Thursday, October 29, 2009

Monster Inc.

In a recent column in Newsweek, Dr. Richard Dawkins, a scientist of great repute,

outspoken atheist, and author of a book on God spoke about scripture, Hebrew scripture.

He states that no one who reads Hebrew scripture can deny the God portrayed in these pages

is a monster. Dawkins speaks of a God who engages in murder, infanticide, jealousy, rage,

and who is petty and vindictive. He is not wrong. The God of Hebrew scriptures, what

Christians know as the Old Testament, is portrayed as all these things and more. If you

believe the account in Exodus, God is a terrorist who kills innocent children in order to

force Pharaoh to to release Her Chosen People. The same God is petty and spiteful when

Moses is not allowed into the Promised Land for having doubts. God punishes Sodom and

Gomorrah for immorality, but rewards Lot for offering his virgin daughters over to be

raped in order to save his house guests. There are numerous other examples from scripture

to support Dawkin's characterization of God as a monster. However, it is unfortunate

Dawkins chooses to rail against a God created in our own image and likeness. For a man

who accuses fundamentalists and creationists of ignorance and intellectual laziness, Dawkins

shows a surprising lack of understanding of both scripture and God.

Scripture is a chronicle of God revealing Herself to the world. More importantly,

scripture is an account of our slow epiphanies and realizations of God's presence in the

world. Most Americans are only familiar with the first eleven chapters of Genesis and not

much more. Adam and Eve, Creation, Cain and Abel, Noah's Ark, The Tower of Babel; those

are the stories most Americans know. Unfortunately, these chapters are written as a pre-

history to explain the world as it is when we encounter Abraham in Chapter 12. What is

Abraham's insight? This God is knowable and relatable and wishes to have a relationship

with us.

Both Hebrew and Christian scriptures are stories about God's revelation and our

acknowledgement of it and the covenant we entered into with this God. Recorded are a series

of fits and starts and ups and downs. They are stories of our attempts to be faithful to that

covenant, and stories about our failures and fears. Since scripture is a product of human

work inspired by God, it reflects both the evolution of our species and our relationship

with God; and Dawkins clearly understands evolutionary theory.

I once took a class entitled "God". In his opening remarks, the professor expressed

how after a few weeks of study we would be able to write a book on God. In the ensuing

weeks we came to feel we might, just might, be able to write an article or column; but by

the time the class was over we understood there was nothing we could say about God

because anything we wrote or said is limited by our language and intellect, and God

transcends both.

I taught Hebrew and Christian scripture in high school, and one of the most

disquieting concepts for my students was the notion of God as "nothing". If God is the

creator of all "things", God cannot be a thing. God by definition must be a "no-thing".

The great mystic, St. John of the Cross, talks about ascending the mountain to discover

God and upon reaching the top we discover God is "nada", nothing. In the movie "Contact",

Jodie Foster's character, an atheist similar to Dawkins, encounters a new universe so

beautiful and powerful she says they should have sent a poet to describe what she was

seeing. Words eluded her.

All "God-talk" is by it's nature a metaphor. The experience of God is an experience

of transcendence. Whatever we say about God says as much about us as it does about God

and maybe more. Scripture is an attempt to put into words the experience Abraham, Isaac,

and Jacob had of a transcendent God. All they had to use was their own words and

experiences. The God Dawkins is reacting to is the God simple words speak about in

scripture. This is similar to how fundamentalists read the same thing. The God I react to

in scripture is available to anyone. The God of scripture is far more faithful than we are.

The God of scripture promises never to abandon us even if we reject Her. The beauty of

the story, which Dawkins misses, is the spectacle of fits and starts, the journey of people

who occasionally get glimpses and insights about this God; and then try to translate these

experiences from the realm of poetry and prayer into human language and action.

Dawkins reacts to stories of people trying to implement what they thought or

felt were God's wishes. He makes the same mistake fundamentalists make by reading

scripture literally and ignoring the context. Because the Hebrews did not believe in an

afterlife, justice had to be served now; and because of this Israel's enemies were God's

enemies. Their punishment has to be sure and swift and now. This translates into battles

where God was said to command they kill every man, woman, and child in town. The story

of scripture is not a story of a God-like monster, but rather the story of sinful humans

trying to translate an experience of transcendence into one of imminence.

Dawkins, Christopher, Hitchens, and others have written books recently extolling

the virtues of atheism and attacking the God they encounter in scripture. Unfortunately,

the God they are reacting to is a fundamentalist, literalist God which ignores this incredible

story of discovery and an ongoing contest for understanding.

The story of Hebrew scripture is a journey of revelation and insight. Starting with

Genesis, God molds humans out of clay and breathes life into them. It is an earthy portrayal

of what primitive man thought about God. By the time of Jesus, we encounter people who

believe this God is so relatable, so intimate, so close that we can get as close as a father is

to his son (Jesus calls God Abba). Scripture is also a journey of human moral evolution.

The longer people engage with this God, the more their humanity is developed. The journey

culminates in a philosophy of life more radical than any expressed before or since. Love

God and your neighbor, forgive an infinite number of times, turn the other cheek, judge not,

and whatever you do for the least of your brothers and sisters you do for God.

Few people write about The Acts of the Apostles, a book describing an early Christian

community trying to implement their interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures in light of

the Jesus event. No one writes about it because the reaction was so dramatic and radical.

This community lived in common. All possessions were community shared. You could not

be a soldier and be a part of this community. It is a vision which completely rejects the

Calvinistic capitalism of this nation and embraced loving and caring for each other. It is

not surprising this piece of scripture is so frequently ignored by Christians and atheists alike.

The story of scripture is the story of humans using limited language and symbols

to express the inexpressible. It is the story of a people more and more convinced God is

knowable. It is the story of discovery, of moments of transcendence, and the stories and

myths that surround these experiences. It culminates in the faith that God, through Jesus,

has always been joined with our humanity and journeys with us.

Dr. Dawkins is correct. The God of Hebrew scriptures is a monster if you believe

God causes all things to happen. Dr. Dawkins is correct if your God is a fundamentalist God.

He couldn't be more wrong, however, if the God of scripture is a creator who wishes to be

close to us, interact with us. God loves us by example, the example of Jesus Christ,

encourages us to love each other. Experiences of God have always been made real in the

love we share between us rather than in the myriad of ways we have used religion to separate

ourselves from each other. In the final analysis, Dawkins sees what he wants to see. We all do.

We can believe anything we wish. The proof of the pudding is in the kind of life you lead and

the ripples you leave behind. Dr. Dawkins would be better served talking about what

scripture calls us to be rather than how our ancient ancestors wrote about the story of that call.

It is a never-ending story that continues to be written in the ordinary lives of men and women

throughout the world. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please

send them to

When Insurance Companies Compete...You Win

If you ever need ammunition to use against those who accuse corporate media of

being too liberal, the healthcare debate should provide enough to supply an army. Since

the town yells of the summer, media "headlines" have been asking the American public

"Is healthcare reform dead...on it's last legs...dying...dead on arrival...on life support?"

I lost count of how many news readers, re-anchors or pundits, declared healthcare reform

on it's last legs and pronounced a public option as dead and buried.

The Wall Street Journal, no bastion of progressive thought, declares the public

option is off life support and making a recovery in the Senate. (It is expected the House

version will contain a public option.) The Journal further reports that several versions of

a public plan are being discussed and prospects are hopeful that some blended version will

make it into the final Senate bill. The debate over a public option, and the healthcare bill

in general, is gaining so much momentum the Journal says Democrats "...feel a breeze at

their backs".

The "breeze" the Democrats feel is, in part, from a report the Congressional Budget

Office has issued which claims a Democratic healthcare bill (which contains a public option)

would reduce the deficit. This is the same CBO which scored the Senate finance bill and

concluded it would cost under $900 billion over ten years. This is crucial because the

President said he won't sign a bill which adds to the deficit or one that costs over $1 trillion

in ten years. It is even more important because one of the central factors in the nation's

rising budget deficit is the rapid increase in healthcare costs. Thus, the Democratic plan

would cover about 95% of Americans, eliminate prohibitions against pre-existing conditions,

create portable insurance not based on your job, drive premium prices down through the

good old capitalistic notion of competition, and reduce the deficit. So, here we stand,

facing the real chance that Washington might actually vote a change in which everyone,

except the insurance companies, wins. Who'da thunk it?

I know, I know, I'm counting my chickens before they hatch; but it is a reaction

to months and months of "liberal" news coverage in which we were told this couldn't happen.

We were told the American people were outraged and simply wouldn't stand for it. This was

despite every poll showing the American people support a public option and other provisions

by an overwhelming majority. We were fed stories about a new grassroots movement of

tea bag parties that was sure to derail healthcare, crush Obama, and guaranteed a Republican

resurgence in 2010. The "news reports" and the reality don't jive.

How do you explain corporate media declaring healthcare reform dead on arrival

and the conclusion by the Wall Street Journal that there is a good chance healthcare reform

will pass; reform which includes a public option! Remember how we were told Obama blew

it? He had been too hands off. He should have been more involved in setting the agenda.

He was too weak and not assertive enough. We were told each time a deadline was missed,

this meant the reform effort was over. We were told the town yells scared Congress and

members were afraid to vote for any change in healthcare rules. Hanbaugh, Beck, Faux News,

and the Regressive echo machine were given credit for stopping "Obamacare" in it's tracks.

Now, not only won't Rush get a football team to own, he will watch President Obama

sign the most important legislation since Social Security and Medicare even as the economy

rebounds from eight years of fiscal irresponsibility by his good friend George Bush.

The most interesting public option being considered is a proposal to create a

national health plan which allows individual states to opt in or opt out. Supporters envision

states like California, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania opting in and states like Texas,

Mississippi, and Georgia opting out (blue states in and red states out). With the most

populated states "in" we will be able to have a real test to see if the public option works.

When it does, the people in red states will be seeking to join no matter what political party

is in control. Once again, good old American competition will settle the question. It's


It should be noted, Regressives are now attacking the Congressional Budget Office

numbers. These are the same folks who were thrilled with the CBO during the summer

when it's initial report concluded healthcare reform would cost $1 trillion over ten years

and not reduce the deficit. Republican leaders trumpeted the numbers and cited them as

proof the Democrats were trying to bankrupt the nation. Now, when the numbers don't

go their way, the CBO can't be trusted (CNN's Lou Dobbs declared CBO numbers are not

worth a damn). It's also worth noting the Democrats appear quite willing to go it alone

without a single Republican vote. What will be the reaction of voters in 2010 to a party

which tried to derail healthcare reform while offering no alternative of their own?

The war is not over yet. The fight is in the Democratic party. We have to let

the Democrats know they will pay a price if they don't push for reform; and to do this they

will have to face down a Republican filibuster. They must get an up or down vote. If the

Democrats succeed, I am convinced more than one Republican will vote yes rather than

incur the wrath of voters in 2010.

If you have written, write again. If you have called or e-mailed, do it again. Contact

your local Congressional offices. Keep the pressure on. Friends, healthcare reform is not

an option. Change is so, so long overdue. We've given Obama and his Democrats the

opportunity to hear our cries, and they've responded with a plan. Imagine a day when

a child born in this country never has to fear losing health coverage or being economically

crushed because he or she got sick or lost their job. We elected Obama to create change.

This would not be a bad start. Let's see this thing through! What do you think? I welcome

your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Put a "Rush" On That Order!

Investors putting a proposal together to buy the St. Louis Rams dropped Rush

Limbaugh from their group. It seems they did not want all the baggage Rush would bring

with him. They worried he could derail their bid.

The Regressive echo-machine went into full outrage mode and Dittoheads all over

the country started burning NFL paraphanalia (actually they only burnt Ram's jerseys, which

was fine since no one on the current team seems to need them on Sundays). Salamon bin

Rushdie took to the airwaves to denounce the forces of the left fighting desperately to

prevent the "mainstreaming" of a prominent conservative. Rush clearly sees himself the

victim of narrow-minded and bigoted liberals who refuse to allow him to associate with

America's game.

I am a little confused. For years, Rush and his ilk have pounded their listeners

with proclamations that they are the real Americans; not some lilly-livered, commie-loving,

Obamacare-spreading lefty liberal media-biased figures who want nothing but to bring

America down. To hear Hanbaugh tell it, they are preaching to real Americans every

day. Their philosophy is bedrock American. They hold up values which made America great.

Rush presents himself as hated precisely because he represents the true American patriot;

and because he has reclaimed America from weak-kneed, feminazi-loving sissified Hollywood

types who want to destroy this great nation and sell it out to the Euro-trash of the world.

Can you understand my confusion? Rushalito says lefties are preventing him

from being mainstreamed; but he claims to be the mainstream. I thought he commanded

armies of mainstream Americans ready to do battle against the hordes of the left who have

forced Obama, Pelosi, and a Democratic Congress on the American people. During the

eight years of the Clinton Administration, El Rushbo opened his program each day talking

about America being held hostage by the duly elected President. The implication was clear.

Rushabye represented mainstream America at a time when fringe elements had stolen the

legitimate government from them. Day after day, his legions of fans bask in their collective

belief that the mainstream values they hold have been perverted; and their savior Rush is

there to lead them back to the promised land. Only now, do we discover, the Rushmeister

has had his nose pushed up against the glass of mainstream America, desperate to be let in.

When he finally saw his chance to be a part of real America by owning a football team; his

dream was shattered by the nattering nabobs of negativity who couldn't wait to crush a

little boy's dream of owning and controlling lots of black men. Oh, the humanity of it all!!

Rushputin is finally discovering the power of words and that there are consequences

to holding and advocating racist, sexist, nationalist, fascist views. He is shocked, shocked

he wasn't warmly embraced into the bosom of the NFL! He is astonished to find that some

people have actually been listening to what he's been saying. When he extols the merits of

slavery, compares NFL players to Crips and Bloods, heaps scorn on the first African-American

President, and suggests the election of Obama means it is open season on white people; he

now seems amazed his views cause offense among a vast proportion of the American public.

Possibly he has been reading his own reviews too long; actually believing the people who

listen to him represent the great center of our nation rather than disaffected white males,

the majority of his audience. When you hope the President of the United States fails to

turn around the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, when millions of

unemployed Americans hear you hoping they can't find jobs to feed their families, when

homeowners hear you praying for more foreclosures and economic devastation; is it any

wonder they don't want you anywhere near their favorite form of escapism?

The reality is Hanbaugh and the rest of the Regressives who have a monopoly on

the radio waves of this nation, don't represent the mainstream in any way, shape, or form.

They called upon their legions to drive back the godless forces of the Democrats in 2006

and 2008; and the result is a Congress and White House in Democratic control. They

screamed bloody murder in opposition to an economic stimulus package which passed

and is slowly turning the economy around. They have stamped their feet and held their

breath until blue in the face to stop a healthcare reform bill; yet President Obama will

have one to sign by the end of the year. On issues like abortion, gay rights, women's rights,

and the separation of church and state, Rush and his fellow travelers have come out on

the short end of the stick in poll after poll of "mainstream" Americans. When the Ayatollah

Limbaugh has been successful on policy quests, his "victories" translate into real life

disaster. From the war in Iraq to tax cuts for the rich, to the worst economic disaster in

modern history, a Rusha Rusha burnin' love and his friends have left America weaker,

more in debt, and playing economic second fiddle to the Chinese.

Far from being in the mainstream, there is a direct correlation to the rise of

Hanbaugh, Beck, and Faux News and the decline of the Republican brand in this country.

They got a party built in their own image; a party of disaffected Southern white men

unable to articulate a view of America appealing to more than 30% of everyday, sports-

loving American people.

The NFL will have to make due without the input of Boss Limbaugh; but we now

know even Rush understands he is on the outside of American sensibilities. We hear him

knocking, but no one wants to open the door to let him in. What do you think? I welcome

your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Newsweek made it their cover story and CNN did a series on it and now Americans

are discovering women are more successful, more powerful, more influential, but less happy

than they were forty to fifty years ago. Maria Shriver is about to launch a woman's project

in conjunction with the Center for American Progress, to discuss and showcase the evolution

of women in this country. This brings us to the big $64,000 question. Could it be that women

sacrificed happiness for power and success? Were they happier when they were barefoot,

pregnant, and in the kitchen?

I admit that for a person who can't seem to find the shallow water, this is a very

scary topic for me to wade in on. I am on thin ice and the sun is shining, shining. I have

taken a long time to overcome my prejudices and judgments about women and my education

was a struggle. I resisted for many years even the basic foundations of women's rights.

I was fortunate to have been taught by some very smart and powerful and patient women

the many errors of my ways. I don't know if there is the space or the time to chronicle all

the knuckle-dragging assumptions and posits I have held over the years. Suffice it to say

it can all be summed up by the fact that when I discovered my first-born child was going

to be a girl, my reaction was "...oh no, she won't be able to go to St. Ignatius and I have to

pay for the wedding". That reaction occurred in 1984; and I have come a long way baby

since then.

Women make up the majority of undergraduates in our nation's universities.

They also are the majority in both medical and law schools according to Newsweek. The

percentage of women who earn more money than their husbands or significant other is

growing. The percentage of married women who work is nearing 90%. More women are

not getting married at all; and many of these are choosing to be single parents. It is hard

to imagine there were laws in this country prohibiting women from having access to

contraception; and a woman had to get her husband's permission to get a credit card. In

many states, the concept of a husband raping his wife was not acknowledged by the courts.

As recently as the 1980's, female medical students were criticized for being too maternal

in their dealings with patients. It wasn't until 1976 that women were allowed to run a

marathon because it was thought running such a long distance would harm a woman's

ability to reproduce or she would be irreparably harmed by the physical exertion. Back

then women didn't sweat, they "glowed".

Yet the recent articles and publicity, while chronicling all the gains women have

made, struck me as carrying a warning notice. They seemed to be saying women should be

careful what they ask for, because success and achievement bring unhappiness and

dissatisfaction. The tenor seems to be "...we told you so".

In the Newsweek polling, women felt they had taken on more responsibilities and

obligations at work while the work load at home remained the same. The same women felt

their partners don't do as much at home as they should. Many women I have spoken with

tell me they need a wife. The poll does show men are more comfortable being domestic;

but there was a clear disconnect between how much men felt they were contributing and

how much women thought they were doing.

I don't think any of this is new. Women have long felt they were expected to earn

a living, keep a house, be romantic and sexy; while the expectations for men were much lower.

What seems to be new is this question about happiness. Is there anyone today who truly

believes a woman locked into a marriage because of an economic system prejudicial against

her, a society set up to denigrate her, and a legal system which left her few if any options

was "happy"?

Over the years there have been numerous articles and specials subtly suggesting

to women that they should have been more careful what they wished for. There is a subtle

"I told you so" tone to many of the studies and stories. "You wanted to be equal. OK baby,

you got it. How do you like it?" There have been articles about the new superwoman and

stories asking whether women have been sold a bill of goods promising them they can have

it all and then asking if it is true or not.

Women have made great strides towards equality of status with men. In the office,

the boardroom, the athletic field, academics, and many other places, women have made

tremendous gains. The stories and polls and specials seem to be asking what they sacrificed

for this progress; and is happiness a casualty of women's desire to be fully integrated into


Women earn 76 cents for every dollar a male counterpart earns. While women

have cracked the corporate glass ceiling, they have yet to achieve positions of prominence

and rank commensurate with their number in society. Women's sports must struggle to

be seen as legitimate as major men's sports. Women are allowed to be sexy and pretty,

or powerful, but not both. A woman is forced to choose between those two options. Stop

and think if you can name a powerful female CEO, politician, or lawyer who is also sexy

and desirable. Why can't they be both? Young girls face unrealistic body obsessions which

result in eating disorders and self-image problems. Studies report girls as young as nine

talking about the need to diet.

As a father of two daughters and two sons, I dream of a day when women and men

can be truly happy living in society; a day when good jobs are available to either gender;

a day when men and women are full partners in the joy of raising a family while achieving

satisfaction in their careers. We need to evolve as a society; we need change in everything

from the way we understand religion to the way we entertain ourselves.

The article in Newsweek asks how could women have come this far, yet seem to be

less happy? But the question misses the point. Happiness is difficult to define. Happiness

is both how we see ourselves and how society sees us. Happiness thrives in an atmosphere

of pride and satisfaction only if nurtured in an environment free of fear and want. This

brings me to a question not asked by Newsweek; are any of us truly happy? And if not, why?

Perhaps the real question is not whether women have achieved enough to claim happiness

as a prize; but rather why the richest nation on earth has so few people willing to say with

a firm commitment, "I am happy and life is good!" Can you? What do you think? I welcome

your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Take Two Wars and Call Me in the Morning

Your car is making funny noises. You need to find out what is wrong. Do you

take it back to the dealer who charges more than twice what other shops charge and always

seem to find extra things wrong? Maybe you ask your brother-in-law who put your battery

in backwards and wrecked your entire electrical system. Of course, you could take it to the

local mechanic down the street; but he was just featured on a "60 Minutes" hidden camera

sting using fake parts and lying about what work was performed. Credibility is what you want.

You want an honest assessment of the problem and a realistic way to fix it. Bad advice will

cost you both time and money.

President Obama is reassessing his strategy in Afghanistan and is seeking advice.

This is good, but what I don't understand is why anyone connected with either Iraq or

Vietnam should be in the room when this advice is requested. The corporate media is

showcasing the very people responsible for the debacle in Iraq and seeking their input

on what the President should do. I have yet to see one interview in which a former architect

of our Iraq policy was asked how he could have been so wrong and why we should expect

his advice will be any better this time.

Senator John McCain is a frequent guest whose opinions are sought on Afghanistan.

McCain is quite loud about the need for the President to listen to his generals and send

more troops. No one has asked McCain why he didn't listen to the generals in Iraq when

they wanted more troops to start the war. No one asks him about his opinion that Iraq

would be a quick war or that American troops would be welcomed; or how about his grand

illusion that Iraqi oil would pay for the war. McCain has yet to be asked about the years

he praised President Bush's strategy until he didn't like it anymore. It would seem McCain

has yet to meet a war he doesn't like.

Hillary Clinton faces a similar dilemma. In her judgement, Iraq was a war worth

fighting. Iraq was a threat to American national security. Saddam Hussein was hiding

weapons of mass destruction and had to be removed. She did not raise an objection to the

Bush strategy; and to this day she still thinks her vote was correct.

The corporate punditocracy has no credibility on this subject at all. No one on

Faux News can be considered for a credible opinion based on their blind loyalty to the

Republican agenda. War to them means higher ratings. It means the same thing to CNN

and MSNBC, but for Faux it is the red meat they use to juice their audience. Barnes, Hume,

Krystal, Krauthammer, Aliason, and Williams all told us there would be a mushroom

cloud in Manhattan if we didn't invade Iraq. They were not alone. There were no voices

of opposition from CNN pundits and very little opposition from the talkers on MSNBC.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is a special case. Recently ranked

as number one by Washington insiders as a writer whose column they read and who

influences their thinking; Friedman's credibility on foreign affairs could not be worse.

He wrote column after column calling for an invasion of Iraq. He called on President Bush

to take out Saddam Hussein. He touted weapons of mass destruction and Hussein's

connections to terrorists. He was wrong on every aspect of that war and is directly

responsible for influencing members of Congress and the public that war was necessary.

Nothing he can write or say about Afghanistan should be given any credibility whatsoever.

Along this very same line, Condoleezza Rice recently gave a speech calling on

the President to increase troop strength in Afghanistan or face "losing" the war. Very few

people have less credibility on national security matters than Rice. As National Security

Advisor in 2001, she informed the President that Saddam Hussein was contained and not

on our radar. After September 11th, suddenly Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and

was a grave threat. Rice declared aluminum tubes Hussein was importing were for an

atomic weapons project. Despite her own scientists at Oak Ridge Lab in Tennessee saying

the tubes could not be used for a nuclear program, Rice went on national television to

declare Saddam was close to having a nuclear bomb which he could give to al Qaeda to use

against us. All this despite CIA director George Tenet testifying to Congress that Hussein

at no point had any ties to al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization.

If Rice doesn't have any credibility left, where should the President turn? How

about former Vice President Dick Cheney? Maybe we should ask the opinion of the man

who flat out guaranteed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The man who wanted

Hussein taken out in 1992 during the first "gore in the Gulf" (only to have his boss George

H.W. Bush ask him who we would replace him with). Cheney had no answer. But if not

Cheney, who? How about Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Gingrich, McConnell, Boehner or maybe

former President Bush himself?

President Obama is being told to listen to his generals. Maybe he should ask

former General Tommy Franks about strategy in Afghanistan. He could ask former

members of the Joint Chiefs under Bush or perhaps the retired generals who signed full

page advertisements and appeared on TV to advocate for war.

The advice the President is getting on Afghanistan, or rather those bringing

pressure on him to increase troop strength, are the same usual suspects who championed

a disastrous war in Iraq. You can't turn on the TV without seeing this same gang fomenting

fear, threatening defeat, spinning out end of the world scenarios if Afghanistan were to

fall. At no time, during any of their appearances, are they ever asked how they could have

been so wrong about Iraq; and yet somehow, have this absolute confidence in being right

about something equally critical as Afghanistan.

Anyone (talk show host, pundit, member of Congress, military officer, etc.) who

advocated for the disaster that is Iraq should have no place in this debate unless they are

forced to defend their previous catastrophic errors in judgement and explain why they

are right this time or why they deserve a second chance with our trust. No one should

be able to opine on national security who cost the lives of almost 5,000 American soldiers,

one million Iraqis, and spent over one trillion dollars on a continuing disaster which hasn't

contributed to increased national security in any way.

When you watch this debate unfolding in the media, ask yourself a simple question.

What was their position on Iraq? If they were in favor of that war, I suggest you treat them

like your know-it-all brother-in-law and ignore them. If you hear someone spouting about

the need for more troops, but they can't define victory or say how long the troops would

stay in Afghanistan, I say write them off! Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan are ghosts of wars

past, present, and future. There was no "winner" in Vietnam; we simply walked away leaving

the nightmare behind us. At present, we're trying desperately to walk away from Iraq; but

no matter how hard we try, we can't. So now we stand at the crossroads with Afghanistan.

Are we so blind as a nation that we are beyond the lessons history and war teach?

Afghanistan is not a special case with it's own unique key for foreign occupation; it's a

country of people, determined people, who do not want us there! This is not a time for

politics as usual in America. We need new opinions and NEW creative options. There is

one thing, however, that we should by now be convinced of; the President needs to avoid

advice from anyone with a track record on Iraq. Will he do that? The American taxpayer

and especially American parents hope he takes his job seriously enough to do so.

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


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Onward Christian Soldiers

President Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee

cited the change in tone he has caused in United States foreign policy. Peace has a better

chance now than it has had in years as Obama changes from a unilateral foreign affairs

approach to a multilateral inclusive model which stresses diplomacy over the use of the

military to solve conflicts. As the President heard the news of his award, he was in the

midst of five meetings to decide what the United States strategy towards Afghanistan will be.

Republican Senator John McCain is attacking the President for not listening to

his military advisers. Republicans of all stripes are attacking the President for appearing

tentative and not accepting the recommendations of General Stanley McChrystal, the

general responsible for the Afghan theater. Regressive voices from Hanbaugh to Beck to

Faux News call on Americans to pressure the President to take McChrystal's advice and

escalate the conflict. We are told there are only two choices. We either give McChrystal

more soldiers and win or refuse his request and fail.

I am enjoying this debate intensely. The spectacle of Regressives demanding

Obama listen to his military commander when they so miserably failed to do so in either

the initial war in Afghanistan or the disaster in Iraq. This is a source of both amusement

and disdain. Then Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, testified to Congress in 2001

that it would take 300,000 soldiers to effectively win victory in Iraq. He had the support

of numerous other high ranking members of the military. Yet, after his testimony, he was

essentially fired for committing truth. Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz ran

up to Congress to accuse the general of incompetence; flatly stating the war in Iraq could

be won with half as many troops, for less money, in a shorter period of time, and to the

delight of the Iraqi people. We now know who was right and how well the Bush Administration

listened to the military, knowledge won at a tremendous price of both lives and treasure.

The stench of hypocrisy hangs all over this debate.

In March, over the objections of Progressives throughout the nation, President

Obama increased troop strength in Afghanistan by 20,000. He was told this increase

would enable NATO forces to capture and hold territory, drive the Taliban out of the

southern part of the country, deny them funds from the illegal opium trade, and stabilize

the central government. More troops would show we are committed to victory and win

the hearts and minds of the Afghan people who don't like the Taliban to begin with.

Since March, the Taliban has expanded their reach into the northern and western parts

of the country. They are mounting more and more sophisticated attacks designed by

their leader Mullah Omar from the safety of his camp in Pakistan. NATO planes have

killed Afghan civilians and caused deep resentment among the population. The central

government of Hamid Karzai is corrupt and weak and stands accused of rigging the recent

presidential election. Afghan warlords formerly opposed to the Taliban are switching

sides to fight with them to defeat Karzai and his government. All this after the President

authorized 20,000 more troops. Imagine how much more soldiers will be able to accomplish

if the president gives in to this advice again? The truth shouts that additional troops

unquestionably make matters worse in Afghanistan; so is sending even more troops a

workable solution?

General McChrystal and his regressive sycophants say the mission in Afghanistan

will fail without 40,000 more soldiers. Hanbaugh and the rest scream daily about a choice

between winning and losing despite being unable to describe what victory would look like

or define how we would know it when we saw it. Not one supporter of sending more

troops can articulate an exit strategy including General McChrystal himself.

There is something more in General McChrystal's request than just troops. The

general wants billions of dollars to rebuild Afghanistan and prop up the central government.

He wants to use the military and a huge influx of civilian contractors and advisors to

improve the lives of average Afghans and have them choose us over the Taliban. Does

this sound familiar? In Iraq, there were more civilian contractors than soldiers. Billions

of dollars were spent on construction projects built with shoddy materials at inflated

prices which failed to accomplish the most basic tasks of providing clean water and

consistent electricity to a distressed population. Companies like Halliburton made

billions in profits while failing miserably to deliver their legally contracted obligations.

It would seem the same companies and contractors see a new pot of gold in Afghanistan.

As of today, I know of no major private corporation which has been suspended for cheating

the taxpayers out of billions of dollars and failing to adequately complete projects in Iraq.

Every one of them will be able to bid for work in Afghanistan.

The echoes of the war in Vietnam hang eerily over the question of what to do in

Afghanistan. Like Vietnam, Afghanistan is engaged in a civil war. Like Vietnam, Afghanistan

has a weak and corrupt central government very unpopular with the general population.

Like Vietnam, the President is being told the military can achieve victory, even if no one

can define what victory would mean. Like Vietnam, the enemy is led by a charismatic

leader willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes to win. Like Vietnam, victory for Ho

Chi Minh was the withdrawal of American troops and victory for Mullah Omar is exactly

the same. Like Vietnam, we are once again asked to occupy a country and fight its native

population who can wait years or decades for us to leave.

There are rumors Obama could change the direction of American policy in

Afghanistan to focus more on stability in Pakistan, defeat of al Qaeda, and acceptance

of some Taliban presence in Afghan affairs and government. Whatever the President

decides, he needs to be able to explain to every parent in this country why their child

should put his or her life at risk far away from home. He has to answer Cindy Sheehan's

question: What noble cause will our American service men and women be dying for?

He needs to clearly define what victory will look like and how much American blood and

treasure will need to be spent before we seriously stop the Afghan campaign.

Advice from the military is vital to any decision; but that advice must be based

on the mission as defined by the President. Right now General McChrystal's advice is

based on a strategy of nation building, driving out the Taliban, and propping up a weak

central government. If the President changes the mission, General McChrystal's advice

is of no value. The strategy has to drive the mission, not vice versa.

We cannot "win" in Afghanistan. We could not "win" in Iraq and we could not

"win" in Vietnam, even though the military advice in each case was and still is more troops,

more troops, and more troops. We need a strategy which results in a more stable Pakistan,

the end of a safe haven for bin Laden and Omar, and an Afghanistan which is not friendly

to al Qaeda. This can be accomplished without escalating the military conflict. What is

needed are clearly defined goals and outcomes.

Regressives will try to scare parents by talking about victory and defeat, success

and failure, weakness and strength; and at no time will they show the least bit of concern

for the men and women who will have to make the ultimate sacrifice for their folly. In

Vietnam, most of the current crop of regressives found every way possible to avoid serving

while spouting off about duty, honor, country, and about victory vs. defeat. These same

"chickenhawks" are clucking again and the President must ignore their cackling.

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

Hoisted On His Own Batard

The news has broken. Rush Limbaugh wants to own a professional football team

and some professional football players are refusing to play for any team in which El Rushbo

has a piece. Rush is outraged and is blaming liberal, commie, lefty, feminazi wimps for

stirring up trouble for him. He knows for a fact no professional football player is thoughtful

enough or articulate enough to have come up with public statements in opposition to his

lifelong dream to own other human beings. The Crips and Bloods who make up the NFL

(Rush's words, not mine) have been immersed in Ebonics and lefty educational theory

by Mao-loving, Fidel-praising, hairy-legged public school teachers couldn't string together

a series of coherent sentences to order McNuggets let alone oppose him.

The Rushmeister is contemplating buying a piece of the St. Louis Rams. Rush

is a huge football fan; and the thought of being able to walk into the steamy, sweaty,

testosterone-driven locker room after a game and survey thousands of pounds of beefcake

which belongs to him is the stuff of dreams for the hillbilly heroin kid. He is all atwitter

at the thought of participating in legal human trafficking. Boss Rush could hire and fire

coaches and players. You screw up on a Sunday and Rush can send you and your family

packing to Buffalo on a moments notice. You drop a pass and he drops you. He is salivating

over the thought of inviting friends to watch his "boys" play on any given Sunday.

Rush is also looking forward to rubbing elbows with other regressive owners

like himself. He is thrilled to participate in the annual professional sports owner's ritual

of cursing the memory of Curt Flood. They long for the return of the reserve clause which

held athletes as virtual slaves to the team that owned them. Rush is right at home with

this group of plantation massahs. After all, he is on the record about the merits of slavery.

He reminds his dittoheads how slavery built the South, and therefore had some merit as

an institution of civilized folks.

The question being bandied about is whether the NFL should allow Limbaugh

to own a piece of a team. Would St. Louis fans root for a team where Limbaugh benefits

from every win? James Carville, campaign manager for President Clinton's first campaign,

says it doesn't matter. His team, the Saints, and the New York Giants will play each other;

and even if George W. Bush were to purchase the team this week he, Carville, would still

root for the Saints to crush the Giants. Most people, according to Carville, don't care who

the owner is. They only care about whether they win or not.

Would players really boycott Limbaugh? If he is willing to pay them more than

any other team to play for him, will they? Joe Montana is quoted saying "...every time I

would talk to management about the game, they would remind me it's a business. Every

time I wanted to talk business, they would remind me it's only a game". Few people

believe pro football players would turn down a big paycheck signed by Osama bin Limbaugh.

They would take his money no matter what his political philosophy. So if the fans won't

care and most players won't care and if Rush can come up with the money, he will get

a team, right?

Professional football is exempt from a number of anti-trust laws. Players are

drafted and must play for the team which drafted them or face fines and sit out the season

and more. There are exceptions; but for the most part, you play for who drafted you. If

a player is drafted by a Limbaugh-owned team, should he be able to object and play for

someone else? Would members of Congress be outraged to see a player forced to play

for Limbaugh? Would they be pressured to yank the anti-trust exemption and throw

the whole NFL draft system into chaos? Would other owners want to take the risk of

losing such a valuable provision for the "pleasure" of hobnobbing with a Rusha,Rusha

burning love?

Professional football has a code of conduct for players. If you violate it, you

can be fined or suspended. Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress are two examples of great

players suspended for running afoul of the law and the league's code of conduct. What

happens to the code if Rush is allowed to own a team? He is a former drug addict who

caused himself serious physical damage by abusing certain drugs. He frequently makes

statements which bring derision and anger down on him and this would hurt the League.

Could the League serve an owner who claims there has never been a good black quarterback

or who hopes the President fails to turn the recession around? NFL commissioner, Paul

Tagliabue, says players have to be held to a high standard of behavior. What about Rush?

In the end, even if Rush has the money, the other owners are not going to vote

to take this headache on. They would have to worry every day what he is going to say to

tick off some part of their fan base. Even if only one player refused to play for a team he

owned, could they run the risk of alienating progressive and moderate members of Congress?

Rush has made his living preaching to the choir. His audience believes in everything

he stands for and they are loyal to a fault. His supporters, however, are a small minority

of professional sports fans. The NFL has been trying to expand it's appeal to women.

Women dislike Rush in large numbers according to most polls. With Rush as an NFL

owner, will women be turned off and find other ways to enjoy a Sunday afternoon?

Words have consequences and ideas have power. Rush is about to learn he is not

immune from those two truisms. The NFL owners, despite agreeing with Rush politically

and maybe even philosophically, will not want to vote to place a live grenade in their midst;

a grenade which could go off at any time and destroy their cozy money-making machine.

They may listen to him every day on the radio, but they don't want to listen to him at

owner's meetings or have to respond to him on the front of the sports pages. They will

kindly say thanks Rush, but no thanks. Is this fair? Are the owners of America's game

acting un-American by rejecting "American conscience"? Could any team Rush owns ever

be successful only running to the right? What do you think? I welcome your comments

and rebuttals. Please send them to

I Won't Vote, Don't Make Me

Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman wants to be the governor of California. She

wants millions of Californians to take time out of their hectic, busy lives and stand in line

to vote for her. Unfortunately, in her entire life, Ms. Whitman has never voted for or against

anyone. When reporters asked her about her voting record during the GOP state convention,

she admitted her sorrow in never having actually voted in her entire life. When questioned

about this most basic of civic duties, she had no comment except to claim she had registered

to vote in 1998 (a claim that couldn't be supported). When pressed about why in the last

thirty plus years she had never felt motivated to vote on issues such as Iraq, terrorism,

September 11th, Bush vs. Gore, Iran Contra, the Contract on America, gay marriage, abortion,

or gun rights, she had no comment. This makes one wonder. Why hadn't Ms. Whitman ever

bothered to vote? Has she never felt the urge of responsibility or involvement that would

demand her voice be heard as a voting citizen?

Last week New York City had the lowest voter turnout ever for an election. In

districts with thousands of registered voters, as few as ten showed up in the twelve hours

the polls were open. California has notoriously low turnout, especially in off-year elections.

Nationally, we are pleased when 60% of those registered to vote show up to cast a ballot.

This would imply that tens of millions feel totally left out by the political process or are

disgusted with the candidates they are offered or are simply ignored. Should we feel

encouraged Ms. Whitman wants to enter public service now that she has made her millions?

Should the fact that she never voted disqualify her from public office? Maybe in and of

itself, it shouldn't; but her total indifference to her responsibility as a citizen and her

refusal to inject her opinions and expertise into the marketplace of policy, ideas, and

proposals should. She touts herself as having answers to California's economic problems

and says her skills as a successful CEO show she has the chops to get the job done; but

where has she been all her life? Why hasn't she wanted to get involved before now? And

why now? Did she feel she wasn't informed well enough before on the issues, but she's

informed now? Was she so distracted by all her CEOing that she couldn't take the time

to vote? Who's to say she won't get distracted again while governor? Was her time too

valuable to waste standing in line? Is her time less valuable now? And most importantly,

how do we know she even cares about the "little people" of California?

Ms. Whitman continues to reveal herself. She's on the record promising to cut

over 40,000 government jobs to save billions of dollars; but when asked which jobs and

which departments would get the axe, she had no comment. When asked how she could

cut so many jobs when the governor has no power over many of their budgets, she had

no comment. Just like her predecessor the "boobengrabber", she talks a good game, but

avoids the specifics. Remember how Ahh-nold promised to find billions of dollars in waste

and eliminate it? Has anyone seen any of these savings yet?

There is, however, one policy position which she has been specific about which

clearly shows she has no leadership qualities at all. She is opposed to releasing non-violent

prison inmates early or offering them alternatives to incarceration. She is on the record

in favor of building additional prisons and keeping all these inmates locked up. The budget

for the California Department of Corrections is over ten billion dollars. If it hasn't yet, it

will soon exceed the budget for the entire University of California system. Just a few weeks

ago, the UC trustees announced they will have to raise tuition 45% next year to make up

for budget cuts imposed by the governor and the state legislature. Ms. Whitman, for whom

the simple act of merely voting was too strenuous, too time-consuming, and beneath her

interest, wants to spend billions more on prisons while cutting the UC budget and forcing

tuition up even higher.

The average prison guard in California, with only a high school education or GED,

has a starting salary of over $50,000 which can exceed $100,000 with overtime. Prison

guards can retire and get pension benefits by 54 years of age and receive 90% of their

salary. The job of a California prison guard is not as dangerous as that of a California

Highway Patrol officer, yet they make more money. Currently, the California prison system

is under federal receivership because of how badly it is run. Some estimates are that it

costs more than $100,000 per cell to build a new prison.

What is the old saying? "If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is to

stop digging." Ms. Whitman, in an attempt to look tough on crime and pander to her

regressive base, wants to throw even more billions of dollars at a broken, ill-defined, and

dysfunctional prison system which is draining direly needed resources from education

and other priorities.

The irony should be lost on no one. A CEO known for thinking outside the box

in the creation and management of eBay, shows no such talent when faced with the issues

of crime and punishment. The California prison system is a complete failure. The delivery

of medical care to prison inmates is so poor that the system is under a federal court order

to spend billions to fix it. The recidivism rate is over 70%; which means seven in ten

inmates will leave prison and commit another crime! Despite internationally recognized

studies which show alternative sentencing methods can relieve the prison population; the

California prison system hasn't adopted any new approaches. The definition of insanity

is to keep repeating the same actions and expecting different results. Ms. Whitman wants

to be governor, but on her first "hot button" issue she's promising us she will keep "digging"

us into economic oblivion.

What state or society could possibly see a bright future when they spend more

money on prisons than they spend on higher education? What sort of society cuts back

on healthcare for families and the poor, reduces vital services, raids local treasuries, and

bankrupts itself in order to support a dysfunctional and failed prison system when there

are reasonable alternatives? How is it possible that the prison guard's union holds more

sway than teachers, nurses, police, or firefighters?

Meg Whitman says she wants to become a public servant by becoming the next

governor of California; yet she never had the desire to engage in public policy debate by

simply voting a single time in her entire adult life. She says she brings new vision and

experience to the job; but on simple straight-forward issues like prison reform she offers

us the same typical, tired, blatant, pandering, and antiquated thinking of the professional

politician. She couldn't be bothered to vote; nor, apparently, can she be expected to invest

her creative talents in leading the people of California into a responsible future. This makes

me wonder if she actually cares about the "little people" of California I spoke of earlier.

Someone must. And if not the politicians, then who? What do you think? I welcome your

comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

If Headlines Could Kill

CNN has begun a new series called "When Co-Workers Kill". The inspiration

for this vital investigation piece is the death of a lab worker at Yale University who was

allegedly killed by a fellow lab tech. As I heard the title of the series I laughed. The murder

of a young woman is definitely not cause for humor, but the title of the series reminded me

of Michael Moore's movie, "Bowling For Columbine" which claims America is violent

because our media culture makes it's living emphasizing violence which scares us into

watching even more of their product. Friends, I laughed out of despair to keep from crying.

When Co-Workers Kill, When Animals Attack, When Neighbors Knife, When

Children Rampage, etc., are all potential working titles for future series some cunning

producer has in his or her computer files. We are bombarded every day with images of

violence and stories which emphasize how dangerous our world is. We are told to be afraid.

Our car could kill us. Our cosmetics could poison us. Food could give us a heart attack

and neighbors might steal our precious children. In states across this country we can now

carry a concealed weapon to church, the store, a football game, and now in national parks.

Soon you will be able to "carry" on Amtrak. We know which cities have the highest murder

rate, but almost no one knows or cares which city has the best educational system.

One thing for certain, the CNN series is not about to explore the real reasons why

the work place is getting more violent. The real reasons are complicated and involve

conditions corporate America would rather sweep under the rug. Americans go to work

each day scared. We are scared of losing our job and with the economic disaster of the last

two years, that fear has been magnified exponentially. Americans take the least amount

of time off work than any workers in the industrialized world. Even though federal law

allows us to take family leave when a child is born or a relative gets sick; Americans do not

take leave in any significant numbers. We go to work sick. The Swine Flu epidemic has

driven the Center for Disease Control to issue an extraordinary call to employers not to

fire workers who stay home because they are sick. American workers with children have

few options when it comes to child care and what they can find is expensive. The drop in

union membership leaves us with fewer protections. Uncertainty and worry increase.

Each day we go to work we become lost in a place of great tension and fear. The potential

for violence and danger increase in such environments.

Government statistics show that since 1974, you and I have not had a "real" wage

increase. A "real" increase is defined as a raise in excess of the cost of living. If wives had

not entered the workforce in large numbers, households simply would not have been able

to keep up with the rise in the cost of living. Because both partners are forced to work,

tension at home increases. Child care increases. Each job becomes crucial and any threat

to those jobs adds to the anxiety. You and I go to work every day in an atmosphere of

pervasive fear and tension, the sad fact of which wears and grates on us constantly. But

it gets worse. Add a media constantly telling us to be afraid of leaving our homes, dropping

our children off at school, getting sick, paying bills, losing our homes, walking in our

neighborhoods, being attacked by a neighbor's pet, eating the wrong foods, and dramatic

climate change; and it's not surprising that we're spooked and emotionally drained at

the end of a work day.

"If it bleeds, it leads" is the mantra of news programs and newspapers. Investigative

journalism focuses on stories which scare rather than inform. Most local news organizations

no longer have "beats" or "bureaus" at City Hall or the State Capitol. Stories about

working conditions, political comings and goings or corporate actions, all of which affect

jobs and economic conditions, are rare. They are dull or boring and don't create the drama

that makes us want to read or watch. Quality of life stories always take a back seat to

killing or tragedy. CNN will spend virtually no time examining the causes of fear in the

workplace. Little or no resources will be spent on why the American populace suffers

from so much pressure and tension. The corporate drive for maximizing profits, while

cutting back on wages and benefits, will be ignored as we're being told to be afraid of

each other. Tips will be offered about how to avoid conflict or be prepared for it. How

do we spot a colleague who represents a threat? What kind of comments are proper in

the work place? How do we keep a proper safe distance from a "creepy" co-worker?

What makes a co-worker creepy? How do we fire someone safely? Psychological profiles

are supplied to create suspicion where there was none. All this and more to feed the fires

of paranoia, guaranteed to leave you feeling lost, hopeless, and in dire need of your next

media fix.

When I was a child, I would leave my home at 8am during the summer and stay

out until dinner. I would go to the local playground, Golden Gate Park, schoolyards, and

play with friends. Today, parents structure and schedule "play dates", terrified of letting

their children out of their sight. Letting your child play unsupervised in your own front

yard could lead to legal charges of child neglect. This is despite the fact that stranger

abductions and attacks are rare and children are more endangered by someone they know

than by a stranger. How is this possible? Corporate media puts out story after story

until the drumbeat is overwhelming. We hate it and we love it. It's killing us; but more

importantly, it's good for business.

"When Co-Workers Kill" is the latest in a campaign designed to scare you into

watching and finding out how you can protect yourself. The result is that we are awash

in guns, helping commit the most homicides of any industrialized nation. We are trembling

in our houses behind bars and burglar alarms and going to work each day angry, frustrated,

and scared. Michael Moore hit it on the head. We are a nation awash in violence because

we've been brainwashed into being scared of our neighbors, scared at work, and scared

at church. Corporate media thrives on the fear they pander. They pushed an unnecessary

war by using the tactics of fear and intimidation. They convinced Americans to sacrifice

civil liberties and to accept a "big brother" role for government to be saved from terrorists.

The Fourth Amendment was eviscerated by a constant campaign aided and abetted by

the corporate media consisting of fear-mongering and boogey man stories.

The drumbeat is starting anew. Once again it's al Qaeda and the Taliban. Forty

thousand more soldiers are needed in Afghanistan and the threat of a nuclear Iran

represents to the world as the latest "hot" news item.

Is it a coincidence we're bombarded daily with ads for tranquilizers and pills

to combat anxiety? Would you be surprised to know that companies are making fortunes

selling anti-depressants and pills designed to dull our nerves and calm our fears?

Personally, I am tired of being afraid. And I especially don't like being told who

I am and what to fear by those whose main purpose for existence is the seeking of profits

and not the truth. How about you? What do you think? I welcome your comments and

rebuttals. Please send them to

Knock, Knock, Who's There?

Football is the most popular sport in America. The Dallas Cowboys just opened

a new $1.4 billion stadium, the most expensive ever, until the New York Giants open their

$1.6 billion stadium in a few months. College football budgets eat up so much money, many

minor sports with more participants have to be dropped for lack of funding. Football is

played on the high school, Pop Warner, and Pee Wee levels as well. Whether the athlete

is 10, 20, 30, or 40, football is designed to be a collision sport and a new study says it is

doing some real harm.

A new study commissioned by the NFL, and conducted by the University of

Michigan, found Alzheimer's disease and other memory-related diseases are diagnosed

in former players at a rate 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30-49. The study also

found former NFL players had higher rates of kidney problems and arthritis than did

the regular population.

When I was growing up, one of the most popular 49ers was Charlie Krueger.

He was a behemoth of a man who played for many years. In Oakland, Jim Otto was

the center for the Raiders. Both men ended their careers with knees in such bad shape

that just getting out of bed was a major accomplishment each morning. Yet, they may

be the lucky ones. Steve Young had to quit football because he could not afford one more

concussion. One more bad hit could prove fatal. He is not unique. Just last week, Florida

quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow was knocked out of the game with

a severe concussion and yet there is talk of him playing next week.

One can argue professional athletes choose to play and know the risks. College

athletes are adults and they too weigh the risks involved in playing such a violent sport

and make a choice. However, football is played at much younger levels where those

playing are doing so for reasons which span a spectrum from genuine enjoyment to peer

and parental pressure. The child and adolescent brains are not fully formed. What impact

can all those collisions and concussions and injuries have on them is a question parents

and pediatricians and team officials need to take seriously.

The NFL continues to downplay the seriousness of the findings. They claim

plenty of people get Alzheimer's disease and dementia who never picked up a football;

and plenty of former players have never been diagnosed with either problem. They

understand the implications if American parents finally begin to understand the minefield

of physical infirmities they are exposing their children to when they push, pressure, or

allow participation in this sport.

Children and teenagers who play football are more often than not coached by

volunteers or parents or teachers who played the sport at one time. While most coaches

know not to teach a player to drop the head when tackling and rules are designed to limit

helmet-on-helmet contact, both still happen on a frequent basis. It is rare to have a doctor

on the sidelines and minor concussions are treated with observation and the player is

allowed back fairly quickly. Anyone who has seen Muhammad Ali can see the effect of

numerous blows to the head even if the individual blows are not of significant impact.

This is not the first study to connect football to cognitive problems. A study by

the team doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers found similar results four years ago. The

University of North Carolina published papers from 2005 to 2007; and found a connection

between NFL football and depression, dementia, and other impairment. Yet, the NFL

continues to deny there is any connection.

How many concussions or blows to the head are too many? If you only play

through high school, does your risk still increase? When young children play Pop Warner

and Pee Wee football, with still-forming brains; what is the effect of blows to the head?

Are there studies to answer any of these questions? No. Are parents aware of any of

these dangers? Some are and some aren't; but no parents have been given this new

information, and yet many encourage their children to play.

I coached football at a fairly high level in high school. I coached the offensive

and defensive lines and coached some young men weighing over 260 pounds who were

fast and powerful. They were put through an extensive physical pounding in each game

and some suffered concussions and all experienced numerous blows to the head. None

ever suffered any serious injuries; but I wonder now about when they reach their fifties

and sixties if any of that will come back to haunt them. I wish someone would institute

a study of that population.

What happens on the pro level directly influences every other level of play.

When the pros started to trash talk, it didn't take long to see the same kinds of exchanges

in high school or even grammar school games. Over 30% of all NFL players are over

300 pounds. This supersizing of players is now a trend in college and high school. The

result is an increase in weight-related problems from heart disease to diabetes among

players who put on the weight to play, but don't make college or NFL squads.

There have to be strict rules. A player who experiences a concussion should

automatically be prohibited from playing for several weeks and have to pass a battery

of tests before being allowed to play again. The younger the player, the longer the

prohibition. Watch and see when Florida's Tebow is back playing and decide for yourself

if they put his health at risk in any way.

I love football. I love to watch high school football because most kids will never

play in college or the pros and play for pure joy and to represent their school. However,

I won't be able to watch another game on any level or watch someone helped off the field

because of a head injury and not wonder what the long-term consequences will be for him.

If your child comes to you and wants to play football, how will you answer and what

protections will you demand? What do you think? I welcome your comments and

rebuttals. Please send them to