Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thoughts re A Nation of Sheep

The following blog is not written by the Lion of the Left; but instead, by an

acquaintance of his. His acquaintance is a physician's assistant who once lived in Saudi

Arabia and will heretofore be known as PA1 per the Lion of the Left's request:

I thought the piece was direct and necessary considering the resultant 911

patriotism binge this nation embarked on post 911 that left us with a house full of broken

freedoms, principals, and a black eye in the esteem of our next door neighbors.

Though not central to the essay, I once again feel that the author does not fully

appreciate what the fanatic represents far beyond his own religious delusions. The fanatic

knows that while his or her actions are beyond the moral code of most of his or her

countrymen; the fanatic's motives, sense of injustice, and desire for retribution are not

at all out of synch with the majority.

Hitler had bloodthirsty solutions for the wrongs that he and all his nation had

experienced first hand post WWI.

United States CIA operatives did things to other human beings that few of we

decent sort would have been able to contemplate doing to another human being. But we

sympathize with why they were doing them. We do not as a nation want to betray them

with condemnation. Our representatives tortured people because our nation was at risk.

Our way of life was being attacked. Our Executive-In-Chief ordered that the torturing

be done. In other words, people capable of extreme behavior were recruited in our name

to perform the same acts for the very same reasons that motivated the war criminals of

Germany and Japan whom we tried under the banner of Christian decency and summarily


In other words, anyone finds it hard to sympathize with the idea that one's enemy

is motivated by the very same love of country, family, children, and tradition that we are.

Osama bin Laden committed or enabled a ghastly act of terrorism against the

United States. I was in Saudi Arabia at the time. My Saudi friends were politely sympathetic,

but almost always with the caveat to wit: "But you know, your country cannot push its

way around in the world without expecting some sort of consequence."

I was living in Dhahran at the time. Downtown I could go to a shopping mall

that would give the malls of America a run for their money. I could find a KFC, McDonalds,

Pizza Hut, Baskin Robbins, and even a Roy Rogers franchise. I could tune in to the latest

tunes and talk radio being broadcast from Aramco and the AFRTS transmitters.

My Saudi friends seemed to love visiting Aramco and enjoying the Western way

of life on exhibit there. They could talk with women in western dress. They could sneak

a drink of "squeak" or home brew at any of the many western villas as their guest. It was

reassuring to we Westerners to see that indeed, when given the chance, the Saudis loved

throwing off the shackles of fourteenth century mores and customs.

At the Dhahran Mall young Saudi men snuck peeks ay the opposite sex whose

beautiful faces were seductively framed in semi-transparent veils. Phone numbers were

exchanged when the Matawa (religious police) were not looking. The men would tell me

that the "old" way of having a bride arranged by the parents was no longer acceptable.

They envied the West in this regard.

But when the Matawa did get an idea of what was going on, the bravery ended.

The young men suffered the stings of the flailing bamboo sticks carried by the Matawa.

They hung their heads in shame as the Matawa harangued on and on about immorality

and the words of the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) and the Holy Koran;

the book taught to him in school, revered at home by mother and father, grandmother

and grandfather, and by the tribe.

I have taken many vacations in Saudi Arabia and watched as Saudis would kick

up their heels in western dress in a European resort only to don traditional attire: thobe

and gutra, habaya and veil prior to landing back in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, home

of Mecca, the Kabaa, the holiest place on earth for Muslims.

I, as a westerner, am not allowed near Mecca. The companies I worked for in

Saudi Arabia kept my passport in order that at the end of my contract I would board my

last flight out with a one way ticket and do not sneak away to live and contaminate their

culture with my western ways. Saudi Arabia wants to be a respectable nation, a modern

nation, a proud Islamic nation. The Royal Family wants the power and the economy.

The Islamic faith wants a fair share of the wealth to strengthen Islam; but they also want

the West to keep it's hands off it's customs, mores, and it's pure connection to God,

to Allah.

Imagine you wake up one day and on your way to work you can only find one

new show or western music station; all the rest are Islamic, speaking Arabic. Imagine

you have to hunt to find a western men's store. The young people want to dress in

traditional Arab dress because it is cool and today. Imagine your Saturday afternoon

interrupted several times by a loudspeaker from a nearby mosque.

Imagine Rome taken over "temporarily" by a trans-Islamic army chasing after

a gang that threatened the economy of the Middle East. Imagine that in the heat of battle

and emotions that St. Peter's Basilica is heavily damaged by shelling and fire. Imagine

that thousands of innocents have been murdered in the course of war; and you complain,

but nothing can be done about it.

Imagine yourself looking at the dead bodies of your only loved ones as a "Eat

At Lucky Mohammeds" neon franchise sign blinks overhead. Imagine someone

sympathizing with you and asking for a lira or two to help fight back. Imagine that they

are successful at striking a blow, a dramatic blow. Imagine hearing for the first time in

your life: "Why do the Romans hate us so much?" What do you think? Your comments

and rebuttals are welcome. Please send them to lionoftheleft@gmail.com

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Nation of Sheep

Eight years ago on September 11th I was awakened by my wife and told to turn

on CNN. As I watched, she and all our children climbed in the bed to see what was

happening. The first plane had already hit the World Trade Center. My entire family was

watching as the second plane hit; and clearly, this was being done on purpose. There was

little conversation, the silence broken by my wife's voice declaring that the children were

staying home from school. For the next thirteen hours I watched the coverage with at least

one child either on my knee or sitting very close. I left for work wondering what could be

said about such a disastrous moment in our history. I'm still wondering eight years later.

After so many hours of continued coverage and analysis, the initial shock finally

wore off. The "what" was clear, but the "why" was not. I asked the question that night

on my radio show. I consulted an expert on world and Islamic affairs. I invited comments

or thoughts about why this had occurred. My bosses went ballistic. I was told I was

committing career suicide. It was the wrong question to ask. It was the wrong time to ask

it. Didn't anyone care why? To suggest that American foreign policy could have been one

of the triggers was "...traitorous and unpatriotic talk". Eight years later "why" is still

a much debated question. Eight years later reaction to the "what" is still being analyzed.

Eight years later the question "Are we any safer?" is still being posed. Eight years later

the question about whether we've changed as a nation is being raised and debated. Eight

years later my children are grown, our economy is in shambles, our constitution is shredded

and we have lost vast amounts of blood and treasure. Why?

I understand bin Laden's reasons. American forces were in Saudi Arabia

desecrating Islam's holiest sites, and Western culture offends his medieval fundamentalist

view (a similar view held by fundamentalist Christians and Jews). He succeeded in causing

an instance of terror, but he wanted something more. He wanted to weaken us. He wanted

to weaken us at a place his bombs could not reach. By attacking the U.S., bin Laden knew

we would turn inward and cannibalize each other. He knew we would suspect each other.

He knew that Americans are easily frightened and would agree to anything to feel safe,

including turning on fellow citizens. He knew we would be at each other's throats; and

he was right. He knew us better than we knew ourselves.

Thousands of American Muslims and others were arrested and denied all their

civil liberties. They were held without charges, without access to an attorney, and the

right of habeas corpus was thrown out. From all these post-911 arrests, not a single

terrorism conviction was obtained. Our national leaders seized upon the fears of average

Americans to get support for a piece of legislation, The Patriot Act, that eviscerated the

Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. While Congress

was passing any law our leaders proposed, those same leaders (signatories to The Project

for a New American Century) authorized the NSA to begin warrantless spying and

surveillance. The FBI was tasked to use national security letters, illegally, to cover up

investigations and the seizure of records including the books you took out of the library.

(One of the most amazing untold stories is how American librarians resisted the

government's intrusion into your privacy. They were real American heroes.) When

voices were raised in protest, the speakers were drowned out by cries of "...traitor,

subversive, unpatriotic, soft-on-terrorism". Bin Laden knew Americans would accept

a dictatorship and the destruction of the Constitution as long as they were promised

safety. He was right. For about $500,000, bin Laden was able to get us to do what he

could never accomplish by his own hands...weaken the nation.

In the ensuing eight years, September 11th was used as an excuse to start an

unnecessary war, expand government intrusion into our privacy, run up deficits of

enormous proportions, and re-elect the architects of these and many other disastrous

policies. September 11th was used to justify torture in violation of both domestic law

and international treaties. September 11th was used to keep the American people

frightened and compliant. September 11th was used to make a disastrous foreign policy

palatable and to sell the American people on a path which led to the destruction of

America's image throughout the world. As the anniversary of 9/11 passes, the only way

we can honor those who gave their lives serving their country and the hundreds of

thousands killed by our military adventurism is to learn some lessons from this event.

So, exactly what have we learned, if anything?

It seems clear now that the attack on September 11th never threatened the

existence of this nation. The freedom of Americans was never threatened by al Qaeda.

No outside force could ever conquer this nation. The real danger to our freedom of

speech, freedom of association, and freedom from unwarranted government intrusion

comes from "us" not "them". The constitutional basis for our republic is weaker today

than it was on September 10th, 2001. The free press, envisioned as vital to our democracy

by the founding fathers, failed us completely in the aftermath of September 11th. Actually,

to be fair, the corporate media failed us. Alternative media and press raised alarms,

sounded warnings, printed information ignored by the corporate media, and were

summarily dismissed as irrelevant, immaterial, and "...haters of all that is American".

Our system of checks and balances completely failed after September 11th.

Congress proved itself incapable of protecting us from our worst natures. Democrats

and Republicans rolled over and played dead in the face of an executive branch determined

to expand it's power and influence. The Judiciary turned a blind eye to Constitutional

violations so egregious as to warrant criminal investigations. A nation based on the rule

of law became a nation of lawlessness and abuse of power.

The cliche is: "Those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat the

same mistakes." If we are hit again, have we learned anything or would we be easily

frightened again and willing to water down our rights and even more protections? If

terrorists attack again, will the corporate media amplify our fears or report honestly

and responsibly? Is Congress any better prepared to stand up to irrational fear today

than it was eight years ago? Would President Obama react differently than President


On the night of September 11th, 2001 I asked "why" this horrible event had

happened. I asked "why" innocent people and heroic firefighters and police had to die.

In the weeks and months and years that followed, I asked if there were any policies or

programs instituted by our government which could have provoked such a brutal act

of terrorism? Reaction to this question continues to be mixed, but in the end questions

like these must be asked. Eight years later, are we any closer to understanding how it is

a single terrorist incident could have such devastating aftereffects on the richest and most

powerful nation on earth? Eight years later, we haven't captured bin Laden; and we are

still involved in two wars. Eight years later, young Americans are still being asked to die.

Eight years later, do you have any confidence there will be a constitution left if we get

hit again? Eight years later, will Americans stand up to fear-mongering and defend their

country from the enemies within? Eight years ago we learned that the myth of the rugged

individual, the myth of the resilient American, the myth of the hardy pioneers able to

withstand all threats were just that...myths. Eight years ago Americans were stampeded

like sheep by an enemy who wanted to sow seeds of terror and division. Perhaps it is

time to teach our children a new way. What shall it be? What do you think? I welcome

your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to lionoftheleft@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's About Character

I was worried about President Obama's speech to Congress on healthcare reform.

Would he strongly support a public option? Would he be specific enough? Would he explain

exactly what his plan will do? Will he take on the Regressives aggressively and would he

inspire those of us who were so moved by his election and the change he represented from

the previous eight years? If you worried like me; if you feared he might wimp out or shrink

from the task at hand; if you didn't want to be disappointed by one more politician; then

you should be feeling pretty good right about now.

The President hit one out of the park and his Regressive opponents showed

their true colors. The President laid out his plan and then took the argument to a new

level reminiscent of speeches about civil rights and voting rights. The President stated

that this debate about healthcare is not just about insurance and money and quality of

care. This is about the character of us as a nation. This is about whether we will care

for all Americans or not. This is about how the richest nation on earth will treat the

poorest and neediest of it's citizens. This is about what kind of people we are.

Specifically, the President promised upon signing new healthcare legislation

it would be illegal to deny health insurance because of a previously existing condition.

It would be illegal to drop someone because they got sick. No one could be forced into

bankruptcy because of an illness. This plan would create a market place of plans to choose

from by those who currently don't have insurance and that this market place would

include a public option to force private health insurance companies to keep prices

competitive and services comparable. Employers would have to provide health insurance

to employees; and just as everyone in California and 32 other states have to have auto

insurance, they will also have to have health insurance.

While I appreciated the specifics; I now really understand what his idea is,

a call for us to be the best we can be as a nation. He reminded the country that when

people were wiped out by the Depression, the Congress passed Social Security despite

claims it would turn the U.S. into a socialist country. In 1965, with over half the population

over 65 living under the poverty line (with some buying dog food because it was all they

could afford to eat); the Congress stepped up again and passed Medicare to provide

quality healthcare. They also passed the Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, and Public

Accommodations Act to end the system of Jim Crow laws that oppressed African-Americans

in this land. Critics of both Medicare and Civil Rights fomented fear; fear of a total

government takeover of healthcare and fear of the mixing of races and the rise of African-

Americans to full citizenship. Time after time, this nation has done the right thing over

the objections of entrenched special interests and to the benefit of the powerless and

downtrodden. The President called on Congress to rise to the occasion again; as he did,

the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and it was election night all over again.

This is now a debate about what kind of nation we are. Are we a nation of the

people, by the people, and for the people; or are we a nation of faceless, feckless

corporations whose only goal is to maximize profits no matter who it hurts? This is

a real debate. This is an argument worth having. This is a cause worth fighting for and

this is the time to do it.

The President pointed out that this bill would not add a dime to the deficit (he

will veto it if it does). He reminded members of Congress that the price tag over ten

years is equal to the amount Congress was willing to appropriate to fund the wars in

Afghanistan and Iraq and pay for a tax cut for the richest 1% of American citizens. The

implication is clear. Are we a nation with enough character to guarantee healthcare

to all at an affordable price or are we a nation willing to only throw money at the military-

industrial complex and the rich?

The President debunked the myths of August from death panels to illegal

immigrants and abortion. Right on cue the Regressives made their voice known in this

debate when a Congressman from South Carolina, in the middle of the speech, called

the President a liar. Regressive strategy became further evident in their responses to

the President's speech. A Louisiana Congressman called on the President and Congress

to throw out all proposals and start fresh (delaying anything being done for years).

Obama stated that he will be the last President who will have to debate this subject.

The President asked all Americans what kind of nation they want to live in.

Will we progress or regress? Will we rise up to take care of our friends and neighbors

as previous generations have or will we let self interest and selfishness rule the day?

This is about the character of our country and I for one really want this debate.

It's time. We have watched the corporations and rapacious rich create a gap between

the haves and have-nots that is increasing daily. We have put up with eight years of

disastrous economic and foreign policy. We have stood by while Regressives tried to

dismantle the New Deal, New Frontier, and the Great Society; and they have come close

to succeeding. This is no longer just about healthcare. It is now about what kind of legacy

we leave our children. Obama has staked his Presidency on a debate about character

and morality. Are you as excited as I am? Are you ready to get involved?

I was worried when the President started his speech; worried I would be let

down or that my faith in him was misplaced; worried that runaway healthcare costs

would wreck our economy or his call to arms would be weak or squishy; worried he

would not fight and call out the Regressives to put up or shut up. Instead, I am now in

a debate about the character of this nation, a debate long overdue. Huzzah! This is

going to be fun. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please

send them to lionoftheleft@gmail.com

Monday, September 14, 2009

Charles Atlas Where Are You?

At the back of almost every comic book I read would be an ad. The scene would

be a beach on a sunny day with a boy and girl laying out on a blanket. An over-developed,

steroid-laden figure would kick sand in the young man's face and humiliate him in front

of his girlfriend. The ad promised that if you sent money for Charles Atlas's book of

exercises, you too could become muscle-bound and never have sand kicked in your face


Now that Labor Day is over, perhaps it is time for Democrats and Progressives

to find the political equivalent of Charles Atlas's book and bulk up or at least wake up.

For most of August, Progressives looked like deer caught in the headlights. They have

been shocked, surprised, baffled, and amazed by the tactics of Regressives to derail

healthcare reform. Yes, they knew there would be a debate and they were prepared

to duke it out on the substance of the differences between the two sides.

Unfortunately, substance would never make an appearance during this summer

recess. Instead, supporters of reform found themselves on the receiving end of every

outrageous and dishonest accusation opponents could invent. Members of Congress

found that reform meant the establishment of "death panels" to force grandma to accept

being euthanized to save money. They faced apoplectic constituents (well, sometimes

they were constituents) screaming they would be forced to let the government decide

what kind of treatment they received. Health reform was called a slide down the slippery

slope to communism or it was the first step towards a new Nazi regime led by Adolph

Obama (who isn't even an American citizen). Little old ladies and angry old men

screamed for government to keep it's hands off their Medicare. Oh yes, health reform

meant the end of Medicare and seniors thrown out into the snowy night to fight off

the wolves. It was a classic example of throwing "bull's geschicte" against the wall and

running with what stuck.

Since it was August, a notoriously slow month for corporate media, the yelling

and screaming, the accusations and counter accusations, the fighting and the violence

(including one finger bitten off) were showcased front and center morning, noon, and

night. Opponents knew the mayhem and anger would lead every news cast. They also

knew any town meeting, any community gathering that didn't erupt into paroxysms of

anger would not get any coverage. It used to be the rule in news that if it bleeds it leads;

but it's August, and if it yells it sells and they were cleaning up. Washington Post

columnist Howard (I work for the corporate media) Kurtz wrote about how the "media"

tried to counter the lies with "truth squads"; and how they failed miserably to put a dent

in the bullying and the falsehoods. Since he gets paid by CNN, nowhere in his column

did he mention the frequency with which violence and lies led top of the hour newscasts.

He didn't point out the corporate media invited every bomb-throwing, falsehood-laden,

Sarah Palinesque character on their shows giving them top billing and their biased

opinions and lies the appearance of genuine news deserving of genuine discourse and

debate. They even invited paid publicists to appear and repeat the attacks. The only

pundit to take on the lies directly and show the "health emperor" had no clothes was

Jon Stewart, the host of the Daily Show.

The end result was predictable. Breathless news-Barbies and Kens expressed

the opinion the nation was seriously divided. Americans were angry. We are at each

others throats. Pundits opined about which city would go up in outraged smoke and

ashes. Healthcare reform is dead they said. Obama is a lame duck already. Members

of Congress are scared for their very future. The idea of a government healthcare option

to compete with the private health insurance companies has gone the way of the Dodo

and the Edsel. It was over. The battle was lost. All of this was proclaimed while poll

numbers showed over 60% of Americans favored a public option; a majority of Americans

favor stopping companies from dropping coverage for pre-existing conditions; over 50%

easily supported health insurance which is portable and not dependent on their jobs and

Americans wanted a system that covers the 48 million of their fellow citizens who don't

have insurance now. While President Obama's popularity had fallen, it still hovered at

or above 50%. At the same time, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

and House Minority Leader John Boehner's popularity numbers hovered between 14%

and 18%. When asked who they trusted to best deal with healthcare and the economy,

Democrats beat Republicans by over 20%. To show you how effective the corporate media

carried the Regressive's water, senior citizens were told Democrats would cut or ration

Medicare, a program Republicans have tried to destroy since it's inception; and knowing

that if no reform is passed, Medicare will go bankrupt by 2017 and seniors will be left

with nothing.

I don't know why Progressives don't know how to fight or at least anticipate

what happened in August. The same crowd which lied about weapons of mass destruction,

lied about terrorist threats and manipulated the terror color code, lied about death taxes

and tax cuts for the rich, the same P.R. companies which created babies thrown from

incubators and the Harry and Louise ads in the last healthcare debate are working on

this project too. They understand truth doesn't matter. Language matters, vocabulary

matters, pictures matter, videos matter; and they controlled much of it in August.

Progressives kept getting sand kicked in their collective faces and did little to fight back.

When will Progressives realize the only way to win in this environment is to confront,

contrast, and castigate anyone who puts their head up to utter any words of discouragement.

Democrats in Washington appear to "have gotten the message", according to

the Punditocracy; and will run away from Obama and Pelosi to protect themselves in

the upcoming midterm elections. A friend told me he thought the 2006 election and

the Democratic re-taking of Congress was the American people saying "...we want change".

The 2008 election was "...you didn't hear us, we want change". If Democrats do not

produce change, the electorate will throw them out again as they did in 1994. They will

rise or fall with Obama. The good news is the battle is not over. The good news is the

majority of Americans are in agreement on the most important aspects of healthcare

reform. Congress can still be forced to have some backbone and do what is right.

Progressives and Independents can make their will known and force Congress to accede

to their demands. All it takes is good old fear. Make them more afraid of you than they

are of the corporate media and their toadies. You know how to do it.

As for Charles Atlas, Progressives have to understand their opponents are not

honorable. Those who want to turn the clock back to simpler and harsher times aren't

interested in honest debate. There are no rules and the corporate media will side with

which ever side gives them the best footage, the best sound, the closest thing to professional

wrestling as possible. The corporate media likes the status quo. The owners like

healthcare the way it is. They don't want new taxes on employers; nor do these corporate

CEO's want to lose the hammer they hold over working people, making them choose

between pay raises or higher healthcare premiums. This hammer has held down labor

costs for thirty years. It's time to kick some proverbial sand of our own. Are you up

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

to lionoftheleft@gmail.com

I Owe, I Owe, It's Off To Work I Go

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that college students are borrowing more

than ever to pay tuition. In just one year borrowing increased by 25% to $75.1 billion.

Sixty-six percent of college students borrow to afford to attend a university. In 1997 that

number was 58%. Today the average debt is $23,186 versus $13,172 in 1997. This is the

average; but if a student attends schools like the University of California, University of

Michigan or the University of Washington, the four year total could easily be $80,000;

and if the school of choice is USC, Notre Dame, Stanford, Duke or an Ivy, the tab could

run close to$200,000.

I have talked about this problem frequently. College students graduate and

must start paying back these debts almost immediately. If they attend graduate school,

the debt load approaches that of a first mortgage. Being this indebted has serious

ramifications. The types of jobs chosen, places to live, whether or not to have a family,

and the ability to buy a home are all affected by how much these students owe.

When I was of college age, you could attend UC Berkeley for about $1,600

a year. Today, tuition and room and board will run bout $23,000 and that is considered

a bargain. The Master Plan for California states that the cost of obtaining a higher

education should be as low as possible. When Proposition 13 was passed, the chance of

a reasonable price for a higher education went out the window. Now the situation is

even worse as year after year Sacramento tries to balance the state budget on the backs

of students at all levels, but particularly universities.

If ever there was a national security issue, this is it. Far more dangerous than

any terrorist attack and causing long term economic damage, college tuition is an issue

no one wants to touch. The main reason is that banks are making a huge profit off of

education loans and the fees that are associated with them. Not only are they lucrative,

but the banks take no risk since the government backs the loans and guarantees repayment.

We desperately need an educated work force. As more and more manufacturing

jobs leave for cheaper locales, the new worker will have to be better educated in order

to cope with emerging technology and to be flexible enough to adapt skills to new

opportunities as they present themselves. Our children have to compete with children

around the world who have access to university education at far less cost and thus gain

a huge advantage. A number of years ago, Ireland decided that it's university education

would be free. The result was an increase in university educated graduates and a work

force very desirable to employers. A number of industries including pharmaceutical

and biotech moved facilities to Ireland; and the economy heated up to the hottest in

the European Union.

The answer to this crisis is quite simple. College should be free. If you can be

admitted, your tuition is free. The benefits would be extraordinary for this nation. First,

consumer spending drives 2/3 of our economy. Imagine parents of college age students

who didn't have to pay tuition or borrow the money. Imagine how that would increase

their buying power and boost the economy. We give cash for clunkers, how about dollars

for diplomas? Second, students who graduate with low or non-existent debt would be

free to choose among numerous jobs which benefit society but don't garner the big bucks.

From teaching to social work to medical practices in poor rural areas, students would

be able to serve and accept lower salaries. Third, more students would be able to purchase

homes which would boost the home building industry, appliance makers, and furniture

suppliers. Increasing access to higher education would stimulate emerging green

technologies as well as high tech innovations which would provide more jobs to a ready

and willing work force.

I crunched the numbers and figured you could do this for about $60 billion

a year. We spent over $200 billion a year in Iraq and Afghanistan, $750 billion to bail

out Wall Street, $500 billion to bail out the savings and loan industry; and we could

close corporate tax loopholes (offshore shell companies formed to avoid paying taxes)

which could pay for a large portion of this price tag. This is very doable. Can you imagine

being the parent of children who work hard and achieve academically and know they

will be able to get a college education that won't bankrupt you or force them into serious

debt? Can you imagine the pressure that would ease? Can you imagine what a carrot it

would be for poor families to tell their children if they work hard they are guaranteed

a college education? For once, middle class families would get a benefit almost non-

existent today. This would be better than any tax break that could be offered.

The only question is do we have the will and vision to do what we need to do

for the economic and national security of this country? Only you can answer this question.

We might never be attacked again by terrorists; but if we don't solve this problem, it

won't matter. We will become a third world nation unable to compete and the terrorists

won't have to lift a finger. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.

Please send them to lionoftheleft@gmail.com

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The State of Tex-ass

If Texas did not exist, someone would have to make it up. If you needed a classic

example of what your life would be like with Regressives running the country, all you have

to do is examine life and public policy in Texas. Texas ranks last or next to last in some

amazing categories: funding for women's health, pre-natal care, per-pupil public school

spending, legal aid, and prevention of violence against women. To it's credit, Tex-ass is

first in executions. Until a recent Supreme Court ruling, Texas believed in criminalizing

the private behavior of adults in their own home. Texas' governor suggested the state

should consider secession because of unhappiness with the goings on in Washington; and

the State Board of Education believes that Texas students should only learn about famous

Regressives in their history books.

No, I am not making this up. In a proposal for new standards for the state's

high school history books, the State Board of Education stated students should learn about

Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, and the Moral Majority. Students should not read or learn

about such un-American figures like Cesar Chavez, the leader of the United Farm Worker's

Union, nor Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice and

the man who successfully argued Brown vs. The Board of Education which ended segregation

in public schools.

The fifteen member Board is made up of ten Republicans, and many seem to think

this proposal will pass a preliminary vote. It gets better. One Regressive board member,

Ken Mercer, thinks the list of Regressives needs to be longer. He wants high school students

studying American History to learn about the exploits of James Dobson, founder of Focus

on the Family, Sean Hannity, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Others

have proposed adding Rush Limbaugh and the National Rifle Association.

Before you dismiss this as so much piffle and something that doesn't affect you,

you need to realize that Texas is the second largest purchaser of school textbooks.

Textbook publishers tailor their books to meet Texas standards. This means that children

in most other states will read books that meet Texas standards. In other words, for many

schools, as goes Texas so goes the rest of the country. This ain't bean-bag.

Two of the textbook reviewers of the Board recommended that any mention of

Cesar Chavez be dropped from the next edition of American History books because they

don't consider him to be a good role model.

It is hard to know where to begin. Newt Gingrich dumped wife number one for

wife number two while she was in a hospital bed recovering from surgery. He then had

an affair with a staffer who became wife number three. Rush Limbaugh has more ex-wives

than suits and a little drug problem as well. Gingrich declared the latest Supreme Court

Justice Sonia Sotomayor a racist; and Limbaugh compares President Obama to the Nazis,

as well as openly hopes he fails to bring back the American economy. Cesar Chavez

organized farm workers into their first union, fought for just wages and safe working

conditions in the fields; and he did it all non-violently. However, he is not a proper

role model.

It would all be laughable if these people weren't dead serious. They truly believe

that a study of American history should include Rockefeller and Carnegie, Hoover and

Nixon, McCarthy and Reagan; while eliminating any discussion of King, Chavez, Marshall,

Roosevelt, Parks, or other Progressives. You haven't heard a whiff of this in the corporate

media. The same media whipped the flames of death panels, town yells, and the government's

attempt to reform healthcare; and have nothing to say about the attempt by Texas to

hijack the textbook industry and force it's view of the world on the rest of the nation's

children. The same media that let anyone who wished to get face time to accuse the

President of not being born in America, is silent on an attempt to teach propaganda and

not history. If the school board in Berkeley or San Francisco had proposed to teach

American history but leave out Lincoln, Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, both Bushes and

William F. Buckley; you couldn't have turned on a TV or radio without hearing about it.

Knowledge is power and Regressives understand this principle. They also know

history is not on their side. History is the story of progress in this nation. It is a story

about the struggle for rights and justice. It is a chronicle of a nation moving from the

control of land-owning white men to enfranchisement of all Americans no matter what

their race, creed, or color. American history is a story about the fits and starts of that

progress. American history is the study of both the good and bad in this journey. The

goal of history is to be as objective as possible. The key difference between history and

propaganda is the ability to suspend bias and chronicle the facts. Real history teaches

the truth as much as possible and lets the chips fall where they may. It has become a

cliche to quote George Santayana, but had Hitler remembered Napoleon, World War II

might have turned out very differently; or had John F. Kennedy not remembered what

triggered the First World War, the Cuban Missile Crisis could have been the spark of a

thermonuclear World War III.

Texas and Texans deserve each other. However, the rest of the nation needs

to ensure our children get the best and most wide-ranging education possible. There

isn't anything anyone can do to restore sanity to the Texas Board of Education, but this

gives you a real world glimpse into a nation governed by these intellectual homunculi

and it ought to scare the beejesus out of you. What do you think? I welcome your

comments and rebuttals. Please send them to lionoftheleft@gmail.com

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lemons Into Lemonade

Senator Edward Kennedy has dominated the news lately. His death brings to an

end a generation of leaders who changed the shape of this country. The corporate media

has covered every aspect of his life from legislative accomplishments to his relationship

to the Kennedy saga. What struck me, however, were the episodes in his life where he faced

crushing adversity, mind-numbing disasters, and soul-sucking twists of fate. He conquered

all and moved forward to end up a classic American story of redemption and resurrection.

America is not a nation which admires failure. A team that comes in second is not

held up to praise. America loves winners and heroes. America loves to see a hero fall; and

we are quick to condemn fallen heroes to the dustbin of history. We like winners. We

teach our children to win. We preach success. Parents work hard to protect their children

from failure or tragedy. Children are not taught that life is full of pain and loss. Maybe

that is understandable, but as a culture we do not celebrate failure or admit the real skill

in life is healing after being broken and then moving forward. What was the first tragedy

or failure in your life? Were you ready for it? Did you possess the skills to deal with it?

What did you learn from it? How old were you? Did you pass the lesson on to others?

At age twelve, Ted Kennedy found out his oldest brother, Joe, had been killed

in World War II. When he was thirty, he had to call his father to tell him the President,

his son, had been assassinated. In 1964, Ted almost died in a plane crash; and was

hospitalized for more than six months and had severe back pain for the rest of his life.

His sister had suffered a botched lobotomy and was lost to him forever. in 1968, he had

to bury his brother Bobby. By the time he was 36 years old he had lost three brothers and

two sisters, his family was in tatters, and he was now the surrogate father to thirteen of

his brother's children and standard bearer of America's royal family. It is enough for

three people to cope with, but in Ted's case it gets worse.

In 1969, he drives a car off a bridge and his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowns.

He left the scene. He didn't try to save her. The unspoken allegations are he was drunk

and having an affair with her. He became known as a womanizer and a drunk and his

physical health suffered. He tried to run for President, but was soundly rejected. He had

two children who had to fight cancer and had to bury three nephews. At it's darkest, his

personal faults were on display to the world; as he had to take the stand in the rape trial

of his nephew and tell how he had taken him for a night of partying in Miami.

Yet, he remarried and had his most productive and happiest years from 1991 on.

He built up a legislative record unmatched in modern history; and the personal record of

a loving husband, father, uncle, and grandfather who was there for any family member

who needed him. His sons eulogized him as a man who tried to find a way to turn every

tragedy into a positive outcome in some way. In that way his life was a true profile in

courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is being afraid or depressed or

anxious or despondent, but not being paralyzed or conquered by these feelings. In today's

world of "gotcha" journalism and 24-hour news cycles, would Ted Kennedy be allowed

to fail and live with tragedy and still prevail? Would anyone care to compare how he

responded to pressure and tragedy to someone like Sarah Palin?

It is said it is easy to live a charmed life. The real trick is to endure the suffering

life holds for each of us and not be conquered by it. To be knocked down and not only get

back up, but get back up better than you were before, is the key to living a full life.

We need to teach this to our children. They need to know failure and tragedy

and suffering are part of life. They need the tools so that they can be resilient and

courageous. They deserve the wisdom we can impart based on our own experience of

tragedy and failure and how we overcame and moved forward. They need to know that

trying and failing is so much better for them than not trying at all.

As Ted Kennedy's children spoke at his funeral, the theme they returned to again

and again was how he taught them never to give up. He constantly preached that they

could do anything. When life knocks you down, get up and move forward. I wonder how

many of us teach our children these lessons? Do we encourage them to try and maybe fail;

or do we reinforce a culture that worships success and pities and enjoys other's failures?

The triumph of Ted Kennedy isn't contained in his name or family riches. The

triumph of Ted Kennedy is in his love of family and the role model he became of a man

beaten and battered in life, yet emerging bruised but unbowed because he refused to let

anything conquer or dominate his spirit.

How well have you handled the vicissitudes life has handed you and how well

have you prepared your children for the bruises they will endure in their lives? When

all is said and done, will you have conquered life or will life have conquered you? What

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