Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I have been asked why I am a Catholic numerous times in my life. Those who know me

have often asked why it is I choose to remain Catholic. For one, I was born and raised Catholic.

I attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through college. Catholicism and its rituals and

symbols are the glue around which my family came together at important moments (birth,

death, sickness, special meals, marriage, commiseration, and celebration). I disagree with

the Church on numerous issues; however, it is my Church and my witness and voice are

needed to call the Church to be its best. To me, there is a difference between dissension and

disaffection. The most powerful reason I remain Catholic, however, is because of all the people

in my life who inspired, challenged, loved, lived, and acted as they did because their Catholic

faith called them to live life to its fullest. I love these people and enjoy each and every

opportunity offered me to match the examples they set.

I bring this up because in the last year or so I keep reading stories of Americans who

have converted to Islam online. I do not understand this concept. I understand the drive to

evangelize and convert someone to get them to abandon whatever they believed and come over

to a different way of thinking and believing; but what I don't understand is the need of some

to treat people as if they were a convertible car waiting to drop its top. Personally, I don't

care what you believe. How an individual acts is where the rubber meets the road. You can be

atheistic, agnostic, theist, deist, naturalist, or any combination of these; but are you a loving,

caring person capable of selfless acts? Do you live an honorable life attempting to be honest

and forthright? Do you have empathy for the least of your brothers and sisters? If you do,

I don't care what you call yourself.

People did not follow Jesus or find him compelling, inspiring, and intriguing because of

what He said. They followed Him because of WHO He was. They had never met anyone who

lived as He did. Loving his enemies, sitting down with tax collectors, refusing to condemn

the adulterous woman, turning the other cheek, and preaching a new idea of non-violence.

He healed and served the people. It was because people encountered his radical new way

of living that they wanted to know who He was and why He was the way He was. They desired

to know what made Him tick.

It's the same story with the Buddha or Mohammed. Their lives attracted followers who

wanted to learn how to live like them and approach life as they did. They wanted to emulate

them. At that point, what they had to say helped guide those who sought answers. I feel

certain that if all Buddha or Jesus or Mohammed or Abraham or Moses did was preach, there

would have been no one interested in following them. My parent's values were real because

of how they lived, not because of how they told me I should live.

Over the last eighteen months, three of the kindest and wisest people I have met were

Buddhists. Their kindness, care, and humanity were a stark contrast to the majority of people

surrounding me. Their attitude and warmth made me want to talk to and listen to what they

said. I wanted to know what enabled them to be so serene and different. I wanted to know

their world view and their beliefs about life and death, trust and doubt, faith and hope.

With that in mind, someone goes online and reads a sermon or text written by a Muslim

cleric. They are intrigued or attracted to the words. They read more and find it compelling.

Maybe they even correspond with the author. Then, one day, they are so moved that they

convert to Islam...What? It makes no sense! There is no logic to the transformation.

Conversion invokes a change of heart, "metanoia" in Greek; and a change of heart does not

occur by reading words on a page.

No one should be in the business of trying to convert anyone else into anything. We

should be living our lives in such a way that people are amazed. Our lives should cause people

to wonder. Mother Teresa didn't attract young women to join with her by preaching. They

saw her ministering to the poorest of the poor in the sewers of Calcutta when no one else

cared. They saw how happiness and joy filled her life and their hearts reached out with desire

to have what she had.

The only groups of people who actively work to convert others, especially through

preaching, are fundamentalists. They are right and everyone else is wrong. To them, what

you believe is more important than how you live. Christian fundamentalists preach if you

haven't accepted Jesus as your savior, you will not be saved. It doesn't matter how good you

are, how loving you act, how committed you are to people; if you don't believe what they

believe, your life is of no value and you are bound for a certain future of hellfire. For them,

there is only one way to salvation. They are the modern Pharisees.

Fundamentalism is designed for those who want to check their brain and pick up their

crayons as they enter the church door. Fundamentalism paints the world in black and white.

There are no shadings, no grays. Fundamentalism tells you the answer; and as long as you

accept it, your actions are a secondary matter. People who "convert" online are looking for

someone to give them easy answers to questions like: How did I get here? Where am I going?

What is my purpose in life? What happens after I die? They are looking for someone to

provide the answers. If you accept someone else's answers to these questions, you've given up

your greatest gift from God, your power of reason. Many of those who willingly drank down

the Koolaid at Jonestown found it scarier to reject Jim Jones' answers than to go on living.

People who convert online face the same dilemma. Once they buy into the sermons and

answers, they find a comfort level of assurance which forces them to accede to the demands

of the person they now follow even if that means recruiting others or carrying out acts of

violence. No request or requirement is too outrageous.

The fact remains that most Americans are religiously illiterate. They believe the way

they do because of parents, grandparents, culture, or accommodation. They have never

personally wondered about life or love or reached out to know God. This is a nation of

cultural "Christians" for whom it is easier to go along than to struggle for the truth; and since

they have no solid spiritual foundation, they become dissatisfied or disillusioned with their

lives. When times turn bad, they then seek new answers and give over more of their power

and influence to whoever will offer them comfort; not a pretty picture, pointless and hopeless.

I am a Catholic because it makes sense to me. The rituals and sacraments connect me

with others and enable me to try to live the best life I can. I want to cope with life's good days

and bad days. I desire to live as honestly and honorably as the people who I admire and love.

I want to have life and live life to its fullest. At the end of the day, the ripples I leave behind

matter more than any doctrine I believe or assent to. Perhaps we should be working on how

to live full, joyful lives for ourselves rather than hoping to find salvation online. In any case,

turning people into "convertibles" doesn't hold much appeal to me. A good automobile is

a good automobile. Whether or not the top folds down is totally superficial in God's eyes.

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

Saturday, March 27, 2010


The government of Israel has decided it does not have to make peace with the Palestinians.

They have made a political calculation that no matter what they do, no matter what policies

they institute; the United States will go along. They have decided against a two-state solution

to the Palestinian problem; and so far their calculations appear to be correct.

Vice President Biden had just arrived in Israel to make nice, only to be greeted with the

announcement that Israel intends to build 1600 housing units in East Jerusalem. Secretary

of State Hillary Clinton called the announcement "an insult". Palestinian President Abbas

refused to participate, even indirectly, with any peace talks. All the work by Mideast envoy

George Mitchell to bring the two sides together has gone up in smoke. The Israeli strategy

is quite simple. They will build thousands of housing units in East Jerusalem, the West Bank,

and the occupied territories. Jewish families will move in, effectively annexing the land for

the Palestinians. So, whatever two-state solution might be reached in the future, these lands

will be, by necessity, off the negotiating table. The Palestinian demand that East Jerusalem

be the capital of their new state would be moot with tens of thousands of Israelis living on

the disputed land.

For more than a year, the Obama Administration has called for a total freeze on new

settlement construction. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to freeze

settlements; offering instead a ten month partial moratorium on settlements in the West Bank

and now proposes new construction projects in East Jerusalem despite outrage by Secretary

Clinton and President Obama. He firmly announced that he will not back down.

President Obama is said to be "really angry". Secretary of State Clinton is said to be

"offended". And what is the result of all this anger and offense? Secretary Clinton gave a speech

to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in which she assured supporters of

Israel that America is still their strongest ally and will remain so. This little kerfluffle did

nothing to upset the diplomatic apple cart. The little show of "anger"and "offense" produced

nothing except that American officials were quick to go out of their way to assure everyone

the security issues that both Israel and America adhere to have not been damaged. A small

matter, like a married couple having a fight over who takes out the garbage, nothing more.

Strange, but sadly true.

So, the "Israeli calculation" is correct. There is nothing Israel can do which would cause

America to respond in a punitive manner. There is no penalty for slowly taking more and

more Palestinian land. They will suffer no negative consequences if peace talks do not resume.

The United States will continue to funnel billions of dollars in foreign aid to Israel and will

continue making loan guarantees so that Israel can purchase weapons and armaments. The

United States will do nothing no matter what provocation Israel decides to engage in.

Let's review Israel's political "calculation". The "Israeli calculation" is based on the not

so well known fact that the U.S. pro-Israel lobby is the most powerful lobby group in our

country. It's also a not so well known fact that no American politician can be elected to office

who is not pro-Israel. The sad fact is that no American president can survive in office if he

takes on the pro-Israel lobby. So, despite statistics showing that for every Israeli killed by

a terrorist rocket or bomb, over 600 Palestinians are killed; despite invasions of Lebanon

and Gaza, invasions which raised cries of serious human rights violations; despite Israel's

possession of nuclear weapons and their willful refusal to sign the nuclear non-proliferation

treaty (which our own law requires the United States to cut off aid to any nation refusing

to sign); despite all of this and despite expanding illegal settlements, taking Palestinian land,

and building a wall through Palestinian settlements; Israel has NEVER suffered a single

sanction or penalty. All this, plus American presidents have gone so far as to state that an

attack on Israel will be treated like an attack on the United States. We are inextricably

entangled in this foreign alliance.

The continuing plight of the Palestinians is one of the major recruiting tools used by

our enemies, including al Qaeda, in their war of terror. United States General David Petraeus

is on the record stating the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is a key element

of the violence in Arab and Muslim countries directed against the United States and we

cannot bring stability to the region if this problem is not solved. The lack of a two-state

solution is cited in Arab capitals as proof of the hypocrisy of American values. The lack of

any consequence for Israeli actions is proof in many people's eyes that the United States is

not an honest broker when it comes to the interests of Israel versus the Palestinians.

News reports say Netanyahu is between a rock and a hard place. They say he has to please

the regressive elements of his coalition while not alienating Israel's most important ally.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Netanyahu knows no matter what he or his

government decides, it will not result in any substantive negative reaction from the United

States. He knows he can invade neighboring countries, invade Gaza, expand illegal settlements,

build in East Jerusalem, and nothing will happen. Unfortunately, the rest of the world knows

this too; and that knowledge fuels an anger and passion which will not abate and fuels

irrational behavior such as suicide bombings and terrorist activities.

Israel has every right to exist in peace. There is no justification for the killing of innocent

Israeli citizens. The United States has an obligation to ally with all democratic governments

and an obligation to assist Israel in resisting armed aggression against its territory. However,

the subservient role the United States assumes vis-a-vis Israel doesn't serve our long-term

national interests in the Arab world. And it certainly doesn't serve our interests in Iraq,

Afghanistan, or Pakistan.

Israel, knowing they are immune to sanctions and penalties, causes that nation to take

chances in the pursuit of policies contrary to our national interests. Worse still, it has lulled

them into a false sense of security that cannot continue indefinitely. Will the 1600 housing

units be built in East Jerusalem? Yes. Will settlements continue to expand in the West Bank?

Yes. Will Palestinian land continue to shrink? Yes. Will the United States do anything about

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


I was just fourteen years old when Congress approved a "new" healthcare proposal for

people 65 and over. Back then, some called it a government takeover of healthcare. Some

called it socialism and socialized medicine. Critics claimed it resembled central planning

similar to the Soviet Union and violated the free market principles our nation was founded

upon. At that time, the American Medical Association was completely opposed and predicted

the proposal would drive doctors out of business. That proposal became what we have come

to know as Medicare.

Today, no politician or political party would suggest abolishing Medicare. In fact, no one

can imagine a healthcare system without this provision for senior citizens. Ironically, in this

recent round of healthcare debates regressives actually claimed Medicare as their own idea.

The same Medicare they once opposed, they now take on the mantle of "protecting" (more


Recently, predictions about the death of direly-needed healthcare reform were legion.

You couldn't find a pundit or talking head who hadn't proclaimed its demise at least two or

three times. They claimed it was dead after the "summer of discontent" when their "smart"

political strategy turned town hall meetings into bite-sized versions of the Jerry Springer

Show. It was dead when not finished by Labor Day, dead because Obama spent too much

time courting Republican votes, dead when Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts to

Ted Kennedy's old seat, dead when the issue of abortion raised it's pointy head. The corporate

media had more wakes than the Irish during the potato famine, and more post-mortems than

a big city coroner on a hot Saturday night.

One of the lessons from fourteen months of debate ought to be how poorly the corporate

media performed its function as a political barometer. If the National Weather Service's

predictions failed as often, it would be out of business.

In spite of the diversion, the President has now signed into law the most sweeping piece

of progressive social legislation in 45 years. It will expand health insurance to 32 million

Americans who previously had no access before. If you lose your job and health insurance,

you cannot be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. As soon as the bill was signed,

no child could be denied care due to a previous illness. Your children can stay on your policy

until they are 26. If you employ under 50 people, you will get tax credits to enable you to

provide them with health insurance. If you work 30 or more hours a week (Walmart anyone?),

you are now considered "full-time" for the purposes of qualifying for employer-based health

insurance. Companies with over 50 employees are now required to provide health insurance.

Senior citizens facing the "donut hole", a provision of the Medicare Prescription Drug Program

which required seniors to pay thousands of dollars for drugs once a cost threshold had been

reached, has been closed. Families who make $88,000 a year or less will get tax subsidies

to help defray the cost of health insurance. Individual customers will now be able to join

risk pools to get affordable coverage. Millions of dollars for "pilot" programs will be available

to find new ways to deliver quality healthcare for less cost; and if history is any guide, many

of these programs will end up improving services and lowering costs in unimagined ways.

And as a bonus, twenty thousand new doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals will be

needed to serve the millions of previously underserved and new patients.

This is a huge victory for President Obama. In the East Room of the White House he

proclaimed "...this is what change looks like". History will declare Obama the winner; but

it will also note the key role House Speaker Nancy Pelosi played. Reports are already

surfacing that it was Pelosi who demanded Obama not scale back the legislation after Scott

Brown's victory. It was Pelosi who pushed back against Rahm Emanuel, who wanted any

"cheap" victory he could achieve. It was Pelosi who came up with a way to use the Senate

version and keep the heat on Harry Reid in the Senate. It was Pelosi who engineered the

Presidential executive order which satisfied abortion opponents, enabling the legislation

to pass. I confess, I have been critical of Pelosi on how badly she managed issues like the

Iraq War, torture, the immunity granted to the telecom companies who illegally spied on

their customers, the bankruptcy legislation, and her refusal to meet with her own constituents;

but, in my opinion, she has now solidified her place as one of the most effective Speakers in

modern history.

Regressives say they will mount a campaign to make the 2010 midterm elections a

referendum on this new healthcare legislation. I say, bring it on! GOP Chairman Michael

Steele has already sent out a fundraising appeal claiming that with enough new regressives

winning election to the House, they can regain control and repeal this affront to all that is

dear to this nation. Expect Republicans to trumpet that a vote for them is a vote to repeal

this legislation. It's an interesting strategy. Vote for a Republican and see a return to the

discrimination of pre-existing conditions. Vote GOP and have your kids kicked off your

insurance. Put a Republican in the House and seniors will have to pay thousands of dollars

for drugs they don't have to pay for now. Return control of the House to Republican John

Boehner and add tens of thousands of dollars to the overhead of your small business. Vote

regressive and drop 32 million Americans from the health insurance rolls. It is my hope they

are serious about painting the contest as a choice between rolling back these benefits or

maintaining the status quo.

Taking a moment of calm reflection, there is, however, one aspect of this entire debate

which has me baffled. Contained in this bill are tax increases, mandates requiring all

Americans to purchase health insurance, possible changes in some Medicare procedures,

and numerous other provisions that are both contentious or unpopular with some Americans.

Yet, the one provision which has constantly had overwhelming support with the American

people, the one idea which has garnered more than a 50% majority in every poll over the

past fourteen months, the one concept which Americans totally embraced, the Public Option,

was dropped without a fair-thee-well. I thought the majority ruled. How is it that of all the

contentious provisions passed, the one truly popular idea which would have created

competition and driven prices down was abandoned? I don't have an answer and it troubles

me. Unless...was this the key back room trade off?

This is a great victory for my children. This is a great victory for progressives. This is

what progress looks like. America has taken a step towards delivering healthcare like the

rest of the industrialized world. We are a step closer to the day when no American will live

in fear of getting sick, no American will lose their home to pay for healthcare, no American

will have to work for lower wages in order to preserve employer-based health insurance, no

American will avoid going to the doctor out of fear of what might be discovered, no parent

will have to lose a child because they couldn't afford healthcare.

Social Security, Medicare, Labor Laws, clean water, clean air, safe food and drugs, and

now expanded healthcare to all Americans; this is what progress looks like. Representative

James Clyburn of South Carolina called this the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century; and I

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


The Roman Catholic Church in America is running out of priests. The average age of

a Catholic priest is over sixty. In the next ten to fifteen years, the Church will lose half of its

active priests due to retirement or death. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops is

soliciting priests from all over the world, particularly Africa where there is a surplus, to come

to America and serve. There is a real possibility parishes will have to share their priest with

another parish and an even more real possibility that the practice of weekly Sunday Mass will

end, to be replaced by weekly prayer or communion services and Mass once a month.

A Church built around the sacraments could take on a very Protestant look and feel.

I grew up in a family where four of my uncles were Franciscan priests. Through them,

I came to know many other priests and nuns. My father was a member of the Serra Club.

He was dedicated to increasing priestly vocations and was friends with most of the priests in

the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Back then, San Francisco was almost 50% Catholic. When

you met someone, you asked what parish they were from; and their answer designated their

socio-economic standing, geographic neighborhood, and who their friends were. In every

parish you would find a young priest fresh out of the seminary, usually 25-27 years old. He

would work in the school, supervise alter servers, mentor the teen club, and be a touchstone

for young Catholics in the parish. He could relate to the community's youth. He understood

and he was someone to identify with. Those young priests were great recruitment posters

for other young men thinking of joining up; and their preaching and interactions were in touch

with Catholics, both young and old.

Today, my children live in a parish where no priest appears to be under fifty, and most

much older. At college they meet Catholic chaplains who have no idea what Facebook,

Twitter, or social networking is all about. They have little in common with today's college

student's needs or wants; and the Church is losing it's relevance to an entire generation of


There are new priests being ordained; however, they average in their mid-thirties. Many

are regressive and out of touch with the communities they serve. They disagree with the

majority of American Catholics on everything from abortion to birth control. They don't like

the idea of allowing women to be priests. They seem to be more in love with wearing a collar

than they are with meeting the average Catholic's post-internet, computer savvy, ethically-

challenged world.

Some Church critics are using the lack of priests as proof the Holy Spirit is not inspiring

new vocations until the Church cleans up its act. Others say the lack of priests shows how far

the American Catholic Church has moved from its roots and core message. A priest friend of

mine said the National Conference of Catholic Bishops more resembles an adjunct branch of

the Republican Party than an organization dedicated to the message of the Jewish carpenter.

I was once asked what I would do if my son wanted to become a priest. Offhand I replied

I would lock him up in his room until he came to his senses. I was wrong. In my life, I have

been blessed to know some of the finest priests and nuns. My uncles are among that group.

They dedicated their lives to living in a community of brothers committed to the ideals of

St. Francis. They owned nothing. They worked with the poor. They built schools and parishes.

One uncle bought three school buses and enough fuel for a year using Green Stamps solicited

from all over the country; effort well spent to serve his parish in Utah. Another, Harry (Philip

was his Franciscan name), was a tireless advocate for poor and working class San Franciscans.

He was also one of the kindest men I ever met. I got to know Father Floyd Lotito OFM, who

ran St. Anthony's Dining Room. Frs. John Hardin and Louis Vitali OFM moved me to serve

and to advocate for those who can't advocate for themselves. These humble men live their

sacred vows daily.

The list is long and the priests impressive who I have been affected by and who I admire.

Growing up as a rebellious adolescent (lasting into adulthood?), Tom Burns showed me how

to walk the walk of Christianity and not just talk the talk. My intellectual life was built and

nourished by more Franciscans including Francis Baur OFM, Kenan Osborne OFM, Michael

Guinan OFM, and Pierre Etchelecu OFM. Monsignor John O'Connor served as a moderating

voice and taught me not to be so black and white about everything. Joe Walsh, Brian Joyce,

Miles Riley, Bishop Francis Quinn, and other diocesan priests showed me what great pastors

and shepherds were like. Steve Privette S.J., Ed McFadden S.J., Jerry Wade S.J.,

Dick Cobb S.J., Bill Muller S.J., Tony Sauer S.J., and lots of Jesuits, taught me how to teach

and minister to students and their families.

The common thread for all these men was their understanding that the collar they wear

or the vows they take don't separate "them" from "us". Just the opposite is true. They live or

lived lives immersed in the communities they served. They were humans first, Christians

second, Catholics third, and clerics last. The current crop of priests seem to believe the order

should be reversed; and it's one of the reasons they're having such a difficulty attracting good

people to join their ranks.

But it goes deeper than that. There are at least two more reasons the Church lacks

priests: First, the Church is guilty of the sin of sexism (pronounced a sin by John Paul II).

Over half the Catholic population is denied the opportunity to serve as priests due to their

gender. There are no scriptural excuses as to why women can't be priests. Regressives cite

the fact that Jesus picked all men to be apostles as proof women need not apply; but nowhere

in the scriptures does Jesus assert the apostles were picked due to their gender. Following

that logic, all priests would have to be Jewish too. How do we know their religion wasn't

absolutely essential to be selected? And, by the way, the word used to describe God's spirit

hovering over the water in Genesis is female in gender. In spite of all this, the sin of sexism

is still dominant in the Roman Church. Possibly God, through Her Spirit, is trying to tell us


Second, by prohibiting married priests from serving, a huge supply has been eliminated.

The irony should not be lost on anyone that at the same time the Roman Church pushes a

celibate, non-married clergy; it is encouraging married Anglican priests to cross over, convert,

and become active Roman Catholic priests, wives and children welcome.

If my son wanted to be a priest in the manner of the amazing Franciscan, Jesuit, and

Diocesan priests I have been honored to know in my life, I would encourage him and hope he

could fill their shoes. I would be willing to pray for more vocations if I thought they would

produce the kinds of religious men and women I have been blessed to know all my life.

However, if my son wanted to become a priest like the current meager aspirants, more

attracted to the collar than the call, more concerned with the law than the Spirit, seeing

himself as separate from those he is supposed to serve, comfortable with a sexist Church,

more committed to rules rather than to Matthew 25, I would do my best to discourage him.

My life is a constant blessing because of all the religious folks that have joined with me.

For this I am truly grateful. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Buddhists have become one

in this larger Spirit. I am lucky to have met so many through whom I have encountered

Jesus, thus God. I worry that my children, or theirs, will be deprived of the richness and

witness I have experienced. It saddens me to think they won't have the priestly role models

to look up to or the living examples of lives well lived. The possibility that they won't have

loving, peaceful, inspirational women and men to guide them, and move them, and comfort

them when needs arise, that able loving men and women won't be rushing in to fill the gaps

in my children's lives when I am unexpectedly called away, the fact that they won't hear

inspired preaching and witness extraordinary faith of adults in their world dedicated to more

than just the latest consumer fad, leaves them with such a different take on the world than

I have had in my life. I believe in the Holy Spirit and She will continue to call men and women

to witness and to be involved in people everyday in a spirit of love. The only question is:

Can the Roman Church stay quiet long enough for Her to be heard? What do you think?

I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Friday, March 5, 2010


California's economy is on life support. The state's bond rating has been reduced to

"'ve got to be kidding status". The budget deficit exceeds $20 billion and the

unemployment rate exceeds the national average. Millions of Californians face the

possibility of losing their homes and the prison system receives more money than the

University of California schools. There is a proposal to close all state parks in order to save

money. In the midst of all this economic chaos, the state assembly passed a bill designating

the first week of March as "Cuss Free Week". If the state Senate also approves, the proposal

becomes official.

I suspect I know why this bill passed so quickly in an assembly which usually can't agree

on whether the sun rises in the east. California's politicians scrambled to support this measure

because they can't appear in public without constituents verbally assaulting them and telling

them to do things which are anatomically impossible.

California's state Senators and Assemblypersons get paid over $100,000 a year to serve

in that august body. They get a car allowance where the state buys them any model they desire

and pays for their gas even if they are driving a Hummer. They get a per-diem fee (they get

paid for each day in session above and beyond their regular salary). They get excellent health

insurance and a generous pension upon retirement. None of these perks and benefits are

threatened by the current fiscal crisis.

Our state's politicians are tired of being told they were born illegitimately. They have had

it with comments about possible intimate relations they might have had with their mother.

They cringe when voters express their opinion that oral proficiency is not limited to the floor

of the state capital. They are having a hard time explaining to their children why God would

wish them harm. At a time when they can't agree on anyway to reduce the deficit or increase

state revenues and put people back to work, they find the time to call on Californians to clean

up their potty mouths.

Normally, I don't get excited about these silly bills. California has weeks set aside for

everything from honoring the state mollusk to memorializing the state fruit and honoring

the custodians of the state rest stops. Now, however, they have gone too far. They have taken

the eighth largest economy in the world and driven it off a cliff. They took a state known for

innovation and cutting-edge research and turned it into a place where good ideas die of

loneliness. This state's university system was the envy of the world, but now the state's

inmates get more money and resources than the state's students. Californians are out of work,

looking for work, working part-time, and worked up over the current conditions; and now,

Sacramento wants to take away one of the few pleasures left to the state's embattled citizenry,

"...cussin' an swearin'".

As with most ideas emanating from the state capital, "Cuss Free Week" also happens to

be dangerous to our health. A recent study published in a prominent psychology magazine

discovered people who don't hold their rage in, people who express their anger, people who

let fly with the occasional scatology, have lower blood pressure and fewer negative effects

from stress and fewer heart attacks. Another study concluded that "cussin' an swearin'"

expressed while in pain can actually help to reduce the pain and enable the person to cope

with it more effectively. Swearing and cursing are good for your mental and physical health;

but now in their wisdom, our state's professional politicians want to take it away from us.

There is nothing more satisfying at times than a good rant. There is nothing which gives

a more immediate rush than to lift a literal or oral middle finger to someone who frustrates

you and goes out of their way to anger you. Creative cussing requires thought and rhythm

and passion. No wonder Sacramento doesn't like this activity. Creativity and passion have

been missing in action in the state's capital for quite some time.

It may be beating a long-dead horse to suggest state legislators have better things to do

with their time than try to limit the free and artistic use of curses and laments; but if they are

incapable of being embarrassed by leading this state into economic ruin, all that is left to us

is our God-given right to let them know how we feel when we encounter them at home or in

the store or even at church. (The Bible contains some marvelous curses and epithets.)

I take this subject on with a tongue firmly planted in my cheek, but even the most

flippant examination of "Cuss Free Week" can't miss the anger and frustration and fear of

being ignored by those who took an oath to lead responsibly. They can agree on encouraging

us to wash our collective mouths out with soap but on virtually nothing else. They can send

a bill to the Senate to amputate our rage, but can't agree on the state budget. They can pass

a bill calling for more virtue and civility from the average Californian, but they can't find the

where-with-all to put the state on sound fiscal footing.

California needs representatives who put the state's interests ahead of their own. They

need to rebuild the University of California, state college, and community college systems.

They have to raise taxes and cut spending. They need to call on the people to modify the

initiative process and they need to end the 2/3 majority needed to pass a budget or raise taxes.

They need to cut the prison budget in half and rebuild the state's crumbling infrastructure.

They need to worry less about the verbal pyrotechnics of their constituents and more about

taking the steps to restore the state to it's former glory. If they can't do the above, then FXXX

them and the horse they rode in on. What do you think? I welcome your comments and

rebuttals. Please send them to

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


"I'm rubber, you're glue; whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you." "I know you

are, but what am I?" If you have ever had yard duty at an elementary school, you will hear these

phrases and many others when kids get into arguments but aren't interested in resolving

anything. You could have heard the adult equivalent if you watched C-Span and listened to

the exchanges between President Obama and his Republican counterparts.

The Republicans walked into Blair House armed with lots of "show and tell" and lots of

talking points provided by their Contract With America pollster, Frank Luntz. Minority whip,

Representative Eric Cantor, brought along the 2400 page healthcare reform bill passed by the

House and Senate. According to Cantor, the length of the bill means that it can't possibly

accomplish anything meaningful and the whole thing should be scrapped. Starting over was

a popular talking point as was "step by step...government takeover...done behind closed doors".

Senator John McCain thought he was still campaigning, but left Sarah Palin behind this time.

It seems he still wants to reargue his presidential bid, still miffed at having lost.

What the Republicans did not come up with was a proposal of their own. In over six hours

of discussion, the Republicans offered no comprehensive alternative for fixing our healthcare

system which is most definitely broken. Instead, they went for sound bites which appeal to

their base and to the tea baggers threatening their right flank. They told us that "...Americans

can't afford this bill and this bill will force Americans to give up their own health insurance...

and Americans have already rejected this bill". Lots of talk, but nothing even remotely

resembling a plan to fix healthcare or the problem of rising costs; not to mention the over

30 million Americans currently without insurance.

It's not that the Republicans don't have any ideas, they do. The ranking Republican on

the House Budget Committee says the answer is to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

This would mean that if you are under 55, you won't get Medicare. Instead, you would get

an individual private health insurance account into which you would contribute in the hope

that it would grow enough to cover healthcare costs throughout your golden years. This isn't

likely if healthcare costs continue to rise. These are the same Republicans who wanted to put

everyone's Social Security benefits in the stock market, a poor bet unless you're a gambler.

Now they want to hand billions to the healthcare companies exempted from the balancing

factors of competition. It's pure greed politics.

They have other ideas too. They want to let health insurance companies sell their policies

across state lines. Sound good? Not so! This would allow them to create even bigger

monopolies than they currently possess and allow them to headquarter in the state with

the least amount of regulations and consumer protection. It would be a race to the bottom

in terms of quality and quantity. Oddly, Obama sounded sympathetic to this idea, but only if

the health insurance industry lost their exemption from anti-trust laws and broke up their

monopolies once and for all. Conciliation? There's been no evidence of conciliation, it's

just another talking heads show.

Republicans like to trot out their desire to prevent people from suing doctors for

malpractice. We weren't disappointed. They called this horse of many colors "tort reform"

this time around. It wouldn't prevent a company from suing you or another corporation and

it wouldn't prevent insurance companies from forcing you to go to arbitration rather than

suing (as Kaiser does). Most importantly, it wouldn't do anything to rein in costs. States

like California, and others, put a cap on malpractice awards years ago. Yet, just recently,

the nation's largest health insurance company announced a 41% increase in premiums in

California; and lawsuits against doctors weren't even mentioned as a reason for premium


Rep. Cantor said most Americans are happy with their health insurance coverage, but

are mostly concerned that they can't afford the premiums. BINGO! Equally worrisome is

that Americans are justifiably scared of seeing their insurance cancelled because of sickness.

They're worried their children will be kicked off the family policy before the kids find

medically-covered jobs or can afford to buy their own coverage. They are worried a pre-

existing condition will prevent them from finding the new insurance they need because they

lost their job and with it the employer-provided health coverage. They are worried about

being driven into bankruptcy by a serious illness, a situation made worse by a Congress who

made it harder to go bankrupt and harder to discharge your debts (meaning that you lose

everything). They are worried that as healthcare costs skyrocket, the country won't be able

to afford Medicare, Medicare Prescription Drug Benefits, Veteran's Healthcare, Children's

Healthcare, and lose Community Health Centers. They are worried healthcare costs could

command over 20% of the nation's Gross Domestic Product. Rep. Cantor is right. Americans

like the coverage they have; but they are scared to death of what is coming in the future and

whether they can afford it or survive it.

The Republicans showed up at Blair House with nothing except a time-tested political

strategy. They made the political calculation that opposing Obama's plan will reap rewards

in the 2010 midterm elections if they can stoke the anti-Washington fervor. Easily done,

all things considered, if they can paint the Democrats as being insiders incapable of governing

while positioning themselves as the champions of the "just say no" school of politics. They

see no upside in making an alternative proposal to the President. They see no reason to do

the one thing that would bring costs under control, broaden available coverage, and save

billions of dollars over the next ten years...namely, inject competition into the system.

What a novel thought! Simply introduce good old free market capitalism into the healthcare

industry. Rescind the antitrust exemption for health insurance companies and make them

compete with each other. Set up a public exchange and give Americans an option for the

first time. Unfortunately, the party of Wall Street, deregulation, and free markets does not

want to apply any of their expertise to the healthcare field.

Never was it more evident how much this debate needed Senator Edward Kennedy. While

Obama made a fair showing as he stood before his opponents at Blair House; in reality, he was

a shadow of the power Kennedy would have brought to the table. Kennedy would have

hammered Cantor and Alexander and would have left John Boehner looking for a new tanning

booth to brown his scorched hide. So...what happened to the Democrats ability to tell a good

story and sell it? What happened to their passion and leadership? What happened to their

ability to articulate a position that most Americans can get behind and then fight for its

realization? They will now pursue a strategy which may avoid the filibuster in the Senate,

but their inability to tell the real story about the costs of doing nothing about healthcare has

hurt them badly. And if that's not bad enough, the corporate media has announced Obama

made a mistake with this summit. By pronouncing the Republicans the winners, they are

repeating the Republican criticism of the President being "...too professorial, lecturing to

people who don't need a lecture...someone who can't connect with the average gum-chewing

American". Corporate media companies don't want healthcare reform to pass because they

benefit from the status quo. As you watch the coverage, remember how much money they

save if nothing changes. What do you think? I welcome your comments and rebuttals.

Please send them to

Monday, March 1, 2010


The richest people in this country pay less in federal taxes than anyone else. That's not

the way it used to be, but the rich and their politician friends have changed all that. It's old

news for those who stay informed. Shocking maybe, but don't feel bad, there's a reason for

your blissful ignorance: corporate media and punditocracy have spent years convincing you

that rich Americans are already taxed beyond reason. Really? As myths go, this one is as

persistent and powerful as any in America, including the myth of the rugged individual who

pulls himself up by his bootstraps and becomes a rousing success. Pure myth.

Over the years, I can't count the number of calls I took from people telling me they pay

as much as half their income in taxes. When I asked them how much they made, inevitably

it was in the mid to high six figures. And every time I called them a liar, I was right. The more

money you make in this country, the smaller the percentage of taxes you pay. Way back, when

we had a progressive tax system, it was intended to produce the opposite outcome. In theory,

the more you make, the higher a percentage of taxes you should pay. In theory, a progressive

tax system was suppose to help balance out our individual incomes so that no single person

or group of individuals could gain the extreme kinds of power that extreme wealth often

confers. It was to prevent the creation of an American aristocracy.

In 1960, when the top tax rate for the richest Americans was 90%, the formula changed.

President Kennedy passed a tax cut through Congress which reduced the top rate from 90%

to about 70%. Today, the top rate on paper at least, is about 38%. Since 1960, the richest

Americans have seen their taxes cut by 65%. Since 1960, have your taxes been cut by 65%?

Add to this massive reduction in income taxes a 50% reduction in capital gains taxes due to

recently passed legislation. Also, the estate tax has been totally eliminated. Right now,

Bill Gates or Warren Buffett (if they were to die) could pass on billions of dollars in wealth

to their children free and clear. No death tax, no inheritance tax! That's an unbelievably

sweet deal! Meanwhile, the average middle class taxpayer is paying upwards of 25-35% of

their income in taxes when you add up state, federal, Social Security, and Medicare taxes.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reported that in 2007, the top-earning

households made nearly $345 million, which is a 31% increase from the year previous.

The 400 highest earning households more than doubled their income from 2001-2006, an

increase of nearly $140 million. Did your income double between 2001 and 2006? In 2001,

Congress passed tax cuts pushed through by President George W. Bush. The vast majority

of the benefit went to the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent of Americans. Yes, money is

indeed a political issue. Trust me when I say that these tax rollbacks for the rich were the

result of long years of strategic planning and, of course, the usual well placed politicized

misinformation. So, while the wealthy were more than doubling their household income,

what was happening to their taxes? Popular fiction holds they were taxed unreasonably.

The rhetoric from Hanbaugh and the corporate media was about the terrible tax burden

imposed on the rich by "tax and spend" liberals. No wonder Hanbaugh, etc. wanted Bush

elected; the taxes they would normally pay on their multi-million dollar salaries dropped

through the floor. They only pay Social Security taxes on the first $100,000 of income no

matter how much income they received and their real tax rate was only 16.6% in 2007.

This is the lowest rate for the richest Americans since the IRS began tracking in 1992! Also,

in 1992, President Clinton increased taxes on the richest 1% of taxpayers. And even though

not a single Republican voted for the increase, it set the stage for the largest economic

expansion in modern history. When he left office, Clinton left a budget surplus. In the next

year, 1993, the tax rate on the richest Americans was 29.4%.

Since 1992, the top 400 richest households saw their income increase by 500% while

their tax rate was cut by 50%. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do the math and see where

the immense budget deficits have come from over the last ten years. At the same time, taxes

on the majority of Americans have continued to rise.

Over the last few weeks, pundits and regressive politicians and the corporate media have

been warning that the only way to bring deficits under control will be by imposing new massive

tax increases. President Obama wants to restore income tax rates on the richest households

back to the rates of the Clinton years. He also wants to raise the capital gains tax, since 75%

of the richest earner's income comes from capital gains and dividends.

So, in 1960, the richest of the rich had a top tax rate of 90%. As of 2007, almost 3/4 of

those same top earning households paid a total effective tax rate of under 20%. Over 45 years,

they have seen their income rise by more than 500% while their taxes were cut by 80%.

Warren Buffett says there has been an ongoing class war in this nation and his class is winning.

He is absolutely right. He expressed amazement that he pays a lower tax rate than his


The problem is that most Americans have no idea how little the rich pay in taxes. The

tax code is designed to enable the rich to shelter more of their income from taxes. Over 80%

of all taxpayers could do their taxes on the back of a postcard. Figure income earned...income

withheld...standard deductions...and you are done. The supposed "complicated" tax code is

only "complicated" for the highest earning households as they strive to protect as much of

their income from being taxed as possible. The richer you get, the lower your tax rate because

the easier it is to shelter your income. Far be it from me to feel empathy for a household

earning $500,000 a year, but the reality is that those households are paying tax rates as high

as 30%; but once you cross into seven figure incomes, the tax rate goes into free fall. Who

would have thought just the right amount of well-placed political influence could pay out such

rich rewards? And all of this is perfectly legal.

There should be a debate about taxes in this country. We cannot continue to run the

deficits we are running. While Bush was cutting taxes for the richest 1%, he started two wars,

passed a Medicare prescription drug benefit, and dramatically increased military and home

security spending without proposing how to pay for any of it. Add a bank bailout to the tune

of $750 billion and an economic stimulus package of around $800 billion, and it's not hard

to see where our devastating budget deficits originate. Spending must be decreased! One of

the reasons for our desperately needing to reform healthcare is to reduce government spending

on Medicare, veteran's healthcare, and children's healthcare. Simply put, it's time for the rich

to once again pay their fair share of taxes. So, the next time you hear Hanbaugh or Beck or

O'Reilly moaning and groaning about the possibility of a tax increase, remember how little

they are currently paying. Remember that they have had big tax cuts over the last ten years;

and they will fight and lie to make sure the good times never end.

Our nation's progressive income tax system has been effectively destroyed over the last

45 years. The middle class have seen their taxes increased while the richest 1% have watched

their taxes decrease. The average family has watched their tax burden become oppressive,

while the richest of the rich found new ways to pass their wealth on to their children and pay

no tax on it at all.

Yes, yes, I know no one wants to pay taxes. Show me a person who enjoys paying taxes

and I'll show you a saint. But...isn't it time we exposed our saintly potential just a bit? There's

a reason for people paying taxes to their government. There's a reason for a progressive

income tax system. Possibly here is where the citizen and his government reach an impasse.

When a citizen sees his tax dollars thrown into the money pit of war or financial bailouts for

the rich etc., etc...he gets frustrated...and angry. Why pay taxes if my hard-earned dollars are

squandered? And why pay taxes if we are not all taxed equitably and with an eye to preventing

outrageous accumulations of wealth and power by the few? Yes, there needs to be a debate

about the state of our nation. An equitable tax system and a balanced budget are essential

for a healthy nation and...right now...we have neither. What do you think? I welcome your

comments and rebuttals. Please send them to


Indiana Senator Evan Bayh has decided to retire because the government doesn't work

anymore. He says politics are too partisan and the Senate isn't any fun. The Senator says

the system is broken and he can't see anyway to fix it; so he is calling it a day. Good riddance!

The weeping and gnashing of teeth among the punditocracy was heard across the fruited

plains. We are told this proves Washington is dysfunctional and dyspepsic. Bayh, who has

claimed to be a centrist and a moderate seems not to have found common ground with his

colleagues. Some say his retirement is proof the Democrats are too liberal, too inflexible,

and unable to build a governing coalition. In truth, Bayh was a DINO (Democrat in name

only). To quote Bill Maher "...he was a corporatist, not a centrist".

Bayh worked hard to kill healthcare reform and, in particular, any form of public option.

A public option would compete with private health insurance companies. And since his wife

sits on the board of one of the largest health insurance companies in the nation, it's no surprise

he has consistently been in opposition to healthcare reform. Bayh is more Republican than

Democrat. He loved spending money to go to war; but opposed spending it here at home to

help working Americans. Bayh's father, Birch, was a classic progressive Democrat of the

modern era, but his son traded on his father's good credit to support Wall Street, oppose new

regulations on banks, oppose a consumer protection agency for the financial world, oppose

gay marriage, oppose the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", supported the Patriot Act, torture,

Guantanamo, and pushed for immunity for telecom companies who illegally spied on their

customers at the governments request. In his case, the apple fell far from the tree. In no way,

shape, or form was he a Democrat. So, Bayh is taking his ball and going home because the boys

and girls won't play according to his rules or that's the story he's telling. Retiring when he did,

he took one last shot at his Democratic colleagues by keeping his decision secret. By doing so,

no other Democrat will have the time to gather the signatures necessary to run for his vacant

office in the party's primary. Thus, the Democrats of Indiana will have to pick someone to run

for his seat, which will automatically disadvantage that candidate. The Republicans will say

that he or she doesn't have popular support. They'll be accused of being a tool of Democratic

"bosses"; and at a time of high anti-incumbent fervor, he will be tarred as the consummate

insider. This was no oversight on Bayh's part. Thanks for nothing, Evan.

One political observer I talked to thinks there is a method in Bayh's madness. Follow me

here: He quits for now. Maybe he becomes a lobbyist or a commentator for Fox or goes

around as a political Cassandra declaring the whole system corrupt and in need of an outsider

to come in and fix it. Eventually, claiming a piece of moral high ground by being an ex-

politician who quit rather than put up with the status quo, he announces a primary challenge

to President Obama. It's not as farfetched as it sounds. But at that point, who would Bayh

appeal to? Where would his base be? He's certainly not in favor of change. He opposed

almost all the changes Obama proposed. He's not fiscally conservative since he voted to

support two wars, massive defense spending, tax cuts for the rich, and a Medicare drug

prescription program; none of which had any formula for staying within the budget. He can't

run on national security grounds as he supported an unnecessary and immoral war in Iraq

and voted to continue to fund an anemic effort in Afghanistan. He certainly can't run as a

populist since he was a source of obstruction to the most popular aspects of the healthcare

reform bill. So, what is Bayh...really?

The problem in Washington is not too much partisanship. The problem is not enough

partisanship. Obama panders to the regressives while ignoring his own base; daring them

to go somewhere else politically. Democrats wilt like hothouse orchids when the heat begins

to rise. There is no price to pay by any Democratic member of Congress for going against

the party. Say what you will about the Republicans, they punish those who buck the system

and thus maintain strong unity.

The filibuster, a useful tool in the Senate has recently turned into a serious problem in

their caucus. According to the Congressional Quarterly, this last year has been the most

partisan in Congress since 1953. The problem has been Republicans marching together in

lockstep, while Democrats break ranks to join them. The filibuster is now applied even to

procedural votes (votes to pass daily agendas, to take up issues on the floor, or votes to agree

to vote), which is unprecedented. Either the filibuster must be disallowed completely or it

must be limited to final passage of legislation. If not, this abuse will certainly continue.

The retirement of Evan Bayh is good news. He is not a centrist and he never was a

productive factor in legislative compromise. He did not compromise. He sided with

Republicans when it was in he and his wife's interest to do so. He is not a senator who led

by the power of his rhetoric, because he had little of substance to say. Can you think of a

singular memorable utterance ever to emerge from his lips? He is not going to be missed by

democratically-oriented citizens because his loyalties lay with Wall Street and corporate

America. Not even his own gum-chewing Hoosiers benefitted. He says the system is broken,

but offers no solutions except to quit. Perhaps the figure in modern politics he most represents

or resembles is the "former" governor of Alaska. If they both end up employed by Fox, I won't

be surprised. If so, they will have found their true calling in the lucrative world of

entertainment and propaganda that's been redefined and marketed as "news". Neither of

them are "statesmen" and neither of them have anything of real value to offer our suffering

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


I thought I had finally found an issue regressives and progressives could agree on. The

Holy of Holies. The "common ground" everyone says they are searching for. That special

twist that will solve every problem...the Holy Grail of politics! However, as I started to write,

doubts arose; so I'll have to leave it up to you to decide whether or not I can legitimately cry


In the last twenty years, one of the most serious failures of government has been its

inability to regulate almost anything. This, of course, might be news to all of you who say

the government must control every aspect of our lives. So, let's take a long view. Both

regressives and progressives should be in favor of clean water, clean air, safe food and drugs,

an honest banking and financial sector, planes and trains and automobiles which don't kill

you, and a communications network open to all and nurturing a representative democracy.

Yet, during this time, the exact opposite has occurred due to deregulation and, in some

instances, outright sabotage.

Toyota has recalled millions of cars and is now prohibited from selling eight of its most

popular models. The company now admits its cars and trucks have gas pedal problems,

floor mat problems, brake problems, and possibly, and most frighteningly, software problems

with the car's computerized acceleration systems. Toyota has known about most of these

problems since at least 2002; yet denied they represented a danger to customers. At one

point, Toyota even blamed drivers (their trusting consumers) for some of their car's problems.

During the last eight years, the National Highway Transportation Agency (NHTSA) has

investigated Toyota at least six times; and come up with zero, zilch, bubkas, squat in terms

of problems that needed fixing. It should be noted that during this period Toyota hired two

key former NHTSA staffers as Washington lobbyists. These advisors were instrumental in

helping Toyota delay and head off all negative rulings from the very agency responsible for

making sure cars and trucks sold in this country are safe. It's a disgrace! Americans were

dying in unsafe cars and the government agency tasked to protect us did nothing.

The NHSTA failed to protect our safety on the road, but how about our economic safety?

Starting in 1997, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) received numerous complaints

about an investment business run by one Bernard Madoff. Madoff was accused of running

a "Ponzi" scheme. The SEC received credible complaints and investigated Madoff at least

five times. Not once did anyone at the SEC make one phone call to check if Mr. Madoff was

actually investing and buying and selling stocks or bonds or mutual funds. One phone call

would have exposed the whole sham enterprise and saved billions of dollars for investors.

Instead, Madoff got away with over $60 billion, not a bad payday for a crook! Could you or I

get away with such an audacious scheme? Hell no! So, the SEC dropped the ball.

If that weren't enough, we now know the Federal Reserve failed miserably to oversee

Wall Street and big banks; and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) failed

to properly protect taxpayers money in small to medium banks. Perhaps two of the biggest

regulatory failures were failures of omission. In 1998, Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall

Act, a relic of the Roosevelt Administration. The repeal allowed investment banks and

commercial banks to perform the same functions. This was risky; but in 2004 Congress went

even further by removing the limits on how much debt these banks and investment houses

could hold. This set the stage for the economic meltdown we are slogging through at the

moment. Not only did Congress unlock the door to a financial catastrophe, they took the

door off its hinges! This was not a simple accounting error; this was intentional malfeasance

and the gross abuse of the public trust.

One of the first acts the Republicans took when they gained control of Congress in 1995

was to repeal the Public Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA). President Clinton vetoed

the act and both the Republican-controlled House and Senate over-rode Clinton's veto. This

was the beginning of the deregulation era that a Republican Congress ushered in. Eliminating

PSLRA allowed Congress to virtually eliminate the ability of stockholders to hold the

corporations they owned stock in to be held accountable.

How about our food and drug safety? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), allows

drug companies to pay for the tests done to see if a drug is safe or not (conflict of interest?).

This same agency admits it does not put medical devices through rigorous enough tests; and

a number of the devices, which are put inside your body, may not be as safe or effective as

once believed. Americans have died from drugs approved by the FDA over the last twenty

years; and when families tried to sue the companies, their lawyers cited FDA approval as

protection against liability.

I wish I could say something hopeful about our food supply, but it too is a disaster. How

many more outbreaks of E. coli, Salmonella, and other diseases in lettuce or spinach or

tomatoes or meat will we have to endure before something is done? In Japan, every cow led

to slaughter is examined for disease. In the United States, less than 10% of meat is inspected.

Food is coming into this country without adequate inspection; so you tell me, how many

Americans will have to be poisoned by products out of China and elsewhere before our

regulatory system is beefed (pardon the pun) up?

But hold on, I'm not done. In 1996, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the

Telecommunications Act which deregulated TV, radio, and cable communications. By

removing limits on how many TV stations or radio stations a corporation could own, Clinton

ushered in the era of Rush Limbaugh and the rest. Neither Limbaugh nor Hannity would be

where they are today if free market capitalism and competition had not been eliminated.

When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stopped regulating the "free" airwaves

which required broadcasters to serve their local communities in the public interest, more

than 50,000 jobs were lost. Monopolies were encouraged in many parts of our nation; and

the biased opinions broadcast to hundreds of millions of Americans has become progressively

both regressive and corporatist. Corporate monopolies always seek profit and control, never


Strange as it may sound to those of you who trust your government to look after the

public welfare, there was not a single regulatory agency which improved in the last ten years.

Budgets were cut, authority curtailed, and in many cases the Bush Administration appointed

people to lead these agencies who came right out of the industry to be regulated. The result

was a fire-sale on safety, health, and participatory democracy unprecedented since the days of

the robber barons.

You may not like Obama and Pelosi. Your blood pressure may go up when you think

about Bush or Cheney. You may be a tea party supporter or belong to But it

seems to me we should all be able to count on the automobiles we drive to stop when we put

on the brakes and not to unexpectedly, rapidly, and unintentionally accelerate. And shouldn't

we be able to trust the food we eat and the drugs we're prescribed? Shouldn't devices surgeons

put inside us heal us and not kill us? And don't investors have the right to know if the person

they give their money to is a crook or not? What are the chances of our democracy surviving

if only one side of every political debate dominates the airwaves because of a lack of regulation

and competition?

Is this not common ground? Are these not common expectations and concerns? Are we

divided on this? Isn't this what government is supposed to do whether you are Republican,

Democrat, or Independent? The fact is the regulatory climate in this nation is unquestionably

broken; we're in dire straits and our politicians don't seem to care no matter how loudly we

cry out. No one is fixing anything. It's clear the industries being regulated own the

bureaucracies charged with regulation hook, line, and sinker. How did corporate interests

come to outweigh national health and safety (both monetary and physical), the foundation of

our democracy, and a citizen's right to be informed?

Wondering why we've arrived at this sorry state of national affairs isn't going to correct

anything. We're here! We foolishly trusted our politicians and Congressmen to regulate,

monitor, and make efficient the complex of national bureaucracy. Intentionally or

unintentionally, our representatives have failed us miserably. They lied! They've broken

their oaths of office! As voters, our trust has been violated. And as taxpayers we've been

robbed. We pay our government employees excellent wages to see after our interests, not

corporate or foreign interests. Clearly our government has been hijacked. We have no chance

but to get involved. The good news is we've got firm common ground to work from; and from

this solid foundation all things are possible. Eureka! What do you think? I welcome your

comments and rebuttals. Please send them to