Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Supreme Court Speaks!

A few years ago, a study was done involving ten contentious issues up for vote in Congress.

The votes were tabulated and compared as to how much money was contributed to each

Congressional member by opposing sides. In each and every case, Congressional members

voted in favor of the side who gave them the most money. Sad as this may seem; this came

as no surprise to anyone.

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a corporation is a "person" and that money

is free speech; therefore, it has now been decided that it is unconstitutional to prohibit

corporations from using their money to make contributions that will assuredly bias the

political process in favor of corporate economic interests. In other words, Exxon-Mobil,

Goldman-Sachs, and Google, corporations who make billions in profits, are now free to spend

as much money on political influence as they deem necessary. The five regressive Catholics

on the Court overturned numerous previous court rulings and years of congressional actions

to arrive at a conclusion which threatens the very nature of participatory democracy in this

country. "Participatory democracy" is the very heart of a democracy. Without a broad base

of citizen participation, a democracy is no longer a democracy and very quickly transforms

into an oligarchy.

Think back to the 2008 Presidential campaign and imagine this ruling being in place.

Obama revolutionized political giving by building a huge base of small contributors. Millions

of Americans gave small amounts, enabling Obama to raise upwards of $100 million; and

more importantly, outraised his Republican opponent in the process. Obama's financial

advantage enabled him to pour money into traditional "red" states forcing McCain to spend

his limited resources in states normally not in "play", resulting in Obama's victory. If this

current Supreme Court ruling had been in place, then corporate America would have been

allowed to spend billions to elect McCain. Exxon-Mobil alone could have contributed more

to McCain's campaign than all the millions of Americans who gave to Obama. Wall Street

most certainly would have offered McCain a bottomless warchest from which he could have

matched and far surpassed Obama's spending in any state.

Here's a look into the future that our Supreme Court has cunningly crafted for us (I use

the word "cunningly" with no hesitation, for their vote was intentionally contrived): The

health insurance industry and the banking industry are regulated at the state level as well as

the federal level. Imagine yourself running for the state senate or assembly on a platform to

reform either industry. Now, due to the wisdom of the highest court in the land, you will be

facing an opponent with unlimited resources provided by the very companies who you want

to regulate. What local candidate will ever be able to raise enough money to offset what

corporations will potentially be able to pour into races in your state and each and every other

state in the country? Consider the precedent set just prior to this stunning decision by our

Supreme Court. It is no accident healthcare reform faced such a difficult road in Congress.

The lobbies representing health insurance companies, hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry,

and others spent more than $1 million per day influencing how the legislation was to be

shaped. Of course, the healthcare industry is going to contribute more to those Congressmen

who oppose change or regulation. If a businessman offers a contribution, you can be sure

they expect something in return. Because of this problem of unfair influence, Congress and

President Obama claim to be trying to change the rules on Wall Street, to rein in the practices

which led to the meltdown of the financial industry. In reality, they are merely standing back

and watching their proposals slowly being watered down and diluted by the Wall Street

lobbyists. They know the problem, but they do absolutely nothing. This is how business is

done in America. It's business as usual and it's 100% legal.

This new Supreme Court ruling intentionally rewards and encourages these same

companies that have been buying influence to extend their influence in the national and state

arenas of government. The more people the corporate elite can get elected who are

sympathetic to their concerns and positions, the easier it will be for them to eliminate both

reform and regulation. No elected city, state, or national official will be exempt from their

influence. Elected officials everywhere will be facing well-funded opponents every time they

run for public office or re-election.

Most elected officials spend a portion of every day either working toward or actively

raising money for their next campaign. Now, faced with the unlimited resources of a pro-

corporate opponent, the "honest" public-minded official will be totally out-resourced. A

minor league player simply can't stand up in the major leagues. He won't have enough hours

in the day to raise enough money to fight this kind of power.

We are told by regressives that the worst kind of Supreme Court justice is an "activist"

justice. The kind of justice who sees the Constitution as a living, breathing document. A

justice willing to overturn precedent. The fact that an issue can arise that our founding fathers

never anticipated scares regressives to death. They stay up nights worrying that such a

justice will ignore the "will of the people" as expressed through their representatives in

Congress and overturn laws which have been on the books for years. Well, the five non-

activist justices who voted to overturn participatory democracy as we know it did just that.

They overturned court precedents set in the last 15-20 years. They ignored a series of laws

passed by Congress intended to limit the political expenditures of corporations. What's

going on here?

This legal hocus-pocus was somehow justified in the regressive mindset with the excuse

that they were viewing the Constitution through the "original intent" of the founders. The

problem is, at no time did the founders intend a corporation to be considered a "person",

nor did our founding fathers ever equate free speech with political contributions. Yet, this

cabal of regressive justices had the audacity to issue a ruling for which "original intent" is

merely a high-sounding excuse. All sophistry aside, they chose to impose their will and the

political philosophy of those who appointed them on our law, and thus show they are no

different than the "activist" justices they claim to fear. Friend, it's all "smoke and mirrors";

none of their excuses or justifications hold water. Simply ignore their pious gesturing and

follow the money.

It is difficult to overestimate the damage this ruling does to the political process and

to democracy. One member of Congress said it turns our nation from a democracy into a

corporatocracy. Money is the mother's milk of politics and now corporate America can pour

its largesse into any race, anywhere. The idealistic myth of the honest politician has been

put out of business by our highest court of justice (but don't get me started on justice in

America). What candidate could ever raise enough money to oppose them?

Supporters of the Supreme Court ruling will point to the fact the ruling now allows

labor unions to do the same thing as corporations. They can pour their money into any race,

anywhere in the nation. Using their theory, labor unions will now be able to act as a counter-

balance to corporate influence. Counter-balance? That sounds good. O.K., let's say labor

could raise $150 million in an election cycle...Hold on here! The fact that labor unions have

never been able to raise that kind of money should answer any questions about playing this

contrived "what if" game. Even at $150 million, all labor money could be matched by one

corporation. Consider what an entire industry could throw at an election! Is there anyone

who seriously thinks the working people of this nation (only about 10% of whom are unionized)

could ever raise enough money to offset corporate profits which run into the billions?

Goldman-Sach's pool of bonus money was more than $20 billion alone. Labor, grassroots

activists, neighborhood car washes, and bake sales combined couldn't raise $1 billion let alone

$20 billion. End of discussion!

This decision by the Supreme Court has opened the door to a corporate oligarchy.

Corporate Titans will most certainly prevent opponents on all elected levels from interfering

with their corporate agendas. From city hall to state house and Congress, no one will be able

to run on a level playing field (hell, it wasn't even level before this ruling)! They will face

well-financed competitors every time they run for election or re-election; and they will be


Which of these issues appeals to you: Reforming healthcare, improving the environment,

controlling greenhouse gases, banking regulation, good-paying jobs, safe jobs, coal mining,

energy, military budgets, war, education, privacy, or national security? The list is endless.

But more importantly, what is corporate America's position on these issues? Imagine trying

to run for office to take on the corporate agenda on any of these issues and imagine what

corporate America will now be able to do to your campaign.

For years I've been saying that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the most evil

organizations in the country. Now, with this Supreme Court decision, the Chamber will soon

be more powerful than ever. It virtually guarantees that all voices for change, moderation,

or opposition will be drowned in a tsunami of political spending never before imagined.

Corporate/monied interests have already left their mark on Congress, and now it's the

Court's turn to be contaminated by those whose sole motivation is profit. This decision is

sanctioned by the highest court in the land! A disturbing conclusion easily drawn is that our

country has been hijacked. Doesn't this qualify as an ethically criminal act directed at the very

foundation of democracy in America?

You will get to see the first fruits of this ruling in the 2010 midterm elections when the

entire House of Representatives and one third of the Senate are up for re-election. It will not

be a pleasant experience. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.

Please send them to

Monday, January 25, 2010


Scott Brown is the new senator from Massachusetts. He took Ted Kennedy's old seat which

reduced the Democratic majority in the Senate to 57. The Democrats can no longer prevent a

filibuster. This means the long awaited health care reform bill's chances of passage have

just evaporated. In other words, unless the House decides to pass the Senate bill as it is;

it probably won't pass. With 41 votes, the Republicans can not only prevent this bill from

passing; they can stop all future Democratic bills even if the majority of Senators are in

favor. Health care reform is dead in the water.

The Republicans win. There is great joy in GOP-ville. Why are they so happy? What

exactly did "they" win? What does this victory accomplish? What monumental achievement have

they prevailed upon? First, they have kept 30 million Americans from being able to obtain

health insurance. Second, health insurance companies will continue to deny coverage for pre-

existing conditions. Third, the same insurance companies will be able to cancel your policy

if you get too sick. Finally, there will continue to be states where one company controls

as much as 70% of the market with no competition.

Along with preserving the status quo, the Republican victory guarantees Americans will

continue being forced into bankruptcy by health care catastrophes and a larger and larger

percentage of our Gross Domestic Product will go to pay for health care at a time when other

nations will be spending similar amounts of their treasure on education, innovation, creating

jobs, and new industries. If ever a victory can be termed Pyrrhic, this one fits the bill.

Once again, independents were the largest voting block in Massachusetts; and once again

they voted Republican as they did in the Virginia and New Jersey governor's races. Who are

these independents? Do independents want what they can't have? Are they intent on opposing

the current trend whatever it may be, no matter what the cost?

In 2008, independents overwhelmingly voted for Obama and his promise to "change direction"

in Washington. Obama ran on reforming healthcare. Independents said yes to his vision. Now

we are told 2010 will be the year of the outsider, and that incumbents and those in power are

in trouble because independents are now voting to elect people who oppose change. Independents

seem to be voting for whichever party is publicly committed to opposition as a guiding principle.

Independents seem to have become a grouping of the electorate which offers no solutions and

whose raison d'etre is to oppose any president who is currently in office.

Independents now appear to be endorsing a Republican strategy which will result in no

healthcare reform, Guantanamo staying open, a continuation of two wars, no banking reform

(leaving in place the rules and practices which led to the economic meltdown), and no energy

reform designed to reduce greenhouse gases will go anywhere in the Senate.

So, Obama gets elected to change the status quo; but after a year of trying, Independents

seem to be saying "enough"! By voting Republican, they have returned to power the very ones

who desire to prevent Obama from achieving the very goals they favored when they voted for him.

Is it possible that Independents, like adolescents, are impulsive? Are they quick to make

decisions but just as quick to change their minds? Are we to expect them to oppose all changes

out of obstinence, inexperience, or fear?

The vote in Massachusetts was a vote for political gridlock. I've known Independents who

say they prefer a government where nothing can get done because if the politicians can't

accomplish anything, they won't be able to cause any further harm to them. It, of course, begs

the question of what do we do about healthcare or any of the other intractable problems we face

as a nation. Is it good to have a healthcare system where Americans pay twice as much as any

other industrialized nation and yet get half the benefit? Is it good that our current health

system will soon be eating up to 22% of the federal dollar, leaving almost nothing for anything

else? Is the current system of granting health insurance companies virtual monopolies in a

supposed "free market" economy something that does no harm?

So I ask the question again, what is an independent and what do they want? Obama and the

Democrats didn't help the situation. By compromising on every issue he proposed, the President

cooled the ardor of his base. By elevating opponents and idealogues from the other party and

refusing to draw any lines in the sand over which he would not step, the President sent a

message to his base that their interests were not his top priority. By taking the half-a-loaf

is better than none approach to deal making (but not even getting half-a-loaf in return), the

President's base has become disheartened and dispirited. In Virginia, New Jersey, and now

Massachusetts, they did not turn out in large enough numbers to offset the erosion of the

Independents. Independents, who are quickly becoming key players in national politics whether

they want that responsibility or not; seem to have no idea what direction they wish the nation

to go in, if any direction at all.

Is it possible Independents have no idea what they want? Is it possible Independents simply

have no clear vision? Could it be that a larger and larger percentage of our electorate has no

idea how to progress and move forward in a global environment where our competitors are getting

stronger? Is the electorate capable of understanding our vast domestic environment where so

many problems need to be fixed or improved in order to simply maintain our economic, social,

and moral health? Have we become a nation where the largest or fastest growing segment of the

voting population is more comfortable with paralysis than with progress? Does the vote in

Massachusetts show who we have become as a nation which is no longer able to deal with big

problems? Have we somehow become a people only capable of going to war? Is raising military

budgets and a willingness to expend our blood and treasure on the world stage become the only

policy around which our politicians can form a political consensus in Washington?

I used to find the term Independent attractive. It was the opposite of an idealogue. It

meant someone who looked at both sides of an issue and somehow became politically committed to

a moderate middle ground. I am not so enamored anymore. What I'm seeing now are Independents

who appear to be saying "a pox on both their political houses", but who have no vision of their

own and no clue how to divert us from the doldrums of our suicidal national status quo. Faced

with a President who stood for change and acted on his promise and an opposition committed to

killing whatever the President suggests, meritorious or not, Independents are saying yes to both;

resulting in a victory for simply doing nothing, which is not an option.

There is great joy in GOP-ville; but it will be short-lived because the same Independents

who turned on them in 2006-2008 will do so again. The real question now is, has America passed

its prime? Are we fated to end up on the trash heap of history along with all the other great

nations and empires, a vague chapter in history books for our great grandchildren to puzzle over?

So, as we stand at the abyss, let me ask once again, what is an Independent? Until we

figure out who they are, one thing is for sure, they are calling the shots...reluctant be they

may. (to be continued...) What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please

send them to

Friday, January 22, 2010


It's time to rate the first year of Barack Obama's Presidency. This is a natural time,

since the first anniversary of his inauguration is upon us. My assessment is a mixture of

disappointment and hope. I am one of the people saw in Obama what I wanted to see. I thought

he was in favor of change (I guess because he used the word so much). I wanted a lot of change.

I wanted a change in foreign policy, domestic policy, the environment, national security, and

a change away from exclusion and towards inclusion. I wanted to change the influence of the rich

and powerful and see the rise of organizations like and other grassroots organizations.

I saw Obama as a progressive. I was wrong. He is a pragmatist and not a progressive. He has

yet to show me any issue where he will draw a line in the sand and refuse to budge (very similar

to Bill Clinton). He is a believer in the half-a-loaf philosophy of politics. He will accept

half-a-loaf rather than choose to be defeated over a principal. The result is usually not

satisfying and very frustrating. My initial read of his first year in office is he is willing

to accept much more of the status quo than I want him to accept; and he is far more mainstream

than I would like him to be.

Much to the chagrin of his enemies, most economists and observers believe the economic

stimulus package he pushed through Congress along with actions of the Federal Reserve prevented

a total economic meltdown. He inherited a number of disasters, but the economy was the most

pressing. The stock market, banking system, economic growth, and the jobs market are all better

now than they were when he took office. He accomplished this with virtually no help from the

Republicans. In fact, one of the most obvious characteristics of his first year is the total

abdication of responsibility by the Republican Party. It's obvious Republicans believed

anything he proposed they would oppose. Republican members of Congress publicly declared

their intention to bring the President down and adopted a scorched-earth policy towards his

legislative efforts. The pragmatist Obama seemed to bend over backwards to accommodate his

opponents and ignore his base. There was no principle he wouldn't negotiate over and he gave

power to regressive interests while ignoring the desires of those who worked hardest to get

him elected. In Obama's first year, being opposed to him got you far more access, attention,

and deference than any supporter was able to garner. The result has been a significant drop

in enthusiasm among his base which became evident in the Virginia and New Jersey governor's

races. His opponents are poised to turn out their base in droves for the midterm elections;

while his base may stay at home or find little motivation to make the calls and knock on the

doors necessary to get out the vote and win elections. This lack of enthusiasm has to be laid

directly at Obama's performance in his first year.

In foreign policy and national security areas the President set a new tone, but also

continued many of the policies of the Bush Administration. Obama supported a renewal of the

Patriot Act. He continues to use national security as an excuse in court to prevent

investigations into illegal conduct or abuses of the Bush Administration and to keep prying

eyes away from his own policies. He is on record as supporting the holding of prisoners without

charging them or bringing them to trial. Guantanamo was supposed to be closed by now. He used

executive orders to end torture and close secret prisons, but by avoiding congressional action

he is free to reverse those orders at any time. He has made an effort to change the world's

perception of American foreign policy including a speech in Cairo to the Muslim world. A recent

poll in Afghanistan shows a drop in support for terrorist attacks directed towards Americans.

However, his expanding the war in Afghanistan with no definition of victory and no

acknowledgement that he is deepening America's involvement in a deadly civil war. He initially

took a hard line on Israel, demanding a total freeze on new building in the settlements; but

has done nothing since Israel announced its intention to build hundreds of new houses in East

Jerusalem. His middle east policy has accomplished nothing so far.

Obama appointed the first Hispanic member of the Supreme Court. The jury is out as to

whether Sonia Sotomayor is a real progressive; but most observers feel she will be a balance

against the Scalia wing of the court.

The President has not pushed for true reform of Wall Street or banking regulations. While

Congress fiddles around the edges, no one is proposing real reform. Calls for regulation of

derivatives, returning to the days when investment banks were separate from FDIC-insured banks,

limits on energy speculation, and more transparency in the system have been ignored. Banks are

not lending to Main Street while continuing to engage in trading practices which caused the

economic problems to begin with. The President seems helpless to do anything about it.

The House passed an energy reform package including a cap and trade provision intended to

reduce the amount of greenhouse gases the U.S. produces. It is held up in the Senate and doesn't

have a great chance of passing.

In his first year, the President presented an image of a calm, deliberative leader who

doesn't rush into decisions and who does not panic easily. He projected an image abroad of

a man committed to diplomacy over unilateral military action; and he seems to have a vision

for how he wants the nation to progress.

President Obama reminds me alot of Bill Clinton. Why is it progressives seem all too

willing to compromise on issues of importance to them while regressives see no need for

accommodation? Compromise does not guarantee success despite the "half-a loaf is better than

none" philosophy. President Bush did not compromise on anything. He wanted to go to war in

Iraq and he did. He wanted to cut taxes for the rich and he did. He wanted to spy on

Americans illegally and he did and the Congress endorsed his actions. He wanted to pack the

Supreme Court with regressive Catholics and he did. He even wanted to get rid of the estate

tax so the uber-rich could transfer their wealth to their children tax free and he got that too.

Congress did not stop him once. He made no deals with progressives. The best position to be

in with Obama seems to be as his enemy or opponent (same as Clinton). He is willing to bend

over backwards to reward you and to seek out your opinion and input. He abandoned a public

option, expanded Medicare eligibility, a government-run insurance exchange of health plans,

the importation of drugs from Canada, and numerous other progressive ideas in order to get a

healthcare agreement. He continues the war in Afghanistan, has eased pressure on Israel, and

has no peace talks ongoing between Israel and the Palestinians; and like Clinton, he appears to

take his base for granted while courting his opponents and doesn't seem to get much out of

the deal. He is a pragmatist when so many of us wanted a progressive. Many want to compare

him favorably to Roosevelt and Johnson; but that seems a bit premature.

Obama's first year may be the toughest rookie year since Lincoln. Neither Roosevelt nor

Johnson had to conduct two wars while also confronting serious economic and domestic issues.

He could have been another Hoover and watched the economy implode; but instead acted quickly

to shore it up. He may sign the most sweeping social legislation since Medicare. Yet those

who fought to get him elected are troubled and restless. His party will take a hit in November.

How big a hit will depend on the unemployment rate, foreclosure rate, and whether Americans

believe we are getting our country back on track. He can expect no help from Republicans,

something even Johnson and Roosevelt didn't face. I am disappointed by his first year, but

is that his fault or my fault? What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.

Please send them to

Monday, January 18, 2010


          Faux News commentator Britt Hume has a solution for all of Tiger Woods problems.

Convert to Christianity and all will be forgiven.  Sounding like he was channeling Oral Roberts,

Hume offered this advice in an attempt to resurrect Tiger's career, a simple fix to put him back

into the good graces of his fans and sponsors.  

          On Hume's advice, all Mr. Woods needs to do is become a Christian and thereby

experience forgiveness and redemption.  Hume claims only Christianity provides the

opportunity to be forgiven and redeemed.  He believes Tiger is a Buddhist, or at least his

mother is; therefore, even if he says he's sorry, rebuilds his marriage, and wins the Masters,

he's still out of luck.

          Buddhism, according to Hume, offers no provision for forgiveness or redemption.

If Tiger says he's sorry, and does so at the mega-church of his choice; Americans will watch

him on TV, buy Gillette razors by the boxcar, and wear Tag Hauer watches to church on

Sunday.  Christianity for Hume is a sacerdotal washing machine designed to wash and rinse

Tiger's soul.  Is this what Christian conversion has come to mean in America?

          It helps that Tiger is portrayed as a Buddhist.  Most Americans don't know any

Buddhists and have no idea what Buddhists believe.  They might think of meditation and

corpulent statues, but not much more.  Americans are mostly illiterate when it comes to

Christianity and the other great world religions.  For example, imagine for a moment

Mr. Hume saying Tiger should abandon being Jewish and convert to Christianity in order

to experience forgiveness and redemption.  His career would not be long for this world.

The reality of politics and religion has a long reach and Buddhists are a safe target for

evangelization it seems.

          What about this idea that Christians are the only ones to experience God's forgiveness

and redemption?  On this, we have Jesus's very own words and they clearly state that to

live like Him, or to "follow" him, one had to love their enemies, turn the other cheek, and

forgive an infinite number of times.  According to Matthew's gospel, in order to be admitted

to the presence of God you have to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and

visit prisoners.  Whatever you do for the least of your brothers and sisters you do for Jesus

himself.  He told the rich young man to sell everything he had.  He said the meek and

peacemakers would be blessed and inherit the earth.  He advised people not to judge others

or pray or fast in public and to be motivated by love of God and neighbor.  To be like Jesus

is to live every moment of your life in relationship to God and your fellow man.  And as we 

all know, relationships depend on how we live our lives.  Relationship is key.

          As for redemption, we are told Jesus's death and resurrection redeemed "the world".

Whatever redemption or salvation is, it was a one-time event.  We have been redeemed;

that's the "good news" of the gospels and it is done.  But, the idea of redemption presented

problems for the early Christian Church bureaucracy.  If we are all redeemed by Jesus's

sacrifice, why do we need a "church"?  If we are all saved, why do we need to be governed

by rules and why do we need an intermediary to help us achieve this goal?  No church, no

priests, and no pastors; what kind of world are we talking about here?  

          This so troubled St. Augustine, that he came up with the concept of original sin.  Yes,

Jesus's death and resurrection redeemed the world, but...not quite.  It seems some felt

Jesus wasn't as powerful as we thought.  His death and resurrection weren't strong enough

to wipe out the stain of the original sin of Adam and Eve.  They felt the only way you could

erase that sin was through baptism.  

          Since St. Augustine, others took it upon themselves to isolate other scriptural verses

claiming one has to be born again or to "accept" Jesus in order to earn forgiveness and

redemption.  This is in spite of St. John's gospel, Chapter 9, where Jesus assured the blind

man at the Pool of Siloam that we cannot inherit sin!

          One of the earliest heresies in the years after Jesus was caused by the teaching of

the Gnostics.  They taught that in order to be saved you needed to acquire a special "gnosis"

or knowledge.  Only those who achieved this highest form of enlightenment could be saved.

Wisely, the early Christian community rejected this notion that there was only one way to

salvation.  Today, those who suggest you have to be born again or baptized represent the

worst of the rejected beliefs of old by insisting human rules can limit the way God's grace

and reach can touch us and heal us.  

          Tiger Woods has to decide what direction he wishes his life to go.  He can reconcile

with his wife and lead a long married life or he can divorce.  He has to decide what kinds

of relationships he wants and the value of his word.  He has to give serious thought to his

children and decide if he wants the depth, power, and intimacy of a loving relationship or

wants to continue to bounce from one cocktail waitress to another.  

          However, if Tiger Woods decides to live as good a life as he can, if he uses his vast

wealth and prominence to help the least of his brothers and sisters, if he is able to be a good

and loving father and a caring friend to the people in his life, if as a Buddhist he is able to

control his ego realizing nothing is permanent and work his way along the eight-fold path

to perfection; this will work.  In other words, if Tiger Woods is a good man striving to be

the best human he can be, whether he is a Christian or not is irrelevant.  The key is the kind

of life we live.  The key is the ripples we create in the world and how well we develop our

humanity.  If God created us, part of God's divine nature is within us.  The more we love

each other and humanize ourselves, the more we become divine ourselves.

          Britt Hume and those of his ilk are like the Pharisees of Jesus's time.  They are more

concerned about the rules than how one lives.  Jesus once asked them after he performed

a sign on the Sabbath, if the Sabbath was made for man or man for the Sabbath.  Jesus was

not kind when he responded by calling the Pharisees "whitened sepulchers", bright on the

outside, but dead on the inside.  Nothing has changed since that day; Jesus has no patience

for those overly obsessed with "law" and labels.  The Pharisees are still among us.  Jesus

said we are forgiven if we sincerely ask for forgiveness and change whatever behavior is

interfering in our relationships.  We are redeemed because Jesus opened a new relationship

to God which each of us can benefit from and that forgiveness is open to anyone who can

live up to the challenge he gave us.

          At times we all fall short.  We all sin; but the good news is we get to work on getting

it right over and over again even if we wear lime green pants, hit a ball with a stick, and

rely on the message of the Buddha to help us navigate through life in all its pain and glory.

          God is not the exclusive franchise of anyone or any religion.  God's spirit among us

is but a whisper; but it survives to this day in spite of man's laws and labels.  And what does

this whisper speak of?  Ooh! It's the soft sound of a lover's sigh when you wake up in the

morning and say "Oh darn, another day".  The whisper says it doesn't have to be this way...

and you know in your heart that life can be more than you've made it.  

          The Buddha was a prince when he heard God's whisper and Jesus sacrificed his life

as an example for others to follow.  The early Christians understood this; but somehow

the Pharisees have chased the spirit of God into buildings and books when the only place

it can exist is in the calm freedom of our individual hearts.  The "church" is people in loving

relationships with each other.  You've been tricked if you see God's hope for his kingdom

on earth as being anything other than this.  Either today is the day we begin trying to live

in loving relationship to one another and God or it's simply another day of pointing fingers,

finding fault, and blaming others for the mess we've made of God's home...his home in our

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



Sunday, January 17, 2010


          The nation's big bankers are entering bonus season, and are about to receive bonuses

in the eight figure territory ($10,000,000+).  President Obama's economics advisor, Christine

Romer, says she's offended.  Media commentators of all stripes and many economically savvy

Americans understand what is going on.  They understand the bailout money provided to the

nation's big bankers by the taxpayers had few strings attached and didn't prohibit bonuses.  In

addition to the billions in bailout money that made headlines across the nation, how about the

additional trillions (yes, trillions) the Federal Reserve pumped into the system off radar, so to

speak.  These banks were allowed to borrow money from the Fed at ridiculously low rates and

then allowed to lend or make trades at higher rates of return, resulting in billions in profits

for which these bankers are once again rewarded.  The commentators know, Christine Romer

knows, and the bankers themselves know that these are flush times if you are a big banker.

Does anyone seriously think the bankers don't know what's going on?  That somehow they 

don't understand and are innocent?  That they don't get it?

          The New York Times revealed recently that Goldman-Sachs sold packages of sub-prime

mortgage securities and then bet these same packaged securities would fail.  They made

billions in profits.  They knew what they were selling their clients was shaky at best and a

disaster at worst; and then they bet against those same clients who paid them for advice.  

The strategy was golden, literally.  Oh yes, they get it.  They will pay extraordinary amounts

to individuals as bonuses, knowing they are operating within the law.  Business will continue

and the bonuses will continue.  They get it and they also got it.

          These bankers made a conscious decision to use TARP money and the easy Fed money

to engage in the very same trading activity that led to the problem which almost brought down

our economy; but this time instead of getting the prison sentences they deserve, they're

rewarding themselves with huge bonuses.

          I'm offended by the actions of these bankers.  It's not like when a sports coach uses a

little known rule to give his club an advantage over their opponent.  He didn't write the rules;

he just took advantage of the rules as written.  In sports, it's the job of the coach to "work"

the referees during a game.  They talk, yell, and beg constantly trying to get the officials to see

the game their way.  They may lose individual battles, but they don't care because their goal

is to win the game by getting a key call to go their way at a crucial moment.  In 1999, bankers

had finally "worked" the officials (Congress) long enough to get the Glass-Steagall Act repealed

enabling investment banks to be considered full service banks insured by the FDIC and backed

by the taxpayers.  At that point, they became too big to fail.  The difference in this case is that

these bankers are the guys that wrote the banking rules, and there's the rub.

          It's an understatement to say the Bush administration was "friendly" to Wall Street.

As if on cue, the financial "bubble" started to inflate.  The Security and Exchange Commission,

the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, the Commodities Commission, the Treasury Department, and

Congress were perfectly aware of the dangers and spoke of it often as the "bubble" grew; but

showed no interest in reining in the risk these banks were taking.  The banks took more and

more risk, confident that the government would step in if it looked like they might go under.

They were too big to fail.  They took advantage of everyone who gets a simple paycheck and

somehow manages to live within their means.  Did I say I was offended?  Let's check that, I'm

mad as hell!  I want something done to keep this from ever happening again.  

          Congress has yelled and screamed and stomped their feet even threatening to hold their

collective breath until they turn blue if Wall Street isn't brought to task.  They've held hearings

and appeared on TV and written op-ed pieces about how profligate Wall Street has been and

how they won't put up with it anymore.  They created a "pay czar" to control the salaries of

some corporate executives and threatened to tax big bonuses.  They produced lots of smoke,

but little of substance has been done.  How could this be?  

          At the same time our country is in the death grip of an ongoing financial crisis, Wall

Street is pouring money into lobbying Congress to prevent any significant reform from passing.

The bills being considered in the House and Senate do nothing to rein in the extremely risky

business of trading in derivatives and other exotic schemes.  Wall Street wins, we lose; as they

have managed to stop every significant change in the banking rules from passing.  Unbelievable!

How much worse can it get?  How about having their banking buddies in top positions within

the Obama administration.  Obama's people come from Goldman-Sachs and other major Wall

Street firms.  Obviously, no one in Washington is interested in changing anything.  Members of

Congress know that playing along with Wall Street garners millions in political contributions.

They really do get it.

         One of the biggest disappointments in this circus of greed and power has to be Democratic

Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts.  He looks great in front of a camera and he is

always good for a quick jab at the rich and powerful.  He's also chairman of the Financial

Services Committee in the House and the bill he supports is weak, watered down, and will do

little to prevent the economic risk-taking which continues to devastate our economy.  Another

gross disappointment is Senator Chris Dodd (D, Connecticut), author of a provision allowing

AIG executives to get their eight figure bonuses.  As Chair of the Banking Committee, he too

hasn't pushed for any real changes; which means you can be sure any bill he vets will be

toothless.  Members of Congress may succeed in increasing oversight of the Federal Reserve,

but they have failed miserably at any serious re-regulation; and that translates as good news 

for Wall Street.

          You couldn't get a clearer example of how far Congress has moved from the people than

the weak nature of these bills.  The public is "mad as hell" and wants the end of "too big to

fail".  Main Street is offended by the bailout of Wall Street.  Taxpayers are apoplectic over how

easily Congress spent trillions of their dollars to shore up the financial system, and yet argue

endlessly about simply providing more aid to create jobs and continue unemployment

compensation for Americans who have already lost their jobs.  If you ever needed proof that

money trumps public opinion, this is it.

          Former Fed Chairman Paul Volker has an answer.  Pass a new version of the Glass-

Steagall Act.  Once again, separate the investment banks responsible for taking ridiculous risks

from the local and community banks responsible for local lending and the health of local

economies.  Simply put things back the way they were.  If the investment banks like Goldman-

Sachs want to take risks, let them; but the taxpayers should never have been on the hook to

bail them out.  If a local or community bank fails, it is in our interest to bail out depositors

to keep confidence in the system.  The good news is that local banks historically take fewer

risks.  Putting things back the way they were would virtually eliminate the concept of "too

big to fail".

          Congress has to regulate derivatives.  There have to be laws to make the practice more

transparent and risk visible to all investors.  Investment banks have to be prohibited from

selling a product and benefiting if the product fails.  All conflicts of interest should be

addressed and eliminated.

          As problematic as big bonuses are, the big banks hope the public will focus on the

superficial while their lobbyists go about watering down and weakening any attempt at real

banking reform.  Don't fall for it.  Let them have their bonuses if need be, but hit them where

it really hurts by making them assume the risks they take.  This in itself will take care of the

bonus problem.  Right about now you might be expecting me to plead with you to call your

Congressman and demand some REAL reform, but it goes deeper than that.  Our national

economy links all of us together.  We're all both innocent and guilty.  The bankers are guilty

because they've pushed their deals a little too far and got stuck with some overvalued paper.

The homeowner acquired more house than he could afford.  The investor and the broker both

want sure bets and the politician simply wants to make everybody happy.  The fact is that

nobody is happy when a deal's gone south and we taxpayers are beat.  We aren't strong enough

to clean up any more "spilt milk"; plus our savings are gone.  The time for our politicians to

make the hard decisions we trusted them to make is past due.  My question to YOU is:  Are

you going to spend your evenings in front of the TV or are you going to educate yourself and

get involved?  The answer you arrive at has everything to do with our nation's future.  We all

get it, and get it right, or we all lose it together.  What do you think?  I welcome your

comments and rebuttals.  Please send them to 



Friday, January 15, 2010


          Newsweek ran a profile of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.  It seems Barbour might

want to run for President.  He is buoyed by recent Republican victories in the Virginia and

New Jersey governor's races.  The Newsweek piece says Americans are disenchanted with

Obama and will reward the Republicans in 2010 with more seats in Congress, thus opening

the door to a strong challenge to Obama's reelection.  Barbour is the former head of the

Republican Party.  He is described in the article as a man with a confederate flag on his office

wall signed by Jefferson Davis, a picture of a confederate army unit wiped out at Gettysberg,

and as the founder of one of the most powerful lobbying firms in Washington.  He helped

turn the South Republican in the 60's and 70's which followed the Southern strategy of

Richard Nixon playing white voters against black voters.  All of this adds up, according to

Newsweek, to a formidable challenger to the President.

          The victories by Republicans in Virginia and New Jersey were hinged on the vote of

Independents, the fastest growing political group in the nation.  Independents voted

overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008.  Most political scientists believe about 35% of the

electorate is currently Democratic, 35% Republican, and 30% Independent or decline to

state (Independent defined as those with no major party affiliation or those who take the

guarantee of voter privacy seriously).  As Democrats and Republicans vote party line, the

Independents are becoming major players in many elections.  In Virginia and New Jersey,

for instance, Independants swung the races in favor of the Republicans.  So, here's my

question:  Exactly who are these Independents?  Will they be attracted to a "good ole' boy"

who still reveres the Confederacy, is a power broker/lobbyist who loves SUV's, and only

believes in recycling if it means throwing out Democrats and electing Republicans?  Are

these Independents already disenchanted with our Democratic President; the President

who plans to expand healthcare, prevent economic collapse by throwing vast sums of money

at the rich, continues to maintain two wars he promised to end, and hasn't been able to put

a dent in the unemployment rate?

          Are you an Independent?  Could you envision voting for a Republican in one election

and a Democrat in another?  What issues will cause you to draw a line in the sand over which

you won't step or vote for anyone who does?  If Tom Campbell were the Republican nominee

for governor running against Democrat Jerry Brown, I could vote for Campbell.  Does that

make me an Independent?  How are we to define this new political phenomenon in today's

political climate?

          Congressman Barney Frank once said the purpose of government is to give money away.

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat depends on who you want to see get the money.

Former San Francisco Mayor Joe Alioto once said he wanted to live like a Republican, but

vote like a Democrat.  Democrats have traditionally been the party that believes government

has a role to play in society.  It's the government's job to protect the powerless from the

powerful.  Government must buffer the excesses of rampant free market capitalism through

oversight and regulation.  Government should strive to ensure equal opportunity and equal

access to all Americans to the corridors of power and influence.  Republicans, by contrast,

have traditionally believed in a weak central government.  The market should be left free to

pick the economic winners and losers.  Governmental interference in the free workings of 

the market will always be problematic.  Republicans have traditionally opposed everything

from Social Security to Medicare to strong labor laws, along with Head Start and a woman's

right to choose.

          Up until recently, Republicans and Democrats were fairly similar when it comes to

foreign policy.  Democrats took our nation to war four times in the 20th century.  So far,

Republicans have taken us to war twice in the 21st century.  Democrats and Republicans

supported a containment policy vis-a-vis the Soviet Union; and both parties supported

dictators and totalitarian states as long as these leaders and nations were friendly to us.

Both parties have been strong supporters of Israel; and both parties welcomed normalized

relations with China.

          Perhaps the widest separation between the two parties is on social policy.  Conservative

Republicans, who are in favor of smaller government, support government restrictions on

abortion and access to birth control.  They are in favor of the government telling individuals

what kind of sexual activity is legal in the privacy of their bedroom.  On the other hand,

they don't believe in the separation of church and state and in never passing laws infringing

on the Second Amendment's right to bear arms.  Democrats favor laws expanding the rights

of women, gays, and other minorities.  Democrats believe in legal abortions and the wide

distribution of birth control technology; but even this is becoming one of those gray areas.

Democrats in many states favor the decriminalization of marijuana for medical use and most

oppose the death penalty.  Many Democrats and Republicans support the government spying

on you and both parties voted for the Patriot Act.

          So, who or what is an Independent?  In Virginia, the Independent voters favored the

candidate who they perceived would address transportation issues and restore the economy.

In New Jersey, Independents seemed to move toward the candidate who would address rising

property taxes and declining tax revenues.  They wanted someone who would manage the state

well; and in both states Independents seemed to vote for the candidate who proposed the

clearest agenda for addressing local problems.  In both races, the Republican candidates

deliberately played down social issues.  In both states popular right wing figures like Sarah

Palin were ignored.  In both races the Republicans promised to be good stewards and played

down ideology, all of which attracted the Independent voters.  

          So, what is an Independent?  How do Independents feel about reforming healthcare,

the economic stimulus package, energy legislation, and expanding the war in Afghanistan?

What do Independents believe about a woman's right to choose and ending "Don't Ask,

Don't Tell" in the military?  What is the Independent position on fighting terrorism, more

foreign aid to Pakistan, and the rising threat of an economic and militarily powerful China?

Do Independents believe the President should have let the banks fail, especially if the

federal government stands by as its states go bankrupt and millions of Americans lose their

homes?  Are Independents happy or sad that nothing of substance came out of the

environmental summit in Copenhagen?  How do they feel about Israel building hundreds 

of new homes in East Jerusalem?

          Were Independent voters in Virginia and New Jersey turning the clock back to a different

era or were they sending a message that the new role of government must be to get things

done, not just attack each other?  What is the middle ground between Democrats and 

Republicans, and can Independents occupy and hold that ground with any sort of consistency?

          As I have written before, the terms left and right, liberal and conservative have no 

meaning any more.  Is the rise of the Independent voter a reaction to the way politics are

being done in America?  One thing for sure, the two old "traditional parties" are not weary

of the game; for the prize of political supremacy in the U.S. far surpasses anything common

folk could ever imagine.  

          The year 2012 doesn't seem like a long way off, but it's an eternity in political time

keeping.  I am certain of only one thing.  If Republicans think nominating a confederate-loving,

SUV-dependent, wealthy K-Street-lobbyist to run for President is a sound strategy; Democrats

will be non-plussed.  However, if they run someone who plays down ideology, promises to

make government work, expands the rights of Americans, and focuses on an expanding 

economy and more jobs; it could be a very interesting race.  But, "interesting" is not what 

the United States needs right now.  We don't need another diverting, dramatic, or feel-good

Presidential race.  The people of our nation are crying out for change, REAL change, not more

political showmanship and empty promises.  Since I still can't identify or define an 

Independent, perhaps you might like to weigh in with your definition.  What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals.  Please send them to


          Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is under attack for being a racist.  He probably is 

a racist, but then again we all are.  America is a nation built upon the principal of white

supremacy.  The late historian John Hope Franklin once told me until the United States

admits to the above observation, we can never start a constructive discussion about race.

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R., Miss.) is also accused of being a racist.  

These two politicians are in trouble because of remarks they made about race; but there 

is no comparison between the two.

          Trent Lott made a toast at a dinner honoring South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond.

Thurmond had run for President as a Dixiecrat in 1948.  He was an unabashed segregationist

opposed to all attempts at integration including opposition to President Truman's order to

desegregate the military.  In his toast, Lott exclaimed his belief that if Thurmond had been

elected President "...we wouldn't have had all the trouble we have had in this country".  

Lott proclaimed his support for a completely segregated society.  He didn't do this in 1948,

but in 2002.  Thurmond was one of the architects of the Republican Party's "southern

strategy" along with Richard Nixon and others.  The strategy entailed pitting white voters

against black voters.  Republicans played on the fears of white southerners that the Democrats,

who pushed through the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, and the Public Accommodations

Act, would continue to expand rights for minorities at the expense of white jobs and white

culture.  The strategy worked to perfection and the South became a solid block of Republican

white voters and remains that way today.  When President Lyndon Johnson signed the 

Civil Rights Act of 1964, he is purported to have said "Today we lost the South".  The

"southern strategy" was designed to take advantage of the national racism in this country; 

and Thurmond, Nixon, and Lott worked it for all it was worth.  Lott went on to actively

oppose the holiday honoring Martin Luther King, the renewal of the Voting Rights Act,

and other racially charged progressive issues.  Lott's personal history and his congressional

voting record showed his continuing efforts to deny minorities equal rights and his praise

for Thurmond condemned him as unrepentant.

          Harry Reid made a comment about the electability of Barack Obama.  He said since

Obama is light skinned and has no "negro" accent, except when he wants to have one, Obama

has a good chance of being elected President.  Reid's comments are insensitive because how

someone looks or speaks should not be the subject of a question about Presidential

electability, especially if they are black.  However, Reid's comments happen to be true from

a purely pragmatic point of view.  His take on the American landscape is that Americans will

be more comfortable with a black candidate as long as he is not too black.  Ironically, Reid's

remarks should stimulate discussions on whether he is right or not.  If he is right, what does

that say about race relations in this country?  Reid encouraged Barack Obama to run for

President.  Reid has been a strong supporter of civil rights legislation and the expansion of

minority rights.  Reid is a member of a Democratic Party with numerous minority members

in Congress.  The Republican Party does not have one single African-American member of

Congress.  Reid is a member of the Democratic Party which has pushed through all the major

Civil Rights legislation.  As President Obama said, Harry Reid has always been on the right

side of history.

          There is no equivalency between Lott's and Reid's remarks, their voting records, or 

the political parties of which they are members; and this is the most disquieting thing about

this latest kerfuffle.  Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele, Texas Senator John Cornyn,

and others have called on Reid to step down just as Lott had to step down after his remarks.

Hanbaugh and Faux News have joined in the chorus of calls condemning Reid.

          Reid isn't going to step down.  His party understands the difference between his remarks

and Lott's, and they know both Senator's backstories.  However, I am troubled by the attempt

to conflate Lott's and Reid's comments and the claim that they are similar in content, meaning,

and intentions.  Race is still one of the most difficult and touchy subjects in this country.  That

public figures could get away with comparing Lott's and Reid's remarks is proof of the failure

of journalism to do it's job and call out those who want to say the comments reflect the same

prejudice and bigotry.  Why this condemnation of Reid from a party with the history of the

Republican Party hasn't resulted in cries of "hypocrite" is astonishing.  That Reid's remarks

have not sparked an open dialogue on whether he was right; and if so, what that says about

the subject of race in this nation is tragic.  

          Harry Reid and Trent Lott are both racist!  The difference is Reid has worked to change

public policy by expanding the rights of minorities and heads a party with a history of doing

just that.  He represents the party that recently elected our nation's first black president.  

Trent Lott, on the other hand, publicly praised segregationists when he wistfully suggested

Thurmond should have been elected President.  He is a member of a party which embraced

a strategy to amplify racism for political gain.  He is a member of a party which has fought

expanding minority rights and doesn't have a single African-American member in Congress.

          America is still a nation built on the concept of white supremacy.  Americans still have

yet to confront racism and its effects on everything from education to employment to

interpersonal relationships.  If you want proof, just look at the Republicans and how they

would compare Reid's and Lott's comments simply to gain political advantage from the

comparison.   Their actions show that we as a nation have a long way to go before we can

honestly expect to rise above the temptation of judging and likewise being judged on anything

other than character.  What do you think?  I welcome your comments and rebuttals.  

Please send them to 



Tuesday, January 12, 2010


On Christmas day, a deluded young man from Nigeria tried to set off a bomb on an airplane

over Detroit and failed. Despite all the training he says he received from al Qaeda in Yemen,

the son of a banker was stopped by fellow passengers and a disaster averted.

Imagine if Al Gore had been president on September 11, 2001 and the whole nightmare

played out once again. The World Trade Centers collapse, the Pentagon is hit, and the plane

crashes in Pennsylvania heading for the capitol. How would the Republicans have reacted?

Congressman Peter King of New York would have immediately called for the President to

resign. Congressman Pete Hoekstra would accuse the Democrats of treason and ask for

donations so the Republicans could protect the nation from an imminent invasion. Senators

McCain, Grassley, Lieberman (Oh no, he would be Vice President...what a scary thought)

would be calling for the heads of the CIA, NSA, the Joint Chiefs, and anyone else associated

with national security. On every news program, Republican talking heads would be attacking

Democrats for being asleep, afraid, timid, soft, in bed with terrorists, and derelict in their duty

to protect this nation. There would be no unity.

Flash forward to the days following the attempted Christmas bombing. The voters have

long since literally thrown the Republicans out of office! The Democrats are in charge. We

have heard from King and Hoekstra, McCain and DeMint; and we are now predictably being

told President Obama is soft on terror. He should not be closing Guantanamo nor proceeding

with criminal trials for accused terrorists. He hasn't done enough to fight terrorism (two wars

aren't enough?). He is too distracted with domestic items and his intelligence apparatus has

failed miserably.

Hey! Time out! Isn't it just a bit disconcerting to see how little our politicians have

learned and more than a little depressing to see how we Americans have just as little testicular

fortitude today as we did in 2001? Isn't it time to grow up? Isn't it time to get real?

There is no doubt in my mind this country will be hit again by terrorists. Someone will

slip through. Somehow a terror network will find a weak link or a chink in the armor and

exploit it. For eight years, bin Laden and his gang were satisfied because our politicians were

doing a fine job of cannibalizing the nation for him. In eight years, our politicians turned us

against ourselves and as a result the American dream was lost and our treasure mindlessly

spent. More than one trillion dollars has been spent on unnecessary wars, thousands of young

soldiers died, and tens of thousands wounded. Returning veterans are inundating the V.A. and

will need hundred of billions of dollars in treatment. Our image and reputation in the world

was destroyed by revelations about everything from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to secret

torture prisons. The military is so broken that even if there was a reason to think about

military intervention in Yemen, we couldn't pull it off. For about $500,000 in seed money,

bin Laden has been able to sit back and watch us devolve.

Today, however, we have a new President who has begun to rebuild our image in the

world. He speaks of bringing some troops home from Iraq. He wants to close Gitmo and

he has ordered no more torture. He is trying to improve the nation's healthcare system while

shoring up an economy in shambles a year ago and he has been awarded a peace prize simply

because he isn't the guy who used to have the job. The American people are more scared about

losing their jobs than about terrorism; so al Qaeda decided to take a new shot, but because of

dumb luck, failed. The fear-mongering is back in full force and the politics of terror are being

employed. The American people are being encouraged to be afraid, be very afraid. Will it

work? Are we still a nation of sheep? Hanbaugh and the rest will have a field day conjuring

up images of terrorists under every bed and reminding us Obama has a Muslim name and was

raised in a Muslim country. The only question is can Americans be so frightened again as to

further weaken an already shaky nation. I hope not; as the only real threat to this country is

an internal one.

I hope we see how terrorism is a minor concern compared to putting people back to

work, saving people's homes, and rebuilding a healthy economy. I hope we see the real danger

to this country is from ourselves. Our security rests on a strong middle class, strong job

creation, and prosperous citizens; and if we have that base, no terrorist can ever sucessfully

defeat us.

I hope we will remember strong civil liberties and constitutional protections are what

keep us secure in our homes and possessions, not invasive body imaging machines or more

government surveillance. I hope the merchants of dread and doom find few takers among

the American people this time. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.

Please send them to

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Have you ever had the feeling you were being watched? Do you ever wonder why you

can't just go off somewhere by yourself without everyone else knowing where you are? Do

you ever simply need to be away from the prying eyes of the world? In times past, some might

have said you were paranoid; but in today's world lack of privacy is the status quo.

Do you own a cell phone? Over the last year, according to Talking Points Memo, law

enforcement agencies have obtained eight million GPS readings on the location of Sprint

wireless customers. Thousands of customers (you?) were targeted by police and federal

agencies which enabled them to determine the location of that cell phone at any time.

Interested in a new car? Many new models come equipped with a calling feature which

can tell if you have been in an accident, help you navigate, find you a restaurant, open your

car door if you lost the key, and even start your car remotely. This feature is used by some

car rental companies to monitor how fast you drive and where you go.

Do you love your children enough to be concerned for their safety? Parents in some

areas have available to them the technology and the legal right to have a chip inserted under

the skin of their child's arm. This would enable the authorities to track the child in case of

a kidnapping. Parents can also track their children on their home computers by way of the

child's cell phone. No more cutting class for little Billy or Susy; but as we already know,

children have no privacy rights.

I have wondered for a long time about cell phones. After watching NCIS and other TV

shows and movies, by now everyone should know cell phones can be tracked. One expert

said the only way to prevent such tracking is to remove your cell phone's battery when not

using it. Navigation systems and emergency calling services should also be a red flag to those

concerned about privacy. By buying this feature (and I suspect even if you didn't subscribe)

you open yourself up to being tracked and watched by numerous government agencies and

under circumstances you could never imagine; police are definitely not shy about using these

electronic leashes to find and follow you.

But here's the big question. Is your privacy important to you? Are you concerned about

not having the privacy to travel where you wish without everyone knowing what you are doing?

Do you consider this a welcome evolution in security and safety or a malevolent erosion of

our ability to avoid prying eyes compliments of our government? If you aren't doing anything

wrong, why worry, right? If you are innocent, the government and law enforcement agencies

are no threat to you, correct? No, you are tragically wrong!

If you are shocked by the fact that innocent Americans liberty is at risk, let me ask you

this: What kind of safeguards exist to protect you from government or law enforcement

surveillance? Actually, you have almost NO protection. Take a moment to let that sink in.

With the passage of the Patriot Act, which was just reauthorized at the beginning of December,

your government has virtual carte blanche to track you because our government's definition

of "terrorism" is so broad that none of us is above suspicion of terrorism. Check it out.

Telecom companies cooperated with the government's desire to read your email, listen to

your cell phone, monitor your whereabouts; and they don't even need a court order. When

the public watchdogs found out about this travesty of privacy, our Congress came back and

granted the companies immunity from any liability if at some later date they are sued for

opening up their customer's lives to government scrutiny. The sad fact is, every level of

government has at one time or another spied on anti-war groups, environmental activists,

anti-establishment political organizations, and anyone else they consider security risks or

politically opposed to those currently in power. That was BEFORE the Patriot Act was passed

years ago! Things are much worse since the passage of the Patriot Act. Reports have surfaced

about spying on constitutionally protected activities by numerous government and law

enforcement agencies. What was illegal is now legal, thanks to the Patriot Act.

There are many people I know who blow off concerns about privacy. They believe we lost

the last vestiges of privacy a long time ago and the genie can't be put back in the bottle. You

have no privacy, they say. Get over it. There is nothing you can do about it. This attitude is

usually expressed right up until someone mentions a national ID card; since we have no

privacy anyway, why worry about a national data system which would do the final slam dunk

on tracking where you go, what you buy, when you fly, what you say, what you think, or

anything else they might want to know. Everything! No privacy ever again, finished!

So I ask you, when you look at that cool iPhone or Droid phone, when you think about

buying the car with the On-Star system in it, or when you carry your BlackBerry; are you

troubled at what you are surrendering? Will you take the battery out of your cell phone

when you aren't using it? And how about that cool car with the onboard GPS navigation

system or electronic monitor?

Some whine it's too late. The barn door is gone and the horses are in the next county.

How could we ever hope to put things right? The technology is so ubiquitous, so convenient,

and accepted that existing without it might be hard. Granted, this is true. So now more than

ever, we need safeguards to protect us from abuse by the government, law enforcement, and

rich and powerful interests. Today, very few safeguards exist. Legislation to protect you

doesn't exist in most states; and what does exist is outdated and inadequate given the rapid

advance of technology and the pathetic fear that anyone among us could be a terrorist.

If you're not convinced what I'm saying is true, ask your cell phone company about their

policy concerning cooperating with government or law enforcement. Ask GM or the other

auto companies if they will track you when asked by the government. Ask a lawyer if your

travel records can be subpoenaed in a divorce case to see where you were and when you were

there (they can already subpoena records of electronic toll devices used on bridges and toll

roads). Ask yourself if there is potential for all of this tracking to be abused. But you already

know the answer to that question.

Take a moment to mourn the death of the Forth Amendment...silence...(Note: With the

death of the Fourth Amendment, free speech, the freedom of association, and the freedom of

thought ended in America...and the prisons began to fill. Welcome to the new era of "freedom"

as defined by your friend and willing protector, Big Brother. Welcome to twenty-first century

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