. This pragmatic bent has led

him to offend and disappoint much of his base. He has refused to end "Don't ask don't tell"

in the military services; and last week submitted a Friend of the Court brief to the Federal

Court defending the "Defense of Marriage Act" which prohibits gays from getting married.

He has refused to release torture pictures or to support investigation of illegal

activities in the Bush White House. He continues to use "national security" as an excuse

not to release more information on everything from illegal spying to warrantless wire-

tapping; and now the White House has refused to release visitor logs concerning who has

been coming to the White House for meetings (sound familiar?). He did not fight for

homeowners facing foreclosure who could have been protected in bankruptcy court; and

he has committed the nation to a war in Afghanistan that is not winnable. Is pragmatism

a good thing or a bad thing? What do you think? I welcome your comments or rebuttals.

Please send them to

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Adam Smith Is Dead

President Obama held a press conference recently, and he covered a number of

subjects including Iran, Energy Legislation, and Health Care Reform. The questions on

Iran were predictable. "Why haven't you been tougher in your remarks? Are you sounding

tougher now because the Republicans accused you of being soft and timid?" These and other

questions were generated for the corporate media by the regressives and their echo machine.

Very effectively, Obama reminded them that while they operate on a 24 hour news cycle;

he is President, and has to take a longer more measured view and response. There were

no questions on energy reform (why not?). However, there were numerous questions on

health care reform and those questions weren't just surprising, they were shocking.

It seems that the major health insurance companies have sent a letter to the Senate

claiming that if the President gets his way, and establishes a public option for health care

services, it will dismantle the private health insurance industry. The President was then

asked his reaction to such a claim.

This is an extraordinary moment. This is creative disequilibrium (trying to hold

two contradictory thoughts at the same time) at its best. The regressives claim that a

public option amounts to socialism if not communism. They claim that a government

sponsored health insurance plan (Medicare anyone?) is un-American. They try to frighten

Americans with claims that the government will drive off their doctor, ration their care,

deny them life saving technology and, their greatest sin, will destroy the free market for

health care driving all the private insurers out of business. At the very same time, as the

regressives in Congress make the socialism argument, along come the health insurance

companies who claim that a public option would be unfair competition. A public option

would wipe them out. A public option would drive many of them out of business. So,

which is it? Is a public option wrong because it would socialize medicine or is it wrong

because it would be unfair competition? Does a public option violate the free market

ethos of these modern day Adam Smiths, or is it too competitive and too attractive to

many Americans who don't have insurance or who want a better deal?

This is extraordinary. For years we have been told that the free market is all

any economy needs. We are told that a free market will destroy inefficient companies

and reward those who are innovative and efficient. When the President unveiled new

rules to regulate the financial markets, the squealing could be heard from New York

to Paris to Bonn and back. New regulations will stifle creativity. New regulations will

hurt innovation. New regulations won't let the free market work it's magic. Tighter

regulation will reward those who play it safe and punish risk takers.

When Adam Smith wrote about capitalism, he wrote about the"invisible hand"

of the free market which rewards some and destroys others. The ultimate disciple of

Adam Smith and the free market, Milton Friedman, felt that the market would always

correct itself without any government interference. The now disgraced Alan Greenspan,

who fought every attempt to regulate or rein in credit default swaps and other exotic

financial instruments, and who missed entirely the dot-com bubble and the housing market

meltdown, is a Ayn Rand disciple and a champion of a free market which would always

reward and punish with that famous invisible hand.

Now we find out that the free market may not be a good idea for private health

insurance companies. Now they claim they cannot compete. In their letter they say that

the public option will be able to produce services, cover more people, and be less expensive

than what they can provide. It appears that the invisible hand will slap them silly and

drive them out of business. They don't want to compete. All of a sudden, to hell with

Adam Smith and the free market, protect us.

I sat in stunned silence as the President was asked to comment. What would

he say? Would he point out the inherent hypocrisy of the letter? Would he jump on the

double standard that these regressives are offering? No regulation, except where it will

hurt a business, and then the role of government is to reduce competition? Will he point

out and deliver the obituary of Adam Smith once and for all? Will he finally say that the

true economic system in this nation is one in which the rich and powerful try to eliminate

all competition and garner the lion's share of economic benefits for themselves?

The President didn't disappoint me. He looked at the reporter and replied that

his question didn't make any sense. The public option would be one option in a market

place of options ( a free market place). Americans and American businesses could pick

from any options available in this market place. If the public option is cheaper because

the government controls administrative costs better (Medicare devotees just 3% to

administrative costs while private insurance companies spend as much as 20%), if the

public option is more attractive because they offer lower deductibles, if the public option

offers coverage that the private insurers won't offer, and therefore people pick it over

them; isn't that how the market, the free market, is supposed to work? If private insurers

can't compete, isn't the "invisible hand" supposed to destroy them and drive them out of

business? The President said that a public option would force the private insurance industry

to get leaner and more efficient or die. Isn't he speaking in the grand tradition that Smith,

Rand, Friedman, and Greenspan have championed?

If you ever needed a reason to support a public option for health insurance, the

insurance companies themselves have given it to you. They are scared they can't compete.

In order to stay in business they will have to change and innovate; and they don't think

they can, so they are turning to "free market" regressives in the Congress to protect them

from competition. The socialist-in-chief (according to Hannity/Limbaugh, et al.) is

actually proposing a free market solution to health care, while the progeny of Adam Smith

try everything they can to wreck that market and pressure the monopoly that health

insurance companies currently enjoy. Who da thunk it?

Wherever Adam Smith is buried there is a cool breeze emanating from his grave;

a breeze caused by the speed with which he is twirling as he watches his disciples mangle

and manipulate his precious system of capitalism.

The President is on board about a public option. The Congress is balking. Will

the same forces that elected Obama rise up now and put pressure on Congress to establish

a real free market of options for health care? What do you think? I welcome your

comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

God vs. Free Will

I was listening to National Public Radio, and I heard a story about a doctor in Gaza.

He had been educated in the United States, but chose to live in Gaza because he is a

Palestinian and it is his home. He had eight children, and at least three were girls. (The

report didn't break down the rest of his family.) When the Israeli army invaded Gaza

recently, an Israeli tank rolled up outside his home. He has no idea why, but the tank fired

at his home and killed three of his daughters. There were many accusations against the

Israeli's for excessive force in Gaza; and in this case the Israeli government is going to pay

him compensation for the deaths of his daughters. (If it happened to you, what kind of

compensation would you ask for?)

What caught my attention in this story was the reaction of the doctor to the loss

of his daughters. He told the NPR reporter that being a Muslim, he believed that all of

this happened because Allah wanted it to happen. He had been chosen for this. He said

that as sad and horrible as this tragedy is, something good will have to come out of it

because that is how Allah works. He said he was taking the money from the Israeli's

and starting a foundation for women and girls to assist them in education and other needs

they may have. He said the blood of his daughters will be the seed of this new foundation

which will help others. He was not bitter, nor did he seek revenge against Israel. He said

as a doctor he was expected to heal, and how could he do that if he himself were broken

and damaged. He preaches tolerance to those who will listen to him.

As I was listening, I found myself thinking about my own children and my own

daughters. I thought about how much I love them, and how I would sacrifice my own life

for theirs without hesitation. I can't imagine losing one of them, let alone three; and

whoever took them from me should be prepared to reap the whirlwind, as I would want

justice and revenge of some sort I think.

The reaction of the doctor floored me; and I have spent days thinking about it

and thinking about my own thoughts on the matter. While the doctor attributed it all

to God's will, and while he believed that whatever God wills has a good purpose in the

end, I reflected on his fundamentalism and contrasted it with my more "enlightened"

view of how God acts in the world.

Why did God create us? It's a simple question with profound implications. The

good nuns at Holy Name Grammar School said we were created because God loves us.

In turn, God wishes us to love Her back. Since no one can be made to love anyone else

(Can you put a gun to someone's head and tell them to love you? Have you heard of

parents who don't love their children and vice versa?) Love by it's very nature is a gift.

As such it is freely given, it has to be a free act. So in creating us out of love, God had to

allow us free will or there is no love relationship offered to us. So, without free will,

there is no relationship and thus no grace. If we truly have free will, then God has no

idea what we will do with it (no omniscience). If we have free will, God can't step in and

fix things when we screw up or sin (no omnipotence). There is no cosmic bandaid

available if we just pray hard enough or long enough or fervently enough. We are free

to love God or not and She hopes we pick the former. The analogy I use is once again a

parental one. As parents, we have absolute or omnipotent control over our children for

a very short time. Eventually, we can't force them to do anything. If we have a loving and

caring relationship with them, we can still influence them in powerful ways. We can still

"persuade" them about choices they may make, but we cannot "coerce" them. The more

powerful our relationship, the more "suasive" power we have. So too with God. God

cannot coerce us, but God can be suasive, powerfully influencing our lives (read St. Francis,

St. Ignatius, Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day).

Here is the rub, or conundrum, or fly in the ointment; the doctor's explanation

of Allah's will and his acceptance that God chose him and something good will come out

of this tragedy, seems to be an answer that is more comforting or neater; and it has enabled

him to cope with the loss of his daughters far better than I could deal with the same loss.

To him, what happened is part of God's plan; and since God or Allah loves us, She can't

want anything bad for us. On the other hand, for me, what happened to the doctor was

man's inhumanity to man. It was evil. It was a free choice that these Israeli soldiers made

in the midst of a war, the choice of which someone else made.

There is a part of me that really wants to believe that what happens to us is part

of God's plan and there is a reason. There is comfort in the belief that an entity far more

powerful and loving and wise is guiding events in my life. A God that powerful could change

Her mind or fix something that went awry. In scripture, Yahweh tests Job by taking

everything away from him to see if he would still have faith. When terrible things happen,

there is a little solace in the knowledge that it could be a test or that there is a reason

behind it.

Because of his beliefs, the Palestinian doctor is not angry or vengeful, not calling

for retribution; but rather trying to make something good out of a senseless tragedy,

and turn the death of his daughters into something good by starting a foundation for

other Palestinian girls and women.

Because of my beliefs, I believe God gave us an amazing gift, the ability to enter

into a relationship with Her, to know Her and to love Her and be loved in return. We can

receive God's grace (love) and freely return it. This entity called God mad me, loves me

and wants me to love Her back, and I do that by how I love myself and others. I am free

to return that love (grace) or turn away from it (sin). Our choice is absolutely free; and

while God hopes we choose to enter into a loving relationship, She has to wait and see

what we choose to do.

Which is better, a God that controls everything and everything that happens is

part of God's will and we accept that, or a God who loves us enough to create us and then

gives us the freedom to love Her in return?

I didn't write this because I have an answer but because I have questions. I want

to believe that all that happens to us is part of some grand plan. God, I want to believe

that so badly; and yet I know that love is a free act and that freedom gives me the choice

to sin (turn away) or return the love of God.

Perhaps the appeal of a "fundamental" approach to God and religion is the

certainty that it offers. Perhaps believing everything is part of a plan helps especially

in dealing with tragedy. On the other hand, if we are free, then our choices are ours and

our world can be better if we choose, and tragedy occurs because we turned away (sin);

which means it doesn't have to occur if we turn back. Perhaps what happens to me is my

own fault, and God weeps with me, offers Her love and forgiveness, and encourages me

to do better the next time.

I don't have an answer except to say that I find the doctor's response to the loss of

his three daughters extraordinary and inspiring, and I can use all the inspiration I can get.

What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to